Archives for February 2010

What's my 'brand'? The good AND the bad…

Toy sampling megaphonePeople say to me all the time: “But Nikki, YOU are your brand”, and to a certain extent that’s true. I’ve tried to work hard at being in the ‘right’ places, giving the ‘correct’ advice, and helping out. I want to be known as fair and helpful, I want people to trust me, and I want people to know that if I can’t help them, I’ll tell them.

And it seems to work. I have a steady stream of new clients, enquiries every day, my team is busy on a constant basis, and I THINK my brand is good.

But that’s the problem isn’t it? We all like to THINK our brand is good. And it’s fab when people say nice things about us; I’m the first to show off a testimonial or a nice thing someone has said.

It’s not the full story though is it? What about the people saying not so nice things? i’m not talking about competitors, or people with a vested interest, I’m talking about people who have dealt with or tried to deal with us. What are they saying that might not be so good? THAT’S as important as the things that are being said that make you feel great.

There used to be some saying that if people were happy, they told X number of people about you, but if they were unhappy they would tell Y number of people (with Y being significantly larger than X!).

If that’s true, don’t you want to know what’s being said about you?

So, in the interests of open-ness, I’m giving you carte blache here to tell me how YOU see my brand. This isn’t an invitation for anonymous nasty comments, or a chance for my competitors to stick the boot in – it’s an invitation to a conversation about MY brand.

Tell me what’s good. Tell me what nice things you’ve heard about me. Tell me the things you know I want to hear ๐Ÿ™‚ Then bite the bullet and tell me what’s bad. Tell me what’s downright dreadful, and what makes you think twice about working with me or recommending me. Yes it will be hard to hear, but honest and constructive criticism helps us all to build our brand, grow our businesses, and make sure we’re on the right track.

And when you’ve finished telling me what’s good and bad, post a similar blog and ask people what they think / know of you.

Go on, I dare you ๐Ÿ˜‰


Creative Commons License photo credit: altemark

Apologies for my absence – but I have a good excuse!

19jan10aIt’s been a little while since I updated, but I think I have a good excuse ๐Ÿ™‚

Some of you may remember me posting about my pregnancy – well Olivia Niamh was born 2 weeks early on 20th February, taking us a little by surprise.

See, I’d planned to be a good little blogger and practice what I preach. I’d written and set up scheduled blogs for all of my clients, I’d planned the blogs I was going to write for myself, and then I was out of time – so no blogs from me for the last week!

Here in France there’s an obligatory 5 day stay in hospital, and we arrived home on Thursday, which gave me a couple of days to get back into the swing of things. Clients have indeed been receiving emails at 2 and 3 am, and I’m still a little behind (yes, everyone who’s met me, it’s the only time the words ‘little behind’ can be used in the same sentence as my name ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) but we’re getting there.

In the meantime, why not check out some of my recent blogs over on Birds on the Blog:

Normal service will be resumed pretty soon, as soon as we have Olivia trained up ๐Ÿ˜‰


Olivia Niamh Gisbourne

How easy would it be for someone to impersonate YOU on Twitter?

heinzThe Tweetvine is abuzz today with the story of Michael Werch and his experience of ‘twitter-squatting’. Michael took on the persona of Heinz, and tweeted as them for a short while, to see how many followers he could build up, and what the consequences could be.

As it happens, he only managed to build up 300 or so followers (rising now!) and a couple of weeks before Heinz jumped on him and complained to Twitter, who changed his profile to make it clear that he wasn’t an official representative.

The interesting part, to me, is this quote:

The experiment also yielded some important findings that should be recognized by all major brands with little social-media presence. For two weeks I spoke unrestricted as the company. This in its own right is a potential PR nightmare. It should also be noted that Twitter is a low-cost marketing and communication mechanism for large brands; no more than the salary of someone currently working for them or someone they hire to tweet.

For two weeks, Michael tweeted as if he were Heinz. The people following him thought he was Heinz. It took Heinz that long to do anything about it.

Now let’s not forget that Michael wasn’t out to do harm. He tweeted only positive things, was a good ambassador for the brand, and probably did them no harm.

But let’s imagine for a moment that he hadn’t set out with quite so altruistic intentions. Two weeks is a long time to have someone you don’t know and have no control over representing your brand on any Social Media platform.

This ‘experiment’, to my mind’ brings to the fore a whole lot of questions:

  • Why did Heinz not have the twitter name registered anyway?
  • Why did it take them solong to realise he was doing this?
  • Why didn’t they get in touch with him direct?
  • Why are they not embracing what he’s done and using him as an advocate?
  • Why have they STILL not done anything with the profile they had taken away from him?

Right now, you may not think Twitter is important to you or for your brand online. And that’s fine – I’m not here to argue that point.

But how important would Twitter become to you if someone with negative intentions towards you decided to ‘hijack’ your name and tweet as if they were you? How important will it be when you decide to give it a go and can’t get your brand as your Twitter name? How important is it going to become when an account purporting to be you builds up thousands of followers that you have no control over?

Now extrapolate that out to Facebook, You Tube, Google Buzz, and any one of many other Social Media platforms. How much damage could be done to your brand before you even noticed?

Seriously people, even if you have no interest in these platforms right now, you should be monitoring and checking to make sure they’re not being used against you.

Are you monitoring?

How to start a business in France – a resource you HAVE to know about!

This is a bit of an unusual blog post, because it’s not about a service I provide, and it’s not about a client of mine. But it IS a massive recommendation for a website and a lady you need to know if you’re thinking of starting a business in France.

valerie-lemiere-auto-entrepreneurValerie runs Start Business in France, a fantastic website full of help and advice for anyone looking to start and run a business in France. The blog offers free advice, and the forum is a mine of useful information and one on one advice from Valerie herself.

In addition, you can pay extra (and I do, frequently!) to speak to Valerie on the phone and get help with your French business issues or queries.

I’ve not found setting up in France very easy, and my situation was compounded by paying someone who turned out to be more than a little useless to help me in the first place – but Valerie has steered me in the right direction, helped me out and even made phone calls on my behalf when things have gotten a little too much for my basic French!

I can’t recommend this lady, and her website, highly enough – so if you’re looking to start or run a business in France, then make sure you bookmark her now!

You can also follow Valerie on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook. So what are you waiting for?

About Start Business in France in Valerie’s own words:

Launched in October 2008 to keep me busy during my maternity leave, Start Business in France has just celebrated its 1st year and has amassed over 25,000 visits and an amazing 105,000 page views. Families moving from the UK, North America or even Australia to France are now finding some reliable information in plain English to help them start a business in France.

Buzz – night, dears…

I don’t often have guest blogs here on the blog, as I’ve usually got enough to say myself!

However, things have been a little hectic recently so today I’m delighted to share with you a guest blog from Dave Thackeray, a man who came into my life about 5 years ago on a long day in Spain that involved watermelon, golf and ball gowns. ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  If you haven’t checked out Dave’s blog, please do!

And of course, please have your say in the comments below!

Buzz – night, dears…..
1444417344-GoogleBuzzLogo68Sharing. It’s what we’re all about these days. New? Hardly. But where we used to share without talking about sharing, we spend more time expressing our desire to share than we, well, share.

Such a shame. All that time spend on vapid activity rather than committing to action itself.

And just when the buzz about Twitter had started to bottom out, Twitter is all about Buzz.

Google Buzz. Can you hear the faint flutter of wings on prayers?

I’m a spectacularly open-minded kind of geek, despite what you might already think. I’m prepared to buzz around Buzz like a moth to a blazing bulb.

It wasn’t a big job to unwrap it. “Would you like to Buzz?” went the auto-invitation, echoing memories of sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms waiting for the klaxon to sound for a date with destiny.

First time, it was a hollow gesture. Click, clunk, nothing. Gmail as it was last month, last year. A premature proposition.

The second time was barely more intriguing, although by now the Buzz icon had implanted itself squarely betwixt Inbox and Sent Mail on signing into the Gmail interface.

“Share content, start conversations,” blurts Google. Wow – this is what we’ve all been waiting for! Why didn’t someone else figure this out? Why is it 2006 all over again?

There are legion anti-climactic moments in the life of a man. Growing a beard, fixing the toilet.

Buzz felt like waking up with stubble. You’d seen it before, thousands of times. In a cloak known as Twitter. Only Twitter isn’t so cumbersome. Twitter is HTML5 to Buzz’s Flash.

It feels all so… Google Wave. Lonely as a cloud. Like the UK servers after a hacked copy of Gotham Racing invaded a friend’s Playstation pre-release.

There are a few people hanging around. A few people kicking the tyres. Ooh, I can link something! Hey, look, I can type something and IT APPEARS ON MY SCREEN!

It’s a contentious perspective. Or is it? To me, Google has arrived way too late to the party.

While Facebook continues on its inexorable rise to becoming The Web, Google has dropped its HUD.

Wave flails, drowning. Steve Jobs makes a derisory private/public statement about the search titan. Microsoft, the soft and cuddly bear of tech so often these days, prepares to release Windows Mobile 7, which could crush the phone fortunes of both these companies.

There’s something distinctly derogatory about the moniker flying around for Buzz users. Buzzards, buzzing off.

Mashable claims 50% of Twitter users dislike Buzz or have ‘already done with it’. Most, I suspect, haven’t even bothered to switch it on…

It’s been quite a month for undersights. First, angry Jobs unleashes the iPad in a less than sanitary climate. Its industrial design has great bodyform. Now there’s Buzzards.

And in the fastest-moving geek scene ever known, Buzz still feels so… kneejerk.

I’ll caveat everything I just said. It’s early days. Buzz could be amazing.

But I think someone just switched off the lights.


Dave Thackeray fuels ordinary people with extraordinary ideas. He’s a pen for hire and a higher pen you’ll never find – Dave’s 190cm in his stockinged feet. Join him at on his quest to write a blog post of note every day until 2011.

I want to run a competition – what is the law?

A few people have asked recently what the law is relating to competitions, so I turned to my favourite online law company, Lime One for some answers.

They sent me a link to this fab PDF which will help you to know:

  • What a competition IS
  • What the information about a competition must contain
  • Tips if you are running a competition
  • When is a competition not a competition

It’s worth a read if you’re considering running any sort of competition and want to stay on the right side of the law!

Why we DON'T offer cheap link building campaigns

Link AssuagedWe get a lot of emails asking us if we offer link building campaigns.

We get even more offering us the chance to outsource our link building activities. Mainly from AOL or Gmail addresses, with no website to back up any claims, and at very low prices.

We also help a lot of clients who have been bitten by these cheap link building campaigns and are penalised in Google, or worse, have been banned. Client who suddenly find that they have unwanted links uploaded to their own sites, and links to their sites from unsavoury places. Clients who don’t even realise anything is wrong until we point it out to them.

While there is no doubt that well placed anchor texted links on sites that search engines see as authoratitive and relevant are good, we believe that these should be built organically and over time. NOT by buying 500 links you have no control over for $20 and risking the reputation of your website.

How can you get good links back to your website? Off the top of my head:

  • Have good content people will want to link to
  • Post on relevant forums and boards without spamming
  • Ask clients if they will allow you to have links on their websites
  • Make sure you’re listed in any relevant directories
  • Blog in various places
  • Comment on relevant blogs without spamming

That’s a good start.

Buying a load of dodgy links that appear in weird places and serve you no purpose isn’t going to help your SEO, it’s going to get you into trouble.

That’s why we don’t offer link building campaigns.

Creative Commons License photo credit: P/UL

When traffic being LESS can be a GOOD thing

Heather_R's Twitter StatsYeah, I know, it sounds weird doesn’t it?

One of the things I talk about a lot is increasing traffic to your website, but I’ve recently had a conversation with a client in which I had to remind him that less traffic can actually be a GOOD thing!

Let me explain. Getting lots of traffic to a website is great – it’s great for the stats, great for the ego and great if keeping your job revolves around how many people visit your website. Yep, great. But it’s NOT great if that traffic isn’t buying. Or if that traffic costs you a lot of time / money / effort. Or if that traffic doesn’t stick around, or never comes back.

In those scenarios, that traffic is just pointless numbers. And then it’s not so impressive. eh?

In my client’s case, his Google Adwords campaign was bringing him a LOT of traffic. It was also costing him a lot of money. And making very few sales. We took out the generic keyphrases and replaced them with a lot more niche phrases, and his traffic went down by 40%. He panicked. He’d logged into his Google Analytics account and found out that his traffic was down by 40% and felt that there was something massively wrong with what we were doing.

Until he looked at his cost per sale.

As Google Adwords is a pay per click system, he had to pay for every single click he got to his website from that source. And on the generic traffic he was creating, those clicks cost A LOT. The keyphrases we replaced them with were more niche, less competitive, and cost a lot less. So he saved money.

But that’s not all.

The keyphrases we replaced them with were also a lot more focused, and more likely to bring INTERESTED customers to his website – customers who picked up the phone and bought, who emailed and asked questions and who purchased his services.

Niche and targeted traffic is always going to be better for most websites than wide and generic numbers – it’s more likely you’ll find people who are interested in your products or services, and that you’ll spend a lot less money / time / effort attracting them.

Huge amounts of traffic is great, but at the end of the day it’s cost per sale that counts – is your traffic generating enough sales to cover it’s cost in financial and time terms?

If not, maybe it’s time to realise that LESS traffic can be a GOOD thing…

Poll your customers for new keywords ideas

It’s not always easy knowing which keywords and phrases to target when optimising your website – and as I say in my latest blog over on Birds on the Blog, it’s all too easy to fail to see beyond high traffic and high competition phrases.

So why not try asking other people what THEY would use to search for you? This great tool from Seed Keywords allows you to set up a scenario (eg “If you were searching for a website that sells XXXXX, what would you type in to Google?”) and then invite people to contribute, anonymously.

If you can get enough people to contribute, you can get a great overall picture of the type of things that current and potential customers could be typing in to find you – and I bet there’ll be a few surprises!

Set up your ‘scenario’ then promote it via:

  • Email to current customers
  • Your Facebook fan page
  • Twitter
  • On your blog
  • In your email signature
  • On LinkedIn
  • Everywhere!

In fact, why not post a link to your scenario below and I’ll promise to drop and make some suggestions on each and every one.

Social Media Marketing – An Old Story

We’ve published our latest article, “Social Media Marketing – An Old Story

The world of business is going mad for social media, with a recent study suggesting 92% of businesses in North America are using it in some way.

This is exciting of course, but in this excitement, many seem to have forgotten that while some of the technology may be new, the phenomena is not.

In fact, this interactive methodology has been at the core of internet marketing since its very inception. Web pages are, after all, interactive and multimedia by their very nature. We were clicking, viewing, commenting and sharing, long before the term โ€˜social mediaโ€™ was coined.

In fact, โ€˜socialโ€™ has always been as aspect of marketing. So, how can the lessons of the past inform the way we approach social media marketing today?

Read the rest of this article.

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