Category Archives: Web development

Nicola Peaty

Top tips on how to raise your search engine ranking.

By Nicola Peaty

search_engine_rankingWhere would we all be without Google these days?! As such a major force in our digital world, we have to play according to the big search engine ways in order for our online presence to be found by our target markets. Below are our top tips on how to help raise your website’s search engine ranking.

 

Start with your research: In order to really know how to attract your target visitors to your website, you need to know what search terms they are using when looking online for products or services which match those relevant to yours. You would waste a lot of time guessing or assuming certain terms and then finding you attract the wrong type of audience who immediately bounce back when they realise your site is not what they’re looking for. Wordtracker and Google Adwords are useful tools that will help you discover the exact words and phrases your potential customers are inputting to search engines. This kind of insight gives you real intelligence into how your market is searching and consuming relevant information to your company, so use it wisely and keep checking and updating accordingly.

Specify your search terms: Based on the keyword research, you will have a list of words, terms and phrases to form the basis of your SEO strategy. Make sure you use these keywords to match your company, products/services, but also where possible, specify the terms by using additional words to attract the absolute target audience. By this, we mean adding locality, product details and company information, so that a. your audience can see upfront exactly what they will view on your site and whether it matches their needs and b. you will avoid generic terms used by the big gun sites who will most probably rank higher and have paid for these terms through PPC.

Keyword your metadata: Use the list of keywords found by your research within the metadata on your website. The title metadata shows the page titles you can see in the web browser. The description metadata is your chance to give a succinct marketing push about the content visitors can find on that particular page. The keyword metadata is where you can use the research list of terms. It will also mean these pages appear by matching the terms searched by your prospective visitors and stand out with their relevant details compared to competing generic sites. Just don’t cram the titles full of keywords as this could well have the reverse effect and be completely ignored, so key the words concise but relevant.

meta-description-tag

Quality not quantity: Content is king as we all know in the online marketing space. Spiders love new and relevant content so keep updating and refreshing the information on your site. Use the keyword research on a regular basis to keep terms applicable and reflect in your content. Blogs are an obvious way of updating content and using social media to push this content out will hopefully then drive traffic back to your site. This increases the relevance and authority of your site. Monitor your content and know which is working and attracting the most views and comments, which can help you plan future content.

Online PR: Another way to get your content viewed and in turn raise your ranking, is to write and push out quality press releases. Again the word quality is used here, as the release has to be topical, insightful, have that grabbing ‘hook’ in order for journalists, other sites and viewers alike, to want to pick it up, link to it and view it. Value in your information will in turn give you value for your website and search engine ranking.

Links: Both inbound and outbound links play an important part on the authority and trust of your website, but again we have the quality not quantity rule to apply. Making sure you have fewer links that are all totally relevant and especially from other authority sites, is far more valuable to your ranking than hundreds of non-related small sites. It’s obviously easier to control outbound links from your site, but you can track inbound links from a range of programs such as SEOmoz and Google Analytics. This will give you an insight into who is coming to your site and where they are coming from. Another useful tip is to use specific and descriptive link tags which explains what content is to be found within the link, instead of generic terms like ‘click here’, which has no search engine value beyond the attached URL. If possible, you could contact these sites and ask them to do the same to help push relevant traffic your way.

Alt tags: Finally, once you’ve managed to drive visitors to your site, you want to keep them on there as long as possible. Therefore, use a variety of multimedia to keep their interest such as images, videos and infographics. Just make sure you don’t miss an opportunity by describing your media with alt tags (alternative text description). These can then be found by search engines and add a unique source of relevance to your audience. Below is a great example of how to post and tag images in an ongoing cycle which helps increase your links, add authority from other sites and keep your visitors engaged.

alt tag example

 

Nicola Peaty

Understanding the Fundamentals of Marketing Analytics

By Nicola Peaty

“If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.” Words from the Marketing Director, which will stay with me forever since my days in a centralised marketing department. Gone were the times of ‘how can we spend this money on hospitality, glossy brochures and a few events?’. Now it’s all about accountability, budget justification and ROI.

Analytics have become the solution, largely thanks to online data. So every marketer should be equipped with the facts and figures, which hold the answers to all marketing activities. Every activity should be measured, monitored and assessed for its performance compared to its objective.

Before you immerse yourself in the vast world of data, take time to stop and decide what you fundamentally need for the business. What data actually matters and is meaningful to you? There is so much available you could spend a lot of wasted time tracking the number of everything, when potentially you may need to know the WHO rather than the HOW MANY. This is vital so that you can then set up exactly what you need in terms of data collation, the reporting process and the ongoing analysis to then understand implications and implement improvements.

Marketing activities: Website analytics are of course fundamental in understanding every part of activity that occurs in the main hub of your online presence. Understanding the effectiveness of your website will help feed into the all other activity you carry out online. Every company should have a definitive list of KPIs they require for their website. But when it comes to marketing analytics, the list of marketing KPIs can run on and on. See example:

web vs marketing

So it’s important to decide from the outset, which marketing analytics your company really needs. That comes down to the requirements of the marketing plan. Activities and their analytics should inevitably be chosen to meeting your company’s specific goals.

The next question is, does each activity have a target and if so how? Is this based on previous activities or are they aspirational figures. Setting realistic measures is vital for all concerned. Then you have a genuine basis to compare your data results.

Finding out as much as possible before launching into any activity will ultimately help you get the best results. Assessing all previous marketing will give you the insight to shape and determine the specifics of any campaign. For example:

* If you have set up an SEM campaign, maybe to a specific landing page, what are your aims in terms of traffic or a call to action? Who responds best in your market and what incentive or hook will trigger the required action?
* If you have an email campaign planned, do you know the optimum ways of getting the best results eg type of message to type of audience, sent at the best time of day, to get most response?
* If you are launching a competition via social media, which platforms will you include to draw the best response and interaction?
Knowing the answers to the above questions really build marketing intelligence and thereby demonstrates the importance of choosing the right analytics.

Market analytics: Understanding important data related to your market will also give you useful facts about your audience. Profiling your customers into the highest buyers and most valuable clients will allow you to focus different activities on them compared to lapsed and new customers. So looking at your data, or gaps in your data, do you know the following:

* who is visiting your site
* who is actually purchasing form your site
* who is the most interactive on your social media
* who are the advocates and share your content
* who prefers face to face meetings
* who complains to customer services
* who likes to receive emails
* who unsubscribes to promotional emails

Knowing your market also includes the competition. Research and market share can give the analysis to understand whether the market is shifting, if there are any new opportunities or potentially any loss or gain in certain products/services. Plus it’s important to gauge their marketing activity and online presence and what type of campaigns they are implementing to attract certain customers.

Put this type of data together with your customer profiles and you have yourself some powerful intelligence to keep your company, and marketing, ahead of the curve and of the competition.

The holistic review: A lot of time can be spent analysing the finer details of certain data, but it also has to be assessed as part of the bigger picture. This means pulling together the findings of everything that you have decided is important for your business and learning from the implications this includes:

* the marketing performance across all activities,
* the marketing performance across all channels,
* the response from marketing campaigns across all departments involved eg sales, customer services,
* the performance from past to present marketing,
* the response from segments in your market,
* the activity from the competition,
* the response of the market from activity from the competition.

All the above will feed into your future activities, plans and strategies. You can then test and evaluate new and existing ideas, based on solid facts and figures, and build on these as you develop more and more intelligence.

Process: The final part of the analytical equation is implementing the process within your company. Everyone involved must be briefed into their part of the process and how they feed into the overall data collation and objectives. Dedicated staff are now employed to handle data analytics, but other departments play their part such as sales, customer services, market research and even IT and accounts.

Technology is so advanced in helping with data collection, analysis and predictions, but you obviously need the experts to help manage and decipher the findings. You can use anything from Google analytics to content management scoring and predictive conversion rates to planned ROI. As long as you know the following, you can establish a basic but comprehensive marketing analytics action plan:

* exactly which data you need,
* how best to collect the required data,
* how to report on the findings of the data,
* learning and Implications of data findings for the business.

Here’s a useful infographic about the analytics based online marketing and how it works:

analyticsbased-online-marketing--how-it-works_50291ccca42e5_w587

How to grow your business with social media



Nicola Peaty

How to market small businesses on a budget.

By Nicola Peaty

budget recession, deficitGone are the days of expensive advertising and glossy brochures for most marketing budgets. The positive spin is that we have been forced to think cleverly about how to target customers which can then produce more effective results and without incurring large invoices. Quite often it is the time, thought and effort that is more important than the amount of money spent.

Below are our suggestions for low cost marketing ideas which can be selected according to your specific needs or as a collective campaign.

1. Content. What else? We’ve discussed and explained the benefits of content in our other blogs. Quite simply, it can be free if you or a colleague can write content and it can give customers so much added value and position you as the expert in your field. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/

2. Social media. No surprise. Again if you’re in charge then it’s your time and no cost. Try to co-ordinate across the various platforms and encourage your biggest ‘fans’ to share and interact. See our related blogs on the various social media platforms; http://www.vgandassociates.com/facebook-as-a-marketing-tool-for-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/the-dos-and-donts-when-using-linkedin-to-market-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-to-use-twitter-for-your-business/    http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-pinterest-can-work-for-your-business/

3. Website. To be honest, any business these days can’t really exist without a website. It’s the first place people go to check out your ‘existence’ and credibility. All social media should link back to the website and your content updated to give Google fresh ammunition to drive traffic to your site. But it does not have to cost the earth. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. Make sure your proposition is understood and obvious. Good clear branding is essential so that customers know and remember you. Include clear calls to action and a response mechanism. Then you’re good to go. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/creating-an-effective-website/

4. Video. You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg (or have his budget) to produce something which conveys your message in a simple but effective video. People are visual and love watching and listening more than reading copious amounts of words, so keep it short, to the point and interesting. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/using-video-for-marketing/

5. Infographics. Depending on your design capability as to whether you pay for these or not, infographics are so useful when communicating key points and messages to your audience. Whether it’s a specific explanation about something technical or an overview of a product, they help convey visually so customers understand quickly what you are aiming to put across. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/infographics-explained-with-a-little-help-from-some-infographics/

6. Database. Make sure that you have all your contact data in order so that it’s in the most effective state for your target marketing. If you have missing data, then fill in the gaps. Analyse the data so that you know exactly who are your most lucrative customers and who are your hottest leads. With your database ready to go, then you are in a much better position to ‘hit’ the right people with the right message.

7. Loyalty. If you find out from your database that you have a selection of loyal customers, then consider reward schemes and loyalty cards. Also, tap into these loyal customers to refer friends and give testimonials. You can even use them as successful case studies to demonstrate how your company works and get good results.

8. Networking. Mingle with the right people at the right events and it could be worth your while. Know who you want to meet and what you want to say before you go along or it could be a total waste of time. Be prepared with business cards and make sure you collect cards from useful contacts and then follow them up post event. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-for-successful-networking/

9. Host your own event. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate as long as the purpose and/or content pulls people in. Seminars with good content and no oversell will position you well. Customers are more likely to come for the content and as a result follow up with enquiries.

10. Email marketing. As long as your database is complete and up-to-date, then email marketing can be low cost and effective. Targeting the right customers or leads with the relevant message will produce the best results. Email can be used for promotions, feedback, competitions and even surveys. Design and delivery is dependent on your in-house capability and resource but in no way has to be expensive if you need to outsource. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/common-email-marketing-mistakes/

11. PR. Write a press release about your business or product/service, giving it as much unique individuality and then circulate to all local media. You never know you could strike lucky and one of the local press or websites will choose it as it relates to other content or they are in need of some local business information and news. Or, offer to write for a trade magazine or website that relates to your business giving your expert view, opinion or market update. This will certainly give you credibility and exposure. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-writing-a-press-release/

12. Related partnerships. Working with complimentary and non-competitive companies can have a mutual benefit. It gives you exposure to other customers and allows cross-promotion. By each company referring the other, you can only stand as a win win.

13. Business cards. We may no longer need glossy brochures and can afford elaborate literature, but the basic business card is one essential that any company still needs. They are functional and can be distributed throughout your company to give out to useful contacts in the field. Make sure they are fit for purpose, include all important details including website/contact numbers and have clear branding with strapline if applicable. Don’t overcrowd the card. If you have more information to include, then you may require a postcard or flyer to supplement the card.

14. Go local. Maximise what is on your doorstep. Use your local community and contacts. Do you have local social media and press you can use to promote your company? Are there local events, trade fairs, community gatherings and business groups you can tap into and take a stand or just network? Consider where your target customers may go in and around the area and hand out flyers in these places for them to find and pick up such as shopping centres, the library, leisure centres etc.

15. Try before you buy. Some people just need a little trial or taster before they commit to a purchase. An easy idea is to offer a small freebie or discount coupon. Everyone likes a bargain and if it persuades the customer and as a result they like your product, then you may have a new sale.

Nicola Peaty

What to look for when assigning a web developer for your new website.

By Nicola Peaty

In the words of our very own web developer, we believe there are four crucial points to web developerconsider when looking for someone to work with on developing your new website.

1. Communication.                                                       

You must feel you can discuss technical and other issues easily and openly, between account handler, design team and development team. This is where most things go wrong. If in doubt always ask for clarification and ensure everything is documented including critical decisions, timelines and actions.

2. Flexibility.

A developer must understand that the scope of projects can change, and be able to adapt. Only as briefing discussions take place will all parties be aware of what is really needed. There is no point using a sledgehammer to crack a nut (or vice versa). The appropriate scale and size of website must be agreed once all requirements and specifications have been clarified.

3. Trust.

You must have a sense of trust that the developer is choosing the right solution for you or your client. That means understanding your company, brand, aims and targets. What are you and your website striving to achieve? What is the tone and positioning? Do you want to compete on a technical basis or start with a presence in the market? A developer must have a full appreciation of your goals to develop exactly what you need.

4. Technical capability.

This is an obvious prerequisite. There are many things here that might be essential, depending on the scale of the project. It would be advisable to know the experience and breadth of expertise of your developer to know if they are able to meet your requirements. If there is something specific you know you require then your developer should show you previous examples of how to develop this specification. If you have a requirement which may be unique to your business, then it’s up to your developer to brainstorm different options to create and build and advise on how other sites have done something similar which has worked well.

computerweeklyWe thought you may also like to view the advice from ComputerWeekly.com Guides on some things to consider when choosing a web developer:

Assessing a portfolio

The greatest resource available for researching a web developer’s aptitude and suitability for the kind of work you have in mind is the portfolio of jobs they have done in the past. Qualities to look for include variety, originality and whether you consider the style of the designs appropriate for the sites in question. Be sure to give consideration to the functional and practical aspects of the sites under review as much as their visual impact. Does the site load quickly? Does it require any plug-ins or software downloads to operate effectively? It is well worth your time entering the site using different web browsers and connection speeds to test compatibility and adaptability, because these issues can make or break a web site and you’ll want to see how well the developer accommodates them.

Technical ability                                                                                                                   

Be sure to read any descriptions of the projects to get an idea of what was involved. Though you may not fully understand some technical aspects of what?s involved, this guide should give you a firm enough grounding to appreciate when a difficult problem has been solved in a particularly elegant or innovative way. It may also be helpful to see if any of their past work is similar to your project.

SEO

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – is of vital importance if your website is to receive large numbers of visitors. Look to see if SEO was a part of any projects in the portfolio. You can easily assess how effective a developer’s  SEO abilities are by performing a few searches yourself and noting how easy it is to find the sites in the portfolio.

Getting references

Any web developer should be happy to provide you with a list of satisfied clients as references. This is possibly the most important step in choosing the right company to work with as talking to past clients will give you an idea what the company is like to work with in practice. There are a number of questions worth asking referees. How well did the developer communicate with the clients? Did they deliver what was required within budget and to schedule? Has the project stood the test of time or presented any technical problems and is it dynamic and adaptable enough that alterations to the content can be made without difficulty?

Size of the organisation

You will likely find that there are all sizes of organisations available for your project, from freelance individuals to multinational corporations. Which is best depends on you and your project and there are advantages and disadvantages to either. While a freelancer will probably give you a very high level of personal service, they may not personally be able to take on all of your tasks, and employ a third party, losing the personal touch. Large companies offer stability, capacity and guarantees, but you may not receive such personal service, especially if you are a relatively small client. Additionally, a larger organisation is likely to be more stable. Ultimately, you should be confident that the individual or company you choose can provide you with high quality work and the level service you want.

A good relationship

It may seem obvious, but having a good working relationship with your developer is vital. You will inevitably need to communicate a lot and effectively in order to achieve the result you want, so you must feel comfortable with them. It?s no good having the world’s most sought-after developer working for you unless you feel able to tell them that they’ve done something wrong or that you don?t like something they’ve created. A developer should be able to take constructive criticism and suggestions and be generally personable. Compatibility between client and designer is key to generating the best possible end result.

Stability

In this current climate, it is important to make sure that a company is solvent and has the ability to survive. You don’t want a company going bust midway through your website development. Our recommendation is to view the latest accounts to ensure they have made no significant losses recently. It is also worth considering using Equifax or Experian for company credit worthiness checks.

Nicola Peaty

Top Tips…How To Write Content For A Top Google Listing

By Nicola Peaty

All websites need to reflect the brand, tell the target market what you do and have effective ‘Calls to Action’ in place. But then, it’s all pointless if no one can find your site in the first place. This is where content is king – as is knowing how to write content for Google – which has changed and, we feel, improved over the years. 

When we wrote content for the first VG&A website in 2010, we probably went through at least five drafts before we decided upon the final ‘live’ version. We found it hard to write for our audience, comply with good SEO practice and at the same time, succinctly communicate our services. If only we knew then what we’ve learnt now! Ah, but we do know so much more now and that really helped when writing for our new website last year.

Write for your customers:

Firstly, we now know that content has to be written for your audience and not just a bunch of SEO terms. By writing in a language that your audience actually understands (and not just the Google bots) obviously also help attracts them to your site and gives your customer a good experience. Think about the search terms your users would use to find your website and make sure you incorporate these words within your content.

Quality:

Content should also be as high quality as possible. That means writing articles or blogs which are original and relevant. Where you can, give your own review, some depth and insight into your knowledge of a particular subject matter.  Your customers are looking for something unique and added value by choosing to visit your site and not just read duplicate content they can find on other sites. This will help reflect well on your business and give confidence to users who may be new to your site. Your objective is to engage your users so that they will stay on your site, return to your site and even recommend your site.

 Accuracy:

The last thing you want to do is deceive your users, so make sure the content you write is accurate so that visitors are not disappointed when they reach your site. This also relates to the <title> elements and ALT attributes which should give a very clear and exact description of what you are offering. There is no point including words which have no real relevance to your core site. Users will get annoyed and simply bounce straight back to the Google listing to find a site which delivers what it writes. This term is sometimes called cloaking and can lead to you ultimately being banned from Google, so be warned!

No more tricks:

When we first learnt about how to optimise a site nearly ten years ago, there was a completely different set of rules to make sure your site appeared on the first page of Google listings. Now Google is far more genuine to its users and it’s all about good user experience. No more should sites be using keyword density, copying duplicate content across multiple pages, using competitor trademark names for keywords or linking to spam sites to improve ranking.

Another ‘trick’ is Doorway or Gateway pages which have seen a recent rise in optimising techniques. This is when you create specific pages for certain key terms to attract users. They can hold very little content and are usually there in the guise to lead you on to other areas. This is not necessarily relevant, can be quite annoying and a waste of time. Google is far more sophisticated and will detect this and catch you out. It’s now all about being relevant and honest with your customers. Build a simple, well-structured site that keeps both your users and Google happy.

New ideas:

There will always be new ways to help get your site noticed and listed higher than competitor sites. It’s important to keep up-to-speed with these new ideas and try and stay ahead of the curve to take advantage of quick and easy (legitimate) techniques. For example:

  • Internal linking within your own site content on certain terms will help Google index and rank specific content.
  • Using Google+ will also help rank content, especially if you share content via Google+ and users click on the Google + to show they like your content.
  • Slideshare is a fairly new and popular way in how to display your content which Google can index in literally seconds.
  • Optimised images can often be missed but is another simple way of attracting visitors to your site especially if images are the best way to view your product. However, ensure to use the relevant keywords in the name, title and ALT tags so that users can easily find the images and Google can index the content.

 Ask the Experts:

Google has its own really useful guidelines for design and content as well as technical and quality: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en

Top Tips:

We posted this infographic on our Facebook page last year (Source: Content Verve). It’s a great list of top tips we think will help when writing content for SEO purposes. SEO-Copywriting-–-10-tips-for-writing-content-that-ranks-in-2013

Nicola Peaty – Director, VG&A

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