What’s the point of SEO?

seopoint What’s the point of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? It’s a question we ask ourselves quite regularly. Usually after someone has been on the phone discussing how vital ranking well on Google is for their business, The fact is that whilst having a strong message & getting that message out there is a vital part of marketing, focusing on search rankings is totally missing the point. It is questionable whether for your average business, devoting significant effort to optimising content for search engines is the best use of resources.

The role of Search Engines

Firstly, let’s look for a moment at the role Google plays in marketing. We can’t deny that usually, when someone is looking for something on the web they will turn to Google for their search. Google aims to deliver high quality, authoritative information on any given subject so they are continually honing their systems to ensure that they achieve this. At the same time they want to keep low quality, irrelevant content out of the listings. What this means is that if you have something valuable to say for a given search Google will want people to find it!

SEO from a Marketing Perspective

As mentioned at the top of the article, much of marketing is about having a strong message & getting that message out there. If you ensure your website is full of content valuable to your audience, it is likely that it will be “high quality and authoritative. On this basis, it is likely that people will tweet it, link to it, share it on Facebook etc. Thus raising the visibility of your content. By taking this approach you are effectively “optimising your content for search”. Search engines want to deliver good quality, relevant content. If you deliver this type of content, they will want to list it.

Who is your Audience

One danger of focusing on SEO is that you write content for search engines rather than for your audience. Whilst this may pay dividends from a search ranking perspective, it is unlikely to create content that delivers real marketing benefit. Rather than writing content focused on keyword optimisation, it is better to write content that is optimised (interesting & relevant) for your audience. That way when people do find it they might actually want to read it. And when they do, they are more likely to contact you when they have a need. Lets face it, that’s what marketing is all about!

So what about keyword optimisation

This all sounds great, but in most cases visibility on search engines is still important. Furthermore, however fancy Google’s algorithms get, if they can’t connect your content with a given search term (Key phrase) they won’t list it. So thinking about keywords is still very relevant. Whilst it shouldn’t be the prime focus, it should still be on the agenda. And if you are creating your content in WordPress, there is a great tool for ensuring that this happens. This tool is Yoast SEO. A free WordPress plugin, Yoast analyses your content against a given key phrase and suggests how you could improve it. Yoast is one of our top 4 WordPress plugins. Whilst it should not be the first thing you consider when writing a post, once written Yoast is a great tool for tweaking the content to take SEO into account.

In Conclusion

So should you bother with SEO, and worry about how your content ranks on Google? The simple answer is yes. There is no denying the value of search engines, or the importance of being found on them. On the contrary, when someone is looking for your website, it is vital that they can find it. So ensuring that Google knows that your site exists, and that your content is appropriately keyword rich is vital. Ensuring this should be part of any marketing strategy, and considered in the design of every website. This is one reason we use WordPress. When budgets are limited, focus should be on creating  solid interesting content rather than on SEO.

What does your business actually deliver?

what_business_deliver
What does your business actually deliver?

What does your business deliver?

I’m not looking for a description of the products you make or the services you offer. I’m asking from the point of view of your customers. We all do business with other companies and people because we get something out of the relationship. Normally the people we buy from aren’t the only people we could buy from so why have we selected that particular supplier – or more pertinently, why do your customers choose your business ahead of one of your competitors?

  • Why do they have a relationship with you?
  • Why are they willing to hand over their hard earned cash to secure your products/services?

What you have to decide is:

“What is the real value I deliver to my customers?”

To illustrate the process, let me reflect on what we have been going through recently at BSA. We have reviewed our core business before but I recommend a review at least every year or so.

What does BSA Marketing offer to our clients?

This question set us on an interesting journey of discovery! Our first answer to the question was a lengthy description of the tasks that we undertake on behalf of clients (mainly focused around writing effective content and using it in websites and e-mail newsletters planned and implemented within a strategic marketing framework). After this, the question was repeated:

“Yes, but why do clients deal with BSA and not someone else?”

After more discussion, we came up with the following:

  1. We take the time to understand our clients’ businesses.
  2. We give unbiased advice on marketing in a world where so much is focused on “The next big thing”.
  3. We tend to under promise and over deliver.
  4. We offer specialist marketing knowledge in the context of a digital age because we are marketers first and web techies second.
  5. Our focus is on making things happen, not just on the strategic planning process.
  6. Long term is important; we stick with clients and gently encourage them to stick with the marketing process. (Good marketing takes time).
  7. We have a great track record of delivering value for our clients.
  8. We understand the SME environment, the concept of budgets and the need to maximise the effectiveness of marketing spending.

…and what we didn’t say…

Interestingly, the words ‘Website’, ‘Content’ and ‘Email Marketing’ don’t appear anywhere in this list, even though we are specialists in all three. What came out is our proposition that we work with our clients to deliver real, joined-up marketing communication programmes that are sustainable and effective. In this context, content, copy-writing, websites, email, social media and data management etc. are important elements of our offering, and the ability to deliver these is vital, but they are simply tools in our core offer to our market:

BSA Marketing takes a practical, realistic approach to making marketing work.

and this, in a nutshell, is our key business proposition!

What do our clients say?

If you care to take a look at some of the testimonials and case studies, you will see that our clients have been telling us this for years! So take some time out to ask yourself

What is my business proposition and why do my customers keep coming back?

The answer may surprise you! If you’d like to talk to me about answering the question for your business (and then making the most of what you learn!); drop me an email to davidw@bsamarketing.com. …..if you’re a manufacturer business, there might even be some grant support to help you grow.

Content – The elephant in the marketing room

What is marketing?

It intrigues me that when we talk to SME business owners about marketing, the first connection the majority make is one or more of the following:

  • Website
  • Brochure Design
  • Social Media
  • Digital Marketing

I suggest that, in themselves, none of the above are marketing. Each is a tool that can be used to carry out marketing but has no function unless there is a message. The one word that is fundamental to marketing is….

Communication

Talking to (and preferably engaging with) your target audience is at the heart of effective marketing. You have to tell people what it is you offer and how you can deliver value to them. If you aren’t doing this, why would anyone choose to do business with you? While my list above gives examples of ways you can communicate, none of them can operate effectively without something to say.

Content is the elephant in the marketing room.

If you want to communicate with your customers and your market, you need to know what you intend to say to them. You need some content; yet this is commonly the ‘elephant in the marketing room’  that SME businesses struggle with. Creating good, relevant content can be hard work. For some people, even coming up with ideas of what to talk about is a struggle, never mind crafting it into words that people will want to read. I believe this is a key reason why people often focus on the communication tools rather than the actual message they want to get over. Focusing on a new website or a brochure etc. changes things from a need to delivers sustained, relevant marketing content into a design project. I regularly come across half finished websites where a web designer has done their bit and designed a website but then the realisation sets in. No-one has really considered what content is going to be included in this great new look.

Driving, creating and using content is at the heart of what BSA Marketing does

And things are getting more challenging….

There was a time when you could produce a new brochure – or even a website – and once you had gone through the pain of writing the content and getting it published, it was good as marketing collateral for a fair while; at least 2 or 3 years, often longer. These days with interactive websites, e-newsletters, social media and blogs, never mind an explosion in other online marketing platforms, the life of content can be measured in minutes – or less! This means one thing – if you want to stay in the mind of your contacts you need to keep creating new things to engage them. Realistically for most SME businesses (particularly B2B) you don’t need to be creating new content every day. Indeed there is an awful lot of noise – particularly on Twitter – where clearly people just tweet for the sake of tweeting. There is no real thought as to the value or relevance to their audience of what they are saying. This is definitely quantity over quality. You might not need to create new content every day but creating good relevant content at least every few weeks is the standard you should aim for.

Creating a process that introduces new message ideas and develops them into relevant, usable content is incredibly valuable.

Embrace the content elephant

If you have a process to regularly create new marketing content, this not only meets the needs of your core marketing communication, it also opens up other opportunities. You can submit relevant articles to trade magazines, sector blogs or other media read by your target market. Good, interesting content is always in demand and if you can get a name for delivering good copy, you can find opportunities to get your message out grow significantly with little extra effort on your part. Developing and sustaining effective content creation and use is at the heart of what BSA Marketing does. If you want to embrace the content elephant – give us a call.

Google Images Beware – Tips to avoid copyright issues

We all do it, it’s just so easy! You need an image for your presentation or Twitter post, you go to Google Images and type in your subject. Within half a second, thousands of photos are at your fingertips. What’s the worst that could happen! Most of us will have heard the stories of people being sued for copyright infringement after using an image they found on Google. But in reality, just how often does this happen and will it happen to you? Realistically, not likely. However it is not beyond the realms of possibility. Reuters and other image powerhouses have beefed up their internet dredging in recent times, making it easier for them to find the use of their copyrighted images without purchase or permission

Best practice

For starters, always assume the image is copyrighted! That way, you will always seek permission. Unless the image is listed under Copyright free of course. Find out how to do that here. If you see an image you like, you can find the original source by reverse searching it. Here’s how:

  • Save a copy of the image in question
  • Go to images.google.com
  • Drag the copy of the image into the search bar.
  • This will give you a list of websites the original image is likely to be found.

If wish to use an image, see if you can speak to the photographer and get their permission to use it. You should always link back to their website or give their details out too.

Free images

There are countless places to find free images. Here’s just a few: Pixabay Stock Free Images Photo Pin Flickr creative commons tagged images *Disclaimer – This article is for informational purposes only and is in no way considered to be legal advice*

The importance of visual content in your marketing

visual_content2I talk a great deal about the importance of content in modern marketing. There is real value in regularly adding new articles and information to your website, social media, blog etc. For most SME marketers, sitting down to create new content means writing but, to coin a phrase:

A picture is worth a thousand words

Studies of how visitors interact with websites and social media show time and again that images are hugely more attractive than words. Moving images are the most attractive of all. Visuals are a great way to attract people to your content but (normally) the substance of your content will be in the words. This is particularly true in Business to Business (B2B) marketing where you are typically aiming to communicate a message rather than simply entertain your visitor. So B2B marketing content needs imagery to attract attention and words to deliver the message. Ideally these 2 elements can be descriptively linked to give a single communication. But here lies a problem; these 2 elements of words and images are rarely considered together. We regularly talk to people who have commissioned a new website only to find a problem. OK, their new site looks great visually, they then realise that no one has thought about the written content. Consequently, the new site either gets delayed, or worse, is never actually finished. Similarly with newsletters and blog articles, authors write relevant and high quality words but relevant images are an afterthought. Without a picture to attract the eye, the words may never be read. visual_content

The cost-value of visual content

Most of us are used to writing as part of our work – even if it is only letters, emails, quotations or invoices. Even so, few of us are regularly faced with having to come up with our own visuals. Commissioning a specialist photographer/ videographer/ designer can cost £100s or even £1000s which is a big reason why marketing content is rarely produced as often as it should be. Good marketing needs new content (with visuals) regularly yet few people can have a professional photographer or designer visiting every month!

So what are the options?

Have a go yourself

This isn’t suitable for everyone but there are some great online tools for designing graphics and even animations yourself. Take a look at Canva as an example for graphics and PowToon for animations. You could also have a go at your own photography or even video. Today’s smartphones are incredibly powerful and can produce some great results. Free apps you can download allow you to tweak and edit your results too. There are also online courses which can give useful information, hints and tips on how to get the most out of your camera. If you are prepared to put the time in to creating pictures and are ready to take lots from all sorts of different positions and angles, you can find yourself coming up with some really quite nice shots. If you have to take 100 to get one decent one then why not. It’s easy to delete the rejections. Have a go, get creative – you have nothing to lose!

Image Libraries

There are numerous websites offering a dizzying array of images and videos to download and use. Typically these are ‘Royalty Free’ which means you pay a one-time fee to access the image for use online (for example). You are then free to use the image on your website, blog post etc but if you wanted to use it in a brochure or on an exhibition stand you may be charged more. Stock images can be very high quality but you don’t have exclusivity.You may find a competitor using the same image as you! Stock images fine as far as they go but your own are better.

A final tip

Keep your phone with you as you go about your business and get used to snapping pictures or taking short videos of your work. If you don’t like them you can always delete them but the chances that every now and again you will produce something you can use. There is no question that the more you have a go the better you will get. Your own images belong to you and no-one else!