How to build online trust – 6 helpful tips for small business ecommerce and start-ups

online trust

Trust is integral to the success of any business. A customer will only buy from you, continue a relationship with you and share their experience positively if they trust you. Of course, building trust takes time so a key challenge for small business ecommerce and start-ups is getting customers to engage when they have no experience of you or your business. Therefore, as a small business owner or ecommerce start-up you have to work harder to instill a sense of trust in order for a customer to feel comfortable handing over their hard-earned money.

Well-known companies have built up trust over time to the point that it becomes ingrained within the brand (think John Lewis). Start-up’s don’t have that luxury – you need to impart a sense of trust from the first moment a potential customer comes in contact with you business. You have to be able to quickly convey the message that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy company.

Happily there are some practical actions you can implement that can help send out trust signposts to potential customers signalling that you are a business they can feel comfortable and confident engaging with. A good starting point is to take a look the entire customer experience – start to finish. From initial promotions (both online and offline), a customer’s first experience of your website , right through to the checkout process. Identify all the touchpoint along the customer journey that can provide you with the opportunity to develop your  message of  trustworthiness.

6 ways to help instill trust

1. A great website

Like it or not first impressions count. Your website may well be the first significant experience a customer get of  your business. If a new customer lands on your site and it it looks disorganised, dated and unprofessional any natural hesitancy they had will be amplified and it will be increasingly difficult for you to win their business.

Your website needs to look professional, be easy to navigate and information should be up-to-date. Go through it with a fine tooth comb and check for broken links, spelling mistakes and out-of-date information. A credible website makes a customer feel comfortable and secure. Think about the following aspects:

  • Navigation – How simple is it for your customer to access the information they are looking for? Can they get to their desired destination within a few clicks?
  • Usability – Does it load quickly? How easy is it for a customer to complete a specific action such as sending an email request,  adding an item to their shopping cart or completing the checkout process? Make your website as user-friendly as possible.
  • Design – we’ve already mentioned the importance of a good first impression. The design of your site has powerful impact on how your business is viewed. Is your website structured so your customers don;t have to think too hard. Is it visually appealing? Does it contain interesting and engaging images?

2. Relevant, fresh and engaging content

online content

The quality of your content is central to building trust and establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers. Offer customers a wide range of interesting, engaging and informative content. Think about how you can provide information that is of value to your audience. For example blogging is a great way to show you are interested in your customers, it helps keep new content coming into your site and can add an air of authority to your business.

Look at your content continuously on an ongoing basis. Nothing shrieks unprofessional as stale and out of date content. Customers may think if you can’t be bothered to take time over the content of your website you may not be too bothered in other areas either. Keep your content fresh, relevant and up-to-date and don’t forget if you have a presence on social media, the same applies – keep active and post fresh, interesting content regularly.

Finally, do also have a think about the tone of voice and approach you take to your content. As your brand develops and becomes more established you may take more risks and become more playful in your tone but when starting out then it is probably safer to take a friendly but professional stance – for example err on the conservative side!

3. Customer reviews and testimonials

  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.
  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers

Customer reviews on your website can act as a significant trust signposts. Customers trust reviews from other customers almost as much as word of mouth from friends and family – this can be particularly useful when starting out in a new business. Customer reviews can help improve customer trust in your product and/or service and helps build brand credibility. Having visible customer reviews on your website also conveys that you are confident in your product, having nothing to hide and are genuinely interested in and value the opinions of your customers.

There are plenty of online review sites available to help you manage and automate your customer reviews – for example Trustpilot, Feefo, Reevo. Alternatively don’t be afraid of directly contacting customers or clients  for a testimonial directly. If customers have had a positive experience they are usually quite happy to review you or provide you with a testimonial.

4. Display Trustmarks

 

trust mark security logos

Trustmarks in isolation won’t solve a customers concerns over the credibility of your site, but they can play a supporting role. A well designed, usable shopping cart checkout process is key but displaying trust marks security logos can help reassure customers that it is safe for them to shop on your website. Security logos and badges such as McAfee, Norton, TRUSTe, Twarte, Commode, PayPal will reassure customers that you have taken the appropriate steps to keep their personal  data safe and protect them from credit card fraud and identity theft.

In addition, if you are a member of any industry bodies or trade associations then it is worth flagging this up to. And, if your business works with closely with your local community or  supports a particular charity then highlight these activities as well  – they all help send out trust signals to customers that you are a credible, trustworthy and all-round good company to do business with.

5. Open communication channels

Your customers should be able to get in touch with you easily. Making them jump through hoops to make contact will undermine any trust you’ve built up. Being visible and easily contactable shows you care about your customers experience and have nothing to hide!

Ensure your contact information is flexible. Customers should be able to contact you in whatever way is most convenient to them be it phone, email or letter. Your ‘Contact Us’ page should be visible and easy for customers to find.

Central to developing trust offering excellent customer services. Being able to reassure a customer about an order or  a delivery goes a long way towards establishing a trustworthy relationship – particularly when a customer has no previous experience of your business.

6. Present a human face to the business

As a rule people like people and like doing business with people. Adding a human element is a great way for small business and start-ups to establish a rapport with potential customers. If they like the look of you and your business ethos, they are more likely to feel happy and willing to do business with you.

Checkout Riverford’s About Us page. It has genuine sense of community and you get a real feel for the people behind the business. So too take a look at Stella & Dot’s video – again is gives you a feel for the personalities behind the business.

Riverford About Us

 

Establishing brand trust doesn’t magically happen overnight it grows along with your business. However, as we’ve outlined above, when you are just starting out there are a number of trust signposts you can implement early on to help send out signals to potential customers that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy business that they can feel confident in engaging with. 

Online shopping image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thumbs up image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of building trust so please do leave a comment

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7 tips small business owners can implement to help combat stress

how to combat stress

 

There are plenty of wonderful upsides to being your own boss. You’re in control, you set the hours and often you’re doing what you love or following a dream. Of course, it would be unrealistic to paint everything as rosy. Alongside all the great things that come with owning your own business there are also plenty of challenging aspects you have to deal with. The responsibility of sole management and shouldering all the worries, coupled with spending hours working alone can sometimes cause stress, lack of motivation and make you feel isolated.

We take a look at some useful tips to help you deal with stress when it raises its head. Obviously we are not suggesting stress can be erased completely, after all it is part and parcel of owning a small business, but hopefully by implementing a few of the tips we’ve outlined below it will help you manage stress better to reduce its overall impact.

7 tips to help manage stress at work

71% of small business owners experience high levels of stress.”

Being you own boss, juggling lots of balls and carrying the full weight of success and failure on your own shoulders is undoubtedly stressful at times. Indeed, stress is a key issue for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs. The very nature of small business ownership opens you up to higher levels of stress. At its worse it can lead to exhaustion, depression and hinder your ability to run your business.

Eradicating stress completely is probably unlikely. However learning to identify what triggers stress and taking steps to manage it can make it big difference to how you cope during stressful periods.

1.Learn how to identify stress triggers

Of course different people will have different stress triggers but one of the major triggers is the feeling that you lack of control over a situation – from deliveries not arriving in time, other people’s behaviour and even the weather (the list goes on and on).  Accepting that there are certain things you will never be able to control and finding ways to manage them as best you can when they arise will help you better cope when things are out of your immediate control.

Most of us have an idea of what it is that really our stress levels through the roof. For me it’s having too much on my plate to the point I can’t see the wood for the trees. I’ve learnt that on those days I’m far from at my best. Such days don’t go away but by recognising this I’ve learnt to try to pre-empt the impact by planning ahead where I can.  If I know I’ve got a ridiculously busy day or week coming up then I try to see if there is anything within my control that I can do beforehand to alleviate some of the pressure.

Point is, if you can learn to recognise what makes your stress levels rise you are better able to work on positive ways to manage it.

2. Recognise the first signs of stress

Recognising the first signs of stress can help you manage your symptoms before they take over and damage your health and your ability to successfully manage your business. Stress can take different physical and mental forms. Some common signs include:

  • A feeling of being unable to cope
  • Anger and aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Demotivation
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low mood

Recognising that you may be suffering from higher than normal levels of stress will help you take steps to address those symptoms or if needed get help from your GP.

3. Re-evaluate your time-management skills

 

effective timemangement

It probably feels that time management is wheeled out every time stress at the workplace is mentioned – so forgive me if you’ve read it all before! However putting effective time-management into practice really can help you reduce your stress levels and means you’re less likely to find yourself  working ridiculous hours to get things done. Examples of good time management techniques include;

Plan. Schedule 30 minutes a the beginning of each day to plan what you’ll be doing that day.

Prioritise. Divide your tasks into things that are critical (they absolutely have to be done today), essential (are important to the smooth running of your business but aren’t as urgent as your critical tasks and then everything else (nice but not essential tasks). Deal with critical first, then move on to essential and finally tackle everything else once the ‘critical’ and ‘essential’ tasks have been dealt with.

Remove distractions.  When you have critical or urgent tasks that need your full attention, remove all potential distractions. Put your phone on silent (people can always leave a message) and sign-out of email, instant messenger and social media.

Allow for interruptions. When planning your day allow some additional time for interruptions when you will need to be unexpectedly pulled away from the task at hand.

Organise your workspace. A messy workspace will hinder your attempts at effective time-mangement. So keep your work space organised and clutter free.

4.Outsource where you can

If you are a start-up with a very tight budget, outsourcing may seem like a no-go option. However, you don’t have to outsource something major to benefit. Is there something you could delegate to help out more at home so you not fretting about cleaning the house or making the dinner on top of everything else. Try looking at it from a business perspective as well. Is your time being well-spent? For example are you spending time stuffing envelopes instead of getting on with sales calls which could generate new business?

As a small business owner you are probably juggling lots of hats. Take a step back and see if you can relinquish some control to someone else – perhaps in an area you don’t enjoy or to someone  who is better placed to do it than you? Freeing up this time will leave you more time to focus on other important areas.

5. Look after yourself

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Helen Keller

Taking care of your mind and body is essential to keeping your stress levels down. Healthy eating, exercise, getting enough sleep and relaxation time are essential. Being able to draw the line is also important – work cannot be all-consuming as it is simply unsustainable in the long run. Taking good care of yourself is intrinsically linked to feeling positive  and the more positive your feel the more optimistic you are about work and the world around you.

positive thinking

Practice positive thinking. Think about all the great things you’ve achieved, remind yourself why you wanted to be your own boss and what you love about your business. Positive thinking can have a significant impact on how you deal with challenges.

6. Realistic goal setting

There is a tendency for us to heap pressure upon ourselves to achieve goals and we are often overly hard on ourselves if we don’t always attain them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with aiming high, just make sure that when you are setting goals against which you are measuring yourself and your business, you are being realistic. Otherwise you are simply setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even started. A good goal should be a challenge but ultimately achievable.

7. Tackle isolation

“52% of all small businesses are home-based.” –Forbes

There is no doubt that being a small business owner can sometimes make you feel a bit on the lonely side. In the UK two-thirds of businesses are owned and run by just one person and 52% of small businesses are based at home. When you are feeling stressed it really helps to be around other people for support. If you work in a busy office and have a bad day you can often unload to your colleagues However,  if you work from home alone you don’t always have that opportunity.

tackle isolation at work

Have a think of ways you can introduce a bit more interaction into your busy working day. For example.

  • Hot desks. There are more and more co-working spaces popping up. Here you can hire a workspace. Even if you can only afford to do it once a week it means that you’ll be surrounded by individuals in a similar situation as yourself who will also probably appreciate a bit of company whilst working.
  • Join local business networking groups. This is a great way to meet other likeminded local business people who probably have to deal with similar issues as you.
  • Attend events relevant to your business and if appropriate think about opening a pop-up shop every so often.
  • Get outside at lunch for a walk or to have your sandwich.
  • Go for a coffee and take your emails with you – emails are something you can often answer on the move. You are out and about amongst people and are getting some work done at the same time!

Of course, it’s unlikely that whatever you put in place is going to eradicate stress completely as it is often part and parcel of owning a small business, but by implementing even just a few of these tips it may help you bring stress down to a more manageable level.

Ultimately keep reminding yourself of all the great benefits being your own boss brings and remember to look after yourself and pat yourself of the back every now and then as never forget that as a small business owner, you are absolutely vital to a thriving economy.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on managing stress at the workplace, so please do leave a comment. 

Abandoned cart emails. Helpful tips for start-ups and small business ecommerce

shopping cart abandonment emails

If you are selling online, chances are a constant bugbear will be the number of customers abandoning their items before completing the checkout process. If you are just starting out and panicking at so many people leaving your website with unpurchased items in their baskets, don’t despair you’re not alone.  Shopping cart abandonment is an ongoing issue for even the biggest of players.

Indeed according to research, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate stands at around 68.63%.  It’s inevitable that some customers will sail away and will never complete that particular purchase no matter what you do. However some customers can be enticed back to complete the sale.  One of the most effective ways of doing that is through abandoned cart / dropped basket emails.

What are abandoned cart emails?

In a nutshell an abandoned cart email is usually triggered emails that get sent out when a customer leaves a website having added stuff to their shopping basket but not having completed the checkout process. Its purpose is to remind people of what they have left in their basket and encourages them to go back and complete the purchase. Below is a recent example of one I received from Amazon:

Amazon abandoned shopping cart email

Why do people abandon their baskets mid-purchase

There are a myriad of reasons that customers abandon their shopping carts halfway through the checkout process. ClickZ identifies the following as the top six reasons:

  1. Unexpected shipping and delivery costs
  2. Had to create an account to complete a purchase
  3. Just conducting research
  4. Payment security concerns
  5. Confusing checkout
  6. Couldn’t find the discount / coupon code

Some of these will be within your control. For example if you have a long, convoluted checkout process then you can take steps to fix it. Other reasons are going to be completely out of you control such as a customer’s telephone rang mid-purchase and they simply forgot to go back and complete the process.

A positive aspect to all this is that 75% of all visitors who abandon their cart do actually intend to buy. This is where shopping cart abandonment emails come in to play.

Tips for creating successful dropped basket emails

Implementing shopping abandonment emails can be great way to pull back some sales you may have thought were lost. Outlined below are some inspiring statistics for cart abandonment emails from an Econsultancy article.

  • 11.6% (over a tenth) of shopping basket abandonment emails are clicked.
  • 29.9% of shopping abandonment email clicks lead to a purchase back on website
  • 44.1% of all shopping cart abandonment emails are opened.
  • The average order value of purchases from shopping cart abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than average purchases.
  • Every single dropped basket email sent delivers over $8 in revenue.

The trick is to make them as successful as possible. So we’ve outlined some helpful tips on how to create winning shopping cart abandonment emails for your business.

Timing

Probably the most important element to getting an uplift in conversions is the timing of your email – wait too long before sending a reminder and your customer may well have gone elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that the initial abandonment email should be sent within the first hour of a customer abandoning their basket. In an ideal scenario you would be aiming to catch a potential customer before they leave their device and forget all about their half-finished purchase.

Here is a sample one from Boden that I received within 20 mins from abandoning my basket:

Boden abandoned cart email

Create a schedule of abandoned cart emails

To get the most conversions, consider sending out more than one reminder. It’s great to try to grab them as soon as possible, but also implement further follow-up emails. According to HubSpot:

  • 95% of people who purchased after abandoning a cart took up-to two weeks to complete their purchase. 

Create a sequence of timely reminders to try to catch those who take longer to make a purchase or who need a little more encouragement.

Strong subject header

In any email the subject  header is important. To even get opened it needs to stand out from all the other emails in the inbox. Do make it clear in the subject header that your email is reminding them that they have left something in their shopping cart.

There are lots of different approaches from creating a sense of urgency or excitement, to reminding customers about the product they left or even using humour. Just find the right approach for your audience. For example:

Product: Amazon takes a no-nonsense approach and just lists the product left behind:

“Zap Arsenal Red Crest Fleece Blanket”

Abandoned cart: White stuff is straight to the point:

“Don’t forget to complete your order”

Humour: Boden’s is slightly more cheeky

“You left something… but where? Oh look…”

Think about your copy

As well as pointing out to your customer what exactly it is that they’ve left in their cart, also use your copy to try to remind customers about why they chose to put the product in their basket in the first place.

John Lewis includes a clear link back to the product details so the customer can easily remind themselves of the product benefits.

Email copy

Use your copy to create a sense of urgency and possible loss.  For example the product is selling fast and you may not be able to guarantee how long the product in will remain in stock. Try and convey to the customer what they may risk missing out on if they don’t act soon.

Use images

If you can, include a visual of the product your customer has left in their basket. It tells people in an instant exactly what it is you’re emailing them a reminder about and can help reinforce the reasons they chose the product or service in the first place .

Here is an example of a Boden dropped basket email with a strong visual of the product in question.

Include an image in shopping cart abandonment email

Clear call to action

Always include a very clear call to action that takes the customer back to their basket so they can easily complete their purchase. Don’t tuck it away in the corner of youR email but display it prominently so the customer won’t miss it. Also make it very clear to the customer what it is you are asking them to do.

In the White Stuff email below, they have put two clear call to action buttons on the email, with a very straightforward call to action: Complete Order.

strong call to action

Abandoned cart emails can be a great way to pick up those customers who, for whatever reason, have left the checkout mid purchase. A well-considered dropped basket series may help turn around a sale that could potentially have been lost for ever!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on shopping cart abandonment emails so please do leave a comment. 

Social media advertising – top tips for small business ecommerce

social networks

If you’re a small online business or start-up, chances are you’ve already dipped your toe into social media. For example you’ve probably established a business presence across the social media platforms relevant to your target market. Social media has become an integral part of marketing and if you are looking to increase your reach across these networks, it may well be worth considering advertising your business on social media.

Social media advertising continues to be big business and has seen phenomenal growth over the last few years. Indeed, according to research;

What opportunities can social media advertising bring to small online businesses?

Most of the key social media platforms offer advertising options which, when executed well, can offer small business ecommerce a number of advantages. For example:

Targeted Audience. Social platforms enable you to drill down in terms of targeting. Allowing you to be specific about who you are looking to target, not only through basic demographics, but by purchase behaviour and interests. Facebook even enables you to target ‘Lookalike Audiences’ – opening the door to a wider, but still closely related audience.

Low cost of entry. Entry costs for social media advertising isn’t prohibitive to small businesses. You can set your budget on a daily or campaign basis – spending only what you can afford.

Immediacy. Social media advertising is immediate and offering you great flexibility. You can create, launch and tweak campaigns quickly and easily.

Brand awareness: Social media exposure amongst a wider, targeted audience will help increase your reach and build awareness of your brand.

Easily track performance: Most social networks offer insightful analytics to enable you to easily track your advertising campaigns’ performance and ROI.

social media advertising

Top tips for creating great social media ads

Before you embark on advertising on your chosen social media platform or platforms, here are a few tips to help ensure success.

Clear goals and objectives:  Be very clear about what you want your advertisement to achieve?  For example are you looking to drive traffic to your website, raise awareness of a new product, get more page likes, grow attendance at an event or is it a brand building exercise?   Establishing clear goals will help your focus advertising making it easier to create the right content .

When you create an ad within  Facebook you are given a list of advertising objectives – so match up your goal with the objective you select.

Create goals and objectives

Target your audience. Be very clear about who it is you are trying to target. For example, are you going to break it down by demographics, interests or purchasing behaviour. Different audiences will respond differently to particular content. An advertisement that may appeal to one segment may not be so successful with another. If you can focus on a specific audience you can adapt your ad to reflect the triggers of that particular group.

Set your budget. Have a clear idea about your budget before you start. Otherwise you run the risk of getting carried away and spending more than you can afford. Set a daily maximum spend or a maximum campaign limit. You can always adjust your budget at a later date once you’ve tested the water.

Use interesting visuals: Social media is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Use high-quality, creative images to make your advertisement stand out from the crowd.

Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

There are a number of excellent image libraries available online where you can source interesting and engaging images such as Shutterstock, istockphoto, freedigitalphotos and dreamstime. If you’re on a tight budget then check out Pixabay, they have a great library of images that are free to use even for commercial purposes. Facebook also allow you to select from hundreds of Shutterstock images at no cost when creating an ad.

Be mobile friendly:  Increasingly, people are more likely to access social networks via mobile. Keep this in mind when you are creating your ads; as chances are it will be viewed on a small screen.

mobile friendly

 

Call to action: Even when you have limited space to work with a clear call to action is essential. Ensure your audience is left in no doubt about what it is you are asking them to do. For example, when you are creating a Facebook advertisement you can select from some of the following call to action buttons:

  • Shop Now
  • Learn More
  • Sign Up
  • Use App
  • Book Now
  • Download

Landing page: Don’t undo a great ad by sending your audiences to a general page on your website. Create campaign specific landing pages that reflect the content  and reinforce the message of your advertisement. Campaign specific landing pages will provide a better conversion rate.

Track response: Keep on top of how you ads are performing – what ROI are they providing? Most social media networks enable you to closely monitor and measure the performance of your campaigns.  Analysing your campaign analytics will help you identify what is working well, or not so well, so you can amend your campaigns accordingly.

Advertising options for social media platforms.

Most social networks offer advertising options for businesses. For further information for individual platforms, check out the links below:

Facebook: Facebook Adverts

TwitterTwitter Ads

Pinterest: Promoted Pins

LinkedIn: LinkedIn Advertising

Instagram: Advertising on Instagram

Exploring the advertising options offered on the  social media platforms that you are already using as business, can help amplify your social media presence through creating specific, highly targeted adverts at a manageable cost. So if you haven’t already tried social media advertising then it’s worth testing the water with your business.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on social media advertising, so please do leave a comment.

7 small business tips for really successful blogging

small business blogging

We know just how important content is to online success therefore creating engaging, fresh and relevant content on your small business website is a must. So where does blogging fit in and just how useful a tool is it for ecommerce?

Blogging is one of the best ways to support content on your site. If you’ve not yet started a blog or dipped a toe in but never really got going, then take a moment to read our helpful tips below.

As more and more consumers are reading blog posts, blogging has become increasingly prevalent. Indeed there are more than 33 million new posts on WordPress alone each month. According to industry reports, marketers view blogging as an integral element of content marketing with over half selecting blogging as their most important type of content.

What can blogging offer your small online business?

If you are considering whether blogging is worthwhile and wondering if the benefits will outweigh the cost of committing your precious time and resources, here are a few statistics highlighting the potential advantages blogging can bring to your ecommerce business.

+ Traffic: Blogging creates 55% more traffic

+ Leads: Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog.

+ Customers: 78% of companies that update their blogs daily have acquired a customer from their blog.

+ Links: Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.

+ Trust: Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.

+ ROI: Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

Our 7  top tips for successful small business blogging

1. Don’t blindly leap in

Before you start posting blogs left right and centre, put aside some time to plan. Have a purpose and desired outcome – what is it you are hoping to achieve from your blog? For example is it to increase traffic, build customer relationships or establish credibility? Think about your audience. Who is it you are writing for? What are their interests? What information would they find helpful, entertaining or engaging?

On a practical level think about what is involved in blogging. Is it going to be just you writing articles? If so what time you can realistically afford to commit. The better your planning and more certain you are of your purpose, the better you will be able to focus your valuable time and efforts.

2. Own your blog

Blogging is a great way to bring some personality to your brand and give a human face to your business. So when you’re writing, write as you – don’t try to take on another persona. A good tip is to write as your would speak, follow this and you’ll soon find a blogging style that you feel comfortable with. The great thing about blogging is that it can be informal (by this I don’t mean sloppy – more on this later), it is a chance for you to express your views and opinions in your own way.

3. Follow a formula

Use a formula for blogging

Of course we’re not all natural writers. The majority of us have to spend time carefully crafting blogs. A helpful tip is to follow a simple formula. For example whenever I write a blog I pretty much follow the same steps every time:

  1. Research and gather relevant information
  2. Create a detailed outline plan of what content will go where and in what order (beginning, middle, end)
  3. Write without interruption (leave worrying about correct grammar and spelling until it’s time to proof)
  4. Proof read, edit and proof again.

Another excellent formula that will help you manage your time better – especially if you’re finding it is taking you all day to write 800 words, is Blogger Sidekick’s ‘Shake and Bake’. Take a moment to check it out.

4. Looks do matter

“In 2016 this trend will see graphical content (including high-resolution images, infographics, design elements and icon sets, and images designed for sharing on social networks) come to the fore…. images will become a more central feature of the blog post.” DOZ Trends in blogging 2016 

You may have written the best article ever, but quite frankly if it looks un-inviting to read then nobody will bother with it. How you present your post is really important.

Layout: Reams of uninterrupted text is enough to put anyone off. So use subheadings, bullet points, quotations and italics to break your text into easily manageable chunks for your reader to digest.

Visuals: Visual content is becoming increasingly important so think about what images or graphics you can use to help support your text and engage your audience. Use infographics and video as well to vary your posts – they are almost guaranteed to pull in readers.

Quality: We mentioned earlier about how you can be informal when writing a blog post – however this doesn’t extend to not bothering to check for poor spelling or grammar. Typos and poor grammar doesn’t mean informal it just looks unprofessional. So always proof read before you hit the publish your post button!

5. Combat writers block

writers block

It is really frustrating to be sitting at your desk ready to write an article only to find you have absolutely no idea about what to write about. Here are some tips I use when I need a bit of inspiration.

Check out your competitors. What are your competitors posting?  Can you approach the same topic from a different angle?

Ideas notebook. Chances are your best ideas won’t come to you whilst you are sitting at your desk ready to write. More often than not they’ll happen at random moments such as on the bus, in the bath or washing up. When they do occur don’t waste them, jot them down and put them into an ideas notebook. This way when you’re short of inspiration you can refer to your notebook.

Google search. Simple but helpful. Type a general topic into the search box, scroll down to the bottom of the page and check out the list of alternative searches Google comes up with. Here’s a screen grab of one I did for ‘blogging tips’.

google search for bloggng ideas

Content generator tools. There are some excellent free tools available to help you generate some blog topics ideas. Checkout the links below:

Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator

Portent Content Idea Generator

Build your own blog: ideas generator

6. Optimise your posts

After you’ve put in all that time and effort to write a great post, it is important to optimise your article to ensure it gets the attention it deserves.

Be search engine friendly. Use relevant keywords and key phrases in the title and body of your post to make it easier for search engines to find and rank you.

Craft a great headline. Often it’s the headline that decides whether a person goes on to read the full article. Spend time crafting a good headline using your keywords and with the aim of capturing the interest of your target audience. If your stuck try this simple headline formula from Koozia:

Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rational + Promise

Make it easy for readers to share. A great post deserves sharing, so make it easy for your readers to share your post with others. A simple way to do this is to add in  social network share icons.

Promote. Tell people about your great new post. Bring your article to the attention of your customers by sharing it across your small business’ social media networks, send out an email alert and add it on to your email newsletters.

7. How to deal with time constraints

 

how to deal with time constraints

OK, as a small business owner you are always going to be under time pressures, but the long-term benefits blogging brings means it really is well worth the time you put in. Every article you post will continue to pull in traffic for many months and even years to come. We’ve got a few tips to help you combat time constraints.

Build up a bank of articles. During quieter times try to get a ahead with writing articles so you have a bank of posts you can use when times are really busy. This will mean you will be able to continue to publish regular content.

Guest blogs. These can be a great way to get some additional content for your blog especially when you are pressed for time. Ask other industry experts, staff members, suppliers, affiliates, even customers with great stories about using your product or service to write a post. Just ensure you put clear guidelines in place and have final sign-off.

Curated content: A round-up of useful articles relevant to your industry can be a great way to create an article when you haven’t the time or resources to write your own. Add your own commentary and opinion and you’ll have a great post. Just ensure you don’t plagiarise or credit yourself with other people’s work.

Hopefully we’ve shown you just how beneficial blogging can be to your business and given you some helpful tips to make writing a blog less daunting, more successful and not quite so time-consuming. Happy blogging!

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on blogging, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

 

9 ways small online businesses can generate website traffic without breaking the bank

 

Drive traffic to your website

We all know how tough it can be launching a small business online. More often than not we are constrained by a tight budget and lack of resources. Driving traffic to your website is essential in order to attract potential customers.

In this post we take a look at how to get visitors to your website when faced with a limited budget and when the only marketing resource is yourself.

9 straightforward and cost-effective ways to drive traffic to your website

We’ve outlined nine key actions to help you generate more traffic to your online business and grow your potential customer base. It will mean time and effort on your part but all the actions are straightforward to implement, will help in the long-term success of your business and won’t break the bank.

1. Content

We’ll kick off with content. Content is the linchpin to everything that you do and if you only take one thing away from this post then it should be the importance and value of having high quality content on your website. Your content should be;

Relevant: Your content should reflect the needs and interests of your audience.

Engaging: Does it read well? Is it interesting? Will it catch your reader’s eye with an easy to follow layout, supported by interesting images (try Pixabay for sourcing great images that are free for you to use).

Shareable: Your content should inspire people to share it with others. 94% of people who share posts do so because they think it might be helpful to others.  

Try enhancing the content of your site with visual content. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Think about implementing:

  • Images and photos to support text
  • Videos
  • Infographics

2. Blogging

Following on from content, blogging is one of the best ways to ensure your website is being regularly updated with fresh, relevant content. This is key to driving traffic to your website. Every time you publish a post it provides additional opportunities for your business to appear in search engines results pages. As nicely put by Hubspot – “The only thing blogging costs you: your time.”

 

blogging

Blogging also has the added advantage of offering long-term benefits. Each post you publish will  continue to pull in traffic for months to come. Indeed, Hubspot notes that 70% of the traffic it receives each month to its blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month.

3. Referrals

The great thing about referral marketing for small businesses is it inexpensive  and effective. Essentially you are getting current customers to help drive traffic to your business by using word of mouth to promote your products and services to friends and acquaintances.

The key things when it comes to successful referrals is:

  1. Ask your customers. Interestingly, the majority of customers who have had a positive customer experience would be happy to refer a friend and yet only a small proportion do. So you need to actively encourage your customers to recommend your business to friends and family.
  2. Make it easy. You don’t want make your customer jump through hoops to make a referral, so make it as straightforward as possible for customers to refer a friends. Try introducing a refer a friend scheme that incentivises both the customer that provides the referral and the friend they refer.

4. Search Engine optimisation

44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) essentially involves making your website search engine friendly and people friendly. It involves researching the right keywords and phrases to generate traffic and improving your site structure to make it easy for search engines to find their way around. Much of it links right back to ensuring your content is relevant, engaging and shareable to your customers.

To find out more about getting starting with Search Engine Optimisation then checkout these two comprehensive guides to getting started with SEO.

  1. MOZ: SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization 
  2. Google: Search Engine Optimization Guide

5. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

OK, PPC such as Google Adwords will involve you parting with some money however, with pay-per-click advertising you can set your budget to what you can afford to spend and you only pay when someone actually clicks via the advertisement to your website. The key to successful PPC advertising is spending time researching the best keywords for your business – they need to be specific and relevant. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great free tool to start with (you just need to create a Google Adwords Account). It will help you identify keywords and phrases and let you know approximate cost-per-click.

With a bit of playing around and practice Google AdWords is pretty easy to use. Checkout Google Adwords Support will help guide you through the basics of getting started.

 

6. Social Media

80% marketers felt social media increased website traffic 

social networks

 

Social media plays an integral, supporting role in driving traffic. It is a great way for you to promote your content with customers and in turn, makes it very easy for customers to go on and share that content on with their social media contacts.

It is a good idea to start out establishing your business profile on the main networks such as Facebook then concentrate your efforts on the key social networks used by your target audience. For example if you business is jewellery you may find your focus on more visual networks such as Pinterest or Instagram, whereas if you are professional services you may find more of your target audience using LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remember to add social media buttons to your website, blog posts and email communications. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content with their friends.

7. Email

Email is one of your most cost-effective tools with a healthy ROI. Use email to stay and front of your customers and drive traffic to your site. Share content such as promoting your product and services, blog posts, news articles, infographics and events – all linking back to your website. Focus on building up a quality email list of relevant and permission based contacts as ithe quality of your data will reflect the effectiveness of your traffic :

  • Create a newsletter sign-up form on your website (think about incentivising sign-up to boost response).
  • Gather names through events you attend, run quizzes and contests offer promotions.

8. Mobile responsive

Ensuring your website is multi-device compatible is essential for getting more visitors to your website. Your website should display equally well whether it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile.

responsive design

More and more people are using mobile devices to search the web. Indeed research shows that 60% of web searches in 2015 were conducted from a mobile phone or tablet. Put simply if your website doesn’t view well on a mobile device, people simply won’t take the time to engage with your website. Added to this, if your website is not responsive then it will effect your search engine ranking on mobile searches.

9. Share your URL

Finally make sure you share your website URL at every opportunity. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it is overlooked. Display your website address wherever you can – no matter how insignificant it may first appear: For example;

  • Advertisements
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Letterheads
  • business cards
  • Email signatures
  • Invoice and order acknowledgements
  • Promotional material
  • Packaging.

Of course everything we’ve mentioned in this post will entail time and ongoing effort on your part, however they are all effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website – with long-term, sustainable results.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of driving traffic to your website, so please do leave a comment.