How to create SEO friendly blog posts

Ipad and notepad and pencil on table

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is really important for small online businesses. Optimising your website to make it more attractive to search engines will help your ecommerce business rank higher on SERPS.  As a consequence your online business will become more visible to people using certain keywords and keyphrases to search for information via search engines such as Google. Making your blog posts search engine friendly are an excellent way to help support your ongoing SEO efforts.

Not only are blogs a great way to engage your audience, grow high-quality leads, build credibility and authority for your site, they are also one of the most straightforward ways to add relevant, fresh and quality content to your website on a regular basis.  Search engines like new content so it is important to keep a regular stream content coming on to your site.  

How to make your blog posts SEO friendly

Start by doing some keyword research

Think about the kinds of keywords and keyphrases that your target audience might search for when looking for products or services related to your business. There are some helpful tools available that can generate ideas and give you indication of how popular a particular keyword or keyphrase is – try Google’s Keyword planner. It’s a free Adwords tool (you just need to create an Adwords account) aimed at advertisers but really helpful if you are doing keyword research for your business.

keyword research

“Is the keyword relevant to your website’s content? Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords? Will they be happy with what they find?’ MOZ, The Beginners Guide to SEO

Identifying the kind of words and phrases your target audience may use will help you create copy that is attractive to search engines. Just make sure the keywords and phrases are relevant to the content of your blog article. If they don’t marry-up then visitors won’t stay around to discover more about what your ecommerce business has to offer.

Keywords and phrases should flow naturally through your copy

This is a really important point.  Your keyword research doesn’t for one second mean that you simply use the keywords and phrases you’ve identified and stuff as many as possible into your blog post. This is known as keyword stuffing and as a practice it will actually do your ecommerce business more harm than good. The keywords and phrases you’ve researched should be relevant to the article or post you are writing and therefore should flow naturally into your copy anyway. Utilise a few keywords and phrases to help keep you focused on your goal of optimising your post. If you always bear  in mind that you are writing for your target audience then you’ll probably find that the most relevant keywords and phrases will pop up naturally anyway.

Use keywords in certain key areas 

There are however specific areas in your post where including  some strategically placed keywords and phrases will have a positive impact, not only to help the audience quickly glean how relevant your article, but to help search engine crawlers to index your content. The general consensus is to include your keywords / key phrases in:

  • URL
  • Title (your headline)
  • Headers, sub-headers and body  (remember keeping them natural)
  • Meta description

Include images

Not only will images help engage your audience (content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images), images can also be optimised for search engines. For each image you publish make sure you complete its Alt Text using a keyword relevant to your post. Search engines can’t see an image so they rely on Alt Text to tell them what the image is about. In addition, it is also important that you add alt text to the image to ensure accessibility for people relying on-screen readers.

Link internally

OK, so we all know the value of having inbound links from authoritative industry relevant websites, however don’t forget that there are other opportunities that will be helpful to SEO. When you are creating your post think if there are any other articles you’ve written that it would be relevant to include an internal link to. For example, earlier on when we looked at keywords research I’ve included a link back to  a previous article that examines keyword research in more detail. This ‘internal linking’ can help highlight other related content to search engines – it may also help keep visitors on your site for longer.

In addition, it can be a good idea to link externally in your post to other authoritative sites (if relevant to your content).  It won’t be as beneficial as an inbound link, but it will still help towards your trust rating.

Be mobile friendly

Ensure that your blog posts are multi-device friendly – for example, that they are just as readable on a mobile as they are on a desktop. Firstly, you want your readers to be able to access your posts when it suits them such as on the train on the way to work. According to research mobile now accounts for 65% of all digital media time – with all new growth coming from mobile usage.

blog posts should be mobile friendly

Secondly, if people are using a mobile to search for information, Google will display mobile friendly sites first on SERPS. Google adds a mobile friendly label to all mobile search results displaying websites that have been optimised to be viewed on a mobile device.

Add a comment box

Opening up your blog posts to comments, not only is a great way to build relationships and engage directly with your audience, it is also another way to add relevant, fresh content to website  for SEO purposes. If you decide to go down this road and open you posts up for comments, then make sure you have the resources to monitor them to ensure nothing inappropriate or spam related is being posted.

Blogging is a really excellent way to support your SEO efforts through adding fresh, relevant and regular content to your small online business. Hopefully by introducing some of the tips we’ve mentioned above your posts will be that extra bit more search engine friendly. 

 

We’d  love to hear your thoughts and experiences on blogging and SEO so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

How small businesses can use Google’s Keyword Planner to support SEO

google keyword plannerChoosing the best keywords and keyphrases for your small business is an integral part of successful Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and driving targeted traffic to your website. Keyword research can help you with on-page optimisation and the creation of relevant, high-quality content. We take a look at how to build a useful list of keywords with the help of Google’s free Keyword Planner tool.

Keyword research

Keywords and keyphrases are essentially the words people type into search engines when they are looking for a particular product or service online. With SEO you are essentially optimising your online presence to try to rank higher in the ‘organic’ (non-paid) search engine result pages (SERPS) for searches closely related to your business. Of course there are all sorts of elements involved in how search engines rank businesses on SERPS but keyword research is central to helping you gain better ranking and ensuring the right people are linking through to your site.

Obviously a good understanding of your business, industry and customers is essential and will lay the groundwork for successful keyword research. Essentially keyword research is about identifying the words and phrases prospective customers use and then having your business rank on those particular SERPS. Start by thinking about what is at the heart of your business. For example;

  • What do you do?
  • What is your business about?
  • Who are your prospective customers?
  • What are they interested in?

Don’t be afraid to ask for other people’s opinions such as suppliers, existing customers, friends and family. Other points of view can give you a fuller and more accurate picture.

Using Google’s Keyword Planner tool

Once you have a starting list of keywords related to your business you can utilise free tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to help you build up your list. These tools can help generate keyword ideas and provide estimates of monthly search volumes for specific keywords of phrases. With some time and experimenting you can build a useful lists of relevant, optimised keywords to implement online.

Google Adwords is really designed for pay-per-click advertising (PPC) but its Keyword Planner is also a great free tool for small businesses and start-ups to use to help with their keyword research. To get started you just need to register for Google Adwords. Google Support provides helpful step-by-step advice to using its Keyword Planner that will guide you through getting up and running. Alternatively another article I found really useful was from SEOMARK which takes you though the process step by step and is written specifically for those not using Adwords for PPC purposes.

However, in a nutshell, once you’ve logged on to Google Adwords:

  • Click on the drop-down ‘Tools’ menu and then select ‘Keyword Planner.
  • Click on ‘Search for new keyword and ad groups ideas.

google keyword planner

You can now start getting keyword ideas and getting a feel for the kind of volumes particular keywords of phrases bring in.

  • Type some of the initial keyword ideas you came up with that described the fundamentals of your business into the ‘Your Product and Service’. In the example below I’ve typed in ‘handmade  silver jewellery’.

Google Adwords keyword tool

 

  • Click on ‘Get ideas’. Then change the tab from ‘Ad Group’ to the ‘Keyword ideas’ tab. This is the screen you should see:

 

google keyword planner

 

  • This will provide you with the average monthly search volume for the keywords you entered.
  • Underneath is a list of similar keyword suggestions from Google.

Keep experimenting with keywords and phrases to help build a useful list of relevant keywords. You can build specific keywords lists for each page of your website.  The average monthly search volume will give you an indication of a keywords usage.

Use keyword planner for Longtail keyword ideas

Don’t forget about investigating long tail keywords as well. These are usually phrases of 3 or more keywords. For example ‘silver jewellery’ is a very broad term, the monthly results may be high but the quality of traffic may be poor with conversions low. A long tail keyword is longer and can be more specific to your business for example ‘handmade stirling silver necklaces’. The search volumes will be lower but it is more targeted and the quality of your visitors may be better, which in turn may result in a higher conversion rate.

Making the most of your optimised keywords list

Once you’ve researched and created your keyword lists you should put them to good use to optimise your online presence and target your content marketing. This will help towards your SEO efforts.

1.Use your keywords to optimise your web pages. keywords on-page optimisation

Ensure that you utilise your keyword lists to include relevant keywords and phrases for each individual page.

  • Pages URL: Create a short, explanatory URL using keywords that accurately reflect the content of the page.
  • Title Tag: This is the headline for your pages search listing and appears on the top of your browser. It is really important to include strong keywords here – the general consensus seems to be to aim for about 55-60 characters.
  • Meta Description: Like Title Tag, your meta description doesn’t appear on your page but on the search engines results page. It is essentially additional copy reflecting the content of your page. Try to make is compelling as possible using appropriate keywords and phrases from your keyword list.
  • Body of content: Use relevant keywords naturally in the context of your copy throughout the page.Whatever you do do not ‘keyword stuff’ search engines will spot this and it will work against your rankings.  Essentially if you aim to provide, relevant, interesting and engaging copy for your prospective customers you won’t go far wrong.
  • Images. Adding relevant ALT attributes to your images help the search engines identify what your page is about.

2. Wider content marketingkeywords content marketing

Use your keyword lists ideas to generate interesting and compelling content for your prospective customers. In addition to on page optimisation, use keyword research to hone the content of your blog articles, press releases, infographics, white papers, news articles and social media. Search engines love unique, high quality, fresh and engaging content. Utilising your keyword research will only help you in your SEO efforts.

Hopefully this has given you a bit of insight into the important part the right keywords can play in organic search and where your business ranks. Undertaking keyword research is a really beneficial exercise and there are some great free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner that can help you build a useable list of optimised keywords and phrases for your online business.

We’d love to hear your thought and experiences on this, so please do leave a comment.

 

5 indispensable marketing metrics to help small online businesses and start-ups measure performance

marketing metrics for small businessesAs a small online business owner or e-commerce start-up not only do you have a million and one things whirring around in your head, you also have to contend with small budgets, limited resources and constant time pressures. Having to then dedicate even more head space to performance measurements like web analytics can feel somewhat overwhelming. You can be left wondering where to focus your time and effort in a sea of numbers. To help you get the ball rolling we’ve outlined a few key measurements that are quick and easy to understand and can tell you all sorts of helpful things about your performance.

Start small and focus on a few key metrics

Of course there are all sorts of different ways for you to measure your marketing performance, from number of ‘likes’ on social media, customer satisfaction surveys or in-depth analysis of web analytics. Your chosen measurement depends on your goals and objectives and how much time and resources you have available.

Getting started with metrics can feel a bit daunting but the trick is to start small and focus on some key measurements. Don’t be tempted to rely on a scatter-gun approach to marketing where you do lots and hope that some of it will pay off. With small budgets it is essential that you can account for every penny and feel secure that the money and resources you’ve invested are working hard for you. Sign up to Google Analytics and learn to analyse what it is your metrics are telling you. You can then implement whatever changes are necessary to optimise your performance. The last thing you want is to throw good money after bad.

5 essential marketing metrics

We’ve outlined below some simple to understand measurements that can quickly help you identify areas that are paying off or conversely need improving. Of course, there are all sorts metrics you’ll want to analyse as your business develops but these five are a great starting point.

web analytics bounce rate1. Bounce Rate

“If you could only choose one metric to look at Bounce Rate might be your best choice” Google

What is it? Bounce rate is almost self-explanatory, it identifies the percentage of visitors to your site who view just one single page before leaving almost immediately. You are looking for a low bounce rate, the higher the percentage the higher the likelihood of there being a problem. For example visitors came, looked, didn’t like what they found and so left. The general consensus amongst web analytics experts seems to be that about 30-40% bounce is a good target to aim for anything above 50% needs investigating.

What does it tell me? The key things your bounce rate could be telling you is whether there is a problem with the quality of the traffic coming into your site, your page may be loading to slowly or your landing page is putting people off.

What should I do next?

  • Firstly check that you’ve added your tracking code to your page and that the keywords and search terms you are using echo the content of your site. If there is a mis-match you are going to be enticing in the wrong traffic. No matter how great your website looks they just aren’t interested in its offerings.
  • Make sure your website is loading quickly. People don’t have the patience for a website that loads slowly  – they’ll simply give up and move on elsewhere.
  • Check out your landing page. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good landing page. It should be well-designed, easy to navigate, contain quality content, reflect the promise you made in whatever promotion enticed them in the first place (so try to always have a separate landing page pertinent to each channel or campaign) and have a strong call to action.

web traffic source2. Traffic sources

What is it? On your Google Analytics dashboard the Traffic Source metric tells you where your website traffic is coming from – what platform are your visitors using to find you?

What does it tell me? It will tell you the percentage of visitors coming in through each channel. So traffic coming in via search engines using particular keywords is your Organic Search traffic. Direct traffic is those visitors who entered your website’s URL  into the browser. Social traffic are those who arrived through your social media platforms and  Referral traffic will tell you those visitors who clicked on your link from another website.  It is  good way of identifying which areas you need to focus on to drive traffic to your site.

What should I do next? Spend sometime looking at each traffic source. Are you doing as well as you expected or do some channels need some work. For example the percentage of visitors finding you via organic search will give you a good indication of how successful your search engine optimisation is. If it is not as good as you’d hope spend some time looking at how you can improve your content. Your content is absolutely essential in improving your search engine ranking.  Equally if you find that you are putting lots of time and effort into Facebook but actually you’re getting a better percentage of visitors from Pinterest then it may indicate that it’s more worthwhile for you to put some of the time you spend on Facebook into Pinterest.

 

cash flow management3. Cost-per-acquisition

What is it? Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) is the average amount of money it costs you to acquire a new customer. Divide the total costs of  acquisition (for example sales and marketing spend) by the total number of new customers over a specific period –  for example 6 months.

What does it tell me?  Cost-per-acquisition will tell you if you’re spending too much on acquiring a new customer. For example, does what you spend on the acquisition of a new customer exceed the profit your new customer is generating for you?

What should I do next? Are you spending more than you can afford?  Investigate where you are spending your marketing budget. Examine the performance of the marketing channels you are using to acquire your new customers in more detail. Which leads us nicely onto…

 

4. ROMI Return on marketing investment

What it is? ROMI is your Return on Marketing Investment. A simplistic calculation for ROMI could be: Total revenue generated from a campaign / Total campaign cost. Remember to multiply the result by 100 as ROMI is usually expressed as a percentage.

What does it tell me? The higher the percentage then the better the campaign is working. What you don’t really want are percentages that are in the negative. Work out the ROI for each campaign you undertake.

What should I do next? Think about what campaigns are giving you the best return on investment. You can then allocate your budget in the most profitable areas and get rid of the campaigns that are losing you money.

shopping cart abandonment rate5. Shopping cart abandonment rate

What is it? Your shopping cart abandonment rate is the percentage of customers leaving you during the conversion process. To find out where people are abandoning you, in Google Analytics go to conversions and look at goal flow.

What does it tell me? These people had already decided to part with their money but somewhere during the conversion process they’ve quit. It will give you an indication whether there is a potential problem during the checkout process that needs addressing.

How you can improve it? Identify the steps on your flow that have the highest abandonment percentages and think about what it could be that is making people leave. For example do you present them with an overly long registration form, are their some hidden shipping costs that suddenly appear or is confusing wording making it difficult for people to know what to do next? Try to make your checkout process as simple and straightforward as possible. Don’t ask for too much information and don’t have any hidden costs appearing out nowhere. 

 Next steps…

As your business grows and develops you’ll want to start delving a bit deeper into measuring and understanding performance.  Moving forward you will need to have clear goals and set yourself specific objectives that you can measure using the most appropriate metric. Of course numbers on their own mean little, it is about understanding what it is your metrics are telling you. Only then can you make the right improvements.

Try to get yourself into the routine of regularly checking your metrics on Google Analytics (or whatever web analytics programme you are using). Before you know it you’ll become  proficient in reading metrics, identifying trends or spotting any hiccups!

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so do please leave a comment.

 

5 top visual content tips to improve your social media presence

visual content on social mediaMarketers are continuing to invest an increasing proportion of their budget in social media.

The consensus seems to be that coupled with the continued investment in social media, visual content marketing will be of the key e-commerce trends for 2015.

The ease of which images and videos can be shared on social media makes it an obvious platform for visual content marketing. We take a look at the benefits of visual content and offer some helpful tips on how to use visual content to improve your social media presence.

Rise of visual content.

“The use of visual content in social media has been phenomenal with 70% jump in 2014” ViralTag.

This remarkable growth in the use of visual content is the result of a number of factors including:

  • Increased mobile usage:  3 out of 4 Facebook users now access Facebook through their smartphones. And since, images are far easier to digest on a phone than large chunks of heavy text visual content is becoming increasingly popular .
  • High speed wireless networks: Thanks to the wider availability of high-speed wireless networks we no longer have to wait for eons for an image to download.
  •  Growth in social media: The continued rise in social media. All the key social media platforms continued to grow during 2014. Of particular note is the impressive growth from visual content based platforms  like Pinterest and Instagram who grow active users by 111% and 64% respectively.
  • Human nature: By our very nature we are drawn to visual stimulus. The majority of us are visual learners which means we can digest visual content far more easily than text-based content. In fact according to HubSpot, visual content actually makes up 93% of all human communication.
  • Accessible visual marketing tools: There are more visual marketing tools at our disposal than ever before. Creating professional looking pictures, images and videos is no longer just for big companies and big budgets – we can DIY great, original visual content ourselves.

link building for sepBenefits increased visual content brings your business.

Increasing the amount  of visual content your have can bring a number of benefits to your business. For example;

  • Helps with link building: Visual content is highly shareable. Quality inbound links back to your website content via social media can help you with your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and improve your search engine page rankings.
  • Increased customer engagement: Visual content such as photos, images, infographics and video improves engagement on social media. According to Hubspot social media posts with photos account for 87% of total interactions.
  • Makes an impact: In a crowded market of online communications a good visual can help your message stand out. Visual content enables you to convey ideas and messages immediately.
  • Builds brand awareness: Engaging visual content can increase your number of fans, likes and comments – growing the awareness of your brand amongst an audience

tips to implement visual content5 tips to improve your social media visual content.

To help get you started we’ve outlined a few ways to implement quality visual content that will improve your social media presence.

1. Use visuals to support all your posts

Sounds obvious but a surprising number of businesses still post social media updates without adding a photo or image. Remember:

” The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes for the brain to decode text” Hubspot

Support all your posts with an image. It is far more likely that you’ll engage a user if you have a captivating visual. For example, say you have just written a great new blog article. It is a fascinating topic and you want to share it on social media. Great, but no matter how compelling your headline and subject matter is, it is not going to get anywhere near as much engagement as it would with a relevant image to support it.

Don’t forget to use images on Twitter  posts too. According to HubSpot a Twitter post containing at least one image will increase shares:

  • Average Twitter shares with no image = 9.67
  • Average Twitter shares with an image = 20.36

Finally, don’t use lack of budget as an excuse to not include photos and images. There are a plethora of sites that offer the use of free or low-cost photos and images. Just remember some of the free images may require an attribution.

2. Think interesting, inspiring and original

As we’ve mentioned above, using images is essential. But to really captivate your audience try to be as visually interesting and inspiring as possible. Mix things up by trying to veer away from using too many stock pictures. We’ve all seen the standard pictures of smiling business men in suits so many times that to be honest they’re not really going to grab anyone’s attention. Try to think more originally when using supporting images to  get a message across – you want to make as much of a visual impact as possible.

Another example of how to beef up your visual content is to take something like an inspirational quote (which always prove popular on social media) and to try using something like word art to make it visually enaging. For example:

Inspirational quote

I’ve just read an excellent article:  5 must have free visual marketing tools. It provides a list of free visual marketing tools that help you do all sorts of great things to improve your images such as:

  • Putting text and captions over images
  • Creating collages
  • Word Art
  • Data visualisation

It should get your creative juices flowing.

3. Create some original video content

We only have to look at the phenomenal success of YouTube to get a feel for how popular video is. Indeed according to HubSpot every single minute:

  • 8333 videos are shared
  • 72 hours of new video is uploaded on YouTube

Including video links into your social media posts  is an excellent way of increasing engagement through original added-value visual content. Try creating original videos that showcase your product, introduce your business and team, offer demonstrations on how to use your product or service, give video tutorials, or illustrate how a product is crafted. There are all sorts of interesting ways you can incorporate video into your social media presence.

A customer who watches a video is 85% more likely to make a purchase

You no longer have to rely on an expensive production companies to produce a good video. There are a number of online video creation tools around like Animoto or WeVideo. You can also opt to do-it-yourself  with a camera and video editing software such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

4. Try introducing Infographics

Infographics are a great way to visually convey information in a colourful, interesting and digestible manner. They are particularly useful if you have some interesting numbers or research to impart. Infographics make great blog articles that you can link to via your social media posts.

 

Cutting costs for business infographic

 

According to research, consumers are more 30 times more likely to read an info graphic than a text-based piece of content.

5. Finally, make visual content a significant part of your overall content strategy.

Your social media presence should support your content strategy and drive traffic by enticing an audience back to your website though links and the sharing of content.  As we discussed earlier in the article since you are far more likely to attract the attention of an audience on social media with the use of images, photos and video, it follows that you should be making visual content an important element of both your social media strategy and your  overall content strategy.

If you put time aside and actually plan in some of the visual content ideas we mentioned in the article, you are far more likely to see them implemented and reap the rewards visual content can bring to your business.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post. So please do leave a comment.

Photos from mobile image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ship Chain image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Implement Definition Button Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How small business ecommerce can improve their online content

Website sign postAs a small business owner how can you improve your online content?

Quality content plays a crucial part in the success of your ecommerce business and as such, it should be right at the heart of all your online activity. Good content should be the foundation of your marketing practice, search engine optimisation, web design and your customers’ online experience. Poor, ill-thought-out content can be a real barrier to online purchasing.

Despite its importance, we can all get a bit complacent with our online content and forget that it needs updating and refreshing on a regular basis. If you review and update  your content frequently then fantastic but, if like most small business owners, you are constantly juggling multiple roles and tasks, then finding time to review and plan content can be a challenge.

However if you can manage to schedule some time in your diary to follow some of the content suggestions we’ve outlined in this blog then it will genuinely save you time and money in the long run. Don’t forget quality content is at the core of a successful online presence – do it well and it will make all the activities that follow far more effective.  So, put some proper time aside to review your current online content and ways you can improve on it.

SEOSEO – customers should drive your content efforts.

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed“ Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

Interesting, relevant and fresh content is not only what will bring customers to your online business and keep them coming back it is the back bone of search engine optimisation (SEO). As far as SEO is concerned the practice of keyword and key-phrase stuffing are well and truly over. Search engines are looking for quality content that is relevant to your market. The best way of creating just such content is to keep your customers in mind. Ask yourself –

  • What will my customers find interesting?
  • What content is relevant to my business?
  • What information is my customer looking for?
  • What information do they need to make a purchasing decision?

“Develop great content” may be the most oft-repeated suggestion in the SEO world. Despite its clichéd status, though, this is sound advice. Appealing, useful content is crucial to search engine optimisation….Crafting fulfilling, thorough content that addresses searchers’ needs improves your chance to earn top rankings.”  MOZ Beginners Guide to SEO.

Planning start pointThinking about your content in terms of your customers needs is essential.

Where to start?

Before you launch yourself into all sorts of new and exciting content ideas – you first need to get the foundations right. This means reviewing your current offering, setting goals and objectives , identifying content gaps and putting a plan in place. This will better help you understand the content needs of your business and provide you with a solid and realistic base for future content. It also means you are more likely to get it right!

Where are you now? Review your current offering

Take a long objective look at the content of your website.  Be honest with yourself and try to be unbiased (if you’re worried that you can’t see the woods for the tress then get someone you trust to review your content).

  • What are you current strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you do well?
  • What could you do with a bit more of or less of?
  • Do you have a good balance of content? For example, is there too much lighthearted content and not enough informative content or vice versa.
  • Does your content read well?
  • Is your interesting and relevant to your customers?.
  • Have you had any feedback from customers – what would they like to see?

It is only by taking a really thorough look at what you currently offer that you can set yourself realistic objectives and identify any content gaps.

What do you want to achieve? Set yourself goals and objectives? What is it that you need your content to help you do? Are you looking to grow the traffic to your site, increase your sales conversion rates or rank higher in search engine results pages? Once you know your overall goals you can then set yourself some SMART content-related objectives.

Where are the gaps? What is your current content missing. Once you’ve reviewed your current offering you will better be able to identify content gaps. Think about the balance of content you have. For example is your content primarily entertainment – are there ways you can introduce some more informative content to your website. Conversely if you are business-to-business you may find informative and educational comes easily but you could do with a little more content that entertains.

Take a look at Smart Insights Content Matrix – it offers some excellent ideas to help you fill in some of those content gaps to give your business a better balance of online content.

How are you going to achieve your goals and objectives?  This is where you take all the information you have gleaned from above and put it into a workable content plan with a schedule of actions for the forthcoming year. If you have a content plan in place you are far more likely to stick to it and focus on achieving the actual objectives you have set out.

Content Image 6 practical tips for more effective online content

To get you started we’ve highlighted a few key areas you could  consider improving to help build your online content.

1.Product pages

Product pages can easily be overlooked but actually they are a critical part of your customers’ experience on your website. Your product descriptions are a good way to start improving your content. Make sure your product descriptions are written with your customers in mind. What information are they looking for to help them make that all important purchasing decision? Think about what keywords and phrases customers might  use when searching for that particular product.

Whatever you do don’t just use the product description provided by the manufacturer (search engines don’t like replicated copy).  Rewrite the descriptions to them to make them original and customer friendly – it’s a great way to provide some unique, fresh and relevant copy to your website..

2. Blogging

If you haven’t already started a blog for your business then it is time to think seriously about setting one up. Blogging is a great way to support your SEO efforts. A good blog provides you with regular, unique, fresh and interesting content. It also helps drive traffic to your site and increases engagement amongst your customers.

Still not convinced?  Then take a look at these impressive statistics from The Blog Economy:

  • Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links
  • Websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages
  • 81% of consumers trust advice and information from blogs.

And, if you are not quite sure where to start then take a look at our helpful blog article ‘How to start a successful blog for your online business’.

3. Video

Visual content is playing an increasingly important part of ecommerce content strategy – and for good reason. Search engines like visual media such as video content so it is great for your SEO purposes. Of course we only need to see the phenomenal success of YouTube to see how is popular a medium it is amongst consumers.

Digital Sherpa provides some interesting video marketing statistics :

  • Video increases people’s understanding of your product and service by 74%
  • 50% of users watch business related videos on YouTube once a week
  • Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engines result page if it includes a video.

Have a think of a suitable way you can use video for you business. For example a video tutorial is a great way to show customers how to assemble or use a product. And, if you want to build your ‘brand personality’ video can be a great way to your business a face. You could use video  in your email mail as way to entice customers to your website. Indeed, an introductory company email that includes a video receives an increase in click-through rate by 96%.

4. Informative content

Having content that ‘educates’ and ‘convinces’ is an important part of offering balanced online content. This content tends to be more authoritative and informative; for example –  industry trends, whitepapers, news articles, demo-videos, infographics, business guides, research reports and press releases . If you have them make them available to view on your website, if you don’t then think about implementing some.

5. User generated content

User generated content is another excellent way of introducing new and unique content to your site. By this I mean opening up your business to content that is generated by your customers such as customer reviews, blog comments or community forums. Search engines like user generated content:

“According to the latest ecommerce SEO trends, the more your brand, products or links are discussed by commenters across the Internet (including your own site), the better your page ranking will be. Google has increased its focus on these conversational searches because, as hinted above, comments and reviews are much harder to fake or manufacture in high numbers than other types of content.” Volume 9 

So be open to including user-generated content on your site. Do remember though if you are going to accept user-generated content,  you will need to regularly monitor it.  It is a good idea to introduce some guidelines  that visitors wishing to comment online must adhere to or risk being removed – such as not accepting the use of profanities, posting explicit photos or images, any bullying behaviour or derogatory comments.

6. Content that entertains

Having more interactive, entertaining content is a good way to draw customers to your business. It is often the case that business-to-consumer companies often find this type of content generation comes a bit more naturally than business to business companies.

Because business-to-business companies may find it slightly harder they may fall a bit short on more ‘entertaining’ content.  It is as all about creating a good balance of content therefore interspersing more informative content  with a bit of  ‘entertaining’ content is a good idea. If you are business-to-business think about including more light-hearted content such competitions, quizzes, community forums or video.

 

ID-100253237Finally – don’t forget to alert customers to all your great content!

So you have implemented some great new online content, the next thick is content distribution. How are you going to alert people to your content? Content is a great way to drive new traffic into your website so you need to bring it to the attention of your customers and potential customers.

“Interesting content is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media” The Blog Economy

Use an integrated approach to market your content, if possible use both online and offline methods. For example if you’ve posted a new blog article then tell people in an email alert and on your social media sites with a link to the article. Great content will draw people in – you just need to bring it to your customers attention.

“Fulfilling these intents is up to you. Creativity, high-quality writing, use of examples, and inclusion of images and multimedia can all help in crafting content that perfectly matches a searcher’s goals. Your reward is satisfied searchers who demonstrate their positive experience through engagement with your site or with links to it.” MOZ: Beginners Guide to SEO 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on this subject so please do leave a comment.

  1. Website, forum, blog signpost image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  2. Catching SEO word image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  3. Start business image courtesy of kashasa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  4. Announcement Quote image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Content Strategy Plays a Major Role in Your Branding Efforts?

content marketing

Does your business have a content strategy yet?

If it doesn’t, you are losing out on a wonderful opportunity to improve brand awareness, reputation and authority. It is important not to confuse content strategy with content marketing although both are connected.

While content marketing is the process of placing quality content in front of your target audience to build deeper relationships, content strategy is a ‘mindset’ that according to Kristina Halvorson, the founder of Brain Traffic includes “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content”.

Without a content strategy in place, there is very little chance your content marketing efforts will succeed. Your content strategy helps your business create a framework wherein your business and the needs of its customers are constantly evaluated to improve content production and the content processes that help produce this content.

The whole idea behind drawing up a content strategy is to ensure that the content is able to drive your brand‘s engagement with its target audience and takes your brand interaction to the next level.

Content Strategy and Your Brand

84 percent of marketers who aren’t finding success with their content marketing efforts say they do not have a documented content strategy in place.

Learning – Content strategy is of critical importance to brands if they are serious about their content marketing efforts.

Think about content strategy as something that helps you maximize the potential of your content. There are businesses/marketers, who think just writing content (high quality content) will help you rank in search engines, enhance the reputation of your business and help people identify your brand.

They are wrong.

You need a content strategy in place to leverage the immense potential of this content. A well-defined content strategy gives your content a sense of purpose and its own personality and identity. You must know who your target audience is and the kind of content they are looking for. A strategy is also needed to ensure your content is aligned with your business, its products and services and still caters to the needs of your target audience.

Content strategy also determines your writing style, choice of content format and how you will market this content to ensure your audience finds it when they are looking for it.

Not Just Content Strategy but an Effective Content Strategy

Not Just Content Strategy but an Effective Content Strategy

A content strategy is as good as its comprehensiveness. The components of an effective content strategy include the following:

  • Defining the Objectives

What are your objectives with respect to your content? Are you using it to build your brand’s niche authority or as a means of boosting your search engine rankings or something else? Also, what is the content format you want to use; will it be videos, blog content, online magazines, tutorials or pod casts amongst other formats?

You need to pick a format that your target audience can easily access and consume.

  • Defining Content Creators

Who will create the content? Will you have an in-house content writing team or outsource your requirements. If you do choose to outsource content creation, you will need to ensure you zero in on the right writer/team of writers.

  • Who is your audience?

Identify your audience, but don’t just identify the audience, you also need to understand them and what they expect from your content. You must also make sure your audience doesn’t receive content that overlaps with your existing marketing communication.

  • Distribution Strategy

How are you going to bring your content in front of your customers?

There are plenty of channels you can choose from, but more often than not, it is the content format that determines the channel you use. Explore the various channels available; make sure you know the strengths and costs of each and also ensure that your customers are active users of these channels. This will help you make an informed decision with respect to the content channel you choose and guarantee you make the most of it.

  • Identify Content Performance Metrics

How do you know your content strategy is working or not? This is where content metrics enter the equation. You need to zero in on the performance metrics of your content that will allow you to measure your success or failure. You must know whether your content is helping satisfy the needs of your customers and if you’ll need to refine your strategy.

At the end of the day you also need to take strategic inputs from every important stakeholder in your business to come up with a content strategy that delivers on your expectations.

Benefits to your Brand

  • Brand Reputation

Your customers are looking for high quality content. The kind of content that is useful, relevant and actionable. They want information that helps solve a problem and if your brand can provide a solution that enables them to take informed decisions, they’ll become loyal followers of your content. What you are also doing is using content as a means to trigger personal interactions with your brand. If they’ve come across a content piece they like and feel strongly about, they’ll comment on it, which can give rise to interesting discussions on your comment feed.

Your content acts as a bridge between your brand and its customers. Your brand comes to be identified with its content and if you consistently produce and publish content that adds value to the lives of your customers, it will be reflected in the enhanced reputation of your brand. Your content will be the ‘go-to content’ for a target audience looking for specific information.

  • Taming Search Engines

Google’s incessant efforts in improving search quality for users have meant it is not business as usual for webmasters and SEOs. They cannot get away with everything that they could get away with, a few years ago. Quality is the name of the game now.

Gone are the days when they could just fill up content with keywords and build links from just about any source and get away with it. What’s more, there was every chance their website would be rewarded with high rankings on SERPs.

Things have changed.

The focus is now on quality and earning natural links from authority online sources. And the one thing that helps make this possible is great content. The more high quality content you publish, the more backlinks you can attract from reputed websites/blogs. And this results in higher search engine rankings, which in turn means more website traffic thus improving your website’s chances of conversions.

And all this because of content!

  • Content for an Active Social Media Presence

sm

Social media marketing is the buzz word these days and why not. Just about every brand is using social media to boost its branding efforts and it is shareworthy content that lies at the very root of every successful social media campaign. When readers like your content, they want to share it with the people they know so that even their friends and family can benefit from this content. This means your content is shared, re-shared and then shared some more. Your content represents your brand, which means it’s not your content but your brand that is essentially going viral.

It’s all about compelling content

Your content strategy will go nowhere if you don’t have a sub-strategy to create compelling content in place. Compelling content is the kind that readers love going through. It’s not about creative excellence but about content excellence.

You need a certain kind of mindset to produce such content. You need to say to yourself that you want to be the leading provider of niche related information to your target customers. If you aim to play a leadership role as an information provider, you will make the necessary effort to satisfy the needs of your customers.

Think of your content like a product and judge its usefulness.  It needs to be high up on the utility scale if you want it to succeed. For this to happen, you’ll need to understand the kind of information your customers are searching for. You need to listen to the conversations happening around your domain (social media networks are great listening posts) and create content that revolves around these conversations.

To create compelling content you must be in sync with what your customers want. So make sure you know everything about them.

Tips to Keep in Mind While Implementing a Content Strategy

When you work out a content strategy for your brand, the next step is to implement it. But before you do, you need to keep a few tips in mind:

  • Content strategy requires different sections of your business to work as a team. Whether it’s your web design team, copywriting team, web development team, the public relations team or your marketing team – every single one of them should work together to make a decisive impact.
  • Understand that you are in it for the long haul and immediate results might not be forthcoming.
  • Make sure your writing matches the understanding of your target audience. The literacy levels of different people that belong to the same target audience group are different. So choose a writing style that can address the least common denominator in your audience. Writing not only includes the way you write but also the ideas you come up with and the research you do.
  • Make sure you stick to your strategy and not veer away from it during implementation. Otherwise it makes your job more difficult.
  • Your style must be your own. The tone and voice you adopt to make your point must reflect your brand personality. Do not ape somebody else’s writing tone or style. Create one of your own and work towards refining it every step of the way.
  • Mix up your formats but make sure you focus on your strengths. If you do not have the expertise to come up with some solid video content, don’t.  On the other hand, if your forte is topical white papers make sure you get one out on a regular basis. The idea is to not make any half-baked efforts with respect to the content you publish. Your customers are looking for the best information available and which makes good use of its content format; you need to be able to deliver the goods all the time. So don’t take chances.

To Conclude

Content strategy and your branding efforts need to keep pace with each other. In fact, for many brands it is content that is acting as the main fuel of their marketing efforts. It is a purely content driven marketing strategy and more often than not it is delivering the results they are looking for. Content helps your brand come out looking like an expert and somebody who has the ability to deliver on the expectations of its customers. This in a nutshell is why content strategy needs to be a part of your branding efforts.

Image Credits: 1, 23

Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning Part 4: Tactics

Soccer tactics on chalkboardOur Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning has been looking at how using a simple marketing framework like SOSTAC can help guide you through all the elements needed to make a marketing plan a useful and relevant tool for your business.

  • Part 1 discussed the value of marketing planning for small businesses and looked at SOSTAC as a planning system.
  • Part 2 examined situational analysis and the importance of understanding where your business currently stands.
  • Part 3 talked about how to write SMART objectives and formulate your marketing strategy.

In Part 4 of our marketing planning guide we look at tactics and the communication tools we can use to achieve the targets we have set our business for the year ahead.

Tactics: How EXACTLY are you going to get there?

So, the market analysis you’ve undertaken means you know where your business currently stands and consequently, you have formulated your goals and objectives. You should have good idea of where it is you want to be. Your strategy has looked at how you are going to achieve your objectives. So the next step is tactics – how exactly are you going to get there? What digital communication tools are you going to use to support your strategy in order to achieve your objectives? The tactics element of your marketing plan is really the detail of your strategy;  it is here you outline the tools you are going to use.

Benefits of digital marketing tools

Digital marketing has brought with it a number of benefits for small online businesses, making it possible (with a bit of investment in both time and effort) to market on a more level playing field with some of the bigger competitors. Digital marketing offers SME’s the benefit of:

  • Lower costs: there are a number of digital tools that small online businesses can utilise without the cost associated with some of the more traditional marketing methods. For example social media, SEO and email  are all tools that smaller business can use without having to incur high marketing costs.
  • Creativity: digital marketing has made it easy to be creative with your marketing – social media, video, games etc. can all be used to pull in potential customers through engaging online content.
  • Interaction with customers: the interactive nature of the web has provided an excellent environment for developing customer relationships. For example, blogs, discussion forums and customer reviews have all made two-way dialogue with customers far easier. Rather than just throwing out messages,  digital tools enable you to pull customers into your site and engage in more meaningful communications.
  • Easier measurement: the digital environment has meant the introduction of online tools like web analytics that can help you measure your performance with more accuracy. Web analytics are simply the tools we can use to measure, collect and  analyse data to better understand our online presence. By using metrics such as traffic source, conversions, bounce rates and so on, small business can more effectively measure the performance of their marketing activity.
  • Immediacy: if you’ve got something exciting to say, you don’t have to wait to shout about it to your customers. Email and social media can be instantaneous. For example if you have something that is time sensitive sending an email promotion to a customer is far quicker (and lower cost), then its offline direct mail counterpart.

Digital Marketing Tools

Obviously the digital communication tools you decide to use will depend on your objectives and strategy alongside available budget and resources. But as a small online business, the key digital tools you may want to consider are likely to include:

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM):  the process you go through to increase your page ranking on search engines in order for you to increase you business’ visibility and drive traffic to your site. SEM essentially divides into two,  increasing your ranking through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and through paid advertising (PPC). Search engine optimisation requires time, effort and commitment but is an essential part of building your business’ presence online.
  2. Online PR: sending out press releases to relevant media can be a great way not only to promote your latest news and developments, but also keeps fresh content coming into your website for SEO purposes, increases inbound links to and builds brand awareness.
  3. Online advertising: interactive online advertising essentially means you advertise your business on a third-party site through a banner ad. Although there are likely to be costs associated with online display advertising, it can be a useful way to increase awareness of your brand and generate direct response from potential customers.
  4. Email Marketing: email is an essential channel for both acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers. Despite worries over the increase in spam, email remains an effective marketing tool. The costs are low (in comparison to direct mail), response can be immediate, it can be quick to deploy, and can be tailored to specific customer segments easily.
  5. Social Media: Engaging with your customers though social media is a great way to give your business and brand a personality. Used thoughtfully, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites can help promote your products, help you gain valuable customer insight and help drive new traffic and increase inbound links to your site.
  6. Online sales promotion: Online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons can be a great sales promotion tool. They can help increase sales, drive traffic and reward customer loyalty.
  7. Content Marketing:  We’ve mentioned it over and over again in previous blogs, but content is the cornerstone of online marketing – it is absolutely central to everything you do. Think about ways to keep content on your site fresh, up-to-date, relevant and interesting. Perhaps look at ways you can increase your content such as through blogging, video demonstrations, customer reviews and competitions. For ideas, I suggest you take a look at a The Content Marketing Matrix from Smart Insights.
  8. Online partnerships: Identifying ways in which you can work in partnership with a third-party to promote your online services can pay dividends by opening your business up to a stream of new and relevant customers. This could be with affiliates, suppliers or complementary businesses and associations.

The final part of our marketing planning guide will be looking at Actions and Control the final two elements of the SOSTAC marketing planning framework.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Soccer Game Strategy image by Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net