What can we do to get ourselves and our business back on track?
Having been in Covid-19 confinement and business lock-down since March there is now a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. In the next few weeks several European countries are relaxing their restrictions and allowing businesses to reopen. In France this will only go ahead if the number of confirmed coronavirus deaths does not rise, and as long as the businesses that are allowed to open apply strict health and hygiene guidelines.
But although we all say we’ll be glad to get back to normal, I think we know it’s not going to be the ‘old normal’. It’s going to be a ‘new normal’.
And that leads me straight into an article I read yesterday that I want to share with you. The author shares the same views as me and the article itself provides some good, solid advice. So why re-invent the wheel?
One thing that I think this pandemic has taught all of us in business is that we need to be flexible and ready for change, so it might be worth recording everything you’ve learned, and continue to learn during this crisis, so you can have a contingency plan in place to help you through the next few months.
The above quote is from the latest post from a blogger that I follow and admire, Cindy Mobey. She’s a freelance writer and marketing consultant, and I must admit to being just a little bit jealous of how easy she makes blogging look. Her style of writing is natural, intelligent and easy to read. It’s also informative and thought-provoking.
Are you ready for the ‘new normal’?
Cindy has kindly given me permission to share the article on my website, and here it is. Please read the full article – Time for a new normal? and let me know what you think.
It occurred to me this morning that I hadn’t posted a business blog in a while. With so much going on with coronavirus, self-isolation and people disobeying the distancing rules, why would anyone be interested in a blog about websites? Or website testing?
So then I started thinking about the reasons why I should do a blog and it got me thinking about optimisation. It sounds like a random train of thought doesn’t it? But I’m talking about ‘optimisation’ in a business blog kind of way. And at 6 am on a beautiful Sunday morning I’m sat at my desk researching ‘Business Blog Scheduling’.
I know the reasons why I should be submitting regular business posts. It’s so that it keeps my website fresh, helps with SEO and search traffic, helps build a good relationship with clients, etc, etc. But doesn’t how often we need to publish a blog and the optimal blogging frequency vary, depending on the type of business you have?
So as a result of my early morning research I did actually come up with a few general guidelines.
Publish a new business blog at least once a week
Always publish on the same day
Focus on creating high-quality content
Great. Now I have my guidelines all I have to do is find a way to make user testing sound interesting. That’s the hard bit. But then, reading different articles this morning, I noticed that Guideline #1 isn’t strictly correct. It doesn’t always have to be new content. If you have posted something previously about a topic that is still relevant, or has come back in fashion, re-use it. There’s nothing to stop you giving it a bit of a tweak – re-cycling! – and republishing it. It counts as a new business blog, just don’t keep re-using the same one every week.
Identify your audience
Guideline number 2 is about being consistent and routinely publishing your blog on the same day. This is where I think we need to experiment to find out what works best for our own business and for our customers. But the first step has to be identifying your business blog audience.
My services are not going to be required by everybody. To be honest I probably have a very limited audience – owners of small and medium sized business enterprises – SMEs. And it doesn’t really matter what line of business my ‘audience’ is in. If they have a business website then they are a potential customer, even web design businesses.
I regularly work with a couple of web designers, reviewing their work during and after publishing, because catching bugs earlier means it easier and less expensive to fix. When you’re busy it’s easy to miss little things, such as broken links or poor navigation. Lots of little things can lead to one big, bad customer experience. So sometimes, it just helps to have a fresh pair of eyes look over the content and usability.
There you see, I have drifted off into my own little testing world when I should be focusing on the task in hand and telling you about the ultimate goal.
The goal, of course, once you have identified your target audience is to successfully maintain a business blog that will increase website visitors. Making new connections and continuing to engage with existing customers or clients, will hopefully start generating new sales.
Different audiences will have different needs. If your business blog is a tool for providing up-to-the-minute information about products that you sell then you probably need to publish short, promotional blogs on a daily basis, or even several times a day. Whereas if you provide technical services, like testing for example, then that requires a longer, more detailed blog. So I think for me personally, once a week should suffice.
If you’re not sure what your blog readers need then you might have to experiment and see what formats and frequencies get the best reactions. See which format is a consistent favourite and continue with that.
Now comes the hard part – creating high-quality content.
This came up in several of the articles I read this morning and probably made the most sense. We all start off with so much enthusiasm, especially when people like or share our posts. But trying to consistently write something that’s interesting, in whatever line of business you are in, can be exhausting. There are a couple of ways to overcome this and avoid burnout.
First of all, why not share the load? Try inviting a guest blogger to write for you occasionally to add a bit of variety and a different personality. (This could work for me, and I have already got a couple of people in mind). Alternatively, if you really don’t like writing content and this is what puts you off blogging then you could hire someone to do it for you full-time.
Second, try writing and stockpiling articles for when you haven’t got time to keep to your business blog schedule. I have started adding articles or other blog sites to a ‘Favourites’ folder for future inspiration. I also check out Google search trends and try to use them as topics or keywords.
A lot of research has gone into analysing blog post timing data. Which Social Media platform is best for your business depends a lot on your target audience. I doubt many of my potential clients would be on TikTok for example. Pinterest is another one I don’t bother with, and I only have an Instagram personal account, not a business one, and even that is rarely use. You don’t need to have a business presence on all of them if it isn’t going to do anything for you. It just makes it harder to manage.
My business networking focus is on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. To get the best from these platforms for my business I need to look at the research.
Well, I have looked and basically the answer seems to be ‘it’s complex’ because it depends on your industry and your audience. Fortunately, I know my audience and thankfully. the research does confirm that these are the best platforms for my industry sector. That’s a bonus.
However, I don’t intend to make this post any longer than it needs to be, so I’ve added a link to an easy to follow Info-graphic. Under normal circumstances it provides all the optimal posting timings for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. It also includes data for business sectors such as B2B, B2C, Higher Education, etc.
Best Time Scheduler
Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there is nothing remotely normal about what is going on around us. Schools and the majority of businesses are either closed or employees are temporarily working from home. Our travel, work and home schedules are different, which means that our access to the internet and social media is different.
In a few months there will be more data analysis on the best times to post a business blog, based on the lock-down period. So I’m going to put creating an all-singing, all-dancing ‘Best Time Scheduler’ on hold for the time being and write some new content for my once-a-week business blog.
I’m sure my audience will let me know if they want more from me, but for now, I think it’s time for another cup of vanilla chai before I go out in the garden and pull a few weeds. Happy weekend everyone!
Take care of your business, your customers and YOU
People are referring to the covid-19 pandemic as a war and that we are fighting an invisible enemy. Maybe there are some similarities, but however we view this period of confinement there is no doubt that it is changing lives now and in the future. And because people are forced to spend more time at home it is also changing our relationship with the outside world and our online search behaviour.
According to data recently published by Google, search and consumer behaviour is changing on a daily basis. So what can we do in these difficult times to take care of our business, our customers and, most importantly, ourselves?
Can we use this new search behaviour to create content that will help others find the information they need? Yes we can, because we are also consumers and we are changing too.
Because consumer search behaviour is changing, the way businesses write and present their content needs to evolve with it. To do this we need to understand the 5 relevant shifts in consumer search behaviour identified by Google.
1. Assembling critical information
We’re all searching for new critical content to help us get by and adapt to changes in lifestyle. Home-schooling, home deliveries and home-working are just a few of the key areas where searches are now focused. So businesses and organisations need to provide clear, credible information about their services and where, how and when people can get the things they need.
Fact not Fake
Reinforce that you are here to help. Keep in regular communication across your website, blogs, social media and Google My Business page. Most importantly, make sure that what you communicate is factual – there is so much fake news being distributed and most of it causes more concern and heightens emotions and anxiety. Your customers need to be able to trust what you are telling them.
Try to be flexible by helping customers with cancellations and refunds. Providing a good customer service is something they will remember you for. Poor customer service is what they will tell their friends about.
2. Making New Connections
With social distancing people are nurturing their existing relationships, whether it’s with family, friends or businesses. But they’re also making new virtual connections and search interest is spiking on YouTube for topics such as ‘Cook with Me’, ‘Study with me’ and ‘Disinfect with me’. But also for multiplayer games and virtual happy hour!
Are there any ways your business can virtually connect with consumers locally and globally? What experiences or services can you create and share with them?
3. Changes In Routines
Our online habits are changing as we adjust to new routines and schedules brought about by self-isolation. As well as spikes in search interest for D.I.Y and dumb-bells, there is also more interest in watching other people adapt to new routines, with some late-night show hosts broadcasting from their own homes.
Google’s recommendations for helping consumers adjust to their new confinement routines is to let people know that your business is available whenever and wherever. Update and publish content that is interesting, entertaining, informative and promotes wellness. And publish it often.
4. Praising Everyday Heroes
I’m sure we have all seen or heard of Captain Tom Moore, the 99 year old World War 2 veteran raising money for the NHS. At the time of writing, over 600,00 people had contributed to his Just Giving fund. What an amazing gentleman. A true inspiration for us all. Before the end of this isolation I’m pretty certain there will be more everyday heroes that we will want to support.
Look for people who are helping and find ways to support or celebrate them. Are there any everyday heroes in your business – employees or customers – or in your local community? Support and share their achievements.
5. Taking Care of Themselves and Others
I think we are all looking for ways to take care of the physical and emotional needs of ourselves and others. We are looking for activities that will help to ease the boredom, anxiety and restlessness. They can be virtual or real-life activities. And because of this growing need for stimulation, there has been a surge in virtual tours of galleries, museums, chateaux and even online music festivals!
If your business has an interest in any of these areas, that’s fantastic. Get involved and facilitate some virtual collaboration. If you’re not, there’s nothing to stop you sharing some of your favourite virtual tours or creating some of your own. Focus on ways to enrich peoples lives. Join conversations about home-based health and well-being, share links to home-based yoga sessions.
Don’t just take care of your business
Some businesses will survive, others will adapt, re-invent themselves and come up with bigger and better business ideas. But if you are going to take care of your business, then your number one priority has to be taking care of yourself.
These are bleak times but we will all get through this, one way or another. Just remember to stay connected. Keep in touch with your family, friends, the local community and other businesses. Please, stay safe and stay in touch.
If you can dream it you can do it – Walt Disney
Click here to read the full Google Search Trends and coronavirus article
Do you promote your business on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? Did you know that boosting your postings on social media could help your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
“…it’s a fact that social media properties do dominate the front of the search engine result pages for brand names. Which means, social media profiles indeed have the power to rank in the top 10 results. Social media profiles are a great way to connect to your prospects and customers”
So, does social media impact SEO? Well, yes, there is a tenuous link between although it may not be immediately clear or easy to explain. Boosting your postings could improve your search engine rankings and bring traffic and visitors to your website. More traffic means higher visibility in search rankings and ultimately more customers.
How does it work?
If you write a blog and post the link to this on your Facebook page then it will get liked and shared. If not, then maybe you need to brush up on your blog-writing skills, but that’s another story. Social media is built for sharing, so the more people like and share your blog, the more people see it and your business gets more visibility. Make sure your post settings are public, so if friends of friends see your post they will click on the blog link (the URL), like and share it.. The blog URL is linked to your website so by clicking on the blog link takes traffic to your website. So you are linking the blog to the site and that link is an important factor in SEO ranking .
According to Google, social media is NOT a factor that directly affects your SEO ranking, but there is evidence that things like ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are somehow related to your ranking. However, social ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are definitely a direct ranking factor for Bing..
Optimise your Social Media sites
If you have several social media sites…Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest…are they consistent?
Make sure you have a profile image so you are more recognisable. Complete the profile section, making it relevant to your business, and appealing to your audience.
Wherever possible make sure your profiles include a link to your website and if you have any offers or promotions then try and add a link to those as well.
Be consistent with your posts and blogs and provide regular updates. But bear in the mind the post guidelines for each site because you don’t want it to look like your spamming. For example on Twitter you should post several times a day, but you don’t need to do this with Facebook or LinkedIn.
Posts do better with images. Use eye-catching photos to attract attention. Catchy headline. Great content. And ask people for a share – it’s good, proven optimisation.
Use Hashtags because they are Keywords. They help categorise your content and help people find it. Just don’t over do it and use them correctly on the different platforms. Register a brand-specific hashtag and use it on all your posts
Review your website and make sure your content is optimised for social media sharing. Add social media sharing buttons. Videos show up in search results so add some into your content.
Interact with people. If someone comments on your post, respond. Join groups and take part in conversations.
Keep posting – stay professional, unbiased, credible, approachable, and most of visible.
To read more, go to: How does Social Media Impact SEO? And if you need expert help with Social Media marketing, in my opinion there is no-one better than Micala Wilkins at Alacim Social Media Marketing. She has been in the marketing business for several years and has helped me enormously. Remember Social Media does impact SEO but only if you get it right!
First published 22nd Feb 2020. Updated 9th April 2020
‘Sharing is Caring’
If you found this useful then let me know – and let your friends know!
I’m not being totally disrespectful to cookies. There are some nice ones, but living in France I have now acquired a taste for macarons. The colours, the different flavours… Hmm, I’m going a bit off track here, because I should really be talking about browser cookies, and even they’re not all bad.
Following my article about Website Legalities and business websites having to display a cookie notice, I had a couple of questions from worried website owners. Personal Blog owners too should take heed because you also have to comply with the privacy laws.
What are browser cookies?
They’re not particularly dangerous and they can’t be used to steal your personal data. In fact browser cookies are generally harmless.
They store login details and other little bits of information on your computer from the different websites you have visited.
The information can only be read by the website that made the cookie, and it can only store details that you have given it. It can’t be used to get any other personal data from your computer.
How does Amazon know what I’m looking for?
Well, let’s use Amazon as an example. When you log into your Amazon account it stores the details you entered and shows you everything related to your account. The Amazon website also stores a cookie on your device that tells them what items you viewed last time you were there. So it’s only reading and sharing with you the information you gave it before.
In theory, a website could store your credit card as a cookie, because you gave it that information. But only the website where it’s stored can read it. Therefore the only real ‘danger’ is if someone physically has access to your computer because they can read the info. To be on safe side though, you should only provide personal and financial data to websites that you trust 100%.
Is a cookie a virus?
No, cookies are NOT viruses and no, you cannot catch coronavirus online either. (Believe me, I have seen that asked in one of the browser forums). Cookies are just simple text files. They can’t make copies of themselves and spread to other networks so they cannot be defined as a virus. They could be used as a form of spyware though because they store information about browsing history. That’s why a lot of anti-spyware products regularly flag cookies up for deletion.
Responsible web developers
Now we’re getting down to the privacy issues side of things. Responsible web developers will provide clear descriptions of how cookies are used on their site. There are different types of browser cookies, some are necessary and useful and can’t be refused, others such as third-party cookies usually get created if you frequent websites that display adverts from another website. Again these are not really bad cookies, because they help advertisers keep track of how many people are seeing their ads and whether a particular ad campaign is effective. Cookies can also limit the number of times as advert is shown and display ads in a particular order.
All new and existing business websites have to be compliant. And it’s not all the responsibility of your web hosting service. They can provide cookie data about their website but not yours, especially if you add links to other websites.
There are sites such as CookieBot which can analyse and report back on the cookies it finds on your website and tell you how intrusive they are. Then you have to decide how you use that information and the best way to obtain a user’s consent.
As a responsible business website owner you must:
inform users of the purpose of cookies,
obtain their consent,
provide users with a way to refuse them.
And if users do give their consent it is only legally for a period of 13 months maximum.
There are a number of WordPress plugins for cookie notices and plenty of websites out there offering to scan your site, continue to monitor it and provide bespoke cookie policies. Check out CookieBot and Termly.io
All this talk about cookies has got me thinking about macarons again. I’m gutted that the lock-down stopped me from attending a macaron baking workshop with Keith at Jambon de Printemps last month. But I’ll be the first to sign up for the class when everything gets back to normal.