How to create great online content for your small business website

Content Marketing for small business

 

Great content is an essential part of a successful online presence. It helps drive traffic, build relationships, grow brand awareness, reinforce trust and support SEO. So, what makes great content and how can you as a small business owner ensure you are getting it right?

We take a look at how to approach content creation with 7 helpful tips on how to produce content that is top-notch.

1. Focus on your customers

When you are thinking about the kind of content you want on your website your focus should be on creating content that is relevant and of value to your target audience. It can be tempting to pack your website full of sales orientated copy, which of course has it’s place, but your key aim should be to produce content that your customers and prospective customers will find interesting and useful.

SEO also plays an important part in content creation, but the days of keyword stuffing practices are long gone. Instead spend some time researching your target audience and brainstorming the kind of keywords and key phrases they might use to search for the products and services you are selling and incorporate them naturally into your copy.

Essentially if you write content with your target audience in mind you wont go far wrong.

2. Create original content

The most important content for marketers is original written content (45%)

Search engines like high quality content of which a key characteristic is originality –  essentially content that is not already on other website. Hence duplicating content from other sites is not the answer (in fact such practices can be detrimental to your search engine page ranking).  So how can you ensure you are getting enough original content on your site?

Blogging: Posting regular blog articles are an excellent way to ensure original and relevant content is being added to your site on a regular basis. Writing blog articles requires time however in addition to providing you with original content, blogging also helps generate traffic, yield new leads, maintain customer relationships and build brand trust.

blogging

Curated Content: A consistent flow of original content is essential, however in reality small business owners are under huge time pressures and have limited resources.  Therefore there are times when curated content can step in. For example a weekly ‘news roundup’ of relevant articles in your industry can work well – just ensure you are adding your own, original commentary and opinion to it (and as we mentioned before don’t plagiarise or try to pass it off as your own!)

Product pages. Write your own product descriptions rather than simply re-using the information supplied by the manufactures.  Create your own original descriptions with your target audience in mind, making them user-friendly and relevant.

 

3. Make it useful

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed“

Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

Think about what kind of content will be of interest and have a value to your target audience – is it informative content or entertaining content that will most appeal – or indeed a mixture of both? Useful, relevent content will help drive traffic to you website and keep people coming back for more. Some ideas include:

  • Free downloadable e/book or white paper
  • Infographics
  • Latest industry news and trends reports
  • Ideas and tips for using your products in real-life
  • Competitions or quizzes
  • Interviews with relevant industry figures
  •  Online videos such as useful tutorials, product instructions or demonstrations

4. Be visually engaging

Having great visual content is an essential part of successful content creation. As humans we are naturally drawn to all things visual , so think about how you can use visuals to create standalone content and support other content on your site.

visual content marketing

 

 

Engaging images: How can you make the images on your site more engaging? For example, instead of just using product images provided by the manufactures take your own photos – showing off products in relief scenarios.  Avoid using run of the mill stock images. There are some excellent online image libraries where you can source some interesting and inspiring images. Think about using software tools (some of which offer free services) like Skitch and Canva to add text to images. Essentially spend some time thinking about how you can produce your own interesting and engaging visuals for your website.

Video: If you can incorporate video into your online presence all the better. Video has become an important element of successful content marketing – indeed research indicates that 1 in 4 consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have video.

5. Make content digestible

How you write and present your content online is important. Reams of unbroken text on a page is off-putting. you may have written something of huge interest to your target audience, but if they can’t grasp the gist of it in moments they aren’t going to bother to read it. Keep to the point and get rid off any unnecessary fluff and waffle.

Think about how you present text on the page – it should look inviting. Break up text into small digestible paragraphs, use headers, sub headers, text blocks, bullets points and of course engaging images.

When visitors look at the content on your website ensure it is visually appealing and that your content is displayed in manageable, easily digestible chunks.

6. Keep it fresh

It is important to keep the content fresh and up-to-date.  Go through your online content at regular intervals to ensure that there is no out-of-date information or broken links. Having old, stale content can make your site look unprofessional. And, whilst you are reviewing your content, make sure you are double checking for any typos and grammar mistakes.

Re-purposing or refreshing an old blog post with new updated information or updates is a quick way to freshen your content and add new original content to your site.

7. User generated content

Search engines like user-generated content such as customer testimonials, product reviews, blog comments and discussion forums. Moreover, this sort of ‘conversational’ content is a good way to keep regular, original and relevant coming into your site. Of course if you do go down this road, you will need to ensure that you are regular monitoring the content that gets put on, removing anything offensive or inappropriate immediately.

When you are creating online content for your business if keep your target audience in mind at all times, you won’t go far wrong. Content that appeals to your customers and is likely to keep search engines happy too. Focus on having a good variety of high-quality content that is relevant, interesting and offers value to your audience,

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of creating online content, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

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How to build online trust – 6 helpful tips for small business ecommerce and start-ups

online trust

Trust is integral to the success of any business. A customer will only buy from you, continue a relationship with you and share their experience positively if they trust you. Of course, building trust takes time so a key challenge for small business ecommerce and start-ups is getting customers to engage when they have no experience of you or your business. Therefore, as a small business owner or ecommerce start-up you have to work harder to instill a sense of trust in order for a customer to feel comfortable handing over their hard-earned money.

Well-known companies have built up trust over time to the point that it becomes ingrained within the brand (think John Lewis). Start-up’s don’t have that luxury – you need to impart a sense of trust from the first moment a potential customer comes in contact with you business. You have to be able to quickly convey the message that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy company.

Happily there are some practical actions you can implement that can help send out trust signposts to potential customers signalling that you are a business they can feel comfortable and confident engaging with. A good starting point is to take a look the entire customer experience – start to finish. From initial promotions (both online and offline), a customer’s first experience of your website , right through to the checkout process. Identify all the touchpoint along the customer journey that can provide you with the opportunity to develop your  message of  trustworthiness.

6 ways to help instill trust

1. A great website

Like it or not first impressions count. Your website may well be the first significant experience a customer get of  your business. If a new customer lands on your site and it it looks disorganised, dated and unprofessional any natural hesitancy they had will be amplified and it will be increasingly difficult for you to win their business.

Your website needs to look professional, be easy to navigate and information should be up-to-date. Go through it with a fine tooth comb and check for broken links, spelling mistakes and out-of-date information. A credible website makes a customer feel comfortable and secure. Think about the following aspects:

  • Navigation – How simple is it for your customer to access the information they are looking for? Can they get to their desired destination within a few clicks?
  • Usability – Does it load quickly? How easy is it for a customer to complete a specific action such as sending an email request,  adding an item to their shopping cart or completing the checkout process? Make your website as user-friendly as possible.
  • Design – we’ve already mentioned the importance of a good first impression. The design of your site has powerful impact on how your business is viewed. Is your website structured so your customers don;t have to think too hard. Is it visually appealing? Does it contain interesting and engaging images?

2. Relevant, fresh and engaging content

online content

The quality of your content is central to building trust and establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers. Offer customers a wide range of interesting, engaging and informative content. Think about how you can provide information that is of value to your audience. For example blogging is a great way to show you are interested in your customers, it helps keep new content coming into your site and can add an air of authority to your business.

Look at your content continuously on an ongoing basis. Nothing shrieks unprofessional as stale and out of date content. Customers may think if you can’t be bothered to take time over the content of your website you may not be too bothered in other areas either. Keep your content fresh, relevant and up-to-date and don’t forget if you have a presence on social media, the same applies – keep active and post fresh, interesting content regularly.

Finally, do also have a think about the tone of voice and approach you take to your content. As your brand develops and becomes more established you may take more risks and become more playful in your tone but when starting out then it is probably safer to take a friendly but professional stance – for example err on the conservative side!

3. Customer reviews and testimonials

  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.
  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers

Customer reviews on your website can act as a significant trust signposts. Customers trust reviews from other customers almost as much as word of mouth from friends and family – this can be particularly useful when starting out in a new business. Customer reviews can help improve customer trust in your product and/or service and helps build brand credibility. Having visible customer reviews on your website also conveys that you are confident in your product, having nothing to hide and are genuinely interested in and value the opinions of your customers.

There are plenty of online review sites available to help you manage and automate your customer reviews – for example Trustpilot, Feefo, Reevo. Alternatively don’t be afraid of directly contacting customers or clients  for a testimonial directly. If customers have had a positive experience they are usually quite happy to review you or provide you with a testimonial.

4. Display Trustmarks

 

trust mark security logos

Trustmarks in isolation won’t solve a customers concerns over the credibility of your site, but they can play a supporting role. A well designed, usable shopping cart checkout process is key but displaying trust marks security logos can help reassure customers that it is safe for them to shop on your website. Security logos and badges such as McAfee, Norton, TRUSTe, Twarte, Commode, PayPal will reassure customers that you have taken the appropriate steps to keep their personal  data safe and protect them from credit card fraud and identity theft.

In addition, if you are a member of any industry bodies or trade associations then it is worth flagging this up to. And, if your business works with closely with your local community or  supports a particular charity then highlight these activities as well  – they all help send out trust signals to customers that you are a credible, trustworthy and all-round good company to do business with.

5. Open communication channels

Your customers should be able to get in touch with you easily. Making them jump through hoops to make contact will undermine any trust you’ve built up. Being visible and easily contactable shows you care about your customers experience and have nothing to hide!

Ensure your contact information is flexible. Customers should be able to contact you in whatever way is most convenient to them be it phone, email or letter. Your ‘Contact Us’ page should be visible and easy for customers to find.

Central to developing trust offering excellent customer services. Being able to reassure a customer about an order or  a delivery goes a long way towards establishing a trustworthy relationship – particularly when a customer has no previous experience of your business.

6. Present a human face to the business

As a rule people like people and like doing business with people. Adding a human element is a great way for small business and start-ups to establish a rapport with potential customers. If they like the look of you and your business ethos, they are more likely to feel happy and willing to do business with you.

Checkout Riverford’s About Us page. It has genuine sense of community and you get a real feel for the people behind the business. So too take a look at Stella & Dot’s video – again is gives you a feel for the personalities behind the business.

Riverford About Us

 

Establishing brand trust doesn’t magically happen overnight it grows along with your business. However, as we’ve outlined above, when you are just starting out there are a number of trust signposts you can implement early on to help send out signals to potential customers that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy business that they can feel confident in engaging with. 

Online shopping image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thumbs up image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of building trust so please do leave a comment

Abandoned cart emails. Helpful tips for start-ups and small business ecommerce

shopping cart abandonment emails

If you are selling online, chances are a constant bugbear will be the number of customers abandoning their items before completing the checkout process. If you are just starting out and panicking at so many people leaving your website with unpurchased items in their baskets, don’t despair you’re not alone.  Shopping cart abandonment is an ongoing issue for even the biggest of players.

Indeed according to research, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate stands at around 68.63%.  It’s inevitable that some customers will sail away and will never complete that particular purchase no matter what you do. However some customers can be enticed back to complete the sale.  One of the most effective ways of doing that is through abandoned cart / dropped basket emails.

What are abandoned cart emails?

In a nutshell an abandoned cart email is usually triggered emails that get sent out when a customer leaves a website having added stuff to their shopping basket but not having completed the checkout process. Its purpose is to remind people of what they have left in their basket and encourages them to go back and complete the purchase. Below is a recent example of one I received from Amazon:

Amazon abandoned shopping cart email

Why do people abandon their baskets mid-purchase

There are a myriad of reasons that customers abandon their shopping carts halfway through the checkout process. ClickZ identifies the following as the top six reasons:

  1. Unexpected shipping and delivery costs
  2. Had to create an account to complete a purchase
  3. Just conducting research
  4. Payment security concerns
  5. Confusing checkout
  6. Couldn’t find the discount / coupon code

Some of these will be within your control. For example if you have a long, convoluted checkout process then you can take steps to fix it. Other reasons are going to be completely out of you control such as a customer’s telephone rang mid-purchase and they simply forgot to go back and complete the process.

A positive aspect to all this is that 75% of all visitors who abandon their cart do actually intend to buy. This is where shopping cart abandonment emails come in to play.

Tips for creating successful dropped basket emails

Implementing shopping abandonment emails can be great way to pull back some sales you may have thought were lost. Outlined below are some inspiring statistics for cart abandonment emails from an Econsultancy article.

  • 11.6% (over a tenth) of shopping basket abandonment emails are clicked.
  • 29.9% of shopping abandonment email clicks lead to a purchase back on website
  • 44.1% of all shopping cart abandonment emails are opened.
  • The average order value of purchases from shopping cart abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than average purchases.
  • Every single dropped basket email sent delivers over $8 in revenue.

The trick is to make them as successful as possible. So we’ve outlined some helpful tips on how to create winning shopping cart abandonment emails for your business.

Timing

Probably the most important element to getting an uplift in conversions is the timing of your email – wait too long before sending a reminder and your customer may well have gone elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that the initial abandonment email should be sent within the first hour of a customer abandoning their basket. In an ideal scenario you would be aiming to catch a potential customer before they leave their device and forget all about their half-finished purchase.

Here is a sample one from Boden that I received within 20 mins from abandoning my basket:

Boden abandoned cart email

Create a schedule of abandoned cart emails

To get the most conversions, consider sending out more than one reminder. It’s great to try to grab them as soon as possible, but also implement further follow-up emails. According to HubSpot:

  • 95% of people who purchased after abandoning a cart took up-to two weeks to complete their purchase. 

Create a sequence of timely reminders to try to catch those who take longer to make a purchase or who need a little more encouragement.

Strong subject header

In any email the subject  header is important. To even get opened it needs to stand out from all the other emails in the inbox. Do make it clear in the subject header that your email is reminding them that they have left something in their shopping cart.

There are lots of different approaches from creating a sense of urgency or excitement, to reminding customers about the product they left or even using humour. Just find the right approach for your audience. For example:

Product: Amazon takes a no-nonsense approach and just lists the product left behind:

“Zap Arsenal Red Crest Fleece Blanket”

Abandoned cart: White stuff is straight to the point:

“Don’t forget to complete your order”

Humour: Boden’s is slightly more cheeky

“You left something… but where? Oh look…”

Think about your copy

As well as pointing out to your customer what exactly it is that they’ve left in their cart, also use your copy to try to remind customers about why they chose to put the product in their basket in the first place.

John Lewis includes a clear link back to the product details so the customer can easily remind themselves of the product benefits.

Email copy

Use your copy to create a sense of urgency and possible loss.  For example the product is selling fast and you may not be able to guarantee how long the product in will remain in stock. Try and convey to the customer what they may risk missing out on if they don’t act soon.

Use images

If you can, include a visual of the product your customer has left in their basket. It tells people in an instant exactly what it is you’re emailing them a reminder about and can help reinforce the reasons they chose the product or service in the first place .

Here is an example of a Boden dropped basket email with a strong visual of the product in question.

Include an image in shopping cart abandonment email

Clear call to action

Always include a very clear call to action that takes the customer back to their basket so they can easily complete their purchase. Don’t tuck it away in the corner of youR email but display it prominently so the customer won’t miss it. Also make it very clear to the customer what it is you are asking them to do.

In the White Stuff email below, they have put two clear call to action buttons on the email, with a very straightforward call to action: Complete Order.

strong call to action

Abandoned cart emails can be a great way to pick up those customers who, for whatever reason, have left the checkout mid purchase. A well-considered dropped basket series may help turn around a sale that could potentially have been lost for ever!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on shopping cart abandonment emails so please do leave a comment. 

Small business guide to successful content curation

contentcuration

 

We all know just how important creating unique, fresh and relevant content is for your online business. However for small business owners content marketing can be a real challenge due to time pressures and lack of resources.  Content curation can be a great way to support your overall content marketing strategy and help maintain a successful online presence.

What is Content Curation

In a nutshell content curation is the collating, organising and sharing of other people’s content. It  is usually third-party content  relevant to your audience’s interests. First things first, content curation is not the same as content marketing and in no way replaces it. Content curation should be looked at as a way to enhance your existing content as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

And don’t worry, by sharing other people’s content your audience won’t think you can’t create interesting content of your own. On the contrary, it shows you are relevant, understand the industry you are in and are confident enough in your own small business to share ideas and information from a third party.

How can Small Businesses Benefit from Content Curation?

Saves time. Content curation helps support and maintain an active online presence. Especially if you don’t have time to continuously create your own original content.

Helps establishes you as an expert.  Overtime content curation can help build trust and establish you and your business as an authoritative, go-to expert on a specific topic.

Offers value to your audience. If you are offering information that is interesting and of value to your audience, then they are more likely to opt-in to your newsletters and follow you on social media.

Supports SEO efforts.  65% of marketers use content curation to boost ranking. Lots of relevant links will help increase your visibility in SERPS (search engine results pages) 

Builds your brand. What you share is a direct reflection of your brand and can help build your credibility as a business.

How to introduce content curation to your small business:

The key to successful content curation is to put some organisation and strategy behind it rather than the ad-hoc retweet or share here and there. You may already do some basic content curation already, like I say I’m sure you’ve retweeted or shared posts on social media. However to really get the benefits you need to take it to the next level by including a personal touch.  Add value to what you are imparting.  For example include your own comments, insight and thoughts on the information you choose to share with your audience.

Social Mediasocial media content curation

76% of marketers use curated content on social media

Content curation is a great way to keep active on social media and provide your customers with links to information they may find interesting. Retweeting someone’s Tweet on Twitter, RePinning on Pinterest or sharing someone’s post on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn are examples of social media content curation. This is a great starting point and a good way to maintain an active online presence – especially when you’re pushed for time or lack resources.

However as we mentioned earlier content curation becomes even more effective when you bring in your own personal slant on what it is your sharing. For example if you are sharing someone else blog post on social media, add in a few words about what you are choosing to share and why you think you audience will be interested in it.

Newsletters

Content curation can work really well in your company’s newsletter. For example in addition to your own content, you could do a weekly round-blog posts you think your audience will like or a weekly round-up of industry news and views. By picking out the most interesting and entertaining articles and presenting them in a digestible format, you are saving your own audience from having to spend time searching around the web. And, if your audience know they can get great information direct from your newsletter then they are more likely to read it and stay subscribed.

Here is a great example of content curation from WriteMySite’s marketing newsletter.

content curation newsletter

Blog Post Curation

In a similar vein to your newsletters why not try posting a blog post that is a weekly or monthly round-up of useful articles, interesting trends or news relevant to your industry? Organise the content into a theme, add in a great headline,  your own supporting commentary, a call-to-action for your own business and you have a great post.

Look at curated blog posts as offering a valuable service. By collating the information yourself you are in short saving your audience time by negating the need for them to research out the information themselves. Always keep your customer in mind so all your hard work collecting and collating is focused on the right information – information that is of value to your target market.

Collecting and Organising Content

content curationSo where do you start? How do you go about sourcing interesting, high quality, relevant online content that fits the needs of your audience? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sign-up to relevant content specific newsletters
  • Subscribe to industry relevant online publications
  • Follow related shared content on social media

If you are collating lots of different information from various sources then it will make your life easier if you can organise all the information in one place. There are a number of marketing tools that can help you collate,organise and publish content such as – Feedly, ScoopIt and Storify.

If your just starting out then Pocket is a great ‘save for later’ tool.  Connecting the Pocket button will enable you to save to your Pocket account straight from your computer. You can quickly collect links to interesting information with and group and tag articles  for easy reference.

In order for content curation to be successful always keep in mind that it’s about adding value. Ensure;

  • content is high quality and matches the needs and interests of your audience
  • post regularly
  • add a personal note,
  • remember you are sharing information not plagiarising – always give credit to the original source. 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of content curation, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

5 top tips to maximise your online Christmas sales in December

boost online christmas salesChristmas is knocking at the door.

We are already a few weeks into the key Christmas sales period but if you aren’t fully up and running with your Christmas promotions quite yet, then don’t worry there is still time to give those seasonal sales a bit of an extra push. This week ShopIntegrator takes a look at how your small ecommerce business can maximise sales with some easy to implement tips.

Online sales predictions for 2015

If predictions are correct 2015 is looking like another booming year for ecommerce in the UK. Researchers forecast 12% market growth and £116bn will be spent online. With many retailers creating over half of their yearly sales and profits in the three months prior to Christmas, making the most of your online presence is paramount. Indeed, according to the Centre for Retail Research last year in the UK online retail accounted for almost one-quarter (23.4%) of Christmas spending with online sales rising from £14.93 bn (2013) to £17.37 billion in 2014 – a very healthy growth of 19.5%.

5 tips to maximise your online sales this holiday season

The great news is that according to National Federation of Retailers 20% of us don’t intend to start their Christmas shopping until December and actually the busy day online isn’t Cyber Monday but the Monday or Tuesday a week or two before Christmas. So implementing a few tips now could still help boost your profits over the Christmas period.

1. Jolly up your website

First stop is your website. When potential customers arrive at your site you want to keep them in a Christmas frame of mind. Adding some appropriate seasonal graphics and images will help create the right environment to promote your Christmas products. Take a look at Tiffany’s home page. It creates the perfect environment for its brand at Christmas.

christmas homepage

Having a separate Christmas page that showcases the products that make great gifts works really well. Helping customers with the decision-making process is essential so spend some time categorising products into relevant groups. For example:

  • Gifts for Her
  • Gifts for Children
  • Gifts for Teenagers
  • Gifts for Him
  • Gifts that Sparkle
  • Gifts for Food Fanatics
  • Stocking Fillers.

Not only will this inspire customers, it can push them along the road to making a decision. For a successful example checkout notonthehighstreet.com’s christmas page.

 

online christmas sales

 

2. Spread christmas cheer on social media

Social media is a great way to communicate with your customers during the Christmas season. As a marketing tool it is low-cost and a very quick way to get your message across. Use social media to inspire with creative gift ideas, highlight any special offers and promotions and communicate helpful information such as reminders about key christmas delivery dates.

And don’t forget social media is the perfect channel to spread some Christmas cheer amongst your customers. It’s a chance to be a bit lighthearted and tap into all the seasonal excitement. Try running a festive contest, create christmas mood boards, share seasonal quotes and offer handy Christmas related tips and advice. To build engagement further open up discussions with fun questions like ‘What was inside your Santa’s stocking when you were a child?”.

Pinterest is all about the visual so a strong presence works particularly well this time of year. Create special Christmas boards and pins to showcase your wares.

Here are a couple of Pinterest examples from notonthehighstreet.com and Stella and Dot.

pinterest christmas boards

 

 

christmas pins on pinterest

 

3. Open a yuletide Facebook StoreOpen a Facebook shop

Think about opening a Facebook store in time for Christmas. With over 1.55 billion monthly active users it’s an excellent way to introduce an additional sales channel for your seasonal products. The great thing about a Facebook store is that you can strike whilst the iron is hot. Rather than having to whisk engaged customers off to your website to make a purchase you can sell to them directly off your Facebook page.

It doesn’t take long to set up a Facebook page either. Checkout ShopIntegrator’s guide to opening a Facebook shop.

4. Ho Ho Ho your emails

Get busy with your email marketing this christmas. Email is an essential part of a small business owners marketing toolkit. Flexible and cost-effective it one of the most effective ways communicate with your customers this season.

Gift ideas. You’ve probably already categorised your gifts on your website so now is the time to use email to inspire customers with your gift ideas. Here is a great example of an email I received from online clothing retailer Boden that does just that.

Boden: It’s just not Christmas without new pyjamas

christmas email

Countdown: Creating a sense of urgency in your emails as Christmas approaches is a great way to encourage conversion. Try sending out emails that count down the shopping days until Christmas.  Here is a fun and creative example from gift retailer notonthehighstreet.com.

notonthehighstreet.com: Nine more sleeps till the unwrapping starts

urgency emails

Last minute shoppers. There will always be a healthy proportion of shoppers who will leave everything to the last-minute. Offering guaranteed delivery a few days before christmas is very attractive to just such customers. Just be absolutely sure you can keep that delivery promise!

Sending an email to  customers reminding them of your last posting dates to guarantee a Christmas delivery is a good way to encourage those who are thinking of making a purchase to get on and do it.

Seasons greetings to your customers. After all the sales promotion emails it is a nice idea to send out a little christmas spirit  to show your customers you appreciate them. Sending out an e-card to customers and suppliers adds a personal touch and reminds then that they are important to you.

discounts, coupons and voucher codes5. Happy holiday promotions

At such a key time of year online businesses are all competing to win customers. A great short-term sales tactic way to boost your seasonal sales conversions is through offering special holiday promotions such as online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons.

We all love to feel we’ve got a bargain especially during Christmas when it feels like money is literally flying out of our wallets. Special offers such as online discount vouchers can help encourage us to take our shopping cart to the checkout – especially if there is a deadline looming for the discount.

There are all sorts of variations you can use – popular ones include:

  • Free delivery and returns
  • Buy one get one half price
  • Save 25% 
  • Spend over £100 and get £10 off
  • 3 for 2 offers

Just remember if you are offering discounts to make sure you have done your sums first  and have read the guidelines laid out by the British Code of Sales Promotions and Direct Marketing.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few easy to implement ideas to help give your ecommerce sales a bit of a boost during what we hope will be a busy and profitable season for online businesses.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on maximising sales at Christmas. 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.

 

Google Adwords: 7 beginner tips for small businesses and start-ups

If you are a small business looking to dip your toeGoogle Adwords into online advertising then Google AdWords is a good place to start.  PPC (pay-per-click) search engine advertising can offer an affordable advertising option for your business. But how do you get the best ROI when you are competing against big businesses with sizeable budgets? We take a look at 7 helpful tips to ensure small businesses and start-ups get the most bang for their buck.

Google is probably the most well-known and popular search engine so it makes sense to start your online advertising journey through Google AdWords.  In a nutshell, Google Adwords works by enabling you to bid to place you advertisement in front of  someone searching through keywords related to your product or service. You only pay when someone clicks through from the advertisement to your website.

Here is an example of ads that crop up when I typed ‘ Online French courses’ into Google. The ads are marked and appear to the side and at the top of the natural search results. Where you advertisement ranks depends on a combination of your CPC (cost per click bid)  and your ‘ Quality Score’ (relevance to the search, the quality of your landing page and click-through rate).

Example of google adwords ads

Benefits of Google AdWords to small businesses:

  1. You only spend what you can afford. There is no minimum spending commitment  so you can work out a budget to suit your individual business.
  2. You only pay when someone clicks through the advertisement to your site.
  3. With a bit of practice Google AdWords is pretty straightforward to use with plenty of guides to help you through setting up your account and getting your first campaign off the ground. Checkout Google Adwords Support.
  4. You can measure the success of your ads so you can continuously experiment and make tweaks to improve performance.

On the downside Google Adwords is not something you can quickly knock up and then leave to tick over by itself. It takes a while to get the best results and a fair amount of on-going commitment to get a good return on investment. You’ll need to spend time researching the best keywords, monitoring performance and tweaking your ads.

Here are 7 helpful tips to ensure your small business or start-up get the most out of Google AdWords

Google search engine1. Keep things simple to start. You’ll wield better results by keeping things simple at first and getting the basics right before progressing to more advanced options.  As we mentioned earlier it will take a bit of practice to get the hang of things and a fair amount or adjusting and tweaking to get the best results. With a small budget and a number of other roles to juggle it is a good idea for small businesses to  begin by advertising on Google Search before advancing on to Google Display Networks (these are other Google owned properties like YouTube and Google Partner sites like The New York Times). This way you have a better feel for what keywords are performing better before investing more of your hard-earned cash.

set a budget for adwords2. Set a sensible daily budget. Don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Think carefully about what a click-through is worth to your business. For example how many click-throughs become prospective customers? If you want to find out how to work out your maximum bid then have a read of this article by Marketing MO ‘How to Calculate your Max Bid Price’. Alternatively (although not recommended for any length of time) if you are finding it a bit daunting initially and your pushed for time, you can try Google’s automatic bidding option. You set yourself a 30 day budget and Google Adwords will set your bids for you. As you get more confident you should move to manual bids which will give you far more flexibility to optimise your performance.

3. Spend time on keyword research.  Having relevant, specific and targeted keywords is essential to the performance of your advertising and consequently your ROI. It really is important you invest time researching the best keywords for your business.

Keyword planner. Google’s keyword planner is the best place to start. Input the keywords that you think customers would type into a search engine to find your business. The keyword planner will provide a list of similar keywords and tell you whether the competition is high, medium or low and what the approximate cost-per-click is. The key for small businesses is to be specific. It is far better to have fewer clicks with people who are genuine prospects than lots of irrelevant traffic coming to your site.

Group your keywords. It can be a good idea to group your keywords into keyword groups. I’ve put a very basic example below, but it can be a good way to help you structure your campaigns into relevant groups for better targeted advertisements.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.08.40

Longtail keywords. These are specific words or phrases and are usually lower cost as there is less competition for them. People are more likely to use them when they are nearer to the point of purchase. If we use the example above, the term silver jewellery is very generic so you could narrow your keywords down to something more specific- silver diamond engagement rings Hertfordshire. Of course it will take some time getting the right long tail keywords for your business but if you target them correctly you can get higher ad rankings without the big price tag.

4. Be as targeted as you can. As we’ve seen with keywords the key to using Google AdWords successfully is to be specific and targeted rather than taking a broad brush approach. Not only will it keep your costs down it will help you bring in more targeted traffic. You click-through rate may be lower but the quality of your visitors is likely to be higher. Here are some options that will help you more closely target your advertisements.

Location targeting: You can choose what geographical location to show you ads – by country, region, city or within a radius around a specific location. For example if you ran a pet grooming service you would be able to target the location where your customers live.

Custom ad scheduling: The default option for AdWords is to have ads showing all day and at all times. However, if you know your customers are likely to be active only during business hours then you can schedule ads to only appear during 9.ooam – 5.00pm.

Keyword matching options: Google AdWords matching option will help you manage the searches that trigger your advertisement. For example a broad match will bring in more traffic but the traffic is likely to be less targeted. Whereas exact match is more restrictive and will bring in fewer clicks but your traffic may be a better match for your business. There are a range of options:

  • Broad match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Checkout Google AdWords support to select the right matching options for your business.

good copywriting
5. Compelling copy for your PPC ad. With limited words to play with you need to make every word count. You can see from the example below the structure is fairly straightforward. You have a headline of a maximum 25 characters, your URL address, description line 1 with a maximum of 35 characters and description line 2 with a maximum of 35 characters.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 14.01.02You need to make you PPC ad compelling as possible to your target audience and relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Try to include at least one keyword in your headline. A useful copywriting model to keep in mind is AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Use your headline to grab attention, your description lines to create interest and desire – for example describe your product or incentive. Always finish with a call to action.

6. Optimise your landing page.  Your landing page is really important and needs to be relevant to your advertisement and the search query your visitor typed in. If it’s not your visitor will simply leave. There is no point spending you money on advertising if your landing pages are irrelevant or ill-thought out. Poor landing pages can be the reason behind low conversions and a high bounce rate. So spend some time getting your landing pages spot on.

7. Monitor performance. To get the best ROI make sure you keep on top of how your ads are performing. Monitor your CTR (click-through rates)and make adjustments to your ads as you go along, depending upon what you find is (or isn’t) working. Keep updating your keywords lists, removing any keywords that are performing poorly.  The more you measure and tweak the better your ads will perform.

Google AdWords can be a great way for small businesses and start-ups to drive traffic to their website and grow business. However to make the most out of Google AdWords and to get the best ROI it will need you to invest time and effort into making it work for you business.

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of using Google AdWords, so please do leave a comment.