How to use Facebook and Instagram to your small business advantage

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In a bid to grow your business, you may find yourself adopting various approaches to when it comes to spreading the word. The small business marketing world is ever more digital and with the continual expansion of social media usage, small businesses need to rapidly adjust to how Facebook and Instagram work in order to take advantage of the potential reach.

Below are a few steps you can take to to capitalise on what Facebook and Instagram can bring to your business when it comes to online promotion. 

Create a Facebook business page

Create a business profile for your small business and start posting content that is relevant to your business, products, and services. Remember it's not all about self promotion. So share content that is helpful to your audience, not just selling your goods and services.  Also remember to post consistently. As you start to post and check your analytics you will establish the best time of day etc for the audience you are hoping to engage with, you may even find your audience start to expect posts from you on a certain day or time. A contact of mine regularly posted on a theme each Friday and when she missed one week for holiday (don't forget to schedule) she had messages asking if she was OK. 

Don't foget to let your network know about your new business page. Try to garner support and ask them to 'Like', 'Follow' and 'Share' on your behalf.

Less is more so don't be tempted to compromise on quality just to get something posted. If you're time poor, don't over commit yourself to a punishing social media schedule. Little and often.

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Things To Avoid When Choosing A Web Design Company

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Are you thinking about creating a website for your business? If you are, then you’re on the right track. A website is still your top option for establishing your brand and a solid presence online. You don’t even have to worry if you have no web design skills whatsoever. With so many DIY templatised services out there, you can certainly create your own website from the ground up.

Still, hiring a web design company is the way to go if you want a website to look, feel, and function in the best possible way. After all, professional web designers do have the skills, experience, and an extensive knowledge of web design trends that might work best for the website you want to build.

Then again, you have to be careful when choosing a web design company. You would want to pick the right one, or you’ll find the entire process extremely stressful from beginning to end, and beyond. Here are some of the things you will want to avoid when shopping for a web design company.

Rates that are too low

We’re fortunate to live in a time where intense competition drives prices down. With so many web designers fighting for their piece of the market, it’s not uncommon for them to charge lower rates for their services to get a leg up on their competition. And if you have a limited budget for your project, intense competition for your business will indeed be your best friend.

However, you have to be on the lookout for web design companies that offer rates that appear to be too low. Chances are, that cheap price tag will only cover the most bare-bones web design they can make. And if you ask to add more features, they will likely charge you more. In the end, you’ll be shelling out more money than you initially intended.

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4 Ways Programmatic Advertising Affects the Growth of Your Small Business

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How well are you promoting your business? If you haven’t employed programmatic advertising yet, you are missing out on numerous benefits.

Programmatic advertising is the new word in the digital promotion realm. It can put your service in front of your target audience with just a few clicks. This automated advertising approach has been adopted by numerous small businesses all over the world.

Can you run your business without programmatic advertising? You can.

Can you run it more effectively than your competition? Unlikely. According to Dun & Bradstreet report, 65 percent of B2B marketers indicated they currently buy or sell advertising programmatically.

We’ve come up with four ways this type of advertising can help you grow your small business. Once you take advantage of this method, you are bound to discover a few more.

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How Small Businesses Can Keep Up With Content Demands

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Running a small business is often hectic and marketing is one of the biggest demands. But it’s also essential.

With the majority if purchases now occurring online and an increasing amount of local traffic to local businesses being guided by the internet, it really is crucial to make a success of the web.

Web success means ranking well in search engine results. Since SEO (search engine optimisation) is all about keywords and keywords are just that… words… SEO is actually all about content.

There’s no getting away from its importance. To rank well for your niche, your business needs to produce quality content that people a) want to read, b) will share and c) will link to.

But what is ‘quality content’? It used to be that anyone could string 300 words together in a blog, cram it with keywords, post and voila… up the rankings you go. To be frank, I’m glad those days are over, but it does complicate things for your business.

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Website and UX Stats That Could Shape Your Website’s Success

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Having a good website is a critical part of any business strategy these days, when people are most commonly using Google and other search engines to find the products and services that they need.

However, the definition of a ‘good website’ has so many different interpretations, so sometimes it is just easier to look at plain facts and plan around those. Facts such as the ones shown in this infographic 15 Website and UX Statistics of 2019 will help you to make some important decisions around your website improvements or serve as a reminder of why it is important to spend time on certain areas.

For example, 94% of people won’t trust an outdated website, so it is really important that you spend time to check that your website is up to date. If you have information that is incorrect on your website then people will doubt the capability of your business.

Another stat that might be useful for you to know is that 70% of small businesses miss call-to-actions. If that sounds like something that your website is guilty of, then isn’t it time that you changed that? Adding some powerful CTAs like newsletter sign up forms and other ways to get your visitors to contact your business can have a big impact on your website’s success.

Finally, it takes just 0.05 seconds to form a design opinion, so you really don’t get much time to impress people with your website. Therefore, getting across a strong first impression is definitely worth putting in the effort for. A well-designed, attractive website will certainly help to convince customers that your business is professional and can take care of them, either providing a top quality service or product.

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Still time to get legal and avoid high non-compliance fines

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You may be aware that the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) became effective on 25th May, but you still have a grace period to ensure your website is completely compliant.

For websites, the most fundamental area the new GDPR affects is your privacy policy. You need to have one, and it needs to be updated to be legal - in line with the GDPR.

Although the privacy policy is thought of as a legal necessity, it doesn’t necessarily get the attention it deserves. Ensuring you have a comprehensive privacy policy, especially complying with the new rules under the GDPR, helps ensure your business is well regarded, as well as being strictly legal. It demonstrates care for your customers, and that is always good business sense.

We know getting it right can be a daunting task which leaves you reaching for your lawyers’ phone number. There is no need to panic though, as we have the perfect solution for you.

Free Privacy Policies Covering the GDPR

You don’t need to spend a fortune using a solicitor to draw up a new privacy policy. You can make use of our connection with the legal templates experts at Legalo to benefit from FREE customisable templates, including privacy policies, cookies policies, terms of use and more to ensure that your business is compliant with the GDPR.

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How to: Make your own online small business a success

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Running a small business is hard enough nowadays without the added element of maintaining an online business. While there are a lot of advantages to running an online business, it’s becoming more challenging as more businesses go digital. It’s important now more than ever to have a strong strategy for standing out as a small business online. With big names like Amazon taking over the online space, you need to know how to use your smaller size to your advantage. Keep reading for tips and tricks for online small business success.

Why Take Your Business Online?

The first thing to understand is why it’s valuable to take your business online. As a small business, you save a lot of money in added resources by going digital. Not only do you not need a full-time staff to perform daily tasks, but you don’t have to worry about reaching people outside of your geographic area. Online businesses don’t have business hours or holidays off.

It’s also important to note that more shoppers are spending money online than ever before. In just a few years, e-commerce and online business have skyrocketed! According to TechCrunch, 79% of Americans shop online! This boom was sparked by convenience and cost, and that’s why so many businesses are jumping onto the online business bandwagon.

Customer Experience

As a small business, you can afford to spend more time on the customer experience. While bigger companies might not value each individual customer, small businesses have the opportunity to really dive deep into every interaction. This is what helps small businesses have an edge over big companies. When shoppers go online for purchases, they still expect a great customer experience. Since you’re unable to interact with customers in person, you need to make up for this with an easy, enjoyable shopping experience.

Much of the shopping experience relies on the checkout process. When shopping online, customers don’t like to jump through hoops just to hit that final submit order button. According to the web design blog Lilo, having the right merchant account can make a huge difference in this process on both the buyer and seller ends. Choosing the right platform and merchant account can ensure a speedy checkout process so you don’t have as many abandoned carts. A report from WalkerInfo.com shows that customer experience will beat out all other platforms by 2020! Get a head start on this trend by investing in customer experience now!

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Why small businesses need professional photography for their websites

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When you are building a new website for your business there's a risk of focusing on the design and text while leaving the images as an afterthought. There's a good reason why modern website designs feature large image areas as standard and that's the power of visual content. Photographs have the potential:

to paint a compelling picture of the services you provide,to attract traffic to your website,to encourage engagement and ultimately lead to more sales.

However, this potential can only be fully realised by using high quality images that connect with your customers. 

In this blog post I’ll show you:

why high quality images are crucial to your business in a competitive marketplace,the common mistakes you need to avoid when selecting your images andtips for commissioning images that will really benefit your business. The challenge of getting noticed

Before you can make sales, you need to get people on to your website. Regardless of how good your SEO efforts are, your business will appear in Google surrounded by organic and paid for results offering similar services.  

You need to take every opportunity to make your business stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s your Google business profile or your social media presence. Each point of contact with potential customers can get you noticed and bring traffic to your website. 

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5 things you should research before building your small business website

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You've decided to go it alone and startup on your own or maybe you've been running your business for a while without a website. Either way those first steps towards building your online presence are very important. It is worth taking a little bit of time to research a few things that can impact it's performance first.

After all your first website for your small business is not going to get found on its own initially so there is no immediate rush. It can take a long time before you rank on page one of Google so it’s very important that you give your new website at least a fighting chance. Taking a little time to research some all-important factors that will have an impact on that move up through the page rankings will pay dividends in the long run. That page one position is dependent on many things including:

How many people you are competing with in your sectorThe age of your website … older websites, or domains, that are already established will come before you initially

There is little you can do about these first two points. You can’t eliminate your competition and your website will be new. So, you really must focus on the things that you can do something about that will help your website move as quickly as it can up through the page rankings including:

Choosing your domain name.Researching your keywords.Writing excellent quality content.Sourcing high quality images.Developing a high performing website that loads quickly and has a great user experience … being mobile friendly is a given but make sure that it is also easy to navigate and obvious to your visitors what they need to do to find what they’re looking for.1) Choosing your domain name

Domain names are relatively inexpensive to buy, so if you have already bought yours and after reading this post discover you may not have gone for the best option, don’t worry just source a new one that will work more effectively for you. Before you commit and have your website resolving on a domain name that isn’t really going to help get your business found, it’s worth doing a little bit of research into what is going to work best for your business.

You may well have chosen a quirky name for your business … ‘pink elephant supplies’ or ‘white rabbit services’ for example. Fun and memorable but they give absolutely no indication of what your business does.

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Solved! Small business social media profile picture problems

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If you’re running a small business and managing a couple of social channels you may well have had a few issues with profile pictures. What should you choose and then once you’ve decided how on earth do you get it to fit? Read on to find out:

How to choose your profile picture and,How to get your profile pictures to fit within the allotted space.Choosing a profile picture

The picture you choose depends on your business. Before you start have a think about the image that you want to project. Remember your profile picture is likely to be the first thing that anyone will see when they come across your profile and first impressions are important. The first decision is simple:

Do you use your logo?Should you have a picture of yourself?What about a combination of both?Using your logo

If you’ve invested in branding and have a logo that you are hoping to use to project a unified image across all social channels, your website and on printed material you possibly think this is the best option. But before you do just consider the image you’re projecting and the audience you are hoping to engage. If you’re a small to medium sized business and you will be posting for the company then yes go ahead and use the logo. Do make sure it’s the right size and all of it is visible … more on this later.

Using a head-shot

Using a head-shot may be better if you are a small business, possibly a sole trader. In this instance, you are the business and it is you who people will be engaging with online and ultimately doing business with. Your online audience will be engaging with you personally so choosing a picture that represents you as the face of the business is sometimes a better option.

If you’re going for a head-shot of you it’s worth investing in a session with a professional photographer. Tempting though it is to try and cut costs here, that blurry shot of you at a friend’s party with the wine glass cropped out is not really going to cut it. If you need a little more convincing have a read of this post which discusses profile pictures for your website, but also the importance of having them professionally taken.

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Are you a reluctant small business blogger?

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Blogging has become an integral part of most business marketing campaigns but many small business owners are still reluctant to embrace what is, time commitment aside, free marketing.

I hear lots of reasons why:

I haven’t got timeI don’t know what to writeOur customers aren’t interested and no one would read it

All valid reasons, but lets compare a blog post with traditional means of promoting your small business. You may decide its worth spending a bit of time researching what to write and getting your content out there.

Local Advertising

Many small businesses still use small adverts in local newspapers and community magazines.

How much time does it take to prepare those ads?How much are the printing costs?What happens after that publication has reached its lifespan of a month or maybe as little as a week?

Compare that with a blog post.

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If your website got hacked, how would it affect your small business?

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Website maintenance falls into two categories:

Content updates to keep it topical and currentSoftware updates to keep it secure and stable in an ever changing environment

The first one is usually given priority by most small business website owners and current content and regular updates are important for all sorts of reasons like search engine optimisation and keeping your customers up to date. But really, keeping your hosting and site software up to date should take priority in the interest of keeping your website secure.  

Quite simply ... if it's out of date the hackers will know the vulnerabilities and will know how to get in. All they have to do is find your site. Updates and patches 'plug those holes' and it's important that they're installed regularly.

Most small business owners mistakenly think that their website is low profile and unlikely to be a target and take a 'why would they bother with my little website approach?' I liken it to a situation I experienced a few years ago where my modest and ageing hatchback was broken into while parked in between two very high end and very shiny new cars. Quite simply mine was easier to get into. The other two were secure with alarms and far more up to date and sophisticated security.

Every website is potentially a target irrespective of it's size and out of date software just increases the risk because it's an easy target. Cyber crime is big business and the reasons for hacking into a website are many. If you want to know more about why, you can read about it in an earlier post 'Why do hackers hack?'.

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Is there any such thing as a FREE website?

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'How much does a website cost?'  is usually the first question I get asked when I start talking to anyone about web design ... potential client or otherwise and I have to stop myself saying 'how long is the proverbial piece of string'.

There are a huge number of variables and one website can cost infinitely more than another one of a similar size for a whole host of reasons. Then throw into the equation that there are many free tools available for building your own website and the decision about how to move forwards with your website design and how much should it cost gets even more confusing. 

Build it yourself with a free website solution

This can be a very appealing proposition to anyone on a budget who is setting out on their own. Setting up a business can be expensive so, understandably, you want to avoid any unnecessary expenditure. But consider the following:

What are you good at? Probably, doing what you've set yourself up in business doing. Not planning, designing and building a website.How much does your time cost? In other words how much do you earn delivering the goods and services of your new venture.

Consider these two points together and balance out the advantages of getting a 'free' website against all the time you will have to invest in developing that website, quite possibly with a limited skill-set and almost definitely with no experience of web design. Time spent developing your website, is probably better spent developing your customer base and fee earning rather than spending hours on something that could be accomplished in half the time by an experienced web developer. You'll end up with a professional looking result as well!

Plus ... is it really FREE?

This is important. Many of the free options do not include many things that you will most definitely need. For example a mailbox is very often charged as an extra. My current provider allows up to 500 mail boxes, possibly excessive for a small business, within the fee for annual hosting.

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How to write great text content for your small business website

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There is an art to writing copy for your website. You may enlist the services of a professional copy writer, but chances are, if you’re a small business on a budget, you may decide to tackle it yourself. After all, you know your business better than anyone.

So you have all the facts about your small business and its products and services, but here are a few guidelines, to help you present all that knowledge in its most effective manner. It’s about attracting the right readers who will convert to customers.

Who is your ideal reader or visitor to your website?

First of all who do you want to engage with the text content on your website? Think about who your ideal customer is and what is most likely to appeal to them. You want to stand out from the crowd. You want them to pick you over your competitors. Imagine you are talking to them as you write and that you’re having a conversation with them through the text content on your website.

Have a clear understanding of your message

People like to read about themselves and your website visitors don’t necessarily want to read about how great you think your products or services are. So with that in mind focus on making the benefits of your products and services personal to your reader. Readers like to feel that they can identify with a problem or situation. Show that you understand their needs and demonstrate how your products and services can help to benefit them.

Have the right headline … make your text eye-catching

Yes you need more than a few magic words to seal the deal, but most website visitors are in a hurry. They don’t want to make too much effort to read long pieces of text and the right headline can convey your key message as well as encouraging the visitor to read the rest of your content.

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Why do hackers hack?

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I've had to deal with a few hacked websites and this is the question that I get asked most frequently. Why do they do it?

All websites are potentially a target ... however small. The motivation of the hacker is fame and fortune. A hacker isn't necessarily looking for financial details. They want to access your website so that they can use it for various money making activities and also gaining notoriety among the cyber criminal community. There are various financial gains to be had from hacking a website:

sending spamadding malware to a website so that information can be stolen from the computers of visitors to your website.phishing activitiesusing your site for their own SEOusing your website to attack others on the same hosting accountpassing on the access to other hackers for financial reward

A hacker is also looking for notoriety among other hackers. They're then able to market themselves within that criminal community.

If a hacker gains access to one website of several on a hosting plan, they may not place malicious code on the original site where they gained access. They're more likely to infect one or more of the other sites on the hosting plan keeping the original point of entry open for future use and re-infection.

Once they've gained access they will install something called a back-door shell in various places on the hosting account giving them access to all the files on that hosting account and therefore access to all the hosted websites. So even if you've managed to locate and remove the original point of entry, the back-door shells provide an alternative means of access so that they can keep on re-infecting your website.

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How do you stop your small business website getting hacked?

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The bad news is that you probably can't guarantee it never will be. The good news is that there are a lot of simple things you can do to reduce the chances. This post is by no means comprehensive, but its intention is to give you a few 'easy to implement' first steps to help keep things secure.

User Account Names & Passwords

When you're installing your CMS make sure that you pick an obscure username. If you're building your own website and haven't considered security you're very likely to leave the superuser as 'Admin' or some similar default name set during the installation process - after all, we all get fed up with remembering umpteen different combinations of username and password. Don't! Make sure you pick something obscure that cannot be guessed or linked back to you or your website's content. If you leave the superuser account name as the default any potential hacking attempt can be made with brute force tactics on the superuser password.

Once you've picked a strong superuser account name make sure you employ the same principles to your password. Make sure it's unique and you haven't used it elsewhere. There are lots of free tools available for generating passwords. Try http://freepasswordgenerator.com/ which will generate passwords depending on your chosen criteria of letters, numbers and symbols and also of varying length.

If you're still not convinced about unique and strong passwords have a read of this article by VPN Mash ... Secure Passwords 101: Why they matter and how to create them.

Site Software Updates

This is an important one. Once your chosen site software has been 'out there' for a while the weak points will have been identified. Not only by the developers but also the hackers. The CMS developers are constantly patching these and it's very often a simple one-click process to keep it current. Make sure you do. 

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How often should you update your small business website?

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There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to keeping your website maintained, but if your a small or start-up business with a relatively new website, there are a few things you should bear in mind.

You probably put a lot of time and thought into your website when you launched your business. You most likely invested a good deal of effort into developing that all important content that was going to communicate your message to your potential customers. You also probably canvassed many opinions about the website - family members, friends ... the dog! Then the big day arrived, you launched your website and you started building your business.

At that point your website possibly took a bit of a back seat. Understandably, you were busy networking and delivering to your new clients. However, your website, although not the only tool within your marketing strategy, is a very important one and your website's maintenance should be ongoing. Six months to a year in, you will have more understanding of who your customers are and it is worth spending a little bit of time re-evaluating the relevance of your website's content.

Here are a few important points to double check and maybe adjust:

Is the website getting found? Whilst there are no guarantees to Google page rankings, it is worth spending half an hour or so checking if your new website is moving up. Are the keywords that you chose initially, still relevant? For example, you may be targeting a specific market sector or your offerings may have changed as the business has evolved. Make sure your content reflects this.Is your key message or mission statement still the same? If it's changed it may be worth adjusting the layout of the site to reflect this. For example, maybe one of your supporting services has become more relevant to your potential customers and may warrant a mention on your website's landing page.Do all the links still work? There is nothing more frustrating to a website's visitor than a broken link. If your site does contain links to an external source, make sure that they are still current.Are the images still looking fresh? If you have photographs of products, make sure that they are current and that products shown are still available.Is the factual and logistical information still up to date? You may have new staff that have joined your team. You may have additional geographical locations that you are able to service. Make sure it's accurate.

These are just a few points that you should be addressing routinely. Only you will know the frequency with which these areas need to be updated. But aside from this, adding fresh content to a site is always a good idea. A frequent site visitor, will notice if the content is stale and out of date. Apart from anything, you can keep in contact with existing customers by alerting them to new content as well as directing any potential customers you are nurturing to your new content.

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