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.

Google Update Algorithm to Favour Mobiles

Well they’ve gone and done it! Google have changed their algorithm measure with another update. And don’t be blasé about it, this one could very easily effect you, your business and your web presence adversely if you do not or have not taken the measures required. Your website must now be ‘responsive’.

As I’ve described in previous articles, this means that your website isn’t just PC optimised via a desktop website or alternately mobile optimised for mobile devices alone.

Many businesses over the last four years have been convinced to build ‘mobile friendly websites’ or ‘mobile apps’. These were built additionally to existing websites. In many cases tablet versions were also built.

This is no longer appropriate. All websites must now become ‘responsive’. This means responsive to the device the searcher is using, whether it be a mobile phone, an iPad, Samsung Galaxy or Microsoft Tablet, or a traditional desktop PC. What is required is a single multi-device website, a single platform. In plain English those sites that are ‘mobile friendly’ will rise to the top of the Google rankings and those that do not offer a mobile friendly response will drop in ranking by up to 40%.This will put you back to page 3 or 4 in goole searches within a month.

Currently mobile searches (ie people searching using their mobile phone) account for at least 30% of all searches, with that number increasing steadily.

Google state that “as of April 21st we will be expanding our use of mobile friendliness as a ranking signal”.

In a nutshell you now need to ensure that you operate your website from a single platform; a single website that can respond to an enquiry from PC, tablet or mobile.

For many who have a PC desktop website and mobile versions separate, there is the risk of being penalised by Google for presenting ‘duplicate’ copy. It is now time to either modify your current website by including a mobile version that responds to an enquiry from a mobile device or tablet or just build a new website that actually is responsive from the get-go when it is launched.

Are you concerned regarding your website? There is a simple easy way to find out where you stand. Enter the following Google link on your browser and find out whether your website has a mobile friendly design…

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Use your Google account (if you have a Gmail account, a YouTube account or a Google+ account you can log in using your username and password. If you don’t, take your pick of these and register) Google in a matter of seconds will rate your site’s ‘mobile friendliness’.

Given the previous Google updates on Panda, Penguin and the introduction of Hummingbird Algorithm, this change will have a dramatic effect on commercial sites.

There is time to adjust your on-line presence to meet these Google requirements but it is strongly advised to use professional web developers and ensure your site is responsive and rating well.

For many of you with sites that date back more than two years, it is time to update. But remember, you need to provide a site ‘responsive’ to desktop, tablet and mobiles to rate well. Probably this is an indication that it is now prudent to ‘depreciate’ your website in the same way you do so with other business assets and plan for regular updates.

The most pertinent piece of advice I can give is for business owners to ensure the initial build of their website is to Google standards and to make sure your on-line suppliers and consultants keep you updated as per Google requirements – practically, on your Responsive website.

To be seen you need to ensure that you follow the Google prescriptions. With over 97% of all searches in Australia currently done via Google it pays to heed their instructions.

For anyone requiring advice or with further questions you can email me at michael@marketingandbranding.com.au

If I’m slow getting back to you don’t worry – we’re updating our site! Happy Googling!

The Customer Experience

Over the last ten years the so called ‘Fortune 1000’ companies – the largest most successful corporations in Australia – have been embarking upon automating their ‘systems’ to deal with customer enquiry. What this actually means, in real terms, is a reduction in face to face opportunities for their customers. Either through a digital telecommunication pathway, or through website portals you are now directed to a specified area to have your enquiry responded to.

The systems have been developed by IT personnel, and to a large extent are highly inflexible. Banks utilise overseas call centres to chase their slow payers. Want to borrow some money? Go to the website, click through to the right page and provide all of your details. You’ll be emailed with the result.

Some systems are so tight (for example Australia Post) that it is difficult to actually contact a person. You’re only option is to fill out an enquiry form. In a test case it was determined that person to person contact in this instance was virtually impossible.

Where is this going? The major companies have realised that the ‘customer interface experience’ is very unappealing. ‘Chief Information Officers’ have set these processes in place according to IT protocols. The Board’s at these companies now realise this needs some serious modification.

I was recently invited to speak with a group of about 35 CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) for companies such as the ANZ, Australia Post, David Jones, Woolworths and many others of similar ilk. The seminar was talking about the ‘Customer Experience’. Larger corporations now realise that the current customers experience is entirely negative. The seminar looks to explore online communication, Social Media SEO and Call centre and Web interfaces. The marketing supremo’s are looking to now develop customer strategies that ‘embrace’ their clients online.

Garden centres and nurseries need to consider the same connectivity. How can a garden centre embrace this new digital age? How can it increase its profits in doing so? It’s now more important than ever that retailers look to engage their customer base effectively online through Social Media, through websites and through e-commerce sites.

Consider your online presence. Are you easy to deal with? Easy to find? Easy to purchase from? Easy to seek advice from? Or do you have to be Physics major to buy a 140mm pot of colour?

Marketing is about communication. E-commerce sites like Storeberry, Storenvy and Etsy provide real access to real paying customers. It can be inexpensive and most effective. In real terms, the Garden Centre has always offered a genuine ‘customer experience’; make sure you transfer that same information and receptivity to your online ‘persona’. Create a buying sequence that provides real customer satisfaction. Create a real ‘business persona’. The next generation of online business is about to commence. Make sure your business is part of it.

Marketing Services

Websites / Online Strategies
The Marketing and Branding Company will create and develop a modern, functional website for your business. Specific applications for mobile phones and tablets are also available. Database driven websites with shopping carts or trading facilities can also be created. Having developed a wide range of websites over a long period, our websites are individual, well designed and functional with good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Google strategies. E-Newsletters and Web blasts are effective online communication methods, which we can incorporate into your online campaigns.

Brand Development
The creation of an effective brand for your business/product is essential. We facilitate the development of the design, brand name and registrations. Brand recognition and full Brand Strategy is then enabled via an appropriate campaign package.
Advertising Campaigns
We develop branding, creative look and feel and effective advertising campaigns for both products and service organisations.  Media campaigns are designed for Television, Radio and Print, with a cross media approach being the most effective.  Print campaigns are placed in daily newspapers, magazines and journals. We also provide media placement. Campaigns are fully budgeted, timeline actioned then implemented.

Marketing Strategy Plans and Implementation
A sound Marketing Strategy begins with genuine market research, analysis and is followed through with realistic, strategic planning. Directional outcomes are based on thorough research, experience and business acumen. This is the approach taken by the Marketing and Branding Company.
We provide full implementation of recommended Marketing Strategies and provision of outsourced personnel to achieve best practice in all recommended tactics e.g. Design, Media Buying, Copywriting, Public Relations, Web Development and Sales Management.

Product Launches
The launch of a new product requires many aspects of marketing. We are experienced at facilitating product launches   through Branding, Packaging, Point of Sale, Media commitments and negotiations with channel partners. Public Relations and advertorial copy are also provided.

Business Launches & Expansions
From start-up businesses to larger corporates, we facilitate Business Branding and Corporate Makeovers. Web Strategies, Public Relations, Seminars, Launches, Marketing Collateral, Advertising and Editorial are included. The Marketing and Branding Company have launched a number of new and rejuvenated businesses over an 18 year period.