Reflection is the game changer

I’m addicted to business books, podcasts and vlogs.  I’m constantly reading, watching, listening to others.  I’m starting to ask myself why I am constantly doing this because sometimes it’s a distraction from the things I SHOULD be doing.  Well, it’s OK.  I find it entertaining, so there’s that aspect.  Business.  It’s a topic I love and there is something to be said for just exposing yourself to new ideas.  But, if you don’t actually do anything with the information it’s just entertainment, am I right?

Last week I listened to some Gary Vaynerchuck (via Instagram) and he was talking about this very topic.  If you haven’t heard of Gary V check out his content.  I think of him as the “fight club” for business motivation.  He says every day he’s just repeating the same message in a million different ways.  But he believes that’s what people need.  Today might be the right time, the right place, the right frame of mind that means his message actually sinks in and causes somebody to take action.

And that action is what makes the difference. We know it.

So, yes.  Read widely, research, expose yourself to new ideas and look for those gems of experience in what others share.  But, at the end of the day remember that if you don’t reflect on their wisdom then measure it for value against your own situation and take action –  it’s might just be procrastination.

I’m starting my week with action by incorporating reflection into my business process.

Check out Gary Vaynerchuck too.

Advice for SME’s Working with SEO Agencies and Web Developers

I have had the (dubious) pleasure this week of working with a couple of sites that I didn’t build and don’t host.  So I’ve come to realise a) how lucky I am that I’ve never had to deal with ‘page builders’ (oh boy do they slow sites down!!) and also b) to see a couple of common problems that can arise when site owners don’t have enough understanding of the solutions they are paying for and developers and agencies don’t take the time to explain (for whatever reason).  The result is these two gems of information which I’m sure will benefit small business owners who are buying web development or digital marketing services.

1. Own your Google Analytics data and understand how to manage access

Your business data is so important.  As a business owner you need to understand how you can share or allow access to your Google Analytics data.  Others may have a different view but my view is that the data belongs to the  business owner.  I’ve seen a few instances where agencies have set this up on a new Gmail address on behalf of the client and then grant access to the site owner.  Whilst this can get things set up fast and doesn’t require the client to have to use tech (yes this does slow things down sometimes),  I don’t think this is a great solution for anyone.  My personal view is that Google Analytics accounts need to be setup with the business owners email address (even if they are not tech-savvy because these days it’s easy enough to walk someone through the steps via TeamViewer or similar).

Why is this data useful? Digital marketers use analytics data to measure the success or failure of marketing strategies, to compare past and present metrics and to ensure your marketing is budget efficient.  The process is 1) Set up a Google Analytics account 2) Add some tracking code to the website 3) Verify in Google Analytics 4) Grant access to those who will be managing your digital marketing.  Think carefully about who has the right to add or remove users when you do this.  One of the sites I recently took on had granted access to an SEO agency, and when they cancelled the service the agency actually removed the business owners access to their own data and deleted the Gmail account!  We managed to get access to the data again of course but this is a situation that shouldn’t happen.

Set up your Google Analytics Account here (Click ‘Analytics’)

If you already have a Google Analytics account check who has access via this tutorial.

2. Understand WordPress theme and plugin licensing

I don’t use these myself during builds but for better or worse many of the lower cost solutions for websites will be built using a pre-purchased theme with a little customisation and a page builder.  Visual Composer is one I commonly see in these kind of websites.  If this is the case there may be a theme license or plugin licenses to consider.  A license gives you access to updates.  If you don’t have updates,  your site becomes vulnerable.

Sometimes the web designer will have a developer or agency license and they pop that in which is great as long as you are still working with them.  As soon as that relationship ends then you might be left with an unlicensed version that you are unable to update with no clue what to do next.

So when you are commissioning a website build with a website supplier, ask about the licensing.  Questions such as:

  • Is this a custom WordPress solution or a pre-purchased / pre-built theme?
  • Will I need to buy a license to get theme updates?
  • Will I need a developer to install updates to the theme?
  • Do I need to buy any licenses for the plugins you are using?

An agency or developer license is probably OK if you have a good relationship with your supplier and a long term service commitment.  If your web site project is just a quick build with no ongoing relationship then my view is you should consider buying the theme and plugin licenses directly and raise this point with your developer (hopefully they will already tell you this).  It’s often not possible to transfer licenses if your developer has purchased them in their own name.

Organic SEO and Adwords Management for Small Business

“I’ve been paying a company for months and I’m not seeing results”

There are good, bad and downright ugly search engine marketing companies out there.   I like to think Creative Mode is one of the good guys girls.  To qualify that statement,  sure some people just want to go the quick and dirty route (and that’s OK too if that’s what you want) but the way I like to do SEO (search engine marketing) is via best practice over the long term.  Profile building over time will deliver results far better for small business owners who tend to need more bang for their buck.  Organic SEO is close to my heart because that’s where I started many years ago but also, people trust it more.

So let me explain what the go is here.  Adwords vs Organic SEO.

Google Adwords Management

Let’s start with Google Adwords.  Often called pay-per-click advertising or PPC if you like acronyms.  This is about buying traffic.  Pure and simple advertising.  You pay to be seen.  You can pay more and you are seen more.  You stop paying and you disappear.   What people often don’t realise is that how much you pay depends on the quality of your website landing page.  The more relevant your website is to the advertising, the less you pay.  So anyone who is managing your Adwords advertising service really needs access to your website in order to do a good job.  Ideally you want your landing pages to be separate from your usual website navigation and you want to track conversions.  After all conversions are usually the goal not the traffic.

What’s involved in an Adwords campaign setup is (at the basic level): research the market, setup the landing pages, create campaigns, watch and adjust.  There’s a lot of work initially and this is very much dependant on knowledge of the business and the location they operate in and also whether it’s a fairly generic service or something specialist or with a very small niche market. Once everything is set up, there’s a time period of watching and learning, making small changes, adjusting bids, trying different ad copy and adding or removing keywords – basically getting to know the search market for that topic can take more or less time depending on the market.  After things are humming along you can just tweak it every now and then and keep an eye on conversions via reports.  Sometimes campaigns will be specific and time sensitive, other times you might just have a generic long running ad group.  How that works depends on your goals, your market and how aggressive your your chosen strategy is.

Organic Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing

Organic Search Marketing is so great for small business.  If you do this the right way you can literally obtain top five Google listings and sit there without having to continually pay for advertising.  Organic search marketing is about getting traffic to your website because it’s relevant to the search phrases people type in.  When your website is well-built and the content matches the search phrases, you can attract new visitors without having to pay for them.  Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making your website match the search phrases and this can seem difficult and time consuming to those who don’t understand but it’s actually quite simple once you have your website set up.  It’s also just basic marketing (that you should really be doing anyway), but structured in a way that attracts visitors to your website.

What’s involved in organic search marketing is not rocket science.  At a basic level this is what you need: a well built website with the right structure; content that is relevant to your market and your targeted search phrases; fresh content regularly, links from social media sites to your content, links from other websites to yours.  If you have someone managing this for you they will no doubt start by whipping your existing website and content into shape to make sure it has that all important structure (this is the optimisation part).  This will help a little to start with and you can usually then see fairly quickly how much work is ahead depending on where your website sits in the results already.  The process of search engine marketing includes keyword research, content development and optimisation, regular new content creation, social media management and of course goals setup and reporting in Google Analytics so you can track and improve on results.

DIY Marketing or Hire a Professional?

There is certainly a lot of information available for free if you choose to learn to manage your Adwords and Organic SEO yourself but there is also a knack to it as with most things.  I am not a huge fan of DIY unless you already have marketing skills (and spare time to learn) because in my experience this is the slow path to business growth.  Hiring a professional to take care of these tasks is faster and more effective.

WordPress Content Manager Basics

There are some basic rules for WordPress content editors and content managers.  Invisible lines that should not be crossed but cause the eyes of many a dev to roll when they first log into a new client site under management.

Here is the short list.  I will elaborate on this at some time in the future.

  1. Your job is to manage content not style.  Don’t colour text or change font sizes.  Everything you need should be predetermined and selectable in the editor (because someone already designed and coded the site to do this).
  2. Use headings.  H1, H2, H3 etc are hierarchical and they give users (and Google) important information about your site.  Just one H1 heading per page please.
  3. DO NOT underline text.  Underlines are for links.  If it’s a link and it needs to be underlined this will happen automatically. If you want to make something stand out use italics or bold.
  4. Images need to be made web ready before you upload them. It’s not cool to upload images straight from the camera to WordPress.  Why? Well this takes up lots of space on the server unnecessarily, uses more bandwidth and it frustrates people on slow connections or mobile phones downloading giant images.
  5. Spaces and returns are not meant to be for layout.  Avoid using this as a tactic for layout.  Ask your developer to update the theme or styles if you need changes.
  6. If you hit ‘enter’ this makes a new paragraph.  If you hit ‘shift+enter’ this makes a new line.
  7. And finally… DO NOT EVER copy and paste directly from Word into your editor without using the special icon to remove all the nasty extra code that Word loves to create.