Secure eBusiness Solutions

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Essentials for an effective content marketing strategy

Content marketing has become the next big thing for business owners and for good reason. Due to changes in the Google algorithm, search results are now heavily influenced by high-quality, original content. It’s good news for online businesses because content can alleviate dependency on Adwords and PPC campaigns to drive traffic to their site.  But diving head first into content production without a clear strategy is a good way to waste a lot of time and money.

Content Marketing components

As content marketing enters the mainstream in Australia, I’m seeing a lot of worrying advice given to business owners wanting to improve their websites. Some of it has to do with content but even more relates to social media and search engine optimisation (SEO). This is particularly troubling because a sound content marketing strategy needs three distinct components in place to be effective. Those components are:
  •  Original Content is information, education and possibly even entertainment designed to establish your authority and expertise within your business. Content can take on a variety of formats including blog posts, infographics, video, print magazines, email newsletters, customer success stories, white papers and even photographs.
  • Social Media encompasses online activity designed to attract potential customers to your content. Each shopper has a different social networking fingerprint.  The goal is to understand what information they need when they’re shopping.  Most consumers don’t want a relationship with a brand; they’re looking for help making purchasing decisions.
  • SEO – It’s no longer enough to stuff your website and online content full of keywords about your business. You must understand where consumers are spending time and how they’re searching for information.
The 3 Essential Components to any Content Marketing Strategy - 2013 Global Copywriting

“No strategy” marketing plan

When all three components are present, a content marketing initiative is perfectly positioned to increase your traffic, build trust for your business and deliver valuable word of mouth recommendations. Use them in isolation and the results will be disappointing.

Stand-alone content – This is sometimes referred to as the “Post and Hope” method of marketing. You can invest put a lot of effort into terrific content, but if no one knows about it there’s not much point in going to the trouble of creating it.

Social Media strategy  - When social media is your only marketing strategy, two things happen. You spend all your time in broadcast mode and you really have nothing to talk about. Social media without content is just chit-chat. Very few people feel compelled to buy after being bombarded with a one-way message offering no real value.

Solo SEO – Google has very clearly stated they intend to deliver valuable search results to their client. Their measure of value is how much original content is being published and how often it’s being shared. Traditional SEO agencies are quickly converting to content marketing as SEO strategies become increasingly dependent on content for success.

The key to online sales

If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it’s this. Find someone who incorporates all three components of content marketing before making any investment in content, social media or SEO. While it’s tempting to rush in and get started, too often no real results are achieved. Rapid changes in technology, the maturity of social networking and Google’s focus on content create a complex environment for online business owners to navigate. Spend time developing a comprehensive strategy and you’ll be rewarded with targeted website traffic you can easily convert into sales.

I’ll be a speaker at the Future Proof Workshop on how to develop an effective content and social media strategy at the Online Retailer Conference in Sydney, 19 August 2013. Why not join us?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Is your online store trusted - improve your reputation.

Often we see in forums, or hear people ask, "why don't visitors buy from my online store?".

Of course there are many potential answers to this question. It could be issues like design and user experience, maybe the prices are too high, maybe it is shipping cost. Understanding why people do not buy can be hard. The starting point is to use a good web analytic system to track what your visitors are doing and then use the results to improve your business and conversions. This can often show that visitors will start a basket but then abandon it before checkout. By looking at the step of the drop out you can often find a cause.

However sometimes it is not so clear. Often you might hear that an online seller is selling product on eBay but, the same products for the same price, don't sell on their online store. So what is the difference they ask.

Well 9 times out of 10 it is TRUST.

eBay has built a reputation as being a safe marketplace. The buyer and seller are connected via eBay and PayPal. If a dispute arises there are very defined methods to resolve the dispute. So a buyer may not know or trust the seller but they do know and trust eBay.

What are the trust factors online?

So what does trust mean?

The dictionary definition of trust is: 

"Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something."

If you have not had dealings before then it is difficult determining that you will trust a business or online store. So you need to look for the signs of trust. 

Following are some of the key items that you should make sure are covered correctly in the content of your online store.

Contact information - always provide contact information like an address, phone number (not a mobile), business email address and business credentials (ABN, ACN, Business Registration).

Avoid using generic email addresses like hotmail addresses.

About us - tell your visitors a little about your business. Information like when it started, who is involved, what the business does. All this will help people know you and help them develop trust.

Contact us - provide a simple email form that allows people to easily send you a message or get in contact.

Live chat - if you have the capability enable a live chat service on your site so that people can directly communicate.

Terms & Conditions - provide people the right legal information about doing business with you.

Returns and Refunds - make it clear to your visitors how you will accept returns of products and how you will handle refunds. Make it as simple as possible.

Payment processing - tell your customers up front how you will handle payment and who is processing your payments online. Make sure that any payment service provider account is in the business name. Put the payment provider logo on your website.

SSL Certificate - install and use an SSL Certificate in your business name and prominently display the certificate provider trust logo.

Spelling and grammar - make sure that you properly proof read your content and get others to check your content. Simple spelling mistakes can cause a visitor to move on to another website.

Privacy policy - let your visitors know what you will be doing with the information that you collect. 

Ratings and review - if you have the capability make sure that you enable ratings and reviews for your products. Real customer ratings can pass on good information and trust to future customers.

Customer references - Have you done a nice job for a customer that they are happy to talk about? If the answer is yes them post it up on your website. Good customer references are a great way of instilling confidence in future customers.

If you provide all the basics and ensure that they are clearly visible and easy to find then you will improve your overall trust score.

That will result in an improvement in your business reputation which has a longer term beneficial impact on your business results. Improving trust and reputation is a long term issue and should always be work in progress. Never stop looking for better trust. Eventually you may want to exit the business by selling or merging. Better reputation and trust means better good-will and therefore a higher valuation or multiplier.