Google Webmaster Tools

Google XML Sitemaps Increase your SEO – Check Now

SEO is an important part of an online administrator or digital content manager. An effective website is not just appealing to human visitors – they are also be easy for online spiders and bots to understand and “crawl” their content.

That is why XML Sitemaps are important – They tell the machines where each page can be found, how important each page is relative to the rest of the site and how often it is updated/changed.

Through the use of simple plugins (or manually accessing the file if you’re more technically competent) a sitemap can be created and modified. By modifying the file (robots.txt), you can change how often robots should crawl your site for specific URLs, change the priority setting of an individual page or even block the bots from crawling certain pages altogether. A situation I often do this for is if we have historical blog posts that continue to be heavily trafficked. I’ll want to increase the priority of those posts slightly higher than newer ones so as to ensure they continued to be crawled and that any change that’s made is more likely to be picked up by Google and Bing.

Sitemaps can easily be edited to tell crawlers which pages are worth crawling and which are to be ignored – particularly if you use a pre-designed sitemap.

Which WordPress Plugin Is Best For Sitemaps?

If you’re one of the millions of web admins who use WordPress, I highly recommend the Google XML Sitemaps plugin by Arne Brachold. It is easy to setup and best of all, is very easy to manipulate should you wish to feature a particular page or skip another. It also makes a robot-friendly URL (ours is https://creativeagencysecrets.com/sitemap.xml) meaning it is good for your SEO too.

How Optimise Your Sitemap’s Effectiveness

Google Sitemap MenuUltimately there is no point in creating a sitemap if it’s not easily crawlable by robots such as Google. Therefore, testing and uploading your sitemap using Google Webmaster tools is logically the next step.

Go to Google Webmaster Tools and add your site. Usually, the easiest way to verify your site is to use your Google Analytics logins. If this doesn’t work or you wish to set up an account without access to Google Analytics, you may have to upload an html file to the site.

Upon verifying your site, click Sitemaps in the left menu which can be found under the “Crawl” section. Next, Add/Test your sitemap by clicking the “Add/Test Sitemap” red button in the top right of the screen.

Add_Test_Button

In the textbox that appears, assuming you haven’t changed the default URL (I’d recommend you don’t), all you should have to enter is “sitemap.xml”. Google will then check to ensure it’s a valid URL and will alert you if there are any problems it detects (see screenshot below) – fortunately, Google also provides explanations as to what causes these errors which usually helps get to the root cause of the problem quickly. Normally though, a first time, clean installation won’t have any issues. Errors are usually caused if your website has been around for a while – especially if the URL structure of your site has changed or you’ve manually changed URLs of certain pages post-publication.

Sitemap_List

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Hopefully though there are no major errors and that you’re able to fix all minor issues. Google will show how many pages you’ve submitted (it naturally skips certain ones like eCommerce pages) and how many it’s actually indexed. Remember, the more pages Google indexes, the better Google knows your site and the more likely it is to send genuinely interested visitors to the pages you want them to visit first time.

Success

Dashboard

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Global vs New Zealand awareness of native advertising

Copyblogger published a great infographic and detailed survey on what people thought native advertising is all about.

And  we did our own mini version for respondents in New Zealand.

Whether you fall into the “I know it” or the “I know nothing” group, we would love to get you along to contribute to the debate about how we should use Native Advertising in NZ.  19th June, 2014 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm.
Copyblogger's 2014 State of Native Advertising Report
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

How to improve a ‘cold’ email introduction

Many businesses use direct email and purchased mailing lists for new business development.  It’s a tried and tested technique.

No cold calls

No more cold calls or emails. [Image credit http://muddycolors.blogspot.co.nz/] 

But it only works when you have a VERY compelling and well-written message.

Here’s an example we received

Would you like to have just one invoice to pay every month for all of you property maintenance? And only have to remember one number. Then give us a call and let us and our team do it all for you. From a one off job, or a complete maintenance package that works just for you

I have attached our company profile for you to see who we are and what we do

Also here is a link to our website [included but not hyperlined]

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries or quote requests

Kind regards

 

Improve your cold email text

Thanks very much for getting in touch.
As you probably can see I run a marketing business and my eagle eye couldn’t help noticing a couple of things you could improve with your approach email which I just got.

You forgot the company profile attachment.  And the link isn’t formatted correctly to open your website.

But the main thing your email lacks is a strong reason for me (the recipient) to DO ANYTHING.
Take a read of a couple of our blog posts about writing cold emails
Do you see that both give me a reason to reply?

I want to make you an offer

Will you let Creative Agency Secrets re-write your cold email so that it actually gets prospects to reply or click through to your website?
We will show you the techniques that not only get read, they get prospects to take action and start a dialogue with you.
If this sounds like the sort of marketing you’d like to be doing, let’s talk on the phone next week.
I have got time free on [name date] – any time after 10.30 am.
Thanks for your time

 

 

Regards

 

 

Rebecca Caroe

 

 

P.S.  There is no obligation to work with us after the phone call… but we are sure you won’t be wasting your time.

 

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10 Year Anniversary

10 Year Anniversary Promotion

In a previous article, we discussed ways in which you can promote a business anniversary. Recently, one of our clients celebrated their 10th year in business. To celebrate, we did three things. We created an eBook to highlight the changes in the industry over 10 years and where the next 10 years may take them, a timeline to show the company’s milestone achievements and a classic anniversary sale.

What must be remembered is that an anniversary is not just a giveaway to thank your customers/fans. It’s also a great opportunity to get closer to your customers, generate more sales and build your future audience.

 

The eBook

The eBook was created to give readers a summary of the major changes in the industry in the past decade as experienced by influential individuals within the industry. The changes were analysed by 10 expert individuals who are heavily involved in the industry but all play a different role. This provided an interesting range of insights, each focussing on a different area of the industry.

The eBook was promoted predominantly on Social Media and on their blog. A large portion of the social media audience and website visitors are not on the mailing list – and ultimately, the purpose of the eBook was to generate newsletter signups.

To download the eBook, customers had to enter their email address whereby they would be both sent the eBook instantly as well as added to the mailing list if they weren’t already on it. This was achieved using an autoresponder. In the email with the eBook, we also mentioned the anniversary sale and gave them the discount code.

 

The Sale

10 years in business, 10% off everything – hence the discount code “10years10%”. In the previous article, we mentioned that there were a variety of sale options to choose from (historical pricing, free shipping, free gift per $10 spent). We chose to utilise a simple 10% off by process of elimination. The products our client now sells are very different to the ones they sold 10 years ago so a historical pricing promotion (where the prices would be what they were 10 years ago) wouldn’t be nearly as effective. As the value of the products is quite high, but the products are generally small, free shipping is not a big incentive as it usually equates to a minimal discount. The free gift per $ spent option was ignored for a similar reason; no one wants 100 caps with every order.

The code was promoted front and centre on the client’s homepage, on their social media accounts, those who downloaded the eBook and to their existing mailing list.

The 10% discount code was enabled for 10 weeks, which not only tied in to the 10-year theme but also allowed enough time for anyone who was going to use it, to use it. We also left the coupon open for unlimited uses – if someone wanted to buy something then use the same code again a couple of weeks later, they could.

 

Timeline

A timeline is a nice, visually attractive way of showing progression. Although they can be complicated and contain too much information, simply picking 10 most important events to highlight is a simple way of avoiding clutter and confusion. We therefore chose to feature just the big product redesigns, new releases, and company milestones (such as the 5000 unit produced) during their 3652 days in business.

To make a timeline easily which can be featured on your website, I’d recommend TimelineJS. TimelineJS is a free, opensource tool, which enables you to build interactive timelines from a Google Spreadsheet. The great thing about TimelineJS is it can be embedded into any website.

 

The results

Our client’s mailing list increased (ironically) by 10%. The number of downloads for the eBook however was considerably more than those that were newly signed up. This is because those already signed up to the mailing list were sent links to the eBook directly for download – they didn’t have to re-fill in their details unnecessarily.

The client received a number of sales utilising the 10% off discount. Surprisingly though, even though the code featured largely on the homepage, social media and in the text to those who received the eBook, there were still a handful of people who paid full price.

copyright & trademark symbols

The Legal Side of Marketing – what you need to know

Whether you are a young entrepreneur looking to venture out into the world of small business, or you are a high level marketing

copyright & trademark symbols

Image from auocoms.com

firm, you need to fully comprehend the ins and outs of basic marketing and law.  It’s important to know what will get you (or your clients) in hot water, or even worse, put out of business. Claiming ignorance will not work as a defence when you’ve been dragged into court over trademark or copyright issues. There is a very thin line between what is protected and what isn’t; the following are ways in which you can assure that you are properly protected from a costly and time consuming lawsuit.

Trademarking

When it comes to names, catch phrases and images it’s generally a good idea to check a Trademark Database. If you find what you’re looking for in the database, it doesn’t mean that you cannot use it; however, you would be wise to ask permission from the trademark holder. Unless you are a direct competitor of the trademark holder, they tend to give or sell permission. This rings especially true in regards to using stock photos for websites and catalogs.

Copywriting and Ad Copy

If you make your living writing ads that capture and engage an individual into purchasing your product, it might behoove you to check and see if your country has specifics on what is and isn’t acceptable. I check in with The American Writers And Artist Inc frequently to ensure that no new laws have been passed regarding copyright or trademark infringements.

It astounds me the number of websites and marketing ads that promise unobtainable results due to their products. Perhaps the most abused clientele are those attempting to purchase weight loss diets, pills, and exercise equipment. An example of this would be using false testimonials in advertising.

Copycatting Isn’t Only for Serial Killers

Anyone who has ever watched a crime show eventually sees an episode about a copycat serial killer. It’s inevitable. Now, I’m not saying that those in marketing that copy other people’s work are perpetrating as severe a crime, but nonetheless, it is a crime (and like all copycat serial killers, they will get caught).

It’s a simple concept to grasp. It was cheating to copy a friend’s homework in school, and it’s cheating to copy someone’s marketing work in the real world.

Just because someone else was successful using an idea or phrase in his or her ad copy does not allow you to copy it into your advertising campaign.

Faking It on the Internet

Possibly the fastest growing form of illegal marketing is the growth of black hat SEO techniques. This is the attempt to use hidden text, improper link building, and cloaking to raise a company’s website profile in search results.

Another illegal form of online marketing is creating fake reviews of companies and products. In a recent case, in which nineteen companies were fined for created fake reviews on Yelp and Google Local, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, stated:

“What we’ve found is even worse than old-fashioned false advertising. When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving.” Schneiderman continued “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.”

Without a business law degree, it’s not always possible to know what is and isn’t allowed. Thankfully, the internet is always full of advice and answers, and there are always sites like Legal Vision that make it their goal to provide insight and solutions to legal needs.

When all else fails, remember the words of Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, “Being good is good business.

If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong…

 

Internship at Creative Agency Secrets

My time as “The Intern”

My name is Johan Ericson and I’m a marketing student from Sweden. I’ve just completed a three-month internship at Creative Agency Secrets and feel that in a short space of time I’ve learned a lot. Aside from having the benefit of getting to know the people and work environment at CAS, I got to experience how a marketing agency works in the real world. With a broad range of daily activities and interesting one off tasks, I quickly found myself dealing with actual work for actual clients. Some of the skills I have developed during my time at Creative Agency Secrets:

  • Blogging: One of the first things I did as a intern was to start a blog, “The Intern“. Through this assignment I learned how to use WordPress as well as learning to write and when to publish my content.
  •  Social Media: Having managed multiple Social Media accounts for clients across a range of mediums in Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).  I’ve learnt some of the theory behind Social Media (what to post, when to post etc) as well as some of the technological tricks you can use to drive traffic back to your website. Learning both the theoretical and technological aspects of Social Media have helped develop my skillset and increased my competence in this area.
  • Google Analytics: During my time, I’ve learnt how website success can be measured. I’ve learnt about the importance of reducing bounce rate, and how the information gained from analytics helps make websites better for both the user and the administrator.
  • Client Meetings: After spending time with clients and planning and preparing for meetings, not only has my level of comfort increased in these situations but I also have gained a greater understanding of the needs and pressures potential clients have which allows us to help them better.
  • Marketing Tools: During my time with Creative Agency Secrets, I’ve learnt to use many different marketing tools. This has allowed me to better help clients and broaden the range of skills and services I can now offer.

During the brief time I spent at Creative Agency Secrets I feel I’ve learnt a lot and gained a well-rounded experience. I’ve developed my skillset and have a better understanding to real life marketing which will help me to take the next step forward in my career.

What’s the advantage of FeedBlitz over Mailchimp?

We got this question from an SEO agency who works on a client and thought that our answer might be useful to others.  These services are mass email sending programs – each has different features and applications.

Creative Agency Secrets uses FeedBlitz…..

  • Firstly because they did RSS to email first before others offered the service.
  • Secondly they were a client for a couple of years – we did a lot of copywriting for them.
  • Thirdly they do not require double opt-in for new list imports (AWeber does).
  • Fourthly they enable an autoresponder to end and then you can migrate people onto a mailing list from the autoresponder (so lists mutually build)
  • Fifthly they allow you to pick a random subscriber for prize draws (very cute)

Downsides of FeedBlitz

Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor do most of these same features.  I like the templates in these services better than FeedBlitz’ options.
I also like the mail-as-many-times-as-you-like during a month with FeedBlitz where you pay once and just mail.  Whereas Campaign Monitor charges $5 plus every time.  But depending on your list size and mailing frequency other services may give you a better price.
You can import a list but FeedBlitz insists on mailing the people and checking they know you’ve added them to a list before you can send messages to them.  It has high anti standards.
It doesn’t make creating and managing a large number of lists easy. This is because it’s principally a publishing/sharing platform not a mass email service.
Happy to amplify further or give readers a guided tour inside the services we use most and some of the cute nice-to-have features like who your social media influencers are.

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The DOs and DON’Ts of newsletters for accounting firms

Newsletters are an essential form of communication between companies and their stakeholders. More often than not though, those that sign up to a newsletter are (potential) customers who are interested in what you do. Many accounting firms are adding newsletters into their regular marketing activities and we’re here to help you build your newsletters for new business success.

We’ve taken time to analyse a couple of newsletters from accounting firms around New Zealand and we’ve noticed one major pitfall – these newsletters are LONG!

They often involve several articles, a lack of links and often their content just isn’t well focused on their business or those who may be signing up to their newsletter.

For a broader picture, lets take a look at the common successes and mistakes some accounting firm newsletters are making…

 

Successful elements in accounting newsletters

Relevant content: accounting firms are experts in their field and they show that well through the article content they provide in newsletters.

1Great use of spacing: the newsletters we’ve seen space out their content well and use headlines or boxes to separate content. Making content discernable is a good thing as it draws readers eyes in and encourages them to read. Content that is jumbled or squished together deters readers, and you should want your newsletters to be read.

Well planned structure: titles, headlines, blocks of content and different sections are commonplace in accounting firm newsletters. This differs from spacing as a coherent structure helps a reader flow from one piece of content to the next, until they’ve read the entire newsletter. It’s simply another way to encourage readers to read all the way through.

Include social media/ web page links: newsletters help drive website traffic, and so integrating links to online presences is vital. What’s more is that accounting firms include these links well by using images. These links are often included in sidebars or at the bottom of the newsletter so as not to distract from main newsletter content.

 

Common mistakes

Text-heavy/ too much content: often entire pages are included in accounting firm newsletters for any one of the articles they include. This is more so for less frequent, quarterly newsletters than regular monthly ones but does still happen. Entire articles belong on web pages or blogs, and we’ll tell you why after pointing out some more common mistakes.

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest

Content Heavy Newsletters Risk Losing Reader Interest.

3Irrelevant or unnecessary content: we’ve seen accounting firm newsletters that point out nearby office areas to buy or that their neighbours or friends are raising money for a charity and would like some help. While this content may be great to share with your readers, it isn’t NEWSLETTER content. Share these bits of information in email blasts to your email lists (possibly including your newsletter mailing list) instead. Your newsletter subscribers subscribed to a newsletter for information about YOU, not about local news.

Lack of an introduction or voice: some newsletters we’ve seen don’t include introductions or conclusions at all. Instead they’re collections of potentially exciting articles lumped into a series of pages.  This is a great place for the marketing partner to be the voice of the firm and to give a good face, tone and feel to the newsletter.

No website link backs or calls to action: one big thing missing from accounting firm newsletters to date are links and calls to action. Newsletters do more than inform, yes, but more importantly they exist to bring readers closer to the sender.

 

Our suggestions / good practice for newsletters

Short is successful: newsletters aren’t books. Newsletters are in fact short notes and pockets of information that a company provides its readers to keep them informed of their expertise and activities. Short is the key word there, and there are many ways to shorten a newsletter while also keeping it informative!

One great way to do this is to post articles or news reels on your blog or website, while linking to them in the newsletter along with an excerpt of the article – this encourages newsletter readers to navigate to your website and helps with google page ranking so that people searching for accounting firms find YOU!

Call to action: while you shouldn’t flood your newsletter with links it’s a good idea to link back to your website in some way shape or form. Getting newsletter readers (people who are interested in YOU) on your website improves the chances of them becoming a future client! You don’t necessarily have to develop a call to action or sales pitch but newsletters a good place to redirect readers to such a thing. A blog (if you have one on your website) is a great example of an opportunity to include articles in your newsletter and include a link back to your website that entices readers to click and read more.

 

Sidekick accounting brand mascot.

Build a brand, use a voice and provide colour: a newsletter can be the essence of your firm and how you share your company culture with stakeholders. Use it to build a brand by creating a voice and an image! Sidekick Accounting achieves this with their superhero icons and friendly writing style.

 

Conclusion

In short – accounting newsletters should embrace a short and unique style of presentation while providing links back to their website and social media as they beware of including irrelevant content. If they follow these guidelines it’ll result on a more engaged audience and better chances for turning a potential customer into a full client!

 

Interested in this article or accounting marketing in general?

Sign up to CAS accountants newsletter list

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Contact us to talk about marketing your business

 

Need accountancy marketing help?

Creative Agency Secrets are experts in accountancy firm marketing.  We can tutor you and teach you what to do if you want to do the marketing yourself.  Or we can do the firm’s marketing for you.

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