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Zeald is on the move!

Written by Brent Kelly on December 17th, 2010.      0 comments

That's right, we're packing up our belongings and moving to new premises in Albany this weekend [18 – 19 December]. It’s yet another move for the Zeald team but with change comes opportunity and this is something we are pretty excited about.

Our new home

As with most fast-growing companies, a lot of things have changed as Zeald has grown over the last couple of years. To give us room to grow now and in the future, we have decided to split our head office team into two separate offices.

To begin with the whole team will be moving into our new ‘operations centre’ at 28 Constellation Drive , Albany. Click on the map to view here.

Meanwhile we are working to prepare our new office for the sales team to move into in April. Look out for the new building in bright blue Zeald livery right next to the Greville Road off-ramp in the Tawa Drive Office Park. This is a fantastic location - extremely accessible right next to the motorway and with lots of onsite car parking.

No change to our service

The Zeald website hosting servers are located off-site so there will be absolutely no interruption to our services. As much as possible, all the moving will take place over the weekend and after hours so whether its support, design, development or a consultant you are after, they should be available as always!

Looking forwards

Even though our move was unexpected, it has opened us up to more opportunities to grow in the future. While it is disappointing to walk away from a place you have made your own, we believe strongly in keeping our focus facing forward - on the opportunities of the future.

Zeald is moving into 2011 well underway with plans to expand significantly throughout New Zealand, and even into Australia. We are looking for people to add to our e-business consulting team to assist with this, so give us a holler if you know of anyone suitable! :)

Why are we moving?

A lot of people have been asking us what brought about this move. To cut a (very) long story short, our landlord (who owns our current building but leases the land) appears to have some financial trouble which has resulted in them not being able to pay the ground rent on the land to the land owner.

As one can imagine, this was not an entirely satisfactory situation for the land owner, therefore the time came earlier this year when they took our landlord to court and had the ground lease canceled. This left Zeald with a lease from a landlord who had …. no building – not an entirely satisfactory situation for us! :)

Zeald tried to negotiate a new lease agreement with the new owner of the building. These negotiations however, ultimately proved unsuccessful when it became apparent the new owners were not prepared to offer us a new lease under the same conditions as our last one.

Topics: Zeald News
 

Submit your website to directories to build inbound links

Written by Hamish Braddick on November 12th, 2010.      0 comments

Directories can have a serious impact on the results that you achieve in the crawler-based search engines.  Submitting to the directories is a good idea – but they can take a substantial amount of time to list you. So start early!

One of the most important things that you must prepare before submitting yourself to a directory is an objective description of your website.  Directories will frown upon any description that seems promotional in nature and will reject your listing.  Make sure you prepare an objective, well-written description of your website before you start.

Some of the key directories to list in are:

If you are a New Zealand-only business then submit your site to New Zealand-based directories.

Find more directories relevant to your business

Search for relevant and quality directory websites using Google. Type in the following search string. 'Directory:[keyword describing my website theme]'.  You will need to choose a very generic keyword.  For example a website selling meat to a New Zealand market could try the following searches to find relevant directories. “New Zealand” “Meat” “Butcher” “Recipes”

Keep track of your inbound links

Keep track of your list in a spreadsheet and constantly add to it. Signup for Google Alerts and then Google will notify you when they have found a new website linking to your website.

 

Getting your business ready for Christmas

Written by Hamish Braddick on October 28th, 2010.      0 comments

Christmas is pretty much around the corner now so it's a great idea for you to start preparing your business and website so you can make the most of the busy sales period.

We have a few tips to help you stay ahead of competition:

1. Research the competition

It pays to spend some time finding out about your competition. What are they doing? What products are they pushing? What extras are they offering? This will give you an idea about what everyone else is doing and maybe give you a chance to think of something that others haven't already thought of doing. Even looking at similar companies overseas to see what they have come up with can be really insightful – you might be able to localise something someone has done successfully.

2. Make sure you spend a bit of time on your website as a customer

Go through the motions and check that everything works - and even better if you can get a friend to do it. Set them objectives and watch them use your website and get their feedback. There is nothing worse than having someone visit your website and go through the process of making a purchase decision and then getting an error. Check all your processes and pages so you can rest easy knowing that there won't be any last minute hiccups.

3. Use email newsletters

Email newsletters are a great way to inform your customers about special Christmas offers and new product releases. Even if you don't have an ecommerce site, you can run specials on your services and tell people about it via newsletters. Therefore, if you don't already have a newsletter, it's well worth investing in one before the holiday period so you can take full advantage of all the benefits it can offer. Make sure that you also give every website visitor the chance to sign up to the newsletter even if they don't purchase your products or services – have a clear area on your homepage where they can sign up for updates from you.

If you'd like to enquire about Zeald's Email Marketing package, drop us a line and we'll give you all the info you need to know.

4. Introduce special offers

Once you have a newsletter in place, you can use it to create all sorts of great Christmas related offers. Maybe a countdown to Christmas with an offer each day – like a 12 days till Christmas campaign or if your products or services have mass appeal, you could even try approaching one day sale websites such as Grab One or 1-day sale to ramp up sales.

Also create urgency by letting them know the last day for ordering their presents to have it delivered it in time for Christmas. This will remind them to get in before the rush and it will make it easy for you to handle the delivery schedules.

5. Use social media

Remember to use social media and blogs to promote your offers. Social media is a great free tool you can use to grow your community so you can effectively promote your products and services.

6. Give your store or premises a festive make over

It doesn't have to be drastic, even a few subtle additions can give it a bit of the holiday cheer. Same goes for your website, have a few festive images and maybe update your logo to create a bit of a holiday theme.

7. Add vouchers

If you don't already have vouchers available, it's a great time to introduce them to your store and your website. Lots of people struggle to think of the perfect present so vouchers are a popular option for Christmas.

8. Free shipping

If you have an ecommerce or ecommerce+ site, free shipping around holiday time will give your visitors an incentive to order from you. If you don't want to offer this on small purchases you can set a certain value, maybe free shipping on orders more than $50 or $100. This might even motivate your users to spend more to qualify for the perk.

9. Gift wrapping

Gift wrapping and Christmas card could add a nice touch to your ecommerce business as well. You can do it for free or maybe include a small Christmas card along with the gift and charge a small amount. But think about the bigger picture and the fact that you could be giving yourself the edge with a small perk like this.

10. Think about the late shoppers

There will always be people that will leave Christmas shopping right till the end so offer some form of last minute pick up or an urgent delivery system.

11. Offer gift ideas on your website

Create gift idea sections such as 'by gender', 'by type' and 'by price' making it easy for your website visitors to find what they are looking for. You could even have categories like 'for chocolate lovers' or 'for someone that has everything'. That way you will increase the chance of your website visitor finding the right product on your website.

12. Extend your return period

Holiday period can be very busy and and some people do buy gifts well ahead of time so add a nice touch and extend your return or exchange period. This will help make your visitor feel more at ease when purchasing online or even in your store.

 

Producing video for your website

Written by Hamish Braddick on October 4th, 2010.      0 comments

It is a common perception that having video on your website means that you have to hire a professional to come in and do it for you. That's not always true - depending on the purpose of the video and what you are trying to achieve with the video, you can get away with producing it yourself.

Online video is rapidly growing in demand and popularity, and there is a lack of good video content - only few businesses are doing it and even fewer are doing it well, mainly because people think it is hard and are perhaps scared of it. But video is becoming a great and easy way to improve your website results. Read our article on the benefits of online video.

We have a few steps for you to consider when making a video:

1. Plan the content

Have a plan in place for the purpose of each of your videos. Some great examples include:

  • Video testimonials - Your customers endorsing your products and services can build trust and credibility
  • Video tutorial on how to use your products - How to use and get the best out of your products. If you have a blog, you could do regular features on different products. For example, Belly Beyond, an e-business dedicated for mums and babies have a dedicated blog for their videos and use it to run tutorials on products.
  • A video explanation of your service - Great for conveying a complex service and making it easy for your prospects to understand what you do.
  • A video tour of your facilities - Great for showing prospects around your accommodation, day spa, sports club etc.
  • Video reviews of your product - Get in an expert or do it yourself. Publish regular reviews of your products such as wine, movies, books, games etc.
  • Make it social - Get your customers to share with each other through video - for example, Giapo.
  • Expert interviews - Get opinions and advice from the experts in your field. This can be someone within your company as well.
Be clear on what you are trying to achieve with the video and plan the content as much as possible. It pays to keep the videos short and sweet - instead of one long tutorial on a topic, break it down into smaller 2-5minute, regular parts so your users can take it in bit by bit over time.

2. Make it unique and memorable

Make your video something memorable. It can be something funny, maybe something a bit bizarre, it can be a useful post on something that adds value or maybe even a controversial topic - but make it very easy to follow so the user can absorb the information quickly. For example:
  • An interesting environment and background - For example, The Wine Vault guys often review their wines in a great cosy environment, getting drunk and talking about wine :-)
  • Experts having a debate
  • Make sure you the video to remove any unnecessary pauses
  • Use scripts to ensure that you say the right things and don't forget anything. This will also ensure that the content will not include anything you shouldn't really be talking about.
Give users a reason to subscribe to your video over your competitors channel. If you do this people will be more interested in watching the video and passing it onto their friends.

2. Set up a YouTube channel

You really want to embed the video on your website and make it very easy for your users to watch. You want the video to load very quickly and you want it to play smoothly and without hassle. The best way to do this is to use a third party to host your video such as Youtube, that everyone is familiar with. 

YouTube is the most popular video hosting site which is free for users. To start using this for your business, set up a channel with all the business details and also explain what the channel will be used for. Once this is set up you can upload your videos to this channel as soon as they are ready.

Hosting your video on YouTube can also help with market your video because:

  1. Google rewards pages with multimedia rich content - for a Google search, Google likes to serve up interesting and rich content (i.e., not just text, but images and videos). Website pages with video included on them are often favoured over a plain text result.
  2. Google including direct links to video in the search results. This means that you will not only have your website (with video) featured highly on the search results but your video itself (on YouTube) will feature in the search results.
  3. YouTube itself is the second largest search engine after Google. If you don't have a video on YouTube it will not be found.

Once your video is on the YouTube channel, you can embed the videos on your Zeald website and also promote it using social media.

3. Choose a champion

When looking for a champion, you might want to choose someone from your business that is comfortable with talking in front of a camera. But you may find that someone who is an expert in your field and is passionate comes across very well on video. Don't limit yourself to just one speaker - you can use multiple people if you are getting different opinions on a topic or even covering different areas of expertise.

4. Get a camera

There are plenty of options for cameras that can take videos in the market at the moment and most of them have inbuilt microphones so the audio is recorded through them.

For a more formal recording where you have a dedicated environment, you can use a heavier camera that produces high quality video. It's a good idea to invest in a tripod too because that will make it easier to film for long periods of time (especially if you want a few takes to begin with), rather than someone holding the camera in the right angle for a while. Plus it will make the video a bit more professional and you can do away with the camera man.

For an impromptu interview type video, even hand held smart phones like iPhones and Android handsets can do the job. They can be great if you are filming something off the cuff as they can add a certain rawness which will add to the effect. Just make sure that there is plenty of light and no loud background noises if you are using a phone to film.

5. Keep it human

Sometimes a video with a certain rawness can come across more human and personal that a highly polished commercial video. People know it is not an actor, that it is a real person from your company, it is coming directly from the expert.... and it has a personal feel, builds trust and credibility. And it doesn't look like a commercial advert. But in saying that....

6. Bad video warning

As mentioned earlier, depending on the purpose of the video, the quality of the video can have a big impact especially if you are using the video to showcase your products or something that requires better quality. The video ultimately becomes a reflection of your business and a badly made video with bad sound quality and unclear video can actually be harmful as it reflects negatively on your business. Make sure the video is high quality and adds to the online experience of your visitors, not put them off.

Consider using a professional

Doing video yourself also means that it can take up time, resource and there is a cost involved in getting all the right equipment. Of course if you are looking at doing many videos for your blog with different topics regularly it is still worth it for you to do it yourself. But if you are using a video as a one off resource to load onto your home page or somewhere on your website to explain your products, services or as great video testimonials - something that usually won't change for a few months, it pays to use a professional. You might find that this option is much easier and you can achieve really great results (even the raw effect) when working with a professional.  Please refer to our directory of video specialists.

Just do it.

Pick up the camera and give it a go today..... you might find that it is easier than you think.

 

Website Specialists Directory

Written by Hamish Braddick on October 4th, 2010.      0 comments

Clients often ask us about suppliers for various website related services. Because we work in these circles, we often come across them or have used them ourselves. The list below are just some suppliers that we think stand out in their field and suit our small to medium business clients. 

Important note. We have not tested all the suppliers listed here, so we cannot vouch for the quality of their product or service. We encourage you to do your own research and due diligence to ensure that these are the right suppliers for you.


Business Applications

Unleashed Inventory Software

Unleashed is an online inventory management software that connects with your Zeald ecommerce website and Xero accounting system. The Unleashed integration provides accurate and up-to-date inventory records across your website and offline store with accurate accounting data through Xero; all in realtime, and online.
Website. www.unleashedsoftware.com
Email. solution.support@unleashedsoftware.com 
Phone. +64 9 447 1334 

Pocketvine.com

Pocketvine is a mobile marketing and customer insight platform delivered as an online SaaS (Software as a Service) application that enables businesses to engage with their customers using their mobiles.  The user interface is simple and intuitive to use, allowing you to manage multiple campaigns yourself.
Website. www.pocketvine.com
Email. sales@pocketvine.com
Phone. +64 9 379 2450


Social Media Management

 

Language Translation

Blue South

Wherever your market, whatever your technology, Blue South can meet your language translations needs - on time; on budget; professionally. They can translate everything from Software to User Manuals, Product Data Sheets, Marketing Materials and Websites.
Contact. Ruth Sullivan
Website. www.bluesouth.com.au


Web Video

Media Mechanika

Media Mechanika is an online video content specialist with an affinity for New Zealand’s mechanical, industrial, engineering and manufacturing businesses. Director/producer and company principal, Adam Jones has 15 years experience in telling great stories for business. He has won numerous awards for his storytelling. Finding the angle that gives your business cut through is what Media Mechanika love doing.
Contact. Adam Jones
Phone. +64 21 658 976
Email. adam@mediamechanika.com
Location. Auckland
Website. mediamechanika.com

Subzero Group

Are you looking for an experienced, creative partner, who can deliver stunning results within your budget and timeline? Subzero is a creative studio, based in Albany, Auckland. We provide design, commercial photography and video production for print, digital and online media.
Contact. Viivi Ronkko
Website. www.subzerovideo.co.nz
Location. Albany, Auckland

 

Real TV

For the past 10 years we've been making high-end award winning television and digital media for other production companies. Now we've formed 'Real', we're making the same quality television and digital media under our own company's name - using this value to answer your company's needs.
Contact. Kim Goodhart
Location. Ponsonby, Auckland
Website. www.real-tv.co.nz

 

Virtual Studios

Virtual Studios have an automated service, known as Website Telly, that allows you to turn your still photos into your own video online. They also have templates you can use to create your own video by uploading a raw video file in the following formats: AVI, MPG, MPEG, WMV, SIU, MOV, MP4. Like YouTube, the video is hosted with Virtual Studios on their servers.
Website. http://www.websitetelly.com

 

Silverline Media

Silverline is an Auckland Video Production company. They specialise in budget video production.  They will also host (US hosting) videos they produce.
Website. www.silverlinemedia.tv

Street TV

Street TV offer business video production services.  They specialise in video projects where the service provider needs to personally connect with interested parties as an essential step in advancing through the sales process.
Contact. Peter Webster
Location. Auckland
Website. www.street-tv.co.nz

 

Film Construction

Film Construction is an Australasian company that makes creative and award-winning television commercials and digital video content. Once upon a time we had one director, one producer, and a vintage Italian coffee machine. Today, over 14 years later, we have an eclectic collection of 10 very talented directors, offices in Auckland, Sydney, and Queenstown, and a room full of awards.
Contact. Andy Patrick
Phone. +64 9 373 2895; +64 22 134 1152
Location. 22 Minnie Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland, New Zealand
Website. www.filmconstruction.com

ClickHD Online Videos

ClickHD Online Videos create great first impressions for your business via videos.  Led by a BBC Trained Director, ClickHD are web video specialists that help you connect with your target market.  Through our marketing and scripting expertise we provide a one-stop shop for businesses, making the process simple and hassle-free.  From establishing the videos objectives and scripting writing, through to filming, editing and distribution,  we work with businesses to establish a video marketing strategy that's right for them and their budget. Check out our website or give us a call to see how we can help you market more effectively with Web Video. 
Contact. Patrick McDonald
Phone. +64 9 4756460; +64 27 840 4577
Location. 8 Sandford St, Campbells Bay, North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand
Website. www.clickhd.co.nz

Digital Masters

Founded by Television Producer Andy Tyler 30 years ago, Digital Masters has proved to be a survivor in an industry where many fall. Fine tuned over the years, Digital Masters is about a  small group of people, people who love what they do and have the tools to do it well. People who are as comfortable and understanding with 'first time' clients as they are with major corporates and old hands. With all clients it comes down to the same things - a complete grasp of the medium they work in, creativity and thinking that is 'outside the square', and good old fashioned honesty, service and value.
Contact. Andy Tyler
Phone. +64 9 30 30 453
Email. andy@digitalmasters.co.nz; 021 412 911
Location. 130 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland
Website. www.digitalmasters.co.nz


Animated Video

Showboat

Showboat blends strong, modern design with laser-sharp storytelling to create powerful & engaging animated videos that promote businesses of every size, shape and flavour. We use the endless possibilities of motion graphics to speak directly to your audience, creating an emotional connection that’s impossible with static content. It’s rocks versus rockets. The Showboat team has produced work for a huge range of clients – from high-profile international organisations to ambitious local start-ups. We bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the table every time. We’re perfectionists. No matter the size, every job gets our complete attention – ensuring we deliver the sharpest, slickest product possible – with a Showboat shine.  Mention Zeald and get a 10% discount.
Contact. Nate Martin
Phone. +64 3 470 5394; +64 21 252 3288
Email. nate.movingpixel@gmail.com
Location480 Moray Place, Dunedin 9056
Website. www.showboat.co.nz

Video hosting

Zeald does not provide video hosting services, for two reasons; firstly the Zeald servers are not configured to give a satisfactory video playback performance.  Secondly the load that streaming video would put on the Zeald servers could compromise all Zeald sites. So it's best to use one of the options below:

YouTube

YouTube is the most well-known free video hosting company, which is owned by Google. You can upload video of any format and YouTube will convert the media. YouTube is also the second largest search engine behind Google.
Website. www.youtube.com

Vimeo

Vimeo is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share and view videos. It makes an excellent alternative to Youtube. While it may not have as many followers as Youtube, its followers are very loyal with a "designer or indie film focus"
Website. www.vimeo.com

e-cast

e-cast are an Auckland based video hosting and multi-media company - they provide high quality New Zealand based video hosting featuring true streaming video. However, they do have a hosting fee.
Website. www.e-cast.co.nz

BrightCove

Brightcove are a U.S. based video hosting company.  They could be considered the commercial version of YouTube so the videos are expected to be higher quality than YouTube.
Website. www.brightcove.com


Audio hosting

SoundCloud

SoundCloud lets you move music fast & easy. The platform takes the daily hassle out of receiving, sharing & distributing music for artists, record labels & other music professionals.
Website. www.soundcloud.com


Photography

Images in Space

Images in Space specialise in commercial product photography.  They can also do product effects e.g. 'Image Spin'
Website. www.imagesinspace.co.nz

 

George Passmore Photography

George Passmore is a commercial photographer, specialising in Advertising & Marketing campaigns, Portraiture and Design.
Website. www.georgepassmore.com


Flash animation

Note: Apple devices such as the i-phone and i-pad cannot display flash animation.  We recommend you consider carefully whether flash is an appropriate choice for your website

Infinity Web Creative

Design and develop across all digital mediums including websites, iPhone/iPad apps, web based applications, interactive kiosks, and rich internet application.
Website. www.infinityweb.co.nz

 

Catherine Chi

Freelance Developer
Websitewww.catherinechi.com


Convert PDF's to animated flash page turner

Issuu

Provide a free ad supported version or try Issuu Pro 14 day free trial   
Zeald client examples. Charlton Jewellers (paid version), NZ kayak magazine & localmatters.co.nz
Website. issuu.com/business/features

Zinio

Zinio is managed by Mercury Digital in New Zealand, based in Auckland. Zinio take publishers’ print files, and create a digital version of each magazine, host on the Zinio newsstand, and manage the ecommerce via the Zinio site. Publishers own the content, set their own pricing levels, and opt to enable sales of back issues, single issues, and or subscriptions. Links from publishers masthead sites can go directly to each titles offer page on Zinio. See the NZ House & Garden offer page as an example. Readers who purchase magazines through Zinio have the option of reading them on the device of their choice, and NZ titles are currently supported on PC, Mac, iPad, and Android Tablets.

Costs include.

  1. Production of each issue (by negotiation)

  2. Delivery per issue per reader US$0.25

  3. Credit Card transaction costs are passed through to publisher at cost (typically 2.5-4% depending on card company)

  4. We remit a negotiated percentage of nett sales with each publisher.

Website. nz.zinio.com

Zmags

Sell annual accounts, each licence represents an edition. The editions can be any amount of pages an include any supported feature with no extra costs. Catalogues, newsletters, brochures, flyers, DM’s, magazines, in fact any type of collateral will work with this software. The contracts with Zmags are 1 year contracts and the costs are based upon how many publications you would do over the year. It is accessed on line with a username and password. From here you are able to upload the specific PDF’s and add a number of features.
Website. www.zmags.com/products

 

Why your website needs video

Written by Hamish Braddick on September 27th, 2010.      0 comments

Adding video to your website can help attract visitors, add value, and also improve the site's persuasion.

Over the last few years, there have been huge improvements to the Internet speeds thanks to broadband, the readily available video formats and also the cell phone technology which allows users to take videos and also watch videos easily. This means that we are able to produce videos and consume videos easily compared to say a few years ago. And studies are showing that people consume a LOT of video online. According to Youtube, viewers watch 4 billion videos online each day.

Video entertains and educates

Video is both audio and visual which makes it not only more entertaining but also more memorable. It's no surprise that these days more people watch movies than read novels, and scientists have found that using audio and visual content together makes people retain more than twice as much as when using only audio or visual components. We live in an increasingly multimedia based world.

Video gets shared

Website users share videos more often than they do websites or blog posts. Videos are more likely to be shared by email and the ever popular social media websites.

Videos make a site dynamic

Videos add dynamic appeal to a site by their mere presence.  These days website users are overloaded with text information and a video provides a great change from the text.  Videos also show that you are more savvy with technology and possibly a leader in your industry.

Video is great for Search engine optimisation (SEO)

YouTube as a search engine

YouTube itself is now the second largest search engine online. Without video this massive market cannot be reached.

Google searches

Google own YouTube and have been actively pushing a more multimedia online experience. Google now list video results separately. For an example type “farming” into Google and you will see a section titled “videos for farming”. This effectively means that if you have video content then you have two chances of showing up in any Google search. Either your site or your video could show up independently of one another. That gives you a big advantage when it comes to getting noticed.

Improvements in video search technology

It used to be true that video couldn’t be “read” (keywords extracted) by the search bots, but now it is! YouTube have introduced closed captioning options when a video gets uploaded which means not only is the description indexed (along with the selected keywords), but also every word spoken in the video can be indexed as well by uploading a transcript along with it. This improves your chance of getting to the right people by adding a massive amount of text that can show up on any given search query.

Ideal for new and small sites

Video SEO is also a powerful tool for new and small sites. Normal website results gain strength over time and for their size but video works differently. Google takes no account of how old a video is or its length etc when determining its rank. This gives you an equal footing with more established videos on the results page.

Inbound links

Having videos uploaded to other sites allows you to gain inbound links. Not only can those links be followed to your site but also the fact of having them gives you an advantage with Google pagerank system.

With input from Nathan Hawkins from Insite Media (www.insitemedia.co.nz)

Stay tuned for our follow-up post on how to produce video for your website...

If you already have videos you'd like to add to your website, learn more about how to embed them on your website.

 

Plan your website resource and schedule regular periods to optimise

Written by Hamish Braddick on September 12th, 2010.      0 comments

You can't just publish your website, leave it and expect it to succeed.

The number one reason websites fail is because they are forgotten about and neglected. Remember, running a successful website is like running a business. It involves regular ongoing improvement.

Inhouse vs partners

You need to find the right person or team of people to work on the ongoing improvement of your website You need to first of all decide whether to work on it inhouse or pay for a professional.
Either way it will cost money, whether you handle it yourself inhouse or pay a professional. Your decision will of course come down to which method provides the greatest return on investment (ROI).

How much time do you dedicate to improving your website?

We are often asked this and our answer is, it depends. It depends on a number of things such as; how much budget you have available, how integral the website is in your sales and marketing process. But to give you some ideas....

Minimal - 1hr per month
Average - 2hrs per month
Healthy - 8hrs per month
Go hard - 8 hrs or more per week
Topics: Web Design Tips
 

A custom 404 page

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 14th, 2010.      0 comments

Your website users will occasionally land on a page on your website that doesn't exist. This could happen due a number of reasons - they may have typed the wrong URL or there is a broken link on your website or the link has been moved. When this happens, your website will direct them to a standard 404 page which is basically informs them that the link is broken.

A typical 404 error page is generally uninviting and unfriendly. It's very unlikely that people that arrive at this page usually explore any further - they are pretty much lost visitors.

A custom, unique error page will keep them on your website

Having a custom 404 page that is unique and guides your visitor back to a working page on your site can greatly improve your user's experience. People often make a mistake when they type in URLs and end up landing on your error page. If this page is vague and also unintuitive, you will find that your user will leave your site and never come back. This is the reason why some of the best sites in the world come up with a creative and informative designs for their 404 pages.

Therefore, we highly recommend that you take some time out to customise your error page and make it your own. You can do this by going into the back end of your website under the 'standard pages' section and edit the page called 'Page not found'.

A few tips to consider when designing your 404 page

  • Help your visitor find information. A 404 error page should do its best to help your visitors find what they are searching for. Therefore, include details of where they can go to find more information or how they can inform you about this error.

  • Avoid being vague. Providing a vague message like "Not found", "404" or just not having a 404 page at all can and will lose you valuable website visitors.

  • Use a design that is consistent with the rest of your site. Remember that this page is part of your website so keep your personality and design consistent.

  • Configure web server to give 404 HTTP status code. You want to make sure that Google spiders know that this page doesn't exist so Google will remove the page from cache so people won't come to this page through search engines. If you have a Zeald website, we will take care of this automatically for you.

A few examples of 404 error pages to inspire you

1. Zeald

Custom 404 Page

2. Livadaru.net

Custom 404 Web Page

3. Fryewiles.com

Frye/ Wiles Custom 404 Web Page

4. Twingly.com

Customise your  Error Page

5. Hootsuite.com

Customise your Error Page

Topics: Web Design Tips
 

Optimising for Google Local Search (Google places)

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 13th, 2010.      1 comments

How do I get my website to appear in the Google local search results?

Sometimes referred to as Google places, or Google maps,
More recently Google has built in the Local search results into the general search results, which displays a map and a corresponding list of business links.
The following example shows the results for a local search using the search term "pizza auckland"
pizzaa

This feature forces many of the standard search listings down the page and below the fold, which reduces impressions, clicks and ultimately orders. So it is important for local business to have a healthy presence here for relevant search phrases.

Setup a Google Places account

If you do not already have an account, you will need to setup a Google places account for your business:
  1. Login to your Google account. If you do not already have a Google account you will need to setup a Google account
  2. Then go to the Google Local Business Centre
  3. Add a "Business link"
  4. Fill out the form and choose to receive your address verification pin number by post or by text message
  5. Google will send you out a postcard with your pin number or text it to your phone
When you have your verification pin number you will then need to return to Google Local Business Centre and verify your business address by entering the pin number.

So the question is how do you get a website to appear in this list of local links at the top of the search results?

There has been much speculation about this and varies from country to country IE. New Zealand relies heavily on the Finda business listing.
Local Search is affected by what's on your website, but it is also affected largely by conditions outside your website, such as the websites that link to your website.

Of course Google do not explicitly tell you how to do this. In fact they tell you very little. This is what Google has to say:
"As with all Google search results, Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, and geographic distance is only one of the factors we consider. Sometimes our search technology decides that a business that's farther away is more likely to have what you're looking for than a business that's closer."

Not really very helpful.....

Local Search Ranking factors

Many Search marketing companies now focus on optimisation for local search results, including Zeald's own web marketing department. From experimentation there are many theories and methods for optimising a website to improve its local listing search rank which we would like to share with you.
  1. Claim your listing at the local business centre www.google.com/local/add Google require you to "prove" the location of your business, by post or by phone.

  2. List your business in the proper categories once it's been claimed

  3. Locate your business nearest the centre of the city

    For example, if you search for pizza, the businesses are listed according to which is closest to centre of town. This is where Google defines the centre of town or the suburb etc. There is not too much that you can do about this one unfortunately.

  4. Keyword optimisation in the title, description links etc of your website. Include the location of your business in the title tag, or use the city and country in the title tag, and in your meta description.

  5. Obtain citations from authority sites like Chamber of Commerce to determine your street address and phone number. The more 'citations', the more highly you'll rank in a competitive locality/term. 'Citations' are not inbound links to your website - they are just content in pages that connect you to a locality.

  6. Create / update any directory listings - google, yahoo, bing, yelp etc. and make sure that they incorporate your target search terms in the description. If appropriate modify the company name to include keywords i.e. instead of Acme make it "Acme Pizza restaurant" so that it comes up under "Pizza" + "location". In New Zealand it is important that you have a high quality Finda listing because Google obtain some of their business listing data from them

  7. Obtain links from local websites or simply a citation from local websites. For example testimonials and or blog pages. Try building anchor text links with the city or town names pointing to your site.

  8. 3rd-Party Website Reviews- Get your customers to post reviews in Google and other local listings. The more reviews your site has the better your site will rank

  9. Participate in Local Pay per click advertising (PPC)

  10. Publish the local address on every page of the website, IE. in the footer.

 

Blogs

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 13th, 2010.      1 comments

What is a blog?

A blog (from the term "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (Art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (Video blogging), music (MP3 blog), and audio (podcasting). Microblogging (such as twitter) is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts.

As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112,000,000 blogs.

How are blogs good for business?

Blogs are a good way to publish and organise content that changes on a regular basis. They are a great way to keep your potential customers, your customers and your staff informed about changes or learnings you or your company have made. Some common examples include:
  1. Company news - Let your customers and potential customers know what your company are up to, great for building rapport and trust and credibility
  2. PR - Let your customers and potential customers know how well you are doing in the media - Great for trust and credibility
  3. Sharing knowledge - Share helpful information and learnings with your customers and potential customers. Great for building trust and credibility, great for customer retention. Prove to everyone that you are knowledgable, interested in providing great value, and helpful; that you are the leader in your industry.
  4. Internal help files - Blogs can be used just for internal use, for example these help files could be defined as a blog
Good for Branding
Blogs are a great way for a company to engage with their customers and show their true colours. Blogs are written in a more "personal" manner to a standard website article. They are not laboured over and they give a customer a real and honest window into who they might be or are dealing with.

Searchable
Blogs grow at a rapid rate, and the information is usually archived by time and categorised which allows users to find information from the history of previous posts. The information is searchable, either internally or via the search engines.

Centralised
The information is centralised and available to everyone. Blogs work very well with promotional announcement tools such as email marketing, Twitter, Facebook, etc. When you have something to announce in an email it is often a great idea to publish just snippets in the email and link through to a full article in a blog.

Great for Search engines
Search engines love "up-to-date" content. Search engines are always looking for the most up-to-date information to serve to their users, based on the search query. This is becoming more and more important with the development of social media tools such as Twitter and Google Buzz.
Blogs are a great format to publish regular up-to-date information to the web. Search engines love them. If you are looking to improve your Search engine presence, you need to publish a blog.

'Link bait' - For good search engine results you need to provide quality  content that other people will want to link to. There are so many million blogs out there, you need to differentiate yours by finding a niche and  providing really good quality, interesting, informative, funny, perhaps controversial content. If people read it, enjoy it, and link to it, you have generated an inbound link which is like a "vote" for your blog in the eyes of the search engines when they come to rank your website.

Because of this it is a good idea to setup your blog on the same "domain" or address as your business website. For example www.zeald.com/blog or www.blog.zeald.com

So what is involved in setting up and running a successful blog?

Resource - You need to have someone to write your content. This is the common flaw with most business blogs. You need someone who:
  1. Understands and has a passion for your business
  2. Someone who is a good efficient writer
  3. Someone who's "voice" or "style" matches your companies brand
  4. Someone with a spot of "X" factor. Someone who is maybe opinionated, funny, quirky, creative, or very knowledgeable
  5. Someone with the time. set aside some days per month to create blog posts, and promote them
Intel - You need some ideas for what to write about. This is especially important if you are setting up a blog to generate qualified search engine traffic. You need to find out what your potential customers are searching for with regard to your product / service. This is where keyword research comes in handy. Another good method is to use your customer FAQ. What questions are your existing customers commonly asking you? Chances are your potential customers are asking the same questions.

Method to publish - You need a blog itself and a method for publishing the content to the web. Remember a blog is essentially a website so any content management system will allow you to do this. There are plenty of free blog publishing software out there such as blogger or Wordpress.

Optimise your Blog

Method of promotion - Of course a blog on its own is not much good if you cant tell people when you have published some new information. You need a way to tell all interested parties that you have some interesting news for them. The best method for promoting blog articles is really your trusty email. You can also use Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and a multitude of other social media applications.

Make it easy for users to share - Once you get people to your blog, make it easy for visitors to share it with their friends and colleagues. Chances are if they like it, they will know someone else who will like it. Some common methods for sharing links include: a "Share this" badge, a "Tweet this" badge, or a "Buzz this" badge. You can get a Share this badge from  Addthis. You can then add the code to each page of your blog or website yourself. Or you can get Zeald to add it to the template of your website for you. This means the badge will appear in the footer of every page of your website automatically.
Promote your Blog
Followers - Once you have the content and the method of broadcasting, you then need some interested parties. This involves building an email database, building a Twitter fellowship or a Facebook fan club. You might already have a good database of customers that you can start with, but you should look to continually build and refine this database.

Engage - Blogs work best when you can engage with your users. Blogs are a core element of the Web 2.0 revolution, where the content is driven and generated by the end user. Users will expect to interact and post comments and discuss issues directly and publicly with you. This can be scary to begin with but once you get past that, you will find it very effective. Let your users write your content for you, let them voice their opinions, ask their questions and have your say.

Setup a third party blog
This is a good free way to setup a blog for your business. You can very easily and quickly setup a new blog with a specialist blog software such as blogger. Using such software you are able to design a "header" and choose from a number of pre-formatted templates to fit with your companies brand.

You should link to your blog from your website in a new window.

You should setup your blog with a sub domain of your primary website address. For example www.blog.zeald.com is a subdomain of the primary www.zeald.com website address. Blogger help will explain how you can do this.

Limitations of Blogger:
  • The design options are also very limited and templated.
  • Because it is free it is very DIY. You will need to design it yourself or pay a design company to help you. 
  • Blogger does not have a phone helpline, so you are reliant on just help files.
  • Unable to incorpoarte it within your website. The external blog must remain just that. You will need to link to it in a popup window - It is never a good idea to "Iframe" an external blog into your website, for usability and SEO reasons

Setup a Zeald blog

Try the Zeald blogging tool that allows you to easily post news updates and articles to your sites. It integrates nicely into the front end and back end of your Zeald website. 
Learn about our Blogs and Social Networking product and fast track your blogging and Social media.

Email marketing

Which ever option you choose for your blog platform, if you are setting up a blog, you need to setup email marketing. The two go hand in hand. Build up a database of followers. Send out religiously a new campaign every 2 months. You might like to send more regular campaigns, but make sure that you are not annoying your customers and make sure you have enough good quality content. If you leave it much more than 2 months, your audience might forget who you are.
Email marketing is the method you use to broadcast, how you let everyone who is interested know that you have new content on your blog. You should also consider building a social network using tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
Learn about Zeald email marketing

In Summary

Ultimately it is your call, but really the technology you use is the small investment you will be making. The bigger decisions will be in your management resource. Who is going to own this task and make it work for you?

All the best with it! If you have any further queries with regard to setting up a blog on your website, please use our comments or speak with your Zeald ebusiness consultant

Stay tuned we will be adding to these articles to offer further advice and guidance.
 

Social media strategy

Written by Hamish Braddick on June 22nd, 2010.      0 comments

Strategic approach - A Social Media Plan

The more you plan out your strategy the more effective your social media presence will be. Here are a few steps to get you started on it:

1. Study target audience and competition

First and foremost, you need to understand your audience - what they are looking for on the Internet, what they are interested in and where these conversations are happening.

To give you an idea, we have used the study conducted by MarketingSherpa and created this graph which shows you the main reasons why people follow companies on social media platforms:

Social Media Strategy

So looking at this graph it's obvious what motivates most of us to follow companies - knowing about any special sales or offers and also learning about  new products or services are among the top two reasons. Use research like this to your benefit when you get into social media - only provide information that is deemed valuable by your followers, otherwise you will start losing them. Having entertaining posts and telling your followers about your company culture is good too but keep the content in balance.

2. Define goals and objectives

Your over all goals for your social media plan should be in line with your business and website goals. Once you have identified your goals, define your objectives. For example - say that your social media goal is to increase the number of leads or sales you get from your website. Now you have to break this down into objectives - in order to achieve this goal, you will have to increase the number of visitors to your website, which will require increasing the number of followers you have in your network. You will also need to post articles and run promotions on your social media platforms to engage your followers and direct this traffic.

MarketingSherpa conducted another study of around 2,300 organisations and asked them what objectives does social media achieve best and here are the responses from all the respondents. 

Objectives Social Media Achieves Best

The results show that most of the marketers agree that the objective achieved best by social media is increasing product awareness, which plays a big part in your marketing goals. But it doesn't stop there, social media can be used to help a number of areas. You can have multiple goals that breakdown into a few different objectives - the trick is to get started on something simple and gradually add to your objectives. For example, objectives like improving customer support quality is something you can start adding to your once you get your feet in and feel comfortable. But don't underestimate the power of social media when it comes to customer support. During the disruptive Icelandic volcano, Heathrow Airport had dedicated staff updating Twitter and Facebook with flight details and also responding to people a lot quicker than waiting get through the customer support which had long back logs, as you would expect.

3. Set success metrics

Once you have your over all goal and objectives, it's time to define your success metrics which means setting definite measurable objectives so you know whether your social media presence is working. Say your goal is to increase number of leads or sales from your website - give this a figure, for example increase it by 5% by the end of the year. And now for each of your objectives do the same - you will need to increase your website visitors by 30% and this might mean you will need to build a network of 1,000 followers by the end of the year and in order to keep them engaged you will need to have at least one post per week on your Facebook page, one every two days on Twitter and one new blog post every week, etc. etc. Each month come back and visit these numbers to make sure that you are on track with your goal. Facebook has a great reporting feature where you get a weekly update on the number of fans on your page, number of visits to your page and also total number of posts. You will have to do this manually for Twitter but if you do it regularly it won't feel like a big job.

Here's another study by MarketingSherpa on what marketers are measuring in their social media plans:

What Social Media Marketers Measure

As you can see, the majority of marketers measure the visitor numbers and also network size in terms of number of followers and fans. Quality and quantity of comments on the posts, search engine ranking and leads generated are also among the top 6 measured areas by majority of the marketers.

4. Pick your platform

There are a number of platforms available to you as far as social media is concerned:

Facebook

Facebook has become an extremely popular tool for individuals to connect with friends and family online and share personal information such as pictures, social events and birthdays. However these days Facebook is also being used as a very effective channel to connect with customers. The main reason for this is the fact that globally it is estimated that around 200 million people log on to Facebook everyday! Therefore by having a presence on this channel you will be in the same space as most of your customers. So businesses have been starting Facebook pages and having their clients and fans "like" them so they can connect with them on a daily basis. On a Facebook page you can include posts, upload pictures and also publish links your blog or website.

Twitter

Twitter is a social networking device that allows users to send and read other users' updates, which are known as 'Tweets'. Tweets are typically short and sharp as they can only be up to 140 characters in length and most messages by default are published publicly. This service is widely used by businesses to launch campaigns and to increase brand awareness. Twitter is also great for posting reviews and comments so it can be used as a powerful platform for improving customer satisfaction by being able to directly listen to what the customer is saying about your company.

Blogs

Blogs are a great tool to keep your followers in the loop - whether it's a personal blog or for your company - these days blogs are becoming very popular because they offer a platform where you can share information. Increasing number of people are looking at blogs to give them information about all sorts of things - product reviews or useful articles on different subjects. There are a number of different blog providers out there, and we have just introduced a blog platform that will integrate with your website - meet with one of our E-Business Consultants to find out more.

YouTube

Youtube and Flickr are designed for sharing video and images. They offer free space where users can put up pictures or videos of things they are interested in. YouTube is another medium that is becoming an extremely popular channel for businesses as you can create a YouTube account for your company and effectively use it as a 'TV' that features short videos to help your customers. It can also be used to drive traffic to your website because it has effectively become the second largest search engine.

Digg

Digg is a place where you can find the best rated content from all over the world. From the weirdest thing on the Internet to the most obscure blogs, Digg will bring the most highly rated content in one portal. It does this by getting submission from the users, then having the other users view it and 'Digg' the articles they like. The submissions that get the most 'Diggs' get to front page, which is viewed by millions of people. So this is another great avenue to include interesting information or publish articles.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional tool used by businesses to network online. Individuals can use it to build an online portfolio by listing their work experience and gathering references so companies can use it as a tool to hire staff. But it is really only used by businesses and does not reach customers.

But by far the most commonly used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogging. But remember, if you have a solid strategy it doesn't matter if the technology changes and there is some other platform you should be using.

5. Define the architecture

Social media architecture is all about connecting people with your content on landing pages and improving your conversion rate. The entire purpose of social media for business is to direct the conversations that are happening to your website - and this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Use campaigns that are relevant to your target customers, announce them via Facebook and have the traffic directed to your website.

  • Present special offers or come up with competitions that your followers can benefit from and take them to your website to redeem the offer.

  • Write useful articles or provide great information on your blog (which is on your website) and use your Facebook/Twitter to promote them. Likewise, your blog could help promote your Facebook page because it automatically lets your followers know when there is a new post.

The social media architecture links the actions with the various platforms so use your email newsletters and website to promote your Facebook site and use your Facebook account to drive traffic to your website. Good quality content in multiple areas that link back to your site can also improve your search engine optimisation - use that to your advantage.

Remember to roll out each platform sequentially and make sure you have mastered one before moving on to the next one.

6. Set the actions

Specify your policy and have guidelines

Decide how regularly you are going to put up a post or a tweet and how you respond to any mentions - both good and bad. Honesty and transparency in posts goes a long way - this is the age of information and if your followers want to know the truth about something, they will. It's best for you to be honest and up front at all times. Your followers will appreciate it a lot more than some PR spin.

Find the best person for the job

Don't make the mistake of putting an intern or someone junior in charge of social media. It is a big responsibility and in the wrong hands it can lose you followers. At the same time don't choose your CEO or your technical directors just because they have a good name in the industry. Social media role should be given to someone that WANTS to do it. Zeald client Louisa (co-owner of Belly Beyond) recommends using your best communicators for this job. It's not about choosing the most technically savvy person but the person that is best at communicating your brand and the message across. There are options to outsource your social media needs but we strongly recommend having someone in your company doing it or hiring someone part time to do it. By all means get a consultant to do your strategy if you like but when it comes down to the regular communication, it should be someone that reflects the culture within your company.

Think up tactics

This is the fun bit. This is where you decide what kind of tactics you will use to communicate with your followers. Say you want to have a blog that will include a new article each week, one of your tactics will be to announce your blog posts via Facebook and Twitter weekly. You can then think of specials you can run around different times of the year depending on the kind of business you have, for example around Easter or Christmas you can offer a special discount or a promotion. Your tactics should look at what you can do to keep your customers interested as well as attract potential customers so it could be giving away free information, or a special offer just for anyone that follows you. You don't have to decide exactly what it is straight away but just decide that you will do something to engage your followers. Have a look at what others are doing to get ideas flowing.

Have a rough calendar in place

Once you have your tactics planned out, create a calendar - it doesn't have to be definite, even something rough to say that on this particular week you will do something new, how you would launch it, where you would direct traffic to and how you can measure the success.

7. Test, Measure, Tune

This is one of the key areas when it comes to social media. Always measure how your campaigns are doing and tune the next one accordingly. Check how you are doing with your objectives each month, as mentioned before, Facebook has a great feature where it will email you weekly with your stats so you know how many fans you have and how many comments you have had on each post. You will have to do this manually for Twitter and Digg. Remember, don't be afraid to try something completely new or push the boundaries. If you make a mistake, just move on to the next initiative.

Topics: Social Media
 

Why should you take the social media plunge?

Written by Hamish Braddick on June 21st, 2010.      0 comments

Besides the fact that social media offers you the chance to hear what your customers have to say about your company, studies show that there are direct business benefits to having an online community.

How can you benefit from social media?

1. Increase brand awareness

Due to the public nature of most social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter and the sheer number of people globally using these platforms - social media offers the quickest way to promote your company and your brand. It also allows you to interact with the public directly and respond to issues directly which is one of the greatest benefits of social media. You can hear what people are saying and respond so it is a discussion rather than one way communication.

2. Building trust and credibility

When done right, social media can help build the trust of your customers and followers. Having an open and honest conversation about what is going well for your business and what isn't, combined with your willingness to make changes will without a doubt build the trust of your customers. Using your expertise and sharing good articles and content will further build your credibility as a leader in your industry.

3. Increase traffic to your website

If you have an engaging online community presence, with campaigns that can add value to your customers or get them talking, they will be inclined to click through to your site. And like most forms of online marketing, this traffic can be measured so you can see the effectiveness of your campaigns.

4. Improved SEO ranking

Likewise, when your social media presence is consistently engaging, your followers are more likely to publish a link to your website on their site or blog if they like a particular campaign or an article. These kind of inbound links are recognised by Google and will help your website rank higher in natural search results. So when anyone on Twitter either retweets your article or someone on Digg publishes your article as something they like, your website's SEO will benefit from it.

5. Low cost marketing tool

Compared to any other form of marketing or advertising, social media is a low cost and a high return medium. But don't forget that in order to do it effectively, there is time involved - which is will in turn cost your business. However, it trumps spending thousands of dollars that is required in print and radio advertising!

6. Customer support

One of the great benefits of social media is being able to improve your customer support, especially because of its immediate nature. This means that you can instantly tell people if there is a problem of some kind that your customers need to know about and also respond to any queries quickly. A great example of this is the way Heathrow Airport handled the huge influx of calls and queries through their customer support lines during the eruption of the Icelandic volcano. They had support staff dedicated to Twitter and Facebook who would frequently update the status of the flights and also responded to any queries. This proved to be a win-win situation for both passengers, who got frequent updates, and Heathrow, who was able manage the chaos a bit better. On a smaller scale, Orcon Internet also uses social media to update clients on any outages or issues and answer any queries.

7. Improved sales

A social media marketing company called Syncapse surveyed 4,000 people who have joined the top 20 brands on Facebook page by 'liking' them and figured out exactly how valuable these fans are. The study ('The value of a Facebook fan: An Emperical Review') estimates that someone who has 'liked' a brand will spend an average of $71.84 more each year on their products or services compared to someone who has not 'liked' them on Facebook. Not to mention, every happy and engaged follower can also result in referrals.

A great Kiwi example of social media presence...

Zeald clients Louisa and Heidi started Belly Beyond in 2008 - a website that specialises in ergonomic baby carriers, nappy bags, maternity lingerie and a huge range of gifts and essentials for mums and babies. As part of establishing a great website and business, they turned to social media to improve their results further. Louisa says, "We are an online company and always saw social media as a way to communicate, market and listen to our customers. Once we started down the path of creating Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as blogging - we got the bug and there was simply no turning back!"

Belly Beyond Zeald Clients The results certainly speak for themselves - in Jan/Feb 2010 Belly Beyond averaged around 16,500 visits and 135,000 page views per month. Using campaigns that crossover Facebook, Twitter, Belly Beyond blog and the website, the traffic to their website increased 170% to around 30,000 visits per month and 230,000 page views!

After noticing how successful these campaigns were, in March Louisa and Heidi came up with an online Treasure Hunt promotion using social media and their website - this time round their website visits peaked at 34,000 visitors and had a massive 333,000 page views! The sales for the same period also went up by 180% so their social media presence is making a significant difference to their bottom line as well.

Belly Beyond's Facebook page has also become the second most effective tool in driving traffic to their website, second only to Google. Their blog features regularly in the third spot - which goes to show that using Facebook for targeted campaigns and the blog to provide good useful information has really helped bring in the results for Belly Beyond.

Louisa and Heidi have also launched their YouTube channel, Belly Beyond TV and are developing it further to draw traffic to their website using YouTube as a search engine.

Needless to say Louisa is a big supporter of social media for small to medium size businesses. "It’s a low cost way of getting your brand out there, perfect for small to medium businesses who have a strong identity and message. It is time consuming but we are an example that it can and does translate to traffic and to sales."

Make the most of social media now

Even with all the positive aspects of social media and all the great stories like Belly Beyond, the 2010 Business Monitor United States report shows that when it comes to small to medium size businesses, social media hasn't quite been utilised at its best. Only 24% of respondents from this study said that they've received sales leads from social media, and only 1% said that it was an actual factor for business growth.

Since this is an American study, it's safe to assume that New Zealand will be trailing by a year or so in terms of the results companies are producing using social media. Social media is something that is still relatively new and not every business is using it very well yet which is exactly why getting involved right now could give your business the edge.

It's up to you to make it happen for your business

When done right, social media can be a really valuable source to attract new customers and make sure that the customers you have right now stick around and recommend your services to others. A big part of this is taking part in the conversation and listening to what people are saying - ignoring this is lazy and will not help you with your sales.

It's also up to you to find the opportunities in the social media platform, information is there for the taking -  for example, a customer that tweets about a poor experience or a woman that is talking about how she is finding event organisation stressful - if you are not listening carefully, all these messages are missed opportunities. For example in the case of the woman that is stressed out, all you have to say is: "is there anyway I can help?" That goes a long way in building a great relationship. And who knows, your business might be actually able to help her too!

As a small business owner, it's your responsibility to use these bits of information available publicly to build relationships, improve your customer service and improve your products.

Your size is a great advantage

There  are a number of big brands that have adopted social media and done an amazing job of it like Starbucks for example. But their big size means that they cannot engage with every one that mentions them.

As a small business owner, you have the advantage of being able to respond to everyone that mentions you. Make sure you are always searching for your brand name on Twitter to see if anyone is saying anything about you.

So how do you get started?

Finding the best way to use social media for your company can seem like a daunting task - especially when you hear stories in the media about all these big companies doing big, amazing and creative things on Facebook and Twitter. But even the big guys sometimes fail to realise that the smallest of gestures can have a huge impact when it comes to social media.

Start simple

As a first step, Louisa (from Belly Beyond) recommends signing up to Twitter with your company's name as the username as soon as possible, so that way you don't miss out on that particular username when you do decide to get started.

From here you can start simple - spend a bit of time listening. You want to know what people are saying about your company, about your competitors and about your industry. Go where they are pointing to and listen to the conversations that are happening - this will also help you learn the social media language.

Research competitors

Find out what others in your industry are doing. Don't be discouraged thinking I'm a builder or an engineer so how can I use social media? The best thing to do is to see what others are doing and work from there. Giapo is a small gelato shop in Queen Street. There are a number of gelato shops around and there is nothing different about Giapo's product but the owner has set himself apart by a mile simply by using social media very effectively. His core philosophy is enabling conversation. The owner will do anything to get people talking to him and between themselves. So whatever your industry, there is a way - you just need to look outside the box.

Take the plunge

Don't spend too long listening - take the plunge. Start by acknowledging anyone that mentions you. Say someone has been in your restaurant or talks about your products - just a simple "thank you for dropping by" or a "how can we make your experience even better?" can go a long way in building great relationships and repeat purchases. Not to mention, you'd be gathering valuable information along the way, which would normally be very difficult to achieve.

Identify your strategy

The effectiveness of your social media presence comes down to your business - how fast it's growing, how committed you are and also what your overall goals and objectives are. This is something that should be identified very early on and identified as your 'social media strategy'. Your strategy ultimately determines the success of your social media presence. Read our blog post on how to come up with a great social media strategy for your business.

View more presentations from Zeald.
Topics: Social Media
 

Online networking through forums & blogs

Written by Hamish Braddick on June 12th, 2010.      0 comments

Create a keyword rich signature to include at the bottom of your post whenever you discuss topics in an online forum.  Determine relevant forums and blogs to link to your website and contribute to the discussions that are occurring in these places.  Don't forget to include your signature whenever you post. 

Take care to spend some time in the forum getting to know the people, and the etiquette. Do not use forums and blogs to "advertise" your business or your products. This will be viewed as spam and you could find that the exercise has a negative eff

Finding relevant, quality forums and blogs

To discover good forums and blogs, search for relevant and quality forums or blog sites using Google.  You can use a search string similar to the following -'forum:[keyword describing my website theme]' You will need to choose a very generic keyword. For example a website selling meat to a New Zealand market could try the following searches to find relevant forums. “New Zealand” “Meat” “Butcher” “Recipes”

Hint. Keep track of your list of relevant forums and blogs in a spreadsheet and constantly add to it. If you haven't already, don't forget to sign up for Google Alerts.  Google will then notify you whenever they find a new link to your website.

 

10 reasons why you should commit to PPC

Written by Hamish Braddick on April 1st, 2010.      1 comments

Google Analytics Keyword SearchThe success of any website is measured by the results that it achieves - and it can be attributed to two main metrics - the amount of 'targeted traffic' to the website and the conversion rate of the website. By 'targeted traffic' we mean that the traffic to your website is well qualified and targeted, i.e., people are actually looking for services or resources offered by your website. By conversion rate we mean the number of visitors that are persuaded into taking action.

The traffic and the conversion rate need to be continually measured together as they are tightly connected - you can have the best marketing and advertising campaigns but if your website is not persuading your visitors to take action, then it's all wasted. Likewise, you can have the best website in the world but if no one can find it, there is no way that it will be successful.

PPC is a great promotional tool available to business owners like yourselves to generate targeted traffic to your website. Not only that, due to the nature of PPC, it is the best and the most cost effective way to manage, measure and optimise the continual improvement of your website.

So what is PPC?

PPC is short for Pay Per Click Advertising, which is a form of internet advertising. In this model, you will need to the pay the provider of this service only when someone clicks on your ad, which makes it a highly results driven approach. You might have heard this being referred to as Google Adwords - Google is a large provider of this type of service.

How does PPC work?

To set up a PPC campaign, you will have to start by researching the top keywords or phrases that people are typing into Google to search for your services or products. Then you choose the search phrases you want to use for your ads so that Google can display your ads next to the search results every time someone types in that search phrase. Then for each phrase you have chosen, you decide how much you'd like to pay each time someone clicks on your ad - this is called your bid for the ad.

If your bid for the keyword is too low, Google will let you know that this won't appear in the first page, which means that you will not get enough clicks or sales from this ad. For each keyword/phrase that you choose, you will have to create an ad that matches and a landing page on your website that relates to the keyword and the ad. 

Once your ads are up, every time someone types in one of your researched keywords, your ad will come up in the Google ads section on the right hand side of the page and a select few ads will appear at the top of the search results on the main part of the page (see picture below).

To decide your ranking in the results, Google will take into account the relevancy of your ad as well as your bid amount. Relevancy is calculated by how relevant the search phrases are to the copy of your ad and also to the copy on the landing page. Therefore PPC is not just about how much money you are willing to pay for the ads - it's about your content as well. Both your ad copy and the landing page copy should use the same or very similar phrases across them so the user has a seamless and consistent experience - they need to get the information that they are expecting when they click on your ad.

Google will give the best ad space, which is at the top of the main part of the page to the most relevant ads that also have the highest bid - as shown in the example of a search for 'wedding photographer' below:

wdd
 

You can set up and manage the PPC campaign yourself - if you'd like a bit of help managing your PPC campaign stay tuned for our next article that will tell you exactly how to set up, run and manage a PPC campaign.

How can your business benefit from PPC?

1. High ROI

PPC is one of the most profitable and cost effective channels for advertising and marketing an online business. Most of the top online marketers share this view - a Forbes study of the top marketers in US showed that PPC is considered one of the top 3 online marketing channels for generating conversions, with SEO and email marketing ranking 1and 2 - see the right hand column in the table below:

Most Effective Online Marketing Tactic for Generating Conversions

As you can see from the table above, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is seen as the most effective online marketing tactic. SEO is the process involved in optimising your website and the copy so it ranks highly in the natural search results. So when someone types in a search phrase related to your services or products, SEO will help you rank higher. We believe that while SEO is highly effective, PPC has a lot of other great benefits that make it a perfect compliment to SEO activities - in fact if you want to see an instant return on your investment, PPC is your best option.

2. It is instant

Unlike traditional forms of advertising, with PPC you can setup a campaign and generate traffic to your website in a matter of minutes. There is no need to contact advertisers, or have to work with deadlines - you can get your ad up whenever you are ready to do so. You can also run it around specific time of the year and for a short period, for example say you are a wedding photographer, you can choose to run a short campaign around non-wedding season to drum up some more visitors and see how effective this is as a strategy.

Also, with PPC the results are instant. To have your website rank highly in search results naturally, you'd have to use SEO (search engine optimisation) and this could take months or even years, so we highly recommend investing in PPC. This will start getting traffic to your site immediately, therefore generating significant sales within weeks. SEO has its own benefits and is a great compliment to PPC activity so we recommend using both strategies in parallel to get the best results. Read more about SEO.

3. Testing

Because of its instant nature and great reporting, you can also test certain offers by looking at exactly what your potential customers are interested in and what gets them going. For example, as a wedding photographer you could test what offer works best for your customers - you could run a campaign to offer 'free photo album' and maybe with another group you could try 'free CD' to find out what your customers find more valuable. PPC allows you to get inside the minds of your customers so you know exactly what they are looking for.

 

4. Measurable

Unlike other forms of advertising, with PPC it is extremely easy to measure the success of a campaign - you have access to information like page impressions, clicks from the campaign, and conversions and from there it's easy to measure your click through rate (CTR), conversion rate and cost per lead. This kind of reporting makes it very easy for us to see if we are on track or not.

PPC also allows you to determine exactly what search is producing the greatest number of sales. With PPC you have the chance to test hundreds of search phrases, but it's always hard to guess if the most popular search phrase will result in sales for your business. For example, using Google Insights, you will find that there are a lot more people searching for the phrase 'wedding photos' compared to 'wedding photographer' (as shown in the image below). But once you run your campaign you might find that the more targeted phrase 'wedding photographer' actually results in more customers. 

Google Analytics Keyword Search

5. Helps improve conversion

PPC also helps you find problems with your conversion - with PPC you get highly targeted traffic to your website and if this is converting poorly, you know that you need to investigate your website to see what's causing the hiccup. Low conversion rate after a PPC campaign usually leads PPC managers to investigate what's wrong.

This is another reason why having PPC at the same time as SEO (preferably when a site is being launched) is a huge advantage because with SEO alone, traffic can take months to ramp up to significant levels. If you have a usability or conversion rate problem in those first three to six months, you may not have enough data to detect it or to fix it quickly, and you could be losing valuable sales!

6. PPC offers great control

With PPC you can optimise your landing pages exactly as you wish unlike with SEO. SEO is when you optimise the copy on your pages so that it appears in the search results naturally. This requires the key phrases that people are typing into the search engines to be used on your website repeatedly so that it is recognised as a relevant source of information for the user. Therefore, you need a lot of relevant words on your website.

But this can sometimes be restrictive. Say you don't really want to use a lot of copy, you want to let the images do the selling for you, like in the case of a wedding photographer, your pictures will do the selling. This means that you probably don't have much of a chance for people to even find you on Google if you were to simply use SEO. PPC gives you the chance to show up on the search results if you have a high bid for your ad.

7. Targeted

Besides providing qualified traffic, PPC also allows you to setup campaigns specific to geographical locations. So you could specify that the ad is shown to users that are in a 100km radius of North Shore in Auckland - this way you are not paying for irrelevant traffic to your website, and you also get a good insight into the size of the local market.

8. Strong branding

With PPC you get free branding - even if the users  don't click on your ads, they might still see them and you don't have to pay for that impression. Branding is strengthened by repetition - when people see your name every where, it makes an impression and slowly burns into their memory. So when they do have a need for the kind of products or services you sell, they know exactly who to look for.

9. Improved SEO

Usually, when you set up an effective PPC campaign, it should naturally lead to the development of good content on your website and help you rank well in the organic search results. This is because when you setup a campaign you'll need to investigate which search phrases generate high volumes of relevant traffic and then create a relevant ad and landing page - which is one of the requirements of SEO.

In our PPC work with our clients and on our own website, we've discovered that by incorporating target search phrases in our landing page, we began seeing the ranking on organic search results also improve - which proves that PPC can help with SEO activity.

10. Banner advertising

When you set up a PPC campaign through Google Adwords, you get access to the Google Adsense network which means that you can run banner advertising on other websites that are part of the Adsense network. So for example if you want to advertise your wedding photography service, all you need to do is specify to Google that you'd like to run an advert on all websites that have a theme of photos and weddings. You could even specify the geographical location like North Shore if you choose. This way you don't have to contact every website that offers banner advertising and ask them if they get people searching for photos or wedding related things - it is all done automatically.

The advertising through Adsense network will also report back with the exact same detail as your Adwords campaign so you know exactly which banner designs are working better, which banner messages are more compelling and what sites are bringing more clients.

> Learn how to set up, run and manage your own PPC (Google Adwords) campaign.

Topics: Google, Promotion
 

Generate Traffic by Building Links that Endorse you

Written by David Kelly on April 1st, 2010.      0 comments

Links are the Internet’s form of ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. When someone links to your website they are, in a sense, endorsing your website. Building a big network of links that link back to your website can be an extremely powerful way of generating large amounts of traffic. Listed below is the strategy we follow for building a large network of links:

  1. Research Possible Websites
    The first thing you need to do is research the possible linking websites. Think about your target customer and where they are likely to visit. Try to find places that are a hive of activity (lots of traffic!). Use the search engines to locate different websites and don’t forget the New Zealand search engines:
    Also, use a tool like Alexa (www.alexa.com) to analyse each website and to check out how much traffic each of them is getting.
     
  2. Prepare a List
    Based on your research; prepare a short-list of websites that you would like to approach. Don’t be afraid to approach people for a link. Be courageous! You have nothing to lose. Make sure the websites that you list are complimentary and not competitive.
     
  3. Prepare your Email
    Use an email template that has been prepared specifically for approaching websites for a link. We have provided an example email template for this purpose on the following page.

    Make sure your email focuses on ‘what’s in it for them’ (Remember, WIIFM)! They need to see what the upside is. Why should they go to the effort? Your website should offer something for their customers.
     
  4. Follow-up
    Make sure you follow-up, because persistence does pay. Follow-up at weekly intervals and be prepared to follow-up many times if necessary.

Link Request Template

Hi [Target's Name],


My name is [Insert Name] from [Insert Business Name]. I was recently browsing the Web and came across your website ([Insert Website URL here]). [Say something positive about their website here].


We have a website that [insert what your website does here].


I was hoping that you might consider linking to us and would like to invite you to review our website for the same purpose here [insert website address].


I believe that linking to each other’s website would have a number of mutual benefits:

- we can help increase each other’s website traffic

- we can help increase each other’s search engines rank (search engines currently put a lot of emphasis on links between websites).


If you believe that a link to our website would be appropriate, then please add it at your discretion- perhaps I could suggest the following link and description:

[Your site name and URL] - [Your site description]


Please let me know if you would like to proceed and I will set up a link on our website too.


Thank you for taking the time to consider this. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me.


With regards

---

[Insert email signature here]

Topics: Link building
 

About Zeald

Zeald was formed in 2001 by three young guys from the small New Zealand town of Mangawhai Heads. Now, Zeald is the largest website design and digital marketing agency in New Zealand and has recently made moves into Australia. This is the Zeald story …

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