Our Daily Articles: Complete Index 2008–2020

Control your own Google

If you hadn’t heard, Google introduced a highly significant enhancement to its service a week or so back, called SearchWiki. This enables users to edit their search results – that is, reorder, remove, or add web pages to the results for any query. You can add notes to listings too. There’s a good summary of the implications of this in Google SearchWiki 101: An Illustrated Guide on Search Engine Land which you might like to read. If that looks daunting, I’ll highlight the bits you need to know, before any… Read More »Control your own Google

Making a sales letter truly great

Thank you so much for all your flattering comments about last week’s series of articles about the state of online marketing in UK industrial companies. I’ll try to write a few more pieces like that which are closer to home in the future. In the meantime, back to work. I’ve read entire books on writing sales letters, and some of them have even been worth reading. But to fill an entire book on this subject you need to get far too detailed; the really good stuff can be summarised in… Read More »Making a sales letter truly great

Time to get to the point

Should you continue promoting your company in a business downturn? Of course you should, even if it has to be at a reduced level, because a dip in the market is the easiest time to increase market share, history has taught us that. But should your marketing message change? In Ten Tips for Effective Creative in Difficult Times on the B2B Insights Blog it’s suggested that you make more effort to understand the situation in which your customers find themselves (and I should add that their situation might just be… Read More »Time to get to the point

Here’s what I learned this summer (4)

This is the final observation I’d like to make from seeing so many UK industrial companies’ online marketing operations this summer: my surprise at how much companies are spending on pay-per-click advertising – and my concern at how much they may be wasting. By pay-per-click advertising, effectively I mean Google AdWords, which dominates the market. If you’d asked me to have made an educated guess at how much this was being used in UK industrial marketing, I’d have probably said maybe a quarter of companies might have tried it, but… Read More »Here’s what I learned this summer (4)

Here’s what I learned this summer (3)

What else did I learn this summer, while talking to loads of UK industrial companies about their websites? I learned that many companies do not have website traffic analytics data, and even fewer are actually using it to calculate return on investment from online campaigns, or their website as a whole. At many companies, I asked what analytics data they had on their website visitors, and they pointed to some horribly crude log analysis program provided for free by their website host – something like AWStats or Webalizer. A chart… Read More »Here’s what I learned this summer (3)

Here’s what I learned this summer (2)

Here’s what I learned this summer (2)

As I mentioned yesterday, while travelling around the UK this summer introducing our Insider Programme, I’ve started to see the challenges involved in online marketing in UK industry, and have discovered some common problems and mistakes, which I thought I’d bring to you all this week. Today: the Splash Page lives! Now, you’re probably thinking: “The Splash Page? Does Chris mean those movies people used to make you watch before being able to access their websites? The ones which made half the visitors hurriedly scroll around for the “skip this”… Read More »Here’s what I learned this summer (2)

Here’s what I learned this summer (1)

This week, rather than refer you to other people’s articles, I thought I’d write about some of my own recent experiences. In the course of launching our Insider Programme this summer, I’ve visited many industrial companies around the UK, and spoken to many more at the series of seminars we held. In doing so, I’ve started to get an idea of the state of online marketing in UK industry, and it’s been most revealing – in some cases, pleasantly surprising, in others, quite shocking. While my small sample of a… Read More »Here’s what I learned this summer (1)

Those nice people at Google

To know how to write web pages to do well in Google, it can be helpful to know a bit about Google itself. And there’s a nice little introductory article on the official Google Blog, called Introduction to Google Search Quality, which puts a human face on what they do. Obviously it doesn’t reveal any trade secrets, but it reinforces the fact that there are people behind all this technology. As well as a staggering number of PCs.

Avoiding errors in error pages

I’ve mentioned “error pages” before, but I’ll revisit the subject regularly until everyone’s sorted theirs out. Do you know what happens if someone types in a page on your site which doesn’t exist? Here’s what happens on our site. Is your “error page” as user-friendly? Try typing a load of nonsense after your domain name and see what happens. Even if you think what you’re providing is OK, it may still be worth reading 404 error pages, news sites and user experience on the E-consultancy blog, where they investigate what… Read More »Avoiding errors in error pages

Free does not mean cheap. It means “thanks”.

I know many industrial marketing managers don’t like free gifts, perhaps considering them to be in some way unprofessional. I disagree – some of the best branding I’ve experienced over the years has come from decent freebies. I can even name (without looking) many things which have hung around my home and office for years: a Telemecanique umbrella, a Rose+Krieger pen, an Adept Scientific calculator, and some SMC Pneumatics golf balls – and that’s straight off the top of my head. But what have freebies got to do with online… Read More »Free does not mean cheap. It means “thanks”.

Who knows what works?

Analysing your website visitors is one of the great exercises in marketing today. It genuinely excites me to follow who they are, where they came from and what they do on my website. I never had this level of insight into the customer with any traditional marketing technique. But there’s another fascinating exercise which online marketing has given us, and that’s the ability to test everything easily. We’re all daft if we don’t find the time to do it, if only because it was so much more difficult to do… Read More »Who knows what works?

Get more Good Stuff on your site

An excellent article has just appeared on the E-consultancy blog about content for your B2B website. In Creating Cracking Corporate Content author Kevin Gibbons reminds us that the days of writing stilted web pages full of key search terms have long gone, and nowadays there’s little difference between copy which “works” for human visitors and that which “works” for search engines. The content requirements for technology guides, press releases, product descriptions and blogs are all discussed. Well worth digesting.

The essentials of email newsletters

Here’s one of the best articles ever on email newsletter writing. How To Build a Successful Email Newsletter on Problogger points out that you need to start out by defining what you’re trying to do with the publication, and letting the potential readers know this. Then you need a voice, and a clear idea of the value you’re offering the readers (in exchange for their time). Your content needs to be scannable, have trackable results, and good subject lines. Finally you need a good distribution service, and a reliable opt-in/opt-out… Read More »The essentials of email newsletters

Your online marketing in 2009

Last week we completed a series of four seminars for marketing managers from UK engineering, scientific and construction sector suppliers. If you were one of the 60 or 70 people who attended, we hope you enjoyed your day with us and found it useful. Certainly the feedback (100% positive!) leads us to believe we got it right. We hope you found the introduction of our Insider Programme on a face-to-face basis to be revealing, and we know that many of you got quite a few ideas from my presentation on… Read More »Your online marketing in 2009

Run far, far away. Very fast.

A week ago I wrote an article which suggested that many “search engine optimisation” (SEO) consultants out there were little more than charlatans, and I’d like to thank the many of you who emailed me with sympathetic messages based on your own experiences. There are some great ones out there, although they rightly expect decent fees, and I do understand that it’s often a sign of the immaturity of the customers that forces even good SEO consultants to resort to claiming they’ll “get you to number one on Google”, because… Read More »Run far, far away. Very fast.

Free guide to email marketing

Thanks to BeRelevant for pointing out that a nice little e-book called The Practical Guide to Email Marketing is available for free download – go get your copy now while it’s still available. If you do any sort of promotional emailing for your company, I’m pretty certain you’ll find some good tips inside.

Designing a web form which will be used

Putting forms on your website is hard enough work, but making the form appealing is even harder. However, having got someone this far, it’s a tragedy to lose them at the last hurdle because your form is offputting. One of the reasons people don’t litter their websites with individual landing pages for every promotion they do is the pain involved with creating good ones. At a recent seminar, I asked industrial marketing managers if they’d be interested in a service which enabled them to create landing pages, with response forms,… Read More »Designing a web form which will be used

Attractive looking URLs rule OK

Here’s an article which backs up something I’d been fairly sure about for quite a while. According to Improve click-throughs with the right URL names on Industrial Search Engine Marketing, the actual URL (the web page address) in Google results (the bit in green) is becoming more important. I agree. If I type in “widget review” into Google, I know that 9 out of 10 results which come up are not going to be reviews of widgets, but shopping sites selling widgets which have managed to score well for the… Read More »Attractive looking URLs rule OK

Identifying your top keywords

Most of the people looking for your products and services online use the search engines. Some of them will find you because they’ve typed in search terms – or “keywords” – for which you do well in the search results. You can see what they typed in by consulting your visitor statistics. But others type in keywords which you don’t do well for, and they never find you. What are they typing in? It’s imperative you find out, and work on ranking highly for those keywords too. You can guess… Read More »Identifying your top keywords

Don’t force your users to do the work for you

Although it’s on a specialist search engine optimisation website, today’s article can be followed by the layman without too much brow-furrowing, and I think you’ll find it worthwhile. Are You Forcing Your Users to Superfluously Click? on SEOmoz looks at “clicks that cause me to grit my teeth and shake my fist”. As a web user, you’ll agree with all of the examples, but you’ll probably also recognise one or two which your own website might be guilty of. “Click here to continue” prompts? Things that look like they’re clickable… Read More »Don’t force your users to do the work for you

So What?

I like articles which inspire us to go back to basics and re-assess our marketing, because we all know it’s something we don’t do often enough. In The Most Important Question Salespeople Should Ask Themselves on the B2B Lead Blog it’s suggested that not only do you ask yourself the classic question “Why should people do business with me when there are so many other options available?” but also, when you’ve come up with your answers, it suggests that you go through the reasons and ask yourself a second question… Read More »So What?

Why should anyone care?

Here’s a good post. It’s something all magazine editors would agree with, and (if you could get them to put their finger on it) customers probably would too. In your marketing communication, have you included a reason why the recipient should care? In The most common mistake I find in customer communications on the B2B Rainmaker blog, the whole problem is summarised in a couple of paragraphs. “Your features and functionality aren’t benefits”, it says, “they’re merely proof a benefit can exist”.

Beware that SEO company on the phone

I assume many of you are members of LinkedIn, the professional networking site (if we know each other, please feel free to link to me). There’s a good section on this called “Answers” where you can get advice from other members, and I’d thoroughly recommend visiting this occasionally and helping out where you can, because it establishes you as an authority in the field. A recent question was What do you look for in choosing an SEO company? and that’s something I’m taking quite an interest in at the moment.… Read More »Beware that SEO company on the phone

A refresher on sales letter writing

Sometimes I link to articles in this blog almost as a way of bookmarking them for myself. Now, I’ve got whole books on writing sales letters, and I’ve even read one or two, but once you get to whole-book-levels of detail, you can’t see the wood for the trees. Here then is Ron Brauner’s Blog on 8 Ways to Improve Your Sales Letters. Nothing revelatory, just good common sense in a two-minute read, and all the better for that. Just like a good sales letter, I guess.

If you don’t… someone else may

Domain names are really cheap, in marketing terms. This morning I registered a “dot co dot uk” for two years for less than ten pounds, and I’m sure there are even cheaper places if you shop around. It was for a domain name I don’t need at the moment, but I expect to find a good use for it quite soon. The main reason to get it, however, was to ensure nobody else did. Have you got domain names registered for all of your main product lines? You should. If… Read More »If you don’t… someone else may

Don’t assume we’re all alike

Most of you won’t be redesigning your company website any time soon, and even then, if you’re part of a large corporation, you may get little or no input to the exercise. But it’s worth understanding the fundamentals of on-screen design, and an easy-to-understand article called What is the best screen resolution to use for your website? on the E-consultancy blog is a well-written guide if you want to understand one of the most basic decisions behind how a website looks. I’m writing this on an iMac with a huge… Read More »Don’t assume we’re all alike

Remember what your email is for

Jakob Nielsen has been one of the gurus of internet usability since the early days of the net. Even now, his websites sacrifice design flourishes for the sake of clarity, and look oddly simplistic. But they get the message across, and when Nielsen writes something, it’s normally worth reading. He’s just done a report on email messages, and although the $119 report might well be too in-depth for most of us, the summary article, Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages, on Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox is worth looking at. Nielsen says that… Read More »Remember what your email is for

Double-u double-u double-u

In WWW or Non-WWW, That is the Question on Industrial Search Engine Marketing, the question is asked: Is http://www.mysite.com better than http://mysite.com? – and there’s a good discussion which you might like to read. But there’s a more fundamental question which everyone should ask, right now: does my own website work for the alternative way of typing in the address? For most of us, that means, if the “www.” is missed off, does it work? It ought to, because many, many people now just bash the last part of a… Read More »Double-u double-u double-u

A “marketing programme”? A what?

Here’s a nice article which claims to be for very small businesses but which could, I think, teach much larger ones a thing or two. Taking Baby Steps in Marketing: Or Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time on Branding & Marketing gives you a way of creating a marketing programme for next year, even if the idea of having a “marketing programme” is something you’ve never had the time to entertain in the past. It gives you a few questions to ask yourself now, as well as a… Read More »A “marketing programme”? A what?

Can I help you, sir?

“If you sold Widgets, and a Widget-buying customer walks into your store, can’t find any Widgets on her own, and when she asks what aisle they’re in you remain silent, would you fire yourself?” Has your website got a site search box on it? No? Then you’re missing a big opportunity. There are two types of people who will use it: compulsive searchers who will always pick this route over any form of “navigation”; and visitors who couldn’t follow your navigation and expect search to be there as an alternative.… Read More »Can I help you, sir?

Put your Microsoft Paint away. Now.

I remember writing over ten years ago “beware the corporate redesign, because it often tells you the company has run out of ideas”. But in this age of branding, it’s worth considering creating an “image” for even the most basic product lines; just don’t spend too much time and expense on it. A professional logo on a product and its sales material isn’t pretentious, it’s something the product ought to deserve. That said, do the product justice. Please don’t design the logo yourself in Microsoft Paint. Get a graphic designer… Read More »Put your Microsoft Paint away. Now.

Careful with that Axe

One of the articles I referred to last week suggested the economic crisis hasn’t reached many of our businesses (although that wasn’t the point of the article), and a reader here emailed me to ask “what planet is that guy on?” I’d actually run a seminar a few days before, attended by marketing managers from UK industrial companies, and I have to report the outlook was – perhaps surprisingly – upbeat. I guess it just depends on what business you’re in. It’s not boom time for readers in the construction… Read More »Careful with that Axe

A personal welcome

I’ve got a bit of a thing about landing pages. It really annoys me when I click on an ad and sloppily get taken to the front page of the advertiser’s website and dumped there. When I turn up at a company, I want someone to meet me in reception and usher me straight through to my meeting. Don’t you? So when someone clicks through to your website for a reason – which you’ve defined in the ad – they expect to get the information they require without any more… Read More »A personal welcome

A checkup from Dr Google

Not all of you are joining us on the Insider Programme (although if it’s marketing budget time, please have a think about it for January). On the programme, we hope to identify all the areas for improvement in your existing websbite as well as taking you onwards and upwards. But I’m a nice guy, so from time to time here I’ll still be pointing you towards DIY ways of analysing your websites as they stand. After all, the ideas are in the public domain anyway! In How To Diagnose Your… Read More »A checkup from Dr Google

The other way around

Another one of those articles which might seem like it’s for the anoraks, but skim through because it highlights an important point. When you write a web page, I hope you’re always thinking about trying to “optimise” your site in the search engines for a relevant search term or two, by means of the words you write in the body copy, the title of the page, etc. But what if you have a search term which could be written back to front (e.g “widgets for working” or “working widgets”) and… Read More »The other way around

The reasons to rip it up and start again

Yesterday I touched on the subject of why online marketing might be something to concentrate on during a recession, and why budget restrictions might mean it’s time to “rip it up and start again” when it comes to business marketing plans. Today’s article goes much further into that idea, and if you’re looking for a well-written argument as to why you should leave all those years of old-school marketing techniques behind, this is it. 6 Reasons You Should Invest in Internet Marketing During the Recession on the Inbound Internet Marketing… Read More »The reasons to rip it up and start again

Web marketing in layers. Yes, like an onion.

I did a seminar for marketing managers on Friday, and if I’d had time, I’d have loved to have gone into this article, The 8 Layers of a B2B Web Marketing Plan, on the WebMarketCentral Blog, because it really nails how to go about marketing your company online. You can take it as describing “just” your web marketing activities, or it could be the basis of your entire marketing activity if you’ve decided to move your marketing strategy to be fundamentally online-based. I know of more than one manufacturer where… Read More »Web marketing in layers. Yes, like an onion.

The limit to what a human can take in

Today I want to draw your attention to one of my favourite business-related blog posts of all-time. It’s nearly three years old, but it’ll still ring true in thirty-three years’ time. And it’s to do with making slide-show (e.g Powerpoint) presentations. In The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint on How to Change the World, Guy Kawasaki draws on his experience of being “presented-at” for years. As an editor who’s sat through far too many interminably long press conferences, I can thoroughly sympathise with him. And here’s what he suggests: 10 slides,… Read More »The limit to what a human can take in

Something for the weekend

Right, here’s an article which you can read and then think about over the weekend (if I sound pushy, it’s because I feel strongly about this one!). The article is even worth reading a couple of times to make sure you’ve got the message. And the message to take away is: “Forget demand generation. That is so 1995. Instead, focus your efforts on demand facilitation.” The article, Focus on facilitating demand, not generating it, from BtoB magazine, points out that buying behaviour has been transformed in the past few years,… Read More »Something for the weekend

Don’t respond like a robot

What do you send your customers when they buy a product? What about potential customers who’ve just requested a datasheet? Or people you’re thanking for having entertained a sales call? In 10 crucial elements for great transactional emails on iMedia Connection, author Wendy Roth says: “If I sent you a present, you’d send me a thank-you note, right? Not just to say thanks (even if you hated it), but also to let me know it got to you safely and because we’re friends. So, when people buy from your online… Read More »Don’t respond like a robot

Can you cope with the criticism?

Guy Kawasaki on How To Change The World is usually worth listening to, and last week on the AmEx OPEN forum he posted a nice piece called The Art of Customer Surveys. Now, we all know we have to listen to our customers (and equally importantly, potential customers), and we all know surveys are a good way of sounding them out, especially as they’re so easy to do. But Kawasaki points out there are many dangers in surveys, not least their self-selecting nature. I don’t think these are reasons to… Read More »Can you cope with the criticism?

What’s the Chinese for “SEO”?

As if there wasn’t enough to be thinking about anyway when it comes to tuning up your website, many of you probably have to think about non-English speakers. One company I’ve been talking to about our Insider Programme tells me it’s in the process of developing its website into twenty-six languages! And guess what? There are different considerations in different countries when it comes to search engines. The top five mistakes in foreign language website optimisation are outlined in Multilingual SEO best practice on Dave Chaffey Internet Marketing. I can’t… Read More »What’s the Chinese for “SEO”?

You don’t stand out by being bland

You’re not one of those people who fills their press releases with marketing-speak, are you? No, of course not. You’ve read Dilbert for years, and you laugh in the face of people who talk about leading-edge, state-of-the-art solutions. Except that …well… if you do, you’re in a tiny minority. I know from an exercise in analysing the first 200,000 press releases which came into the Pro-Talk network, when I worked there, that words like “solutions” occur in the majority of press releases. Have you ever heard a customer ask for… Read More »You don’t stand out by being bland

Advertising: powered by inertia

I regularly look through the trade mags which have made it well past the date by which they were supposed to have been blown away by the internet. About half of those which I worked on in the decade or more I was a print magazine editor have now disappeared, but others seem quite healthy (and I’m glad, because a lot of old friends work for them). However, when I study the advertisements which keep them going, I do get the impression that the majority are placed by people who… Read More »Advertising: powered by inertia

Start with the little things

Lots of people have said to me over the summer, “Chris, I love the idea of learning how to make my website work harder on your Insider Programme, but my company website is run by our American/German/Japanese (delete as applicable) parent, and all we do is to upload product information and news relating to the UK. So there’s not much we can do to improve the website, is there?” If that rings a bell with you, it’s time to think again. Firstly, I’d say the design of a website (the… Read More »Start with the little things

What type of mailings pay dividends for you?

I mentioned not neglecting “snail mail” the other day, and in Direct Mail Versus E-mail: You Decide on the BeRelevant! blog, the strengths and weaknesses of the two methods are discussed. Of course, in the end, it all comes down to return on investment. You do know the return on investment figures for recent mailing campaigns in your business, don’t you? Of course you do.

Some ideas for “good content”

We all know that getting good content on your website is a massive help in drawing people towards it. But what is “good content”? It’s easy to say, but harder to define. As ever, we give you a lot of help in this direction on our Insider Programme. However, there are some super tips in a fine article called Marketing Content Salespeople Actually Use on the Marketing Interactions site. This piece is primarily aimed at making you think about how to write content which helps your sales team, rather than… Read More »Some ideas for “good content”

Tricky landing ahead

Designing Better Landing Pages is an interesting article from the Accelerating IT Sales blog. Few industrial companies get “landing pages” right. Many don’t have specially-designed “landing pages” at all: the web page which site visitors “land” on as a response to advertising or Google searches is just the page which most closely relates to the product concerned. Lots of companies just send everyone to their front page. What a wasted opportunity! For example, if you were sending out invitations to customers to an event, would you tell them to RSVP… Read More »Tricky landing ahead

Keep on keeping on with Google

Someone asked me recently what position in the Google results I would classify as “good”. Sadly, it’s very high. As you go down the page, clickthroughs drop dramatically (and sorry – if you’re not in the top ten, i.e on page 1, you’re toast). An article on Conversion Rate Experts called Why Rank #1 in Google shows quite graphically where people look on the Google results page, and shows how important a no.1 spot is. The number of people bypassing the AdWords ads at the top of the page has… Read More »Keep on keeping on with Google

There Will Be Video

The time was when making a video for your business was a special event, and probably involved bringing in an expensive professional production company. For that reason alone, many marketing professionals have never been involved in making a corporate video at all. Now things are very different. If your company isn’t already churning out videos, I predict you will be, in the next couple of years. Videos work, the quality expectation of viewers is now much less exacting, and the equipment needed is available to everyone. You may be doing… Read More »There Will Be Video