Online marketing for 2014 – where to focus your efforts

With a new year fast approaching, it’s time to reassess your business marketing methods. Not just review what’s been working, but what will you need to focus on in future. Don’t you wish you had a crystal ball to tell you what will be “the next big thing” so that you can be ahead of the wave for once? Or to show you how to create a video that will go viral?

 

crystal ball to see into the future
Seeing into the future? I wish. (Photo taken by me at 2013 Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi)

 

Sorry to say I have no such future-foreseeing ability, but I can tell 5 areas that are gaining more of that “must do” status, so you’ll know what to focus on in the coming year.

 

1. VIDEO

Video is BIG. It’s been big for the last couple of years and expected to continue rising in popularity in 2014.

 

More than 70% of businesses use video for marketing. (source: smallbusiness.yahoo.com)

 

It’s hard to find Australian-based statistics, but to see how successful an Aussie can be just look at the YouTube channel by Lauren Curtis who has over 1 million followers. Yes, she’s young and attractive, but it’s her promise of  good “how to” information that brings in the viewers.

 

(Read here for more on what I’ve researched about video marketing)

 

 

2. MOBILE

The world’s use of mobile devices keeps growing. As per the latest annual report from ACMA there were “7.5 million Australians using the internet via their mobile phone during June 2013, an increase of 33 per cent compared to June 2012.”

 

And while many people use their smartphone just to find quick information while on the go, a lot of people will happily sit on the lounge and shop from their tablet – using it as their primary device rather than sitting at a desk with a larger screen.

 

Hence it’s becoming critical for businesses to optimise their website for use on mobile devices. The aim is to create the best possible experience for your visitors, no matter which device they use. If your website doesn’t display well on a smaller screen, or is too hard to navigate, people will quickly go elsewhere.

 

The term “Responsive web design” became mainstream this year, although for an existing website it may be easier to create a “mobile-optimised” version of the main site, rather than recreate a fully responsive design. (More on that in a future blog…)

 

 

3. EASIER E-COMMERCE

If you’re selling online, the simpler you make it to purchase, the better. A long, convoluted process could see people give up in frustration well before they get to that final click. Worse still, holding back crucial information until late in the sales process (such as shipping costs or the addition of GST) will cause lots more to abandon their shopping cart at the checkout.

 

According to this article on the Australian Businesswomen’s Network blog there are 4 main reasons for not completing an online purchase:

 

  • Confusion, often from poor design or insufficient instructions (microcopy)
  • Cold feet about the product
  • Distrust (of your business or the checkout/payment process)
  • Distraction from too many added extras

 

The sage advice is to get some acquaintances (of varying degrees of tech-savviness) to test your process and provide feedback. For existing processes, research whether your shopping cart has added new features to simplify or streamline, and implement them.

 

And if you haven’t enabled online purchasing yet for products that you sell, it’s time to get on board. There are a variety of ecommerce and shopping cart options available now (eg. Shopify) and payment systems can be as simple as signing up to Paypal, which most people feel comfortable with.

 

4. GOOGLE+ and AUTHORSHIP

Google Plus (aka Google+ or even the abbreviated G+) seems to be slow to catch on in Australia, but believe me it’s gaining huge momentum in America. Part of that is being driven by Google themselves – these days they require you to create a Google+ account to gain access to many of their other features and platforms.

 

But people are also catching on to the importance of having Google know more about you, to help raise your ranking. One of the main ways this can be effected is with Google Authorship. This helps Google to track any piece of content that you write and start to assess how much engagement you attract.

 

If you as an author are gaining plenty of attention, it can suggest leadership or authority.  Authorship and Authority have the same base – author is from the Latin “auctor” meaning “founder, master, leader”. Being an author (of non-fiction) implies you have some authority on your subject (this may not always be true, but…).  So if Google can attribute your writing – whether a blog post or a useful comment on another site – it starts to build a picture of your authority.

 

Content that gets a lot of comments and shares appears to be something of value. This forms part of what is referred to as ‘social signals’ and obviously Google+ is going to be the most fertile ground for Google to be able to read those signals.

 

If you’ve seen search results with a photo of the writer beside the listing, that’s a result of Google Authorship. And just as you’re more likely to trust a business that puts a face to its name, links with the author’s photo are more trusted and attract more clicks. To set it up yourself, refer to https://plus.google.com/authorship

 

 

5. QUALITY CONTENT IS QUEEN

The catchphrase “Content is King” is sooo last year.  The quality of that content is now what matters most. All of Google’s algorithm changes in the last couple of years (which you may have heard referred to as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) have been aimed at penalising dodgy links and poor quality sites, so that searchers are more likely to find quality, useful information on the front page of search results.

 

So forget about most of the ‘old’ methods of SEO, and just concentrate on making the content of your website the best it can be. Write (or video, or podcast) what’s useful, educational, entertaining or in other ways valuable to your visitors.

 

Broadcast your content in more than one medium – eg. blog post, video, podcast – and link to them via social posts, to make the most of your content. This captures the broadest audience and encourages sharing.

 

GETTING STARTED

Ask yourself these questions to decide what’s most important for you in the new year (or at anytime, really) and to help motivate yourself into action:

 

  • If I wanted to buy from a business like mine, what would most convince me to proceed?
  • What behaviour would I like to see in my clients? eg. happy to leave a good review, repeat business, not quibbling over price…
  • What’s holding me back? Imagine the best result if you could overcome those fears or obstacles. Then do it.
  • Is my office or work environment conducive to working well? Does it need decluttering, a streamlined filing process, a new coat of paint, or an inspirational poster on the wall?
  • What can I outsource? Is there a task that I loathe, such as bookkeeping?

 

Put some effort into streamlining things for yourself, and concentrate on improving your client’s experience and you’ll be set for a great 2014!

 

 

Author: RobynRHD

I’m a small business web design specialist with interests in social media and other online marketing methods. As my blog intro states: “Steering small businesses in the right direction with what I hope is practical, realistic advice and useful tips, amidst the constantly changing noise and hype. I’d like to help you sort out what you really need and how to go about it.”
I’m a proud Aussie, living in Sydney, and an avid fan of Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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