8 of my top articles, all in one place…

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

One of the things its easy to forget when you’ve been blogging for a long time is all the great posts and content you’ve put together over the years. All that effort you put in, potentially lost in the mists of time.

Unless a user finds your posts by a search engine, its unlikely they’ll navigate back over years worth of content – lets face it, who has the time for that?

There is an easy solution to this though – A ’round up’ post. A collection of posts from your blog linked to from another post just like this. It could be your ‘favourite 5 articles’, ’7 posts you’ve written on a  particular topic’, it could just be a random mixture you want to highlight for another reason.

So with that in mind, here is one from me.

I use a tool called Postrank (owned by Google) to help me work out which of my posts are well received and which flop. It scores on all sorts of metrics like comments/shares etc…

So here are my top 8 posts of all time according to my post rank stats – enjoy:

1). Here’s a great way to loose some customers – I got quite miffed one holiday in Cornwall a year or so ago and decided to rant a little on my blog. Right or wrong, this post topped the charts!

2). Do what you do best and delegate the rest – A post about my framework for delegation, essential as your company grows.

3). 7 Super useful resources for busy business owners – Gotta love a list of useful resources. It seems other people did too.

4). Facebook Places – Are you Aware – One of my most commented on posts so it clearly hit a nerve. A post about thinking before you ‘check-in’

5). If I were a solicitor… – Here’s a post for all solicitors thinking about how to use social media. Loads of great ideas, crowd-sourced from others as well.

6). The sale ain’t made ‘til the bill is paid! – Putting together a policy on money and collecting it is essential to any business, large or small. This post gives some hints and tips on this topic.

7). 5 traits successful business owners have – This one got a lot of traction. The title speaks for itself.

8). Cash Flow is King! Guide to setting up a cash flow forecast - My most visited post (and one of my oldest) by a long way. It proves that if you give a bit of value away you get search engine listings and lots of traffic in return.

Now Your Thoughts

  • If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog and have others you think I’ve missed out please do highlight them.
  • Have you thought about doing a round up post yourself? Its really quite fun to reminisce…

Photo courtesy of Fabio Marini under creative commons

p.s You can now add your email address to my ‘newsletter’ signup. I’ll be adding value to this group of people as often as possible – they will receive things from me that others don’t have access to, so please signup today.



p.p.s. If you like what you’ve read here then you should sign up to my RSS feed and every time I update this site the post will be sent to your reader automatically.

5 ways to gain better Search Engine Listings

5 ways to gain better Search Engine Listings

Ladies and Gents, this post was originally written for my local paper – The Express and Echo. I felt the content was important to re-purpose for my blog.

I’m going to focus today on Search Engine Optimisation or SEO as it’s often referred to.

SEO is not a dark art. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you put the right things in place, you’ll start to see your rankings in major search engines improve. Where you might want additional help from your agency is when this is critical to your business and requires constant improvement to gain more and more rankings and therefore sales opportunities.

Here are five top tips you can do YOURSELF, today, to improve your rankings.

1). Add a blog to your site. Look at sites like www.wordpress.com which offer free blog software. You can download this and put it on your domain name (web address) and start to reap the benefits of blogging. A blog is given more respect from search engines due to the underlying software and fact that they are often updated regularly (Google loves fresh new content to sink it’s teeth into).

2). Ask for links. A link from someone else’s site to your own is seen as a vote for it. The more good quality links you have coming to your site, the better your rankings are likely to be. Ask yourself who you can approach for a link today – make a list and send them an email – now.

3). Create targeted content. You’ve installed your new blog so what do you write about now? Consider what you want to be found for in search engines. Is it XYZ product? In which case, you need to write about that product and give google and the others the chance to find multiple references of this product within your site. Try and provide value to the user – don’t just tell them why it’s great you’ve got this new product – sell the features and benefits of it for the user. Here’s a few suggestions for titles:

“Why the XYZ is so good in our opinion”
“5 great reasons you should consider buying the XYZ today”
“Review of the XYZ”

4). Page Titles. You see that blue bar at the top of your Internet Browser? That’s your page title. Every page can have and should have a different title. Lazy designers or those without the expertise will probably use the same title throughout your whole site. This is a huge waste and should be changed immediately. Consider again what you want to be listed for in the search engines and then try and make the title of that page match the content on the page as much as possible.

5). Google Product Feed. Ok so possibly not strictly SEO but as it’s part of Google I’ll include it here. If you’re selling products on your site and have a credit card system you can export these products into the Google shopping area. This takes some technical expertise but is well worth investing in, so ask your agency to look into this for you as soon as possible as it can lead to almost instant sales without huge investment. It’s also a great way to get a presence in Google if you’re struggling in the natural listings.

So there we have it folks, 5 lovely tips to take away and action today. I can pretty much guarantee you that if you start to implement these on your site today, you’ll start seeing the benefit very soon.

Image courtesy of Danard Vincente

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any great success stories from your hard work optimising?
  • If you had a top 5 list, would you add something I’ve missed into it?

Managing Support and Maintenance, A Crowdsourcing Post

Managing Support and Maintenance, A Crowdsourcing Post

Today I want to throw something out there to discuss, I’m hoping we can get some useful dialogue going around one of the most tricky subjects for business owners in tech businesses – that of maintenance and support. This is the first crowd-sourcing post I’ve tried so let’s see how it goes :)

In my industry (web design and online marketing) this is a particularly difficult topic to cover. Do you charge for bugs or problems that arise in websites a year after they were built? When Microsoft bring out a new browser and a site changes in appearance who covers that cost? If something isn’t picked up at testing stage, (because let’s face it you’re never going to be able to test something so extensively you can guarantee you’ve picked up everything) who pays then? Should web companies offer warranties? These are all questions businesses in the web game have to deal with. I’m sure that in any tech based industry where you provide a product you have to ponder similar issues.

Perhaps the easiest model to relate to is that of the car industry and how they deal with their new car sales. In talking with a number of business owners recently I’ve seen lots of other business models, all with slight nuances. It’s been fascinating and if I could share them all with you I would but many were offline conversations. So I thought the next best thing would be to build a useful post of advice and help from influential business owners around the globe who can add their two pennies worth on this topic.

If you’re not in a business that has to worry about this topic but have sat ‘the other side’ perhaps you’d like to give us your opinion on how you think business in these industries could deal with these issues – that would be just as valuable.

So let’s hear your ideas. Please share this post if you know others that might be able to add their advice and let’s discuss.

Photo courtesy of Em2me

How to be found in Google

How to be found in Google

When you type your name into Google what comes up?

Are you the 1st result? Are you 2nd? Please tell me you’re on the first page right? No? Really?

When I go for a meeting with anyone, when I listen to someone speak, the first thing I do is Google their name and if they don’t appear at least once on the first page that’s a report card on them I’m afraid. If your job is such that you need to keep out of the public eye then I’d understand but for those of you trying to build businesses and get yourself out there you’re going to need to get yourself out there. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this today.

1). Get yourself a blog. Don’t just add it to a free wordpress or blogger hosting account. Shell out a few pennies and have it hosted properly on its own domain. Consider buying a domain with your own name if it’s still available. If it’s not, then write a great biography page with your name mentioned in it.

2). Get active on Twitter and LinkedIn. These two sites are huge and very well respected by the likes of Google. When you signup try and choose a name which is something to do with you if possible. If not then make sure you at least give the network your full name where it asks for it. Create a biography page/section that describes you, your location (because people will use that to search too) and your interests if possible. Now get active on these channels. Engage with people on Twitter, link people to things of interest that you find and connect with people on LinkedIn – be proactive, don’t just wait to accept peoples invites and wonder what to do then.

3). Get listed on your company website – Does your company site have a team page you can be added to? Does it have a blog you could write for? Ask the powers that be how you can be featured more online and if you are the powers that be, make this happen :)

4). Write for your local paper or at least get them to write about you! Local papers are also well respected in search engines due to the amount of fresh content they are churning out and size of their sites. A few stories every now and again could see you getting listed in Google more often. If your story is good enough the paper will want it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get after all!

So there you have it, a few ways to start improving your ‘googleability’ (not sure if I just made that up or not). If you’re looking for the edge over your competitors this point should really be up near the top of your to do list.

Image courtesy of Molly Stevens

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any other suggestions for helping get listed in Google?
  • Have you used the search engine giant to do research yourself?

8 Simple Steps to Email Marketing Loveliness

8 Simple Steps to Email Marketing Loveliness

Some of you might be wondering why I’m writing about email marketing today – it’s old hat isn’t it? With all this new social media buzz, there is surely no place in the world for email marketing is there? Well I believe there is and I intend to tell you why and how you can use it to grow your client base today.

Let’s settle one thing quickly – if you’re reading this, thinking about buying a database from someone on a street corner (or even  a more reputable source) then this article probably isn’t for you. I’m focusing today on using your own valuable data, built up over years possibly.

I want to start with a story. About a year ago a guy approached Optix having met me 6 years ago at a networking event. I’d agreed with him to receive the Optix newsletter and we both went our separate ways. Optix kept in touch with him by way of our monthly newsletter and recently he became one of our largest clients. He’d watched the business grow and liked what he’d seen.

Here are a few sure fire ways to use email marketing to help your business grow:

1). All about the data – A good email marketing campaign revolves around good data. Make sure yours is clean or you’ll just be throwing money away.

2). Build your data – what can you give away to build a database of leads/contacts/prospects? This year we launched our free social media policy generator: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/free-social-media-policy-generator/ – A tool of real value which also helps us build leads – true ‘Inbound Marketing’.

3). Split Test your email subject lines – A good email marketing system will split test campaigns for you. It will take 50% of your database and send two different subject lines, content variants or from names and then track the most successful delivery rate, then send the winner to the other 50% – using this will give you better open and click through rates.

4). Spam & Client Testing – Emails show up differently in different email clients. Now email is consumed more and more on mobile devices you need to make sure your email is designed and developed for all these variants. This again is something a good system should be able to do for you. If not, make sure you ask your designers to consider this.

5). Deal with bounces – If an email bounces (doesn’t reach its destination) it can be for a couple of reasons. A soft bounce may infer a problem with the routing of an email to someones email box/server and is likely to be ok next time round. A hard bounce means that email doesn’t exist any longer and should be cleaned from the database – no point spending money on people that won’t ever answer!

6). Use Autoresponders – When you signup to something on a site have you ever received an email a few days later which follows it up…and then again a week or so after that? You’re part of an autoresponder system. Clever marketers know that it takes a few ‘touches’ to get to a sale but tracking and sending emails to everyone that signs up with your site manually would be far too inefficient to deal with so autoresponders help to do this for you. Used cleverly, these are extremely powerful tools

7). Segment your data – If you’re blasting everyone in your database in one go you’re probably not getting the most from it. Segment your data into interests/purchases made if you’re running an ecommerce shop or even simple things like male/female if this makes a difference to your customer. For example, I’m not hugely interested in the latest dresses from Reiss (a favourite shop of mine) but they don’t send me that because I’m segmented in their database.

8). Tie into your Social Profiles – If you have a fantastic Facebook page and a tremendous Twitter presence then make the most of them. Ask people to sign up for your updates – if you don’t ask you don’t get after all. Don’t bombard them but a few calls to action every now and again is fine.

It’s time to get clever with your email marketing – it’s still one of the most powerful tools in the online marketing toolbox.

Oh and if you’re looking for a provider, we have our own that you can find out more about over at http://www.envirosend.co.uk

Image courtesy Ramberg Media Images

Now Your Thoughts

  • What’s worked or not worked for you when you’ve marketed by email?
  • Got any tips for the other readers?

How to make your website a lead generating machine – 3 easy steps

How to make your website a lead generating machine – 3 easy steps

How are you generating leads for your business? Is it hard work? Lots of networking and meetings right? Would you rather be ‘found‘ by potential customers? Well that’s where the practice of inbound marketing can be very useful. Hubspot in the US were the company to coin this term and their website is a perfect example of how to practice lead generation. In fact, they now get over 27k leads a month because they are so successful at this. Guess what, it’s not that hard to do in your business – In this article I’m going to teach you how.

At Optix, we practice Inbound Marketing but on a much smaller scale. I’m going to take you through a recent example which I hope will get you thinking about your own business and how you could do something similar.

We’ve been writing social media policies for clients for some time now. We decided to release a free ‘cut-down’ version of a policy which anyone can download and use. All we ask is that the user gives us their name, company name and email address. We also ask a couple of basic questions about the companies use of Social Media. The website then builds the policy on the fly and emails it to the user. Within the first month of this going live two amazing things had happened:

Over 50 companies downloaded the policy and gave us their details – all leads for my sales team.

We started to appear within the first 5 results of Google (They are very good at finding useful sites) for some really key terms like:

So how can you do this in your business? Here are three easy steps:

1). Consider what you can give away of value online. Can you create an ebook or a whitepaper or could you even do what we did and create a tool of value? Try and think ‘out of the box’ – don’t talk about yourself or your product directly, think about something of real use to your potential customers.

2). Put this on your website on a ‘landing page’ dedicated to that content and ask the user for some basic details in return for access to this valuable content – ideally if you can, blog about it and spread it using social media platforms like twitter, facebook and linkedIn.

3). Work out a ‘multi-touch’ (different ways of talking to the prospect – i.e email, phone, meeting – I’ll credit Scott Gould and Kristen Sousa for that one :)) plan for keeping in contact with the users who download it. Consider auto-responders if you don’t have much resource in terms of sales teams.

So there you have it, consider what you can create today and start to create compelling landing pages for capturing the details.

Now Your Thoughts

  • Can you share examples of where you’ve seen other companies do this. We can all do with inspiration :)
  • Have you dabbled with this type of marketing before? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Like Minds & The Social Media Survey 2010

Like Minds & The Social Media Survey 2010

So last week was the Like Minds conference in Exeter, Devon, a bringing together of Like Minded individuals from all over the globe – The topic – Creativity and Curation.

My Online Marketing Agency, Optix Solutions was proud to sponsor the event for the 3rd time running, making us one of the companies to be there in support from the beginning. We also used the platform to launch the results of the Social Media survey we ran earlier in the year. A glossy 26 page booklet with the findings as well as contributions from some of the world’s leading social media minds was presented. More information on the survey and details of how to request a copy can be found here: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/social-media-survey-2010/

It contains insights from the likes of Scott Gould, Trey Pennington, Olivier Blanchard, Julian Summerhayes and a foreword was kindly written by Chris Brogan.

Anyway, here are my take-aways and observations from the fantastic two day conference

1). Exeter is a special place and everyone that came to visit it loved it.

2). Despite Like Minds’ move away from social media to other things, it remains in my mind, a social media conference and when the speakers take on social topics, the audience lights up. I hope the team take this on board for future events.

3). Steve Moore of the Big Society can write a well crafted speech in front of a couple of hundred people in less than an hour, just before he goes on stage – he is also extremely funny and tells amazing stories.

4). The new immersive format in the mornings rocked – I got most of the value from these sessions this year.

5). Did I mention that Optix Solutions released the results of the Social Media Survey 2010 :)

6). Benjamin Ellis is one clever guy and if you want to talk Psychology then he’s your man. Thanks Benjamin

7). Joanne Jacobs predicted in her immersive that by 2012 the web will be viewed by mobiles more than desktop computers, so companies better get their websites mobile friendly. She also said that we’ll see a shift of users to people that currently don’t really use the internet at work (like handymen) – the Internet on their mobiles will become very important for their work

8). Was great to see Jon Akwue back again and even more fantastic that he read the Jeffrey Gitomer book I gave him last time recently and enjoyed it :)

9). Wikis are a great way of sharing social strategy with staff internally, allowing everyone to collaborate and understand what the company is trying to achieve

10). Cofacio is a new Help Engine which is very cool – You can offer help and ask for help and earn points which are used to help good causes. You should signup now

11). Shaa Wasmund has done a lot with her life and not let anything get in her way. She rightly points out that if you don’t try you’ll never know what could be. She’s also incredibly positive – a massive plus in my book

12). James Whatley talked about gaining success in Social Media (and other places) by ‘Displacing the market’ – I.e. trying to do something different to the norm. I love this and will use it often – thanks James :)

12). Robin Wight is a fashion icon (and very clever guy) and I want his shoes!

If you’ve not had the chance to be a part of a Like Minds Conference until now then I wholeheartedly recommend you do your best to get to the next one – you won’t regret it.

Now Your Thoughts

  • What were your highlights – I know the organisers read this blog so it’s a great place to share
  • Have you read the survey – what are your thoughts on the results?

Facebook Places – Are You Aware?

A bonus post from me today but one that I feel is very important for the reasons I’m about to go into.

At the weekend, a friend came over to my house. He decided to ‘check-in’ to my house using Facebook places and invite me. Where’s the harm in that right? Well Facebook Places will geo-locate your smart phone device and show a map of where you are to all your friends. He had told over 1000 people on his Facebook profile where I lived. You’re hopefully starting to see where I’m going with this. If people know where I live it’s not the end of the world but if people are going round checking in to their friends houses & their own houses regularly then this concerns me. A lot of data is being built up about where people are and are not.

Facebook has a prolific younger audience and Facebook Places is nice and shiny to them – they want to play with it and rather than using it for the commercial benefits it might have, they are using it to check-in to homes a lot. How many parents out there don’t realise that their house’s whereabouts is being flagged up to potentially thousands of people online? What about those parties that were gatecrashed years ago – how much easier will that be now?

I’m an avid user of Foursquare (another Geo-Location tool) and have been for a year or so. The difference with this tool is that Foursquare was used by an early adopter audience which probably had a slightly more mature demographic to it’s user base who might think through the ramifications of checking in to their own and friends houses. Facebook has just opened places upto 500 million people across the globe and I truly believe that we need to educate people as to it’s use. You might remember that people were talking about Foursquare and burglaries a while ago (I wrote about it here) – this, in my opinion is far more worrying.

If you have a family (especially kids) using Facebook, guide them on the use of Places and spread the word.

Now Your Thoughts

Are you using Places? Did you even know about it? Am I getting worried for no reason?

Who are your influencers?

Who are your influencers?

In my last blog post I talked about the influence project. This week I want to focus on finding your influencers.

How do you spread the message about your business? Do you try and do it yourself? Do you employ sales people to go out and do it on your behalf? These are valid tactics but I want to let you into a secret today – it’s far easier and more effective to spread the message about your company if you let others do it for you. Sounds obvious right but how do you do it? Here’s how:

1). Work out who your ‘sneezers’ are. Seth Godin came up with the concept of the sneezer in a book entitled ‘Unleashing The Idea Virus’ (aff link) a few years ago. The idea being that your sneezers will help you push out a message to far more people and far quicker than you could hope to do on your own. A sneezer is the type of person that loves to talk, they love to tell other people about other peoples business. I’m sure if you think hard enough about it you will work out a few of your sneezers right now. More often than not they are the people that attend every networking event and seem to know everyone. Their personalities just lend themselves to ‘sneezing’ :)

2). Give them the tools to pass your message on. If you’re hoping they will pass your message on in real life, the message better be good. You better have a fantastic new product or a purple cow (another great book by Seth, also an aff link). These days we have social media which allows us to push a message on quickly by sharing, retweeting or forwarding on a message – it can literally be at the click of a button.

3). Find these people online. I keep a list of my sneezers on my computer at all times. I started with a list of everyone that’s ever passed my name or my company name onto a contact as a recommendation. That’s the holy grail by the way (someone putting their neck on the line for you). Treat these people very carefully and concentrate on them when you need to get a message out there. Influencers online are usually quite easy to find. They are normally well liked, well followed people. If they run blogs then look for signs like numbers of rss subscribers, number of comments, number of times they get retweeted. If these people push your message on you’re going to get traction. Spend time building relationships with them, engage with them and help them wherever you can.

4). Hang out in places where influencers are. I’m a member of two or three online communities. These cost money but boy are they worth it. The quality of member I’ll meet here will be worth their weight in gold. There are two that I’d recommend joining today, one here in the UK and one in the states.

Entrepreneurs Circle – If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur then join up today. I believe at the time of writing you get two months free so what have you got to lose? This group has both online content, which is worth the joining fee alone and offline meetups where you can network with successful individuals.

Join Entrepreneurs Circle (aff link)

Third Tribe – Chris Brogan et al started Third Tribe with the vision of scaling their knowledge and bringing like minded online marketers together. There is an excellent forum and the podcasts (which you can download to your mp3 player) are second to none. If you want to mix with the best online marketing people in the world then this is the place to be.

Join Third Tribe Marketing (aff link)

I make no bones about the fact that I am an affiliate for both these groups. I never promote things I’m not a fan of or have not benefitted from myself. These two groups have had a profound effect on my business life so I heartly recommend you joining today if you can.

Now Your Thoughts

Do you know who your influencers are? Have you got processes in place to look after them and help them to help you?

How Influential Are You?

How Influential Are You?

I’m writing today about a project that the Fast Company is running called the Influence project.

The concept of the project is to find the most influential people online. They measure this by giving each person taking part a unique link and asking them to promote it as much as possible. A click on that link is effectively a vote for you. My link is http://fcinf.com/v/c576, it would be awesome if you could click it and support me. You should signup yourself and take part, what have you got to lose? :)

My interest in the project is seeing how social media can, influence, your influence and how we can pull together in tribes to support each other. Go back a few years and think how hard it was to convince others to support you? An email, possibly a link on your website is about as far as you could go. Lets face it, you couldn’t really tell people about a project and hope that they’d remember a link :) Now we have social media platforms and we are busy building relationships on them but how strong are these connections? Are these people willing to support you or are they meaningless numbers, there to flatter our egos? This project allows us to find out.  So here are a few ways that I’ve asked people to help me:

  • I’ve sent the message out on twitter
  • I’ve added it to my facebook
  • I’ve added it to my LinkedIn
  • I’ve commented on other peoples blogs and helped them
  • I’ve just written this blog post to help raise awareness of the project :)

There is a discussion about the project going on over at the Social Media Devon group in LinkedIn so if you’re interested in finding out more then that’s a great place to start. I first found out about the project via a local friend of mine, James Barisic who has written about the project on his blog – socialholic. You can vote for James by the way on this link: http://bit.ly/blzQpw

The Purpose of this Post

Social Media is fantastic for building relationships but people get carried away by the numbers – the number of followers, the number of fans, the number of connections. In my opinion it’s all irrelevant because we’re looking for meaningful relationships, the type that rally around you when you need them, the type that answer your questions when you have them and the type that pass your name onto others when they think you can be of help – this is the true value of social media.

When you’re building your networks, my advice is to build meaningful connections, don’t just follow everyone, don’t get caught up with tools that allow you to build your numbers unnaturally. Concentrate your efforts on engaging with other influencers in your industry, find local people to share experiences with and stick with it. Social media is not an event, it’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Why not signup for the influence project yourself and see how you get on and if you like my blog and tweets it would be awesome if you could take 10 seconds to vote for me by clicking the following link. :)

http://fcinf.com/v/c576

What’s your take on building numbers on social networks? What makes a person influential in your eyes?