Together we can unleash Excel

How we can help your company utilize the full power of Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel has proven its foundational importance within business financial management since 1985. Its functionality as a tool for financial analysis and data management is widely known. What is often lesser understood is the integrative potential of this platform with cutting edge programming knowledge.

Through our 15 years of working with varying scale businesses what has become apparent is the significant difference between how a trained Financial Analyst would utilize the broad functionalities of Excel within their daily practice, in comparison to a trained Programmer. While a Financial Analyst can understand the dollars and cents, what they are often lacking is the knowledge of programming and an understanding of Excel, to maintain and debug issues as they inevitably arise.

Secondly, while the utility of Excel is valued in most businesses, what is often required to maintain the integrity of the information it holds is a database. This addition allows an organisation to trust the data they are working. It is a reoccurring, and often debilitating issue within many organisations that rely on up to date management of large amounts of data, resulting in frustration and inefficiency for your team. ‘How do we maintain up to date data?’ is a serious question that all businesses face. We have the experience and skills to set up functional systems that will ensure your business is making decisions with the right information. The alternative is akin to using an old map to navigate new roads, and expecting to get your destination successfully. Needless to say, there are often tears.

Therefore, entrusting your organisations growth and development in a company with specialist experience in data, Excel and database programming, is a safer and smarter investment. If data accuracy, and integrity of outcome is important to your organisation our Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) can build a financial model fit for you. The benefit this brings to you is the security of having your financial system supported by a team of expert database programmers working alongside the CFA.

Our integration team can extract data from most current systems and develop this into a tool that is reliable and functional. Bringing you and your team peace of mind, and clarity of information.

SEO training: Executive & Hands On – Part 3 of 3

In our final post outlining our SEO services we turn our focus to our ‘Hands On SEO’ training.

‘Hands On SEO’ is all about equipping the SEO implementers with the skills they need to do their job. Our training will mean that the relevant staff will be able to work on a websites SEO week in, week out.

There is some overlap with the ‘Executive SEO training in that both groups need to understand the fundamentals, strategy,  and tools, but the ‘Hands On SEO’ training goes much more in depth with the technical execution of these principals.

Goals of Hands On SEO

By the end of the training we aim for implementers to be able to:

  • Use the tools of the SEO trade – especially for performance measurement.
  • Contribute meaningfully to SEO strategy development.
  • Be competent in the technical aspects of SEO (onpage and offpage).
  • Be able to develop useful content for their website that is useful for both their customers and SEO.
  • Have developed an increased synchronisation and collaboration with sales staff.

Hands On SEO –  meeting 1 of 4

 Meeting one of the ‘Hands On SEO’ training begins with a run through of all the relevant tools we will use with out SEO efforts.

Once you have a solid understanding of these we then put them to work and audit your current website.

Hands On SEO –  meeting 2 of 4

The second meeting focusses on SEO strategy.  This is an aspect that also gets taught on the Executive path, but it is important that implementers can support in SEO planning and also understand SEO strategy enough to be able to put their work in context.

Strategy is arguably the most important step in SEO.  It is also probably the hardest step because it does not involve mindless busy work, instead it involves rigorous thinking.  To do it in the most effective way businesses will ask (and answer) some tough questions about the businesses sales cycle.

Hands On SEO –  meeting 3 of 4

In this meeting we roll up our sleeves up and get into the onsite SEO.

When we say ‘onsite SEO’ we are talking about everything that can be done on you website (www.yourbusiness.com) to improve SEO.

Hands On SEO –  meeting 4 of 4

After Onsite SEO has been covered we then teach you how to strengthen your offpage SEO. As the name suggets, this concerns everything that can be done outside of your website that will improve SEO.

This is first done through demonstration  how linkages work and the do’s and don’t’s of building them.

The balance of meeting 4 is used to review everything covered and to allow you to run any specific questions by us. By spending time on your business-specific questions we hope that after meeting four you will be able to hit the ground running.

Where to from here

At this point both your executives and implementers will have the skills they need to carry out the heavy lifting when it comes SEO.

They will still need more experience to become SEO experts, and there may be times when more help is needed (for instance if a highly technical challenge comes up) – but for the most part you can begin to move forward armed with the right tools and perspective.

As mentioned in the first post in this series, we see the ideal set up as a hybrid between outsourcing to a SEO consultant and using an in-house team. We are happy to  discuss with you where along this spectrum is ideal for you.

Our aim is for your business to have a sense of independence and self reliance, with our job being  to teach and guide you in ways you can use technology to improve you business performance.

If you are interested in finding out how your business can use SEO to enhance its sales cycle  then contact us for a free consultation.

SEO training: Executive & Hands On – Part 2 of 3

Continuing our series outlining our SEO services we elaborate on our ‘Executive SEO’ training.

In this training path we want to equip executives with the relevant knowledge to use SEO in their strategic decision making, and to evaluate SEO application. Our aim is also to prevent executives making some of the SEO mistakes we see all too often.

Short-sighted SEO

One of the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to SEO is only considering SEO as part of website performance.

There are a number of problems with this myopic approach.

One of the big problems  is that getting to page one on Google for a keyword (or any other search engine for that matter) may feel  nice, but companies should ask the question ‘So what?’. The ‘so what?’ could also take the form of the following questions:

  • How does ranking in this keyword help me sell?
  • Does our target market use this keyword when they search for our product/services?
  • Does our high ranking lead to sales? If not, why?

It is only when these questions (and many more) are answered that SEO work becomes meaningful. And by meaningful I mean ‘increases revenue/business performance”.  To make SEO really work a business needs to do something difficult – it needs to think critically. This is a key aspect of our ethos, and something that is relevant to all our services: CRM, email-marketing, business analytic etc.

By answering these questions SEO becomes something that is considered as part of a company’s marketing strategy as opposed to just when thinking about the website. Remember: we work on SEO what we are really working on is your sales cycle.

Another problem is that when executives don’t understand SEO then it is unlikely that SEO will be a company wide effort.

This often takes the form of all SEO efforts being vested in only one person – often someone in the marketing department or a SEO consultant. The problem with this approach is that often these people do not know the business intimately and therefore do not understand how the sales cycle works.

Only when executives, marketers, developers, copywriters, content creators, and sales people are on the same page can SEO be executed in the most effective way. Having multiple people at different levels fluent with SEO you also have the ability to leverage sales even more when SEO is integrated with CRM and email marketing.

Goals of Executive SEO

By the end of the training we aim for executives to be able to:

  • Assess the performance of their their website
  • Develop appropriate SEO goals and strategy
  • Make effective plans to achieve these goals
  • Develop an understanding of how SEO fits in the company’s wider sales cycle.
  • Effectively participate in keyword planning

Executive SEO –  meeting 1 of 2

As mentioned in our last post in this series,  Executive SEO training generally follows the pattern of two three hour meetings.

The first meeting starts with an introduction to the main tools used in SEO work.

Using these SEO tools we will then peruse your business’s online presence.  In doing so we will identify strengths and weaknesses and areas where attention probably is best  focused.

In this meeting we also discuss performance measurement. As leaders of the business it can be helpful to understand the ROI your SEO efforts have. Here we show you the range of options you have that can help you get a concrete picture for how much business your website is bringing you.

Executive SEO –  meeting 2 of 2

In the second lesson we cover SEO goal setting,  keyword planning, and how to incorporate SEO into marketing decision making.

At this point we begin to discuss the fundamental question of ‘where is SEO relevant to our business? 

While it is often a fantastic area to develop, some business may be better suited for pay-per-click campaigns, or even more traditional marketing efforts.

One example where this my be appropriate is where the keywords that make sense for your business to target are massively competitive, with a results page dominated by large-multi national business.  This may mean it is an uneconomical way to find new customers (although often this can be resolved with a savvy targeting of long-tail key words).

Another case where SEO may be of moderate importance would be a business or industry that operates almost solely from reputation and word of mouth.

We also outline the work needed to execute SEO. This includes both onsite and offsite SEO. While executives do not need an intimate understanding of the development side of SEO, it is helpful that they have a basic understanding how how search engines see websites and the elements that are important in that process.

Where to from here

 After this training is complete we are also available to advise executives as new challenges or questions arise. This could be especially helpful at the keyword planning/SEO strategy phase. As mentioned in our previous post, we see it as more effective and economical for businesses to be large independant with their SEO work, but we do understand that expert support is needed from time to time.

Our next (and final) post in this series will cover the ‘Hands on SEO’ training that we provide.

If you are interested in finding out how your business can use SEO to enhance its sales cycle  then contact us for a free consultation.

SEO training: Executive & Hands On – Part 1 of 3

We train people to become practically competent for SEO using two training paths – ‘Executive’ and ‘Hands-On’.

In our earlier post about the current state of SEO we outlined how changes in search engine algorithms have dramatically shifted the SEO goal posts.

If that post covered some of the ‘what?’ of SEO, this post will outline the ‘how?’.  More specifically, we will outline how we go about SEO training with our clients.

The Lumen SEO approach

The whole process is informed by our philosophy that SEO needs to be a process integrated across all of a company’s business activates.  This is reflected in the way our SEO service is strongly connected to our CRM, account management,  email marketing, marketing automation, and web development services.

We are unique in that we approach these as all parts of the same sales machine – each one having an interplay with the other. This synergy is what makes our SEO a revenue enhancing exercise.

Our approach is also shaped by our experience that it is often more practical and economical for businesses to have consultants act as a guide, as opposed to completely outsourcing all of the work.

We see the best results when we develop long term partnerships with business – helping them grow using a range of digital/software tools.  The result is a hybrid system when the client controls how much work is done by us and how much is done in-house.  Our aim is to help a business become independent in its operations by imparting knowledge. link to training

Two paths for SEO training

 The skills and knowledge needed to effectively deal with SEO differs depending on the role a person has in a company. That being said, we believe that because of the recent changes to our digital world it is important for everyone in a company to understand how SEO effects operations.

This is especially the case for management. SEO is no longer something that sits in the ‘nice-to-have” list. Solid SEO strategy is vital for a company to have successful digital operations, and managers and executives need to apply their skills to this effort.

We run two paths of training, both tailor made to suit the unique needs of executives and implementers.

An Operations manager or COO may need to know they ways SEO is relevant in a businesses wider sales strategy, but probably does not need to know the technical aspects of creating an effective blog post. On the other hand this may be a vital skill for a Marketing Assistant to know.

The first path is ‘Executive SEO’.  This is tailored to teach executives how to built, evaluate and execute good SEO strategy. It is to help executives to understand how to factor SEO into their decision making.  The Executive SEO lesson structure is usually is comprised of two three hour lessons.

The second path is ‘Hands-On SEO’.  This training path is for the people at the coal face – the implementers.  It is for the people creating content, (emails, blogs, webpages and newsletters)  – the ones who will have their fingers on the. The training are divided into four three hour sessions.

The next posts in our series ‘SEO training: Executive & Hands On’ we will outline the training for both paths.

If you are interested in finding out how your business can develop its website performance then contact us anytime for a free consultation.

Is SEO now a DIY job, or still one for consultants?

What SEO tasks, by necessity, should to be done yourself and what should be done by consultants?

Search engines such as Google And Yahoo have been around for nearly two decades – during that time they have made dramatic improvements in the algorithms that produce search results.  Many of these changes have been with the aim of providing the most relevant results for the users. 

To do this they have had to overcome websites using deceptive practices that focus only on improving SEO, as opposed to creating content that is both high quality and highly relevant for users. 

Search engines have placed a larger emphasis on quality content – which makes the process of understanding and applying SEO easier for the  people and businesses who own the website.

This has also taken SEO out of the shadows.  Where before it was a kind of voodoo, practiced by developers and tech-savy IT specialists, it is now more the domain of the average business user.  The result is search engines that work better for users.  

How has SEO changed? 

The biggest changes in SEO have been a resulted from the constantly evolving algorithms of search engines. 

In earlier times search engines placed a heavy reliance on keywords and links.  While this lead to major improvements in the results search engines delivered, it also created an environment where SEO consultants could help companies rapidly improve their SEO by filling their website up with key words and embarking on bloated link building campaigns (often using websites known as link farms).

 Search engines responded to these trends by releasing new algorithms to combat efforts to artificially improve search engine performance.  Nowadays these SEO techniques will lead to major penalties and search engine black listing.

These algorithm evolutions have meant search engines are a now a more accurate and mature system  – one where content and user experience is very much at the centre.  It is a system where branding and content strategy is more important than key word density and back links.  It is a situation where SEO fundamentals are still important, but so is having a well connected, social website that is relevant to your industry and is active.ever it is businesses who can do the heavy lifting.

To learn more about how best to approach your SEO efforts then contact us.  We are certified Zoho CRM Consultants as well as Certified Zoho CRM resellers,  and have the expertise to help your website and  (more importantly) your business perform better.

Are these changes good or bad for businesses?

These changes are both good and challenging.

It is good news for businesses that see their SEO efforts as part of a long term growth strategy.  These business understand that if they want success they have to make the effort (and investment). 

The challenge now is that (again) businesses will have to change the way the practice SEO.

 Is SEO easier or harder now? 

The answer to this is: both.

SEO is harder for three main reasons:

Firstly, SEO is well known and everyone has grand expectations.  This has lead to intense competition (just ask tradesmen trying to get on page one).

The second reason is that when it comes to modern SEO, content is king.  Much of SEO now depends on well-structured content that is created in a patient and systematic manner.  SEO gains will be made with relevant, engaging, informative, content that is social and produced often by reputable authors.  There is no getting around the fact that this takes considerable time and effort.

The third reason is that search engines like Google and Yahoo are much smarter.  And example of this is that Google has recently been using humans to manually grade pages for their usability and content. While they have been doing this computers have been following them and learning how to understand and grade a page.  This is all part of Google’s efforts to increase the relevance and quality of the search results it provides users 

On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, more of the tasks required to de well with SEO can be done by businesses.  Even further that that, it is better if businesses can create their own content because it will produce a more authentic kind of content written by the experts in the field.  This means there is more independence available for businesses when it comes to SEO.

What should business to?

There are three main things that businesses should consider doing.

1) Execute a comprehensive SEO strategy that is integrated with all parts of your business.

 A big problem with how many business approach SEO is that they work on it in isolation.   The classic example of this is the businesses who have been operating for a while and get Company X to build a website.  Then after  having it for a few months/ years, they decide they need to improve search engine rankings.  The try and achieve this by paying a Company Y a monthly sum to ‘do their SEO’.  The job is often very vague, and can lack any real goals or strategy.  Even if high rankings do eventuate, companies are often unable to see this transfer to conversions.

At Lumen, we take a completely different approach. We factor in SEO in all aspects of our digital service.  Due to our multi-disciplinary approach we integrate SEO with CRM, Email Marketing, and developing a high quality and high performance website.  We see SEO as having an inherently bi-directional relationship with a business’s wider sales cycle.  As opposed to seeing SEO as a isolated search engine beauty-pageant, we see it is closely connected with a companies business model.

2)  Develop a system for creating quality content

 Many business we come across often have a hard time creating engaging  content that also promotes SEO ranking.  There are multiple reasons that this is a challenge.  Factors such as expertise, SEO skills, copywriting skills, post architecture all come into play. But perhaps the biggest question is ‘what do I write about week-in, week-out?’

 An answer to this can be found in your CRM system.  We have found that systems like Zoho CRM can help you stay in touch with what your customers are interested and concerned with. By doing this a business can keep abreast of the relevant questions that their customers and industry may be asking.

3) Strike and effective balance between using SEO consultants and an in-house team.

 This aspect is the one of the big changes we see in SEO.  In the past, keyword cramming and link building were dark-arts that only specialist SEO consultants could do. 

Nowadays SEO is split into two parts.  The first is fundamental SEO setup (strategy, site structure, HTML etc.) – most of which can be done in one go.  The second is a content campaign. With this content, much of it need to be created by people who understand the business and industry.  This requires people who are experts in their field. This is a service that an SEO consultant is unable to provide.

 We believe the best path forward is a hybrid SEO model. One where digital consultants help with SEO set up, and then teach and guide an in house team to push ahead with powerful content production.  Where exactly this balance lies will differ from case to case, but we believe it is the best way forward.

Conclusion

Many have said that the only constant thing with SEO is that it is constantly changing.  The result of this is ever-moving goalposts when it comes to optimistic your website for search engines.  Digital consultants are still vital in keeping business up to date with changes and best practice, but more than ever it is businesses who can do the heavy lifting.

To learn more about how best to approach your SEO efforts then contact us.  We are certified Zoho CRM Consultants as well as Certified Zoho CRM resellers,  and have the expertise to help your website and  (more importantly) your business perform better.