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Google Place Search

A localized search in Google, such as one that includes a geographic term like a city, now returns a different layout for displaying its results. This is thanks to Google’s new Place Search feature, a concept that changes the online marketing game for local businesses. Online specialists need to educate business owners and marketing professionals on the new Place Search feature and answer any questions they may have about how these changes affect their online marketing efforts.

Google Places Sample Search "Restaurants in dubai"This new kind of local search organizes information around specific locations making it easier for users to compare places and decide where to go. With the Place Search feature, a local Google search now returns a display that positions a localized map along the right-hand side above the pay-per-click ads (which scrolls down as the user scrolls down) and up to 7 local business listings taking up a fair portion of the “above fold” real estate, thus pushing organic listings down the page.

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Online Branding

The word ‘branding’ once referred to corporate logos, packaging and commercial jingles.  In the online world that has come to be known as Web 2.0, things have changed, however.  Today, effective branding is less about ‘selling’ to customers and more about ‘telling’ them:

  • Who you are – the background and experience that make you qualified to solve the needs of your prospective customer better than your competitor
  • What you do – the benefits that your company brings to its clients.  For example, a security camera installation firm might say that it sells “a safe workplace.”
  • How you do it – the methods you use to deliver the benefits you promise so that the satisfaction of the customer is guaranteed

How to Use the Internet

The Internet offers a gold mine of opportunity for establishing credibility and creating an audience of enthusiastic fans and followers.  Even the most basic web site is an effective brand-building device. That’s because a web site does a much better job of building relationships than any other form of marketing communication with your customers.

Traditional marketing communications are monologues; they only go one way from seller to prospective buyer.  Online, however, you can establish a dialogue.  A website includes mechanisms such as ‘Contact Us’ forms, message boards, forums, and most recently blogs that invite existing and potential clients to get to know you…communicate with you…and tell you what they need so you can provide the solution.  That’s good for them and for your business.

An Humanizing About Us Page

About Us PageIn a business world where the focus is on transactions and the bottom line, an important element can get lost…the human element.  Whether for business or pleasure, humans want to connect with other humans.  A company’s ‘About Us’ page puts a human face on an otherwise technical, dry, and impersonal web site and helps cement a relationship with prospective clients.

Many web sites hide their identity, putting a wall between themselves and their visitors.  This is a mistake.  While it’s true that not every customer wants to know more about you, still, you shouldn’t disappoint those who do. A powerful ‘About Us’ page could yield higher conversion from those who encounter it.

Social Network Profiles

Social Network ProfileWhy does a person shop at one business rather than another or buy one product instead of another?  While price is one factor, today’s customers are interested in the culture of the businesses they buy from,  They are also heavily influenced by the opinions of peers and ‘people like me.’ This is the reason that social media marketing – should be on every company’s ‘Things to Do’ list.

New stats from Nielsen Online show that social networking had overtaken email in terms of worldwide reach. According to the study, 66.8% of Internet users across the globe accessed social communities (also called member networks) last year, as opposed to the 65.1% who used email.

Because they allow you to share pertinent information for the rest of the world to see, social sites are the #1 way to get your message out to a global audience at practically no cost.  The virtually ‘free’ delivery system provided by the Internet means companies can invest their resources in the services of a social media expert with the skills and knowledge to deliver results.

At sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, if what you post on your profile page is truly valuable, you instantly become a ‘trusted resource’ and your audience will do your marketing for you. Your message or video – along with your brand identity — can easily go viral and reach a cascading number of people as your interested visitors and fans send your link to millions of their friends and they pass the word on to their friends and so on.

Corporate Blogging

Corporate Blogging

Google does it. Microsoft does it. And some of the most influential CEOs in the world

doit for their companies because they know how powerful it is. What is ‘it’?  It’s blogging.

A business blog can be written in one of numerous styles, or a combination of these. One huge benefit is the ability to inform your customers of any changes, new products, latest offers and much more. This, in turn, can lead to direct sales.

Depending on your company or business model, corporate blogging, like an About Us page, makes a company feel more human to the world.

Additionally, a company blog is a way for your company to become engaged with and by the online community. A well-written blog can gain popularity which can lead to thousands of people subscribing to your feeds…and being exposed to your advertising and marketing messages.

People love to frequent blogs and pass their time reading the same ones on a regular basis. Captivate your audience with compelling content and you’ll receive a growing list of market leads. Remember that individual blog readers generally prefer a personable style but if your operation is a business-to-business one then you’ll need to vary your style accordingly.

A blog is simple to set up. Often the only thing required is to install a software application on your Web site and tinker with a few settings.  Furthermore, the cost of integrating a blog onto your web site is extremely modest…especially if you have an IT pro on staff.

But even outsourcing the task is a modest expense, given the ROI. A blog could become one of the most powerful marketing weapons you have in your arsenal and the money you spend might just pay a salesperson for one day’s work.

Twitter – The New Frontier

Twitter Branding

Twitter, the most famous micro-blogging site, allows its members to communicate in abbreviated, high-impact messages of 140 characters.  Today, Twitter has roughly 6 million users and is projected to grow to 18.1 millions users in 2010.  It is the ‘next wave’ in social media marketing.  To succeed, you should have a marketing plan in place to acquire new followers.

One thing to do is include your Twitter handle wherever you would place your website URL and contact information.  If you have a company newsletter, you can write about on Twitter and link to your profile or put it at the bottom of your template, so that each email has a link to your account.  You should also include your Twitter information on the last slide of any business presentation and tell people that they can follow you on Twitter

Article was published as: “Online branding offers credibility”

http://wsi4.me/OnlineBranding

Online Branding Credibility

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This is a necessities for every organization, company, or institution in the region to have its own website. Be it a small mid cap firm or a big business house with an annual turnover in millions of dirhams, having a website is a must for everyone. Some of those who did not have one till now are either in denial, or under the process of building one.
But before building a functional website, the first step is to book a domain in one’s name. And, a company in the region would naturally want to have a domain denoting its geographical location. Most organizations in this region are therefore have started opting for local domain extension such as ‘.ae’, ‘.sa’, ‘.om’, ‘.qa’, etc. This is taken as a representative of the firm’s country.

These nationalized domain names and their localized extensions like .ae denoting United Arab Emirates are referred to as ccTLD standing for ‘country code top level domain.’

Advantages Of .ae Extension
There are a lot of advantages of opting for a local domain. Some of which include:

  1. The localized extensions of the domain names confer a more professional look to a business house and / or a company.
  2. It would also demonstrate the organization’s commitment to its target audiences.
  3. A company located in UAE would definitely target the local market. A local extensionwould maximize the online visibility of the company.

Thus .ae domain may serve as a good opportunity for a business man, a local company, and/or international institution to attract clientele in United Arab Emirates. Not only this, but registering for .ae extension would also seem more proximal to the residents of the UAE. Such domains would also attract the attention of the advertisers. For the advertisements of local products or services can find no better place than these websites.

Advantages Of .com Domain Name
This has been observed over and over again that anyone wanting to make a website on any topic would always seek a .com version of domain names.
And the only reason for this is that .com has become more popular, being the very first version of domain name. It is a common practice among internet users nowadays to suffix .com after every search they type in the address bar.

Maggie, a popular FMCG product was the first ever food item that could be cooked in less than 5 minutes. Its taste and ease to prepare naturally attracted consumers and it became extremely popular with in no time. Thereafter, a lot of companies launched such easy to cook noodles but no brand name could enable the users to distinguish it from Maggie. For the masses, all easy to cook noodles became MAGGIE.

Similarly, the .com domain name also gained a widespread popularity owing to its first impression among the internet friendly people. It was way later that they realized domain names can be very location specific.

.ae versus .com or .net
From a marketing and branding standpoint for a business, .ae domains would definitely be much better for companies and institutions based in the UAE. Here are some reasons for the same –

  • Size Matters: A golden rule in the world of internet is that size of a domain name does matter. The smaller the name, the better it is so it will be easy to be remember, easy to brand, and rules out the possibilities of typos, and so, on.
  • Enhanced Relativity To Local Businesses

Just like the related keywords enhance search engine rankings, similarly .ae domain could be able to help the consumer relate to the firm.

Recent News
As reported in the month of October, 2009, the registrations of .ae domains have observed a 30 percent hike. The telecom regulators reported that most of these registrations took place from Dubai.

In a recent discussion, the Telecommunication Regulation Authority officials told Emirates Business that the former believes this growth to have been caused by a new policy framework thereby putting an end to a sheer non-monopolistic environment prevalent amongst the registrars.

“In the period [August 2008 to August 2009], the number of new registrations increased by 30 per cent compared to the corresponding period the year before. There are more registrars [no monopoly] providing .ae domain name registration. Customers have the choice to select their registrar as competition leads to better service. The registration process brought online has also made it easier,” said TRA.
As a result, even the ccTLDs for Mid East countries also rose globally by 14 percent during 2009’s second quarter. And this growth is over 74.4 million extensions of various domain names.

Registrations Regulations For .ae Extensions
Registrations for the local domain names are only allowed at the second or third level at the unrestricted or restricted zones respectively. In the years 1995 to 2003, commercial entities used to use ‘.co.ae’ extension which was thereon denigrated by UAEnic in the latter year. The authority preferred the use of second-level registrations for all sorts of commercial usage.

The existing domains with such extensions were however permitted to be retained at the sole discretion of the user.

It was five years later, in 2008, that the .ae extension got re-delegated to TRA. Following this, new policies were published by the .aeDA. The policy entailed that ‘.co.ae’ extension was only introduced for the commercial companies operating at the local levels. Moreover, it also implied that this extension is related to the name of the business and is known to the clientele too.

Following is a list of extensions that denote the organizations who can get them registered –
.ae – All types of companies and business organizations
.co.ae – Companies already having a website under the said extension
.net.ae – Available only for the network providers
.gov.ae – Can be registered by the ministers or the government only, and so on

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There is so much written about the future of Internet marketing, when the fact is that Internet marketing is the present. The opportunities available, both for internet users and businesses are so vast, that growth can be experienced in almost a daily basis. There may be economic challenges globally, but the Internet has made it possible for smart businesses to flourish. Moreover, compared to the previous years, 2009-2010 looks quite promising for online marketers when we look at the Internet user statistics.

Search Engine vs. Social MediaTwo major trends that are being embraced by savvy businesses are search engine marketing and online social media & networking, as they give them a great leverage in terms of communication, interacting with customers, collaborating with peers and above all, achieving a massive reach, in a most cost-effective manner. After all, future business is the main aim for any viable company and what better way to reach that goal than by capitalizing on all the opportunities that the Internet has to offer?

If we look at internet usage statistics in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia alone has experienced a usage leap from just 200,000 users in 2000 to 6,380,000 users in 2008. Viewing the Middle East as a whole Saudi Arabia ranks at number two, with Iran leading the way. No wonder major businesses are targeting Riyadh and KSA markets via search engines and social networking sites like the popular Facebook so that they can get together with other local groups and introduce unique marketing strategies that will help them enter the market and gain visibility.

There is barely any business that does not have at least a token online presence. And those that are active, are very much aware of the benefits of search engine marketing social networking through websites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., which form a definite component of the companies’ internet marketing strategy. This helps them gain high exposure online, increase brand awareness and attract targeted traffic.

There are, of course, some barriers that will crop up, especially for businesses with an eye on the global market. Of these, the language barrier is perhaps the toughest to conquer when entering overseas markets. Europe, for example has a variety of languages while the UAE and the rest of Arab countries share a common language, namely Arabic.

The Middle East and North Africa, also called the MENA region, is cash-rich and growing at an amazing rate. A large population and a high per capita income make this market a gold mine for businesses to exploit. Qatar has the third highest per capita income in the world at $84,833! Obviously, this region is highly feasible for online marketers. The MENA countries have an online presence of over 18.3 million, which is a 1044% growth in the last seven years. Saudi Arabia and Egypt may have 80% of the internet users, but the balance 20% are the ones with the money, and likely to have the most prominent online presence. So internet marketing experts and businesses would do well to focus on this region with their marketing strategies.

The most popular search engines in the MENA region are Yahoo!, Google and MSN Live, which implies that businesses that are looking to spread their presence online in these countries must design their marketing strategies around these top three search engine giants. Being a rapidly growing market, now is the time for businesses to penetrate this market.

By 2010, Qatar’s second telecom operator Vodafone will have its suite of web services in place, allowing its users to interact online over the internet through their mobile phones or PC. With the outlook so bright, bridging the gap between the user and the business is just a matter of smart planning and strategy.

However, a real issue in the GCC countries is that some of the most established businesses have no website, or just a static one resulting in a lack of visibility on the major search engines. Consequently, users looking for companies in this region online never find them. Those who do have an online presence, have poor quality websites. According to a recent report, European corporate websites scored an average performance of 50.3 points, while those of their Gulf counterparts scored just 18.5. Because of this, users including customers, shareholders and investors get completely turned off by these companies. As a result of this, GCC companies end up losing out on potential customers and international investment simply because of poor performance of their websites. Will these companies wake up and bridge this gap between their users and themselves through better websites that are usable and search engine friendly, increasing their visibility on search engines?

Article was published as “Smart companies flourish online”: http://wsi4.me/FlourishOnline

Smart businesses online

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Digital One – The Middle East’s first digital summit on February 10th 2011.

This WSI Digital Marketing Summit, Digital One, is focused on spreading practical knowledge about online social and advertising strategies by objectives as well as dialogue on successful case studies.

Key Topics:

  • Social Media Implementation
  • Case Studies of Social Media Success Stories
  • Content Marketing
  • The Billboards of the Web: Display Advertising
  • Online PR

The Digital One summit would be a great opportunity to learn how to upgrade your business’s online strategy for 2011.

Speakers:

  • Husam Jandal
  • Tracy Spence
  • Francois Muscat
  • Fahed Bizzari

Date and Location: February 2011, 9:00am – 5:00pm, The Address Dubai Marina, Dubai, U.A.E

The event is recommended for CEOs, Marketing Managers, Managing Directors, General Managers, E-Commerce Entrepreneurs & Businessmen, and Senior Level Executives.

Website and Registration: www.DigitalOne.me

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