Google Insights

 

 Google Insights is a new tool from Google that really surpasses the keyword tool in some areas. Where the keyword will suggest many different possibilities that will narrow the keywords you are targeting Insights will only give you the top 10. However where it has significant advantages is its geographic targeting. For example you can pick Australia or a state (unlike the keyword tool where you can only pick the country). If you do pick Australia it will break down search volumes by state so you can get some idea of where you should target, or even where you need to set up your distribution centre.

 

Insights for Ski in Australia
Insights for Ski in Australia

 

The other area that is useful is that you get a graph going back to 2004 that shows searches per month. This gives you a great idea on what is happening over time, whether there are seasonal variations and even whether you are about to enter an increasing or decreasing market.

One thing to note is that get numbers to show on the graphs, you will need to have a Google account. You can get one of these by signing up to Gmail or many of the other Google services. However one word of caution is that these are not absolute numbers they are normalised against the highest figure (ie if the top search volume was 1000 and the months search was 700, the value would be 70[%]).

So you would use this to look at your market trends over time where as the keyword tool would still be your primary research tool for looking which keywords and phrases to optimise for.

Online Enquiries – 59% not answered

In these days of tighening economic conditions you would think that business owners would jump on every opportunity to develop relationships and respond to enquiries. However it seems that is not the case online. In a recent study it was found that 59%, yes that’s fifty-nine percent of Australian companies did not answer an enquiry within 7 days of it being sent.

Now at this point I have to say that as a user of those systems, I am not surprised at all, but on the other hand, even the successful criteria was a response within a week…a week!!! If I send a web enquiry I want it answering fast, or I’ll send it to someone else. A week is hardly fast in anyones reckoning.

As an example, I have recently had an experience where I have sent 2 web enquiries to Xerox Australia, neither of which was replied to. However in their defense, I also left a phone message and they didn’t reply to that either! What I don’t understand is that at best this is leaving our customers thinking we don’t value them, and at worst they just go elsewhere.

In the company I work for, we currently generate quite a few web enquiries, many of which I know don’t get followed up. The sales manager for one of the states has told me “I know those that are worth replying to, all the others are just looking for a price”… no shit Sherlock! In reality what he actually means is that if he doesn’t know them already he is not interested.

So having said how bad we are at handling web enquiries, what can we do to resolve the situation?

Well first thing is to make sure when you design your enquiry system, be prepared for the enquiries that result. Have a system prepared for how you are going to handle what is coming in. That might be a fully automated system, semi automation, a manual system with templates set up, or even having a follow up system with your sales team which they must feed back into within a given time.

If you want to get specific the following may be of some help: –

Customer service

Customer service, unlike an enquiry for a product should be something you are looking to reduce. If your customer service is right first time, there will be very little need for people to contact you. There is also a rule that says if they are not satisfied with the result of the first call, they will carry on and on, taking up more and more of your time. So have a system that feeds back into your process with problems to try to design them out. If you get repeated questions, either find a way to fix them, or put them in an FAQ section.

If your team is getting swamped in emails, which are backing up, enable clickcalling or even add in a text service. Clickcalling allows them to talk to an operator, which should reduce the amount of time spent with minor issues, texting on the other hand ensures that your answer have to be short and sweet, saving you time.

Lastly, if you are in a large organisation working in a help desk environment you may find another department is causing you misery. This could be a new product, or a marketing campaign or whatever. Well charge them for your services. If they see charges adding up, they will be much more inclined to fix the problem.

Enquiries

These are what every company wants more of, but most don’t handle when we do. Short of the designing automated systems mentioned above, I can recommend a few other actions which can help.

Firstly if you are going to change and improve your enquiry system, test the new one on a small section of your site first. As you can see from my previous posts I have done this and know that changes I am going to make will increase the enquiry rate by around 550%. If I know this, I can design a system to handle it, otherwise I might get totally caught out.

Another approach is to design two enquiry systems. One is designed to maximise the number of enquiries, so it might for instance have the simpliest form requiring little info from the user. The other is designed to produce the most qualified and committed enquirers. This may have a much more complex form to fill out, so that sales people get to know a lot of additional information about the client. You may for instance if you are a b2b supplier try to filter out companies interested in one off, low value items. So it could include questions that ask them to state how much they spend on your type of products a year. This means only the most committed enquirers will complete the form.

So why do this. Well if the sales team want more leads you can go with the first option, if they want more qualified leads you can switch to the second, and if you are really smart you can use A-B testing procedures to run both at once so that you only generate the number of enquiries a day you can handle.

I have to say that although this is a perfectly valid approach I would be careful that it doesn’t drive away potential long term customers. For the company I work for, my preference would be to have an automated system, but that really depends on your products, your pricing strategies and sadly often your internal politics.

One last thought is that you should not forget lead generation firms. These companies will follow up your enquiries for you, and the advantage of using them is that they are an infinite resource. If you get more enquiries, they put more people on it. You pay for it of coarse, so as always, it is a numbers game.

 

Hopefully if you are one of the 59%, this should give you some ideas on how to solve your problems and improve your situation. Lets get that number down, and lets work on that week response time so we are all replying the same day. That can only be good for our businesses.

 

Bodgy Firewall Workaround

I’m sure this isn’t exactly original but I thought I would mention it anyway.

I have just added a Dreamweaver plugin form2excel to one of my sites. This adds some PHP that collects form data as a Excel form and send you an email of the info every time the form is completed. This is a great time saver if you use Excel for analysis or as a mini database, as obviously there is no retyping.

However what we found was that the emails could not get through our corporate firewall as they are sent from the same address as they are going to. Obviously any reasonable firewall will spot this and stop it dead.

What we did as a workaround was to send it to gmail and have gmail automatically forward it to an address behind our firewall. The added bonuses are that we don’t need to open our firewall up, we have a backup of all enquiries, we get great spam filtering and the enquiries are much more searchable in gmail if we need to go back through them.

Next step is to use Google Spreadsheet API to just dump it in. Ahh digial nirvana!

Usability Testing Done Cheap

Okay so I know that there is quite a bit of software that will allow you to do user testing a lot cheaper these days than in a studio, but I hadn’t come across http://www.usertesting.com before. I used them today for the first time and they were quick, taking a day to have 5 tests done with video and written reports.

The reports I got were excellent, backing up the problems I know one of my sites had. The reviewers were good and explained their problems well. Only problem was probably that they seemed to be quite experienced internet users in some case, even though I had asked for moderate or beginners users.

Overall I would really recommend anyone do this as it only costs about $25 for a test. A bargain for the info you get.

Animoto Update

For all of you who have been producing video in Animoto, they have just announced a commercial/business license for $249. A bargain I think! See http://business.animoto.com/learnmore.html for details.

Essentially though you get as many DVD quality videos as you want, you can resell if you are in that business, and branding is reduced to a small powered by Animoto.

Web Enquiry System Optimisation

Over the last few months I have been testing a web enquiry system to see if it can be improved. At the moment the system is a simple page that opens in a new window that you have to complete with contact details and what you want.

After testing some relatively simple changes you can see huge improvement in the completion rate of the form and the visit to enquiry ratio for the page.

I thought I would post this as a way to illustrate that it content is king, usability is president. A few simple changes can generate a huge increase in revenue!

The report can be found in Google Docs form here.

Founder of Delicious to go

There are some reports that Josh Schachter, the founder of delicious will be leaving Yahoo too. I have to say that I am a big fan of delicious and its ability to tag links, which the browsers are only just catching up with. For me this makes it much easier to find things that I bookmark because I think I might have a use for them in the future.

Personally however I feel that the big problem is that delicious has a huge userbase, and outgoings to match, and very little ways to bring money in. When I look at how I use it, I very rarely go to their website even, using buttons in my browser to tag links and access my links. Even when I do go to their site, there is no ads, no premium services, nothing that can bring in money.

When I look at the info in my delicious bookmarks though, you can find out a lot about me and my interests. Surely if delicious had been bought by Google they would have taken advantage of that by at least serving ads that are likely to match my interests when I visit my home page, or specific ads when I click on a tag.

As a user of delicious I have to say that I really wouldn’t mind them making a bit of money, as lets face it, if I want to keep these links into the future, they need to be at least recovering their costs.