We’re a dynamic bunch; we consume more content on more devices and from more channels than ever before. If we require information about anything at all, we can get it at the click of a button. We don’t need it forced upon us.
So will 2014 differ from 2013? Will the next big social media platform launch? Will wearable technology come to the forefront?
For the majority of SMEs, the most important difference will be your MVE – Minimum Viable Effort. As 2014 approaches, you can no longer afford to ignore user experience, content marketing, analytics or search engine optimisation. Pro-active members of the small community have set the benchmark quite high, proving that you don’t need a million dollar budget to engage with customers online. Those who fail to improve their MVE risk falling behind the competition.
Where to start?
If you don’t have a responsive website right now, please go and have one built. As consumers of information, we are more demanding than ever before, so user experience is vitally important when designing a site. This takes time and a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs. Find someone willing to put in the effort to create a site that will provide an easy and positive experience for your clients.
Can’t afford a new site?
Ask yourself whether you can afford to ignore your mobile customers, then find an agency that can build on WordPress and ask for a responsive theme. For the average SME, the cost of this is relatively low and well worth it in the long term.
Not convinced your clients will visit your site from a mobile device?
A quick look at your analytics data will tell you how many people come to your site through smart phones and tablets. A quick search on Google will tell you how many people are likely to use their mobile devices to access information and complete transactions in the next six months. How much business can you afford to lose if these people cannot access your site?
Consider these facts presented by Google:
79% of people who don’t like what they find on one site will search for an alternative site
48% of people claim that if a company’s site doesn’t work properly on their smartphones, they assume the organisation doesn’t care about their business.
Today’s generation consumes online content to make an informed decision. As a business with an online presence, you can rely on the sales copy on your site to make someone buy, or you can provide potential customers access to valuable information including how-to guides, video tips and blog posts. It will help convince them that you are the best-equipped to provide a solution.
The value that you provide with the additional content will improve the likelihood you will remain in their thinking during their purchase process, whether that be days, weeks or months. If you can hook them by getting them to subscribe to your blog or newsletter, or get them to follow you on social media your chances improve again.
Content is what will drive your social activity. People won’t share your ‘about’ page. But they will share your video or blog post. This helps to amplify your online reach and help to build your customer base.
Search Engine Optimisation
Small businesses have every right to be suspicious of the industry that has grown out of SEO. Many owners of small organisations have been fleeced by cowboys offering to place them at the top of Google searches with link deals too good to be true.
SEO is an important part of your online presence, however. Your site should have at least some level of on-page optimisation. Without this, any page on your site can be interpreted by Google very differently to how you intended. Without on-page optimisation, search engines may not navigate your site the way you would like your visitors to navigate it.
Find an agency that takes an holistic approach to content, social media and user experience, rather than a one dimensional keyword and links strategy. Ask other small businesses for recommendations. If you would rather give it a go yourself, there is plenty of information available to assist you – check out Moz.com.
Understand analytics basics
Google Analytics is a free product and yet so many SMEs have not implemented it or are not actively monitoring data.
By taking the time to learn just the very basics of analytics, you will gain a better understanding of what your visitors are doing on your site. This will help you understand what your customers are looking for and subsequently deliver it.
Monitor your GA on a regular basis, even if it is once a week. Be wary of the vanity metrics; ‘total visitors’ for instance can be fun to follow but if your bounce rate is high, all it means is that a lot of people are landing on your site, not finding what they’re looking for and leaving.
Keep an eye on your bounce rate, identify whether or not you’re attracting new visitors and if your content encourages returning visitors. Monitor the visits coming from each of your key sources including organic traffic,email newsletters and social media. Understand how many people are visiting your site from a mobile device and how they navigate your site compared to desktop visitors.
Make sure you have the ability to correctly attribute your wins. Create a ‘thanks for enquiring’ page for people who submit via the contact form. This will help you identify where these visitors are coming from so you know where to focus your energies. The same goes for when people subscribe to your newsletter.
For further information about Google Analytics check out ‘6 Google Analytics Metrics Anyone Can Understand’.
We don’t need to preach the wonders of social media to you anymore, do we? Of course not.
But your audience will expect more from you in 2014. If you have been using social media as a channel to hard-sell, stop now. This is not what it’s for and your audience will not tolerate it. We’re on social media to engage, not to be sold to.
Your audience will expect better design, more activity, more engaging content and more platforms so they can interact with you on their favourite site.
So you’ll want to consider either Facebook or Twitter, or both. If images tell stories about your business, take a look at Instagram and Pinterest. If you have an audience of early-adopters or you have an active content marketing strategy, you’ll want to be on Google+. Can you provide your audience with valuable information through videos? Jump on YouTube. And you should almost always have a LinkedIn company page.
Know how fast your website is
The speed of your website can dictate the user experience and have a large influence on how well your site ranks on Google.
So it’s important to understand how fast your site is. Head to GTMetrix.com and enter your home page URL. It will provide your result from two of the key metrics; Google’s Page Speed and Yahoo’s YSlow.
If you want to know how important speed really is, check out ‘Choosing Your Web Host : Don’t underestimate the importance‘.
Test your website and newsletter
You should begin to create a culture of testing within your business. Testing will help you work out how to improve the user experience as well as your ability to generate leads from your existing traffic.
Test your website to improve your conversion rate. Use a software provider such as Optimizely to test your web pages. This will allow you to create alternatives to your home page and deliver one of three versions to new visitors and measure the response. You may find that slight changes to either the headline, image, content or colours may drive more leads and more business.
Test your email newsletter. Send it on alternate days or at different times to see if your open rate improves. Test your subject lines, the number of articles within your newsletter, the way you write and the call to action buttons to see if you can improve your click rate.
All the best with your online marketing activity in 2014. Keeping up with the rest of the world can seem like a lot of work, but as your customers become more online savvy, they will expect more from SMEs in the near future.