Are you ready to do business post-lock down?

 

With lockdown still very much a reality for us all, it is clear that things will never be the same again. The way we interact will forever be changed, and the way we do business is no exception. So what have we learnt?

If you’re not communicating digitally are you communicating at all?

For those companies who thought digital communication was not for them, this lockdown has been a huge wakeup call. Hopefully, a wakeup call that will lead to positive self-improvement. having digital communication channels ready at your disposal is essential for businesses and even more so post lock-down. Yes Zoom, Skype, Teams and others are a part of this, but a company’s social media and website are a primary part of this. Being able to communicate to your audience is essential during a crisis but it’s equally as important outside of a crisis to build and sell your brand. Lockdown or not, consumers are savvy these days and look to the internet and social platforms to reinforce their purchasing decisions.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

The lock-down has served as a magnifying glass for many businesses. Magnifying bottlenecks or inefficiencies that weren’t clear before.  For many companies it would have become immediately clear that they were casting their next too narrowly in their approach to selling and marketing channels. The lockdown closed many sales channels at a moment’s notice leaving companies completely stranded.

Having a multifaceted approach to selling in this time gives companies options. A shop who also has an online e-commerce store can take orders to fulfil later. A business that can provide services online rather than merely face to face can remain open during lockdown. This can save a business, and keep essential revenue coming in.

Be prepared

The lock-down won’t last forever, and before long it will be business as usual. But want we can be sure of, is that the expectation of consumers will have changed. This experience has provided a rare opportunity to take stock. It will be essential going forward to from this to be prepared. This means having processes and systems in place to deal with the changing demand.

The good news    

The good news is that the tools are right at our fingertips. Social media, digital marketing and online selling are established fields now and the tools needed to get there are becoming cheaper easier to use. With the right guidance you too can take advantage of the same systems and techniques that large businesses use successfully.

So if we have learnt anything in this time, it’s that businesses need to take advantage of the tools available to them to ensure success, lock-down or not. Take the time to make sure these channels are in place and working for you, ready for the post-lockdown RUSH!

If you are unsure where you stand on your own digital marketing, click here to follow the wordsmiths digital marketing DIY series. Click here to follow the wordsmiths digital marketing DIY series.

Part 1 – Marketing your business during lockdown: Use this time wisely and come out ahead

 

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lock-down has in various ways been a wake-up call for business in SA. In many instances we have been slow to adapt, innovate and change to a digital world that poses many threats but also many opportunities. Like the famous story of the frog slowly getting boiled because the water around it heated up so slowly, we as business are also often reluctant to change when it’s “business-as-usual” – we don’t feel our environment changing although it does as surely as the frog’s water was slowly killing it. In a way the Covid-19 pandemic is shock to this system – like suddenly pouring some boiling water over the frog and he immediately takes action and jumps for safety. The boiling water (Covid-19) is certainly unpleasant but if long term sustainability of your business is a priority, this crisis could be the wake-up-call so many of us needed.

What do the following businesses have in common – Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest and Whatsapp? They were all started during the previous worldwide recession (2008-2010). Research has shown (McKinsey published a study) that brands that act effectively in a crisis become disproportionately stronger afterwards. Now is not a time for procrastination or slowing down – it’s time to look critically at every aspect of your business and see how it can be improved.

Time to take stock 

Increased accessibility and download speeds have made the internet the single biggest driver of change in human behaviour in our lifetime (yes, in SA as well) – think online streaming (Youtube, Netflix), social media, video conferencing, ecommerce, e-sports, job searches, travel and the list goes on. Where people congregate opportunities always abound. Simply put, every business needs to find ways to use the internet to their advantage – whether operationally, internal systems or marketing. As Wordsmiths Marketing we also had to look at how to change the way we do things – we now use Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to work remotely, Zoom for video conferencing and various other software packages that have completely streamlined our daily operations. What we would like to share with you here however is how to take stock of your digital marketing assets – the tools you use to communicate your brand to the vast digital world – and show you how you can make changes that will have lasting benefits for your business. We have put together a practical guide that will help you to look at each item individually (starting with your website) and make changes.

Auditing your digital marketing assets – Websites

Your website is an extension of your brand but more importantly the worlds window to your business. Websites need to be easily navigable by users, and ultimately work to serve your goals. This could be to sell, generate leads or provide valuable information.

Type your website address into the browser and press enter – now look at it as a first-time visitor would. Consider the following:

1.Speed is important:

Quite simply, websites that load between 1-3 seconds earn most of the traffic from Google. Research done by Google themselves reveals that 90% of users will leave a website that take longer than 5 seconds to load. This is disastrous for businesses that rely on their website as a primary sales tool.

Audit tools:

Go to https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ put in your website URL and click analyse. Google will give you a summary of how fast your website is and all the things that you can do to improve the speed of your website.

(Note – Most, if not all results will have a task called “reduce server response time” please note that this is not a website performance issue but rather a server issue. In order to improve this, you will have to speak to your hosting provider and may have to upgrade your hosting or even change to be a better hosting provider such as Xneelo).

2.Landing page content

Content is king, people are searching for answers to their problems, or they are looking for services and products they need. For your website to perform well you will need to get your message across – what is the first time visit most likely searching for/ is that clear and easy to find on you home page? Your home page must be concise and eye catching. Make sure you think about the following:

  • Your call to action buttons are clear and stand out, this will raise the likelihood that they will call or buy from you.
  • Use bold statements to get your message across clearly and in as few words as possible
  • Use professionally designed images, banners, and videos to engage the reader, the longer they stay on your website the better.
  • Most of all keep it simple and clean!

3.Is your website easy to navigate?

Successful websites are easy to navigate. Visitors must find everything they need quickly and easily. If users find your website confusing or if they find it difficult to find what they need they will get frustrated and leave. Consider the following when designing your website navigation:

  • Plan your navigation. Prioritise your pages that will lead customers through your desired “sales funnel” leading them to pages where they can buy or contact you.
  • Limit the number of items in your menu to pages that you think are important to your customers – less is often more.
  • Stick to conventions. Being creative is great but try to stick to norms that people are used to. This will make navigation easier for most people. For example: Always link your logo back to your homepage as this is expected.
  • Make sure that users can reach any page from any page. This will avoid users having to go back to find pages. One way to do this is to install a “sticky menu” which is always visible no matter where on a page a user is.
  • Depending on the size of your website and the amount of content, you might consider implementing a mega menu, also known as uber menus. These types of menus go beyond the typical drop-down menus by allowing you to organize content in your navigation bar using columns. These are widely used on E-commerce websites like “Takealot” for example.

4.Does your website work on a smartphone?

  • Did you know that Google now ranks websites for mobile usage first? The reason for this is simple – around 70-80% of online traffic is now coming from mobile devices. This means that without a mobile responsive website, your site will rank below your competition. It also means that customers finding your website on their phones will not be able to navigate correctly, losing you valuable business. How do you test this for your own website? Start by browsing your website on your smartphone – does it look right and function as required?

Audit tools:

  • To test if your website is mobile response go to https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly put in your website URL (address) and click Test URL. Google will give you an indication of whether your website is mobile friendly or not.If your web page is not mobile friendly, you can then click on the page results which will be available after running the test and Google will show you what issues there are and how to fix them.

5.User experience or “UX” and User Interface or “UI” Design:

UX stands for “user experience” and UI for “user interface”. Most people ignore these two essential practices when creating their website. For your website to work well for you, you will need a good user interface for people to interact with and a good user experience to keep users coming back to your website. So how do you know implement this on your site?

  • To achieve a good UI/UX design, keep the flow of the website simple and to the point, make sure everything on the website works, this is mostly important for people running ecommerce websites, there are many times when a user is ready to buy on a website but are forced to abandon cart and leave due to a malfunction.
  • Test the flow of your website constantly by interacting with it as a normal user would. Do user testing by asking your staff or a group of people to use your website and provide feedback on improvements and then enforce those improvements.

6.Tracking your website’s Performance

Marketers and business owners should always be analysing their websites performance. They should also be analysing user behaviour on their website. The following are common things that marketers will analyse on their website; these can be interpreted in many ways.

  • Bounce rate: This is how many times a user leaves the website having only viewed one page – the higher the percentage the worst the site is performing for this metric (the more people leave after just viewing one page). This can indicate a lack of engaging content.
  • Unique website visitors: This is how many new people viewed the website for the first time in a given time period. This can be a positive indication provided these new visitors stay on your website and end up contacting you or buying from you.
  • Visitors to your website: This is total visitors to a website in a given time period. This is an area to analyse the overall traffic, this can be driven through other channels like social media or advertising.
  • Page views per session: How many pages does an average user look at in a session. If you have a website that is engaging and flows well, your page views per session should increase.
  • Average time on a page: The average time on a given website page. If the time spent is high, it could be good or bad depending on what you sell and who your customers are. This is something for you to analyse.
  • Best landing pages: The most popular website pages. This is critical in analysing the type of message your customers are responding to. Use this to your advantage.
  • Exit pages: Pages that most users viewed last before leaving. This could indicate pages that lack good content but could be a positive indicator if the exit page is a contact us page.
  • Conversions: The number of times a visitor to the website carried through to a given action. For example, made a purchase or filled out a contact form. Your goal is always to increase conversions.
  • There are many more key performance indicators which are important in knowing your customer.

Audit tool

To make this all possible, you will need to connect your website to Google Analytics. This is something you can do yourself if you feel confident enough. Follow the steps here. Alternatively, a digital agency could assist with this.

Part 2 – Social Media

Part 3 – SEO 

Part 4 – PPC 

Part 2 – Social Media D.I.Y Audit

 

Examining your digital marketing assets – Social Media

 

Apart from a few very niche industries, it is crucial for most businesses to be active on social media. You can now have conversations with your customers, know exactly what they want, and cater and respond to those ever-changing needs. Simply posting randomly on social media is not an effective use of these platforms and can in fact do more harm to your brand than good. To be effective on social media it will require 1) time and 2) to some extent monetary investment (point 11). Like any investment social media must be planned and goals with time frames set. So what does a good strategy look like, how do you know if it is working and where do you even start? Here are a few handy guidelines to get you started:

1.Have a strategy / set some goals

A good social media strategy is one that structured around meeting your goals. A good start is to decide on your target audience, and what your goals are. Are you trying to drive traffic to your website, are you trying to sell directly or building brand awareness and loyalty?  Once you have your goals set, you must set some time frames for achieving these and measure your progress continually against your goals (see point 9). Remember that social media is a powerful tool that connects with people in their personal (social) space. It can therefore be used to build deep trust and relationship with your potential client – and this is what sells in the short and long run. Your social media must create and build the desire for your product or service while instilling trust.

2.Use the right platforms

So what platform is right for my business? Not all services, companies or products necessarily suit all social media platforms. For example, Facebook and Instagram can be used for both B2B and B2C, but LinkedIn is predominantly a B2B platform. To decide you can look at what businesses in your industry is using in Sa and indeed abroad. Look at the age group, demographic and income level of your potential clients. Then look at which social media platforms that they predominantly use. Remember it takes time and monetary commitment to run a sustainably successful social media campaign – therefore also consider your resources and rather do one or two top platforms well than five only half good or bad.

3.Headlines are Key

Social Media is saturated with messages from all over the world, so how do you get noticed?  People will spend maximum two-to-three seconds evaluating your content to decide whether or not to read more. Use eye-catching and engaging titles that would make you want to click through. A good way to do this is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What would your desired audience want to read?

4.Use Great Visuals

Use images and video content to increase your engagement. People respond to images and video more than they respond to blocks of text. The more visually appealing your content is, the more likely people are to interact with your social media post. Like stated before, put yourself in your target audience’s shoes – give them what they need to know, to the point and without waffle.

5.Make Use of Hash Tags

Hashtags are a great way to link your content to other similar content in the world. For example #Ballito will bring up great content by other content creators who are also involved in the Ballito are or lifestyle. Using hashtags is a great way to gain new followers by getting new people to see your content.

6.Be “On Brand”

Don’t just post anything that is trending, make sure the content you post is in line with your brand and speaks to the type of user you want to attract. Make sure you are constantly reinforcing your own brand by staying true to your identity.

7.Complete Your Profile

This may seem silly, but many companies have incomplete profiles and it doesn’t look good to your audience. Make sure your page is set up correctly and that you take advantage of all the available free features. Change your header image every month or so, make sure your call to actions buttons work, update your profile information and the introduction text. Having a good business page setup will make it easier for your audience to interact with your page.

8.Humanize Your Content

People buy from people, and that goes double for social media. According to Facebook, content that shows people is more widely viewed than content that doesn’t. Try creating content that shows your products and services being used out there in the real world by real people. This will be more effective than merely running specials.

9.Track your performance

It is always a good idea to know how you are performing. Most social platforms provide easy to use tools to track performance. This will tell you if you are reaching the right audience, how your following is growing and more.

  • Click on the insights tool on Facebook or LinkedIn to view data of how well your social media is doing
  • Facebook and LinkedIn will show you who your audience is and their demographics such as age, location, gender etc.

If the results are not what you thought, then try to alter your content to suit the desired audience. If it is on track, then keep doing what you are doing!

10.Engage with Your Audience Directly

Social Media platforms provide a unique opportunity to engage directly with your customers, or audience. Showing that you are a real person behind a brand will help to build trust. Use this to you advantage by engaging in positive conversations and using this space to go beyond what is expected and be creative.

(BONUS POINT) Spending on social media

Many businesses like the idea of social media because they see it as a free way to advertise their business. The simple truth is that all social media companies (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok etc) are also businesses and have shareholders wanting a return. For this reason, they severely limit the success you as a business can have advertising organically (without paying) on their platforms. On the other hand, they have a vested interest to make the campaigns of paying clients work on their platforms to bring them back next time. This is not to say you cannot run fairly successful campaigns organically but from our experience you will never be able to get as much from the platforms as when you invest monetarily into them. Like you would pay for a TV, newspaper or radio advert, view it as part of your marketing budget. There are also various ways to track the return on this investment (ROI) – as after all it is exactly that, an “investment”.

We at Wordsmiths Marketing can help you to set up effective marketing campaigns and create engaging content for any social media platform. We always work towards clients’ set goals and track progress against these and tracking ROI. Let us know if you have any questions – we are always happy to assist.

Part 1 – Websites

Part 3 – SEO 

Part 4 – PPC 

 

Part 3 – Reviewing your digital marketing assets during lockdown – Search Engine Optimisation or “SEO”

 

With lockdown extended, companies and business owners are looking for ways to spend this time productively. That is why we have released a 4-part series to help you audit and improve your digital marketing from home. Over the past week we looked at websites and social media, and today we look at a few simple steps to auditing your search engine optimization or “SEO”.

In short, SEO is the art of optimising your website’s content to ensure a higher ranking. This is a critical part of digital marketing and can result in higher volumes of good quality leads for your business. Unlike paid Google advertising, the “organic” top position of page one on Google cannot be bought. Yes, it is true that paid advertising can appear above organic listings, but being ranked on page one organically gives your brand much higher credibility and will be perceived as a good quality listing by search users. The goal of SEO is to strengthen your organic ranking. Good SEO increases the visibility of your website and ensure that you are the first company to be contacted.

But how do you know where you are raking on Google? And how do you improve your ranking? Follow the steps below to find out.

1.Know your rank

Type keywords you would expect to use to find yourself on Google. Use phrases that describe your products and services. You can do this and ask your friends to do the same. Then when the results come back, count how many listings are ahead of you on Google. Do this with multiple phrases that you would be sure your target audience would use and record the results. Are you on page one?

2.Audit your existing key words/phrases  

But how do you know what keywords your existing website is raking for? You will want to know this so that you can make sure that the phases you used above are included, and if they aren’t you will want to make sure they are in future. An easy way to find out is to use the following link – go to  https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/ and insert your URL, change the country to South Africa and click search. This tool will show you all the keywords your websites ranks for and the average ranking position on Google. Do the words and phrases match what you used in step 1? If not, then you will need to rethink the key words and phrases that you want your website to rank for.

3.Do a Key word/phrase exploration of your own

Once you have an idea of what your website is ranking for and their positions, it’s time to find keywords to add to the mix  to better match your offerings. To do this, start a list of all the words and phrases that you think best match what you do. And include industry phrases and phrases that you know your target audience use.

4.What about word you may have missed?

Now that you have a good list, you may be worried that there are words you have missed or are not aware of. To do this go to https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/ and fill in a keyword that you feel most describes your business, if you don’t know what to search for, fill in one of your competitors URL’s and the tool will show you all the keywords they are ranking for. This will give you a good idea of the total good quality key words for a business like yours. Once you find the maximum of 10 keywords you would like your site to rank for, you are ready for the next step.

5.Implement your key word/phrase strategy

Now that you have a good idea of your key words and phrases, you need to include these in your website content. But there are good and bad ways to go this. Cramming all the keywords into the content will have a negative effect on SEO and will drop your ranking on Google. Your keywords need to flow with your content and be easy to read.  In order to rank on Google a good formula to follow is to include your string keyword or phrase in your page title, headings, descriptions and in the content as well. So, make sure that you implement this rule without compromising the way the content reads.

6.Use the latest apps to help

If you’re website is built using WordPress (Check with your web designer), there are helpful applications that you can add to help you improve your SEO. “Yoast” and “Rank Math” are useful applications. Ask your web designer about how you can use these plugins. They provide easy walk through wizards that will help you set up your SEO on each website page.

7.Analyse the results

Once you are done adding in your new keywords, allow for 24-48 hours for Google to reference your website for the new keywords.

8.Repeat!

Good SEO is never finished. As the world changes so does your given industry. Even Google changes the way it ranks websites on a regular basis. So, you will need to repeat this process on a regular basis to make sure you are up to date and ranking in a good position.

9.Get help if you don’t have the time or expertise

Implementing a string SEO strategy can be time consuming and rather technical at times. SEO if done well can result in more business and a higher turnover, so paying for good SEO will most likely end up paying for itself. Consider outsourcing this to a digital agency if you don’t have the time or expertise inhouse.

Organic SEO can take months before you start to see significant results, which is why for new websites we recommend pairing your newly done SEO which Google Ads. The more traffic driven to a website, the higher the website will start ranking on Google and the fastest way to this is to run Google ads. We will cover Google advertising in the next (part 4) of this series.

In case you missed it, click on the links below for previous articles in our Reviewing your digital marketing assets series:

Part 1 – Websites

Part 2 – Social media 

Part 4 – PPC 

 

Part 4 – Reviewing your digital marketing assets – Pay Per Click Advertising or PPC

 

 

Welcome to part 4 of our digital marketing DIY Series. This series is aimed at helping business owners make good use of lockdown, by proactively auditing their digital marketing strategy from home. Today we are focusing on PPC or pay per click advertising, also known as google advertising.

Effective pay-per-click advertising campaigns are important in helping you reach audiences that are interested in the products and services. PPC advertising is basically a way of paying Google to show adverts when a certain combination of words is searched for on Google. To start with you will need to know what combination of search terms best describes your business. Our last post focused on Search engine optimization and keywords if you missed it, click here to find out how to get the best keywords for your website, these will be the same word combinations you will use for google advertising. So how do I go about planning my google advertising?

Setting up google adverts can be rather technical, so the following guide covers the summarised steps to planning and implementing a good PPC strategy.

1.Know your goals

Do you want to increase sales, sign-ups, or inquiries? Be certain about your goals before you start or you risk wasting money on a campaign that doesn’t provide a clear-cut path to ROI.

2.Know your budget

Deciding how much you can afford to spend is a vital initial step. There is no minimum investment so you can test the market with a small campaign and increase the amount as you see fit. Google lets you set a limit on your spend, so don’t worry about going over budget. And remember you only pay for clicks. At first, its a good idea to set a rough budget, then once your ads have run for a period of time, you will have a better idea of what your budget will be for the goals you have set yourself.

3.Make a keyword list

PPC ad platforms such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads rely on the use of keywords. Choosing the right keywords for your business is critical to your success. Tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner or Wordtracker can help. Our last post focused on Search engine optimisation and keywords, if you missed it, click here to find out how to get the best keywords for your website, these will be the same word combinations you will use for google advertising.

4.Bid on keywords

PPC advertising works like auctions in that you bid on the chosen keywords. That can be an expensive proposition depending on the competition for the same terms. Keyword Planner and another tool, SEMRush, can give you insights into what competitors are paying, enabling you to adjust your bid. The expensive words are expensive for a reason, and that because they are high competition, and therefore will have a higher search value. So, decide for yourself whether you will bid for high, medium or low competition words.

5.Set up different keyword campaigns

If you use a mix of keywords for different products or services, divide them into separate campaigns, to make your targeting efforts more effective. Once the ads have run for a period you will have a better idea of which combinations are working, and you can start to focus more on these.

6.Write keyword-optimized headlines and ad copy

Prospective customers use keywords in their search for the types of products and services you sell, so don’t get too creative when writing headlines and body copy — opt for keywords instead. Next, focus on one or more distinct benefits and include a relevant call to action.

7.Create unique landing pages

Whatever you do, don’t send people to the homepage of your website. Rather, create a unique “landing page” This is just a new website page that uses the same keywords as your ad.

If you sell products, send visitors to the product page associated with the ad. If you offer a service, create a page that outlines the benefits with a form where prospects can request more information or another call to action.

8.Analyse the results and refine your ads

Once your ads are running, you will need to check in to make sure that you are being found on the correct terms. Google provide mechanisms for you to exclude random searches that served your advert but weren’t a good match. It’s important that you constantly tweak and refine your ads to ensure maximum ROI. The price of words will also change, so you will need to ensure that your bids for words are up to date to be shown on page one.

9.Consider seeking professional assistance

This is a good way get started if you have never advertised on google before. This will give you confidence in the beginning and give you a starting point to measure from.

In case you missed it, click on the links below for previous articles in our Reviewing your digital marketing assets series:

Part 1 – Websites

Part 2 – Social media 

Part 3 – SEO