It’s a rapidly changing world in marketing. Learning what is a fade or what’s a trend can be tough if you want to be on the leading edge and not the bleeding edge. This last year we have seen lots of changes for websites on the security front. If you have been reading my blogs, then you know the year started off with websites needing better hosting. They required faster loading times to keep viewers engaged. Websites also needed daily backup ups for safety and then malware scanning and removal for security.
So why is SSL security necessary now?
Recently SSL security certificates or https have been highly recommended to be added to your website. Why? Because it may seriously affect your business and your revenue. This change I’m referring to is about messages in the URL (www.yourdomain.com) ) showing up in browsers like Google as non secure which potentially will scare away your viewers and reduce your website traffic.
As of October 17th, 2017, Google recently updated its’ Chrome browser to warn visitors when a site they visit isn’t secure. Research surveys discovered that 82% of visitors abandon websites that aren’t secure or that provided these new warnings. On top of these warnings, Google’s search algorithms now lower your search rankings and results for websites without security certificates.
So what is recommended for your business?
If you have an ecommerce website, then it MUST have SSL security (https) for transactions to take place. Your ecommerce website needs to keep customers purchasing and keep you customers information and credit card numbers safe. However, a majority of websites are non secure (http) so I strongly recommend adding a SSL security certificate (https) to ensure no loss of visitors or lowering of website SEO ranking.
What are the associated costs with SSL security?
The SSL certificate requires an additional annual recurring fee and the time for you or your website designer to secure every page and media file if you have an existing website. If you are starting a new website, make sure you purchase hosting with SSL security. It’s not a matter of adding more expenses to your online marketing or to your small business budget. But one must ask themselves, “What’s the cost for my business of losing viewers, customers or lowering my existing search rankings?
So this coming year, keep your website secure, your customer’s information safe and website traffic increasing with your SEO efforts by adding SSL security.
Website Design Today
So you have a small business and you want to get a new website design or refresh an old one. But you want to make sure your internal staff or your website designer have all the right features and components. Perhaps you are asking yourself these questions? What are the latest trends? What is required for better SEO? What does my business need? What’s not good to have anymore? What does my target audience want to see? These may be just a few of the questions you may have. However, there may be questions you don’t know to ask. I’ll try to address the key areas to make sure your website is the best it can be.
When considering your content, keep in mind for your website, ‘Content is King’. That being said, you need to know your home page for search engines like Google, are heavily weighted at about 80% so focus on that page the most. Understand your target audience and be able to convey your story clearly by introducing each section. Keep in mind you need a minimum number of words for good search ranking. Additionally, your copywriting needs to free of jargon; So, identify your keywords and phrases and make sure your readability meets industry standards. For those few people that like writing, remember too many words can be a deterrent for most viewers. Remember less is more. Choosing the right words and phrases make good copywriting for readers.
Your colours should be based on your branding and logo. Remember simple things like primary colours, secondary colours and your contrast colours. Colours create thoughts and emotions so choose wisely. Photos still speak a thousand words and like colours, they create emotions more powerful than you really think. Stock photos are a good place to start, but original professional photos are best if you have a budget. Videos are key today whether produced, animated or testimonials. Some may argue uploaded and others social media embedded for better search results, but you must have video to capture attention. Sliders (motion timed photos usually across the top of a website) are hot items right now encouraged viewer engagement combining text, photos and video. Podcasts may be a consideration depending on your business model as well. It’s a best practice to make sure that either video and podcast do not autoplay ads because most viewers consider that annoying.
The latest is animation, text sections or photos. Website design today must not be just static, but need to be highly engaging to keep viewers on your website. Speaking of engaging, your website must be responsive to grab viewers who use various sizes of devices. It’s not just to keep them on your website but to improve your search rankings with Google and Bing. Social media icons are pretty much a given. However, newer features like chat boxes, pop up signup forms and booking widgets should be considered for your type of business.
The following are a few best practices in this area because I certainly do not have the space to write out everything. Here’s the most important: Always start with good hosting with backups and malware scanning. Starting in the new year your website will also need SSL security (https) with your domain to get better Google search results. If you are a DIY person then choose best of brand website builders. Beware, there are less expensive builders to build your website on but they come with a cost. Often they have compromised features and questionable search friendly platforms not to mention your own possible lack of marketing design knowledge. Today’s growing platform for most small business is the WordPress platform with about a third of the world’s websites and blogs resting on it. Why? Because they are a good user content management system and Google’s search engine likes to find a word based platform. That being said, your website pages have must external links to related topics or businesses.
Your website needs to have good onsite, offsite and local SEO to be found by search engines like Google and Bing. “Build it and they will come” is not a good philosophy for websites. It’s a waste of money to build and not get found. Equality along with that, your content must stay current. Just don’t build it and leave. Having new and fresh content should be part of your SEO strategy. Your website should always be a work in progress. Regular blogging is a good way to increase SEO and stay current. Hiring a ghostwriter if you are not a writer is a good investment. Offering promotions or freebies also works.Your viewers and potential clients will thank you.
I know most of us know what is SEO is these days or have at least heard about it. For those not in the know and who haven’t clicked on the link, in layman’s terms it simply refers to settings made so search engines like Google can find your website or blog. Having said that, creating good SEO and getting the results you want is quite another undertaking. In fact the more SEO I do and the more I learn about it, the more I realize all the things I don’t know. Even the best SEO experts have a challenge keeping up with the latest Google algorithms these days.
But having said that, I wanted you to be aware of the latest changes in SEO which I know about since I continue to stay current. And for the benefit of those reading this, I want to focus on the change not what you’ve needed over the last five years to make your SEO work better. So what did Google change with their algorithm and what do you need to do to respond?
What changed for SEO this summer?
This August the Google update focused yet again on quality content. Google is trying to help searchers. not penalize you. However. that means your website needs to have quality content. Google’s aim is to rid the internet of poor quality websites. Google’s refreshed its quality algorithms during the summer month explicitly in August this year. Of course Google didn’t tell us how or what to change, but here are few suggestions I would recommend: Websites, pages or blogs that just had outbound links (tags) or thin content with little text. If these are not changed, your website will be negatively affected.
So what do I need for better SEO?
To have good content on your pages you will need more than main titles and photos. Yes you still need to tag your photos with attributes for better search results and page ranking. Your home page with which Google weighs about 80% by-the-way, will require relevant content to your keywords with subtitles breaking up your page in a logical manner for flow. On top of all that, the hardest part is qualifying sentence structure and avoiding passive voice and long sentence structure. Your readability should also pass the Flesch–Kincaid readability tests to assure the public can read and understand without a lot of industry jargon. Some of the better SEO software out there will aid in your process, but it really does take some current training, experience and ongoing changes to get good results.
Summary and conclusion
I’m just scratching the surface and the few things I’ve listed is not meant to complete the requirements for good SEO in any manner. It is really to make you more aware that SEO is just not something the average DIYer can do quickly. You might be able to learn how to design a website, but areas like development, page flow and SEO requires ongoing education, experience and skill. Finally, I want to leave you with the thought that SEO is now not a “one time set it and leave it process.” It must be tweaked and maintained to keep up with our ever changing world of SEO if you want to get found on the web.
Online marketing is not child’s play! Are you a small business owner or business partner? Are you starting a new business and your budget is tight? Or, are you trying to reduce your marketing costs? Perhaps you just like to try things for yourself. Those are all good in their own right, but is it the best thing to do for your business? As I learned in my personal life after a divorce many years ago, when entering the dating scene again, ‘just because I can date again didn’t mean I should’. I needed time to heal and I needed to spend time elsewhere.
Priorities and time management
Just because you can figure out how to make a website, how to set up your SEO and how to create online marketing campaigns, ‘doesn’t mean you should,’ for several reasons: For example, I could crawl under my car and change the oil as I used to when I was a poor student in order to save a few dollars. I could also lay on my back under my kitchen sink and learn how to replace my kitchen taps. These both could be a good learning experience, but is it worth the time to achieve meager results and possibly cause more damage? There is a good chance I may have gained small knowledge and left with a good feeling, but is it worth my time? The old adage ‘Time is Money,’ is still accurate. Spending time doing things I’m only okay at, is not likely the best use of my time and I may miss out on other much more important opportunities to grow my business..
DIY design and online marketing
If I have heard this story once, I have heard it a hundred times. I honestly admire small business owners or their staff who want to take on new challenges like designing their own website and doing their own online marketing. I understand how the DIY strategy can potentially save your company some money. However, from experience and knowing how marketing changes daily, I’m suggesting ‘doing it yourself’ or using untrained staff can have a double-edge sword effect. Designing a website is not as simple as the experts make it look. Your need to understand the home page needs a marketing and content writing expert to tell your story. Like an iceberg, ninety percent of the website work is what you don’t see. What you can’t see is how much SEO is required for a Google searcher to find you. That simple process alone requires no coding errors, proper keywords, good copying writing for readability, fast loading times and great responsive mobile results. Marketing requires current training as the tools of yesterday don’t work well and have poor ROI. Additionally, not to mention, marketing today can change daily so it requires current training across all platforms from SEO practices to pay-per-click advertising.
Best practices and recommendations
The rule of thumb for DIY digital design and online marketing is to figure out what your time is worth per hour (annual income $$$ divided by 2112). Don’t waste time on marketing projects that cost you more than you would’ve had it done by an expert. The hard part is knowing what the true cost of your efforts that end up poor or meager results. These efforts could affect your business sales growth or your company reputation with poor quality or bad ROI. Unless you or your staff have the time start marketing training, it’s usually better to hire a good marketing freelancer or marketing expert that is current trained to handle to digital design and online marketing. Perhaps there is truth to “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” Focus your efforts on what you do best and stick to your core competences.
If you have been in business or in sales you likely have gone through some times when sales seem to stop coming in or your opportunities dry up in your sales funnel. Besides panicking, what can be done to change the course of your direction? What actions can you take to fill your funnel and bring back your sales revenues? Here are a few that I have learned over the course of 25 plus years.
Look to your customer or client base
Looking at your existing customers is the easy way to sell and find new business. They are already sold on your products or services. Try asking yourself these questions? Do you understand your customers or clients as well as you think you do? How does their business work? Have their marketing efforts paid off? What new business challenges to they face? What exactly do they do for their customers? What outside influences or competition has affected their business? I’ve learned that by asking good questions and genuinely caring about their business concerns, opportunities will start to fill my pipeline again.
Your best customers are your best salespeople
Most small business owners have four or five good customers or clients that are so happy with our products or services, that they are willing to tell others and sometimes believe more in our business than you do. Take these people out for a coffee or lunch and ask them if they can think of anybody that can use your products or services. All you need is leads or an introduction from them. Having these type of people on your side can increase your pipeline faster than you can on your own.
Resurrect old leads and opportunities
Look back into your CRM and find those sales opportunities that were abandoned from lack of interest, the timing was off or the funds were not there. Then review the reason and come up with a new solution for those who warrant a follow-up call. It’s amazing how a fresh set of eyes and new products or services can find solutions to old problems. Sometimes new people in the old accounts allow for new opportunities as well.
Schedule a follow-up week
Yes you need to find time in your schedule and prioritize and focus on digging up leads. Then start smilin’ and dialin’ as the old schoolers’ say. Now it’s time to comb through all those old leads and opportunities. So open up your calendar and schedule a week of follow-up calls. Contact those old prospects with the object to revisit and find new solutions with your new or improved products and services you now offer. I’m not suggested pushing products or services because you need to sell, but looking for opportunities where these fit in well and help your customers or clients.
Will you find problems? Yes but don’t let that stop you. Problems usually indicate to your customers and clients that you care about their business and are willing to help them out, not just make money through sales of your products or services. Sales means problem solving. Sales will come in based on your targeted efforts and your willingness to find solutions.
Many small business owners struggle with technology and to stay current, but the reasons differ. Some owners just want to stick to the tried and true, others worry about the cost and the learning curve and still others fear the future rather than embrace it. Here are a few trends to keep you in the know and reasons why you should consider updating your technology, marketing and tools. Where are you on the technology scale? Are you a 3, 5 or 8 out of 10?
Statistically, only a third of small businesses have a website. Having said that, many websites are still not mobile friendly yet and many are still the old static website designs. How will updating help you business? Nowadays your website needs to be responsive so that it can be viewed on all device sizes. This type of mobile website ranks better with search engines like Google so your business is seen more. Having a new design allows motion and media which keeps viewers more engaged and less likely to move on to other sites. To have a current website today, it can include integrated booking calendars, customer account logins and shopping carts for products and services. These are just a few reasons to make you higher on the technology scale
If you haven’t established an online social media presence, then perhaps it’s time to start a least with a Facebook profile and add a Facebook Page (business). Not sure how? Ask a tech savvy friend or family member to help get you started. Once you’re comfortable with that, add a YouTube channel and upload some videos and a Linkedin professional profile. Furthermore, stick to the common social media and add a twitter, Instagram and Linkedin profiles. Your website and marketing should be integrated to make all your marketing to work together. You could be close to a 6 or seven on that technology scale now!
Are you still sending out flyers and expecting the same results as ten years ago? Today a high percentage of people search online for products and services. With online marketing not only are the results better, but your customers can be targeted and results measured to tweak for further campaigns. Online marketing or digital marketing today includes SEO (website settings to make sure your found), social media marketing reaching out to online followers, Google and Facebook ads and email marketing reaching out to existing customers. Recently, marketing automation for online stores and sales teams are where online marketing is currently. How’s your technology knowledge now?
So you’re still using an office PC tower with older Windows and Microsoft office software and no back ups? Perhaps your phone is a flip phone or a Blackberry? What are current tools of the day and why should you upgrade? Today’s office tools include laptop or tablet with online services containing email, word processing and cloud backup storage. Connected with this technology is a smart phone that allows full sync with your other devices enabling complete remote access to files, emails and file sharing. Today’s current business includes online accounting to allow remote expense adds, quotations, invoicing and payments. Cloud backups and storage are old news, as remote collaborating and video web meetings are now commonplace.
To figure out what works for you, do a little research for current business tools or talk to a few business colleagues asking them what marketing tools works for their business and ask why. Make your small business current today. Become a 9 or 10 and be up-to-date with technology! Make it work the best for your business.
You may have read that Google Adwords and Facebook Ads recommend a landing page along with their online ads. Every marketing agency knows this all too well. It’s not so they can increase their billing, but they understand the power of conversation versus wasting ad budget money.
If I had a dollar every time a small business says they will do their own Google Adwords or Facebook ads and direct the ads to the website, I’d be a rich man. What I always hear them say after they’ve tried it for a while, is that these ads are a waste of money because they had no results.
It’s best to start by explaining what a landing page is. A landing page or marketing page is usually a hidden page on your website that online ads are directed to in order to help convert ad clicks in actual dollars.
Why can’t you just send the ad clicks to your website? It’s been proven that ads sent to your website do not show the results and do not provide good ROI (return on investment). Why? It’s because landing pages have key components to encourage viewers to stay engaged and to move to action.
Here are the components required and why: to begin with, the landing page needs an engaging capture line and image to keep them reading. Usually this page should identify a problem, provide a solution and then expand with some key benefits. All this needs to lead to a call to action that matches your business model. (buy now, get a free trial, book an appointment etc.)
- no website navigation
- social icons or sharing
- captivating catch line
- relevant photos
- key features
- 2-3 different call to actions
So take the advice from Google, Facebook and the professionals, design your own or have a landing page created so that your ad money is not wasted. You want your ads to convert from clicks to conversations to increase your business revenues or exposure.
I get this asked of me many times over. What is the least expensive way to bring in sales? The answer is simple; sell to your customers. This coincides with the business principle indicating that 80% of your business comes from your existing customers. It’s the easiest way to bring in more revenue because customers are already sold on your goods and services. Furthermore, your return on your investment is usually far greater than selling to a new audience. Marketing automation is an affordable and effective tool that allows you to target existing customers and sell them your products and services. Once that’s in place, relax and let the marketing automation work for you!
Ecommerce Marketing Automation
Ecommerce means a lot of different things, but I want to look at online store or shopping carts and assume you are not a new business. You need to spend some of your marketing budget to get found by web searchers with good SEO and spend money on paid ads to boost your efforts. However, email marketing automation is still the best “bang for your buck” and offers the best return on your investment. Automating your marketing with your website store will help you stay in touch with your customers on a regular basis, keep them informed about related products or services and remind them when they abandon a shopping cart. All this with little effort and cost on your part. Thus this added marketing tool will provide a huge uplift in your online store sales as well as save you time.
Sales CRM Marketing Automation
A business model that uses a sales team requires more than just marketing automation. They require a customer relationship management system known as a CRM, to track leads, opportunities and activities. These also integrate email programs to sync up tasks, calendar events and contacts. These CRM’s integrated with marketing automation provide a combination of sales and marketing now expected from salespeople and organizations. Marketing automation usually includes lead generation forms added to websites, triggered autoresponders from signups, a series of educational emails and email campaigns to promote and communicate with clients. This powerful dual tool can increase sales and improve business relationships with less effort, yet personalize the buyier experience.
What should you do moving forward?
It makes sense to automate your marketing for two great reasons:
- Increase your sales revenues
- Reduce wasted time on your own efforts
Pick a marketing automation that works for your business model and set it up properly or get it setup for you. Put it to use to get the sales you require and to save your time. All business owners need to take a breather. Let the automation do the work..
Free marketing for nonprofits sounds too good to be true, but every word I say is a good as the gospel. Most of the big names in marketing have a heart for registered charities and want to help them out. So if you are on the board or the chairman of a local charity, you should never have to pay for marketing services. I know as an owner of a few marketing firms, I send nonprofits this direction first as a contribution of my own. We even pick a charity a year to donate to and support their great efforts for our communities. Most good firms will even provide free consulting to aid charities.
You’re registered charity should be able to raise funds easier, collaborate with board members and volunteers more effectively and share your cause with a broader audience. Take your mission much further with the right management tools and a cost your budget can afford. But how? Google offers charities G Suite that includes domain email, drive for document processing, backup, storage and collaboration. You can even use Google sites to create a free website.To promote your charity and expand your reach, Google Adwords grants can boost your efforts. YouTube donor cards can be added to your video for direct donations to help your fundraising. Donors need to know that 100% of funds go toward furthering your mission, so with Google ONE, there are no transaction fees and they have automatic receipting. Even Google premium maps keep sensitive data internal by displaying valuable community or donor locations. Get started today.
To get your charity found locally, set up a Google My Business account and get verified. Why? Besides getting found by local searches, it allows the creation of a free single page website and posting for events or your Google Adwords. Start now
Use their free services for both email campaigns for lists with subscribers up to 2000 and unlimited use for marketing automation. Keep track of your donors with signups. Send funding campaigns for request to donors or keep them in the know with recent efforts. Keep volunteers in the know on a regular basis in a legal manner. To keep up with your efforts, new marketing automation can trigger a series of education emails to signups and send branded thankyous or reminders from your website. Should you need to expand your subscribers, they do offer a non profit discount. Subscribe for free today.
Set up your Facebook Page for your charity. Regular postings, blogs, photos and video will increase your online presence. I would also suggest a Twitter profile and Instagram profile as well. Get set up now.
Create a logo and design it yourself by using Vistaprint free online logo maker. It costs nothing to design it with only a small fee if you want to download it. You can also get affordable business cards, print materials and clothing. Taking it one step further, your organization can even get a 25% discount using their basic membership program. Start now
Why am I revealing all this free stuff for nonprofits? Most nonprofits are volunteer hours by dedicated individuals who are passionate about their cause. Their share their areas of expertise so why wouldn’t I do the same?
Summer is the time to relax and enjoy the nice weather and take some well deserved vacation time. But you’re not the only one that needs the break. Your clients and customers are doing the same thing which makes the summers quieter for business, unless you’re in the tourism or entertainment business.
Many businesses and owners use the summer time to catch up on tasks that never seem to get done such as doing some face to face meetings with clients, rearrange your office space or catch up with some accounting processes. If you are in sales, this is a good time to visit your competitor’s accounts while the competitors are on vacation. Watch your back, because your competitors likely have the same idea.
So what can a small business get done during this quieter times and prepare for the busier autumn times? Here are few ideas I’ve learned over the past few decades of business in the summer.
Summer Business Ideas
- Visit or contact those customers or clients you never had time to see
- Clean up computer files or start new backups
- Revise your website and social media pages
- Setup email or marketing automation
- Catch up with your accounting
- Renovate or refresh your office space
- Contact your competitor’s accounts while they are on vacation
- See a few businesses face to face to book a fall meeting
- Invite clients out for a patio lunch
- Take your best customers out golfing
Whatever your creative mind can come up with, is likely worth pursuing. It’s time to enjoy the summers months as we all know they’re shorter than we would like. However, it’s also worth your while to use the more casual downtime to your advantage. Move your business forward by catching up, booking appointments and arranging meetings with your competitors’ clients. You may just hit a hole in one with your downtime efforts.