Building a Solid Web Marketing Strategy Takes Time

We are always encouraging our readers not to chase the next big thing in their quest to be heard on-line. I think this recent post of the econsultancy blog is a great comment on this position. It covers a few interesting subjects:

  • SEO Ethics
  • Selecting the right social networks
  • The importance of relevant, well written content
  • The importance of building a dialogue with your marketplace

These are all web marketing factors that we consider vital in building a solid strategy that is not at the mercy of Google’s algorithm changes. One quote stood out form me (as it did for the author): “Don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after your best interpretation of what users want because that’s what Google’s chasing after.” Google’s objective is to deliver interesting relevant content to their searchers. If you create deliver well written interesting content on your site, then Google will want that content at the top of their listings for searches related to that content. I would widen this sentiment, and say “Don’t chase the next big thing,  focus on creating a site with well written relevant content that your market will want to visit, and tell others about”

Getting the answer…

  I’m sure you’ve experienced this: You’ve had the meeting and prepared the proposal You have sent the proposal and discussed it … but your client won’t make up their mind You try calling… You leave messages… But still you get no reply… Now what? First of all, 2 things you should NOT do:

Ignore the situation

If you do this you will, over time, end up with more and more ‘loose ends’ clogging up your business – they need dealing with.

Assume the worst

Believe it or not, just because someone isn’t responding doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested. If you assume this is the case you will be missing out on potential business.

How to deal…

This is my tip for dealing with this situation. I have used it (in various guises) for many years and it really does work. First of all it is reasonable to assume that if you have left messages asking far a response, your client will have received these – so they know you are trying to get in touch. I started off using  a fax – yes it was that long ago. Take a look here, it is pretty self explanatory: You simply fax the form to your client then, job done! You have ‘passed the responsibility’ to them. If they choose not to reply then so be it – it is fair to delete them from your prospect list, but – and this is the good bit – in my experience you often do get a reply and that reply is regularly quite positive. Even if they aren’t ready to do business now, you have a good, established contact for the future.

Getting up to date:

Nowadays, faxes are so last year! The same process can work using email but don’t try to be clever and embed a tick-box form into you email, this can play havoc with Spam filters. If it is a client who you know reasonably well, I find a simple, two word email can do the trick: Any News?

Can you still ignore mobile in your email strategy?

We have written a couple of posts over the last few months about considering mobile in your email & websites.  And recently a couple of reports have again highlighted this issue and  that it is an area that continues to show growth. The first report, published by knotice, and recently featured by econsultancy blog revealed that over a quarter of emails are now opened using mobile devices. Interestingly the report also breaks down the stats into different markets, and although lower in the Business to Business market at 10%, mobile consuption of email is still significant that increasingly can not be ignored. A fact which is reinforced by the second report, published by B2B Marketing Magazine last year which suggested a growth of over 80% in emails opened on mobile devices in the 6 months to March 2011, and by our own experience of over 100% grown in mobile access to our website over the past 12 months. Our conclusion is that mobile recipients of emails can no longer be overlooked, even in the more conservative B2B markets. Real World Consequences So what does this mean in the real world? Firstly, mobile users should be considered when designing emails. Secondly, you need to consider the whole experience and not just the email. In particular, if you have links to your website from the email, make sure that these link through to pages that are mobile friendly and easily read on a small screen. As we explained in a recent post, creating a mobile version of your website need not be a complex or expensive process, especially if your website is created using WordPress. There is one thing that is certain, use of mobile devices to access Internet content will continue to grow, and must increasingly be a factored in when considering your web marketing strategies.

Royal Mail price hikes – there are alternatives

We recently commented on the impending price rises which the Royal Mail insist are necessary if they are to maintain a universal service. The fun has already started with individuals and businesses bulk buying stamps marked ‘1st Class’ and ‘2nd Class’ – still perfectly useable after the price rise is implemented – in the hope of saving some money or, more likely, making a fast buck. Spend £1000 on first class stamps on 16 April 2012 and the same stamps will be worth  £1304 on 30 April – just 2 weeks later – not a bad return! The returns on second class are even greater. Needless to say, retail stocks of stamps are running low and Royal Mail are refusing to supply more stamps ahead of the price rise; fun, fun, fun – and all so incredibly short term! Before we know it the new prices will be the norm. The £1 letter does not seem very far off. Wouldn’t it be better to just think of ways to stop using stamps? Not great for Royal Mail – but that’s business.

The Problem

This was a recent situation at BSA where the increasing postage costs spurred us into action on our invoicing system. Historically we have always produced invoices manually. The nature of the business has meant that this has never been too much of a problem but there have always 3 points that irked:

  1. Manual invoices always run the risk of errors creeping in.
  2. Invoices needed to be manually printed, collated, folded, enveloped and posted.
  3. All invoice data had to be manually entered into our SAGE accounts system – again with the risk of errors.

On the upside, because we have a lot of repeat business, we could copy and update invoices avoiding the need to create every invoice from scratch.

The Solution

The Royal Mail increases were the final push we needed to look at making changes where we could draw on our expertise in web technology, data management and, most of all, practical system implementation! Our objectives were clear:

  1. The ability to automatically create and send formatted invoices by email
  2. All data to be entered only once
  3. Facility for repeat invoices and regular invoicing
  4. Import of all invoice data directly into SAGE
  5. Copies of all invoices to be retained for internal records
  6. Flexibility for future adaption and development

To keep costs down and streamline development timescales, we elected to build the system using secure, open source PHP & MySQL technologies coupled with SAGE’s built in data import and access functionality. Within a week we had our system which went live at the end of March with, I am pleased to say, no significant bugs.

The Benefits

Although we have been using the system for less than a month, we have already seen significant cost & time benefits which can be summarised as follows:

  1. Reduced time required to create and process invoices
  2. Repeat invoices can be produced individually, in batches or monthly as required
  3. Individual invoices can be tested if necessary
  4. Easy resolution of any invoice queries (we only had one – not related to the new system!)
  5. Direct import of data into SAGE – significant time reduction
  6. Straightforward analysis of monthly invoicing data – SAGE reporting NOT required!
  7. Archive copies of all invoices

Further testing has shown the system is quick and easy to use and the inherent flexibility of our approach has already allowed us to implement refinements. Overall, taking into account direct costs and time costs, we estimate savings in excess of £120.00 per month giving a commercial system investment payback of less than 12 months – and all because Royal Mail are trying to make more money! If you would like to discuss how flexible web-based data systems can help reduce costs in your business, give us a call.

'Article Spinning': yet another quick fix? – or not!

Duplicate content has regularly been a talking point in SEO circles, and Google has always (understandably) tried to discourage it, and has developed algorithms to detect and remove it. On the flip side, duplicating, or plagiarising content from other sources has always been a quick and easy (if not very creative) way of generating content for your site, and on the basis that content is king, that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? Simple answer “No!” It is not simply content that is king, it is well-written, original and relevant content that delivers the goods. In my opinion article spinning does not create well-written, original and relevant content, and so should be avoided as bad practice. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick explanation of article spinning: Put simply article spinning is rewriting articles (usually using some level of automation) to avoid the duplicate content algorithms. At its simplest & worst, systems use spin tags to rotate adjectives & nouns in a sentence to change the content while supposedly keeping the meaning. For example, let’s take the first paragraph of this post and put it through the spinner:

Original Paragraph:

Duplicate content has regularly been a talking point in SEO circles, and Google has always (understandably) tried to discourage it, and has developed algorithms to detect and remove it.

‘Spun’ Paragraph:

“Parallel subject matter has always been a talking point in SEO bands, or even Google has constantly (understandably) tried to deter it, and has got algorithms to discover and take it out.” Not exactly text book English I am sure you will agree, and that was one of the better options offered!

So what are the alternatives?

Although the above example is extreme, and there are better tools for delivering more readable results, the better the result, the more time it takes to create the spun article, so it is questionable whether is it really worth it! It is unlikely to engage with your readers, and is likely to get you into hot water with Google, resulting in your site being downgraded in their listings. In my opinion, Article Spinning generates 2 things:

  1. Poor quality, plagiarised content that adds little or no value.
  2. An income for those who can sell a spinning tool as the next magic wand to solve all your online marketing problems.

I believe that you should avoid the article spinning, and put your resources in to creating good, original content that your website users will value. Where you find great content on another site simply link to it, and encourage people to link to the great content you are creating on your site. This will generate content your visitors will value, and links to and from other sites will enhance rather than damage your reputation with Google. If you would like to talk to us about creating a site that people will value, get in touch

Join the 'Cloud' revolution – for Free

Following on from our post about using the ‘Cloud’ for backup, there are other ways you can use the ‘Cloud’ and see for yourself how incredibly useful it can be – and best of all, it is FREE. It is rare now that everyone you work with is in the same building and o the same computer network, so it is likely that you will need to collaborate with others at a distance. You may even want to share files between work and home – or elsewhere. The ‘Cloud’ is a great place to do this. Although email can a useful tool in this process, it can become less effective when you want to share large files or where you end up with multiple copies of the same files with different people working on different copies – not great! Enter Dropbox. This is a simple, secure and FREE tool for storing and sharing files using the ‘Cloud’. Sign up for an account, and you get 2GB of online storage where you can securely save files that you can access from any internet-connected computer, tablet or even smartphone. Even better, you can install a Dropbox client on your PC/Tablet/Smartphone and any file you add to your Dropbox will automatically sync across each client so files are available everywhere even when you aren’t online. Update files and again the updates sync automatically (this will happen straight away if you are online or, if not, updatse and new files will be remembered and synced as soon as an internet connection is available) You can also create separate folders within your Dropbox and share individual folders with your remote colleagues. No more emailing files and trying to remember which is the most up to date version. What’s more, the initial 2GB is free for life and you don’t need to give any card details to sign up. (You can access more space for a fee though most people will find the free space is plenty for their needs).

25% Extra FREE Dropbox space

Sign up for drop box via this link, and you will get an additional 500mb of space free. You can store a lot in 2.5GB!  Sign up now. There is no cost and no long term commitment. You can use your space as much or as little as you wish. What have you got to lose? If you have any questions, get in touch.