The Two Most Important Emails You Will Ever Receive

there are two emails that you should never ignoreIf you’re running an online business or a business that has an online presence, then there are two emails that are the most important emails you will ever receive.

The first is the email that arrives to remind you that you need to renew your domain name.

The second is the email that arrives every year to tell you that you need to pay for another year’s hosting for your website.

Those two emails are almost certainly the most important emails that you will ever receive because, if you ignore either of them, your website disappears and yet so many small business people either ignore them totally or simply fail to take them seriously.

So many small business people ignore these emails

Hardly a week goes by in our office without at least one phone call from a client who complains that their email has stopped working, their website has disappeared or there is something about being suspended appearing where their website used to appear.

Some think that they’ve been hacked while most of the others are keen to blame us for doing something terrible to their website.

Some of them get quite upset when we explain that their problem has arisen because they haven’t paid an account. They seem to think that hosts and domain name registrars should carry them until they get around to paying their account … or that we should pay these accounts for them and wait for them to pay us.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that and never has. If you don’t pay your accounts then you are expecting others to carry your business. You’re basically saying to them that you want to go on making money at their expense.

And yet some businesses expect to be carried, they don’t believe that they should have to pay their accounts on time. They certainly expect it of those who owe them money but they don’t believe that they have the same obligation to keep their accounts up to date.

Ignore them and the consequences can be dire

So don’t ignore those two most important emails when they turn up. Don’t forget about them or hope that some benevolent web host or domain name registrar will carry you till you get around to paying the bill because they won’t.

If you don’t pay for your domain name then it will expire and no one will be able to see your website. If you still haven’t paid it after 30 days your domain name will go back on sale and someone else can buy it and then where will you and your business be?

If you don’t renew your hosting then your website is taken offline the moment the hosting becomes due. It’s automated and it happens in the blink of an eye. If you still don’t pay your account your website will be deleted and all the files, all the databases, will be gone.

How will your business function then?

 

That’s why I can say that the account for your domain name and the account for your hosting are the two most important emails that you will ever receive.

If you ignore them and don’t pay those accounts your business could take a hit that it will never recover from and I’m sure that you don’t want that.

Do You Need a Big Name to Promote Your Business?

influencer marketingDo you need a big name to promote your business or product? A recent survey in the US by Altimeter found that 71% of marketers rate influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic area of marketing.

So what is influencer marketing?

One definition is that “influencer marketing focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay influencers to get out the word for you.”

Is there a better way than paying someone to talk about your business or product?

But does that really work? Well it certainly does seem to be a way of getting your message out to lots of people that you may struggle to reach but does that really encourage people to buy your product?

Katrina McCarter, a leading expert on marketing to mums suggests that finding big names to promote your business … and that includes things like celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing … does not work if you’re trying to sell something to the most powerful consumers on the planet.

Wives and mothers are the ones who control the money in most households. They are the ones who have the final say in whether or not a purchase is made … and they’re not fooled by celebrity endorsements or influencer marketing.

They know that most of the people who are promoting a product are being paid in some way to do that promotion. They know that most of those people who are promoting a product probably wouldn’t even think of it if the maker of the product hadn’t contacted them and sent them one to review.

The most effective form of marketing may not cost you a cent!

So what does work when it comes to promoting a product to those who control the money? A simple heart-felt message from a genuine buyer does more to encourage a person to buy a product than any celebrity endorsement or influencer marketing.

A genuine testimonial from a wife or mother who has bought your product, and is clearly satisfied with it, and the sharing of that testimonial, will do far more for your sales than all the celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing that you can afford.

You won’t have to pay a cent for that genuine testimonial and the word-of-mouth marketing that may follow.

If you want to read more about marketing to wives and mothers I suggest you get a copy of “Marketing to Mums” by Katrina McCarter. While the book talks about what she calls “Australia’s most powerful consumer” the same principles apply to every western country.

 

Reaching Small Business Owners Who Don’t Know

reaching small business people who don't knowHere is an interesting puzzle.

How do you reach out to small business people across the country … and even around the world … who need help but who:

 Don’t listen to podcasts – they don’t even know what a podcast is.

Don’t know how to search Google to get the results they need.

Are so computer illiterate that they rely on their kids (who know a lot about Facebook but very little about searching the Web) to find any information they need and

Who may have such poor Internet connections that even getting online is difficult.

Are there really people like that and should we waste our time reaching out to them?

Well, for some reason Toni and I seem to run into people like this all the time and we think that it’s very important to reach out to these people and try to help them.

These small business people fall into three categories:

They are finding it almost impossible to get a job so they think that working for themselves is an easy solution.

They have a job but desperately want to run their own business or

They have had a job but are now retired and need to supplement their pension with some form of part-time business.

They come from a range of educational backgrounds, their ages vary from young adults to very old and their skillsets vary widely and there is no one out there that really does want to help them.

Small business people are failing because no one cares

Sure, these people fall into the small business category and there are lots of experts, gurus and key persons of influence out there who make a living from “helping” small business but these people who want to help either don’t know … or don’t want to know … about the very small end of their potential market.

Just last week one of the better-known small business gurus in this country posted on Facebook about a new initiative by one of the major telcos or banks that was designed to help small business grow.

I think it’s a great initiative but when I asked him on FB if there was anything in this new initiative for the smallest end of small business he blew me off with a derisory comment about how these people could find what they needed to know by using Google.

And of course he is right … they could if they had the skills and the decent internet connections to spend time searching for what they don’t know that they don’t know.

In many ways what he said to me was similar to the French Queen who suggested that, when the general populace was running out of bread, they could always eat cake.

Our thought leaders are out of touch

I guess it just goes to show how out of touch with reality some of our small business experts, gurus and key persons of influence really are. They don’t seem to realise that there are lots of people out there who have started a small business but have missed important steps along the way.

“What’s an ABN?”
Take for instance one client here in Australia who came to us just this last week. This client has already invested thousands of dollars in her business and yet she now finds that she has hit a wall because she didn’t know that she had to register for what is known as an Australian Business Number (ABN).

Every small business here in Australia needs an ABN and without one you can’t register an Australian domain name … you will have issues if you want to start a bank account for your business … and there are tax issues if you don’t have one.

Applying for an ABN isn’t too difficult … if you know where to go online to lodge your application.

“I don’t own a mobile phone yet.”
Another person came to us a few months ago because she had begun investing money in a new business that was going to require her to have a major online presence. Sadly she knew absolutely nothing about doing any sort of business online … she barely knew how to use a computer … and she thought she could do it all from her mobile phone.

But before she could do that she was going to have to buy her first mobile phone.

How successful will she be if she can’t use the tools that she will need to run her business?

“I’ve got to drive down to the front gate to get a signal on my phone.”
Late last year we finished a website for a couple who had started a new business selling specialised items to the construction industry. They needed the website to showcase their products and to provide a point of contact for people who wanted to buy their products.

There were no problems there until we discovered that there is only a very patchy Internet connection where these people live. There is no phone line, no hope of better wifi and no provider who could set them up with a satellite connection either.

They must drive quite some distance down to the front gate of their property just to get enough phone reception to make a phone call so how are they going to reach out in a reasonable time to any clients that might come their way?

And how are they going to update their website? Yes, they wanted to do their own updates.

Real issues the “experts” don’t want to know about

These are all issues that you don’t encounter in cities and major towns. These are not issues that the experts, gurus and key people of influence encounter and yet it is very much a part of small business outside of major population centres … a part of small business that these experts don’t want to know about because it’s all too hard to find a way to work with these people.

It’s easier to ignore them and hope that they will just go away … but of course these people are not going away. The smallest end of small business is actually growing at a huge rate as the way we work and the way we are employed changes.

Many of those experts are quite vocal in telling people that the world is changing and within 10 years many of the jobs that exist today will be gone and people will be self-employed … but the experts don’t want to know about those people who don’t know what they don’t know.

They don’t know how to reach out to people who don’t know what they don’t know and don’t know where to look for the answers so it’s easier to pretend they don’t exist. It’s easier to ignore them than to find a way to reach out to them.

Understanding Google

understanding googleA few months ago Toni finished rebuilding a client’s website. It was a fairly major rebuild and the client was very clear on what he wanted in the new website.

Among other things the client wanted less text and just basic information set out in point form and, while we wondered what that would do to the site’s search engine rankings we gave the client what he asked for.

Unfortunately, while Google liked the old website it does not appear to be so happy about the new website and the client rang me yesterday and, among other things, complained that his new website had disappeared from the first page for some important search terms.

We now have to spend some time looking at various aspects of the site and where it appears in Google to help it recover but the very first thing I needed to do for the client was to try and explain how Google works and what things were important to achieve good rankings.

Below is some of the information I sent to our client. You might find it helpful if you’re struggling to find your website in Google too.

… Now lets talk about the other issue you raised, the fact that your new site seems to be dropping down in the search engine rankings. This is going to be long so maybe you should make yourself a cuppa and find somewhere quiet before you start reading this.

The very first thing to say here is that I carried out all the basic optimisation that I do for every website we build for Toni’s clients.

My experience
I’ve been playing in the search engine space for almost 20 years now and I’ve written quite a few articles about it that have attracted very little criticism from my peers so I guess I know more than a little about the subject.

What I have found is that search engine optimisation is a complex and ever-changing subject. There are no simple answers and sometimes making one positive change can result in other negative changes happening too so I never take a bull-at-a-gate approach to anything I do when it comes to improving rankings.

I think that it is far better to take some time and make gradual improvements rather than rush in and make a lot of changes at one time and then find that you’ve totally destroyed your rankings and have no idea what change was the wrong change to make.

I have also found that many people don’t believe me when I say that achieving good search engine rankings is not easy and on more than one occasion potential clients have accused me of telling lies just to confuse them and make more money from them.

The truth is not always out there
Let me start by saying that there is a huge volume of rubbish online about search engine optimisation and very little in comparison that is genuinely good advice. A lot of what has been written has been written by people with no first-hand experience of what they’re talking about.

Those guys have simply copied from what someone else, with just as much expertise, has written so you can do a lot of searching for information on this subject and never find anything that comes close to the truth.

You can’t always believe what Google says
And just to make things even more confusing, some of Google’s mouthpieces have admitted publicly that they don’t always tell the truth when they are talking about what is important in getting a website to rank well.

Nice way to do business isn’t it? Let’s tell fibs and when people listen to what we say we’ll kick their website down to the bottom of the rankings where they will never be seen again. Sadly it does happen.

Oh and did I tell you that Google doesn’t really care about your business and they will make changes to the way they rank websites without caring two hoots what the impact might be on your website or your business? They don’t care and they will destroy your business without a moment’s hesitation and feel absolutely no remorse. Ask me about what is known as the “Florida Update” sometime.

How does Google rank your website
Now I hope you understand just where your business website fits in the scheme of things so we need to talk about what needs to be done to encourage Google to like your website … even just for a little while.

Before we do that though I need to tell you about Google’s algorithm … well that should be algorithms because there is more than one algorithm that Google uses to look at your website and decide where it should appear.

What sort or ranking factors are contained in those algorithms? We don’t know. Google won’t tell us and anyone who claims to know what factors are in those algorithms is lying.

Over the years it has become possible to identify some of those ranking factors and to have some idea of how important those ranking factors are but no one knows all of them or how important each of them are.

So what are the things that we do know about that are important?

Inbound links
Well, as I said on the phone this morning inbound links are important but not just any inbound links.

Google sees links from other websites that point to your website as an indication of just how important your website really is … think of each link as a vote for your website. The more links that point to your website the more important your website is … but they can’t just be any old link.

To be considered as important the links have to come from relevant websites that Google considers to be important and trustworthy. So, if your website had a link from an accommodation page on Yellow Pages (YP has over 5 million inbound links themselves) Google would see that link as being far more important than a link from Joe Blow The Plumber’s website.

Joe may have had a wonderful holiday at your place but his website is about his plumbing business while the Yellow Pages accommodation page is about … accommodation. I’m sure you can which link Google would be see as being from a relevant website.

Keywords and keyword phrases
The next thing that is important is the keyword or keyword phrase that you want to rank for. An example of an important keyword phrase might be “accommodation” plus the name of your town.

Here in Hervey Bay a lot of people search for “accommodation in Hervey Bay” or “Hervey Bay accommodation” so it’s important that any hotel, resort or motel here in town rank … or at least try to rank … for that term.

It’s also important to rank for your business name and industry best practise would suggest that the first page of your website … your home page … is the page that needs to rank for your business name.

To rank well for keywords and keyword phrases you need to have those words or phrases appearing on the page you want to rank for that term … and here I would say that you should not try to get any one page to rank for more than one important term.

Keep it simple and you have far more chance of success than if you try to have every page rank for every important term.

In the “old days” all you had to do was repeat that keyword or keyword phrase a number of times on the page. The text on your page didn’t even have to make much sense just so long as you had that keyword or keyword phrase repeated in there a number of times.

These days Google has learned to look for some sense in the text on a page and the sort of content that you might expect to see on a page that was important for your keyword or keyword phrase.

There may not be a need any more to have that keyword or keyword phrase repeated a set number of times but you do need to have it appear several times before Google will even think about ranking the page for that keyword or phrase.

Placement of that keyword or phrase is also important. If the only place it appears is down the bottom of the page in a small font size then Google is likely to ignore it. If it appears in the page title, a sub-heading or in the first sentence in the first paragraph on a page then Google is more likely to pay attention to it.

The number of words, not just keywords or phrases, that you have on a page is also important. Many genuine experts suggest that 300 words is the minimum number of words you need on a page before Google will consider the page to be important enough to rank well.

I have achieved good rankings with less but that usually only happens in verticals where there is not much competition from other websites / businesses.

I certainly included relevant keywords and keyword phrases were I could there was a limit to what I could fit in and if your old site ranked better than your new site then the fact that I had more words on that first page than you wanted on your new site may be a factor in your site’s slide in the rankings.

Loading speed
The speed at which your website loads is also a ranking factor. It’s importance may not be so great at the moment but it will certainly become more and more important in the future … and that’s not to say that it isn’t very important right now. It may have become very important and Google hasn’t bothered to tell us about it.

The problem with loading speed is that there is a real conflict between what you, the site owner wants, what you think your potential guest want to see, and what Google expects.

Big images are undoubtedly important in your eyes … and possibly in the eyes of your potential guests too … but, no matter how hard we try to reduce the file size of the images (and many web designers don’t even bother trying), those big eye-candy images slow your website down incredibly.

So how fast should your website load to keep Google happy? It should load in under 3 seconds.

On a good Internet connection the front page of this site:

http://www.4-hervey-bay.com

takes a little under 3 seconds to load … but I spent an entire day tweaking it until it did and I had to remove several large images that had been on the page and reduce the physical size of the header image to achieve that speed.

It certainly doesn’t look as good as it did before I started hacking at it and we considered that presenting your business in the best possible way was perhaps more important than loading speed.

Age
The “age” that I am talking about here is the length of time that you have had a similar website online for a particular domain name.

It’s not something that I would consider to be all that relevant for your site but it is something that to be considered because most of the sites that will rank better than yours have been around much longer.

Freshness
This is one that I’m not sure is as important as many people suggest.

There are many search engine optimisation businesses out there that will tell you that you should be constantly updating your website because Google likes to see fresh content … but I’m not sure that’s entirely right.

We have a number of clients who have websites that rank well for various terms and nothing has been changed on their website in several years. Nothing has changed on their website because nothing has changed with their business so why bother trying to update the site?

On the other hand, it is a simple task to include a page on your site that can be regularly updated with news of local events and other matters of interest but that page can be a two-edged sword.

If you update it regularly, and don’t overdo the keywords, it can be a page that brings Google back to your site frequently and that may improve your rankings.

On the other hand, if it’s a page that you never update … and there are probably millions of pages just like that out there on the Web … then it’s going to reflect negatively on your business in the eyes of potential guests / customers.

So, should you have a page like that on your website? Well, if you keep it updated (and that can be a chore for many people) then it can’t hurt your chances of doing better in the search engines.

There are five important factors that you have to think about if you want your website to rank well. You obviously don’t need to get all of them right or the websites that you so often see online that have almost no text … or keywords … on the front page and never update would never appear there.

But when it comes to getting a small business to rank well in a competitive vertical such as the one you’re in then you do have to get as many right as possible to have any chance of ranking at all.

And now there is something more
Right around Christmas Google announced something that should have a lot of website owners very worried.

We have known for quite some time that Google was going to introduce a mobile listing so that if someone searched for a term on a mobile phone Google would give preference to sites that were mobile friendly.

That should not have been a problem for anyone with a mobile friendly or mobile version of their website but what Google announced back in December changed everything.

It seems that Google will now look at the mobile version of every website and rank their non-mobile results on what they find on the mobile site.

That means that what Google finds on your mobile site is what your main site will be ranked for so what is Google going to see on your mobile site? As per your instructions we built a completely different mobile site compared to your main site.

Your mobile site is very definitely mobile friendly but I will leave you to decide … in the light of what I’ve already mentioned … what Google will think of it and how it is likely to rank your main site for the keywords and keyword phrases that are important for your business.

The good news here is that your main site was built to be responsive so Google will see it as working well on a mobile device … if the current mobile site is deleted.

But there are no guarantees
And there is one other thing that you need to think about and that’s something we … and every other long-term search engine specialist … has found.

You can do everything that I’ve mentioned above to ensure that a site ranks well and it still won’t reach the first page of Google for any term. There are no guarantees when it comes to trying to achieve a good ranking because there are always so many variables that are totally beyond our control.

While we’re working hard to improve your rankings your competitors might also be doing something achieve better rankings … there is no way of knowing what they are doing.

While we’re working hard to improve your rankings Google may make a major … or not so major change … to one of their algorithms. We do know that they make over 500 changes a year but we usually don’t know when the changes happen because they don’t tell us.

So we might do a lot of work and achieve great things or we might not achieve anything. We might get lucky and see a change in your rankings overnight or it might take months.

Recommendations
With all that in mind here are some things to think about before we arrange a time to meet.

My recommendations would be that:

  1. We add more text and keyword phrases to the home page and look at what we can add to some of the other pages too.
  2. We ditch the mobile website. Sure, it may be easy to use but the chances of it ranking for anything much are small and the negative impact it will have on the ranking of your main site will be huge.
  3. Think about the benefits of speeding up the loading time of your front page compared to the reduced impact of the images that are there now.
  4. Start looking at linking to your website from places such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and start chasing links on other relevant websites such as your local Council and Government tourism websites.

Conclusion
Now I know that those recommendations don’t sit well with what you wanted for your website and don’t agree with what some people suggested was the right thing to do. But, from my years of experience search engines, those are the things that you really do need to think seriously about.

So think about it and we can discuss this further the next time you’re in town. Before we do meet I’ll go over your site again and look at some of your competitors so we can get a comparison.