What are the USPs of your business?

What makes you so special?

That's what customers want to know, that's what investors want to ask.

If you don't know what the Unique Selling Points of your business are, then you could be in serious long term trouble.

Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance

While many businesses start with an excellent short term strategy, many fall down when playing the long game against growing competition. Chasing profits is the first mistake for many.

Identifying a clear and sustainable market is the top priority. After all, why would a sports shoe specialist be selling ladies high heel shoes? Deviating from the core product range could spell disaster further down the road by diluting the company's brand image.

What Is It?

Confusion is the biggest conversion killer. Many brand names are instantly associated with product ranges. In some instances, like Hoover, a brand name is often substituted for a product name.

But the most important thing about your business will be its name, which will become instantly associated in the minds of your customers with the products you sell and the services you offer -whether customer facing or business to business.

Here are a few examples:
price culture - a price comparison site
sport shoes - a sports footwear specialist
Bob's Second Hand Store - second hand goods store

With a niche and a name established, many young business draw inspiration from the leaders in their market. But instead of creating a distinct self image, all too many are drawn to imitating the successful businesses they would like to be.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

It's also a great way to get a budding business killed the minute it's out of the gate. Not because the 'inspiration' sues the new company, although that has also happened -but because the smaller, younger company tries to imitate the bigger, older company with its limited resources.

It's like Bob's Second Hand Store trying to compete with eBay.

Bob's Second Hand Store will never be able to offer the same range of compete on price. So in order to succeed, Bob has to use a different tactic to eBay, perhaps by focussing on a specialist product range and providing superior information and advice while being competitive on price.

There are many hidden opportunities that the big business names have been forced to overlook in their pursuit of profits from generic consumer channels.

So What are the Unique Selling Points of Your Business?

Do you provide better service? Do you have a better range? Are you targetting a specific demographic?

How will you encourage customers to buy from you instead of the big brand names? -Through your unique selling points of course.

These are reasons that people should buy your products and your services. You could be cheaper, you could stock only the very best products, you could simply be a specialist with a strong presenation.

There's are all feathers in your cap and strings to your bow. So while it's prudent to draw inspiration from the leaders in your market, it's also important to assess their weaknesses and mop up any opportunities they have missed.

Contrary to popular belief, there are endless opportunities to be discovered online, in the high street and even through the many business and social networks.

Good luck with your business, plan ahead and remember that it's not about being the biggest, it's about being profitable.

Agency Link Building

I continue to be morally disgusted by the way agencies go about link building.
But, is it morally wrong if Google reward it? Take my friend Merrell Webster for example. He's create a fairly relevant profile page about himself, dropped a link to his homepage, then got bored, let the site and moved on to something else.

That's a perfectly natural thing to do online right?

Also, what kind of a geek driven world would we live in where only those who are serious about online interaction could influence the google rankings with their 'votes' ?


However, it does leave the algorithm wide open for abuse -just like our own Real Life (RL) voting systems.

As always, only Google has the answer...

The Link Ninja -Strikes!!

Seriously, this week has been an unbelievable trudge through the land of spam.
We've been outranked by a competitor with some of the spammiest backlinks I have ever seen. We're talking over 1000 manual comment link spams on blogs, hundreds of directory sites, a sprinkling of paid content and loads of forum post spam. Not to mention profile spam, foreign sites, which make no sense to me, so I have no idea what kind of spam it is.

As an SEO is makes me sad, because Google clearly doesn't monitor the web or reward best practice. If things are well timed and people are really sneaky, then they can get away with stuff.

The Space Wolves blog actually ranks really well, all from best practice. The problem is that people link to brand sites and fan sites, but very rarely to actual retailers. This has got to change somehow or retail is going to seriously suffer, as will the web as a whole. The battleground between retailers, affiliates and fake seller sites is intensifying. The winner will be the one with the most spam unless google does something about it.

So for now the only solution is to go ninja.

Why You Should Never Believe What You read On The Internet

We've had a hilarious debate today on our lunchbreak at work today. The argument was about online resources and while many trusted what they read online, I was adamant that anyone can call themselves a specialist on virtually any authorative website and run virtually unchecked as a phoney spinal surgeon, marketing specialist or marathon runner.

So after losing an argument based purely on opinion, I produced a blog. It wasn't until I logged in and made some changes that my colleagues realised that this was a fake profile. It's amazing they didn't put two and two together when 'sports scientist' Adam shared the same name as me!

Moral of the story: Don't believe what you read online because not online does the internet give you anonymity, it also allows you to create profiles -both true and false.

May Day Google Update Explained

Now the May Day panic has calmed down, I've done some investigation behind it.
Please bare in mind that this is speculation backed up by what other people have said and the trends I've been seeing.
There is nothing official until Google makes an announcement about how they screwed the internet -and they've had 18 days to say something about May Day so far.
Someone suggested:
...this is probably a transition period where the new updates are being implemented which means the “trust factor” for authority sites have been temporarily turned off and naturally the long tail pages lose their place to smaller micro-niche websites during this period since the latter is well optimized. So once the update is complete and trust factor is turned back on, these sites will get back to their original position.
I agree with this, but I don't believe the trust factor and authority will return. 
That's just wishful thinking. Google is not a merciful God!
I believe that it comes down to a couple of things:
1) Google Doesn't Crawl Sites As Deeply
It skims the top level and what the top level links to. Focus on new and fresh content. It stores info from an early crawl and doesn't recrawl pages that get buried in a hurry.
2) Niche Sites Rewarded
Nothing has been said about keyword domain name urls.
Much like domain name urls, niche sites got a boost or stayed the same.
4) Exact Match Long Tail Rewarded
In long tail search, exact match seems to take priority over domain strength now. 
5) Last May Was Poor for Traffic and Sales
I've attached a screenshot of our Google Analytics with some photoshopped additions.
Last May was appauling for both traffic and sales. So until we're at the end of June we can't be sure what kind of impact the May Day update has really had.
* Big sites have lost a lot of long tail traffic
* Smaller niche sites (including blogs) have stayed the same or increased in traffic
* Sites with lots of exact match long tail terms in their content got rewarded. 
We've seen what I call "first come, first serve"
Like FCFS, I believe the May Day update is more Google favouritism of what's new and fresh by focussing their engine on what's hip and happening in the online social network.
This is why google bot doesn't crawl as deeply. If it's not on or linked to from the top of your site, then it's old hat and out of date.
As a result, Google regularly crawls site front pages (I'm thinking of blogs in this instance), which host their latest content there while the more intelligent designs link from the homepage direct to important articles like 'walking boot guide' for example, which will then be crammed full of long tail search terms.
Niche sites write about anything and everything. So it's expected that they'll mop of a lot of the information seeking terms and a lot of long tail with it. And when it's a niche within a niche, it's even stronger.
However, the less savvy sites wil write something like 'walking boot guides' or 'guide to walking boots' when the big search term is 'walking boots guide'. Through exact match long tail these get dredged up.
Also, google still cobbles together search terms from sites. So spammy keyword density is also a factor. Hence why a lot of spammy affiliate sites have apparently done well from the May Day update.
More on site content
More blog content
Site wide optimisation of pages and unique content with various combinations of keywords.
Optimise the homepage meta in the same way that Blacks.co.uk has for multiple rankings.
If our site was already optimised to the eyeballs and our traffic dropped, what then?
To mop up all the other long tail terms massed blog posts would be called for.
Better integration between website and blog could be called for to convert sales from blog posts.

May Day Google Algorithm Change 2010

On May Day Google made an Algorithm change which proved disastrous for a major portion of the world wide web.

What shall forever live in infamy as the May Day Google Algorithm Change or The Death Of Long Tail had an enormous impact on the long tail search results of websites.

Those random, bizarre terms which turned up 1 search a month, but sometimes resulted in conversion stood for a far bigger chunk of site traffic than anyone could have imagined. However, because these terms were so numerous, so unusual in their requests and so infrequent, no one ever thought to both recording them. After all, they could appear once and then never again.

However, they appeared in their thousands. So the bigger a site was, the more random long tail terms it would mop up. But on May 1st 2010, that was no more.

Then where did all the traffic go to?

Many are pointing towards Google's favouritism of the brand domans and high authority sites like Amazon. But if you think about it, that really is a lot of traffic! I guess no one really knows where all the traffic went, but it's had a big impact -especially in online retail.

Time to knuckle down and optimise my pages more than ever!

A Fit Flop

There was reason to panic after all as our FitFlops ranking plummet unexpectedly. What had gone so terribly wrong in the run up to summer for some of our best summer selling terms?

However, it wasn't our SEO description, back link profile, optimisation, meta, content, page or domain in general.

One of the sites we pay vasts swathes of money to had for security has decided to restructure and pull all the links from our case study. That was nice of them!

Unfortunately, they seem to have cottoned on to case studies being an opportunity for etailers to boost their Google rankings -so they threw them out. Not just us, but everyone.

How considerate of them when it's the etailers who are paying them so much money in the first place!

Now to spend a small fortune building our pages back up. As someone who likes to build something up, then leave it to rot in cyberspace, this is really frustrating. My projects should be moving forward, not going back.

Help My Traffic is Dropping!

Today I received my first 'help my traffic is dropping' email. It's not nice first thing on a Monday, I can tell you.

Note: Brand and product names have been replaced with THING and THING THINGS for privacy :)

Help my traffic is dropping

Since the 25th april, visits on THING THING page have gone from 4054 to a low of 779 PER DAY, that is a loss 3275 visits PER DAY in 12 days!! Why the huge drop do we think??

Has the THING THING tv campaign ended? It seems strange that something that was so huge only 12 days ago, is now “nothing” in the grand scheme of things.

Any clues?

Analysing Your Analytics
It's due to a number of factors.

1) THING THING TV campaign has ended
2) Cold weather
3) Uncertainty over general election and as a result the economy
5) Drop in long tail positions (which was to be expected over time in this instance)

1 - THING THINGS are no longer in the public mind. The public mind is always very short.
I'm not surprised that THING has stopped their TV campaign when they cannot manufacture enough of their product.

2, 3 - These are common factors in reducing our traffic and sales on the whole, not just for THING THING products.
Currently visits are down on the whole which impacts revenue. On average we get £1 per visitor.

5 - The THING site now outranks us (which was to be expected), Amazon appears for a number of product searches (which was also to be expected). There's a lot of buzz about THING THINGS online, so our long term traffic wasn't going to remain huge forever. However, we've still got the big traffic and big conversion terms, so there hasn't been a massive impact on revenue.

Looking at our Google Analytics, factors 2 and 3 are having an impact on the site as a whole. In terms of THING THING sales, our actual generation of Revenue (which is much more important than Traffic) seems to be more closely related to our levels of stock.

Pray for warm weather and political stability which will then bring natural search and revenue back up as the public regains the confidence to spend and the need to buy.ill then bring natural search and revenue back up. nd 3 are having an impact on the site as a whole. In terms of THING THING sales, our actual generation of Revenue (which is much more important than Traffic) seems to be more closely related to our levels of stock.

Spam Bots Running Rampant

A couple of duplicate websites have appeared for a particular product we're selling at work.
They're all keyword domains so they ranks very easily and very quickly.
Obviously, we're working with the brand to get all of these sites shut down, so we'll see how that goes. Would be interesting to see just how quickly the product devalues if the brand is slow to act.

But what's more amazing is the sheer volume of spam keeping these sites afloat.
One has done a good job passing itself off as the official brand website for the product, getting it a fair number of natural links. Not a bad effort.

5 other identical sites (with slightly different urls) are all ranked purely on comment spam from blogs and forums. Some 1,500 unique links all generated by bots.

It's both impressive and horrifying!

Doing SEO properly has its many rewards, but I can't help being envious of those who use underhand tactics. However, when our retail site is our long term business, it's not like we can shrug our shoulders and not care if it crashes. But when it takes Google up to a year to act on spam fuelled sites, it doesn't inspire hope or encourage best practices.

Anyway, we're as high as we can be for the search term and once the illegal and counterfeight sites have been removed we'll be top.

In the meantime, it's on to other projects.

Age = Value for Social and Google

It's quite incredible how things build up exponentially. In this instance I'm talking about my Space Wolves blog, which, as many of you will know is my outlet for wargaming geekery.

It's the first blog I managed to keep going past the 6 month mark and in July it will be celebrating its 1st Birthday. It's become so successful, there may even be cake!

It;s success has come from not only offering great content and being able to easily browse old content, but because it's updated regular and it kept going.

And that's the big difference between the big blogs and the little blogs. Age.
I can now see why Google rates age so well, because age is equally rated in the social networks.
The more you post, the more people follow you and your following grows exponentially.

So if you got 1 follower a week and there are 52 weeks in a year, then that's 52 followers -providing that your audience doesn't grow exponentially of course.

Once you get some advertising on there, it makes the world of difference! Because now you're out to make money from your followers. Imagine each of your followers generates £1 a week for you, that could become £52 a week after a year of blogging.

Anyway, this is fast approaching Year One of social media marketing and blogging in a low conversion niche for me. It will be interesting to see what a second year brings.

Considering that I always believed all this social media marketing was a load of hogwash, it's been quite an eye opener. Now I can see how the top bloggers make their money. It's not necessarily because they're any good (in fact, I'd say most of them can't write for toffee!), it's because they've been around for so many years and have naturally accrued lots of repeat traffic.