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Search For Sales Success

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Sydney Morning Herald: While most people have accepted Google as an everyday part of life, a relatively fewer number of people recognise the power of Google in analysing customer behaviour and its ability to directly increase sales, reduce costs and boost a business’s bottom line. 

According to online marketing expert Philip Shaw, people are often scared of the complexity and IT terminology behind the business solutions offered by Google, such as Analytics. However, he says that small-business owners who want their websites to bring in sales should not ignore this valuable tool.

Shaw is director of CleverClicks, a consultancy that works with businesses to plan and execute their online strategy in order to increase their sales. “Google Analytics can tell you a lot of information about how your website is performing,” he says. “It can tell you how many visitors you are getting, where they are coming from, how long they are staying on your site and what page they are leaving on. You can also track how many of those people convert into actual sales.”

Shaw says businesses can use Google Analytics – a free tool – to determine where customers are disengaging from the buying process on a website. He gives the analogy of a “leaky bucket” and says: “Instead of putting in more water, you need to plug some of the holes because the cost of getting more traffic to your site is going up all the time. So you need to make sure you focus on how well your website is converting traffic today.

“That’s where smart businesses are moving towards because they understand there is a massive opportunity there. If you can increase your conversion rate from 4 per cent to 5 per cent, that’s a 25 per cent increase in sales.”

He encourages business owners to consider making the most of the conversion tracking tool within Google Analytics.

“It’s important to understand which key words result in conversions,” Shaw says. “If you are spending $1000 a month across 300 keywords, but only 50 of them are generating inquiries, then you can cut a lot of your costs. It’s a mistake to set and forget. You need to focus on it on a day-to-day basis. That way you can optimise your campaign for each individual keyword to get the most out of it.”

The chief executive of Kinder Caring Home Nursing, Adam Blake, has worked with Shaw for the past 18 months to track his sales conversions through Google Analytics. This has resulted in a significant decrease in marketing costs, increase in sales and increase in traffic. Blake says from September 2007 to March 2009, total traffic has increased by 12.5 times.

“We’re getting results,” he says. “We used to spend well over $100,000 a year on advertising in the Yellow Pages and in other print materials. This year, I reduced that marketing spend by 60 per cent. We don’t do any print or Yellow Pages any more, except for Yellow Pages Online.”

Blake is referring to an online strategy that includes search engine optimisation, Adwords – where he pays for advertising on Google based on cost-per-click – and Analytics.

“Google Analytics is great for me,” says Blake. “I’ve actually downloaded a desktop application so I can play with the statistics that come through Google. I can see if there are any trends on where people are coming from and what pages they are looking at. Our next initiative is to use Google Website Optimizer.”

Google Website Optimizer, another free tool, allows you to create different headlines, pictures and designs on your website. It displays different combinations of these and then tracks which is most successful, thus giving you valuable information on the best “mix” to achieve your goals.

For business owners who are only starting to explore what Google’s business solutions offer, Shaw suggests the online Google Adwords learning centre is a good place to start. “If you want to do it yourself, start there,” he says. “In a couple of days you’d understand the fundamentals and be able to get your own campaign up and running.”

By Valerie Khoo

April 14, 2009

One-stop Shop: Investing In Your Business

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TheAge.com.au: Many small businesses are gearing up for conference season. It’s a time that relished by those who love the networking, learning and parties. And it’s a time that’s dreaded by others – those who can’t stand another exhibition booth or business card draw.

I’ll admit that I avoided the conference circuit for many years. When I first started out in business, I felt that the prices were steep and the benefits dubious. But when I decided that I had to invest in my business (and myself) in order to grow, I realised that conferences were a one-stop shop. In a couple of days, you could do all your research under one roof, meet a tonne of industry contacts and learn a few things along the way as well.

Apart from the wide range of conferences available in Australia, I’m meeting an increasing number of entrepreneurs who are being seduced into attending industry-specific conferences offshore. I did that myself at the end of last year when I went to Los Angeles for an online marketing conference for entrepreneurs.

I recently spoke with Sydney-based small business entrepreneur Philip Shaw, who runs search engine marketing consultancy CleverClicks. Last year, Shaw spent a month travelling around the US attending four separate conferences. He believes the benefits to his business were well worth it and describes some of the experiences as “life-changing”. This is a big call for attending a conference. So why does he rate it so highly?

1. Why did you decide to go to four conferences in a month last year?

“One of my main competitive advantages is professional development – that’s why I make it a priority to regularly attend conferences and training. Whilst I am a big supporter of Australian conferences, in the field of online marketing, the US is still the place to be. I try head over every 12 to 18 months.

“It makes sense to choose the right time of year where I can attend a few conferences in the same trip to get the biggest bang for my buck. I also participated on some invaluable Google endorsed training in New York and Los Angeles which is not available in Australia.”

2. On what basis did you choose your conferences?

“As I’ve attended quite a few online marketing conferences over the past few years, I have learned which ones are most worthwhile. I find the best ones are well worth the price premium that they charge. The quality of the keynote speakers is an easy way to gauge the quality of the conference. Sitting in boring sessions is very frustrating, so it pays to put in the research hours.

“I generally favour conferences that have been running for a number of years. In terms of content, I try to get a balance of sessions on the skills required for the services I currently offer, but also some views of the where the internet and web business models are heading.”

3. Did you find them useful? That is, did you walk away with implementable ideas for your own business?

“Absolutely! They are life changing. I really felt like I had taken a giant step up since returning from my last trip. My clients are experts in their business and not online marketing, and rely on me to know where the industry is heading and what is most relevant for their businesses. The networking is also invaluable. I made some excellent industry contacts that I will look to build on in coming years.

“I strongly recommend using the social tools on the conference’s website to help networking with other Aussies, and foreigners. I have recently hired an Aussie guy I met in a New York conference. We had connected a month before on the conference’s website for a ‘beer meet up’.”

4. Did you have much time for “time off” during this period?

“I attended 20 days of conferences/training in five weeks and still had to run my business so there was very little time for touristy things. I had been to all the cities before so I didn’t really feel like was missing out. I made time for some exercise and that was about it. In the future I will try schedule a bit more for time off.”

In addition to Philip’s tips, here are a few of my own.

* Ensure you have at least a day on either side of the conference to settle in and recover.

Conferences are long days and hard work. If you think you will fly in and fly out, while squeezing in the conference, I guarantee that you won’t be awake for half the sessions – especially if you are still recovering from jet lag. Don’t try to be Superman and be realistic about what your body can cope with over a three- or four-day period. Plus, adding an extra day gives you time to follow up with people to consolidate the new relationships you’ve started in the lobby bar.

* Stay in the nearest hotel, ideally the same one the conference is being held in.

The last thing you want to be doing is traipsing a long way to your own hotel, laden with folders and other conference paraphernalia. Nor do you want to be queueing with hundreds of other conference-goers for the loo! You can just head back to your room and escape the hordes. And remember, some of the best networking is done in the lobby, so staying in the hotel means you have a great excuse to hang out there.

* Choose your conferences wisely.

I agree with Philip Shaw in that you should review the keynote speakers and consider the reputation of the conference for shelling out the cash to attend. In addition, I recommend that you speak to people who have been to the conference before. If you don’t know anyone, you will often find testimonials on the conference website from people who have gone in previous years. Contact them and ask for their honest opinion. That’s what I did before I went to the online marketing conference last year and, thanks to the glowing reports I heard, I was convinced. (And yes, the investment was worth it.)

Overseas conferences offer you a different perspective on your industry and your business. Getting there, particularly from Australia, can be a considerable investment. But they can also give you a competitive edge and a headstart on innovation.

By Valerie Khoo

Feb. 4, 2009

Get Noticed by Google

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The Daily Telegraph: With one billion internet users worldwide and 14 million in Australia, being easily found in Google can have a huge impact on the success of your business. Even if you don’t sell online, many of your potential customers do research on Google before making their buying decisions.

If customers don’t find your business online, you can be fairly sure they’ll find your competition.

To rank high in Google’s search results, you can hire a consultant or, given the time, there are some easy changes you can make to your website yourself, or perhaps ask your web developer to do for you.

How does Google rank websites?

Before you make any changes to your website, you need to understand how Google finds and ranks your website in the search results.

Search engines use software, often called a “robot” or a “spider”, that constantly “crawls” the internet following links from one site to another, reading the text of the sites it finds, then recording or “indexing” the results in its database.

When a potential customer does a search (for say “Sydney drycleaners”), the search engine uses its secret formula or “algorithm” to create a list of what it deems to be the most relevant search results for that request.

The Google search results page is made up of two sections: sponsored links and organic results.

The sponsored links (paid advertising, such as Google Adwords) are the entries at the top of the page and the right-hand column. The organic results are in the left-hand column below the first sponsored entries.

Getting your website to rank as high as possible in the organic results is referred to as search engine optimisation (or SEO).

There are two basic steps to improve your rankings. You need to improve the content of your website so your keywords are very prominent in the text of your website, then you need to get lots of other websites that are relevant to your business linking to your website.

Very few website visitors click on beyond the second page of the search results, so your goal should be to get at least within the top 20 search results (that is, the first two search results pages) for any keyword phrase.

Let’s focus on improving the rankings of your home page. Follow this step-by-step approach to optimise your home page for two keyword phrases. (This process can be repeated for each of your web pages.)

Step 1: Keyword research

What keywords do you think your customers would type in to search for your products or services? A keyword can be one word (for example “restaurant”), but multiple keywords or keyword phrases are usually preferred, because they are more specific to what your customers are looking for (for example “French restaurant Bondi”).

Write down as many as you can think of. Brainstorm with your team. Think of alternative words. Consider geographical phrases if they are important to your customer (for example, “house cleaning Hornsby”). Get some ideas from your competitors’ websites. Try to make a list of 20-30 keyword phrases.

Choose the two keyword phrases you think would be searched for the most. But remember, the more competition there is for a keyword, the harder it is to achieve top rankings.

If you want to rank high in Google for the keyword “insurance”, you have a very long journey ahead. So try your best to select two keyword phrases that are the most relevant to your business but are not vague nor competitive. It’s a good idea to have two or three words in each phrase (for example, “wedding catering services”).

Once you’ve selected your two best keyword phrases the next step shows you how to make some improvements to your home page.

Step 2: Web copy

Web copy refers to all the words or text on your website. Because content is king in the world of search engines, your keyword phrases need to be placed strategically on your webpage to convince Google that your content is highly relevant to those keywords.

The more prominent they are, the better. But keep in mind that as important as search engines are, customers come first, so make sure your copy also reads well.

Here’s how you can increase each keyword’s prominence:

  • Put them in headings, preferably at the beginning of the heading;
  • Include keywords towards the top of the page;
  • Bold or italicise keywords where appropriate;
  • Instead of a link to another page “Click here to read more”, include keywords, e.g. “Read more about our vehicle fleet financing”.

An important tip is to also include these keywords in your HTML “title tag”. Use your content management system to make these changes or ask your web developer to do it.

Consider adding new content, such as detailed descriptions of what you offer, FAQs and informative articles about your products and services. (If you don’t want to write these yourself, they can be located for free on the internet – do a search for “articles directory”).

It’s also good to bear in mind that search engines can only read text, not pictures. Often web developers embed words in images to look better or use Flash for animation, but this is a major impediment to search engines.

Step 3: Linking

Each link from another website to your website (not from your website) is considered by search engines as a vote of popularity for your business and will improve your rankings.

But it is the quality, not quantity, of the links that is crucial. The other websites should be relevant to your industry, and preferably highly regarded themselves. Ten quality links count far more than 500 links from arbitrary websites.

In the same way your personal business network can have a significant impact on the success of your business, so too the online network you build on the internet.

Brainstorm all the relevant websites that could link to you, such as non-competing companies, and industry bodies and organisations.

Write a friendly email to each describing the benefit their visitors would get in knowing about your business, and request them to create a link to your website.

Most people will not respond first time round, so a follow-up phone call is usually required.

How do I monitor my results?

Monitor your rankings in Google over the next few months by typing your chosen keywords into the search box and recording your ranking. You should also have an analytics reporting tool in place with your web hosting service to allow you to see how many visitors your site gets and, importantly, what search term they are using to find your website.

The above process can be also be repeated for each page of your website. Remember to keep updating your content and continually increase the number of links to your website.

As you see your rankings climb, you should see a corresponding increase in web traffic and a substantial increase in sales inquiries.

Be sure to record the source of your customer inquiries, so you can measure the success of your marketing efforts. If you measure it, you can improve it.

By Philip Shaw, director of Cleverclicks

June 9, 2007

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Google Adwords Campaigns

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My Business magazine: It’s ironic that the first thing that businesses usually cut in challenging times is their marketing costs. This can have the exact opposite effect that was intended. Sales enquiries slow even more and expenses are cut again, and the business is in a fast downward spiral.

You should have systems in place to help you measure and analyse which marketing expenses are most effective. How many leads were generated from Yellow Pages? And from the local newspaper, or your last brochure drop? What was the average cost of each new lead?

More often than not you will find Google can be the most profitable advertising you’ll ever do, provided you take advantage of some of the clever tools and strategies that Google has to offer. You can get incredibly profitable campaigns or hopeless ones, where you might as well have set fire to your money. We review seven habits to ensure you run a highly effective campaign.

1. Write a compelling ad

Be careful not to become so absorbed in the technology of managing AdWords campaigns that you forget that first and foremost AdWords is about advertising! Therefore, the basic rules of advertising apply. And the number one rule in advertising is that you must stand out from the crowd – you have to be different!

This means you need to write a compelling ad that potential customers are drawn to like moths to a flame. For the ad to stand out, you need to have a good understanding of your competitors, so spend some time researching their ads before you start writing your own.

You should abide by some best practices when writing your ad copy:

  • Include the search term (i.e. keyword) in the ad heading: if the user is thinking “Sydney courier” and types in “Sydney courier”, they are more likely to be drawn to your ad if it has “Sydney courier” in the heading. This is obvious, and not rocket science, but many people don’t do it.
  • Include a benefit of your product or service: people have a problem that needs solving, and will identify with a benefit you offer (if you can, include a unique feature too).
  • Include a call to action: your ad needs to stimulate action, to tell the potential customer
    to do something (e.g. buy, download, register, book, subscribe).
  • Have a good relevant display URL: include the keyword after the domain name,
    e.g. www.ABC.com.au/courier.

The three-line ad copy needs to fit within Google’s length limitations of 95 characters. Most people find this quite challenging at first, but remember practice makes perfect, and all your competitors are faced with these same limitations.

2. Create relevance between the keyword, the ad and the landing page

Like any advertising, the more you understand the mind of your customer, the better your advertising success will be. I touched on it above, but it is really important to maintain the relevance between the keyword, the ad copy and the landing page. Your ad needs to include the keyword (e.g. “Sydney courier”) in the heading of the ad, and your landing page needs to be very specific to your keyword.

If you’re a courier company and one of your keywords is “overnight courier delivery”, it is strongly recommended that when the potential customer clicks your ad they be taken directly to a web page that is specifically about overnight deliveries. A common mistake is directing all traffic to your home page. You must send them to the most specific page possible. A more advanced strategy is to create new landing pages specifically for your AdWords keywords.

Google is so serious about the relevance between your keyword, ad and landing page that they will actually penalise you where it hurts the most – your pocket. You may have heard of the “Quality Score”. An important component of Quality Score is this relevancy. If there isn’t a strong connection between the keyword, the ad and the landing page, your Quality Score will suffer, and you will have to pay higher click prices.

3. Set Up Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

One of the best ways to improve the effectiveness of your Google AdWords campaigns is to install Google’s conversion tracking code onto your web pages. This enables you to see which individual keyword was responsible for your customer’s web enquiry, software download, or purchase from your website.

Imagine you have a campaign with 500 keywords costing you $800 per month. With conversion tracking enabled, you may find that only 100 of these keywords are generating enquiries or shopping cart sales.

With conversion tracking you can quickly hone in on these converting keywords and spend more on them, and pause the other non-performing keywords that are just costing you. You may discover that $500 of your $800 spend was wasted as the clicks were not generating any enquiries. You can now get a similar number of sales enquiries by spending $300 per month rather than $800. Your return on spend will go through the roof!

Refer to Google’s website for instructions on how to set up conversion tracking:
https://adwords.google.com

4. Determine the worth of each new customer

How much would you be prepared to pay for a new customer?

Before doing any advertising it is critical to understand how much each customer is worth to you. If you don’t, how will you ever know whether your advertising was profitable, and whether you should keep doing it? In the current business conditions, this habit is even more important than ever!

Let’s assume you’re a tax advisor and each customer is worth approximately $500. And for every five email or phone enquiries you receive, you make one sale. That means if you could pay less than $100 per enquiry, you’ll make a positive return ($100 x 5 enquiries = $500). You may also want to take the lifetime value of the customer into account.

Google AdWords campaigns will generate clicks to your website and those clicks will generate enquiries or sales. By looking at your Adwords costs for a week and comparing them to the number of sales enquiries, you can quickly work out the average cost of each enquiry. You should also be able to work out the cost of each sale. Many businesses find it difficult to have the discipline to manually record the source of each new sales enquiry, but it is so important. You can also get telephony technology that helps you monitor whether the customer phone call was from AdWords advertising.

The ultimate goal is to get to a position where you know that, for example, for every $100 you spend on AdWords, you are making $300. Once that happens, advertising is no longer a cost where you have no idea what’s working, but a specific profit-generating activity. What a lovely place to be!

5. Set up Google Analytics – FOR FREE!

You may be thinking, “This is an article is about Google AdWords, so why are you recommending Google Analytics?” This article is about getting your website to deliver more cash in the bank, and it is therefore vital to understand how your entire website is performing. Analytics can tell you where your visitors came from, what pages they visited, what pages they left on, and give insights into why they didn’t complete your conversion process (e.g. a purchase, a download, a subscription to your newsletter).

Adwords will get traffic to your website, but you need to understand how well your website is converting that visitor into a customer. Managing a website without an Analytics package is like driving a car blindfolded. It’s ridiculously negligent. No website should be without it. Google Analytics is an excellent free tool. And who doesn’t love free!

6. Plan the structure of your campaign

It is critical to structure your campaign well from the start – which is probably one of the more challenging areas of AdWords. If you’re new to AdWords, a basket or group of keywords (e.g. “Sydney courier”, “courier Sydney”, “reliable Sydney couriers”, “best Sydney couriers”) is called an “Ad Group”. And a collection of “Ad Groups” make up an AdWords campaign.

It’s important to keep the number of keywords in each ad group quite small, say around 20 to 30, and make sure they are very similar words.

If one Ad Group is targeting words very closely associated to “Sydney couriers”, and you want to target “express delivery” terms as well, then create a new Ad Group for these different “express delivery” terms. You can then create a new ad which talks specifically about express delivery. Google will prefer it, your customers will prefer it, and you will see the benefits.

If you’re starting out with AdWords, set up one Ad Group targeting your main service. Then create more Ad Groups over time once you’re more experienced.

If you have campaigns running already, with lots of keywords in each Ad Group, do some quick surgery and break them down into smaller tighter groups.

When you see that a particular keyword is getting lots of activity, consider removing it from the Ad Group and putting it in its own Ad Group and brainstorming more variations. You want to be constantly finding the best performing keywords.

The AdWords Learning Centre (www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/) is an excellent resource for additional information and is thoroughly recommended.

You may be thinking there is no end to managing a campaign, and you’re absolutely right! But the flow of new customers will prove constant motivation.

7. Use the right keyword match type

Google gives you a lot of flexibility to determine under what conditions you want your ads to be triggered. Google offers users three different match types – broad, phrase and exact match – and it’s imperative to understand their differences.

Broad Match lets you reach the most people. Your ad is triggered even when other words are added to your keyword. For example, if your keyword is “house”, your ad will be shown when someone types “buy house” or “beach house Sydney”. It will also be shown if someone enters a similar word such as “home”.

The ad would also show if the order was reversed, e.g. “drug free” keyword would also be triggered by the keyword “free drug”. So beware. Sometimes it’s better to use more specific match types.

Phrase Match triggers your ad only when the keyword is in the exact sequence that you specified. You need to put quotes around the keyword, e.g. “logo design”. So while this is more specific than broad match above, the ad will still be triggered if a user types “free logo design”.

Exact Match is the most precise match for your keywords. Your ad is triggered only when the search term precisely matches your keyword, in the same order, and with no words before or after it. You indicate an exact match by enclosing it in square brackets, e.g. [Perth florist]. So obviously with exact match you will get a lot less traffic, but you will have a lot less wastage. Those starting out with small budgets should use exact match until they have a better understanding of match types.

Broad Match is recommended for more experienced users, but remember to use lots of negative keywords to prevent untargeted traffic. For example, you may offer “tax advice” but not “free tax advice”, so ensure “free” is input as a negative keyword. A handy report to run is the “search query performance” report, which shows you which search terms triggered your ad and clicks, and you can modify your broad and negative terms further.

Conclusion

These seven habits will significantly boost your success in any downturn if you’re not already living them. And you can turn your AdWords campaigns on and off like a tap, which allows great flexibility. I also strongly encourage you to adopt the golden rule of online marketing – “test and measure”. Whenever you make changes, always measure the outcome. Regular focus on your campaign will practically guarantee great results. Test it, measure it and improve it. Then test it, measure it and improve it some more. It may sound tedious, but when the phone starts ringing, it becomes seriously addictive.

By Philip Shaw, director of CleverClicks

Philip Shaw - My Story

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Mindfood magazine: People dream of running their own business, of plunging into the unknown. What if you knew you couldn’t fail? I’d always dreamed of running my own business, but in my early 30s I was still stuck working for a large corporate company.

Tips for Successful Google Adwords Campaigns

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FlyingSolo.com.au: Google AdWords can be the most profitable advertising you’ll ever do, provided you do it correctly. This article reviews three common mistakes businesses make when running their own Google AdWords campaigns.

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