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Google AdWords Certified!

Google AdWords Certified!

Drum roll please >> I’m pleased to announce that I’m now Google Adwords Certified. It’s something which I’ve been meaning to complete for a while now and have been studying for the exams over the last couple of weeks.

Having completed the ‘Advertising Fundamentals’ and ‘Advanced Search’ exams it has really opened my eyes into both the power and complexity which AdWords has behind it. Prior to this I have had some experience with running some basic campaigns, but it’s now really good to know how much more can be done to get ads in front of the right audience for whatever business sector. 

If you're completely new to AdWords and am not sure what I'm talking about then have a watch of this video from Google:

My one slight reservation using AdWords is fundamentally the costs to get it running. To make any ad on Google as effective as it could possibly be requires data, and lots of it. This data is gained from running and testing ads during the first few weeks of a campaign and then responding accordingly, but all of this costs money which sometimes a business’s just doesn't have to invest.

It’s certainly a longer term strategy as a way of advertising, but something which I’d hope would be a successful investment and it’s something which I’m really look forward to testing and seeing how it develops.

The Southwest is #openforbusiness

The Southwest is #openforbusiness

If you’re reading this from outside of the UK you may have heard we’ve had a bit of rain recently. That’s a British understatement. Actually, January 2014 has been the wettest month in over 250 years.

The national media has swung its attention, rightly so, onto the plight of thousands of residents to examine the devastating flooding in the Somerset Levels and the incredible storm surges which have battered the Devon and Cornwall coastline. Unfortunately one of the consequences of all this attention is is that isn't doesn't do businesses much good.

Down here we have a heavy reliance on tourism, and when the weather is less rain/winds/floods it’s a truly amazing part of the world.

The first school break of 2014 begins next week. This is normally the first sign of the tourist industry getting back into its stride for a busy year ahead. But with the with the continued media coverage, will anyone come to visit?

In fact businesses from the tip of Cornwall eastwards are making it clear that we are very much open for business. The sentiment that actually we’re not entirely shut and cut off from the rest of the world has been spearheaded by @southwestUK who have galvanised businesses from across the counties to start using the the hashtag #openforbusiness.

Tweets like this kick things off: 

Things have spiralled quickly with the new hashtag and if you look at Twitter there are hundreds of local business banging the drum for the West Country, and that’s just today’s tweets. Asking @southwestUK how many times the hashtag has been used, their answer was:

"'Masses, masses and masses! We are having real problems trying to keep up (those tweeted to us, also those with just the hashtag)"

This is what I love about Twitter and its amazing capacity to spread awareness. As the weather continues to batter parts of the south of England today, it’s a great feeling to know that there are so many fantastic businesses using Twitter who are determined to keep promoting the area. A huge well done to the South West! Certainly some level of disruption remains around the area, but the trains, motorways and airports continue to run, so here's to a cracking half term. 

SWOpenforBusiness.jpg

 

If you're not already doing so, make sure to follow @SouthWestUK and let the country know that we're #openforbusiness

Small Businesses: How to get started with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Small Businesses: How to get started with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

seo_acronym.jpg

The other day I came across a pretty nifty infographic which shows the public perceptions about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how Google calculates it’s search results. The picture of what the public thinks is a pretty confused one - what they think and what actually happens are pretty far apart. If you want to see all of their answers just head down to the infographic below.

This got me thinking that actually many new small businesses probably have similar ideas about SEO. If they do it means they’re going to face a real up-hill struggle if they’re hoping to succeed in the online world. So if your a small business how do you get started with learning SEO?

Often SEO ends up being the neglected misunderstood tool at the bottom of the pile of items listed as 'marketing'. The thing is SEO isn't a single thing that you can just log into, spend some time with and then logout. It’s a variety of techniques and features that encompass almost everything you do online to ensure your website is as optimized in search engines as it can be.

There seems to be three main obstructions in getting small businesses to use SEO effectively:

Where to Start with SEO...

Lack the knowledge about where to start with SEO?

I’m not going to lie, it takes a time to read, learn and put into practice SEO techniques, especially if your new to the game. It’s also an industry where you never stop learning as the goalposts tend to move every few months.

With a bit of persistence though it can be done- even if you haven't ever done this sort of thing before. Just have a read of this post from one woman in Australia about learning SEO.

The Solution // Start Studying:

It’s really important you know how the internet works and how your website fits into everything. Even if you can master the basics, you can ensure you’re not harming your website when it comes to online marketing.  Spend some time reading these two crucial documents as a starting point:

Lack of Money to learn how to do SEO?

In business every penny counts, and spending money on new pieces of software or consultancy fees can all seem unnecessary when the utility bill is just around the corner. If you can make your website work more effectively in the long run then it could make the difference between a good and a bad month. 

The solution // Find the freebies

Get along to some free training courses. From my experience in Devon there are a large number of organisations who offer seminars or funded training days for local businesses to enhance their skills. Just see what’s going on within your local business community.

Plus if you can afford to get away for a couple of days head to one of the conferences. Every year Brighton SEO offers a brilliant weekend of talks and workshops – for free! (although tickets get snapped up sharpish).

Lack the time to learn SEO?

Learning Good SEO and website management takes time. Time which most people cannot afford, when there are so many other day to day tasks and issues that need attention.

The solution // Do some networking

There are online marketing and SEO niches for almost every industry, so spend some time in tracking them down. Sign up to their newsletter, follow them on Twitter or engage with them on the forums when it suits. That way you can have an easy source of information as and when you need it.

If money isn't a problem you could always hire the services of an SEO company on an ongoing basis, but if money isn't so plentiful then you could always hire them out to complete a one- off audit of your site. That way you’d have a list of all the things you need to go to make improvements to bring your website up to scratch.

At the end of the day if you’re looking to gain exposure online you need to know how search works. Learning the best practices for this is no quick fix, but can provide you with real results in the long term, plus knowing the basics will ensure that you know you won't be damaging your website along the way.

If you want to see the statistics that originally got me thinking about this post, then check out the infographic below from SEO Training London.


SEO Training: What do the Public Understand about Search? - An Infographic from

Twitter Brand Guidelines: Does anyone care?

Twitter Brand Guidelines: Does anyone care?

Twitter Logos

Which of these following images is the correct Twitter logo? The logo on the left, the one in the middle, or the bird on the right?

If you answered the one on the left then yes, you’re correct. Congratulations. Unfortunately I can’t offer you anything more than a hearty well done.

However, did anyone pick one of the other two? I’m thinking that some of you may have done.

You don’t have dig very deep that to see that Twitter makes it very clear that pretty much everything except the bird on the left, the blue Twitter bird on the diagonal, is a big no-no. You can see their full branding guidelines here

Now, normally this wouldn't normally be a problem. Accepting the correct guidelines is normally fine and easy. But, the more you look around, the more the guidelines seem to be ignored. Actually, the other two logos are everywhere, even though the 'new' Twitter logo has been around since June 2012.

The Bird is the Word

I've been looking for signs of this for a while now, and wondering if it might just be me, so I decided to conduct an experiment. My test: to take a sample of websites and see if they comply with Twitter's guidelines.  

A sample group came to my attention the other week in the form of the announcements of the first 25 of Techcity's Future 50. 

There are some genuinely awesome businesses that make it onto the list. Almost all of them are based primarily online, and are representative of the best of British in the online world - so they should all be following Twitter's brand guidelines - shouldn't they?

The Results

So, how many of the 25 announced are using the correct Twitter logo? 

Answer...just 7. 

With the others; 5 don't have a Twitter presence on their home page, 4 used were using the old Twitter bird, 4 were using the 'T' logo, 4 were using incorrect colours, 1 wasn't giving enough buffer space.  

If only 7 out of 20 available businesses were doing the right thing on Twitter then what is the point of Twitter implementing such a strict branding guidelines? 

Why should anyone care? The policy doesn't seem to be enforced in any way.  Any of the other logos are always going to be synonymous with Twitter, as opposed to anything else? Whose right?

The answer is a grey area, if after so many years of incorrectly displaying logos, it rather demonstrates that people don't seem to widely notice or care about the issue. So should Twitter relax or change their guidelines? They are guidelines after all.

I'd love to know what everyone thinks about this, so add your comments on below! 

 

 

 

 

Enough with the Meme's

Enough with the Meme's

Willy Wonka Meme - How many times have you seen this condescending face?

Most marketing sources agree that images work wonders in the online world. The problem is though for a lot of industries there are very few images which actually have the power to be effective.

In my area of online marketing the biggest problem is that the services and features that are discussed aren't physical. So trying to locate something which wraps up ‘the ROI of social media’ in one snappy photo is pretty hard to come by.

That’s why many industries seems to have resorted to internet meme’s: like Mr. Wonka above which has rather soured my memories of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. With a standard selection of repetitive meme’s that are most frequently they did have their good points:

On the plus side they’re free and easy to make. >> Good stuff.

You can also edit the text to add our take on it. >> Even better.

It allows us to easily create an affinity with our target audience by using a culturally relevant and easily understandable image. >> Err, so we look cool, right? 

Wrong. 

I’ve got to admit at first they were kind of funny, especially when you see a new meme come about. But now…

  • They’re lazy.
  • They're not funny. 
  • I’ve seen them a million times before.

If you read around you’ll see that what people ideally want to see isn’t just average content, but AWESOME content in a blog post. The best content you could ever hope to experience, in the universe - (ideally).

The issue is that if you look around a lot of people have a lot of good blog posts with a lot of good ideas, but adding a half-baked meme just dilutes the quality of a webpage.

When people explain how to create great content, isn't doesn't mean just writing brilliant copy, or sourcing fantastic data, but includes the presentation of the webpage and everything that comes with it - including images.

Stuffing your post with poor meme's also means it takes longer to scroll down. If I'm in a hurry and just want the juicy nuggets of information in your blog post, I'm loathed if it’s going to be hidden away between the picture of a cat and another meme of Captain Spock.

If you can’t source an image then maybe you should ask yourself - do you really need one?

Scary as a text only blog post might be, it can still be effective - depending on what you have to say of course.

In previous posts on here, I've left them empty of actual images, simply because I cannot find the ‘right’ image that fits in with what I'm trying to say. However I will spend the time formatting the copy to make it look visually interesting (link colour, line breaks etc) which can all to make the page more visually appealing.

If you've decided that images are the only way forwards to enhance your blog post then spend some time properly searching. Wikimedia Commons or licensed Flickr photos are a good start. If not, and you have a budget then get some time to source an excellent and original image from a photographer.

So please - before you quickly pull another meme from the internet to include in your blog post, aim higher and do something different.

Best Times for Email Marketing?

Best Times for Email Marketing?

With any email marketing campaign one of the most interesting parts is working out what the best time to send the email is. 

If your open rate can be increased by say, 5% simply by changing the day and hour it ends up in an inbox can make a dramatic influence on profits at the end of the process.

But working out that magical day and time is the hard part - so I've been playing around with these three options to see if they could make any difference to open rates:

Online Research

If you have a look around there are probably people who have already blogged specifically about email marketing for your industry. By tracking them down you can begin to get a decent idea of what other people have experienced. Sometimes they do conflict with one another, so comparing a number of different authors and articles is best to build up an overall picture. 

A good starting point is Pure 360 who've put together this pretty nifty infographic to give the times of how the average person goes about their day. They also have a whole lot of extra information on their site which is well worth a look through.

Pure360's Open Rate Landscape Infographic

Followerwonk

It makes reasonable sense to suggest that the times when your Twitter followers are most active could also be the same times when people are most likely to open an email.

Using Followerwonk, you can use the 'Analyse Followers' function:

Just by adding in a @twittername, Followerwonk gives you a fantastic 24 hour graph showing when your followers (or who you're following) are most active.

The only thing to bear in mind is that the graph makes no distinction between geography and time zones. If a Twitter account has followers in both the UK and US for example, then the results can be blurred together suggesting that there isn't a 'best' time for most either making tweets, or for sending emails.

To get round this and to see how other Twitter accounts are doing, it's worth putting a number of other twitter accounts from your industry into Followerwonk. You'll then be able to build up a better picture of when people may be online.

Test, test and test again.

Email marketing isn't an exact science. Even if you've spent an age grouping together the information about when you think people might be most responsive to an email, it doesn't mean they will be.

Depending on the quality of your email list, or the idiosyncrasies which exist in your industry, you're only going to build up a picture of the best time to send after sending, analysing open rates and retesting. 

This does take time, effort and money but is going to provide the best evidence in the long term to gain the most effective returns on your email marketing campaigns. 


I'm testing out a few different ideas at the moment so will update this once I've had some more data and time to see how things develop with regards to my email marketing. If you've got any ideas that you want to add, feel free to stick them onto the comments below.

 

 

The Life Cycle of a Facebook User

The Life Cycle of a Facebook User

Quick question - how long ago did you sign up to Facebook?

For me, it was in 2006 at the start of university; a time when Myspace was still cool and the definition of social networking meant meeting people in a bar.

Think about it though, 2006, that's 7 years ago, 7 years! Aside from being scary at how quickly that's gone by, it's also damn impressive that Facebook has held my attention for that long. But on all honesty I think the sun might be setting on my relationship with Facebook.

If you're one of the 50% of the UK population who isn't registered, just imagine that on the spare of the moment that you signed up to Facebook today. I think you'd be pretty impressed by what you saw. 

If you've been on the site for a while though, things can become well, dull.

I've played the games, liked the pages, tagged the photos and now I'm bored. With Timeline, Facebook's very structure is to chart your life from start to finish; it's not a service which has been planned for the short term.

So how long can something like Facebook continue for?

30 years?

50 years?

How many more gizmos can they come up with to keep you entertained for an indefinite period? 

OK, So what now? 

Fair enough, I'm not using Facebook any more to play Farmville or watch cat videos. But I can still use it to keep in touch with friends. Back in 2006 it was awesome seeing what friends where getting up to on the other side of campus.

Unfortunately though we've grown up. Instead of partying, travelling and having fun we had at uni has been replaced with the world of work.

The once hourly status updates have dried up, and when you throw in the Edgrank algorithm, you're left with a small bunch of twentysomething friends updates about how much they hate their bosses.

Don't get my wrong - there is some fun stuff, but by and large, what you did today at work, doesn't make for interesting reading.

So without something new to keep me interested, and without much going on in terms of updates, I honestly don't know how much longer I'll keep using the site as life carry's on.

This is just an example; just me, 1 person, in a pool of around 1 billion people using Zuckerbergs creation. The thing is though is how Facebook will wrestle with what's happening with all sorts of different people at different stages of their lives, having used Facebook for all different lengths of time. So we shall have to wait and see....


 

Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification

Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification

Recently I've been spending time studying for the Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification over at the Hubspot Academy. If you haven't looked at it yet you really should -  

Hubspot is itself an inbound marketing company which practices what it preaches. You can sign up for free to access some of their awesome tools and access a whole wealth of information covering everything you could want to know about inbound and online marketing. 

As well as the super nifty marketing grader which made it onto my list of 5 tools you need for a new website, you can have a go at gaining your Inbound Marketing certification with the Hubspot Academy. 

The Course

The Hubspot Academy features a series of 9 classes which covers everything an online business could want. Each class is in the form of a video with takeaway notes that runs for about 45 minutes to an hour. The classes are broken down into:

  • Optimizing your Website

  • The Fundamentals of Blogging

  • Amplifying your Content with Social Media

  • Creating Content with a Purpose

  • The Anatomy of a Landing Page

  • Perfecting the Conversion Process

  • Sending the Right Email to the Right Lead

  • The Power of Smarketing

  • Cultivating Happy Customers

I must admit once or twice I found my attention drifting elsewhere on some of the videos. I think sometimes the teacher needs to be at the front of the room, or in this case, in the actual video, in a similar way to the way Moz runs its Whiteboard Friday's. However, this shouldn't discourage you from working through the classes as they are incredibly worthwhile. 

Attract > Convert > Close > Delight

For those of you who don't have the time to work through all the classes then I would urge you to take a look at Hubspot's 'Inbound Marketing Methodology'. The model of 'Attract>Convert>Close>Delight' sits at the very core of everything that Hubspot does and really got me thinking about I'd like to structure some of my future marketing campaigns.

Back at the Hubspot academy, once you've worked through all of the classes you can take the exam. It's a 1 hour moderately challenging multiple choice exam of 50 questions but leaves you with enough time to think things through. And if you pass...

You get your very own Hubspot Inbound Marketing Cerification Badge and certificate for you to download and print. Certificates are always good, so thanks Hubspot! The certificates are valid for 13 months from the date you get the certificate, by which time you're ready to head back to the Academy to see what else Hubspot has got to teach you.