The purpose of this blog entry is to share my ‘do it yourself’ experiences in online marketing’.
In an ideal world I would have hired professionals to develop my website, a social media strategy, and to undertake ‘SEO’ (Search Engine Optimisation) for my business Authegrity. As a fledgling business though Authegrity has a shortage of cash, and a reasonable quantum of free time for me, in the absence of a client base buying up all my time. So I set out to develop my own website and Social Media strategy, and to optimise search engine results myself.
Marketing is a critical part of any business and the decision to “do it yourself” is one you need to decide if you have the skills to do properly, and consider if you are cheating yourself of significant client demand if you do it less well than a professional would. In deciding whether to “do it yourself” you may like to consider the applicability of the old saying “a person who is their own lawyer has a fool for a client” to this situation.
This blog is NOT a ‘Do it yourself guide” because being self taught I am simply sharing what I have taught myself, and I don’t know what I don’t know that an online marketing professional might, so if you are going to proceed as I have done with the “do it yourself” approach, please don’t take this blog as gospel and see what else you can find in other blogs and online resources.
First in terms of registering domains, be aware there is a wide variation in prices for domain registration. I made a mistake and used Melbourne IT who at time of writing charge $140 for “.com.au” domains, and $75 for “.com” domains for one year, and was told by a colleague later that there are companies that do it for $7 to $15. At the lower price you can afford to register a lot more domains and secure some great entry points for your business. So the message is shop around. Here’s a review of Domain Registrants in Australia:
Website & Email Hosting
For Authegrity I wanted to use my authegrity domain for my email so that my email address was firstname.lastname@example.org I wanted Microsoft Exchange Email so that everything was backed up on a central server and my email, calendar and contacts would be synchronised live between the server, my PC, my iPad, and my iPhone.
I chose www.Ozhosting.com.au and went for their Premium Hosting Plan for $35.95 per month, and premium Email Hosting @$7.95 per month to achieve full Exchange functionality including through smart phones and Microsoft Outlook on the desktop.
I have initially used a web based site builder that Ozhosting include for free and that is pretty simple to use. I got my site up quickly, but have been disappointed with the functionality their tool offers. I’ve now bought my own web site building software for my website am working through doing a rework of my main site which is not yet ready to launch.
Something I’ve invested quite a lot of effort into in recent weeks is Micro-Sites.
The idea of the Micro-sites is to be able to develop a simple very clear site targeted at one very particular type of audience. Your business may have a dozen types of customers who your products or services could suit, but each audience will have different search terms. Each audience too may not resonate with your main website and may be more attracted to your competition if they are more specialised than you.
The idea of the Micro site is you focus on the search terms they are looking for. When they find your micro-site you show them with a very focused description of your solution to their problem that you very clearly understand their need, then you explain your business in the context of the services you provide to meet their need. You can choose to have a link back to your main website or not depending on whether you think that will help or hinder.
These micro-sites are totally separate from my main web site. I built them using www.weebly.com a site that allows you to build websites free. You can get two sites for free, then up to 10 for about $70 for a year. Weebly would be a perfectly fine place to build your main site in fact. It is very easy to use. I will say though you are by far best to build your components using multi-column sections, as if you use these you can much more easily drag and drop content into the columns and using it without these was much harder. If you only want one column choose two and make the right hand one a width of virtually nil.
It is an incredibly valuable exercise to sit down and think about the different customer audiences you have and how you might communicate with them very specifically to show them how clearly you can relate to exactly their needs.
For me for most of my work I want to focus not just an audience with a particular interest, but also one with a particular geographic focus. While I will happily fly anywhere in Australia or even the world if they will pay for my travel and a big enough block of my time, I am primarily focused on working with companies within a couple of hour radius of Brisbane. Thus targeting an audience searching for a term and a geography became important.
Google & Bing
When you are thinking about search engines you need to think about both Google and Microsoft’s Bing. Bing is becoming more important because Microsoft default Internet Explorer to use Bing now and make it more difficult than it should be to change the default to Google. Many of us have concerns about both organisations, and I dislike Microsoft’s ‘make it hard to change’ approach to forcing Bing on us, but it is a reality for any business that you need to be findable by both search engines.
Google Places For Business & Bing Business Portal
Most internet users would be familiar now with some geographic related searches including some geo-located businesses by a map in the search window, like below:
These businesses are not paying for this listing. They very simply have completed business profiles with Google and Bing here:
These profiles have become a critical part of placing well in any search that might have a geographic element. They are well protected too and both actually send you a PIN number in the snail mail to your physical address to stop people falsifying locations.
Pleasingly for businesses like mine, Google allow you to indicate a Geographic region which you service if your address is not a good guide to the region you serve. So in my case I was able to say I serve Brisbane and a 200Km radius around it. Alternatively you can nominate specific town names. I will experiment with this and work out whether the radius or town names work best.
Both Google and Bing allow you to configure a lot of information about your business which becomes part of their database to help you get found. Bing especially has a huge range of features to build multi-layered product lists.
My sense now is that every business needs to take the time to create a record of their business with both Google and Bing.
Google & Bing Web Masters
Historically Google and Bing accumulated their databases of the web simply through having computers “crawl the web” documenting what they found. This process still goes on and is at the heart of what they do, however there are also other sources and records that they use, and again every business should make sure they are part of these. The business places above is one. The second set are:
These tools allow you through your Google Profile or Microsoft Windows Live ID to identify all of the websites that you own and to configure a range of things and interrogate your sites. It is also a good way to make sure Google and Bing become aware of your sites sooner rather than later and don’t have to wait till they stumble on it in their once a month full crawl of the internet.
There is a verification process where they give you a piece of code to put in a field called the header code in the SEO section of your website. You place the code there in the website, publish it then come back to the webmaster tool and hit verify.
One of the useful things you can do in the Google Webmaster is specify the country that your business relates to if you do have a preferred audience.
Once Google and Bing have crawled your site these tools give you useful information about how your site is seen and which search terms are ranking well.
It is critically important to realise that all of the search terms you want to be found on should be used frequently in your text. This applies too to Geographic limiters. If you want to be found and rank well in a search including the word Brisbane you should mention Brisbane in the text of the website as well as the titles and the ‘Meta Tag” field for the page, and preferably several times.
Linking is another critical SEO issue to make sure of to rank well:
- Get other people to link to your webpages, especially people you collaborate with, customers, and friends. Google ranks University “.edu” sites very high, so if you have any links in to academia and your favourite professor has a page he can add a link to your site on it can make a big difference.
- Link out to other web pages. Again links to “.edu” sites are great. Be careful though to set the links up as links which open a new window so that the window with your site in stays open and you don’t lose your customer going off on a tangent and never finding their way back to your site.
If you don’t have a linked in profile you need to get one and you need to populate it as fully as you can. I have my whole CV for my entire working career and it has big advantages. Anything which is a term you want to be found for needs to be spelled out in the text of your experience in the positions you have listed in Linked In. Google rate this resource highly now. Also the more connections and recommendations you have in Linked In the better.
Becoming a Linked In subject matter expert can be a worthwhile activity. Linked In Groups are very powerful and there are groups for every kind of interest area you can name. They are easy to establish (I’ve established four so far) and run and grow surprisingly fast. By showing yourself to be a wise counsel in postings within a group you can make valuable connections.
Facebook for any business in this day and age is important. You need to have a Business Page. Here is mine:
Also useful is a cause page. A lot of users are keen to join a cause or interest page, but see a company page as propaganda. If you create a cause or interest page you can reach a much larger audience and influence thinking winning acceptance in a space as a thought leader. In my opinion you need to be genuinely giving in the time and effort you put into the page and be extremely careful not to market much on that page. Make it easy for the audience to see you have a business, but allow them to come and check out your business in their time if and when they decide they trust you.
My cause page is this one:
I have used Facebook, Linked In and Google Adwords advertising variously over the last few years. Google and Linked In tend to be pretty expensive, but Facebook is much cheaper and if your audience/customer is the individual Facebook can be very effective. You can limit your daily spend to a couple of dollars and still get a lot of connections for that. You can target particular geographic regions, you can target people with a particular type of degree, or in a particular age group. It is very powerful. The main thing to my mind is ‘be sincere’ and make the offer genuinely and to people who you really are helping with your product or service. If you are insincere or over the top people will click your advertisement just to cost you money.
I have been a late convert to Twitter, and I am still not a big user. However I have witnessed its power. Your ability to search for areas of interest and connect with people in those spaces is amazing. I recently ‘followed’ all the authors of books I’d read and liked on Twitter and I have had two follow me and write to me with a meaningful exchange (and trust me you do get lots of unmeaningful exchanges where people send a rote response thanking you for following them). Both these authors did back and forths with me read my blogs and are now connections with influential people in the writing world who may be helpful when I join them as a published author. You don’t have to like Twitter, but don’t underestimate it as a tool for making the world smaller and finding out who is influential in the microcosm that is your industry.
Blogging is a really important tool for your online presence. I have two blogs, one for my cause and one for my personal life and interests in spirit:
Google and Bing love fresh content and this is one of the ways to be seen as fresh and ranked well. It also gives you a place that you are in control of that can link to your web pages in the normal course of blogging and which will help your Google rank.
Most importantly it allows you to be recognised as a thought leader in your space, to write on topical issues in that space, and for people to stumble on you when their googling or binging leads them to a blog by you on something they are interested in.
Most importantly if you understand that service to your fellow human beings is energetically powerful , blogging is a good way to be of service in your community which bears fruit sometimes in surprising ways.
The conscious organisations of the world have already woken up that in this age authenticity is paramount. It is offline, and the same applies even more so online. Companies that put out insincere spin videos are having parodies posted on youtube and shared on Facebook inside 24 hours, and the parody will often reach a far greater audience than the original and if really clever may go viral and get you an audience that proves the old adage “no publicity is bad publicity” wrong.
Society as a whole is becoming more conscious and your business in every sense needs to just genuinely try and meet needs cost effectively and sincerely without any questionable motives. People understand the need for business to make a return, but your business needs to be making a fair return and in doing so looking after all stakeholder groups fairly, not just shareholders and management.
If your market can come to respect you through coming to know you online, you can get the right kind of viral happening and you have the potential to take your products and services to a massive market that is savvy and knows what it wants.
This blog has been a quick introduction to a few of the issues in Online Marketing. There are many professionals in the field who can help you do amazing things, and as your business starts generating some income the investment of some of that income in professional advice on your online presence is likely to take you further and help you tap new income sources. I hope this blog entry can help a few people navigate the ‘do it yourself’ waters of online marketing till you can afford professional advice.
Ura P Auckland
Authegrity Pty Ltd
- ‘Google Screenshot’ by Ura P Auckland
- ‘Weebly Site Settings Screenshot’ by Ura P Auckland