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Why Reviews, PR & Reputation Management Are Important For Small Businesses

June 2nd, 2021
person holding black smartphone

Earlier this week, we got an email informing us that a client had received a negative review on Google Reviews (this is not a link to the review in question). This is a very small business in a very small town and the owners struggled to see the point of PR and reputation management. After all, they said, “We’re not trying to take over the world.”

But we look at it differently: Because of the Internet, in today’s world, every new customer, client or prospect starts to make decisions about you based on what it says about your business online. And if there’s nothing there but negative Google Reviews, then that’s the only information your prospective customers and clients have to go on.

Indeed, in today’s world, PR is not exclusively for those “trying to take over the world” or seeking ‘fame’. Any business of any size can benefit from it.

And, yes, we know that most 1 star reviews left on any platform are left by angry people in the heat of the moment. But it still indicates something about the nature of the experience a prospect can expect from doing business with you.

So while the small business owners at the top of this article basically scoffed at the idea of some PR, in our opinion, they probably need it more than most.

Our reputation management services help small businesses to control their online presence in order that they appear in a positive light to prospects. We can repair bad reputations and then manage them so that, in the future, they remain positive.

Websites vs Web Apps: What’s The Difference?

June 1st, 2021
person holding black and white ceramic mug

When clients come to us saying they need a website, quite often they’re actually talking about a web app. So we thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post explaining the differences between web apps and websites. So here we go.

What is a website?

In nerdy techy terms, a website doesn’t have much of a ‘backend’ beyond basic CRUD (create, read, update, delete) capabilities. What this means in plain English is that, from the user’s perspective, what we refer to as a website is basically static. User interactivity is at a minimum.

Brochure website

A brochure website is graphic design, text and images. When we build these websites, most of our time is spent creating beautiful and attractive designs. It’s all about look and feel. And then, if you have us write the copy as well, it’s about saying the right things. Because there’s nothing else after that.

Blog

A blog is in much the same category as a brochure website. The main difference between a brochure website and a blog is that a blog is updated far more regularly than a brochure website. Of course many brochure websites also have a blog section – it’s advisable to have one because otherwise a website can go without being updated for months or years which Google doesn’t really like.

While a blog does have a backend – somewhere the blog owner can do to write new posts and publish them – it’s only basic CRUD functionality and nothing more. So while it uses many of the same technologies as a web app, it’s so basic that it still falls into the category of website (by our definition).

All news outlets fall into this category.

What is a web app?

Web apps have a much more extensive backend. This means the website can ‘think’ and do things. So a shopping cart is a standard type of web app. While you may think an online store is simple because you use them a lot, there are actually a lot of steps that need to happen in order for you to order your new items.

E-commerce store

We have CRUD functionality here because the owner can add new products to their store, along with images and other marketing assets that are supposed to help them communicate to their customers and thus sell the products. But a shopping cart must also add up prices, check the items are currently in stock, reach an order total, connect to a payment gateway, put the order through to fulfilment and send any necessary emails to the customer to let them know what’s going on. That’s quite a lot! And it’s definitely a lot more than a static web page.

If you then want to start helping the e-commerce platform learn about individual customer buying habits, we start to introduce algorithms and it all goes another level up!

Hotel & Theatre Booking Websites

These websites need to do a lot of the same logistics that e-commerce stores need, while also applying dynamic pricing algorithms to available seats and properties. This would be a massive amount of work if it had to be done manually.

What Does A Website Cost?

Websites can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds depending on the quality you’re looking for. At Smart & Slick, we are definitely not the cheapest for web design, but we believe that the service and quality of our work is well worth the price.

A brochure website can be created from scratch in 3-5 days normally.

What Does A Web App Cost?

Web apps vary widely in complexity and because of that, costs can be anything from a few hundred pounds up to tens of thousands of pounds depending on your requirements.

An e-commerce store can be created in a few weeks. Other, more bespoke web apps can take several months. This is a conversation.

WordPress Security Basics

May 28th, 2021
flat screen monitor

WordPress is one of the most widely used CMS’s available today and it is believed that 45% of the websites on the Internet are now, “proudly powered by WordPress“. We build LOTS of WordPress themes for all kinds of websites. It’s probably the most common type of project we work on. WordPress is very, very popular.

The downside of this popularity is that it becomes a massive target to hackers – and they regularly succeed because webmasters don’t always maintain good cyber security practises. In this article, I want to talk about how to keep your WordPress powered website secure.

Plugins You Need

One of the best things about WordPress is the plugin library that allows you to add additional functionality to the WordPress core. They have plugins for everything. And you should definitely use some of them to keep your WordPress website secure.

WordFence

WordFence is a very good security plugin. It will do things like check your install for injected code, compare plugins to the repository versions and much more to prevent any devious people trying to infiltrate your website. It’s well worth using.

Delete Unused Themes

Delete any themes you are not using. Even though this code is not in use by your website, theme code can still be used by hackers to get into your website.

Keep Your Username A Secret

This is not as easy as you think. Unfortunately, when you set up a WordPress blog, your author archive is located at a URL which contains your username. Because of this, even if you don’t go with the obvious ‘admin’ as your username, it’s pretty easy for anybody to see what your username is just by clicking the link to your author archive that usually hyperlinks from the by line of every blog article.

Make Your Display Name Different To Your Username

In the users tab, you can set your public display name. This is the name to whom blog articles will be credited in the by line. Make this different to your username. Never use admin.

Delete The Link To Your Author Archive

This is an option that makes sense if you are the only author on your blog. If you are the only person who writes articles on your blog, you don’t even need an author archive because it’s the same as the post loop. By deleting the link, it’s not so easy for people to find your username, which is half the battle when trying to hack you.

How To Increase Your Brand Visibility With PR Campaigns

May 26th, 2021
two women near tables

The Internet consists of billions upon billions of websites and yet there are only several hundred that people visit directly. Most of the others are accessed either via a search engine or via a social media platform. Many of the websites that people visit directly are topical content websites which post new content about news and topical events on a virtually continuous basis.

These websites include local and national news outlets as well as niche specific magazines and blogs. All of them are slaves to the 24 hour news cycle. At Smart & Slick, we help both the topical content websites and our clients by creating stories that benefit both sides. As a result, we help the topical news websites with their unrelenting content problem, and we help our clients to increase their brand visibility.

Here’s how we do it:

Create Positive Stories About Our Clients

Every PR campaign begins with a goal. What are we trying to achieve? What does our client want to achieve? Product and event launch campaigns have a different shape to general continuous campaigns.

We begin by brainstorming stories about our client. The stories have to be positive (e.g. they put our client in a good light) and they have to be true (we cannot write things that are not true or did not really happen).

Pitch To Media Outlets

Next, we pitch each story to a newspaper or magazine that we think will find it relevant. Sometimes the same story goes to multiple publications and other times we’ve gone for a very niche angle in order to get extended coverage in a niche publication.

In order to maintain good relationships with media outlets, we are careful to only pitch stories to them that we think they will be interested in. ‘Spray and pray’ is not the right approach.

Our Client Gets Featured In The Media

If we’ve done our job right, very shortly (within about a week), we’ll start to see stories surfacing on the Internet featuring our client and exposing their business and/or brand to thousands upon thousands of people. Some of those people will benefit from the products and services that our client is selling and may well look the client up directly via a Google search. If our client’s website has done some basic SEO (which we often help with), people will find them.

Context Creates Brand Strength

We do not stop there. PR, as a marketing technique, works because of repetition. Given the extremely noisy world we live in, a single exposure to a new idea (in this case a brand) is unlikely to result in many sales unless it is immediately relevant to somebody who happens to read about it.

For example, if a foodie reads about a new restaurant or cafe in their area that’s just opened, a short sharp burst of media exposure might result in selling a few sandwiches because people need food several times a day (making it immediately relevant) and our particular reader in this instance is very passionate about food and therefore likely to break whatever current pattern they have for grabbing lunch in order to try out the new place.

But for most campaigns, repeated exposure over a longer period of months or years is required. The aim here is to increase the general awareness of a brand and make people aware of the context in which the brand can help them. It is this context, communicated through stories, out of which a brand is really born.

This type of context takes time to create because everybody doesn’t read every news article or topical story. It takes 3-5 instances of repeated exposure to something before the average person really notices it.

You have probably had an experience where you think, “What is this thing I keep hearing about?” because you’ve heard a new word – probably a brand name or person – mentioned several times over a few weeks or months.

This is PR at work.

How To Get Views on YouTube

May 24th, 2021
Youtube application screengrab

YouTube has two major metrics of success: subscribers and view minutes. I’ve covered how to get more YouTube subscribers before, so in this article, we’re discussing how to get more views on YouTube.

Make Videos People Want To Watch

It all starts here. Rule one of all of marketing: there needs to be a demand for the product or service. If there isn’t, it doesn’t matter how much marketing you do or how well you do it.

When we create YouTube videos for our clients, the first stage is to research what our client’s market is interested in and what they want to watch. Then we create those videos.

Make Videos People Watch

Making videos people want to watch pertains mostly to the subject matter. In other words – what does the market in question want to know?

Making videos that people watch pertains more to taking the subject matter established, and then presenting it in a video in a way that grabs viewer attention and holds that attention.

While many still talk about how many views a video has achieved, that’s nowhere near as important in 2021 as the number of minutes a video has been viewed or.

Thus, it logically follows that videos that viewers watch all the way to the end are better than videos that get abandoned after a few seconds. YouTube will internally promote videos that get more view minutes because YouTube’s goal is to keep their users watching YouTube for as long as possible.

Rank Videos In Search

YouTube is owned by Google. Google is a search engine. Our next step towards getting thousands of YouTube views on the videos we’ve made is to get them to rank in Google and YouTube search. Naturally, videos that rank better will get more views.

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We’re used this formula to achieve tens of thousands of genuine video views for our clients.

Interested in using YouTube to market your business? Get in touch today.

Selling Is Easy When You Get These Three Things Right

April 26th, 2021
two people shaking hands

If you are struggling to sell your products and services, I’m willing to bet I know why. It’s one or more of three things. I’ve been there myself countless times in the past. Spending weeks developing a product or a website only to receive very little interest from the world.

Over many years, I came to the realisation that when a product or service will not sell, the problem is almost always one of the following:

Company Reputation

Do people like and trust the company? If they’re going to do business with the company, they need to trust it and believe that it will treat them well and deliver on its promises to them.

Companies spend a lot of money on branding and PR to maintain a positive image in the minds of their target market, but for a fledgling startup this reputation is going to born mostly out of your website design and online reputation.

4 Ways To Build Company Reputation

  • Encourage your customers to tweet a testimonial if they are pleased with your service.
  • Encourage your customers to write an online review on TrustPilot or reviews.io if they are pleased with your service
  • Invest in professional web design
  • Invest in PR campaigns
  • Invest in SEO – people still attribute status to the websites that appear at the top of Google

Website

Your website is very likely to be the first direct contact a new prospect has with your company. That means the prospect is going to judge your company and your product by your website. Website design is mission critical to most businesses.

Does it look professional? Does it give the impression that the company can be trusted? Does it give the impression that the product or service will be of good quality? The potential customer will make all these decisions and more based on your website.

Product/Service

Is the product or service something that a substantial number of people actually want and are willing to pay for? It’s surprising how many entrepreneurs create products and services that nobody really wants. Either they don’t solve a problem or they don’t solve a sufficiently big problem that people will pay to have solved. I’ve done it myself.

Often, those who try to take hobbies and turn them into business ventures can be guilty of this. They just want people to buy their hobby and little or no thought is spent pondering what problem your ‘service’ actually solves for the buyer.

When taking a product to market, it’s better to start from the other side of the table and try to identify a problem that a substantial number of people have and then propose a solution. Once you are confident your product or service solves a genuine problem, selling it is, in large part, about convincing people that your product or service will deliver on its promise to make their lives easier.

How To Use The Media To Increase Your Brand Visibility

April 20th, 2021
Business newspaper article

Newspapers, magazines and other print media outlets may have transitioned from the news stand to the Internet, but print media is still a highly consumed format. In this article I’m going to briefly explain how almost any business, organisation or individual can leverage print media to increase the visibility of their brand.

Every day millions of people browse the Internet to read news and related topical content from digital media outlets ranging from local and national newspapers to magazine websites and blogs (like this one!) and every day those websites need to post new stories and articles. By continuously publishing new content, these websites keep their audiences coming back for more. And it’s because their audiences come back again and again that makes these websites a highly suitable place for them to come across new brands like yours.

When we put together PR campaigns for our clients, our objective is to get our client’s brands featured in various print media outlets on a regular basis. This way, their audiences are exposed to the brand over and over again over a period of weeks or months and it goes from being something they’ve never heard of, to something they feel relatively familiar with and might even take some initiative to explore further, if they think the brand might help make their life better.

Many digital media outlets command huge readerships which means that even seemingly small wins can multiply in value quite quickly and it is very possible to go from unknown to locally famous within 6 months.

For personal brands, this can lead on to other opportunities including radio and television appearances.

Want Your Business To Appear In The Media?

At Smart & Slick we help our clients to increase their brand visibility by leveraging the media. If you’d like to learn more about how this can benefit your business or brand, talk to us today and we’d be happy to advise.

Search Engine Optimisation: Who Needs It And Who Doesn’t?

April 19th, 2021
monitor screengrab

While it may sound like one, this is not a rhetorical question. SEO is a visibility strategy much the same as billboard advertising or door-to-door flyers or any number of other methods of letting the general public know you exist and what you offer.

Search engine optimisation is the process of getting search engines to rank a website strongly so that it appears in search results when people search for keyword terms related to whatever the business in question is.

For example, if you are a carpenter in Hull making bespoke furniture, you might want to rank for the term “bespoke furniture” or “carpenter in Hull”.

But does every business need SEO? At Smart & Slick, we are not in the business of selling anybody a product or service that we do not genuinely believe will benefit their business. And the answer to this question is no. SEO is not for everybody because it will not benefit everybody.

Our carpenter in Hull. We’ll call him Hal. Now, Hal from Hull might be selling all types of furniture: bed frames, drawers, wardrobes, dining tables – literally anything they have at Ikea.

Now, if I want bespoke furniture, there is no brand name or organisation that instantly comes to mind. Ikea is not bespoke. Sliderobes might come to mind if I wanted wardrobes, but apart from that, I’ve got nothing. That is why I am likely to go to Google and search for “bespoke cabinet”.

Now, if Hal from Hull has a search engine optimised website, he might come up in the Google results for that search term and I might find him that way. And if his website is good and his marketing says all the right things and Hal can convince me that he can give me what I want, I might place an order.

Hal from Hull would clearly benefit from an SEO campaign because his business stands to benefit considerably if his website ranks for all of these terms relating to bespoke furniture: “cabinet”, “bed frame”, “wardrobe” and on and on and on.

But now let’s look at a different type of business.

Across the country in London, there’s Larry in London. Larry is a comedian. Now, Larry’s core business model is to sell tickets to public shows in theatres and comedy clubs. But it is highly unlikely that his customers are going to go online and search “comedy show” in order to find him. They’re far more likely to have been initially introduced to Larry by a method other than a Google search.

As such, Larry is probably not going to benefit much from an SEO campaign, except maybe for ranking #1 for his own name. But that’s likely to happen organically and is so easy that we don’t even really consider it to be SEO.

So while Hal from Hull would be well advised to invest his marketing budget into an SEO campaign, Larry from London would be much better off spending his marketing budget on YouTube marketing, social media and general brand building activities.

How Does A Search Engine Work?

April 14th, 2021
smartphone showing Google site

Search engines have been around since the early 90s. Organising the Internet and helping people find what they are looking for has been seen as a useful and helpful thing to do since the dawn of the Internet. And the day after the search engine was invented, SEO was invented!

But when I go to gatherings (not in the past year!) and wind up inevitably talking about what I do, there seems to be a general misconception about how search engines work. And I can’t seem to get through a dinner party or social gathering without explaining to somebody how search engines work.

So many people seem to think that search results are ranked by which gets the most hits. The technological implications of this don’t seem to be considered, nor does the flaw of feedback loop: the #1 ranked site for any search term always gets the most hits (approximately 70%), thus once a site gets that spot, it could never be outranked if hits was all it took to keep the position.

In a nutshell, search engines, including Google, work by counting links. Every time a web page publishes a hyperlink (like this) to another web page, search engines count that as a vote from the linker for the linkee. A vote for what exactly? A vote that the linkee page is relevant and useful for whatever anchor text the link uses. So the link in this paragraph is helping the target page rank for the term “like this”.

That is a very simplified nut shell, but that is basically how a search engine works. Of course, the above explanation quickly produces lots of questions:

Are all links treated equally? Are all pages treated equally? Is it simply volume of links that wins? Does linking to a page with the same anchor text over and over again look suspicious?

Each search engine will answer these and many dozens of other questions in different ways. And that is why the search results for the same search query on different search engines can be wildly different.

Search algorithms change regularly in response to new forces on the Internet. For example, when social media became a dominant thing, Google started using social signals as part of their ranking algorithm.

Additionally, ranking algorithms have become all the more complex as they aim to generate relevant results to search queries despite webmasters employing SEO companies to try and essentially game their way to the top.

SEO – search engine optimisation – is a perfectly legal and ethical practise of doing things, both on your website and off your website, to make Google rank it highly for the keyword terms you want.

How To Make Google Love Your Website

April 13th, 2021
Google logo

Google search can provide your website – and therefore your business – with a never-ending supply of traffic. And some of those visitors will become paying customers. What do you have to do to receiving this never-ending supply of Google traffic? Very simply… make Google love your website.

But how? Well that, unfortunately, is not as simple. In fact, depending on your industry and niche it can be quite complicated. At it’s core, Google works like any other search engine. However, Google has become the market leader in the search engine space because it uses a far more advanced algorithm to generate relevant search results.

At Smart & Slick, our team have been ranking websites in Google for more than 15 years. After that long, we know what makes Google love a website and reward it with strong search rankings, as well as the things that Google will penalise a website for.

I thought today I’d explain some of the elements that make Google love a website.

HTML Tags

Back in the early days of the Internet, life was easy. You could just tell a search engine what a website was about using a few html tags and there wasn’t much more to it. Write some relevant words in your title tag, your H1 tag and your meta description and you were away.

Today, it’s not so simple. The title tag in the page head and the H1 tag at the top of the body remain vitally important.

Your title tag is the bit you see in Google search results in blue and underlined. Google takes this information from whatever is between your title tags in the header of a web page. (See our article: The Basic Anatomy of a Web Page if this is all gobbldigook.)

The H1 tag is less obvious to see. Thanks to CSS, it can appear on a web page any way the web designer desires, or even not at all. But within the code, whatever text is between the H1 tags carries importance.

But the meta description is basically useless as a ranking signal. That doesn’t mean don’t use one though. It might not help a web page get ranked, but it can help to influence a user to click.

On-Page Content

Above and beyond your Title and H1 tags, you’re going to want to give some attention to the actual text content on a web page. Google will consider which words repeat the most times on a page as a means of trying to figure out what the page is really about. But there’s a balance: repeat words too often and you’ll be penalised, but don’t repeat them enough and you won’t rank as well as you could.

You’ll want to make sure your text is at least 500 words long and your page includes at least one image too.

Links Between Pages

The way you link between pages internally (e.g. from one page of your website to another page of your website) can impact on how your website ranks.

External Link Profile

The biggest factor affecting how your website will rank is your external link profile – that is, the number of third party websites that link to pages within your website, and how they do so.

As an SEO company, this is what we spend most of our time helping clients with. This is the hardest part because you’ll never have 100% control over it.

Want it done for you?

All sound too technical and time consuming? Just want the job done? Prefer to spend your own time actually running your business?

We can help. Get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss your SEO needs with you and come up with a plan of action to help you reach your goals.

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