Google search engine optimization workshop proves a big hit

Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing 1 feedback »

We held our first Google SEO (Search Engine Optimization) workshop last night at the Innovation Park, Hamilton.

Of course I'm so passionate about SEO and online digital marketing that I expect everyone else to share my feelings. Well I wasn't disappointed! The folks that attended were from typical Kiwi companies and are not necessarily playing in the online space in any big way.

What they all shared in common was an appreciation that organic search through Google has become an important part of any marketing and lead generation programme, and something that you just can't afford to ignore.

We worked through Google's strategy of 'organising the world's information' in order to understand the environment were playing in and what Google's groundrules for indexing and SEO are.

We also looked at a bunch of real-life examples of SEO, focusing on 'On-Page' optimization activities. We finished off with a practical demonstration of keyword research, creating Meta tags and lots of valuable tips on generating wickedly effective page content (just me exaggerating!).

Judging by comments on the feedback forms, everyone felt it was valuable and are hopefully optimizing away on their websites like crazy today! Other than Firefox crashing during the session, I really enjoyed it too.

Our next workshop will be held in February next year, so if you're interested you can register here.

Can small business benefit from social media?

Online Marketing, Social Networking 3 feedbacks »

Post by Wayne Attwell

I was honoured to be invited by Nicola Boyes, Business Editor at the Waikato Times to write a marketing column for their new monthly business publication, THE BIZ. The inaugaural issue was published in September. Here is the transcript of my column, titled, Can small business benefit from social media?

"Business owners are more anxious than ever for better results from their advertising and are actively seeking new answers. We regularly get calls from companies that have heard about social media tools (Blogging, Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn etc), but have no idea how to use them to generate sales enquiries.

The primary goal of social media is to build an online community of like-minded followers who will spread the word about your brand. Attracting a large following has limited value unless you can drive them to take action.

For example, you can channel them to your website, but if the page content doesn’t capture their interest and there is no compelling call-to-action, your hard won traffic will result in zero sales enquiries.

Social network marketing is a new discipline and requires a fresh marketing approach. As a stand-alone exercise, social media will not generate meaningful commercial results.

You have to view your entire marketing programme, both online and offline, as an ecosystem. Each element has a specific role and contributes to the overall performance. If one element fails, so does the marketing programme.

Social media is hard work and requires consistent effort and energy. To make this effort pay off, start with a clear strategy of how social media fits into your overall marketing strategy and set realistic expectations.

Be patient and give your social networking efforts at least six to twelve months to develop credibility and gain a meaningful following. Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen overnight - this is not a direct response medium.

There are those who call social media marketing a fad; not only is it here to stay, but over the next couple of years it will become a mainstream marketing medium. Companies that are the early pioneers and learn how to effectively harness social media for commercial ROI will be the winners in their markets.

Start by talking to others who are operating in the social media space, subscribe to blogs, follow the thought leaders in the area of online marketing and dip your toes in the water. Don't let your competitor beat you to it."

10 Branding and Marketing Trends for 2010

Online Marketing, Advertising, Brand Marketing, Social Networking 3 feedbacks »

Post by Wayne Attwell

I read an outstanding blog post today by Robert Passikoff on Derrick Daye's blog. In this post he offers 10 trends for marketers for 2010 that will have direct consequences to the success or failure of next year's branding and marketing efforts. The full post is definitely worth reading, but here are the 10 trends:

1) Value is the new black
2) Brands increasingly a surrogate for "value"
3) Brand differentiation is Brand Value
4) "Because I Said So" is so over
5) Consumer expectations are growing
6) Old tricks don't work/won't work anymore
7) They won't need to know you to love you
8) It's not just buzz
9) They're talking to each other before talking to the brand
10) Engagement is not a fad; It's the way today's consumers do business

Marketers will come to accept that there are four engagement methods including Platform (TV; online), Context (Program; webpage), Message (Ad or Communication), and Experience (Store/Event). But there is only one objective for the future: Brand Engagement. Marketers will continue to realize that attaining real brand engagement is impossible using out-dated attitudinal models. Accommodating these trends will require a paradigm change on the parts of some companies. But whether a brand does something about it or not, the future is where it's going to spend the rest of its life. How long that life lasts is up to the brand, determined by how it responds to today's reality.

Twitter followers is not a measure of success

Online Marketing, Social Networking 1 feedback »

It amazes me when I get alerted about someone that has started to follow me on Twitter; I visit their profile to find they have 800 followers, are following 900 Twits, and have only tweeted 5 times. Something seems wrong here.

There appears to be an unwritten code of etiquette that you should follow me if I follow you. What a load of bollocks!

Most of the people that follow me are totally unrelated to what I tweet about, so why do they bother. When I get followed I always visit their profile to see if they are interesting enough to follow. Only a few are usually worth following and those are the ones I enjoy conversing with.

I suspect most of these twats are only interested in the numbers - bragging rights maybe? Volumes of followers are only valuable if they care about what you have to say and are prepared to participate in a conversation. If you are following 9,000 tweeters (or even 900), how on earth can you read all of their tweets. Not even TweetDeck can help - you'd need to spend every waking hour on Twitter (how sad).

The likely net result is that no one reads your tweets, therefore you've wasted your time (unless you have a big ego). My advice is to focus on quality, not quantity. Build a meaningful community of like-minded tweeters that share relevant and useful information. It may take longer to build momentum but the result will be more meaningful.

Otherwise, what's the point of it all?

Web 3.0 is happening as we speak

Online Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Social Networking 7 feedbacks »

Yeah, I really believe we're morphing into web 3.0 right now. That's just my opinion, but let's look at the trends...

Web 1.0

We created our web presence through websites, giving us a 'shop window' to the world. This presence was static, isolated and in a 'silo'. The only interactive aspect was clients or suppliers logging in via password to do some basic B2B activities.

But the amount of information available to everyone has multiplied so fast that it makes our heads spin off our shoulders! Google came to the rescue and gave us the definitive, 'can't live without it' search engine.

Web 2.0
We start to connect with others on the net. Social media sites spring up, giving us unparalleled interpersonal connectivity and the ability to create our own communities of like-minded individuals. The age of information sharing arrived.

But there is so much information available right now that it's become a nightmare (or fulltime job) to manage it. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, saying, thinking, complaining about, but we're a time-poor society and this information overload is freaking our brains out.

Enter Web 3.0...
We're seeing hundreds (thousands?) of applications being developed that enable us to manage the plethora of information hitting us each day. There are heaps of great add-ons for Twitter, FaceBook, RSS readers etc that all do their little bit for the greater good of organising information.

These apps are just the thin edge of the wedge and will evolve into far more sophisticated and intuitive tools. Google Labs is actively developing a number of new apps to 'organise the world's information', as their mission dictates. They are trend makers so we expect it from them.

Microsoft is not best known for it's trend setting, but rather for taking someone else's idea and trying to play catch-up. They have recently announced a new product in beta testing called Looking Glass which could play a major role in the quest for logical and useful organisation of information

And there's a cutting-edge technology developing called Augmented Reality... now that's very cool and very Web 3.0.

This is probably a contentious subject, so feel free to comment, agree or disagree.

Things will never be the same again

Online Marketing, Social Networking 2 feedbacks »

Post by Wayne Attwell

If you're 'old school' and still hanging onto the ways of the past (or last year even), you'd better wake up and smell the roses. The world as we know it today is changing at a pace never before seen in the entire history of mankind. Every facet of our lives is being transformed by the web, ultra-fast broadband internet, mobile devices, social media etc. Not only are these new technologies invasive in our private lives, but they are reshaping the way business is being conducted across the ever shrinking globe. The old saying goes, "Buyer beware". The one I'm coining for the future is, "Marketer beware". We have no idea of the scope of change that will still occur in our lifetime...scary stuff! If you don't believe a word I'm saying, just check out this YouTube video.

Inbound link building is the hardest SEO activity

Online Marketing, Brand Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing 2 feedbacks »

A couple of years back it was just about good enough to carry out decent 'on-page' optimisation of your website in order to get a good ranking in Google SERPS (search engine results page).

These 'on-page' optimisation techniques included the usual suspects:
- Good meta tags i.e. page URL, title and description tags. (The keyword tag hasn't been an indexing factor for Google for a long time, so we never really worked it too hard).
- Keyword density and placement. For a while back there, density was important but that's really fallen away in lieu of correct keyword placement.
- Alt tags for images - still useful but only in terms of being indexed for Google Images or to achieve minimum keyword density.
- Several other, albeit less influencing techniques.

Today the focus of Google's algorithm is around a site's online reputation, credibility and popularity. Sure, 'on-page' factors definitely do need to be in place, but they are now primarily telling Google what you want to be found for and are not influencing the popularity of a page.

Google's mission is to organise the world's information, but with the huge growth in online content they have to constantly refine how they define what the most valuable information is. One way they do this, and today it is the most important factor in achieving a page 1 result, is inbound links.

In essence, if you have inbound links to your website from other, well ranked sites, Google takes that link as a vote of confidence or popularity for your site. PageRank is the primary metric that Google uses to rank websites and pages. The higher your PageRank, the more valued it is (it starts at 0 and goes up to 10).

Several factors determine how valuable an inbound link is; PageRank of the linking site/page, quantity of outbound links from the site/page giving you the link, contextual relevance of the site/page giving the link compared to your page that receives the link, anchor text based on your targeted keyword and several others (phew, this can be a very complex subject).

Building quality links is not as simple as submitting your site to online directories or participating in the multitude of link building schemes. In fact, quite often these 'spammy' link practices can actually hurt your rankings.

Building quality inbound links needs to be done in a thoughtful and considered fashion. Don't just jump at the first link swopping proposal that is emailed to you. You are better to investigate other complementary sites that have a decent PageRank and are prepared to exchange links with you and not with hundreds of others. These sites may be your suppliers, associates, companies in similar industries but located outside of your geographic or trading area, interest groups etc.

You can pay link building or SEO firms to develop a link programme for you, but it can become very expensive. I don't think there is any compelling reason why you shouldn't do this yourself. All you need to do is spend some quality time researching potential link partners, making personal contact with them, and if they agree to give you a link, provide them with the keyword-rich anchor text and target URL.

Do you have any interesting cases of link building, successful or failed? I'd love to hear about them.

Will a consumer backlash punish Wild Bean?

Online Marketing, Brand Marketing, Social Networking 1 feedback »

Kudos to Wild Bean Cafe for launching their cool new keyring tag loyalty scheme and getting the jump on Starbucks, but the've sort of duped their loyal followers (not me actually - I'm a Rocket coffee fan).

Their original loyalty card gave you a free coffee after buying your 5th one i.e. 6th one was free. On the face of it the new deal seems to be an equivalent, but if you check out the details you discover that in order to get the 6th coffee free, you have to provide your email address, other pertinent demographic info and agree to receive promotional emails etc from the (otherwise why would they want your email address?).

All good marketing stuff, except that the standard key tag plan only gives you the 7th coffee free, one less clip than the old card system. Now that doesn't seem to be very fair and I expect/hope there is a backlash from loyal Wild Bean supporters.

Perhaps not on the same scale as the Cadbury/Whittakers palm oil scandal, but at least let them know you're not happy. Tweet, blog, share. Through social media you finally have the power to influence the behaviour of corporates.

I'd love to hear your views on this subject.

How Starbucks almost ran their business into the ground

Advertising, Brand Marketing Send feedback »

In an excellent post in Fortune, Kevin Maney talks about the 'almost' undoing of Starbucks in his new book Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don't (Broadway Books).

In one of his comments he says,"After a decade of stupendous success, Starbucks ran into trouble in 2007. Fewer people were coming into its stores. Profits sank. The stock dropped by nearly half through the year. In early 2008, Howard Schultz, who'd built the coffee chain into a global phenomenon, took back the CEO job he'd relinquished eight years before.

Schultz then did what any ambitious CEO would be driven to do: He took full advantage of the love shown Starbucks and launched aggressive expansion plans. If you build fidelity, the temptation is to then pursue growth. But that behavior can lead to the very thing that can kill a high fidelity brand: familiarity."

Maney presents an excellent insight into how marketing greed and the myth of 'never ending' compound growth can overtake and smother the brand essence that made it successful in the first place.

There's a powerful lesson here for all marketers, no matter if your brand is global or just a small local offering. If you stray too far from your brand essence or unique value proposition you can so easily destroy it.

Read the full post here. http://bit.ly/o2zEV

Wild Bean Cafe grinds Starbucks in coffee loyalty card wars

Advertising, Brand Marketing 7 feedbacks »

coffee-loyalty-card

Wild Bean has taken a big leap ahead of Starbucks with the recent launch of their upgraded coffee loyalty scheme. Whilst Starbucks is years behind the New Zealand coffee market having only recently introduced a miserly 10 for 1 coffee card scheme, Wild Bean Cafe has just rolled out a 5 for 1 system based on a neat little token that you attach to your keyring.

By having the token on your keyring you have 'top of mind' awareness of Wild Bean every time you drive your car. If you're like me and hate having to carry loyalty cards in your wallet, this simple token system is a godsend. Their standard loyalty reward is 6 for 1 but by registering online or via text, you are upgraded to the 5 for 1 offer. The 'hook' is that you have to supply your email address and a bunch of other personal details.

So now Wild Bean have a detailed record of every coffee you have purchased and are able to match this to your age, sex, mobile number, address, geolocation, plus a host of other valuable demographic information captured through the online registration system.

This is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) dream come true. I'd expect to see Wild Bean use this deep insight into their market to target personalised messages to generate more frequent use and stronger loyalty. They have embraced the concept of 'permission marketing' and have added a good dose of targeted personalisation. It's a great recipe for success.