25 January 2010

Marketing your Website

Web 2.0 and Social Media

Only a few years ago, social media was something most people thought of as a tool for teenagers and college students. That has changed. Facebook now has more than 80 million active users and the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users is the over-25 age group.

If that didn't make you sit up and take note, it should have. Your customers and potential customers probably have a computer and probably have high speed Internet access. And if they are not already using social media of some kind, just give it a few months. They will be.

Think you are immune? How did you access this article? There is a good chance you came to it online. The communication mogul of the 21st century is the World Wide Web and the tools that make it work have advanced so much in such a short time that the buzz is now about Web 2.0.

What is Web 2.0? No, you don't need to throw out your year-old computer or buy new software. Web 2.0 really relates to the growing trend to make the web more interactive, collaborative, innovative, and social.

If you favor relationship marketing over the hard sell, then this is good news for you. The growth of interactive social vehicles on the Web supports anyone who prefers their marketing to be personal. Blogs, wikis, business-oriented media sites, and social networking sites allow relationship oriented business people to potentially touch exponentially more people than any community networking event could. Why? Because they not only have the power of the World Wide Web and its spider web of connections behind them, but they are structured to make viral contact more than a concept.

If you have a product, service, or interest about which you are passionate, there may be no easier way to connect with potential customers, colleagues, and others who need what you have or know than through blogging.

If the idea of creating a blog makes your palms sweat, fear not. Not only are blogs easier than ever to set up (even a complete amateur can create one in a few minutes these days), but you may not need to create one - at least not immediately.

Comment on Existing Blogs

Do an Internet search of key words relating to your interest. Let's say you are an Audiologist. Do a search using words like "blogs about hearing loss" and go exploring. Read what is being posted. Submit comments. If this feels a bit foreign to you, think of it exactly as you would if you were at a face-to-face networking event chatting with folks. It is really an online way of doing just that. The difference is that you will potentially be touching many more people, including potential customers. Be a frequent visitor to sites that are related to your professional expertise and you may find yourself becoming the go-to person for those in need of that expertise.

Create A Blog

Consider starting a blog, too. It hasn't ever been easier to create a blog. Both Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) and Blogger (www.blogger.com) provide free blogging that is so easy to set up, you can do it in less time than you can eat lunch. By creating a blog, you have the option to introduce the subjects you want to address the concerns of your clients and potential clients. If you are an Audiologist, that might include information on advances in the area of implanted auditory prostheses, tools for addressing hearing loss amongst baby boomers, hearing screening protocols for newborns and school-aged children ... or virtually any other area of the field.

Consider treating your blog as an interactive newsletter. That is, write a blog post and email your list (clients, colleagues, friends, and others) that a new item has been posted. Tell them the subject of the post, give them a hyperlink to it, encourage them to leave a comment, and suggest that they let others know about your blog. Keep the discussion going when you get comments by responding to them.

What else can you do with your blog? Use it as a way to collect customer feedback. Do an informal survey. Add a link to an RSS feed service. Include an event calendar. The possibilities are endless. Keep your focus on fostering and nurturing relationships that will further your business in an organic way and always, always make sure your blog and website are linked.

Facebook and Its Relatives

Facebook is just one of the many social networking sites on the Internet. Other well known ones include Ning, MySpace, and LinkedIn. Some sites, like Facebook and MySpace, have a broad focus. Others, like the business-focused LinkedIn, are specific in focus. What they all provide is the chance to touch more people than you could ever touch by yourself, no matter how many networking groups you belong to.

Some sites, like Facebook, provide the option to add a customized page you can use to promote a business. Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, and other sites also allow the creation of groups (such as groups focused on the field of audiology). By joining these groups, you connect with a virtual network of colleagues. You also become more visible to potential clients who need your services.

And You Don't Have to Drive to an Event

Not only does Web 2.0 impact the possibilities for relationship marketing in the 21st century, but it allows you do it from your office or home instead of attending meetings and events. Time is precious, fuel is expensive, and the options for networking are many. By spending just a bit of that precious time and only enough juice to power your Internet connection, you can market your business, deepen your relationships with clients and colleagues, and reach potential customers who might not find you otherwise.

Of course, like all relationship marketing, it takes good will, time, and a great product or service to win customers. But your customers are out there - and they are probably online right now.

19 January 2010

Does Your Business Stand Out Online?

Lacking any information to the contrary, many businesses still think that all they need to do to get new clients is to put their name and face in the Yellow Pages or online social directories, get some professional looking business cards, a website and Voila! It's the old adage "build it and they will come".

Trouble is, that's what their competitors are doing also and in this day and age, it's just not enough.

Does Your Business Stand Out Online?

Most advertising on the Web follows a time-honored format, although some might call it a time-worn format as it does little to differentiate itself. You can bet that a high percentage of this advertising will be ignored and the money spent on it will be wasted.

So how does a company stand out from the crowd online?

Thanks to an oversupply of similar text, claims, and presentation - coupled with a short 21st century attention span - your website has less than ten seconds to move a visitor to action. If it doesn't, that visitor will click away to another site, and then another. Therefore, it's critical that you find a way to break through the noise your competitors are making. But even that's not enough.

Statistics show that even the best-looking websites generate conversion rates of under one percent, so for every 100 visitors you do manage to get, less than one will call or email you. Sound bleak? Thinking of redirecting more of your advertising budget back to the Yellow Pages? Don't. You're on the right track - you just haven't leveraged all the power available to you online.

One-to-Many Communication. On-on-One Feel.

Most websites are little more than electronic versions of Yellow Page advertising. For the most part, they don't encourage interaction beyond the obligatory "Contact me for more information" plea. These sites don't encourage trust any more than their print counterparts. They don't give visitors the warm-and-fuzzy feeling that a face-to-face meeting would. But they can.

Searching for a local service provider online can be a daunting prospect, but even more daunting than the search is deciding which provider to use once you get to the page, especially since most websites promise the standard good service, competitive pricing and high quality.

So how does a business differentiate itself from the sea of competition? Web video makes this possible on a grand scale. Thanks to rapidly improving technology, it's easier than ever to add that warm-and-fuzzy, face-to-face element to your site, replicate an in-person interview, and provide your visitors a chance to check you out before picking up the phone. With Web video, you can present an interview that addresses all the questions and concerns of potential clients. You can keep them on your site longer and give them insight into the "business behind the business." In a way that wasn't possible even a few years ago, business owners can now speak directly to their audiences and showcase their personalities and areas of expertise. This is especially helpful if you are a professional service provider.
Any business that relies on conveying trust-ability will benefit from this type of web marketing. Really, it's one-to-many communication with a one-on-one feel. It's the perfect ice breaker and an efficient means of generating the interest and trust needed to compel potential clients to make an appointment and do business.

A high-quality Web interview placed strategically on your site is a huge timesaver for you and prospective clients because you reach a wide audience in minimal time. Potential clients get the information they need to pre-qualify - and pre-sell - themselves before they call.

Online video delivers some of the best ROI of any advertising medium today and if set up properly, actually ranks higher than text now by the major search engines like Google. Short of spending valuable face time with a potential client (often times a poorly qualified potential client) there is simply no better way to forge a personal connection with them. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you get the most of your online video marketing efforts.

10 Tips for Making the Most of Online Video

1. Make Sure Your Video is Professionally Done.
This is an absolute must. The whole point here is to establish credibility and trust, but you'll do the opposite with a poorly executed and produced video. Yes, many of the videos you find on sharing sites are mediocre at best, but that is changing rapidly as companies begin to see the value of promoting themselves in this manner. In fact, a recent Permission TV survey found that 67% of 400 hundred top executives intended to focus their online marketing efforts on video in 2009. The rush is coming - find a personable, engaging interviewer and a top notch production crew to really stand out.
2. Submit Your Video to as Many Outlets as Possible.
While YouTube is the clear leader here, there are many other video sharing sites worthy of consideration. Here are some others you won't want to pass up:

    • Google Video     • Yahoo! Video     • Daily Motion     • MySpaceTV
    • MetaCafe     • Revver     • Veoh     • Blinkx     • Break

3. Embed Your Video on the Front Page of Your Site.
Don't hide what's going to become one of your most effective selling tools on a dusty inside page. Get it out front. Customers and search engines will love you for it.

4. Find Out What Search Terms Your Potential Clients are Using and Put Them in Your Video's Title.
If you don't know what words clients in need of your services are typing into Google and other search engines, get professional help or use some of the resources featured on this page. Once you've identified these terms, use the most popular in your video's title.

5. Make Your Tags and Descriptions SEO-friendly, too.
Most video sharing sites let you tag videos with keywords and post a short description, so get the most out of these by sprinkling in the search terms you've identified.

6. Don't Forget Your Thumbnail.
A thumbnail is a still shot from your video that appears along with search results. Don't waste this chance to present yourself in the best light possible - choose a key moment from your video, preferably one where you're smiling as you speak with your interviewer.

7. Link Back to Your Site.
Put your URL near the top of your video's description. You'll get a higher search ranking and potential clients will quickly learn where to go for more information.

8. Interact With Your Viewers.
Most video sharing sites allow viewer comments. Use this option to answer questions, respond to comments, and further promote your business.

9. Consider a Pay-Per-Click Campaign.
Natural search engine optimization, while effective, takes time to bear fruit. In the meantime, you might want to jump start the process with a pay-per-click campaign that gives you a sponsored search listing. You can learn more about PPC advertising at:

    • www.google.com/intl/en/ads
    • sem.smallbusiness.yahoo.com/searchenginemarketing
    • advertising.microsoft.com/search-advertising

10. Add New Content Often.
Search engines look for it and so do potential clients. Keep your content fresh and up-to-date and keep visitors coming back for more.

With an ever-increasing stream of competition, it's more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. These days standing out means maximizing your online presence and leveraging the technology to present the unique advantages of you and your firm. There's no better way for a growth-oriented business to build a solid and secure future than by using effective and affordable online video.

Contact the H2L team today for a quote on a professional video for your site, its cheaper then you think!

18 January 2010

The makings of a Great Website

In real estate, it's location, location, location. In website design, it's content, content, content... followed very closely by eye appeal, which is where a graphic designer can play a substantial role.

The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) portion of a website's foundation must be considered first to develop essential keywords. These keywords are then used throughout the site copy, the attending blog, and the marketing articles which will proliferate incoming links, something the ever-hungry search engines love.

If a gorgeous movie star becomes severely ill, her beauty becomes unimportant. This same concept holds true for website development. By building the functionality first for a website, and then adding beauty - an appealing graphical look - secondarily, the purpose for having the website is well served.

Many people who read web pages and view their images are motivated by what they "like" versus what they "need," so the key role of graphics assumes an importance right after functionality, SEO, and content. The content plus the graphics appeal are what leads to conversion on a site.

Your website is a marketing tool. It is the key way you gain presence and creditability on the internet. It's the way you turn eye appeal into buy appeal. The appearance of your website is the representation of all of the ideas you want to put forth under the umbrella of your business and they deserve thoughtful consideration prior to the creation of a graphical appearance.

1. Have you defined your target market and do you know what will appeal to them visually?

2. What is the actual purpose behind your site? To sell, to entertain, to enlighten?

3. What is the product you are offering? How should it be positioned in the market and how should it look?

4. Is your graphics theme consistent? Is your branding carried throughout the site as well as in your product line?

5. Have you gathered fill in photos or created consistent graphics such as bullets that match in color and typeface?

The design of pages in a website must first be functional, and then have eye appeal graphically. A great web designer will use the appropriate software to permit all jpeg and gif files to either load quickly or to hyperlink the images to load in a new page. A great web designer will use alt tags to describe the images in the coding behind these images so that the search engine spiders and read them and rank the page accordingly.
Some key graphical elements that can be used in website design are:

1.Branding. Think of branding as predefining what a company is all about in the minds of its clients. It encompasses all the factors that makeup both the recognition and interaction parts of doing business with that company. Branding helps to establish a sense of perceived value for your company, your product and your delivery of a service. Simply by seeing your graphics pieces, people will begin to identify with what values you are striving to achieve.

2. Logo. Your logo should represent what your company stands for and what function it performs. The best logos are sophisticated and simple, and they are challenging to design. Your logo should have a strong, balanced image with no extras to clutter its look. Bold logos are easier to see than those with thin delicate lines.

3.Tag Lines You would be well served to research the tag lines of other companies before you design your own. These few words can become part of the branding that tells people graphically who you are, what you do, and how you do it. My tag line is "Websites that work for you."

Try to keep the size of your web pages in the vicinity of 50K. When you hire a website designer, this size web page will still give a relatively fast download time on a standard modem, although dial up access to the internet has waned with the insurgence of broadband and FIOS. If your site or any of its pages loads slowly, you will have to ask your designer to size down the graphic images, replace them with a smaller images, or replace them with the HTML default bullets, horizontal rules, or colored heading text.

Are YOU ready to create a powerful brand and website that delivers? The outstanding  H2L Team are waiting to take your call.
Tel: 021 559 0800 or complete  our contact form

13 January 2010

The 2010 New Year Checklist for Your Business

Every year here at H2L Online Marketing we make it a point to come up with a list of 10 things you need to be thinking about in the new year. They may be related to marketing, or running your business overall, and they’re usually something we relate to things we have to do in our own business.
1. Use “Cause Marketing”This is the year that you should identify your business with a worthy cause and either donate a percentage of profits to it or contribute to it in some way. And if profits or hard cash don’t fit, consider donating employee time. Then in your marketing campaigns, your marketing materials and sales pitches you should talk about what you’re doing and why it’s important to you. Your prospects and customers increasingly want to do business with a business that cares and has moral obligations, and they’re looking for you to let them know how you fit the bill.
2. Use Social Media with Email Marketing - Finally get your act together with social media this year. Start with Twitter and Facebook, dont forget as part of our SEO service we do this for you. Then set your goals on how many Twitter followers your business will get or how many Facebook fans you’ll attract. Make sure you tell your email marketing recipients to follow you when you send out a campaign. And don’t forget to post your links to your email campaigns in your Twitter account and Facebook pages and ask people to join your email list. All of these marketing vehicles work really well together and feed off of each other. 3. Think SEO Make a point of checking your SEO ranking with EVERY piece of content you add to your site, Think position, think search when writing articles or content for your site. H2L offers content writing for SEO at a very affordable rate.
4. Make This the Year of Customer Service - People talk about companies that listen to them and that treat them well so you’ll want to go above and beyond with customer service this year. This is especially true since companies like Facebook and Twitter are taking off and becoming a platform for people to tell the world how they feel…about you. This might be the year you get your customer data all in one place so it’s easy to find a customer when they call. 
5. Cut Costs - Keep cutting costs because we’re still in the economic weeds. Look at your top spending categories and see if there’s money to be saved. Is your rent too high? If you’ve got a number of years left on it you might call your landlord and ask if you can renegotiate “stepped” payments. Ask for a discount this year and tell them in the future years you’re willing to pay at bit more per square foot. If you’re spending too much on shipping, start calling other providers to see if they’re competitive. Doing things like this in January will add up for the rest of the year and help you to profitability.
6. Listen to Your Customers - Listen and watch what your customers are saying about you. Sign up for Google Alerts with your company name as a keyword, but also with your competitor’s names so you can see what is being published about them as well. Sign up for a free TweetDeck account and do the same. You’ll see what people on Twitter are saying about your company, your competition and even your industry, up-to-the minute for an unlimited number of keywords. Then chime in to the conversation and address the issue or try to get a new customer. Word to the wise: make sure you’re transparent with who you are, you don’t want to “hide” as someone else, tell them you’re with your company and you want to help out or answer any questions.
7. Find New Customers, Inexpensively - Google is where people go these days to find businesses they’re looking for. So set up or build on your Google Adwords pay-per-click efforts. If you don’t know where to start with Google try our PPC service, we manage your account through our Google Professional account.
8. Build Your Email List - Offer your clients a free sign up on your site to your monthly newsletter.
9. Hire People Who CareIf you’re lucky enough to be hiring for your business, this should be the year where you have an ample choice of people who need to work to choose from, so it’s your pick. Make sure you select people who have the same passion as you do, and people that fit into your business culture like a glove. Make sure you ask the questions that count; you want someone who can handle situations, someone who can communicate and someone who you trust. Don’t settle for second best, your customers will notice.
10. Embrace Word of MouthAt H2L Online Marketing over 50% of the people who sign up for our service hear about  us through “Word of Mouth” . In 2010 you’ll really need to take a good look at what you’re doing to spur word of mouth. As noted here, customer service is important, the quality of your product or service is important and the entire customer experience is important in order for word of mouth to start. 
2010 is poised to be a great year for growing your small business. Good luck with your venture, and remember we are here to help.

08 January 2010

Free Websites

So you need a website, you checked on Google and there are tons of free websites available, wow great! or is it. There is an old saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch" Well on the web as in life  that is very true. A free website is exactly that free.
Parking your site at a free host is often like building a house on sand.  It may be quick and and it may seem easy at first, but I can almost guarantee you it won't last long.
I don't think many people realize the number of disadvantages that go along with creating free websites. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the subject.

Disadvantages of Free Websites

  • Limited web page space
  • Can't add interactive features (chat rooms, message boards, games, online ordering etc.)
  • Search engines often ignore them  A HUGE disadvantage!
  • Your visitors may doubt your credibility
  • May have banners and/or pop ads on your homepage and/or all of your pages
  • Long and hard-to-remember web address (instead of yourdomain.co.za)
  • No guarantees of site availability and longevity
  • No branded emails addresses (you@yourdomain.co.za)
  • No help and support options 
  • Often  not be free forever - watch out for the 30 trial catch

Advantages of Owning Your Own bespoke built co.za website


  • Easy to remember website address (yourdomain.co.za)
  • No banners or popups
  • Easier to rank in search engines (Google, Yahoo etc.)
  • You have more control over the look and feel of your website.
  • Multiple branded email addresses (you@yourdomain.co.za)
  • Plenty of web page space for site expansion
  • No worries of site being removed unexpectedly
  • Looks more professional
  • More flexibility for design and functionality
  • Help is readily available 
Have a quick look at our Web Design page and do the comparison yourself

Many beginners gravitate toward the free websites because they feel that having a professional site built  is too expensive and/or too difficult.
I realize the website building process may be intimidating for you if you've never created a site before. You may be worried about spending your money on something that is unfamiliar and difficult.  I can totally understand that.

Let me assure you that building a profession website is not expensive at all.  The average website costs between R5000 - R8000. Consider the cost of placing one advert in your local newspaper and or community free ads. The cheapest we could find is R450 per advert, we are talking tiny black and white community free ads, which lets face it most people just throw away or use it to line the floor of the birds cage. If like your website this was to be shown to an audience every day you would be looking at R 164,250 a year. Does a website build sound expensive now? I thought not.

Search Engines Will Ignore You!


This is probably the biggest disadvantage of going the free website route - especially if you are trying to make money and attract free traffic to your site. There's no proof that you can never get listed with Google or Yahoo with a free website, but it's evident that the cards are stacked against you.
Search engines are an excellent source of free traffic so you definitely do not want to miss out on the great, targeted traffic you can receive.
Years ago it was super easy to get listed no matter what kind of site you had (free or paid). But now with all the spam techniques going around (particularly with free websites) the search engines have gotten very selective about who they add.
Here are the reasons I believe it's hard to get listed in search engines with a free website:
1. Too small and "unimportant." Most free websites are generally small (under 5 pages) and offer very little information about a focused theme or concept.  They also tend to have more links to external sites than they do to their own internal pages.
Search engines are looking for meaty sites that offer information on a particular theme with a good amount of content -- at least 10 pages.
2. No upkeep. A lot of people that build free websites often abandon them within a few weeks or months which causes a lot of broken links, missing images, etc. 
The search engines are getting smarter and for all we know they may have red flags in their algorithm (the formula that determines page rankings). So when they see that a site is hosted on a free web host's server, they may rank them lower...if at all. 
For example, I wouldn't be surprised if the search engines had a script that says something like: "If site X is hosted at this-free-domain.com then "ignore".
I have no proof of this, but due to the fact so many people email me with this same search engine problem, it can't be a coincidence that people using free websites have trouble getting ranked.
Do a search for just about anything on Google now.  I bet you'll see very few (if any) free websites on natural results (left hand side of Google - under sponsored links sky line)
3. No links pointing to the site.  Because of reasons 1 and 2, most other webmasters and important web directories won't link to a free website
They may not look as professional and people don't want to give a free link to a poorly developed site with pop-ups and banners all over the place.
Plus, they also know that free websites generally have short life spans for various reasons.
Search engines use formulas and can see that no one is linking back to your site so they may ignore it.  These days, the kinds of websites linking to you is  very important for achieving a good search engine rank.
The bottom line:  Free websites get very little respect out here on the Internet.

Have a quick look at our SEO page for more information on Search Engine Optimisation


Free Websites & Ecommerce Don't Mix

It amazes me how many people tell me that they want to start a business website but don't want to spend any money. 
I personally don't know of a single successful website owner that built their business website on a free website.
If you were starting an offline business, you'd plan on investing some money right?  Well, doing business on the web is no different despite many beliefs.  If you don't plan to invest anything to start a business then I'd have to question your business plan.
There are NO SHORTCUTS to success.
You can't expect people to take you or your website seriously if your website address starts with something like is http://myfreesite...Or worse still they just cant find you on the internet.
And if the address doesn't tip your visitor's off, the banners and pop-ups you'll be forced to display sure will.  Also, the  free templates  they provide are generally very basic and lacking a professional appearance.
Think about it. Wouldn't you be a little suspicious if the web address of a business was something like http://members.aol.com/users/myhomepage.html with pop-ups and banners instead of www.companyABC.com? Would you buy something online form a website like that? Or even pay the physical business a visit? Probably not
Web surfers are becoming much more Internet savvy and they can smell a "cheap site" a mile away.  You don't want to lose credibility and potential customers because your site looks cheap.
Not to mention, you can only do some much with a free website So if you want to add shopping carts, order forms and additional interactive features you probably won't be able to do this because most free websites don't offer that kind of functionality.

More Problems with Free Websites that offer Free Hosting

It is quite expensive for these companies to run a free hosting service because the company has to pay for the space and the bandwidth (traffic) to host thousands of web sites. And since they offering these sites for free, some companies find themselves loosing money very quickly.
They try to keep their service free by slapping banners on the member's pages, hoping that people will click and purchase products...but think about it...how many banners have you clicked on lately?
Then some may try to redeem themselves by charging a "small" fee for their service. And of course, if you aren't willing to pay for your site, you can say "bye bye" to all of your hard work.

Almost all free website providers let you know in their terms and conditions that there are NO GUARANTEES when it comes to keeping your site live forever. Which means they reserve the right to remove your site at anytime, regardless of how much work you've put into it.

I hope this article helps you make a more informed decision when starting your business on the internet, if you would like H2L to give you a free quote, just complete our quick enquiry form and one of our team will come back to you within 24 hours. I  think its only fair to end as I started. If your serious about your business online, remember "there's  no such thing as a free lunch"