Heading towards a new year always gives small business owners a sense of excitement and hope for the year ahead.
Perhaps you are planning on making a start with social media or want to gain a better understanding of online marketing. As small business operators we always want to improve our productivity, make more money and having a better online presence is part of that marketing strategy. With so much ambition and opportunities our problem is fitting in all the necessary tasks into our day to day schedule to reach our end goalsSocial media and online marketing are grey areas for many men and women who are running a small business. When it comes to confidently using social media to meet specific goals, understanding the what, why and how, is virtually like learning another language.
Any online asset, like a website, requires either knowledge, time or money to keep it operational. When a website gets hacked or someone from the EU drops some malware onto your site, you can be faced with a big, time consuming problem. If you do not have the technical knowledge to fix it yourself, you will have to pay for it. This can be an unexpected spanner in the works, and cause you to stall in moving forward.
Likewise spending hours on social media without knowing what you are doing can be a waste of time; posting content that offers no value (informational, educational or entertaining) or trying to sell something with every post. Getting a grip on social media does not require a degree but rather a simple plan that you can simply manage.
Many small business owners do not know that Google regularly releases algorithm updates that can affect where your website ranks. At the beginning of 2015 Google released an algorithm that was donned the name Mobilegeddon. This update favoured sites that were mobile friendly, meaning that a non-mobile friendly site would most likely rank lower in the search engines. (You can check your site here to see how it scores).
There are many factors that can affect where a website ranks. For a business owner with little to zero technical knowledge here is a short list of the minimum requirements for a website to even get to page 1;
- It needs to be responsive
- It needs to load relatively fast
- It needs to have content regularly posted to it
- It needs a site map
- It needs to have images and videos
- It needs social signals
There are other SEO factors that need to be considered but they need to be discussed and addressed when you build your site and then want to start ranking it. It gets more technical.
For a business owner who wants to manage their own website I recommend that you use WordPress. It is a lot easier to learn for someone with no technical knowledge then other platforms. There are many plugins and features that you can add and when things go wrong, as they do, there are many WordPress technicians available to work on it and get it fixed. This means it will probably cost you less money.
In 2017 social media has become a must have. A social signal is a like, share, vote, pin, or view. Social media sites filter out these ‘signals’ to the search engines and search engines look on them favourably. Some industries and businesses can readily get more likes and re-tweets than others. For example a gym, could post images of it’s members or classes on Facebook. Gym’s usually have a younger demographic that are very active on social media. The images gets seen, liked, shared and commented on.
Compare this to a business that specialises in construction. A builder may take a picture of a house frame or completed job. The client is probably older and the work may be fantastic but the image may not have the appeal that the gym picture has. As a result it gets less or no likes and shares.
Some topics are hot and some are not. But that does not mean social media is futile. When used correctly social media can have a massive major benefit to your website.
If you run a retail store encourage your shoppers to like you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter. Add a sign in your shop that advertises your social profile names and tells them to stay in touch for the latest info and specials.
Social media is like a marathon not a 100 metre sprint. It does take time to get followers and to build a following. Unless your posts are extremely topical don’t expect an overnight following. I do not advise posting any personal views on your business profiles. Things like politics or religion should be on your personal page.
Social media can be time consuming and it does take thought and planning. The big question for many small business operators is ‘Where do I start?” There are so many platforms available to share on. Facebook and Twitter are very popular. Instagram is great for images and Linkedin is very good for those wishing to establish their professional profile, either personal or business.
So to start off with I recommend Facebook and Twitter. Creative brain storming is a way to draft up a list of topics to write about and other note-worthy items to share. For many small business operators their ‘to do’ list is never ending and the issue is finding the time to allocate to brainstorming, getting your ideas down on paper or PC, and then putting the information into action.
For someone who is not that creative or time poor this can be a challenge. To get started with social media you need content to post. You will need images, something to write/tweet about and a few hashtags; which can be industry related as well as branded to your business.
Preferably the images you use will be originals and unique. They can be of your business; either your premises, fleet of vehicles, staff, products, services – happy customers, events you are holding, location, special occasions, holiday events etc. You have licence to get creative and get as many as you can.
If your image opportunities are limited then you can use stock photos. Using stock photos is very common. Again use the above suggestions for topics to search on. A site I use and recommend is Canstock Photo. You can click on the banner below to check out their site.
They are the most affordable and flexible. There is no minimum buy, but to save money you can buy packages to make the cost even lower. You can get instant downloads. (If you do this make sure to save it to your hard drive in a folder named images or photos).
There is a very wide variety of images on offer. You can search via category or keyword. Without a doubt you will find a suitable image from their stock.
A good place to start to find topics to write about is the industry you are in. Does it have any governing bodies or authority sites that provide good information that you can write about or are a source of inspiration?
Sites that are useful to find trending topics are topsy.com or reddit.com. Enter a search term and it will return a list of results. Have a read through some of the links provided and this will give you something to go with.
Another good source of topics to write about is Frequently Asked Questions or Common Questions that are relevant to your industry. Each industry and business is unique and will have something to write about.
If you are not the creative type spend some time thinking of all the questions you have been asked by customers or clients.
Categorize them so that you can write about them. Put them in a book or on a spreadsheet.
Break it down into;
- Category Name
- Topic Name
- Article Name or Title
- Date written and posted to site
- Date link posted to social media account
If you are a Gym Owner or Personal Trainer, you could do the following:
- Category: Diet
- Topics: weightloss
(write down the conversation and the advice you provided the customer)
- Article/Title: Weightloss Diet Tips For New Mums
- Date posted to website: 17/1/2017
- Date link Posted to Facebook & Twitter: 18/1/2017
You get the idea. Break down your business into topics of conversation that can be categorised and written about. You don’t need to write like an author. Writing in a conversational style works best.
Regularly posting to a blog which is on your website helps keep your site content updated. Google does not like a static site. They like new content and you site will benefit from a blog.
Note: You CANNOT copy another website’s articles or images and then post it on your site, as your own work. This is called duplicate content and your site will be penalized by Google. If you are reading a website and like the topic they are talking about, it’s is better to re-write it and add your view to it. Don’t copy it’s not worth the getting penalized by Google.
The benefits of adding a blog to your website are;
- Keeps site updated with new content; educational, informational or entertaining
- Blogs are written in a more personal style thus it puts a ‘voice’ and face to the site and your business
- Add keywords to the posts to help your site rank for those search terms
- Provides you with posts that can be shared and tweeted on your social media sites which increases traffic
- Add a Call To Action (CTA) to each post; a link to sign up to your email list or a link to a specific product or service page
Blogging fulfils the need for new content to be regularly posted to your site, which has a positive SEO effect on your rankings and it can also be linked to from your posts and tweets.
Adding your page or post link into every image or tweet will most likely get people clicking on your links and going to your website. This increases you website traffic which is also favourable to Google and will increase your sales or calls to your business phone number.
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