Clever pre-launch marketing tactic – Register to win

lofree pre launch marketing

This new keyboard appeared on my Pinterest feed and was so super cute, I immediately clicked to learn more. It’s a keyboard designed to look – and sound – like an old-school typewriter. I must have one…

Turns out the product is yet to be released – and whoever is in charge of marketing it is as good at their job as the designer who came up with this product. It’s getting excellent social exposure already, with that social driving people to their site…where it’s not yet for sale.

The purpose of the site, however, is to build their email database. So that when they ARE ready to launch, they’ve got an opt-in audience keen to hear and buy. As you land at the site, you’re prompted to put in your email and be notified when the product is available to buy.


And just in case you weren’t super keen to leave your email, they’ve even incentivised it – sign up and you could WIN one of 20. Needless to say, I left my email!

It’s a little like a Kickstarter approach, where you ensure there’s a pre-paid marketing for your product before you actually make it.

There’s real zero budget marketing merit in building an audience to market to before launch. Essentially, it means you’re not paying for access to someone else’s audience! It’s also a chance to gauge interest (as so if you’re still at manufacturing stage, you can potentially order more) and even experiment with marketing messages and imagery.

This approach is a reminder that a ‘launch’ doesn’t need to be conducted one way. The design and presentation of this product is also a reminder that a special or stand-out product needs less ‘marketing’ than and copycat/me too product. People are going to want to spread the word – the best and cheapest form of marketing.

Thanks to lofree for providing some unintended marketing inspo – and please release your keyboard soon because I want it…badly!



Don’t assume all web visitors are the same – B2B marketing tip

We tend to create one website and assume all our web visitors will be the same. That they have the same needs. The same level of understanding. That they are at the same place in the purchasing cycle.

Which is wrong, of course. Even just reading it, you were probably already thinking that!

Yet creating a website is such a big job, with so many decision to make about so many elements, that somewhere along the way we forget that it’s going to be read by all sorts of people, at all sorts of stages of the buying cycle.

Which is why it’s great to come across some inspiration of how to improve your site along the way. (Because you should never just build a site and forget about it – you should constantly be seeking ways to improve how it works for you.)

I got a great little reminder the other day when I came across the Insightly website when investigating CRM tools. They’ve recognised that CRM a technical product with all sorts of level of understanding – and so this is what greeted me on the landing page.

B2b services marketing

It’s a very clever way to not scare off newbies – and help visitors choose their own path through their site – that would also improve Insightly’s chance of selling to them. Which is really what a website should be: a key sales and marketing tool.

They didn’t stop at this. Further down the page there were free resources – again, for all sorts of businesses and needs. It’s far from the ‘one size fits all’ that many B2B and services marketing firms take with their website.


It’s worth remembering that whilst it’s more work to take this approach – it doesn’t really need to cost you any more. As with all zero budget marketing inspiration, it’s about spending creativity and energy – not dollars!

So remember: not all your website visitors are the same, especially if you’re in the B2B or services marketing space. It’s less about how your website looks and more about how your website works! Spend the time to perform some analysis and so some thinking to determine the type of visitor categorisation you might be able to do, to help better answer their questions…and so be in a better position to sell your service as the right answer.

How to write a marketing plan – In 28 days, an hour a day.

How to write a marketing plan - in 28 days

So it’s a new year for your business, or the business you’re charged with marketing. And you already know that every business needs a clear direction in which to head. Yet, if you’re honest, you’re not really sure where your next year of clients or sales will be coming from.

Let’s agree on two things first:

1. Hope is not a strategy.
2. A marketing plan shouldn’t sit on a shelf.

An annual marketing plan is truly critical element for success. Every business must ‘do marketing’. Yet many businesses – start-up and long established – don’t have a marketing plan.  They have vague goals, ad hoc promotional ideas and a desire to do well…but without a real definition of that looks like. They don’t know how to write a marketing plan.

And I completely understand why.

Putting together a plan can feel daunting, even when it’s what you do for a living (like I do!). It takes thinking, research, action, time and creativity. And that’s before you start the tough task of implementation!

So why don’t we break it down to something completely manageable. Something anyone can tackle.

One hour a day. For 28 days.

You can manage that, right, for something so worthwhile to your business?

And I promise what you’ll have, at the end of your 28 days, is the bones of a well considered, 12 month, action-oriented marketing plan…AND a head start on some of the implementation. Plus, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.

Follow this systematic approach –completing every step, every day – and you’ll be set for your best year yet!


Day 1. Start your plan & set your goals

Open a 2017 marketing plan folder on your computer. I recommend you start with both a spreadsheet (with each month across the top and activities down the side) and a word document (as your central planning document), which you’ll add to each day with each task. These two pieces will make up your final plan at the end of your 28 days – although much of the real value will be in the process itself.

Then, the first thing to write in your plan: 3-5 marketing goals for the coming year.

Why is this so important? Because how do you know where you’re going, and if you’ve succeeded, if you don’t have a destination?

Just remember, a goal isn’t “I want to make enough money to survive this year” or “I want everyone to know about my business”. A goal needs to be stated so that it is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive.

What sort of goals should you be setting beyond financial? You could include size of database, size of prospect list, number of inbound enquiries, website visits, sale by channel, effectiveness of sales people, attendance at events, cost of acquisition.

If you’re new to your business, setting goals can be extra hard, because you don’t have previous years to compare to. But you should know what you need to make and what you need to spend – and how many customers/sales you need to get there. So voila, there’s your starter goals!

Day 2. Review three competitor website and three businesses that inspire you.

Write down three things each does well (their strengths) and three that each does poorly or could improve (their weaknesses). Consider if there’s an opportunity there for you to fill or a new direction to try?

Then subscribe to follow them via social/email. You don’t want to be obsessed with them, but it ensures you keep them on your radar for the coming months.

Day 3. Articulate – in writing – what’s great about your business offering.

Write down what it is that your business does better / differently / what’s a little bit unique about you.

If you are struggling to do this, consider what you could need to change to make yourself more distinct, more special, more marketable. Then write down some steps for how you’re going to change.

Day 4. Decide on your key marketing messages for the year.

This isn’t about a campaign or an email. It’s core to what you’re going to be saying for a year. That is, what are you going to be telling people, prospects, customers, suppliers partners – this year – about what your business can do for them – and why they should work with you.

Critically review what you’ve written – and take out any meaningless jargon or complete hyperbole.


Day 5. Install Google Analytics on your website. And schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If you already have it installed, spend an hour reviewing results – where you’re getting visitors from, what they’re doing when they get to your site, what sort of mechanism are they using to visit.

Why? If you run a website, it’s one of your important promotional or selling tools. It’s a key channel for almost all businesses, even if you sell nothing online. Yet most people build a site and then never look at it again or really understand how customers are using it.

Analytics is free, easy to install and powerful – but only if you look review the results, use them to track any changes or tests and then consider their implications.

Day 6. Install Google search console. And then schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If already installed, spend an hour reviewing it – particularly looking for opportunities you’re missing. By this I mean, what keywords aren’t you getting clicks for that you SHOULD be.

Again, your website is a key marketing asset – make sure you understand what search terms people are using to find you. If you understand this, and happen to be in a market where lot’s of people search for what you’re selling, this could be your most critical – and inexpensive – inbound marketing tool.

Day 7. Conduct a website tune up.

Review your website and look for any out of date information on static pages. Identify typos, broken links, anything the needs updating.

Make the changes as you go or compile the changes to pass onto your developer or action next month when your plan is complete. (And remember to schedule this in your plan!)

Day 8. Perform a website marketing refresh.

Review your website from a communications and persuasion perspective. Ensure your key messages are apparent in your copy.

Add in missing selling queues – testimonials, recent articles, recent customer comments, etc.

Ensure your call to action isn’t missing in action on any page.

Day 9. Build an email sign up form – or test and improve your existing one.

Why? Every business should have a database to market to, to communicate with, to engage with in some way. The best way to do this is still email.

If you don’t have a form, I’d recommend doing this in Mailchimp if you’re just starting out.

If you already have a form, consider if it’s asking what you really need to know and if you’ve got automations set up, such as confirmation and then welcome email.

You should also consider if you need more than one form or list (based on service/product).

Day 10. Put your email sign up form on the home page of your website.

Most people never get past page one of a website. Depressing, I know.

So whilst that says something about the quality of information on your site, it also means you should improve your chance of capturing their details with an email sign up form on the home page. If you have the technical support or know-how, seriously consider an email pop up.

And don’t forget to give people a reason to give you their details.


Day 11. Prepare a list of past clients / colleagues / people you could possibly work with as customers (or partners or referrers).

Ensure there’s at least ten names/emails on your list. Spend the time tracking down their key details, particularly their email address. Potentially add them to your email list or keep them aside in a worksheet.

Day 12. Construct and send a ‘happy new year / how have you been’ update email to your initial list.

This can be brief. It should be friendly, share some information or insight that will be interesting to THEM and ideally you’d include a soft call to action at the end – what you’d like them to do next, setting up a time to meet or what you’d like them to know.

Then…actually send the emails! Or make a call and set up a catch up!

Meet up with contacts

Day 13. Invest time improving your LinkedIn Profile.

Increasingly people check your profile before meeting you or doing business with you. So if your LinkedIn profile the best it can be? Is your picture professional. Is your expertise clear? Are key achievements apparent? Do you have recommendations?

Day 14. Put some thought into partnerships. Who should you be working with this year?

So many businesses have an inner focus. They forget there are many other organisations, that they don’t compete with, who want to reach the same market as their own.

When you have a name or two (I’ve never worked with a single company who didn’t come up with someone when they thought about it!), reach out to at least one potential partner via email – whether for marketing, collaboration or business. Outline who you are and why there’s value to both of your businesses in working together.

Day 15. Research relevant professional networking events, seminars, online groups or conferences that you should get involved in this year.

Then sign up to at least one physical networking event in the coming month….because f2f networking is still as valuable as digital networking.


Day 16. Put together the skeleton of a marketing calendar in your worksheet for the next 12 months.

Add in any activities you should be undertaking, or are already committed to.

Consider giving each month or fortnight a marketing theme to help you with idea generation over the coming year. Be sure to include any key occasions or ‘days’ that you can work with, perhaps an ‘international day of’ or something more obvious, like Mother’s Day.

Ensure there’s at least one outbound email communication in each month and scheduled time to review your performance against goals.

Day 17. Go back to your marketing goals – and draft some initial steps to get you to your goals.

This is the beginning of the ‘action’ part of your marketing plan. See if you can develop 4-5 steps towards each goal. Include a timeline for each step. And then put these steps into a worksheet, by month and goal.

Day 18. Conduct a mini-brainstorming session – with yourself or with trusted colleagues or friends.

If you’re doing this alone, mind mapping is great tool. If you’re working with others, remember that it’s not about eliminating ideas – first it’s about generating them.

Your aim with this exercise is to develop some creative campaign ideas, engaging social posts or competition ideas that could work.

Then add your ‘ideas list’ to your plan, so you’ve got it to refer to – and refine – over the year.

brainstorm ideas

Day 19. Identify any bigger marketing projects or campaigns you’d like to tackle this year.

You’ve already likely got ideas kicking around, so this is your chance to capture them before they’re gone.

Add them to your plan with the thoughts fleshed out, then schedule them into a month and potentially add budget. Flesh them out a little.

Day 20. Decide which social media channel is worth starting OR continuing with. Do some research and be sure of your reasoning.

You can’t be everywhere. Justify why you’re on the channel to yourself, ensuring it makes business sense. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or …?

Once you’ve decided to start or continue a particular channel, ensure it’s correctly set up, from headers to notifications to complete ‘about’ information.

Day 21. Create a basic content plan for the next four weeks of what content you’ll be posting on the social media you’ve committed to.

If you’ve decided blogging is critical, aim for one post a week. If it’s more ‘short and sweet’ like Instagram, aim for 3-4 posts a week.

Think ‘themes’ to help you generate ideas for your content calendar for social media. And ensure any content you’re planning to create for social can also be shared with your email list – because that’s a list you actually own and have some control over.

(If you decide social media isn’t for you, spend this hour working on your marketing calendar.)

Day 22. Spend your hour creating your first piece/s of content.

If it’s a blog post, you’ll need longer, so sketch it out and take an additional hour tomorrow to finish it.

Again, if you’re not into social media, spend this hour writing an article for your own website that goes some way to demonstrating your expertise.

social media

Day 23. Sign up for any relevant online tools for social scheduling.

Should you be using something like Hootsuite or Schedugram or Tweetdeck to help ensure your social media channels have activity even when you might be distracted?

If you don’t need social schedule, spend your hour researching any other tools you should be using. Then sign up and begin set up – e.g.. Mailchimp, Salesforce, blogging platform.

Day 24. Post or schedule your first content pieces.

Also consider how you’re going to share and cross promote this piece of content. For example, should you be integrating your instagram feed onto your website, publishing new blog posts and them promoting via LinkedIn and Twitter, boosting a Facebook post?

Once you’ve thought through this, create a little checklist that you can refer to each time to remind yourself of this sharing practice.

Day 25. Schedule key marketing activity due dates.

This is so that you don’t miss your chance, over and over, to be effective and relevant with your marketing communications and sales.

Schedule in your calendar, or set reminders 7-28 days in advance – in your digital calendar. And if you have a written diary, do the same.

Day 26. Create a corresponding marketing budget line/series of lines for the next 12 months.

Marketing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money – but there are usually SOME costs. If nothing else, you should allocate some expected HOURS of your time, if only so you remember to allow for it as the year progresses.

ensuring you’re adding in any required spend, product/service donations, fees for services – and an estimate of your hours if you’re doing it yourself.

Day 27. Populate success metrics against your activities

In your monthly schedule, add key metrics that relate back to your initial goals you put together on day 1. This could be # leads, # people on base, # sales, $ sales, # speaking engagements – anything measurable for a month and year.

Go back and review results in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to get an idea of your baseline starting point.

Day 28. Read, review, refine your marketing plan

Take the time to sit down and read and review your plan.

Fix any obvious errors, flesh out your ideas, identify holes to fix today – or tomorrow.

If you like the feel of a big, finished document, compile it all into ONE document (through cut and paste or starting something new).

Then…go forth and implement your marketing plan!


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Why there is value in being a specialist – staying niche

The value in being niche

One of the most oft-recurring conversations I have with small business- and even some larger businesses – is whether they should ‘do more’. That is: sell a wider array of goods or services. Diversify.

There is a true fear of missing an opportunity by being a specialist, being niche. And I completely understand this because when I’ve worked completely as a freelancer, there’s a tendency to say yes to everything to ensure you can keep paying the bills.

Yet there is some real value in staying niche – and that’s the opportunity to be positioned and perceived as a “specialist”. A true expert, with specialised knowledge, is what many people are seeking from either a service provide or a retailer.

I was recently reminded of this when I received this (unsolicited) email. Despite the fact it’s obviously quite ugly, mass-produced and inherently ‘spammy’ looking, the actual content is worse. Why? Because can one person, or one business, possibly be expert in all of those things? Of course not. They can likely DO all of these things, but that doesn’t mean I’d trust them to be “the best choice” for any one of them.

Value of specialisation

I’m not alone in the call to consider the benefits of staying niche. I watched a recent interview with Andrew McCutchen of Time & Tide (as part of a series of Officeworks videos). Andrew’s publication is one of the most niche media offerings out there: a publication focused only on watches. Yet it seems to be thriving at a time when much larger media vehicles are dropping like flies. He talked about not being afraid to delight in the detail of what you do, and “showing your passion for it” which, in turn, “will show authority in the space”.

At a time when Department stores are hitting truly hard times, specialist retail is also gaining traction. An impressive example of a niche retail business that’s thriving is store C.W. Pencils in New York. It is a store dedicated to – you guessed it – pencils. Yes, there’s some other stationery on offer, but this store has made itself a true retail destination by being perceived as a pencil specialist. Don’t think there could be anything in that? A hint that it’s working is not only all the media they’ve garnered, but their Instagram following that tipped to over 100,000 people in a year.

So if you’re considering your business and marketing planning for the coming year, it’s a good time to consider what it is you and your business really excel at: are true experts in. Then consider if there’s value is focusing more narrowly on this speciality and really building your authority in that arena. Some short term challenges may evolve into genuine, long-term, competitive advantage: being sought out by prospective customers as an expert in your field. The ultimate, zero budget marketing dream.

What is the world wondering about? Google 2016 trending searches

Before we commence planning for 2017, it’s worth reflecting on 2016. What worked in marketing your business…and what didn’t work? Did you see any micro -or macro- changes occurring to your market or industry. And what’s been important to your target market: your all important customers?

One tool to provide some insight into that final question is Google’s 2016 trending searches tool (Google’s Year in Search) – an intriguing, somewhat bizarre and occasionally depressing insight what the world was wondering about, month by month, last year.

Many of the breakout searches were people (often celebrities), some elements of popular culture, some new businesses, some new terms…and some are things I’m still scratching my head about!

It does demonstrate, however, that what is fascinating people really changes month by month. Likely, day by day. What lessons are there in that for those of us in marketing? If you’re trying to get some traction in social media and blogging, or simply like to be in tune with the zeitgeist, keeping on top of what people are interested in “right now” can be a powerful connectivity tool. Whilst this (free) tool is looking backwards, you can use the (free) Google Trend tool all year round. And if you’re not in that sort of market? It is amusing to check it out for the curiosity value alone!

What is the world thinking?

Check it out online here.

A clever retail email campaign example – Offer + social proof

It’s an inbox war out there. More and more emails sent. Less and less attention paid. So when an email makes ME stop and pay attention, I make the effort to consider why – and help us all learn from it! So I thought I’d share this recent clever email marketing campaign that combines the double whammy of a great offer AND social proof.

It’s an email from an Australian online bag and carry retailer, Rushfaster. (I haven’t bought from them before but I entered a rather compelling competition a few months ago, which is where I expect they got my email address.)

To start with: the offer in this email is great – 25% off is a decent discount. But a lot of retailers offer 25% off in their email marketing, so it isn’t enough to motivate someone who’s not really in the market for what they’re selling right now. Particularly when trying to drive FIRST purchase, they’ve recognised the need to work harder. In this case, Rushfaster is betting on social proof. That is – 99.4% of customers said they’d shop with us again.

Now that is an impressive lot of satisfied customers. Huge numbers any marketer would be proud to have. So if I was worried about Rushfaster in any way – about their legitimacy, quality of product, ability to deliver – this would alleviate this. It’s an impressive use of social proof and a great way to use research for more than just making your boss happy!

This campaign is a great example of how to use a hook and a call to action really well.

I should point out, I didn’t actually shop as a result of this email. Which isn’t unusual, of course; if we all bought something every time we got an email, we’d be broke in a week!

But it did make me consider – what would ultimately make this campaign even better? In my opinion, it would be to include some product at the end. Because, like many of us, I’m a bit of an impulse shopper when I see something I love.

Adding some desirable product below the hook and call to action may have closed this for me. Of course, it may not have too! So still lots to learn from this smart little marketing campaign – and a reminder to make each communication piece you send always work as hard as it possibly can.


Screen Shot 2016-09-21 at 3.44.38 PM.png

Think marketing first, not marketing last – Critical questions to ask


I had a call the other day from someone who’d done a lot of hard work to securing an international speaker she was bringing out here from the US. And after they’d negotiated it all and had dates and had committed herself to the significant costs…that’s when she called me. That’s when she really started to think about actually ‘marketing’ the speaker and thus doing what I like to call ‘the making money part’.

This isn’t unusual. I can’t actually count the number of times a client has come to me late in the process – in fact, when it feels like it’s a last resort. They’ve done all the work to set up a business – often a huge about of work – and then they discover the bad news: customers don’t magically appear or keep appearing.

That’s not to say you need a marketing expert to run a business – you just need to think marketing first, not marketing last. Trust me, it will save you a whole lot of pain later on.

Business don’t just fail to budget for marketing – they fail to even think about marketing until they ‘need’ it. Which is usually when it’s too late. Every business must ‘do’ marketing.

If you START with a marketing mindset, you’re 100% more likely to be successful in any business. Seriously.

Why? Because it means you will have considered and planned for critical elements to your business success like:

  • Who is my customer going to be?
  • What does my prospective customer want – in their life, their shopping, their work? What motivates them?
  • How do I want my business to appear visually? What tone of voice is right for my audience?
  • What problem can I (my business/product/service) solve for my customer?
  • What is it about my product or service that is special or different or worth choosing?
  • What is the best way to price my product or service?
  • Who are the important influencers I should get involved?
  • Who could I partner with to help spread the word about my business or event or promotion?
  • What should I budget to promote my business? (Because it is possible to marketing without money but it’s much smarter to allocate some budget if you can.)
  • Where does social media fit in (if at all)?
  • Is advertising going to be worthwhile? And if so, where and what deal can you negotiate?
  • Where does online fit in my business? What should be on my website? How will I get people to my website?
  • What about a referral marketing strategy? Is there a role for affiliate marketing?
  • How do I start building a marketing list?
  • How will I keep people buying from me? What will motivate repeat purchase?

I hope you see the value in thinking about these questions. It helps you put marketing first, not marketing last.

These questions help you plan for the success of your business or event. They help you create a marketing mindset, which in turn will help you have a successful business that’s built around your customer and market, not just around you.

The right way to deliver ‘bad news’ to customers

You won’t always have good news for customers. Prices will go up, service inclusions will change, programs will end. It’s a fact of business life.

So when you have to share ‘bad’ news, you need to consider how you’ll do it. Both your copywriting skills, and knowledge of your customer, need to come into play. What is important to your customers? What benefits are you STILL offering? Why is the change being made?

A great example of the right way to deliver bad news is this email message I recently received from bank ING Direct. It was advising me a promotion they’d been running for several years was coming to an end. I’d never taken advantage of this program, so it would have escaped my attention, except for the fact that I thought this was a clever delivery.


It starts by reminding customers of the value of the promotion they’ve delivered for two years. It then points out some other genuine benefits of banking with them that would have to go if the program continued. It gives customers advance notice the promotion coming to an end. It doesn’t talk down to the customer. It makes this bank appear transparent. It’s succinct but clear.

It’s a great little communication piece. And it would have taken quite a lot of work and consideration, despite its brevity. It’s a great reminder of the value of well chosen words – and that there is a right way to deliver bad news.


Ing promotion bad news good news

PS. I should also note ‘bad news’ doesn’t mean ‘mistake’. If there’s been a mistake, it’s best to apologise, quickly and painlessly. Customers will respect you for it and move on. As in life, in business when you try and cover up a mistake, or deny it, that when the problems usually start!

Unpaid engagement is still possible on Facebook…just

Facebook is a tough master for marketers. Once the land of zero budget marketing opportunity, these days when you don’t want to pay for advertising, it’s hard to be seen, let alone get people to engage with your posts. And of course, thanks to Facebook’s Edgerank, the less they engage, the less they see….the proverbial viscous circle.

So how do you get people to engage with your posts? Well, the short answer is: Post engaging stuff!

The problem is…truly engaging stuff can be extremely difficult and immensely time consuming to create all the time. (Or expensive if you need to pay someone to do it for you). Plus, sometimes what you think will be engaging really isn’t.

There is a bit of a shortcut for the zero budget marketer, though. You can share other people’s engaging stuff, in between your own, which has the added bonus of making your page more like an entertaining dinner party and less like attending a one-woman show. This should then help your less engaging posts show up a little more and get some interaction – not a lot, but at least some. And it’s keeping your brand on their radar.

I recently put this to the test with a series of posts on Facebook around a marketing theme for July – a ‘productivity’ month. I’ve included some shots below of three posts- two were shared articles and one was a ‘straight’ product post. You can see the engagement is huge on “the 6 hour work day” because, let’s face it, who among us doesn’t want to work a little less?! But the Midori Traveler’s Notebook post – a ‘straight’ post – got more likes that it would usually. And when you look at the reach, it’s over a thousand people, compared to the post below which had more likes but still only hit seventeen hundred people. So the marketing post isn’t setting the world on fire, but it’s also not a waste of time with a reach over a thousand.

Facebook organic marketing is tough – and engagement is so much higher these days on a platform like Instagram. But if you’ve put the effort into building an established audience on Facebook, and you’re still trying to reach them without paying to talk to them (via Facebook advertising), little tactics like this piggybacking on relevant and engaging third party content can help.

facebook post example 1

facebook post example

facebook post

When SEO isn’t about Google and is about people – The marketing value of meta descriptions

Digital marketing can’t really be called digital marketing any longer. For anyone marketing a business, digital is now so core to our work that it’s really just “marketing”.  Which means we need to constantly learn new skills because technology doesn’t stand still (as much as we’d sometimes like it to). And along the way, we also need to be reminded of some older skills and activities – things we know but sometimes forget about. One of these is the marketing value of meta descriptions.

Meta description is a rather ugly and technical sounding name for “the little bit of copy Google displays when showing a search result for your business”.  Which still doesn’t sound that interesting and exciting…until you remember that this little bit of copy can be hugely important on whether people choose to click on your search result, thus visiting your site and spending money with you. Your SEO work often focuses on APPEARING in the search results – your meta descriptions are what help complete that last step of a personal clicking on your search result.

Yet all too often, businesses have default meta descriptions appear, or worse still, have messy code or blocked results show up. Which makes people far less likely to click on your business in a search results page. And this is a missed opportunity: a true ‘zero budget marketing’ opportunity as all it takes to improve your opportunity for clicks – and so visitors – is a little bit of time in copywriting.

How meta descriptions can appear

An example of the marketing value of meta descriptions can be seen in the examples below. This is a search on Google for “little black dress”. The first result for The Iconic isn’t too bad, although it’s largely a default meta description. However, the next three – for the-lbd, asos and Hello Molly – are custom written. And they are persuasive and let people know what they’ll find when they click. The final result, for boohoo, is what happens when you let Google grab something random from your site for a meta description.

search results for little black dress

Using webmaster tools to identify missed opportunities

I recently found myself looking at Google webmaster tools (aka Google search console) for a retail site I work with. If you don’t use Google Search Console, you should. It is an awesome (free) tool that shows what search terms customers are finding you through and for those terms, your clicks, impressions, click through rate (CTR) and position you appear in for various search terms.

So I was checking the search terms we rank for. It struck me that for some of the terms we were not getting the CTR we should be. That is, we were showing up for the right term, on page one of Google, but not enough people were clicking on us.

And this is where meta descriptions and pages titles suddenly become really important.  Because almost the only thing that affects what people click on is what shows up for your search result: your page title and meta description. Now, I say ‘almost only’ because other factors do come into play – they suddenly remember they’ve done business with a competitor that appears, or get enticed by a Google advert instead – but meta description and title the only real factor you can actually control.

A copywriting test & resubmitting your URL.

I decided to test whether changing the meta descriptions, and tweaking page titles, would make enough of a difference to make the effort worthwhile. It does require some effort because there ARE default meta descriptions for the site that weren’t too bad. And manually changing them – particular for a retail site with lots of SKUs – is time consuming. But it’s something that’s free to try, so I

I focused on the keywords that were getting the most impressions first. So I picked fifteen keywords, put them into Google to see what the search results showed. Then I rewrote these meta descriptions (inside my CMS), keeping the old copy on file and adding the new copy or page title.

The final step is re-submitting the page to Google to crawl (which you also do in the search console under the CRAWL site menu and then “fetch as Google”. I found it only took a day or so for Google to recrawl the site and have the new meta descriptions appear.

Of 15 rewritten meta descriptions, 12 resulted in significantly more clicks

When I say significantly more clicks, some of the CTRs moved up several percentage points, most at least one percentage point. Extrapolate that out to your top 50 search terms and that can mean a whole more clicks – and a lot more potential business.

So what sort of thing did I change? Ultimately, I focused on putting more about what the customer would find when they clicked. I conveyed breadth of range. I also added location information, so that people would know that this was an Australian site. I tried to make it more compelling and persuasive and clear.

I’ll share one example. The search term was “washi tape” – changing the copy took the CTR from 6.5% to 7.9% – which translates to 91 new prospective customers in a month for this term alone.

Old copy
Notemaker has a wide range of washi tapes, available in different sizes, patterns & colours. Shop online with Australia’s leading stationery store!

New copy
Australia’s widest range of washi tapes. So many sizes, patterns & colours in popular Japanese washi tape. Hundreds available! Many on sale. Buy online today.

So the difference weren’t huge. But it did make a noticeable (positive) difference within a month. A positive test and one that I’ll be continuing to roll out for top keywords.

The reason it’s worth treating this like “a test” is not only to track your successes: it’s to find what didn’t work.  Two terms did noticeably worse when I changed them, even though I thought the copy was better. So I’ll be changing those back!

A work in progress

Gaining real marketing value from meta descriptions isn’t a once off activity. It’s something you’d ideally look at monthly, or every few months, to see where there are gains to be made. It’s something you can do yourself if you don’t have the resources to pay someone too. And it can provide more visitors – and so more potential sales – without a big investment.

So what is the marketing value of meta descriptions? It’s a zero budget marketing tool that’s potentially hugely powerful in bringing you prospective customers, yet one all too easy to forget about! Good luck with your own testing!