Digital Marketing In 2012 – Time To Pull Your Socks Up

So it’s mid January and there is already a lot to consider in this coming year. Here are some of the key things I think businesses need to concentrate on in 2012.

Get Your SEO Sorted

This is a no brainer – I don’t mean link building, I mean just get your site SEO friendly, 9/10 websites I look at on the net have serious SEO issues – this includes large companies and also some other SEO “experts”! If you think SEO is all about link building, you’re wrong and if you haven’t sorted out your onsite issues you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Get Your Website A Responsive Design

This is important – because this year you’re going to have a good mix of people visiting your website from laptops, desktop pcs, tablets, smartphones, normal phones and televisions – this year will see the introduction of the Google TV and it’ll probably be quite popular. A responsive website design is the same website but it shows different versions depending on the size of the screen – this is a great way of ensuring that all your communication is working together, it’ll also save time because you’ll only need to update stuff in one place. By not having a website usable on all devices you are literally throwing money away. If you want a cheap one, you can probably buy one on ThemeForest for around $35.

Embrace Web Analytics

There is no excuse this year, you need to know how much your website makes you and where that money is coming from, without it you’re in big trouble. You can use Google Analytics for free, but you need to make sure it is setup properly and that you are making best use of it. I’d recommend hiring someone to set it up for you and if you don’t like logging in and playing with it, get them to schedule a monthly report which details everything you need to know.

Start Using Freelancers

With a freelancer you can pay them much less and on an ad hoc basis – so you can have really cheap labour. Alternatively you can hire the best freelancers for top dollar but only pay when you need them – both these give great value. There are a number of freelance websites, if you’re in the UK I suggest PeoplePerHour.com as it is in pounds sterling and if you’re in the US I suggest Elance or Odesk.

Consider Advertising Elsewhere Than Google

There is more to the Internet than just Google, here is a list of the top 20 websites by traffic volume in the UK(for the week ending 07/01/2012). Out of the 20 listed you can advertise on 19 of them (including Google):
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As well as these, if you look at the top social networks you will see LinkedIn and Gumtree, who also both offer advertising (Gumtree Media and LinkedIn Advertising).

But you don’t necessarily have to pay out any money to get promoting yourself on these sites, you can consider other forms of promotion – such as answering questions on Yahoo, creating viral content for Facebook and Twitter or even connected on LinkedIn through various networking groups.

Quick Catch Up

This is just a quick post for all my subscribers to summarise a few changes in the Internet marketing arena recently.

First up, there have been a lot of changes with Google Analytics, with a new version coming out with a host of new features including dashboards, multi channel funnels, real time analytics and visitor flow.  I suggest you check it out and familiarise yourself.

Secondly any keyword data from Google organic SSL will no longer be passed on, so you may well see “(not defined)” as one of your top performing keywords, expect it to affect around 10% of organic traffic from Google.

Google Adwords has released a bid per call offering, where a phone number sits in the ad, if you get called you get charged a did fee of £1 minimum – definitely worth using in my opinion.

Mailchimp has released a new service called “goooals” where you can segment email subscribers based on what they do on your website.

I’ll try and do a better job of keeping you all up to date! I’ve been busy preparing for my exams next week, wish me luck!

Find The Best Premium WordPress Themes / Templates For Your Business

This WordPress Theme Cost Me Just $35

Finding a good design for your website isn’t easy for most people – but if you are running your website on WordPress you are missing a trick if you are paying more than £50! The theme you see this site running on (at time of writing) was bought for only $35 (that’s around £22.50 according to today’s exchange rate) from ThemeForest, and on the whole it is a lot better than sites you can pay £1,000 or more for from a local designer.

ThemeForest - The Best Premium WordPress Themes

What to Consider?

So what do you need to consider when buying a premium WordPress theme for your business?

[shortcodes]

Well firstly, you want to ensure it is flexible enough to meet your needs, look out for a thing called a shortcode, it’s a simple piece of code you can type in order to create a different effect.

For example, this is a shortcode called “blockquote”

As you can see shortcodes are pretty handy, especially when you want to the designer to do the general layout, look and feel and you would prefer to write the copy and style it the way you want.

Customisation

If you are well versed with PHP, HTML, CSS & WordPress, you may want a lot more customisation options by being able to change the code. If, however, you just want something that works and you don’t want something too technical then make sure it has the features you want, such as a logo upload facility.

I highly recommend ThemeForest, go take a look at their WordPress themes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

MailChimp – The Best Free Email Marketing Software – And a Great Aweber Alternative

MailChimp

I’ve been using MailChimp for just over a year now, and I’ve been very impressed. I originally switched from Aweber, but decided
that I couldn’t justify paying the monthly fee for Aweber – and I was right to.

MailChimp is perfect for my needs, to be honest I’ve not got many subscribers – the most I had was around 600 or so for a gaming website. If you are considering creating a newsletter for your business then I would highly recommend MailChimp – it’s free if you have 2,000 or less subscribers, so there is no risk for you to try and build up a mailing list.

Here are some of the cool things you can do with MailChimp:
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  • You can add people via your website, via their hosted form, via the admin system or even through their ipad application
  • Capture people’s first name, surname and date of birth and then send them personalised emails, especially on their birthday!
  • Segment customers into groups, such as customers and prospects, or perhaps by their interests or spend
  • Setup autoresponders – emails that get sent to recipients based on predetermined criteria such as “opened this campaign” or “7 days after signup”
  • Adding coupons – this allows you to add physical coupons you can print off and then scan in with an iPhone app when they bring them to your business – it then includes these in the email analytics reports!
  • Split test emails – you can test different subject lines or different body text to see what difference this makes to your open rates and click rates
  • Create an RSS to email campaign which automatically sends out blog posts or news articles from your website to the email newsletter.
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Plus much more, the possibilities really are endless, plus they have some amazing webinars you can watch when you sign up that teach you how to do all this and more!

You can signup to MailChimp now and get up to 2,000 subscribers free, forever!.

Need a Corporate Identity and Logo Designing Near Harrogate in North Yorkshire?

I’ve been meaning to get a decent logo for my site for a while, it’s one of those things that I felt really let it down. So last month I met with Chris Beadle from Green Lane Group, who are based just outside Harrogate in North Yorkshire.

I explained want I wanted – something professional, clean and modern – and really hit the nail on the head, he really did surpass my expectations.

After we met, he sent me a load of variations and I picked out a few I liked, he then did more variations and again I chose my favourite – then he carried on sending me variations until I kept on picking the same one! It was a great way to determine that he’d got the right one, and I was very pleased with the result. Here’s the logo:

Chris has done a number of projects in the local area, you can check out some of his logo designs here.

How Can We Learn From Angry Birds’ Success?

Angry Birds has probably been the biggest gaming app of the year – nearly every person I know has played it, but it’s not the most amazing game in the World, so what exactly made it so popular? Was it pure fluke, or is there more to it?

The first thing Rovio (the brains behind Angry Birds) did was decide they wanted to make apps for mobile devices on the Apple store. They profiled the typical iPhone user and found that it basically represented, well, everyone! So they decided on a game that would suit all people, all ages. They also decided that not only should it be a game on the iPhone, but it should be flexible enough to be played on other platforms, such as the android and now you can also play Angry Birds online for free. They also made the game unbelievably simple – no tutorial is necessary and because of the short loading times you could just pick it up and start playing it in seconds.

So step 1, they ensured that the product fit their target customer (in this case everyone).

Step 2, they actually launched Angry Birds in December 2009, but it was a flop – at least in the UK/US. They concentrated on getting more users downloading it in other countries. (Source: Wired 7 March 2011)

Step 3, they managed to get such a following in these countries, it enabled them to fine tune their product from customer feedback and then they gained the attention of Apple. Once Apple put it on the front page of their app store, the product hit the top ten almost immediately and very quickly became the top played game.

So what I wonder is, did they plan this, or was it a fluke? If you’ve read “Unleashing the Idea Virus” by Seth Godin (download it free here) you may spot a few things that they did that Seth recommends in his book. It’s a great book and if you want to get your business growing through word of mouth and social media it is definitely worth a read.

How to check your position (or ranking) on Google

This sounds fairly straight forward, but not only do most business owners make the mistake of pulling out the wrong ranking, but so do many beginner SEO’s, web developers and designers. Please read all of this article, the good stuff is towards the end!

Avoiding Personalisation

It’s a bit more complicated than it may seem. The problem is that Google personalises the results for you, whether you are logged in or not. So to get round the personalisation, you need to use a “cookieless” browser. Rather then clearing your history I suggest you use Google Chrome “Incognito mode” to rank check manually in Google.

What if it’s not in the top 100?

The next problem you have is that rank checking is a pain in the backside if you are on page 46 – I’m guessing you don’t fancy going through 46 pages to find that you are rank 456. So here is another little trick. Disable Google Instant and do another search then add “&num=100” to the URL at the end or alternatively do an advanced search with 100 results. Then you can use the CONTROL+F keyboard shortcut to find your domain name on the page. This won’t show the correct ranking yet, you’ll have to work out roughly where it is and then go back to searching by 10 results per page to find it, but at least you’ll know roughly where what page it is and it will save you a bit of time.

Well, what a pain all that is, isn’t there an easier way?

There is an easier way – three in fact. Option 1 is using Google, option 2 is using Advanced Web Ranking and option 3 is using Raven Tools.

Option 1: Google Webmasters Tools

If you register your website with Google Webmasters Tools you can use Google’s built-in facility for finding out what keywords you are getting impressions for on Google. Here’s a screenshot:

If, however, you are #100 and aren’t getting any impressions you won’t find the keyword ranking on here. Also, it only shows the average ranking, taking into account language settings, location and personalisation – so this isn’t the most accurate of indications.

Option 2: Advanced Web Ranking (Starts at £61.50 / $99 per year)

The best way to rank check (apart from hiring a developer to write and maintain an online system, which is pricey) is to use Advanced Web Ranking (affiliate link). Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

AWR was first recommended to me two years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s great because you can keep a history of your rankings and you can rank check your competitors. The basic package is reasonable at £61.50 – it will save you hours of time, it lasts you a year and it’s the one major purchase I view as a necessity when carrying out SEO for websites.

< h2>Option 3: Raven Tools (Starts at $19 per month)

I’ll level with you, I’ve not used Raven Tools much (I’ve trialled it twice – I don’t like paying out monthly fees), but if you prefer an online solution rather than downloading the software to your computer, then Raven Tools (affiliate link) is a better option than Advanced Web Ranking. The $19 per month version only tracks up to 100 keywords, where as with Advanced Web Ranking, theoretically, there is no limit (obviously if you track the whole dictionary it may take years). But it does come with a few other features which you may find handy. They have a 30 day free trial, so you can check it out for yourself and if it’s not right for you, you can cancel!

Option 3: Authority Labs

Authority Labs has a free version as well as a cheaper alternative, to find out more check out my blog post on Authority Labs.

4 Easy Link Building Strategies

Link building is probably the hardest part of promoting your website, what people don’t realise is that there isn’t an easy, quick way to get good links. Link building is hard, it’s very hard (unless you buy links, in which case your setting yourself up for a whole World of pain if you get caught by Google). I’ve picked up one or two really good strategies working in the industry for the past few years, here are some of the easy ones:

1. Ask Your Friends/Family

This is the easiest one to do, and guess what? It’s often the best, you can get some amazing links. Most of my friends and family get a link from me, so if you have a friend who likes playing with websites (and most of us do) ask them for a link!

2. Ask Your Suppliers

Hell, you’re buying their stuff you may aswell get a link out of it! Offer a testimonial they can put on their website in return, then you can get a link underneath the testimonial – this is a very good technique.

3. Ask Your Customers

This is a great way to get links, especially if you are offering a value added service or a premium product. For example if you sell high quality meat to restaurants, get yourself a really snazzy looking banner that your customers can put on their website – kind of like a stamp of approval. The idea is that your customers (in this case the restaurant) will get the benefit of being able to show off their quality, probably improving response rates – whilst you get a link out of it! Ok so you have to put a bit of work into this, but it’s worth doing – even if you just use your logo with a bit of text.

4. Blog Commenting

This is very hard to do right, mainly because 99% of people come across as spammers. The trick is to actually read the article you are going to comment on. Also many comments don’t pass any value because of a tag called “nofollow” – but that doesn’t mean the comment isn’t useful – on some articles they get so much traffic that you’ll get referral traffic from people clicking on the link. It’s worth going through a particular search on Google and commenting on all the articles with useful comments.

Another reason for you to have a blog, as you can write an article which is related to what other people are talking about and then comment saying something like “I [agree/disaagree] with what you are saying I think [opinion]. You can read more about what I’m saying here: [URL]”. That should usually get accepted. It builds links, it gives traffic and it starts valuable relationships with bloggers, so give it a try.

Capsule CRM – The Best Free Online CRM Software System

I’ve been using Capsule CRM for around a year now and I really like the way you can customise it so easily, plus it is much simpler than Salesforce. It also integrates with my online accounting package, FreeAgent (incidentally if you signup with them, be sure to use my FreeAgent referral code).

Capsule CRM

What is CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management – it’s been around for a while, basically it encompasses your customer database and should record every “touchpoint” with your customer. So your customer logs on to your website, your CRM should know, your sales person phones them up, they should record that, an email get sent out – that too should be recorded, the customer buys something on the website, guess what, that should be recorded too. It improves your ability to manage & track customers and can help you improve customer insight. Without CRM you are unlikely to be able to accurately calculate a customer’s lifetime value, which prevents you from being able to spend as much money on marketing – this can lead you lagging behind competitors who can justify spending up to 10 times more than you to acquire a customer.

Free CRM

The best thing about Capsule CRM is that it is actually free to use, without it limiting the functionality of the software too much, so if you are implementing a new CRM system and you don’t want to pay for anything yet, then Capsule CRM is a great way to get your systems and processes in place before rolling it out across the board.

API Access and CSV Downloads

Capsule CRM allows you access to the API and also provides you with easy to download files, so you don’t have to work out how the software works, you can simply download the data and analyse it yourself in Excel – which is what most people do anyway!

Web Integration Form

They provide a lead generation form you can add to your website, then when someone fills it in, the lead goes directy into the CRM system – this saves you time, to get this functionality for Salesforce you would need to buy the 2nd version up (I think it’s £17 / month / user).

Twitter Integration

To get the latest info on your clients you can add their twitter ID to their customer file, then when you view them in Capsule CRM it will also show your latest tweets – this may allow your sales people to engage better with customers, or identify potential opportunities.

I’ll be writing about best practices for creating CRM systems over the coming months, and I’m also hoping to develop a way to integrate Capsule CRM with your website so that you can personalise pages for people – but that may take some time!!!

If you do sign up for Capsule CRM, you may also want to signup for FreeAgent and MailChimp – all three integrate together, which might save you a bit of time.

How I became addicted to Internet marketing – My Story

This is a long story and it is mainly about my journey of learning about Internet marketing and SEO, there isn’t a lot to learn from it, but I thought it may interest a few wannabe SEO’s. So back out now if you don’t think it is for you! You have been warned! (It’s around 2,000 words).

Back in 2004 I was a business student at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, whilst doing my course I used to play around learning how to code websites using HTML and CSS. When I finished my course I got the opportunity to start an ecommerce shop, but back then there weren’t many good packages out there, so I decided to make my own! Using PHP and MySQL I created probably the most insecure piece of shit ecommerce site you could ever imagine! Anyways, I found once the site was up that the hard part wasn’t putting a website together, it was getting people to visit it… and buy something! So I did what every desperate wannabe Internet millionaire does…

I took a gamble on Google

I signed up to Google AdWords and spent a fortune, sadly with very little money coming out of university and already being up to my eyeballs in debt, I decided to get one of those horrible job things! My job had absolutely nothing to do with the Internet, but that didn’t stop me dabbling in my spare time. In 2006 I got a job working as a marketing assistant looking after the websites and, because I had some experience, managing the Google AdWords account. When I took over the account they were spending £1,000 and bringing in £1,500 as a result. I had a brainwave… I wrote a program that ran through all 60,000 products that they were selling and it created keywords based on the product numbers and names and bid values based on the product markup, conversion rate for that product type and the profit margin which we needed to achieve. Next month we spent £500 on AdWords, but sales grew to £15,000 – from then on I was hooked!

After that I made improvements to the website and soon we were bringing in the same amount of money (well a bit more) without spending anything on AdWords. And not long after that I started my love affair with Google Analytics and also became a certified AdWords Professional.

Chris Cardell Inspired Me?

Whilst I was working as a marketing assistant I was asked by my boss to attend a Chris Cardell telephone seminar. Now, for those of you that don’t know, Chris Cardell has a bit of a bad reputation amongst some people and I believe he recently got in trouble for a direct marketing piece (which I thought was quite clever actually, but I guess the ASA didn’t think so). Don’t quote me on any of this, I may be wrong! Anyways, whilst listening to this phone seminar where Chris told me he knew more than me about AdWords (I doubted it then, but who knows, I can be pretty arrogant), I became inspired. Chris apparently used to go to companies, charge them £10k (which was a shed load of money to me back then, but I now realise it’s not that much when it comes to marketing) and then guarantee they would only pay him his fee if he could increase their profits by more. Win win situation – I was impressed, I decided this is what I want. He then went on to say that if you increase customers by 25%, increase the number of times they purchase by 25% and increase the value of those purchases by 30% – you will have doubled your sales. This is actually an often used tactic to sell marketing services, and I now know it is an overly simplistic view of what is involved in improving a companies marketing.

One Year Without The Internet

Sadly my job here was short lived due to health problems – I ended up leaving and barely touched a computer for around a year, instead working in a warehouse and playing on Call of Duty 4 on the Xbox 360. After 1 years physio I finally sorted out my health problem and quit my job as a “picker packer” and went to Thailand to see my girlfriend who I had met the year earlier in Ripon when she came to England to study and get some work experience. Whilst out there I bought a book on SEO and read it from cover to cover, after that I thought I knew everything there was to know about SEO. How wrong I was.

Whilst I was in Thailand I started writing a book on the soon to be released game, Call of Duty World at War, I based all my writing on Call of Duty 4, with a plan to prestige within a week and then re-write it and add bits in and publish ASAP.

Dave Naylor & Bronco

When I got back to England I spent a month finishing off the book I had written, eventually getting it published (sadly I had to wait for the IRS and this delayed the pubishing by 2 months, by which time the buzz had died down). After that, I some how managed to land a job with Dave Naylor – and it was at this point I realised how little I really knew about SEO! He convinced me to get my own website using WordPress, at the time I was quite passionate about using Joomla, as the book I had read recommended it, I’d just like to state now that Joomla is riddled with flaws and comes with duplicate content problems as standard – AVOID AT ALL COSTS. So I took Dave’s advice and I started this blog sometime early 2009.

On my first day working at Bronco I was plonked down on a desk opposite Dave, nearby was a guy called Anthony and a guy called Rory. After reading the website I was unbelievably intimidated by the amount of knowledge and professionalism everyone possessed. The biggest thing was the fact that everyone was so up-to-date with the latest developments in the SEO world. After a few weeks there I learned that a lot of people kept up to date with RSS feeds – I’d struggled to come to terms with RSS feeds for quite some time (sounds stupid now, but really I did) but this time I decided to persevere – I learned how to use RSS feeds and I signed up to Google Reader. I added my blog to FeedBurner, and I subscribed to everyone at Bronco’s blog, and I subsribed to god knows how many blogs from the Technorati Top 100 Tech Blogs. After 1 week I realised I’d taken on too much and I started unsubscribing from some of them.

I spent the whole of 2009 reading Seth Godin books – thinking he had all the answers (he doesn’t, but he’s a clever guy and his blog is worth reading).

SEO Specialist

A few months into my job, after struggling to rank for my name I decided to try and rank for an SEO keyword, to “prove” myself (so people would stop taking the piss out of me mainly). I set my heart on ranking for “SEO specialist”, Shapley said I’d never manage it, but one week later I was on the front page! Last year I redirected it to Bronco as a sign of good faith, it’s still on page 1 now, sadly its dropped a bit.

Make Money Online

Later on in 2009 I realised I wanted to make some money online, so I started reading blogs such as Shoemoney, John Chow and Problogger. Up until then I think I had adsense on my website, and I was just trying to push more traffic at it. But after seeing a video by John Chow I realised that this was totally the wrong approach, this also fitted in with a book I had read by Seth Godin called “Permission Marketing”. I signed up to Aweber under John Chow’s recommendation – it was wrong, if you’re starting out go with MailChimp (it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers).

Google Overloads My Site With Traffic

I started using MailChimp on a new site of mine, www.modern-warfare.net, which was a site I had started to take advantage of the forth coming release of Modern Warfare 2. I uploaded an electronic copy of my Call of Duty guide and found I got a few subscribers, then on the day of the release I logged on to my email and found around 70 people had subscribed and more where signing up every couple of minutes, then I went to my website and found that the site was down – it turned out that I had exceeded all my bandwith in just one day! I was ranking for “modern warfare 2 tips” on the day of the release and Google had taken my site down with all the traffic – I quickly got it sorted and after a few days I had over 600 subscribers! After 4 months of having more traffic than I thought possible, I was disappointed to find I had earned next to nothing – so I sold the site and got $500 for it, which I was quite happy with at the time.

The Year Of Conversion Rate Optimisation

At the start of 2010 I managed to get myself a bit of freelance work, it was good experience as I wasn’t getting the chance to do many site audits at the time at Bronco, so I was happy to get the chance to do a few more.

In the second half of 2010 I became obsessed with Conversion Rate Optimisation – I’d played with it a bit before back in 2006/2007 when Google Website Optimizer was first released. I read a number of books, and decided I needed to get some experience – so I drew up a proposal for a client I managed SEO for at Bronco. Sadly (and quite rightly) Becky & Dave decided to go with Stephen Pavlovich from Conversion Factory. He started work on the client and I got the opportunity to be part of the project team, I learned a lot about the important of asking customers what they want – market research, often overlooked, is highly important and makes the difference between an ok business and a brilliant business. During this time I also managed to figure out something which made our link building in house much more efficient, as a result I managed to push a clients traffic up 40%, gaining lots of number 1s, despite them being onboard for around 3 years.

Towards the latter half of 2010 I managed to produce an excellent landing page for my SEO specialist ranking – it was basically a pay on results SEO, which was basically a guarantee. The conversion rate was brilliant, sadly the quality of leads were poor.

Becoming A Professional

Towards the end of 2010 I was gaining confidence, but decided that I still didn’t know enough, so I embarked on a course to become a marketing progressional, I’m currently studying for a diploma in digital and direct marketing from the Institute of Direct Marketing and I’m loving every minute of it! I’ve gained knowledge that would have taken at 10 years (probably longer) to develop on my own – it’s accelerated my learning and I can’t recommend it enough.

Affiliate Marketing

This year so far I have begun to have more success with affiliate marketing, my aim was to bring in an extra £500 per month by the end of the year – at the moment I’m way, way off! We’ll see how thing go… So far I’ve referred a load of people to an awesome accounting package called FreeAgent which I used, sadly this hasn’t earned me any money yet!!!