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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Currently I'm building out the squarewheeled.com website so it makes more sense to be blogging over there for the time being.

As mentioned previously I'm thinking of ways to manage one blog that serves the needs of both sites, bit tricky given the subject matter of each but should be OK if I can find the right balance.

More to follow.


Posted by: Chris Witham

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 | Comments ((Disabled)) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


It's been a while.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A few months ago I decided it's about time I started posting on here myself so Kate is having a bit of a break and I'm supposed to be writing something interesting!

Looks like that's not happened just yet, for which I can only apologise. (assuming of course you were interested in the first place ;-)

To be honest I've been a bit pre-occupied with riding around in the sunshine on my bike (engined variety, not pedalled!) whenever I've had a spare moment and a working on a bit of a side project I'm quite keen on.

The problem is I know how important blogging is as far as keeping your customers, existing and potential, informed and helping with your SEO efforts. But as we all know it requires a bit of a regular commitment, which, in turn requires that precious commodity, time.

My side project is a motorcycle related enterprise, something I've had a passion for since I can a remember and it's web based, so this too requires a bit of blogging for reasons mentioned above.

So what do I do? Run two blogs?

I doubt that will work given that you need to come up with a topic, research it and then write about it, hopefully giving the reader something useful or a least entertaining to take from reading it, and do it at least once a week for two different subjects!

There's just not enough time bearing in mind I'm supposed to be designing stuff and growing this business!

And there's the conundrum, some would argue that blogging is growing the business. Personally I don't think it has for me (yet!) but it may have done for Kate and it definitely has for some of the more famous bloggers out there.

How you may wonder? By growing their respective readership, offering engaging content and building trust, thereby gaining their visitors business at some point and in some shape or form.

You see I know what you have to do with all this online content creation I just need to find the time to do it all, probably just like everyone else does.

So what are the options? Pay someone to write your blog for you, as you, not a good idea in todays transparent trust building online world, you'll soon be found out and how could you live with yourself? Apparently some people do this, I know it happens on Twitter (micro-blogging!) with some celebs but for us lesser mortals it's just not going to work!

If I'm to listen to my own advice then, I guess I'll be writing two blog posts a week, one here and one over at squarewheeled.com (now there's a useful self promotional back-link!) And if you're thinking I could just cut and paste this content on the other blog, I'm afraid that won't do any good either! Google will see it as duplicate content and not be very happy about it and we all know if your business is online you really shouldn't upset the mighty Google ;-)

Perhaps I can find a cunning way of incorporating the two blogs somehow? Watch this space! (or the other one, your choice!) 

Until the next time,

Chris

PS

Actually written by me, for real, whilst eating Kabuto Noodles during lunch (I found the time and there was the useful information bit, the noodle link, enjoy!)





Posted by: Chris Witham

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


Key terms 101 - The basics

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Search engines have used key terms to help them identify what web pages are about for many years now. Key terms still sit at the heart of search engine optimisation. It's still common sense. But there is still a great deal of confusion about how to use them. So this week I thought I'd look at the bare bones basics. 

Why use key terms in your site content?

Because search engines use words - and only words - to identify what a site or page is about. Unless you tell them using words, they have no way of knowing. 

How do search engines use key terms?

Say you're searching for a site selling dressmaking fabric. What would you type into Google? Probably something like 'dressmaking fabric shop' or 'fabric shop' or 'dressmaking fabric'. Google looks for the terms you have searched for and returns sites containing those words. 

Therefore, if you run a dressmaking fabric website you need to use the phrases 'dressmaking fabric shop' and so on in your site, so Google knows what your site is about and can return it in the search results pages when someone asks that query. 

On the other hand, if you have a dressmaking fabric site and you don't use the phrases above within the site, when someone searches Google using any of those phrases your site won't come up in the search results. It can't - it's impossible. 

It's that simple: if you want someone to find your site when they type in a certain term or query, whether it's pink wellies or ginger cake or loo roll, you need to use that query in the relevant web page. 

Taking things a step further...

What if you sell fabric. Would you just use the key term 'fabric'? You could. There's nothing stopping you. But is it the best you can do? 

If someone wants to actually buy fabric, they're right at the end of the so-called sales funnel. They are unlikely to simply type 'fabric' into Google if they want to buy some. They're likely to be much more prescriptive: 'buy velvet fabric', 'buy Designer's Guild fabric' and so on. 

You can capitalise on this, using longer key terms in your site to reflect buyers' intentions. That way you stand a chance of getting your site on page one of the search results for key terms that will attract actual buyers, not just people who want to look at 'fabric' in general.  

Longer key terms, often called long tail terms, are often less competitive than top level key terms like 'fabric', which means it's easier to win good search positions for them. On the downside there might be fewer people searching Google for longer terms, but on the bright side you're capturing people nearer to the end of the sales funnel, when they're ready to buy rather than at the enquiry stage. 

Simples! 


Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, August 29, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


Google training... and the alternatives

Thursday, August 22, 2013

It makes sense. Google currently has more than 90% of the UK search market. If you want your small business to rank in Google and you can't afford to take on a digital marketing agency, it helps to know how Google works, from the bottom up. And what better way to learn what's what than straight from the horse's mouth? 

Google gets into digital marketing training

The Big G has teamed up with training experts Squared Online to provide a respected Digital Marketing course. In their own words it's a "ground breaking education initiative, created by Google in collaboration with the industry to meet the need for high calibre digital talent."

The course is taught online and it's spread over 6 months. You'll enjoy contributions by some extremely high profile guest speakers. And when you graduate you'll get a certificate endorsed by both Google and the IPA – the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

Bing and Yahoo

On the other hand, there's more than one search engine. Bing is the market leader in the USA and although it and Yahoo in combination have less than 10% of the British search market, plenty of people are making a very nice living avoiding Google altogether, both for paid (pay per click etc) and organic search.  

'Second tier' search engines

The word on the streets is that so-called second tier search engines are also becoming increasingly popular with marketers struggling to make themselves seen and heard in Google's search results. Audiences may be smaller but pay per click costs are often lower, pay per click systems simpler, the landscape less competitive, conversion rates higher... you get the picture. 

Here's a list of a few key second tier search engines. If you're sick and tired of trying to get where you need to be in Google, why not explore a few of these?  

If you'd like to know more detail about them, here's a really useful article by SEO experts Search Engine Watch.  


Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, August 22, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


Matt Cutts slaps SEOs for link building focus

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Once upon a time Google loved links. The search engine's algorithm used the number of backlinks to a web page to help it 'decide' which pages were the most popular. It made sense: surely people would only link back to sites they found valuable, relevant, useful, interesting? 

The Big G continued to prioritise sites with a healthy backlink profile for years. And SEOs did their level best to manipulate the system, often buying backlinks to their sites instead of trying to create content good enough to attract links naturally. 

For some time there have been rumblings about backlinks being given less prominence and influence in Google's algorithm. And Matt Cutts has recently hinted that SEOs are still focusing far too hard on backlinks, and the needs of search engines, at the expense of the user experience. 

Less link manipulation, more proper marketing

In his video, showcased on the Searchengineland website, Cutts stresses how most search engine optimisers spend far too much energy and time on link building and search algorithm requirements, putting the end user's needs last. He recommends digital marketers spend more time on social media and other key areas instead, generating awareness of their sites that way instead of through link building. 

Does it mean Google is reducing the relevance of backlinks? Or is it another shot across the bows of SEOs who continue, despite Google's efforts, to do everything they can to play the system to gain good site visibility in the search results? Whatever's on the algorithmic horizon, it's a clear shot across the bows, yet another clear hint that it's about time digital marketers started toeing the line.  

Getting away with link building murder

The problem is this: if you know what you're doing and are prepared to take risks, you can still buy backlinks and get away with it, shooting your site to the top of page one of Google at least temporarily. And sometimes temporary exposure is enough to make it financially worthwhile. Who cares if your site gets burned or de-indexed when a day or two's worth of top of page one exposure delivers a vast profit? 

Take the payday loans arena, where brand new sites pop up as quickly as Google shoots them down, achieving impressive levels of prominence in the search results using methods and techniques that Google has very publicly frowned upon for years. 

In the meantime the rest of us play by the rules, generating the best quality content we can in the hope that promoting it socially will encourage users to link to it naturally. It sounds simple enough, but in reality you usually have to generate something truly extraordinary to attract natural backlinks. At least all the chaps and chapesses in white hats are all in the same boat, on a level playing field, where SEO life is equally challenging for everyone concerned. 

What about the future? 

Who knows what's on the cards. But you can bet your last quid that manipulating backlinks will eventually get you into trouble one way or another. And you can be confident that Google will reward marketing best practice through its algorithm wherever and however it can. 


Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, August 15, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


What is great graphic design?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Graphic design is all about making things look pretty... isn't it? Nope. Because we're such suggestible creatures graphic design is much subtler than mere eye candy, although eye candy is an important part of the equation. 

The term graphic design was coined by William Addison Dwiggins way back in 1922. According to Wikipedia, quoting Philip B. Meggs, it means, "give order to information, form to ideas, expression and feeling to artefacts that document human experience"

In short, it's the creative application of logic. A proper designer will take all this and more into account when designing a  website, any other piece of online content or printed marketing collateral: 

  1. the target audience's expectations. 
  2. the user experience, taking the function of a project into account.
  3. your brand values, ie. the emotional side of your business. Is it serious and or frivolous, authoritative or imaginative, reliable or in a constant state of exciting flux?   
  4. navigation - making it easy for readers to find their way around whatever kind of communication it might be, whether it's navigating a website, blog or printed brochure.
  5. clarity - is your message laid out in such a way that it's visually clear or is it a horrid dog's dinner of a mess?
  6. colour choice and contrast, ease of reading and appropriateness - would you use tiny, weeny font sizes on a site designed for people with poor eyesight, use pale grey text on a white background or choose fluorescent orange livery for a funeral director's business? Hopefully not.
  7. font styles, sizes and layout - you're aiming for a balanced blend of readability and creativity.
  8. the relevance, placement and quality of images and imagery.
  9. sales conversion - the best graphic design supports positive buying decisions by generating trust and helping to build credibility; because your site looks serious and trustworthy, so does your business.
  10. the ratio of text to images, achieving visual balance to create unity - a bit difficult to define but like any creative type, from composer to painter, a good designer instinctively knows what's suitably beautiful and what has a face like a slapped ass!   
  11. the emotional bit - do your customers want to be excited, reassured or inspired? Whatever your aims and objectives, a good designer will use their creative skills to support them. 
In a competitive world, it pays to do things properly. Get in touch with Chris for proper graphic design in Suffolk and beyond, local and national. 


Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, August 08, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


Developing a winning tone of voice for your ebusiness

Thursday, August 01, 2013

As Chris would tell you, looks are vitally important. But the way you sound is just as crucial if you want to attract and keep the right kind of target audience for your products or services. 

How do you decide whether you need to create a specific tone of voice to attract more ebusiness? 

Establish your target audience

First, pin down who buys your stuff. Is your target audience everyone and his dog or more tightly defined, for example cat owners aged 20 - 55, young drivers, pensioners, post graduates in The Classics, sixth formers, cake lovers, plus-sized folk or people under five foot tall. 

More often than not, there won't be any need to create a specific tone of voice. People are people, so you just need to be plain, friendly, professional, clear, informative, intelligent and entertaining. But now and again it'll benefit you to write so you appeal direct to their hearts, for example if they're teenage gamers who are fluent in gaming language with their own unique communications style, abbreviations and community jargon.     

Specify the tone you want to create 

If your audience is broad enough not to need a special tone of voice, fair enough. Your job is done but at least you've thought things through. 

If you think they need special treatment, you need to define the tone of voice and give yourself something solid to refer back to. When you document it formally, it's much easier to stick to the straight and narrow. 

Make a list of 5 attributes, fewer if you like but no more than five. It might look something like this: 

Target market: teen gamers.

Tone: casual, 'in the know', rebellious, cool.

or

Target audience: women over 55.

Tone: intimate, reassuring, feminine, authoritative, empathic.  

or

Target audience: Male cycling fans aged 35-45.

Tone: brisk, no nonsense, enthusiastic, positive.

 Stick to it!

Now you've defined your tone of voice, you've made it real. Every time you add content to your website you can check it against your definition. Which means you'll sound consistent throughout.




Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, August 01, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


Good hosting is worth its weight in gold...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

... and a backup protocol is absolutely essential! 

One minute you're the proud owner of a fully functioning ebusiness, the next it just doesn't exist. Unless, of course, you've taken security seriously in the first place. 

If you've been unscathed so far, you're lucky. But if your website has ever gone belly up, you'll already know how important the security side of online life is. If you're really unlucky your site can be so badly hacked it never recovers, which means you lose all your site equity, trust, search engine visibility and so on. 

Here's how to protect yourself against hackers, host nightmares and other mischief makers.

  • pay for good quality hosting so you know it's as secure as it can be - cheap hosting just isn't worth it, you need a hands-on host who takes genuine care of their customers rather than someone super-cheap with maintenance and security to match 
  • take advantage of every available security measure at the host end of things
  • back everything up in the cloud as well as backing up onto removable media via your hard drive 
  • back up your data every day, not just weekly or monthly
  • If your site sits on WordPress, you need to update to the latest version of WP as soon as it becomes available or risk hackers getting in...
  • ... and set WordPress so it backs up your blog database every day - there's a choice of free back-up plug-ins
  • and update your WP plugins as soon as updates become available, too
  • choose the strongest possible passwords so hacker bots are less likely to 'guess' them
  • set your operating system security up properly so you're fully protected internally, including the firewall
  • buy the best virus protection you can find/afford and set it to automatically update every time there's an update available 
  • use a different password for every tool, online membership, shop account etcetera so if someone hacks one password they can't get at all your other stuff
  • never, ever open spam email. Delete without opening it. If you're not sure, assume it's spam rather than trusting people's good intentions; sad but true!
  • run a full system scan every day to catch and destroy viruses and other threats early and can't hold the door open for more of the buggers to get in
  • buy internet security for your mobile phone, tablet and any gadget with internet access. They're also vulnerable to hackers - you want to keep every doorway firmly shut and locked! 


Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


10 ways to make life easy for customers and prospects

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's one of the basics of marketing; the easier you make the entire deciding and buying process, the more likelypeople are to buy from you. 

As you can imagine, the more obstacles you put in someone's way, the less likely they are to make a buyingdecision. Here's how to wring every last bit of goodness out of every stage, maximising your chances of makinga commercial killing.   

  1. Provide all the on-site information people could possibly need to make a decision, in a sensible way so youdon't blast them with everything at once. Make the most important information - the sales-critical stuff -easily available, putting the less crucial information and fine detail deeper in your website where the folk wholove the nitty-gritty can find it
  2. Make your message easy to understand. Plain language doesn't mean dull or boring or unintelligent, it justmeans making things simple for everyone to grasp without a struggle 
  3. Make your site easy to navigate, using a standard layout instead of trying to be too clever or quirky andbaffling people  
  4. Let people respond to email marketing campaigns instead of saying something dumb like 'please do not replyto this email, the address is not monitored'. And reply to people's emails when they react to yourcommunications - it's shocking how many don't!
  5. Make your Terms, Conditions and legal stuff as short, plain and simple as you can 
  6. Make it easy to pay, in the fewest possible clicks, and offer PayPal as well as credit and debit card payment,direct transfer and anything else you think your customers might like to use 
  7. Let people contact you to ask questions via email, a form on your site and telephone, so you covereveryone's preferences
  8. Let people buy without setting up an account, giving them the option instead of being prescriptive about it
  9. React to customer queries of every kind as quickly as you can, so you strike while the iron's hot
  10. Make the buying process itself fast and easy instead of convoluted and lengthy, with a fast, simple shopping cart and as few stages as you can manage
How have you made life easy for your site visitors?  


Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, July 18, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


Five excellent online marketing resources

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A lot of small business owners do their own marketing, myself included. It used to be a relatively simple matter before the internet. Now it's hugely complex and changes more in a year than the pre-online marketing world did over an entire decade. 

Depending on your temperament it's either terrifying or thrilling. I err towards being thrilled - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! I keep up to speed using a collection of online resources I can trust to give me common sense, intelligent comment on and insight into all things digital marketing, ecommerce, SEM and SEO. 

Here are my favourites.

Top 5 online marketing resources

  1. Web Pro News - anything and everything you could possibly need to know about online marketing and related subjects, with an excellent newsletter. Well written, authoritative, intelligent.  
  2. Digital marketing agency blogs - search for 'digital marketing agencies' and visit the top agency blogs. These people live at the cutting edge and if something new is happening, they'll be writing about it. 
  3. Moz - Until recently called SEOMoz, Moz have just dropped their SEO prefix. They cover every element of the online marketing mix and provide fantastic free and paid tools to help you do complex marketing stuff faster and more effectively. Totally excellent, a big favourite with the digital marketing community. 
  4. Google webmaster and forums - If you want to know what Google's up to,you might as well get your information straight from the horse's mouth. Sign up and use their amazing resources as well as forums and all sorts of other crucial and exciting stuff. Google's Matt Cutts regularly releases videos on YouTube, too, not to be missed. 
  5. Google search - a simple Google search for 'latest marketing news', 'latest digital marketing news' or 'latest SEO news' delivers a wealth of information. When you refine your search in Google Chrome using the search tools facility you can bring up news from today, this week, the past month and so on. 

What's your favourite online resource, and why?


 


 



Posted by: Kate Naylor

Thursday, July 11, 2013 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


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