How to train your website – LESSON THREE: Exercising your website

You’ve got your website fully-trained and on the way to behaving as you want it to. But every website needs to stretch their legs, run about and travel!

There are many many ways to get your website out and about in the digital world and the ones listed below are only a small selection. However, it’s up to you to experiment with what works best for you and your website.

How to Train Your Website - Exercising

The Sprint (getting your website out to your existing users)

This type of exercise for your website is great for keeping your existing users up to date with new content on your website. You know that they’re keen to hear about your news as they’ve already subscribed to your emails, or Liked or Follow you on Twitter. This helps maintain and increase your return visitors.

Emails

The world seems to be divided as to the value of emails. Some say “It’s great because everyone gets my content straight into their inbox!” and other say “Eurgh, people already have too many emails, no one ever reads them and they just get annoyed when they receive them.”

There is truth is both of these, and the only way to find out if it works for you is to try it and see.

Which platform to use?

There are many email platforms out there that are easy to use and that don’t require any HTML or coding knowledge. I recommend MailChimp or Campaign Monitor which are both user friendly and either free or reasonably priced.

Campaign Monitor Icon

The best bit about it is that you don’t even need any design skills that use Photoshop, Illustrator or the likes. Both MailChimp and Campaign Monitor have easy-to-use editors, so you can easily and quickly create personalized, professional content. If you’re looking for something a little more bespoke, no need to worry, you can always hire a designer with coding skills to make you your own template.

MailChimp icon

TOP TIP: The best bit about sending out an email is seeing how well it does. How many people opened it? How many clicked on your links? This is where it gets exciting. Experiment with subject lines, perhaps change your content around, increase or decrease the length of your email and don’t forget to compare how well they’ve done. If you can get an account with A/B testing, even better! (A/B testing is where you produce two versions of one email, split your email list in two and see which gets a better response.)

You can also:
  • Add a Subscribe button to your website
  • Add a Subscribe button to your Facebook Page
  • Send out the link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or GooglePlus for users to subscribe
  • Add perks for sign up, e.g send out a free guide or document, give your subscribers access to events first.
Content Ideas for Emails
  • Latest news
  • New products
  • Changes to regular service e.g. earlier closing times
  • A round-up of recent blog posts / events etc
  • Notice of future events
  • An Employee Spotlight
  • Competition

MailChimp is free for less than 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails

Campaign Monitor have a monthly and per campaign option, starting from as little as $9 a month for less than 500 subscribers and 2,500 emails, or $5 + $1 per recipient.

The Long Distance Run (making your website visible to potential new customers)

Attracting new customers can often seem like a hard and difficult task. And it is. Don’t forget that even if your potential new customer is receptive to what your website has to say, it doesn’t mean that they are willing to take the next step and become a paying customer. To convert these people in paying customers, you need to establish trust and authority. But first, they need to hear about you and this is where you need to approach them in their own territory.

Emails

Yes, emails feature in the long-distance run too. Emails are great for ongoing engagement with your customers and will keep them up to date with your most important and latest developments and of course, your blog posts!

Social Media & Networking

With more than 200 social media out there (here’s a full list of all the social networking sites), it would be foolish to try and get your brand or company out on all of them.

Social networking is all about creating a community – one where users feel like they’ve got some kind of connection with a brand or company. This is of huge value to you – you can generate trust and respect from your users, and increase your visibility to attract new users.

But how do you choose which social network to invest your time in? Currently (and yes, this is likely to change by the end of this year even), the social media platforms that I’ve found most people have at least heard of if not used, are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Whilst it may be easier and perhaps the lazy option to go with the social network that you already know or have heard about, it helps to do your homework. For example, there’s no point investing a lot of time and money in a social network if none of your target audience is actually using it.

Have a look here for the 10 most popular social networking sites from 2011 >

Due to most SME companies and brands focusing their efforts on Facebook and Twitter, with some on Google+ and LinkedIn, these are ones highlighted in this blog post.

Facebook

Facebook IconIN A NUTSHELL: A social working site that connects people with their friends and family and share what they’re doing, where they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: Uploading photos, sending private messages, uploading videos, sharing public status updates.

NUMBER OF USERS ON FACEBOOK: Over 1 billion (as of September 2012) users

HOW CAN FACEBOOK WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: By building a community that have a common interest in your company, there is a ready and waiting audience who are keen to hear your updates. You’re targeting people in a place where they’re already hanging out which can make your users more receptive. Facebook can help create an emotional bond with your existing users, build up your email list by cross-promoting the two and engage your audience with rich content such as videos. 

Twitter

Twitter IconIN A NUTSHELL: A social network and microblogging platform that allows its users to share text-based updates, known as ‘tweets’ in 140 characters. Photos, videos and links can also be attached to these updates.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To keep in touch with friends and colleagues, and to find out latest news from companies, services and brands.

NUMBER OF USERS ON TWITTER: 500 million registered users (as of 2012), with over 10 million users in the UK.

HOW CAN TWITTER WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: For many users, Twitter is a daily habit often checked via their mobiles. It is a way for brands to connect directly with their users and vice versa. Many users are using Twitter to complain about companies and brands so if you’re not on there, you’re not going to know about it. Businesses can use Twitter to market their service or product, keep users updated with their latest news and gain customer feedback.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn IconIN A NUTSHELL: A business-orientated social network that allows users to share and exchange knowledge, ideas and opportunities.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To find jobs, to connect to individuals in their industry as possible clients, to find prospective new hires, to network with their industry, to promote their business, to keep in touch with people.

NUMBER OF USERS ON LINKEDIN: 200 million users (as of January 2013)

HOW CAN A LINKEDIN COMPANY PAGE WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: Businesses can use LinkedIn to increase their visibility, attract new talent, establish credibility, connect with top prospective candidates and expand their marketing. Just as with Facebook and Twitter, your company page can attract followers, who will receive any updates and insights that you post in their feed. Any blog posts or updates that you make to the site are most likely to be relevant to share on this platform too.

Google+

Google+ IconIN A NUTSHELL: Google+ is a social networking platform that combine many of Google’s existing components. It allows users to group connections into ‘circles’ so you can easily choose who you want to share your updates with. As well as circles, Google+ also has Hangouts (where users can virtually ‘hang out’, Huddle (group chat) and Sparks (where users can find out things that they’re interested in – a bit like a search, within a search).

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To connect with new people who weren’t easy to connect with on Facebook, to build awareness with a new audience, for self promotion, to keep up to date with people and companies of interest,

NUMBER OF USERS ON GOOGLE+: There has been much debate about how many users Google+ really has, but according to Wikipedia, Google+ has 500 millions registered users (as of December 2012)

HOW CAN GOOGLE+ WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: As Google owns Google+, companies with a presence on Google+ are more easily found via search. It is also a great opportunity to be connect with your followers. Companies have the ability to add a +1 button to their content, which is a bit like a stamp of approval – it lets their friends see what they like and also the rest of the web on Google Search.

Examples of how to engage users via social networks:
What Example
Invite people to comment on your blog post <Blog post name> Do you agree or disagree? Let us know.
Ask people to take an action if they’re going to your event or if they agree with what you’ve written about We’ve teamed up with our local artists and will be holding an exhibition at XXXX on 20th June. <event link>Like (or Retweet) if you’re coming.
Highlight news that your users need to know about IMPORTANT: New changes to our opening times. <Link to page>
Include a quote or interesting fact from your blog post “85% of people who take our XXX course, sign up to XXX” Have you done our course and what did you think?
Let your users know exciting updates / content is coming up Watch this space! We’re about to release a video and we would love your feedback.
Invite people to sign up to something If you would prefer to receive all the latest updates straight to your inbox, you can sign up to our email newsletter here <link> It takes less than a minute and is hassle-free.
Behind the scenes exclusive content <Photo> And the scene is set for tonight’s event. Will we see you there tonight?

 

These are only just a few ideas. And these ideas are all based around your company. There are many social marketeers who believe in the 70/30 rule, whereby 70% of your social media updates are based around your business and 30% is based around ‘insider’ information that relates to your industry, but not necessarily to your company.

Other content Ideas for Social Networks
  • Videos from other resources
  • Immediate responses to current affairs / events in the company
  • Links to related content on other sites
  • Ask questions. Use Polls if possible (available on Facebook)
  • Link for users to sign up the newsletter
  • Answering questions – if you’re on a network such as Twitter, search for topics that your company is an authority on and answer them directly.
  • Include quotes that highlight what you’re company is all about

Experiment and see what works best for your audience. Take a look at your competitors and see what they do.

Other important platforms to share your blogs and pages on:
Reddit

Reddit LogoReddit is a social news website and entertainment website where users can submit content (limited to link or text). Other users then rank the content ‘up’ or ‘down’ which determines its position on the sites’ pages.

By submitting your content to Reddit, you have the ability to reach thousands of users.

It’s imperative that the content you submit is relevant and in the right group as it can be taken down if not.

 

Delicious

Delicious IconDelicious is less of a social networking site and more of a platform where users can bookmark their favourite websites. Users can tag each bookmark with a term of their choice and when visitors search on Delicious, they can see each link tagged with that phrase.

Users use Delicious mainly to keep track of interesting links they come across and discover new content. By submitting links to Delicious, you can share your content with thousands new users globally.

 

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon LogoStumbleUpon is a discovery hub that throws up websites based on your preferences and others’ recommendations. Once the user has completed their profile and customized it to their interests, they can click the ‘StumbleUpon’ button (either accessed direct from their toolbar or from the website) and discover new websites.

 

Inbound / Outbound links

Amongst many things, websites are ranked by search engines, not only by the number of inbound and outbound links, but by the quality of them too. The more authoritative and respected search engines find the website that your site is linking to and from, the better visibility in search.

The higher the relevance of the site linking back to your website, the better quality the inbound link. It is generally harder to influence other websites and get them to link to your website which is why inbound links are considered of greater value than your outbound links.

Inbound link = link directing users to your website. These are also known as backlinks

Outbound link = link directing users from your website to another website.

5 ways to gain inbound links
  1. Ask. What other organisations and companies are out there who would be happy to feature a link to your website? Could you the same for them in return?
  2. Create great content that people will want to read and share with their friends.
  3. Comment on related blogs. This is a great way to introduce your website to others, and most importantly, your expertise. Don’t forget, add value, don’t just sell.
  4. Guest blog on another site. Increase your reputation and gain traffic to your website by writing an article for another site. By including your website address within in, you’ll be getting exposure to many users that might never have come across your website.
  5. Join in with forums. Use resources such as Quora to answer questions directly related to your industry. Even better, if you’ve written a blog post that relates to someone’s question, include a link to it, with a short explanation of what it’s about.
And the most important of all… Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth happens everywhere

Whilst Word of Mouth is one of the most important ways in which you can help drive traffic to your website and ultimately business, it’s one of the hardest to achieve. Mainly because unless your service or product is top-notchingly exceptional, people won’t talk about it. Word of mouth is the passing of information orally from one person to another and in this way, personal recommendations come with a lot more weight than any great campaign from a brand or company.

Companies are now having to above and beyond the expected to ensure that they are being recommended. And personal recommendations are like gold dust. It’s more common for people to complain to others about your company or brand, than compliment.

 

This can all seem somewhat overwhelming, especially as there’s no hard and fast set of rules as to what you should or shouldn’t do. Polls for some companies work well, but videos don’t. So how do you know what to invest time in? Once you’ve worked out where your target audience are spending their time, experiment, analyse and try different things.

The next lesson is all about working out just how healthy your website is. Are you ready for it?

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  1. [...] completed Lesson Three: Exercising your Website, you know your website is getting all the exercise it needs. But even so, is it healthy? You may be [...]

  2. […] Is your website fully-trained? Well then, it’s time to move onto the next lesson, ‘Exercising your website’ > […]