Small Business Content Marketing Tips

by Janet Attard

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Content marketing is one marketing tool that can help new customers find your business and establish the value of your product or service at the same time. Here’s how you can put content marketing to work for your business.

content marketing
Image source: Depositphoto.com

Most people think of content marketing as a promotional activity that’s relatively new, but other than the name “content marketing” there’s nothing new about it. In fact, savvy marketers were promoting themselves by distributing content on the early commercial online services years before the Internet as we know it today existed.

Content marketing has long been used in print, too. Attorneys and other professionals who didn’t advertise promoted themselves by writing articles that appeared in professional journals. The articles included brief blurbs describing the author’s credentials and company name.

And then, too, there have always been those recipes that food companies give away at supermarkets or embed in popular ladies magazines to help sell gelatin, cocoa, and other food products.

In fact, the only “new” thing about content marketing–other than someone giving it a nameis that it has become an industryan industry that’s predicted to $217 billion dollars by 2021. The reason? The Internet has made it easy to research the pros and cons of every purchase and every vendor before talking to a salesperson or consultant or stepping foot in a store.

Why Content Marketing Is Important for Small Business 

Content marketing is important because it’s how customers today learn about and choose products and services to buy. The right content can get your product or service noticed and keeps it on the prospect’s radar as they move through the buying cycle from product discovery to final choice. Even if your business gets most of its customers from personal contacts, referrals, and recommendations, the people who may want to do business with you are going to go online to learn more about you and what you sell before they make a commitment to buy from you.

RELATED: Top Content Marketing Mistakes

Today, customers go online to figure out what kind of product or service will solve a problem or fill a need, then they search for information to help them determine which features they want. They look for answers to questions like “How much memory do I need in a computer that will be used to play Minecraft and other games?” “Is granite or quartz better for kitchen counters?” “How much does it cost to build a small business website?” “Where to buy bulletproof glass?” “How to choose a landscaper in San Francisco?”

If you have content on your website that provides factual answers to common questions asked by your target market, you’ll help establish yourself as an expert and therefore a potential vendor. (All those personal contacts you make at networking events and tradeshows are likely to look around your website for information before they consider calling you or coming into your shop.) Your content may also get found by search engines and show up high in search results, bringing you potential customers you would never have gotten on your own.

Once a consumer or business buyer knows what features they want in a product, they compare the benefits of one brand to another and one vendor to another. They check out social media comments, reviews, pricing, and anything that will help them make the best choice. They do all their research and pretty much make up their mind about which product they want and which company they want to buy from before they speak with any salesperson – even when they are making major purchases.

What Kind of Content Should Your Business Produce and Distribute?

To reap the most benefits from content marketing, plan on developing content related to each phase of the buying cycle. Start by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. What do they want to know and what might they search for when they first realize they have a problem or need, but aren’t yet aware of products or services that will address their needs? What kinds of questions do they ask? What are their main concerns? Once they’ve figured out what type of product or service they need, what else do they ask? What to they compare? What are their chief considerations?

RELATED: How to Generate Content Ideas

You can write articles or blog posts that address each of their questions. For example, if you sell driveway resurfacing services, you might have an article on whether it is better to repair or replace your driveway and others about the benefits and pitfalls of tar, concrete, pebbles, bricks, and pavers for the driveway surface. To show your expertise and help feed the information cravings of people who are ready to buy, you might have articles or blog posts talking about and showing the steps involved in surfacing a driveway. Before and after photos (photos are content, too!) and testimonials from happy customers would be additional content that can help nail the sale, without “selling.”

Getting Your Content Consumed

Content marketing uses information to sell instead of high-pressure sales pitches. But all the content (information) in the world won’t do you much good if it doesn’t get found! To get the content found, you have to promote it. Here are 10 ways to promote your content.

RELATED: 16 Content Marketing Myths

  1. Have an email signup page or other call to action requiring people to give you contact information on every page of your website.
  2. Make sure your business card has a link to your website and also includes a link to sign up for a newsletter or mailing list. (If you can’t fit the link for the newsletter signup on the front of your business card, put it on the back.)
  3. Send out a newsletter or other mailing at least monthly pointing people to information on your website, special offers, photos of what you sell, or other information that will be of interest to your readers. (Photos, videos, coupons, infographics, and even audio clips are all “content”, too, provided they contain something your readers want to know or have.)
  4. Include a forward to a friend button in all your newsletters and mailings.
  5. Post a short summary or teaser of your content on your social media pages and link to your website for readers to read the full document. 
  6. Create a lead magnet such as a helpful checklist or other informational guide and use it to acquire prospects’ contact information. When they fill out a form to request the free information, add their contact name to your mailing list or an autoresponder so you can follow up and send them additional information and calls to action.
  7. Buy ads on search engines and social media sites to point to your content. But test your ads and watch the costs vs ROI. Online ads work well if you are selling high-ticket items or if you are selling products or services that customers buy on a continuing basis. If you have one $29.95 item to sell and customers typically buy one of them, and don’t need to repurchase, then online advertising may be too costly.
  8. Create a printed flyer (something you can print on your own printer will work) to hand out at local networking events promoting and pointing to your content on your website.
  9. Offer to be a speaker at local and industry groups – and have a giveaway containing your content (an ebook or white paper, or special offer for attendees only) that people can request by giving you their contact information.
  10. Create a press release that summarizes some of your content and includes a link to download the complete report. Distribute that to the media and also to bloggers and websites that talk about your industry. Post the press release on your own website, too, and then post links to the release in social media.

Content marketing isn’t a substitute for other marketing. But if you create good content and focus on getting it found, it can be an invaluable aid in winning new customers and building sales.

© 2019 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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6 Ways to Use YouTube to Market a Small Business

Marketing with YouTube
Image source: Depositphoto.com

If you’re looking for ways to get word out about the products and services your small business sells, YouTube is a marketing tool you shouldn’t ignore. Its vast audience (over a billion users!) and multimedia format provide a highly effective way for you to communicate your brand message to your audience. And most small businesses can do so at a relatively low cost. Here are six ways your business gain attention and interest from posting to YouTube.

1. Use YouTube as a way to connect personally with customers

There’s a very old maxim in the sales game: “You’re really just selling yourself.” In other words, consumers and business customers want to buy from people they know and trust. YouTube provides an exceptional medium for you to present yourself and make your audience feel like they know you. Post one or more YouTube videos to introduce yourself, talk about your qualifications and why you’re in business. You should make customers comfortable and show them that you genuinely care about helping them solve their problems or meet their special needs and that you care about their experience with your products. Keep these short -no more than a minute or two. Remember, your goal is to get the customer to make a quick, favorable impression about you and your business. You don’t want to bore them with an overabundance of details.

2. Use YouTube to showcase your products’ top features

To show your customers why your products are easy to use, reliable, and of high quality, take close-up videos of them in action. Upload several different videos that show off your products from various angles. Post videos of your products in use, which will show off your products’ capabilities and make customers think about how they might use the product to meet their individual needs. Doing so turns abstract benefits into viable, real-world solutions in your customers’ minds.

Ideally, you should shoot the videos with a high-quality camera, but if you don’t have a high-quality camera and your operating on a tiny budget, use your smartphone camera or a good point and shoot digital camera. For the best results, script the video in advance, planning exactly what you’ll do and say, and edit the script so it contains only information that’s essential to know. When you record, speak clearly and pretend there’s a customer standing where the camera is located. Speak to that pretend person. Make your showcase videos three minutes or less in length. If you can’t show all the features in three minutes, use multiple videos to demo the product.

RELATED: How to Make a Video on the Cheap

3. Use YouTube as a platform to prove your own expertise

Your customers and prospects are looking for the best product or service they can afford to satisfy their needs. They want the products or services, the company and the people who represent the company to be the top in their field. Bragging about expertise doesn’t cut it. The way to let your personal or business expertise shine through is to post informative videos containing tips and hints, results of studies you’ve conducted, case histories describing solutions you’ve provided, and other material that demonstrate your expertise and make it believable to the audience. If you are camera-shy or don’t have anyone who can take a good video of you talking to the camera, create and narrate a short PowerPoint presentation. 

4. Use YouTube as a medium to present customer testimonials

It’s one thing if your customers see you talking about your product and showing the world how it works. It’s quite another if 10 people sing your praises. Customers identify with other customers, so if you have some customers who rave about your business, don’t be afraid to get their permission and take videos of them talking about their experiences. Whether the customer was particularly pleased with you, your products, or both, his or her message will be a powerful voice in favor of your business. To encourage customers to give you these video testimonials, don’t try to get them to come to your office or go to a recording studio. If you’re speaking to someone in person, simply ask if you could record their comments and then whip out your smartphone and start recording. The videos will seem more true to life than they would if they were recorded in a formal setting, and thus gain more interest from viewers. 

RELATED: Video Marketing Mistakes That Cost You Sales

Whether your products are complex or not, upload instructional videos that demonstrate in a step-by-step way how to use your product for various tasks. Doing so makes sense from a marketing point of view because buyers often want to know what’s involved with using a product or service before they buy it. Other potential customers may want to have videos available because they prefer viewing videos to reading a manual. (The how-to-use videos will provide an added benefit for you, too, since they may cut down on support calls.)

The ideal length for instructional videos according to one study is 6 minutes or less. One might cover how to put together the product (if assembly is required), another might be operating and/or safety tips, another could be special features or accessories. If you are demoing a software application, your videos could demonstrate how to get started, and how to use each feature in the software. The how-to videos you post will go hand-in-hand with your testimonials, other personable customer messages and “in action” videos so that your customers get a complete picture of you and your products.

6. As a medium for real-time marketing

For an even more personal touch, consider hosting live video events. You can do so on a budget by scheduling a YouTube Live Stream. Use the event to launch a new product, run a webinar, answer customer questions, interview experts on subject matter related to your field, or run a workshop. Your event will be broadcast live on YouTube and can then be added to your YouTube channel.

Market your marketing videos

Once you’ve recorded and posted the videos, be sure to market them. With an estimated 500 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, you will need to promote your videos to help get them found. Advertise your video with links on your website, your email list, and postings to your social media pages. The more opportunities you give prospects to interact with your brand, the better your chances are of winning new business. 

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

How to Use Lead Magnets for Attracting More Email Subscribers

using lead magnets to get email subscribers
Image source: Depositphotos.com

Email marketing has been around for many years, and it is one of the most cost-effective lead building and lead nurturing techniques available. But getting people to sign up for an email list can be difficult. Depending on whose statistics you read, average email list signup rates hover around 2 percent and many businesses have even lower rates. One way to boost those opt-in rates (and improve the results of your email marketing) is to use a lead magnet.

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is something of additional value you provide every new subscriber in exchange for them providing you their email address on your opt-in form. Typically, it’s a discount or unique content that can be useful for your audience. Marketers often call lead magnets ethical bribes and they are proven to significantly boost signup conversion rates for any website.

In this article, we’ll show you the nuts and bolts of creating lead magnets and using them to build an email list. We’ll also provide a few incentive ideas that should help you get started.

How to Implement Lead Magnets: a Quick Step-By-Step Guide

If you are skeptical about the ROI of lead magnets, here are two facts that will convince you.

First, lead magnets convert website visitors into subscribers more effectively than generic “Subscribe to updates” calls-to-action, and you’ll find enough evidence of that online. Take the famous case study shared by an SEO expert Brian Dean who was able to increase subscription rates from .54%. to 4.82% using a lead magnet.

Second, implementing this tactic consumes less time than it may seem at first. Even if you decide that content is the only value you can offer in exchange for a subscription, it doesn’t mean you have to produce it from scratch. There are several formats we’ll talk about in this post allowing you for creating a decent lead magnet in less than a few hours.

For you to get a better picture of potential time investment, we’ve broken down the entire process into specific steps.

1. Choose an incentive for your audience

For e-commerce websites, discounts, free shipping, and special deals might be the first, the most obvious, and the most effective idea. But what should you offer if you have a completely different business model not related to selling physical items?

Think from the perspective of your customer persona. As a business owner, you must have a good understanding of your audience’s pain points, and the solutions they are looking for. When starting, you can use several sources of inspiration: comments on your blog, queries your support team receives, user feedback, niche forums. If you’re still hesitating, a short website survey might provide valuable insights and be a great help. For example, many bloggers use the simple “What is your biggest business struggle right now?” to gather ideas for future blog posts and lead magnets.

2. Decide what the right format for your lead magnet is

Although eBooks used to be the most popular type of a lead magnet, today people tend to be more incentivized by shorter forms of content. You can blame the infamous attention span or the volume of content available on the Internet, but chances are, a piece of information that can be consumed fast and applied instantly will be more popular than a multi-page report.

And this is good news because you don’t have to allocate too much time and effort for lead magnet creation. Once you decide on the problem you’ll be helping your subscribers to solve, consider such formats as a checklist, a cheat sheet, a toolkit, a video tutorial. Given that you probably have all the required knowledge and experience to prepare it, creating a lead magnet should not take you longer than a couple of hours. Bryan Harris, the founder of Videofruit, even suggests creating lead magnets on the basis of your popular blog posts as a time-saving technique.

Depending on your business, other options may include access to a webinar, a series of video lessons, a free email course, a short consultation, and more.

3. Offer it proactively on your email subscription forms

Popups and slide-ins are the best way to promote a lead magnet and get new subscribers. They provide enough real estate to create an eye-catching call-to-action, and they are simply proven to be more effective at collecting emails. Even without any special offer, popups tend to drive at least 2 times more signups than an embedded opt-in form.

If you don’t know how to add a popup opt-in form to your website, there are quite a few apps available on the market. GetSiteControl subscription forms might be a good solution for you to start with. It allows for easily creating classic modals, slide-ins, time-delayed, scroll-based, and exit-intent popups. Plus, with the $19/month price tag, it’s also quite affordable even for small business owners.

All you need to do is include the offer of a lead magnet on the most visited (and ideally the most relevant to the content of your lead magnet) website pages and set up the conditions under which a popup will appear.

4. Think through the delivery process

The most common way to deliver a lead magnet is through an email that follows a subscription confirmation message sent to every new subscriber.

Using your email marketing software, you can set up an automated email that will include a coupon code or a link leading to the promised piece of content. The latter can be a link to a PDF stored in your Dropbox and available for download – no reason to overthink this part.

Another way to deliver a lead magnet is through the subscription form itself. Once someone fills it out, right on the popup, you can display a “Thank you for subscribing” message along with the link for downloading the content.

7 Lead Magnet Examples From Various Business Niches

Now that you have the idea of what it takes to create a lead magnet in practice, let’s look at real-life examples: lead magnets that help different businesses collect email subscribers and don’t require creating new long-form content from scratch.

  1. Discount or free shipping. Naturally, these are the most obvious and probably the most popular options for e-commerce stores willing to build an email list. You can offer coupons a couple of seconds after a visitor lands on a webpage or right before they leave it – using the exit-intent technology. Both moments are when the visitors’ attention is at its peak.
  2. Guide. Guides can be created based on the queries from your audience or your best-performing blog posts. Ideally, you want a guide to be relevant to the page it is offered on. For instance, in exchange for a subscription, Business Know-How blog offers a free guide with 33 ways to build an email list. It’s promoted on the pages relevant to the topic of email marketing and you get the link to download it via email once you confirm your subscription.
  3. Toolkit. A “toolkit” is an umbrella term used for curated lists of helpful resources: tools, formulas, templates, and insights. For example, Semrush, a well-known SEO platform offers a toolkit for creating a successful PPC campaign. What makes their lead magnet offer truly tempting is a brief summary of what exactly is included to the toolkit and how long approximately it will take you to implement the tips shared there.
  4. Cheat sheet. A cheat sheet is just a concise set of notes for quick reference conveniently summarizing lengthy and often technical pieces of content. People love cheat sheets because they are time savers and typically provide complex information in a digestible format. You’re likely to see them on IT-related blogs offering cheat sheets for using specific technology.
  5. Checklist. This is another great opportunity to repurpose some of your popular blog posts into a lead generation incentive. WPBuffs, a WordPress Website Support and Maintenance Company, offers 2 checklists to achieve high page loading times and make sure your WP website is secure as their lead magnet. When you download them, each one is literally a 4-page PDF with 12 checkboxes you can even conveniently print out if you want.
  6. Templates and spreadsheets. If your audience includes beginners at any niche, templates can be a winning format of a lead magnet for you. We’ve seen these incentives offered by bloggers teaching social media, photography and videography, realtors, web designers, and even healthy lifestyle magazines.
  7. Webinar access. If you’re planning to run a webinar on the topic you have unique expertise in, that could be a strong incentive for people to subscribe. Announce the date and time of the event and ask your website visitors to subscribe if they want to receive the access link. Jon Morrow, the founder of Smart Blogger successfully uses this technique to share his knowledge and attract new email subscribers.

As of now, email shows the highest ROI of all marketing channels. Therefore, even a 1% increase of your subscriber base will bring significant value for your business, and using lead magnets is one way to achieve that level of growth fast.

Our advice? If you’ve never tried using incentives to increase signups before, don’t go for perfection. For starters, pick a lead magnet you can create over a weekend, place it on the subscription popup, and A/B test the copy. Then optimize your offer until you see the desired conversions rates. Good luck!

How to Make Your Website Faster

speed up your website
Image source: iStock.com

Remember the days of dialup Internet connections? The screeching sound of the modem connecting followed by the click of a link and the wait that felt like it took hours? Expectations have certainly changed. Many Internet users today have never heard the sound of a modem, and most don’t have the patience to wait for pages that load slowly.

While the experts don’t agree on an exact figure, in order to deliver an outstanding user experience, page load speeds of no more than 3 seconds should be your goal both to satisfy web surfers and search engines.

What does that mean for you, the business owner? If your page is slow, you’re losing customers. Here’s how you speed up your website.

Measure Your Site Speed

There are plenty of free ways to measure your website’s performance. One is Google page speed insights. Another is webpagetest.org. Simply enter your site’s URL and it will give you detailed analytics of your site speed. If it’s under 3 seconds, you don’t have a speed problem. If its higher, you have some changes to make.

Along with using an online tool to measure your site’s speed, test it with human eyes. Are there elements that take longer to load than others? Ask friends or family to evaluate and provide honest feedback.

Optimize Your Website

Website optimization is a topic much too large to cover in a single article but here are some of the basics:

Optimize Images

Ultra high-resolution images don’t work on the web. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator have a “Save for Web” option that allow you to shrink the resolution of your photos without losing noticeable quality. Free websites and apps (like Optimizilla) help you accomplish the same goal.

If you’re using WordPress, plugins like EWWW Optimizer automatically optimize your images upon upload. Image file sizes should be as small as possible without losing quality.

Remove Unnecessary Plugins

By far the most popular way to build a website is through WordPress. If you’re using WordPress, you likely have plugins running. Keep plugins to a minimum and delete any that are unnecessary.

Experiment by turning off all plugins and measuring your site speed again. If you see a dramatic difference, your plugins are slowing you down. Turn on one at a time, measure again, and make decisions.

Most people install caching programs that are designed to improve the load speed of a website. Ironically, some of these plugins are so large that they either offer little improvement or may contribute to slower load speeds. If you install a caching plugin, test your site before and after the install. If there’s no improvement, get rid of it.

RELATED: How to Keep Online Shoppers from Abandoning Their Cart

Pick the Right Theme

If you’re using WordPress or purchasing a site template, be careful. Some themes are so large and feature-rich, that they slow page load times to a crawl. If your site is an informational site without the need for a lot of bells and whistles, a simple, often free theme is enough. If you want to keep your theme but it’s contributing to slow load times, hire a freelance developer to look for scripts that are loading in the background that your site isn’t using.

Upgrade Your Web Hosting

Are you paying $5 per month for web hosting and feeling really good about the unbelievable deal you locked in? Like anything in life, you get what you pay for.

Those cheap plans work fine if your site is small and simple but as your business grows, you’re going to need a more powerful (and expensive) platform. Talk to your web host about a virtual private server. You’ll likely pay at least $35 per month but VPS pricing is quickly dropping. You may also need some help setting it up.

Give Cloudflare a Try

The little known secret to address speed is Cloudflare. To explain Cloudflare in detail would require a lot of techno-geek talk but basically, it’s a Content Delivery Network. A CDN is a giant network of servers around the world that hold copies of your website.

When somebody accesses your site, it’s delivered from the closest server allowing for faster load times. If you want to learn more about the nuts and bolts, go to cloudflare.com. Its introductory service is free.

RELATED: 12 Ways To Get More Business From Your Website

Bottom Line

Studies show that tenths of seconds count. Shaving fractions of a second off of your load time will keep people on your site longer. If you rely on your site to do some of the heavy lifting that comes with running your business, speeding it up is worth the investment of time and money. 

Looking for a reliable webhost?

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© 2019 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

What Should You Put on Your Website?


Image source: Photospin.com

It seems like something so simple but in reality, figuring out what to include on your website isn’t easy. It takes a lot of testing of ideas and a knowledge of how people behave online.

However, there is some content that every website should have and most likely, you’re missing some of it. Other items aren’t so straightforward.

The Basics

The basics aren’t so basic. For reasons that make web experts scratch their heads, some websites are missing the most obvious content so let’s lay out the non-negotiables.

Your Logo at the Top- No need to get artsy with design. People expect to see your logo in the upper left corner of your site. It could be in the center but make sure it’s there.

Company Name- Looking “trendy” doesn’t make you exempt from including your company name. And it can’t be embedded in an image. Google can’t read images so if your company name isn’t in text format, Google won’t see it.

Your Contact Information- address with a clickable Google maps link if you have a physical presence and clickable phone number so people can easily get in touch with you. This information should be easy to find within seconds. A contact link in the foot and/or header is ideal.

What You Do- At the top of your website, you should say what you do in as few words as possible. Uber has an image of a smiling person in the driver’s seat of a car with text that says, “Get there.” You may find it hard to be that concise but that’s the idea.

Text About Them Rather Than You- You’re proud of your business, and you should be, but your customer probably doesn’t care. Unless you’re writing an “About” page, nobody wants to read how many clients you’ve serviced or how your service is “top-notch” or “better than the rest.” They want to know how you can solve their problem. Speak to that.

Content Should Constantly Change– If your website is stale, your customers will believe that your business is too. Keep content fresh, relevant, timely, and all about giving to them in some way.

Standard Pages- You still need an about page, a contact us page, and a homepage but for informational purposes, don’t add much more. You don’t need multiple pages of company history or a page that has the logos of everybody you’ve worked for. The fewer pages the better.

RELATED: 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Web Host

E-Commerce Sites

Now that you have the basics for all sites, let’s look specifically at e-commerce sites. E-commerce is all about selling but that doesn’t mean that it’s a total hard sell the whole time.

A Blog- You may or may not need this depending on your offerings. If you’re a specialty e-commerce site, a blog can make a lot of sense. Mr. Porter is a UK based specialty menswear e-commerce site well known for their blog. Articles like, “What to wear to the Gym this January” and, “A Dopamine-Releasing Recipe From an Expert Chef” are examples of how the company creates an immersive experience that speaks to a lifestyle instead of just selling.

User-Generated Content- Social media has changed how we shop. We care what the company tells us but we put more weight on the opinions of customers just like us. Have a place for people to post reviews of the products you sell.

The Price- Don’t be shy about putting the price where people can see it right away. You want qualified buyers and they don’t want to waste their time. Stay away from things like, “click here to see the price.”

Easy Purchasing Experience- The more the customer must click, the more likely you’ll lose the sale. As you think through content on your site, how can you get them from learning about the product to entering their credit card information the fastest?

Lead Generation Sites

Lead generation sites aren’t as much interested in directly selling the customer a product or service—although they might be later on. For now, they want to build a list of qualified people or want to generate traffic for ad clicks or other monetization strategies that don’t include direct selling. Often these are blog sites. Here are a few items a blog site should have.

A Sign-Up Form- Actually, nearly every site should have a sign-up form but for lead generation sites, getting somebody onto your e-mail list is the ultimate win. Popups still work but people are growing increasingly annoyed by them and Google is reportedly now penalizing what it calls “intrusive interstitials.” Google doesn’t want popups that cover main page content where the user has to click off of it to continue on the site. You still need a sign-up form but how can you do it without annoying your reader?

An RSS Feed- Yes, RSS is getting a little old but it’s still widely used in mobile apps and computers. For people who read a lot of blogs, an RSS feed is how they know you posted a new article.

Video Content- You can still get a lot of mileage out of text posts but content is quickly moving more toward video. If you haven’t explored video content, now’s the time to get in the game. Your phone provides a great a way to get into video blogging and services like Facebook Live allow for great content without a lot of work.

Expert Posts- You’ve likely noticed that everybody seems to have a blog now and many have blogs about content they’re not experts in. Find experts in the field and interview them. Make blog posts highly authoritative and valuable. Rule of thumb—if you’re getting your information from other blog posts, you’re probably not standing out.

Intentional Call to Action- If your goal is to get them signed up on your e-mail list, have a signup call to action at the end of every post. You might even embed a sign-up form into the post. Don’t let them read your content without asking them to sign up unless you have an intentional reason.

Bottom Line

Don’t forget about the basics but depending on the type of site, there are other items you should also have. Like anything with content marketing, test, retest, and test again. Be willing to give up what you believe are good ideas if the data tell a different story.

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© 2017 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Choosing The Best Web Design and Hosting Services

choosing a web designer and web host
Image source: StockUnlimited.com

Creating a website – cost vs results  
When you’re buying web hosting  and web design services, you may not always get what you pay for. High price is no assurance of good service from your web designer, web developer, or web hosting service.

Nor is it an assurance of services focused on your objectives and needs.  One organization paid several thousand dollars to have their web site designed and hosted for a year. The web site consisted of only a few pages of text and one graphic image. There were no databases, no complex graphical or programmatic components and no forms other than a simple Contact Us form to send email to the owners of the site. The entire job shouldn’t have taken more than a day or two to create. In fact, it could have been completed in less than a day using WordPress and one of the many WordPress templates that are available.

Other small business owners have paid equally high prices to have their web sites designed with slide shows or other bells and whistles the site visitors aren’t interested in an in some cases prevent the sites from being found  easily – or at all – in search engines.

On the flip side, very low prices offered by some hosting services and web developers may come with their own problems. Some low-cost web hosting services can cause your pages to be very slow to load (appear in a web browser). And a  web designer who quotes a much lower price than any other designers you contact may be inexperienced, take a long time to do the work, or be outsourcing work to individuals in countries where skilled workers are paid very little for their time. 

To avoid problems like these, you need to know what web services you actually need to buy.  

Steps to launching a website

Launching a web site is a process that involves several types of activities. Among them:

  • Registering a domain name (giving yourself a unique “address” on the web such as yourbusiness.com) Be sure that you register the domain yourself. Do not let a web developer register a site for you. The site represents you and your company. You need to own it. You need to be the person listed as the registrant, administrator and the billing contact. (You can also list yourself as the technical contact.) 
  • Choosing a web hosting service
  • Setting up the domain on a  webserver  (a special type of computer) at the web host
  • Setting up WordPress or some other content management system (CMS) that will allow you to make minor changes and add pages on your own without knowing html.
  • Planning the architecture of the site (in other words, how people will find your content and move through the site)
  • Designing web pages or choosing a ready-made template
  • Writing the editorial content for the web site

Depending on the nature of your site and how much work you can and want to do yourself, other services you may want to consider include these:

  • Designing original art work or licensing art, photos or video
  • Doing photography for the site
  • Editing and cropping photos to use on your site
  • Making sure basic search engine optimization (SEO) features are in place and utilized to help the site get found online
  • Setting up a shopping cart to allow visitors to make purchases (If the main purpose of the site is to sell, the entire site might be set up on an outsourced shopping cart such as Shopify or BigCommerce.)
  • Performing more extensive SEO services, such as link development
  • Creating any special programming needed to accomplish the site’s goals for the site.
  • Creating and managing pay-per-click advertising
  • Creating, placing and running other types of advertising online and offline
  • Maintaining the site on an ongoing basis

Choose web hosting, design and related services with care

Small businesses don’t always need all the services listed above. Which web development and marketing service your business needs depend on the purpose of your website.

Some web designers, hosting companies, and agencies offer “complete” packages that include setting up and hosting the site along with design, limited maintenance, SEO and even social media management.

Although using a single source to do all the work sounds convenient, it isn’t necessarily a good idea.  While there are some web development companies and agencies that can handle everything you need to get your website set up, the content created, and found on the web, man service providers  are better at one or two services than at others.

For instance, the web development company that includes SEO in its list of services may not be current on what’s working in SEO and what tactics should not be used.The person who is a whiz at computer programming may have no artistic abilities and no eye for graphic design. Someone who is capable of putting text into html may not know anything about creating the editorial content for the site or about marketing. (Don’t assume they can type well or spell correctly, either!) And, the company that hosts the web site may charge a small fortune to “design” your website, when all they do is plug your material into a cookie-cutter template that they use to “design” every web site they create. 

Furthermore, if you are charged a flat fee, you may wind up paying for services you don’t need, or overpaying for the ones you do need.

To make sure the price you are quoted is fair, ask the provider to give you an itemized list of services they provide and to specify the fee they are charging for each service.  

Get  itemized quotes from several vendors and compare them. If a web designer you have decided to work with recommends a particular web hosting company, ask them  why they recommend that provider. For web hosting, look at how much disk space you get, how much memory, how many email addresses, whether there is a limit on the number of “pages” or number of products you can have for the price quoted, how much bandwidth you are allowed (how much data can be transferred monthly for the fee), and what extra charges you’ll incur if you go over these amounts. You also want to ask if backup services are included or can be purchased at an extra cost. If your site will require database software, is there an extra charge for that?  Ask what kind of support they provide, too, and how fast they respond to requests for support. 

For web development, you want to know if the service provider will create original page templates, and if so, how many (often the home page of a site will have a slightly different look than the blog or article pages, for instance.)  Will they be setting up a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress so you can make small content changes or add new pages on your own? Will there be a way for you or someone you choose to add page titles and descriptions the search engines look for? Will the site generate a sitemap the search engines also look for?  

You’ll want to ask about graphics – will there be original art work on the site? Will you own those graphics? If there will be photos you don’t own, what will it cost you to license them to use on the site?  If you will have a complex site, you’ll want to ask the developer to list any other features or resources (such as a custom database) that you’ll need.  

Ask how long the web developer takes to answer support requests and make updates. Once your site is up, you may find you will need to wait any time you want a change made that is not an emergency.  Ask how many employees the company has, and if the person works alone, what happens if they are on vacation or otherwise unavailable and you need their support. Who covers for them?

You will need a written declaration from the web developer assigning you the copyright on all work they create for you. You need to own all original work done on or for your website and have the rights to change and control it on your own. If you don’t own all rights to the site, and don’t own the registration, if you have a dispute with your web developer in the future, they might hold your site or domain name hostage, preventing you from accessing it.

If you plan to sell online and you may want to consider using an outsourced storefront such as Shopify of BigCommerce (at least at first) instead of having an ecommerce system custom-built for you. The cost is likely to be less. (You may still need a web developer to set up the software for the outsourced storefront, but the work will go more quickly and should be a lot less expensive.) If the storefront provider takes a percent of sales, and what your options are for accepting credit cards online. 

Know the going rates

Be wary of deals that offer you a set number of “pages” unless you have no plans to add anything to your site after it is set up. A page requires very little space on a computer. If you only need to have a few “pages” on the internet, you shouldn’t have to pay more than $3 to $6 a month for hosting them, plus a reasonable hourly fee for taking your material and converting it into html web pages.  (Those prices are just for the hosting, not for design, writing or updating content.)  If you have a more complex site requiring  features such as one or more databases or a storefront, hosting costs will be higher. Compare prices, then search online for reviews of your short list.

Some web designers may offer to host your site on web servers they run in their own office. This is not recommended. A small company might not have anyone available on weekends or holidays to fix problems with the host computer should they occur. In addition, should you even have a dispute with the company you might find it difficult to get access to your web files.

Ask for references and check them

Before you agree to have anyone design your web site ask for references. Get the names and URLs of web sites they have designed for other companies. Look at those sites and see if you like them. Is the design of the pages attractive? Do they load quickly? Do they all look the same? Look around the sites for the email address of the owners and send them email. Ask if they were satisfied with the work that was done for them and if it was done in a timely fashion.

RELATED: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Web Host for Your Small Business

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Copyright 2018, Janet Attard
All Rights Reserved. Excerpted and updated from Chapter 14 of Business Know-How. May not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission

How to Make Money on the Web

If only you had a way to make more money! Your car needs brakes, Jimmy wants $89 to buy a new pair of sneakers, and the dentist just told you Julie needs braces. If only money grew on trees! But wait! What about the Internet? Heck, you already have a computer. And there are all these ads and stories about people making money online. Why not you? You could make money starting an Internet business, too. All you’ll need is a web site and that how-to manual you saw advertised for $97 dollars. Right?

Well, not quite… let me explain.

Yes, many people make money on the Internet. And yes, if you own any type of business you need an Internet presence.  But, despite the opportunity ads that claim you can get rich in your own “Internet business,” the Internet is not a “business” unless you are an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a web developer, or run a huge web portal like Yahoo. Neither is it a fast-track yellow brick road to wealth.

The Internet, you see, is a tool. True, it is a multifaceted tool. It can be used as a place to make sales and to market what you sell. It can be used for research and to communicate with your customers, and remote employees or contractors. It can be used to find people to work for your business, too. But just like carpenters’ tools or mechanics’ tools, having access to the tool doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it successfully to make money.

But what about all these people you hear about who are making money on the web? Not the Amazons and the Zappos of the world, but the “little” guys and gals, the ones who say they make anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 or more on the Internet? If they’re not running Internet businesses, what are they doing? And how can you do it, too?

The answer is that those who have succeeded in making money through the Internet have created a business with products and services that offer real or perceived value to their customers. The products may be information such as video training courses, e-books, software, apps, shippable products like soap, clothing, or jewelry. People also successfully sell writing services, design services on the web.  

But the Internet, by itself, isn’t what makes them successful. To make money online, they need the same things people have always needed to make money in their own business. Those include having desirable products and services with good profit margins, having a reasonably big market for those good and services, having the knowledge and money to reach that market, and products that satisfy their customers. These personal traits are needed, too: passion and willingness to persevere, experiment and learn the best ways to reach their market – online and offline.

You can do that, too. But don’t expect to make money overnight on the web. And don’t expect to make a killing overnight by purchasing a “business opportunity.” To be successful, you’ll have to put time and some money into developing a business concept that will work and that people will buy. Depending on who created it, that $97 course your saw advertised may help you learn some method for selling on the web, but chances are you’ll need to learn more than what the one course presents.

Before you start any business on the web (or offline, for that matter), ask yourself these questions.

  • How much do you really know much about this business?
  • Do you have all the skills needed for this business?
  • If you’re going to teach people to do something, do you know how to do it yourself? If you are going to start a business providing office support services, be sure you can type accurately and have excellent spelling and grammatical skills. If you are going to help small businesses with their marketing, you need to be able to market your own services to those small businesses.
  • Do you need to bring in cash right now from this activity because the bill-collectors are knocking on your door? (If so, get a part-time job until your cash situation eases.)
  • Do you know how much money this business will cost to get started and to run?
  • Can you afford to spend that much money? 
  • Do you understand how much time and commitment it will take to be successful? Have you talked to other business owners? 
  • Are you willing and able to devote that much time?
  • Is this really a product or service that people (other than your relatives and best friend) would be willing to buy?
  • Would they buy it at the price you’ll have to charge to be profitable?
  • Do you know how to find the people who will buy this product? And how to find them regularly?
  • Have you checked into the regulations for starting a business – and for starting this particular business?
  • Do you know how to get people to visit a web site without sending unsolicited mail?

If you can answer the above questions affirmatively, and if you know that people actually do use the Internet to buy the product or service you want to sell, then write a business plan – even a simple one – so you know what it will take to be successful. Then put up that web site and test the Internet as a means to bring in added income. Plan on being persistent and proactive. Business won’t come to you. You’ll have to carve out your own road to success one step at a time. As you move forward, remember, too, that it takes many years for most businesses to become an overnight success.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

5 Ways to Repurpose Content and Extend Its Reach

Repurposing content
Image source: Photospin.com

Content marketing might be a crucial part of your advertising endeavors in our digital age, but that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive. On the contrary, a 2015 article revealed that organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees shell out $335,200, on average, for content marketing. Moreover, companies with more than 1,000 workers regularly spend $1,057,300.

In light of these figures, it’s no surprise that so many companies are looking for ways to repurpose their existing content. Not only does reusing articles and posts save you money on content creation, but it also gives you the opportunity to reach new audiences for your products and services. After all, you can reformat your content to suit the needs and desires of different groups of people. Turn a blog into a visual post and draw new eyes to your business.

Here are some of the best ways to repurpose your old content and extend its reach.

1. Turning Blogs Into Email Marketing Content

If the blog section of your website is packed with interesting content, you might want to consider repurposing some of it into an e-newsletter or email marketing message. Consider updating older posts with fresh statistics and eye-catching images before re-sending them to existing customers. If you’re crafting a newsletter, you should also add a few new features, like client testimonials, fun facts, and even quotes from celebs or public figures that relate to your products.

RELATED: Small Business Content Marketing Tips

2. Turn Blogs Into an E-book

If you want to increase the size of your mailing list, consider offering customers something valuable, like a free informative e-book. Fortunately, you can reuse some of your old blogs rather than writing the book entirely from scratch. Start by collecting a group of blogs on similar subjects. For example, a local accountant might want to choose an assortment of blogs about maximizing tax deductions. Be sure to take the time needed to organize your blogs and create a logical structure and flow. You should also add an introduction and conclusion to give your blogs the feel of an actual book. Finally, you should consider adding worksheets or other materials. For best results, offer your e-book as a giveaway for loyal customers or those who sign up for your newsletter.

3. Turn Articles Into Infographics

The internet means that online customers are bombarded with information overload. If you want your content to stand out from the noise, consider turning some of your old web articles into arresting infographics. Ideal for visual learners, infographics present facts, numbers, lists, and statistics in a way that’s intriguing and easy to absorb. While many blogs could make strong infographics, experts recommend using this medium to tell a story, explain a complex process, or compare different products or services.

If you lack solid design skills, consider hiring a professional to craft an attractive infographic for your site. Be sure to create a basic sketch of the finished product, so the designer knows what you’re going for. Once the infographic is ready, share it on your website as well as your social media channels, newsletter, and other outlets to get the most for your money.

4. Repost Blogs

Posting your old blogs on other websites is a great way to repurpose old content while boosting your site’s SEO ranking. Start by selecting some of your best blogs. You might want to consider engagement rates or even ask a trusted friend or colleague what content is strongest. Then, look for channels where you can repost your work. LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, and Reddit are all platforms that allow users to share content and reach new customer bases. For best results, avoid promotional pieces that could be perceived as “salesy” and are more likely to alienate readers than intrigue them.

RELATED: 7 Tips for Blogging Success

If you’re only posting about product offerings and special sales, your social media presence is probably rather lackluster. Instead, give your Facebook and Twitter pages an upgrade by reusing some of your old content. Facts from whitepapers, brochures, product sheets, and blogs all make for good social media content. Additionally, they can help send traffic back to your website.

As a business owner, you probably already know that it’s important to include a mix of informative and promotional content on your social media pages. However, you might not realize that visuals are exceptionally important in this medium, as well. In fact, a recent study revealed that Instagram records 58 times more social engagement than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter. If you want your social followers to be truly “social,” make sure your posts include pictures.

RELATED: What Should I Post on Social Media?

Repurposing content might feel like an easy way out of creating new material. However, the truth is that top marketers regularly use this tactic to get more sets of eyes on their goods. In fact, 29 percent of marketers reuse content on a regular basis. So, join the pack and start thinking of ways to recycle your old content and make it shine.

 

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Writing for Web part5

REVISION FOR WEB Mary went to the grocery store, she needed to buy milk, she had invited her friends Sally and Jerry over for breakfast, Sally and Jerry like to drink coffee with milk. Mary went to the grocery store; she needed milk. She had invited her friends Sally and Jerry over for breakfast. Mary went to the store for milk. Her friends Sally and Jerry were coming over for breakfast. Use Simple Sentence Structures Consider this long, unwieldy sentence from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If our forefathers had written this for the Web, they might have revised it to say: We hold these truths as self-evident. All are created equal. All have certain unalienable Rights. Among the rights are Strip each sentence to its cleanest components. -William Zinsser, On Writing Well • Life • Liberty • Pursuit of Happiness For printed content, readers are more likely to follow a complex thought process. With a book, for example, it’s easy to flip back a few pages to reread and absorb content. But on the Web, remember that your reader is typically in a hurry and not prone to reflection or study. The reader darts around on the page and only lands on each sentence for a moment. Short, easy sentences work best. Keep Paragraphs Short In a Basic Composition writing course, you learn how to build paragraphs of substance. Sometimes the teacher might say that one of your paragraphs is too wimpy-that it doesn’t have enough meat. The teacher might also say that the paragraph needs at least 75 words in order to say something. You are told that your paragraphs are building blocks, and you are taught to add layers and substance to each of your building blocks with details, anecdotes, examples, scenarios. dialogue, or elaborate description. If you are writing for the Web, this is one of those lessons that you can and need to unlearn. On the Web you can write paragraphs that have only one or two sentences. Just make sure that there’s a specific topic in each paragraph. Use One Topic Per Paragraph Include only one topic per paragraph in your writing to keep the content concise, well organized, and easy to group with like topics. Begin with the topic sentence and follow with information that supports that topic. When your paragraphs fol- low a simple structure, the content is easier for your readers to take in. The content is also easier for you or the site’s information architect to manage. Begin with a Strong Lead If you’ve taken a traditional writing class, you were taught to begin your paragraphs with an interesting hook, a topic sentence, and then follow it with several sentences that build to the ending sentence. The topic sentence is the only important sentence in the paragraph because it states what the paragraph s about. or Web writing, the best practice is to use a paragraph structure called the inverted pyramid (FIGURE 2.2). The inverted pyramid turns the traditional paragraph upside down. It begins with a topic sentence, which states what the paragraph is about. and then the most critical and interesting content follows. For years, journalists have been using the inverted pyramid for newspaper reporting. A big benefit of leading your paragraph with the most important information is that this is what appears before a Read More link. If you start your paragraph with generalizations, the reader will see only fluff and will most likely not click Read More. Begin with the topic sentence, the most important information.

Writing for Web part4

Break Up Tangled Nouns Sentences with several nouns jammed together, creating a tangle of nouns, are hard to read and can slow down readers to a standstill. news editors create titles with nouns strung together to save space. Here’s an example: Fatal Alcohol-Related Officer Involved Shooting This type of sentence needs revision, so that the sentence is easier to ·ea::: You’ll need to add some of the smaller words, like prepositions, articles junctions, and transitions to help guide the reader. Consider the following tangled sentence and its more readable revision: NOUN TANGLE Be Wary of Trendy Terms Trendy terms are only fun to use for a fleeting moment. After that rnorne-u , =: become overused, and like a cliche, they bore the reader and give your se-:e-.::e:; a lackluster tone and quality. If you’re using a term that was trendy more :ra- s months ago, your reader might not know what you’re talking about. List Items By using lists rather than straight text, you readers to scan and take in quickly. You also break up larger chunks which can give your writing a heavier, bogged-down feeling. The following example shows a sentence with items joined by commas ••. ersus a sentence that uses bullets for a list of items. SAMPLE WITHOUT LIST REVISION FOR EASIER READING The largest fresh surface-water system on earth includes the Great Lakes: Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and their connecting channels. The following Great Lakes and connecting channels: • Michigan • Superior • Huron • Erie • Ontario Use Bullets for Laundry Lists If the items in a list you’re referring to have no particular sequence, use points rather than numbers. For example, if you need to list items that are spelled out of a box (FIGURE 2.1), list them with bullet points. SAMPLE BULLET POINTS The contents of the junk box spilled out to reveal a • padlock tube of lipstick Christmas ornament pen napkin ring Use Numbers for Sequences ROTATE AN IMAGE IN PHOTOSHOP 1. With Photoshop running, open the image file. 2. from the menu bar, select Image. 3. Select Image rotation at 180°. Keep Sentences Short Keep sentences brief and to the point. If you’ve written a sentence that needs more than a comma or two, rethink it. Short. simple sentences are much easier to read and comprehend online. When your readers find convoluted sentences in printed literature, they can pause, reread, and take more time to digest the meaning. It you like to use semicolons to link short sentences together, rethink this practice tor three reasons. First, punctuation marks (semicolons, colons, commas, apostrophes) are hard to read online. Second, lengthy sentences are more difficult to read. Third, your readers do not have the patience to sort out complicated meanings. Avoid ‘Run-on Sentences If you are revising a run-on sentence for printed literature, you can iotn two or more short. related sentences with semicolons. On the Web, however, semicolons are harder to see. And shorter, simpler sentences separateo by periods and spaces are much easier to read.