Small Business SEO – DIY SEO For Small Businesses

When you’re out and about you tend to meet people from all walks of life, from billionaire bankers to sandwich shop owners (we go out and about in some remarkable places). The former have no interest in what we at Miratrix do for a living, while the latter usually do and bombard us with questions on how to boost their footfall. This article, then, is the first in a series of blog posts dedicated to the little guys, the real heroes of the contemporary economy (so if you’re a billionaire banker, cool your Lear jets for now: we’ll get back to you soon).

Making hyper-local searches super-effective

To be even clearer, the series is designed to help those businesses who’d benefit hugely from hyper-local searches such as ‘cafe in’, ‘restaurants and bars in’ or ‘clothes shop in’.
We decided to create a resource to suit businesses that are small and entirely local; businesses of a scale that cannot justify the cost of hiring a search marketing expert.

If you have a business which you think would benefit from ‘in’ search terms take your laptop or tablet, head to the nearest coffee shop, order a drink and read this. If you own a coffee shop go to a quiet corner and read this.

Contrary to the belief of many who deal with SEO’s (or what you might believe by reading other articles on local searches) the easiest, most influential thing a small business owner can do is not keyword research and calling the developer to update the title tags.

Setting up and claiming local listings will be the first and most effective things a small business can do.

Before you start setting up local directories you will need:

  • Your business info
  • Blurb/back story about your business
  • Photos (don’t have any? Get some!)
  • Videos (if you have them)

What Will We Be Covering?

As I see it, if you cover the bases below you are in good stead to improve your local SEO traffic.

  1. How To Set Up Google Places/Maps/Local – whatever you want to call it
  2. Set up Qype
  3. Set up Google Authorship
  4. Content ideas

These posts are for small business owners who aren’t search savvy. If you are one of those people and are finding trouble with the tutorials please let me know where you are having problems and I’ll amend the posts to make it easier.

Over And Out!

Copywriters Versus Someone What Thinks He Can Rite

Here’s a list of things I consider undervalued:

  • Pizza
  • Fresh air
  • Copywriters

That’s an abbreviated list but you see where I’m going with it. Copywriting is important and just like pizza and fresh air the quality of the copywriting can mean life or death.

The other day I was discussing copywriting with a client, who had chosen to write their own copy.  That’s fine, but as a believer in high quality copywriting I decided to try to explain why copy is so important. It’s hard to explain. It’s better demonstrated.

I go Mano-a-Mano with a Copywriter

When pulling together the Miratrix site I originally wrote the content. After writing our content marketing page I re-read it and I was brutally honest with myself. It wasn’t inspirational and didn’t flow. Here’s my version of our content marketing page:

Content Marketing

Content marketing has become a bit of a buzzword recently, but what the heck is it?

Put simply, content marketing is creating content that shows off your great products and services.

Offering your company’s products for sale on the internet isn’t enough to make sure you close the deal. Unless you are the cheapest provider for everything you offer, then you need to differentiate yourself and convince the public that they should buy from you.

Content marketing can help do this and here at Miratrix we are experts in documenting all the knowledge within your business and using this to generate you revenue.

Every business in the world exists to solve a problem for someone and content marketing is a way for you to demonstrate how you can help. It’s a diverse channel of business which can range from the straight forward to the biggest :

  • Writing an FAQ section to answer the questions your customers have and your rivals don’t even know about building a campaign to get the attention of MPs for a topic that concerns your customers and the people in your industry creating videos that show just how amazing you and your products are we plan the campaign, gather the knowledge and show you how to benefit, from making sales to building your brand.
  • With content marketing you can make your company the ‘go to’ website/store/office/phone number (we want to help improve every channel of your business, not just the website!) for solving customers problems and gain yourself a useful advantage against your competitors.

Final Draft

Now here’s the professional copywriter’s take:

Content marketing is a buzzword, but what the heck does it mean? And when was the last time a customer bought a buzzword?

Put simply, content marketing is online content created to maximise the appeal, value and uptake of your products and services, and their benefits.

Setting yourself apart and a great deal more

Offering your company’s products for sale on the internet doesn’t guarantee you’ll close the deal. You need to develop distinctive and effective ways to differentiate your business and convince your target market that buying from you is a good idea.

Professionally produced content marketing can help you do this and here at Miratrix we are experts in mining all the knowledge within your business and using this to generate more revenue for you. Experience tells us that you probably already have numerous solutions to build business, right under your nose.

Access high quality response

Every business in the world exists to solve a problem for someone. Content marketing is just another showcase for you to tell the world about how you can help. And clever content marketing will stimulate high quality response. Consider three proven fixes:

  • Write an FAQ section to answer the questions your customers have and your rivals don’t even know about. Build a campaign to get the attention of MPs for a topic that concerns your customers and the people in your industry
  • Create videos that memorably show just how effective your products are
  • Miratrix can help you plan your campaign and gather the knowledge. We can show you how to benefit, from making additional sales to building your brand.

With tailored content marketing you can transform your company into the ‘go to’ website/store/office/phone number (we want to help improve every channel of your business, not just the website) for solving customers problems.

To gain these advantages, take advantage of Miratrix know how, now.

Spot the Difference?

I didn’t find it hard. The final copy is concise and more engaging; it no longer just talks at the reader. There’s relevant detail without being wordy. It still reflects the Miratrix tone of voice.

Letting a skilled copy-writer distill your content is one of the best things you can do for your website. Because copy-writers are skilled in writing. and not in your area of your business, they can be objective. They can, with an open mind, a load of honest questions and a determination to achieve clarity, help you filter out all the jargon and unnecessary statements. You end up with text which can motivate a reader to perform the intended action, and feel more positive about your service, product or opinions.

Numbnut Alert

Be warned. A hard-working copy-writer is prepared to look a complete numbnut in pursuing the essence of what you are offering: in asking seemingly stupid questions, the writer can learn more, faster. Sometimes, just sometimes, when faced with a barrage of idiotic questions, clients realise that they’ve spent years (and fortunes) missing the point about their own products (and their brand, but that’s another kettle of worms). When you get down to the words, you get down to the cold, hard reasons why people buy stuff.

You are Five Questions from Being a Copy-writer

Many people believe that they can write effective copy and they assume (especially in marketing departments) that it’s their job to write it or no one else will. To those people, I ask:

  • Are you truly, ruthlessly critical of what you are doing?
  • Do you believe you can write better than someone who lives and breathes copy-writing while you dabble?
  • Can you differentiate between shouting and getting your message over quickly?
  • Do you have the technique to create twenty good headlines (or more) in order to find the great one?
  • Have you the courage to ditch copy that is stunningly clever but irrelevant (a situation known to gnarly old copy-writers as ‘drowning your babies’)?

If the answer to all those questions is YES then good luck. If your answer to any of those is NO then it’s time to call in the professionals.

PS My copy-writer has many more great pointers on generating productive copy, but he’s keeping them to himself, and I’m keeping his name to myself. Hell, you may be a competitor of mine, and Miratrix wants every edge it can get.

Never Mind The Rankings, Feel The Content

Websites which aren’t utilised make me sad. I mean, you pay good money to put up a website and then you go and let it languish, fall into disrepair and become increasingly irrelevant to your customers. The poor thing only gets updated when someone in the office bothers to remember.

Would you treat a shop on the high street or your office with the same disregard? No, you wouldn’t, because they are important, forward-facing parts of the business.

So is your website.

I hear and understand the argument that begins, ‘Our contracts/products/services are too big/expensive to be sold online’. If this is the case, then it means that those who are thinking about buying from you will need considerable persuasion and will take time before making their purchase. Should you not be doing EVERYTHING possible to convince that person that your company is the one to buy from?

Who’s Your Receptionist?

It’s unlikely that traditional advertising, pamphlets, flyers, quarterly brochures and so on will instantly convince a potential client that your company is cutting edge, relevant and competent. I’m not saying that those media have no impact – they do – just that they now act more as brief introductions and reminders rather than tools to convert. They have a place in the marketing toolbox, but they tend to be ephemeral and are more likely to be dismissed. That’s why printed matter, radio commercials, etc, carry the web address. Your website is now a crucial reception area for your business. So why not give customers an impressive reception?

Ask Yourself Two Honest Questions

If you were the owner of a company where deals are done face to face, through meeting the right person, I’d like you to ask yourself, ‘Where is that person likely to look first to find out more about my company?’ and, ‘Where is the person who is doing the procuring going to point their boss?’.

I’ll be surprised if you opt for any of the traditional mediums I mentioned above.

What I Understand

If you don’t want to focus on ranking for keywords that’s fine. I understand why you wouldn’t want to waste resource on link development for key phrases which will only drive a few hundred visitors a month (and most of those keywords only loosely qualify anyway).

What I Do Not Understand

What I cannot understand is that you have a static website carrying very little information and which consists mainly of sales copy. I don’t like reading sales copy. It’s usually easy to spot: it’s self-congratulatory, self-indulgent and often peters out into a list. I like to know why your product/service is innovative and awesome in ways that can help me; and then I like to see examples of awesome in practice. Ideally, I’d like the content to entertain me, but hey, maybe I should get out more. Finally, I want to hear from the expert in the field. YOU.

It’s much more difficult and time consuming to put together a pamphlet or brochure than it is to write a post on a trending topic in your field. And that’s before we mention that these days print is frequently far less effective than online at generating buzz about your business.

Who Else Is Doing This?

Many companies use their websites to promote themselves. You don’t need to be an intergalactic conglomerate to do it effectively. To be honest,  it’s probably harder to write about your subject if you are in a large multi-national because of the tangle of red tape, guidelines and protocol that you need to fight through to make it happen. Small to medium size companies are more nimble, though there are exceptions.

Example of companies who make their websites work hard:

  • Salesfore – Huge global company.
  • Kutz & Blum – Legal company in North Carolina, USA.
  • Miratrix – Yes. This is how we promote ourselves above our competitors.

We Aren’t Back To ‘Build It And They Will Come’ Thinking Are We?

Once you’ve created your blog post (it doesn’t need to be a blog post, it could be a video, graphic, guide, glossary, anything at all) you need to let people know it’s there.

Have you got an email data base? Tell them! Got friends in the industry? Tell them!

If yours is  a less technophobic company that likes twitter, facebook or LinkedIn, use those channels to start a conversation. Don’t just push it out saying, ‘Oy! Here’s a link read it!’

Communicate and Engage, Don’t Broadcast

Ask followers to give you feedback or to share it for you. You’d be surprised how happy people are to help you out. Just ask.

Your blog posts won’t work for you if you don’t push them. Think of your posts if it they were flying lanterns. You need to get them up in the air first. Once they’re up, they’ll get noticed; people will point them out to each other; if they are well written, topical and relevant, they’ll more than take care of themselves.

miratrix-syndicate

What I’ve just discussed here is called a couple of things – content marketing, inbound marketing or as we like to call it at Miratrix “Talking About Your Business”.

I Know We Said Forget The Rankings But…

‘Talking About Your Business’ doesn’t just have a positive effect on how new business perceives you it also helps gain traffic from search engines. You are killing a flock of birds with one stone. Earning new visitors, developing trust in your industry, promoting your business and expanding your client base.

In the long term it’s the most cost effective and enjoyable way to promote and develop your business. You never know, you might actually impress someone enough for them to contact you before they meet you in person.

What Penguin Did To Black Hat SEO Scene

Keep this under your hat, but I like looking at Google Trends. I find it useful for understanding what’s happening in sectors and with brands. It is trend based so not to be taken as gospel but from my experience the predictions are usually accurate.

The other day I decided to investigate if people were still talking about black/white hat SEO. Not sure why it popped into my head, it just did. Maybe my head was cold and I needed a hat.

Anyway, the results were interesting and to me they made a lot of sense.

White Hat SEO versus Black Hat SEO

The trend for black hat SEO has been around from as far back as Google Trends can show you. White hat SEO seems to have had made an appearance about one year later.  I feel that the phrase white hat SEO was created to counter black hat and help differentiate the two when selling in to clients.

I prefer the phrase ‘ethical SEO’ but as you can see from the graphic it’s never really taken off. Unlike hats, which are easy to take off.

What Country do We Most Associate
with Black Hat SEO?

It’s not a surprise that black hat SEO attracts greater interest than white hat. Using it you can either spam the competition, boost your traffic or both simultaneously. What is worth noting though is that the country we most associate spamming with is the country which seems to have the greatest interest in black hat SEO. That’s right, India!

No longer can we say ‘they didn’t know what they were doing’.

A Penguin Ate My Black Hat

When Google released Penguin, its job was to destroy link spammers. I was happy when this update hit. A lot of sites which didn’t earn their SERPS were hit hard. Unfortunately, as in most wars, there was collateral damage and some good guys got taken out, but in general it was a helpful update.

Penguin created a shock wave in the industry and beyond. If we are to compare Penguin to natural disasters I’d liken it to a meteor blast. Why? According Google Trends it’s caused lasting damage which over time may lead to the extinction of black hat SEO or at least people’s interest in it.

RIP, Black Hat

In May 2012 the search phrase ‘black hat SEO’ dropped off a cliff. While the phrase ‘black hat SEO’ still gets more interest than ‘white hat SEO’,  people’s interest in black hat techniques are in free fall and unlikely to return.

Although black hat techniques still work and it is possible to rank using spammy techniques it would seem that Penguin has put the frighteners on people. Nobody wants to talk about it, they live in dread of the shadow of the Penguin!

Maybe black hat SEO will evolve and another term will take its place. Crash Hat SEO, maybe. Or how about Top Hat SEO? Any other suggestions out there, that you’d like to hang your hat on?

How do I get more visitors to my company’s website?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the internet has been the fastest changing business environment over the last 15+ years and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. In these years, the way that individuals use the internet has went from dial up, to broadband and desktop computer to smart phone. What they are searching for has changed too.

Back when Amazon was still a start-up,  the number of people searching for books, DVDs and CDs was growing every year. Nowadays the number of people searching for these kind of terms will still be growing (well blu ray will) but this growth has been eclipsed by the growth in people asking questions.

What do I mean by questions? “How do I…..” The internet is full of people asking looking for answers!

how do I

People are of course, still conducting searches for products and service, but the number people people just typing straight searches into Google just keeps on increasing.


The important question for business owners is “how do I make more sales from this trend?”. This is undoubtedly a difficult question, but one that I’m going to attempt to answer.

If you are a lawyer, power tool seller, wedding dress maker, home cinema installer or mobile phone retailer, people (potential customers) will be looking for the answers to questions that you can help them with.

  • what do I do if I get fired for….
  • what is the best tool for….
  • what type of wedding dress should X people wear
  • what wireless speakers work with….
  • when will the Samsung Galaxy SIII be updated to Android 4.2.2

I know many people will argue that once the visitor gets the information they will leave the site and never come back. I won’t try to argue with this – conversion rates of these people will be low, but what you are trying to do is build your company as the experts, the people to visit or call when they do want to buy or engage a service.

Ask yourself this: if you had the choice between two local lawyers to call, one who displays their wide ranging knowledge by giving simple and straightforward advice on their website and another who has generic text and stock images, who would you choose?

You can find the type of things your customers are searching for quite easily if your website has been running for a while and you have Google Analytics setup.  Have a look for “how”, “what”, “where” and “why” keywords and you are bound to find some questions that your website probably isn’t delivering the answer to.  A few blog posts or an FAQ page later and your going to be picking up more traffic and showing off your expertise to potential customers. You might even pick up a link or 10 along the way!

Finally, don’t be afraid to give this information out thinking that people won’t need you once they have the answer. Will people decide to do their own SEO because they read this article? No. Will I do all my own accounts because I read up on how to use Sage? Hell no! I will, however, have more trust in the accountant that published the article/blog post and be more likely to pass them my business.

Google!? Miratrix isn’t just a Power Ranger!

We are struggling in the search engines. Not often you hear that phrase from an agency.

What do I mean by it? I mean if you google Miratrix, you’re getting nothing but power rangers results.

Miratrix marketing, not miratrix power ranger

According to the untrustworthy webmaster tools we are position 25!

Even one of my friends commented on it.

 

Damn Power Rangers!

Google doesn’t associate miratrix.co.uk with ‘miratrix’

…and Google is entirely correct to assume this. Until now all the signals Google have been given from other websites and users is that Miratrix = Power Ranger.

This is how Google is associating the search phrase Miratrix with the results.

Miratrix search phrase association with power rangers

We must shift Google’s association between the word Miratrix = Power Ranger + misc to Miratrix = digital marketing agency + power ranger + misc. And we want the association to occur in that order.

How to Get Google To Associate Miratrix with our Domain

Here are few reasons why we don’t currently have that association.

Firstly – a newish domain with next to no history. What this means is Google doesn’t trust the domain yet. It has no reason to. It’s like meeting someone for the first time. You know nothing about them but are happy to chat away over a couple of drinks but you’re not going to discuss your investment portfolio with them.

Trust takes time and investment in good content.

Secondly. We don’t have a lot of content on our site. This makes it difficult for Google to associate the term ‘Miratrix’ with what we do. As you will see over the next few weeks we will build the association between Miratrix and marketing, giving Google the signals it needs to show us more often in the results.

Another import aspect about our content: it will be fresh, unlike the pages which are presently ranking for Miratrix the Power Ranger. Google will be visiting us more often than the Power Ranger pages and giving us kudos for the fresh content. But we can’t just stop at written content. We also need video and images ranking because these are what are dominate the SERP’s for Miratrix at the moment.

Links. Good old links. We’ve not got many, not to mention we have no link velocity. Check out our link profile.

Miratrix backlink profile

Miratrix backlink profile

I’d just like to say that the only links that we’ve built are from ddmconsultancy.co.uk (I used to trade under this domain) and folio14. Which is a redirect from ddmconsultancy.co.uk. We have no idea who built those other links! If you are reading this and you did it, please own up.

Finally social signals. Some say it’s the ‘new link’. I’m holding off on that until facebook or twitter actually produce a profit and manage to sustain themselves without VC. In saying that, they are important and Google uses them to alter the SERPs and index things. We’ve got twitter we’ve got a Google + -though we’ve not really paid much attention to it yet but we will in time. And it will be a key tool for syndicating our content, ideas and moans.

Help us persuade Google to associate miratrix.co.uk with ‘miratrix’

Our team here at Miratrix will be taking care of the content aspect but you can help us by tweeting, sharing or +1’n our domain. You can also link to this post, another one you have found helpful or our domain with the word Miratrix in the anchor text.

If you help us out with this by doing either or all of these things, in no time at all we will be ranking for our own brand name.

I’ll do a review post in the next few weeks to update you on how it’s going. It shouldn’t take us ‘10,000 years’ and unlike Zordon we won’t need to ‘recruit a team of teenagers with attitude’.

Leveraging Vacant Shop Windows

The recession is hitting the High Street like nothing we’ve ever seen or are likely to see again. It’s a sort of High Street teraforming. A High Streetageddon.

Businesses with more than one store in a city are finding it hard to justify the premium of rent and have begun to reduce overheads by closing the doors on the less profitable outlets.

In the rush to shut stores a lot of the big brands are missing a trick. What I’m about to suggest won’t massively affect their sales or boost conversion but it is useful to their customers. It will help promote a better image of the company and hopefully loyalty.

For example, in response to severe problems, AllSaints have cut their portfolio of stores. Glasgow has gone from having three stores within two minutes walk of one another to having one store on the busiest shopping street in Glasgow: Buchanan Street.

Closed Store, Open to Misunderstanding

Here are their Google Places listings in the SERPS. Seem’s they’ve forgotten to update their listings and mark their stores as closed.

All Saints SERPS

All Saints local search listings in Google Places

A tourist or visitor to Glasgow, or someone who is less aware of their surroundings, might not realise that two AllSaints stores are closed and have been for some time.

That potential customer has a couple of options when arriving at a store which is closed. Break out Google maps on their mobile and tour each location until they find the one which is open or  just give up and go shopping at their next favourite brand.

With the economy the way it is, it is absolutely possible that if someone saw one store closed they could make the assumption that the company is gone entirely and move on to their competitor.

How can companies help the customer find them?

It’s simple and almost embarrassing when you think about it. Tell the person the location of their nearest open store. And if they don’t have one in the area point them to the online shop.

OK. That’s easy. Couple of vinyl window stickers and BOOM you’re sorted and many stores already do this.

Not exactly contemporary, though, is it? You can do so much better.

Drive traffic, enhance the experience

Here’s a list of things you’ll need:

  • QR Code
  • Google Maps
  • Landing Page
  • Call To Action

QR codes are free, Google Maps is free, landing pages are not free but aren’t particularly expensive. Calls to action – a good copywriter will nail this fast.

Here’s the current window:

allsaints shop window

I would have done something  like this:

new allsaints window

Use the the QR code on the left and you go to a bespoke landing page on the website which gives customers the nearest location, plus walking time, and a map with directions.

allsaints landing page

What makes the difference for the customer – the one person who can get you out of these tough times – is that you’ve done all you can to help them find what they are looking for. Just as a friendly retail assistant would do in store.

The customer will feel that you care. You understand what they want.

All I’m suggesting is common sense. I’d like to see more retailers adopt this (obviously some can’t due to contractual obligations with the unit) and do more to help customers spend their money with them and not their competitor.

Read more about High Street chain store closures in this morning’s BBC.

What is Content Marketing?

I’m not looking to write the definitive answer on what content marketing is, rather, just give a brief insight into what I see it as and some of the benefits it can bring to companies.

Content marketing seems to be an easy to topic to write blog posts about but a difficult thing to do in real life….or more specifically, difficult to persuade business owners to spend money on!

While TV adverts can cost millions to make and the same again in media costs, this is an accepted part of marketing (or advertising) and is easy to talk to business owners about. TV makes phones ring, drives visitors to websites and builds brands, there’s a million Power Point presentations on its effectiveness and people understand it. ‘Content marketing’ can be a similar beast but there’s still a lot of unknowns that can put people off.

Someone could come and sell me a TV ad costing £X to make and £Y to buy advertising slots with. The Power Point and Excel graphs could then tell me that Z number of people will see the ad and we can then work out the value of this based on thousands of other bits of research. What if, however, we were to make a movie/song/graphic/game and then use the internet to distribute it and drive people to your website or shop? This seems like a great idea because we can ditch the expensive TV campaigns and reinvest in even better content.

As an aside, it’s true that the best TV ads can live on for decades and the invention of YouTube means that they can keep building your brand forever.

So, what if we were to create content that isn’t an advert and is just entertaining and/or educational for our customers? The best way to describe this is really to look at some examples…..

 

Palladium Boots – This content is so good that you should just click on the link, go to their site and learn more about cities from around the world than you will from any travel guide! Seriously, go and do it now! Their main way of distributing the movies was through their own site but their YouTube channel still has over 1.8m views. These aren’t just views of people who see a TV ad in passing, a lot of these people will have sought out the movies or been referred via Facebook (lots of them from me) and actually WANT to watch them. From this (I’m guessing significant) investment, Palladium Boots have managed to

  • build themselves a lot of links and social shares (I thought I should try and tie this back into SEO) and by the looks of it, this wasn’t even why they did it. I think they could have actually got lots more links if they had pushed the content more.
  • They have also created a reason to go to their brand site rather than just go to another footwear retailer with a selection of brands
  • Made me want to buy their products even thought it’s not the kind of footwear that I’d normally want to buy

It would be great to hear more about how this was sold into the company and what effect it has had on sales. If you’re reading this and know anyone over at Palladium Boots then please put them in touch.

 

GoPro – These guys are so good at creating content, getting people to create content for them and distributing it around the internet, that it’s hard to know where to begin! Now, it helps when you company builds video cameras but their YouTube channel has over 200m views, their Facebook pages has over 4.4m likes and a email database that must be huge due to their ‘everything we make daily giveaway’. This is so clever because they’ve given people a reason to follow them and then shown them thousands of reasons to buy their products. Like Palladium Boots, I doubt these campaigns have been targeted at SEO/ link building, but because they are so worth watching, they have built links and built the brand at the same time!

 

This takes me on to the point that I think lots of people are missing about content marketing; it’s not just about search engines, it’s about making your company or product stick out as the expert in it’s field, the best place to shop for products or information and a real company with real people and real lives. This is something that Nicholas Woodman of GoPro does really well as he’s so passionate about the product and what can be done with it – he doesn’t just hide away behind marketing teams or boardrooms.

 

Now all of these concepts and ideas are great if you are an international company with big budgets and an amazing new product to sell, what if you are a small company with a less innovative product?

Hint: you can do more than start a blog!

 

Dales Cycles – I’ve chosen to look at this local Glasgow company as they have started down the content marketing route but haven’t quite gone all the way. They have two pages of blog posts going back to March 2012, most of which have pictures or YouTube videos of products they sell or people they sponsor. The content looks decent enough to a non cycling enthusiast but it’s not the kind of stuff that would really attract me to the site. They also have 25 videos in their YouTube channel which again, look more OK than amazing.

So what could a smallish company like this do? He’re a few ideas of the top of my head that I think could make them even more of a destination both online and offline:

  • Product videos. You don’t need to show every bike out in its natural environment but a short product video would be really good to get a better idea how it looks. Having this presented by an actual expert/enthusiast would be even more valuable. I know some people will think “why make a video for online when the viewer will just go and buy it from the cheapest shop”, and I would answer with “because it gets them to your site in the first place or stops them leaving your site and going to one with videos.
  • Expert videos. I’m only an occasional cycler and as such I know hardly a thing about maintenance or tuning my bike. If Dales were to have videos showing me how to change a tyre or fix my chain (I mean really good ‘how to’ videos) then I could buy the parts from them and do it myself. Since I’m a bit rubbish at that kind of job then I would probably still take the bike in to them to get the work done, but at least the videos would show me how good their experts are and I’d probably share them with the next person I talked to about bike maintenance.
  • Get photos of every cycling event in the country and host them on the company site. Hire a photographer or pay the expenses of the guys who already go to the events, get them to photograph every cyclist as they cross the finish line, stick up a banner that tells everyone where the pictures will be hosted and Bob’s your uncle, every competitive cyclist in the country (and beyond) is visiting your site and quite probably linking to it too.

There’s loads more content ideas that you could do with a company like Dales, it’s just a case putting yourself in the mind of a customer and thinking about what you would be interested in seeing. The greatest thing is that you’re not just creating content for the purpose of feeding the Google SEO machine, you’re actually helping your customers AND getting the SEO benefit!

 

Still, Dales Cycles are quite a big company and have staff, resources and marketing budgets, YOUR company might not have these things. Can you still do content marketing and make it profitable? Yes!!!

You know how spammers sign up to forum,  answer a question slightly related to their clients site and add a link? You can  do this without being a spammer and can make yourself seen as an expert in front of a captive audience desperate for your knowledge. I’ve seen this done really well on motoring forums, green energy forums, fitness forums and tech forums. Using a slightly more modern method, Oliver Emberton answers self help type questions on Quora and has built a following of people desperate to read about his methods of self improvement. After one of his posts went viral he was approached about book, tv and film rights for the novel he is writing.

If one man in his office can get a movie deal by sharing his expertise online, think about the amazing things that you can do with you business…..

High Street VS Internet: Round 1

With the recent demise of Jessops and HMV, there has been a lot of talk of how the internet is killing the high street and how terrible it is that we’re going to be left with ghost towns. It would be difficult to argue that the high street isn’t changing but I think ‘dying’ is over dramatising it and blaming the internet is missing half the story.

The internet is a very versatile place to do business and it has created businesses that could never have sprung up except in the biggest cities around the world.  Whatever your hobby, whatever niche you are interested in, there is a site you can buy the supplies you need and maybe even chat with people with similar tastes.  But, even in the short period that the internet has been around it has changed a lot and this has almost mirrored what has happened in the high street.

Offline shopping habits have changed from a similar situation of small niche shops to big out of town hyper stores that sell everything you could ever need.  Most local butchers and bakers disappeared decades ago as this business transferred to the supermarkets. Once they had secured this market they moved on to magazines, CDs, movies, greetings cards, electronics goods, clothes – do we see a pattern here that reflects the high street chains that have closed in the last few years?

So, where does the internet fit in and what trends have been happening there? Well the internet has clearly added to the pressure on the high street. Price transparency has been the real killer here! High street shops were able to make good profit margins on products because it was neigh on impossible to compare prices with their rivals. This created a perfect storm that flipped profitability from traditional shops to websites; shops had overheads and an audience limited by their location, websites could have low rent warehouses in the middle of nowhere and the whole world as their potential customers. For many companies, however, it didn’t have to be this way, they could have joined in the party much earlier, established themselves on the internet and made the switch to 21st century trading.

Here’s some examples of where it went wrong and some companies who did it right.

Wrong:

HMV – Were late to start trading online (compared to other sites anyway), did not have price policy where online and offline were joined up, did nothing to take advantage of their stores to take on and beat Amazon.

Jessops – Did not use their position as experts to answer the questions of people on the internet. This comes at a time when photography and DSLR cameras are more popular as ever and complete novices are buying expensive bits of kit. These people could have been better served by shops they could have kept going back to answer questions of + a great website that would have helped them become a better photographer + the option of classes/lessons in stores. There are offers on daily deals sites for photography classes every other week – the demand was there!

Comet – I suspect that Comet could have made a successful transition to internet trading if they hadn’t been lumbered with so many stores around the country that still had long leases left to run. They had a pretty decent site, not the best but OK. In their case it looks like the business model as a whole that failed, rather than their internet plans not being good enough. They came under pressure from lower cost rivals and they concentrated too long on the low profit margin products while missing out on the race to sell high end, high tech goods.

 

Who did it right?

 

Schuh – Taking what they did well on the high street and doing it even better on the internet. A very focused buying department, shops that are constantly renovated to appeal to their target market, staff that are 100% focused on customer service and priced at the right way to make sales and make profits. Although the Schuh stores and website might not always be the cheapest place to buy a pair of Converse, customers know that they will get fast delivery, easy returns and the latest styles – not things you can guarantee if you buy from Amazon!

Scan – OK, they aren’t a high street store (they have one store) but they have been around since 1987 and have transitioned their business to trade online and compete in a marketplace that is dominated by Amazon and customers looking to buy at the very lowest price. How did they compete then? They became experts in their field,they show people they are always ahead of the tech curve, they have best customer service in their market and they use the supermarket technique of selling ‘loss leaders’ to get people through the door.

 

This, however, is not the end of the story as the internet is evolving much faster than the story of the high street. Amazon is the Tesco of the online world and is gobbling up the markets that lots of smaller websites used to turn a profit on.

We’ll follow on from this story soon and talk about how retailing is changing online…