Factors to consider when choosing your website hosting provider
When it comes to website hosting, you’ll find a huge variety of hosting options online in NZ and offshore. There are not only several different types of hosting such as shared hosting and dedicated “VPN” (virtual private network) hosting but also a wide price range starting from as low as $4 a month going up to several hundred dollars.
So, the question is, what is the right web hosting for you? Which type of hosting suits your website?
The reason why there is such a difference in hosting costs are the features included in your hosting plan. Whilst a private person with a one pager blog might not need all of them, additional services will definitely make all the difference for those professionally running a website.
Therefore, it is crucial to consider the following questions and to have a detailed look into the included services before just going after the cheapest offer.
What type of website do you have?
If you are using a simple DIY website builder like Squarespace or Wix, the web hosting is another expense that may be included in your subscription or is invoiced via your website platform. However, if you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, then you’ll need to find a WordPress web hosting company.
How much storage do you need?
Do you have a big database, a variety of videos and applications or just copy and small images? Most providers restrict the storage which then can slow your website down and make it unusable for your customers. Among our clients, the smallest ones use up to 3 GB storage, established companies up to 8GB and high use community sites or ones with 20+ branches might need unlimited bandwidth.
How many web visitors do you have per month?
Most providers have a restricted bandwidth that does not allow for unlimited traffic. More traffic = more downloads = more RAM needed.
What is your level of experience and time to handle website maintenance?
Are you an experienced programmer with advanced technical skills who can do updates or do you require a managed service to ensure your website is up and running secure and smoothly? If you don’t update your plugins, your site can be vulnerable to attack. And the server itself needs regular security updates. Some of the cheap hosting plans leave you in a massive “hall” with poorly maintained websites, and server software that doesn’t get updated, leaving your site more exposed.
What is the risk to your business if your website gets compromised?
If your website gets hacked and used as an email gateway, your domain may be put on a blacklist. If your email is also on that domain, you may not be able to send or receive email, and it could take up to two months to get off the blacklist. How would your business survive if email was down for 2 months? Prevention is easier than cure!
The key is to find the plan that fits your budget and provides you with the features you need.
What web hosting service is the most reliable?
The list of add-ons to basic hosting packages is endless and not everyone needs the premium-extra-plus-service. However, there are some essential features that we recommend you take up, to keep your website running reliably, and stand a good chance of preventing cyber attacks (even small WordPress sites get around ten attacks each week – some of the bigger sites get thousands! Crazy world we live in).
SSL certificate (that means your site is https:// not http which shows a message “this site is not secure”. This is considered necessary, and is important if you are trying to rank.
Automated back ups. You also ideally want your programmer to be able to log in and retrieve this file immediately, and see a log of which files have been changed on what dates, so you can retrieve a recent back up copy before the hack if your site gets compromised.
Security plugin that picks up if your site is being hammered e.g. someone trying to get in with lots of password attempts, and blocks that user.
24/7 monitoring and support, so if your site goes down, it is picked up as quickly as possible
Manual back ups of core themes and plug-ins so if the whole thing goes pear shaped, or the hack is very broad, you do have a clean version that can be reinstated and plugins updated
Fast server with unlimited broadband and storage so your site ranks well and won’t slow down as you add content (assuming you are using modern “next gen” formats for your photos, to keep your site speedy).
What web hosting services does Alexanders Digital Marketing offer?
We are an Amazon WordPress hosting provider and specialise in Managed WordPress Hosting. WordPress hosting is designed specifically to optimize WordPress websites for speed, performance and security. It pays special attention to WordPress’ technical and security requirements. As experts in WordPress we understand that hosting is an essential part of maintaining a website and offer advanced managed services as well as security software to keep your website out of trouble.
What does WordPress Hosting include?
Alexanders Digital Marketing includes the following in our WordPress web hosting plans:
Managed WordPress Core Updates: all minor and major core version updates will be reviewed, inhouse tested and installed to ensure stability and to minimise the risk for breaking changes and other unforeseen issues
Managed WordPress PlugIn Updates: all security and non-security related plugs in and patches will be installed to keep your website secure and operating.
24/7 monitoring and malware scanning
Daily automatic backup of your full site including all files and database with ability to retrieve backups at a moment’s notice. No 24-hour delay waiting for an incomprehensible response from a junior at the big comms hosting companies.
High level security suite to prevent your website from cyber attacks, identify rogue activity and block it. Uses known techniques except for those discovered in the last 30 days (see premium Wordfence option)
Physical test by a real human once a quarter, to check your forms are working. We ask for your co-operation to confirm that these are received, so we can keep a record.Why is this necessary if there have been no code changes? Because from a security point of view, we want the latest versions of plugins with patches, and we set sites to automatically update, some new versions can conflict with each other, causing parts of your website not stop working.
We set up a database to store your email form requests, so if anything happens or your email changes and you forget to tell us, you can log in and download any customer enquiries. Peace of mind.
Automatic SSL certificate installation and HTTP/2 activated
Latest version of PHP (old versions are more vulnerable).
In-house customer support
Fast and secure server with unlimited bandwidth and storage
Certified Amazon web host
Web hosting Extras:
Keep your inbox with reduced spam from forms with Cleantalk
Premium Wordfence: blocks known cyber hack methods discovered in the last month (can’t guarantee every method will be covered, but it the most proactive prevention).
Alexanders’ Managed WordPress Hosting is a good solution for anyone who wants the power and simplicity of WordPress without the hassle of managing technical updates.
WordPress Web Hosting Costs
Our current pricing (Jan 2021) depends on traffic usage (bandwidth) and can be broadly clustered in:
Large Sites with lots of traffic
Based on MB used but approximately:
Cleantalk (reduces number of spam enquiries)
$5 (incl $10 discount for Alexanders Clients)
$5 (incl $10 discount for Alexanders Clients)
$5 (incl $10 discount for Alexanders Clients)
$170 p.a. plus $100 installation fee
$170 p.a. plus $100 installation fee
$170 p.a. plus $100 installation fee
Prices exclude GST
What are the risks of shared hosting?
Is shared hosting safe? The risk of cheap shared web hosting services is that your site can be hacked. The result is that your website might stop running, it might be redirected so your site displays unwanted content, or send your visitors to an unrelated site overseas. Often, a hacked website is used to spam customers. Hackers earn money by getting traffic to foreign websites – even though that traffic is bogus. The most common hacks are due to a malware or spam attack, out-dated core themes and plug ins, weak passwords, or naïve staff who succumb to phishing attacks.
In the worst case, if your email is from the same domain and your domain gets used as an email gateway your domain can get on a blacklist. This means most clients won’t be able to send emails to you, because their email software subscribes to lists of “blacklisted” domains. It can take up to two months to get off these blacklists, and that could cripple a business.
This actually happened to one client of ours, a few years ago. Despite multiple calls and advice to update their website before this happened, they refused to talk to us and return our calls. When it happened, they were in the middle of some significant tenders and it was an absolute nightmare. Since then, we have made it compulsory for all sites we host to comply with at least a moderate number of preventative criteria. We can’t predict every new move, but we can be proactive to try and prevent common hack methods.
As the old saying goes: You get what you pay for.
It’s not a good idea to be complacent. What worked a couple of years ago won’t cut it now.
What are alternatives to shared hosting?
If you have a group of companies, it can pay to have all your sites managed under a larger server that you don’t share with other companies. However, typically the cost of this is higher, and this option doesn’t suit smaller companies.
Shared hosting itself is normal for most small to medium businesses. The risk of cheaper hosting options is they may not have the server software updated, you could be in with a haphazard group of sites that don’t have updates implemented, and that provides an entry point for hackers. There may be thousands of sites in your server, and when you need support, it could take 24 hours to get a copy of your site. They may not keep records on the files that were changed, so you don’t know how far back you need to go to retrieve a clean copy. And they may not have an alert system that your site has been compromised. It can be embarrassing to find out it’s been displaying other content for several days. Plus the offshore host servers may be a long way from your NZ visitors if the servers are in the US.
What’s involved in changing hosting?
We generally like to get a copy of your site, and ensure all the plugins and core theme are up to date. By keeping all our sites on a safe system, it keeps everyone safer. Every website has an IP address, and changing host means your IP address for the website will change. So either your IT team or our programmer will need to log in to your domain management, and enter the new IP address of the new server. If you have an IT person or consultant, it’s good for them to do this. It generally takes 24 hours for servers around the globe to take note of the new location. If you are receiving email from your domain e.g. [email protected], it is sensible for this domain to be added to your email settings, as some email platforms may think emails coming from the same domain address are spam. We will then add you to our quarterly update schedule. Once a quarter, we will alert you that we are going to do some core updates, ask you not to make changes for a day or two, and respond when you receive each form enquiry.
Can you provide me a web hosting quote?
The monthly amount does depend on the amount of traffic you get and it’s hard to tell this before we start hosting. Please drop us a line and we can give you an indication. The main things that affect cost are if you have lots of videos, or a large image gallery, or if images have been loaded willy nilly without regard to size and speed. In such cases, a good option is to include putting your images through ”next gen image compression software” which typically makes your site leaner and faster on mobile phones.
Will your hosting make my site faster?
There are many things that can be done to make a site download faster. Hosting set up is one of them. Old, out of date servers that don’t handle the latest version of php and old web themes that are heavy with extra features can make a site slow. Our Amazon hosting keeps a local cache which is a key strategy. Typically we allow around ten hours of programming to make a WordPress website faster (even more important now, after Google’s June 2021 algorithm update Core Web Vitals rewarded speedy sites).
To see if your website is fast enough, put your site through Google page speed insights. You want your mobile site to score at least 75%, ideally 80%. If it’s low, it’s time to get some work done. We can advise if your platform/theme is due for renewal or if it can be improved without a rebuild.
Not sure which hosting option is right for you?
Get in touch re your WordPress hosting and we can take a look (or phone us on 3488 477). Please note that we don’t host Shopify, Wix, Weebly or Squarespace sites.
In 23 years of business, we have come across a few rogues. It is a sad fact that we have been involved in three court cases against naughty clients! Macauley Marchant was a cowboy roofing contractor who scammed $158,000 from customers, including $19,000 of work from us. You may have seen him on Fair Go. At his recent sentencing, he avoided jail (ODT article).
Macauley approached us in November 2018 to set up a roofing website, and to undertake an aggressive Google Ads campaign – admittedly with a higher monthly budget that usual. That should have made me suspicious. Mateo did a fantastic job, and the leads piled in. We were proud of our efforts and success.
However, in late January 2019 after the holidays, we noticed the bills hadn’t been paid. We paused the campaign on Feb 13 after he said he had paid us, but in fact had not. I then noticed that his company was put into liquidation the day after.
What we were not to know, was that he was taking the deposits for roofing projects, spending up large at the Casino for his gambling and alcohol addiction, and living the high life with fine dining and travel. Here is an extract from the judge’s sentencing report:
“During that period, the police received numerous complaints about you [Macauley]. You would routinely tell members of the public that you were able to complete their roofing work, but then having undertaken to do that work, would stall and come up with excuses. This would occur after they had paid you deposits of varying amounts. You would say things such as you were short-staffed, the weather conditions had not been right, and so on.
In this way you were able to extract $128,000 from 13 complainants…You spent $130,000 at gambling establishments… including spending at the Cashmere Club or the TAB which totalled some $60,000, and there were ATM bank withdrawals totalling some $70,000. There were also a large number of purchases from bars, nightclubs and the like, as well as travel and dining….Only some $2000 was identified as legitimate purchases for your company….You also incurred a $19,000 debt to a web design company whilst you were hopelessly insolvent. This person has sustained a $19,000 loss and I have read her victim statement which indicates that it has had a significant effect.”
In February 2018, I contacted the liquidator. When he heard what had happened, he approachedthe Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)who took up a case against the client. Fortunately for me, MBIE lead the court action, on the basis that the client had knowingly incurred debt whilst insolvent. This saved me the court fees and a lot of angst. The Crown was concurrently taking a case against the client for ripping off the 13 customers.
The outcome? At sentencing, as he is young (24), it was his first offence, and he had an addiction, rather than a prison sentence, the client received home detention, paying $10,000 reparation and promising $350 a week repayment (split amongst 14 of us – I might be lucky to recover it all in eight years). We thank Thomas Chambers for all his efforts. Heads up: this ex-client is now working for a friend of his in Auckland.
It is very disappointing to be taken for a ride, especially when we had done such a good job of generating leads. And it is not the first time! A further client, who turned out to be a seven-times-convicted fraudster, also tried to take advantage of us in a brief to build an allergy app. Fortunately we were not left out of pocket after we discovered what he was up to. However, we are to be a witness in that case, and I am grateful again, that the Crown is undertaking the prosecution.
A third naughty and very high-profile client, treated us in a way we believed was contrary to our signed agreement, which was to provide $2.8 million dollars of advertising services over two years. In this case, as the amount was significant although the period involved was short, Alexanders has instigated court action. We have been waiting for three years for this case to come to hearing, and it has been delayed a further year due to Covid-19. A number of other marketing entities and parties have also taken action against the same entrepreneurs, or been treated in a way they did not think was becoming. Unfortunately, in this case, we are fronting the court fees.
Hard to believe but there was also a fourth instance some four years ago. A rogue sales manager got his hands on the client’s multi-million dollar stash, and ran off with the $23,000 we were owed for work completed for an exciting agri-venture. Earnest promises of repayment dwindled to procrastination. We had been paid for about two thirds of the work, and I knew it was somewhat speculative. I could not justify contributing funds with the client in joint action.
What have we learned? So far, I have been heartened by the support shown by MBIE and others in leading action where we were treated unfairly. We take up front deposits for new clients, and do additional checks on new clients on the Companies Register.
I sincerely hope that no further rogues come our way – or yours. We work conscientiously and hard for our clients, and reduced profits from bad debts are something we all prefer to do without!
The volatility in financial markets, border closures, and stringent measure to contain the outbreak have naturally created uncertainty for businesses and marketers. In this article, we present 8 ways coronavirus is impacting marketing based on feedback from Beijing and Rome.
Boost in e-commerce for daily necessities
With brick-and-mortar stores in Greater China and Singapore having been forced to curtail their business hours or close completely, shoppers have gone online for daily necessities. This has led to a boost in online grocery and fresh food sales – a trend that is set to hasten the growth of the online ordering format. This bodes well for supermarkets that have home delivery. In Rome, my friend reported on March 12th that pharmacies, banks etc were closed, but supermarkets remained open. The food industry gets the tick – though of course with hospitality and logistics affected, less dining out means less demand for premium NZ meat and wine, placing unwelcome pressure on drought-stricken NZ farmers, fishing enterprises and meat processors.
Relatively under-served e-commerce markets such as Hong Kong have also seen a jump in online sales, which may signify the beginning of a long-term fundamental shift to an online economy. E-commerce platform HKTVmall reported a 64.7% y-o-y surge in average daily orders in January. HKTVmall is also reportedly working with its merchant partners to set up pick-up points in their stores.
2. Shift to Social commerce & Live Streaming
The Intime Department Store in China has partnered with hundreds of Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) to host livestreaming sales events during the outbreak. As well as online grocers and fresh food, other industries such as medical doctors and educational centres have been forced to operate online during the outbreak, to varying degrees of success.
One of our former employees who went to Beijing to do his Masters, has not been allowed back to Beijing after travelling to Asia, and is stuck at his parent’s home in a smaller city. All university study is being done online.
The daughter of a friend in Rome is not enjoying doing her schoolwork by Skype. The lack of a disciplined school structure is not good for her anxiety.
3. Preference for retail outlets that have hygiene measures
Hygiene and other measures to ensure facilities are safe and clean for employees and customers will be top of mind. Permanent measures may include providing hand sanitiser at entrances and more regular cleaning of goods or locations frequently touched or used by shoppers. Some places in China are doing temperature scans before you can enter. The Warehouse and Noel Leeming sent out emails promoting their increased sanitization measures. Some supermarkets are offering disinfectant wipes at trolley bays. I admit to having disinfectant wipes and disposable gloves in my car, as well as using napkins to avoid touching café doors already! Am I paranoid?
4. Native advertising
With the higher focus on news readership on global online news websites, native advertising should be high on your agenda. Native ads appear at the bottom of news sites with an image and a headline. These escape ad blockers. It’s a time when health and cocooning topics should get good uptake. If you’d like to know more about native advertising options, please contact us by Live Chat at https://alexanders.co.nz
5. Growth in online advertising
My friend in Rome – who is a publisher – is noticing a lot more online ads especially from big brands. Perhaps that’s because he is online more, because he can’t zip around everywhere in his convertible Jaguar. Whilst brick and mortar book sales are down, he is selling more of his work on Amazon. He sent me a picture of the walls being constructed at the border of Italy with Slovenia – sadly reminiscent to him of the Berlin Wall.
6. Sales to liquidate cash tied up in inventory
Companies may offer special bargain promotions to clear stock and generate cash, in anticipation of a squeeze.
7. Increase in email marketing
It’s more cost effective to reach existing clients than new ones.
Change in marketing spend in NZ
At Alexanders, we have seen fewer companies investing in big ticket projects like significant web builds, while more companies are investing in their existing websites, getting help to improve the conversion rates. We recently helped one company to achieve a whole year’s worth of web enquiries/quotes in the first two months of this year – a rewarding outcome!
Google Ads and seo budgets have remained consistent though there has been some softening in clicks in March. However, with the change in the way seo has evolved for voice search and intent, there is more focus on content planning, based on an analysis of customer segments and page bounce rates. We’ve observed consistent traffic but diminished conversion rates for one clothing e-commerce site in the first half of March. The growth in anticipated time spent online shopping could be countered by caution regarding job stability.
I anticipate more loyalty club offers, based on headwinds for retail, hospitality & tourism as people stay at home and the flight bans are in place. Cathay Pacific pilots were requested to take three weeks unpaid leave, while the airline was forecasting a loss for the first half of the year. For one of my friends, it’s a bonus to have her husband in Christchurch for a few weeks, but tourism losses will put livelihoods at stake.
Coronavirus impact on NZ businesses
Uncertainty breeds caution and tightening belt straps. Yet among our New Zealand clients, some businesses say they are continuing double digit growth, some report no sign of change, while others are deeply hurting. Feedback from clients and accountants during the last month indicates:
8 Growth & opportunity sectors in Coronavirus:
Hygiene, sanitization & respiration
Home schooling, online tutoring and virtual classroom tech
Online meeting software like Zoom & Skype
IT services: growth in data centres as companies move email and servers to the cloud to support flexible working.
Hire equipment store demand could rise as people spend more time at home and do home projects. Whilst party hire equipment might suffer, garden and small home diy project hire could be a winner.
Pantry providers & supermarkets – canned foods, pasta producers
Food delivery apps and courier services
Business as usual despite Coronavirus:Government funded entities such as roading/approved education projects – make get a boost with infrastructure spending as governments aim to boost flailing economies
So far house building, high end furniture, section sales are steady, as existing projects carry through.
Retail, meat, expecting property transactions to diminish
Deeply affected sectors:
Travel, hospitality, tourism, logging.
10 sectors that thrive in a potential recession
Home Maintenance Stores
Rental Agencies / Property Management Companies
Bargain / Discount shops
Repair industries e.g. automotive
Do you know of any other sectors that are thriving or barely surviving?
P.S. If you’re interested in renovating rather than rebuilding your website, find out how we delivered a year’s worth of web quotes/enquiries in two months, working on an existing website. To request your copy of this case study, please email Rachel [email protected] Or if you have time up your sleeve to prepare content, talk to us about a User Experience Workshop and defining Personas, so you can make good use of your time to be more engaging with customers. It’s likely your target audience will have more time online.
Web design: Live chat vs email vs phone – which performs better?
It is said that only about 3% of people visiting your website are ready to take action. What can you do to get more from the 97% of people who are further down the funnel? Can your contact method make a difference?
Why don’t those 97% get in touch? Many of them have an unanswered question, but don’t want to make a formal approach. Email or phone calls are quite a formal expression of interest. They are also not the main tool for communication used among younger generations. People will use whatever enquiry method is most convenient or that they are most comfortable with.
I wondered: was our enquiry method – with email forms and phone numbers – out of date? With the rise of Messenger, WeChat, WhatsApp, SnapChat, quick messaging tools have become the norm for social communication. Would using Live Chat increase the contacts from younger visitors?
For visitors aged up to 44 years old, Live Chat is actually their preferred method for online shopping queries:
Fast forward to Jan 2020 and now more than 41% of customers expect live chat on your website. For customers that visit your website on a mobile device, this number is as high as 50%.
However, fewer than 9% of companies have Live Chat on their site.
Although Live Chat has been around since the 1970’s, its popularity has seen a resurgence. It’s expected to continue to grow by as much as 87% in the next 12-18 months. The reason for this increased adoption is simple: more than half of all customers prefer to chat with someone in real-time and online, rather than call a company for support.
So what about when you’re not at your desk? With the Chat software we’ve implemented on WordPress sites, you can have several people be notified re inbound chat enquiries. You can get the app on your phone so you can check it when you’re away. You can specify the hours for which you’re available for monitoring, and if you are away from your desk, it does prompt people to input an email address, so you can follow up shortly if you miss it. Not everyone leaves an email, but I’d say around two thirds do.
You can also have multiple people answer chats in different departments (you pay by user by month).
Automated customer support
One of the cool features, it that you can also set up chat bot that asks pre-defined questions e.g. Hi. Are you interested today in [product A], [product B], or [something else]? If they click product A, a different set of questions come up. And if they click [something else], you can say, “would you like to speak with a human?” Just finding someone….
So how much does it cost to implement Live Chat?
The Live Chat software we like and have tested for WordPress is NZD$113 per month, with about $1380 to cover our programmer’s to install and configure it, and support you to set up the autoreply messages. Have a look at it on our site https://alexanders.co.nz (it’s set to pop up after 60 seconds on our site).
There’s no doubt that understanding your personas and customer journey, preparing blog content that caters for people who are not ready to take action, and setting up some kind of automation for nurturing them is a great way to address visitors that aren’t ready to take action just yet. However, this is not a quick fix (we love doing these too if you need support). Live Chat is simple to implement. Our programmers can do this on WordPress sites very quickly.
Other ways to improve engagement
One of the key strategies we’ve used in the past three years to get more leads or conversions from a [non-ecommerce] site is putting in an enquiry form at the bottom of product pages with a Click to Call number for mobile visitors or email enquiry form. For most companies, email enquiries go up dramatically. For some companies whose clients are more hands-on types, phone is still the go-to over email. However, we’ve discovered that now, the majority of our enquiries are by Live Chat. I was inspired to try Live Chat after liaising with a UK door knob supplier. After all, Live Chat offers instant gratification.
How we doubled sales enquiries, & turned around an underperforming website, without requiring an expensive re-build.
Alexanders Digital Marketing in Christchurch were approached by a regional hire company to quote on a Google Ads campaign. But rather than starting Google Ads straight away, we recommended there were a few things that should be adjusted on the client’s website first, so their promotional spend wouldn’t be wasted.
The client had an enthusiastic sales team member who was keen to implement what they could themselves, with guidance from us.
Our initial review of their site revealed that the WordPress theme was not too old, and the general design was presentable, but we could see a number of obvious and easy layout changes that would improve enquiry rates and the user experience.
Although the client did not have keywords properly put in the site, they were accidentally ranking quite well for a few, but I suspected we could improve traffic by at least 25-30% by being more focused.
If a platform is too old to get looking good on mobile phones, a rebuild in a more modern template can be the first step. But in this case, we felt the money would be better spent on renovation so we could get onto marketing and bringing in results sooner.
Analysis of customer behaviour Firstly, there was no Analytics set up, so we created some tracking. We were interested to know the most visited categories and popular hire products. Our aim was to make it easier for people to get straight to what they were looking for or show the more popular sections more prominently. I asked the client also to check sales figures (this was not an e-commerce site) and give me a list of the top ten items hired by volume, and also by profit. We also noted that one of the most commonly visited pages was the search feature. So we added a big search field overlaying the top of the banner on the home page.
Making it easy for people to get to the popular items The website had rotating banners on the home page, showcasing popular items. There were some quick links from the bottom of the banner to categories, but these were not the most visited categories. With the client data, we changed these out to the most popular four categories. There was also room for an extra row of four categories below the banner that we added.
Legibility Some of the writing overlaying the home page banners was difficult to read. That was a simple fix – we added some fuzz shadow behind the text so that if there was a white part on the photo, the text was still readable. Also when you clicked on a category, the grid of products presented had dark black View More buttons. The spacing between the rows was tight, so it was confusing to see if the black buttons were for the product above, or the one below. That was a simple quick fix – we added more spacing between the rows in the default settings, and changed the default button colour to yellow. Much more appealing!
Navigation Below the categories, the client had two rows of featured products and another menu. Then some two rows of blog posts. It was too much! Our focus was sales enquiries, so though blogs were helpful, they were distracting away from helping people to get to the right category. We took out one row of featured products, and made the menu list a bit shorter so as not to be overwhelming. We also helped the client to set up blog categories, and edited the site so that only relevant blogs would populate on the category pages. Who wants to read about wedding marquees in the farm equipment section?
Product page enquiries The product pages were built using a fairly standard catalogue page layout with a product name, photo and description, then tabs for detail below. However, the client had not filled out any of the long descriptions, and some of the short descriptions were too lengthy and technical. I recommended they add common uses into the short description, to help customers be sure that what they were getting was ideal for their purpose, and to move the more technical details into the long description gradually over time as they were editing products.
Improving the call to action The major opportunity on the individual product pages was that there was no obvious enquiry form for each product. Our WordPress programmer noted that the easiest place to make this happen was actually on one of the existing product detail tabs. So we added an enquiry form to show on the first tab. We were not sure at this stage if more people would make contact by phone or by email, so we put a phone number at the top of the email form. These days we like to add Live Chat too, but first things first. The shorter description would also hold attention and ensure the contact enquiry form was not buried too far down the page.
Supporting people who were unsure of which item best suited their needs Only about 3% of people on a website are ready to order or buy right now, but I knew if we could get a dialogue going, we could convert many of the other 97% to bookings. Thinking of people like myself – I do hire some seasonal gardening gear but I’m not an expert about these things – I noted that a competitor said “Not sure if this is the right item for your job? Our experienced sales team can guide you” so we added a similar line in above the enquiry form, to try and get more enquiries from those who were sitting on the fence.
Providing trust and reasons to choose There was a small module half way down the product page, on the right hand side that showed “related products” but this module was out of date, hadn’t worked for eons, and in fact showed product that was completely irrelevant to the user’s behaviour. Yes we could update the module. But in provincial areas, local ownership is a strong point of difference. So we replaced this with some icons and text encouraging people to “shop local”.
Improving speed on mobile The existing host was pinning our client down to renew their hosting contract. Our speed tests showed that the site was slow to download, but the images weren’t too big (large image sizes that are too high in resolution is a common cause of slow websites). We duplicated the site and did a dummy trial on our Amazon server. You’re supposed to get most pages downloading in under 3 seconds as it improves enquiry by 15%. The other host must have had an older server, because we managed to get pages downloading in 3 seconds, when on the competitor’s old server, it was taking 10 seconds. It was going to cost the customer a little more, but every mobile user gets frustrated these days with slow sites, and every lead counts, so the client was happy to switch to our set up.
Campaigns to drive traffic Now that the site was set up to convert better, we were ready to start bringing more traffic to it. We started a Google Ads Search campaign, for the 12 most popular items/categories based on the client’s own sales data.
Within a week, I noticed a search phrase for a category that the client didn’t have listed, yet they supplied a whole lot of hire equipment that delivered on this need. I asked the client to add a new category to their website – and bingo, within days, this was one of the most popular categories. Hire for one significant item in this category was booked out four months in advance when it had usually only been booked up for two months in advance.
We ran the geo-targetted Google Ads campaign for three months to get some good data, identifying variations of phrases. For example, would toilet hire or portaloo hire work better?
I then made a keyword plan for these top pages, and trained the client how to seed the keywords into their pages, doing the first one as an example. The client (who is so much fun to work with) made a bold effort. Granted, it did take a few hours of extra twiddling by us afterwards, but the team effort was worth it because the client wrote with humour and a knowledge of what clients were looking for. Our job was to make sure Google would know what to rank the pages for.
The client’s manager wanted to stop Google Ads. So we did, though we would still recommend an ongoing maintenance budget. However, as they were organically ranking really well – due to being in a regional area with only two main competitors – neither of whom had done seo – we were happy to let this lapse for a period to check if organic sales would replace the paid leads. The sales volume had jumped markedly but naturally the traffic dropped a little once the Adwords campaign was paused.
The client has doubled their website emails/quotes for the year ended March 2020 (and there are still three more weeks to go before March ends) compared to last year
The client reached 84% of last year’s entire inbound email quotes in just the first two months of this year – and there are still 10 months of the year to go:
Value of inbound email quotes 10 weeks into the year at Mar 4 2020 – already achieved 84% of whole year last year
Hires of the highest priced item had already exceeded last year’s 12 month total by 8% at month 9.
The sales team were busier than ever. Of course, this created another issue: the sales team want to address some automation for quoting!
The client was overjoyed and referred us to a key supplier. The only downside for the client is that the enthusiastic sales team member is asking for a pay rise. Well deserved if you ask me!
All up this cost around NZD$10,000 over 5 months to implement the changes and run the pilot Google Ads campaign, with a lot of regular work being done by the client’s website administrator, who was enthusiastic with content loading (and got training from us on how to do a few things along the way).
What would a new site have cost? Probably $25-30k excluding the 3 month Google Ads campaign.
This was a clear case where a web renovation was a better choice than a web rebuild.
Now that the website is working harder to generate leads, another clear opportunity is to guide their social media calendar and customer email strategy, to increase bookings and awareness among existing customers of seasonal hire items. It’s not all about new leads – there are many opportunities to grow repeat orders from existing customers.
We have really enjoyed working with this client and are looking forward to working on another of their businesses shortly. Creating better results is what we love and do best. If you’d like to discuss getting better results from your site, we’d love to chat. Live chat with us on https://alexanders.co.nz, call Rachel03 3488 477 ext 1, text 021 556 560 or email me on [email protected]
Coronavirus: how to replace cancelled inbound Chinese with NZ resident Chinese visitors using WeChat
If Chinese visitors are part of your visitor mix, the measures being taken to stem the spread of Coronavirus could be impacting your visitor numbers due to cancellations. Timing couldn’t be worse with the issue coinciding with peak season. One strategy to combat reduced numbers is to focus on the domestic NZ Chinese resident market, but how can a campaign be implemented quickly and effectively?
Here are five ways you can get exposure to the domestic Chinese market, which is approximately 240,000 people – assuming consistent growth rates from the 2013 census and including 40,000 Chinese students.
1. Place a paragraph of translated text and images on a local WeChat account
One of the fastest and cheapest ways to get in front of Chiwis (Chinese kiwis) is to pay to have your content placed on other WeChat accounts that already have a sizeable readership. The max number of followers of such a WeChat account is typically 5,000 viewers. One of the easiest options offers two placements on 10 accounts for around NZ$1250 reaching 50,000 viewers. Each of the ten different groups cover immigration, education, mothers, shopping, and general audiences (you have to place on all ten as a cluster). Whilst you can supply smart artwork, you can also just supply images, making it a really easy option. There is another one that reaches Christchurch audiences (8% of Chinese population) for just a couple of hundy.
If you’re just getting started with Chinese marketing, this option is free of the red tape of some of the other options which make implementation more time-consuming.
You can have a link to a webpage (which would ideally be translated). The more common technique is to have a QR code which links to either your customer service profile or a page on your official WeChat account which has details of your offer. However, if you don’t yet have an official WeChat account or dedicated customer service profile or someone on your team who speaks Mandarin/Cantonese, you can quickly set up a personal WeChat profile by downloading the app from the AppStore, use the QR code to your personal account, and suggest that questions can be answered in English. Communication is usually via WeChat (very simple to use for messaging pretty much like Messenger).
Long term, you really want your own WeChat official account and company customer service profile, so that you don’t build up a following to a staff member’s personal QR code that then disappears with them when they leave.
In terms of measuring results, the Chinese usually measure the number of engagements/contacts made on the customer service profile (message conversations on WeChat). There are other techniques which give more complete data akin to Google Ads/Analytics, but most of these require having an official WeChat account set up.
Chinese are very savvy shoppers, and some kind of deal or added value incentive with an expiry date is recommended. Sometimes, one attractive image sized to display well on mobile phones with the offer in Chinese on it, and the QR code in the corner, can be better than six or nine images.
2. Banner ads in Chinese digital news outlets
Another reasonably quick option to get in front of local Chinese is to place banner ads on digital Chinese news outlets. You have options like having your banner ad being shown next to a headline article, or on sections that align with your service like travel or shopping. You can also place content based on impressions. Budgets range from $600 up to $3,500 for niche to the most popular pages for a day or three, though you may want to allow more for longer exposure of a week.
Of course you can also place ads in print publications like the Chinese Herald. Our clients have had better results from digital methods.
3. WeChat Moments feed campaign
A meaty option, for those who already have an official WeChat account set up, is to run a Moments campaign. Most Chinese use Wechat daily for 2-3 hours. In NZ, younger bi-lingual NZ-born Chinese also use other social media and Google, though many of the older Chinese still operate largely in Chinese communities, and prefer to engage mainly in Chinese media. However, WeChat is one of the main communication tools, and just like we browse Facebook or Instagram feeds, Chinese browse their WeChat Moments feed. So an ad in this environment gives significant exposure.
Media budgets for these start at $6k plus time for booking/artwork/translation. However, all ads must be approved by TenCent group, campaigns must be pre-paid, and the government may require proof of distribution licences or other validation, which can take a fair bit of sleuthing. Best to plan a campaign like this well in advance.
You also need to have your official account set up to be an approved “advertising” account. Perhaps for a different time, this offers an awesome targeting tool where you can set your target to “inbound Chinese”.
You can also do a Mini Program on WeChat which is like an ecommerce store built into the WeChat environment within the app. Without having to leave WeChat, visitors can browse your store and pay for items. Again though, this is not a short term option. You also need to consider logistics options for delivery.
4. Google Ads campaigns targeted to Chinese language setting
We have had success on a small scale targeting search phrases (we tried both English and Chinese) with the targeting set to the region of New Zealand, and browser set to Chinese language. The click through rate and engagement with a Chinese landing page was above average, but for search, it used only a small budget and would be considered as an ongoing method rather than a tool for a major campaign.
You could also try a Display campaign to the same settings, but I’d recommend placing ads on WeChat accounts over this strategy.
5. Print publications
There are a number of publications that are read by local Chinese, from community papers free to collect at Asian supermarkets, to upmarket monthly magazines. Not so specific to local Chinese, there are also airline in-flight magazines. My clients report more success from digital methods relative to the community papers, but each local Chinese on average influences four other inbound Chinese visitors and their activities, through recommendations, family connections, and arranging tours. So reaching the local market is also a strategy to drive inbound referrals.
Whatever medium you choose, it’s a good idea to plan the customer journey after they’ve seen your ad, to use a good translator rather than Google translate, and if possible, to have a native Chinese person review your draft content to comment on the cultural appropriateness before it gets translated.
Is there another option you think I should add to this list? I welcome your comments.
At Alexanders Digital Marketing in Christchurch, we help Australasian clients to reach Chinese audiences, inbound or domestic, set up WeChat accounts/campaigns/Mini programs, do translation, content creation, and guide clients on suitability of content. If you have a question, message us on LiveChat on our website during business hours or contact Rachel on 03 3488 477. We also do SEO and feel for the Corona beer team whose SERPS will be suffering!
Author Rachel Alexander is owner of Alexanders Digital Marketing, a Christchurch-based marketing agency. Along with Ivy Cui (native Chinese), the duo help NZ companies and Australasian advertising agencies to implement Chinese marketing and support with Chinese graphic design, web design, hosting and translation.
Whilst the year has just started Google lay in wait quietly to spring a surprise on us. While you were enjoying your summer vacation on the beach, the Google-bots army updated the algorithm. In the article, we will review the main algorithm changes and see how you can recover your search visibility if you have been affected by this update.
Oxfam Unwrapped in Auckland needed a fresh new e-commerce site in time for their summer rush. Alexanders worked within a tight timeframe and budget to deliver a functional, highly-customized e-commerce site that followed the brand guidelines for Oxfam Unwrapped.