The old MTR website

Like many small businesses, our website hadn’t been updated in years.

We launched our new website on Monday, 23 July 2012. It heralded a significant change to our overall branding: logo, business cards, letterhead, and marketing material – all were overhauled along with our digital footprint. Our values haven’t changed and neither has our name; instead the project was a healthy business exercise (the site hadn’t been updated in eight years!) and part of a new mandate to add “digital” to the means by which our consultants connect with candidates and clients. Previously, our only presence was on job boards, a static brochure website, and a Twitter account that just retweeted a whole lot – it was high time we got more engaged. While two months from launch is a narrow range within which to review a website’s performance – let alone that of a new blog – we’re eager to share some of our early experiences for the benefit of other small businesses that want to interact more with their customer base online.

Blogging, not brochureware

We wanted to blog to help convey the knowledge of our team and to contribute to industry discussions around recruitment practices, job seeking, talent attraction and the Auckland IT market. By creating and sharing interesting content, we hope that the site will become a useful resource to job seekers and hiring managers over the long-term. What we would ideally like to achieve from this is: traffic to our site and job listings; increased visibility in a highly competitive market; and new business through passive marketing of our services. We’ve got a long way to go to create the archive we imagine but the team is enthusiastic about the work ahead, and we’re enjoying having a platform to share the ideas and insights that arise in the office.

Recently we heard at #SMCAKL that a competitor who had been blogging intermittently for some time picked up two new clients within a fortnight of committing to posting at more regular intervals. Sounds good! We currently average one post per week and admittedly we could increase this but we’re still finding our rhythm – we’re understandably more inclined to focus on placing jobs. Inspiration is usually drawn from the conversations we have in the office around the ups and downs of the job. We’ve experimented a bit with the days of the week that we post blogs. On average posts on Wednesday and Thursday get the most traffic. Perhaps this suggests that for our audience – particularly for those in infrastructure support and management – people are generally busier putting out fires at the start of the week, more inclined to read industry commentary mid-week as this eases, and a little reluctant to be reminded of work over the weekend!

Making it easy to find

Sharing our blog and job posts on Twitter and LinkedIn has helped to increase visibility among our online networks, though other than these means and word-of-mouth, there has been no advertising to support our website’s launch. So it’s pretty encouraging to see a general increase in visitors over the last two months’ worth of 13 blogs and 46 featured job posts – 81% from New Zealand and the majority of these from Auckland, our target.

Our previous website had no analytical tools installed whatsoever; the small amount of data we have now is all news to us and will certainly be interesting to reflect upon in another six to 12 months. Over 50% of our traffic has been from Google, with 30% direct and 20% referrals. Besides improved content, title and link structure on the new site, SEO efforts have been very modest so far, so our search engine ranking for “it recruitment auckland” isn’t too bad at page 3 (and is a significant improvement from before the rebranding). A great find was that updating our business details across various web directories has had a significant impact on our discoverability, yielding a first-page listing from Google Places for localised searches.

Google Analytics’ Real-Time feature has proven to be quite useful.  For one, it’s fun and gratifying to see a live report of activity on the site. The tool also helped to drive home for us a key concern for prospective clients: by and large, businesses need to make their contact details more obvious on their website, particularly for company with a few key personnel. In one instance, we saw through Real-Time that a user had arrived at the Contact Us page by way of a Google search for “colin munro mtr” and after watching them sit there for a moment, Colin’s DDI number rang. This doesn’t sound like a big deal but it clearly shows that people are getting what they want from our site within seconds – no having to dig through sub menus or umpteen pages of info, no slow-loading or annoying technology encumbering things. In conversation with clients new and old, we’ve heard that above all they were pleased with the comparative ease with which they could find our team’s direct contact information.

A work in progress

The new site is very much in its infancy: keeping the volume of content and level of interactivity around it up is a long-term commitment. Small businesses need to be resilient in this sense if they want to create a website with high visibility on a low budget. Our next step is really to embed ourselves in the conversations taking place in social networks about our industry and hopefully create interest in what we have to say here on our site. In the short-term however, the philosophical change in our team around blogging as a marketing tool has been positive; something we can see would be helpful to other small businesses in keeping them relevant, responsive and engaged with customers in the digital space.