The less time you spend working on your site content, the more time you have to carry out other activities. But that doesn’t mean that you need to neglect your site. It’s worth considering if there are ways of automating tasks to make your life a little easier.

Automating is simply a method of running some kind of scheduled task which takes care of a job that you would otherwise have to do manually. There are many ways that this could happen, we’ve carried out quite a few projects recently which have included automation of some kind, so we thought we would share them on this blog to hopefully inspire you!

PK Motors North East

A motor trade business specialising in quality used cars, PK Motors have been in business since early 2014. They have a modest number of vehicles in their showroom, but stock moves fast so updates to their site are frequent.

Any car sales business can’t ignore the power of AutoTrader – you simply have to be on there as it’s the ‘go to’ place for all things automotive. The problem now is that PK Motors effectively need to double their admin work. They need to add their listings to the AutoTrader site, and then do the same again to their own site.

It would be perfect if this task only had to be carried out once, so we gave the AutoTrader guys a quick call to see what was possible. They told us that they would be able to provide us with a data feed on a daily basis, providing information and images about each vehicle that PK Motors had on their website. We could then simply set up an automated scheduled import to download this data (and the images) and synchronising it with the current stock on the website. New vehicles would be added, amended vehicle details updated (so price changes for example) and sold vehicles removed. And it all happens automatically.

The data file from AutoTrader is sent to the PK Motors website at 6pm every day, and we run the scheduled import at 3am every morning, when the web is nice and quiet. As a result that’s hours of work saved, so the business have more time to go about doing what they do best!

Jigsaw Recovery Project

The Jigsaw Recovery Project aim to help at risk people leaving local authority care. They partner their support service with counselling, employment and learning development services, to give young care leavers the opportunity to thrive in adulthood.

The younger generation are all about social media, so it’s an important way for the team to connect and communicate with the people that they help. We know that it’s important to secure some kind of formal connection with your web user, whether this is via an email address on a database, a phone number, a personal connection or a social media follow or like.

It’s important for the business to demonstrate that they’re active on social media, as a social media follow is a very valuable asset. Those following on social are able to be regularly engaged with, whereas when a website visitor leaves a site the trail effectively runs cold until they return again.

Automating social media feeds on a website homepage can be an effective way to have a homepage that regularly changes without any kind of manual update from the site owners. As posts are written the website updates this on a stream on the homepage. On the Jigsaw site the Facebook feed is imported every hour, so always contains the most recent activity. There’s also a Twitter feed which works in a similar way. It’s a useful feature, as a follow on social is just as valuable as a visit to a site.

Beachcomber Cottage

Situated on the Northumberland AONB coast in the middle of Goswick bay, this recently renovated cottage, one of a pair, provides exceptional accommodation in which to relax and enjoy the solitude and exhilarating sense of freedom found on this unspoilt part of the coast.

Most holiday cottage owners work in a similar way to our car dealer friends at PK Motors in that they have their own website but also appear on a letting agents site, sometimes more than one. There’s potential here to introduce a saving in time spent updating availability dates if we can access a single source of data and import that into a visual booking calendar.

The main agent that Beachcomber Cottage operate through are able to provide us with an .ics feed. This is the universal standard calendar feed in text format that we can set up to be automatically checked on a schedule, and then update calendars accordingly without any manual intervention. The result is that the cottage owners now only need to update one single set of availability data (on the agents site) rather than also having to manually update their website. This introduces a considerable time saving, but also reduces the risk of a week that should have been marked as ‘booked’ being forgotten about and missed, and appearing as still available.

Designer Dental

Designer Dental specialise in developing and implementing highly effective dental marketing material and campaigns for businesses in the dentistry sector. Their work can involve anything from helping a dental practice successfully engage with its patients to promoting a dental laboratory’s services to dentists.

Designer Dental have a thriving and well visited blog section which they use for search engine optimisation purposes but also to provide specific landing pages for their social media campaigns. They’re a busy bunch though, so finding the time to write up to five posts per month can be challenging.

To help them with this they partner with a sector specific news source provider who can write bespoke, tailor made content to the specific requirements of the business. After approval this content is authorised by Designer Dental to appear on their news section, and once authorised is submitted to the website via an automatically generated XML file. This file is read by the website, and the contents of any new posts added to the section. It’s a great way of automating news content while still keeping it bespoke and extremely relevant to the website audience.

Northumbrian Quality Feeds

Northumbrian Quality Feeds are specialist farm-based feed manufacturers based on the Northumbrian coast between Bamburgh and Lindisfarne Castles. Drawing on their experience as farmers and feed producers, they make a range of feeds suitable for both conventional and organic livestock production.

Our last example is one of the simplest. If you’re a business in the agricultural sector then there are two things you can’t do without. These are firstly a weather forecast (farmers are obsessed by the weather!) and secondly a news feed from Farmers Weekly.

Both of these are very simple to incorporate into a website. The first is simply a snippet of code pasted into a block on the homepage, the result being a permanently up to date live weather feed. The second is provided courtesy of an XML news feed. Lots of big media publications provide these feeds so that other sites can easily embed their content. Again, automation is the key, and the website checks this feed a couple of times a day and imports new news articles into the news section alongside their own.

The imported news articles contain the first paragraph then a ‘read more’ link, which takes you to the Farmers Weekly website.

In summary…

There are plenty of reasons to try to automate as much of your marketing activity as possible, and this article only scratches the surface of what you can do on your website. There are other activities you can apply this thinking to, such as automated scheduled social media posts and email marketing actions based on subscriber activity, but it’s important to note that automation should be seen as a way to simplify and expand an existing marketing plan rather than be a complete solution in it’s own right.