How Much Should A New Website Cost

As may be expected the answer to the question of how much should a new website cost is not straightforward and depends on a number of factors. That said, we will try to deliver best estimates based on the website platform and the level of website complexity.

Before we get into the detail perhaps we can save you some money? It may be you do not need a website at all? Before deciding on a new website, technology, design, layouts, costs and potential suppliers there are several important issues to consider.

Think About Your Strategy

It is important to re-visit your business plan to ensure that whatever you create fits with that plan and delivers on your business objectives. What are your key messages? Prospects are not generally interested in ‘welcome to our website’ statements or a company history. They want you to get to the point, in plain language, and to do it in as few words as possible.

What Do You Hope The Website Will Achieve

What would you like your website to achieve? Do you want a brochure site that builds authority and your brand or is your prime objective to obtain quality leads for your sales department to chase down? Try not to get caught somewhere between the two and make a firm decision on one or the other.

A Website May Not Be The Best Option

Really think about your business, what you want to achieve and the other options available before investing in a website. For example if you are a local plumber it may be far better to have a strong Google Local listing than try to compete for a spot on page 1 Google with the nationals, the major directories and those prepared to invest heavily in SEO.

Remember To Keep something back for SEO (or PPC)

On the subject of SEO remember a website is of little use if it cannot be found when a prospect types a relevant search phrase into a search engine. To compete for that all important page 1 position then something will have to be spent on SEO or PPC.

Do As Much As You Can In House

Both to keep costs down and to ensure there are no misunderstanding it is worthwhile spending some time thinking about the keywords that best describe your business. What is a prospect likely to type into a search engine when searching for your goods or services?

Write out key statements and think about the information that absolutely has to be on your website and how it all links together. Collect relevant photography you own or source stock photography (making sure you do not breach copy write) that you would like on your site.

Build A Solid Brief For Your Website Supplier

The above maximises the chances that misunderstandings will be avoided and that your website designer delivers a website that covers your key messages, it also minimises costs. Although design is important it is essential to make it clear up front that the design should not slow the site down or detract from the message and objectives.

It should be made clear that any website delivered must be SEO friendly and fully updateable via a robust (and simple) content management system (CMS). Check your website supplier carefully, it is best to avoid one man bands who may well go out of business or move on causing you a problem if there are any technical issues or major changes required.

What Should A Website Cost

As a rough guideline a simple website build on the WordPress platform is more than adequate for most small businesses and should cost anywhere between GBP(£) 400 and (£)700. For more complex requirements or simple e-commerce sites this may rise to between GBP(£)1,000 and (£)2,000.

The two other most common website build technologies are Drupal and Joomla. These tend to lend themselves to more complex websites, with more functionality than WordPress but tend to be more expensive as a result. For a simple website be prepared to pay in excess of £750 with more complex designs costing up to GBP(£) 5,000, sometimes more, for special functionality.

There are also many, so called, website builder packages available from Yell, 1&1 and many others. These may appear cheap options but nowhere is it more true that you get what you pay for. If you would like your business website to look almost exactly the same as many others and you don’t mind becoming frustrated with what you can, and cannot, achieve then go ahead.

Thinking through your objectives and preparing properly can save you an awful lot of time and money in your website design process. It can also lead you to the point you may have a reasoned conversation with your website design company on what the best build package and cost level may be best for you.

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How To Create A Local Business Marketing Plan

Creating a local business marketing plan can seem a daunting prospect. The idea of spending hours researching the market, identifying potential customers and competition then crafting a plan can fill many with dread. Even with the best intentions to put that plan in place the day job always seems to get in the way.
analysis is key to the local marketing strategy

In reality, creating a local business marketing plan can take less than two hours and, when finished can often be condensed onto two sides of A4 paper. That is not to say the long established strategic marketing process is invalid but for a small businesses a top level approach will often suffice.

What Do I Deliver

It may seem trivial at first but it is important to consider what fundamental service the business offers. Remember the old saying ‘we don’t sell half inch drills, we sell half inch holes’ and really think what basic customer need the business satisfies.

What Customers Should We Target

With the basic customer need established it should be possible to identify customers, or better still, groups of customers to target. It may be that different groups have slightly different requirements which can mean different variants of the product or service are required.

To try to sell to everyone dissipates resources which any small business can ill afford. It is important to therefore clearly identify specific market segments to attack and target products or services specifically at those segments.

Who Else Satisfies That Need

When you really look at who satisfies the same need (those half inch holes) you can really come across some surprises. Those you thought were competitors may not actually be competitors at all and those you really need to worry about may come into sharp focus.

Why Should Customers Buy From Me

This is the really difficult one but also the most important question to answer. Be honest with yourself, evaluate your existing customers and really dig deep into why they buy from you and not the competition.

Assess The Options And Make A Choice

Any good strategic analysis and planning process will throw up a number of key issues to consider. There are always choices to be made, often some hard choices to walk away from a particular group of customers or piece of business.

Build some scenarios, if we do ‘X’ and ‘Y’ then what happens to ‘Z’, consider each scenario in detail and make some decisions.

How Do I Get Myself Known

Only after a decision has been made on the way forward is it appropriate to consider the promotional options open to the business. Consider, who are my customers, where do they look for suppliers and make purchasing decisions and how do I reach them. Only with this information in place is it possible to build an appropriate local business marketing plan.

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Does A Small Business Need Content Marketing?

Search online for any information on small business marketing and it is hard to avoid the topic of content marketing, but what is it, is the hype justified and does a small business need content marketing? This post attempts to answer those questions.

The way customers and prospects react to promotional messages has changed dramatically over recent years. Potential customers that once waited for information to be pushed their way no longer have the same level of trust in traditional marketing techniques and now seek out the information they need.

Prospects now tend to believe word of mouth and the comments or reviews of their peers are much more trustworthy than anything a potential supplier may push their way. They seek out content online and tend to engage with the suppliers that deliver the information they need rather than those delivering pushy sales messages.

Although some low value products may be purchased online without too much thought, in the majority of cases consumers will seek out various sources of information and educate themselves thoroughly on the best choice before making a purchasing decision or engaging with a preferred supplier. They want to see what suppliers have delivered for others (reviews and case studies) and how it can help them.

What Is Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about delivering the information prospects requirecontent marketing for small business to make a purchasing decision. It is about staying front of mind until the potential customer is comfortable and ready to engage or buy.

So what is content? In simple terms it is information that is both relevant and of value to the potential customer. It is content that is presented in a way that engages the prospect and leads them down a desired path without being pushy in any way. Content can take many forms including:

  • Case studies and reviews.
  • How to guides.
  • Industry or market comment.
  • Exhibitions, seminars or webinars.
  • Something about the company, for example a charity event.

The important point is it must be both helpful and engaging and build trust and credibility.

Is All The Hype About Content Marketing Justified?

There is a mass of statistical information online that illustrate why a small business may need content marketing. Although, it has to be said, a proportion is simply published by those with a vested interest there is sufficient available from well respected research organisations to show that content marketing does deliver results. One statistic from Gartner (a respected research organisation) perhaps says it all – Skillfully executed inbound marketing (of which content marketing is a major element) is 10x more effective at conversion than outbound (traditional) marketing.

There is a significant value then in content marketing for small business but is it overhyped? Well, yes it is to a point. A look at the Gartner Hype Cycle model (discussed further in this post from Dave Chaffey) shows that content marketing is, and will continue to be for some months to come, over hyped but that is to be expected and should not detract from its value to small business.

Does Content Marketing Work For Small Businesses

There is little doubt content marketing can be resource intensive but that does not need to be the case. A simple campaign based on just a few content marketing tactics can deliver results for small business.

Some examples from our own experience:

A shop retailing specialized high quality items generates business via social media. They publish photography of items new to the store, they prepare guides and examples of how their products can be used and promote offers and promotions all via only two social media channels (Facebook and Pinterest). This is the only promotional activity undertaken and sales continue to grow month on month.

A specialist car paint shop uses a combination of customer testimonials, helpful guides on painting issues customers should consider and YouTube videos. Cars they have painted often win awards at various specialist car shows and they use this as an opportunity to create YouTube videos both to discuss the car and its specification (benefits the owner) and their involvement in the specialist paint job. Since implementing content marketing business continues to increase. The PPC advertising budget that cost over GBP(£) 800 / month has been cancelled.

A specialist distributor publishes regular blog posts that discuss industry trends and qualification standards. They have produced a useful guide for customers that they give away in return for an Email address and they deliver E-newsletters (build around their blog posts) on a monthly basis. They also solicit customer questions and answer these via their blog and produce YouTube videos as how to guides. The business used to spend in excess of GBP(£)20,000 per annum on traditional advertising but this has been reduced significantly and the business continues to grow.

So given the appropriate time and commitment experience shows content marketing can produce results.

Conclusion

As the old push style marketing (advertising, direct mail, telemarketing) becomes less and less effective many small businesses are trying to identify new ways to attract customers. Content marketing is, in many cases, that new small business online marketing process. Although content marketing requires resources and planning and it will not produce short term results it can deliver a consistent stream of high quality sales leads in the medium term.

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In House Small Business Marketing

time available for DIY marketingIs in house small business marketing a viable proposition or is it always best to buy in marketing services? The answer, I am afraid, is not clear cut but depends primarily on the time available to the business owner or key staff to deliver the marketing process on an ongoing, consistent basis.

Can In House Marketing Succeed?

If the time and the will are there to take on raising the profile of the business in house there is plenty of evidence that those with little marketing education or experience can achieve results.

Despite what marketing agencies and freelancers may wish to portray the majority of online marketing is not particularly difficult but it is time consuming. If there is information available to point in the right direction and overcome the inevitable short term experience gap then it is possible for the small business owner to achieve real results.

 

DIY Marketing – The Basics

For any small business to make a success of in house marketing the key requirements are

  • Time
  • A willingness to learn
  • Persistence

Time to both learn the process and achieve meaningful results is perhaps the crucial ingredient. If the business is either desperate for short term sales or the time is not available to both learn and deliver marketing on an ongoing and consistent basis then it is best not to start the process at all and simply hire in the required services.

It is fair to say little will go as expected and there will be many times when the results obtained appear to be not worth the effort but this is normal. The will to carry on and a firm belief that the marketing process will deliver results in the medium to long term are vital to success.

Small Business Marketing Tools

To deliver a successful local marketing campaign requires appropriate delivery of

The website is the hub for all marketing activity. It must deliver the key company messages, act as an information hub, facilitate ongoing customer communication and ultimately convert visitors to customers.

However, if a website cannot be fouin house marketing processnd when a local prospect types in a relevant search term then it is of little use. There are various studies that show that over 85% of potential website visitors never go past page 1 Google when search for suppliers of goods and services. Appropriate, localized search engine marketing (SEM) is therefore crucial to success.

Link building is a vital component of search engine marketing activity but local link building requires a different approach. Local links are required and to secure those requires networking. More details can be found in this post from Hallam Internet

Finally, content is the fuel for the marketing process. It builds SEM, builds credibility, facilitates ongoing communication, builds relationships and has a significant impact on conversion rates.

In House Marketing – Useful Resources

So where can you find good quality education resources to help you build your own, in house, local marketing process? Unfortunately, it is not as easy as may be imagined. Best practice internet marketing develops at a rapid pace and books on the subject are often out of date soon after publication. There are a vast array of blogs and information online but it always important to check the date of publication and the source.

The vast majority of information online is either regurgitated from another source, plain bad advice or of little value. Some good, reliable sources I have found include

Local website design – this post may help you get started

Content Marketing – Some useful material here from Iconsive

Search engine marketingSearch engine Land

Google+ – Key to local marketing success – A number of useful posts from Daniel Sharkov

Social media tips and resourcesThe Social Media Hat

General online marketing tips and advice – from Kikolani

But there are many others that are out there to be found and utilise

In summary therefore, in house small business marketing can deliver results but those results will take time to come through. Time and persistence are required to learn a process, to make mistakes and to go again. However, if the time and energy are available then the savings over buying in services can be substantial.

The risks of hiring a marketing supplier who then fails to deliver on their promises are also minimised. It is an unfortunate fact that although there are many high quality suppliers available marketing does tend to attract those with little expertise, who are aware of the relevant buzzwords, who can talk a good game. It may be worth saving your hard earned cash and givivng in house small business marketing a try.

Related posts you may like:

Most online marketing advice is bad advice

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Search engine marketing – There are no quick fixes

How To Write Business Case Studies And Secure New Customers

Securing new business leads is only a small part of the battle to secure new customers. These leads need to be nurtured and ultimately closed. Having a series of well written business case studies can significantly improve closure rates.

How Case Studies Help Secure New Business

Whatever you sell, but particularly if you sell a service, let’s imagine a pitch to a potential new client / customer. What is the prospect really interested in? They are interested in you (because people buy from people), hence they want to know that you are credible and have a detailed knowledge of whatever you are trying to sell. Of course, they want to know that the product or service will deliver the specified result.

A well written business case study based on a project you have delivered to others can address their fears:

  • Credibility – Tick – Delivered to others.
  • Result – Tick – This is what we did and these were the results.
  • Social Proof – Tick – (see below).
  • Objections – Tick – A well written case study will address potential objections before they occur.

It also allows you too big up your previous clients which helps cement your ongoing relationships.

A Little About Social Proof

there is no better recommendation than a case studyIn his book ‘The Psychology of Persuasion’ Robert Cialdini states ‘one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct’ which means a natural human instinct is to believe that if someone else is doing it then it must be OK. You may not like, or believe, that statement but for lots of examples (and research) of how and why it works read the book (or at least Chapter4).

By using case studies you are taping in to the power of a natural human trait. We all may wish to think we are entirely rational and can easily override any in built natural human response but be honest with yourself, is that really the case?

Key Elements Of Business Case Studies

So what should a case study include? First it should talk a little about the client and their business (some promotional copy for your client). Then, in brief, it should discuss the requirement and specifically the initial KPI’s and agreed timescales. It should then discuss a little on how results were achieved before going into detail on the results showing how the initial objectives were met or, better still, exceeded.

Graphics should be included in the results wherever possible using credible sources of information like Google analytics or photography of before and after and the job in progress. Appropriate general photography can be used sparingly to break up the text.

Building The Case Study – Process

Writing business case studies requires planning and organisation. A single case study helps but the real value is in a series of case studies including at least one for each of the products or services you deliver.

Not all clients will agree to a case study based on the work you do for them but there is more chance of success if you ask early in the process. It is best to ask not too early but once some relationship and client confidence has been built. Then asking the question can actually build your credibility as it shows you have early confidence that the results you promised will be delivered or even exceeded.

Of course every customer project should be tracked and measured but this is even more important if a case study is required. Data, be it photographic, analytics or whatever else is appropriate must be collected as the task progresses.

It is possible the customer or client may wish to write the case study when the job is complete but much more likely that you will be required to write it and let the client approve and/or make any required amendments. The completed case study should not be too long (two sides of A4 should suffice) but long enough to include all the required elements.

Conclusion

To write business case studies takes planning, time and effort but the benefits they deliver in handling objections and aiding closure should not be underestimated. The key is to build a process and ensure they are an integral part of your marketing system.

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Build A Joined Up marketing Process

Don’t shoot the messenger but the latest great small business marketing techniques you may have heard about won’t work. Now I have that off my chest let me clarify that statement – it will not work in isolation. Only a joined up marketing process will produce the required results but don’t expect it to be easy and it won’t happen overnight.

Single Tactic Marketing

Let’s look at the old outbound techniques first. Yes, many of them did work in isolation and that was why they were so popular. However, things have changed telemarketing does not work, the effectiveness of traditional advertising and direct mail have been in decline for years and sales orientated Emails increasingly end up in spam folders.

What about the brave new world of online marketing? The website salesman arrives at your door with what appears to be a compelling argument. A new website increases the credibility of your business, it raises your profile, allows you to deliver your message to the marketplace and presents the opportunity for you to jump ahead of your competition.

SEO as a key element of the marketing mixAll true, but what is the point if your great new website cannot be found online by prospects who may type in a relevant term to a search engine. Various search engine research documents show that 92% of searches never look beyond page 1 of the search results. So some method of ensuring your website is on page 1 is required but that really does open up a can of worms.

Historically, there were three main options, Pay Per Click, organic SEO or a combination of the two (SEM). Taking PPC first, yes it does work well in many markets (not all) if set up and managed correctly. Consistent results can be achieved in time but it does require an initial investment to build a reliable process. However, the amateur can waste considerable sums on poorly set up PPC campaigns.

Some research (GroupM and Neilsen) shows 94% of searchers prefer the organic results to PPC. Although this figure is extremely difficult to measure and the figure is unlikely to be correct it is probably safe to assume more searchers prefer organic results. SEO tends therefore to be the preferred route for many businesses and, in the past, there were many SEO agencies that could deliver results for a relatively low cost.

Those days have gone and good quality SEO services are far less easy to find. The costs today can seem much higher than in the past but that is based on the reality of the time and effort that is required to generate the required result. One thing is certain when it comes to SEO, if a deal seems too good to be true then it should be avoided at all costs.  It really is possible for a poor quality SEO supplier to more harm than good.

Marketing Strategy And Process

The number one reason any marketing activity fails to deliver results is a failure to think through both what a business wants to achieve and what makes the business different from all the rest. If a business cannot document why a customer should choose them then, unless all of their business is via recommendation, they are in a very dangerous place.

With the basics in place a strategy to deliver the required result can be assembled and this can be flowed down to the promotional plan. The process does not need to be complicated and a simplified marketing strategy can often be documented in a few pages. The time invested is usually refunded many times over as it prevents the waste involved in jumping from the latest marketing bright and shiny object to the next.

A Customised Marketing System

There are many possible marketing tactics (a colleague recently documented a total of 46) both online and offline. What matters is how those tactics are chosen and combined to achieve the planned outcome. Every business is different, their objectives are not the same and markets constantly evolve and change so it is not possible to produce a one system fits all system. Many have tried, and failed, to develop a standard approach.

content fuels the marketing processThere is however, one constant and that is the value of content. The amount written about content marketing is enormous. Although, it has to be said, a large amount is produced by those with a vested interest in content marketing services its value should not be underestimated.

Various marketing research studies show that up to 81% (GE Retail research) of consumers of items worth >$500 research online before contacting a supplier. Buyers in general are generally more resistant to the old push marketing tactics and much more likely to research a product or service before making a purchase. They are looking for credible information (content) to guide that process and are likely to value a supplier that delivers that information above the rest. Content, in its many forms, is the fuel for any successful marketing process.

Most small businesses are quite rightly focussed on the product or service they deliver and their customers. Marketing and promoting the business is often recognised as a key task but in house marketing expertise and resource can be an expense too far. Outsourcing can therefore be the norm, which is fine, if it remembered that whatever service is bought in fits with the businesses joined up marketing process and is delivered by those with the required expertise

 

How To Get More From Twitter

Are you struggling to generate any return on your Twitter activity? We review what is wrong with the standard approach and how to get more from Twitter.

The reason many businesses fail to secure the ROI they expect from social media activity are false expectations and a failure to measure the correct outcomes. As a result, Twitter is often abandoned after only a few weeks. A quick click on the Twitter button on many websites will show the Twitter feed was abandoned long ago.

Twitter Marketing – The Standard Approach

Twitter - A key social media channelIt seems every conference and exhibition has a 30 minute slot allocated to a speaker on the virtues of social media. The standard logic appears to be that by posting regularly on twitter and following selectively you can build an army of followers. The theory goes more followers equals more content views which leads to more engagement, more leads and finally more enquiries.

A valid process in theory, however, it assumes:

  • Interesting, quality content is available in sufficient quantity.
  • Sufficient potential customers are active on Twitter.
  • There are sufficient relevant contacts to follow in relevant geographic areas.
  • The business has time available to engage on Twitter.

The Most Common Twitter Problems

The key issue is content (more on that later) but the standard approach to Twitter, outlined above, actually collapses for most businesses at the engagement level. There tends to be insufficient active potential customers in the required geographic area to build the required following (and engagement). There are many tools to build a relevant Twitter following (as this great post from Jon Barrett suggests) but to achieve the required numbers remains a major challenge.

The reality of the situation became clear to me recently when an old business contact became active on Twitter. It was easy to spot the enthusiasm in her early tweets (and yes she did mention that social media course she had just attended!) and a minimum of a tweet per day appeared in my feed during the first week. Fourteen weeks later the tweet rate has dropped to less than one every other week with less than 50 tweets delivered in total. She has secured only 42 followers in that time period.

If we take a giant leap and assume a business can build a follower base of 1000 contacts, in the geographic area of interest, with at least some potential interest in the business products or services. If we then assume the business Tweets twice per day then what proportion of the followers are likely to observe the Tweet in their timeline? Negligible I suggest.  So for engagement, and ultimately enquiries, both a minimum number of Tweets spread throughout a day (absolute minimum of 5) and a large number of followers is required.

The Importance Of Twitter Content

build engagement on Twitter using contentTo generate a reasonable number of Tweets and to secure an appropriate number of Twitter followers requires content. That content needs to be of value to the target customer base, engaging and of high quality. The content itself can take many different forms (many of which are listed in this post from Quick Sprout). Once this reality is appreciated it is possible to come at how to get more from Twitter (and social media in general) from an entirely different angle and overcome many of the obstacles listed above.

As creating content will need both a solid plan and a considerable amount of time and effort then why not use that content elsewhere? The content marketing process comes first and twitter comes second – not the other way round.

Although the problem with numbers of available contacts remains, with content in place the other major benefits of Twitter (and other social media) may be exploited. That is, engaging with other thought leaders in whatever industry and learning best practice from the content they publish. If employing an inbound marketing process, of which content marketing will be a major part, then content views (from wherever they may be) builds links and the profile of the business website.

True, building a content marketing process takes time and effort and it is unlikely to produce results overnight but using Twitter (and other key social media tools) as content delivery channels makes lots more sense than trying to use them in isolation to generate sales leads. The thought process should not be how to get more from Twitter but how to get more from content marketing.

Do It Yourself SEO – Tips And Advice 1

Good quality SEO services are increasingly expensive and beyond the reach of many small businesses. One possible solution is the do it yourself SEO approach. In this three part article series we provide some tips and resources to get you started.

Advantages of SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is rapidly becoming an outdated term but it may be defined as “a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.” (Source – Webopedia). There is little point investing in a website if it cannot be found online when a prospect types a relevant search phrase into a search engine. Statistics show that 92% of users don’t continue their search beyond page 1 of the Google search results (source Chitika).

Stage 1 of aSEO - the keyelements required for successn online marketing process is to drive prospects (traffic) to a website whereas stage 2 involves persuading the maximum number of those prospects to take some appropriate action (conversion). SEO is relevant to Stage 1 only and should be based on maximising traffic, as without traffic there can be no conversion. SEO is concerned with progressing so called organic results (those that are not paid for) to as high a position as practical.

The alternative is Pay Per Click which can deliver a consistent ROI but if not professionally managed can burn through cash reserves at an alarming rate. Pay per Click results are the ads at the top and right side of the page. Research shows that the click rate is much higher on the organic listings (94% v 6% – Source Nielsen and Group M-UK) than it is on the PPC ads.

Forget The SEO Hype – The Reality

Not so long ago it seemed everyone from the one man band web developer, to the local IT company, to print companies were offering SEO services. A quick look on the internet will show that all that has changed. Apart from the inevitable spammy Emails from India and China the number of offers has dropped significantly, and for good reason

From early 2012 onwards a number of Google search algorithm updates wiped out the impact of many dubious (Black Hat) and automated Search Engine Optimisation techniques. Of course this change is to the long term benefit of everyone but it significantly increased the complexity of SEO and, without automation, the time involved. This change both took out those with little actual SEO expertise and increased the costs of those good SEO’s employing sound (but time consuming) best practice that remained.

 The DIY SEO Option

A large proportion of SEO work is not particularly difficult but it is time consuming and it does require a consistent approach. The main issue, however, is best practice search engine marketing can take a significant amount of time to learn. Worse still, as the process is continually evolving it is not possible to learn once then forget. With any do it yourself SEO process it is necessary to commit time and resources to ongoing education or risk being left behind.

With SEO costs rising (see above) the only alternative for many business owners is the DIY option.The issue is where should a business turn to for quality advice on how to take on their own search engine marketing efforts forward. Books on SEO are often out of date on the day they are published and although there is a vast amount of information online it can be difficult to determine what is current, what is valid and what is completely wrong. A few useful, and up to date resources to start a do it yourself SEO process are:

Multiple author sites:

Search engine watch

Search engine land

A useful starting out resource

Traffic Generator Cafe

Some people to follow on Twitter (or G+)

@kikolani

@dannysullivan

@randfish

SEO – Where To Start

The starting point is to define exactly what a website should achieve (in most cases it is sales leads), define precisely what is on offer, why it should be of interest to the market and what makes the offer different from all the rest. The target customers for the product should be precisely defined, resisting the temptation to try to market to everyone, as should the geographic reach (local, country wide, worldwide).

Strategic elements of SEO to considerWithout a marketing strategy and plan in place a large amount of SEO activity (and marketing activity in general) will be wasted. Although I will contradict myself to an extent in the next post in the series on semantic search, the next step is to decide on keywords or phrases that match with the offer. The idea is to find a phrase (avoid single words) that has a large enough number of prospects searching for that term with a relatively low level of competiion.

As an example if you offer used BMW cars then to use the keyword BMW cars will have a high potential level of interest (traffic) but also I high level of competition. You may be competing for a page 1 position on Google with BMW corporate website, New BMW car dealers and major price comparison sites all of which have significant resources to throw at SEO activity and all will outrank your site.

Using the keyword phrase Used BMW Cars reduces the competition (and the traffic). The phrase Used BMW Cars in Nottingham significantly reduces competition (and traffic) further so a balance needs to be struck. For businesses with a local potential customer base Google+ Local is an important part of the SEO mix that should not be ignored. There are many free keyword analysis tools and paid versions available, a selection of which are:

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Keyword Spy

Wordstream

Jaaxy

Choosing keywords is a time consuming, but essential task, and these resources deliver some useful introductory guidance the first from Rand Fishkin and another from KissMetrics. There should be one keyword phrase per page and be certain to always keep in mind relevance. The keyword phrase must match with the content theme of your page.

Meta Tags and Site Speed

With a solid selection of keywords in place the next step is to allocate one per page of your website and to set the meta titles and descriptions. Of course, this assumes your website has an appropriate content management system that allows access to the tags. Kristine Schachinger provides some useful advice on best practice.

Website load times are an increasingly important website ranking factor so it is worth checking the speed of your website at Pingdom which gives both the loadtime and an indication of how that loadtime rates against the average. If it is poor then it is worth considering employing an expert to clean up the code or to consider a new website on a more current website design platform.

The above only covers the do it yourself SEO basics, in the next post we will develop the keyword concept further and discuss semantic search and schema  markup we will then conclude the series with some notes on the importance of content and backlinks to SEO.

Related posts you may like:

Search engine marketing – there is no quick fix

Why website content is so important

Effective local business search engine marketing

Best practice search engine marketing

 

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PPC For Small Business Setup Advice

The value in PPC for small business can be significant. Pay per click advertising can deliver ongoing, consistent, measurable returns for many small businesses but for others it can be a money pit and deliver no returns whatsoever. The key is correct set up of the PPC campaign and the market in which the business operates. In the first of a series of posts on PPC setup we look at how to set up keywords lists and locations correctly.

Various case studies show the potential value in PPC but in reality it is not quitePay per click setup for small business that simple. Keyword selection is where most businesses go wrong and most money is wasted. A balance must be secured between the relevance of the keyword to the business and the amount of traffic to the website the keyword generates.

A keyword (or more often a keyword phrase) is the word or phrase a prospect will type into a search engine when searching for a product or service e.g. ‘used BMW 3 series’. Let’s assume a garage specialising in used BMW cars, is intent on using PPC to drive traffic to their website and have an excess of 3 series cars in stock.

Pay Per Click Keyword Selection

The business may decide to use the PPC keyword ‘used BMW’ which has a high search traffic (more below) number and maximise the amount of visits to their site. However, the competition using the same search term will be high and hence the cost / click and the cost of each resulting enquiry / sale will be high.

Alternatively, a so called long tail keyword may be used such as ‘used BMW 3 series’. The traffic to this keyword phrase will be lower but the competition (and the cost per click) will also be lower. In addition any traffic to the website will be highly targeted on exactly what the business would prefer to sell.

Relevance is key to any successful small business PPC campaign. The keyword must be relevant to what the business wants to sell, it must be relevant to the website landing page and it must match with the content of the advertisement. There is little point choosing a keyword and preparing an advertisement relevant to apples if the main subject matter of the website landing page is oranges.

The cost per click depends on several factors. The level of competition is one (as discussed above) but another is quality score which is directly related to relevance. It is therefore essential to work back from the sales price, through margin on that sale, through number of enquiries to secure a sale, to the cost that is reasonable to secure an enquiry. Only then is it possible to decide what click cost is reasonable.

There are many keyword research tools available that show, as a minimum, the traffic that can be expected. Some are free like Google own tool built into AdWords, other are paid for such as Wordtracker. Some tools such as Jaaxy also give an indication of the competition on the keyword. Whatever tool is chosen it is essential to take time to build a list and refine that list to 10 – 15 highly relevant keywords.

PPC – Setting Location

Competition on a keyword can be moderated using location. If trying to compete UK wide on the keyword BMW cars competition will be intense but if only interested in potential customers within a 30 mile radius of Nottingham the competition will be considerably lower. This may make the keyword phrase viable but only if it is relevant to the offer.

With a keyword list and target location and the maximum cost per click in place the next stage of the process may be undertaken – the writing of the advertising copy. This is the subject of our next post together with instructions on how to set up the account and a first PPC campaign for a small business.

The Value Of Small Business Local Link Building

Small business local link building is essential if a website is to rank at a high position(page1?) on the major search engines. Building high quality links may be difficult and time consuming but there is no realistic alternative. In this post we discuss some of the best places to look for linking opportunities.

The major search engines rank websites based on what they perceive as thelocal SEM and the value of link building websites authority. For many years a key element involved in measuring this authority has been the number and quality of links (references) from other sites pointing at the website. Over the past 18 months there has been much discussion on the value of backlinks (more below) but there is no doubt they remain a major ranking factor.

Over the years many dubious linking techniques have been clamped down on by Google (lately via the so called Penguin and Panda updates) and today it is not the number of backlinks that is important but the quality and relevance of those backlinks.

There are those that suggest the focus should no longer be on backlinks at all but on writing and distributing relevant information (content marketing). They argue people will naturally link to this content and these links will have very high quality and relevance. It may be one to watch for the future but not today.

The online marketing world is highly competitive and it is difficult for a small business to compete and build customer awareness online. However, given that many small businesses have a potential customer base situated in a relatively small geographic location area specific marketing presents an opportunity. The challenge is simply to build prospect awareness of the business (online or offline) in a local area, reducing the potential competition considerably.

Local marketing includes a number of elements, one of which is a locally optimised website. Backlinks are an essential element involved in ensuring that website is found online should a prospect perform a geographic based search (e.g. Accountant in York). For local marketing purposes the backlink is best if it comes from a local source.

There are many opportunities for small business local link building. They include

  • The major (good quality) directories
  • Local sites that link to local resources
  • Create a local guide
  • Testimonials and reviews
  • Networking events
  • Offer yourself as an expert
  • Sponsor an event or local charity

Directory entries are perhaps the simplest to implement the only issue is to ensure that the business details (telephone, address etc.) are consistent across all directories and exactly match those on your website. Sites that link to resources are a variation on the directory but require some work to produce a guide or resource that is worthy of the link.

Writing a glowing review (including a link) of one of your local partners or suppliers (only if it is genuine) is another possible approach while offering yourself as an expert to local newspapers or publications can secure many local links over time. Local face to face networking is often a useful tactic for small businesses ensuring they are recognised in the local area. Looking for link opportunities makes networking time more worthwhile. Is there another local business it makes sense for you to link to and visa versa?

Finally, sponsoring an event can be a good source of local links if organised correctly and a great way to raise general awareness of the business. There are many more potential opportunities that just need a little thought and creativity. The value of local link building may be measured in raised business awareness and enquiries as a result of the business website ranking on Page 1 of the search engines for location based searches.