Google Adwords: Highly Profitable and Measurable Advertising

This article appeared in the Business Newsday of February 6th, 2014.

Google Adwords search advertising is one of the best advertising options out there, no matter the industry, so why are few Trinidad & Tobago businesses using it? Chances are they just don’t understand it and what it can do for their business. Let me assure you that having a basic knowledge of how Adwords search advertising works can get you a tidy return on investment for your advertising dollar.

In the internet age, we search online and research almost everything we want to buy before we spend our money, both for business and consumer purchases. We now use Google to find vendors for a product or service before we pull out the fat yellow pages from under our desks. We also search Google from all our devices – desktop, tablet or smart phone – no matter the location. If you don’t think that people in Trinidad & Tobago are using Google to find the products and services you sell, think again.

Since there are so few Trinidad & Tobago businesses using Adwords search advertising, it means that a small or medium player in an industry can use it to advertise their products and services and see good results, while the big guys continue to use the usual expensive forms of advertising: newspaper, television, radio, yellow pages and billboards.

Adwords is Google’s self-serve advertising platform, meaning almost any business or individual can sign up and start using it immediately. All you need is access to a credit card. It’s how you see those text ads at the top and the sides of the page when you do a Google search, and if you notice, most of those ads bear some relevance to the terms or phrase you searched. That’s called contextual advertising and it’s what makes Adwords search advertising so great!

Imagine an ad for your product, service or business being front and centre of a potential customer just at the moment they need it. Isn’t that what marketers strive for? Your ad is only displayed for relevant queries, so someone doing a Google search for “luxury hotels in Tobago” should not see your ad for fried chicken. Even more amazing: you, the advertiser, only pay when someone interacts with the ad by clicking on it!  That’s referred to as pay-per-click advertising or PPC.

With Adwords search advertising, for most industries here in Trinidad & Tobago, what you’ll spend on a one-time full-page newspaper ad, months can pass by and you still won’t spend that much, once you set things up right. Again, Adwords search advertising done right is about relevance; not about who can shout the loudest and spend the most in a sea of advertising.

How much you pay per click is calculated based on an auction system and can cost from a few US$ cents to a few US$ per click. You bid against other advertisers who also wish to display their ad for the phrases relevant to your businesses. In Adwords, you choose the relevant words and phrases you want your ad to appear next to, as many as you want. If you provide air-conditioning sales and services, then you’ll want your ad to be displayed for search phrases relevant to air-conditioning.

You tell Google what is the most you want to spend each time someone clicks on your ad, how much you want to spend daily and how long you want your campaign to run. You determine your campaign budget and you can stop and restart your ads at any time if you think you’re spending more than you can afford, whether it’s TT$100 per month or $1,000. You can also choose the geographic location you want your ads displayed, which in our case is only within Trinidad & Tobago. Even if you sell goods and services in other areas like Barbados and Guyana, you can set your ads to be seen in those countries too.

Depending on your ad copy, budget, competition for your search terms and landing page (the web page people land on when they click on your ad), Adwords will suggest what your bid should be for your ad to be visible and how many clicks they think you might receive. The point is to spend as little per click as possible to get your ad seen and clicked on for relevant searches.

Once your search ad goes live and you start receiving some clicks, Adwords provides you with information about your ad campaign that no one advertising on television, newspaper, radio, yellow pages or billboards could ever get. You see precisely how many times your ad appeared, how many clicks it got, what terms the ad appeared for and how much you paid per click. If you used multiple ads, you’ll see which ad got more clicks, which is great for testing your ad copy.

You can then take that information and change things like your search terms, ad budget, copy and landing page so that your ads perform better i.e. you spend less per click. So even if you’re in an industry with a lot of competition on Adwords like the travel industry, you can out-perform your competitors by optimizing your campaigns to spend less per click, maximizing your ad budget.

There’s even a bonus for businesses that use Google Analytics for their website’s visitor data. You can set up your Adwords search ads to tell you exactly which ad campaigns and keywords send traffic to your website and what people do once they get there. So if a search term is sending traffic to your website but they aren’t turning into customers or leads, you know there’s something you need to change in your Adwords search ads…and it costs nothing to make those changes. Can you do that with your television, newspaper or yellow pages ads?

There’s an opportunity waiting for you on Google Adwords, whether you have a small, medium or large business (or budget). You should begin search advertising soon before your competitors do.

Sherwin Ramnarine is a web designer, digital marketing consultant and the owner of tntvenues.com, a website for finding venues for events in Trinidad & Tobago. If you’d like to begin using Google Adwords in your marketing or need help optimizing your campaigns, contact him at 656-5808 or [email protected]

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Working Effectively With Your Web Designer

This article appeared in the printed version of the Business Newsday today, Thursday 10th May, 2012. 

In my last article, I spoke about the elements of a great business website: that you should have goals, a professional design, build trust, be search engine friendly, have strong useful content, collect visitor information and use metrics.

In this article, we look at how you work with your chosen web designer to develop a website that is profitable for your business. Your web designer is as important to your business as your accountant or lawyer. They are a partner in growing your business and being able to work effectively with them is key to that happening.

Get to know some basics

If you were hiring an accountant, you would probably have a very rudimentary understanding of what debits and credits are, what is a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement.

In the same vein, you should do your home work and figure out what you need to get online: a domain name, web-hosting and the actual website files. When the web designer is speaking to you about these basic but important items, you already have an idea of what they are and would not be totally baffled by the concepts.

Get on Amazon and seek out a book on the basics of Internet Marketing, targeted to business owners. I have not read it but a good starting point may be Web Marketing All-In-One For Dummies (http://amzn.com/0470413980).

Do your due diligence

Without turning this into a “how to choose a web designer” article, your due diligence should ascertain if the vendor is a good fit for you and your business. Have a look at their own website and their portfolio. See the types of websites they have built, if there are testimonials for good work or case studies.

Although a web design firm has a business listed as a client, that does not mean it has been a smooth ride. Do not be afraid to speak with their clients or ask for references. You want to know if the vendor has had any issues completing work on time and if they were easy to work with.

Search for them on Google and social media sites. If what they post is public, see what they say about clients they’ve worked with and if you’re comfortable working with them from what they post online.

Collaborate with your web designer

You have a huge role to play in the successful deployment of your business website. Spend time talking with the designer about what sites you liked and why, what features you saw on other sites that would make your site more useful. Do not leave it up to the designer to present you with all the ideas.

Then, give the designer ample information in a useable format. This information includes the text of a company profile or brochure that you would like replicated on your About Us page. Web designers have to deal with clients who hand them printed documents and then have to scan or type the text to get it on the site. When the client does this, it adds time and cost to the project.

Your logos should be sent as a vector file (such as in Adobe Illustrator’s .ai) so that the web designer can then create the correct size image to use on the website. If you are sending images to the web designer to use on the website, send it in a large size so the designer can then manipulate the image for their needs.

If the web designer sends a questionnaire, please take the time to complete it. The questionnaire serves the purpose of eliciting information from the client that will be used in deploying the website.

Don’t squeeze the project

Don’t squeeze a project for time or budget. If your web designer tells you that a site costs $5, don’t ask “Well what can I get for $2?” More than likely, you’ll end up with a $2 website. A $2 website won’t help your business and will hurt the reputation of the web designer.

If you believe that the $5 is out of your budget at the moment, speak to the designer about a different arrangement. Re-visit your site specifications and see which items are the most important for generating leads and just can’t be left out at the beginning. Talk to the designer about what can be delayed.

Sometimes a designer might be willing to amend the payment terms and stretch it out. You never know unless you ask.

Know what you’re paying for

Somewhere during the discussion stage, you would have agreed that the designer will – for example – present a site in 14 days with a website containing 20 pages, a drop down main navigation, using certain colours, with a lead generation form with 5 specific fields and an embedded Google map on the contact page.

Even if it is agreed with a handshake, you still must know what it is the web designer will be presenting to you. It is best to get an itemized list of what elements will be used on the website and what comes in the package.

Ensure that you know what support you will be getting and what it will cost. How much does web-hosting and domain names cost and how often do you pay? Are you getting personalized email addresses in your package and how many?

Know who owns what

When you hire the designer, you should agree upon who owns what. As the business owner, do you know who owns the website code? Whose name is on the domain name registration? Do you even have access to the server that your website files are being hosted on and can you make changes to the website yourself?

With regards to domain names, insist that you or a representative is listed as the registrant or domain name owner when the purchase takes place. For added security, purchase the domain name yourself.

Understand the designer is the expert

While you are the expert on blue widgets or services, the web designer is the expert on producing a website that’s fit for a professional business.

As the expert, the designer should be able to explain to you why they did things in a certain way. Have them tell you why a certain feature is necessary and what impact it is having on the website.

But since you are the expert at blue widgets, you need to explain to the designer that certain widgets are your best sellers, which are the most profitable and so which widgets or services make the most money for your business. These become front and center on your site.

Conclusion

Good web design projects are about communication and education. The web designer is not fully aware of your business and industry and so you as the business owner must educate them about it. The web designer must educate you about what they require to deliver a successful website for you. Do your due diligence and know what you are getting for the money you are spending.

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Trinidad & Tobago Banks: Applying For A Savings Account Online

On January 26th, I was robbed on the street in Vistabella, San Fernando. I lost my phone and my wallet with credit card, ATM card, driver’s licence, cash and a card with my savings account number. The next day I closed the account and thus began the process of getting a new savings account. As of today — February 7th, an entire 11 days later — I still do not have a new savings account.

After visiting four branches of three different banks and still unsuccessful, I decided to write this blog post where I compare the ability of the average person to apply for a savings account online at the six retail banks in Trinidad & Tobago: Republic Bank, RBC Royal Bank, First Citizens Bank, Scotiabank, Intercommercial Bank and Bank of Baroda.

Suffice to say, you can’t actually complete the application process for a savings account online at any bank in Trinidad & Tobago. So what I’m comparing are the banks’ willingness/ability to begin the process online.

image courtesy Sideeka Ali aka @funkyplet

Here are the parameters:

  • I am a new customer (hence I do not have any other savings accounts at these banks)
  • I am employed and can produce the requirements to open a savings account such as multiple forms of identification, a job letter and a utility bill in my name coming to my address
  • It is an account for a single person

Let’s get started.

Republic Bank Limited

The TimeSaver Account is Republic Bank’s version of a regular savings account. A dedicated page is 3 clicks away from the home page with a tab to “Apply Online”. When clicked, a page with a message appears saying that the application form is currently unavailable, they’re making some modifications and it will be back up soon.

For their sake, I hope so.

RBC Royal Bank (formerly RBTT)

RBC’s savings account is aptly named Regular Savings. A dedicated page lies 2 clicks away from the home page. There is no link to apply for a regular savings account online.

Where the information about the account ends on the page, there is no call-to-action below stating to contact your nearest branch to open a regular savings account. Instead, a simple “contact us” box is found to the top right of the information  with no clear call-to-action specific to the regular savings account.

Just so you’d know, when I walked in off the street to enquire about opening a savings account at RBC, I was told I now needed to make an appointment to do so. I’d love to hear about the efficacy of this new policy.

Scotiabank

From Scotiabank’s website, I was left to guess that their version of a regular savings account is the ScotiaMAX Deposit Account. A dedicated page lies 2 clicks from the home page. There is no link to apply for the account online.

At the bottom of the page though is a call to action to contact them for more information about the product. The link leads to their general contact information page and you are then left to figure out which number you should call to find out more information.

First Citizens Bank

FCB’s version of a regular savings account is called the Statement Savings Account. A dedicated page lies 2 clicks away from the home page. You can begin the application process for the account online.

At the end of the information on the page is a call-to-action button that says “apply now”. When clicked, you are taken to a page titled Apply Now where you choose what type of customer you are. Since I was new to FCB, I chose that option.

I completed the online application – maybe 10-12 pages in total. Of course, I still had to visit my chosen branch to sign the application, present my ID and proof of address. There was no mention on the confirmation page about presenting a job letter, although this is a requirement (which I found out when I walked in off the street to make an enquiry).

Intercommercial Bank Limited

IBL’s version of a regular savings account is called the Booster Savings Account. A dedicated page lies just 1 click from the home page. Unfortunately, you cannot apply for this account online from the IBL website. A call-to-action link at the bottom of the page leads to the general contact page for the bank.

In fact, Intercommercial Bank does not even have internet banking services! They do seem to have a telebanking facility though.

Bank of Baroda

What can be said of Bank of Baroda’s ‘website’ for Trinidad & Tobago? Not much at all actually.

It’s a single page with contact information for their 3 branches. No information about products and services; nothing to convince me to do business with this entity.

Just to be clear, I could not apply for a regular savings account online at Bank of Baroda.

What I’d Like To Be Able To Do

With no knowledge of the regulations concerning banks in Trinidad & Tobago nor any of their internal compliance policies, here’s what I’d like to be able to do as a new customer:

  • begin the process of applying for a regular savings account from the banks’ websites
  • upload scans of identification, proof of address and job letter
  • receive an email or telephone confirmation of the application
  • then be given a few days to visit the chosen branch to present my identification and sign the application, as I understand there may be a need to do so for compliance purposes

Who’s The Winner?

The obvious winner in this non-battle is First Citizens Bank. There’s no reason that the other five banks couldn’t have a similar process.

The lesson here for other businesses is that your website can be used to facilitate an easier transaction for your customers. If there are processes that can be duplicated on your website, you should go ahead and do so. Your customers will thank you for it.

Contact imarketSB to speak with you about processes you can duplicate on your website.

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Biggin’ Up Dropbox

“Biggin’ Up” is a new series on the blog where I ‘big up’ the great stuff I use at imarketSB.

I have two laptops and I use both to work on the same set of files. The new one became my main work laptop but I still used the old one to do certain things like editing images with Photoshop.

Here’s what I used to do (like almost everyone else who doesn’t have a central network). I would copy the files to a flash drive and work off of that. Then copy them back to the new laptop. It wasn’t pretty and it’s easy to mess things up that way.

I’ve worked at small businesses that did things that way and I’ve seen how file versions can get ‘lost’.

Enter my saviour, Dropbox. I use and evangelize Dropbox religiously.

How It Works

Dropbox works quite simply. You download and install the Dropbox software and it creates a folder on your computer where you can store files.

When you make a change to a file, it syncs the file automatically with other computers that are on the same Dropbox account. (Those other computers also have a Dropbox folder). So you can use multiple computers with one account and see the same set of files in all of them.

Dropbox Solves Two Big Problems

Dropbox solves two major problems for me (and for any other small business with multiple computers and no central network).

1. It acts as a central file server. You don’t have to have multiple copies of the same file and use flash drives to transfer files to different computers anymore. With Dropbox, you won’t lose track of which file version is the latest anymore. You can see and work on the same set of files from different computers.

So if you’ve got an office or workplace and you sometimes take work home with you on a flash drive, there’s no need to do that anymore. Just use the same Dropbox account at work and home.

2. It backs up your files automatically. If you’re using Dropbox as your central server, then it automatically backs up your files online. That’s the best kind of back up: set it and forget it.

If a computer goes haywire and you need to replace it, there’s no need to worry about losing any files. Just connect the new computer to the Dropbox account and let it sync.

If you still want to back up your files offline on a disc or external hard-drive (which you should, just to be extra safe) just back up the files inside of Dropbox.

What Else You Need To Know

Dropbox can be used to share files quickly and easily, but I haven’t tried it for this purpose as yet.

They also give you 2GB of space free when you sign up that can increase to a generous 8GB if you share with friends.

If you need more space than what they give you for free, you can upgrade to 50GB for a low price of US$99 per year (or $9.99 per month). That sounds like a great price to me to know that in the event of a disaster, I can be up and running again quickly.

Try It, You Go Like It

So go ahead and give Dropbox a try. Use this link > http://db.tt/fSrY7vAm < and I’ll get an increase in my account space =)

If you use Dropbox or have used it before, tell us in the comments how it worked for you.

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3 Ways To Market Your Business Online In 2012

So 2011 came and went. You didn’t get your website done because you had other things going on and didn’t think you could afford it. Meanwhile, your competitors who did got a leg up on you. Well now we’re in 2012 so let’s do some stuff we didn’t do last year…like put together some easy ways to market your business online.

One of the main reasons I love online marketing and advertising is that they’re accountable. Every click on an ad and visit to a website can be counted. Can you imagine asking a radio station “How many people heard my ad this week and then bought my product?” and getting a real answer? You won’t. Here’s how you can get started.

Blog

What’s a blog? Well this (what you’re reading here). Simply put, it’s an easy way to add short articles (called posts) to your website. You can create blog posts about different types of things related to your business and your industry. Here’s what adding a blog will do for your website.

You’ll get targeted traffic coming to your website. When people search for the type of information that you write about, if you’ve optimized your site, there’s a chance they’ll find you.

Visitors will see that you’re an expert at what you do. If you produce great, relevant content, people will see that you’re an expert at what you do, that you know what you’re talking about.

They’ll begin to see you (and your business) as the go-to people to provide a solution to their problem.

Email Newsletter

An email newsletter is a great, low-cost way to keep in regular contact with all your leads and customers while sharing information with them.

Some small business people I’ve spoken with have said they prefer phone and site visits but in my experience, those are just to say “would you like a refill on that widget X?”. With an email newsletter, you can support those calls and visits with helpful, actionable information.

With your newsletter, you can share links to your blog posts, your social media profiles and other things going on with your business. A perfect example of a monthly newsletter is this one by Janus Conflict Management Services.

Google Adwords

Have you ever searched for something on Google and saw ads at the top and sides of the results page? Those ads are placed there using Google’s ad program called Adwords.

Adwords can be a source of cheap, targeted, relevant and advertising when set up properly. I use it to advertise my own business and I’m seeing more and more Trinidad & Tobago businesses using it. Whether they’re doing it right or not is another story, but at least they’re open to it. (See this and this.)

So think about it and then contact imarketSB to get your blog, newsletter and Google Adwords up and running.

*Image courtesy danielmoyle

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