Category: Web/ Online Marketing

A Twitter basic – #hashtags explained

Posted by – June 12, 2012

For those unfamiliar with hashtags (which is the use of the # symbol with a word or phrase), in less than 60 seconds you can get the picture.

People using Twitter use #hashtags as a way to label or categorise content. For example, if you are talking about films you might use the hashtag #films. People can find or get feeds of content related to a specific #hashtag. If you are at a specific event like the Australian Open you might tweet something about a game you are watching and use the #hastag #AustralianOpen, so your tweet goes into a group of other tweets that also mention the Australian Open.

The use of hashtags has spread beyong Twitter now, and heavy social media users often use hashtags when commenting on any social media site, like Facebook or a blog.

This article on American Small Business information site Small Business Trends has just published a good, simple article about hashtags, so read away.

What do you think about #hashtags? I love them, because I love to organise things and make lists and #hashtags can help to filter or capture information about a topic or event or situation that you would otherwise never find.

If you use #hashtags or have any tips or learnings to share, please add to this article via the comments section below. 

Share This Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

How important is a website for a small business?

Posted by – April 12, 2011

The stats on small businesses in Australia with a website vary, but there are still at least 30-50% of small businesses without a website. And recently MYOB and Google launched an initiative offering free websites for 50,000 small businesses.  If you don’t have a website for your business, get a taste for the potential right at your fingertips, now. Richard Laansma from Property Geek sums it up perfectly I think, he says:

”Reading about creating a website will only get you so far, it's like riding a bike, you won’t know until you do it. Expect a few cuts n bruises, but once you’ve done it, you’ll never want to walk again”

This article explores how important the website plays for a number of different small business owners. In fact, the website is the business for a lot of small businesses. Having a website provides numerous benefits, many business owners say they wouldn’t be in business without their website! David Negri, owner of Hampering Around enthuses “our website is our window to the world… our online storefront powering our 400 square metre warehouse and office." Wouldn’t you like to feel as excited about a business asset as this?! Many benefits are obvious, yet still worth stating as the simple is often what is overlooked, including:

  • To be considered and to be competitive – don’t be left out when a customer is searching for a provider and your main competition has a website and you don’t.
  • To act as an information resource and to help customers know more about your business, help them ‘qualify’ themselves as needing your products or services (much more efficient than taking enquiries and explaining the same thing about what you offer over the phone or face to face).
  • Enabling customers the convenience of engaging services online is an expectation of most consumers nowadays and Julie Sweet of Certificatesonline has tapped into this need by providing access to birth, marriage and other official certificates through an online service, supported by 24×7 phone help. Julie acknowledges “I wouldn’t have the business I run if it wasn’t for our website.”  The service they provide is so critically about convenience for their customers that they couldn’t offer this benefit without effective website interaction for customers.
  • Website business work is extremely flexible as Richard at Property Geek says "I can work on my business anytime, anywhere, as long as I have web access".
  • A website can profile you globally as Kylie Saunder from PilatesYogaBiz says “without a website I wouldn’t be able to have an international business presence” and the 24×7 nature of a website overcomes timezone issues with global customers.
  • For businesses with a market niche, such as the toy train etailer TootTootToys, “having a website is critical for the small niche market I service, it is my shop and my gateway to customers.” Many specialist businesses have flourished in the online world that would never make it in the retail dependent world because they can simply be ‘open’ to such a wider market and not restricted by physical demographics of customers.
  • Attracting business opportunities from all walks of life has seen the brand and business profile of organic foodie Samantha Gowing flourish, not least through the profile and reach enabled by her website.
  • Starting a new business less than six months ago Andy Henderson from web training and development business InaDay: says “for our relatively new business, we rely heavily on our website – it’s already our primary source of leads and contacts with prospects"

Apart from the obvious, a website can also provide some indirect benefits like:

  • Building a database and subscriber base (many websites include forms and database capture and storage functionality) – enabling you to grow your contacts and potentials for future business
  • Attracting employees and helping to create an impression of what your business is like to work at
  • Giving your business a professional public profile that satisfies the investigations of your bank as they check you out as part of their credit check process to assess if you are established and credible, according to Paul Wallbank at Netsmarts

Is an EBay store or a Blog sufficient as a website?

There are no doubt many ways a business can have a web presence, but they each provide different benefits and drawbacks. Andy Henderson from InaDay comments about businesses on eBay “They certainly  have a “web presence”, but as far as I am concerned they don’t have their own website.  With eBay they have limited control over layout, content and functionality. Yet blogs on the other hand may be perfectly suitable for a businesses web presence.  A blog can be a very powerful marketing tool and is great for search engine optimisation.  Many high profile blogs generate lots of money so I guess in that sense could be considered as a business. But more traditional businesses are probably better to include blogging functionality as a part of their main website.  Fortunately WordPress (the worlds most popular blogging CMS) is easily customisable to give it more of a website “feel” and naturally also incorporates all the blogging capabilities.”

Many business owners found the hardest part of getting online was developing the content

Planning a website can be a bit like a swimming competition. There’s a lot of thinking before diving in, lots of practice to map out how to create the best path and leveraging expertise from others to tackle your weaknesses. Interestingly most small businesses who are not yet online, avoid doing so because they think it will be too complicated in a technical sense, yet a variety of small businesses interviewed for this article commonly concurred that it was in fact the simple aspects that proved hardest as they were unfamiliar with them, like “trying to anticipate how customers will interact with the site and product mix” says Richard at Property Geek; and  “the text and content was probably the most time consuming…it can be arduous to convert ideas and visions into a website that encompasses what is in your mind” reports Julie of Certificatesonline. Don’t get bogged down in the technicalities, utilise the myriad resources available to get online or work with a professional, which is actually really affordable. "Don’t procrastinate and take months getting everything just right to perfect before you launch your website – focus on launching a simple functional site sooner and adding extra content and features over time", great advice from Andy Henderson from InaDay.

A website is an ongoing business resource and investment

Some business owners put all of their money into developing a website and overlook the need to actually market it and maintain it. Many websites are supported by marketing efforts, often numerous ones, including social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC) and offline/ traditional methods like promoting your website url on merchandising and communications materials.

Do you have a website experience, tip or question for your small business? Please feel free to add any comments below.

Share This Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

How to get traffic to your website – heard about SEO?

Posted by – April 10, 2011

Many small businesses start out as web businesses, not just or even physical ones. If you were a physical business, like a shop, you would carefully consider the location of your business before setting up. Likewise, for web businesses, the location of your business in search engines is critical as the old adage for property goes, it’s all about ‘location, location, location’!

What is it and is SEO relevant to your business?
If your business expects and relies on finding customers online, then SEO is something you should be clued in on. If someone types ‘chiropractor in sydney’ into google and there is no listing of your business (when you are in fact a chiropractor in Sydney!), or it is located on page five of the listings, then you are largely invisible to a potential customer.

Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO as it is commonly referred) is the process (art and science!) of taking a variety of strategies, techniques and activities to increase a websites organic rankings in search engines – to improve the location or visibility of a business/ website to their target audience.

Most people are familiar with google, I dare say everyone… so the ‘organic’ ranking is what SEO is all about, not paid placements or advertised positions, the difference between paid and organic links are displayed in the picture.

picture of organic versus sponsored links in a google search

spot the difference between organic links and sponsored or paid links in a google search

SEO works to gain natural, earned recognition within a search engine like google. It is not based on pay per click, like advertised spots. And various surveys report that at least 70% and maybe as high as 95% of all users click on organic links, not advertised placements.

In the world of marketing, exposure or awareness is critical – there’s no point being a great business if your market don’t know you exist or can’t find out about you even when they are searching, so make sure your business is not a well kept secret and get found by users of search engines!

There are a myriad of factors that google and other search engines like bing and safari use to classify, qualify and then rank or grade a website to determine if and when to present it alongside a particular users search term/s (called keywords).

Do you think SEO is important for your business? Why or why not? Please submit any comments below!

Also, please check out the other articles in this blog: Getting high in SEO – understand what drives SEO results and How to tackle SEO: DIY or work with an SEO provider/ specialist? to find out more about the factors that drive SEO, how to get SEO working for you and more!


Share This Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

How to tackle SEO: DIY or work with an SEO provider/ specialist?

Posted by – April 10, 2011

If improving your website ranking in search engines is a key goal for your business, you can consider various paths to achieve SEO success by either DIY or utilising the services of an SEO provider or specialist.

Having explored the options in detail for my own business, I was disillusioned and confused by the lack of clarity I was given by many SEO providers for the pleasure of handing over hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a month for their proposed services. So I embarked on a challenge to find out what SEO providers actually do to earn and justify the investment a business puts into their services.

Knowing the primary factors that drive how well a website is recognised and ranked by search engines (and if you don’t know, please see these other SEO articles in my blog to find out: How to get traffic to your website – heard about SEO? and Getting high in SEO – understand what drives SEO results) the opportunity is clear, but how to go about it isn’t a clear path. So consider the options…

What can and do SEO providers do and what drives the costs of SEO services?

SEO providers are constantly staying in touch with changes, trends, opportunities and threats, and can hep you to manage them. There is no doubt that search marketing is a complicated, dynamic and forever evolving field and the expertise an SEO specialist can offer you saves considerable time for you and should instil confidence that they will drive your activity correctly.

Gordon Chong from FreedomSEO says the expertise and industry involvement they have can allow them to “predict changes from industry trends to get ahead of the game, and react quickly to unexpected changes.”

On a tangible level, SEO providers generally offer the following services:

1. Keyword research and identification of optimal keywords

Including keyword testing against outcomes like converting to an enquiry, relevance to your market, competition for keywords, and ongoing review to ensure keyword adjustments over time

Steve de Niese at digital agency Assemblo says “A good SEO company should be able to identify optimal key words while constantly adjusting and experimenting to ensure these keywords are always relevant to your market.”

2. Reviewing your websites performance against SEO drivers and improving it

Including reviewing content quality and suitability for target keywords and recommending or making content changes, technical factors like alternative text on images and cleaning up any broken links throughout the site, as well as ensuring SEO friendly aspects like title tags, H1 tags, metadescriptions and keyword tags are in place; and reviewing website analytics and performance over time.

3. Establishing external links for your website

Typically involves identifying relevant, quality sites to target in terms of gaining links from them (to backlink to your site), for example Shana Vaughan from Web Marketing Experts explains “our in house linkbuilding team will trawl the internet for good websites to link to.” Additionally SEO providers may write or submit articles/ content to these sites to earn the backlinks, and publishing blog and social media content with the intent to attract your target audience and also encourage them or other sites to repost or link to your blog/social media content; and creating links/feeds in search directories.

The cost of SEO services will depend on the scope of included services such as above, as well as:

  • the number of keywords,
  • your industry and how much competition there is for the keywords (as more work is usually involved to succeed in more popular/ desired keywords). As Robert Steers from Creative Development says “ Competitiveness of keywords makes it harder to rank in that keyword – therefore SEO has to be smarter… and work harder” and naturally this will reflect in both effort and hence cost; and
  • link building efforts – Gordon Chong from FreedomSEO says “generally the more money you spend, the more time and links you can expect, and the better you are able to compete, to an extent, for a larger number of keywords.”

SEO services can be bought in small packages from around $50 for example, however this is usually just for one aspect of SEO (like submitting your site to linking directories), through to $1000+ a month for professional fully managed SEO services (that would typically include the array of strategic and tactic work outlined above).

A piecemeal approach to SEO is unlikely to be beneficial as it takes many components to achieve success, so many say do it properly or don’t waste your money/time as being on page five instead of page ten of google isn’t really going to help you!

DIY: What you can do to contribute to better SEO results

There are still a number of things you, as a business/ website owner, can do – including making your website as good as possible with appealing content/ offers and by promoting it through email marketing for example to attract as many visitors as you can, and through having a blog to add fresh/new content regularly, and a facebook business page/site to stimulate social interaction with your brand.

Depending on how your website is built, you can try to ensure your website has SEO friendly aspects like title and heading tags, metadescriptions and keywords listed against page content.

Participating in social media, like commenting on blogs and forums related to your market and industry, especially where you can leave a url link to your website if appropriate is also helpful.

Jodie Culpin, SEO Specialist at Corporate Web Solutions gives some sound advice saying “DIY is more suitable for ongoing SEO – once you are ranking, clients can be taught how to maintain those rankings themselves”

There are risks of getting it wrong – here’s what not to do

Google penalise bad SEO practices, and you get penalised, not the SEO provider/supplier, so beware. The SEO industry is not accredited, at this stage, so be on the look out for dodgy practices someone might offer you.

Dodgy practices are those that try to ‘trick’ google into increasing the ranking of a site without offering value/ quality to the audience or user such as:

You should now be well armed with insights on how to consider and get SEO working for your business.

If you have any comments or unanswered questions about SEO, or indeed a tip you’d like to share, please feel free to add a comment below.

Share This Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

Getting high in SEO – understand what drives SEO results

Posted by – April 10, 2011

So you know why website rankings or getting found by search engines is important, (if you don’t check out my other blog article ‘How to get traffic to your website – heard about SEO?’) but don’t know how to improve your rankings. This article outlines the arena known as search engine optimisation, or SEO, which is about getting your website found by search engines.

It all starts with keywords – they are the glue between people searching online and actually finding your website

Firstly and at the foundation, the find-ability of a website is connected to keywords – that is the word/s or phrases that people use to search for a service you have, a product you sell, or for a business like yours.

Identifying keywords that drive traffic and outcomes for your business is the starting point of search marketing.

SEO advice from SEO strategist Tim Barnett at 2B Interactive is that “keyword research should consider:

  • Keyword relevance (how suitable the keywords are for your website/your business/ your target market)
  • Volume/ quantity – how many searches occur using these keywords, preferably in your chosen location
  • Realism/ achievability/competitiveness – aim for keywords you have a chance of owning or ranking well in, not just the high volume keywords”

You should aim for keywords that drive quality outcomes, not quantity or volume based outcomes. It is better to have a keyword that drives moderate traffic and high conversion (such as ‘making an enquiry’) than a keyword that drives twice the amount of traffic but poor conversion or few enquiries.

Testing different keywords and tracking the results to change focus or hone in on the best performing keywords is a fundamental part of the journey in tackling rankings – and things change over time, so the tracking process should be an ongoing activity to ensure the optimal selection of keywords over time.

So keywords are the glue between people searching online and finding your website/ your business, so the crux of SEO is about bringing the two things together.

There are two main categories about your website that influence search rankings

summary of key factors that influence SEO

summary of key factors that influence SEO

Making sense of the hundreds of factors that google and other search engines use to rank websites, Gordon Chong from Freedom SEO explains the principles:

“Search engines like Google want to return the most relevant search results for their users. To do this, they have a set of criteria that they use to judge a website’s quality. SEO is the process of proving a website is relevant and increasing the chances of a website ranking in the top of a given search result.”

The key factors can be divided into two areas:

1) your website or on page/within site components: such as your content, your title / heading tags, your sitemap that is readable to search engines – stuff that is directly on your site.

2) the web or search engines view of your website/ off the page or site factors: such as traffic/ visitors, and external links directing people to your site.

The on page / your site components contribute roughly 25% to driving optimisation whereas the off the page factors impact 75% of optimisation results.*

However, the two components must work together – great external links to your site will be hindered by a poor on site experience!

The critical factors that drive how your site is optimised by search engines

  • The website construct – how well it is put together such as H1 (heading) tags to make your website visible and readable by search engines. You no doubt have heard the term ‘an SEO friendly website’ which effectively means the web system allows the content to be labelled correctly for search engines to identify what it is saying. The main things that enable a site to be ‘SEO friendly’ are:
    • The addition of page titles, metadata/tags
    • Keywords noted in metadata fields
    • Meta descriptions = description of content on the webpage

Additionally, the user appeal of the website also impacts how well the site is graded, which may be indicated by the bounce rate of users visiting your site, the time they spend on your site, how many pages they visit and so on – typical indicators tracked in google analytics.

  • The website content - users, and consequently search engines like:
    • Fresh/regularly updated content – often through blogs or regular article publishing
    • Relevant content – targeted to what searchers are looking for and content that is suitable to the keywords people are entering
    • Unique content – for example content that makes your website better quality than another one
  • External/ Inbound Links/ Backlinks – if reputable and popular sites link to yours, search engines see this as a mark of popularity and recognition for your site, and this has a large impact on your site ranking.  What’s important includes:
    • Quality/authoritative & relevant sites linking to yours will drive higher rankings
    • Social media comes into play here as it enables/creates the potential and likelihood for relevant inbound links to your site (from other people/business blogs and from popular social sites like facebook)
    • Don’t waste your time generating links such as online directories with poor visitation. Steve de Niese at digital agency Assemblo says “In most cases I would avoid these directories as they don’t provide much value in the way of search engine results. You will get much better results generating content that people want to share, rather than a static link on some website.“

Understanding how to optimise your site is just half the challenge, taking action to successfully tackle these areas of search optimisation is arguably even more challenging!

How can you take action to achieve great SEO outcomes for your site?

If you are like me as a small business owner, you will consider doing it yourself (DIY) because it seems more affordable. But is it? Do you have time to put into this activity, which would likely take 1-2 days per week, especially for the first few months?

Read more about How to tackle SEO – DIY or work with an SEO provider/ specialist? to work out if you need an SEO supplier and what they can do for you, or get tips for things you can DIY to help your SEO rankings.

Has this information been helpful to your business? Have you got any other tips or insights to share about SEO? Please feel free to add your comments below.


Share This Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

Free websites for small business – if you are still not online, get going now!

Posted by – March 7, 2011

As reported in Dynamic Business on Fri 4th March (see article here), MYOB and Google (Google Australia Local Business) have joined forces to encourage small businesses to get a website by offering a free website for the first 50,000 Australian small businesses!

The ability for small businesses to get a free website is not a new proposition, with many free website builders out there allowing similar set-ups using a template (pre-designed/ formatted layout) where a business can simply add in their details and logo/imagery and so on. However what is great about this new free website offer is that it includes a free .com.au domain for 2 years alongside the typical inclusions of hosting (so your site can be stored on the internet) and access to update your website. More

Share This Article:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • LinkedIn
  • Technorati
  • Twitter