Tag: Internet

SEO & Google Advertising – What Australian franchisors can learn.

Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The internet has been a huge success for the consumer, who now has more choice than ever before and it’s all at their fingertips thanks largely to Google. Google advertising and Search Engine Optimisation are more than just the new Yellow Pages. Once upon a time, local area marketing consisted mainly of the Yellow Pages, fliers and local papers as the way that franchisors would spend their franchise marketing budgets to drive sales to the local stores. The advent of the Internet, but more specifically Google Adwords and Search Engine Optimisation, has largely moved local area marketing online, yet the franchisors have been slow to understand the value of this new technology.

The franchising model has been one of the most globally successful stories in the SME world. However, many franchisors have seen smaller operators successfully infiltrate their market share through highly effective online strategies. On the Internet even the smallest business can look big. On the Internet even the biggest businesses can look small and incompetent.

What many franchisors in Australia fail to realise is that the Internet (Google) is actually perfectly designed to support the franchising model of multi store locations. 90% of all searches online are done using Google. What this means is that the first thing a business needs to get working is their presence on Google. If you don’t come up in Google search results for the products and services that you provide, then you are invisible to the consumer looking for you.

Why a franchisor should use a Google Advertising Specialist company.
Using a Google Advertising specialist, Franchisors can run campaigns for each of their franchise stores and effectively manage the advertising budgets for each store. A Specialist will provide Franchisors with a (ROI) report detailing the cost effectiveness of advertising spend, something near impossible to do with flier drops and other more traditional local advertising.

The importance of an SEO specialist company
Search Engine Optimisation is abroad term for organically coming up in search results down left hand side of a Google search. This includes having a presence on all Google products from Google Maps, Google Plus to Google business listings. Each of these needs to be dedicated to a clear keyword strategy so that you can focus on coming up for search results that are more valuable. With the recent changes that Google seems to continually release, it is important to work with an SEO company that not only understands SEO but also the franchising industry.

But how is also this any different to any other business out there? Well one thing that Google is focused on is localisation in search. If I am looking for a hair dresser or someone to cut my lawns and I live in Adelaide, I’m not going to be looking for a business in Sydney to come up in search results, am I?

So what does this mean for the franchisors and the franchisees? It gives the brand Internet reach that only a brand with multiple locations can achieve. This means that the brand can come up more often in search results in more locations across Australia, and as such improves the likelihood of conversions. More touch points means the brand becomes more relevant and more competitive.

While anyone can have a presence online, the brand with more presence will have a bigger presence. This is why it is vital that franchisors focus their online strategy on making sure that each of their franchise outlets are well optimised to come up in search results and that they are all following the same strategy. This is why it is important to deal with an Internet Strategy company like SLAM strategy who are focused on the franchising industry.

Risk vs reward of owning a new gTLD

Image courtesy of Anusorn P nachol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Anusorn P nachol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Risk vs Reward

During ICANN47 in Durban I spoke with a cross section of applicants involved in the new gTLD process. I asked one question “Will your gTLDs be successful?”

The general feeling amongst all the applicants was yes, and why wouldn’t they say that, when they had spent at least $185,000 for their applications. One of the main reasons for their confidence was based on a risk versus reward analysis of what the break even cost was to run a gTLD successfully vs. the number of minimum registrations needed at an attractive price.

It’s estimated that you would need about $50,000 a year to cover your costs of running a new gTLD. So as long as the applicants felt that they could cover those costs with a minimum number of registrations based on their business plan, they felt that the upside was well worth the risk.

Here’s the logic

The thinking in many cases was based on a worst case scenario that if you sold 10,000 second level domains for $5.00 each you reach your $50,000 to cover your costs. Any registrations above that would be considered profit.  Considering that one of the slower performing TLDs on the market place like dot.aero currently has nearly 10,000 registrations, getting to 10,000 would be considered realistic and the risk reasonable.  Also through the largely untapped emerging BRIC markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China, the demand for registrations in the coming years is thought to continue to grow strongly. Sounds like a pretty straight forward plan right?

Possible errors in gTLD applicants thinking

Although SLAM Strategy is very much an advocate for the new TLDs program as a whole, we do have our doubts about the viability of some of these new strings. Not because they can’t be successful but because of three main and very real issues.

  1. Domain Supply vs demand concerns – There will be approximately 1,000 new domains available to the public in a very short time frame and although there will be considerable demand the supply is going to vastly outstrip demand with a flood of string options. Owners need to see this as a long term strategy that could take 5-10 years before they reach their breakeven points.
  2. $1 for a dozen domains for sale – Further to that, owners need to consider the fact that ICANN has mentioned subsequent rounds and the price for entry to own a domain likely to drop. This could further put pressure on existing owners trying to reach their break even points and extend or even make it impossible for some TLDs to ever reach their minimal requirements. A glut of registration options could lead to some offering a dozen domains for a $1 just to move stock.
  3. Risk of extinction – Anything with a small population is at risk of being wiped out if it is unable to adapt quickly enough to survive a changing environment. This is something that is a serious issue for the new gTLD owners as they are relying on a small pool of long established, existing Internet advertising and marketing companies to help them. In an environment where innovation, creativity and new thinking are paramount, the new top level domain name community is dangerously “short of options”, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic failures if they pick the wrong company to partner with.
    To some degree, a cookie cutter approach is inevitably going to be used by many of these companies who know no better, resulting in fewer registrations than anticipated and more importantly possible failure of the entire gTLD business model. All new gTLD applicants need to be wary of this and think outside the square. To understand this in detail you only need to look to the industry’s past and you will see that until the approved release of these new generic top level domains in 2011, the industry was tiny with only 22 top level domains and 250 country code top level domains which were drip fed into the system and snapped up by an almost inexhaustible demand for domain names. A fledgling and largely administrative driven industry was able to be serviced by a small number of Internet and Advertising providers who performed what would now be considered to be basic functions.
    The industry is now set to suddenly and massively expand into a very different and almost hostile digital landscape of dog eat dog and over supply. However, the number of new and external Internet Advertising and Marketing experts available that understand the gTLD industry but are not from the industry hasn’t really grown at all, and could almost be counted on one hand. Many of the people working in these companies have either worked at a registry, a registrar or at ICANN itself at some time in the recent past. While these companies and their specialists really are very, very talented with many years of industry experience, their greatest strength is also possibly their greatest weakness. Many of the current internet advertising and marketing companies providing support to the gTLD industry are providing advice based on their prior experiences from within the industry itself, as that is all they know. As a result, a lot of the same, repetitive and conventional industry thinking is likely to be offered, limiting any real competitive advantage that the gTLD owner may think they have. There’s no doubt these existing companies are extremely talented with amazing insight of the old gTLDs industry. However, the industry is rapidly changing and morphing into something very different from its past, requiring a more diverse approach to create real wow factor and excitement in the mainstream world of the average consumer.

How to make your new gTLD an Internet success story with fresh ideas

Yes this is a plug for SLAM Strategy but only because the new gTLD industry is a perfect synergy of business in the real world and the virtual world and creating ROI strategies in this space is where we see the future of online. We are an Internet Strategy company that could see instantly the potential of the new gTLDs on the global stage from a business strategy point of view. With over 23 years of experience in retailing, advertising and marketing and Internet strategy, the CEO of SLAM Strategy, Shaun Le Cornu saw an opportunity to give businesses an edge on the new Internet frontier that was clearly missing. Fresh thought is needed with a new approach by an Internet marketing company from outside the industry. There is a different game to be played that has not been played before and the current players could be lacking in vital real world experience.

Are some Google Adwords companies could be ripping you off?

Once you get into a deep understanding of how Internet advertising, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media works, you realise that there is a huge divide between those who understand, and those who don’t. This gap is often exploited by Internet marketing companies to skim extra margin from their customers without them even knowing. Here’s how they do it.
Keywords are the key
If you have ever run a Google Adwords campaign you would know that the price you pay per click is based on what Google charges you for your ad to appear, and when someone types in a keyword that you want your ad to appear for. While there are other factors that affect the price that Google charges, it is fundamentally a cost for your ad to appear that Google charges you for.
If it’s not the Google Adwords platform then it’s not Google
So if an Adwords provider wanted to skim extra money from their clients without them knowing and still appear to be cheaper than their competitors they need to be doing 2 things:
Firstly, they won’t provide you with access to the Google Adwords platform that Google uses to charge you with. Why? Because this way they can show you the data they want you to see and hide Google’s REAL costs.
Secondly, they wouldn’t show you the cost per keyword from Google. This is not the CPC (Cost Per Click), this is what Google charges you for your ad being triggered by a keyword that someone has typed into a Google search. Why? Because they can add an extra margin onto the cost and charge you for it. Most companies wouldn’t even think twice about this.
To the untrained eye the Adwords company looks like their costs are very competitive. In actual fact the money that you think is going towards your Google ads is going into their back pockets.
How it should be done
When running a Google Adwords campaign it is important to know all the costs, but these costs should be put into perspective and considered in relation to the service being provided. As mentioned, running an effective Adwords campaign is far more than just setting up some ads to appear on Google, hoping people will click on them, and then hoping that they either email you or ring you.
An effective Adwords provider should perform the following tasks and functions:
1. Understanding intimately how their client’s business runs.
2. Ask what the best selling products and services are.
3. Determine what products bring the biggest margins or best stock turns.
4. What services best reflect the business future directions.
5. Meet with their clients 1 on 1 monthly.
6. Provide education about the campaign and how Google works so that the client can offer more qualified information.
7. They should ask questions about how your business runs, best days, is it seasonal? etc.

Summary
To win the grand Prix race you need the entire team to be working together in unison, on the same page and heading in the same direction. With so many businesses now using Adwords to promote their business and most Adwords companies providing the minimum service, how do you expect your company to stand out from the crowd and perform? The best and only way is to work closely with your Adwords provider, and together you will outperform even the best Adwords company trying to do it on their own.
Running a Google Adwords campaign successfully and generating good ROI has nothing to do with Adwords, no differently than winning a Grand Prix has nothing to do with a Grand Prix car. It’s the team, the tactics and the knowledge that puts you in prime position. So next time you are looking for an Adwords company to help you grow your business online, don’t just look at the cost of the service. Find out more about what they offer and how they do their reporting. Especially, make sure that you ask if they are using Google’s Adwords platform and can give you access to the raw Google data in their reporting. If they don’t, then think twice about using them as they just may be ripping you off.
If your business is important to you, if finding new customers and improving your bottom line is the direction you want to head in, then perhaps a company like SLAM Strategy could be right for you.

Getting started with social media for business

Getting started with social media can be daunting for many businesses. You may not know where to start, which networks you should be using or how to get the most out of those networks.
Most businesses use social media because it is free (or low cost) with the added benefits of being able to personalise your message and content and monitor performance through analytics.

Importance of social media for businesses

Why is social media important for your business? Social media enables you to connect with current and potential customers online. You can use social networks like mini websites to display information such as products and services, contact info, and opening hours.

Social networks enable you to be social and build your online community to spread positive word of mouth about your business. You can join Groups on Facebook to chat with other business owners to swap ideas and make connections. If your business has a store or office, tell customers about your social networks, ask them to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ you and help spread the word.

Your social networks allow you to ‘listen’ to what your customers want, and what they are saying about your brand. Importantly, you can use social media to maintain online customer service. Are your customers or fans posting questions or comments to your networks? Respond! Always respond to customer questions in a timely and professional matter. If you are receiving negative feedback, respond calmly and ask how you can rectify the situation. Your social networks are for reputation management as much as they are for community building and driving sales. Remember, what is on the Internet is there forever, so be careful what you post.

Find out what your customer’s wants and needs are through keyword searches, monitoring groups and reading forums. Say you own a bakery and you have seen a post on a group for Mums asking for suggestions on the best place to buy a birthday cake. You can jump right in and tell that person (and the group) about your services.

If you have a website (which you should), social media will help improve your search engine rankings, making it easier for customers to find you when they Google you! Share content from your site on your social media networks and encourage your fans to share it too.

Which social networks should you be using and how can you use them?

Deciding which social networks to use depends on your business, your target market and what you want to achieve from using those networks. If you sell power tools, you may not have much success on Pinterest, but find Twitter more useful.

Make sure you cross-pollinate your social network posts. Link your accounts so your Facebook posts are sent to Twitter, and vice versa, your Instagram pictures show up on Facebook, etc. It’s all about building your network and being seen more easily.

Customise your social networks, upload a profile picture of yourself or your logo and post good quality pictures for cover photos, background photos etc. so fans know who you are. Make sure all your contact information, links to your website and other sites are included in all your profiles.

Give your fans an incentive and reward for ‘Liking’ or ‘Following’ you – run a competition or offer through social media, just make sure you adhere to the terms and conditions of the site you are using. Facebook has strict rules about running competitions and require the use of third party apps.

Facebook: the all rounder.

A great starting point is always going to be Facebook – it’s your one stop shop for uploading photos, videos, text posts, joining groups, providing business details and contact info, etc. Facebook is becoming less friendly to brands in terms of limiting the visibility of posts so you need to work hard to create and share quality content.

Make sure your Facebook page has a personal touch, add photos and videos of yourself, your staff, what you’re up to, events, and more. Ask questions; find out what your customers want. Encourage content sharing and recommendations to promote your business.

Twitter: listen and learn

Not everyone is a fan of Twitter, but it can be a fantastic tool for networking, and allows you to ‘listen’ to customers more easily than on Facebook.

The Twitter news feed is not organised like Facebook’s is, it’s a constant stream of tweets so there’s a few things you need to do to make the most out of it. You’ve got 140 characters to play with but the tweets that get the most interactions are between 70-100 characters. Keep it concise and write it like a newspaper headline – you want to get people’s attention!

Use hashtags to join in on conversations and allow your tweets to be found more easily. Like Facebook, you can use the search function to follow keywords and join conversations to network and tell people about your business.

Don’t forget to use pictures and video in tweets – people respond more strongly to visual content and are more likely to click on your tweet if it has something interesting to look at.

You Tube: show off and educate

As any marketer will tell you, visual content is king. You can take advantage of video hosting sites to create content which can be shared on other networks to show your personality, and tell customers who you are and what your are all about.

Use any variety of video hosting sites: YouTube, Vimeo, Tout, Vine, Live Stream, etc. to promote your products, instruct and educate customers, demonstrate your expertise, and more. No matter what your budget, you can make a video with your webcam or hire a professional, just get creative and don’t ignore the power of video.

Always include strong keywords in video titles and tags to make sure they can be found by people looking for what you have to offer.

Pinterest & Instagram: show and inspire

The rising stars of social media, Pinterest and Instagram, are excellent for putting a personal touch on your brand and really connecting with people on a personal level. Use these networks to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at your business, get creative and have fun with it.

Businesses with strong visual content should be using these sites – bold, bright pictures are perfect for inspiring your customers and keeping your brand top of mind. Let’s use the bakery example again: you can upload pictures of delicious treats and tell customers where they to buy them. Pinterest is especially useful in its ability to drive referral traffic back to your website.
Like with other networks – be social. Use hashtags, pin and repin, respond to comments, and reach out to others users to create a vibrant community.

The final word

Get started! If you haven’t started using any social media networks, do it now. Why miss out on an opportunity to grow your business and connect with customers?

Remember, building an online community takes time, but it is totally worth it. Give it a go and if you need help or have any questions, we’ll be happy to assist!

Social Media (Facebook) vs Search (Google)

Social media is great, there is no doubt about that, I got my business off the ground using it. It is a great cost effective medium for start up businesses to use to get brand recognition because anyone can do it and you can do it for free.
However for that exact reason your messages can be lost in the ocean of messages that people see and the big question therefore is, “How do you stand out?” It takes a long time to build brand recognition and to generate a following of people to “like”, “tweet”, “share” your brand. So many people I talk to about online promotion think that if they build it they will come, when in reality it is far from that. Being a social platform, social media requires you to be social but more than that you need to follow the rules of that platform in order to get your message to more people. Facebook call this reach, reach is how many people saw your message. The more news feeds your message appears in the more likely someone is to see it and therefore the further your brand’s reach will be. Sounds simple, hey? Well the reality is that even if you know that, you’re still a long way from reality. If you want your business to appear in the news feeds of your fan’s friend’s pages then you need to talk to a company like SLAM Strategy, who understand how the platforms work.
So while people are busy looking at how Facebook can be their next big thing to help them with the growth of their business, many are choosing to ignore the realities of online and that is that 90% of all online searches are done using Google.
If your business isn’t coming up in search results for the words that relate to your businesses products or services then you are invisible to anyone searching for you. This can be the difference between your business thriving or failing; it’s as simple as that.
If you have the budget, you should firstly be looking at creating a sound and profitable Internet strategy around generating sales through Google. There are many businesses out there that can perform your Adwords or your Search Engine Optimisation. The reality is that what makes an online strategy successful has very little to do with the Adwords or optimisation work itself, but more to do with making sure you are implementing the right strategy for your business and that it takes you to where the real money is made.