Business Owner – How to Improve your Website

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Have you been thinking that it’s time to improve your website?

It’s been years since you did anything with your business website. The About information is out of date and the last blog post is dated 2018. Perhaps you have some products that you should add, but you never seem to have any time. The website needs a good makeover, or at least to take part in a TV show where you will get several areas made over in 60 minutes by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen.

Your website is an important tool that will help your business if you keep it updated. The first thing that you should do, is to put aside some time to work on it. There are several areas to look at which should help it improve:

Theme

Images

Feature Image

SEO

Navigation of the website

Information about your business

Blog Content

Links to social media – making content easy to share

Improve Your Website Theme

The theme is the first big decision. You may have had your theme for a very long time and it is starting to date. Keeping your theme up-to-date is important for security, If you use a WordPress blog, then changing your theme is easy. You can browse the themes and just pick one. Each theme has an option to preview. This means that you can see how your website would look before making the move.

You can also buy a custom theme from a developer for WordPress, although you may need some support to make the website work as you want. Most of the themes are able to use custom colours and you can add your own banners. Make sure that you have saved your website to back up before changing the theme.

Which Theme?

When looking for a new theme, I take into account the ratio of content to images, the blocks available to add badges or other things linked to my work. I also look for navigation of the website and how easy it is to locate the important pages and the ability to add social media. The theme should look clean and work well with any plugins. It should also support mobile devices.

The current trend is for image-heavy themes, but I prefer more space for content as I am a writer. My current theme is 2015 for WordPress. I have used it for over a year and I like how it looks and it is easy to set up to my specifications. I do keep an eye on new themes and I will change if I find I like a theme better, or if my theme stops being supported. So choose a theme that works for you and your business and helps to improve your brand.

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Images

Using the right images help to improve your website. How you find your images depends on your budget. There are a number of free websites out there that will enable you to find topical images to suit your subject. If you are writing about a generic topic, then you will usually manage to find an image using a free website. Examples include Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels. Many will allow you to donate the price of a cup of coffee in order to help support the website. You are also sometimes asked to attribute the image. Make sure you read the terms of use and follow them.

Some businesses take out a monthly subscription to one of the big image websites such as iStockPhoto. This can give you access to a huge amount of images, including graphics, on any subject you can imagine. I have previously used this method and it is important to choose your image carefully. Look for ones that seem natural rather than posed and make sure that the detail that you want is positioned correctly in the image. Some websites use small photos and you need to ensure that the image can be seen.

Feature Image

Do use the ‘Feature Image’ if available. This will put a thumbnail blog post image to represent the blog post. This is a feature of WordPress, which can be found on the right hand side page of the post in edit mode. The button tells you to “Set Feature Image” and gives you instructions to do so. I would always use the image that I have chosen to illustrate the blog post.

SEO

There are some great plug-ins to help you improve the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website. I use Yoast. There is both a free and a premium version. Yoast combines the ability to adjust your SEO to help your website, with links to great information that explains why you are asked to take these steps. It gives you pointers on readability, passive voice and length of sentences. It also enables you to edit the snippet that can be seen if your blog post comes up in a search. It enables you to think about SEO while you are editing the post and this can help your website move higher in the search results. I can disagree with Yoast, but at least I know that if I am ignoring its advice, that I may be limiting my search engine ranking. The advice it gives is sound.

Yoast can cause a problem if you are running Google XML sitemaps. I found this blog by Winning WP which explains the problem clearly and what to do about it.

Easy Navigation to Improve Your Website

How the users navigate your website is key.

Can they find your ‘About’ page?

Can they find out how to contact you?

Do you need a landing page to sell a new product?

Or are you selling a service and you need to highlight the skills you offer?

Answer these questions and set up your website to highlight these services and your website will really be improved.

Readability on a Mobile Device

Can users navigate your website on a mobile device? It is good practice to check out how your website looks on a mobile device and how easy it is to navigate. You may change the navigation of your website according to offers you are promoting, or if you have a new product coming out that you wish to promote.

Think through where visitors land when they visit your website. Is it clear where they go for offers? For your blog, news or events? To learn more about your company? If it is not obvious where to go for this information, then change your website so that it is more user-friendly. Your theme should enable you to make this kind of change without too much technical knowledge.

Tip: Ask a friend to go on your website and see what they think about the navigation of it. A fresh pair of eyes can help you find where improvements to your website are needed.

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Information about your Business

Is your website getting your message across? Can visitors to your website understand what your business does? Does your website enable visitors to do what they want to do?

Customers want to know about the company they are dealing with. The information about your business should be up-to-date. It should be clear to website visitors what the business does. Include a short statement that explicitly explains what you do and what actions potential customers can take to contact you. Make it easy for them to contact you – include phone number and email if needed.

Blog Content

Writing a blog for your business is one of the best ways to improve your website. Regularly adding content can help your position in the search engines. Blog posts can be short and pithy or they can be long useful content. You can write a mix of evergreen content or content which does not date. You can also write news-type content where it is only relevant for a short space of time. Your blog should reflect your business and written for your audience. It is important that it contains subjects of interest and useful information. Blog posts can also contain a call to action that encourages the reader to respond in some way.

Thinking up subjects for blog posts can be hard at first, but the more you do it, the better you get. You can include interviews, news, events, how to posts and more. It is best to post a regular blog, but how regularly is up to you. You can also ask people to post guest blogs if they are of particular interest.

Check out this retro post from 2016 on 30 Ways to Find Blog Post Ideas

Links to Social Media

If you use social media to promote your business, then do include it on your website. Only include social media where your company is active. There’s nothing worse than a potential customer clicking on a link and the last post was 2017. If your company is active then retweeting blog post links can help bring potential customers to your website, increasing traffic.

Be careful and do have someone monitor your social media regularly. Often customers can use it as a place to get your attention and complain. If you get a complaint on social media, it is not necessarily a blot on your company. However you will want to pick up on it quickly and resolve it.

Have you improved your website recently? Which elements did you take note of? How important is it that your website gets your message across?

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10+ ways to stay social while staying safe at home

Everyone’s social life has taken a dive at the moment. Social distancing has meant an end to going out to the pub, going to the cinema and even going for a meal. Thankfully we have the technology to ensure that we can still do some of these things. Here are some ideas when you’re ready for a night out but you’ve got to stay in.

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Form a book club and meet on Zoom. Books can be borrowed online from your local library and then you can meet together and discuss them. PJs and wine optional.

Hold a party on Zoom. Following on the Zoom theme, one person I know is holding a virtual cheese and wine party on Zoom. Sounds like fun.

Go to a theatre night at the same time as a friend and message together. There are lots of theatre performances taking place on YouTube. Why not arrange to watch the same time as a friend and message together when you do.

Join a Twitter event – last Monday night, Dr Who fans watched an episode together while actors from the episode tweeted

Have a WhatsApp party – similar to FaceTime and you can have different people on video at once.

Dance in a socially isolated way. There’s a street where people come out of their houses and dance together.

Wave at goats. Love this news story about the goats coming down off the Great Orme and spending time in town. I grew up here, so it’s very familiar to me.

Watch a film together with a friend and chat over a message service. As the theatre idea but a virtual cinema instead.

Go to a virtual pub quiz. 300,000 took part in one recently!

Join a virtual choir – Gareth Malone is organising one at the moment

You can also take virtual music lessons in different instruments. It doesn’t matter where your music teacher is based.

There are also places where you can learn a new language

You can also take part in a dance class – which do you fancy? I’ve seen ballet, tap, theatre and zumba so far!

Order a takeaway and eat out while staying in. Just Eat is still taking orders from restaurants in your area

What would you like to do tonight? Let me know in the comments below!

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Online networking for stay-at-home workers

Missing the watercooler or the canteen already? It’s been over a week since workers of all kinds have been told to work from home if possible in the UK.

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One of the best things about working in an office is the people that you meet and work alongside. One of the downsides of enforced working from home is that you are unable to get out and about and meet people. We are social animals and we need contact.

Here are some tips for online networking (from home):

WhatsApp chat groups

My book group is on WhatsApp and since the lockdown, it has lit up the airwaves! We have sent quizzes, videos and all kinds of things across it. We are also planning to meet up virtually in our pjs and those who like a tipple will be able to drink and not worry about getting home! If you have WhatsApp group chats, then using them to keep in touch can be quite useful.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups can be good for keeping the larger community together. For example, the local church groups have been busy updating their feeds to keep their congregations informed on how they are going to run their services. They have created events which has enabled them to promote them to their followers. Of course there have been national events happening as well and these have also been promoted.

If you search for Facebook groups related to your line of work, you will probably find one. These are great for meeting new people and getting information and advice. You may have to be approved to join and sometimes you have to answer questions. If you belong to a group which is struggling to keep in touch, why not set a Facebook group up? You can set a group to private or public depending on their type of activity and it’s a great way to keep in touch.

Twitter hashtags

Communities often meet up on Twitter at set hours through hashtags. Try searching the website for hashtags relevant to your work and see what you can find.

If you are a writer or freelancer, there are some amazing Twitter groups who meet up using hashtags. They usually meet up at a particular time each week. Twitter is also a great place to meet authors.

Try:

#freelanceheroes

#freelancechat

#ContentClubUK

The format is usually asking questions and people tag themselves using the hashtag to answer them. It is a great way to learn more about working as a freelancer.

You could also check out:

#amwriting

#WritingCommunity

You can also keep contact through the Linked-In community, either through posting and commenting on posts or through the different groups that run on there. In a lockdown situation, this can only be helpful to your business.

How are you keeping in contact with work colleagues and friends at the moment? Please share in the comments below.

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Five Good Reasons to Maintain Your Blog

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website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Many businesses consider having a blog an essential part of their website. Blogging offers a chance to connect with your customers and enable them to see a little of what you do. Blogging brings fresh content to your website and that is a good thing when it comes to search engines.

Deciding to have a blog is a regular commitment. How often you update it is up to you, but updating it regularly ensures that visitors to your website can see that you use your website and that you still have a valid business.

1. Adding fresh content to your blog ensures that your website stays fresh and current. Coming across a website which has not been updated since 2007 says ‘I don’t care’ or even ‘I’m no longer in business’.

2. Finding new subjects to write about helps to expand your own learning and enables you to keep up with trends and learn more about your own business. It will also help you keep your brain active and engaged in your business. You might even get some new ideas to help your business.

3. Putting up a new blog post gives you the opportunity to promote your website and your business using social media. Keeping in touch with customers through social media is becoming increasingly important. You want your business website to be well-known through social media, although spam is not a good idea.

4. You can use your blog post to promote special offers or to offer other promotions designed to increase business and encourage return customers. This can be a great way to use a blog post. Design it carefully so that links leading to products or services are visible and easily accessed.

5. Regularly updating your blog will help to reassure your customers that you are a trusted company for them to do business with. Trust is increasingly important on the Internet. A trusted company will bring more repeat customers.

Regular blogging can bring many benefits to you and your business website, so stop reading this post and go and get writing!

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based writer who offers blogging as a speciality. If you would like a carefully crafted blog post on a topic of your choice, use the contact form to get in touch or email sarahthecreativewriter (at) gmail.com.

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Helpful Blogs 3

Here are five blog posts that I have found helpful this month:

1. Ask the Expert How to Start up an Online Store

This blog post answers all the questions that you might ask when setting up an e-commerce website. This is a really useful post and Karen answers the questions very succinctly. You might want to check out her website for information on setting up a Facebook page too, because she is very good at what she does.

2. Five Ways to Avoid Being a Notworker

This is a great post on how not to network and therefore, some of the best ways to network. There is some great advice here.

3. What Budget 2011 Means for Freelancers and Small Businesses

Staying with Bitsy, here is a great post on the UK budget announcements and how they will affect small businesses. Very useful.

4. Facebook vs Twitter

A new website I have recently come across had this interesting post on Facebook vs Twitter.  The website is very useful with lots of interesting information on running a small business.

5. A Marketer’s Take on Google +1

Finally, Laura Lake at About.com talks about the latest Google feature: +1. It will be interesting to see how the search engine makes use of it in the future when evaluating search results and page rankings.

 

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Top Five Blog Posts Last Month

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Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Every so often, it’s helpful to run a ‘best of’ blog post particularly once you have picked up your blogging rate. Here are the top five blog posts on The Creative Writer in March in my humble opinion. Feel free to share any posts that have helped you this month.

OK, going to break my own rules here – this wasn’t strictly published in March but on 28th February, but Google Algorithm Change Rocks Content Websites was a blog post about a big change on Google. The effects of this change, known as Panda is still being assessed, but it affected some pretty big sites such as Suite101 and Hubpages, making those organisations take steps to improve the quality of their publishing. Some people are still concerned about the effects of this change, but I think it will all even out eventually and that great content is still king.

How to design a successful leaflet began life as a sample for a company, but turned into an interesting blog post. I have had a hand in designing leaflets, but as part of a committee and that can be a difficult thing to do, with everyone having their own opinion on how it should look. Some useful tips here.

Regular blogging can make a difference. I have noticed it on my own website: my stats are still steadily rising since I started making a commitment to blog three times a week. Try it and it could work for you.

Writing compelling copy offers an insight into the copywriter’s mind which is a dark and murky place… just kidding! Actually this suggests an idea that might help your company write copy that can help convert visitors into customers. Try it and let me know how you get on.

Form alliances with your fellow freelances is a great suggestion which can lead to more work for both of you. Find people that you can work with and get alongside them to the benefit of you both.

So these are some of my better blog posts this month that I think contained real value to the people reading them. Let me know what you think and please ask any questions that you would like to know the answer to.

 

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Getting Feedback on Your Business

Photo on Flickr by Tambako the Jaguar

It can be good to talk to people about their opinions on how your business is doing. When we deal with customers, it is important to know that we are doing a good job and that our customers are happy with what they are receiving for their money. When you are first starting out, it is important to get feedback from a trusted source: someone in the same line of business, perhaps with more experience. This is valuable feedback that can help inform your business and what you decide to do.

Feedback from Peers

When we seek feedback, the response is usually thoughtful and helpful. However we can be given unsought feedback from peers and friends which seems to be more like unhelpful criticism.

Although your first response might be to get angry and be rude back, it is best to sit back and take stock of what has been said. You may need to separate the words from the manner in which they were delivered and consider them both separately. Some people do not come across well when delivering feedback. They feel awkward and struggle to find the right words to say. If this has been the case, then you know at least that the feedback has come from the heart and perhaps the words should be considered carefully. You can ask other people about the issues to try and confirm whether the first comments were correct or not.

However, occasionally you feel that the feedback can have ulterior motives: that the speaker wants to put you down for some reason. You might feel that they are jealous because you have a job that you can do from home, or your business is doing better than theirs – whatever the reason, the possibility is that the criticism stemmed from a desire to bring you down rather than build you up.

Answering Criticism

Hard as this can be to take, the correct response is to do nothing that will reveal how cross you are. You will need to calm down before responding to the criticism and then answer in a measured way. Don’t feel the need to justify yourself, but if you must answer their comments, then do it calmly and don’t let them know how much they have upset you. If possible, allow time to go by before responding. The best way to answer criticism is to allow time to prove them wrong and for you to be even more successful than you were before.

Feedback from Customers

Feedback from customers on how your company is doing is a positive thing and should be sought out wherever possible. Ask customers for references; provide feedback forms on your website and encourage them to use them. Post glowing praise on your website for other customers to see – with their permission of course!

You can use your company Facebook fan page to ask customers to give you feedback or you can pick up comments through Twitter. Some bigger companies are now monitoring Twitter chat so that they can improve bad experiences of customer service. However you do it, encourage your customers to engage with you and tell you their experiences good or bad. You need to know how your company is doing and your customers are the best-placed people to tell you.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Tambako the Jaguar

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