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Is Your Website Working?
You update your business website religiously. You include web links wherever you can. Is it working? How do you know?
Google Analytics is the minimum website analysis tool you should be using. 56% of businesses rely on this tool alone, (Econsultancy). It's good and it's free!
You’ll have to dance around the changes – which fuel arguments about the validity of keywords – but this remains an insightful tool. 
As a minimum, you see straight away:
  • How many visitors you attracted (new and returning)
  • How long people stayed on your site (average)
  • How many pages they viewed (did you successfully encourage them to browse beyond the first page?)
  • Bounce rate (what percentage of people clicked away from your site after viewing just one page, typically within 30 seconds) 

Is your website really making a difference to your business?


It’s difficult to say from the top level information. However drill a little deeper and you’ll find the quality details you need. You can do this without any further registration or Analytics tools. We believe in keeping life simple.
Time is tight. Read our top three Analytics nuggets – quick, easy, valuable:


1. Where is your traffic coming from?

'Acquisition’ is a major menu option. Select ‘All Traffic’. You’ll see the top places which are successfully referring visitors to your website. There should be a mix of ‘organic’ (natural search results), ‘direct’ (your full address – url – was entered) and referral channels.
Do your social media channels, networking groups and directories show here? This is your chance to streamline your efforts and maximise impact. You’ll also see whether people are using mobile or desktop versions of social media… whilst your website should cope with both (responsive), it’s a useful insight as to how people will view your information.

2. Which search terms are relevant to you?

Google no longer provides the details of the top performing key word within Analytics… but there are ways around this. For now, select ‘Acquisition’ and ‘Keywords – Organic’.  You’ll see the search terms that people have used in finding your website online. It’s interesting to note what’s there – and what isn't.
How does this affect you? Target people to a specific landing page (website entry page) – it doesn’t have to be your Home page. Use just two or three very different keywords to integrate into this page’s search engine optimisation. You’ll see from the pages accessed – and when – if these keywords are attracting visitors, even though the ‘keywords report’ may not show them.


3. How are people moving around your website? 

Getting people to your site is clearly vital. But – it’s what they do when they’re there that counts.
This is fascinating! Choose ‘Behaviour’ and then ‘Behaviour Flow’. You’ll see which pages people accessed first when they reached your site. You could argue that the top keywords would tell you that. But – what happened next?
This section of Google Analytics shows what people did next after entering your site. How did they flow through your information. This will tell you if your internal web links and directional wording are working. Have they seen enough details to make them want to access your prices details, or your background. These are positive signs.
You’ll also see how people leave your site: from which page and after how many page views. Are people behaving as you want them to? How can you influence them? Are your special offers or headline events creating interest?
To summarise:
  • Google Analytics is a free tool and you don't need lots of time to benefit from it. 
  • Not using it yet? You can get the code you need to install it from Google.
  • Use the insight it gives to help shape your internet marketing
Make sure that your website works after you’ve done the hard work of driving people to it. 

If you’d like to know more about analysing your website, contact us. From a quick look at your Analytics to a website review, we’re here to help.
What Google Does NOT Care About (and the ONE thing it loves)
With over half the world’s population now online and internet search the first step for new enquiries, your search engine position has never been so vital.
There are lots of myths about how Google assesses your site. The most popular misconceptions are below…
1. Your Website’s Age – Google cares how much your content helps people. If you have credible content and good reciprocal links, Google will look at you favourably. It doesn't matter whether you have achieved this over 10 years or just two years. In fact, if you’ve achieved good credibility quickly, this may work in your favour in Google’s eyes. 

2. Using Google’s Services – whether you’re using Gmail or Google+ will not have a direct impact upon your search engine positioning. 

3. Social Media Engagement – the number of page shares on social media and the size of your social media accounts (followers, likes) are not picked up by Google.

4. Bounce Rate & Visit Times – whether people leave your site quickly after just one page view (bounce) or stay longer does not affect Google’s view of your site. It’s easy to get fixated on bounce rates. If people find what they need very quickly and on their first landing page, they don't need to stay longer. The most common example is looking for your phone number. This pushes your bounce rate up – however you’ve done a good job! 

5. Your Programming Technology – your coding simply doesn't matter to Google.

6. Value Hosting – you may have heard snobby comments about websites that are hosted with the bargain providers. As long as this doesn’t affect how quickly your site loads, Google doesn’t care who your hosting provider is – or how much you pay. 

7. Headlines – you will see that your headlines can be formatted as H1, H2 H3 etc. Does H1 have more prominence in Google’s eyes? No. 

8. Page Titles – you’ll see a variety of separators in page titles displayed in internet search results. Some people use the pipe, other prefer a hyphen. Does Google have a preference? No.

9. Guarantees - remember that no-one can ethically guarantee you a position on page one of Google. Watch out for the scams. 

Now we’ve debunking some of the search engine myths, what does Google truly care about? Content, content… content. Think about what your current and potential customers want to know. Investigate what they search for online and plan your web pages, blogs and guest articles accordingly.

Help Google to help your target market. Get it right and everyone wins.

Would you like to know more? Ask us about our half day course about ‘Getting More Traffic From Google’ or contact us to have a no-obligation chat.
The Psychology of Colour
There are four psychological primary colours - red, blue, yellow and green. They relate respectively to the body, the mind, the emotions and the essential balance between these three. There are eleven basic colours, however it is the range of primary colours that have the most impact. The psychological properties of these four are:

RED (physical)
Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, 'fight or flight', stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Negative: Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.
Red is a powerful colour. Although not technically the most visible, it has the property of appearing to be nearer than it is and therefore it grabs our attention first. Hence its effectiveness in traffic lights the world over. Its effect is physical; it stimulates us and raises the pulse rate, giving the impression that time is passing faster than it is. It can activate the "fight or flight" instinct. Red is strong, and very basic. Pure red is the simplest colour, with no subtlety. It is stimulating and lively, very friendly. At the same time, it can be perceived as demanding and aggressive.
Examples: Virgin, Coke

BLUE (intellectual)
Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection, calm.
Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.
Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication. Blue objects do not appear to be as close to us as red ones. Time and again in research, blue is the world's favourite colour. However, it can be perceived as cold, unemotional and unfriendly.
Examples: O2, Barclays

YELLOW (emotional)
Warning - how well do you see this color? Think carefully before choosing this as a primary colour. It needs a strong background. 
Positive: Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide.
In this case the stimulus is emotional, therefore yellow is the strongest colour, psychologically. The right yellow will lift our spirits and our self-esteem; it is the colour of confidence and optimism. Too much of it, or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones in a colour scheme, can cause self-esteem to plummet, giving rise to fear and anxiety.
Examples: McDonalds, Yell.com

GREEN (balance)
Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation.
Green strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful. Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance. When the world about us contains plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water, and little danger of famine, so we are reassured by green, on a primitive level. Negatively, it can indicate stagnation and, incorrectly used, will be perceived as being too bland.
Examples: Starbucks, Body Shop

Clearly, your choice of colours will impact upon how your visual marketing communications are received. Remember to think through the eyes of your target audiences rather than simply choosing your favourite!

If this fascinating topic interests you and you would details of the other seven basic colours, please do contact us for full details.
Five Steps to Successful Content Marketing
Content marketing is a golden opportunity gain credible, relevant engagement with readers.

Ultimately, content marketing will create action.

Your strategy will ensure that you steer people towards the behaviour you require from them.

Our last blog looked at why you should consider content marketing for your business. This time, we look at the five key steps involved with bringing it to life and generating results.  


Steps for Successful Content Marketing:

1. Who do you want to engage with?

Planning is crucial. Who is your target audience? What channels are they active within? (Take a look at our comments about the choice of social media channels, for example. Use the most relevant ones.) 

2. What do you want your content marketing to achieve?

You need to set SMART objectives, (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Bound). Your content marketing goals can involve:
  • Engagement
  • Website traffic
  • Search engine positioning
  • Brand awareness
  • Sales (long term)
For example: ‘We will deliver general interest marketing information relating to small and medium sized business operations. This will involve bi-weekly blog posts and daily Twitter activity. The outcome target is X new followers, Y shares/likes and Z blog page views per month, to be reviewed in March 2015.’

Remember you need to measure the impact of your content marketing activity. Note your baseline regarding connections, visits, engagement, (shares, comments, likes etc.) and website performance (Google Analytics is available to all). Changes can now be easily identified.

3. Resources

Who will be responsible for your content marketing? You need a consistent style as well as regular, relevant content, enhancing your branding and position within the market. Will you recruit or outsource, or find the time internally?

It’s also a great idea to have bank of information to draw upon.” There’s nothing worse than looking at a blank screen and feeling under pressure to create compelling content in a tight timescale” says Dawn Wills from Decisions Marketing. “Try bookmarking relevant web pages, creating a folder to keep emails that inspire you or even a note pad with ideas for topics.”

4. Go live!

With everything thought through and in place, it’s time to start publishing your content. Remember that content marketing is a long term marketing tool. To work, it needs to be:
  • Informative
  • Relevant
  • Interesting
  • Regular
  • Engaging (remember to respond to readers’ reactions)
  • VISIBLE (how will you make sure that people see your content?) 

5. Success?

Keep an eye on responses to your content, linking this back to your goals and metrics (see point 2 above). Content marketing can be fun, yet time consuming. You need to know that it’s earning its keep whilst acknowledging that it’s predominantly a long term activity.

Lastly, think through the impact of success upon your resources. Are you ready for prompt follow up?

Want to know more? Contact us for an informal discussion. Let's get content marketing working for you.
Is Your Brand Behaving?
With so many different ways to get our message across, keeping a consistent image is tricky… especially when there are several people involved. Add the instant edge of digital marketing into the mix and there is a potential recipe for disaster.
Back in the days of writing letters, we’d always start with ‘Dear…’. With emails came informality: ‘Hi…’. Moving to social media and forums, your brand now has instant communication. The language and style of your content can boost or destroy your brand… in seconds.


Branding for Business

Social media for business seems to be the biggest culprit. When did text speak become the norm? I appreciate that there are character limits, especially in Twitter, but please refrain from using ‘text speak’. U’ll undo yr good mktg work by tmrw.
With some markets, it’s truly ok to be informal. Overstep the mark and you’ll lose favour, so tread carefully. Your brand is an ambassador for your business. It needs to be right… it’s the first impression of your business, especially online.
Consistency is vital. For example, is everyone within your organisation using the same email signature? The same font and layout for proposals? 
Images are important too… a definite boost for engagement with all marketing tools. Relevant, good quality images are a must. Funny team photos, holiday snaps for profile photos and a lack of photo at all are to be avoided. Eggs are generally not trusted as credible accounts within social media!
As discussed in an earlier blog, shockvertising can work but can backfire too. These principles apply to a lesser degree in any marketing communication, so it’s important to review your brand’s presence.
Here are some tips to make your brand well behaved:
  • Write your social media content as if you were talking to your client direct. Would you sign off with a kiss? x
  • If in doubt, be formal… you can relax later if you want to.
  • Avoid abbreviations; be ‘pleased’ rather than ‘plzd’, send your ‘regards’ instead of ‘rgds’
  • Use relevant images; not because they’re simply cute or funny (these are for your personal accounts, not the work ones).
  • Go back to basics. Who are you targeting? What style will they respond to? Write accordingly.
  • Talk to colleagues. If your marketing is not a solo effort, make sure that everyone understands the tone and image that’s important for your market… for your business. 

Need a hand? If you would like a review of your brand’s behaviour, let us know. We’re here to help.

Networking: Does Size Matter?

What is Networking?

Networking is an essential activity for most businesses. Essentially, networking is word of mouth; the most powerful marketing tool at our disposal. But it isn’t a quick fix...it is an exchange of information - ideally leading to referrals. Before we let you loose on our valuable clients and contacts, we need to feel reassured that you are trustworthy and offer credible expertise or products.

Face-to-face or Online Networking?

Online networking can offer speed, wide geographical coverage and flexibility – all big benefits. Face-to-Face has a huge advantage: rapport. The famous sales expression “people buy from people first” is true. It is difficult to convey your full enthusiasm in 140 characters.

Which Networking Group is for me?

Time, cost, location and format are important but there is one issue which divides us every time. Does the size of the group matter? Many people think that a large group is the answer. Not always. How many ‘useful’ conversations will you have during a meeting? Three? Four?

The reality is that a smaller group can offer powerful benefits:

  • Stronger bonds. You’ll get to know people – and their businesses – quickly rather than simply collecting business cards
  • Quality leads. Members genuinely want to help when they can instead of feeling under pressure to find opportunities.
  • Support. With rapport comes a sharing of help and advice based upon experience.
  • Honesty. There is generally less bluster and bravado in a smaller group. People are more open and informative.

Each networking group has its advantages, according to your own style. Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that bigger is better.

Look for strong relationships plus the rapport of the group. Remember – what you get out of any networking channel depends upon what you put into it.

Networking in Herts or Beds?

We recommend you try SG1 Business Club in Stevenage.

Discover for yourself how relaxed and powerful a small group can be… especially one which is completely independent and ‘not for profit’.

If you would like advice about which groups would work for you or help with managing your online networking, please contacts us.

Networking is one of the few universal marketing tools. Let’s make the most of it for your business!    

Top Tips for Developing a Successful Business Plan
Developing a business plan is an essential task for all entrepreneurs seeking to grow their organisation and plan for the future.

They can be created for a range of needs and audiences including investor pitching, to support bank loan applications or just to help internal business operations plan and improve their growth.
Irrespective of the primary aim, we have seven top tips to help you succeed:
  1. Survey the market
  2. Understand the competition
  3. Convey the details
  4. Consistency is key
  5. Explore the Assumptions
  6. Explain the rewards
  7. Don’t forget to implement the plan


 Top Tips for Successful Business Development Plans
  1. Survey the market
Do you know who your customers are and the benefits they require from your product/service? Do you know how you will access them? Details are important in this section. Use market statistics and your own market research to truly understand their needs. Also consider any evolution of the offer and business models. Will your proposition be different when you have 100,000 customers compared to the first 1,000? How does that impact your business?
  1. Understand the competition
Consider both the current competition and others who may join the market. Are there barriers to entry that anyone would need to overcome? Do you understand what makes you/your offering unique? If there is no competition, have you considered why this is?
  1. Convey the details
Clarity is important throughout the plan. While selling a vision for the company is important, it must be underpinned by sufficient depth of detail so that any reader can determine the real opportunity. All figures must look realistic for credibility to be achieved. It is better to provide less ambitious estimates which are accurate rather than headline grabbing estimates which cannot be substantiated.
  1. Consistency is key
It is essential that a consistent story is told throughout the document. This is particularly the case between the financials and the rest of the document. Everything that is documented in words as planned activity must feature in the financials as a relevant line item.
  1. Explore the assumptions
Some assumptions are likely to be included within the business plan, especially when planning over longer time periods. Ensure assumptions are recorded to show how decisions have been reached and test them with other data where possible to be confident of the accuracy.
  1. Explain the rewards
For business plans to support investment requests, ensure there is a clear message on the expected performance of the company and how the return on investment will be realised. For wider rewards, where appropriate ensure the non-financial benefits are also communicated. This is particularly important for social enterprises.
  1. Don’t forget to implement the plan
Far too many people spend time creating the business plan and then put it in a drawer and forget about it. To be successful and valuable, the plan needs to be implemented and central to the company decision making. It should be reviewed and adjusted throughout the year as market conditions change. 
Contact us to discuss how we can help you succeed with your business plans.
Getting Ready for GDPR
New requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of personal data will go live next month, (25 May). Presently, there is no distinction between personal and business data. The new General Data Protection Regulations will apply to both business-to-consumer (GDPR) and business-to-business organisations.

From a marketing point of view, we must make sure that we have individuals’ specific consent before emailing them about anything other than the product/service that they are currently engaged with.

So – it is ok to email about the product/service you are providing to them… their ‘account’ with you. Marketing emails can only be sent with their specific consent. This applies to newsletters, events and specific product/service updates.

The only exception is for existing customers, if they meet all three of these criteria then the ‘soft opt-in’ applies:
  • you have obtained the contact details in the course of a sale (or negotiations for a sale) of a product or service to that person;
  • you are only marketing your own similar products or services; and
  • you gave the person a simple opportunity to refuse or opt out of the marketing, both when first collecting the details and in every message after that.
If any of these criteria have not been met, we need to approach all customers to request permission to contact them for marketing purposes. In most cases, the third point is the area to investigate further.:
  1. Did people have the option to ‘opt out’ of being added to the marketing list?
  2. Were ‘opt out’ links provided with every email received?
This happens automatically within most marketing email software such as Mailchimp, although not in generic email systems such as Outlook. Letters of engagement should be amended to include an opportunity for the person signing the agreement to give their consent for communication (all methods involved) and marketing.

Proof of Consent
New GDPR requirements mean that an organisation must be able to demonstrate that an individual consented to the processing of their information. Records should include:
  • who consented;
  • when they consented;
  • what they were told;
  • how that consent was given;
  • by what mechanism; and
  • when consent was withdrawn (if applicable)For marketing purposes, creating a new list within Mailchimp plus retaining a copy of the email requesting consent will meet these requirements.
When consenting to the processing of their data and to receiving marketing communication, individuals should be referred to a Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policies
The following questions should be considered when writing a privacy notice: 
  • What information is being collected?
  • Who is collecting it?
  • How is it collected?
  • Why is it being collected?
  • How will it be used?
  • Who will it be shared with?
  • How long will it be kept for?
  • How will it be disposed of after this period?
  • What will be the effect of this on the individuals concerned?
  • Is the intended use likely to cause individuals to object or complain? 
This applies to customers, employees and volunteers. The above list can form the basis of your Privacy Policy.
Why are you processing personal data?
At least one of these must apply whenever you process personal data:           
(a) Consent: the individual has given clear consent for you to process their personal data for a specific purpose.
(b) Contract: the processing is necessary for a contract you have with the individual, or because they have asked you to take specific steps before entering into a contract.
(c) Legal obligation: the processing is necessary for you to comply with the law (not including contractual obligations).
(d) Vital interests: the processing is necessary to protect someone’s life.
(e) Public task: the processing is necessary for you to perform a task in the public interest or for your official functions, and the task or function has a clear basis in law.
(f) Legitimate interests: the processing is necessary for your legitimate interests or the legitimate interests of a third party unless there is a good reason to protect the individual’s personal data which overrides those legitimate interests. (This cannot apply if you are a public authority processing data to perform your official tasks.)

The validity of each of the above options depends upon which data you are collecting and why. If you are relying on consent, you should:
display it clearly and prominently;
  • ask individuals to positively opt-in;
  • give them sufficient information to make a choice;
  • explain the different ways you will use their information, if you have more than one purpose;
  • provide a clear and simple way for them to indicate they agree to different types of processing; and
  • include a separate unticked opt-in box for direct marketing.
Legitimate interests can be used to justify:
  • postal marketing;
  • email to existing customers using the ‘soft opt-in’ option – see above; and
  • telephone marketing to people who have not previously opted out – either to you, or by registering on the Telephone Preference Service, (or Corporate Telephone Preference service).
For further information, please contact us or refer to the Information Commissioner's Office.
Writing for the Web
Today’s marketing requires a mix of online and traditional channels of communication.

It’s right to be consistent in what we say to our target customers; regarding message and style. But can we use the same wording? No.

Why should copywriting adapt for the web?

People read screens and pages differently. What you write needs to respect that online, readers will:
  • Have less time
  • Scan for relevant information before settling into the content
  • Have a different viewing pattern
So, your message may be the same, but online content will need its own version.

If we get our words right, we can create action. In marketing terms, the action we’re aiming for is engagement, via connection, conversation and/or sales.

Six top tips for effective online writing:

  1. Simple, short sentences. No more than 15 words, ideally 12… it’s tough, but it works!
  2. Succinct paragraphs with no more than five lines. Help people to scan as they want to.
  3. Use bulleted lists. Again for the scanners; they’re visually inviting too.
  4. Write directional text, with links. This is your conversation with the reader and your chance to encourage action. ‘Contact us’, ‘download free guide’, ‘sign up for our top tips’ are good examples.
  5. F style. People read online across the top of the screen, left to right, then down in the shape of the letter ‘F’. Respect this with your key content. (It also explains website menu positions.)
  6. Keyword positioning.  Blend what we know about search engine optimisation with online reading habits. Position a select number of keywords within your copy. It’s difficult to know column widths online (far easier with printed media). Position your chosen keywords at the start of each paragraph; early within the first sentence. They’ll be picked up by search engines and human readers alike.
To summarise: be clear, be brief, be relevant.

Getting your words right is tremendously powerful; influencing the action of others. For more tips about copywriting, follow us on Twitter. Or contact us for a chat. 
Press Release Pointers

What is a press release?

A press release is a piece of news sent to publishers of printed or online titles for possible use within their ‘space’. The good news is that a press release can gain free, credible exposure for your business. In fact, it’s a free tool that absolutely any business can use.


How do I write a press release?

We suggest writing notes against these open questions – it’s our starting point every time:
  • Who
  • Why
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How
This will give the editors everything they need to know; ideally captured in around 200 - 250 words. In addressing these points, make your news current, relevant and… as factually dramatic as possible!  
As with any marketing tool, always bear in mind who you are writing for, and what you want to say about your business.


Where do I send my press release?

Think about your target audience. You want to publish interesting news to them. So do the journalists… so help them do their job! Select the titles and websites that your target customers read or visit. If in doubt, research your market. Avoid the trap of placing your news in trade press for your competitors – not your potential clients – to see.


Top Tips for press releases:

  1. Include quotes – it brings your piece to life.
  2. Send images – pictures catch the eye and therefore attention.
  3. Remember there is never guaranteed coverage or copy control.
  4. Don’t be bullied into advertising. A credible press release doesn’t need it.
  5. Forget a sales pitch – it simply won’t get published.
Need some help? Contact us if you would like to discuss copywriting or a media list for your public relations activity.