I'm here to tell you that SEO is only half the picture.

Could it be time to rethink your internet marketing strategy?

The chances are that you know all about the benefits of optimising your website for search engines - but did you know there is a whole lot more you can do to help your website to succeed?

Create a buzz with social media marketing. Funnel your users to the checkout with your site's structure. Good usability, accessibility to all, and text that sells - they all play a part.

So next time someone tries to tell you that all you need is SEO, you tell them you've seen a wider picture.

Fari Peyman - consultancy for a comprehensive online marketing strategy

Big plans for your website? Hold off a little…

The news that the new government have revised plans to roll out broadband by 2012 may affect small businesses and their online marketing. We’ve mentioned before on this blog our anticipation of the greater functionality that all businesses will be able to include on websites once the whole country is enjoying a fast connection… well, if you had great plans for an all-singing, all-dancing site, better put them to one side. The target is now 2015.

One remarkable fact that comes from the reports of the new government’s backdown is that as well as the two million homes in the UK who cannot get speeds as high as 2Mbps, about 160,000 households still cannot get any form of broadband at all. These are homes in remote and rural areas, who were presumably without power of any sort not terribly long ago, but it is certainly worth remembering that you may still have customers on dial-up… if they have internet access at all. Others may be accessing via cyber cafes and community centres, meaning hurried visits as the clock ticks away on a paid-for slot.

The low-tech solution? If you happen to have rich content such as videos or Flash, offer a pared-down site with the essentials on it too. Plus, you might want to give a phone number you can be contacted on, alongside your email address. Two million households represents a lot of potential customers, and they will be grateful for your concessons.

Does Google fix its results? We doubt it.

It’s common knowledge that a good Google ranking can make or break a business, so it’s no surprise that companies regularly get into a lather when they don’t get the results they believe they deserve.

The European Commission Competition Chief, Joaquin Almunia, is currently investigating the claims of three firms who claim that Google, far from sticking to the objective algorithms it is so well-known for basing its results on, is deliberately downgrading them.

The aggrieved companies are Foundem, a price comparison site, ejustice.fr, a French legal search engine, and – most interesting perhaps, given the rivalry between the two companies – Ciao, which is owned by Microsoft.

While we would agree that Google is not always blameless in its various activities, we’d be willing to bet that they will be found innocent on this one. Their algorithms are so complex that we could foresee a situation where sites were accidentally penalised, sure. Plus, Google does also automatically blacklist sites which adhere to any one of several practices it frowns upon, all of which fall under the banner of ‘black hat’ SEO. Might these sites have fallen foul of the sometimes labyrinthine guidelines?

Whatever the case, we’ve seen many a website owner who was convinced that Google had a personal grudge against his site. In every case, it turned out not to be so.

One of our many services for small businesses is checking that your site has nothing in place that might mitigate against your Google rankings. If you are thinking you have a lot in common with Foundem, ejustice and Ciao, why not give us a ring and we’ll see if we can get to the bottom of it for you.

Google’s new offices: poles apart

Getting sites to the top of Google rankings is a serious business – so serious that it’s easy to forget that the company also has a fun side. This week, the BBC showed us a video and images of Google’s new offices in Zurich. Fancy making an entrance to your staff canteen? The slide from the second floor is just the thing. If that’s not quite your scene, there’s also a fireman’s pole.

Google slide Fireman's pole at Google

As with the other Google offices around the world, a sense of fun, luxury and comfort pervades the offices. In return, of course, Google expects commitment and creativity – and it probably gets it. What other workplace is going to be worth leaving this for?.

We’ve all enjoyed poring over the details and dreaming of our very own phone booths made from repurposed ski-lift compartments. But in the meantime, we’ll get back to the hard work of optimising your website for Google.

Images taken from the BBC website, where you can also watch a video tour of the premises.

How will your website look on a giant screen?

You may currently be preoccupied with thinking about how you’re going to optimise your website for the oncoming mobile web explosion. Well, if you want a break from that, we’ve got news for you – it looks like we’re also in line for a massive rise in Internet-via-TV.

Announcements this week point towards a new generation of set-top box, allowing for Internet access directly through the TV, without a computer. Presumably, this will lead not only to programme-watching on demand, but a blurring between TV and online advertising. There’s every possibility for an ad to give a link, inviting the viewer to switch modes and visit a website for time-restricted special offers, for example.

While mobile Internet users present the challenge of making your website navigable, attractive, clear and comprehensible on a small screen, TV Internet will of course bring the opposite issues – especially with the current trend of ever-larger plasma screens. Resolution may also be different.

Project Canvas, the BBC’s name for the new set-top box, isn’t expected to launch until next year, but it’s definitely worth thinking about it now.

How the news can help you market online

If you sell internationally, it’s definitely worth reading the technology section of the daily papers. For example, did you know that many websites, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, not to mention the all-important Google, are blocked in China?

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That’s been the case for quite a while, but recent news stories have also alerted us to similar and less-predictable restrictions in Turkey and Pakistan. On the other hand, the Finnish government have apparently decreed that broadband Internet access is a human right, and are promising every citizen super-fast access by 2015. Currently, almost 100% of the population is already connected at a more normal speed.

Why is it worth knowing these things? Well, obviously, if you sell to Turkey, say, you won’t want to waste your efforts on a viral marketing campaign on YouTube. Similarly, there’s little point in optimising your Chinese web pages for Google. On the other hand, if many of your customers are from Scandinavia, you can have a lot of fun designing fairly weighty websites with as much video or Flash content as you like – it won’t clog up their capacious broadband.

Apart from anything else, it’s fascinating to see how each country restricts or enables access to the 20th century’s greatest invention – and your international strategy will be a whole lot more likely to bear fruit.

2 million more customers

Sell online? Your customer base just increased by almost two million.

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Well, all right, not “just”, but, according to The Guardian, Internet users rose by 5%, or 1.9 million, to 38.8 million over the last year to May. This boost in numbers reflects new sectors of the population becoming familiar with an online environment, with the largest rise coming in the 50-65 year old demographic.

Other growing sectors include females between the ages of 12 and 20, and a substantial rise in men of all ages.

So, if you sell products or services that appeal to these profiles, you may well be reaping the benefits. If you don’t… might now be the time to start? Having said that, it seems to us that these figures really just represent previously ill-represented sectors coming online. Eventually, the Internet will be so pervasive that to talk about who is on it will be meaningless: we all will be.

Facebook, the movie: an update

It was over a year ago that we first heard about Facebook, the movie, and now, at last… a trailer. Not that it, nor the accompanying official website is letting much slip, yet.

Those who sit through the trailer will be treated to some corkers of lines, including:

“The site got 22 hundred hits within two hours?”
“Thousand – 22 thousand“.

Which made me laugh, because – and forgive me for saying this – such statements might go down as high drama in our own office, but they do seem a little lame as the selling point for a blockbuster film.

Naturally, the dialogue is accompanied by the usual soundtrack of frantic fingers on a rattling keyboard, possibly from the same sound effects disc once utilised by Tron, War Games and You’ve Got Mail.

We’ll certainly reserve judgment until release, and we’ll happily risk wasting a couple of hours at the cinema – after all, we’ve already frittered away half our lives on the real Facebook – but it’s hard to deny that almost all films centred around computers, let alone websites, have to provide an awful lot of dramatic tension to make up for the lack of stunning visuals. If director Fincher is wise, and we’re sure he is, he will of course focus on the people behind the platform.

Come to think of it, there’s a lesson for us all there. Yes, Facebook is a remarkable phenomenon; yes, it’s ripe for your marketing initiatives. But it is the people on there, forging and strengthening real-life friendships, marriages, events and all the other dramas of real life, that create Facebook – and it is those real people that we need to market to.

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Oh, and don’t forget the immortal truth provided by the film’s strapline:

You don’t get to 55 million friends without making a few enemies.

Bring social interaction right onto your site

We all know the benefits of having a presence on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and so on, but the fact is that any interaction you have on there may not be seen by visitors to your main website.

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We’ve been looking at a neat piece of code that you can add to your own site and encourage interaction on the spot: it’s called Echo.

Whether you’d like to encourage feedback or ratings on your products, or simply aggregate questions and answers, this auto-refresh software gives your users their own space. Neatly, it integrates with a number of social networks, so you don’t lose the viral benefits of those platforms.

To us, it looks like an easy way to key in to all the advantages of having peer reviews and ratings on your site, with the minimum of development. We’d be happy to help you add it to your own site if you require – or talk about other options if this one doesn’t seem quite right.

Google Maps adds property listings

From today, Google offers users the option to see properties for sale and rent as an overlay to UK maps.

This free service is clearly of great benefit to the many small businesses who operate as estate agents or letting companies: Google says “We are completely open to working with any company”. A link will be provided back to the property website at no charge.

It’s good news for Google’s users, too: surely anyone in the market for a new house these days consults Google Maps, Streetview and the satellite view to fully case out a property and its location before making a visit.

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See the new overlay by going to Google Maps and selecting the ‘more’ drop-down beside the search box.

Mobile advertising – the next big thing

If you’re only just getting your head round PPC advertising, you may be dismayed to know that Google are several steps ahead – and that very soon, there will be whole new advertising platforms on which to promote your business. Yes, mobile advertising is the next big thing, underlined by Google’s recent acquisition of the Admob network.

As internet usage moves more and more onto smartphones and handheld devices, it makes sense that online advertising should follow. And since it is, most likely, an actual phone that the users are browsing on, it makes sense to deliver adverts with ‘click to call’ or ‘click to download’ functionality. These allow immediate action – either calling your business, or downloading, say, a special offer or directions to your premises.

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These adverts need not appear only in search results, either: increasingly they are being seen on free apps and mobile-ready websites. You need only make them relevant and compelling, and you’ll have tapped in to the lucrative smartphone sector.

If it all sounds a bit confusing, do not worry. We can manage your mobile adverts as readily as we can your PPC campaigns. Just give us a ring – the old-fashioned way, if you prefer!

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