The Web For Business.com Blog

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


Don't Discard the Old Stuff

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, October 05, 2017

QuestionsRemember MySpace? Yeah, it's sort of lost the social media spotlight to Facebook, but it's not dead. 28 million users still use it. That's more than Pinterest (at 25 million users). Is it dead? Not quite. It's just not "cool" any longer.

The same can be said for other online marketing channels that a lot of people are writing off. However, there are still lots of businesses making lots of money using "old" techniques, so don't discard them yet. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider.

Email Marketing

With the rise of CASL and other anti-spam legislation around the world, marketers have to be more careful when it comes to marketing via email. While it's not new and shiny, email is still one of the most cost-effective ways marketers have to reach their prospects and customers. It's highly targeted, customizable, personalizable, and the tools to measure its success are easily available and understandable. You can also scale it up as needed. Email marketing's not dead. If you think it is, you should probably be asking yourself how you can use it more effectively.

Blogging

Content will always rule online. While social media is being used to get wider distribution, the content often still comes from blogs. It's just been re-posted to a social media channel. If you're going to participate at all in content marketing, you need to have content on your website. Guess what? It's probably going to wind up on your blog instead of on a static page of your website. Blogging is far from dead. If it hasn't worked for you, start asking yourself what you can do to improve your results.

Everyone has the potential to their own independent media company. Video blogs (vlogs), podcasts (audio blogging, so to speak) and other technologies are giving creators more choice on how to deliver their message. The challenge for you now is to create useful content that your audience will find helpful. That's the cornerstone of any online marketing campaign. Don't get seduced by the latest sexy technology when the old workhorses are still doing a great job. If they're not, then it behooves you to figure out how to do things better. Or, call a professional.


Ripples

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Ripples In the SandYour actions online matter. Every post, tweet, share, every opinion you express leaves a lasting impression about you and your business. As a business owner, your goal is to ensure the consequences of your actions are positive, or at least aren't going to harm your business.

This is more important for small business owners. In general, a small business' fortunes are tied to the relationships they've built in their community. Those relationships are your business' assets, so when you damage those relationships, you can potentially damage your business.

If you're a restaurant owner with very liberal political views that you share frequently and passionately online, you run the risk of alienating your conservative customers. If 40 percent of your customers are conservative and you annoy 50 percent of them enough that they never come back, that's a 20 percent drop in your customer base. It probably won't happen all at once. Worse, it will happen over time and you'll probably miss it. They have the right not to patronize you, of course, and they won't if they've been offended by what you've said about conservatives online. What does a 20 percent decrease in your customer base look like to you, or your accountant?

Thanks to the internet, we can dig up years of information on businesses and people. What you say now can come back to be used against you a year, two years or even five years from now. With every word you type online you're creating a legacy. My suggestion to all small business owners is that they carefully shape their online presence to be leave a positive impression upon everyone. 

I'm not suggesting that you don't express support for the things you believe online. Just do it in a civil, respectful way. This takes more work, but you're creating a legacy so I think it's worth it. When it comes to what you say online, your words don't just fade away, like ripples in a pond. Your digital footprint isn't permanent, but it's effects are long lasting, so choose your words wisely.

Calling Bullshit on Bullshit

Mark Kawabe - Monday, October 02, 2017

Manure spreaders onlineYou don't see large brands sabotaging their online marketing efforts. Messages are carefully vetted in order to preserve the brand image. Small business owners aren't nearly as careful about this, but it might be in their best interests do pay more attention to what they post online. Here are some thoughts.

Credibility

Posting information that is demonstrably false or, at the very least can't be proven true will lead some people to question your judgement. After all, if you're not aware you're spreading lies, what else don't you know? Your credibility is one of your most valuable personal and business assets. You should be jealously protecting it.

Connection

Business is built on connections and a perception of shared values and trust. Posting information that's not true will lead people to trust you less. Every message you post has the potential to weaken or break the connections you've made with the people who choose to spend their time and money interacting with your business.

Small business owners are more connected with their customers and communities than big brand stores. If your personal social media presence is available to your customers and prospects, you may want to keep in mind the potential downsides posting erroneous information can bring. While nobody expects perfection, a simple fact-check before posting / re-posting / sharing a meme / infographic / statistic can be a serious credibility saver.

As a small business owner, you have enough issues to worry about. Lazy posting on social media can have unintended consequences for you when the information you're sharing is wrong, either by accident or design. Just remember: whatever you post is a reflection of you, which is in turn a reflection of your business. Accuracy matters.


The Simple SEO Success Formula

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Most Valuable Real EstateIf you want to achieve your SEO dreams, my advice to you is to stop dreaming and get a grip on the reality of what SEO entails.

Top rankings in Google don't just happen. If you get them, you got them for a reason. Let's look at some of those reasons.

Valuable Content On Site

It is "common knowledge" that Google's algorithm prefers pages that have at least 300 written words. If you are in a market where there is more than one company like yours that offers the products or services you do, you need to go beyond the minimum requirements if you want to achieve top rankings. You need to offer valuable content.

I define valuable content as content which meets or exceeds the informational needs of visitors to your webpage. That will often take more than 300 words, which is absolutely fine. You don't achieve maximum results with minimum effort when it comes to SEO except in a few special situations which I'll talk about later.

Case Study: A customer of mine sells telecommunications products. So do thousands of other companies. A search for one particular model of headset showed that it was sitting at the 135th position in Google's search results. As a test, I added some valuable content answering common questions about the headset. 514 words, to be exact. That page jumped to the 2nd page of search results within two weeks and it has held that ranking since April 2016. I should also mention, the site is not responsive, doesn't have SSL, and doesn't meet a whole bunch of Google "best practices". That's okay, because the content about that headset is more valuable than the content on other websites that sell the same headset.

MARKET YOUR CONTENT Off Site

"Content Marketing" is a phrase being used a lot by people like me to explain why blogging is so important. A lot of people distill the idea of content marketing down to the notion that if you create great content, search engines will notice and then people will take notice. This is true, but it's not the whole story.

You will get more results for your great content if you proactively market it rather than passively hope the search engines will take notice. Marketing your content can take many forms, but it's relatively easy to do. It just takes time. Send a link to your customers and ask them to post it on their blog or link to it from their Facebook page. Link it from your own social media platforms. Ask people to talk about it. If you don't, chances are they won't. These mentions on other sites are all examples of inbound links, which Google's algorithm analyzes for quality and quantity. If you pay for thousands of links from link farms to your great content, you won't get great results. However, a few links to great content from credible websites like your Chamber of Commerce or customers' sites will be more likely to give your content a ranking boost. If you do that regularly, you'll eventually build hundreds of quality links to your website which will in turn, be picked up by Google's algorithm and will likely result in better search engine rankings for your site overall.

The Special Situations

I alluded to some situations where you can get top rankings in Google with minimum effort. Here they are.

  1. People search directly for your business by name. If someone does a search for your business name, they'll probably find you. If they narrow it down by city, (i.e. Joline's Hairstyling Niagara Falls), they'll probably find you at the top or in the top 10. Why not #1? Sometimes the folks at the Yellow Pages or other directory sites have done a better job at SEO than you.
  2. People search for your brand. The good people at Despair.com have trademarked the term "Demotivators". If you forget their website but remember their brand name, you'll find them in the #1 spot for that term. If other folks are outdoing you in the SERPs for your own brand, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
  3. You build a better resource before anyone else. I have a website that has a list of Niagara wineries. It has consistently been ranked in the top 10 Google results for over a decade. The page does not follow Google's best practices guidelines for SEO, but it was one of the first listings of Niagara wineries and it has a good number of inbound links. It may not stay in the top 10 forever, but it's done well over the years, even being the #1 result for a few years. It was built first, it was marketed, and it has remained. You could do the same with your content.

Synopsis

Successful SEO involves creating valuable, user-focused content on a regular basis which is then marketed through blogging, social media and other outreach methods to build inbound links. In other words, it is work. It's not hard work, compared to digging a ditch, but it takes effort. The steps I've outlined above aren't rocket science. Lots of other people have talked about them for years, as have I. What I hope you'll take away is that if you want your site to have great SEO, you have to be better than the other websites in your market at providing and marketing your valuable content and creating a great user experience.

Where are you putting your efforts?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, May 21, 2015

When you create good content, where should it go?

From my perspective, it should go on your website first. Once it's there, you can then work on marketing it further. This approach makes sense for many reasons.

CONTROL

Let's face it: you don't control Facebook. Google doesn't owe you anything. Putting your useful, pertinent, relevant content on your site is the easiest, surest way to build your online foundation. If Facebook shuts down your profile (either on purpose or by accident), your "satellite" content will take a hit, but your foundation will remain strong.

RELEVANCE & FRESHNESS

I'm sure you've heard that search engines value sites with good content. If you're putting your good content elsewhere, you're building someone else's website and not your own. Don't complain about your search engine positioning if you're not adding new, relevant content to your site.

EMPIRE BUILDING STARTS AT HOME

I've said it before but it's worth saying again: For most people, the value of social media is to amplify what you already have. There are companies that get the majority of their business on Facebook. That's great - for them. If you're not in that situation, I suggest it is more important to craft a compelling website that showcases your knowledge and builds your credibility. Your website should be the single source of all great information about you and your business so when people come calling from wherever they hail from online, they'll get a complete picture of what your company's all about and not a pale reflection of your social media presence.

It's really that "simple". Post useful content on your site as part of your blog. Then market the heck out of that content so lots of people learn about you. When they come to your site, have it be a good mix of design and content and calls to action. Keep at it consistently to generate leads and make sales.

If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the topics I've discussed here, please feel free to contact me. I promise to answer all pertinent questions!

 

 

Analytics Aren't the Whole Story

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of the strengths of online marketing is the ability to analyze what works and what doesn't. You can see how many people visited your website from Google, from other websites, from social media etc. One problem though: analytics don't capture everything, and some of the things they don't capture can be your biggest sources of leads.

Take word of mouth marketing. You don't know if it works unless you ask each and every lead how they found out about you. Sometimes that doesn't work either because they'll say they were reading about you online but they won't say their friend told them about you first - unless you ask the right question.

That's great if you have the kind of business that still operates in a face-to-face fashion. It's more difficult if you're running an online business, or if your leads come in through a call centre or via head office. Then you may never know.

For those who aren't old enough to remember the time when word of mouth marketing was the "in" thing, here's the modern terminology: social media.

This is the fly in the social media ointment.

As a digital marketer who believes in the power of social media, this is vexing. Customers expect results from their online marketing, and they expect that those results will be able to be measured against some definable number. The numbers available will never fully capture the benefit social media brings to your business.

Keep that in mind when you put forth your next social media campaign. The whole point of social media is to leverage people's inherent desire to communicate. Your challenge is to give them something worth talking about.

Social media explodes. Here's how to take advantage of the heat.

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Internet Exploded!By now it shouldn't be any surprise that the internet "explodes" on a regular basis. Social media is ablaze with discussions and opinions about every kind of issue you can imagine. When I think of explosive topics, Rob Ford's challenges as mayor of Toronto come to mind, as do the recent allegations about Jian Ghomeshi.

The explosion of opinion online isn't surprising when you understand why people use social media. There's a lot going on in people's minds. As a business owner or someone who's responsible for marketing a business, having some knowledge of how and why social media explodes can be useful as you look at ways to better market yourself through these channels.

Here are some of the reasons people use social media.

  • Being social
  • Passing time
  • Entertainment
  • Relaxation
  • Gossip
  • Learning about other people

I've listed these six first, without comment, because I think they're fairly self-explanatory. I also think they are less important to most businesses. I'm not suggesting they're unimportant, but they're less important than these next two factors.

Social signalling

A post, tweet or status update says a lot about the writer. Every message is an opportunity for people to learn more about what is important to the writer and what the writer stands for. These messages are signals from the writer to the world that gives the reader an idea what the writer is all about. You can find out a lot about people by reading their social media posts. Information about a person's political beliefs, spiritual perspectives, parenting styles, fitness levels, financial status, lifestyle practices and more are all either on display or can be inferred from a person's post.

Imagine you were to see two posts from first-time Facebook users. One person posts a message in support of David Suzuki. The other posts a message in support of Stephen Harper. Most Canadians would, on the basis of ONE POST, be able to infer many characteristics about each of those writers. For many people, this is the point of social media. They want to let the world know what they think is important, and in turn, demonstrate what kind of person they are, or how they want the world to see them.

How do you want the world to see you and your business? What and how you post influences how clients and prospects see you. Keep this in mind as you post because you can use social signalling to your advantage. When you post messages that resonate with people's values and beliefs, you will be more successful in getting your message across.

Building communityBuilding Community

Humans are social creatures. We desire community. Creating community is a challenge, but social media platforms have given people the tools that make creating online communities easier.

Whatever social media platform you use, you have the ability to create a community. It makes sense to do this. Tie into people's existing interests by sharing information that pertains to their important issues. Discuss those issues. If you are able to create a hub of knowledge and experience for people, your social media impact will be much greater.

The challenge, of course, is to find out what your clients and prospects feel their important issues are. It's a challenge, but it's part of the marketing process. It's called research and testing.

These are only two ways social media's appeal can be used to advantage by your business. There are many more. What has been your biggest social media success? I invite you to share your experiences and leave a comment.

 

 

3 Marketing Words to Remember

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Online marketing is not a Sisphyean taskFeeling overwhelmed?

When I talk to people about their online marketing, I hear this all the time.

"I don't know where to start."

"Which is the best platform?"

"I don't have time to create content."

I get it. It's not easy. The idea that the internet levels the playing field between big and small companies is a myth because big companies have more resources than small ones. Marketing takes time, and that's often in short supply for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

My advice: stop worrying about doing things perfectly. Lists of "best practices" are interesting but they may not be best practices for you. One of my favourite marketing mantras is "Ready. Fire. Aim." This is how marketing works in my opinion. You ready your content or campaign, release it, then measure how successful it was and adjust accordingly.

READY

Getting ready means knowing who your audience is and preparing appropriate content for them. Content doesn't need to be writing. It can be pictures or videos, quizzes and contests. It doesn't need to be a major effort. Be creative! Content ideas are all around you, every moment of the day.

FIRE

Stop obsessing about your choice of platform to distribute to. Pick a popular platform and run with it to the best of your ability. Do you like Facebook? Fine. Use Facebook - as effectively as you can. Think Twitter's the thing? Great. Use Twitter - as effectively as you can at this particular moment.

Do you use software that can blast your update to twenty-five of the top social media platforms plus add it to your blog? Superb! Just get on with it already.

AIM

Save some time to see how your content fared online. What were the results? Did you get any likes or shares? Retweets or views? If you did, that's great. Figure out why and do it again. Were your results below your hopes? Figure out why and DON'T do it again.

People who are good at marketing didn't get that way overnight. Improvement only comes with effort. Just getting started is an effort, but once you're going, you have momentum. Keep on moving, keep on learning, keep on improving.

I wish you the best. Please share your stories of success!

Posting is Like Flossing

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 04, 2014

Floss - I mean post - for the long-term health of your businessThe quest to create new and unique content is a challenge for most people who have a website. We're all knowledgeable people, but sometimes knowing what to write about is confusing. My suggestion: read the news.

Every day, there is likely something in the news that you can share your perspective on. Why you agree or disagree. Share your knowledge and expertise. Let people know where you stand.

People do business with people who they trust. That trust is developed online one post at a time. Those pieces of information tell the story about who you are and what you stand for.

Working in the marketing field, there are always plenty of things to comment on. Sometimes I come across items through the mainstream media that are worth discussing. Other times an interesting article will be making the rounds on social media. If I'm really strapped, I look at what other marketers are talking about and share my own perspective on the topic.

I think of posting as something akin to flossing. It's beneficial to do, but because the benefits come over the long-term, most people don't do it. Regularly posting meaningful, self-generated content is a good practice. It shows people who you are, demonstrates your expertise and builds credibility. It can also benefit your search engine positioning, especially in long-tail search terms.

As with flossing, the payoff for posting is likely in the future. It's the kind of thing you would benefit from starting now if you want to realize the benefits down the road. An added bonus: if you post AND floss, you'll have a great smile to show your new clients.

Sir Richard Branson's Advice is Sound - So Why are You Still Struggling?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

Richard Branson's advice on how to market your business cheaply is currently making the rounds on social media. It's great advice. My distillation:

1) Know your core values - the reason why you do what you do -  and communicate them.

2) As an entrepreneur or business owner, you should be the one driving - and be the face of - your company's marketing.

3) Use social media to engage with your customers in an authentic and fun way and listen to feedback to understand how you can do things better.

4) Enjoy what you do and share that enthusiasm.

Wonderful advice. Very inspirational. I am momentarily uplifted.

Reality Check

I would add some items to Sir Richard's list. My suggestions are:

  1. Improve your communication skills. All of them. Practice speaking in groups. Enhance your writing ability. Focus on listening and understanding. Richard Branson would not have been effective if he were not a good communicator. He was a poor student academically and has dyslexia but has a great ability to connect with people. The ability to connect with others in a variety of contexts is a must for entrepreneurs.

  2. Be creative. We are all born creative beings. Our innate creativity often becomes suppressed by our parents, peers, educational system and sadly, by our own selves. Embrace creativity and open your mind to new perspectives. When you limit your thinking, you limit your growth.

  3. Persist. We may not have the resources or the natural talent or the charisma of Sir Richard, but we can choose to persist. If you truly believe that what you're doing is reflective of your core values and you want to make your own personal dream come true, then persist.

  4. Accept that you can't (or shouldn't) do everything. Branson didn't build his business empire on his own. He has had help all along the way. His mother re-mortgaged the family home to pay for unpaid taxes and fines that Sir Richard's record company racked up in 1971. Even though Branson is a visionary, there are many other people who have contributed to his current success.

    Building a team of people you can rely on for your business is crucial to your success. Chances are you can't do everything well. Focus on what you're good at and let your team help you with the rest.

Everyone knows the path of entrepreneurship is not easy. It's a special person who chooses this path. It's great to be uplifted by the many great thinkers of our time, but when reality strikes, it's you who is going to have to put in the countless hours of work to make your dream come true.