Google Wonder Wheel: Useful Keyword Research Tool?

February 11, 2010 Comments off

I was just watching Matt Cutts’ video where he was recapping his PubCon speech from late last year. In it he highlights some of the neat tools Google has introduced recently for users and developers.

One feature that stood out to me as (possibly) being quite useful was the Wonder Wheel. This is the first time I’ve really paid it any attention, but I’ll be keen to see if it, as Matt suggests it will, be useful for Keyword Research.

(For those unfamiliar with this term, Keyword Research is the task of identifying words and phrases that could be useful for including on your website to attract search engine traffic. For a deeper explanation of Keyword Research, read this.)

I’ve not tested it yet, but you can find it easily. Just go to your Google homepage, and enter a term for the subject you want to research. For the purposes of illustration, I’ve chosen the phrase ‘bronze statues’.

(Please ignore the red fields with a fireball and the word ‘Keywords’ written on it – this is a plugin I use from SEOQuake. Please also ignore my amateurish use of MS Paint. I’m working to a deadline here, and want to post this so it doesn’t get forgotten by me.)

Use Wonder Wheel for Keyword Research

How to find the Google Wonder Wheel

You have to click on the ‘Show Options’ link, which opens out and then displays ‘Hide Options’ (circled at the top left of the picture above, in red). Then click on the ‘Wonder Wheel’ item down the menu (also circled in red). This will then display the Wonder Wheel, similar to the following screenshot.

Wonder Wheel used for Keyword Research

Use the Google Wonder Wheel to generate keywords

You can see in this picture, that it opened the Wonder Wheel at the bottom, and I then clicked on the ‘spoked’ link, ‘Bronze Sculptures’. This opens up another, linked wheel.

As I said, I’m yet to test this in any thorough way, but it could be an additional useful tool for finding key words and phrases.

Are You Missing the Mark When Segmenting Your Market?

February 4, 2010 Comments off

I often talk to clients about developing a electronic newsletter campaign. The goal is to always have it be interesting to the recipient. There are different ways to do this, but today I want to focus on one aspect.

The crucial factor in an email newsletter campaign is segmenting your market. This allows you to define characteristics of each recipient, giving you the opportunity to send focused, relevant content to each one.

For example, as a basic illustration, if you run a hardware store, you might highlight information on power tools to the men you send to, but focus on your interior paint matching services for the women. Furthermore, if you know that a particular recipient is a keen gardener, you know they are likely to be more interested in your special of terracotta pots. In fact, the more personalised you can make this communication, the better the result.

This is a great way to increase the value of such communication to the recipient, in turn making more valuable to your business.

This is a notion that would be familiar to most people who already engage in this type of marketing activity.

But is the most important aspect of market segmentation being missed. Anecdotally, I would suggest it often is. What is it? John Dodds sums it up nicely in his recent post, stating that unless they are receptive to receiving your newsletter, the whole effort is a waste of time.

He mentions Permission Marketing, a notion made popular by Seth Godin.

In fact, I would suggest that sending an email newsletter to someone who isn’t receptive, and who hasn’t given their permission actually does harm to your business.

How?

Well think about the way you react to when your receive unwanted email – you consider it Spam, right? That kind of association harms your reputation, it just isn’t worth any potential short term gains.

So, what are you going to do to ensure you are sending personalised communications to receptive recipients?

[Bonus Link] I was honoured to be invited to submit a guest post over at the Small Business Owners blog, hosted by MYOB. My article was posted this morning, and is about how to get better IT support. Thanks to Paul & Megan over at SBO. Check it out!

Categories: Business

Until next year…

December 16, 2009 Comments off

I’m off to New Zealand tomorrow.

I’m going to have a good rest, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and the excellent company of my in-laws (no, really!). Perhaps a few cold Monteiths also!

I plan to do some reflection on this year, and have a good think about how best to accomplish my goals next year and beyond.

For you (few) dedicated readers, you might find this presentation on new features in Google Analytics interesting. I haven’t listened to it all yet (in fact, I need something louder than my laptop speakers to hear it properly), but what I have listened to is really interesting.

Categories: Business, Webstats

Add your voice to your list of tools

December 2, 2009 Comments off
Voice Recognition Software.

If are like me, you cringe at the mention of it. At least I did, until earlier today when I watched the video below.

I always thought it was a good idea, but I remember selling it years ago when I worked in retail computer sales, and I regretted selling it! It was difficult to use and to support. It caused many negative customer experiences. I certainly was never an expert on it, but these kind of experiences soured my perception of it.

But time has passed, and I heard that voice recognition software has gotten much better. So I took a look at the video Jon Morrow made on the subject. As you’ll see, Jon knows what he is talking about. He uses and relies on this software for his work.

My takeaway from Jon’s video is that Voice Recognition Software could be a really useful tool for me – easy to use and a real time-saver. Contrary to what I thought, VRS isn’t just for people with disabilities (anyone can save time with it), and it does lots more than just word processing.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Standard

MacSpeech Dictate

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Now playing: The Lemonheads – If I Could Talk I’d Tell You
via FoxyTunes

New Intelligence for Google Analytics

October 21, 2009 2 comments

Just a quick post, to make mention of some new features for Google Analytics I’m excited about. In particular, I think the Analytics Intelligence feature, with automatic and custom notifications of unusual activity or trends will be a big hit with small business people. Often it is a struggle for these busy individuals to monitor their web stats as frequently as desired, but this feature will help to keep them abreast of important happenings on their website.

As a brief aside, I haven’t posted here as much as I would like lately, due to “time and unforeseen circumstance.” However, I do plan to have to have some more info here in the near future, including some big plans.

[Bonus Link] I just found this great 5 minute video of Kathy Sierra explaining why and how you should be focusing on your users. Check it out!

Categories: Business, Webstats

Master Social Media in 2 minutes

September 18, 2009 4 comments

If you blog, or engage in any form of social media activity, you should take 2 minutes to learn from Kathy Sierra by looking at the slides below.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog etc, you should know this too.

Note to self: How am I doing in this regard?
[Bonus Link] Here is a cool wiki on Social Media Monitoring Tools

Round Up: Cluetrain, GTD Video and a new Theme

September 8, 2009 Comments off

I am posting a few things have grabbed my attention this last week or so.

Firstly, I wrote a brief review of one of my favourite books in the comments of the Small Business Owner blog. If you’ve never read the Cluetrain Manifesto, you might like to read my review.

I’ve also just finished watching a video of Dave Allen give a talk on his Getting Things Done (GTD) method to staff at Google. Wow! It is about 45 minutes long, but worth watching if, like me, you struggle with juggling all the different things we need to get done in our lives. I’ll be watching it again.

Finally, I’ve changed my theme (its done by NeoEase). Feedback welcome.

Test and Measure

September 2, 2009 Comments off

I’m finding that in the current economic climate many business people are re-evaluating costs that are deemed to be non-essential. Owners and managers alike are questioning what value they receive from any expense that is not absolutely essential. Fair enough too; I’m no exception.

So when I talk to business people about gaining new business via their website, they are often enticed by the possibility of winning new business, but at the same time are sceptical that spending money in the current economic climate is a good idea. It is the same always, great potential versus uncertain outcome, just with a more pronounced inclination towards financial conservatism at this point in time.

In this post I’m not going to focus on design tips, writing relevant content or other similar elements that result in a good website. Instead I want to highlight the need necessity of being able to test elements of your website (even comparing, for instance, one type of contact form with another), and be able to measure the results.

Why is this important, especially in an environment where businesses are scrutinising every expense? In a basic sense, you can track to see if your website is providing the results required to justify its existence. Or to put it another way, you can accurately track its return on investment. But there is much more! Instead of passively accepting whatever results are forthcoming, you can use the information to maximise the usefulness of the website to both the business and the customer. But before delving into some of the specific ways you can test and measure the results of your website, lets consider briefly some background.

Before the web was widely used for commercial means, business still had just about every other means for promotion and advertising open to them: print, television, telephone directories, direct mail, signage etc. None of these have disappeared, and can still play a useful part in the marketing mix. There are two problems with these traditional forms of advertising:

1. The results gained from these efforts were basically near to impossible to track in a meaningful way
2. The audience of most traditional advertising has been diluted, sometimes offering very little value at all.

Think about the telephone directories. You spend lots of money for an attractive, decent sized advertisment to be printed in the annual telephone directory. How do you know that it is working? How do you know if new business you are gaining is from this investment, or from another source? Sure, many people set up a dedicated phone number to track incoming calls to a specific number, and you can always ask the client how they found out about you. However, it is easy to see how this fails to provide complete, in-depth and vital information on how your customers are finding you. Importantly, it provides absolutely no information on customers who nearly bought from you, or even nearly contacted you.

To continue with the example of telephone directories (but I’d suggest this applies to varying degrees to television, print etc), we can also see that it doesn’t have the audience it once did. A recent survey revealed that “…one-third of people aged under 29 never used the printed version of Yellow Pages.

Furthermore, the same survey highlighted that “…58 per cent of Australians would stop having the Yellow Pages delivered if given the choice…” (incidently you can opt out of receiving the printed Yellow Pages; details are here).

So, where does that leave us today? Well, we are all familiar with the many success stories of businesses that have experienced increased profitability, better customer interaction, and enhanced reputation by developing a really great website. But we are also very familiar with the stories of lacklusture performance, tepid results, frustration and wasted money by many when they’ve dipped their toes into website marketing.

How does one replicate the positive experience of the first group, while avoiding the pitfalls encountered by the second? While there is no single ‘silver bullet’, there is one part of the website process that is consistently included in the success stories, and often overlooked in the failures. It is:

TESTING AND MEASURING. Access to a Webstats package is an essential first step. This gives you the ability to see how much traffic you are getting, where you are getting the traffic from, what people are clicking on and much, much more. You can identify trends, negative design elements and specific behaviours that most often result in a desired outcome, such as a purchase or filling out a ‘Contact Us’ form.

Google Analytics is a great stats package, that has some really nice graphics to make everything easier to understand. It also happens to be free, which is nice. I work with Google Analytics a lot.

Three of the common problems that are easily identified by using a webstats package are:

1. Low traffic
2. High bounce rate (people who navigate to your page, only to immediately navigate away)
3. Poor conversion of of visitors from ‘observers’ to ‘participants’

Traffic is the number of unique visitors to your website. By being able to gauge if enough people are actually visiting your site or not tells you if you need to focus on generating more traffic (how to do this is a whole other topic).

You can have all the traffic in the world, but if you have a high bounce rate you are not going to benefit from it. You need relevant and compelling content, intuitive navigation and clear calls to action to ensure the people visiting your site stick around for a while. Just like a regular store, the longer a person stays in your store, the more likely it is they’ll find something they want to buy.

This leads into conversion – is the person just browsing, or are they going to engage with you? This can be a purchase, but often it starts out as filling out a contact us form with a question or request, leaving their email address to receive email newsletters, or even downloading some free information (often leaving an email address in the process).

The great thing is that you have hard and fast numbers for all of this.

Another way to maximise your website with the power of actual stats is testing different variations of your website to see what is most effective. Once again, Google have a product that allows this and it is the Google Website Optimizer. Yes, it is free too. I have not used this much at all, but it has fast become a favourite tool for web professional all over the world.

I hope this has been informative. I really believe that taking the time to assess the performance of your website, and tweaking it to make improvements is a beneficial activity.

I’ll be posting more in the future about this topic, and I intend on providing some real examples and giving some useful tips on how to make it work for you.

Need help with your website? Contact Stephen on 0438 999 911, or stephen at hamilton dot id dot au.

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Now playing: Paul Simon – Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
via FoxyTunes

What is Your Plan to Ensure the Price is Right?

August 20, 2009 4 comments

Paul Hassing was today agonising over pricing – one of the most important decisions a business must make. He gives some simple, real life situations and then asks some very simple, yet thought provoking questions.

I’ve commented, and some of the other comments are interesting also.

I have often been surprised at the haphazard manner in which many small businesses treat their pricing. Often there is little or no research, it is reactive, and there is rarely a plan. Without a plan the pricing decision is a one-off event rather than a process, and this means it will always be reactive.

Pricing is often considered part of the “marketing mix“, and this makes sense. But having a plan for developing your pricing can greatly help in the financial management side of your business also. In a very basic sense, a pricing plan answers questions like “What is the price now, and where do I want it to be?”, “Why is the price what it is now?”, and “What do I have to do to increase/decrease my pricing?”. Of course, you’ll also want to try to determine how your clients will react, and what they will expect as a result of any change.

By having a plan, you can do things like developing strategies to tie in customers payment performance. This would seek to improve profitability and also cash-flow. Of course, this needs input from both the marketing and financial types in your business.

This is all kind of obvious when you think about it, but without a plan to develop all aspects of your business, including pricing, you’re always going to be reacting to what other people – clients, competitors etc – are doing, rather than getting to where you need to be.

So, have you got a Plan?

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Now playing: Pink Floyd – Money
via FoxyTunes

Categories: Business Tags: ,

List of online social tools I use

July 2, 2009 Comments off

A client asked me the other day what social networking services do I use. I rattled off some of the usual suspects, including this site here.

I was surprised that later there were many more that I kept thinking of. So I decided to make a list. This is just my list, and certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of all the social media tools and services available. I know lots of people who use far more than I do, but most people use far less. Where do you fit in on that scale?

  1. My website/blog right here, where you are now. This is the central tool of my online social toolbox. Perhaps it is my online social toolbox.
  2. LinkedIn In my opinion, an essential way to keep in touch with people in a professional capacity. Do it.
  3. Twitter This has fast become the most frequently used tool at my disposal. Real-Time blogging. Valuable in many ways – chat, track news and topics of interest, make online notes of things to look at later, link to interesting sites and more!
  4. TweetDeck Since it started integrating my use of Twitter across my PC and iPhone (not to mention FaceBook) it has become a valuable social tool to me in its own right.
  5. FaceBook For me personally, a time-sink (more on my use of it below). For many others, indispensable.
  6. Delicious Live bookmarking. Sounds boring, but actually very useful indeed.
  7. Technorati Tracks blogs – a good source for hot topics and interesting conversations (incidentally, I need to claim this blog: ayncsk9rdv ).
  8. YouTube I use this a lot, but I don’t really use it much at all (confused? See below).
  9. Friendfeed Just started using this, and the jury is still out. Sure looks fascinating, but will it be useful? (Update 26-08-09: Friendfeed has been aquired by Facebook; I personally won’t be using Friendfeed in the future.)
  10. Bloglines Currently, my RSS Reader of choice, but I am constantly looking for something better.
  11. iGoogle I am using this a great deal with my work at the moment. Useful for collating various online sources of information (I use it when talking to clients to be able to easily find information quickly)
  12. Google Talk Currently my IM client of choice. It works well, but I wish it did video.
  13. Skype Skype is becoming a ubiquitous communications tool, not just voice. Cheap, useful, works well – love it.
  14. Gmail (including Google Chat) It is better than just email – the search rocks and the IM client is good too (it has video!). Can’t wait for Google Wave though…
  15. Google Apps Lots of hype around this product. I’m not sure it will be a Microsoft Office killer, but it is having solid uptake. I think this revolves around the fact that Google are not pitching it directly against MS Office, instead promoting the ease of online, real-time collaboration.

Some I use a lot more than others, but this doesn’t mean they are less important. For instance, if you discount my viewing the funny stuff and interesting tutorials on YouTube, I actually use (i.e. contribute to and interact with) YouTube very little. However I do regularly link to video’s I think are interesting, so I do direct some eyeballs that way.

I personally get little value from FaceBook, other than seeing up-to-date photo’s of my loved ones, so I try to avoid it. If they switched to flickr I’d be there in a heartbeat! Come to think of it, I should get that ball rolling myself. However, despite my ambivalence towards FaceBook I still update there reasonable regularly. This is an interesting example of convergence – TweetDeck gives me the ability to post my tweets as FaceBook updates. Therefore I do update my FaceBook page reasonably often simply because it is so easy for me to do so through TweetDeck.

Interestingly, one third of what is on the list above are Google products. Without actually writing this list, I wouldn’t have guessed that. I feel surprised, yet I also feel I shouldn’t be.

A few other services worth mentioning that perhaps don’t quite fit into the list above:

  1. Wikipedia I use this heaps – from reading up on things of personal interest to checking what certain acronyms I use everyday actually mean!
  2. eBay I don’t use this personally, but my good wife does, along with millions of others.
  3. GoToMeeting I have only used this recently, in a fairly limited capacity, but from what I’ve seen it works very well. Remote conferences, meetings and demonstrations work well with this.
  4. Google Maps I LOVE Google Maps. especially on my iPhone.

Not every service is for everyone – some things are quite specialised or detailed in what they will do for you. But there is a plethora of tools out there to use. The big question is: Is this tool/service really just going to waste my time, or will it give me a measurable benefit that outweighs the cost? (note that cost is not only money, but time also)

So what do you use? What does your list look like?Ā  And what cool tool do you love that I should know about?

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Now playing: The Breeders – Huffer
via FoxyTunes