A Not So Secret Marketing Trick To Get The Word Out About Your Small Business

There’s a not so secret marketing trick out there that not enough small businesses and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of. It’s a technique that helped many highly visible entrepreneurs get to where they are today. And it doesn’t cost anything and isn’t that hard to do. Sound too good to be true? Well no, exactly.
It’s something that is very effective when done properly and can elevate the profile of your small business. The not so secret marketing trick is called guest blogging.

Guest blogging is where you create content for another site. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to get a guest spot on the highest trafficked site out there to have it be of benefit for your business. If you provide content on a quality site with a similar audience to yours, it can pay off for your business.

But before you get started picking up the phone and calling all of the site owners that you can think of, there’s an important thing that you need to take care of. You’ll need a good by-line, which are those blurbs in the author box that tells a little bit about who they are. It’s kind of like a virtual business card. It tells the reader who you are and how to get in touch.

Now, once you’ve crafted a good by-line, you’ll need to create an amazing article for contribution. Don’t think that just because it’s not ending up on your site that you can distribute your second-rate material. This is your chance to get in front of another audience and demonstrate your appeal. You’re spreading yourself around and getting in front of people that you hadn’t been in front of before. It’s your time to shine, and they might just want to find out more about what you have to offer.

When writing a guest article, remember to keep things simple. You’re not trying to write another War and Peace. Don’t try to over complicate things. Make sure that your theme is clear, and that the reader will easily understand who you are and what you do. A confused reader will switch off, and you don’t want that happening.

Another thing to keep in mind is to not be generic when writing a guest article. Let your personality come through, but remember to keep your content relevant for the audience that you are writing for. Don’t forget to link back to your site! But try and do so without using a generic term like “click here”. And please don’t litter your article with backlinks. You’ll end up looking desperate.

So get out there, make some new connections and write some content for another relevant post.

Using Twitter for small businesses and what you should tweet about

Twitter is a great resource for your small business. It allows you to have a direct connection with your customers. But many entrepreneurs don’t realize that it’s a good idea to have a personal Twitter account that is visible to your customers. When checking brands out, people like to get an idea of the “brains behind the brand”. It gives your customers the chance to connect on a more personal level. But it can be confusing as to what to tweet about.
Here’s our guide to using Twitter for small businesses.

Giving your customers a behind the scenes glimpse into your mind is a great way to cultivate a deeper relationship with your small business. But when it comes to small businesses and their owners, the two are closely linked. So how do you create a personal Twitter feed that is separate (but related) to your business Twitter feed? What sort of things should you tweet about? Here’s a few ideas on tweets for your personal Twitter feed.

Article links

Sharing information that you come across is a good way to shed some insight into how you operate. But only if you add your personal opinion about what is being covered in the article. Let the world know where you stand on certain issues related to your small business. But be careful. Don’t try to be too controversial or divisive in your opinions. Take a stand, but be cautious of how others might perceive your opinions. And keep your article subject matter relevant to your business. Stay away from subjects like politics or religion, unless of course that is what your small business deals with.

Snippets of your life

Sharing glimpses into you personal life can really resonate with your customer base. Share personal news with your customers, such as events, holidays and other things that you would share with close friends. It gives your customers the sense that they are closer to you and your small business. Also think about sharing unusual things that you come across in everyday life. If something catches your eye, then it will probably catch the attention of someone else. If you’ve made a fun purchase recently, then share it with your customers. These are great conversation starters.

Life outside of work

Sharing your personal work can be a great way to build those bonds with your customers. If in your spare time you write, or paint or have any other creative hobby, then by all means share your work. It doesn’t have to be about business all the time. Sharing quotes or slices of wisdom that you’ve come across is also a great thing to spread to your customers. Anything that will give a glimpse behind the scenes of your small business makes it more human. And it makes it more relatable to your customers.

Small Business Website Design Tips: Avoid The Deadly Sins

As a small business, it is critical to make a good first impression. And your website is often times the first place where your customers and potential customers will go for information about you and your company. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s critical that when customers arrive on the frontpage of your website, that they instantly understand who you are and what your business does. And if you neglect your frontpage, then you’re potentially losing customers.
Here are a few basic small business website design tips that every small business needs to double check against. Is your small business website committing any of these deadly sins?

Small Business website design tips number one: make sure that all of your links are working correctly

Have you ever been on a website and clicked on a link only to be taken to the dreaded 404 error page? If a company can’t be bothered to check to see if their website is functioning properly, then it’s probable that they pay the same sort of attention to their customer service, products or user experience. At least, these are the signals that broken links are sending out to potential customers, sending them off to more reputable businesses (i.e. your competition).

Small Business website design tips number two: make sure your contact information is clearly accessible on the home page

A recent survey indicated that over 75% of small businesses don’t have an email link on their homepage. And nearly three-fifths don’t have a telephone number. Customers like having options on how to contact particular companies, so make sure that this information is easy to access. If you’re asking your customers to dig around for ways to get in touch with you, then they’re going to give up and take their business elsewhere.

Small Business website design tips number three: make sure that the images on your home page actually represent what your business does

If you are in the business of paper products, then it’s probably not a good idea to have images of butterflies or family portraits on your home page. As basic as this seems, you’d be surprised how many small businesses elect to put up irrelevant images on their websites. Confused customers can immediately think that this website isn’t what they were looking for and head to the next search entry, immediately taking their potential sale with them.

And also, think twice before you make the images on your homepage do things like shake or spin or play music. They may grab someones attention, but they have a tendency to annoy and irritate, sending those customers away just a quickly as they came.

Small business website design tips number four: be sure to include social media links

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you would know that social media can be an extremely powerful way to promote your business. So make sure that you include links to your social media sites on your home page, as well as with your blog articles. It’s a great way to get your name out there, regardless of what you do.

Discover new music by listening to the radio

America turns to the radio as a way to discover new music

Nielsen released their Music 360 report, which found that radio is still the place where the majority of people go to discover new music as opposed to YouTube (48% for radio and 7% for YouTube). Well, those people must be tuning in to other radio stations than I’ve come across that seem to have only twenty songs in their playlist. Or perhaps, Americans are discovering the same twenty songs over and over again.
Anyway, Nielsen discovered that once Americans have discovered that new song, the majority of teens then listen to it on YouTube. iTunes is another hot destination for playing music, running a close third (behind YouTube and the old-fashioned radio). Around half in the survey still listen to their music on CD (remember those?). But interestingly, only 36% bought a physical CD in the previous year compared to 51% who purchased a digital download.

The moral of the story is that people still seem to listen to the radio according to market trends and demographics. And they still seem to discover new music. The results of the survey can be found on the Nielsen website.

First impressions count

Like It Or Not, First Impressions Count

Short attention span…

Like it or not, first impressions count

As a society, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Mastering Twitter is an art form, because you need to be able to convey a complete thought in 140 characters or less. Google Adwords is even shorter.  You need to be able to clearly communicate an offer, give an inventive to click through and pay it off in an even shorter space. So take this in to consideration when you deal with your customers. First impressions count.

Our brains are accustomed to filling in the blanks at record speed. We try and complete as much of a profile as possible when we meet new people and when we experience new brands. Take for example Facebook. Scour through a random selection of listings. It’s probably very easy to categorize people by the image that they’ve selected as their profile image. It’s pretty easy to figure out who is an aspiring photographer, a drunken sports fan, or just a flat out lush.

We make decisions about brands all the time. In fact, that’s what a well-crafted brand is supposed to do. It might be easy to gloss over the details thinking that they’re inconsequential. But just like those Facebook profiles, customers are “filling in the blanks” about the kind of company that you are.

So needless to say, it’s important to give a damn about the details. Websites are often the first experience that a potential customer has with a brand. Nobody will care about your website unless you do. That means that it is crucial to think long and hard about how you want to be perceived as a company. It’s important to get it right from the get go.

As a business, it is important to really understand why you started that business in the first place. You probably needed to convince your loved ones about the rational thought behind quitting your perfectly stable job to venture out into the unknown. And this explanation is going to come in handy to give to your customers. Why are you in business, and what’s in it for me? The companies that truly excel are the ones that understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

Get this right from the start, get it ingrained into every facet of the company, and clearly communicate the reason for your existence on your website (and every other piece of communications that your company has), and you’ll have an advantage over countless other companies out there that haven’t figured out the details.

Studies Prove Uncluttered Websites Perform Better

New research from SAY Media and IPG have shown that an ad placed on uncluttered websites without overloading the senses of the user are more useful, trusted and effective. This bit of research also indicates that if multiple adverts are placed on simple, uncluttered websites, they also perform better. Shocking revelation, isn’t it? We’ve been taught time and time again that in order to get your message across, the message must be simple, clear and concise. When decorating, we’ve been taught to simplify the amount of objects in a room so that the eye can focus upon said objects rather than darting about in a confused state. So it comes as no surprise that a simple, clean website with an advert allows the viewer to actually notice the advert, and quite possibly react.

We live in a “short attention span” world, where we are constantly bombarded with messages and want to find the information that we are seeking in as quick and easily a manner as possible. According to comScore, the average time spent on a web page is steadily decreasing, with the average user spending just 40 seconds on a single page.  By using a combination of eye-tracking technology and survey research, the study found that viewers spend twice as long with ads on clean pages that feature ads from just one brand. Uncluttered websites also have higher ad recall.

Ads on uncluttered websites have higher performance rates

Some findings from the research are that uncluttered websites and clean pages enhance site perception as well as ad perception. Those sites that were clean and easy to navigate were perceived as being more useful and trustworthy than similar cluttered sites. Ads that appear on clean sites are also always seen, according to eye-tracking data. Less clutter also means higher recall.

So let this be a lesson to all of you webmasters and advertisers out there. Don’t try to cram too many adverts/messages/objects/etc. into your layouts. Less really does seem to be more.

 

WordPress security and how to improve it

WordPress is an immensely popular web content platform for small businesses. Un_Standard can’t recommend it enough for ease of use, functionality and practicality. We’ve used WordPress many times before, and highly recommend it to any small business trying to establish a web presence. The system is free, easy to use and provides an immense amount of features that would otherwise drive costs through the roof for many small businesses.

However, with popularity comes risk. We’ve learned (the hard way) that the WordPress platform is prone to attacks from ruthless hackers. It’s happened to us, so it’s important to take necessary precautions when using WordPress. The good folks over at WordPress HQ update their platform frequently to respond to known threats, but it’s nearly impossible to catch every single one. If you are using WordPress, then we here at Un_Standard can’t recommend enough that you take some simple steps to secure your site. After all, if your website is critical to your business, then you should make sure that your site doesn’t have any down time due to a hack. It’s a good idea to tighten your WordPress security settings and protect your hard work.

Benefits of WordPress

One of the great things about WordPress is that you can put up a professional site without knowing the first thing about coding and html. WordPress security is vulnerable to a certain type of hack where the hacker inserts malicious URL parameters to reveal sensitive database content, known as SQL injection attacks. Once a hacker has gotten inside, they can hijack your WordPress site and replace your content with spam or malware. Not good.  One solution is to modify your site’s .htaccess file, which controls the way your hosting server behaves. This can prevent hacker’s parameter requests from succeeding.

Also, it is a good idea to steer clear from dodgy downloaded free WordPress themes. Certain free themes have been laced with files that can include undetectable spam links to malware files. In order to stay safe, it’s recommended to only download files from sources that you know and trust. Paid themes generally have less of a security risk than free themes. But if you must use a free theme, then scan it with an anti-virus program before uploading.

Most importantly, the first thing that you should do to protect your WordPress site is to change the default “admin” login. Hackers can use programs to crack password combinations at the “admin” level to gain access to the control panel. Luckily, there are plugins that can be loaded on to your WordPress site that block IP addresses that make multiple unsuccessful login attempts.

There are numerous plugins available for WordPress that we here at Un_Standard have found to be pretty useful in safeguarding against malicious behavior. Wordfence is one of those plugins. Bulletproof Security is another that we have found to be useful.

These small steps toward securing your WordPress site will drastically reduce the likelihood of getting hacked.