4 writing tips for keeping visitors on your small business website

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I’ve been suffering from blog block recently and missed my last two self-imposed deadlines, so writing about … well writing, is possibly a strange topic for this blog post at this precise moment in time. But here goes!

Writing content for your own website can present a challenge. You undoubtably understand your small business the best and know exactly what you are all about and how you deliver your services. But … sometimes in your enthusiasm for your business (don’t get me wrong conveying that enthusiasm is great) the writing can get a little laboured and key points can sometimes be lost amongst a lot of unnecessary content.

In this post I’ll share some key things to consider when drafting your content so that it encourages your small business website visitors to get in touch … and become your customers.

1 It’s all about you

Well, more accurately, it’s all about your customer. It’s easy to get carried away by the aforementioned enthusiasm and write about all the great things that you can do and the services you offer. But your customers don’t want to read about you they want to read about what you can do for them.

Focus your writing on the word ‘you’. Less ‘me, myself and I’ and more ‘you and yours’.

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Small business marketing, digital marketing, content ... what does it all mean?

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Recently I attended a digital marketing masterclass. I was lured in by the ‘masterclass’, which, as an aside, demonstrates very well the importance of a great headline for your online promotional activity.

Whilst the course was interesting, I spent most of the day learning about keyword research and on-page search engine optimisation which wasn’t quite what I had expected. The course was well received by other delegates, but I had been expecting something quite different. After all, as web design is what I do these are things that I am very familiar with and have been implementing on customer’s websites for quite some time.

My core business offering is to help small businesses and start-ups get online, primarily with a new website, so I had been hoping for some insight about the whole digital picture … how it all pulls together to market your small business in this digital age. I often support new customers with a whole host of other related services to help get them started with managing the online marketing of their small business. I’d hoped for tips on conversion tactics on landing pages, social media advice and content writing and the whole online branding process.

So, what is my point? Not, that obviously, I should have been a little more thorough before signing up and that I should have requested a course overview.

My point is, that it got me thinking about all these terms that we see used everywhere and ‘hashtagged’ all over Twitter. Not just digital marketing … think

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3 benefits to my small business of having a presence on Twitter

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I joined Twitter back in 2010 and then promptly did what a lot of people do. Had a quick look, felt completely overwhelmed and then didn’t look at it again for around 5 years. With only 140 characters to make my point and not really having any idea of what that point was I decided it wasn’t for me. What with hashtags and mentions, squeezing in a link and possibly an image it all seemed like hard work and many of the Tweets I was reading could have been written in a foreign language for the amount of sense it made to me.

“When people ask me what the best tip is for their new business, or any business for that matter, the answer often surprises them: Twitter.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Fast forward to now, March 2018, and I would probably agree with the quote above. In 2015, when I started my own small business blog, I realised I was going to have to do something to get visitors to those painstakingly crafted posts and ultimately to my website.

So, I decided to up the activity on Twitter and can now see definite benefits to my business:

In the last 12 months I have won two new projects as a direct result of Twitter.At just under a month in my most recent blog post has already received 2,000 visitors.Last but not least, I’ve forged some online relationships that have helped all aspects of my business beyond converting to new customers.New customers as a direct result of Twitter

Back in 2015 when I realised I was going to have to take some action to get traffic to my blog and website, one of the first things I did was to start following other small local businesses. Many of them were as active as I had been. In other words, they’d created an account and Tweeted a handful of times followed by a sustained period of inactivity.

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Are you suffering from small business content marketing overwhelm?

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If you manage a website for your small business, you are probably aware that to be competitive it is not enough to just launch your website and then forget about it. You need search engine optimisation or SEO. SEO is probably something you have heard about and know you should be doing.

You’ve probably also quite likely heard various things mentioned in connection with SEO; like ‘content marketing’ or 'digital marketing'. You are probably also aware of the benefits of having an active presence on one or more social media channels but how does it all sit together and what exactly is content marketing?

To compound things SEO best practises are ever changing and what may have worked effectively a couple of years ago is not going to work now so you need to keep up to date.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing online or digital marketing, that involves the creation of material online with the purpose of raising awareness of your brand or business. The type of online material that you should be creating can include;

videos (via something like YouTube),blog posts (on your website) andTweets, posts and status updates on various other social media platforms.

The content should not necessarily advertise your business and products directly, but should be generating interest and raising awareness while encouraging visitors to your website.

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Guest blogging and the benefits to a small business website

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Last month this blog featured its first guest post and it got me thinking about the benefits of having a guest contributor on your small business blog. There are a lot of articles, blog posts and content out there extolling the benefits of guest blogging for the blogger:

Building relationships with a wider audienceGaining status as an expert in your fieldDriving traffic back to your own blog or website with links

These are all valuable reasons for writing and getting your own content featured elsewhere. But as a time-poor small business owner I thought I’d write about the benefits from the other side.

The benefits of featuring guest content on my own blog 1 Featuring a guest blogger saves time

This was probably the greatest appeal for me.

I have a self-imposed schedule of a minimum of one 2,000 word, or thereabouts, blog post a month. I don’t think this one is going to make it. This coincides with a mailing that I send on the first of each month although at the time of writing that mailing is likely to be a little late this month!

It takes me roughly three hours to research and write each post initially. There is then time put aside to proof read and edit, source a suitable image and publish the post.

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3 ways to safeguard your brand presence online

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So ... how to safeguard your brand online presence

In a lot of ways, the Internet is still like the wild west, and it’s hard to believe the world wide web we use today is only around 17 years old. Things change quickly, especially when technology is involved. Surprisingly though, while we “Google” things like how to bake the perfect cookie and how late that local store is open until, we often forget to check on our own brands.

You as an individual are a brand, and your company is its own unique brand too. Both need to be monitored for accuracy and for potentially damaging material that could exist with or without you knowing. If you’re not actively monitoring your search results, it’s like someone is talking behind your back. Luckily, like a good friend, Google can tell you what’s going on if you’re willing to listen.

Check and Check Often

Not surprisingly, those who do find potentially embarrassing or damaging information, monitor their results more frequently than those who don’t bother to check. Discovering information too late, however, could have a long-lasting impact on your character, business sales and much more.

What if you Google yourself and you don’t find anything? Well, according to ReptuationManagement.com, “having no web presence can raise suspicions and potentially be just as damaging as negative content.” You’ll want to build up properties that accurately promote and help your presence and reputation online. Local directories, social media profiles, and partnership pages are just a few of the ways you can accomplish that.

Why Good UX & Security Matter

Providing a good user experience within the web properties you own and manage is critical. An outdated website with poor navigation, for example, can lead to people questioning the authenticity and professionalism of you or your company. Your information on the web may be accurate and not be hurting your online reputation, but your website and social media profiles could be.

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5 benefits of starting a small business blog … it’s not all about SEO

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As a small business website owner, you have possibly felt under pressure to add fresh content to your website. We’ve all been told that Google likes a well maintained and regularly updated website and a blog is a very easy way of doing that without having to constantly think of tweaking the main structure of your website … although it is important that you keep that current and don’t neglect it.

Apart from posting content in the interests of ‘just adding content’ to boost your search results, there are plenty of other reasons for starting a small business blog and some of them could just help give you a new focus when you’re struggling for blog post ideas.

Ultimately, your website and/or your blog is all about promoting your business and finding customers. Careful planning of blog content allows you to provide real value and benefit to new and existing customers. This in turn can build trust and loyalty which will lead to long term business rewards.

Regular posts on your small business blog allow you to:Show a bit of personality behind your brandReinforce your key messages and build awareness of your servicesGenerate engagement with new and existing customersEstablish yourself as a respected voice within your nicheAttract new, and otherwise different, visitors to your website1)  Show a bit of personality behind your brand

People do business with people. If you’re a small business, or perhaps ‘the’ business this is even more true. Depending on your offering, it is likely that your potential customers are investing in you as the provider of services rather than just the services that you offer.

Your website will be outlining all your goods and services and encouraging your visitors to make contact. It will be factual and detail the logistics of how you work and what a client can expect from you. You may have written an excellent ‘About’ page that outlines what qualifies you to deliver those services but it probably doesn’t give a huge amount away about you … the person.

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7 ways to boost the professional image of your small business

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Presenting your small business in a professional light and creating a great first impression is crucial if you are to succeed. First impressions are important and we’ve all heard that when you first meet someone, they will form an opinion of you, rightly or wrongly, within about 60 seconds. That’s not long and in this digital age, it’s even harder as your potential customers’ first impression may even be formed online before they’ve even met you face to face. It's important to present your business in a professional light ... however, people first come into contact with you.

So, it's worth investing in a consistent image across all the different types of media that you are using to reach your potential customers.  It's good for brand awareness but it will also present as more professional and convey that you are serious enough about your business to invest time and effort in the finer details.

A haphazard and inconsistent approach will give the impression that that is how you approach your business generally and even worse how you deliver your products and services.

I have been freelance or self-employed and running a small business for over 20 years. The way we market ourselves has changed enormously in that time. In this post, I’m going to share a few things that I’ve learned through experience and from networking and co-working with many other small business owners about how to present ourselves professionally.

I’ve also numbered these points in a logical order for those readers who are just starting out. You need some of them before you can start the next one.

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Why your small business needs a website in 2017

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A 2016 survey revealed that around 50% of all small businesses still don’t have a website, even though it is easier than ever to get your business online.

This is a topic that came up in conversation while I was at a networking meeting a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, sometimes I do get out from behind my PC and go and speak to real people. I even quite enjoyed it although I was lured by cake as it was a birthday celebration for the networking group in question. I digress.)

“Do people actually still need a website with all these things available like Flickr and Instagram?”

This question came from another small business owner, who does, in fact, have a website themselves.

I was aghast for but tried not to let it show. Once I’d got over the initial shock of imagining myself completely redundant I recovered my composure and explained why a website is as important, if not more so, than it ever was to your small business. I thought I’d share some of those reasons here countering the argument that you could just have a strong presence on social media and negate the need for a website.

Social media is very important for the growth of your business but you still need a website

{tweetme }#SocialMedia is very important for the growth of your business but you still need a website{/tweetme}

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How to ace your small business blog posts

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If only there were some magic formula for writing a blog post. An easy template for creating a post that everyone shares and gets a load of traffic.

Sometimes it can seem like an uphill struggle, but the thing to remember is that a thoroughly researched and well-structured post will always add value to your blog even if it’s not getting a huge amount of traffic initially.

Get the basics right and then the traffic will come so remember these key points:

Well written and grammatically correct content will create a great first impression of you and your blog or small business website.Factually accurate content will add to your credibility as an expert in your field.Search engine spiders can detect good well-written content that isn’t just stuffed full of keywords to try and boost your SEO.

It’s safe to assume that your early posts won’t get much traffic as no one will know that your blog exists. However, your posts will always have some value if they’re well written and follow a few basic guidelines. New visitors, impressed by a current post will search back to see what else they can learn from you. Your older posts that didn’t get a lot of exposure initially will have ongoing value and can be shared long past their original publish date, especially if your content is ‘evergreen’. (More on this another time.)

In other words, don’t ever compromise the quality of your content for the sake of just getting something published.

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How to end a blog post

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If you're anything like me getting started with a blog post is difficult, but once you've got going it's sometimes hard to know when and how to stop. What is the best way to end and sum up your blog post?

Writing a great attention-grabbing headline and a compelling introduction will encourage your visitors to read on through the rest of your post. You will have outlined what you’re going to be writing about, defined a clear benefit to reading on and reassured the reader that it’s worth their time to read it.  

But having read your article, what do you want them to do next and how do you want to reinforce your message at the end of your post?

Why is a strong conclusion so important?

A strong conclusion to your post can encourage your readers to take some action, which was probably the aim of your post in the first place. It can also make your post and therefore you more memorable.

Don’t overlook your closing paragraphs. By getting it right you could be encouraging your readers to:

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Optimise your small business website for local search

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If you're a small business providing services to a local market, then it's important that your website ranks well. I want to be found for 'web design high wycombe' so there are a few things that I've implemented on this website to achieve that end.  Here are a few simple steps that you can take in an infographic with more detail below:

1) Domain Name

If at all possible, try and use your keywords and/or your main geographical area in your domain name. I've managed 'web design' although not 'High Wycombe'.

2) Contact InformationThe telephone area code must match the town or city where you want to be found and the number must be your permanent business number.Use a legitimate business address, which should also be in the town or city where you want to rank.

Both these two can present a challenge for a small local business which you may be running from home and quite likely using a mobile for most of your business contacts, but it is worth trying to arrange both if possible.

Also make sure you are consistent and use the same address and contact details everywhere you are listed online.

3) Title Tags

Create unique title tags for every page of your site and include your services, keywords and location.

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Hashtags! What, when, where and how?

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They’re everywhere and we’ve all seen them cropping up in all sorts of unexpected places, but if you’re new to social media and you’re finding your hashtags a bit of a minefield then read on.

What are they?

A hashtag is a way of tagging, or key wording, your posts on your social channels. They help to get your posts, tweets, status updates etc. found by users searching for content on any given subject.

So for example, if I were searching on Twitter for information about the recent Olympics I might search for ‘#Rio2016’ which would return Tweets containing that hashtag.

When and how should you use them?

Whenever you can but proceed with caution:

Make sure they are relevant to the content you’re sharing. For example, if I'm posting a fun image of a dog that has nothing to do with web design, I wouldn't tag it #webdesign.Use your keywords. So for example, I use #webdesign #smallbusiness #websiteTry not to join too many words together. Better  #smallbusiness #webdesign than #smallbusinesswebdesignTry to use hashtags that are already in use and there is a useful little autocomplete that pops up as you type … unless of course you’re creating your own intentionally. More on this another time.Avoid tagging every word and generally over tagging – although it’s more appropriate on some channels than others.Humour works and it goes without saying … correct spellingWhere do you use them?Twitter: This is where it all started. One or two per Tweet and I would say no more than three. Adding a hashtag at the end of the Tweet will create a link to all other tweets on that topic, so only do this if it’s going to enhance the value of your own Tweet to your audience and is relevant.Facebook: Hashtags are not generally associated with Facebook although they are now being used. As a general rule no more than two per post. Research shows that the number of interactions drops as the number of hashtags increases.Linked In: Hashtags are not supported by Linked In so they are best avoided.Instagram: The hashtags here really should be about describing the picture and use all that are relevant … you can use up to 30. It’s OK to use two that are similar – for example, #webdesign and #websitedesign

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the social channels or all the appropriate usage, so please add your own experiences in the comments below and anything else that may be useful to a small business just starting out with social media.

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7 reasons your small business needs a website

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Almost half of all small businesses still don't have a website. Given how much technology and the internet has changed how we research and buy 'stuff' in the last 10 years that is a staggering statistic.

The most common reason for not having a website is that most small business owners think that their small business 'doesn't need a website'.  Here are a couple of reasons why it might be time to consider your options for getting your business online:

1. It's an online brochure or shop window

Unlike that brochure you handed out at the networking event which is now most likely in recycling or buried somewhere in the car if you gave it to me, your website is a permanently available brochure and shop window.

Anyone you meet can immediately check your business online and can return to it at a later date ... it won't get lost.

2. Business credibility

By having an online presence you immediately indicate your permanence. You are serious about your business and you are investing in it.

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User Generated Content: What is it and should you be doing it?

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User generated content is any form of media that is created by users of an online system or service, for example blogs, discussion forums, posts, chats and tweets and incorporates, text, images, video and audio.

So how is user generated content going to help your business?

We all know how important it is to add fresh content to our small business websites. However, coming up with that content can sometimes present a challenge and then once you've created it how do you get people to read it? This is where user generated content can help.

People do business with people and If you have an existing, returning customer base the chances are they're happy with your products and services. That could be a potentially huge resource of brand affirming content for you to share and engage with either by blog post content or sharing and engaging with you on your social media channels.

Users and customers also tend to be more interested in hearing from their peers ... some studies have shown that consumers trust user generated content more than all other forms of media. So it's a win ... win.

Your users create the content for youIt's more valuable to your existing and potential customers

What's not to love about it? So how do you get started?

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New to managing a Facebook page? Stuck for post ideas?

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Then read on if you need some inspiration

Those first few posts on your new Facebook business page can seem a bit daunting. What on earth do you post? If you've just launched a new website, use some of the content from that to ease yourself in to it and then move forwards using these guidelines.

Share tips and best practise advice from within your sector. Demonstrating your knowledge builds credibility.Post images of your products and/or work you've recently completedHumour works well ... it doesn't all have to be about your products and this gives you a chance to show a bit of personality behind your brandMotivational quotes ... but be sincere (that's my personal opinion) and probably not too frequently.Ask questions. For example, I have to select images for websites and one of my early posts that worked really well was quite simply asking people what they felt the message was behind the photograph.

Also don't forget you can share some of your Pages post on your personal Facebook profile to relevant groups that you may be a member of. But, do be careful ... too much 'spammy' behaviour and bombarding various groups with the same post in a short space of time can alienate your audience and more worryingly cause Facebook to suspend your page.

Promotions and sales posts ... proceed with caution

Try not to obviously promote your business too much. The odd post about an offer or a promotion is fine. But if all you do is constantly advertise your products and services people will switch off. They may even start to hide your notifications ... nobody likes to be sold to all the time!

Etiquette

Finally, don't forget to interact with your audience and thank them. People like to be acknowledged. Share other pages content and if someone shares yours try to acknowledge it. Commenting on the thread of your own shared content is a very good way of doing this. Plus you are benefiting from the audience of whoever shared in the first place.

There's a lot to take on board here ... but really, just make sure you're posting and sharing if you want to increase your Facebook reach. If you could do with some advice, please get in touch on 01494 537612 and we can get you on the right tracks and we have some useful contacts we can put you in touch with if you just want to hand it over to someone else to manage.

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Promote and grow your small business ... build a website?

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If you're an established local business with a good reputation you may well think that you don't need a website and in fact almost 60% of the smallest businesses still don't.

However, a recent survey (well June/July last year) by GoDaddy found the following results:

48% of very small businesses who plan to create a website expect their business to grow by 25% or more within the next 2-5 years.Of those who already had a website, 59% say their business grew once they had built their website.33% of small business owners who already have a website feel they have a competitive advantage over those without.

I could go on, but it's looking quite convincing. If you want to read the whole survey you can find it here.

While just over a third of those surveyed felt that their business was simply too small to warrant a website, one in five were put off creating a website because of:

lack of time,lack of technical expertise andperceived cost implications.

Put those to one side for a moment and think about some of the advantages of building a website to promote your small business.

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"No one's seeing my Facebook page posts!"

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This is something I hear regularly from clients who have just launched a new website and are hoping to promote their business and website through Facebook.

One of the best ways of getting the word out there about a website and/or a new business venture is undoubtedly through using social media. Let's face it, aside from your time ... it's free and the potential audience is huge! If you're still not convinced about using social media to promote your business read this earlier post.

There are many social channels available and for a business providing goods and services locally, business to consumer, Facebook is a good choice.

However, you have to put the work in.

So, you, or your web developer, have created the Facebook page and the temptation is to invite all your friends to like your page. Remember your friends are not necessarily your potential customers, although you could argue that it depends on what you're offering. If you're providing garden services then perhaps someone within that immediate network could require your services and quite possibly friends of friends could increase that likelihood.

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6 tips for writing effective email text content

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So you've been gathering visitor information and email addresses from people you meet at networking events, visit your website or wherever ... now you need to contact them with your all important message.

Before you begin, decide on one clear objective for your email beyond just contacting people and getting more customers.  

Do you want more website traffic?Are you trying to improve traction on your social media channels?Do you have a promotion that you want to publicise? As with most things, keeping it simple is usually the best policy and below are a few guidelines to help your email achieve it's objective.1. Keep focused

Decide on one clear message. If you need to convey more than one message consider sending separate emails.

2. Target your email

You may need to divide your email address list up into sections so that you can really target that message for maximum impact. Whilst you may want to say the same thing to your entire list, there may be a section of the list for whom it is more relevant or requires a slightly different angle. There's no point sending the message to a 1,000 addresses if it's irrelevant to 99% of them.

3. Less is more

Be concise and reduce the length of your email ... I'm not very good at this and often ramble on. You don't want your main message to be lost within too much text, however beautifully written it is.

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Social media … do you need to bother?

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Short answer ... YES you do! You've set up your new business and you have a brand new website.

The phone's going to be ringing off the hook ... right? Wrong!

It's going to take time before your new small business website starts to get found in any Google search results. Starting a social media campaign is just one of a number of things that you can do to help speed up the process, although there are no guarantees of achieving page 1 of Google for your chosen search string.

For now though, let's just focus on the advantages of using social media as a small business ... and there are many, beyond search engine optimisation and driving traffic to your website.

1. Generate Brand Awareness

By creating a consistent presence on your chosen social media channels, your company and it's brand can create a recognisable image. Good quality posts can help build and enhance your reputation. 

2. Showcase Your Expertise and Knowledge

Sharing your knowledge and giving away valuable free tips on your social media channels will show your potential customers that:

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