Clare Associates - Blog

You’re Hired!

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Eight years ago, I had an idea while watching BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ – “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could run a competition like this for local sixth form students?” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Schools are brilliant at identifying academic talent, or sporting talent, or musical talent or even acting talent. But they’re not so good at identifying the sort of skills that employers often value more – initiative, problem-solving, leadership, team work and all those ‘soft’ skills.

With the help of the Tamar Education Business Partnership and several local employers ranging from small firms to big multinationals, ‘You’re Hired!’ was born. We’ve just had the seventh city-wide final, and it was a huge success.

Now, most year 12 students in Plymouth take part in the competition. Each school holds a one-day heat run by two employers, with the best participants going through to the city final in the summer. The final is spread over two days – two very intense days – and sets the students very difficult business tasks.

The 2014 final saw teams plan for various aspects of a new theme park on the outskirts of Plymouth – transport links, marketing strategy, merchandising design,  IT infrastructure, construction etc. As you might expect, Clare Associates led the marketing side of the challenge. As well as an overall individual winner (who claims the title of “Plymouth’s Most Employable 17-year-old” and runners-up, and a best team prize, each employer gets to award their own prize specific to what they would want in an employee.

circletime

It’s a fantastic competition- hugely enjoyed by all the finalists, even if we work them really hard. If you’re a local employer in the Plymouth area, you should get involved. Some of the employers who help to run You’re Hired! do so because they want to put something back into the local community. Others do so because they see it as a good way to recruit.

To find out more, why not have a look at the You’re Hired! website? www.youarehiredplymouth.co.uk  Incidentally, we didn’t produce the You’re Hired! website – it was produced by a former finalist by the name of Sam Duffield. Sam won the ‘Best Future Rail Engineer’ title a couple of years ago. The sponsors of that competition, Atkins, were so impressed with Sam that they gave him a job – not the first time this has happened to a You’re Hired! finalist.

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I get to present the prize for ‘Plymouth’s Best Future Digital Marketer’. This year I couldn’t decide between two equally worthy winners, each with somewhat different skillsets, so I decided to make them both joint winners. Here they are – Francesca Jacks from Saltash.net Community College and Gemma Kerr from Plymouth High School for Girls.

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And since it was me who came up with the idea, I also get to announce the overall winner. So here she is, Amy Leverson from Hele’s School (together with 2011 winner Stephanie Wearne):

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Clare Associates one of the first southwest agencies to gain new Google Video Advertising Advanced Certification

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Google recently introduced an extension to its Google Partners programme for online marketing agencies – Video Advertising. Clare Associates has been a Google Partner since the introduction of the programme and is now one of the first agencies in the southwest to gain the advanced Video Advertising certification.

The certification covers YouTube and Google Display Network video advertising, including video ad production, targeting and reporting.

If you’d like to talk to us about how video advertising could help your business, give us a call.

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Google rolls out ‘My Business’ – what a relief!

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We talk to a lot of small local businesses, and something we usually recommend is that small businesses should claim their ‘Google Places for Business’ record.  This is the record that should show up when you google your own company name, with a link to your location and the opportunity to enter other details – here’s ours:

googleplaces
Usually at this point, the business owner we are talking to groans loudly “Not Google Places!  It’s SO confusing!!!”

So, you’d be forgiven for groaning again, when I tell you that Google Places has been replaced, rolled into the new Google My Business.  But don’t despair – the new My Business setup is a lot easier to use, and seems likely to reduce the problem many small businesses have where they have ended up with multiple Google accounts, and no idea what is connected to which account (One business we’ve been working with recently had 7 Google accounts for the business!  It was very confusing.)

You now have a nice unified dashboard for managing your Page, all in one place.

mybusinessdashboard

 

So, if you’ve been boggled by Google Places / Google Local in the past, why not give it another go?

Check out the official Google announcement here

Get started with Google My Business here

Still boggled?  If you’d like to talk to us about getting your google My Business listing sorted out, why not drop us an email or give us a ring on 01822 835802?

 

 

Tiny changes to your website can make a big difference to your AdWords campaigns and how likely people are to buy from you!

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K9 Meals on Wheels is one of our smaller, local clients. They came to us following a chance meeting at a local business networking group – which demonstrates why old-fashioned face-to-face networking still has a place in our modern world… They told us they had a website but not an online shop. The business sold one particular premium dog food brand – ‘Simpsons Premium’ – via local delivery in the Plymouth / Saltash / Liskeard area.

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K9 came to us to ask if we could turn their basic website into an online shop so that they could take orders online and deliver nationwide, even though they didn’t have the budget for a whole new website. We were able to do that. Their site was built using the WordPress content management system, and so we used the popular WooCommerce plugin to add the shop.

Of course things aren’t as simple as clicking on a button marked  “Install plugin”. (If they were, there would be no need for web developers…)

Creating a good web shop (one that makes things easy for people to spend their money) involves a lot of decisions on the part of the business owner. How should products be categorised? What payment gateway should we use? (Hint: unless you’re a big business that can afford to pay serious money to information risk consultants, you don’t want to use one where card details are ever handled by your site – let the banks and the gateways handle that.) How much should we charge for shipping? Free above a certain amount? By weight? Are we going to sell overseas? How about the Channel Islands?

Just thinking about those kinds of issue is a big step up for a small business that has previously only sold by personal delivery in the local area.

And then there’s the inevitable bug fixing. Why do those thumbnail images look blurry? Why isn’t this particular puppy food showing on the puppy food page?

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we were able to help with all of those things and convert a simple WordPress website into a proper online shop for less than a whole new website would have cost.

 

Clearly the best online shop in the world isn’t much good if nobody knows it is there except for your existing customers. Certainly people search for ‘Simpsons dog food’ etc, but Simpsons is sold by Simpsons itself, major pet food suppliers like PetPlanet and Zooplus and various sellers on Amazon and eBay. Those are all bigger companies than K9 and they also have more of a history. Getting on the first page of search results using organic search engine optimisation would be difficult.

However, a very targeted Google AdWords campaign could well pay dividends. Our client’s budget isn’t big enough to advertise on very broad search terms like ‘dog food’ – most of the people searching for ‘dog food’ will end up buying something other than Simpsons, so it’s just not worth paying Google for them to click on a K9 ad. However, someone searching for ‘Simpsons dog food’ or ‘simpsons premium dog food’ probably wants to buy Simpsons Premium dog food. And that’s all that K9 sells.

So what happens now if you search for ‘simpsons dog food’ on Google? Well there’s a very good chance that right at the top of the search results, you’ll see the ad for K9 Meals on Wheels – ahead of all the larger companies. This shows how AdWords is a great way for a small company to level the playing field with big advertisers by really concentrating on one niche.

 

That isn’t quite the end of the story though…

We noticed that the AdWords campaign was performing very well in terms of things like click-through rate and lots of other statistics that we PPC consultants tend to obsess about. However, the percentage of clicks converting into actual sales was lower than I would expect. What is more, a surprising number of them seemed to be from the local area. Why would this be?

This is when Google Analytics helps. It showed a surprisingly high bounce rate. That is the percentage of visitors to a website that see the first page then leave without clicking anything else. We could see that the sort of search terms people were using were exactly what we wanted – ‘simpsons dog food’ etc. K9’s prices and delivery charges were certainly competitive, and the shop was easy to use. So why were people leaving the site straight away?

And then we saw the obvious mistake.

We’d only added the shop to the existing site and hadn’t considered the text in the header at the top of every page. It still said “Delivering Simpsons Food In Plymouth/Saltash/Liskeard Area”. What does that say to someone from Glasgow or London or Liverpool? It says, to quote ‘The League of Gentlemen’, “This is a local shop for local people. There’s nothing for you here!”

So K9 changed the message. It now says:

“K9 Meals on Wheels – Delivering Simpsons Premium Nationwide

Delivering Simpsons Premium to your front door around the UK with FREE delivery from £32.49”.

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Much better, don’t you think? And it has had the desired impact on sales. From a standing start of not selling anything outside of the local area, now more than 70% of K9’s online sales come via Google AdWords advertising. And because people don’t just buy one sack of dog food and never return, each of those sales is probably a long-term customer who will come back again and again.

But it does go to show that tiny changes to your website can make a big difference to your AdWords campaigns.

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.UK domains are coming – does it matter?

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For many years, website owners in the UK have had a choice of domain names.   Commercial companies registered domain names in the form  myname.co.uk  domains, while non-profits were encouraged to choose .org.uk, universities branded themselves .ac.uk and schools had addresses in the form myschool.sch.uk

But all that is changing.   Nominet, the organisation responsible for managing the registration of all UK domains, have decided it’s time to let people do away with .co.uk or .org.uk, and register just myname.uk.  You can read more about this here.

So what does this mean if you already have a website and a domain name?   Well, if you are happy with your myname.co.uk domain, you don’t have do to anything.   You’ll have the choice to register myname.uk – in fact, Nominet have made it easy for you to protect your brand, and have probably already reserved your right to the equivalent .uk domain to your .co.uk for you.

So once the new names come out  in June,  you can either grab your new .uk and keep it as a backup, or switch to using it,  or leave it for five years knowing that nobody else will be able to grab it as you have first dibs.

Annoyance for Non-profits

The situation is slightly less cheery for non-profits who own .org.uk but not .co.uk domains. If you are a non-profit running a website with your myorganisation.org.uk domain, and someone else has the myorganisation.co.uk, then the owner of the .co.uk gets the rights to the new .uk domain.   This applies even if the .co.uk isn’t being used and is just parked, showing cheap adverts or not working at all – a .co.uk registration trumps a .org.uk registration in the queue for rights.

Does any of this actually matter?  

Many businesses currently trading with .co.uk domains will feel that they need to buy the .uk as well, just to protect their brands.  This means increased registration costs, although the cost of one additional domain is hardly going to break the bank.

Some Internet users are almost certainly going to get confused – was there a .co. in that web address I saw or not?  Some people will no doubt end up at the wrong website.   But this is a less important fear for any business with a reasonable presence in Google search results.  Typing in the web address is a much less common approach to navigating the web than it used to be, most people are perhaps more likely to try a search for the company or organisation name than to type the entire domain name.

With this in mind, I would recommend at the moment against switching your existing website over to a .uk address, if you are already using a .co.uk.  New domains almost always have less search engine presence than old ones, and switching domains generally means some lost traffic, even if you do it absolutely by the book, and have redirects set up.

If you already have a .co.uk domain, then by all means grab the equivalent .uk for brand protection if you want, but don’t switch to it as your primary domain.

If you don’t have a domain of any kind yet, and are just starting out on your website adventure – well, a .uk domain might just be worth a try!  But personally, I think I’d want to register the .co.uk as well.  .co.uk has a lot of history behind it, and it’s going to take a while for the British public to really get used to the new name format.

 

Social Media Marketing: Part 1 – Time to Jump off the Bandwagon?

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Here’s an interesting graph:

social media marketing google trendsWhat this shows is the astonishing surge in interest in ‘social media marketing’ and ‘facebook marketing’ in the last few years, as measured by the worldwide number of Google searches.

I spend a lot of time talking to business owners about their online marketing. One of the most common statements I hear is “Of course I know I should be doing more on Facebook”. It’s usually said with an apologetic tone – as if they feel the need to apologise to me for not marketing their own business.

The thing is, Facebook marketing isn’t right for every business. Neither is Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin and all the other social media networks you’ve heard of. Just as importantly, it’s not right for every business owner.

In this two-part article, I’m going to show you how best to think about your online marketing, and how big a part social media marketing should play.

The first thing I’d like you to do is think about the kind of social media user you are:

Principle One: Know Thyself

Just a snap, but it could help tell a story about this local cafe

Are you going to be the person in your business who manages the social media presence? For owners of very small businesses, this is almost certainly the case. OK, now be honest – are you the sort of person who loves to constantly post details of your life on Facebook, tweets original thoughts several times a day, is always taking quick photos and sharing them on Instagram? If you aren’t, don’t kid yourself that you’re going to suddenly find the time. After all, you have a business to run or a job to do. There are probably other things you should be doing.

If your business is a little bigger, there are social media and PR consultants out there who will manage your online presence for you. (If you’re interested, let me know – I can recommend a very good one.) Obviously, you’ll have to pay them to do this, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that is worth it, which brings me on to…

 

Principle Two: Know the Value of Your Time

You might think that social media marketing is great because most of it is free. It doesn’t cost you anything to post an update on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. Well, you’re wrong.

It costs you time. It costs you the benefits of whatever you could have been doing instead. Economists call this ‘opportunity cost’ and I blogged about it a while ago on this very site. As business people, you probably have a pretty good instinct for the value of your time, even if you’ve never thought about it that way. So if you don’t feel you “have time” for social media marketing, don’t beat yourself up about it. Either pay someone to do it for you for less than the real opportunity cost of doing it yourself, or find some other way of marketing your business.

 

Principle Three: Know Your Customers

21st century marketingNow here is the big reason why particular forms of social media marketing might not work for your business. Who do you sell your products to? If you run a B2B business, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you sell to businesses – you sell to people who work for those businesses. Do you know what those people are like? Do you know what they are interested in? Do you know which social media networks they use?

Social Media Today’s most recent report on UK social media use has some interesting statistics and trends. About half the UK population has a Facebook account, but perhaps because it is so mainstream, teenagers are using it less. (The largest Facebook demographic is 25-34 year olds. If you’re selling to people in this age group who are interested in what you have to sell, Facebook can be a good fit.)

So given how popular Facebook is, if I told you that 64% of visits to corporate websites from social media networks come from one particular network, you’d assume that I was referring to Facebook wouldn’t you?

Nope. Twitter then maybe?

Wrong again. Actually 64% of referrals to corporate websites from social media come from Linkedin. Linkedin might only have 10million UK users (Facebook has three times as many), but they’re mostly between 30 and 64, mostly professionals and mostly high earners. Even more importantly, Linkedin is where they come to talk about business, not play Farmville or watch videos of skateboarding kittens.

 

Principle Four: Know How Your Customers Feel About Your Business

Is the product that you sell one that your customers really identify with on a personal level? Do people ‘buy into’ your brand? Or do the people who buy your product do so without feeling the need to talk about it online?

If your product is the sort of thing that people get excited about and want to talk about and show off to their online friends, then social media marketing – especially networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest may well be a great fit. But if your product is something that people just buy without discussing, then social media marketing just won’t work.

So it’s easier to use social media marketing to sell fancy shoes than it is to sell ordinary shoes. Jimmy Choo has ten times as many Facebook likes as Clarks. Many more people wear Clarks shoes, but they’re just not as invested in the brand as Jimmy Choo’s customers are.

jimmy choo

And if your product isn’t a consumer product, it’ll be even harder for you to use social media as a marketing tool. Let’s say that your company sells various mastic asphalt products. Out of Facebook’s 1.23billion users, precisely one lists ‘mastic asphalt’ as an interest. There are undoubtedly lots of people out there who buy mastic asphalt products – they’re just not interested in them enough to tell Facebook.

mastic asphalt

In part two of this article, I’ll look in more detail at the strengths and weaknesses of the different social network sites and at alternatives to social media marketing. Then I’ll show you how you should decide which is most appropriate for your business.

How can I make my logo fit nicely on my Facebook / Twitter page?

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Otherwise known as: the Wonder of Whitespace.

I see so many otherwise professionally presented facebook or twitter profiles where an organisation logo has ended up with the ends chopped off, or squished to fit, that I thought I’d write this quick guide to getting that right.

A standard Facebook or Twitter icon, is square, like this one: SONY DSC

A facebook icon is (at the time of writing) 138px on each side, when it’s shown tavataon your own page, although it may be resized down to 50 x 50 pixels or even 32 x 32 pixels when it’s shown elsewhere within Facebook, like this :

 

A Twitter profile image could be shown when it is clicked on at a decent size – say  300 pixels square.  But when it appears on your profile, it’ll be just 73 pixels square, and in someone’s tweet stream, it’ll be chopped down to a mere 50 pixels (and given rounded corners too!)  And if it’s a ‘other people retweeted this’ type logo, it’ll be right down to 32 x32px – the smallest size shown here:

twit-pic-tiny twit-pic-sm twit-picI think the first thing that’s obvious from that is that you need a fairly simple image that will be recognisable at small sizes – one with strong blocks of colour can work well.

But, what if you have an image that’s in landscape format, or that is way too tall and thin to fit a square box?  Well you have two choices.   You can chop bits off until it’s square.  This can work well with photos :

SONY DSCBut can be disastrous with logos:

lg-rect-logo-hex-cropped

The answer is, add more space.  You can do this with an online tool such as http://pixlr.com using the  Image – > Canvas Size command.  This expands the area within the image by adding whitespace.

So you start with:

WELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-wideThis is 180 pixels wide, so I adjust the canvas size  to 180 x 180 pixels, to get:

WELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-sq1

Which you can now upload to Facebook and Twitter, and it will sit neatly within your icon box, and not get chopped or squished – it’s a bit larger than the provided space, but it is the right shape, which is the key.  The image must be at least 180 x 180 to upload to Facebook – you may choose to make it larger, although if you have gone for a simplified image that will resize well to tiny sizes, there’s not a lot of point in making it huge.

You might want to make the best of the space available to you, and pop in a simple item to make it fill the box a bit better, such as:
WELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-sq2

And that’s still just about readable at 50 pixels square.
WELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-50x

If you have more flexibility in how the image is shown, you could try playing about with the text size and arrangement a bit, like this:
WELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-32x-nobridgeWELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-50x-nobridgeWELOVETHETAMARVALLEY-200x-nobridgeAlthough a big brand would simplify things further, to an instantly recognisable very simple shape that could be of any  size, this can be tricky for small businesses that find it harder to build instant recognition.

Protect your reputation & customers : be aware of security issues

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It’s a mean old world out there.

You may be running a smallish local business, focussing carefully on delighting your local customers and doing the job better than your local competition, but if you are connected to the internet – and who can afford not to be these days? – you may inadvertently connect to some very unpleasant people who would very much like to use your computer, website, email or social media accounts for their own dodgy purposes.

If you are using a content management system such as WordPress or Joomla to power your website, you have a lot of power that the bad guys could potentially be using. I was just moving a new customer’s WordPress website to new web hosting, and I took a quick look at the files, just to make sure that a couple of items I didnt’ recognise were being currently used by the website rather than being old things left over from previous projects that were no longer in use. When I looked at them carefully, I realised that they had been placed within the website by someone who was clearly up to no good. Some of them were virus infested, others were designed to collect credit card numbers.

How did those bad guys get into the website? Well, there are several possibilities, and it’s hard to pin down which was definitely the culprit.

The Hosting
The site was hosted on very very cheap hosting – probably skimping on security and updates – so it’s possible that someone had got into the server hosting the site and had done bad things to all the sites that were hosted on it.

A Dodgy/insecure WordPress plugin?
Or it could be that someone wrote a WordPress plugin with the deliberate intention of using it as a way in to websites that installed it. Or, perhaps more likely, it could be a plugin that accidentally left a security hole that was later discovered and used to affect this particular site. Be very careful about where you get WordPress plugins from, and if you are not at the point where you can look at the code of your plugins, and see what it’s doing for you, stick to widely installed regularly updated plugins, with a lot of users.

Password Stolen or Guessed?
It could be that a password was sent insecurely in email, and someone picked up the details, either on the email’s journey through cyberspace, or after it arrived on the owner’s computer. Never send passwords by email. It could be that the password was simply guessed – this is why password programs tend to insist you choose a nice long password containing numbers and capital letters. Yes, they can be harder to remember, but they could save you an awful lot of time and trouble.

Cheap hosting is not worth it on many levels. It’s insecure, it’s slow (so customers get a bad experience). It’s well worth spending a little more and getting hosting that won’t kick you in the back. And if you are running any system that uses plugins or apps or third party add-ons of any kind – don’t just click ‘install’ without thinking. Every one is a risk. Only use the ones you really need. And, change your password!

“It’s Not Just About the Website – Marketing Your Business Online in 2014”

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We’re going to be running an online marketing workshop for Launceston Chamber of Commerce on the evening of Wednesday 5th February. The event is free to Launceston Chamber members and only £10 for non-members.

See below for more details:

 

Launceston Chamber of Commerce is holding its first networking meeting of 2014 on Wednesday February 5th. Start time 6:30pm for 7:00pm. The venue will be The Business Centre, Dunheved House (The Old Boarding School). Access on Dunheved Road with plenty of parking.

The subject will be:

“It’s Not Just About the Website – Marketing Your Business Online in 2014”

Mark Poles and Victoria Clare from local online marketing consultants and accredited Google Partners Clare Associates ( http://www.clareassoc.co.uk/ ) will discuss some practical ideas on how to promote your business online. The seminar will introduce a range of topics including how to get people to your website, how to make your website work, how and when to use social media, knowing when to pay for online advertising (and how much to pay) and how to improve your search engine positions.

The seminar will start at 7pm, but feel free to come and network from 6:30 onwards. Light refreshments will be served. The seminar is free for Launceston Chamber of Commerce members, or £10 for non-members. This charge will be refunded should you decide to join the Chamber on the night!

Please book your space with Vicky Geach – contact details below.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Vicky Geach, Chairperson, Launceston Chamber of Commerce
vickygeach@hotmail.co.uk 01566 777835 (Cornish Delicacies)

Clare Associates awarded prestigious Google Partner status

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Google has awarded Clare Associates the status of ‘Google Partner’. We are now entitled to display the coveted Google Partner badge. We are the only agency in the eastern half of Cornwall to have achieved this status.

If you want your AdWords campaign managed by an experienced, qualified professional, you need a Google Partner. Give Mark Poles a call on 01822 835802. We don’t charge for the initial consultation.

In Google’s own words, “Google Partners are online marketing companies, trusted by Google. The badge recognises companies that excel with Google’s products. Their businesses are healthy, their customers are happy and they use Google best practices.”

Google Partner

To achieve the Google Partner status, agencies must have someone who has passed Google’s own professional online advertising exams, must manage at least $10,000 of advertising spend every 90 days and must meet or exceed Google’s best practice requirements for AdWords agencies.

Mark Poles passed the relevant Google exams first time and is both a Google Qualified Advertising Professional and a Google Analytics Qualified Individual. We manage several times more than $10,000 of advertising spend a month. And Google’s own Best Practice rating shows that we perform well above the average of even other Google Partners. But unlike some agencies, we are happy to work for clients who don’t have giant advertising budgets.

In fact, the beauty of AdWords is that you can get a good return on your advertising investment without spending lots of money – if you do things right. We can help you do just that. Clare Associates, 01822 835802, www.clareassoc.co.uk.

AdWords