Small Business Marketing You Can Quickly Do Each Day

If you’re running a small or medium-sized business, you’re probably extremely busy. But while it can be hard to find time, you can integrate two or three quick and easy tasks to help your marketing become much more effective.

You might manage all promotion yourself, or have someone like us to help you. But either way, the more you can build quick and simple steps into your business, the better results you’ll get.

Daily Small Business Marketing Tasks


And they’ll not only help with your digital marketing and driving traffic to your website, but you’ll also have more material available when you want to promote your company offline as well.


Customer Service:

It’s never been more important to respond quickly, politely and helpfully to customer complaints and queries. The internet means that a problem can escalate quickly – spreading across forums, blogs, and social networks.

The answer isn’t to try and avoid the internet altogether – that doesn’t stop your customers being able to talk about your business, whether good or bad. The best action is to respond quickly and catch potential problems before they become a bigger issue.

Around 70-80% of customers will put their trust in online reviews and make purchases based on them. So it’s a good idea to be aware of what’s out there.

Fortunately it’s quick and easy to monitor. If you have business profiles on social networks, then make sure you have notifications set to alert you when someone gets in contact and you check them regularly. Meanwhile to check for new mentions of your company on the entire internet, you can use Google Alerts.

If you’re getting good reviews already, then it’ll be a pleasant task to take a look at lunchtimes, or the end of the working day. And if you do have an unhappy customer, then respond courteously to resolve the issue. Even if you believe that the complaint is unfair, getting into an argument online never ends well. But if you can explain the situation, solve the problem, or even just demonstrate that you’re listening, that can pay big dividends.

Especially as people who have converted from negative to positive views about a brand often become their biggest promoters.


Grab Photos Throughout The Day:

Not everyone works in a glamorous office surrounded by models. Or feel comfortable having their photo on the company website. That’s why stock photography has become so widely used.

But even finding the right stock image takes time. And while it will solve the problem for generic office photos, it’s harder to find the right image for specific work tasks. Plus they don’t display what you’ve achieved, or work so well on social media (including Instagram, which can be great for small businesses).

The simple solution is to make sure everyone in your company knows they should try to take photos of any work in progress, happy customers and anything else interesting during the course of the day. It doesn’t require a professional photo shoot – just a quick snap on a mobile phone camera is generally good enough quality, and they can then be emailed or uploaded.

If you’re taking photos of people, it’s worth printing out some image release forms, and making sure you have permission to use those shots in your marketing. You can always incentivise permission with a freebie or a discount for future purchases, and having real customers pictured in your promotions is much more likely to attract new customers.


Ask for Testimonials After Each Good Job:

Customer or client testimonials are also a great way to add content to your website or marketing that will help you win over new business. Encourage your colleagues to ask for testimonials or recommendations after a good job, and you’ll build up a ready supply of good quality testimonials for future use.

Again, you can reward anyone taking the time to submit a testimonial. Just make sure it’s purely for their time, not a bribe for them to be kinder than they might have been!

They’re not just useful for testimonials, either. Make sure you’re asking how people found your business and why they chose it for informal survey information to help you spend your advertising and marketing money wisely in the future. And asking whether they’d recommend you in the future is a great way to see if business is likely to keep improving in the future.


10 Minutes Marketing Per Day Soon Adds Up:

It doesn’t take a huge time investment to start making a difference, especially if you’re also working with some like us to handle the majority of your marketing. Spend just a few minutes checking reviews and taking pictures each day and it’ll soon start making a difference. And even just a couple of new testimonials each week will keep your website and promotional material refreshed throughout the year.


Top 10 Instagram Tips For Small Businesses

Instagram just keeps on growing, having now reached more than 400 million monthly active users. And it’s become a great way for small businesses to build awareness and reach new customers – as well as helping to keep existing clientele entertained.

And it doesn’t have to be ridiculously time consuming – a quick picture uploaded to Instagram can also be automatically shared to other networks including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Making it an efficient way to produce brand-related material

Instagram Tile Logo

One reason for the popularity is that Instagram has always been mobile-focused, making it quick and easy to use. And as mobile phone camera capabilities have increased, it’s enabled almost anyone to take great looking photos and easily share them.

More than 80 million photos are uploaded each day on average, making for a grand total of over 40 billion pictures shared so far. So how can your small business use Instagram effectively?


Our Top 10 Instagram Tips For Small Businesses:


1. Set up your small business properly on Instagram:

Take a look at existing brands, and ensure you have decent assets to set up an attractive profile page for your company. That includes your username, logo and optimised profile description.

Instagramn Desktop Profile Example

Decide if you want to post to other social networks automatically, including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. If you’ve been using your account for a while, consider going back and tidying up by removing any sub-par images when you were starting out – and consider also starting a personal Instagram account to allow you to have a place to experiment.


2. Define your purpose:

Why do you want to start promoting your business with Instagram? Is it to raise awareness, drive sales, retain existing customers or a mix of all three? In which case you’ll want to deliver a mix of content, with each individual photo or video answering a different need.


3. Use hashtags:

Hashtags are far more important and integrated than on any other social network. Although some accounts and brands have been hugely successful without them, it makes it simple and easy to reach new customers. Just be aware that while using 10+ hashtags is perfectly fine on Instagram, it might have a different effect if you’re auto-posting to Facebook, for example. And always make sure any hashtag you use is appropriate.

Instagram Photo Example

Set a consistent company/brand hashtag. And encourage user submitted content by promoting and monitoring a specific term for contributors.


4. Share a balance of content:

Instagram allows you to post both photos and short video clips. Use both appropriately to share a mixture of content around your business and topic areas. Although a simple feed of products for sale may work, especially in fashion, you’re more likely to be successful sharing a mixture of product/service, inspirational and behind-the-scenes content.


5. Tell your story and celebrate colleagues:

We’ve recently highlighted why small businesses can get an advantage by telling their story. Instagram is the perfect medium to give people an insight into what makes your company interesting and special – including a great way to highlight your colleagues and employees. If they’d rather not appear in front of the camera, why not let different people run the account each day or week?


6. Network and collaborate:

Find other Instagrammers to follow by searching for topics and hashtags related to your business. Don’t just follow them, but have a look and ‘Like’ their pictures where deserved – and leave comments. Make use of mentions and messages to build a relationship with them, and try a collaboration by swapping accounts for a week, or working on a series of photos together for example.


7. quality and perspective:

Want to achieve Instagram success? High quality photos are a good start – make sure your camera or phone is set to capture the best resolution images, and try to find good or interesting locations and lighting. Take a moment to get the setting right – for instance, invest in some plain white card for a handy neutral background for product shoots.

Instagram Perspective Example

Another way to stand out from the 80 million other photos uploaded each day is to get a different perspective on even everyday objects. Don’t be afraid to lie on the floor or nip up a ladder for a better photo.


8. filter or no filter:

Experiment using the different filters and image editing effects available within Instagram or other third party photo applications. You may find you tend to revert to the same 2 or 3 filters all the time – so try something different or even going filterless occasionally #nofilter.

Instagram Handset Example

You may not have all filters available by default – choose which ones you’d like to have available via the Filter Settings tab which is found at the far right of your filter list.

You’re also able to change the colours, tints and other aspects of your photos, as well as adding a Tilt Shift effect, so there’s no real excuse for posting something dull or lifeless.


9. Reward your followers:

There are a few ways to reward people for following your business on Instagram. You might be able to give them an exclusive preview of upcoming products, services or events.

Alternatively you can run photo competitions – make sure you have the terms and conditions easily available on your website, a clear and simple entry procedure, and that you follow up with any winners.


10. increase content consistently:

When you’re happy with using Instagram, you might want to start ramping up the amount of photos and videos you’re sharing. It’s best not to bombard followers with 20 photos all in 2 minutes – instead spread them out to give yourself a consistent posting schedule.

The top brands on Instagram tend to post between 5-6 times per week. Be strict about only posting the best images you’ve taken, and spacing them out appropriately.


Ultimately Instagram is about being true to your business and also having fun. The more enjoyable it is to do, the more you’ll be inclined to stick with it and grow your audience over time. And all social media takes an initial investment of time and effort to gain momentum.


You don’t have to follow our Top 10 Instagram Tip for Small Businesses to the letter, but hopefully they’ll help if there’s anything you’re unsure about.  And we’ll be covering more image-related social media in the future, including the best photo tools and how to integrate Pinterest into your digital marketing.

Obviously if you’d like more help, we can advise you on the best strategy and approach for your business, the best tools to use, and how to get started.

Why you should plan your Christmas Marketing early this year

The holiday season will see a big boost for businesses. Retailers will expect to see an increase in sales in the run-up to Christmas with new products and promotions aimed at gift buyers. And the seasonal weather also means potentially big demand for heating engineers, plumbers and other related services.

But with everyone competing for sales in the season of goodwill, you need to start planning early to make the most of the opportunity.

Christmas Marketing Plans

Think it’s too early to worry about Christmas in September? Think again! Large companies will have been planning their Christmas campaigns since the first moment the Easter Eggs came off the shelves – in the hope they’ll win the annual television ad campaign battle and get a massive sales increase.

But customers are also getting their inspiration and plans in place. Not only will anyone looking to get away be planning their breaks, but Pinterest has released some statistics on how their users are already in the Christmas spirit.

Apparently 38 million people have already saved holiday-related pins on Pinterest, which include 170 million examples for home decor, 50 million for fashion, 42 million for food, and a whopping 3 million pictures of ugly sweaters. And 92 million pins have already been added specifically for holiday gifts.

Ugly Sweaters On Pinterest

In general around 39% of shoppers start buying their Christmas presents and supplies before the end of November. But it’s 47% for Pinterest users, meaning half of them will probably have bought almost everything they need before December will even start.

Even if you’re not actively using Pinterest yet, there are reasons to get your Xmas act into gear.

Many companies will be planning holiday time, and will need to make sure clients and customers are aware of their availability in December. And office party season may be a great time for maintenance and renovation along with cleaning services and possibly hangover cures.

So you need to ensure that your details are updated on your website, and on all relevant social media profiles and listings.

If you’re banking on an increase in search traffic to your website, then you’ll also want to be planning ahead – it takes a little time for search engines like Google to visit and crawl your site, so the earlier you get your Christmas-related information up, the more chance you have of getting it found, indexed, and shown in search results.

Finally, there’s one very important reason to get your Christmas Marketing plans in place nice and early. It means you can relax and focus on enjoying yourself during the holiday season!


Why You Should Tell The Story of Your Business

Starting your own business is tough. We’ve been there, and know the effort it takes to become established. It’s one of the reasons why we like to work with small and medium-sized businesses – the respect we have for anyone striking out on their own.

Some people are lucky enough to come up with a new idea which doesn’t have a lot of competition. But most businesses face a lot of competition from the moment they start trading. So how can you help your firm to stand out?

Why You Need To Tell The Story of Your Business

Small Business Marketing: Tell Your Story

The story behind every business and owner is slightly different. No matter what industry you are in, it’s almost guaranteed there’s a story or two behind your decisions, and that can make your company stand out.

Some of the stories are obvious ones. If you’ve started a business to pursue your passion for cooking or carpentry, there’s a nice story to tell. When did you first realise that you loved working with food or wood, and how did that develop to starting your own company?

But there may be other reasons. Perhaps you saw a gap in the market and launched a business purely to make money?

In which case, don’t focus on what your company produces. Focus on that fact that you love running a business itself, regardless of the product.

Maybe you don’t enjoy your trade, but you love interacting with your customers?

Or you worked for a large company and decided to strike out on your own to have more control over your future?

Did you want to get a better work/life balance to spend more time with your family, or so that you could spend more time pursuing your hobbies or interests in addition to your business?

Not only can sharing your story build a better relationship with your customers, but it can also lead to press coverage. National and local media often want to share examples of small business owners for articles about any of the reasons listed above.

Need inspiration?


A National Example of a Business Story:

Hiut Denim make selvedge jeans which cost from £100-£200 for a pair, with competitors offering similar products around the world. Premium denim is a growing industry, already worth more than $1.4 billion globally.

Hiut Denim Website

So how does Hiut stand out?

The company was started to bring revive denim production in the UK. Cardigan in Wales produced 35,000 pairs of jeans for 30 years with 1 in 10 of the town population working in the industry. Then it all stopped.

So Hiut was formed to bring denim production back to the area and re-employ the vastly experienced jean makers. That’s the story and focus they share, and which has led to press coverage around the world, and continued sales growth.


A local example in Kent

The 10:50 From Victoria is a relatively new micropub located in Strood, Kent. It serves a range of real ale and cider in a space located under the arch of a railway bridge.

The 10:50 From Victoria Micropub in Strood

At a time when the pub industry has suffered from lower sales and closures, it seems pretty brave to open up a small venue with no music, food, TV, or even lager.

It’s not even open all day – just afternoons and evenings. And yet since opening the clientele has grown and grown, to a pub started and operated by three pensioners – a former joiner, a former plasterer and a former chef.

Just like Hiut, they shared the reasons for starting their business and what makes it different. And it’s working for them.


Need help writing and sharing your story?

You don’t need to be an author to share your business story. All you need to have in mind are the key details and how they tie into your company. We can craft it into content which can be shared on your website and social media, and help your business attract new customers.

Starting an Online Business Part 2; Internet Marketing

Getting a fully functional website and email set up is the first stage of getting a business online, next you have to think about letting people know it’s there, unsurprisingly, the best way to do that is online with Internet marketing.

A common misconception, or simply unconsidered thing for new website owners, is assuming that once the website is built it will automatically be just in the right place on Google searches and have flood of traffic coming in. Unfortunately that’s an impossibility, there are thousands of companies in the world offering the same services, they can’t all be ideally positioned on search engines, so that makes your first Internet marketing investment…

Search engine optimisation

Search sites like Google dominate the driving of most traffic online, leading to the practice of search engine marketing. There are a few approaches to this but the key essential to initially focus on should always be SEO.

This is a simple enough concept often confused by web design “gurus” trying to sell things online. basically, you want to make your site look attractive to the mathematical algorithms search engines like Google work around. In the most basic terms, if you have a plumbing website, you have to make sure the word plumbing is used plenty of times throughout the site so that Google knows it’s a site about plumbing; it becomes a “keyword” for that business website.

Some web design companies package SEO with the website build but most do not, or offer only an extremely basic level of SEO, requiring you to employ an expert to get things moving. Naturally, at Smart Domain Group it is built into our web design packages, but you can still get the most of it by doing some advance research and if you want to keep the costs low when starting up you need to be prepared to build on the foundations laid yourself.

Any business owner should be able to draw up a list of likely keywords describing their business; the primary services, location and industry specific terms for example. Given this starting point your SEO can then research which of these terms are the most popularly used in web searches and how competitive they are, helping highlight a shorter list of keywords to focus on.

The copy on the site should then be updated to build a good level of keyword density (too little won’t be noticed, too much will look like trying to cheat the system) and add a bunch of hidden labels that search engines see but web surfers don’t, such as text labels for images, layout tables and so on. Once the website is optimised the site can be submitted to Google and should get a few reasonable search positions on some of the keywords.

The ongoing aspect is link building or “backlinking”; search engines work out how good your site is based on how many other sites link to it and the quality of those sites. You can wait around and hope that people link to you which is the bizarre advice sometimes passed around by those online gurus, in the early days at least you really need to give things a push to get them started.

Some techniques might be swapping links with key suppliers and clients, spending regular time on a good quality web forum about your market and using the autosignature tool to post a link every time you post a comment, you could also offer to write a few guest articles for good blogs in your business sector, adding a link to your website at the end. Over time these kinds of activities build you lots of quality links from other relevant websites and you rank up in search results accordingly.

Web forums are awash with people over complicating search optimisation, offering long out of date advice, or “500 links for $10” deals and so on, they won’t help; if you don’t have time to do all this link building yourself, ask your SEO provider to do some for you. Google is very focused on removing SEO cheats and shortcuts and are mercilessly banishing such websites from listings, but there are still lots of providers taking advantage of how little most website owners understand SEO.

Social networks

The second key ongoing effort is still link building, but of a different kind. The above links are primarily about building Google’s awareness of your site, so it ranks your website high and people can find you easily on search listings. You can also build links for the traditional reason; so that potential customers can find you directly, and this is where social networks like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly coming into things.

All social networks are free, but they do demand regular attention and some effort to understand properly and benefit from. Each is a little different and better suited to different businesses; Twitter is good for companies who have lots of fast moving news happening, Linked In is good for business to business services, YouTube is great if your business can generate entertaining video content. You have to give each of them consideration on their merits and benefits to you, and take a look at what your competition is doing.

All social networks vary in the best approaches but a couple of key points to consider are that you need to;

Post content to your social networks at least daily, a post which is a few hours old on Twitter or Facebook disappears down the timeline people view, so most of the time, most of your audience will not see most of your posts. If you post once a week hardly anyone will notice you even exist.

Engage in conversation, the idea of social networks is to be social, if someone posts a comment on your page, reply to it, give potential and current customers a dialogue with a real person, it gives your brand a personality people can connect with.

Don’t be a pimp, endlessly tweeting about your services doesn’t make exciting content for any audience; would you want to be friends with a plumber who posted every day on your timeline that he can fix burst pipes? No, but you might be friends with one who posts occasional DIY tips or comic photos of “weird things we’ve found in drains”. On social networks you have to give people something they want to share, give people a laugh or something useful, it gives the brand even more personality and builds trust and familiarity, so when someone does have a burst pipe, they think about that funny plumber guy on Facebook and ask for a quote.

Think of it like long running TV ad campaigns; often they have little to do with the key product being sold, the focus is on characters, atmosphere, things that make people feel connected to the brand, social networks require the same kind of mindset, rather than a typical small business approach of listing products and great prices in print ads.

Of course, offer up enough share-able content and no one minds if there’s an occasional reminder of the website, core services or special offers, and that’s where you can start building your links that people will want to follow.

Internet marketing evolves

Marketing techniques are constantly changing, five years ago social networks barely existed and you really could buy a thousand for $10 and improve your search engine position; things change over time.

In the immediate future though, things look quite clear, SEO will continue to focus increasingly on quality, and it will begin to incorporate “social authority”; evaluating how outstanding you are on social networks and applying that to search engine results. It’s already starting to happen with Twitter and Google+ and underlines the importance of these two aspects of Internet marketing.

As with the web design itself, finding a provider who can do it all is ideal, but to stay cost effective in the early days of a business it helps to cover some bases yourself, especially things like social networking which really requires no special skills, just an understanding of your potential audience.

There are details to these techniques; a good press release can really build great links for you, a few quality recognised directories can boost search and there are all sorts of emerging social networks like Pinterest that companies are just starting to work out how to use to market themselves. Focus on the essentials at first though, get optimised so you’re appearing somewhere in the search results, link build to improve that and go social with the big names like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In or Google+ to bring in a second stream of traffic so you aren’t over reliant on Google alone.

Beyond the Internet!

Finally, of course, think real world; put that web address on vans, business cards, letterhead, invoices and everything else, it should be a hub for everything. People can check bits of information like your address or a price list or service by looking at your website rather than taking up time on the phone answering mundane questions, and if you want to encourage more phone calls, get the site written in a way which does so; a business card doesn’t do any encouragement, but it can lead to a website that does.

It sounds like a lot to take on, and it is a significant investment of money and time, but once you’re set up, it’s all benefits and much lower ongoing costs that can make huge differences to small businesses. Please do drop us a line to learn more about the ways we can help you with the web design and ongoing marketing and SEO here at Smart Domain Group, our services are built around small to medium sized businesses!

Starting an Online Business Part 1; the Website

Today, every business needs an online presence and web design if it is to stay healthy, with so many traditional routes of advertising like Yellow Pages continuing to disappear from usage as people turn to Google to find just about everything.

If you haven’t done it before though, getting online can feel a big and complex task that is all too easy to put off. In truth, it isn’t all that difficult with the right web design company to guide you through it and unlike Yellow Pages, which updates once per year, you can get your website online and make adjustments to it anytime you like.

Everything starts with the web design itself. Your website should form the hub of any online effort, like a central brochure everything can refer to and which in turn can refer to everything online and offline such as printed materials or social networks. Any good web designer will help you through the process of putting a site together, but it pays dividends to put some time in yourself in the early stages to help things along and get the most out of it;

Have a look at your competition online, see what they’re doing and how you can do it better

Make a note of anything you see on other websites which you think might work well for you

Consider all the information you should put into your web design such as core services, company history, contact details and news or special offers

Consider things like your unique selling points and key skills; your web designer probably won’t understand the critical things in your business so it’s up to you to explain them

Collect together photos and logos the designer will need to build the website

Whilst you’re doing this, meet with a few web design companies to see what they have to offer. Ask to take a look at previous work and drop an email to some of their customers for feedback on the quality of the web design and service; it is worth paying a little extra for the better product in the long run!

Prices can really vary for websites, and often hide some small print details; a budget site might cost just a few hundred pounds but won’t include things like copywriting, web hosting, search engine optimisation or ongoing support, which is a bit like having a stack of leaflets with no writing on them and no way to distribute them.

More comprehensive packages tend to start around the £1000 mark and upwards, however many companies offer single page or three page web design packages for a lower price which allows you to get a foot in the door to expand upon next time you have some money available. Some web design companies also offer credit or monthly payments so you can get the website you need set up straight away but spread the cost out.

Financially, it’s also very important to establish ongoing costs; domain names, web hosting and e-mail accounts are all things which have to be paid for on an annual subscription basis. A cheap website set up cost may be hiding an expensive annual subscription fee, make sure you take this into account working out the best deal.

There are a few key things you should look for in web design packages, of course you can buy them all separately from different suppliers, but if you can put it all under one roof from the off then it makes life easier while you find your feet;

Copywriting; yes, you could write your own copy, but have you really any idea how to write information that is attractive to human visitors and also attractive to search engines? Probably not, it’s highly specialist and a web design company with a dedicated expert copywriter is a real bonus.

Hosting; this is quite simply space on the Internet where your website will be stored so that people around the world can access it, without hosting you’re not online.

E-mail and domain name; most hosting packages also include a professional website address (domain name) and at least a few e-mail accounts.

Support and updates; you may need occasional updates to your website so it’s useful to have some free maintenance time bundled with web design packages, and make sure you know what the hourly costs are once you go beyond that. If you need regular updates then it’s good to get a CMS website (content management system); this will make it easy for you to do updates yourself, but typically costs more to set up.

SEO; search engine optimisation is a really big one, without it you just won’t appear in search engine listings, but it’s very specialist and can get expensive, find out if your set up costs includes any SEO work and what it will cost to get some done.

There are plenty of good packages around which don’t include all these things, but it really simplifies the process for a first timer especially putting everything under one roof; check out our own web design packages and you’ll see we include the lot for our clients.

So, with all that in mind, you’re ready to get a website set up, but that isn’t all there is to getting a business online, and in a future blog we’ll look at marketing and promotion through search engines, social networks and other web resources.


Winter special offers at SDG Web Design

Our Autumn giveaway went so well we’ve decided to carry it into winter, so for anyone wanting a new website from our Websmart range of packaged solutions, you can get a third off of our regular prices and free CMS software and set up worth an extra £300.

Websmart is the ideal web design package for any business looking to get established and succeed online, with our team of experts providing you with;

A modern, professional and uniquely designed website

Bespoke copywriting to persuade visitors to give you the call

A year of hosting, support and emails (renewable annually from just £99 per year)

Expert search engine optimisation to drive you to the top of web searches

Domain name purchase and set up

Detailed visitor web statistics

High quality professional stock photography if required


And of course we provide a full range of ongoing Internet and search engine marketing services if you require them or want to focus more of your business online over time.

We’ve created websites for an incredibly wide range of businesses, from sole traders and small businesses like tradesmen to pharmaceutical companies, industrial designers and international events. Websmart packages can be bought at a wide range of pages so the package can fit any size or complexity of business, and because every site is custom designed and written to fit the individual client, it always works.

Our CMS (Content Management System), typicall offered for £300 but currently free, is an incredible money saver long term as well; it allows you or your team to make simple changes to text and images yourselves without any need for web designer fees. The simple to use software means it’s easy to run a blog, news post, or constantly update your portfolio of work as often as you like.

So why not give your business the gift of a beautiful new website this Christmas?! We can even provide a range of ways to pay; split is 50/50 into a deposit and final payment on completion, or sign up for our monthly payment plans and have it all paid off after a year.

We’ve created over 3000 websites over the pat decade and are proud to offer a high end service at an affordable price that makes Websmart the best value package in the UK; give us a call to learn more!

Is Google+ any good for small businesses?

Google+, the search engine’s response to Facebook, has survived over a year and made it through the 400 million member mark which is quite an acheivement in a short space of time and an already crowded marketplace, but is it a phenomenon largely alien to the UK and is it a social network with any real value to small businesses?

Some of the most regular articles we see about Google+ use words like “ghost town” a lot, with suggestions that 400 million may have signed up but most of them posted once and never returned, Google themselves admit that active users are closer to 100 million, but that’s still a number it took Facebook many years to reach and very close to numbers on Twitter.

More interesting is that whilst many people in the UK have no idea what Google+ is, it still receives over 10% of our traffic to social networks, so it isn’t entirely unknown here, but perhaps what matters the most to UK businesses is more of a hidden feature; using Google+ is good for your SEO.

As you may expect Google designed the site so that it would perform well in web searches, if the same article is posted across all the social networks then searched for it’s no surprise that the Google version will typically come up, equally if a link is posted on the network and users “+1” it or share it around that pushes the link up in SEO search results as well.

Quite simply, any popular link or content on Google+ is going to be popular on Google search as well, and that’s an opportunity ripe for small businesses to take advantage of, so;

Sign up for Google+

They allow businesses to have their own pages and it takes as long as any other social network to set up, not all that long.

Keyword optimise

Treat it just like your website in SEO terms; you want good, professional, welcoming content targeted at your market, but you want it full of useful SEO keywords as well.

Make friends

On Google+, that means getting into people’s “circles”; users arrange all their contacts into customisable groups eg friends/family/work/business, getting into those groups means they’ll be digesting your content.

Use it

Social networks are for social beings, give it some time every day and make sure you “+1” plenty of things, just using the system makes you more visible on it.


Like anything new, it takes a while to get used to, but if you’re finding social networks like Twitter or Facebook don’t work for your small business and you want to try something else, or they do work for you and you want to expand that, Google+ is clearly worth taking a look at. Even if the direct social aspects of it don’t lift your business, the SEO affect could, some researchers found that around 70 +1s on a piece of content boosted visitors by 20%, which is pretty cool for something that need only take up a little time each day.

What is Pay Per Click Advertising?

Increasingly the Internet is evolving into an advertising fuelled medium. Most users expect web services to come free of charge (for example Facebook, YouTube, etc.), so the web based companies providing these services collect revenues by selling advertising space.

For many years banner advertising was the only real option, with advertisers paying to place an advertising image onto websites that would run for a set length of time or until a set number of people had seen it. Unsurprisingly, just like printed media the best websites for advertising were soon unaffordable for smaller advertisers and small websites had trouble finding advertisers without a focused sales team to do the work, but surely this exciting new medium could come up with something better?

Pay Per Click (or PPC) advertising was the solution that began to evolve.

At first, PPC was just a different way to charge for advertising that offered advertisers a better deal and more flexibility over how much they were spending. The advertiser would agree to pay a set amount of money for every time the advert was clicked which meant they weren’t wasting money paying to display the advert to people who may not even be interested in it, they only paid for those that were.

It also meant that websites couldn’t lie about the amount and type of traffic they were receiving; all that mattered was the number of clicks, and those with limited budgets would simply agree a deal to display for a low number of clicks.

This democratised web advertising considerably for advertisers, but it did little for those websites who wanted to find advertising revenues easily.

Systems such as Google’s Adwords moved things even further; Adwords is a simple system where advertisers pay for PPC advertising on websites relevant to their target market (selected by analysis of keywords on the website). Websites of any size can sign up to display advertising, inserting a small piece of code into their HTML which pulls up adverts relevant to their market (again, decided by matching keywords on the website to keywords in the adverts).

Straight away, websites of any size could quickly get advertising relevant to their audience, and advertisers of any size could get affordable advertising campaigns delivered directly to the right kind of audience and only ever pay for the adverts which generated a click.

Today the system is highly refined and widely trusted, to such an extent that many others have copied it (such as Facebook) and even quite big players utilise it; Myspace and YouTube both use the Adwords system in addition to their regular banner sales activities. Advertisers can now select which keyword interests they want to advertise to and bid against other advertisers, with those offering the highest per click rate getting the most high profile and frequent exposure.

Unsurprisingly some keywords that are very popular demand very high per click bids to make using the system worthwhile, but there are also plenty of keyword options out there that can be picked up for peanuts.

There are also some accepted cheats to the system; some advertisers use PPC purely as a branding opportunity, designing their adverts not to generate clicks, but to raise awareness of their products and services. If no clicks are generated the campaign costs nothing but you still get your brand and products displayed to hundreds or even thousands of relevant web users.

The whole thing may sound like a dream come true to many, but there is an art to seeing results and in plenty of industries it simply doesn’t work very well. We’d encourage anyone considering web advertising to give it a try though, it’s easy to limit your financial exposure and get a feel for how well it could work for your business, and we can offer design and copywriting services on pay per click advertising to help you make the most of the opportunity.

Web News; Black Friday Breaks Records

The big web news over the last week was something of a crossover between the web and the real world; Black Friday. A regular feature in the US for some time, it has started working it’s way into Europe thanks largely to the Internet, falling on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Far from referring to some stock market crash, Black Friday is all about amazing deals on retail prices, with many online and real world stores offering huge discounts on products to kick off the Christmas shopping season.

Increasingly the day is becoming associated with tech products and services, especially because brands like Amazon and Apple have pushed it internationally, but really it can apply to any retailer, large or small business; even some service industries offer deals.

Plenty of typical retailer tricks can apply around Black Friday which prevent it from being a way to reduce profits, and a great opportunity to raise awareness and attract customers; hook people with loss leaders and provide peripherals at regular or inflated prices, limit stock availability so you get people coming back next week and paying regular prices, or simply raise awareness of your business and products in a way that encourages a positive impression of you offering great deals.

Very few medium or small businesses seem to get involved in Black Friday deals at the moment, so it’s a great time to adopt it and give yourself a lead over competitors, in the US many companies are now running a “Gray Thursday” the day before to get a head start, and web based retailers often run a Cyber Monday just after the weekend to stand out, in Europe and many other regions it’s still a new enough thing to stand out playing it straight on the Friday alone.

Something it would be great to see coming this side of the Atlantic is Small Business Saturday though, the same Thanksgiving weekend and strongly encouraging people to shop from small, local retailers supporting that important section of the economy. It also helps remind people that you can get an awful lot of what you want, plus some more unusual products, from the smaller business.

With Christmas shopping increasingly competitive, and disposable incomes increasingly low, these kinds of approaches can make a difference to income over the period, figures just in for Black Friday 2012 report that over $1bn was spent in online purchases in the US alone; that’s a big number and great encouragement to give it a try in 2013 with a local marketing campaign and a couple of little adjustments to your web design.