As part of this year’s annual conference Open for Business in the Aviva Stadium on May 12th, Sandra Hennessy of Dynamic Web Marketing will be running a series of one-to-one web strategy clinics. We hold these every year, inviting a member to host them. Sandra may well be known to some of our members, attendees and readers already as she is one of the lecturers on our Diploma in Digital Marketing.
Conference delegates can book a clinic online but as they are one-to-one and run only in the afternoon the places are very limited so please no dawdling! (You can book your ticket for the conference online too and again less of that dawdling at the back please!)
I had a chat with Sandra last week about how she is going to run the clinics this year and here is how she replied
Q. Sandra, you are running a one-to-one web strategy clinic at Open for Business, the IIA Annual Conference on the afternoon of May 12th in the Aviva Stadium. Which key areas are you hoping to help delegates with at these clinics?
A. I anticipate a lot of questions around search engine optimisation and social media but I hope to help businesses identify new ways to increase their online profile and conversions. QR codes are getting popular and a lot of the larger businesses are using them, I am currently on a mission to get Irish SME’s using QR codes in innovative ways to help drive sales.
Q. Some of our delegates and members might recognise you because this isn’t the first time you have helped on the web strategy clinics at our annual conference. Tell us about some of the issues you managed to resolve for delegates in previous years.
A. I am delighted to be sponsoring the clinics, I only recently set up my own business but have been working in online marketing for 9 years now. Over the past few years the clinics have centered around websites evaluations, giving delegates advice on how to improve their website usability, search engine optimistion and conversions. I expect this theme will run into this year but the web is moving and how we attract new business online is changing every day. Setting up and using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter was discussed last year but I anticipate a lot more questions in this area as it is now paramount to any online marketing strategy to include social and business networking.
Q. And in the (2/3) years that you have been doing this and working in this area in general what are the biggest changes/ challenges you have seen for Irish businesses who are coming online or upping their online game?
A. The biggest challenge I have seen since the birth of social media is time. It’s great that we can use Facebook, Twitter etc for free but it does take time to set up and manage. Part of what I do every day is help businesses establish and implement their social media strategy. I help them build social media it into their working day. It eventually becomes habit rather than a chore but it takes time to get to this stage.
Q. If you have one piece of advice for an Irish business reviewing their online strategy what would it be? I know tough question!
A. Three words – PLANNING, DELEGATION and ANALYSIS. Planning will help structure things, plan out a time line for different stages and don’t be afraid to delegate out some of the work to colleagues. Once upon a time looking at your website once a month and making a few changes would suffice but now online marketing is an integral part of any marketing plan so it needs to be planned into every day tasks. Decide when things will be completed and who will complete them. Once they have been implemented, analyse. No point in taking the time to plan and implement if you are not going to review how successful your online marketing campaigns are.
If you do hope to participate please book online. In this form you can include details of the particular issue you wish to discuss so Sandra can prep in advance and you can really make the most of your half hour with her.
This is a guest post from Ann Donnelly of O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development who are IIA Members based in Clonakilty, Co. Cork
This week there was a big buzz online about an article posted on Tech Crunch “The Time Has Come To Regulate Search Engine Marketing And SEO”. In the opinion of the anonymous guest author: “Due to Google’s dominance — and the fact that it controls such an enormous amount of consumer behavior through paid and organic search listings – the company in essence governs commerce on the web.” This is a topic that has come up time and again over the past few years in webmaster forums and search industry conferences, but in many cases the complaint comes from those that are looking for short cuts to get results through search engines or those that are focusing on one aspect of online marketing success instead of developing a full, well rounded online marketing plan.
A small number of these people are using techniques that some would consider unethical to promote their own websites, or are using these techniques to provide such services to others. Some are using ethical techniques, but using dishonest or hard sell marketing to promote their services. This sort of behaviour happens across all industries (we all trust used car salesmen, right?), but in our industry the consumer is particularly vulnerable, as he often feels he doesn’t have the technical knowledge and doesn’t listen to his own common sense – and there is such an enormous amount of bad advice out there.
It may sound harsh, but those people that have knowingly chosen these methods will probably laugh at what I am saying here and will continue in the same manner, full throttle, and may get very rich from it. On the other hand, I have met a number of people in the industry that honestly feel that these are legitimate methods and don’t see that they are limiting the type of results they will get from their businesses. Why do I care about these people? Their behaviour causes consumers to distrust the industry as a whole. A customer that has had a bad experience shopping online will avoid shopping online again. A business that has gotten poor results with their website because the web developer they chose was inexperienced, will just feel that online marketing won’t work at all for them.
There are also a large number of young men and women, as well as those recently made redundant, that are starting up their own businesses and are looking to those of us already established in the industry for guidance on the way to go with this.
It’s up to each business owner to decide what sort of methods he will use. Do you want to sign on a large number of customers that will use your services once or over a short period of time or do you want to develop longer term relationships built on old fashioned, good service and hard work?
If you choose the first method and are tricking people into signing up for your services, not providing good value and are not getting results for your customers the bad news will get around quickly enough and you may end up out of business. This is especially true with so many people using social networking web sites. News of bad service travels much faster than good reviews.
Are you providing the best products and services? If not, are you providing better value for what you do? Do your customers fully understand what they are getting for their money? Take a look at your business and see if you can develop a business model that’s good for your customers as well as for yourself.
Let’s go back to “Big, Bad Google”. They state on their Corporate Overview page: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They do this by providing “an easy-to-use free service that usually returns relevant results in a fraction of a second.” Looking just at the search side of Google’s businesses the changes they have made over the years have all focused on returning “relevant results” not because they are really nice guys, but because that is what makes people come back to use the Google search engine again and again. Focusing on this has brought about the “dominance” that is resented by their competitors and search marketing professionals that are looking for short cuts to success.
This resentment is even stronger now that Google AdWords have brought financial success as well. Google has made their products and services easy to use, with full documentation and helpful videos. They now have staff speaking at most industry conferences and using social networking tools to more fully communicate and assist users of all of their products.
This shows the importance of setting the right mission statement for your business and, once you have done this, maintaining your focus on that mission to bring best results for your business. What do you want to achieve in your business? Are you looking to just make a living or are you looking for greater satisfaction in helping others achieve their business goals; or do you need to be the best (in number of sales, awards, publicity)? Are you looking to build up your business to a point where you can sell it on to another bigger business? Your goals are going to be based on the type of products/services as well as what your personal needs are. I am not judging any of these goals, just saying that it’s important to define them and remain focused.
By developing the best mix of products and services with the right pricing structure you then have a business that is financially viable and, hopefully, lucrative with a base of happy, loyal customers (as well as happy, loyal suppliers) that are with you for the long term and referring you to their friends and colleagues – working with you to build a successful business that is around for the long term. Just have a look at “10 Things Google Has Found to Be True”.
Her business O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development specialises in Search Engine Placement &
Offering a full line of Online Marketing Services:
– Web Design & Development
– Shopping Carts & Payment Processing
– Search Engine Placement
– Email Marketing
– AdWords Campaign Management
– Social Networking (Blogs, Forums, etc.)
– Online Customer Service
Last Thursday I attended the IIA Event “Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing (PDF 2 MB)”. While I was happy to be there to represent the IIA as always, I was primarily there to learn like many of the other participants. Some of the other participants were there because they were planning to get their hands dirty and develop some killer AdWords campaigns for their own companies; some participants were there because they had found the “if you build it; they will come” approach hadn’t gone quite to plan; and some were there because they were planning to recruit SEO executives and wanted to ensure they were recruiting people with real knowledge and experience. Well more knowledge and experience than they got from a one day course! We were absolutely full to capacity and as the afternoon session was hands on and PC based we were lucky to be able to fit everyone. Lesson 1: if you see an IIA event that would benefit you or your company, book it immediately!
The trainer for the day was Michael Heraghty of Heraghty Internet Consultants and his coverage of the topic was extensive. It was apparent very quickly that he has the SEO knowledge and the passion for SEO that will keep that knowledge fresh in a fast changing area. I had been to a seminar on AdWords about two years ago and so much has changed even since then that I really learnt a lot. The content of the workshop also boosted my confidence in developing Google AdWords Campaigns. I think the main thing to remember in Search Engine Optimisation and AdWord formulisation is that all the Search Engines want to offer their users the best experience possible, which means serving them results with the answer to their query, preferably in the number one position. Therefore they are constantly tweaking and improving their search engines in order for them to search like humans who know where they are and who they are. I know that I am a thirty something in Dublin so when I throw the single word query “hairdresser” into a search engine I want to see results about hairdressers in Dublin. (There aren’t many with great websites anyway but that’s another day’s post!)
One of the most useful points, I thought, that Michael made was all about what I like to call “Link love” (a quick search of WordSpy suggests that it hasn’t entered the general lexicon however Blogossary (not a receptacle for dead blogs but a glossary for blogging terms) defines it as “posting a link to sites or blogs, usually unsolicited, that you enjoy, admire, or find useful.” The beauty of link love for the recipient is that it increases your ranking with Google because Google not only looks at the content of your own site but the content of the sites that link to yours and why they are linking to yours. It works out the “why” by examining their content and if it contains some of the same keywords, it’s a good link, a real link, a link full of love. The more links of love your site receives the higher you rank in the search results. However, this only holds if, for example, you are one of my mythical hairdressers in Dublin and your site contains the keywords hairdresser and Dublin and sites linking to yours contain the keywords hairdress and Dublin EVEN IF those sites are saying “Roseanne’s Hair Salon is the WORST hairdresser in Dublin” with links to my salon’s site, Roseanne’s Hair Salon. The old adage that it’s better to be talked about than not at all really holds true for search optimization. The next trick is to engage the aforementioned dissastisfied customer of Roseanne’s Hair Salon and see if you can put it all to rights. This is something which will no doubt feature in Thursday’s half-day event “Improving Online Results using Web 2.0” and which Keith Shirley discusses when he was writing about last week’s inaugural meeting of the Social Media Working Group.
02/09/2008: I am editing this section to clarify a number of points. You can see from the comments that it has generated some interest among bloggers.
Michael mentioned that a great way to boost your link love was to write a guest blog post (HINT!! HINT!!). EDIT: Also I also imagine that leaving comments on blogs that are likely to be published (i.e. helpful, objective and “soft” sell comments (Edit: Please see clarification on my use of the term “soft” sell below.)) is another way to get those lovin’ links going. It also occurred to me that another great way to increase your link loving is to log into the IIA extranet and post information (news, appointments, vacancies, special member offers) about your company. Another link in the chain of love that will help you creep closer to that coveted number one position. I look forward to reading all your news!
With all of this in mind I would like to make a suggestion. If you have tended an IIA event and are a fully paid-up member and would like to write a review of that event and how you feel the material will feed into your work and your internet strategy, I would love to hear from you. Post a comment below or email me at members at iia dot ie.
(By the way if you can’t get enough of this SEO stuff, Heraghty Internet Consultants have plenty of case studies in the Clients section of their site.)
EDIT: Soft sell: Let’s be clear, the IIA is a business association and so our members are in the business of turning a profit. This is the main goal of all resources spent on company time. The reason that they will undertake any blogging or commenting on blogs is that they hope that their engagement will reflect well on their products and services which in turn will lead to new customers or sustain relationships with existing customers. Like all other engagments there are rules. You wouldn’t roll into a meeting with potential clients unprepared or do a radio intervew without planning. Writing a blog or commenting on somebody else’s blog has the potential to attract as much attention as a radio interview. However as an employee of the IIA when I comment on a blog in a professional capacity I will always be doing it with the IIA’s mission and strategic goals in mind. It will, after a fashion, be a soft sell to encourage members to take a more active role or to encourage non-members to consider joining etc. even if I never mention these goals explicitly.