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A website launch is only the beginning…

One of the biggest mistakes that a new website owner can make is to assume that once the launch of their site has taken place, the hard work is over.

Yes – their business now has an online presence, but without further attention and work on their site, the full benefits of being online will not be achieved.

There still several tasks that need undertaking to make the world pay attention to the site and several more that will require ongoing work to keep the site healthy and functional.

Task 1: Get Google to pay attention

It should come as no surprise that Google does not automatically add websites to their search results. They first need to be notified that a site actually exists before they will send a “Googlebot” to check it out.

There are several ways to make this happen smoothly:

  • Add your site to your “Google My Business” account. It’s a best way to get noticed fast.
  • Make sure your site is Search Engine Optimised (SEO) by using a plugin, like YOAST or All-In-One to guide you through the process of SEO setup. These ensure that the search engine “crawlers” find what they need to.
  • Share your new website link around with other businesses and organisations that are already established online. Be sure to link back to them in turn – Google loves inbound and outbound links.

It is important to remember that Google is in control of this process, not you. Their software technicians are always tweaking the search algorithm so what may have worked last week for SEO, may not work this week.

Task 2: Track your site statistics

It is vital to measure and monitor the statistics for your website. By keeping an eye on visitor numbers, popular pages, bounce rates and functioning keywords, you will be able to adjust your site and its contents to achieve the results you want.

The best solution is to sign up for Google Analytics, integrate this with the Dashboard of your website and monitor your search results regularly. If your search ranking starts to decline or you are having a high bounce rate, the statistics will tell you that you need to take action.

https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/

Task 3: Creating fresh content

Not only is fresh content on your website good for impressing site visitors and helping customers, it is also very good for the website itself. Google’s search ranking algorithm has a special fondness for sites with updated, relevant content, and promotes these sites higher on search results.

Once initially indexed by Google, the “Googlebot” re-visits your site every few weeks and checks the content it finds against the content from its last visit. If it finds the same old information every time, you may be penalised in search results and potentially end up lower than your competitors.

A new article in your blog every couple of weeks, a client gallery or testimonials from your customers are very easy to add and can make Google happier with your website.

Task 4: Implement site security

Benjamin Franklin wisely once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This has never been so true than with a website. There are several vital security components that need to be enacted on your site to discourage Spammers and Hackers from breaching your emails, forms and online files.

# 1 – Get a Security Certificate for your site.

A security (SSL) certificate creates a secure link between a website and a visitor’s browser by confirming the site’s legitimacy and encrypting data between the two parties. This extra certificate is shown in your browser as the https:// prefix at the beginning of a domain name and a padlock in the address bar.

# 2 – Enforce SPAM Controls

Make sure that your online forms are all guarded by Google’s new ReCaptcha protocol – it is now invisible (no more typing in codes) but very effective. Your web server also needs has effective SPAM filters at its core level and most server providers include this in their storage packages.

#3 – Update your plugins regularly

Hackers continually look for ways into vulnerable servers and will use any weakness to break their way into your site. An out of date plugin (or WordPress version) on your site could be the weak link that they are looking for.

#4 – Use the latest version of PHP on your server

PHP is a programming language used in the development of many modern websites. It is vitally important for security reasons to keep the PHP version up to date (usually via your web server’s Control Panel).

#5 – Install WordFence on your WordPress site

Wordfence provides a range of features and options for site owners that help protect their sites from hacking. On top of this, Wordfence provides monitoring of the other components in a site and notifies, via email, when action needs to be taken.

None of the tasks above are “set and forget” – site owners need to adjust SEO triggers, regularly check statistics, add content and enforce security measures to make sure that their sites are fully functional and performing their purposes. Nothing above needs to be overly time consuming but, in the rush of a busy workplace, small tasks can be easily forgotten.

The best way to stay on top of these tasks is to schedule them into your working week, just like any other task. By doing so, you will give your site the best chance of success.

Five online actions that may help your local business through Covid-19.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting Australian small businesses in a multitude of ways.

From a loss of physical traffic into stores right through to numerous people working from home, the situation is changing daily during the COVID-19 outbreak and businesses are adapting to survive.

Below is an action plan of five things your business can do online to improve your chances of riding out this “once in a lifetime” pandemic.

1. Get on social media.

You should already have a social media account for your business and if you haven’t, you’d better set one up! Your customers are all on social media and you need to get two pieces of important information out to them now.

Firstly, you need to let your customers know that you are still operating and secondly, let them HOW you are operating. Have your hours changed? Are you delivering? Are you switching to online trading only? What measures are being taken in your business to mediate the current situation with COVID-19?

Put simply, you need to keep your customers informed about what your business is doing for the next few months.

2. Develop a Social Media Strategy.

A one-off post on your Facebook page is not going to solve anything. With the government guidelines for handling the COVID-19 crisis changing on an almost daily basis, you need to develop a brief strategy to ensure that you are continually visible online. This doesn’t need to be a long-winded document – it could as simple as a weekly calendar:

Monday: Facebook – This week at our business. Tuesday: Instagram – Pic of the team in action. Wednesday: Facebook – Customer of the Week. Thursday: LinkedIn – “Business to Business” offerings. Friday: Facebook – Throwback Friday or Friday Funny

Posting regularly keeps your local customers in the loop and gives them a regular visual reminder that you are still open for business.

3. Use your existing website to make online sales.

With social distancing being recommended by all levels of government, businesses can swiftly adapt their sites to start taking online orders and it doesn’t need to involve a full-blown eCommerce store. A simple online ordering form with your direct deposit information could be set up very quickly to make sales.

Of course, a full online store, with traffic directed from your social media streams, would be the perfect way to do business over the next few months. Your customers could simply select their products, pay for them online and have them shipped directly their door – without any physical contact at all.

4. Update Google my Business.

Check the information displayed by your Google My Business account is current and correct. This information is displayed in search results as people look for you and contains important details such as physical address, phone numbers, website address and opening hours.

Confirming that this information is correct could mean the difference between making a sale or a missed opportunity as more people search online for products and services.

5. Join local Networks and Groups

If you haven’t already, log onto Facebook and seek out your local community online. This might include groups such as local business directories, “buy, swap and sell” groups, your regional council and even the local Chamber of Commerce. Join these groups where relevant and share your business information.

Once you have joined a group – encourage others to start sharing each other’s posts wherever you can. The amount of coverage your business can get through sharing through sharing posts will surprise you.

Conclusion

Despite the gloomy outlook for the next few months in Australia, Covid-19 does not have to be the end of your business. Your business might need to evolve and embrace a different way of doing business, but if we all work together as a local community, we can help one another ride out the storm and emerge intact on the other side.

That’s the true meaning of being a local in a small regional town – we help each other out in times of need.

Is your Web Designer LEGIT?

When it comes to the World Wide Web and the sites that live upon it, some small business owners can be a little naive about how it all works.

There are so many aspects to take into account – domain names, hosting, email accounts, analytics, SEO and social media to name just a few of the items that need to be taken into consideration when getting a business online.

That’s why business owners like to hand over all those aspects to their website developer and say “please take care of this for me!”

There is a lot of trust being placed in that last statement – websites can be a big investment and, as a small business owner, you need to be able to rely upon your website “guys” to do the right thing. But, as in other industries, there are people who will take advantage of this.

If you are about to embark on the process of getting a web designer, or your current designer just doesn’t “feel right”, a little research will guide you to a reputable website design business.

Ask Around

Take a look at the websites of businesses in your immediate network (probably not your competitors). If possible, ask the business owners some key questions about their sites:

  • Who was their designer?
  • Who they would recommend and why?
  • Is the site generating the business that they need?
  • Is the site difficult to update?
  • What was the design process like when working with the web developer?

Positive testimonials work for all industries including web design so find out who would do the best job for your particular business.

Check out the web designer’s current portfolios.

All reputable designers will display their work on their own websites so check them out. Make sure that they can deliver styles that are current (not from the late 90’s) and relevant to your business.

Check for generic design Themes

One very important aspect that needs to be checked to ensure that you don’t get ripped off – make sure that you are not going to be paying for a generic template unless it has been made very clear that is exactly what you are paying for. These templates are not created just for your business and may have been used thousands of times. Working with anyone that uses them can be dangerous as the “designer” may not have the skills to create / modify / reprogram the design to your specific needs.

A quick way to check for generic templates:

  • Go to one of the sites they have “built” and copy the URL from the address bar at the top of your web browser.
  • Go to http://whatwpthemeisthat.com/ and paste the URL into the box provided.

This site quickly looks through the code and will tell you if the site is designed with the WordPress CMS (which is fine) and what theme the site is created with. If that theme is commercially available, this site will also tell you where you can buy it.

Too many times, I have seen so-called “Web Designers” that charge their customers exorbitant amounts of money for “designing” a site which can be purchased elsewhere for a little as $30!  All the “designer” does is change the imagery and add some text.

A website should be seen as exactly the same as any other investment in your business. You would research any new equipment or plant that you are purchasing for your business, so why not research who is going to build your website – the marketing tool that can drive business straight your door.

Without an effective website, built by someone who cares specifically about your business, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table from potential clients and digging a big hole in your marketing budget.

Social Media for your Small Business in 2019

On any given day, it has been estimated that 3.2 billion people in the world access social media of some kind. From Facebook to Twitter through to Instagram and LinkedIn, social media seems to permeate every aspect of our lives.

Most small businesses have come to the realisation that they need to be present on at last one or two platforms – but which are the best for your business in 2019?

To determine this, let’s take a brief look at five key players in the social media world that could help you grow your business online.

Facebook

The granddaddy of social medias, Facebook has long been the benchmark that other platforms aspire to. Unsurprisingly, with over 2 billion active users every month**, it is still the most widely used social media in the world.

For small business, Facebook is perfect for growing a community around your products and services in addition to creating brand awareness. When used effectively, a Facebook presence will make a notable difference in reaching your online marketing goals.

In addition, Facebook’s advertising portal (through which they make most of their profits) is easily the best established of any social media platform.

Instagram

Now part of the Facebook family, Instagram started life in 2010 as an online community where users could share images with their followers. Boosted by the rapid rise of smart phone usage throughout this decade, Instagram is used today by models, actors and numerous “influencers” across the world.

A perfect place for visual marketing, small business can utilise the high levels of engagement on Instagram to connect with a target audience. Its users follow accounts that they are genuinely interested which results in a high visibility of your posts.

As of 2019, it is estimated that one in three Australians use Instagram on a regular basis ***.

LinkedIn

Not quite as popular as the big two, the “Facebook for Business” still has an impressive audience of nearly eight million Australians however only around four million log in to their account regularly****.

Statistically, LinkedIn is the second most popular social media site, after Facebook, for medium to large businesses. It’s less popular with small businesses, who are more likely to utilise the crowd power of Facebook and Instagram.

For businesses that offer Business to Business (B2B) services, LinkedIn is perfect for creating online networks of professionals across industries.

Twitter

Once the darling of the #hashtag world, Twitter’s reach into the online world has dwindled over the past five years. It currently ranks in 9th place and is most popular with users in their 30’s.

In professional circles, Twitter is still a great source for real-time commentary on current affairs. With an increase in tweet length (140 characters to 240) and a recent move to allow imagery, the Twitter platform may be one to watch as it evolves to compete with other social media.

YouTube

Thanks to an overabundance of funny cat videos, YouTube is often forgotten as a serious social media contender. With strong content, the online video platform is perfect for engaging an audience with entertaining and interesting information about small business goods and services.

With a staggering one in every two Australians using YouTube every day ***, it is a great place to visually demonstrate the goods and services your small business has to offer.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that despite all the hard work you do on social media to grow your audience, you are “building your house on borrowed land” – it could be all gone tomorrow – just like Google+.

To avoid placing all your eggs in the one basket, use social media as part of your marketing funnel with your business website as the central hub. Depending on your host (users of Wix or Squarespace beware), your website is the one place on the internet that you can truly control. Use Facebook, Instagram and other social media to develop awareness of your business and nurture a following that you can direct towards sales and services on your small business website.

* https://wearesocial.com/blog/2019/01/digital-2019-global-internet-use-accelerates

** https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/

*** https://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics/

**** https://mediaaccess.org.au/web/social-media/linkedin

Tropical Coast Web Design