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Week 10 of 52 – Email Marketing and the Spam Act 2003

Watch out for the Spam ActWhilst getting myself organised to release the very first issue of the Rusty Mango e-newsletter (currently about six months in the making now), I thought it would be perfect timing take a quick refresh on the basics of the  Spam Act of 2003. This Act outlines how commercial electronic messages (emails and texts) should be sent out to recipients by businesses and various organisations across Australia. There are some pretty serious fines involved if these laws are not adhered to so it’s important to have a firm grip on what’s involved before sending anything out at all.

By definition in the Spam Act, a commercial electronic message is a message that:

  • offers, advertises or promotes the supply of goods, services, land or business or investment opportunities.
  • advertises or promotes a supplier of goods, services, land or a provider of business or investment opportunities.
  • helps a person dishonestly obtain property, commercial advantage or other gain from another person.

The Act works out the commercial nature of a message by checking out the content, the way the message is presented and any links, phone numbers or contact information that may lead to content with a commercial intent.

When sending a commercial electronic message, there are three key areas that you must carefully consider: Consent, Identify and Unsubscribe.

Do you have the consent of the recipient?

You must only send commercial electronic messages to people if they have provided you with their expressed or inferred consent.

Inferred consent regards those customers that you maintain an ongoing relationship with and they have previously provided contact details.
As a guide, one-off purchases are not regarded as a basis for inferring consent.

Expressed consent is the permission you have received directly from the recipient where they have asked that you send them further information. This is found on most websites in the form of a subscription button but ensure that you make it very clear what will be received in returned and how often.

Does the message clearly identify how it is from?

All commercial electronic messages must contain accurate contact information that clearly identifies the business (or person) who is sending the message. This information must remain accurate for a minimum of 30 days after the message has been sent.

Can the recipient easily unsubscribe from the email messages?

All messages must have clear options to unsubscribe regardless of how long (or short) they are. This allows the recipients the ability to “opt out” of receiving further communications. Once someone has taken this option, it must be honoured within five working days or penalties may be applied. Just like the information identifying the business, the unsubscribe link must be valid for thirty days after the message has been received.

There it is in a nutshell. If a business sticks to these fairly simple guidelines, it should be fine to send out its electronic messages without a problem. But please take note that this information has been provided as a guide only. The team at Rusty Mango Design does its utmost to make sure that the information on our web site and blog is accurate and helpful at all times. But, we can’t ultimately warrant the accuracy of all information and will not be held responsible or liable for how you use it with your business or organisation. Check out the Spam Act for yourself at ACMA’s Spam Act and Codes of Practice page for more detailed information and to make your own judgements.

Image © DepositPhotos.com | Nmedia

Week 9 of 52 – It’s crazy! Why wouldn’t a small business be online?

Why wouldnt a small business be online?Today, the whole world is online. From the school kids down at the skate park to grandparents on their “grey nomad” tours of Australia, each and every one of them is hooked up and on the net. Either through wireless, mobile, cable, fibre optics or copper wire, Australians (and the developed world for that matter) are processing and sharing information at a rate never seen before in history. We do our banking online, our research assignments online, our university courses online and, most importantly to business owners, we shop online.

With all this access, it is still mind-blowing that some businesses (52% of SMBs*) are still living in the dark ages and operating without an internet presence. That is, they don’t have a website. Why? Look at any business not using the web and I’m sure if you asked the owners, they’d be one of the categories below:-

Time Poor – When do I have time to learn about websites?

Running a business is always flat-out and hectic. With stock to order, employees to manage, bills to pay, premises to maintain among a million other things, there’s very rarely anytime left to do anything else. Some businesses use this as the main excuse to not create a website. Unless you can outsource the work of maintaining a website to an employee or an outside agency, the creation of a site just seems like too much of an extra burden. And this is on top of learning how to do it in the first place. It’s all too hard…

Technologically Naive – I don’t know anything about websites!

If a business has been operating for a number of years (i.e. from before the advent of websites) and working along fairly comfortably, the owners of the business may not be fully aware of what a website can do to improve the bottom line of any company. The simple phrase “We’ve done alright without one!” could be the main reason behind unwillingness to expand online. The inherit danger with this attitude is that the business may be missing out on a number of potential sales simply through an unawareness of the World Wide Web and its possibilities.

Another reason could be that the business operators may not be aware of the process to get a website designed and built. Technology can be fairly daunting to some people and websites are no different. Just the mere thought of moving online or even creating a site for the business can leave some people in a cold sweat.

Just Plain Poor – We can’t afford one right now…

With all the responsibilities listed in the section above, money can also be very tight at times and the perceived expense of website development may just be too much for the business to handle at any particular time. Rumours are often perpetuated about sites for small businesses running into the thousands and who has the spare cash to throw around like that?

Let’s debunk these theories one by one.

Firstly, there is no need for a business owner to fret about going online with their business. It merely needs to be seen as another part of your marketing strategy. Take a look at our four steps to getting online here – all you need to do is decide whether you need a website or not (you do!) and get in touch with a web developer to take care of the rest. If you merely want a brochure site that isn’t going to change often, nothing could be easier. But if you do have the time, maybe you could invest in a CMS site that you can update yourself – the learning curve to running your own site is not as steep as you think.

Secondly, if you are swept off your feet and have no time to run a site then get someone else to do it for you. Hire a developer to create the site and a copywriter to create the content – they can do amazing things with just a few dot points about your business, that’s their job. Already have a brochure about your company? A good copywriter can take this brochure and create a whole website of content for you. No photos? No worries. Stock photography is available for your business and only costs a couple of dollars per image.

Finally, although some web developers charge thousands for site development, it doesn’t need to be that expensive. Obviously, you cannot expect a highly polished site for $200 but if you do a little research and ask for a few quotes, you are sure to find a developer that can work within a reasonable budget. Take care though; make sure you check out online portfolios first to ensure that the designer can provide the high quality service you expect.

As you can see, there’s no excuse for not getting your business online these days. If your business wants to grow and continue to be competitive in today’s marketplace – it needs to be online.

And it’s not as hard as some people think!

* SMB: Small to Medium sized Business

 

 

Week 8 of 52 – Blog Posts: How to build an Audience for your Blog

Build an audience for your BlogAs I plan for these blog posts, I try to focus on the issues and questions of my clients to keep the content as relevant as possible. This is so that they can visit each week and, hopefully, take a small gem of marketing information away utilise on their sites. This week however, I’ve been actually looking into a topic for my own business’ benefit. But as I looked into it, I realised that there might be something here for everyone – so please read on….

If you have been following Rusty Mango Design either via our blog posts or Twitter / Facebook feeds, you will be aware that I am currently undertaking a 52 week blog post challenge. And it is going along swimmingly at the moment – haven’t missed one (yet). The only problem is that only a small number of visitors to my site are actually reading it. Hence the topic of this week’s post – how do I get more people to visit my blog?

I was sure that I wasn’t the only blogger with this problem so I undertook some research on Google. The results of that research I have compiled below in the form of some tips that I will be personally to try and build the blog audience I am looking for.

Tip 1: Optimise your Blog for SEO

Many bloggers are not aware that the information they impart in their blog posts can be directly linked to their site’s ranking in the various search engines – including Google. Each blog post is another page for the engines to index. This means that the more posts you create on topics relevant to your industry, the more chances you have to be found by people interested in your line of work. A recent article on HubSpot stated that businesses generally see a 45% growth in site traffic when the number of blog entries on those sites increases from 11-20 posts to 21-50 posts.

So how do you optimise a blog post to make the most of this opportunity with the search engines?

  • Optimize Blog Post headings by using keywords at the very beginning. Look at the heading for this post as an example – “Blog Posts: How to build an audience for your blog” will be far more popular than if I used “How do I build an audience for my blogs posts?”
  • If you are using WordPress, ensure that URLs are using the correct Permalink structure as this will utilise the heading of your blog into the actual address for the page.
  • Use Tags on your posts to sort them into topics. Note that you need to be careful not to overuse similar tags on the same post as this could lead to penalties with the Google algorithm (If you are unsure about Tags, you’ll find them in the right-hand sidebar of the WordPress screen when creating your posts).

Tip 2: Promote your Blog on Social Media and Email

This would be an absolute no-brainer for most people. What’s the point of taking the time to sit and draft up a worthy blog post if no-one even knows that your blog exists? You have to use every avenue possible to get the word spread about your Blog and get those readers coming in. Shout it out to the world!

Every time a new post is uploaded, immediately jump onto your social channels and shout it to the world. Get on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Linked In for starters – if you haven’t got accounts with all of them, join up today.

You should also send out a once-off email to your current clientele and let them know about the blog. Don’t be afraid to ask for them to pass on the word if they think you have something worthwhile to share.

Finally, add your blog address onto your email signature so that every time you correspond with a client (or potential client), that little reminder is there – “I’ve got a Blog that you need to see!”

Tip 3: Sign Up those Subscribers

To keep those who have already visited your site informed, add a very visible “Call To Action” on your site in the form of a subscription button. Using this method, subscribers will be automatically informed whenever a new post is uploaded to your blog. Why not throw in a “carrot” to entice them to sign up? A free e-book, a discount voucher or maybe even a free download – anything to get that all important consent and email address. Caution: Make sure that it is very clear what they are signing up for and how often they can expect an email from you.

Over the next couple of months (this is a long term project in order to see some decent results), I will be putting these plans into motion. To track any changes, there is a sidebar on each of my blog posts displaying the number of shares of my posts through Social media. If my popularity improved, those numbers should start to rise. In addition to this, I will also be keeping a close eye on my stats to determine what topics are proving to be the most popular with site visitors. This helps to determine which topics people are reading the most.

Keep watching my blog each week for the results….

Week 7 of 52 – Why Online Stores are the Best Thing since Sliced Bread

Why Online Stores are the Best Thing since Sliced BreadIn small towns across North Queensland (and elsewhere I’m sure), there is evidence of an economic downturn on every main street. Many small shop fronts are sitting empty with no real outlook to opening again anytime soon. The factors behind this situation are many and varied but one of the most common blames is put directly onto the rise of online shopping.

If your business sells products of any shape or form, whether they are toasters, cars or even houses, there is absolutely no reason why you should miss out on a cut of the market by not having your very own ecommerce store. It doesn’t matter if you are a huge conglomerate with hundreds of stores nationwide or the local dress shop marketing your own fashions, everyone can have a slice of the pie if they are clever and utilise the power of the web.

There is a huge recompense to having an online store that most business owners don’t recognise and these advantages can’t be achieved through a regular bricks and mortar store.

An online store has no landlord!

Not a single cent is paid in rent for your online store. The only costs you will incur, other than the original design of your site, is the monthly/yearly charge for your web server, the domain name and charges from outside agencies such as PayPal and/or your bank.

When you compare this to the cost of leasing a shop, you can guess who comes out in front. Talking to local business owners in my home town has shown me that the cost of a lease is one of the biggest factors forcing businesses to close. There’s not enough custom through the front door to warrant the outlay. No such problem with an online shop.

Playing level with the Big Guys

When you operate an online store, you can pretend to be as big or small as you want. Many small online operators like to push the “smaller” operation approach as this can help to give you that personal touch missing from one of the larger stores. However, stores like Harvey Norman are trying to cash in on this notion by utilising a chat system that pops up at the bottom of the shop screen. Once again, the small business owner can compete with this through the use of a very simple plug in like ClickDesk or LiveChat.

Open for Business 24/7

An online store means that you can make a sale – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even when you are asleep, your site can be making for you. Imagine logging on at work each morning (during the business week, of course) and seeing a whole backlog of purchases that were made and paid for even while the physical offices of your business were shut! The advantages of this should be whole apparent – you can’t do this with a bricks and mortar store. Once again, you can compete with the big guys – on their level.

Customer Interaction

An Ecommerce store can also be integrated with a healthy Social Media campaign allowing the store to “converse” with customers and potential customers in a friendly environment. Any problems or questions about products and services can be solved with no awkward or sometimes aggravated face to face contact. Tips and tricks can be passed on almost immediately to patrons with no wait time (depending on the level of customer service available) – business owners can answer issues from the luxury of their armchairs at home if they want.

An ideal example of this customer interaction can be seen in full use by Blackmilk Clothing on both their Facebook pages and website. Happy customers can be seen happily conversing with the Blackmilk team and showing off their latest purchases on the pages of the site. In return, the Blackmilk team gets instant feedback and direction, straight from the people wearing their gear.

Final Note

An online store can add an extra line of revenue to a business and it doesn’t even have to be the end of the physical shop front. Caravans Plus in Queanbeyan operate both with an offer in their ecommerce checkout that allows customers to order online and pickup in person, a perfect setup for the grey nomad travelling through that part of the world. No freight!
If you are interested in creating an online store, get in touch with Rusty Mango Design and have a chat about what is possible for your business. We can create ecommerce stores for all types of businesses, large and small.

Week 6 of 52 – Turbo-charge your site with some simple SEO tactics

Simple SEO tipsBy now you probably that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plays a vital part in the success or failure of your website. A site that has not been optimised for the search engines bots that roam the web will not rank well or even appear close to the top of search results. Research regularly shows that 70% of all clicks go to that all important number one position in Google. That is why it is vital for your site to be the one that is appearing there.

You will find that an SEO Expert, someone who specializes in the field of search optimisation, is usually totally different to your average website developer – they generally are not the same person. It is an intricate field of work that involves studying other sites, reading statistics and loads of fine tuning and tweaking.

Unfortunately, some of these SEO experts have played upon the naivety of website owners in the past and have charged absolute fortunes for their services. I recently heard of a small business being charged thousands for a couple of simple suggestions and no real work on a site.

But do you really need an SEO expert for your site to get it on that first page? Not necessarily, there are a number of tasks that a website owner can undertake themselves before calling in the big guns.
To help you out, we have compiled a few little tips that most website owners can have a crack at themselves. However, to attempt the following, you need to have access to the back-end of your site via a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla.

If you are using WordPress, you need to install the Yoast SEO or All-In-One SEO plug-ins. If you are on Joomla, I recommend Xmap or SEOSimple. These add extra functionality to your page editors allowing you to customise each page according to the content on each page and how you want people to find that information. Your web developer can install these if you are unable to – all new Rusty Mango sites have the All-In-One SEO plug-in installed already.

To give your site that boost you are looking for in the search engines, you can try the following options:

In the general setup options for your SEO plug-in (you will see these titles):

Add a Meta Description – This is an actual sentence that describes the content of the page to both search engines and visitors. It is also the segment of text that you see under search results in Google. Make sure that you include two keywords and a maximum of 100 characters.

Insert appropriate Meta Tags / Keywords – In the general options, add a maximum of five words, separated by commas. These stored in the head (start) of the web page document. Be sure to also include these five keywords inside the content text of your site. With the plug-ins mentioned, you will also be able to add keywords to each separate page of your site as well.

Use key words in your Page Titles – displayed at the very top of the web browser. It must contain at least two of your keywords, with a 70 characters maximum. The titles should also be unique for each page.

On individual pages of your site:

Make sure that all images have ALT Tags – These tags are the alternative text shown for when an image cannot be displayed. They are usually for visually impaired visitors but they are also examined by the search engines. Make sure that the tags you use are tied into the overall keywords for the individual page.

Check your H1 Titles – This is the largest title for each page and it is usually displayed as the title at the head of your content. Make sure they are unique to each page and try to limit the number of words used.

Conclusion

As you would expect, there are no guarantees that these will be sufficient to push your site to that number one position but if after a few weeks (be sure to give Google some time), there is no real change in your ranking, maybe it is time to call in the heavy artillery. Ask your fellow business owners and networks for recommendations because, as mentioned before, there are some rather unscrupulous SEO companies out there.

If you need any more information on SEO for your site, or if you just want to leave me some feedback, leave a comment below and I will endeavor to answer any questions you have.

Rusty Mango Design

Rusty Mango Design