Herwood Pallets Makes Online Marketing a Priority - Website Marketing Gurus Share Best Practices
Online Marketing: Herwood Pallets make the Web a priority to attract new leads and boost its online presence. Website marketing gurus share best practices and what has worked for Herwood.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 11/1/2013
If you are like most pallet and lumber companies, your website is something you worked on years ago and it gets ignored amid all the stresses involved in your day-to-day operations. According to the GE Capital Retail Bank Major Purchase Shopper Study consumers are increasingly researching online before making major purchases. The 2013 study found that 81% of consumers go online to research options before heading into stores, up 20% from last year. And if people increasingly go online to do market research and even look for vendors and solutions to problems, maybe you should give your website and online marketing more thought and focus.
One pallet company in Canada has done just that and is finding customers through its efforts. Herwood Pallets Inc. (HWP) in Windsor, Quebec, Canada has been working with Adeo Internet Marketing over the last three years. And it has developed one of the nicest websites (www.hwppallets.com) that I have seen for a pallet company after years of searching and looking at industry websites. Adeo is an Internet marketing firm that specializes in website design and social media campaigns.
Adeo started working with Herwood by holding a listening meeting to discover the client’s objectives, needs and goals. Then they all came together again to brainstorm the website design including the layout and colors. Throughout the process, Adeo communicated its developments and sought client input. Adeo created design sketches to demo various options. After a final design was selected, Adeo developed the website. It also came up with an online marketing plan for an entire year, including social media and other strategies. By developing a user persona for the target market, Adeo can figure out who the audience is and what they desire in terms of information and services. This customer persona guides the entire process because at the end of the day, you develop a website to get customers to take action, not just so you can say that you have a website.
You have to remember that you have two key audiences in any website design. You are trying to get the attention of your customers and prospects as well as the search engines and social media websites. What one group cares about may be different than the other. But the worst thing you can do is design a website based on your interests.
Allen Gendron, co-founder of Adeo, said that a big mistake he sees companies make is that they focus too much on themselves and not what customers want or what the search engines use to decide the relevance of a website to particular keywords.
Keywords are the words or phrases that customers or potential customers are likely to use to find you or your competition. These are the phrases you must keep in mind when designing your website and developing content. You can figure out what these words are by developing a list of top phrases that you think customers might use. Then, you use the Google Keyword search tool to see how popular the various keywords are. You can also use Google Adwords to identify how much it would cost to develop a pay-per click advertising campaign to compete for ads targeting these keywords.
Steve Dustin, co-founder of Adeo, said, “Google has three major things it looks at when it ranks a website. Those are content, backlinks and social media mentions and activity. If you are not offering any value, and the content is strictly marketing a company, you are not going to get any retweets or social media mentions.”
And that is where many pallet or lumber companies struggle to develop effective websites. They don’t keep the site content current or don’t offer content that will attract the attention of potential customers or search engines.
Gendron explained, “Many pallet companies aren’t actively updating their websites. You can visit the website and tell that they haven’t updated the content in years. Freshness is definitely a factor in Google’s eyes. The more active you are, the more interest you generate.”
One effective strategy is to develop static content about your company and pallets in general. Then, you can create a blog that is updated at least several times per month. The blog can have tips and tricks for customers, news on the latest regulatory issue, or information on pallet purchasing 101.
Content should be more than just 100-200 words to attract positive attention from the search engines. Steve suggested that content be at least 500 words. There are some things you can do to improve your search engine ranking. The first is to write content that focuses on your keywords. But you don’t want to repeat the keywords too much or Google could penalize you for keyword stuffing. Instead, use synonyms or if you are unsure of what to do, you could always hire an online marketing firm, such as Adeo.
When you place pictures on a web page make sure to include Alt tags that identify the picture and refer to the keywords in some way. Dustin commented, “You want to have multiple pictures and use the Alt tag... The Google bot can’t see the picture, but it reads the meta data behind the image. It improves your overall relevancy score for your page. If you have a picture on your page, you are going to want to an Alt tag that contains one of your keywords.”
Also, produce key content in HTML not PDF or other proprietary formats. Although search engines can index these formats, you usually never see PDFs or other proprietary formats toward the top of a keyword search. Websites should present calls to action for visitors to respond to and these should be easy to follow as well as fulfill a company’s marketing goals. This could involve requesting a price quote, downloading a white paper, signing up for a newsletter, calling a phone number for assistance, etc.
Dustin said, “It is really important to have a clear call to your action on your website. If you are not saying call us or fill out this form any place on your website, you are missing out on an opportunity to convert that lead. You should never leave it open ended. You should always make it clear what the next step is. And usually that is to contact you.”
You may have multiple calls to action on your website depending on how you develop target pages around specific product lines. One mistake that some companies make is to pay Google for a keyword advertising campaign and then lead people to the homepage or a page without a significant call to action. Dustin explained, “A lot of people make a pay-per click campaign and just point it to their homepage. But a homepage is just a general page that leads to multiple different areas of the website. When you create a pay-per click ad on Google, you want to have a really specific message and offer.”
For example instead of merely advertise pallets focus on Europallets, export pallets or ISPM-15 certified pallets. Then you can tie that to a page with information on the topic as well as a call to action directing a customer to seek a price quote or submit a request detailing its needs.
You also want to make sure that your site doesn’t have technical barriers to getting properly indexed by search engines. For example, your site should have a site map. You should also have text-based website URLs and links to all public areas of your website off the homepage and sitemap. If you are targeting a specific region, mention those in your static content as well as blog or other fresh content.
Although some websites may have technical barriers to getting indexed, the big reason why websites rank low is outdated, irrelevant content or ignoring social media. Dustin said, “You have to stay active and be putting out good relevant topics.” Gendron added, “Write for people… You also have to write in such a way that gives value – you need to inform people about the topic. It can’t be just promotional if you want to gain social media exposure.”
For Herwood, Adeo develops content for Twitter as well as promotes various information on LinkedIn and the company’s Facebook page. You want to reserve your brand names on the social media platforms if you want to ever use them in the future even if you don’t want to put effort behind them now. Once they are gone, they may be hard to get back.
The main objective of the online marketing program for Herwood is to grow its market share in eastern Canada and the United States. The focus is to increase website traffic, attract and convert potential customers and beat the competition in search engine ranking. So far, Herwood is happy with its investment.
Mark Patrick Tame, vice president of sales and strategic business development for Herwood said, “The HWP way has never been one of extreme over-marketing the product or of the company itself. We’re known in the market as a very high-end, quality product at a reasonable price; which is kind of the Canadian way as well on the international market. I think that solution has always brought us to very loyal and long-standing clients. Pair that up with the positive aspect that we are the new generation in the pallet industry. Our website is one way we demonstrate this.”
Using an experienced firm can save money over do-it-yourself strategies when you don’t understand the technology. For example, Adeo has helped clients with pay-per click search engine ads and actually helped clients save money even after factoring in their fees because clients were spending too much on ineffective keywords or paying for ads to show up in places where these clients don’t do business.
When it comes to social media, you must have more than just a Twitter feed or Facebook page. You need to keep that fresh too and tie it in with your website.
Gendron said, “A lot of people have a Facebook or Twitter, they get really involved over the first couple of weeks and then it dies off. You have to commit to it and get a schedule and master plan to make posts or tweets regularly. You have to be constant and tweet or comment on a regular basis. It is all about forming relationships with other people.”
For its clients, Adeo develops a large stockpile of Tweets that are approved and ready to go as needed. It also develops a master marketing plan including the website, social media, email and more. You can use free programs, such as Hootsuite, to help you manage your tweets and social media posts. For business to business marketing it is a good idea to use both Twitter and LinkedIn as well as have a basic Facebook page. Twitter helps you reach out to other people and keep those connections going through regular updates. LinkedIn is great to help you find people within organizations and companies that you know are important. Also, a good idea is to join and participate in relevant LinkedIn groups on key business areas.
And of course, email marketing remains a key piece of any effective online strategy although social media has begun to supersede email.
Finally, the use of smartphones has grown significantly over the last few years. It is important that your Internet marketing strategy keep this in mind. One critical way to do this is by ensuring your website is mobile friendly, meaning it will work well and show up on a wide variety of smartphones.
Dustin suggested, “We do responsive web design. Google has gone on record saying that it does not like having a second version of a website that is mobile friendly. That is not recommended anymore.”
Responsive design adapts to any screen size by reformatting the webpage based on the resolution of the screen. This method does not change the address in the address bar, which is something that Google does not particularly like. Consider testing your site to see how it does on various mobile devices. Also, you should discuss with your webmaster how mobile friendly your site is.
While this seems like a lot to do, you don’t have to do everything at once. The key is to do something to make strides in your e-marketing strategy. And there are a number of companies out there that want to help, such as Adeo. But if your website is an afterthought, don’t be surprised if it isn’t producing results.
Adeo Internet Marketing
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