Our Daily Articles: Complete Index 2008–2019

Filling the advertising vacuum

We seem to have a bit of a theme going on this week. Following my article on Monday about the problems being faced by trade magazines, I got into some interesting correspondence with my former colleague Mark Simms, Editor of Industrial Technology magazine, one of the few titles which is refusing to panic in the current market conditions. Mark has some fascinating theories about the trend away from brand advertising towards measurable response advertising, which I’ll mention tomorrow. This sort of thoughtful analysis is why I’m sure that independent publishers… Read More »Filling the advertising vacuum

Don’t waste your time on directories

If you’ve got 3 minutes spare to watch a video, take a look at this one by Matt Cutts, one of the few public faces of Google’s search team, talking about why some directories are great to be in, and others are considered “spam”. I guess what we can take away from this is to avoid being in directories which clearly don’t have any “editorial quality”, and certainly never consider paying to be in them. I firmly believe that the only use for directories is in the value Google puts… Read More »Don’t waste your time on directories

Things are changing. Tell your friends.

Yesterday I mentioned Michael Jackson’s untimely death last week, pointing out how – for once – the daily newspapers got a chance to be the place where many people first found out about the story. But did the web cover itself in glory on this one? Well, the story was broken on a website, it’s true. But for most people, the web is the search engines (especially Google), and as Search Engine Journal illustrates in Microsoft Bing FAILS in Coverage, Twitter and Facebook Break News, the search engines were all… Read More »Things are changing. Tell your friends.

Gloomy times for your favourite trade magazine

Late on Thursday evening, the most famous pop star in the world died. I wouldn’t have liked to have been working on a daily newspaper that night (talk about “clear the front page!” chaos) but the timing was extraordinarily fortuitous for the UK papers: a massive story which broke after most people had gone to bed, but just in time for it to be splashed on their front pages. There’s about a one-hour slot each day when that can happen. But it doesn’t happen often enough, which is one reason… Read More »Gloomy times for your favourite trade magazine

Onwards and upwards

I’ve let the first anniversary of this blog slip past without any acknowledgement, so belated happy birthday, blog. I’ll download you a new plug-in or something. Anyway, although I’m delighted to have over 500 of you getting this by email every day, as well as a decent number of RSS readers and of course all the casual web traffic, we need to push on. So I’m just wondering, if I ask very nicely, if you’d do me a favour and recommend this to a colleague or two. Or perhaps you’re… Read More »Onwards and upwards

Naming names

Naming product ranges, or even individual products, is more important than ever. While consumer electronics companies still think it makes sense to present the public with full engineering part numbers (despite nobody ever saying “Have you seen the new KDL46W4000U at Currys?”), they are at least investing in the ranges’ brand names nowadays. In the technical sector, however, some manufacturers still seem to think it’s almost an admission of weakness to give products a brand, or an image of any sort. And this despite the fact that both sales teams… Read More »Naming names

People should buy from you. But why?

A short post – Conversion Rate Exercise: Why Should I Do Business With You? – on the Marketing Optimization Blog puts forward a couple of good ideas inspired by social media which might help you clarify what your company’s unique selling propositions are. The majority of businesses we come across in any walk of life seem to find it hard to focus on what they’re offering that others aren’t – and consequently give you the impression that they have no better reason why you should buy from them other than,… Read More »People should buy from you. But why?

The importance of the footer

Another great post from Smashing Magazine – Informative And Usable Footers In Web Design – looks at what to put in this small and neglected but important part of your website. What do people expect when they scroll to the very bottom of the page? It would appear they want “About” and “Contact” information, some sort of link to an index or site map, and (on long pages) a “Back to the Top” link. Obvious really, but does your site have these in place? I run about 20 websites, and… Read More »The importance of the footer

Search Engine Optimisation: risky business?

The Marketing Optimization Blog is amongst a number of blogs in the field of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) which has been making uneasy noises about the subject recently. In Will Google Judge You Guilty of SEO? it hints that a dramatic Google update might be coming (there’s no real evidence for this) and that sites which have been manipulating Google results might be caught out. Now, I’ve been to some search engine optimisation conferences, and although many of the people working in the area are very smart indeed, I’ve never… Read More »Search Engine Optimisation: risky business?

How’s your in-house database looking?

Keeping an in-house database “clean” is such a dull job that it can hang around at the bottom of the to-do list permanently. In 10 signs your in-house database needs help BEFORE you launch another program, the B2B Lead Blog lists the sort of problems lurking in most databases. I’m sure many of you will recognise more than one of them. In the comments, there’s a reference to a claim made last year that clean data can scale up to huge gains in revenue. I’m sure it’s true. And one… Read More »How’s your in-house database looking?

How big is yours then?

Once upon a time we used to get really irritated when a web page didn’t load instantly, because it was so large, and our connection ot the internet was so slow. Nowadays we all have fast connections, but as everyone knows, there are still plenty of pages out there which take ages to load (or don’t even load properly at all) …and that’s probably because they’re badly designed, and are making calls to outside elements which aren’t loading quickly enough. The “Web 2.0” design philosophy which has swept the web… Read More »How big is yours then?

Talk to your audience at their level

The ever-fascinating Copyblogger discusses the use of language in copywriting in Five Ways to Persuade Like a Silver-Tongued Trial Lawyer. After I supported the consensus the other day that most press releases are rubbish, this is a nice companion piece. Copyblogger says that lawyers have to understand how to make their language accessible to the “man on the street” when addressing juries. But although this is an astute observation, the lesson for us all is to write with the end-user in mind. That may mean making our writing more technical… Read More »Talk to your audience at their level

What’s Google found on your website?

Google Webmaster Tools updated recently with a new design and a load of new information. If you don’t have this set up on your company website, ask whoever set the site up why they didn’t include this as standard (well, after you’ve finished slapping them) and get it installed right away. It’s free, and gives you loads of great information about your site, including what searches you’re appearing for, and which ones you’re actually getting clicked on for. If Google has problems crawling your site, or if there are broken… Read More »What’s Google found on your website?

Think about AdWords like eBay

Google’s AdWords system works brilliantly for certain products – ones which people need, and are looking for. Conversely, if your product is something people didn’t know they wanted, it’s useless; although as an advertiser, it won’t cost you anything if your ad never shows or gets clicked on. The real waste in AdWords spending turns out not to be in advertising products which nobody’s looking for. It’s in spending too much and not looking at the return. Think about AdWords like you would eBay. The highest bidder wins the day,… Read More »Think about AdWords like eBay

Keywords: the answer may be in the question

Keyword research is so important. What are your prospects typing into search engines? You need to know before you can start optimising your website to rank higher in Google, and you need to know if you want to set up an Adwords campaign. I suggest to our Insider Programme members right at the start that they try to compile a list of 20 to 50 priority search terms from the outset, because these can affect so many areas of website development. There are plenty of tools to help, and plenty… Read More »Keywords: the answer may be in the question

Who are your press releases written for?

B2B Rainmaker covers a subject I’ve been banging on about for years in Why most press releases suck and are a waste of time. As an industrial trade magazine editor for nearly 15 years, I probably read (or at least glanced at) anything from 50,000 to 100,000 press releases, and as editor of Engineeringtalk from 2000 to 2007, I either edited or supervised the publishing of another 50,000. I think it’s safe to say I’ve seen just about everything. And it’s true: most press releases are rubbish, including those from… Read More »Who are your press releases written for?

Two things to remember before redesigning a website

Too many companies redesign their websites for the same (poor) reason they like to redesign their logo: because they can’t think of anything better to do. However, there are a number of good reasons to redesign and relaunch your website, including getting rid of an outdated content management system, updating presentation for current browsers, or reflecting a change of company circumstances. It’s not surprising then that web design agencies are still fairly busy, even in recessionary times. It’s a fact though that designers are rarely given a really good brief.… Read More »Two things to remember before redesigning a website

Can you get your Google results changed quickly?

Blogstorm reports that a website in Holland has lost a lawsuit brought about by its Google results seeming to imply that a company had gone bankrupt, despite not actually saying that on the page. This has some wide implications. If you type in a two-word query into Google, the search engine will return a list of pages which feature both words. For each page, you’ll see the title, and under that, a couple of lines of text. If the two words are in close proximity on the page, those two… Read More »Can you get your Google results changed quickly?

Google Analytics Event Tracking – an introduction

If you thought Google Analytics just analysed page views, it’s time to think again. A feature called “Event Tracking” has been slowly introduced (it was first announced nearly two years ago) and it’s now available on all accounts. What Event Tracking does is to allow you to record actions which aren’t page views on your site, such as downloading a PDF, clicking an outbound link, watching a video or even those smart interactions with your website which don’t involve a new page being called (usually done with what’s known as… Read More »Google Analytics Event Tracking – an introduction

A better call to action

We all know the call to action on every advert, every sales letter and indeed, every web page, can make or break all the effort you’ve put into creating it. So every time I come across another decent set of reminders about what to put in your call to action, you’ll see it here. It’s something we all need to absorb by constant repetition. 7 Tips for Effective Calls to Action on the Inbound Internet Marketing blog says that you need to be urgent, specific, well positioned, easy to follow… Read More »A better call to action

Avoiding awkwardness in getting customer testimonials

Ron Brauner’s Blog reminds us of “one of the most successful marketing headlines of all time” in Free Marketing Headlines. What is it? The customer testimonial. However, getting customer testimonials can be awkward and even embarrassing. When asked directly by someone to say something nice about them, can you say no, even if you want to? And you don’t want to put customers in a difficult position. Here’s a technique I recently used for a client, which produced results that bowled us over (and not just the one from the… Read More »Avoiding awkwardness in getting customer testimonials

Number one for your name. But is that enough?

I’ve been digesting a fascinating article about the taxonomy of search today (don’t worry, I read these things so you don’t have to), and it’s given me a number of ideas for subjects to cover in future articles here. However, I’d like to pull out one almost incidental statistic from the article and discuss its implications: the volume of searches looking for your company name. Apparently, nearly a quarter of web searches are “navigational”; in other words, the searcher just wants to find your site. They either don’t know or… Read More »Number one for your name. But is that enough?

Minimising the people who leave the store empty-handed

Sometimes there’s an assumption that because we’re in the business-to-business sector, our websites are entirely informational and we’re not really involved in selling online. I’m guilty of making that assumption, which suggests I don’t know my audience; I just had a look at the websites belonging to ten random readers, and two offered online shopping. If the sample can be scaled up, that means over 100 of you have to address the particular technology and operational demands of a “web store”, a task which can be tricky. Anyway, here’s a… Read More »Minimising the people who leave the store empty-handed

Google becoming a business directory: are you on?

Have you ever seen Google results for companies where there are maps, photos and business information? These are are actually part of Google Maps but appear in the Google search results and are all part of a wider move from Google to be able to provide the same services as business directories. Claim your Google listing, now! on B2Blog suggests that you “claim” control of your business’ listing immediately, and add the relevant details. I agree, and I’m off to get our entry sorted right away.

Is filling up your title tag with your company name a waste?

Ah, title tags. Such a small thing, such a huge effect. Here at Business Marketing Online, we have a brilliant little tool (available to our Insider Programme Pro subscribers) which crawls your site, and lists all of the pages in a spreadsheet, along with their title tag, meta description tag, headlines, etc. It’s a total eye-opener for everyone who uses it. And the one thing I see time and time again is the same title tag repeated on dozens of pages. The result? You’re not telling Google what’s on the… Read More »Is filling up your title tag with your company name a waste?

Do you have a backup of your website?

Online surveys are great. I’ve been told of someone sitting in a marketing meeting, opening up their laptop, creating a one-question survey, firing it off to 1000 customers, and getting 100 responses back within the hour, while the meeting was still in progress. Now that’s the way to make decisions. Anyway, last week I was going to write about website hosting, and I thought: “I wonder what the readers pay?” Within five minutes I’d written a question, and five minutes later I’d emailed it to all of you. It hardly… Read More »Do you have a backup of your website?

Don’t throw your leads away at the last moment

Another success story for you today, again from an Insider Programme member. This company’s very mature website was producing plenty of name-and-address sales enquiries, thanks to good design which led visitors slickly through the product descriptions and onto an enquiry form. But although most visitors moving on to the form were completing it, some weren’t, and the company wondered if the design of the form might be putting people off. Nearly all enquiry forms on business-to-business websites ask for far too much information, usually because the Sales Director has insisted… Read More »Don’t throw your leads away at the last moment

Show that you’re the authority on the subject

I’d like to share one or two success stories with you this week, as well as report back on our recent survey. To kick off, a tale of how a company (a member of our Insider Programme Pro, as it happens) sailed straight into the top ten Google results for one of its major generic product terms, when it previously hadn’t even been able to get on the first few pages. What was making it hard for the company to get on to the first page of Google was the… Read More »Show that you’re the authority on the subject

Live chat on your website for free

Just a quickie, as it’s a bank holiday – something you might like to consider for your website. You know those “Live Instant Message Chat” buttons you see on some websites? People really like those. Even if they don’t use them, it gives off a nice warm feeling that your company cares. Well, it’s quite possible to put one of those on for free, using Google Talk. If you have a Google account, and your prospect does (and an increasing number of people do), then here’s what you need. You… Read More »Live chat on your website for free

The only way to attract Google’s interest

When you put something new on your website, you want Google to find it quickly. Not just because you want interest from day one (although that would be nice), but because you want your page to be accredited by Google as the primary one about that product, not the page on What’s New in Widgets Online which ran your press release a few days later. Here’s how it works. Google comes to your site. It looks exactly the same as last time. A week later, Google comes to your site… Read More »The only way to attract Google’s interest

Creative thinking required

Today I’d like some ideas from you. A company I know is moving premises (halfway across the country) and is preparing a not insubstantial mailshot (postal and email) to its customers to let them know of the change. The change of premises won’t really affect customers. Here’s the question though: is it appropriate to sneak in any marketing messages with this important update? Could the news be used as a hook to offer something? What do you think? Let us know below.

Do you get your message over quickly enough?

Even if you’re writing about something people are genuinely interested in, such as the Champions League Final, or Star Trek, or cute pets, you’ve only got a few lines to grab their attention and persuade them to keep reading. If you’re writing about pressure transducers, or LEDs, or spectrophotometers, they’re probably bored before they start, only reading about this stuff because they have to. You’re going to have to work even harder to get them enthusiastic about what you have to say. And yet nine out of ten* product pages… Read More »Do you get your message over quickly enough?

Another good link-building idea for you

More on link-building today (that’s two in a week!), but this time a link to a short article which just happens to have a really good idea on it. Do you have distributors? Do they link to you, or would they be prepared to? Here’s the deal. Do the work for them, and get the links you want. Instead of them giving you a simple link, see if they put a whole page about you (which you’ll provide) on their site, and they can link to that instead. On that… Read More »Another good link-building idea for you

When will you get your last ever magazine ad rep calling?

A contributor to a chat group for PR consultants which I run recently posted a communication from a well-known industrial magazine, which said that from now on the publication “will give editorial preference to those companies who are supporting us whether this is through display advertising or colour separation revenue”. As someone who edited industrial magazines, in print and online, for nearly twenty years, I’m not sure how to take this. If, as an editor, the companies whose news you’re allowed to cover is restricted, your magazine will be significantly… Read More »When will you get your last ever magazine ad rep calling?

A bunch more ideas for getting links to your site

As you know, I can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to have a programme in place aimed at generating links to your website. Look, it’s May, and in a few weeks’ time there’ll be no end of self-confident, web-literate students looking for a summer job. I bet that in six weeks, one of these could generate enough links for you that you could increase your Google traffic significantly. Let’s say you get 100 visitors a day to your website, and a stronger presence in Google from a few… Read More »A bunch more ideas for getting links to your site

The geeks will inherit the web

Woah, web search just got a whole lot more complicated. For website owners, that is. Google has wheeled out a whole new bunch of features in its search results, and I’m sure some of them will prove useful enough to eventually become mainstream. If you do a Google search such as this then click the “show options” link and you’ll see a number of new ways of exploring the data. A few have been knocking around for a while, but the new link should make them get a lot more… Read More »The geeks will inherit the web

What to do with pages about old products and events

A common scenario in industry is for the sales manager to stick his head around the marketing manager’s door and say “Now that we’ve got the Red Widget 2, I’d like all references to the original Red Widget removed from the website”, which leads to the marketing manager doing just that, by deleting the relevant pages. This is a mistake for so many reasons. Never just delete pages. Firstly, you’d managed to get your original Red Widget page onto the first page of the Google results for “red widgets”. Now… Read More »What to do with pages about old products and events

Start by defining what a sales lead actually is

As an aside, the article I’m linking to today is a good example of a way of creating good original content for your website – arrange for you (or an expert from your company) to be interviewed for your own website! That’s what Brian Carroll of the B2B Lead Generation blog has done in Using Kaizen to Improve your Lead Generation Results in 90 Days or Less, and there’s no doubt the result is a fascinating read, even if it’s (presumably) only restating the message which the subject of the… Read More »Start by defining what a sales lead actually is

Vanity URLs – not for the vain

A ‘vanity URL’ sounds like a vanity number plate, but it’s nothing to do with showing off. It can be a crucial element in successful web marketing. A vanity URL is a nice, short web address which is used in place of a horrible long one. For example, supposing as marketing manager of the Red Widget Company, you launch a new fastest-ever widget and that clunky old website content management system you’ve been saddled with decides the web page you’ve created about the product is going to be www.bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/products/database/40765/9432b.html Doesn’t… Read More »Vanity URLs – not for the vain

Being there when they decide to stop doing nothing

Here’s another one of Seth Godin’s thought-provoking Seth’s Blog posts. Pick anything – the calculus of change points out that the default position for most customers is “do nothing”. If they don’t know whether there’s anything in it for them if they do something, then they’ll do nothing. Therefore if you want them to do something, you need to pick the moment when they have to make a choice. Now, for us in industry, it’s difficult to find out when they’re going to have to make a choice (although the… Read More »Being there when they decide to stop doing nothing

The basics of pay-per-click advertising

I find it hard to believe there are industrial companies out there which are still spending thousands of pounds a year on magazine advertising, or in directories, or on online banner ads …but are not using online pay-per-click (“PPC”) advertising at all. Look, by all means, if you’re spending as much as makes sense on Google AdWords, and you still have advertising budget left over, then by all means spread the love a bit. But start at the top, for goodness sake. It’s a bit like being asked “Who’s going… Read More »The basics of pay-per-click advertising

How to use social media to help define your company’s image

I’ve made a few comments recently which suggest that when it comes to industrial marketing, I don’t think much of the “social media” stuff which is exciting so many people at the moment. I was really just trying to say that you shouldn’t invest time or money in (say) setting up a Twitter feed if your main marketing aim at the moment is to find new ways to generate sales enquiries. But as I’ve also written, social media doesn’t necessarily require substantial investment in time or money, and in terms… Read More »How to use social media to help define your company’s image

Why you need to learn to be a copywriter

If you’d been doing the job you’re now doing thirty years ago, you’d have had a secretary to type stuff up for you, but over the years – in the dubious name of efficiency – it’s been decided that it’d be better if you’re made to type your own stuff up, slowly, and the company can save the cost of the secretary. You’re expected to have those skills, even if you almost certainly haven’t been trained in them. Similarly, more and more marketing people are doing their own copywriting, when… Read More »Why you need to learn to be a copywriter

“Better than chocolate” (it says here)

It’s a bank holiday, we shouldn’t be fretting about our websites, we should be having fun. So go and have a play with sloganizer.net – just type in your company name, products, services or whatever. It’s quite addictive.

Does your website reflect your customers’ buying process?

The vast majority of business-to-business (“B2B”) websites fail to acknowledge what makes many B2B sales different from High Street sales: the long buying cycle, often involving different people. While you know how your customers’ buying process works, does your website reflect that? Does it provide something for every stage of the buying cycle? I bet it doesn’t. A good illustration of this is given in Can your Website Handle the Complexity of your Sale? on FutureNow’s Marketing Optimization Blog. It suggests, rightly, that the minimum your website should offer is… Read More »Does your website reflect your customers’ buying process?

I just want to see you doing some (any!) form of link building

As you know, I’ve promised to bang on about link-building until I hear that more of you are doing it. I can’t understand people who are happy to throw hundreds or thousands of pounds at “search engine optimisation” consultancy (which rarely includes a good link-building component) but wouldn’t spend the same on hiring a part-time administrator to get some good links to the website – an exercise which would be far more profitable. It’s an ideal job for that school-leaving marketing assistant. Here’s what to do. Find out who your… Read More »I just want to see you doing some (any!) form of link building

Everything I know, and more, for just £100.

If you missed our earlier announcement, we have a new low-cost version of our Insider Programme available, and as most people like to join at the start of the month, today would be a good day for you to give us a call and get on board. We’re offering a package of three genuinely great things to UK industrial businesses, for the incredibly low cost of £100 a month. There’s no commitment, so you really must be able to find £100 to give it a go for the first month.… Read More »Everything I know, and more, for just £100.

Google Alerts keep you on top of the industry

I’ve been delighted to have helped a couple of clients set up company blogs this month, and I’m excited to see how they develop. One of the biggest challenges, which both of these go-ahead companies seem ready for, will be to come up with ideas of things to write (or to get written, because it is quite permissible to commission writers for your blogs, you know!). And this is another area where Google Alerts can be really useful. If there are any of you who don’t already use Google Alerts,… Read More »Google Alerts keep you on top of the industry

It’s never too late to start your email newsletter

The most common sentiment I hear nowadays from companies which don’t do email newsletters for customers and prospects is along the lines of “well, we’ve never done one”, implying that “we wish we had, but it’s too late now”. That makes no sense whatsoever. You’re not in competition with anyone! Look at it this way. Do you wish that you (or your predecessors) had set up an email newsletter for customers and prospects years ago, so it would have built up a really nice circulation by now? Well, if you… Read More »It’s never too late to start your email newsletter

The types of Unique Visitors to your website you should avoid

It took me years to get my head around the concept of “unique visitors” to a website, as mentioned in your friendly local web analytics program (probably). Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik explains what they are, and what the different types you hear about mean, in Standard Metrics Revisited: Daily, Weekly, Monthly Unique Visitors from his Occam’s Razor blog. It’s a long article, but straightforwardly-explained throughout, so do bear with it, and you’ll be rewarded with an understanding of a crucial concept. Most importantly, it will explain why “Daily”, “Weekly” and… Read More »The types of Unique Visitors to your website you should avoid