So you wish to create a ‘Content Marketing Strategy’? What exactly is a Content Marketing Strategy?

In all the material you create (or have created on your behalf) to promote and communicate your particular business and its opportunities there must be a focus on ‘content’. But Content Marketing takes this direction and goes just that little bit further. It’s about presenting content as a business asset, driving buyers to your website and ‘owning’ your patch of cyberspace.

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It’s about having a plan, and the plan is to ensure your product, your business, your service is the Google response in answering what are potential customer enquiries. To do so your website has to rank and to rank you need it to have real relevance to people’s enquiries. Google doesn’t just consider your website. it considers the links to your website, and any material published on the web referring to your business, products or services. This in fact is your opportunity to carve out your ‘place’ on the web.

In creating a content marketing program, it’s important to set goals. For instance increased page visitation based on keyword recognition, establishing links to your website on a monthly basis and developing Social Media and Blog activity in a manner that helps achieve this. In setting your strategy, consider your key business needs and those of your customers. And ensure that there is a ‘buy-in’ from all participants active in the field within your business.

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It may be that your business requires an entirely new platform. Your website built 4 years ago is now dated. It’s not mobile responsive and it’s way short on Google’s text requirements. In reality what seemed like a good idea then now just doesn’t cut it in the fierce competition that is E-Commerce. Or your social media pages sit there like cobwebs with no activity on your Facebook, no increase in your LinkedIn network and no company page. You could have a sub-domain selling site with little or no difficulty on the right platform, but it’s ‘too hard’.

If you sell Architectural Mouldings, when somebody enquires about ‘Parapets’ you want to come up top of that enquiry. If you sell fine furniture or aluminium balustrading – same. Old School keyword manipulation isn’t enough. It has to be content and it has to be constant. Blogs each week of minimum 250-300 words, Facebook posts each week a minimum. Add to this YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and you’re getting there.

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Get the website you need, the Content Marketing package that works and claim you place, your space on the web. Or you can always let your competitors take it. For further details, contact MBC via email or phone. We’ll be happy to assist you.

Creating Content that Informs and Sells

Imagine your customers looking forward to receiving material and information from you, then actually spending time absorbing it. You will become their reference point. Michael Nelthorpe explains why content marketing is the new way to make social media work.

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Talk to your customers about their interests, not just your product or business

Web business strategy is simple: embrace ‘Content Marketing’. Content Marketing enables you to claim your patch. A simple example would be a Native Plant Nursery engaging in the following strategy:

Every week – on a separate but related page to your website, say your blog page – the nursery provides a story on its featured plants for the month. Divide this into four stories. Each story (blog) must be 250-300 words. Add pictures, videos or artists impressions to support the copy and add colour. If the varieties are available on your website then tag them with a hyperlink. (Set up a WordPress site on a subdomain to do this.)

Link each week’s blog to the previous week’s blog, but under no circumstances use the same exact sentences or phrases from your website. Duplicate copy will gain you a penalty. As well post snippets from your blog onto Facebook, Twitter and then on other social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram with more pictures and images. Do extra posts on social media, refer to your website and tag references.

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Content is the key to driving inbound enquiry and sales.

  • PPC: ‘Pay Per Click’ simply doesn’t work without good content.
  • PR: Talking to your customers about their interests – not your business.
  • SEO: The reward from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a higher search engine ranking where good content is provided.

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Recently I saw Content Marketing given a well defined description: “Content Marketing is a strategic marketing approach focussed on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately to drive profitable customer action.” (Source: http://www.contentmarketing.com)

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Using content marketing well enables you, the business owner to change or enhance customer behaviour. It’s about regularly and consistently creating and managing relevant and valuable content, with the express purpose of actually ‘owning’ the media you’re using, not just paying for or ‘renting’ a space. Ensure an ongoing content strategy before commencing a social media strategy.

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Quality, relevant content on Social Media will lift your search engine ranking

Content Marketing is an art form. It is the ability to communicate directly with your customers without the ‘hard sell’. It’s delivering information that lifts your customer’s awareness as opposed to simply putting an image and a few words in front of them as is done in traditional advertising. Good content creates an ‘informed’ marketplace where traditional advertising then triggers the knowledge already gained through exposure to Content Marketing. The reward for this is consumer ‘trust’ and ultimately loyalty – and purchases!

Google Ranking

This year Google again updated its algorithms to achieve a higher accuracy for searchers genuinely searching for information. The Google search engine is now more sensitive to detecting trickery, including false links, duplicate copy and online manipulation.

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Content Marketing is the key to improving your search engine ranking

Google penalises websites with dubious links to unrelated sites or so called web-farms. Two to five years ago these were often used by less scrupulous ‘SEO’ companies to gain instant prominence. Many website owners didn’t even know that they were back-linked , with other websites linking to their site. If your website hasn’t been overhauled or checked in the past year you may have these unwanted links that Google now has the ability to detect. If so you will loose ranking until the dubious links are removed.

Effective content marketing means you can ‘own’ your patch of cyberspace. your Google ranking will improve and ultimately your business is seen as a valuable source of information with products to back that up. This means a much healthier bottom line. Get an expert to do it for you or do it yourself, but start blogging, tweeting, Facebooking or Pinning now. Own your space, it’s really worth it.

 

Update Your Website Now!

20161110a-rgbAt least every 12 months, often every 6 months, Google comes up with significant changes in its Algorithm policies.

What does this mean for someone operating a website? Often it means you are significantly ‘out of date’ virtually overnight.

For instance if anyone has a website that is over 2 years old with no real maintenance or attention, the chances are your site is probably only receiving a maximum of 60% of your potential visitors. Why? Because your site may well not be considered ‘responsive’ by Google. Google now insists your website must be mobile friendly, or as it calls it ‘responsive’. Essentially this requires a separate application of your current site that mimics it on the small screen.

Hey, and remember those nice fellows from the sub-continent? Yes the SEO ones. Wow, immediately you saw your ranking improve. But then you had no idea they connected you and backlinked a Romanian Web Farm to your site with over 20000 non relevant sites lighting up your relevance. Oh hang on! Google penalise that severely? And they are able to discover these links and duplicate copy much easier now? And ‘we got penalised’ you say? Lowest ranking?

Your website is a very important piece of your capitalised equipment for your business. You need up to date Social Media links with actual regular contributions. You must avoid duplicate content. You need to blog and provide good, healthy links (backlinks) to your website from all these sources.

20161110b-rgbWant to learn more? Contact us at the Marketing and Branding Company for more information. And for those needing an update, the first 2 enquiries confirmed and proceeding with theri web projects will receive a genuine 50% reduction in costs.

Call now on 03 8696 9700 for a free consultation and ask for Michael Nelthorpe.

It’s All Changing – Again!

Social Media is now really starting to impact on web activity in a serious way. The Google algorithm measurement is tipped towards social media activity in providing the highest website rankings. The new buzzwords are ‘Social Media Optimisation’, and as regular readers will know, it’s a strategy we have been recommending for some time now.

Stand-alone webpages are no longer effective. Google with its algorithms has changed the way Search Engines work. Now over 50% of people check their emails on their smart phone when they first awaken. Then they will check out other stuff like Facebook, Twitter, the weather, shares and other sites of interest. Upwards of 80% of online users currently use their smart phone to access the internet rather than a PC. So your ‘website’ must be responsive to tablets and mobiles to gain the optimum ranking score from Google.

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What is Social Media Optimisation? Is it really the new gateway to higher Google rankings, leading to more traffic and greater enquiry levels?

Worldwide the Social Media phenomenon is simply breathtaking. Facebook is the leader with over 1.55 billion active users, 1.01 billion daily users and 894 million mobile active users. [Facebook Stats Sept 30th 2015]. Short videos attract 4 billion views a day on Facebook and YouTube.

Twitter commands 1 billion users with 500 million users ‘following only’ and not tweeting. LinkedIn has over 400 million business users and 6 million business listings. Instagram and Pinterest have a combined 400 million participating users.

You must admit a marketplace of over 3 billion people is pretty impressive.

Commentators have noted across the board that social media is producing double the leads when compared to trade shows, telemarketing, print media daily press and pay-per-click combined.

For most this phenomena is interesting and impressive. But if you’re running a small to medium business tucked away in the suburban antipodes of Australia, how can this huge upsurge help your business?

Target the whole of Australia, target your city; your location. You have immediately massively expanded your market opportunities.

In Australia there are over 14.1 million Australians aged over 18 with Facebook accounts and millions accessing other social media platforms too!. They are using  their PCs and mobile devices (smartphones, iPad etc.) to access social media.

But to take advantage of this broad market you must be ‘Social Media Optimised’. Personally I hate IT buzzwords, so what exactly does this mean? And what are the advantages of being an early adopter?

We’ve all got used to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. 2013 saw new entries in Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ all gaining traction. Now the new frontier is video driven social media – Snapchat, Meerkat, Blab and Periscope. And with these new mediums, traditional advertising and adwords in particular are becoming less relevant. With a well-structured social media program most websites receive a very good organic ranking. And if you’re top of the page in your category then why pay the Google tax for AdWords campaigns?

Google rates video activity very highly. So adding videos in any format that accepts them and tagging them or linking them to your website is Google gold.

In the last 6 months Social Media providers like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube have become particularly business oriented and business friendly. Facebook are pushing for businesses to add a vendor page – a page whereby this business sells its products and services. It offers specific local advertising options that can work well for small businesses.

The keyword is strategy. So, what is your is your social media strategy for your business? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is a well-known saying, and it applies only too well in this instance. Social Media is always on the ‘to do’ list, but like many other things, no-one gets round to doing it!

There are two options, the first option is often the simplest – outsource the task to experts; there are many companies now offering Social Media Campaigns. The second option is to create an internal staff based Social Media Campaign.

The strategy, whichever option you choose, must ultimately be based on frequency, with at least 250 to 300 words of fresh content per week via your blog page, multiple posts on Facebook weekly, frequent tweets on Twitter and videos, if possible, using YouTube, Meerkat, Periscope or Blab.

The other holy grail of marketing is reach, and you need to look at opportunities to extend this. Duplicate the content in your blogs for a company/business Newsletter and distribute to your database using a free program, such as MailChimp, linking to your Facebook page, website and blogs. On Facebook boost posts and your page weekly, you can select your targeted demographics. Charges vary, depending on the reach and location. Do the same with other Social Media like Twitter and LinkedIn.Run digital campaigns to connect with your customers, who are bound to be staring at their phones like everyone else.

This is the year of mobile enactment, the year of Social Media Optimisation and engagement. This is the year of Video enactment. This is the year for your business to develop a winning social media strategy and gain the attention and ultimately the sales it deserves.

[Michael Nelthorpe is the Marketing Director with the Marketing and Branding Company. Contact him at michael@marketingandbranding.com.au for further enquiry and information. Acknowledgement to Marna Smith, Social Media and Content Writer]

Be different!

In the last few months a number of web based service providers have been making their predictions for 2016 so I’ve decided to join in and offer a few of my own.

There appears to be a trend for people to develop and create their own websites using applications and software programs like WIX, WordPress or the latest Google offering Google Sites. In principle this looks like a cost effective and considered way to go, but there are some quite severe drawbacks.

Firstly you are using a template. This means thousands of other users worldwide will be using this exact same template. It hardly augers for your site presenting as unique and different. It is equivalent of buying your logo from a company that offers stock images of various logos and fonts like Vista Print.

Secondly you must maintain it. This means you must ensure your images are up to date, your key words are current and that you do not commit the various ‘sins’ against good web practice that detract from both your ‘look and feel’ as well as your overall Google ranking. These include the following:

The Endless Scroll

Fostered by Facebook’s long scrolling this has become a common trend in web design. But as I spoke of last edition this can become very distracting, unwieldly and unattractive.

Your customers will not scroll for very long. In fact Google Analytics tell us that most visitors will spend minimal time on your website, finding what they want and visiting maybe 2 or 3 pages. Content needs to be clearly demarcated and scrolling copy actually makes this difficult. Overdone animated scrolling effects – these are all no nos.

Overlap on Images, Elements

Often the do it yourselfer will place text on an image, which is placed on an image then placed on a conflicting background of ill-matched colours. No more than 3 elements, all well placed in a design confirmation per page are what is required. This takes skill, and an eye for design.

Navigation Icons

On website devices it is common to use an icon that expands to display the whole website menu. On a mobile device this makes sense as there is limited space on smaller screens.

On a full size website this is really unnecessary and an extra complication in developing the website that is simply not helpful. This practice is becoming more common and it means many visitors to such websites miss a lot of information and material – because it’s an extra click that isn’t obvious.

Home Page Intros

Quite often the ‘Home Page’ is a repeat of material already prominent in ‘About Us’, ‘Products’, History’ etc. It can be superfluous. Quite simply someone searching will be directed to the page that answers their enquiry. More material means slower loading time. Adding an intro page to disguise a slower loading time simply frustrates the enquirer.

But there is a deeper more insidious issue. Many retail stores simply cannot afford to maintain a viable web presence. Put simply the costs are preclusive in line with the benefits received. Google Adwords, social media maintenance, the ubiquitous SEO, regular Google updates – these items can run into the thousands every month based on the scale of a business. For instance Google now recommends a spend of a minimum $30 per day, in most instances on Adwords – $900 to $1,000 per month plus maintenance by an Adwords professional of about $150.

The conundrum is what is the alternative for a highly visual industry like the Nursery and Garden as it is also very important to maintain currency on presentation of new varieties and seasonal offerings to its relevant demographics.

My prediction is a move to sites like Shopify, Storeberry and Etsy. Cost wise these ‘cybershopping malls’ offer real value and enable retailers to present, update and sell online. It’s worth taking the punt and signing up. It opens up a whole new marketplace, a new income stream to smaller retailers.

To join and set up is relatively inexpensive and each have different fee structures ongoing. Storeberry has a flat monthly fee, whilst Shopify and Etsy collect commissions on sales. It appears Australia Post is also looking at joining this club and providing a one stop service.

Delivery needs to be resolved and also combining the site with a Facebook page and local advertising package for Facebook.

Simplifying the pathway is my prediction and I expect to see more smaller stores getting online in more innovative ways in 2016. It provides a nice segway into ensuring a really professional presentation yet it is entirely cost effective. And remember the web is a visual medium – always select the very best images. A great image can present in a second what a 100 words of text may not communicate. See you online.

 

 

 

 

Beware of the Pirates!

Over several years I have stressed the importance of Google relevance and talked of the range of actions website owners can undertake to increase their Google ranking and content relevance.

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During this period my business has created and gone live with many different websites from a wide range of industries and industry sub-sectors. And to assist these new websites we often subcontract third parties specialising in ‘SEO’ – search engine optimisation, Google ‘Adwords’ – specialists in Google advertising utilising keywords and phrases and social media writers and specialists – providing copy, posts, boosts and activity on the full range of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Google Plus.

It’s always a calculated gamble but every now and again, it’s quite possible to let an ‘Alien’ onto the spaceship. Generally it’s a self-interested practitioner prepared to put their own profit ahead of their client’s needs.

About three years ago our company started to use the service of an ‘Adwords’ specialist. From day one the guy was pushy, inflexible and quite prepared to baffle our clients with complicated graphs and charts. Wary of his activity, the team kept a close eye on his work. Then one day it started. A client rang me, asked me whether I thought increasing the Adwords spend would assist in developing further sales enquiries. I was ambivalent as there are all sorts of factors involved. Within two weeks the client had requested an end to social media, double the Adwords spend and put their new updated website on hold, although completed.

Fair enough, what the client wants, we follow through on. The client increased their Adwords spend, actually doubled it. This doubled the provider’s profit. After six months, the client agreed to go live with the ‘new’ responsive website we had developed. But that’s not where it ended. After another two months we were informed that the client was launching a ‘new’ website. And up it went – created on a WordPress platform – with terrible graphics, lay out and copy – 75% pirated from the ‘old’ site – all courtesy of our ‘Adwords’ expert.

The real issue is that through a range of very obvious Google ‘tricks’ and subterfuges, the client’s website received probably 25% to 30% higher enquiry level. However these enquiries were not translating into sales. Why was this?

Basically the original website was attractive. It utilised professional photography, graphic design, lay out and copy writing. Headings and subheading met Google standards but were attractive. Fonts were carefully selected. The site invited people with the ‘promise’ of what was available and as well provided an ‘offer’ that was attractive.

The new website was literally a scroll down of up to eight screen sizes. It had a zillion links. There were up to five fonts per page. The photos were simply poor quality copies of the original (websites only require 75 DPI (dots per inch) so a copy of a copy can be even less). The end result was ugly, difficult to navigate and really, provided a little incentive other than ‘order online’.

Websites should be considered your business’s very own digital television/image station. Visual images and video can present your business, its products and its character in an instant. There is no point in gaining a broader audience if the resultant website is just a constant stream of copy, unrelated video and ‘key words’.

Web developers and web masters gain such titles for a reason. Digital marketing requires much more than quick fix backroom tricks, smoke and mirrors.

Let your eyes and intellect guide you. Ask to view previous work. Always be sure that something representing your business is in fact a profile you can be proud of.

Beware of companies offering SEO packages. Check their bona fides. Recently an associate of ours, a window cleaner had over $3,600 withdrawn from his account overnight by his ‘SEO company’. Why? Because his 12 month campaign was up for renewal, but rather than withdraw the payments monthly, the company just took it as a lump sum and informed him that is what he signed up for 12 months previously. Needless to say after intervention from a legal service and the telecommunication ombudsman, the money was returned.

The Nursery and Garden Industry has a wonderful opportunity to present online. Be creative, be colourful and most importantly be professional. A boring ugly website that drives drovess of people to a site only to be disappointed is a guarantee of disinterest.

Remember your website is the world’s window to look in on your business. And it can be beautiful – and profitable – if you make the effort.

AdWords VS Social Media

Recently in one of the daily newspapers there was an article discussing the value of AdWords versus Social Media. What direction should you take?

AdWords are paid Google advertisements appearing at the top of any Google search. They are distinguishable by the prefix ‘Ad’ appearing before the entry. Often on popular products the AdWords are also visible on the right hand side of the page.

Adwords campaigns are not cheap. A typical campaign costs between $1000 and $5000 per month. Some companies spend up to $100K per month – major retail brands.

The discussion centred on for a new business which methodology is most successful – AdWords or Social Media? It was then followed by the ‘new’ business entrepreneur discussing the merits of Facebook v/s Instagram.

The established AdWords user business was happy with the results. For a business successfully using AdWords and engaging in a professional monitoring and bidding system this is quite understandable. The effect is somewhat cumulative. AdWords (or keywords) are bid for – daily – and by being an ‘early adopter’ the business owner has ensured they are ‘on top’ of the market. By default the early users are the ones who have set the price for their keywords.

The new user has to discover which keywords work best for them and then determine with the budget they have which ones to bid on. For instance, the phrase ‘Lawn Feeder’ may cost $2.50 per click thru. Is it worth spending that 25 times a day if your profit on that product is only $2.20?

In the article, the young lady opting for Social Media had attempted to enter the AdWords market but found over a year it simply wasn’t working for her, the better option was social media.

Reading between the lines, her reasoning was that it was free. On this basis she dissed Facebook, her reasoning being that she could not get the volume of people she could on Instagram.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Facebook own Instagram. By taking photographs of her new fashion items (in fashion you always have good photos available) and posting them on Instagram ,the lady was able to reach 70,000 viewers per photo – free – each time. Those with long memories will remember a time when the same thing was possible via Facebook. So what changed? Facebook became a Commercial operation when Mark Zuckerberg listed on the stock exchange. Facebook has gradually introduced ‘paid for’ access to its market – Facebook users. In Australia that’s 9 million people per day logging into Facebook.

So in reality one party was paying for their advertising (AdWords) and one party was looking for Free Publicity. There really is no comparison. What I recommend to my clients is do all three – use AdWords, Facebook and Instagram as well as others such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Allocate a recommended budget and use professionals or employ someone qualified to carry out your campaign. Digital Marketing currently accounts for up to 70% of all advertising spend and will only consolidate and increase.

Facebook are getting bolder. The company is preparing to take on Google it would appear. In June they have introduced a new advertising function. the ‘Facebook for Business’ team now offer a ‘Call Now’ click thru button that enables people in proximity to your business to call you – from their Facebook Newsfeed. Ads can be tailored to suit ‘Local Awareness’ and a Facebook campaign can be developed to assist in this.

It will enable your business to reach people when they’re near you, target the right audience and ultimately control advertising spend by being more effective locally.

So who was right and who was wrong? For both parties they were ‘happy’ with their results. Going forward, I would suggest both will be adjusting their strategies radically in the near future. For the AdWords aficionados? Their medium is quietly being outgunned and overtaken by other web strategies based around keywords, social media and Google’s Hummingbird algorithm measure. For the lady in fashion using Instagram? Good luck to her but I’d wager within 12 months she will be required to pay similar fees to those Facebook requires. The App’s first requirement is to gain a mass audience. Once it is consolidated you will start to pay.

Digital Marketing is fast paced and super quick in introducing the next advance in technology. It also cashes in quickly, so be prepared to pay to benefit. But make sure you’re part of it – every new variety should be captured on Instagram. Potted Colour, containers, vegetables ,herbs, shrubs, trees. Use it, use Facebook, and use whatever you can. Be present online – constantly. You will be rewarded. In the old days your shop had to be located on the High Street. Welcome to the cyber High street – this is where the traffic really is now and you and your business need to be there.