A Guide to Online Marketing: Part 3

Guide to online marketing, part 3

In part 3 of our guide to online marketing we cover some tips and tricks relating to more advanced online marketing activities. These include an introduction to Search Engine Optimisation and the use of paid services such as Google AdWords, along with some simple, common-sense actions you can take in order to convert ‘new’ customers into ‘repeat’ customers. Many of those tips can also be applied to physical stores and businesses of course; not just online marketing, as you’ll see.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation (‘SEO’ for short) involves the sometimes slightly technical ways you can improve your site’s pages or blog’s posts in order to give them a potential ‘lift’ in the search engine rankings. It’s very worthwhile, after all it’s better to potentially appear on page 1 of Google for your product or service than being buried on pages deeper into the search results.

While a full course in SEO is beyond the scope of this relatively short blog post, there are some fairly quick and easy SEO tips and tricks you can implement yourself, particularly if your website has a content management system (‘CMS’) with the right in-built tools (Firstpoint Print can of course help with that if your site needs an upgrade – we also do website design and development in case you didn’t know):

Meta tags

  • Make sure you write well-crafted meta tags for every page and post on your website. The meta tags are largely invisible to humans but are avidly ‘read’ by search engines as a way to find out what your page or post (and site as a whole) are about, which then helps them to decide, at least partly, how high your page or post should rank for search queries being entered into the search engine. Any good website content management system should allow you to change these meta tags within admin so ask your webmaster where to look if this is new to you.
  • The title meta tag should be a 60-70 character (roughly 8 to 11 words max.) synopsis of what your page or post is about, ideally in proper sentence structure, not just a list of keywords;
  • The description meta tag should be a longer version of the same thing i.e. a 24 words (max.) description of what your page or post is about, written again in proper sentence form;
  • The keywords meta tag should include a list of 10 to 24 of your post or page’s most important keywords, each separated by one comma and one space. Use single words and do not repeat any word more than once within this tag (so printing, printers, litho, digital, large, format, brochures, leaflets, flyers, london (etc) would be correct but printers in london, printing in london, litho printers (etc) would be wrong due to the repetition of ‘printers’ and ‘london’ — that approach being a common mistake which I see all the time). Note also how the keywords tag is best in lower case as most people use lower case when searching online;
  • In all 3 of the above meta tags use your page or post’s most important keyword(s) only once, preferably at or towards the start of each, and do not repeat them again in any one of the tags (however they should appear in all 3, i.e. once in each if important).
  • It’s actually easier to write these meta tags in reverse order, i.e. keywords tag first, then the description tag, then the title tag last. That way the most important keywords can be identified and put into order easily in the keywords tag, then that can be used as reference when writing the description tag. Finally the title tag is often a shortened version of the description tag. (Editor’s note: I use this approach myself, including on the post you are reading right now).

‘Alt’ tags

  • ‘Alt’ tags are the little image descriptors which pop up when you hover over photographs and images when using web browsers like Internet Explorer (however they may not show in other browsers like FireFox). They are useful for SEO and can be used in a similar way to the meta tags as they are visible to search engines whether or not they are visible to human visitors. If your site has a content management system it will usually allow you to enter ‘alt’ text (short for ‘alternative’ text) into a field when adding an image. If you can’t spot where, ask your webmaster where to look.
  • As with the meta tags, use your page or post’s most important keywords at the start of the first photo’s ‘alt’ tag. The words you enter should describe the image concerned. However, particularly if this is the first editable image on the page/post, they can also include your page or post’s most important keywords (in sentence form not a list) which will help with SEO if done correctly. As with meta tags, try not to repeat any one keyword more than once. So if your main keyword or phrase (e.g. ‘Printing services in London”) is mentioned in your page or post’s first alt tag (for the first photo) then don’t mention that keyword/phrase again – if you can help it – for photos further down the same page or post.

 Internal linking

  • If your page or post mentions or refers to another product or service on your site or blog, make sure you cross-link (hyperlink) to the page or post concerned. That helps both visitors and search engines what the ‘target’ page/post is all about and helps a little with SEO. The concept might make more sense with the following example which shows several hyperlinks each aiming at a different target page or post: We are a printer based in Central London with graphic design, lithographic printing, digital printing and large format printing facilities.
  • Note how we’ve also made the internal hyperlinks bold (this helps with visibility as well as SEO);
  • Note also how the links have been put on the relevant keywords.

‘Search-engine-friendly’ titles and sub-titles

  • If your website or blog is built on a search-engine-friendly platform (like the websites we supply at Firstpoint Print) then in admin you will usually have a choice of heading styles called ‘Heading 1’ through to ‘Heading 6’ (or they might be called ‘H1’ through to ‘H6’ etc.). If so, these are usually ‘search-engine-friendly’ heading and sub-heading styles. Heading 1 (or h1) is usually automatically reserved for your page or post’s main heading, so usually you don’t need to worry about that. However, SEO professionals usually recommend that most pages and posts should include sub-headings throughout the text. This not only helps visitors to pick out areas of particular interest and to structure the page, but also potentially helps with SEO (for better search engine positions), particularly if those sub-headings use those pre-set heading styles mentioned above and include your all-important keywords and phrases.

While these simple SEO techniques usually help to improve search engine rankings, we should mention that, these days, they are seldom enough all on their own to take you to page 1 on Google; you need to keep the long-term momentum up on everything else we’ve taught in these guides in order for that to be possible, realistically, unless you happen to be in a very tiny niche with very little competition. Google and their like have made us have to work very hard, these days, for free page one rankings — but it is possible with great care and persistence. Indeed, at the time of writing, the site you are looking at right now ranks very well for our targeted keywords and phrases so the hard work can and usually does pay off eventually.

Google AdWords

If your site is not yet ranking ‘naturally’ on Google or your SEO and online marketing efforts are not yet seeing results and bringing qualified traffic to your website, then consider signing up to Google AdWords so that you get some ‘instant’, qualified traffic using their ‘pay-per-click’ advertising model. Then your site should show up prominently in the ‘Sponsored Results’ in Google, usually flagged with a little orange ‘Ad’ icon. Before you sign up, however, make sure you’ve signed up to their free ‘ Google Search Console’ (formerly known as ‘Google Webmaster Tools’). Why?

a) Because it’ll give you useful data about your site and;

b) because they often follow up new registrations by sending a voucher for some free AdWords clicks!

That tip alone could be worth as much as £50 to £100 to you in free clicks!

So, assuming you have signed up to Google AdWords one way or another (follow the ‘Google AdWords’ link above if not) then you will need to make sure you set your preferences, campaign(s) and ad group(s) etc. up correctly so that you bring qualified prospects to your site or blog rather than time-wasters and inappropriate visitors. After all, with AdWords, every click will cost you money (how much depends upon many factors including your niche and the level of competition within it, how much your competitors are bidding for their clicks, which parts of the world your adverts are being shown in, the ‘quality score’ of the ‘landing page’ you are aiming the adverts at, and so on). Without going into the set-up too deeply in this, a quick guide, our quick tips for AdWords users include the following:

  • Start small so that you can fine-tune your settings at an early stage so as to waste as little money as possible on unintended click-throughs. Later, when the settings are finely tuned, you can begin to raise your budget and perhaps the geographical area targeted can also be increased;
  • As part of that fine-tuning, check to see the exact keywords and phrases that people have searched for immediately before clicking your text adverts (they may be a little different to the keywords you were targeting!), for example during the previous fortnight or month. If people have used keywords and phrases you had not expected, but they still triggered your advert(s), fine-tune your targeted keywords accordingly and also start to build up a list of ‘negative keywords’ in the appropriate part of the AdWords set-up. Doing so should mean that any inappropriate keyword triggering should not happen again in the future. For example, if you sell shoes and are targeting those with AdWords, then a negative keyword could be ‘book’ (because you don’t want people to click your advert if they are looking for a book about shoes). Editor’s note: I run AdWords campaigns for clients and continually fine-tune settings (including in particular negative keywords and keyword ‘bids’), even though the core AdWords set-up was first commenced over five years ago in some cases. This fine-tuning saves the client money and gradually improves the quality of the traffic arriving at the client’s site, thereby increasing sales without increasing costs (often lowering them in fact).
  • Go out of your way to learn Google’s different types of keyword matching/targeting types: e.g. from ‘broad match’ to ‘exact match’ and many keyword-matching types in between, it will both save you money and lead to more sales when you choose the very best keyword match types within your AdWords set-up.
  • For example, if you are on a very low budget, go with ‘exact matching’ (put your key phrase in square brackets [like this]. Traffic coming in via paid clicks will probably be very low but of higher comparative quality, assuming you have set up the ‘right’ keywords in the first place (some ‘keyword research’ helps there but is regrettably beyond the scope of this guide).
  • If you have a little more to spend, then go with ‘phrase matching’ by putting your targeted key phrase in double speech marks “like this”.
  • We tend to avoid ‘broad matched’ keyword targeting (which results in greater traffic but of lower quality) but do hedge our bets a bit by compromising with ‘broad match modifiers’ which narrow down the search to increase the quality of the traffic clicking through without being too risky. More information on keyword matching options is available here.
  • If your website isn’t mobile-friendly (it should be but perhaps you have yet to fix that) then make sure your AdWords adverts do not target mobile users and just stick with desktop users as their targeted audience. Otherwise those mobile clicks are likely to be wasted ones … which would cost you needless money.

Of course there are many other places you can advertise your products and services so as to bring traffic to your site. Twitter and/or Facebook advertising are obvious examples to consider although we’ll add that we’ve had more success with Google AdWords than with Facebook adverts in the past, however things constantly change.

Also, while AdWords brings traffic direct to your site, you might also consider listing your products – if you sell products rather than a service – on third party sites like Amazon and eBay. Although the costs on Amazon, for example, are quite expensive, we know of several people making very good livings using that channel. But, like everything here, it all takes time to do properly and attention to detail is important, as is swift dispatch, great communication and customer service – after all you want your online reputation to be a good one and it’s there for all to see if you trade in places like Amazon.

Turn ‘new’ customers into ‘repeat’ customers

We said this in Part 2 but it’s worth repeating: once those orders come rolling in, whether due to your social media and blogging efforts, SEO, Amazon or from paid AdWords clicks, you’ll need to fulfil them swiftly and professionally and give your customers every possible reason to come back to buy again in the future. So, as we said before, don’t forget to communicate in a timely and professional manner. Let them know you’ve received their order right away, and tell them when they can expect delivery. If anything goes wrong, sort it out fast and professionally. A bad reputation is hard to fix!

Soft Sell, Cross-sell and Up-sell

This is also worth repeating: when dispatching physical products include professional-looking packing slips and packaging at the very least. Better still, as we said in Part 2 of our online marketing guide, include printed brochures, flyers or offers of some kind with the goods, because ‘new’ customers can easily become ‘repeat’ customers if you treat them well at all times. It’s also widely accepted within the marketing world that existing customers are your cheapest customers in terms of marketing cost; that’s a given. Look after them well and they’ll come back. Remind them about your services and products from time to time and that’s all the more likely. Do that not only with e-newsletters and the occasional emailed offer, but also by popping your latest brochure, catalogue or special offers flyer in with the product you’re supplying them. If it’s a service you offer then you can do this when you send invoices, statements, physical newsletters or posted correspondence. Cross-sell, up-sell and so on, but do so without being pushy — nobody likes a pushy salesman – which is why catalogues, newsletters, flyers and leaflets are so worthwhile – they allow you to ‘soft-sell’ to your existing customers without pressure, and they also build trust.

Get your printed marketing collateral in order

So if you take our advice and need some professional-looking brochures, flyers, leaflets, stationery, packing slips, catalogues, packaging or even just a simple ‘supplied by’ sticker to stick onto every product you dispatch (by the way, that really works for repeat sales), then Firstpoint Print would be happy to supply the any graphic design, artwork and printing. We have both digital and litho printing facilities within our group  of 3 Central London branches, so can produce any quantity economically, whether large or small. Contact us here or call your nearest branch below for more information or a zero-obligation quotation. We’d be delighted to help.