Planning your small business website design.
In any small business website design project, the planning phase is the most critical. If you’re working with a website designer, it’s essential that you communicate your vision clearly so the designer can make your vision a reality. And your designer should provide clear examples, ideas, and images that will help you understand what the site will look like and how it will function once it’s completed.
There are three basic components to any design: the design itself (look and feel of the site), content (text and images that will appear on the site), and functionality (how it works).
As you work with your designer, you need to keep all of these components in mind. Additionally, there will be a learning curve for both of you as your designer studies the nature of your business in order to reflect it accurately in your design and as you learn about the many options available to you in terms of how your business will be presented to an online audience.
Throughout the planning process, clear communication is key to building a good relationship with your designer and your designer building a successful website for you.
I thought I’d share some basic small business website design tips that will help you work with a designer to hammer out the details of your design plan. By working as a team with a shared goal and by focusing on communications and smart planning strategies, you and your website designer can build a stellar website together.Read More
Step one in web content development: brainstorming.
Have you ever heard of the five Ps?
Proper planning prevents poor performance.
This saying is simple and easy to remember, and it conveys an important message: the best results come from a well-laid plan. That’s what smart web content development is all about — proper planning.
If done right, a good content development plan will ensure a stellar performance, one in which your website plays the starring role. This all starts with a blueprint, a map you follow to take your website from concept to completion.Read More
Should you get a small business facebook page?
These days, small business owners are flocking to social media networks to promote their businesses. Social media marketing provides ample opportunities for businesses to strengthen customer loyalty, generate buzz, and attract new customers.
Social media is not difficult for anyone with basic computer and Internet skills. However, there is a learning curve for each network. Twitter and Facebook don’t function the same way or share the same purpose. LinkedIn is targeted to a different audience than Pinterest.
In order to truly benefit from social media marketing, it’s crucial to examine each social media network and decide whether it’s a good fit for your small business before you establish a presence and start your marketing efforts.
Today, we’ll look at Facebook pages and examine how small businesses can leverage them for social media marketing.
Learn how to conduct SEO research.
Research is one of the most important steps in optimizing a website to increase search-engine traffic, and it’s one of the steps that laypersons often skip or complete inadequately.
Before starting on research, you need to know what information you’re looking for. But research also requires some critical thinking. Once you get the information, what are you going to do with it? How will it impact your SEO project?
For example, let’s say you’re a personal trainer. You want people to be able to find you online, so you figure you’ll optimize for the keyword “personal trainer.” You create content, acquire backlinks, and promote your article for months only to find that your website still doesn’t turn up in the first 100 pages of search results for “personal trainer.”
Then you do some research. You realize that you’re competing with every website in the world that is optimized for “personal trainer.” But you only need to get your website in front of people in your geographic area — people to whom you can actually provide in-person services. You do a little more research, make some changes to your website optimization, and just weeks later, your website starts climbing the ranks.
SEO Research: Getting Prepared
The goal of SEO research is to collect data so your SEO campaign will be based on accurate information. For example, you might want to compare two keywords to see which one is searched the most and which one is the most competitive.
Good research starts with asking the right questions. Here are some questions to consider when conducting SEO research:
- What are some words and phrases that are related to my business offerings?
- What are some synonymous words and phrases for these keywords?
- If I have a website, which keywords are already bringing in search-engine traffic? How well are these keywords converting?
Next, you’ll look at each keyword individually:
- Is this keyword a good match for my website? In other words, are people who search for this keyword looking for what I’m offering?
- How many searches does this keyword get per month?
- How competitive is this keyword?
- Is this keyword likely to convert? In other words, will it result in the searcher visiting my site and taking the desired action (such as buying a product)?
- Are there any long-tail keywords that I could use to gain more traffic or more targeted traffic?
Next, you need to find the answers to these and other questions.
Tools and Resources for SEO Research
There are a variety of tools that you can use to conduct SEO research. Usually, the first thing you want to do is create a big pool of potential keywords. Once you have a robust selection of potential keywords, head to one of Google’s many services to expand your keyword list and learn more about how those keywords perform on search engines. Google is the standard-bearer among search engines, and it offers several valuable tools:
- Google Trends: Enter a keyword and get details about its use in raw numbers and charts as well as geographic data, related topics, and synonymous or related search terms.
- Google Keyword Planner is a tool within Google Ads (you need a Google Ads account to access it). This tool will show you search volume (the number of searches that any keyword gets) and alternative keywords, and you can purchase ads for further acquisition of traffic or to test keywords as matches for your site’s offerings.
- Google Search: The search engine itself can show you where various websites rank for different keywords. Is your website on page five for “personal trainer springfield” or is it on page fifty-five?
Next you might want to try Moz. This is a reputable SEO company that has been around for a long time. You can use their Keyword Explorer for a free trial, but eventually you’ll have to pay for use of their tools. Their website also has some useful information that will help you work your way through SEO. Here is a description of their Keyword Explorer:
We at Moz custom-built the Keyword Explorer tool from the ground up to help streamline and improve how you discover and prioritize keywords. Keyword Explorer provides accurate monthly search volume data, an idea of how difficult it will be to rank for your keyword, estimated click-through rate, and a score representing your potential to rank. It also suggests related keywords for you to research.
Wordtracker is another tool with limited free use (currently it looks like you get about twelve free searches). It shows information similar to what you’ll find in Google Keyword Planner and Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
If the premium tools work well for you and you intend to complete an SEO campaign and generate revenue from it, then it’s a good investment to make by purchasing access to these tools. But SEO is a field with some sketchy corners, so make sure you vet (research!) any SEO company (regardless of whether they are selling products or services) to make sure they are credible.
Tracking and Researching Performance
The world moves at a breakneck pace and things change fast. A noncompetitive keyword that was getting 100 searches a month when you researched it two years ago might now be super competitive and getting millions of searches each month. So you should regularly check your keywords and update the information you’ve collected about them.
You’ll also want to conduct research to ensure that your SEO efforts are working. Returning to our personal trainer, let’s say she optimizes her website for “personal trainer springfield.” A month later, she enters that keyword on Google Search and finds her website on page five. She does some more optimization and checks in three months later to find that her site has moved up to page three. She continues to optimize until her site hits page one.
But a year later, she notices her traffic is dropping. She’s running short on clients. When she revisits her research, she finds that her site has dropped back to page three.
SEO research is ongoing and requires diligent maintenance. To keep up with your website’s performance, make sure to run regular (weekly or monthly) traffic reports and check to see which keywords are sending traffic to your site and how much traffic they are sending. At the very least, conduct an annual audit to check your site’s rank for top-priority keywords.
Optimize Your Website
Scribizzy provides SEO services to small businesses and independent professionals, and we can help with your SEO research.
Why mailing lists matter.
We recently asked (and answered) the question, what is a mailing list?
Put simply, it’s a list of mail contacts.
Traditionally, a mailing list included physical mailing addresses, but these days, most mailing lists are filled with e-mail addresses.
Mailing lists allow businesses to reach out to people who have opted in to receive communications from them.
Let’s find out why mailing lists are so important to small businesses.Read More
Building brand recognition online.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Branding and marketing professionals understand the power of image. Think about the Apple logo, the Nike swoosh, and Starbuck’s emblem. These symbols are burned into our minds, and they immediately prompt brand recognition as well as the feelings and attitudes we hold individually or collectively toward the companies and products that they represent.
We’re used to seeing logos and image-based branding on business cards, television and print ads, and product packaging. However, there is no medium more powerful for propelling brand recognition than the Internet.
In today’s technology-driven world, online marketing is the foremost method for promoting your company’s brand. Any small business can use the web to build brand familiarity by depicting a logo, maintaining a consistent image, and sharing a clear message across all online marketing channels.Read More
Strategies for doing business online.
These days, having an effective online presence can make or break your business. Even if you have a traditional brick-and-mortar location, setting up shop online will give you access to a larger customer pool, provide a cost-effective avenue for information sharing, and dramatically open up your opportunities for marketing.
More and more entrepreneurs are skipping brick and mortar altogether and are exclusively doing business online. For small business owners who are used to working behind a storefront or in an office, making the switch or expanding into the online arena can be challenging, confusing, and overwhelming.
The benefits of doing business online are undeniable. A website costs far less than a shop or office. You can communicate with hundreds, thousands, even millions of web users at a fraction of the cost of doing a television commercial or major ad spread. And you can sell your products or services across the globe, removing geographical limitations entirely.
How you handle the details of doing business online will depend on your industry, target customer demographics, and professional goals, mission, and philosophy. You might sell products using an automated online store or you might sell a service to a small, select group of clients. You may use your online presence strictly for marketing but keep transactions offline. You might even offer free products and services, like a blog or informative newsletter, as a strategy to entice customers.Read More
What does a copywriter do?
A copywriter is a professional who creates written marketing materials, which can include text for advertisements, websites, brochures, social media, e-mail marketing campaigns, and more. Copywriting has a distinct objective: get the audience to take action. Usually the goal is to put the reader on a path to becoming a paying client or customer.
Copywriting is a specialized field of commercial writing.
Copywriters might work for large corporations that have their own marketing departments. They also work for marketing firms. And many copywriters are independent consultants, sometimes referred to as freelancers. These are the copywriters most often hired by small businesses and independent professionals.
Copywriting for Small Businesses
Hiring a full-time copywriter is often beyond the needs (and budget) of a small business, so they usually hire marketing firms or freelancers to craft their marketing materials, including written text. Some businesses will hire copywriters whenever they need a project completed; others maintain an ongoing working relationship with a copywriter.
Each small business has its own needs. Most require professionally written text for their websites when they initially launch their business or whenever they produce a new product or update their core marketing materials. Some might need copy for their catalogues or as part of a print or televised advertisement.
Many will also launch marketing campaigns that need fresh content produced on an ongoing basis; these include e-mail marketing and social-media campaigns, blogs, and newsletters.
Of course, basic writing skills are essential for a copywriter. The more advanced a copywriter’s skills are, the better the copywriting will be — and the more expensive. But copywriting goes beyond grammar, spelling, punctuation and crafting sentences and paragraphs.
Copy written for marketing purposes should be clear and concise. It should say a lot in a few words. This kind of writing is harder than it looks. For example, it’s faster and easier to express an idea in 250 words of text than it is to communicate the same idea in just seventy-five words. People are busy, and marketing messages need to be swift and lucid.
Copywriting also requires skills of persuasion and the ability to impact an audience emotionally, intellectually, or both. After all, the goal is to get the reader to take some action: visit a website, sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase. Therefore, copywriting must be compelling.
And copywriters need to represent a business’s brand while speaking to the target audience in language they understand. For example, the content written for a children’s game will have a different tone and use different language than content written for a housecleaning service.
The Work of Copywriting
Research is often an integral step for copywriters. A copywriter must be knowledgeable about the industry they’re writing about. And a copywriter must be familiar with the brand they are representing in order to capture the correct tone and image. Copywriters must also gain an understanding of prospective and existing customers. That means building a profile of a target demographic.
If you hire a copywriter, be prepared to provide them with details about your industry, your brand, and your customers. If you started with a business plan, that can be an excellent resource for a copywriter.
Copywriters must understand the business’s goals as they pertain to any given project. Some projects seek to increase website traffic; others strive to sell more products. The content must be written with the goal in mind. When you work with a copywriter, you’ll need to explain the project, but you should also make sure you clearly describe the goal of the project.
Once a copywriter has all the information they need for the project, the writing begins. Every writer, from copywriters to poets, has a different writing process. But most will do some brainstorming and outlining and then write a draft. From there, the draft will undergo several revisions until it’s ready for polishing (final proofreading). Your copywriter might ask you to review their work at any stage during this process. This is a valuable opportunity to share your input and make sure the project is heading in the right direction.
Most copywriting projects require several reviews and revisions. Be prepared to review your copywriter’s work and make notes about things that need to be changed or fixed. No matter how knowledgeable and skilled a copywriter is, they cannot get completely inside your head. Work cooperatively with your copywriter to get the best results from the final copy.
Hiring a Copywriter
Before you hire a copywriter, review a few samples of their work. A good place to get a sense of a copywriter’s skills and style is by perusing the text on their website, especially if they have a blog. You might also find a portfolio, or you can ask to see some samples. This will give you a sense of what the copywriter can do for your business and how the final content will look, read, and feel. Of course, you’ll also want to ask about rates and get a turnaround time for your project.
Scribizzy provides copywriting services to small businesses and independent professionals. Contact us to learn more.
How to start a professional blog.
When blogging first hit the Internet, many thought it would be a fad. Bloggers were often ridiculed, but they got the last laugh. Years later, blogging has proven that it has staying power, and few have benefitted from blogs more than small businesses and independent professionals.
A professional blog offers several benefits: first and foremost, it’s a way to consistently produce content that builds connections with clients and customers while simultaneously drawing search-engine traffic (search engines give preference to websites that are regularly updated). It also gives you a space where you can share details about your expertise or your products and services. And content created for your blog can be repurposed into content for other marketing endeavors, such as social media.
Whether you update your blog once a month, once a day, or whenever your business has something to say to the public, you can leverage the functionality of a blog to promote and grow your business online.
How to Get Started
These days, you can get a blog going with a few clicks. But if you want your blog to contribute to the success of your business, start with a plan and put some thought into how you’ll run your blog. Here are some steps to get you started:
- If you don’t already have a website, get a domain name and hosting provider. Almost all the best names are taken, and because a name is integral to your brand, it’s worthwhile to spend some time on this step. If you already have a business name and a website, you’ll need to decide how to incorporate your blog. Does your website management software already have blog functionality? Will you add a subdomain for your blog? Will you redesign your website for the blog?
- Decide on your vision for your blog. Some blogs only publish news and announcements. Others regularly share tips and advice. Some focus on promoting products and services. Most business blogs are a mix of all these things. Set your main objective. Then figure out how you can use your blog to achieve that objective.
- Plan some content for your blog and decide how often you will add content to it. Ideally, you’ll blog on a regular schedule, but don’t overextend yourself! It’s better to publish one good article a week than five shoddy ones. Brainstorm enough article titles to carry you through the first year. Then brainstorm your blog categories. Do some SEO research to choose the best words to use for your categories and in your post titles. Once you have a plan, set it aside and revisit it occasionally to refine it.
- Plan your design. Look at some blogs and websites to find out what kind of layouts and features you like and what would be best to represent your business. Get in touch with some web designers to get their rates for your project.
- Create some content. You can hire a content developer who will provide custom written content and images for your blog, or you can produce your own content. If your expertise is not in writing or graphic art, you might want to work with a pro.
- Build your blog — or hire a web designer to build it for you. A pro will be able to build your blog a lot faster, and hiring one will allow you to focus on your business. If you want a simple blog, you can probably get it done yourself. In any case, consider how much time versus money you’re willing to invest and what your budget will allow, and then get it built.
- Make final preparations. Once the blog has been built and you’ve got a few weeks’ worth of content prepared, get ready for your blog’s launch. Make sure you plan blogging into your schedule (it requires an investment of your time and energy, even if you’re working with a web designer and content developer). Polish your content. Double check everything. And then publish it.
- Finally, share your blog with the world by following a well-laid marketing plan.
When I help clients launch blogs, it’s not unusual for us to spend several months in research and development leading up to the launch. A quick list of basic steps makes it all look easy, but each of these steps is fairly involved. You might spend a month on brainstorming content, and that work will overlap with planning your design. Some steps have to be revisited; for example, you might tweak your vision or reset your objectives as you learn more about blogging.
Most importantly, remember that setting up a blog is only the beginning. Unless you already have a website with high traffic, you’ll need to market your blog to the public. But that’s another article for another day.
Scribizzy provides blog services for small business and independent professionals, including blog development, content creation, coaching, and marketing. Contact us to learn more.
Website design in the spotlight.
Website design is a critical component of any business’s marketing strategy. The layout, colors, and language on your website are reflections of your business brand; your website’s design should align with the image you want your business to project.
A website’s content is just as important as its design. People visit a website with expectations, and you want your website to meet those expectations by providing the information that visitors are looking for. And content should always compel visitors to answer your call to action, which could be anything from making an online purchase to signing up for a newsletter.
The key to a successful website design is to showcase the content in a way that promotes your business brand and converts visitors into customers.Read More