Friday, 22 August 2014

Developing an effective SEO strategy



With so many online channels for the modern marketer to manage (websites, blog, social media channels, and so on) it can be difficult to know where to focus efforts in order to create an efficient SEO strategy. Here are 10 tactics that contribute to effective digital growth.

 Organic website traffic

 

1.  Increase organic traffic. Organic traffic proves that your content is relevant and current to your users’ needs, adding credibility to your website when it come to search engine rankings. To increase organic traffic, write content that is: 


·         easy for search engines to index


·         relevant to search queries of your target audience(s)


·         engaging and original


·         easy to share.

Return visitors

2.   Increased visitor loyalty. In order to realise the lifetime value of customers, you need to facilitate repeat visits to your digital channels. Visitor loyalty will stem from a good initial online experience where: 


·      relevant information is easy to find


·      queries are resolved first time: through FAQs, online support, or via user forums


·      content is personalised to the individual (via links to CRM, cookies, or account preferences)


·      service is above and beyond that expected.

Resolve queries online

3. By resolve queries online you can reduce: 


·     costs to the organisation (cheaper than handling calls via a contact centre)


·     customer frustration (faster than waiting in a telephone queue).

Reinforce your brand off-line

4.   You can reinforce your brand when customers are offline by providing downloadable content. Remember to:  


·     add genuine value – provide free information and special offers


·     provide easy routes back to your online channels (via tagged URLS).

Data capture

5.       Form completion. 


Whether it’s subscribing to a newsletter, providing feedback, or signing up to an online forum – capturing information via form completion can: 


·         inform your CRM strategy


·         help you to segment and target audiences


·         gain valuable customer insight about your services


·         encourage future touch points with your brand.

Be social

6.       Encourage social shares.


Word of mouth is a powerful and trusted channel. People are more likely to interact with a brand that is recommended by a friend or family member.  Make your content easy to share (via Twitter, Facebook, and so on) and comment on. Amplify compliments via your contacts networks. Minimise reputation damage in the same way. 

Offer incentives

7.       Competition time! 


Competitions are a great way to increase BUZZ, raise brand awareness, and engage customers old and new – which all boosts your SEO efforts.  If you are running a competition via Twitter, here are some simple rules to help you.

Online sales

8.     Sell your products and services online. Increasing revenue is the bottom line! Make it easy for your visitors to buy online by: 


·         providing clear calls to action


·         remember personal preferences


·         offering one-click ordering


·         allowing order tracking


·         reassuring that transactions are secure!

Cross-channel promotion

9.       Promote new channels.


Promote channels that your existing customers may not have tried before, to increase the touch points they have with your brand:


·         Follow us, like us, poke us, +1 us, and so on.


·         Encourage sign-up for off-line promotions.


·         Run targeted ad campaigns.

Accessibility is key

10.   Make content accessible. 


You can have the best content, the fanciest CRM system, and the most engaging graphics out there, but if your customers can’t access your channels, they will not serve you well: 


·         Invest in mobile optimisation.


·         Comply with W3C standards for accessibility.


·         Have a business continuity strategy so if one channel fails, others can step in!

About the author
Claire Cresswell-Lane is a UK based, CIM Chartered Marketer specialising in digital marketing strategy and communications. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.


Monday, 18 August 2014

How to win the social media debate

Sometimes, the most challenging part of setting-up social media accounts is convincing your senior colleagues that it is a good idea! Here are some tactics to help you out...

The conversation is already happening

People are already talking about your brand and or activities online – but if you're not actively monitoring social media, you just don't know it, or if it is correct. There are lots of tools, both free and paid for, to help you monitor your reputation online. See what is being said, and make sure decision makers are aware of the frequency and tone of these conversations. Demonstrate the opportunities being missed.

Inform future communications efforts

By monitoring conversations that others are having online, you can understand how effective your communications have been to date – how well your key messages have been delivered and understood; where you need to correct or reinforce information, and so on.

Stakeholder database analysis

Analysing stakeholder databases can be a very powerful tool for convincing colleagues that social media is a must-do. Make a list of your top stakeholders, then simply list their social media presence and level of activity. Once you have identified where your stakeholders are present online, see how they are already interacting with each other. Mentionmapp.com is a free tool, that quickly provides you with a visual representation of who your stakeholders are talking to, and about which topics (you need to sign in with a Twitter account).

Make your content shareable

Making your website content easy for your audiences to share can help to demonstrate how actively they are participating in social media. There are lots of free tools around, such as addthis.com which you can include on website pages, in email footers, newsletters and press releases. These tools have reporting systems that let you see how many times content has been shared, and accessed as a result of those shares.

This will demonstrate two points: 1) your current audience is actively using social media and 2) social media can be a powerful way of amplifying your messages and extending audience reach.

Adding statistics like this to your monthly reports will serve as a passive reminder that social media should be on the agenda.

Ask your audience

Asking your target audience(s) about their social media use can be a powerful tool to convince colleagues that social media is no longer a nice-to-do. This could be something simple, like an online poll, or a questionnaire created in Survey Monkey, which is free to use.

Referrals from social media channels

Free tools such as Google Analytics can tell you all sorts of useful information to help with your arguments for developing social media channels, such as: number of referrals to your website via social media channels and the number of visitors accessing your site via a smart device.

Brand identity

Social media accounts are an important part of brand identity. If you do not claim your accounts, somebody else may do it for you in order to capitalise on your brand, or even to try to sell it to you at a later date (this is known as cyber-squatting).

Search Engine rankings

Having your website appear on the first page of Google is no longer simply about keyword placement, or how much you are willing to pay for an ad-placement. Google look at over 200 factors to determine whether they should return your website content to users who search for given phrases. Social media activity now plays an important role in determining your credibility as a trusted online source – social accounts linked to your domain; frequency of new content posted; number of quality followers/subscribers, click-through-rate, and so on.

Managing the risks

Resistance to using social media can stem from the perceived or actual risk associated with doing so:
  • Creating a demand for services that there is not capacity to manage.
  • Negative comments online about the brand, organisation, or individuals.
  • Passwords being lost, shared, or accounts being hacked.
  • Employees making defamatory remarks online – accidentally or intentionally.
  • Security and governance concerns over data being held by third parties such as Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Retaining ownership of online collateral, and so on.....
These risks are all real, and it is important to address them in order to provide reassurance about how they will be managed. Your social media policy should outline known risks to the organisation, and the methods you will use to mitigate them. It is important that the written policy is well communicated and understood by individual employees before any social media activity takes place. Here are some pointers to get you started with developing a social media policy.

Pilot projects

Rather than go for a big-bang approach to social media, you may want to start with one account and make sure you manage it as well as possible. Ensuring its success will be the best way to convince colleagues of the value of future social media use.

It can be useful to identify a specific project with a clear start and end date, and trial the use of social media as a communications channel for this. This is helpful because it legitimately allows the organisation to close the account after a fixed period of time. This means that if some of the risks identified above are realised, the social media account can be taken off-line after a short period of time without further risk to reputation.

Pilot projects also allow social media managers to gain all important hands-on experience, both in terms of dealing with the platform, and the types of responses received.

Need help with social media?

If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I will do my best to help you out.

If you have found this article useful, please show thanks with a share, follow, or like.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Getting started with social media - an essential guide for beginners

Identify your existing audience

Social media enables you to reach out to new audiences, grow your markets, and network in new circles. Why then, do you need to identify where existing customers and contacts hang out? There are two good reasons for this: 

1.  Growing a social media channel can be hard work. People are less likely to follow, like, or share content from a name or brand they are unfamiliar with, or have not interacted with before. Connecting with an existing audience will give you that all important head start when trying to get a social media channel off the ground. Having them like, follow, or share your information will allow you to harness their contacts – amplify your messages, and growing your audience organically.
2.  You need to look after your existing customers in order to realise their lifetime value – it is more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Social media is an added ‘touch point’ through which contacts interact with your brand – it will remind them that you exist, reinforce your key messages through a drip, drip, drip of information, and persuade them to follow your calls to action.

Finding your existing contacts

It is well known that different demographic groups hang out on different social networking platforms. Pew Research Center provide some informative and insightful statistics on this topic.

Therefore, you need to decide which segments of your audience to seek out.  To help you decide on this, you may want to examine your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, or stakeholder database, to find out what information you hold on existing contacts.

Tools like Socialeyezer allow you to identify which social networks your target demographic audience hang out on.

Next, examine whether the platforms you are considering are increasing or decreasing in popularity for your target audience. Do you remember articles like this - highlighting the number of young people movingaway from Facebook (11 million since 2011)?

Of course, these methods will help you identify the demographics of people that are already engaged, to some extent, with your brand. Your objectives probably include growing your audiences and extending your reach in one or more of the following ways: 

1.  Retain existing customers, and continue to sell them the same products or services (market penetration).
2. Identify and engage new customers, and continue to sell products and services from your current range (market development).
3.  Promote a new product or service to existing customers (product development).
4.  Promote new products and services to new customers (diversification).

Define your social media objectives

It is really important for you to stop and think about what you want to achieve by having social media channels. What does success look like? Knowing what you are trying to achieve should determine the methods and tactics you use to get there. For example, if your objective is to increase website traffic, you may measure the cost per click of advertising campaigns; if your objective is to have people sign-up to a newsletter, you may measure cost per acquisition instead.

Having clear objectives will also help you to identify key messages, decide on tone of voice, timings and frequency of postings, channels to use, levels of engagement required, and so on.

Objectives can be wide ranging and may include: 
  • raising awareness of your brand
  • selling a product or service
  • encouraging visitors to subscribe, make a donation, or try new things
  • improving SEO by generating user comments and increasing engagement
  • gaining customer feedback and insight.

Listen to existing social media conversations

If you follow the steps above, you will now know:
  1. who you want to engage with
  2. where to find your target audience
  3. what your objectives for opening social media channels targeting these audiences are.
You are now almost ready to join conversations in the virtual world. Joining a conversation on social media is the same as joining a conversation in the real world. Before you begin to speak you make a mental assessment to: 
  • understanding who is already talking
  • note the tone, pitch, and sentiment of the conversation
  • think about how you can add value to what is already being said.
You do not: 
  • speak without introducing yourself
  • interrupt the speaker to take the conversation off on a new tangent
  • talk without listening and responding to the comments directed towards you.
The same rules apply to your interactions on social media.
                                                                                                                                                            
Listening will enable you to assess sentiment around your brand and decide how to amplify or manage these feelings when you open your own social media channels.

By listening to existing conversations, you will quickly be able to identify who your greatest ambassadors and critics are online. You can then evaluate how influential these people are to inform how much effort you should spend in engaging with them.

Social Media Monitoring Tools

There are a number of tools, both free and paid-for, that enable you to listen to existing conversations .

Social media monitoring tools such as Sprout Social, Brandwatch, Gorkana, or Meltwater Buzz are paid-for services that will do the segmentation for you.

Tools such as Social Mention, Addictomatic, and IceRocket  are freely available online and will require manual analysis on your part.

Once you have identified who the key opinion formers and influencers are for your particular niche, you can monitor who they are engaging with, and on what topics, by using a great, free online tool called Mention map.

Keeping social media conversations flowing

Just as in real life, your contributions to conversation should be guided by what is already being said, the tone with which it is delivered, it’s value to taking relationships forward, and so on. As your experience with social media develops, you will also initiate conversations of your own. A tool that can help you to manage your online dialogue is a conversation calendar. Simply put, this is a roadmap of planned conversations that you will participate in throughout the year. Of course, you will take part in unplanned discussions too, as you react to unknown events related to your sector. Here are some ideas of what your conversation calendar might include: 
  • events that you will be taking part in, or attending
  • annual holidays or sporting events that may #trend – wishing your customers good luck in Olympic events, for example
  • known dates of publications or product launches – of course you will want to plan for their build up in your planned conversations too
  • inspirational quotes specific to your niche – likely to be reposted and add to your online credibility
  • did you know...posts to remind customers of your offering and reinforce your brand and key messages
  • the birthday of your organisation, a product, or service.

Assess your capacity to manage different platforms

Fully engaging on social media can become a time consuming business. Failure to fully engage or respond to contacts can be damaging to your reputation. You will need to be realistic about how much resource the channels you are considering will cost you on a day-to-day basis and whether you can manage this on your own or need help from an independent third party. Issues to consider include: 
  •  How often do you intent to publish information?
  • How many responses do you anticipate receiving?
  • Who will manage the responses?
  • How will responses be managed out of working hours?

Questions?
If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I will do my best to help you out.

If you have found this article useful, please show thanks with a share, follow, or like.

Friday, 8 August 2014

SEO Strategy - What's in a (Domain) Name?

A domain name can have a big impact when it comes to competing for that all important top search engine results page spot. Here are a few points to consider as part of your SEO strategy.

Domain structure

Make sure your keywords and phrases are positioned correctly. This is vitally important when it comes search engine rankings.  As part of this SEO tactic, ensure that keywords appear in your top level domain - it shows a commitment to your subject area.

Accorzing to Moz's Search Engine Factors, placing a keyword as the first in your domain can give you a competitive edge over sites that don't feature keywords in the domain at all, or include it in the middle of a URL. Similarly, including keywords in sub-domains can also boost SERPs positions.

This article on competitior keyword analysis list a number of tools to help you research keywords and phrases. 

Domain stablility

The length of time that a domain has been registered for does have some weighting on SERPs positions. A stable domain adds to evidence of long-term subject commitment. Of course, this would not be looked at in isolation - you may have registered a domain 10 years ago but that doesn't mean you are still actively managing the content.

A domain that has remained in the same hands for a significant amount of time is another indicator of a credible website. Hiding 'Who is' status, or a 'Who is' status showing regular domain change of hands can be signals of instability.

Domains that are penalised by Google, for black-hat SEO techniques, will affect other websites owned by the same individuals - something to bear in mind if you are purchasing a domain from an existing business - or if you are the owner of multiple websites.

Domain location

Having a domain that is specific to your geographical location is a great way to focus SEO efforts if your target audience is in the same country. However, if you wish to have a global reach, you should consider domain location in your SEO strategy.

Before registering a domain, you may also wish to research who has the same URL but with a different country extension (.uk, .ca, .cn and so on). Do you want to be accidently associated or confused with that organisation?



"Google Search returns the most relevant and useful sites in response to a user query. For that reason, the results we show to a user in Ireland can vary from the results returned to a user in France.




If your site has a generic top-level domain, such as .com or .org, and targets users in a particular geographic location, you can provide us with information to help us determine how your site appears in our search results. This improves Google Search results for geographic queries, and it won't impact your appearance in search results unless a user limits the scope of the search to a certain country. See a full list of domains Google treats as generic."


To change the target locations for your website, access Google Webmaster Tools and access 'Site Settings > Country Targetting'.

If you have found this article useful, please show thanks with a share, follow, or like.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Optimising a website for mobile devices - why it's not just screen size that matters

Optimising websites for mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones is a must-do for today's marketers - but there is much more to consider than screen size...

Why optimise a website for mobile? 

If you are reading this article, my guess is that you are already well versed in the necessity of optimising your online content for mobile devices (if you really need further convincing, check out this infographic by AF-Studio.pl and Super Monitoring).

But when it comes to mobile design, there is much more to consider than simply making sure your copy and images display in the right format on the variety of screen sizes that exist.

Optimising a website for mobile devices - approaches

There are three main methods used for delivering an optimised website for mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. In each case, the website code detects the browser being used by the visitor before serving a layout that is optimised for the specific screen size being used 

  1. Mobile version – this is a separate website (URL) which the user is directed to, which is determined by the device they are using. 
  1. Responsive design – serves the same HTML for one URL but uses CSS (design code) queries to decide how to display the content on the user’s device. This is Google’s recommended approach. 
  1. Dynamic serving – delivers different HTML for one URL depending on the user’s device. 

Mobile optimised vs responsive design - why it's not just screen size that matters
Responsive design will solve display issues for the end user, but it will not solve performance issues. Many websites deliver the same number of bytes regardless of screen size. 

‘Conditional loading’ is one step you can take to help manage this issue – this is where the browser only parses the selectors and styles specific to the device being used. If conditional loading is not used, the browser will read all of the instructions for all other screen sizes before it starts to deliver the content in the correct format. Yes, we may only be talking about fractions of second, but this matters to users on mobile devices – it can be the difference between them waiting for your site to load, and hitting the back button. 

Is speed really an issue, with the increasing availability of 4G? 

Connection speeds have a big impact on the user experience in terms of their ability to access large media files such as videos. This improvement in speed is related to bandwidth, which does not impact on the speed of downloading all the component files that are used to build and display a website – this is known as latency. Another way to think of this is the length of time it takes for a website click request to go from the users device, to the server, and back to the browser again (Round Trip Time / RTT) 

“…for the majority of 3G phones and networks we could easily be looking at 5 - 10 seconds of delay to the page load time.” http://www.mobify.com/blog/web-performance-optimization." 

Understanding latency, and the steps developers can take to decrease it, is important because it enables decisions to be made about how to improve the amount of data we try to serve to the end users based on the device being used. 

Grouping devices by screen size 

Simply delivering the same content at different resolutions may not be a workable solution. An example may be the inclusion of a diagram or mega-menu that simply would not be usable or accessible on smaller screen sizes. Grouping content by screen size, can help to overcome this – for example, for all screens over 8” show x content; for all screens below 8” show y content OR for screen over 8” display in portrait mode; for screens below 8” display in landscape mode. 

Content above the fold 

Think of your users as time poor, and make sure you deliver key messages above the fold - that is - before the user is likely to have to scroll on their 7" or 8" screen. For step by step guidance on how ensure your key messages are written into the opening sentences of your content, see my article on the inverted pyramid.

Next, visit the Google webmaster blog guidance on how to make your above the fold content load in under one second, whilst the rest of your webpage loads in the background.
 
Pop-ups and overlays
Most sites have at least one pop-up or overlay, especially since the EU Cookie Directive made this a requirement. Compliance is good, and you should continue to be transparent about the data you collect from users, but pop-ups and screen overlays make for a frustrating end user experience. Make sure you test any pop-ups on a range of mobile devices, to ensure that they are easy to close down (for example, by using finger friendly sized buttons).

If you have found this article useful, please show thanks with a share, follow, or like. 


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