Marketing for small businesses: how to write a successful online news release

online press releaseThe benefits of writing online news releases

Written and distributed correctly, online news releases can be an effective marketing tool for your business. News releases can:

  • Keep your customers, potential customers and industry contacts informed of developments within your business
  • help drive traffic to your site, since fresh, relevant, quality content improves SEO
  • build credibility and awareness of your brand.

When to use news releases and what to write about

Traditionally press releases were sent or faxed to key media contacts and fingers crossed, they would be picked up by a journalist and published through traditional media channels. The web has changed all that by providing businesses with the opportunity to widen their news release audience – enabling their releases to directly reach customers, prospective customers, news sites, bloggers and search engines as well as journalists.

In ‘New Rules of Marketing and PR’ (Scott,D.M 2010) Scott suggests that businesses should:

  • Send news releases frequently – not only when there is really big news
  • Create releases that appeal directly to buyers – not just a small group of journalists
  • Write releases using copy that is rich in keywords and phrases
  • Optimise news release delivery for searching and browsing

So what should you proactively be writing about? For a press release to be newsworthy, the ‘news’ doesn’t always need to be huge. For example you could write a timely news release on:

  • the launch of a new product, feature or service
  • an upgrade to a feature, product or service
  • a new business partnership or affiliation
  • market research findings
  • a new employee announcement
  • company news such as expansion, a special event, a move to new premises, the receipt of an award or anniversary
  • community involvement such as working alongside the community or a charity.

Standard news release format

The format for a news release is fairly standard. Press release distribution agencies may vary the format slightly, but the key elements remain the same. Make sure you follow a standardised format as it will give your release credibility and increase the chances of getting it picked up and published. A typical format would include:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  These words should appear in the top left hand corner of your release

Headline:  This needs to grab readers attention so make it  strong and engaging – but try to keep it short (remember search engines have limits to the number of characters they display in a headline)

Dateline:  For example: Bristol, UK, 1st October 2013

Body:

Opening paragraph. This should be a short, lead paragraph that captures your reader’s attention and  tells the reader succinctly what your news is – remember the who, what, when, where, why rules.

Centre paragraphs. This is where you tell your news release story. Use statistics and resources here to support your release.

Final Paragraph – This is a summary paragraph where you restate the key points of your overall press release. You can also provide an opportunity for the reader to obtain more information.

Boiler Plate:  This contains the background information about the companies or organisations featured in the press release

Contact information: This should include contact person, company name, phone, fax, email and actual address

### or ENDS:  This indicates that it is the end of the release

Do’s and Don’ts when writing a press release

Do keep it in third person and write objectively

Do keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Remember your press release should be between 300-800 words – no longer

Do use headings and sub headings

Do proofread your release. Check and double-check for grammar and spelling mistakes

Do keep it professional –  a news release is not the place for informal communication

Do include supporting resources –  such as relevant statistics, quotes, infographics and links to source materials

Do use images, graphics, and bullet points to break up text

Do use keywords and phrases that are relevant to your topic area

Don’t  use the words ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘you’ unless it’s within a quotation – remember you are not writing sales or marketing copy.

Don’t use  a news release as an advertisement  tool

Don’t  keyword stuff  or use excessive links (search engines will pick up on this as spam)

Don’t include any information that isn’t timely or accurate

Don’t use excessive technical or industry jargon (if you do remember you are writing for a broad audience so explain jargon where necessary)

Don’t put email addresses in the body of the press release (search engines will pick up on this as spam)

Don’t use all CAPITAL letters, exclamation points or deliberately exaggerated words (such as ‘amazing’ or ‘astonishing’)  to emphasise anything

Distributing your online news release

You can distribute your own press releases by building up a database of relevant industry contacts. Alternatively you could use a press release distribution company, such as PRWEB, Businesswire or  Online PR Media. They will distribute your news release to their large networks of news sites and search engines on your behalf.

You should also make sure you have a news or press release area on your website. This is where you put your releases, ideally in date order with latest news at the top. Then proactively promote your news release to your customers. For example put a link to the latest news on your news page in your email newsletter and on your social media sites.

Content, Content, Content…

Essentially a successful press release comes down to quality content. It is only through providing newsworthy, relevant and engaging content that your release will get found, read, posted on Facebook, retweeted and blogged about.

 

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

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Does your online shipping and delivery cut the mustard?

Red post box

It may not be the most glamorous area of e-commerce, but shipping and delivery is a fundamental part of the online buying process and underestimating its importance can have a detrimental effect on the success of your business.

Why is shipping and delivery so important?

Get your shipping and delivery strategy right and you are rewarded with increased levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Get it wrong and you risk reducing your profit margin, alienating customers and damaging your brand image.

Customers expectations rise as they become increasingly web savvy and research findings repeatedly tell us that delivery has a direct influence on a customers buying decision.

According to research carried out on behalf of MetaPack:

  • 68% of potential customers abandon online sales at the delivery page
  • 42.5% of customers look at the delivery pages first
  • It costs 10 times the cost of the original delivery when a delivery fails first time

More food for thought…

Research findings from a recent ComScore White Paper on behalf of UPS  found that although 83% of respondents were happy with online shopping overall, some of the lowest satisfaction scorings were in the area of delivery and returns.

In addition, a IMRG UK Home Delivery Review 2013 found that:

  • 74% of consumers said that a good delivery experience would encourage them to shop with again with a specific retailer
  • 75% would like access to clear delivery information prior to purchase
  • 80% would like online tracking
  • 78% would like the ability to choose a specific day for delivery

Five best practice tips to help meet customers expectationsDelivery Man

When planning your shipping and delivery strategy, spend time thinking about each of the areas of best practice suggested below and see if they can be incorporated into your shipping and delivery service.

1. Shipping rates

Make sure you are offering shipping and delivery rates that the customer deems fair. Getting the prices right for your market is essential.

“The setting of shipping fees have a dramatic effect on both conversion rates and profitability” (Internet Marketing, Chaffey et al, 2009)

Rates can be varied for the length of time it takes to deliver. For example checkout Amazon’s list of delivery options.  Amazon offers seven different shipping rates with costs varying depending on the time it takes for delivery. Customers can take advantage of free super saver delivery shipping if they are willing to wait 3-5 days for delivery, pay a premium for next day delivery or take advantage of Amazon Prime – Amazon’s loyalty programme where customers pay an annual fee to qualify for free next day purchase.

Know your product delivery costs  – find out exactly what the costs are to ship a product and make sure you check what your competitors are offering. With a bit of research you can offer shipping rates that keep your customers happy and your profit margins where they should be.

2. Free shipping

76% of online shoppers would like to see free shipping options at checkout (UPS ComScore research)

It is not always possible to offer free shipping on items, however wherever you can you should try to offer the option.  Customers are often willing to wait longer for something if it can be delivered for free (think Amazon). If you can’t offer a permanent free shipping option then think about using it as a sales promotion technique. For example, ‘spend £50 or over and get free delivery’ or a time limited offer such as ‘free delivery this week only’. If free shipping is really out of the question for your business then think about offering ‘real time’ delivery – where customers pay exactly what you have to pay to ship products.

3. Returns

Make your returns policy clear and as customer friendly as possible. Returns are always a bit of a pain, so try to make it as convenient as possible for a customer to return your item. For example, offer free returns with a pre-printed, postage-paid returns label that the customer can simply peel of and stick back onto to the original packaging. Think about signing up to a returns service such as Collect + where customers can drop their parcel into a local shop rather than having to go to the post office.

4. Flexibility

Try and be as flexible as possible with your delivery options. We’ve all experienced the frustration of waiting in all day for a delivery.  Where you can offer flexible delivery instructions that can be passed on to the delivery service such as, leave in garage, leave with a neighbour, leave behind the bins and so on. Where the customer has to be in to take receipt of their order then think about offering options where the customer can pick a delivery day, or a morning or afternoon time slot. Put yourself in your customers shoes and think about what kind of options you’d like.

5. Communication

Keep customers informed about the status of their order. People like to know when their order has been processed and is out for delivery. Implement delivery notification emails with shipping tracking references. Not only do you keep your customer happy, you are also cutting down on potential calls to your customer service department.  So when choosing your delivery service and shopping cart software think about whether they offer these options.

Shipping and delivery is a critical part of your online business, so keep your customer in mind and research your market.  And remember one size doesn’t fit all – have a shipping and delivery strategy that reflects your own individual business requirements.

 

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

How to use online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons successfully

online disount vouchersCoupons and vouchers have long been used by businesses as a way of driving sales and encouraging loyalty.  I’m sure those of you old enough to have been around in the 1980’s will remember the famous green shield stamps and parents religiously collecting Esso’s Tiger Tokens to exchange for some questionable glassware.

The last few years have seen the use of online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons grow significantly, and we’ve witnessed the increasing popularity of online discount voucher sites  – think Groupon, Wowcher, VoucherCodes and Savoo.  According to research by Savoo and Affiliate window, between 2009 and 2012 there has been nearly a 40% increase in the number of people searching for deals online.

A combination of general human instinct  (we all love a bargain), a long period of recession and customers becoming increasingly web savvy  (I can’t remember the last time I bought something from Boden without first checking what discount codes were available on the web) have probably all contributed to the rise of online voucher codes.  And, according to recent Forrester research conducted on behalf of vouchercodes.co.uk, growth looks set to continue:

“…the online voucher code market is still in a period of significant growth and advertisers utilising vouchers as a marketing channel enjoy a number of measurable benefits”

Benefits of online vouchers, coupons and discount codes

E-coupons can be downloaded and printed to be presented in-store or through a unique code that can be redeemed at an online store’s checkout. There are all sorts of ways businesses can incentivise customers with offers using online vouchers and discount codes. For example common offers include:

  • Buy one get one free
  • Money off codes such as 10% discount or  £5 off your order
  • Spend over £100 and save 20%
  • Free delivery and returns
  • Three for the price of two
  • Money off next order
  • Recommend a friend and receive money off your next order

Whatever type of incentive or offer you decide to implement make sure you think carefully the value of the offer and the length of time you intend to run the promotion – for example how would your profit margin fare if you offered 15% and free delivery for two weeks?

Voucher codes and e-coupons are a great, short term tactical sales promotion tool. They can be quick to set up, are easy to measure and split test, they are flexible and can be promoted at low cost via email, social media channels and on your website

The most effective ways to use vouchers, discount codes and coupons

1. Increase sales

Vouchers are a good way to increase sales to your website through incentivising prospective customers. For example you could use them to them to boost sales on a product that isn’t selling quite as well as you hoped or to invigorate sales to help reach a particular monthly sales target.

2. Rewards, loyalty and retention

Retention of customers is essential –  as we  all know our existing customers are our most profitable. Offering special loyalty rewards such as a £5 money off voucher can work really well. It makes a loyal customer feel valued and can lead to a spontaneous purchase.  Also, offering a new customer a discount on their next order is a good way of encouraging new customers to return.

3. Drive traffic and acquire new customers

A timely email containing an e-coupon can be an effective way of drawing new customers to your website. New customers may be more willing to take a risk and buy something if they feel they are getting a bit of a bargain to boot.

4. Launching new website, service or product

Online clothes retailers often use offer early bird discounts with next seasons previews. Voucher codes are a good way of generating interest in something new or trialling a new product.

5. Customer service tool

Often nothing appeases a disgruntle customer more than an apology with a nice discount voucher attached to it.

6. Generate leads and promote newsletter registrations

A discount code can be a good way of getting people to sign up to your newsletter – Gap and Banana Republic have successfully used a 15% discount code as  their as their newletter sign-up incentive for a few years.

Now a few words of caution…

  • Don’t overuse discount vouchers to the point that they reduce your overall profit margin.  Put objectives in place first and be clear about what  it is you want to achieve. Think about your incentive and for how long you should offer it for. Remember there is no one size fits all solution –  you must research and  test what works best for your business
  • If offering discounts make sure your discounts are genuine . You don’t want to fall foul of the Office of Fair Trading – I’m sure we’ve all seen the recent news on the investigation into some popular high street carpet and furniture companies.
  • Make sure any sales promotion activity you undertake complies with British Code of Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing. You can find full guidelines at http://www.cap.org.uk/Advertising-Codes.aspx

The internet has have provided us with  more options and an additional delivery channel but the key benefits remain the same. Used intelligently, with specific business objectives in mind then online vouchers, e-coupons and discount codes can be an invaluable sales promotion tool and I suspect, somewhat more appealing to this generation of savvy consumers than a set of crystal tumblers from their local petrol station.

7 website essentials for a successful online presence

Web Design Button on Keyboard The basic principles of good website design are universal, regardless of whether your website is a small brochure-only site or an all singing, all dancing interactive experience.  Understanding and implementing the following suggestions will help result in a positive online experience for your customers’ which in turn leads to the increased likelihood of sales and repeat visits for you.

Whether you are building the website yourself, outsourcing development to a web designer or reviewing your current online presence, an understanding of what makes for a good website is essential. By combining a number of key elements you are more likely to create a successful commercial website.

1. Start with your website goals

Before you begin have a good think about what it is you want from your website – what purpose does it need to serve? Are you looking to sell your products online and therefore need it to be e-commerce enabled? Do you need a site that serves as an online showcase or catalogue for all your products? Or is it primarily an additional channel to enable customers to contact you? It is important to have a clear idea about your website’s objectives prior to embarking on any design and development.

Navigation hand with compass2. Navigation

Navigation is essentially how simple it is for the end user – your customer –  to move around your website. Can your customer get to the information they are looking for within a few clicks?  The more complicated it gets the higher the likelihood that your customer gets lost, gives up and abandons your website.  A good rule of thumb is to try to keep the number of clicks it takes to reach any piece of information to a minimum and to make sure your menu arrangements, page layouts and signposts are clear and logical.

3. Usability

Usability is a test of how straightforward it is for a user to complete an action on your website such as purchase a product, fill in a registration form or book an appointment. Your customer should be able to complete these tasks efficiently and effectively. Get people to test your site  – not just you or your web designers – but people who are representative of a typical user of your site. Ask them to perform specific task whilst you observe how easy it is for them to complete the process. You can then identify where, if necessary, changes need to be made.

Hands catching TRUST letters4. Credibility

Does your website make a customer feel secure enough to feel confident about completing a transaction on your site? Or does it make them leave to find a site that feels more trustworthy? In addition to making sure your security credentials are clear to see, there are lots of other things you can do to build-up credibility and trust online. For example make sure customers can get in contact with you easily and that your organisational details (registered address, VAT no. etc) are available. Content should be accurate, up-to-date and error free (no matter how small, errors make your site look unprofessional). Include testimonials or client lists and deal with queries any quickly and efficiently. Essentially make sure your site, no matter how small, looks and feels professional.

5. Accessibility

Accessibility is a central requirement for your website. Legislation states that your website needs to be accessible to everyone. Your customers should be able to interact with your website regardless any disabilities they may have. A full checklist of guidelines for website design and HTML coding is available from the World Wide Web Consortium, following is a link that gives you a useful overview of the guidelines. http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/glance/ Another aspect of accessibility you need to consider is that your website can be viewed equally well from any device, whether it is a laptop, desktop, iPad, or a handheld mobile device.

6. Content

61% of global internet users use the internet to research products online (Interconnected World: Shopping and Personal Finance, 2012).   Don’t underestimate the importance of quality content and clear, concise copy on your website. Your customer has come to your website to look for specific information and so you need to ensure that the content on your website is accurate, informative and reflects your customer’s information needs. How your content is presented is equally important; visually it must be clear and easy to find. And, don’t forget to continuously keep your content fresh and up-to-date.

“Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.” Steve Krug, Don’t Make me Think: A Common Sense Guide to Usability 

People read information differently online, they tend to scan information and jump around  the page. Users are unlikely to read through reams of text.  It is therefore essential you keep your copy concise and to the point using key words and phrases that customers are likely to pick up on. Your page layouts should be clean and clear, so it is easy for your customers to scan the page and find the information they are looking for – quickly.

Sitemap image7. Design and structure

‘Keep it simple, keep it stupid’ Bryan Eisenberg

A sensible approach when looking at the design and structure of your website is ‘simplicity is best’. Everything should be self-evident to customers so they don’t have to think too hard about anything. Here is a link to a useful article by Bryan Eisenberg that despite being written well over 10 years ago gives some helpful website design advice – much of which is still relevant today.  For example:

  • Make sure everything is obvious to the end-user
  • Do not assume your customer is an expert user
  • Keep everything short, sweet and to the point
  • Use simple and consistent navigation

The key things to think about are how the overall structure of your site works, individual page design (paying particular attention to your landing pages) and how you present your content to your users. Make sure your website is visually attractive and remember, if an image is appropriate then ‘ a picture paints a thousands words’.  The effective use of  relevant visuals can engage a user and reinforce a message.

Finally, remember to always keep your end customer in mind and try to think about  the points we have listed above as a useful checklist that will help create and maintain your online presence.

Competitor Benchmarking – How to Compare Competitors Online

Comparing competitor websitesCompetitor analysis is an integral part of any business planning. In a previous blog ‘Getting To know Your Competitors’ we discussed the importance of competitor analysis and how gathering insightful competitor intelligence leaves you better equipped to shape your own business strategy and plans.

In this post we will give some tips on how to conduct an online competitor benchmarking exercise, by comparing key competitor websites against your own. This is a particularly useful exercise for small business and start-ups as it is something you can undertake yourself with little cost. A bit of time spent researching competitor websites can provide you with some really valuable information and gives you a real feel for what your competitors are focusing on.

What competitors should you  include?

The first place to start is deciding which competitor websites you are going to examine. It is probably both unrealistic and counterproductive to include your whole competitor landscape. Instead carefully select who you consider to be your top one to three direct competitors alongside perhaps an indirect competitor that you could gain some interesting ideas from.  Think about using some of the criteria below to put together a meaningful competitor list:

  • From your own knowledge – who you believe to be your key direct competitors
  • Who poses the greatest potential threat
  • Other businesses who appear close to you in search engine ranking pages (SERPS) or who have a high page rank with the keywords you would like to be associated with.
  • New entrants to the market that you need to understand better
  • More indirect competitors that could provide you with some interesting ideas to help you move  your business forward

Online Competitor Benchmarking Table

Start by creating a simple comparison table of your chosen competitors. Put your measurements down the left and side and your competitors across the top.

Online competitor benchmarking table

Measurements – what should you be comparing?

Spend a bit of  time thinking about what measurements are going to be the most useful to your business. For example only comparing measurements in areas that you know you excel in isn’t really going to be of much value to you. To get you started, outlined below is a list of standard online comparison measurements you may wish to include .

1. Usability

“Don’t make me think.”  Steve Krug

Site usability is all about the user’s experience. Does  the website work well? Can an average visitor use the site and find what they are looking for without getting frustrated and leaving? Are the pages intuitive and self-explanatory?  A user shouldn’t have to think too hard about how to get the information they need.

Think about navigation. How easy is it for a user to navigate around the site? Are pages accessible within a few clicks? If a user gets lost is it easy to click back to the home page? Is there a site map or site directory?

2.  Brand Image & Credibility

Is the look, feel and content  of the website consistent with the brand image. Does the site reflect the values its brand conveys?  Does the practical experience on the website match up with the users brand expectations?

How credible are the websites and how do they establish their credibility? Do they use testimonials,  product reviews or client lists?

3. Brand extensions

Have the websites introduced any brand extensions? Have they used their brand to extend into other products or services? Are there any ideas or opportunities that could be used in your future business planning?

4. General Accessibility

Are the sites easy to load (you can see average page speed by checking out https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights  ) Are the websites multi-device friendly? Do they meet Web content accessibility guidelines?

5. Levels of interaction

What are the levels of interaction with the customer?  Do they have a blog or community discussion forum?

What sort of social media engagement do they have.  What is their comparable use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google + ?

What devices or communications do they use to engage and convert their customers? Special offers and promotions, free trials, webinars, email newsletters.

6. Site content

What is presented to the user in terms of graphics, images, text and audio? Is the content up-to-date and time sensitive (offers, promotions and so on). Is there a good balance between information, products and services? What functions are available – is there a blog, discussion forum, news articles, search facility?

7. Search metrics

There  are number of free tools available that can help you put together a list of comparable metrics for yourself and you competitors.  Spend a bit of time getting to know how the tools work and what they can offer and you’ll be able to include interesting analytics in your comparison chart – such as page rank, traffic estimates, link analysis, website page speed, bounce rate and competitor keyword research.

Free tools for metrics:

https://adwords.google.com

http://moz.com/tools

http://www.alexa.com/

http://www.smartinsights.com/search-engine-optimisation-seo/link-building/best-link-analysis-tools-for-seo-and-online-pr/

Hopefully this gives you a good starting point for creating your own online competitor comparison table. Just remember to:

  • Choose your competitors carefully
  • Think about using measurements that are going to help inform your business and marketing strategy
  • Continue to review and monitor competitor websites at regular intervals.

Getting To Know Your Competitors

Competition in Business

Getting to know your competitors is essential for any business – whether big or small, an established brand or new start-up. Love your competition because not only does it keep you on your toes and motivate you, but knowledge is power and understanding your competition provides you with lots of interesting information that can be used to mould your business and shape your marketing strategy.

I have always loved the competitive forces in this business. You know I certainly have meeting where I spur people on by saying “Hey, we can do better than this. How come we are not out ahead on that?” That’s what keeps my job one of the most interesting in the world. Bill Gates

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis is simply the process of monitoring and reviewing your competition, the products and services they offer and their adoption by their customers. Through this gathering of ‘competitor intelligence’ you can gain real insight that can be used to feed into your business strategy and marketing plans.

When undertaking competitor analysis keep in mind that your overall goal is to collate useful information that puts your business in a better position and gives you a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry.

The competitor landscape

There are a number of questions you should think about being able to answer from the competitor research you undertake. Beginning with a good understanding of who your competitors are.  Your competitor landscape is made up of both direct and indirect competitors. For example in the world of film magazines, Empire probably considers Total Film its most direct competitor, however its competitor landscape would include film bloggers, Guardian film online and even other interest magazines that may get chosen by a potential customer as an alternative reading choice that day.

Identify who your key competitors are but keep in mind the wider competitive environment and don’t forget to include international competitors if they are relevant. Remember if your selection of competitors to research is too narrow or excessively large you will struggle to get meaningful results.

Competitor SWOTCompetitor SWOT analysis

Carry out a competitor SWOT analysis on each of your chosen key competitors. What are their strengths and weaknesses – what do they excel at and what could they improve on? Are they doing anything that could be a threat to you?  For example have they just launched special price promotion,  new product or brand extension? What are they not doing (or doing) that provides a potential opportunity for your business?

When researching and comparing your competition,here are some questions you might find useful to think about including in your analysis:

  1. Where are you in position to your competitors? Who are the major players and who is the market leader. Where does your business fit in? Are you competitors growing  or shrinking?
  2. The four P’s. How do your basic four P’s (product, place, price and promotion) compare to those of your competitors.
  3. What are they doing well and what could they improve? How do your products or services compare with those of your key competitors – for example on quality, price and customer service.
  4. What is your USP and your competitors USP? What might make a customer choose your product or service over your competitors’ offerings?
  5. What partners and affiliations do they have? Are there opportunities here for you to develop similar affiliations with suppliers or associations?
  6. Brand and reputation. How strong is their brand? What is their brand image? What is their reputation within the industry (both with consumers and trade)? How successfully are they promoting their brand?
  7. Trends. What market trends do your competitors appear to be following (or not following)?

Start by researching online

A great starting point for small business is to do some website analysis by looking at your competitor’s websites. Creating a simple comparison table and undertaking an online competitor benchmarking exercise is a good way to get the ball rolling. Think about and compare competitor websites.  From this you can get a great overview of your competitors’ online presence and start  identifying potential gaps, opportunities and areas in which you could improve your own site.

And don’t forget, any kind of  competitor analysis should be continuously reviewed and monitored at regular intervals. Enjoy getting to know your competitors, and remember the better armed you are with valuable information the stronger position you are in for being both reactive and proactive in your business planning.

SEO Basics for Beginners – Part 2

SEO for beginners

Simply put, the more visitors you have on your website, the more opportunities you will have to make a sale. SEO is about increasing the number of visitors to your website.

SEO Basics for Beginners Part 1 of this blog looked at what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is and why it is essential in helping drive quality traffic to your website.

Part 2 looks at how to get started and the key marketing tools to use.

Where is a good place to start SEO?

We probably need to start by pointing out that there is no quick fix to SEO.  It requires time and effort and needs to be looked at as an on-going, longterm marketing activity. However, “marketers who commit to the effort required in creating quality content can improve their SEO positions” (Kaci Bower, www.sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com)

We mentioned in Part 1 that successful  SEO centres around creating fresh, relevant and authoritative content.  So how do we go about ensuring our content is exactly that?

There are three key areas to focus on when starting Search Engine Optimisation.

  1. Keyphrase Analysis
  2. On-page optimisation
  3. Link building

1. Keyphrase analysis

Before spending time optimising your website for the keywords you think people will find your site with, find out what they are actually looking for instead.

It’s straightforward enough to find out what the most number of people type in and search for in relation to your types of products and services. This allows you to optimise your website for the best keywords that will result in the most visitors.

Ensuring all your content is relevant and customer focused is integral to achieving good search engine ranking. Key phrases are the words that users type in to the search engine query box when performing a search, therefore achieving keyphrase relevancy  is essential as this is what the search engine is looking for.

The first step is being able to identify the keyphrases your customers are likely to type in the search engine when looking for a product or service. Spending time researching your customers and competitors is important. There a number of great tools available to help with this. For example Google Adwords offers Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator, these tools are free , you just need to set up a free Google Adwords account.

Without having to spend any money on a Google ad campaign you can use the Google Adword Keyword Tool to show you how popular a keyword or keyphrase is to estimate how many are searching for those terms. Utilising these research tools can help you make more informed choices when look at creating relevant and authoritative content.

Google keywords search tool

When you are in the Google keyword search tool, start by typing in the keywords you are thinking of using or phrases about the products and services you are selling. When you click the Search button for those keyword phrases, Google will then give you the number of monthly searches for a whole bunch of related phrases and keywords.

You will then be able to determine the keywords and phrases which receive the most searches each month which will help you optimise your website to attract the largest reaching audience.

Find google keywords with the most visitors

2. On-Page Optimization

On-page optimisation is the process of ensuring that the content on your website matches the key phrase queries searched for by your customers and is central in achieving search engine relevancy. Essentially it involves making many small adjustments to areas of your website that make it easier for search engines to crawl through and understand the content of your web pages.

“Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes may seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.” (Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide)

The free SEO guides we’ve listed at the end of this blog will really help you in this area since, as we’ve mentioned, on-page optimisation means making lots of little tweaks to your web pages such as title tags, alt tags, meta tag,  URL and so on.

3. Link building

So we know content needs to be relevant but search engines are also looking for authority. A key factor in search engines determining whether a website can be considered authoritative is how many external / inbound links it has (these are links into your site from another third party site). Remember though links  need to be high quality and relevant.

Creating valuable content helps generate inbound links from quality sources. You should look at becoming a bit of an ‘expert’ in your area of business you could for example think about creating a business blog writing posts relevant to the products and services you are selling or the audience you are trying to attract.  Two great free hosted blogging tools which are easy to set-up and use are WordPress.com and Google’s Blogger. You can then link to your blog from your website and link to your website from your blog.

You can also proactively build inbound links by identifying and linking up with partner sites such as trade associations, suppliers, relevant media sites, press release distribution sites and social networks. Finding other peoples blogs and news sites and offering to guest post an article will also allow you to write useful and helpful content which also builds backlinks to your website.

Content, content, content!

SEO is about creating quality content that is customer focused, relevant and authoritative. Increased search engine visibility really will help drive traffic to your website, but don’t forget SEO should be looked at long term and as an ongoing marketing commitment. There is no quick fix SEO but it is low cost and investing some time and effort in on-page optimisation, keyphrase relevancy,  customer focused content and increasing inbound links can see real and sustained results over time.

Want to find out more?

Hopefully Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog has given you a better understanding of SEO. If you are interested in exploring this area in more detail below we’ve listed below some excellent free resources that will help get you started.

Free search engine optimisation guides:

MOZ Beginners guide to SEO:  http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/

Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide:  http://www.google.co.uk/…/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

Tools for help with keyword analysis

Google Adwords  – Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator (once you’ve signed in to adwords just click on Tools and Analysis then Keyword Tool or Traffic Estimator):

http://www.adwords.google.com

Search engine guidelines (how to ensure you are using white hat techniques!)

Google Webmaster Guidelines (especially Quality Guidelines section)

http://support.google.com/webmasters

  1. Keyphrase analysis