Is Your Business Like Salad Dressing?

business tips from the salad dressing marketWhat can salad dressing tell you about where your business is headed?

Possibly a lot.

And the answer just might be in two directions simultaneously: up and down.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported (subscription required) about how the salad dressing market is a good indicator of how many markets in the U.S. economy are bifurcating – splitting into a discount market catering to lower income consumers and a premium market catering to the wealthy.

The middle, where you find the most popular brands, is getting squeezed as hard as an almost empty bottle of ketchup.

In the dressing world, the low end is represented by private-label/supermarket brands, while the high-end is represented by fresh and organic dressings and more upscale or exotic flavors.

Premium dressings that you find on refrigerated shelves near the produce section of the grocery store are growing two to three times faster than the regular brands.

If you’re one of our business web hosting customers trying to grow your business online, you might want to think about this up/down market bifurcation and how it may or may not be affecting your business.

Are you well positioned to appeal to the cost-conscious consumers looking to pinch pennies and cut corners? Are you positioned as a premium product or service provider able to command premium pricing? Do you offer options to appeal to both segments?

If not, you may be able to use your web site to test out some alternate products that appeal to either the high or low end of your market, or both.

For example, you might test offering product or service discounts through search engine marketing with Google Adwords (see our previous blog post about getting started with AdWords).

If you can’t (or don’t want to compete on price), you may want to see if you can put together a more premium package that you try to upsell to current customers via email marketing (our previous posts about getting started with email marketing and tracking your email marketing results can help you with that).

See how you can innovate with your product or service (or your marketing) to set it apart from the shrinking middle and help you generate increased growth and higher margins.

Good luck. And let us know how you’re doing.

SEO Basics: Using Keywords for Website SEO

Find popular keywords for SEO - Google Keyword ToolLast week, we started our SEO Basics series with a look at How to Use Title Tags on Your Website.

As a reminder, SEO stands for search engine optimization, and refers to all the techniques used to help your website and webpages rank well in search engine results.

When telling you how to optimize your Title tags last week, we talked about how it was important to feature the keywords that are most popular to describe your product or service.

The same is true for the content of your webpages: keywords matter.

Here’s what you need to know about keywords:

  • Ideally, each of the pages on our website should be focused on one keyword (with close variations).
  • “Keyword” often means multiple words: web hosting service and professional web design are multi-word keywords for EarthLink Web Hosting pages. High speed cable Internet is a keyword for our cable Internet access page.
  • Use tools such as the Google Keyword tool to find the right keywords.
  • Generally it’s recommended to shoot for the keywords with the highest volume, though you may decide you’re better able to compete for some more narrow, long-tail keywords with less traffic.
  • Keep in mind, your product name is typically not your keyword. Your keyword is the more generic term for what your product/service is. Think: what do people call products like mine, in general.
  • Ideally, keywords should be in the page’s Title tag, URL, page header (H1 tag), and used throughout the body of the page, especially near the top.
  • Do not stuff the page with keywords. This is a very old and now dangerous technique that is likely to backfire. Use your keyword (and variations) a natural number of times when covering your topic/product.
  • Vary your keyword on your webpage in natural ways: using singular and plural forms, different word orders for keyword phrases, close synonyms, and natural keyword modifiers.
  • Use your keywords as links on other pages in your website. Internal linking using keywords is another way that search engines determine what is most important about a page.

Using the simple keyword techniques above should help you get started with SEO and help you generate traffic to your website. Good luck.

AdWords Made Simple: Selecting Keywords and Billing Setup

To help you start the New Year with more traffic to your business website we’ve been showing you how to get started with Google AdWords. Last week’s AdWords blog post  covered:

  • Creating an Ad Group
  • Creating text ads

This week we’ll cover the last couple of steps in the process:

  • Selecting keywords
  • Entering your billing information

We’ve covered getting started with AdWords in 3 posts, but you may be setting AdWords up all at once. If so, the Keywords section is just below where you created your text ads. If you logged out before setting up your keywords, you can sign back in, click the Keywords tab, and then the green + Add Keywords button.

Adding keywords with different match types

Number of Keywords

The keywords you add determine which Google searches your ads show up for. Google says most businesses use 5 – 20 keywords per ad group, but there’s no one right number.

You want to cover the terms and phrases people would use to try to find the types of products or services you are promoting in your ad.

The more specific you are, the more likely your ads will show up to the right potential customers, but it will also limit your audience. Using more general or broad keywords will help you reach more people but that group may include people searching for things unrelated to your business.

Keywords Should Match Ad Groups and Ads

The keywords you use should be appropriate for the ad you are running. Using last week’s example, if you are selling 3D glasses and your ad is written to sell 3D glasses, your keywords should relate directly to 3D glasses, perhaps including active 3D glasses, passive 3d glasses, discount 3d glassesPanasonic 3d glasses. If you also sell 3D movies, you probably don’t want to include 3d movie related keywords in your 3D Glasses Ad Group. If you want to advertise using keywords that don’t apply to your ad, that probably means you need to create a new Ad Group with new ads that can match those keywords. But it’s up to you how specific you want your ad groups.

If you are, lets say, a general contractor, you may want to set up an Ad Group for your services in general, to capture people looking for a contractor in your area (you can either specify in setting that your campaign only run in a certain area or you can use geographic terms in your keywords). But you also may want to set up Ad Groups for the specific services you offer: room additions, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, floor refinishing, window replacement, etc.

Keyword Match Types

By default, when you enter keywords without any specific match type specified, Google uses a Broad match to decide when to show your keywords. When set to Broad, your keywords will trigger your ad if someone types in any variation of the keyword, including misspellings, plurals, different word order, longer phrases containing your keyword, as well as synonyms of the keyword and related searches.

The Broad match type is the best to capture the most search traffic volume, but it is also most likely to trigger your ads for irrelevant searches. Using the general contractor example above, a Broad match on the term general contractor would trigger your ad when someone searches for best general contractor in Los Angeles but also how to sue your general contractor.

Other match types in addition to broad match are broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match, and negative match.

  • Broad match modifier: add a plus sign in front of your keywords to trigger this match type, e.g., +general +contractor. This type will trigger your ads for all the searches (misspellings, singular/plural, abbreviations, acronyms, stemmings, etc) that trigger the broad match except synonyms and related searches.
  • Phrase match: put quotes around your keywords to make them a phrase match, e.g., “tennis shoes”. This match type shows your ad only if the searcher uses your keywords (or close variants) in the order you specify. With a phrase match, there can be words before or after the terms you specify, as in buy tennis shoes or red tennis shoes for women but not variations such as shoes for tennis or tennis sneakers.
  • Exact match: Exact match gives you the most control but the least volume, since it only triggers your ads when someone searches using your keyword (or very close variants) without any other terms before or after. To specify exact match, put brackets around your keywords, such as [atlanta house painter].

Negative Match

Negative keywords are the exact opposite of your other keywords. All the other keyword types define they keywords that do trigger your ads. Negative keywords are what you specify should not trigger your ads. To create a negative match, use a minus sign (-) before the keywords you want to exclude. Using the tennis shoe example above, you would add the negative keyword  – nike if you didn’t sell Nike tennis shoes and didn’t want your ads to show up for searchers looking for that brand.

Negative match can help you filter out irrelevant searches and prevent unwanted clicks, especially if you are using broad match or if you know of totally different types of products that share the same keywords.

On one of our business high-speed internet access AdWords campaigns, we were promoting T1 and T3 internet access. Before we added negative keywords we found lots of irrelevant searches were triggering our ads. There was the Terminator 3 movie, a gadget website, a t3 spinal nerve, a t3 thyroid hormone, a t3 magazine, a t3 rapper, a t3 “personal transportation vehicle,” Tylenol 3, and others. So we added –movie, -terminator, -gadget, -thyroid, -magazine, etc. to filter out those irrelevant results.

The screenshot above shows an example of different match type keywords, including negatives, entered for one ad group.

When you are finished entering your keywords, click either the Save button or the Save and continue to billing button (depending on where you are in the process).

Set Up Billing

AdWords billing setup is very straightforward. Just follow the prompts to fill out your business information, how you want to pay, and accept the terms and conditions.

One caution: If you want to complete your AdWords setup but you aren’t ready for your ads to start running and generating costs, make sure you go back and pause your campaign. If you complete billing setup with automatic payments set up, your ads may start running immediately.

To pause your campaign, click back to the All online campaigns page and click the drop-down next to the green dot to the left of your campaign name. Green means the campaign is Enabled. Select Paused from the list until you are ready to start running your ads.

We hope this introduction to AdWords has been helpful to you. We encourage you to take advantage of all the additional help resources Google offers in AdWords. And remember to keep monitoring your campaign’s performance and adjusting it as necessary. You may need to change keyword match types, add more negatives, limit the geography your campaign runs in, modify you ads, etc. Google makes it fairly simple to refine your campaign to achieve better results.

15 Ways to Promote Your Website Offline

EarthLink Web Hosting customers can take advantage of several effective tools to promote their business websites online: EasySiteOptimizer and OneList for website SEO, Announcer Pro for email marketing, and Social Stream for social media marketing.

But don’t forget about marketing your business website offline. Just as online marketing can drive offline business, offline marketing out there in the real world can help support your online presence. Here are 15 ways to do it:

Use business cards to promote your website

  1. Business Cards: Put your website URL and domain email address on your business cards. You may even be able to show a thumbnail screenshot of your website on the back side of the card (but make sure it looks OK at that reduced size before you print). There are even free business card options available.
  2. Other Printed Items: If you use letterhead or have brochures or other printed items related to your business, make sure your website address is displayed on them prominently and have a plan to distribute these items to promote your website.
  3. Office Signs: If you have a brick-and-mortar store or office that customers visit, use it as an opportunity to cross-promote your website. Ideally, include some motivation for customers to visit the site: an online-only offer, coupons, tips or other valuable information.
  4. Swag/Giveaways: Print your website address on pens, calendars, coffee mugs, and other low cost giveaways; you can also produce some more expensive items to use as contest prizes. Get some ideas for customized promotional merchandise.
  5. T-Shirts: This could be in the swag/giveaways category, but I’m breaking it out because this is one promotion you can do yourself by personally wearing your customized T-shirts (or other shirts, sweatshirts and jackets). It can be especially effective if you are wearing your shirt around likely customers.
  6. Event Sponsorship:  Sponsor a local sporting event, school, festival, etc. Make sure you pick one that allows you to promote your website (maybe in an event program or by distributing your giveaways).
  7. Conferences & Conventions: Get out there and go to events like conferences that are relevant to your business. Be social, network, and have plenty of business cards and swag handy to give out to the people you meet.
  8. Teaching: Volunteer to teach a class/seminar at local library, school, or other community location. Ideally, get the venue to print your business website URL when they are promoting the event. And make sure you have business cards, brochures, giveaways, etc. available to distribute to those who attend.
  9. Vehicles: If you have a company car or truck with a logo and or phone number, you can promote your website address there too. Even if you don’t have a company vehicle, there are custom car decals, bumper stickers, and magnets that are easy to apply to your personal car. Or make a really big splash with a full car wrap. Get some vehicle marketing ideas here.
  10. Press Releases: You may need to hire a writer or PR service for this (and you may not get it picked up), but if you’re doing something new or exciting with your business, see if you can get the offline media to pick it up (if they do, you’ll get online promotion too). If you are writing a blog on your website, you may be able to repurpose a blog post for this.
  11. Local Newspapers & Magazines: See if you can get an article or opinion piece in a local publication. Make sure they print your name and website address with the article (a link to your website from the online version of the paper or magazine would be great for SEO too). Again, you may be able to repurpose a blog post for this.
  12. Coupons & Direct Mail: Depending on what you sell, a coupon or other small promotional ad distributed in something like a Valpak may help you promote your website offline. There are many other types of direct mail opportunities as well.
  13. Door Hangers: Print up door hangers and have them distributed in neighborhoods with your target customers (this is easiest and most cost-effective if your website caters to a local audience).
  14. Paid Advertising: You’d have to think about the ROI for this since it may be one of the costliest ideas, but some local radio or newspaper advertising may be cheap enough to make it work for you.
  15. Voicemail & Hold Music: If you have a voicemail system, include your website URL in the outgoing message. If your phone system plays hold music, add some website promotion into the mix.

As always, tell us what you’ve done to market your business website offline. We’d love to know what has worked.

Good luck.