Sunday, 11 December 2011

Local Marketing Checklist - Reprioritising the Opportunity

Boost your business by taking care of your local marketing. Optimise Google Search and help grow your business now. December and January are ideal months to get this work done. Need help, comment to this post and I will contact you with free advice!
As we start to finish 2011 and look to hit the ground running in 2012, I thought it would be beneficial to revisit one of the questions that has been posed to me numerous times recently: what are the elements of the optimal local marketing campaign?
As I pointed out in "Marketing-Strategy Checklist for SMBs in 2011" back in January, SMBs and national brands that are targeting the local marketplace should focus on defined opportunities, as the local landscape continually evolves. Let's face it; there are enormous options for local targeting - some beneficial and some not. My advice is to take a top-down approach to ensure that the priority channels are covered prior to expansion into additional options.
Based on where we see mass audiences and cost-effective opportunities, the following is an updated list, in order of importance, for a well-constructed local campaign:
Business listing management. NAP (name, address, and phone number) management is the foundational element that connects your business to content in the form of citations that enables a successful local search campaign. Specifics on do's and don'ts for optimizing your business listing for local searchers can be found at "Business Listing Management."
Place Page optimization. With last year's SERP changes to feature local business listings and Place Pages more prominently (with a significant increase in local listing real estate in October), a well-executed local optimization schema is vital to leveraging the sales leads generated through these vehicles. Make sure you optimize your Place Page on the three major platforms: Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Ratings and reviews management. Ratings and reviews are the digital equivalent of "word of mouth" referrals - and probably one of the most important local search citations; controlling the destiny of how often the search engines display your local listing or your brands' locations. They are to local search what "backlinks" are to SEO, creating credibility and authority for you business locations. Over 50 percent of consumers mention that ratings and reviews are important criteria in selecting businesses, yet only 6 percent of all consumers regularly write this important information.
In my recent column "3 Tips To Leverage Ratings and Reviews," I covered some of the basics on how to increase the number of reviews for businesses.
Local directory advertising. While the search engines have done a terrific job of increasing the effectiveness of their local search platforms, Internet Yellow Pages (IYP), city guides, and special interest directories can provide high-value, ready-to-convert leads at cost-effective levels.
Social activations. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. should be a cornerstone of all businesses' entrance into social networking. In "Oh Those Bones, oh Those Bones, oh Those Dry Bones," we dealt with the topic of how to engage consumers with local social activations.
To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question. The answer is does your target audience utilize this means of communication? And, do you have the resources required to maintain a consistent effort? I cannot tell you how many times I have received a phone call from a CMO or CEO saying they need one of those "tweeter" pages because of the buzz around the category. My advice is if it is important for your customers and prospects, it should be important to your brand. Oftentimes we will recommend that they conduct research into what percentage of their target audience is utilizing these social channels for local commerce. If your demographic skews young and you have the resources to utilize the channel for customer service and market specific promotions, test it out. If your audience is not there, reserve your page and move back into an area with defined opportunity.
Mobile-targeted efforts. The good news is that many of the above opportunities/tactics have a direct mobile component that SMBs and brands can activate to leverage this growing trend. Mobile-specific opportunities include cost-per-call sales leads, display, listings, etc. Success in this area is category dependant. For example, hospitality and entertainment categories have large amounts of traffic and are relatively inexpensive to test. Service-based categories are still emerging and offer less available inventory.
Local display. Display can be beneficial in feeding customers into your sales funnel by increasing the awareness of your offerings. While business listing management and local paid search often deliver customers based on the "where to buy" decision, display can help build a story for "why" to buy from my company. When adding display into the mix, make sure that you apply measurements for success. However, because, by nature, display is not as directional as some of the other media tactics, start to view this channel from the additive lift it provides to the other marketing channels. The reason is because display oftentimes loads the top of the sales funnel and its direct impact is hard to isolate with "last click" attribution methods that most businesses employ.
In summary, while there are definitely variances to the above hierarchy based on business category, this list should act as a guidance tool for building and enhancing your local marketing plans. Make sure that you maximize the top priority tactics, before moving on to and expending resources on tactics that are "cool" yet lack defined return for your efforts. And finally, measure everything.

Need a solid foundation in digital marketing - whether it's SEO, paid search, social, or email marketing? Learn how you can remain competitive and develop your career via ClickZ Academy's e-learning classes.
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Friday, 29 July 2011

What not to do with your business website!

My good friend Kevin from sent me this very good email written by Mark Holloways of a very good marketing agency based in Tauranga.

1. DON’T! Use fancy animation – balls bouncing, logos spinning. Things moving around. Videos that kick in automatically. All that stuff just bugs people. It makes them look for the ‘SKIP INTRODUCTION’ button. If they don’t find it fast enough they just hit the backward button and leave your site. They’ve taken the time to visit, now give them what they want – information! Get to the point!

2. DON’T! Forget to KEEP CHANGING your website, particularly your front page. Google ‘spiders’ are always crawling over your front page to see if it’s changing. If you don’t change it at least every two months then google will rank it of lower interest. And of course people who come back to your site will get bored if it never changes. 

3. DON’T! Forget to cram your site with ‘selling headlines’. Your website should have lots of headlines. Make them interesting and to the point. Like a newspaper. And then make sure you put stories underneath them. A headline without a story underneath is NOT a headline, it’s just a slogan and won’t get read nearly as much.  If you’re not sure how this works have a look at the way Holloways do it on our own site

4. DON’T! Forget to test and change and record the results of different headlines. If you have a decent website provider you’ll be able to measure which headlines get the most clicks. If visitors keep clicking on a particular headline, then it’s a goodie!  

5. DON’T! Forget to use videos. YES, VIDEOS ARE OK ON WEBSITES. Provided they are optional for your visitors to click on. They see the picture with the triangle. They read the caption underneath that summarises the video ARE YOU PAYING TOO MUCH FOR HOT WATER POWER? and they click (or not). Holloways have discovered that people who do open your videos are MUCH MORE LIKELY to respond to any offer you include in them. 

6. DON’T! Ignore the amazing success of TRADEME. 70% approx of ALL website pages opened by Kiwis are TradeMe pages. So right now, 70% of Kiwis on the net are looking at TradeMe. TradeMe isn’t cool to look at – have you noticed that? There’s so much information crammed into it, it’s all about what the visitor is looking for INSTEAD OF WHAT WEBSITE DESIGNERS THINK LOOKS NICE. Funny that! Because the key to a successful website is CRAMMING it with information that your visitors are looking for. Have a look at TradeMe. Now have a look at and last of all, look at your own site. Which sites are most crammed with information that visitors are actually looking for?

7. DON’T! Bore your visitors with what you want to tell them. Excite them with what they want to know. For instance, if you are plumber what you want to tell them is that you’ll fix their toilet, re-plumb their entire home or commercial building and so on. BUT what they really want is for you to ask them questions like, ‘IS YOUR HOT WATER CYLINDER DRIVING YOUR POWER BILL UP? or HOW MUCH MONEY ARE YOU WASTING GETTING YOUR BUSINESS TOILET UNBLOCKED?

8. DON’T! Make the mistake of relying only on google to get people to visit your site. It’s easy to attract big numbers of the wrong kinds of people. To get the right people (the ones most likely to buy from you) to visit, you need to approach them. The best way is to send them an email that’s very interesting and with even more interesting links to your site. 

9. DON’T! Ever send an email to someone without asking their permission first. I don’t give a damn about it being the law – more to the point is that it’s just common human decency – and John and Helen need to realise you can’t legislate that! It’s called SPAM because it arrives uninvited.

10. DON’T! Use white type on black backgrounds (or dark backgrounds for that matter) except in the rarest occasions. Sure it looks nice, but it is MUCH HARDER TO READ! Yes sorry, that’s a scientific, researched and proven fact. So don’t do it, unless you don’t want people reading.

11. DON’T! Use the wrong web designer. Unfortunately design schools don’t teach their designers these key tools to website success. They’re all focused on making the site look nice and nothing else. HELLO? Whereas the good people in the design department at Holloways know all this stuff you’re reading now AND how to make a website look good.

12. DON’T! Make the mistake of breaking your information down into bullet points. People want to read whole sentences and paragraphs. The more your site looks like a newspaper or magazine the better it tends to work. Have a look at and NZ The more your site looks like theirs the more return visits it’ll get. Or isn’t your product or service very newsworthy? Go figure. 

13. DON’T! Run the line length of your copy to the full width of the page.
Instead divide your copy up into columns. Newspapers and magazines use columns because tests keep showing that if the line length is too wide the eye wanders down (or up which is even worse) to the next line. It’s no different on the digital page. That’s why we’ve divided this email into two columns.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Top 5 Google Panda Update SEO Survival Tips

Google Panda 2.2 is looming to drop sometime soon, and with it, increasing levels of apprehension in the small business community on fears of further collateral damage to organic search traffic. As a speaker at SES Toronto this year, I had the distinct honor of accompanying Dave Davies,Thom Craver and Terry Van Horne on a panel to discuss the impact of Google Panda, and long-term strategies for SEO success.

Diversify Your Traffic

Much to my own amazement and to that of my peers on stage, many in attendance at SES Toronto felt that they received significantly more traffic from Google organic search than any other source, and that SEO traffic converted much better than other sources.  
As a general rule of thumb, no more than 40 percent of your referred traffic should come from Google because any significant change is bound to have a negative impact on your bottom line. When you consider how long it can take to notice and recover from an SEO penalty for even small mistakes (such as server downtime, bad navigational links, forgotten redirects, etc.), putting all your eggs into one basket substantially increases your risk.
Normally I wouldn't disagree with a large group at SES, but to say organic traffic converts better than other sources indicates that very few attendees are properly optimizing their paid search campaigns. Why? Paid search marketing has several distinct advantages over organic search traffic that should yield higher conversion:
  • Product: Guaranteed exposure to only those products and services you want to promote in search results. Match keywords to exact product offerings and watch conversion skyrocket.
  • Price: In this case, it’s not the price of the product or services offered, but the price your business pays for the traffic itself. Don’t forget to factor in all the time and effort invested into ranking for keywords in organic results, and how often changes may be required.
  • Promotion: While you can change the content surrounding your products, you may not have the same amount of creative license to change that content as quickly for mainstay (SEO targeted) pages versus paid search landing pages, nor will you necessarily have control over which pages Google chooses to display in results pages for any given query.
  • Place: Distribution of your product won’t change, but distribution of your product in organic SERPs may be highly elastic versus highly-controllable paid search campaigns.
  • People: Perhaps the most important component is your inability to control and target behavioral cues in search queries using SEO. It doesn’t get much better than the complete control that multiple keyword match types, negative match keyword lists, and advanced query performance reporting affords a search marketer.
    My final argument about why organic search traffic may not convert as well as other sources? Visitor intent.  
    Visitors coming from organic search results for the first time are extremely hard to convert, and it can take several repeat visits, if your content is good enough, to finally convert them sometime down the line.

    Measure Success Using Actionable KPIs

    I love data, but much of it is useless and not actionable. In terms of useless SEO metrics, here are a few:
    • “Average position” and “Impressions” as provided by Google Webmaster Tools are useless metrics because Google varies position by geographic locale, personalized results (when logged in), and likely past-user behavior (not logged-in cookies).
    • “Visits” and “Page Views” and even “Average Time Spent” as measured using analytics software aren't as useless, unless used alone because webmasters have little control over how much traffic search engines send them.
      The emphasis should be put on measuring actionable KPI’s segmented by traffic source such as bounce rate, micro and macro conversion rates, revenue, and visitor loyalty.
      Want to get really sophisticated? Try testing out multi-source attribution and start assigning real dollar values to each one of your traffic sources touch points.

      Build a Community

      The group was decidedly split on the influence of social media on Google Panda, due in part to a tangent discussion on how Google might one day leverage social signals from Google +1. As it stands, Google currently uses Twitter’s “fire hose” feed and some signals from public pages on Facebook to influence rankings, the former weighing much more heavily in substantial, but short-lived SEO boost.  
      Google’s modus operandi seems to have always been to show up late to a party, build their own dance floor, and either win people over, or buy out their best competitor (YouTube, DoubleClick, Postini, Urchin, etc). In much the same respect, it will take time to see whether Google +1 gains enough momentum and critical mass to make a sizeable dent on the hundreds of other “favoriting” sites like Digg, Reddit, Delicious, and StumbleUpon, to name a few.
      Don’t look to social media to build links for SEO because the best links come from establishing earned media from a community of loyal brand ambassadors. Talk to your visitors and customers, engage communities, and start practicing the art of building personas. Through careful research, webmasters can hone into communities online that serve the best bang for their buck, and those might not be in any of the top social websites.
      If you invest time into building a community, your business isn’t as likely to be as hard hit by changes to search algorithms such as Google Panda.  

      Fix Usability Problems

      Never has the need to “write for humans” been clearer to webmasters. Google’s own webmaster guidelines, used language to fortify user experience above and beyond just a nice to have. Once again, it’s better to fix usability problems now and potentially increase business impact for factors within your control, before usability becomes a much stronger ranking signal on precious organic search traffic.

      Author Quality Content

      If its needed to be repeated: “content is king”…still.
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      Wednesday, 27 April 2011

      Listening to Customers Goes Beyond Answering the Phone

      Hear what your customers have to say via survey and social media.

      You think you offer great a product or service to your customers and members, but do you know that for sure? Are you taking the time to listen to what your customers are saying about you? If the answer to both questions is no, you could be missing out on some valuable insight that could help grow your business or organization, or better shape some of your processes. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to "hear" what your customers are saying through multiple feedback channels.

      Active listening

      If you're actively seeking feedback, you can ask every customer, member, or event attendee you come in contact with for his or her thoughts. While that's not always possible, and it can sometimes be hard to aggregate and quantify, you can use an online survey to collect more structured feedback from your valued constituents.

      I always stress to those starting out with a survey tool to keep things simple for both themselves and the survey takers. For example, limit the number of questions to five. If you must go longer, offer an incentive to those responding as a thank you for their time. But shorter is definitely better; you'd be surprised what information you can get out of a few well-written questions.

      A slightly less formal method of active feedback is to pose a question to your Twitter followers and Facebook fans. It can be something simple such as, "What is your favorite item on our menu?" or "What service would you like us to add?" Facebook makes it easy to post a poll question to your fans via its Facebook Questions feature, giving you with a way to get people engaging with your Page while at the same time providing feedback.

      Everyday listening

      Even if you're not asking them, your customers and members could be sharing their thoughts about your organization, products, or offerings via social media and review sites such as Yelp, Google Places, and Angie's List. It may seem a bit daunting to keep track of all this, but there are free tools and processes that can make the task of tracking online mentions simpler:

      NutshellMail can be set up to watch for mentions of your Twitter handle, keywords or phrases, posts on your Facebook Page, LinkedIn mentions, Foursquare check-ins and tips at your location, and Yelp reviews. This aggregated information is emailed to you on a schedule of your choosing.

      Twitter's search tool can be used to monitor for mentions of your brand (even those tweets that don't include your handle), product, or any keyword you want. The only downside is the search returns real-time results, so you have to be looking at it somewhat often to get the full value.

      HootSuite is a social media dashboard that can be used to track Twitter mentions and search queries, posts to your Facebook Page, LinkedIn updates, comments to Wordpress-based blogs, and Foursquare check-ins. HootSuite is web-based, so you can log in to your account from any browser to monitor how things are going.

      Google Alerts allow you to save a Google search query and have new results emailed to you on a regular basis. The upside to this is Google seems to index everything. The downside is it can generate a lot of results if you're searching for a generic term or product category.

      SocialMention claims to be the Google Alerts for the social web. It lets you set up a search term to query more than 80 social sites (including all the popular networks) and get the results via a daily email.

      You don't have to be super active on one or all of the major social media sites to benefit from monitoring for mentions of your company. Sure, engaging with your customers, members, and prospects through social media will help generate more mentions, but it's not a requirement to get started "listening." In fact, it may help you to determine which social media sites your customers use most, allowing you to focus your efforts on those sites.

      No matter which option you choose, you'll find that listening to your customers and members will result in some powerful insights.

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      Wednesday, 9 March 2011

      The Keys to Social Marketing: Seeding, Feeding, Weeding

      What’s required to launch a successful business campaign using social media? Many companies entering this space drastically underestimate one key ingredient: Gardeners.

      That’s right, gardeners. These are the people, often in the background, who plant, grow and maintain social media sites.  They may be programmers, conversation starters, content editors, graphic artists or community standards enforcers. The most feature rich, Ajax drenched supersite won’t attract users unless there is a compelling reason to come and engage. Automation takes you only so far. It’s the flesh-and-blood gardeners who create those conditions.

      David Armano has a better way to characterize these functions: seeding (preparing the site for growth), feeding (keeping fresh, relevant content pumping through the system) and weeding (pruning old content and analyzing data). Each requires talented people.

      Writing on Harvard Business Publishing, Armano says it’s a myth that social media is fast, cheap and easy.

      This underestimation of initial resources stems, I think, from the belief that the best social sites are simply tool sheds from which participants can create vibrant content and applications.  Why invest in staff when all the value comes from users, usually for free?

      True enough: A successful social site will support its own membership, develop and enforce community standards, and create tons of useful content. But social initiatives hoping to get to this Nirvana state must first invest in people to design the project, move it out of the garage and to provide new resources for growth.

      “Not taking into account the manpower that’s involved in these as you develop your social business design strategy can lead to a lack of adoption or participation — essential elements to any social initiative,” Armano writes.

      Read his post  Debunking Social Media Myths for a better insight into the people resources required to create a compelling social initiative.


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