The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


Meet Mike- Your Social Media Star Helper!

Mark Kawabe - Friday, July 22, 2016

Meet Mike, your content marketing assistant.Coming up with content for your content marketing plans can be tough. Sometimes you just need some help.

Meet Mike. Mike can be a star helper when it comes to creating content. In less than an hour, you can have enough inspiration for weeks of content. Here's how.

Arrange to meet with someone who knows your business, but perhaps doesn't know it all that well. Take a recording device with you (Mike). Your smartphone will do in many cases. Sit somewhere quiet, pour a beverage and get comfy.

Now the fun part begins. Hit Mike (start recording) and ask your friend to ask you questions about your business. How things work. Why you do things the way you do. Your processes. The state of the industry. What's new in your industry. What's new in your company. You get the picture.

The answers you give will probably lead to more questions. Go with it. Take your time. There's no rush, no pressure to perform. Don't worry. Mike's listening, recording it all.

When you're done, take some time to listen to your recording and identify the things you talked about. Chances are you'll find you now have at least a dozen ideas for article topics. Now it's your turn to be a star and start writing!

Inspiration's often hard to come by on your own, but with a friend like Mike (and the friend who did the questioning), you'll have a plethora of topics to cover on your website and social media platforms.

What are you waiting for? Grab Mike and get started! By the way, if you're looking for someone to ask you the questions, I rent out at very affordable rates. Contact me for more information.

Convincing People to Change

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Change is difficult. Just ask the Goldfish.Change is often needed, but feared at the same time. Change involves risk, and humans are naturally risk-averse. Marketing involves convincing prospects that a change of behaviour is beneficial and as risk-free as possible.

This is the challenge, whether you're operating a bed and breakfast, a restaurant, a retail store, a factory or a consulting firm. Potential customers want to be assured their needs will be met if they choose you. Fortunately, despite the challenges, there are opportunities, especially when marketing online.

One of the best things about marketing online is that you're not limited by space or time. If you have the time, you can write an essay about anything related to your business. As for space, how long is a webpage? Exactly. You can write for hours about the thread count of the sheets on your beds or the uniqueness of your family's secret souvlaki recipe. If you meet a prospect's needs by doing so, then you're on your way to gaining a customer.

This is why you've heard the phrase "content is king" since the dawn of the world wide web. Content is indeed king, and it's fundamental to your ability to market your business online. Feel free to write about anything that's related to your business. Moreover, do it often. If you can be creative about it, even better. 

Content is really important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I always remind customers that if they're not going to hire an SEO specialist, then they have to write content that addresses the needs and queries of their prospects. Creating content for your website gives you a new page for search engines to spider, something new to share on social media and more opportunities to get noticed. You can't expect Google or other search engines to send your small, static website loads of prospects, even if you're exceptionally well-known for something.

Part of the strategy involved in content marketing is to write about a broad range of topics related to your business so you demonstrate your expertise, knowledge and personality to your target audience. I think one's personality is just as important as one's expertise. By sharing your unique perspectives and insights with customers and prospects you educate, create rapport, and build trust. After all, people are going to have to deal with you - so giving them an idea what you are like to work with is important!

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that often, there is no "one thing" that will convince someone to change. You need to provide lots of reasons for people to change their existing behaviours, whether it's staying in hotels versus bed and breakfasts or buying from another supplier instead of you. Building a library of content on your website that is shared on your social media platforms is an approach that can help convince prospects to choose you the next time the opportunity arises. Without that content, you stand to miss a lot of opportunities for getting noticed and getting new customers through the door.

Are You an Original?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Be the tall pencil and stand out from the crowd!Any company that takes its website and social media marketing seriously is involved in content marketing.

"Content" means articles, images (photos or infographics) or videos on a topic of interest to one's target audience. There's only one problem with content marketing: it takes work. As a result, many entrepreneurs and organizations simply take the approach of "content aggregator", re-posting information that was produced by another person or company.

In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with posting a link or sharing content from others as long as credit is provided. I don't think content aggregation should be your ONLY source of content for your website or social media. Positioning yourself as an expert requires you to showcase your knowledge which means you need to create your own content.

I recognize this is more challenging. It's much easier to find something of interest and re-post it. Researching and writing articles, creating infographics and even finding relevant imagery that is properly licensed takes time. Even if you have writing posts down to an art and you can churn one out quickly, it will still take more time than finding something interesting to re-post. Being a content aggregator is easier and allows you to post much more frequently than you otherwise could.

This approach is misguided, in my opinion, because the point of content marketing is not to post for the sake of posting. Your goal should be to provide quality, original content that your audience will find valuable. Doing so demonstrates your expertise and helps you stand out from the crowd. When you re-post the same content as dozens of others, you're not demonstrating your expertise or showing leadership in your field.

If you want to be perceived as a leader, you need to lead. Showcasing your expertise with valuable content in the majority of your content marketing is a must. Leaders create content of value that is worthy of being re-posted. Don't expect your followers to continue following if you're not leading the way. 


Marketing in Stormy Seas

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Marketing's Stormy SeasWe are living in an increasingly political and polarized society where the default state for most people seems to be "pissed off".

In a world of "pro-this" and "anti-that", how does an entrepreneur or company market itself online?

One word: carefully.

There are stormy seas online. Here are a few suggestions on how to navigate more safely.

You Are Your Brand

For all you entrepreneurs and small business owners out there, chances are your personal social media profiles and your business identities are being followed by the same people. When you voice your opinion online, you're showcasing it to friends, family, clients and prospects.This isn't meant to dissuade you from telling the world how you feel about issues important to you, but rather to remind you that what you say online is visible and largely permanent.

The ramifications of this could be significant. Job seekers don't get hired because of their social media postings. Political candidates lose elections because of things they've said online. An off-the-cuff comment can create lasting ill will towards you and your company.

Accept There Will Be "Haters"

Not everyone is going to like everything about you. This is as true about your Facebook friends as it is about your real-life friends and family. It's even more true about strangers, some of whom are just looking for someone to hate. Are you vegan? Get ready for some omnivore to weigh in on your dietary choices. Like air travel? There's an environmentalist out there ready to talk about your carbon footprint. Own a fashion store? A human-rights advocate is around the corner ready to judge you based on where you source your products.

Every online interaction is an opportunity for you to build your brand. Your public interactions with people you disagree with say more about you than your interactions with your fans. While there may always be those who go out of their way to send negativity your way, dealing with them positively will be more beneficial than just blowing them off.

A RESPECTFUL TONE GOES A LONG WAY

Your words have power. Every tap of a key represents a choice you've made in how to express yourself. If you want to call someone or a group of people "idiots", "f*[email protected]" or worse, you have every right to do so. Does it reflect well upon you to do so? Perhaps it will to some and perhaps it won't to others. You and your brand will be judged by your words, so moderate the language you choose to use when talking about issues.

Mobile Erosion

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Erosion - photo by Benoit Rochon

The rise of mobile devices isn't new. Search behemoth Google announced in May 2015 that mobile accounts for more search than desktop in 10 of its key markets. This is a significant shift, but many companies have not made the shift to responsive websites that are more mobile-friendly. This could be the cause of a subtle but steady erosion of market share for those businesses.

As of April 21, 2015, Google rolled out an update that gives preference to responsive, mobile-friendly websites in searches done from mobile devices. Consider that more than 50% of your potential site visitors are going to access your website on their smartphone. Non-responsive websites will likely appear lower in the SERPs on mobile devices.

The results for non-responsive websites will likely show up as lower overall traffic over time as competing websites shift to responsive design. It may also manifest itself in higher bounce rates for mobile users coming to non-responsive sites, and potentially lower conversion rates for mobile users.

From my perspective, the business case for redeveloping a non-responsive website is starting to be more clear, especially for companies that rely on their websites for new lead generation. It also increases the importance of customer retention and referral marketing. The data that drives the business case is likely sitting untouched in your website visit statistics, so if you haven't done so lately, it's high time to dive into the numbers.

The wind will always blow and water will always flow. Change is constant online and businesses must adjust to survive. Here's hoping you make choices that allow your online presence to thrive in 2016 and beyond.

Always Asking Questions

Mark Kawabe - Monday, January 04, 2016

Asking questions about your website's a good ideaI'm a curious kind of person. Things that interest me don't always interest other people, but that's okay. To each their own.

For you business-minded folks with websites, there are a few things you should be curious about. They're called "statistics".

<shudder>

Yes, I know. Looking over your website visit stats isn't always exciting, but it's something you should be doing regularly.

Wait - you ARE looking at them, aren't you?

If you are (or aren't), here are a few things to consider.

  1. Number of visits: obvious.
  2. Bounce rate: how many people come to a page of your website from somewhere else (like a search engine or a link from another site) and then leave after only looking at that one page.
  3. Conversion rate: how many people contact you or buy something as a result of interacting with your website. To properly track this, you need to be asking questions of everyone you do business with for the first time. Something simple, like "where did you hear about us" or "why did you choose to deal with us".

These are some of the many important statistics you should be aware of when thinking about your website. If you're not looking at your stats, you could be missing a huge opportunity.

If you need some help with looking at your statistics or getting started with tracking, please give me a call. I hope you're as curious about your website's stats as I am!

Stuff About SERPs

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, January 03, 2016

3D MazeIf you haven't come across the acronym SERP before, don't worry. It likely means you're not a geek, or not heavily invested in your website. If you're the former, feel free to celebrate. For those who fall into the latter category, let's talk.

SERP stands for "Search Engine Results Page". When you are talking about your site showing up in the top 10 listed sites in Google, you're talking about how well your site shows up in the SERPs. You'll notice I started right away with Google when talking about SERPs. Despite other search engines claiming to be more accurate, Google is still the "go-to" search engine for most people. So, I'd like to discuss a peculiar characteristic of Google's SERPs.

You may be surprised to learn that multiple searches for the same keywords may differ when using Google. There are several reasons this can occur.

Personalization

Google wants to provide you with the most relevant information it can. There is a difference between "relevant" and "accurate". What you consider relevant is unique to you, so your Google search may turn up different results than someone else.

If you are signed into any Google service (like Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Maps, Google News, Calendar, Google+ etc.), Google knows it's you doing the search. The results you get will reflect your preferences. More accurately, it will reflect what Google thinks your preferences are. If you exit all Google services, your search results may change.

Your IP Address

If you use Google from the same computer, chances are you IP address is the same most of the time. Google tracks queries made from each IP address, so unless yours changes, Google probably knows it's you and your SERP results will be presented accordingly.

Data Center Differences

Google has over three dozen publicly-reported data centers. There are probably more. Depending on which data center you connect with for your search, you could get different results. Different updates to Google's algorithms (the "secret formula" they use to determine which pages are most relevant for a search) can be in effect at different data centers.

What Can You Do?

If you're the kind of person who wants results that aren't personalized to you, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Sign out of all Google services.
  2. Clear your search history.
  3. Use Incognito (or Private) browsing mode.
  4. Use a VPN to disguise your true whereabouts.
  5. Add "&pws=0" to the end of the search results page you're presented with and refresh the page.

I hope this glimpse into the world of Google's SERPs has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! I welcome your feedback.

Stick to Extremes, or Blend Both?

Mark Kawabe - Saturday, January 02, 2016

Some brave and wonderful family members recently purchased a lodge and marina in Haliburton. They're in the process of revamping their website and we got talking about content for the site. I'm a fan of keeping content fairly focused, but in their case, I think there were some potentials for traffic creation by adding some breadth.

If you own a lodge in Haliburton, you're pretty much guaranteed to use the words "lodge" and "Haliburton" somewhere in your content. You're not likely to use the word "Muskoka". That's fine, as long as you only want to tap into a defined target audience of people looking for a lodge in the Haliburton region.

However, consider the following possibility. Lots of people know about Muskoka. Perhaps fewer know about the Haliburton region, or they may THINK they know about Haliburton, but their knowledge may be incorrect. Someone looking for a lodge in Muskoka might be doing so because of Muskoka's stronger brand, which means they MIGHT be interested in going to a lodge in Haliburton - if only they knew about it.

Coffee or tea - why not both?So, what's a lodge owner to do?

Easy. Broaden the content on the website to talk about the Muskoka region. If you create some quality content that talks about the Muskoka region, there's a chance your site will be found in searches involving lodges in Muskoka.

What kind of content might work? Here are some suggestions for articles that could be appropriate.

  • Value comparisons of Muskoka and Haliburton
  • Geography of Muskoka and Haliburton
  • Relative popularity as destinations
  • Fishing quality in both regions
  • Relative travel times to each destination

It's easy to think of these articles being critical of one region or the other. The truth is you don't have to be critical. Be objective and positive. Someone who's always gone to Muskoka would probably not appreciate an article that talks about their choices with a negative bias. However, if you talk about the advantages and benefits of each location, readers will be more receptive to the information and will be more open to learning more about other options.

In addition, posting articles like this in one's social media streams is likely to generate likes, comments, shares and discussion, all of which is beneficial for the relative strength and popularity of your social media profile. Social media is a content amplifier. Put everything on your own website and then use social media to help get the word out. 

Coffee and tea drinkers consume different beverages, but they are similar in many ways. They like warm, fragrant beverages that come in a variety of styles and tastes. Coffee and tea may seem separate, but they're on the same continuum. Whether you're a purveyor of coffee or tea, writing content that can appeal to both audiences gives you a wider reach potential and more opportunities to start conversations and influence perspectives.

Nobody knows everything, and most of the time, we don't know what we don't know. Taking an educational approach to your content writing can open up a world of possibilities when it comes to marketing your business online. When you're wondering what to write about, think creatively and consider writing something about "the other".

The possibilities are truly endless :)

P.S. If you're looking for a Haliburton Lodge where you'll experience great amenities and personable service from some great people, click the bold text :)

Looking Forward to 2016

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 01, 2016

Welcome to 2016! Happy new year!

2015 was a great year and I am looking forward to continued growth.

To my valued clients and suppliers, please accept my heart-felt thanks. Without your support, my business would not be where it is today. I am grateful for your patronage and your loyalty and I look forward to serving you even better.

There's always something new in the online marketing world. The journey never ends. Thank you for joining me on it and for sharing your experience with me.

Wishing you a healthy, safe, happy and prosperous new year!

 

Does Your CMS Affect Your Site's SEO?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, July 09, 2015

There are many people who swear that WordPress is the best content management system (CMS) when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).

I disagree. When it comes to SEO, the difference doesn't come from the CMS platform you choose. The difference comes from how you use the tools available.

There are many elements that factor into how a site shows up in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Some of those factors are within your control because they're things you can modify within your website. Things like having good page titles, solid content, good internal linking strategies etc. Those are under your control, so in theory, your CMS could make a difference.

Does WordPress do those things better than any other CMS? No. In fact, WordPress in its default setup (as of today's writing) doesn't even allow you to specifically define a page title and meta description for SEO purposes.

What WordPress offers is the potential to simplify your SEO efforts. Add a plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast or the All In One SEO Pack and you'll suddenly have more options available to you. These aren't native to WordPress. They have to be added in. If you assumed that WordPress was simply better for SEO right out of the box, you'd be disappointed in your results.

A SEO specialist can do SEO on any website. It doesn't matter if it's a static HTML website, a WordPress site, or a site done on any other CMS. I have a static HTML website that's been in the top 10 for a popular search term for over a decade. I have clients with sites built on Adobe's Business Catalyst CMS who have good results in the SERPs.

No CMS offers an inherent advantage over another when it comes to SEO. The difference comes from the human being who manages the site. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the whole truth.