If you are searching for ways to increase sales in today’s competitive environment, there are 5 steps you can take to start generating enquiries.

infographic1.Website performance
Your website is the hub of all your online activity.

Even if you are advertising off-line using press ads or mail drops, the first thing most people will do is go online to check out your website and research your business before taking any further action.

Like a lot of things from designer clothes to product packaging, image and design are important and will create the first impression visitors will have of your business.

Quality of build is also important. What determines how successful your website pages are at being found by search engines will depend on how the site has been constructed, how engaging the content is and the relevance of the keywords used.

It takes the skills of a good designer and web developer with an understanding of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to provide a sound foundation for your website to develop and grow as your business goes forward. With the right management, continuous SEO work and generation of new content, these skills will help you achieve a page one ranking on Google over a period of time.

A good website is an investment and you will reap long-term rewards if you take time at the beginning of the project to work with your developers to give your website the best chance of converting visitors into clients.

2.SEO
Assuming your website has been developed with SEO in mind, this will provide a good starting point to monitor and improve the rankings of your most important keywords on the main search engines.

A new website will take around 6 weeks to settle and start providing the keyword ranking information needed to identify where to concentrate efforts on improving page content to move keywords up the page rankings.

New content and improving existing content are amongst the most important factors in SEO. Having a Blog on your website and regularly posting informative articles will help improve your keyword rankings.

We already work with a select number of our clients to achieve page one rankings. First, we carry out a review of your keywords and competitor activity. Then, if we think we can achieve results for you we would recommend a programme of work to achieve success. We will be honest with you if we think SEO is not the best way for you to achieve results and we consider one of the other steps below to be more cost-effective for your particular business.

3.Social media
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are some of the most popular social media sites. For small businesses with limited time, I would recommend focussing on one social media platform and spend your time there. Social media can be very time consuming if you want to generate quality leads and increase your connections with the aim of sending them to your website or taking the conversation off-line for a more detailed discussion. Call me to find out how.

4.Advertising
Developing a successful advertising campaign will bring a constant supply of leads into the business.

Choosing where to advertise and creating the adverts for a campaign that will generate enquiries will need research into your products or services. Price comparisons, competitor research and an understanding of your target audience will help decide where to advertise and what to say in your adverts.

Online advertising such as Google Adwords can drive traffic to your website immediately. Campaigns can be set up and tested very quickly to find out what works using conversion tracking and Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of click-throughs to your website.

Social media paid advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn is relatively new and can be very effective for some businesses. Like Adwords, adverts can be tested and refined to maximise response rates and conversions to provide a constant supply of enquiries to your website.  

Press and TV advertising are still relevant for some businesses; however, it is more difficult to track responses to justify the cost unless you can direct readers to a specially developed landing page or unique phone number to record visitor numbers.

Whichever route is best for you, your website will be the hub of the activity.

5.Email marketing
Sending regular emails to your clients and prospects, providing you have their permission, is still one of the most effective ways of getting your message to your audience.

If you are writing a regular blog article for your website, as well as sharing on social media, send a link in your email to the article and continue to remind subscribers of your products or services.

Further reading
You will find more information about each of the above steps in some of our previous articles and I will be writing in more detail about each of the above in future articles. Alternatively, visit the Marketing Services section of our website.

Call 01584 890725 to discuss how you can use these and other marketing techniques to grow your business.

Mark Langston.
 
 
 
 
 
Are you looking for a new website for your business or thinking about a design refresh?

Do you know which is the best build and management option for your needs?

Website_CMSHere are the pros and cons of the 3 options depending on (1) the time you have available, (2) Your technical knowledge, (3) Your budget and (4) how you want to manage your site in future.

The 3 options are:
  • Website builders.
  • Open source website builders.
  • Bespoke build.
To help you make an informed choice, let’s go through the details with the pros and cons of each.

Website builders
Website builders such as SiteBuilder, Wix and SquareSpace provide a platform to enable you to build and manage your own website. They are suitable if you have the time to spend choosing from the many website builder systems on the market, learning how to use the interface and then building your website using their system.

Pros
  1. You can build and edit the website yourself.
  2. You must choose from the design templates available.
  3. Most provide one free domain name and one email account.
  4. Website hosting is usually included in the monthly cost.
  5. Cheap option.
Cons
  1. It can take a lot of time to learn the system and manage everything yourself.
  2. Design is limited to the design templates available and they will look like a lot of other sites.
  3. Technical skills may be needed to do more complex designs and page layouts.
  4. You may have to compromise on quality, depending on your technical skills.
  5. Limited functionality available in the system; this may not meet your future needs.
  6. Not always suitably optimised for viewing on mobile phones.
  7. Not fully optimised for search engines (SEO).
Choose if you have plenty of time, are not too concerned about the quality and are working with a small budget. This may be your first website when starting up a new business.

Open source website builders
The most popular open source website builders are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Similar to website builders, these content management systems (CMS) are more flexible than simple website builders and allow you to add a range of “plugins” for example, photo gallery, document library or booking system etc.

You will need to register a domain name, host the website on a server and build your website in the system. If you have the necessary skills you can do this yourself but generally, you will need the support of a developer to get your website up and running and hosted on a server. Future changes can then be made by you, using the CMS.

Pros
  1. Design templates are available for you to choose from.
  2. Your developer is on hand to support you if you need more complex changes and updates within the template.
  3. Multiple functionality plugins are available.
  4. Easy to move your website to another developer.
  5. SEO plugin available.
  6. Responsive mobile optimisation.
Cons
  1. You will probably need a developer to build the site unless you have the necessary skills.
  2. Design is limited to the design templates available and will not be unique.
  3. Security. The CMS is known to hackers so constant up dates are required which can sometimes affect the website. Plugins are even more vulnerable to attack.
  4. Plugins are created by different developers and may not be compatible with your website. This can cause problems as the site is being built and in the future.
  5. Your developer may not always keep on top of updates and may charge you if anything breaks as a result of an update.
Choose if you don’t need a unique looking website design and you are confident that your developer will keep the security updated and fix any ensuing problems; check the ongoing cost for doing this.

Bespoke build
Discuss your requirements with a web development agency, they take your brief, think about what is needed and produce a unique design and website functionality that meets the exact needs of your business.

They probably use their own CMS and will be able to include any functionality you need such as photo gallery, document library or booking system etc.

Pros
  1. You get a professional looking, unique website from your web agency.
  2. Support and advice is available.
  3. Tried and tested CMS which is intuitive and user friendly.
  4. Secure and stable platform because code is unknown to hackers.
  5. Because the CMS is developed in-house, any additional requirements can be met at the build stage or in the future.
  6. Built to be SEO ready as standard.
  7. Responsive or adaptive mobile optimisation.
Cons
  1. Not a DIY option.
  2. May not be the cheapest option.
  3. More difficult to move to a new provider, though not impossible.
Choose if you value your time and would rather be working on sales than your website. You want to stand out from your competitors and get the maximum conversions from your website.

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail before you decide which option is best for you, please call us.

We will provide a free unbiased opinion, even if the best option for you is the DIY route.

 

Website-planningOver the years we have gained many clients who have contacted us because their website was, in the words of one, "a bit of a mess".

It’s a sad fact that many businesses spend a lot of time and money on their website and get poor results or worse, websites that don’t work properly.

From our experience, the 10 mistakes to avoid are:

1. Trying to Build your own website
You can use website builders to produce your site; however, if you have not used the interface before, it can be a long process and the results you get are still not great. Your time would be better spent selling your services or products and increasing sales.

2. Getting a friend of a friend to do it in their spare time
This will seem like a good idea at the time but you may find they are not available to keep your site maintained, or even contactable in the future.

3. Not considering security and hacking
Where your website is being hosted and what software is being used to build it is paramount to the security of your website. Off-the-shelf open source products such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are well known to hackers. A bespoke CMS (Content Management System) is more secure because it is unknown and the code is not publicly available.

4. Thinking all domain name hosts are the same
There are hundreds of domain name hosting companies. Selecting the cheapest is not always the best option. Either you or whoever builds your website will need access to change settings and possibly transfer the domain to a new provider in the future. Some control panels are not very user friendly and other providers charge for transfers. Support can also be limited, so it is wise to go with a reputable supplier.

5. Writing your own words
If you find it laborious putting finger to keyboard to write about your business, then you should probably get a copy writer to craft the content for your web pages. It will save you time and they will be more objective about what your business can offer.

6. Not thinking about how your visitors will navigate your site
Your website needs to have impact and hold visitor’s attention to get them to a point where they can act. UX design (user experience), page layout, calls to action and photographs can all help to improve conversion rates.

7. Not taking time to plan your site
Your website is your shop window and can have a direct effect on sales. Visitors will
make up their mind in seconds whether to stay on your site or jump off to one of your
competitors. Taking time to establish your goals and develop a wire frame before design and build starts will pay dividends in the long term.

8. Not researching your target market
Do you know whether your audience will be more likely to visit your website using a mobile phone or a desktop computer? Age and profession of your customers may determine how your website needs to look and perform on a variety of devices.

9. Ignoring advice from the professionals
Web developers, like any other professionals, are experts in their field. If you ask for something that will not work across all browsers and devices, a good developer will explain why it won’t work and provide alternative solutions. There are usually very good reasons that you may not have considered. Always check your web developer’s credentials and their own website before you choose who to work with.

10. Not considering how you will market your website after launch
Build it and they will come no longer applies in our crowded online market place. You need to think about how you will deliver traffic to your website.

For more information, download our FREE Guide to web design and online marketing at the bottom of the page.

These days there are not many businesses that do not rely on their website for generating new leads.

Whether you drive traffic to your website using offline advertising such as adverts in magazines or digital using online advertising, your website will be the first point of contact for new prospects.

Indications are that digital advertising spend will continue to grow during 2017 and with mobile ad spend overtaking desktop in 2016, it is clear where media budgets are going to be focussed in future.

Online advertising provides many benefits over traditional press, radio and TV:
 
  • Online-marketingTargeted to your particular market sector
  • Higher conversion rates due to accurate targeting
  • Measurable results, cost per click and conversion rates
  • Geographic areas can be selected from local radius to worldwide
  • Immediate delivery of traffic to website for information, services or product sale
  • Cost effective, usually pay per click (PPC), pay per action (CPA) or pay per view (CPM)

Online advertising includes social media websites that now incorporate advertising and offer multiple choices of ad formats depending on what you are trying to achieve.

As with the selection of traditional media in the past, choice of digital advertising media depends on your target audience, the business sector you are in, what you want to achieve and your budget.

The digital advertising platforms that are currently leading the way are Google Adwords, Facebook and LinkedIn. Other platforms include Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest and Snapchat.

Overview of the most popular online marketing channels
Google advertising
  • Page one position on Google for your most effective keywords
  • Only pay when someone clicks on your advert
  • Write, change, test and monitor your adverts
  • Set up negative keywords
  • Target your advert to a geographic area or specific radius
  • Set your daily budget
  • Remarketing through Google’s display network
  • Turn campaigns on or off at any time
Facebook post boost
  • Flexible advertising formats depending on your goals
  • Goals include page likes, post likes, offers, show products or services, clicks to your website
  • Measurable results
  • Choose your audience by geographic area and demographic
  • Set your budget and duration of advert
  • Only pay when someone clicks on your advert
LinkedIn advertising
  • New, so fewer competing adverts
  • Ability to target specific job titles, functions and industry sectors
  • Variety of advert formats
  • Set your budget and duration
  • Only pay when someone clicks on your advert
Print vs online
Print advertising is still relevant and can have a place in your overall strategy as the web becomes more crowded and competitive. However, the flexibility, speed and ability to track conversions makes online advertising so much easier to justify and demonstrate a return on investment.

Mark Langston
 

You_have_been_hacked_messageIt’s not the first time we have touched on this subject in our blog, but I think it is such an increasing threat to your business that the subject warrants an update.

According to the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses, The Voice July/August 2014), fewer small businesses are experiencing information security breaches and cyber attacks than a year ago, however the cost of dealing with incidents has increased significantly (research carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers).

The research found that 60% of small firms experienced a security breach in 2013, compared to 64% in 2012. The average cost of the worst security breach they experienced in 2013 was between £65,000 and £115,000, compared to £35,000 and £65,000 in 2012.

The department for business (BIS) has published new guidance to help small and medium sized firms protect themselves against online threats. To read more about the scheme visit www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/317482/Cyber_Essentials_Assurance_Framework.pdf


Protecting your business from Cyber crime and information theft

ISO 27001
An alternative route is to the BIS scheme is to achieve the International standard ISO 27001.
This is an Information Security Management System (ISMS) that is auditable to international standards and provides a structure to help you improve the security of your information.

You should always use a trusted certification body, which is UKAS accredited.

Cyber risk insurance
For ultimate peace of mind, you may want to consider taking out an insurance policy in case the worst happens. In view of the high costs involved in recovering from a breach, you can now mitigate the financial impact by taking out insurance that covers a variety of expenses including; IT support, adverse publicity, legal implications and financial loss.

A good commercial insurance broker will be able to help you with this.

IT support
Regardless of whether you have implemented management systems to limit your risks or taken out insurance to recover your costs, you are going to need some expert advice and support to strengthen your security and help you with damage limitation. You will need to identify where and how the breach was made, what damage was done and help to get your systems up and running again as fast as possible. You will also need to look at preventing a further breach.

To discuss the best way to protect your business from the effects of cyber crime or for contact details of local providers who can help you, please call one of our team on 01584 890725.

 
 
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