Media Articles

This page plays host to the media articles I have written about SEO in Malta press and magazines. As I have more published they will also be added here.

The following articles appeared in the December 2012 issue of the Malta Economic Update:

Number One Or Nowhere

Stuart Langridge, a marketing and SEO expert, explains why your business might be suffering from falling sales volumes.

Few realise the positive impact that a high search engine ranking can have on their business. Until they get one…

We all know about the dominance of Google in this arena. Since it has become a verb, we do not hear people tell us to “Yahoo!” something. By many measures Google might as well be the only player in this market. In the UK, for example, October was the first month in years that Google’s total share of internet searches fell to below 90 percent. There are many other European countries where their market share is over 85 percent.

If you then further consider just how many of us choose to research a subject online rather than go shopping in the High Street, the one place that your prospects and clients might be gathering every day in large numbers is online.

Not only is the location of searches concentrated, but so is the location of user clicks. There are many studies about the percentage of users that click on individual results and why, but the truth is that we mostly click on the number one listing. Depending upon the study and the nature of the search, we click on the number one positioned website between 35 and 50 percent of the time. The volume of clicks gradually falls as you scroll your way down the page. As we all know from our own behaviour, searches past page three of the results are pretty rare. A listing at number 42 might as well be at number 420 for all the visitors they will receive.

The impact of this is that for a business to have a solid online presence, it needs to be ranking very highly in the listings of Google, preferably at number one.

Needless to say, this is not news and many business owners know this. This has had the impact of creating something of an arms race between businesses competing for the top spots. The phrase, “to the winner the spoils” is very appropriate. Websites that rank highly for the most profitable search phrases, things like poker and weight loss, can make tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds, dollars or euros per month.

On a smaller scale, this means that a business in your sector and geographic region that ranks number one is almost certainly generating a higher number of leads – and probably sales – than you do. The competitive disadvantage might not be obvious at first, but over time it will become clear. If yours is a marketing intensive sector – shouldn’t they all be? – these extra leads and sales will likely enable the competitor to spend more on other marketing channels to generate more leads and press home the advantage.

If you happen to be in one of the businesses that is yet to take the internet or SEO Malta seriously, or worse, doesn’t even have a website, the inexplicable, but clearly visible, gentle slipping of sales may be due to this lack of a vital marketing channel. The question is, what do you plan to do about it?

4 Major Mistakes Small Businesses Make Online

Marketing consultant and SEO specialist, Stuart Langridge, looks into ways that businesses trip themselves up online.

The internet has changed everything in business. We all know this and yet despite this self-evident statement, many small business owners have failed to adapt to the new environment. In their defence, the online world is changing very quickly – it could be argued quite easily that online the ‘long-term’ is around one year.

However, many of the mistakes made by business are virtually timeless. Therefore, while the following four problem areas can be found all over the web, they can also be applied in the offline world as well.

Mistake number 1: Strategy
In the old, pre-internet days, it was possible to stay in business simply because of geographic location. In contrast, in the current business environment the very best competitor in the world in your business sector is only about three clicks away from your own business. Even worse, for those companies that are still reluctant to go online, that best competitor is now easier to find than a local store.

“Many Maltese retailers are still very cavalier about the web,” says Claudine Cassar, Managing Director of Alert Group in Santa Venera, “and in time they will be forced to react to it or die – as will retailers all over the world”. The harsh reality is that most retailers are now in competition with sites like Amazon, whether they like it or not.

To suggest that no coherent strategy is a problem is often an understatement. Since strategy should underpin everything else that a business does, the lack of one leaves a company and it’s staff flailing about in the dark, doing things simply ‘because’.

Strategy is often the heavy lifting of business and marketing and without it, a great many mistakes can be made by accident. Obviously no self-respecting business owner makes strategic errors deliberately, but still they are made.

Stephanie Fiteni, Managing Partner at Defined Branding in San Gwann, explains that when she asks a new client about their business goals, the typical response is that they would like to “increase sales by 10% while reducing marketing spending by 10%”. Increasing revenue while reducing overhead is an admirable goal, but without identifying the competitive advantage or core skill that will enable this to happen, it sounds more like a hope than a plan.

Mistake number 2: Allocating resources
Lots of companies – not just in Malta – are unwilling to commit sufficient resources to their websites. To be fair, going online is often a very big challenge and will require significant effort to make work, but it is hard to deny now that it is the future. For a business owner that has been operating for years, the learning curve can be very steep.

Whether the cost of building a fully functioning site or store really is recoverable by a business will depend upon the market being targeted. There will be many small businesses in Malta for whom the Maltese population simply is not large enough to recoup such an investment. However, the English speaking market online is enormous and global, so there really ought to be enough people available to help propel a business forward if it plans to operate internationally.

Mistake number 3: Delegation
The internet provides far too many options to communicate and sell. This cornucopia of choice tempts businesses to try and do everything and be everywhere when they simply do not have the time and manpower.

This desire for coverage ought to be fought (see mistake number one) and the business needs to communicate in the format that is most appropriate for it. This might mean that the company has a blog and records a monthly video and no more, for example. Instead, without a message or plan, the task of tweeting or updating the company facebook page will be delegated to the new intern or a secretary. Many of us struggle to know what to tweet about at the best of times, but when representing a company or brand, this is much harder.

As Stephanie Fiteni rightly remarks, “Even the biggest and best brands can be made to look bad with spelling mistakes and inappropriate content or links”. This probably highlights a need for staff training, either internally or from an external source, about both the company image and the use of social media.

Many years ago, Sun Microsystems allowed everyone on it’s staff to blog openly if they so chose. Their company policy was simple, “Don’t do anything stupid”. If more companies could resist the urge to write complicated staff policies and instead rely on simple and elegant concepts like this, perhaps more online delegation might work.

Mistake number 4: Data driven decision making
If you want it to be, the internet is the greatest direct marketing channel of all. It is possible to run a campaign, drive traffic, test different advertising copy, sales messages, prices and guarantees in a way and at a speed that had never existed before. Therefore, it is possible to optimise many elements of the online marketing, purchasing and delivery processes.

Clearly this takes time and effort, but the potential upside can literally be unlimited. Too few businesses really grasp this concept and apply it. Those that do might change a headline on a sales page and see their sales or opt-in rates double. Changes like this can and do have profound impacts on businesses. They also offer the possibility to deliberately and methodically improve the functioning and profitability of a business over time. In times of economic difficulty such as now, this could prove to be the path that saves a business.

Needless to say, decisions about how to allocate resources can be made much easier when management understands the numbers on which marketing, sales and refunds are based. As the now deceased American copywriting legend Gary Halbert used to say, “You aren’t in the business you think you are in, you are in the math business”.

In February 2011 I hosted and spoke at a two day conference in London for over 50 webmasters from around the world where we discussed SEO for content sites. Watch a clip from one of my presentations: