Accountable resolutions for 2012

Website Strategy No Comments

This is the last blog of the year from us at Custwin and it’s all about having accountable resolutions.  Everyone has resolutions and unfortunately, so many of them don’t happen.  Accountability can really help though.  That’s why we’re putting one big resolution for 2012 ‘out there’ for all our readers to see (yes, both of you! Only joking!).

We have spent most of 2011 creating and enhancing A1WebStats, our system that lets companies get amazing insights into how visitors interact with their websites.  From 2006-2010 we searched for a system that would do, for a reasonable price, what we think a website visitors analytics system should do.  We even approached some existing providers with enhancement suggestions but they didn’t want to know.

So we created A1WebStats and boy, is it having an impact on those who use it!

It’s never ‘finished’ and we’re always adding more to it, but it’s ‘out there’ in the market being used and ready for people to sign up for the 30 day free trial.

From just within the UK through to worldwide, there are millions of businesses who would benefit from A1WebStats (if they have the right mindset to use it properly of course!).  We don’t want those millions.  We don’t even want hundreds of thousands.  We certainly wouldn’t want to become faceless and ‘corporate’.

So here’s our resolution for 2012 and hey, please do remind us of this resolution if you talk to us at any stage …

By the end of 2012, A1WebStats will be installed (on a paying subscription basis) within 5,000 business websites, and those businesses will be growing through using the system.

We have a lot of work to do in order to hit that target and to be honest, we don’t want to wait until the end of the year to get there!

5,000 business subscriptions is a small number of the overall businesses in the UK and an even smaller number internationally.  It should be easy.  But the big challenge is in changing the mindset of businesses away from “we need to be top of Google” into “we need to ensure visitors to our websites are converting into enquiries” (something that’s always been at the core of the Custwin ethos).

So there you have it: we are now officially accountable.  Please do feel free to remind us of that goal whenever you like!

And hey, if you’re feeling bold, why don’t you share your big accountable resolution for 2012 via the blog here, or send it out to people you know in another way?

We wish all our readers the very best for 2012.  It’s going to be a struggle for so many businesses but there are always answers and we’re always happy to provide a no-obligation chat to any business that wants some freebie insights into things they can do with their websites that will cost little or nothing, and will help them move forwards.

To your success in 2012 …

The Custwin and A1WebStats team.

Custwin predictions for 2012

Website Analytics, Website Strategy No Comments

As we come to the end of another year, our thinking has been shaped by everything ‘online’ we see around us.  Here’s our predictions for what’s going to happen in 2012.  They include what could be seen as a ‘plug’ for A1WebStats but that’s not the intention …

The economy influences everything

It’s been a tough year for most companies.  We’ve been lucky that turnover has stayed consistent BUT we’ve had to work immensely harder to help some clients, who have found it tougher because of:

  1. Less people searching for products and services (because of economy woes).
  2. Competitors upping their game to get a piece of a smaller pie.

Without wishing to appear pessimistic, few people would deny that 2011 was just a warm up for the economic woes of 2012.

Google will make it tougher

Please be under no illusion.  Google is NOT your friend.  Google is a machine that does some things to make it appear friendly but ultimately it’s there to generate income for itself via Pay Per Click (PPC).  It’s no more complicated than that.

In recent years, and particularly in 2011, we’ve seen clear examples of how Google are doing everything they can to push people into using PPC advertising.  Don’t misunderstand me: PPC is brilliant when it’s done correctly, and when the system allows you to advertise in the way you want to.  Unfortunately, it’s changed vastly and Google is deliberately making it harder to get benefits from PPC.   The Google Adwords system is set up in a way that stops smaller businesses from succeeding.   I could spout on for hours on this subject and provide tons of evidence but for now, take it from me that in 2012 Google will make it even tougher to gain business, whether by PPC or organic search positioning.

Google will see a decline in profits

This is a bold prediction and I could well be wrong and a little bit ahead of time.  A lot depends on how people like Facebook and Microsoft get their act together.  The faster those competitors to Google see the opportunities in smaller businesses, the faster they will take chunks of business away from Google.

Putting that aside, many businesses will start to realise that they’re not getting results from PPC and that Google is not really their friend.  They will stop advertising and it’ll reduce Google’s profits.

On the other hand, Google know about the economic woes and will be hoping that people will throw whatever marketing budget they have at advertising via Google Adwords.  Some will but many won’t be able to justify it anymore.

I’d love this prediction to be right but 2012 may be a bit early for Google to start feeling the pain of reduced profits (through its lack of awareness of how it’s system should really work).

Smaller businesses will get cleverer

At Custwin we’ve been heavily into analysing clients website traffic for several years now and we’ve used software systems that we’ve found ultimately to be inadequate.  So we created A1WebStats to allow companies to get deep insights into their website visitors, without having to pay our monthly fees.

If you use Google Adwords you may have the impression that you’re getting clicks for certain phrases that you’ve set up.  A future blog is going to focus on this in more detail but for now, imagine you’ve got the phrase ‘fire damage restoration’ set up in your campaign and it tells you that you’ve had 200 clicks on your advert when people have typed that phrase.   However, your enquiries aren’t strong in comparison.  Why is that?

The answer is that, if Adwords is set up in the way Google want you to set it up, your advert will become visible for all sorts of other things.  For example, clicks that are registered as being for ‘fire damage restoration’ have come from people who have typed phrases such as:

  • Iphone 3gs water damage repair
  • Fire blankets damaged
  • Janitorial lockers
  • Marble cleaner for fire surround

All totally irrelevant and the typical Adwords user wouldn’t have a clue that’s what phrases were actually typed.

Using systems like A1WebStats, companies get to see the actual phrases that people typed, that brought people to their website.  They then realise that their PPC campaigns (and other marketing) aren’t getting results, and why.  They wake up and start making positive changes.

2012 may be the year when ‘website analytics’ properly comes of age.  Companies are fighting to gain business and are currently spending on marketing.  With website analytics (whatever system is used), there is the opportunity to fully understand where websites (and the ways they’re marketed) are going wrong.

It’s not for everyone though.  Although systems like A1WebStats are incredibly powerful, it takes 3 things from companies to make them work:

  1. Dedication to spend a bit of time analysing website visitors patterns.
  2. Dedication to contact companies who didn’t make contact, having visited the website.
  3. Dedication to invest in making website/online marketing changes that will get stronger results.

Dedication is the word.  And that’s why we created the page http://www.a1webstats.com/what-is-a1webstats/is-a1webstats-right-for-you/.

In short though, whatever webstats package is used, businesses of all types will, we feel, start to ‘get cleverer’ in 2012.  It’s amazing that it’s taken so long for companies to properly (meaning: not just Google Analytics) analyse their website visitor patterns, but the economy is going to force that mindset into companies.

Social proof

Our final prediction for 2012 is that ‘social proof’ will start to become the difference between company success or failure.  Again, it may take a bit longer than 2012 but the concept whereby companies are judged on how much they impress their clients, which leads to more business, has got to be a progressive way for the business world to evolve.

That ‘social proof’ can’t be all the junk that currently exists (for example, artificially engineered reviews) but needs to be so much more ‘genuine’.  The technologies exist to make this possible – it just takes dedication and time for companies to make it happen for them.

We would be immensely surprised if, by 2015, all the rubbish (as it currently works and is easily engineered) that is backlinks and general reviews, Facebook likes etc, has any credibility at all.  ‘Social proof’, in a genuine format, is the way forwards and any business that’s not totally nurturing their customers in every way they can, will have a lot of catching up to do.

Top methods for brand awareness (for smaller businesses)

Branding No Comments

Many companies (particularly larger ones) pump incredible amounts of money into raising their brand awareness online.   They have an ongoing programme of drip feeding their message to buyers through a range of methods (one example being banner advertising).

But such brand awareness marketing is beyond the financial reach of most businesses.  So what are the alternatives?

In my view, the alternatives are …. Offline.

Here are my top 3 methods of brand awareness activity that smaller businesses can use …


Calendars

I’ve just received my fantastic 2012 desktop calendar from Bussroot (www.bussroot.com).  I had one last year and because it was interesting (entertaining actually) it stayed on my desk.  Each month was a new graphic to look at, alongside the dates of that month.   In 2011 the theme was Films.  In 2012 it’s got a very ‘UK Vintage’ feel to it (it’s called ‘The Most Spiffingly Wonderful Calendar 2012’).

So let’s examine how that brand awareness has actually worked in the past year …

  • Every month I have to change the picture, so even if I rarely looked at the calendar, I’d have to once a month.  I always remember who Bussroot are.
  • When Bussroot tweet, blog etc. I’m more likely to look at what they’ve got to say because their brand is regularly in my mind.
  • Because their calendars are creative it keeps my view of them being ‘very creative’ in my head at all times.  To me, they are like the Monty Python of design – you could go to them with a brief and come out with something vastly superior and if you want whacky then that’s where they excel.

Such calendars have extra opportunities though.  As an example, the February picture is a bit risqué – that could easily spark off an email survey from Bussroot, in February, saying that some people thought it was a bit risqué, but what do everything else think?  That stimulates dialogue and ongoing brand recognition.   In fact, such a calendar could be engineered to have 2 or 3 such surveys throughout any one year, based on the calendar itself.

I have another calendar from 2011 at home.   It’s from Tim Stubbings Photography (www.timstubbings.co.uk).  He’s a photographer and the monthly images keep me reminded of his excellence as a photographer.  There’s nothing ‘funny or amusing’ in there but it doesn’t need to be – he just wants people to be ongoing aware of this brand.  And it works in the form of a calendar.

I received another one recently, from a client.  It was a three sided calendar of 2011.  No pictures etc. – just dates and the company’s contact details.  Certainly cheaper to produce and not as effective but yes, I’ll use it (because it gives me the year view easily) and yes, it’s still brand awareness.

For me then, investment in desktop calendars is a fantastic way for smaller businesses to keep their brands in the minds of those who receive them.  Definitely top of my list.

Pads

Lined or plain, small or large, these are branded with the details of the company who provided them.  I have two on my desk – one is ideal for smaller jottings, the other is ideal for bigger jottings.  The pieces of paper get carried around with me to remind me to do things.   They also remind me of the company who provided those pads.

Quite cheap to have produced, they don’t date (so bigger quantities could be bought at lower unit price costs), and are a good way to keep a brand in the minds of people.

Downside: if they’re not the right size for the person who receives them then they may not get used.  Also, they can feasibly be lost.

Pens

I got a free (branded) pen from a contact several months ago. It wrote beautifully.  While at a client one day it ended up left with them (I didn’t have the cheek to ask for it back), so I got another one.  Then I was fortunate enough to get another one later on.  I use both those pens regularly and the brand of the supplier is regularly in my mind (they make and install signage) so that if anyone asks me whether I know someone who can do signage, then I know who to refer them to.

Years ago I had a similar pen from a client.  It was plastic and fairly cheap looking, but it wrote beautifully.  They had other ones made, that looked more exclusive.  However, they didn’t write well at all.  I stuck with the cheaper looking one.

For any smaller business wanting to keep their branding in front of people it’s worth collecting up as many ‘freebie’ pens as possible from people.  Find the ones that write best for you and then find out who supplied them before going out and getting a load for yourself to distribute to people.

The downside to branded pens is that they can of course get lost.  However, if a pen writes that well then the owner of that pen is going to take extra care over it so there’s less chance of losing it.

And there are opportunities here.  If a company is giving away pens, and knows they’re really good, they have an opportunity to get the contact details of the people who they’re giving them to.  It can simply be a comment of “these pens write fantastically and we know you’ll miss it when it’s run out of ink – can we email/contact you after 6 months to see if you’d like a new one?”.   When the new one gets sent out it can be accompanied with an update on what the company has been doing recently, and an invite to read their blogs, sign up for their newsletters, follow their tweets etc. etc.

The big question in my mind is this:

Why do the bigger companies fail to capitalise on such simple methods of brand awareness?   How much would it cost bigger companies to produce a pack of calendar, pad, and pen, sent to chosen companies once a year?

I’m not aware of this happening.  Or perhaps, the bigger companies are just not aware of how much impact such branding can have through giving people the relatively simple things that make their lives easier.

Engineered backlinks – my number one hate in 2011

backlinks, SEO No Comments

As we get to the end of another year we reflect on what was good and bad about work and life in general.  Some things went well, some not so well.  We all have the things we have loved and hated about 2011.

My personal top hate for 2011 (actually, it’s been a ‘hate’ winner in previous years) is the concept of backlinks to websites being seen by Google as being ‘credible’ when in so many cases they’re clearly engineered.

As highlighted in the previous blog about How genuine are Facebook Likes (for business)?, if you’ve got the money then you can do anything, including buying backlinks to improve your search engine positioning.

The industry that sells such backlinks has got more aggressive in 2011.  Some would say more blatant.  It’s no longer like going to a dodgy store and asking for ‘something special’ from under the counter – it’s out there on the shelves to view at will.   Disclaimer: I don’t go to dodgy stores (anymore!).

Here’s an excerpt from an email received today …

“…. is pleased to announce that we have managed to move a client from page 39 to page two in just under a month for the term “Window Shutters”

We are currently offering 90 links that varies from page rank 6 down to page rank 3 as a one off fee of £485, and are offering this service to a maximum of 5 new clients.”

Well, it doesn’t get more blatant than that – you pay the company, they engineer backlinks to your website, and you (hopefully) rise up Google.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against companies doing whatever they need to do in order to rise up the Google rankings.  Even if they feel the need to pay for backlinks.

What I do object to is the principle of backlinks.  Once upon a time it was a good principle – if a website has many links back from other sources then it must be popular and so deserves higher postioning in Google.   But for years it’s all been about fabricating such links and the vast majority of backlinks to any website are engineered and not at all ‘genuine’.

Every single day we run analysis for clients, showing them how their competitors are using backlinks from various websites to help enhance their search engine positioning. When we explain how many of those links are gained (usually paid backlinks) and say that we disapprove and that “Google shouldn’t allow it” they look at us and think two things in succession:

“Well, that’s wrong that it works like that …”

“… but if that’s the way it works then that’s what we need to do”.

And it’s difficult to argue with a system whereby Google are allowing backlinks to have such a huge influence on search engine positioning.

But it’s just not right.  A company in top position for a certain keyword phrase isn’t necessarily the company that gets the best results or provides the best products (for their customers) – they’re often the company that has invested more in SEO, including backlinks (often, paid).

I sit here and wish that Facebook would get cleverer.  That they would build in a search engine that acts more like Google, but lists businesses in priority of those that have had ratings from people we know and people those contacts of ours directly know.  Or some other ‘rating’ system that has a social element to it.

It’ll be interesting to see (but unlikely) whether the online landscape has shifted enough by this time in 2012 – to look back on this and have less reason to hate the concept of backlinks as they currently work (for the benefit of companies who feel the need to engineer the system).

How genuine are Facebook Likes (for business)?

Facebook 2 Comments

When using Facebook for business, what does a Facebook ‘Like’ actually mean?  Does it mean that the person who clicked that Like button actually liked what they saw on the page?

Sometimes: yes.

In many cases: no.

Facebook has huge traffic (even higher than Google) and what determines Facebook search results are a combination of two things:

  1. Keywords used in the title of the page.
  2. Number of likes the page has.

As an example, look at the screenshot below, which shows a business with 18,692 Likes, streets ahead of the next one down.

Is it really the case that so many people liked that business?  Well, considering that business sells packages such as this one below, it’s quite unlikely …

So, if you’ve got the money, then you can have as many Facebook Likes as you want to have.  Very few of them will be people that actually like your business but they’ve been paid to press your Like button.

The problem with this is that it makes the whole concept of ‘Likes’ a bit of a joke and, actually, meaningless.

But there are many many stupid people out there who will search for something on Facebook, will see a listing top, with numerous likes, and will think “Durrrr, they must be good because all those people liked them”.

These are the types of people who are also probably glued to the X-Factor each week, or who rush out to buy the latest fashions, trotting down the street going “Baaah, Baaah” like everyone else, who sheepingly (is that a word?!) believe: “if it’s popular, it must be good”.

The phrase ‘social proof’ is bandied around a lot – if people like something online then that must be good.  My view is that with the availability to ‘buy your friends’, instead of ‘social proof’ it should be ‘social bluff’!    Like the hated kid at school who buys their friends with sweets because their Dad is loaded, this is the modern day online equivalent .

So where does the future lie?  When will people wise up that something that’s ‘Liked’ isn’t necessarily genuine?  Probably not for some time yet but there are answers to this …

Suppose Facebook got clever.  Suppose that instead of ranking by Likes they took those Likes into consideration but ranked mainly by ‘interaction’.

So, if John Smith ‘Likes’ ABC Ltd, that’s one tick in the box.   If John Smith goes back to the ABC Ltd page and interacts on there on a reasonable frequency, then that’s extra ticks in the boxes.  If John Smith is included in the ‘Top 100 people we know’ list that ABC Ltd has, then that’s another tick in the box.  John Smith is genuine.  He is real.  He is interacting.  John Smith is worth 100 x ‘Likes’ that have no interaction beyond that initial (paid) click of a button.

Taking that concept, companies would be more proactive with their Facebook pages and nurturing ‘real’ people – and Facebook would regain some credibility.  Perhaps even the concept of ‘Like’ could disappear to be replaced by something that has a more ‘quality’ angle to it.

Who knows where things will go but for now, the people with brains will choose to take large numbers of Likes on Facebook business pages with a pinch of salt.

Adwords phone number costs per click

Google Adwords 2 Comments

It’s only a matter of time before many Adwords advertisers start to see their clicks bills increasing because Google have changed their rules a bit.

For not long now you can have an advert like this and you won’t pay a penny if someone makes a search, sees your advert, and then uses your phone number …

Great if you’re a taxi firm who wants to advertise for free.  Someone in the pub searches from their phone, sees your number and rings it.   Cost to the taxi firm: zero pence.

But Google are changing things so that if you have a phone number within an advert, and someone from a mobile sees that number, they will be able to click on it to ring directly.   That counts as a click and the taxi firm then pay for that click.  No more zero pence.

This actually makes sense because, as Google say:

Currently when advertisers enter a phone number directly into their ad text instead of using Call Extensions, the phone number is not clickable and will not generate a call. This can be a frustrating experience for mobile users who attempt to initiate a call to this phone number.

So, to make mobile users happy (plus make some money for Google, naturally), those phone numbers will now be clickable and will cost the advertiser for each click gained.

But it got me thinking about what type of business puts a phone number in their advert anyway.  And what type of person contacts a business just based on their advert and phone number.  Yes, I understand how that works with taxis and perhaps places like fast food restaurants, pubs etc. but for other types of business it’s not so clear.  As an example, here’s what currently appears in Google when someone searches for ‘maidstone plumbers’ …

If you needed a plumber and it was a real emergency then you may call that number (from a mobile), which would cost the plumber for that call made (in fact, the double-whammy of the 0800 number and also the cost for the click on the phone number within the advert).

But what sort of person contacts such a business without finding out more about them first?  Surely you’d look at their website to find out more about them?  In fact, it could be a dodgy plumber that’s capitalising on the freephone number and because it was easy for you to call you end up with a disaster of a plumbing job done!

I’m sure that Google know what they’re doing.  They’ve probably worked out that they’re losing some revenue from people who have phone numbers in their adverts, but it doesn’t make Google any money.   It would be fascinating to see ‘before and after’ figures of how much Google make specifically from people who click on phone numbers within adverts, but that’s unlikely to be financial information readily available from Google.

But wait, there could be a more sinister outcome here.  Let’s say that a click on such a phone number (e.g. to a plumber) costs the advertiser 50p.  As soon as the phone number is clicked on, Google get their money.   Suppose that same plumber fell victim to a rival plumber, who used sophisticated methods to kill their business.  It’s not hard to imagine and would work as follows:

  1. Dodgy plumber signs up to an online service that pays people to click on links from searches (from mobile phones).
  2. Each worker within that service has a mobile phone.  They get paid pennies to search for ‘maidstone plumbers’ (from their phone) and click on the phone number.  They then hang up.
  3. The phone may ring briefly at the other end but by the time the plumber has got to it, the caller has gone.
  4. A minute later another call comes in the same, this time from another worker who gets paid pennies to do it.   And so it goes on.
  5. Within no time at all the plumber has burnt through their advertising budget and are no longer visible when people are actively searching for them.   Their competitor wins by reducing their ability to be visible.

OK, that may seem a bit far fetched and would be more complex than that, but such things are possible.  If it’s possible to pay outsourced workers pennies to fabricate thousands of Facebook Likes then this is only a natural progression.

Back in the real world now the potential problem is far less sinister – it’s just that many advertisers will get caught out because they haven’t noted that Google are going to start charging them for clicks on phone numbers within their adverts.

When will blog backlinkers get cleverer?

Blogs, SEO No Comments

We’ve all seen it – people who respond to blogs we write, hoping that we’ll approve their comment (if we’ve been sensible enough to set up our blog so that it doesn’t automatically let everything through).

Here’s a recent example below:

The blog was called ‘How much does a Google Adwords consultant cost?’ and as you can see in the screenshot, the blog commenter set their name up as ‘adwords consultant’ and also created a link from the words ‘adwords consultant’ – both linking back to their website.

They, of course, would have been hopeful that they’d get a backlink to their website for the phrase ‘adwords consultant’, which helps them a bit in their SEO goals.

I’m not against people having a go at getting backlinks from other people’s blogs but as the example above shows, they usually apply very little intelligence to it.   In this case, all they needed to do was have a page on their website which has useful information about choosing an adwords consultant, and then write something in the blog response like:

I agree, it’s a nightmare getting the right advice.  Your readers may be interested in a guide I’ve written called Choosing a Google Adwords Consultant, which I feel adds further thinking to this subject.

Although I’d still see that it’s an attempt to get a backlink, I’d take a look at what their guide says, and if I thought it was useful then I’d let them have their backlink because they took the time to put a bit of effort in and it’s also useful to my readers.

Unfortunately, the (in my view, archaic) Google system whereby credibility is given to certain types of backlinks, is here to stay for some time.  As the screenshot above shows, it’s not hard for someone to find various websites related to their niche and attempt to get backlinks to their own website.  The Google system doesn’t know any better and so the insanity continues.

I don’t have an issue with people wanting to piggyback off what I write, including getting a backlink to their website, but only if they’re providing something of value in their comment, or what it links through to.   In time, Google may well be in a position to adopt a similar mindset – it already rejects certain types of backlinks and it will get cleverer over time.

For anyone wishing to get backlinks to their website, that will be long-term considered to be ‘qualiity’ backlinks, there is ample time to get working on that.  And if that doesn’t seem to be a top priority right now, consider this …

Google want to be seen as ever-growing (in revenues).  When their Pay Per Click revenues start to show a decline they will need a way to boost those again.  My view is that ‘their way’ will be a ‘coincidental’ change of algorithm that makes a significant amount of websites dive down the rankings.  That change of algorithm will focus on the quality of backlinks to websites.  They can probably already do it but are keeping it in reserve for such a time that, as a business, they need to boost their revenues (from Pay Per Click).  By releasing such a change in algorithm they make people’s organic rankings take a dive and to stay in business they’ll be forced (short term) to buy into PPC advertising, which raises Google’s revenues again.

It’s coming … it’s just a matter of time.  And of course, when it does happen, it’ll be ‘just a coincidence’.

Membership organisations and online marketing

Email Communications 2 Comments

As Chamber of Commerce members we recently received an email shot from a member company, sent out to the whole membership base, with everyone’s details in the ‘To’ field (instead of bcc’d or set up in a list).

The company made amends by sending an apology and a follow up.  That follow up didn’t say a lot but had an attachment (PDF) introducing the company.

Intrigued at how it could be possible to make two obvious mistakes, I looked at the company website (I won’t embarrass them here by naming who they are) and it was a one pager that did nothing to sell their merits.

I went to LinkedIn to find the person who had sent the email.  They have 6 connections and haven’t even set up their profile.

I searched Google for phrases related to their business sector – no sign of them in any shape or form, even within the free opportunities.

As members of the Chamber, companies are entitled to do sendouts to the membership base and although the Chamber (this could apply to any membership organisation) do provide a little bit of guidance, surely they should have something more stringent in place?   Surely the person who wants access to the membership list should have a check list that they’re supposed to tick off, that includes:

  1. How to send the email so that all recipients aren’t identified so blatantly.
  2. Creation of an email that contains the introductory information (rather than an attachment, which most people won’t look at).
  3. Having a website that’s worth promoting (just the basics like client case studies, testimonials, etc.).
  4. Having a LinkedIn profile that is at least to an adequate level and so doesn’t make them look like an amateur.

It would take a membership organisation a relatively small amount of time to create such a check list, giving links to other reference points where people can find out more (e.g. a link to a LinkedIn profile setup guide).   The company wanting to do the email out would confirm that they’re in agreement with what’s on the check list and that they have taken actions accordingly.  Only then do they get access to the membership list.

Taking that recent example, the outcomes are:

  • The Chamber of Commerce look poor for not having stronger systems in place.
  • The company who sent the email look poor for being so unaware of how to market themselves properly.

Maybe this is just the experience from the local Chamber and other Chambers of Commerce (or membership organisations in general) do it in a different way, so it’d be interesting to get any feedback on any shining examples of excellence?

What Botox teaches us about eggs in baskets

Google Adwords, Website Promotion No Comments

In the past there have been a few Custwin blogs about Botox and its gradual death within Google Adwords.   Since then we’ve had numerous visits to the website from people who have used various search phrases related to Botox and Adwords.   The screenshot below shows just a few of the types of phrases typed (and how many people typed each phrase) …

Numerous clinics/people offering Botox to potential clients found themselves in a position where they dropped off the face of the Internet when Google eventually banned all Botox-related adverts.

The evidence of the impact is clear to see – you just have to look at the data we collected (via the link below) to see just those people who found their way to our blogs, having typed phrases related to Botox and Adwords, probably desperate to find the answers to their sudden lack of website traffic and enquiries …

http://www.a1webstats.com/stats/view-report.aspx?ReportID=8E38BBA9-1A88-4388-B9AF-D9BC7F266D1D

So was it ‘big bad Google’ that butchered the ability of Botox injections providers to gain business?  Well, yes (obviously), but they had their reasons.  But those business owners can’t blame only Google.

They can blame themselves.

When it comes to websites, laziness is the enemy of businesses.  Getting a Google Adwords campaign set up with Botox keyword phrases was, once upon a time, a good idea.  But done alone, it’s laziness.  Pay for clicks, get the traffic, convert the traffic, make the money, pay for more clicks.  Simple, but ultimately stupid if done alone.

The cleverer Botox providers had an arsenal of other marketing methods.  These could have included:

  • Organic search engine positioning (in more than just Google)
  • Print advertising in local media
  • Local radio advertising
  • Printed material in local public places (e.g. posters)
  • Email newsletters
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • …. the list goes on

The law of averages means that the more forms of marketing you’re using, the less impact there will be if one of those marketing methods fails for some reason.  This would apply regardless of marketing method used.

So, what Botox teaches us about eggs in baskets is that when you put your eggs in purely the Google Adwords basket you put yourself at the risk of a serious amount of yolk on the floor.  When you buy a series of smaller ‘marketing’ baskets that can contain only a few eggs in each, you are putting yourself and your business in a much safer position.

Winning business from email newsletter subscribers

Email Newsletters, Website Analytics 2 Comments

If you send out a regular email newsletter, how many of the readers convert to business?

More specifically, what can you be doing to nurture people towards doing business with you?

One thing you can do is use website analytics to reverse engineer certain website visitor patterns back to the original email newsletter subscriber.  Here’s a recent example to show how it works, in this case using A1WebStats (tracking) in combination with Campaign Monitor (used to send out and monitor the email newsletters) …

Step 1 – find something worth digging into

One of the Custwin email newsletters referred to A1WebStats, providing a link to the website.  We, of course, can see where website visitors originated from.  Looking at the screenshot below you can see that the person came in to the A1WebStats website, via a Custwin blog (see the ‘Referrer’ line) and they looked at the pages showing the prices and how to make A1WebStats work for them …

At this stage we think “hmmm, there may be an interest there, because they went further than the blog itself”.

Step 2 – track backwards

That person entered the A1WebStats website at 12:08.  By looking at our Custwin webstats we can see that only one person was looking at the website around that time and so it has to be them.  If you look at the screenshot below you can see similarities (e.g. location, browser, IP address etc.), so it’s clearly the same person.  You can also see that although they appeared to spend 2 minutes 44 seconds looking at the Custwin blog entry, that was the time they went off to the A1WebStats website, which they left at about 12:09 and then continued looking at the Custwin blogs at 12:10  …

The picture we’ve built up so far is that the person who ended up on the A1WebStats website and was looking at pricing, initially landed on the Custwin website and looked at blogs.  We also know that they came from our email newsletter that was sent a couple of days beforehand.

Now all we need to do is match up the date/time that the person landed on the Custwin website (2nd December, around 12pm) with our Campaign Monitor information …

Step 3 – identify the person

We looked at our Campaign Monitor data and found only one person who clicked through from our email newsletter on 2nd December around 2pm.  The screenshot below shows what they were looking at on the email newsletter around that time …

Ignore the fact that the location is Camberley, vs Leatherhead in the A1WebStats information – that’s purely down to IP techie stuff.  The person is actually from neither location and we know who they are.

In fact, the person is actually someone who is perfect to be white-labelling A1WebStats for their own clients.

Step 4 – nurture

So having identified the person, do we contact them and say “hey, we saw you were looking at A1WebStats and we’d love to have a chat”?  We could do, but the whole ‘webstats tracking’ thing can appear a bit creepy to some people so it’s often better to be more subtle.

We actually had a message from them recently about having a catch up.   We replied but nothing got organised.  We’ve now been back to them again about meeting up.  As part of that conversation, we’ll be talking about A1WebStats and we’ll know that they already know a certain amount about it.   There will be the opportunity to show that person how it can benefit them and their clients.   There are, of course, no guarantees but it’s always worth trying.   If that moves forwards we may blog about it as a follow up in the future, to demonstrate how the flow of business often starts from blogs/newsletters/information and can lead onto a lot more.


Conclusion

For most companies the process of analysis is really easy and can boil down to a few steps …

  1. Create a regular email newsletter containing various articles, and always linking people back to your website.
  2. Ensure that email newsletter is sent out using a system that allows you to track when people open and click on articles.  Commonly used systems are Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor.
  3. About a week after the email newsletter has gone out, go to your webstats package and highlight the people who have landed on a particular website page (one of your articles linked to from your email newsletter).
  4. If any of those website visitors went further than the article(s), e.g. to look at pages showing the services you offer or people you work with, then that could be a potential buying signal.   You would typically expect to see perhaps 1 in 20 people go further than the page they landed on from an email newsletter article.  They become ‘the potential’.
  5. For those website visitors who looked as if they may be interested in more than just the article they read, reverse analyse their path to your website.  This is simply a case of matching up the date/time they landed on your website with the dates/times that people clicked through from your email newsletter (which you can see from systems such as Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor).
  6. Then consider how you may be able to nurture that person in a non-threatening way.

Time-consuming?  Yes – perhaps.  A job that anyone in your company could do, if they’re taught what to look out for?  Absolutely.  All YOU want to know is the useful information and if you’ve got someone else who can be looking out for it then it makes sense to work in that way (says me, who has gone through the process here myself!!).