Author Archives: Sarah Hickman

New year, new marketing plan: 10 ways to revamp your marketing for 2017

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New year new marketing plan

It’s a new year and a fresh start for you and your business.

Now's the time to reflect on the successes or challenges you faced in 2016, and think about what you want your business to accomplish in 2017.

Like many areas of your business, it's a good time to take a look at your marketing. To help you revamp your marketing strategy in 2017, we've put together 10 helpful tips to get you started:

1. Establish a budget
When creating your marketing budget, you need to be focused on your customers. Where are they, and how do you find them? Start by looking back on last year’s marketing costs and create a realistic budget. Methods of marketing are rapidly evolving, so your budget should have some room for changes you might need to make in the new year.

2. Consider your target market
You may have plenty of customers coming through your door or visiting your website every day, but are these the customers you really want to reach? Do you know who your target market really is? You can’t focus on revamping your marketing plan until you know who you really want to target. Have a look at the value of your current customers – should you be sticking with them or looking elsewhere?

3. Consider your strengths
Say you run a restaurant. Do you serve the best pasta in town? Offer the friendliest service? Run a great mid-week offer? These are the things you should to focus on in your advertising. When you know your strengths, you can use them in your marketing materials.

4. Create a realistic schedule
One of the key parts of staying on track with marketing is establishing a realistic schedule that works. Just like any new year's resolution, it's better to make it achievable. Planning your upcoming year will help you stay focused on your goals.

5. Update your logo
Your logo is one of the first things potential customers see. Does it communicate your brand well? If you think your logo still fits, there’s no need to change it – but if the font or graphics seem at odds with the personality of your business, consider getting a new one. And do it properly: hire a professional designer!

6. Review your website
Is your current site easy to navigate? Has it been updated in the past few years? Does it feature an accurate menu and easy-to-find contact info? Has it been optimised for mobile devices? If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider revamping your site.

7. Create valuable website content
People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed – and it's also great for SEO. When a website is updated regularly, Google sees it as an active site and therefore ranks it more highly in search results pages. Have a look at what you say on your website, and make sure it's regularly updated and reflects your brand well.

8. Be mobile-friendly
Mobile internet use is growing and growing (something we wrote about way back in July 2013). This year, it’s important to make sure you're producing content that’s web-friendly, and ensure your website is optimised for mobile (if you haven’t already). This will help you reach more of your audience and let customers know that you take your digital marketing seriously.

9. Review your advertising tactics
Look at the channels you use for your advertising. Do you use Google AdWords, email marketing, press adverts, social media advertising, or something else? Are these methods bringing in the customers you want? Think about where your ideal customer is and what channels they'll actually see - and be most receptive to.

10. Have a fresh look at your social media presence
Social media is no longer an option…it’s a necessity. It's also one of the most direct and effective ways you can promote your business. Even if you’re already actively using social media, evaluate your activity and see if you’re doing all that you can. Are you using your Facebook page effectively? Are you responding quickly to customers on Twitter? This is also a good time to think about whether you need to be active on so many platforms. For example, if your customers don't use Twitter, stick to Facebook. Your time will be better spent and you'll have more time to engage. A content calendar is a fantastic way of scheduling in your activity.

So in summary...
Marketing is basically about listening to your audience, and telling them why they would benefit from using your product or service. Making a few tweaks to your plan can help refine and target your marketing, and put you on the right track for a successful 2017.

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What are the differences between B2C and B2B social media marketing?

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differences between B2C and B2B social media marketing

A social media marketing strategy is important for any business. But this doesn't mean every strategy should be the same.

The content you use will differ depending on who your customers are. Posts by a B2B business will probably look very different from posts by a B2C company.

B2B companies can be sceptical of the benefits of social media. This is possibly due to a perceived inability to measure its effectiveness. (Read our blog post about measuring your marketing ROI).

So what are the differences between social media marketing for B2B and B2C businesses? It all comes down to who you’re talking to, i.e. who your target audience is.

 

CONTENT

‘Content’ includes written words such as blog posts, white papers, etc. It also includes visual, audio, and interactive content. The messaging within a social media post itself is also considered content. When writing any content, it’s best to not be overtly promotional. Rather, content should provide value to the reader. Start with the assumption that no-one really cares about your company! By providing value with your content, you’ll be seen as a thought-leader and an expert in your field. Your company will then be at the top of your customers’ minds when the time comes to make a purchasing decision.

B2C
B2C companies usually focus on blog content, and link to this on social media. It’s important to think about how ‘shareable’ a blog post will be – will readers be interested or find it useful? Also, make sure there are share buttons on your website blog, so that readers can easily share your content across social channels with a single click.

B2C businesses should use as much visual content as possible. Creating entertaining or informative videos, hosting them on YouTube (or similar) and then sharing, is an excellent way to do this.

Social content for B2C marketers should be quite casual. An informal tone and using humour can work really well.

B2B
B2B marketers have a huge range of choices when it comes to content marketing. While B2C marketers tend to use a casual tone, B2B marketers generally focus on more 'professional' types of content. For example:

White Papers and eBooks
White papers, while labour intensive, can be very beneficial for a B2B marketer. They are basically a lead generation tool. Given how in-depth a white paper can be, and how much information it provides to the reader, people are more willing to submit their personal details to access it. Lead generation is the most important goal for B2B marketers, so it’s worth taking the time to produce a high-quality piece.

Case Studies
The case study is another brilliant lead generation tool. Case studies also prove to your target market that you can actually deliver the services you’re offering, and deliver them successfully.

Webinars
Creating a webinar serves two purposes: encouraging people to sign up (therefore capturing their data), and supplying you with lots of content to use repeatedly. Webinars can be edited to create different pieces of content, and used for multiple blog posts, podcasts, and even case studies.

Infographics
Infographics are generally thought of as a B2C tactic. This is not the case; infographics can be beneficial to B2B companies. B2Bs tend to have a wealth of data and analytics that can be put into graphical form. Using internal data to create an impressive infographic is a powerful tool to get media coverage and social shares.

SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

With the wide variety of social channels available to marketers, it's important to identify the most effective channels for your business, whether it’s B2B or B2C.

B2C

Facebook
Facebook was one of the very first social channels, and remains a staple of any effective B2C social media strategy. Facebook is a fantastic tool for community and customer engagement, customer support, and promotion.

Twitter
Twitter is one of the only 'open' social networks. This means that any tweet you send can be seen by anyone. But it’s important to understand how to make your tweets get maximum visibility. Use relevant and popular hashtags, come up with creative campaigns, and make contact with well-known people in your field. Don't forget to engage with people – interaction is key!

Instagram
Visual content is an incredibly effective tool for B2C marketers. Instagram can be used to give a personal face to your business. Pictures of your product or shop/office environment are often popular, and even the odd selfie can go down well.

YouTube
Video content is a powerful way of capturing your audience's attention. Don’t worry if you don’t have a huge budget and can’t afford to outsource your video production. There may still be value to a less polished video – it can give your company more personality.

B2B
B2B marketers tend to focus on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn is the most important for B2B businesses. Groups, in particular, should be used as much as possible for engagement and content distribution. Make sure that when distributing your content through Groups, you are not using the ‘hard sell’.

 

If you'd like to find out how we can help with your social media marketing, including managing accounts, writing copy and creating infographics, get in touch.

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Why your business needs a WordPress website

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Why your business needs a WordPress website

If you're thinking about getting a new website built for your business, you might have heard about WordPress. We love WordPress here at Public. 99% of the websites we build for our clients use the WordPress platform.

We've used WordPress to build websites for Wiley, Greenbelt, David Downton, Lilac Rose and Nicola Jarvis Studio, among others.

WHAT IS WORDPRESS?
WordPress is an "open source" website creation tool. The framework is available for anyone to download free of charge - but you need a bit of knowledge (or ideally a web developer) to create a website from this framework. It’s the most powerful and widely-used CMS (Content Management System) around today.

WHO USES IT?
You’re in good company if you've got a WordPress website. Famous blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch both use WordPress. This WordPress showcase gives you a flavour of some of the companies and celebrities using it, and this chart shows which content management systems are currently the most popular.

WHY SHOULD I USE IT?
There are many why a WordPress website would benefit your business.

1. You have control of your own website
No more waiting for your web developer to make simple changes and updates – and paying them for every tiny change. With WordPress, you have control of many aspects of your website and can carry out simple updates yourself.

2. Easy to use
WordPress is very easy to use, even for non-technical people, because the interface is so intuitive. Adding new pages, posts, images, etc. on a regular basis can be done quickly and easily.

3. Manage your site from anywhere
Because WordPress is browser-based, you can log in and manage your website from any computer, anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection, and a little bit of knowledge.

4. No specialist software required
WordPress is a self-contained system, so you don't need to use HTML editing software such as Dreamweaver. You can create a new page or blog post, upload or edit images, and upload documents, video files, images, etc. all without the need for additional HTML or FTP software.

5. Great for SEO
Google loves WordPress! The code behind WordPress is very clean and simple, making it easy for Google to read and index. In addition, you can give each page, post and image its own keywords, description and title. You can optimise your content for specific keywords, allowing for very precise search engine optimisation. And you can update all of this yourself, without the help of a web developer.

6. Multiple users
There's no need to be the sole administrator of your website – other staff members can have their own logins. The primary administrator of a WordPress site can set up multiple users, and assign different access levels to different users.

7. Blogging is built in
WordPress started life as a blogging platform, so blogging is built in and easy to integrate. Setting up newsletter subscriptions and commenting is very simple. You can also add your most recent blog posts to other pages of your site, like your home page.

8. Increase what your website can do with plugins
"Plugins" are bits of code that allow certain things to happen on your site. They have already been written, so there's no need for your web developer to write this code from scratch. Plugins are either free or cheap to buy. There will be some configuration required – you can't just buy a plugin, press a button and go. If you're not technically-minded, your web developer will do this for you. Plugins allow your site to have features like event calendars, video galleries and Twitter feeds.

9. Large community
As the world's most popular CMS, there's a lot of free support out there. If you're not sure how to do something, you can search for it on Google. There's usually someone out there with suggestions!

10. It also does eCommerce
WordPress websites can be set up to sell your products online, using a system called WooCommerce.

 

If an easy-to-use Content Management System sounds like the kind of thing you are after, drop us a line for a no-obligation chat about your requirements.

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What colours should I use on my website?

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website colours

When we’re designing a new website for a business, we consider aspects such as layout, navigation and responsiveness (i.e. how content will be displayed on different devices).

Another very important consideration is colour. The colours featured in your web design can have an impact on how users feel about your business.

Choosing the best colour scheme
When we’re working on a colour scheme, we consider existing business branding. The colours must be consistent with your overall brand. If your colours don’t translate well to your web design, perhaps you should consider a re-brand.

You should also think about your audience and what colours will appeal to them. Different colours will appeal to different age groups and genders. Using customer personas may help you determine who your audiences are.

Why is colour vital?
First and foremost, colour will help to make your website visually appealing. The more attractive and user-friendly your website is, the more likely visitors are to stay there (and ultimately buy your product or service). First impressions count, so you need ensure your web design colours give customers a positive feeling about your business.

Colour can also impact the readability of information on your website. No matter how interesting your content is, if the text and background colour combinations make it difficult to read users will get frustrated and leave your site. So it’s important to use colours that are easy to focus on and make your text stand out clearly. For this reason, we usually use a dark text on a light background.

Another reason why colour is important is that it can evoke certain emotions. It may sound strange but research has found this to be true! Colours can have an impact on what people think, how they feel and what actions they take - so it’s essential that you use colours that evoke the right emotions.

Colour meanings
To give you an idea of how this works, here are the colour meanings of some of the most popular colours used in website design.

Blue
Blue is regarded as a safe, trustworthy and reliable colour, which is why it is so commonly used in business web design. In fact we use it for our own website and branding! It’s reported to evoke feelings of calm and relaxation, highlighting the business as reliable and experienced. Just think of some of the most trusted brands: PayPal, Barclays Bank and Ford.

Red
Red is strong, dynamic and passionate. It’s often used on ‘Sale’ signs on websites as it creates a feeling of urgency and excitement. It’s thought to encourage customers to complete a call to action.

Orange
Orange is seen as warm and energising. Sainsbury’s has been using orange as its brand colour for decades. It’s considered ‘friendly’ and will invite users to complete the call to action on your website, rather than making them feel like they must do it immediately. It’s useful for highlighting call to action buttons like Subscribe and Follow.

Green
Green tends to inspire people and make them feel optimistic. Green is also an obvious colour choice for businesses needing to highlight their environmental values and credentials. See Oxfam and Waitrose as examples.

Purple
Purple has connotations of wealth and luxury, which is why it is often used by ‘high end’ businesses. It also has a slightly feminine and romantic feel, making it popular with beauty, fashion and luxury goods websites. If you’re going to use purple, it might be better to use small hints so it’s not too overpowering. Asprey and Hallmark both use hints of purple to great effect on their websites.

Using white space on your website
Colour is essential to web design but white plays a crucial role too. White space lets your content ‘breathe’ and makes it easier to read. Some people don’t like white space in their own marketing materials and web design, thinking they need to fill it with something! But white space will prevent your content from becoming cluttered and will give your website a more professional and user-friendly feel. Countless eCommerce websites use plenty of white space, like House of Fraser, the BBC and Google of course.

If you need advice or tips on best practice for website design, feel free to drop us a line.

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How to get started with email marketing

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how to get started with email marketing

Email marketing is a simple and proven method of promoting your business.

It can attract new customers and maintain close relationships with current ones, or remind lapsed customers that you still exist. You could opt to send emails using your usual email client (for example Outlook, Gmail or Thunderbird). However, it looks much more professional if you use specialised email marketing software.

A vast array of email marketing software is available and most companies offer relatively low prices, with packages to fit every business size and need. There are even free-of-charge solutions available (although of course you will need to invest your time - or ask an agency like us to manage it for you).

Managing your contacts can be as simple as having a list of names and email addresses, or a database of subscribers segmented in various ways. It's just a matter of determining which features and tools you need and what budget you have.

Try before you buy
Many email marketing plans include unlimited email sends each month, and invoice you based on your number of subscribers (i.e. how many people are on your list).

If you have a small list of subscribers, your best bet will be a company that offers a free or low-cost plan for a few hundred subscribers, or even pay-as-you-go. MailChimp offers a free package and is very popular with small businesses. Many services also offer high-volume plans with up to 100,000 or more contacts. Some companies offer discounts if you pay annually rather than monthly.

Getting started shouldn't be daunting. Generally, you'll know right away whether you like a user interface (UI) or not. Most packages will offer a free trial so you can have a look around before you commit (note that some free trials require a credit card, so if you’re not happy make sure you cancel the trial before you're invoiced).

Check out the customer support. Some companies offer 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email help, while for others you need to rely on online documentation and limited live support. The best services offer a combination of FAQs and live support via chat or phone.

Creating your first campaign
Whether you already have a list of subscribers or are starting from scratch, email marketing software can help. It will let you add contacts manually (using copy and paste) or by uploading CSV or Excel files. Some allow you to import Gmail and other webmail contacts, or other data from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software such as Salesforce.

Managing users who unsubscribe is also easy, as you're not accidentally contacting anyone who has opted out.

Next you need to build your first email newsletter. The best services offer several ways to do this; you can import your own HTML, start from scratch, or use a pre-designed template. Most services have drag-and-drop tools so you can choose to include, plus image libraries to store assets like logos and photos.

Tools that let you test your emails for spam are also essential, as you may accidentally use words that send up red flags and direct the email straight to your subscribers' junk folders - or worse, get your emails banned before they ever reach your customers’ inbox.

Responding and reporting
Beyond sending newsletters, the best email marketing services also offer custom auto-responders. These help you stay in touch with customers via automatically generated emails based on special occasions (like birthdays or anniversaries), welcome emails for new subscribers, or thank you emails for purchases.

Obviously, using email as a form of marketing is no use unless you can track your successes and failures. All of the services available should offer tracking and reporting, whether it's simple open and click rates, charts and statistics, or even integration with Google Analytics. Using this data you can make adjustments based on what does and doesn’t work.

If you’re growing your business, you may also be looking for a CRM solution. The more advanced email marketing services cross over into CRM. A handful of these services are ‘one-stop shops’, either offering both email marketing and CRM out of the box or as add-on services.

Some of the best email marketing services are listed below – but others may be available! If you don’t feel confident enough to get started by yourself, drop us a line. We manage email campaigns for a number of our clients, including design, writing the words, broadcasting the emails, reporting, and maintaining the contact database.

Campaign Monitor
MailChimp
Zoho Campaigns
Emma
Constant Contact
InfusionSoft
RedCappi
AWeber
SendInBlue
Eloqua
Salesforce Marketing Cloud

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How to create a simple yet effective marketing plan

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marketing plan

It’s a well-known fact that a business plan is vital. However, many people don’t realise that a marketing plan is just as important.

A marketing plan is a strategic document and includes numbers, facts and objectives. It spells out all the tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals. It’s your plan of action, and unless you’re using it to help gain funding, it doesn’t have to be lengthy or even well-written. Bullet points will do.

Here are the elements that any good marketing plan will include:

1. SITUATION ANALYSIS
This is a snapshot of your business’ current situation. It can be broken down into these sub-sections:
• Definition of your company and its products or services
• Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
• How the benefits you provide set you apart from your competition (also called your Unique Selling Proposition or USP)

2. TARGET CUSTOMERS
Create a simple description of your target customer. This is known as a Customer Persona. You can describe them in terms of demographics - age, gender, family, income, location - as well as lifestyle or social factors. Are your customers traditional or modern? Are they leaders or followers? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what you’re selling? You may have a number of different customer types; create personas for each of them.

Customer Personas work just as well for B2B organisations, although you’ll need to adjust them slightly. Your target customers will be working within other businesses. You can define them based on their type of business, job title, size of business, location, estimated turnover, etc.

3. MARKETING OBJECTIVES
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example, are you hoping for a 10% increase in sales per quarter?

Write down a short list of goals. Make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic and time-bound) so you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.

4. MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
This is probably the most important part of your marketing plan. In this section you detail the tactics you’ll use to reach your target customers from section 2, and achieve your objectives from section 3.

Strategies
Different strategies are suitable for different stages of the ‘customer journey’. For example, advertising and direct marketing are great for reaching cold prospects. Warm prospects - people who have already been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you - will respond best to permission-based email, for example. Your hottest prospects are people who already know you, and are ready to buy. Generally, personal contact (whether face-to-face, by phone, or email) combined with good marketing will complete the sale.

Tactics
In this section, summarise your marketing strategies above, then list the tactics you’ll use to reach your customers at different stages of the customer journey. For example, you might combine online and print advertising to reach cold prospects, but use email to contact your warm prospects.

To identify your ideal ‘marketing mix’, find out which media your target audience turns to for information on the type of product or service you sell. Are your target customers using social media? Do they read trade publications? Do they attend industry events? The marketing tactics you choose should reach people when they’ll be most receptive to your messages.

5. MARKETING BUDGET
A good rule of thumb is to set aside a percentage of projected annual sales for your marketing budget.

Many startups consider marketing to be a ‘nice to have’. But if your target customers don't know you exist, how will you ever make a sale? Marketing is essential to the success of your business – as these startups will soon discover.

Tactics are available for even the smallest budgets. If you exceed the budget in your marketing plan, you can simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that’s affordable for you. The key is to never stop marketing. And don’t worry about the more expensive tactics until you can afford them.

6. REVIEW AND ADJUST
The final step in any plan is to monitor and evaluate progress. If you're not achieving the results you would like, go back a few stages in the plan and make any tweaks you feel are necessary.

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Are spelling mistakes ruining your website?

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spelling mistakes

Two of the many factors Google uses to rank a website are spelling and grammar. So not only can the incorrect use of a word look unprofessional, it can also lead to a lower ranking on Google.

We’ve listed some of the most commonly misspelled words below. Our advice – make sure you check your website content carefully before it goes live. Or even better, get a fresh pair of eyes to review it for you.

ACCEPT (to receive)
I accept your offer.
VS
EXCEPT (to leave out or take out; make an exception of)
When I go on holiday I pack everything except the kitchen sink!

AFFECT (to influence; produce a change in; to stir the emotions)
The cat’s death affected its owners.
VS
EFFECT (anything brought about by a cause or an agent; result)
The new speed limit had little effect on motorists’ behaviour.

A LOT (many) – always two words, not one word
A lot of people came to the networking event.
VS
ALLOT (to distribute, give or design)
Ten minutes were allotted to each speaker at the networking event.

ALLUSION (an indirect reference)
He makes vague allusions to Harry Potter being his son.
VS
ILLUSION (a false idea or conception; misleading appearance or image)
The magician created the illusion that he was levitating.

BORROW (to take or accept something for a short time)
May I borrow your iPad please?
VS
LEND (to give something for a short time)
Could you lend me your iPad please?

CACHE (a safe place to store supplies; anything stored there; computing auxiliary memory)
The weapons were left in a cache under the tree.
VS
CASH (money; currency)
Do you have any cash in your wallet?

DESERT (to leave without permission; dry sandy area)
Soldiers should not desert their posts, especially in the desert.
VS
DESSERT (sweet pudding)
They ate two desserts each.

IT’S (contraction of IT and IS)
It’s very sunny outside.
VS
ITS (belonging to)
The cat will only eat its food when I’m not there.

LOOSE (not tight, giving enough room)
He lost a stone and now his jeans are loose.
VS
LOSE (to become unable to find; to fail to win)
Did you lose your iPhone again?

PRINCIPAL (first; most important; a governing officer)
Its principal function is to provide information about a business.
VS
PRINCIPLE (a fundamental truth or governing doctrine)
Their parents instilled them with strong principles from an early age.

STATIONARY (not moving; fixed or still)
I was stuck in stationary traffic on the motorway for two hours.
VS
STATIONERY (writing materials; paper and envelopes etc)
I’ve taken some pens out of the stationery cupboard.

THEIR (of; belonging to; made by; done by them)
They were proud of their new website.
VS
THERE (that place or point)
I parked the car over there.
VS
THEY’RE (contraction of THEY and ARE)
They’re bound to be proud of their new website.

TO (in the direction of; as far as; to the extent of)
I’m going to Birmingham.
VS
TWO (the number 2)
We’ve launched two new websites this week.
VS
TOO (as well as; superfluously)
I’m going to Birmingham too. It’s too hot here.

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20 steps to help your local small business get found on Google

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Google local SEO

Local SEO has grown significantly over the last few years, particularly given the rise of smartphone use.

Local SEO is focused on providing results that are relevant to a potential customer, based on their current location. For example, if someone searches for “best coffee shop” online, Google would provide the results for businesses that are nearest to them. So if your business relies on footfall from customers in a certain area, it’s essential to get your local SEO right.

Here are 20 steps you can take to help your local small business get found on Google.

1. Have a well-designed website.

2. Make sure it’s responsive, i.e. it works just as well on a mobile device as it does on a desktop computer or laptop.

3. Include a blog. Google loves words, so the more copy you have on your website, and the more up-to-date it is, the more likely you are to be found by Google and rank higher in their search results.

4. Include your business address and phone number in your website header/footer.

5. Include a customer reviews/testimonials page.

6. Add a contact page with your address, phone number and an embedded Google map showing your location.

7. Try to have original, high-quality content on every page.

8. Make sure your content is written with SEO in mind. Use a tool like Google Keyword Planner and pick keywords your target customers will be using (you’ll need to set up a Google AdWords account to access this, but it’s free if you don’t actually place any ads).

9. Make sure you have a ‘clean URL’ for every page, i.e. the web address for a page makes sense and is relevant to the content on that page.

10. Give every page a page title.

11. Write a unique description for each page using the keywords you have picked.

12. Use unique and keyword-optimised h1 and h2 heading tags (see step 20 below!).

13. Make sure every image you use has an alt-tag.

14. Link to other pages within your own website.

15. List your company on Google My Business (it’s free). Include a link to your website on the listing.

16. Set up a Facebook business page, and make sure you include your address, phone number, web address, business hours and a short description of what you do.

17. Set up your business on other local directories like Yell.com, Yelp, Foursquare, etc.

18. Open a Google Search Console account. It’s a free service that helps you monitor and maintain your website's presence in Google search results.

19. Open a Google Analytics account and track your website traffic.

20. Ask your local, friendly web developer if you need any help!

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Where am I? 10 tips for the ideal website navigation menu

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website navigation

Think about the last time you visited a large department store, looking for a specific item. As you walked in, the first place you probably looked is the directory on the wall. It’s the same with your website.

The most important part of your website is the navigation menu. This is the primary way your visitors will navigate your website, so making sure it’s easy to use is critical.

Why is this important? Well, most website visitors have limited time, limited patience, and a short attention span. If they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they will leave your site and go elsewhere.

So here are 10 tips for a perfect navigation menu that will help improve your website’s usability.

1. You should only have one navigation menu.
Having more than one will look messy and more importantly, it will be confusing.

2. Try not to “be different” for the sake of it.
We were recently asked to try a vertical menu, placed on the right-hand side of the page, in order to stand out from other websites.

Distinguishing yourself from your competitors is essential in marketing, but your website’s navigation is not the way to do this. Users expect a certain layout, and will not stay on your website if they can’t find what they want quickly.

3. The ideal navigation menu should be horizontal.

We’re not opposed to vertical menus. But website visitors will expect a horizontal menu, and you want to make things as easy and intuitive as possible.

4. Make it stand out.
The navigation menu should stand out from the rest of the page, while still working with the overall colour scheme.

5. Try not to have more than seven menu items.
People like to move fast while on the web. If they are faced with 10 or more menu options, they will have to read them all first to find what they’re looking for. You want a menu that users can process with a fast scan of the page. If you can trim seven down to six or five, even better.

6. Organise links in a hierarchical structure.
If you have lots of menu items, the best way to achieve a clear structure is with drop-down menus. This allows website users to process large amounts of information quickly by breaking it down into smaller chunks.

Some website developers aren’t big fans of drop-down menus, saying they can be frustrating for users and possibly harder for Google to ‘crawl’ (see our blog post on SEO for an explanation of this). But if you have a lot of website content to point to, the best option is to use drop-downs.

7. Never go more than three levels deep.
One of the rules of website usability design is to have all the information available within three clicks from the homepage.

If you bury a piece of information under a multitude of pages, not only will you make it difficult to find, but your visitors are unlikely to dig deeper than three clicks to reach it.

8. Use descriptive titles in your navigation menu.
The language you use in your menu should be natural and easy to understand. For example, the menu item “Team” can be changed to “Meet Our Team”, so the user knows exactly what to expect when they visit this page.

This is not just helpful for users. With more descriptive menu items, Google bots can better understand your page as they crawl through the website reading its content. So think first about the words your customers are looking for, and secondly, think of Google and search engine optimisation.

9. Think about the order of your navigation items.
Order matters in website navigation. User experience studies have shown that website visitors tend to remember links on either end of the navigation most vividly. So put your most important items at the beginning of the navigation and the least important items in the middle. “Contact” should be the last item on the list, putting it at the far right in top-level horizontal navigation - a standard location.

10. Your logo should always navigate to the home page.
This isn’t strictly related to your navigation menu but we think it’s worth mentioning. A common mistake is to have your logo exist merely as an image on the homepage. Visitors generally expect to be taken back to the homepage when they click on a company logo, so make sure yours does this.

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25 quick and dirty marketing tips for startups... and established businesses

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Marketing tips for startups

Started a new business but not sure where to start with your marketing? This super-quick list should help you on your way.

1. Create customer ‘personas’ – small summaries of who your ideal customers are, and target your marketing efforts to them.

2. Listen to your customers.

3. Have a professional-looking logo and website (essential!).

4. Make sure your website is kept up to date, images are good quality and spelling is correct.

5. Write a blog and use it to share helpful information.

6. Write a guest blog post and/or submit posts to large websites.

7. Keep an ongoing list of marketing ideas.

8. Create the most appropriate social media account(s) for your business, and use them.

9. Keep a database of email addresses. This can be as simple as a list in Excel.

10. Segment your database into customer types.

11. Send email newsletters.

12. If necessary, change the content of the newsletter depending on the customer type.

13. Give a discount or special offer, and promote it on your website, social media and email.

14. Ask customers for testimonials and referrals.

15. Sponsor a local event.

16. Get interviewed for a blog, magazine, newspaper etc.

17. Use SEO to drive traffic to your website (ask your web developer for help).

18. Make sure you’re listed on Google My Business.

19. Attend networking events – and remember they’re not all about selling your services.

20. Use business cards (yes, people still use them!).

21. Advertise using Google AdWords.

22. Advertise on social media.

23. Host an online workshop, webinar or deliver a free training session.

24. Write a press release – but it must contain an interesting story, NOT be a sales pitch.

25. Check out the competition to see what they’re doing right (and wrong).

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