Improving your Local SEO

google my business map and description

Google Business Profile and map for SAA IT Testing

As small business owners I’m sure you have all heard about Google and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). You may not fully understand SEO, because it’s a fairly complex subject all about algorithms, search terms and keywords. But if you want your business website to rank higher in search results, then employing a SEO expert will help you do that. But although it would be beneficial, hiring a professional to do that for you on an ongoing basis is not something many of us can afford.

Large companies employ teams of SEO experts to monitor trends, research and analysis data, and constantly update and refresh site pages. For small businesses though, your best Local SEO friend is Google Business Profile (GBP), previously called Google My Business.

What is Google Business Profile?

In a nutshell, GBP is a business listing on Google, similar to Yell.com or ‘Pages Jaunes’ in France. But the bonus with GBP is the advantageous local SEO that comes with it.

GBP was developed to standardise the information displayed by Google in Google Search and Google Maps, so businesses can be found more easily by potential customers. It helps ensure that your customers have up to date information about your business, for example opening hours, address, and contact details. Additionally, you can add links to your main business website, share posts, offers and other information, in the same as you can on social media. It also allows two-way communication between you and your customers by allowing them to ask questions, create reviews and for you to respond. 

How does Google Business work?

When you claim your business listing on GBP and you are verified as the owner of that address (you receive a letter in the post with a code to confirm in the GMB set up), you will be a named business location on Google Maps. Your listing will be as detailed as you want it to be, and it will all be highly visible in three important Google areas: 

Google Knowledge Graph

Google Knowledge Graph SAA IT Testing

This is the box that displays your business information. When someone searches on your business name, this panel appears on the right-hand side of the Google Search Results. On mobile devices it will appear near the top. It’s a really useful summary of the information that is important to new and existing customers, especially if they want to contact you. 

If you have several social media sites…Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest…your profiles in each one should be consistent. The same goes for Google Business Profile. And if you have a business logo – display it! 

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. 

Google Local Park

These are the top Google listings that will appear below a map when someone searches for businesses in a particular location

Google Maps

Pinpoints your business on a map, with a summary of the address, opening hours and provides directions to your location.

Added Extras

As if that wasn’t enough, when you set up your GBP listing you get access to Google Insights, which tells you how many people have searched for your business, what they searched for and the number of page and post views. 

You can also build a free, single-page business website. Although the GBP site has limited functionality you can add a description of your business, products, images, events, services and prices. Use it as an extra social media platform. The ratings and reviews in particular will help your business rank higher in search results. Encourage your customers to give you feedback by sharing your GBP  listing, and you can even link it to your business website.

Here’s my Google Business Profile, check it out and see just how much you can do to enhance your online business presence. Get your business noticed. Keep your profile and business details up to date. Improve your Local SEO quickly and easily.

If you need any help or advice setting up your business listing then please get in touch. I’m always happy to help.

Shirley Atkinson SAA It Testing About Us

 

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Shirley Atkinson, Freelance Website Usability Testing & Online Business Services for SMEs

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

 

Contact

Need some help? Please contact me:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

strawberry cupcakes on a pink tray with a gold-coloured fork next to them

What is the strawberry on the cupcake, if the cupcake is not there?

What branding means – a guest blog by Rebecca Fountain, a qualified, experienced strategic marketer, and founder and owner of The Marketing Fountain

Ask most non-marketing people what branding means, and the majority will tell you that it’s a logo. Even the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of branding as ‘the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design’ is a watered-down version of what it actually is. 

As a marketer of some years standing, I frequently have clients who ask me for a rebrand and what they actually want is a new logo. Well, I am here to tell you that branding is so much more than just the logo. And when I explain branding to my clients, I like to use the analogy of a cake….bear with me, please.

Consider the cake in the image – what good would the strawberry be if there was no cupcake and no icing to put it on? It would not be an entirely indulgent cupcake experience. 

If the strawberry is your logo, what is the icing on the cake?

Effectively, in this analogy, the strawberry is your logo. It is the bit that you can only put on after the initial idea has been formed. After the ingredients have been bought and the cake has been baked, cooled and iced. Only then can you put your strawberry on the top. I love this analogy – not least because I love cake – but also because it helps explain branding. 

Branding is everything that you do to represent your company and your product service offering. So to get it right, branding needs to start at a strategic level.

lady wearing glasses leaning against a brown wooden door. She has her hand to her chin as if she is thinking what branding means

Do you have a strategy?

Many small business owners have great business ideas yet often find taking them to market difficult. Others launch into their market with some level of success despite not having done the groundwork for the business strategy – beginners luck

However, once the business is up and running and looking to grow, the lack of an articulated strategy will inevitably begin to slow the business down. 

Your strategy needs to be built from the ground up: identifying what your vision is for your business; who your target audience is; your strategic business objectives – revenue, share of market, what the products and services are that you offer to this market. 

Think carefully about your competitors

Do they offer similar products/services? Are there organisations that you are competing with for a share of the purse?

For instance, your target audience may be choosing between spending money on a gym membership or a new bike – your ideal client has limited surplus revenue and therefore needs to choose one over the other. What makes your offer better than buying from your competitors?

Once you know who your audience is, you can start to think about how you will engage with them: what tone of voice will you use in your communications – formal or informal; where will you engage with them – in physical places, virtually etc.? And which social media platforms do they prefer?

As you document all of your answers to these questions, you will start to create the flavour for your brand. And I’m not talking about cakes this time.

Create a portrait of your ideal client

One reliable method that I always recommend is to have my clients create pen portraits or “personas”. These are detailed descriptions of who their potential, ideal clients might be. Try to include as much detail as possible in your pen portraits – this will help you create your brand and the targeting of your communications. You can be very creative and have lots of fun with these. 

Here’s an example of a pen portrait that I created for a healthy meal kit delivery company: 

“Jon is 32 and lives alone. He works in the city with a full-on job and earns €100k+ per year. Jon prides himself on having a gym membership with an exclusive club and working out every morning. At the weekends, he likes to go hiking and off-road mountain biking with his friends. On an average day, Jon starts work at 8.30 am and is rarely finished by 8 pm. By which time he always feels too tired to cook and ends up grabbing a takeaway. He then feels guilty for most of the evening for having undone the good work of his morning routine and for his part in creating unnecessary packaging waste. His parents are both living, and he has a steady girlfriend whom he is planning to marry within the next two years.”

What does your brand say about you? 

Can you see how creating the pen portraits might help you? Each time you make a business decision, create a new product or improve your services, you can test them on your pen portrait people. So, how about you have a go for your own business?

If you haven’t done so already, write three individual pen portraits for who you think is your ideal customer. This works equally well for business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) transactions. So let’s give it a go. 

Respond to these three questions by imagining that you are the actual person behind each of your pen portraits.

  1. What is the promise that you are making that your pen portrait wants from you?
  2. What are your core values? – do these resonate with the pen portrait values?
  3. What tone of voice would your pen portraits respond to – fun and playful, scientific and concise, or something else?  

Each company has a voice that forms part of its brand personality. Therefore, consistency is paramount if you are to positively engage with your target audience.

Once you have all this in the bag, fill your boots with getting to the sexy, creative part of logo design! And for small business owners, there are some great free online tools available – making it easier than ever for everyone to create their own. 

Adding the strawberry 

But how does this impact professional designers? As more and more free online tools become available, graphic designers (and website designers too!) have to work harder than ever to earn a crust and compete with people doing their own graphic work. 

Having a stethoscope and a scalpel doesn’t make you a surgeon

What you need to remember is that graphic designers are trained professionals who understand the science of design. Whether it is the psychology of colour, understanding the latest trends, photo-editing skills and so on. A good experienced graphic designer will often do a quicker and better job than someone who isn’t trained. So always try to use an expert to create the strawberry for the top of your cake (are you still with me?).

I hope you have found the article informative. If you want to learn more about how I can help you with your business, check out my LinkedIn profile and my website

PS. As I’m not a graphic designer, so my plea to use one is genuine.

Author: Rebecca Fountain is a qualified and experienced strategic marketer. She is the founder and owner of The Marketing Fountain, a business designed to provide marketing and virtual assistant support services to start-ups and SMEs.

Many thanks to Rebecca for providing this article and sharing her thoughts on what branding means, along with some deliciously tempting images of strawberry cupcakes. If you’d like to contribute to my website, please contact me by email.

Shirley 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

Contact

Need some advice? 

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

Why having a business website is so important

Owning and creating your own business website may sound daunting and expensive. But the beauty of it is that you have control of your own destiny. You own it – lock, stock and barrel. If anything goes wrong then it’s generally user error fault, but it is recoverable. The recent Facebook server outage will have given all small business owners a wake-up call. The crash was global and impacted Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. The main advertising and sales outlets for many businesses. Fortunately it was fairly short-lived, but what if it had been longer term, a few days or even a week? How would your business have coped?

Read more : Facebook Outage 4th October 2021. Why did it take so long to fix?

We are bombarded everyday by notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc that I wonder how small businesses ever survived before the internet. But they did, and that’s because they made the most of their physical location, sold goods that their customers wanted and thrived on providing good customer service. They were also local and most shops were within easy walking distance for busy Mums and Dads. Nowadays the local shop owner has to compete with global mega-corporates who have automated manufacturing processes that churn out throwaway goods. And they have multimillion dollar advertising budgets. How can we compete?

Social Media business accounts are quick to set up; they’re fairly easy to manage, and free to run (at the minute). But what happens when they change their policies or accidentally delete your account? It does happen, and when it does you could lose your whole business profile, contacts, showroom, pricing, customers. All gone without even saying goodbye.

Personally, I think we can still give our customers what they want without relying solely on social media. But to do that we need to create a great customer experience, have control over our virtual shopfront and be open 24/7 (not literally). I’m talking about having our own website. Ultimately, social media should only be used for the free advertising, building good customer relationships, and driving people to the website.

Choosing a website designer

Once you have made the decision to have your own business website, for it to be a success I recommend using a professional web designer. It doesn’t have to be a big company and it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone local either. However, it can be more beneficial to have someone based in the same country. Because a) if you have any problems they’re in the same time zone and b) they should be familiar with the website legalities for your country.

What else do you need to know? Knowing how much they charge would be a good start, but there a few other questions you should be asking too.

What’s included in the price?

Does it include registering a domain? Will the domain (mybusiness.com) be registered to you? Does is include hosting? 24/7 support? Does it include Search Engine Optimisation? Does it include making changes if you don’t like the first draft? If any of these service aren’t included ask how much extra they cost, and get everything in writing.

Website board with different tags

How long have they been in business?

You want someone that’s been around a while, experienced and isn’t going to disappear in a couple of weeks. Ask for recommendations and also ask to see their portfolio. Do they have designs that appeal to you? Do the websites look professional? Can you view the websites fully on different devices – laptop, mobiles, tablets? Ask them about Responsive Website Design. If they don’t know what you are talking about, then don’t even think about using them.

What do they need from you?

Obviously if you are paying for a service you want to have some input. You’re the business owner, you know your business and should have an idea of the kind of image you want to present. You need to get this across to your website designer and make sure they understand it fully. Show them some websites that you like the look of and ask them whether they will be writing the content or whether you need to provide it. Have you got a logo? What about your colour scheme?

Most of the web designers that I have spoken to about Cookie and Privacy policies have informed me that it is the client that should tell them if and how they want the cookie banner to be displayed. The onus is on the website owner to make sure the website is legally compliant, not the web designer. So please, bear this in mind and check out the legalities for French business sites

How long is it going to take?

Before you part with any money find out how long it will take them? There’s no point placing an order for a website if it isn’t going to be ready when you need to start advertising your products and services. They need to fit your timetable, not the other way around.

How I can help

I have worked closely with several web designers over the years and I now focus on website usability testing. This is reviewing business websites from the customer or user perspective. If you need any web designer recommendations from me then just ask. I’m always happy to help and can give you some hints and tips on what to look for in a designer’s portfolio. I also offer a free business website review. So if you already have a website but want to know if there are any issues, drop me a line. That’s what I’m here for – supporting small business owners like you and me.

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FIND OUT MORE

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2021 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need some help? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

5 ways to ensure your website meets customer expectations

Before you start designing a website you need to know who your target audience is, and how you can help them. So, how can you ensure your site is user-friendly and meets, or exceeds your customer expectations? 

The most important factor when designing a website is to know your target audience, and what it is they want. Your site needs to tick all the boxes, so that a potential customer can make an informed decision about buying your products or services. One of the first steps in this process is to make sure your website is user-focussed, and does not frustrate them so much that they go to elsewhere!

A bit like me today, trying to find the answer to a graph-design question that’s stopping me finish a client project. Grrrr..!

Satisfy customer expectations

1

Know your customer

Before you do anything website or social media related you need to understand who your target audience is. Otherwise you could be wasting a lot of time, effort and money marketing in areas where you will see little or no return for your investment.

You need to know who is your typical customer, how old they are, where do they spend most of their online time? And what makes them tick? What problems might they have that would make them visit your website? Once you understand what they want, it will be much easier to plan your site’s content and design. 

2

Keep it tidy

Whether you’re designing a new website, or looking to update an existing one, spend time fine-tuning your content. What pages should you include, and what can you say that will help to sell your products or services? Keep your content concise and your website uncluttered.

Don’t put in too many distractions that will confuse, or make people forget the reasons they came to your website. If your goal is to sell a product think about why they might want to buy it? How will it help to improve their home, business or family lives? Cut out or rewrite any content that might navigate your potential customer away from your site. I have reviewed so many business websites that include links to others. There’s nothing wrong with linking if it’s going to provide relevant information, that helps your customer solve a problem. But just bear in mind that once they navigate away from your website, you risk losing them completely. And you could miss out on that all important sale. 

3

Make it accessible

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1 billion people live with a disability. That can include people who have problems with vision, hearing or physical disabilities. One of the top issues that could impact your site visitors is visual impairment. Colour-blindness is a particularly common problem, so try and avoid certain colours like red and green, if possible. Make sure the font size is legible, and that hyperlinks and Call to Action buttons (CTAs) are not too close together.

Further help can be provided to assist the visually-impaired by making sure you add descriptive ‘alt-text’ to your images. This text is used by screen-reader tools and can help people who are blind to understand more of the information on a page.

There are a number of easy tests you can perform yourself to check if your website is accessible or not. But, if like me you are a single entrepreneur, and your family time is a precious commodity, then I’m more than happy to execute the tests for you, and provide a complete website accessibility report. Just drop me an email or give me a call to arrange a chat.

4

Be mobile-friendly

With more and more people using handheld devices to browse and buy online, your website must be mobile-friendly. Responsive website design means that whatever size of screen people are using to view your site, the images and text are automatically resized. This makes it much easier to load, read and navigate. If your site isn’t a responsive design, then your visitors will quickly lose interest and bounce merrily away to your competitor’s website. 

Most self-build website tools have responsive design already included, with options for you to view your site on desktop, mobile or notepad before you publish. If you have that option on your content management system, WordPress, Wix, etc., then I recommend that you use it. Check your content and media display correctly, heading don’t fall off the screen and CTAs are in the right place. If you’re not sure if your business site is mobile-friendly there are a number of free tools you can use to check it. Alternatively, I offer a free website review which includes testing that your site renders correctly on mobile devices. 

5

Give instant feedback

This might seem like an unusual item to add, but to me it’s as important as all the others I have mentioned.

If you have ever completed an online form, and not received on page confirmation that the action has been successful, you have two options. Fill everything in again and hope it confirms the second time round. Or don’t bother. There’s also a third option which is just picking up the phone, but it’s less likely to happen, unless someone desperately wants to buy something you offer.

It’s important that your site visitors see an instant response when they fill in a form or click on a link, to know it works. So test your site frequently. Because there is nothing more frustrating than a website that doesn’t work properly. 

smiling fish underwater

A happy customer is a returning customer.

You must meet user expectations, and if possible, go above and beyond what people are expecting. Test all of the elements of your site thoroughly to make sure everything works as it should do. Don’t brush little niggly problems under the carpet, thinking people won’t care, because they will. Poor grammar, spelling errors and things that don’t work as they should do, can make your website look unprofessional. And it might give them the same impression about you. 

For your free, no-obligation, website review, just phone, or send me an email. Find out how I can help boost your online business !

Get in touch

 SAA I.T. Testing & Business Website Services

 

 

Playing the Generation Game 

Let’s start with a simple question. Do you know which generation group you are in?

There are so many different terms that it has become quite confusing, especially as I now see business articles referring to target audiences as Gen X, Gen Y and Baby Boomers. These are terms frequently used in the news and in marketing, but what do they all mean?

A recent article I received, about finding the best social media platform for my target audience, had me scouring the internet to find a concise definition. Then I thought, if I don’t fully understand what generation groups are, other people may be just as confused.

It’s not just a personal thing. From a business perspective, we need to be seen on the right social media platforms. We have to know which groups our customers fall into, because different generations have their own social media favourites. 

Our Ancestors

When people talk about Generation X it can be a bit baffling. It seems to me that it’s because when we think about generations we think about the family – parents, grand-parents, great grand-parents, etc.

 

This is one way of looking at it, and it’s called ‘Familial Generation‘. You and your siblings are one generation, your parents, aunts and uncles, are another, grand-parents are another. And so on. 

When you hear talk about Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials there is a different term for these and this is when it gets a bit mind-boggling. These are called ‘Sociological Generations‘. It’s even more of a tongue-twister than ‘Familial’ isn’t it? I think it’s more important to know the actual group names, than understand their definitions, but I’ll try and summarise it.

Life Events

Putting people into sociological categories – Baby Boomer, Generation X, Y, etc is more complex because it’s seen from two different angles.

One is based on birth rates as documented by the census, which considers population expansion and contraction. So if there is an age difference of 5 or 6 years between siblings, according to the census they could be in different sociological generations. If your parents were very young when they had you, you could potentially belong to the same category, as defined by the census. That part of it is probably the most difficult to understand. 

The other way of defining sociological generations is through life events that link groups of people. Sociologists look at common life events and shared experiences to define the groups.  

For instance, ‘Generation X’ grew up with parents who divorced and mothers who worked. Personal computers were just coming on the scene. And there was that cross-over from analog to digital tv. Along comes MTV, Atari, computer games, Apple, YouTube, Facebook. It’s these elements which are used to define the X, Y and Zs.

Therefore, in marketing terms, it’s the sociological generations that are being referring to, and that we should try to understand.

Identify the Generation Group

generation group and year of birth

 

I’ve made it into the Baby Boomers group (1963) so this article, about finding the Best Social Media Platforms is actually pretty accurate when I think of how I interact with the world wide web.

Knowing the generation group will help to focus on theright social media outlets. So saving time posting to the right social media sites might give us more time to focus and improve other business areas, such as our websites, orimproving our content

It won’t be a ‘one-size fits all’ for every business scenario, and there might be some trial and error. But, when we’re running a business, this ‘Generation Game’ might give us more time to spend with our loved ones. That has to be a ‘Brucie’ bonus.

‘Sharing is Caring’

If you like this article let me know – and let your friends know!

 

English-only websites – are you breaking the Toubon Law?

As an entrepreneur in France I have my own business website which is currently only available in English, and my service offerings include a comprehensive website review. So I can only apologise because I have only recently found out about Toubon Law, and how it impacts business website owners. 

Even though I didn’t find anything when I searched on ‘Do I need a French version of my website?’, a native French web designer has pointed out my error. So I am now frantically trying to squeeze in translating my complete website, in between my client work. Because I live and work in France I need my business to be totally legal and compliant, so I’m not worrying about the internet police.

It might take me some time to translate the blogs, so unless one specifically advertises my services, I will do them as and when. A bit like this particular article, which has now been added to my ever-growing ‘To Do’ List.

Sign saying Wait paint instead of wet paint Translation Toubon Law
Make sure someone checks your translation

What is Toubon Law?

Although the law does not explicitly mention websites as an example, it does state that French must be used for publicly displayed advertising. The reason for the law was partly to protect the French language from the increasing use of Anglicised terms in marketing publications, for example ‘le web’ or ‘le marketing’. It’s also to ensure that French customers fully understand all the commercial advertising jargon that they see. So I can understand why this would be important, especially if there is no French definition for a particular word or phrase.

… a law of the French government mandating the use of the French language in official government publications, in all advertisements, in all workplaces, in commercial contracts, in some other commercial communication contexts, ….

Toubon Law – Wikipedia

Toubon Law or ‘Loi Toubon’ was named after the Minister of Culture at the time the law was passed in August 1994. But it also has the nickname ‘Loi Allgood’ (All good – tout bon) which shows the French do have a sense of humour.

Does this impact all websites in France?

If your business is registered in France then yes, the law applies to your business website. It doesn’t apply to personal sites, such as blogs though. So if you are not selling or promoting something on your personal website, then you can keep it non-French. 

“l’emploi du français est requis dans le cas où une entreprise présente, sur quelque support que ce soit, des biens ou des services dans le but de les commercialiser sur le territoire français”

Translating your website

If you already have a website in English, the page layout, content, images, meta descriptions, etc. are already there. And it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money to have a French version of your existing web pages. Your website manager should be able to recommend and install a good translation plug-in. The actual plug-in or app shouldn’t cost a fortune either. Most of them are free, but if manual translation is required then it’s worth employing a native French speaker. I would definitely not recommend using Google Translate unless you really have to, because it translates literally and using old-fashioned terminology. It’s fine if you need to get directions to your favourite restaurant – ah, those were the days! – but not so good if you want to professionally promote your products and services to French consumers. 

If you can’t afford an official translator then why not ask a French friend or neighbour if they can help you out? Or translate it using DeepL or any tool other than Google Translate, and then ask them to review it for you. You’ll be surprised how many anomalies they will find. Personally, I get my French teacher to check my business translations as part of my language course. It’s a win/win situation – she is paid to review my site and teach me French. At the same time, I’m learning the correct business lingo to promote my services.

Boost your business

Toubon Law is not all bad news and you should look on the positive side. If your website is in French and English you are potentially increasing your customer base and boosting your sales. Now isn’t that a good enough reason to get your website translation completed tout de suite ?

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions about this, or any other article please get in touch.

Shirley Atkinson

Website Usability Testing & Content Writing Services

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

Contact

Need some advice? 

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

a typical testing day

“Shirley at SAA I.T provides an excellent service. Her test report was clear and detailed. I was very impressed by the advice, solutions and instructions – I was able to apply many of the devices. However, with my work commitments I decided to hand over the website and let Shirley work her magic. In much faster time than me, Shirley designed and developed it into a professional website that will be a great asset to my business.”

Nicola, Hot Tubs In France

“What is it you actually do?”

Back in the old days, when I was a test consultant in the UK, it was probably easy to describe a normal testing day. But here in France my work has changed so much, and all for the better. Instead of working for large companies, my focus is now on helping small businesses improve their online presence. So let me try and tell you, in a few words, what a typical testing day is like.

Early start

I’m not a good sleeper. My head hits the pillow and I can be asleep in a few minutes, but it’s staying asleep that’s my problem. And I wish I could blame it on something – old age my husband says. I usually wake around 4 or 5am most days, lie there for an hour and eventually I get up, as quietly as possible. I’m so practiced at these ninja-like manoeuvres I could probably serve in the S.A.S. I slide from the bed, pick up my mobile from the bedside cabinet, nip to the loo and then glide stealthily across creaking floorboards, all by the dim light of my Fitbit.

So by the time my other half wakes up at 7am, (because I always forgot to unset the alarm) I have generally logged on to my PC, had a shot of strong black coffee and checked emails in my four personal and business mailboxes. 

Next task in my typical testing day? Social Media!

 

Being sociable

Trying to produce interesting and entertaining posts for my own business pages, as well as client ones isn’t as easy as it might sound. And when you have to publish something every day then it can be a bit daunting. However, what I generally do about once a week is spend a day researching topical and trending items, that are relevant to the business pages I manage. I post on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google My Business (GMB) for myself and some clients. Luckily, with Facebook and Instagram, posts can be scheduled in advance, which means I get them all done in a morning and only have to publish on LinkedIn and GMB daily. But usually I have already picked the images, ‘inspirational quotes’, and drafted the content at the start of the week.

French lessons

We moved to France in 2017 and I will make an effort to have a conversation in French with my friends and neighbours. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I know they have led such interesting and varied lives, and I want to hear their stories. So I have 2 hours of lessons on a Monday morning – which definitely helps to exercise the brain cells. Plus there is regular homework to fit into a testing day. But I’m not complaining, I just wish I could learn quicker so I could chat with the neighbours about something other than the weather! Big shout out toLaetitia Poulter my very patient French tutor.

Blogging

As you have probably noticed, it’s been a while since I wrote my own blog, but only because I’m regularly creating blogs for my clients. Blogging can take up a lot of time, especially if the client wants a specific topic covered which requires extensive research. But I enjoy writing, and I have received some great feedback from my clients and their readers, which makes everything worthwhile. 

Great website report by Shirley. Very thorough and easy to read and implement. It was essential to have a pair of expert eyes review my website and there were quite a few quick fixes that I made after Shirley’s report. The report covered loading speed, functionality, spelling, grammar amongst many other tests

Sarah Adams – Loire Valley Llamas

Website reviews

A lot of my work comes as a result of the free business website reviews that I offer. I advertise the review service on my website and social media, and in particular, on several Facebook business groups. On average I can probably get through two website review per testing day. Anyone can ask for a review and they will receive my honest and unbiased feedback. I try not to criticise people because the majority of these business owners are individual entrepreneurs like myself, and have never built their own website before. So it’s a massive achievement for anyone to do that on top of all the other day to day business tasks, and taking care of their family.

Time for a review. fear of criticism. a testing day

Be constructive

However, there are those who seem to make it their daily mission to upset or publicly belittle others. And it was finding out how demoralised one of my clients felt when this happened to her that really brought home to me how distressing negative feedback can be. So I always word my feedback reports carefully, and I highlight the good points as well as the not so good. I also make a point of telling them that, at the end of the day, it’s only my opinion but as a visitor – and potential customer – to their website. If they don’t agree with the comments they don’t have to take any action, and I don’t get upset about it. In most instances, I’m happy to say that people do accept the feedback in the way I hope it should be taken, which is as constructive, not destructive, criticism. 

So far, I have not had a bad review, but if and when I do then I will act on their comments, and respond in a positive and professional manner (whilst silently slapping myself around the head).

Always learning

As I touched on earlier, some of my paid work comes from the free reviews. If someone has struggled to publish their website in the first place, it can be a daunting task having to make changes to fix any layout or navigation issues that I might have found. So they ask me if I can help them out. To be honest, this works well for everyone. I learn about different website design tools, apps and search engine optimisation (SEO), they get an improved site and their customers get a better user experience. It’s a win-win situation. 

Added bonus

The biggest advantage for me in doing the website reviews is that I find out about new businesses, great products and services that I might not have noticed before. And I have even bought from a few of them! Whether I buy something or not, I will always try to ‘like and share’ their business pages and posts to give them a bit of a boost. If 2020 has taught me one thing, it is to try and support small businesses as much as possible. 

Picky or perfectionist?

I have lost a client this year because they couldn’t keep up with home and business expenses during COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve heard of so many others that have closed permanently. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I can work from home, then it could easily have been me. The support of family, good friends and loyal clients has got us through this dreadful year. Yes, we have had to claim some help from the government during the worst months, but thankfully my regular client work has kept our heads above water. I have also been fortunate enough to pick up some software testing work for a large pharmaceutical company, thanks to a recommendation from an old work colleague. But testing in any shape or form makes me happy. I love finding bugs and helping to put things right. My husband says it’s because I’m picky and I have OCD, I prefer to say it’s because I’m a perfectionist. I’m still working on getting him right – but that’s another story and a different kind of testing day, and a long-term project!

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. If you didn’t like it please let me know. And if you did like it, then can you also let me know. 

Shirley Atkinson – SAA I.T Testing

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

Contact

Need additional assistance? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

How To Make Your Content Readable


If like me you spend a lot of time reading from a screen you will appreciate well written content. And I’m not talking about potential eye-strain. This is about your content being readable. Whether it’s email, website text or a blog, reading from a screen can be difficult.

Let’s talk about blogs first, because generally they will be the longest and most frequently written. As well as being relevant and interesting, your blog posts have to be readable. If they’re not, then your audience probably won’t even finish reading them. 

Child holding his face in his hands

Know your audience

First of all, make sure your text is at the right level for your target audience. For example, when I prepare instruction manuals for system users I keep it simple. I write them as if every reader is a new user, and that way everybody will understand it. User Guides are a good example because they’re not just for trainees. Experienced users will refer to them too, especially if there is an area they’re not familiar with. 

Blogging is the same. It’s easy for me to be enthusiastic about website testing because it’s my job. But if I’m going to write an article about how to improve your website, it has to be interesting and readable for my target audience. 

Plan your paragraphs

When you’re starting any blog make it clear from the beginning what the topic is, then go into more detail as you continue writing. This helps the reader understand the concept of your article from the outset. Try not to make your paragraphs too long, and keep your sentences short as well.

Writing in a notebook

How many times have you started to read something and had to start again because the sentences drag on? Sentences containing more than 20 words are considered to be too long. Also, if they are shorter there is less chance of you making grammatical errors. 

Check out the example below. This paragraph is an extract from a Yoast.com blog post. I have edited it to show you how not to write a paragraph.

If you really want original pictures that fit your post you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture; one that can never be found on another blog and on top of that this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post so if you’re blogging about your day-to-day life taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs or for a company blog or a technical blog or anything else for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.

Punctuation

Even with a few commas in there to break up the sentences, it is still very difficult to follow. The sentences are far too long. Think about how you have a conversation. You don’t talk without taking a breath, so why would you expect someone to read without punctuation?

This is the original, unedited version of the same paragraph. 

If you really want original pictures that fit your post, you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture, one that can never be found on another blog. On top of that, this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post. If you’re blogging about your day-to-day life, taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs. For a company blog or a technical blog, or for Yoast.com for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.

Simply put

The other thing to consider is vocabulary. Try to limit the use of long words because if they have four or more syllables they are considered difficult to read. I have read articles where the author appears to have deliberately thrown in long words. It puts me off a bit because then I start to wonder whether they are just trying to be clever, or if they are trying to confuse me?

Of course, depending on your blog topic you might need to use advanced vocabulary and terminology. But if your paragraphs and sentences aren’t too long, then it should still be readable. 

Transition words

My business website is on WordPress, and there is a really useful tool that you can use to help create readable content. Yoast SEO checks the sentence and paragraph lengths as you’re writing. It also checks whether you are using enough transition words and sub-headings. These are all elements which make your content more readable.

Great article with good readable content

It annoyed the hell out of me to start with, because I just could not grasp ‘transition words‘.  But I’m fairly happy with this article at the minute, because I can see I have got two green traffic lights for SEO and Readability.

You probably use transition words quite naturally when you are speaking. However, it can be difficult to use them in the right place when you are writing. And when you are trying to include enough transition words to improve the readability, it’s very tempting to use the same ones. This is another ‘No-No’. Try to avoid repetition and using the same words over and over and over again.

Because I draft my blogs in a word or Google document, if I’m struggling to come up with an alternative word I use the inbuilt grammar and spell-checking tools. So to find a similar word I ‘right-click’ in my document and check out the synonyms.  This will give you other examples of words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as the word you have highlighted. It’s really useful, and is yet another way to keep your readers happy, joyful and elated. 

If you want your readers to get to the end of your blog post, make sure that your text is easy to read. Don’t make your text more difficult than you have to. Avoid long sentences and write clear paragraphs.

Yoast SEO

Finally

My top tip though is read whatever you have written out loud before you publish it. Reading on screen is difficult and it’s easy to miss spelling and grammatical errors. If you read it out loud it will also help you find sentences that are too long. 

If you have enjoyed reading this article please ‘like and share’ to support a small business.

Sharing is Caring! 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2020 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need additional assistance? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed