10 Tips For Using Facebook For Business

Businesses are increasingly using Facebook as a mechanism to raise brand awareness and engage with existing and potential customers. Here are some tips to help you improve your Facebook marketing by improving engagement and extending the reach of your posts.

1. Use a call to action in your main banner graphic of your business page. Encourage users to like you. Don’t assume they just will.

2. Add tabs to your business page to display and raise awareness of other social media platforms you are using e.g. Twitter and Pinterest

3. Use hidden content as a way of encouraging Likes e.g. “Like us to see our latest offers”

4. Consider adding products to your page with an e-commerce app. There are several out here such as Ecwid (previously Payvment)

5. Don’t forget to invite people to like your page through other mediums such as newsletters, email marketing and other social media.

6. Schedule posts – this can help a busy marketing department and ensure your posts are consistent and frequent.

7. Always respond to messages and comments to show people you are engaged with your customers.

8. To encourage engagement and comments use posts that ask questions, fill in the missing blank or even do a poll.

9. Use call to action posts to encourage users to share and like your post. e.g. “like and share if you would prefer to be on the beach right now”

10. Consider the use of promoted posts and ads to improve your visibility. These can be a good tool for new product launches and promotions.

This is not an extensive list. Look out for more tips in future posts .

If you would like help with your Facebook marketing, please contact us for hands-on help or advice.

By Nicky Whiting

nicky.whiting@cambsbusinesssupport.co.uk

Link Building Tips for 2013

Panda and Penguin updates to the Google Algorithm have fundamentally affected the way businesses approach link building in 2013. Here we have put together some tips on things you should be avoiding and giving you some advice on building links moving forward.

 

Link Building Activities to Avoid in 2013

Some of the things listed here have been bad practice for for a while but act as a reminder anyway. You should avoid:

1. Registering your site with a multitude of free directories. There is justification in registering your site with local business directories and those that may be very niche or industry related but that should be it.

2. Paying for links. Google will spot it and WILL penalise your site.

3. Getting links from low quality sites e.g. some article sites and sites peppered with ads.

4. Using the same anchor text for all your links to a page. Use other related terms as well as your keywords.

5. Getting links from unrelated websites.

6. Getting links from link farms and blog networks (or, come to think of it, anywhere that tells you they can give you thousands of links)

Safe Link Building Activities for 2013

The most important thing to realise about developing a link building strategy post panda/penguin is that link building needs to encourage natural linking to your site and this will take time and effort. You will need to consider all your marketing methods and how you can use these to encourage organisations to link to you.  Here are the key areas to consider:

1. Write great content. Yes, that old chestnut! But it’s true. Good content will get shared naturally.

2. Raise awareness through social media and engage people through these channels.

3. Write a blog. Keep it up to date and relevant.

4. Consider guest blogging for another blog to raise awareness about you and hopefully encourage links back to your site.

5. Remember it’s about quality rather than quantity.

6. Develop content people will want to share e.g. downloads, widgets, tools, calculators, video

7. Do some online PR e.g. local papers, national papers, trade magazines etc.

8. Build deep links i.e. links to pages other than just your home page.

9. Use diverse anchor text in your links to avoid it looking false and spammy.

10. Remove poor/low quality back links that may be penalising you. Also consider Google’s Disavow tool in Webmaster Tools to tell Google about links to ignore.

11. Don’t forget to link internally within your site.

12. Check broken inbound links and fix them if you can. You could be wasting valuable links by ignoring them.

13. Make use of local business and networking groups to raise your profile and potentially get links.

 

So, take your time, be creative and don’t try and take the easy option. It won’t work these days. Google is too smart by far to fall for it.

 

If you feel you need help with your link building strategy for 2013 then please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss your needs and give you some advice.

By Nicky Whiting

Nicky.whiting@cambsbusinesssupport.co.uk

The Importance of Backing Up your Website

My week started with a panic when one of my old clients, who I built a small website for last year, contacted me to say his website wasn’t up. After a bit of digging around I discovered to my horror that the hosting company (who shall remain nameless) had completely deleted the contents of his entire account. When the hosting company was contacted they were unable to restore the website as they only kept backups for 30 days and it appears the site had been down for longer than that. Panic!

My client would have been faced with a complete rebuild of his site had I not made the sensible precaution of setting up a backup using the BackupWPup plugin for WordPress. This ran a full database and file backup once a day and dropped the resulting zip file into a dropbox account. That zip file saved my client a lot of money (or his hosting company) and meant the site was back up within a few hours rather than a few days.

The moral of this story? Backup your website! Don’t assume your hosting company do this for you. Whilst some do offer this, others don’t do any backups or do time limited backups. Others may charge you extra to backup your site. If you have WordPress it is very easy to set up an automated backup with BackWpup and, if you aren’t sure about this contact us and we can help. Other websites will need different tools so discuss it with your web developer. If all else fails there’s ftp.

The other lesson learnt from this drama was the importance of ensuring that your backup is not backing your website up to the same location as your website. It is quite common for people to do this with an automated script BUT the problem with this is that if you don’t transfer this to another location, you are going to loose the backup. This is why backing up to something like dropbox or even, if your backup software has the facility, sending you the backup as an email is such a good idea.

If you are worried about whether your website is being backed up and need some advice or hands on help please get in touch.

Are You Managing Your Website Hosting Effectively?

I recently undertook an exercise for a client to help them understand where their various websites were hosted. As part of this exercise, it became apparent that it is very easy for businesses, particularly smaller businesses where there is no dedicated person to manage domain names and hosting, to lose track of what is where and how much it is costing.

Many small business owners don’t necessarily understand the ins and outs of website hosting, domain names and email hosting. It may be some time since their website, domain and email was set up and it was probably done by a web developer. They just pay the invoices when they come in once or twice a year and get on with it. I suspect there are quite a few companies that just pay invoices without really understanding what they are paying for as they know they ignore them at their peril. Those businesses that I know that have ignored them usually end up having their website taken down.

How do you get your house in order? The first step is to understand that it is possible to buy your domain name from one service provider and have your web hosting somewhere else. So, for instance, you may have bought your domain name from 123-Reg but your website may be hosted with 1&1 and your email could be with either of them or even somewhere else. Many companies don’t understand this. So, here are some tips to help you find out what is what. It won’t necessarily solve all your problems and it will depend how technically minded you are as to how much you can find out but this should help get you started.

1. Go back through your emails and find invoices for domain name renewal, web hosting and possibly email hosting (very often email hosting is included with web hosting so you may not have any for this or, if you host your own email server or use a cloud based service this too would mean nothing for email)

If you can’t find emails, a good starting point would be to use a “whois” service such as http://whois.domaintools.com/ where you can enter your website address and it will show you the domain name registrar and nameservers. The registrar will be your first port of call as this is where you pay for your domain name and, if the nameservers have an address that is different from the registrar, you need to check this out too as this is probably where your website is hosted.

2. Make a note of the companies that you have invoices from for domain names and hosting. Now try and find any usernames and login details. If you can’t find anything, you might want to try the web design company that originally built your website (assuming you used one).

3. If you find your login details, you can now login to each service and see what services you have with this provider. You should be able to see copies of all invoices and see a list of the services this provider supplies to you. This enables you to record these in a spreadsheet and make a note of what you are paying. Check you aren’t paying for things you don’t need.  This often happens with legacy accounts.

Top Tips for Using Pinterest for Business

Tips for using Pinterest for BusinessYou may have been aware of Pinterest for some while after it hit the headlines last year as the fastest growing social network. However, at the time of the all the hype, Pinterest was really designed for personal use. Inevitably, a lot of companies jumped on the bandwagon seeing it as another medium by which to engage with potential customers and this, along with Pinterest’s own needs to monetize their business, has inevitably lead to them launching Pinterest for Business. But don’t panic! The interface is more or less the same and you can convert any personal accounts to business accounts without having to start again from scratch.

 

Here are some tips and advice about making the best use of Pinterest for your business:

1. Obvious I know but make sure you convert your personal account to a business account and check out the terms and conditions of use.

2. Complete a full Pinterest profile making sure you take particular care with your about section to get keywords in there that people may be searching for. Also make sure you link with Twitter and Facebook if you have these (but be aware that at present linking to Facebook links to personal pages not business pages so you may want to avoid this) and make sure you add your website link and verify it.

3. Use good quality pictures and images when pinning – you are representing your company and, as with your website, it should look professional.

4. Make sure you have “pin it” and “follow me” Pinterest buttons on your website so that people can easily find you on Pinterest or pin your products/images.

5. Add Pinterest to your Facebook page (this is a little complicated but there is plenty advice on how to do this on the web).

6. If you are selling US products in dollars you can add the price in the description by simply typing the price with the $ sign and this price will be displayed on the actual image.  A great way of price tagging. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for £ so the best that can be done here is to include the price in the description.  It is worthwhile doing this as it can improve conversion rates on your website as people who know the price and still click through to your website are more engaged and hence more likely to buy.

7. Use different boards for different topics or categories of products – this makes it easier for people to quickly identify what they are specifically interested in.

8. Make collections boards where you combine products together that you think relate to one other. This can be a bit like “related resources” or “people who bought this also bought” that you get on websites.

9. Don’t just pin your own images and products. Pin other items as well that relate to your products or what you do as this is the nature of Pinterest. It’s about sharing and following and you’ll need to do a lot of this at the beginning to build up a community.  Don’t forget to comment and “like” as well.

10. Encourage engagement through competitions. Get people to post a board on their Pinterest account about your products and share it with you via a link and then offer a prize for the best board.

11. Don’t just pin pictures. Think about using video (still underused on Pinterest at the moment and the MOST engaging form of visual media) and also Info graphics as a way of getting a lot of information across. Don’t forget you can make simple text images as well just made up of words if there is a message you want to get across.

12. Have an offers board where you have discount codes or other offers available to Pinterest users. It’ll get shared around and re-pinned thus improving visibility for you.

13. Show how your products are used rather than just the products themselves. For example, if you sell children’s toys, show children using them or something they have built out of them.

14. Use # to highlight keywords – just the same as you would on Twitter and you can use @ for names too.

15. Use call to action pins – adding “re-pin this” in your caption or description or telling people to click through to your site does work and can improve engagement with your pin significantly.

16. Don’t forget SEO – Pinterest results often appear in Google search results and people search within Pinterest so make sure you use keywords in your descriptions of your pins and boards.

17. Monitor and measure – Pinterest launched its own analytics in March 2013 to that you can see how well your pins are performing. Use it along with Google Analytics for your website to get a complete picture of performance.

If you need more help and advice with setting up Pinterest for your Business or would like to day to day assistance in improving customer engagement via Pinterest, why not Contact Us? We’re happy to help and can offer cost effective flexible support that only covers what you want, when you want it.

Keyword Research Tips – Consider Competition & Relevance

Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy and one that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it rightly deserves. If you are planning a new website, keyword research should come before the layout and pages are finalised and, if you are optimising an existing site, your keyword research may well require you to make some structural changes.

What is keyword research?

Put simply, keyword research is about finding terms that people use when searching in Google (or other search engines) to find the products and services you offer on your website.  So, if you sell leather wallets for Ipads you need to find the terms to use that relate to this.  You could just make some terms up and use these but that’s not very scientific and you might find that you are missing opportunities to pull in more traffic to your website.  A bit of keyword research will help you target the most important terms and may identify some terms you hadn’t even thought of.

General  Terms vs The Long Tail

Many companies I have come across make the mistake of using very general keywords for their website e.g. if they are selling handbags they may have a page that uses the term “leather handbags”. That’s fine and in theory there are lots of people searching for that term but the chances of all but the biggest, most established sites being found for this are small. This is where the long tail comes in. Keywords or key phrases that have more words in them are generally easier to rank for BUT they have lower search volumes meaning your site needs lots of long tail search terms rather than one popular but highly unachievable shorter term.  Going back to the leather wallets for Ipads example, you might choose “black leather Ipad wallet with zip” as opposed to “black Ipad wallet” or just “Ipad wallet”.

The benefit of long tail key phrases is that they are of a higher quality. They are specific and hence the person who types it in knows what they are looking for. They are more likely to convert.  Someone typing in “Ipad wallet” knows they want a wallet for their Ipad but do they want a leather one, a neoprene one, a pink one? They don’t know yet so they are less likely to convert. Once they have worked out what they want, their searches will become more specific.

Relevance

Another area to consider when researching keywords is relevance. Some terms that you may come up with when researching suitable keywords may have a double meaning or may be relevant to a B2C environment rather than B2C. It is therefore important to spend time typing in search terms that you come up with to make sure the results that come up are bringing up similar sites to yours and relate to products and services you offer.

Competition

Competition is also worth considering when researching keywords. Typing your search term into Google will give you an idea of the competition i.e. the number of pages that Google found that are relevant. The higher the number, the harder it will be to rank for that term. This needs to be balanced with all other factors i.e. the number of searches for a particular keyword or key phrase (obtained from the Google Keyword Tool), the relevance and the competition.

Another factor relating to competition that is also worth considering is the pages that actually rank for the term you typed in. How well optimised are they? If they aren’t well optimised that will give you an indication that if you do thinks properly, you should rank well for that term.

Bring it all together

This isn’t a comprehensive guide to keyword research but I hope it highlights that keyword research isn’t just about typing some terms into the Google Keyword Tool to see how many people search for the chosen term each month. It’s an investigative process where you have to make a call based on a number of other factors including competition and relevance. It can take a while and can be arduous but that little extra effort can make a big difference.

Data Backup – There is No Excuse!

I’ve just bought a new USB data key. So why am I writing a blog about it? Well, it was a 64GB data key. Big enough to backup all my data and the best bit is that it was less than £24! Bargain!

I plan to use my data key to give me another mechanism to ensure my laptop is backed up more regularly. Whilst I have an external USB disk that I backup to once a week, I would be happier doing more regular backups and that is what the data key is for. The data key is also more portable meaning I know I can take my data with me wherever I go.

I regularly see small businesses who have little or no regular backup strategy. If this is you, maybe a USB key is at least one step to improving your backups. Here are some other tips you might want to take about backups:

1. Identify the data you NEED to back up and how often does it change? If it changes daily then ideally you should be backing it up daily.

2. Make someone responsible for backups in your business. If you are a one man band that might be you! Take responsibility for it. You may well regret it if you don’t.

3. Schedule your backups and make a note in your diary to do it. If you forget to do it, do it as soon as you remember.

4. Consider where you store your backup data. Do you have it off site so that you can access it should be unable to access your office?

5. Test your backups regularly. It’s OK letting backup software run but if you can’t recover the data then it is pointless. As with backups, regular checks should be scheduled so they don’t get forgotten about.

6. Consider the data you are backing up. If you are storing personal information you need to encrypt your backups to prevent unauthorised access.

7. If you review your backup strategy and find you have business critical data that you can’t be without for even a short period of time, get professional advice on finding a suitable backup solution.

So, it may be little steps but buying a data key may at the least make sure you backup all that data on your laptop, but I hope it might make you think about the rest of the data in your business and ultimately improve your data backup strategy.

Make Use of Free Web Tools From Bing and Google

I often come across websites that are not using some of the free tools available from Google and Bing. Whilst ultimately they won’t get you more visits, they may help you see why your site  isn’t performing as well as it should. Some of the tools I would recommend all sites having:

Google Analytics

Google Analytics gives you a good idea of what is happening on your site. You can see statistics about visits, how much traffic is coming directly from searches and, if you use Google Adwords, you can hook this into the data as well. Whilst the data in Google Analytics won’t be 100% accurate, it is pretty good and often a lot more accurate than some statistics packages supplied with hosting. The important thing is that it allows you to see trends. Is your traffic growing? What are the popular pages? Where do people bounce off my site?  It’s free so set it up!

Google Webmaster Tools

This one is even more unlikely to be found being used. Webmaster tools is a great tool for monitoring the health of your site. You can see details of 404 (page not found) errors as well as other errors like if a page is not being crawled by Google. As well as monitoring you can use Webmaster tools to submit your XML sitemap to Google and you can submit new pages just created so that hopefully Google will pick them up more quickly and index them. Google have also recently added a new feature in Webmaster tools called Data Highlighter which is great if you have events pages. This tools allows you tag your pages from Webmaster tools to enable Google to present your data in different ways and more attractively in search results. There’s loads more in Webmaster tools so sign up now.

Google Places

Google Places is a great way to list your business and the services you offer and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a website, you can still be listed. Having a Places entry means you could be shown in Google search results that are locally based. e.g. if you type Plumbers in Peterborough in, you’ll see some Google Places listings. The key to Places is to complete your profile in as much detail as possible and considering keywords when doing this. Add pictures and, if you have video, add this as well. Most of my clients who use Google Places see a good level of traffic to their website as a result of having a listing so it’s a no brainer!

Bing Webmaster Tools

Let’s not let Google steal the show here. Bing also have a good webmaster tool although I don’t think it is necessarily as accurate as Google’s version . Having said that, Bing is still used as a search engine by a considerable number of people so making sure Bing knows about your site and submitting your sitemap should be something you do as part of making your site as visible as possible. It’s easy to set up so go and do it!

I believe these are the key tools, there are loads of other free tools on the internet but these are the ones I use as a matter of course when working on client websites. If nothing else, these tools will give your site a degree of additional visibility and give you visibility as to how your site is performing.