How to use images to improve customer engagement

Hand pointing at online streaming of imagesThe use of visual imagery is becoming an increasingly important part of online communication. The meteoritic growth  in social networking sites like Pinterest and Instagram illustrates just how significant images have become in increasing engagement and interaction amongst consumers.

Indeed, research shows that articles containing an image have, on average, 94% more total views  than articles without an image, indicating the power of a good image.

Psychologically, consumers love imagery, and seeing visually appealing things creates positive emotions. Most people — between 65 and 85 percent — also describe themselves as ‘visual learners,’ forming meaning and organizing thoughts based on what they see more so than what they read.” Trend Reports

According to Forbes, image-centric marketing will be one of the top online marketing trends for 2014. Therefore, understanding the potential benefits of images and using them effectively on your website and in your marketing can increase engagement and interaction amongst your customers. Images can help:

  • Grab people’s attention
  • Convey meaning quickly
  • evoke emotions
  • Illustrate a point
  • Make text-based articles more visually appealing by breaking up reams of text
  • Convey complex information in an easily digestible format (think infographics)
  • Showcase a product effectively online.

How to make the most of images online

Your website

The use of visual imagery on your website is essential. Not only are images valuable in terms of SEO, they are central in terms of engaging customers. Nobody is going to find a solely text-based website enticing. Using photos, illustrations, graphics, icons, infographics and videos are all great ways to improve the content of your website and as a result, increase its appeal to customers.

Your product pages are a key area to focus on, since images are one of the most important elements in a customer’s decision-making process. So, ensure you are using high-definition images and spend time thinking about how to showcase your products to their full advantage. Research shows:

  •  67% of consumers say that the quality of the image is very important when they are purchasing a product.
  • 63% of consumers  saying a good image is even more important than product specific information.

social media like imageSocial Media

Social media and images go hand-in hand, just look at the phenomenal success of Pinterest in recent years. Think about how you can use images to enhance your presence on all your social media sites.  For example,  when you are posting an update on Facebook, always  include an appropriate image, be it an update about a new product, service, staff change, industry news, special promotion or competition. Including an image will make it far more likely for your update to capture people’s attention and in turn generate more likes and comments.

Blogs

Putting an image right at the beginning of your blog post is a great way to pull readers in. A relevant  image can help readers understand what your post is about, help illustrate a point and stir-up an emotional response. Images are also a great way to break up text if you have a long blog. And don’t forget, images can also be used when you promote your blog post on your social media sites and in your email newsletters.

Infographics also work really well in blog posts. They’ve grown in popularity over recent years as they present statistics and research in an interesting, relevant and engaging way.

Email and Online Press Releases

People tend to skim through emails and online press releases, picking out the salient points. Therefore, using images is a great way to help you get your message across quickly, break up text and create engagement at the same time.

You Tube on ipadVideo marketing

And finally, don’t forget the moving image. Using video  is a great way to boost your search engine rankings (search engines love video).  It’s format is engaging and it is a great tool to use  if you need to educate or explain something to your customers – think product demonstrations and video tutorials. Just remember to put it up on YouTube as well as on your website.

What makes for a good image

Where possible try to avoid using staged business photos as you are more likely to capture people’s attention and get an emotional response by using real people, real-life situations, humour, interesting visuals or stunning photography. Take a look at which boards get the most re-pins on  Pinterest  and you’ll get a real feel for the type of images that really work.

Make sure you  add Alt Text to your images. This is essentially a concise and accurate description of the image and is used as alternative text when the image can not be displayed. This is important as:

  1.  it makes the image accessible to all users, including those that are visually impaired as screen readers can read the alternative text provided
  2.  it one of the factors that can help improve your SEO performance.

Sourcing images

There are plenty of low-cost  and free images available on the web, but if you are not using your own photos or images then you must be careful about copyright and get permission from the author. Look for royalty free stock images that are for commercial use. I’ve listed a few of the low-cost and free websites we use for images and they’ll  tell you whether an image requires an author credit or not.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stock.XCHNG

Dreamstime

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

Image streaming image courtesy of  nokhoog_buchacon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Like button image courtesy of tungphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

YouTube on Tablet image courtesy of Winnond at Freedigitalphotos.net

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The benefits video marketing can bring to small businesses

videos computer keyVideo looks set to continue in popularity, as consumers increasingly engage with brands visually – think the meteoric rise of Pinterest and YouTube. So what benefits can video offer you as a small business? We take a look at how you can successfully add it into your online presence and make it an important part of  your content marketing strategy.

“We’ve seen a consistent trend in 2013 toward sharing through image and video, rather than text-based content. Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy” Forbes – The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014

The growth of video as a marketing tool

We only have to see the massive impact a successful online video can have to realise how video is becoming a more and more important channel for communication. Take for example John Lewis’ Christmas 2013 Bear and Hare video. in its first week it shot to the top of the Viral Video chart with 155,106 shares in just seven days. And, within just one month of going live, it can boast over 9, 787, 194 views on YouTube.  Of course, John Lewis had a multi-million pound budget and the help of a top advertising agency, but it clearly demonstrates how brands are increasingly realising the importance of video marketing.

Benefits video can bring to small businesses

Research shows that a customer who watches a video is 85% more likely to make a purchase . Getting on board with video marketing brings a number of benefits to your small business.

1. Content

Having relevant video content on your website can be an essential part of your content marketing mix.  Creating fresh, relevant content helps with SEO, since search engines consistently rank websites with videocontent higher in page rankings than websites without.  Indeed,  research shows that a website with video content is 53 times more likely to appear in page 1 of Google

2. Cost

Video marketing doesn’t have to cost the world.  You don’t need to rely on a production company to produce a good video – there are lots of DIY options out there. You can make your own video with the use of a decent camera and video editing software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. There are also plenty of online video creation tools available  such as Animoto or WeVideo.

3. Educate and explain

Video can be a great way to convey potentially complex information to customers. For example demonstrating to customers how to use a product visually can be far more effective than to try to explain it by written word alone.

4. Brand personality

Using video is a great way to bring personality to your brand. People like doing business with people so using video is a great way to get your brand personality across. For example showcasing your staff or your premises can help customers feel that there is a real person behind the face of the business.

5. Increase Customer Engagement

Video helps increase customer engagement since video is one of the most popular forms of media content that people share. According to a report by Zuum, video is the most shared content type on Facebook.

Use video across all your online marketing channels

You Tube on ipadThe great thing about video is that it can be effective across all your media channels. It should be up on your website but is also really effective on your social media platforms, your blog, in email communication and, of course on YouTube.

Remember YouTube can boast –

Examples of using video effectively

In order for video marketing to be effective, you need to create content that adds value and enhances your customers’ shopping experience.  For example value added content could include, product demonstrations, video tutorials, customer testimonials, instructions and how to guides. We’ve highlighted below a few examples of how different businesses have used video to generate relevant, useful content for customers.

Useful resources

So now you’ve seen the importance part video has to play in generating quality content, we’ve found some useful links to help get you going.

How to make a video

Tips on using a video camera

Online video production tools

What makes good content for a video

Uploading your video to you tube

Videos Computer Key image courtesy of Stuart Miles at Freedigitalphotos.net

YouTube on Tablet image courtesy of Winnond at Freedigitalphotos.net

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

How to start a successful blog for your online business

Blog definition imageAs a small business or start-up you may be toying with the idea of creating a blog for your business. But perhaps you are not quite sure of how to get started or how to make certain your content is interesting and engaging. In this post we’ll give you some top tips to get you on your way and blogging like a pro.

The benefits a great blog can bring

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, quality content is central to the success of so much of the marketing you undertake as an online business.  A blog is a genuinely effective way of creating engaging content for you site. Still not quite convinced? Then check out the statistics obtained an info-graphic from Ignite Spot :

  • Small business with blogs generate 126% more leads
  • Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people follow brands on social media
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links

Where should you start?

A sensible place to start is by looking at other blogs, including some within your own industry. This will give you a feel for typical formats, content and styles of writing that are out there, giving you a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. The next step is to get some blogging software. There are plenty of great blogging services that are quick to set up and straightforward to use. It is worth doing a bit of research to get the right software for your needs. Popular free services include Google’s Blogger (you will just need to set up a Google account) and WordPress.  Equally, your current website platform probably also offers a blogging service. Don’t forget to make sure you customise a URL for your blog and  host it off your website, otherwise you won’t get the SEO benefits.

Top tips for writing an engaging blog

  • Content: I would argue that the most important tip  to remember is that a successful blog is all about content. Your blog is not the place to be aggressively selling your products or services. It should be aimed at your customers and prospects – what kind of information would they would find  useful and interesting?  For example if you owned a florist shop you might choose to write about  tips on how to arrange flowers in a vase or how to keep cut flowers fresh for longer. You are aiming to be seen as an expert in your relevant field through providing informative and  engaging information that readers will hopefully share with others.
  • Topics: So how do you come up with great topics and ideas to blog about? Taking a look other business blogs in your industry is a good way to generate ideas – then think about how you can approach the topic from a different angle. Popular blogs include problem solving posts like how to guides, breaking news, pro’s and con’s posts (for example, going back to our florist shop the pro’s and con’s of fresh versus dried flowers for table centrepieces) or list posts such as 10 top tips for better time management, or 20 tips to beat the Christmas rush.
  • Headline: Spend time on your headline. As with most copy, your headline is a really important part of the blog. It is what often makes people decide if they want to read on. A good way to start a headline is to think about the keywords and keyphrases a customer or prospect might type into a search engine to find the kind of information you are writing about in your blog post.
  • Conversational:  You should try to make your tone friendly and conversational. Remember, you are trying to build a relationship with your audience so start by writing in first person using ‘I’ and ‘you’. It comes across as much more personable than writing in third person (this is not to say that there aren’t times when writing in third person is appropriate).
  • Share information:  Don’t  be afraid to share relevant and informative links to sources of  information you think your customers might find interesting or useful, such as statistics, infographics, publications or websites.
  • Open links in new windows : If you are including outbound links in your blog make sure you open them in a new window so your reader isn’t  taken away from your post permanently and are able to get back to your blog easily.
  • Post regularly: You don’t have to blog everyday – unless the mood takes you that is! But it is important that once you start a blog you need to keep posting regularly. It doesn’t do much for your brand image if a visitor arrives on your blog page and sees that your last post was six months ago. If you are pressed for time why not see if you have some  affiliates or contacts who might like to write a guest blog for you now and then?
  • How long?: Don’t get too worked up about how long your blog should be,  you will probably find the length will be dictated by the topic area you are writing about. It is the quality of the content that you should focus on rather than worrying about the quantity. If you do find your post  getting too lengthy then maybe it’s an area that lends itself to a series of related posts. However, if you are just starting out and want a bit of a guideline then an average  post is probably anywhere between 300-800 words.
  • Quality: Check your grammar and spelling. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because blogs usually have a less formal tone than other types of content poor spelling, punctuation and grammar don’t matter – they do. A slapdash post will reflect badly on your brand.
  • Feedback: Try and close your post by asking your readers to comment and if they do then reply back, as it is a good way to encourage engagement with your customers.
  • Images: ‘A picture paints a thousand words’. Images are really important.  A strong, relevant image can pull a reader in to your post. Plus, you get the added bonus of using these engaging images to help promote your post on sites like Pinterest.
  • Tagging and Categorizing: Keyword and keyphrase tagging and categorising will help potential readers find your blog post more easily. So for example for this post I could categorise it under ‘marketing for small businesses’ and ‘digital marketing’ and my tags could include keywords and keyphrases like ‘how to write a blog’, ‘SEO’ and ‘online content’.
  • Promote: Spread the word! You’ve just invested your time in writing a great blog post so make sure you tell customers and potential customers about it. Use your social media pages and email newsletters to promote your latest blog with a small paragraph about your blog’s content, a good visual and the link to the post.

Be patient!

Finally don’t forget, building up leads and links takes time. But is worth it – according to statistics from Traffic Generation Café  when you’ve written over 52 posts on your blog, traffic increases by up to 77%.

“Once you write 24-51 posts, your blog traffic generation starts to grow. That’s probably how long it takes to build a blog with enough pages to get indexed by Google and attract links from other sites as well as visitors.”

 So do persevere as evidence continues to show it really is well worth the effort!

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Content is still King

Content ImageEngaging, high quality content is central to successful marketing and key to attracting and retaining customers. The phrase ‘content is king’ has been heralded in digital marketing circles for a good few years now. But what exactly does it mean and why is it so important for online businesses?

Content and content marketing

From an online perspective, content is essentially all the information you communicate to your customers and prospects. For example in terms of a web page content is the text, design and images used to convey information. If your content is interesting and engaging you are more likely to attract and retain customers, hopefully achieving repeat visits.

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audiencewith the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Content Marketing Institute

In the past marketing messages were primarily ‘pushed‘ out to customers through traditional media channels such as print, TV, radio and direct mail . The onset of new media has enabled businesses to interact directly with their customers, creating what is essentially a two-way dialogue. It is now primarily customers who are in control, since they actively seek out information on the web and are often the first to initiate contact. Visibility and interaction are key as online businesses need to find ways to ‘pull-in’ customers to their web presence. Content is an integral element of any online marketing. Whatever marketing tactic you are using, be it SEO (search engine optimisation), branding, PR, social media, inbound marketing or email, content is central to its effectiveness.

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

How to improve content –  where do you start?

A good place to begin is to spend some time looking at your current offering. This would mean evaluating all the elements that make up your content – from web text and graphics to sales, product and marketing copy.  Is your content:

  • Useful and informative to your customers?
  • Up-to-date, relevant and accurate?
  • Professional, with no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors?
  • Interacting  and engaging with your customers?

Since content is central to pretty much everything you do online, it is worth looking at your content as a whole rather than as lots of separate bits and pieces of information. That way you have a complete picture and can formulate a strategy for your content. And remember, content needs to be reviewed and managed on a regular, on-going basis.

What makes good quality content

Although link building and keyword optimisation still important for SEO purposes, the days of keyword stuffing your content have well and truly passed.  It is quality content that determines how a website is ranked by the likes of Google.

 interesting sites will increase their recognition on their own” Google Search Engine Optimisation Guide

When creating content always keep your existing and prospective customers in mind. If you are generating content for them you are likely to be ticking the ranking criteria for search engines. Good content is essentially about engaging your customers and encouraging them to share. You can do this through keeping your content informative, engaging, easy to digest,  fresh, interesting, interactive, relevant, original and useful. There is a great infographic from Skyword that summarises the essentials of good content as the ‘Three S’s of successful content: Searchable, Snackable and Shareable’. Essentially this means content should be optimised for relevant keywords and phrases (again, this does not mean keyword stuffing!), it should be catchy and bite sized so it meets the demand for ‘on-the-go’ information and compelling enough for readers to want to share.

Ideas for creating quality, engaging content

There are lots of  ways  you can generate quality content for your customers. SmartInsights have created a ‘Content Marketing Matrix’ that is packed full of content ideas to help “Entertain, Inspire, Convince and Educate” customers. It has lots of excellent ideas so is well worth a look. Outlined below are a few ideas to get you thinking about how your business can create fresh, engaging and interesting content that is relevant to your customers and prospects.

  • Engaging in interactive social media such as Facebook or  Google+
  • Creating a blog that contains interesting, digestible information that is appropriate  to your market
  • Publishing market research findings such as trend reports and providing downloadable whitepapers 
  • Regular, informative email newsletters informing customers of your latest news, offers, products or services
  • Entertain customers by running competitions or quizzes
  • Online press-releases  to keep your customers, potential customers and industry contacts informed of developments within your business
  • Creating interesting infographics and visuals
  • Producing online videos such as useful tutorials or demonstrations
  • Introducing an online community discussion forum

Content looks set to remain a key factor for any business looking to succeed online, so spending  time making it as engaging as you possibly can, is time very well spent.

 

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

10 benefits of getting your business online and ecommerce ready

 EcommerceEcommerce is here to stay

With unparalleled, and in all likelihood, continued growth in information technology, internet access and online consumer spending, getting your business online and ecommerce enabled should be a priority. Not only does an online presence open your business up to exciting new opportunities, but in order for most businesses selling products or services to really thrive long-term, providing an online sales channel is essential.

“Ecommerce sales topped $1 trillion for first time in 2012…This year, sales will grow 18.3% to $1.298 trillion worldwide” eMarketer

Tapping into this growing pool of online consumer spending should be something your business is making the most of. There are of course things you need to consider and address when moving online, such as security concerns, data-protection, possible technology gaps between providers and users, levels of online customer service and fulfilment and so on. But any potential teething problems are minor in comparison to the opportunities the internet provides.

10 reasons to get your business online and ecommerce enabled

1. Reach a new, global audience

The internet enables even the smallest of businesses to access audiences far vaster than can be reached through traditional channels alone. A small business or start-up can reach corners of the globe previously only accessible to multinationals’ with large marketing budgets. The internet can help maintain a competitive advantage by opening your business up to a new global audience and also through sourcing potential new suppliers and distributors.

2. Increased interaction with your customers

An online presence provides your business with the opportunity to increase communications with customers  through interactive elements such as product review’s, customer feedback , email newsletters,  discussion forums and blogs. Through real-time feedback you can get to know your customers’ expectations and thoughts on your products and services. This insightful information can then be used to improve customer relations and fed back into business planning.

3. Your business is open 24 hours, seven days a week

The beauty of ecommerce is that your business can be taking orders and purchases all day, everyday. Whilst you’re tucked up in bed your business is still working for you, processing orders from customers from the other side of the world – ensuring you don’t miss out on valuable sales.   An online store gives your current and potential customers the convenience and ability to shop when they want.

4. Level playing field

The internet enables  businesses the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with even the biggest of competitors. In addition to low start-up costs, the availability of a number of excellent free tools (webs analytics, DIY site builders, social media and so on) gives even the smallest of businesses an equal footing with the big guys.

5. Data tracking and gathering

Analytics provides instantaneous access to your websites’ data. It can tell you all sorts of insightful, real-time information about customer behaviour, web traffic, conversion rates, bounce rates – all of which can be fed into your business planning and strategy. And a lot of it is available for free.

6. Low start-up and maintenance costs

Getting your business online needn’t cost the world. The are a number of free do-it-yourself website platforms available to get you started no matter how new or small your business is. And, the cost of maintaining a virtual store is far lower than the bricks and mortar equivalent.

7. Reduce marketing and advertising costs

There are all sorts of low cost digital marketing activities you can engage in to improve your online visibility. If you are prepared to put in time and effort you can undertake inbound marketing techniques such as Search Engine Optimisation, link building, social media, blogs, Pay Per Click advertising, none of which require a large marketing budget.

8. Flexibility and Speed

The internet provides your business with speed and flexibility. You can set up an online shop in a matter of minutes and adapt your website quickly and easily to respond to market trends or competitor activity. Mass communication with customers can be almost instantaneous through social media and email.

9. Keep up with your competitors

You need to stay competitive and not get left behind – the likelihood is that even if your competitors aren’t all online yet they will be soon. And because the internet provides transparency – there is no quicker and easier way to keep on top of what your competitors are doing than monitoring their websites.

10. Reduce processing costs and receive payments quicker

An online store can reduce many  processing and transaction costs and enable you to receive payments into your bank account much quicker than through more traditional methods.

Finally, if you’re still hesitating….

How is this for an encouraging  statistic. According to a recent report by the Lloyd’s Banking Group (Britain’s Digital Opportunities Report 2012), there is a distinct link between having an internet presence and growth in turnover. Findings indicated that the businesses who were reporting an increased turnover were more likely to have a company website, felt the internet was very important to their organisation and used the internet daily.

Getting your business online and ecommerce ready really isn’t as daunting as first it may seem and there is plenty of help out there. Most website platform providers offer some excellent templates and hosted, third party shopping cart software can be a quick and simple way to turn your website into an online store. And if you’re just starting out, don’t worry, your website and online shop doesn’t need to be all singing and dancing straight away.  The beauty of the internet is that you can evolve and adapt your presence with relative ease to reflect market trends, consumer expectations and your own business requirements.

Image courtesty of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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

SEO Basics for Beginners – Part 1

SEO for beginnersIf you have heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) but are not quite sure what it involves and what exactly it means for your online business, then we hope this quick guide outlining the basics of SEO will help get you started.

Having, at the very least, a basic understanding and working knowledge of SEO is essential for any online business, since fundamentally the process of improving your ranking and visibility in search engines will result in more ‘quality’ visitors to your website.

In Part 1 we’ll look at what SEO actually is and why you should be building it into your marketing strategy and in Part 2 we’ll examine some tools to help get you started.

What is SEO ?

Definition

So what exactly is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?  In a nutshell SEO is the process of improving the position of your businesses ‘natural’ listing in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Basically put:

  1. The search engine user  (potentially your customer) enters a keyword or keyphrase into a search engine (e.g. Google, Yahoo)
  2. The search engine results pages (SERPS) lists the results in order of relevancy to the keyword/keyphrase query entered by the search engine user. The most relevant and closest match will appear at the top of the ranking.
  3. SEO can help your business improve its natural ranking position on the search engine results pages.

Natural and PPC listings

Okay, so I mentioned ‘natural’ listings, these listings are also referred to as ‘organic’ or ‘unpaid’. They are arguably the most important listings to appear on the search engine results pages as they are the listings the majority of users click on. Natural listings are the ones you can improve by putting some time and effort into SEO activities – essentially what we’ll be looking at in Part 2 of this blog.

Before we go further with SEO, it is also important to mention the listings you usually see directly above and to the right hand side of the natural listings on the search engine results pages.  These are paid or sponsored listings and are known as ‘PPC’ (Pay Per Click) or ‘paid search marketing’. When a specific keyword or keyphrase is typed into a search engine then a pertinent PPC advertisement appears on the SERPS – a fee is paid to the search engine for each click through to the advertisement.

The general rule of thumb is that about that about two-thirds of search engine users click on the natural listings – so you can see why it really is important to put time and effort into SEO to improve your SERPS positioning. However, bear in mind that if two-thirds of users are clicking on the natural listings, this means that a third of searchers are still clicking through via the ‘paid’ advertisments. Ignoring PPC completely could mean you miss out on a significant proportion of potential visitors. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and so in order to maximise visitor traffic you may want to consider a mixture of both paid and non-paid search engine marketing.

What is in it for my business?

Right, back to Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is an essential process for driving good quality visitors to your business. Higher visibility on SERPS will drive more traffic to your website therefore, working towards getting your website on the first page of listings for search queries related to your area of business should be a priority. When you put a query into a search engine,  how often do you trawl through all the results pages the search engine lists? In all likelihood probably not very often. The majority of users look at the first search engine results page only before going back to try an alternative keyphrase search.

SEO does require time and effort but the good news is if you do the groundwork you are more likely to sustain your position long term. Once you have reached a good ranking page through SEO work with an on-going commitment it is then easier to maintain your position.

What is the search engine looking for?

So, what exactly is the criteria the search engine looking for when a user types in a search query? It actually considers numerous factors but the most important thing to the search engine is who can provide the closest, most relevant match from the most authoritative source. So essentially those websites considered authoritative with closest matching relevant content are going to score higher with search engines.

In days gone by websites could improve their SERPS rankings by simply packing their websites full of relevant keywords and sometimes involved manipulative practices now considered black hat such as keyword stuffing and cloaking. These days search engines are a lot more clued up and penalise business that don’t follow their recommended guidelines.

A good solid principle to follow to ensure you don’t fall foul of search engine criteria is quite simply to ensure you create fresh, relevant and authoritative content. We’ll be looking at ways to do this in part 2 of this blog.