Sunday, 15 January 2012

SEO Consultants: Learning to Avoid the Bad Ones

SEO, or search engine optimisation, refers to the process by which a company can improve the visibility of its website in search engines, leading to more visitors and therefore hopefully increased profits. One of the jobs of an internet marketing company is to understand how search engines work so they can use SEO methods, such as identifying certain keywords and editing the content of your site and its html coding accordingly, to improve your search engine ranking.

However, bringing in a consultant will of course cost you money so it’s not a decision you should take lightly or rush into. You want only the best, as shoddy SEO can do more harm than good to your company.

To help you out, here are some hints on how to avoid the many unreliable SEO consultants operating today:

Where is the money going?: Before you sign anything, a reputable marketing company should be able to provide you with a detailed budget of where all the recommended outlay for the development of your SEO strategy should be allocated. Some companies will claim they are ranking you highly in search engines purely by using SEO methods such as keyword placement, which is free, when actually they are using pay-per-click to increase the visibility of your website, which is a different thing entirely. If a consultancy is not prepared to outlay all the costs then stay away from it.

Beware the unsolicited approach: Any consultancy that has to resort to sending out SPAM emails to drum up customers isn’t worth your time. You ignore all those emails from companies trying to sell you diet pills or ‘genuine’ Rolex watches, and you should treat such messages from marketing companies in the same way. After all, if they use this somewhat unprofessional method to get business for their own company what do you think they will propose to do for yours?

Unrealistic promises: Be wary of any internet marketing company making claims that sound too good to be true: they probably are. For example, don’t go for a company which is happy to guarantee you a number one Google rating very quickly. As any good consultancy knows, done right, SEO takes time to take effect so you have to exercise a certain amount of patience.

Are they above board?: Try to check out the background of a consultancy you are thinking of hiring. Have they previously operated under any other names, or do they have multiple aliases? This could be a sign that they have something to hide, or their past dealings haven’t exactly reflected favourably upon them. Do they own ‘shadow’ domains, which can channel users to a site using deceptive redirects, or have they in the past had any domains removed from Google? These are all things you should check out before you even consider hiring them.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Time to Hire a Marketing Consultant?

Every company needs a sound online marketing strategy in order to keep pulling in the customers, but it can take time to develop this to a point where you are starting to see results. Many companies panic when success doesn’t come as quickly as they would like, and hire an internet marketing company for the wrong reasons. Bearing in mind that there are always going to be peaks and troughs in business, how do you know when your strategy just isn’t working and it’s time to bring in a marketing expert? Here we look at some signs that your company could perhaps benefit from some outside help.

Lack of perspective: When you try to do such a major job as marketing in-house, the danger can be that you start going round in circles and lose sight of the wider business context. If you feel this is happening then this is the time to bring in an outside perspective. Many companies hire in a consultant for just this reason. Sometimes you can struggle on for months, whereas the reasons you are failing might be immediately apparent to an outsider, who will then be able to help you start afresh with a new outlook. They will also have the vital in-depth knowledge of the latest marketing trends in the business world.

Large project to complete: Some companies, if they have a particularly important project on such as a major new product launch which goes beyond their internal expertise or resources, will hire in an internet marketing company as a temporary measure. Not every company needs or can afford a permanent marketing manager, but there are those times when a project is too important to be left to chance.

Lack of expertise: Many small business owners start off thinking they can do the marketing themselves and then realise it is a great deal more specialised than they had anticipated. You may have some idea how to publicise your products or carry out email marketing, but perhaps find the techniques to analyse website visitor data beyond your comprehension. Bringing in an internet marketing company to help you learn about the various methods and techniques out there will give your marketing strategy a more solid and professional base.

Negative feedback: Another sign that you may need the help of a marketing consultancy is if you are getting negative feedback from customers and the users of your site. This is why it’s important to encourage your customers to communicate with you via your website and offer constructive criticism. It’s an old cliché, but remember that the customer is always right – so if they say that you have to make some serious changes, either in the way your website is laid out of the way in which you are advertising your business, then you probably do.

Many companies hire a marketing consultant for the wrong reasons, so it's not something you should rush into. However there are certain signs to look out for which may indicate that you could benefit from some outside help.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Even If You’re Not a Fan Of New Year’s Resolutions, Resolve To Become More Social Media Savvy in 2012!

With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube continuing to grow their followings substantially in 2011, and other social networks springing up month on month, it’s clear that social media is far from the ‘passing fad’ some doubters predicted.

For many of us, social media has changed the way we do business – and there is no going back. If you haven’t yet got to grips with social media, then you could seriously be missing out on winning over a new generation of fans for your business. So here are some tips to get you started:

Maintain separate personal and business social media accounts

Unless you’re a celebrity, most people won’t be interested in what you had for breakfast, or where you went on holiday. So be sure to separate ‘personal’ and ‘business’ interests and use dedicated accounts for both functions. Also be aware that if you have a personal account for fun/ leisure purposes, that business acquaintances and colleagues might check out those postings too!

Let people know you’re on social media

Once you’ve signed up to a social media site and begun posting, be sure to let people know about it. The best way of doing this is by adding social media buttons to your website, blog, emails, business cards and snail mail. All your correspondence in fact, both online and off.

Upload a picture

A photo of you in a professional capacity is an absolute must for your social media business pages. If you’ve ever visited a LinkedIn profile page with no photo you’ll know exactly what I mean. An incomplete profile gives the impression that the person isn’t all that bothered – with the result that they are not taken as seriously as they otherwise might be.

Include a link with every posting

If you fail to include a link to your blog or website with each and every posting, then you are missing an opportunity to drive additional traffic to your site. Generally speaking, more traffic means more conversions and more revenue.

Make a video

Did you realise YouTube is world’s 2nd largest search engine and the 3rd most visited website? And YouTube Mobile gets over 3 billion hits a day – that’s massive! So why not make a video about an aspect of your business that will whet potential customers’ appetites. You can then upload your video to YouTube as well as embed it into your website. Better still, produce a series of videos. And remember to include a link to your videos in relevant blog postings and promotional materials.

Start as you mean to go on

If I could include just one tip, it would be this one: you don’t have to be on every social media site to see a difference in your marketing results – so choose wisely. And make sure you allocate enough time in your daily/ weekly schedule for the social media activities you decide to pursue, whether that’s working on a blog, updating your Facebook page, or networking on LinkedIn.

The main point about social media is that it needs to be embraced whole-heartedly, or not at all. Think of it this way: if you happened upon a business blog where the last posting was several months back, you wouldn’t spend too long on that site would you?

Outsource tasks to specialists

Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. If, like many people, you don’t find the concept of social media easy to get to grips with, then consider outsourcing your requirements. Outsourcing necessary business tasks or tasks you find difficult, laborious and time-consuming makes perfect economic sense. It means you get the services of a consummate professional who will use his or her expertise to make the most of your social marketing budget, while you get to concentrate on the aspects of your business you do best.

Now that’s time and money well spent.

Happy New Year!

Make Your Blog Content Go Further

You’ve spent some time researching suitable topics for your blog and producing
valuable content your followers will love. Here are some ideas for making that content go further . . .

SEO/ Keyword Integration

Choosing and using the right keywords in your blog postings can have a major impact on the amount of traffic your blog receives, as well as influencing your web marketing (negatively or positively). Once you have drafted a blog post, scan through your writing and pick out the main topic(s) covered. Then run them through Google AdWords’ Free Keyword Suggestion Tool and make a note of the main search terms and most popular words and phrases that come up. Run through your post content once more and see if you can utilise this keyword knowledge to improve your post title, content, meta description and tags.

Use Syndication to Extend Your Blog Content’s Reach

RSS, dubbed Really Simple Syndication, is a mechanism which allows you to syndicate your blogs content to many different sources at once and is the perfect tool if you’re into social media. If you have a blog, locate your site’s RSS URL and plug it in to your social media pages. For example, with a Facebook Business Page, search for the ‘Social RSS’ application in your applications area and set it to publish your content to your Facebook page wall automatically.

The beauty of using an RSS ‘plug in’ is that normally you will only have to set it up once!

Add Your Latest Blog Post Headline to Your Email Signature

You may be able to do this automatically as many blogging platforms have apps that can assimilate your blog post headlines into your signature, but if not, it’s often worth doing manually. You never know when a post title might strike a chord with an email recipient, thus sparking a conversation that could lead to a business deal or a joint venture.

Use Social Networking Sites to Establish Your Authority

Next time you’re involved in a group discussion on LinkedIn, or helping someone out with a query on a forum or discussion board, don’t forget to include links to any blog posts you have written which are pertinent to your discussion. Most social media and networking sites will allow this, providing the content you are linking to is relevant to the user and not blatant self-promotion.

Interact With Writers Whose Blogs Are Similar To Yours

Just finished a post on a particular topic? Why not do a quick search to see who else is blogging on the same topic or a similar theme. Perhaps you have covered an angle or point they haven’t. In which case, add your comment and preferably leave your URL as well.

It’s a useful exercise to compile an ongoing list of bloggers you would like to connect with, or write a guest post for. Try to aim for one new connection each week – you’ll be amazed how much extra traffic you receive as a result of these interactions. You can also consider the possibility of joint-venturing with like-minded writers/ blog owners.

Start an E-Newsletter and Expand on Some of Your Blog Content

Fair enough, no subscriber likes to see the same old content rehashed over and over again, it’s a real turn off. However there are times when you may want to repeat a particular blog post for a new audience, or when you want to expand on a topic that received a lot of interest first time around. Starting an e-newsletter doesn’t have to be a lot of work, particularly if it’s once a month. And you can always ask contacts and colleagues to help provide fresh content and ideas.