Mon-Fri 9am - 6pm | Call 07XXX XXX XXX

Home >> Blog

The Smart & Slick Blog: Big Ideas For Small Business

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.

The Basic Anatomy of a Web Page

April 12th, 2021
lines of HTML codes

In 2021, web pages can be very complex things. A modern web page is a synergy of multiple programming languages including but not limited to HTML, CSS and Javascript. Any website owner – and therefore any business owner – should know the basic anatomy of a web page. It’s important. Even if you don’t manage your own website or do your own web design. It’s part of our no black boxes philosophy.

So in today’s blog I’m going to explain the basics of web page anatomy.

Every web page on the entire internet is, at it’s core, a basic html frame:

<html>

<head>
<title></title>
head tags go here
</head>

<body>

everything that appears to the user within the browser goes here

</body>

</html>

The above code is an extremely simplified version of any web page you’ve ever viewed.

A html tag starts with a < and ends with a >. An opening tag is exactly that, as shown on line 1 of the above code. A closing tag starts with </ and ends with > as seen on the last line of the above code.

There are four sets of HTML tags in the above code.

The first is the <html> and </html> which is the first and last lines of the document.

The second set of html tags are the head tags. Everything between <head> and </head>. This is where stylesheet links, font imports and meta tags go. The title tag should always be at the top of the head and therefore on the line directly underneath <head>. The title tag is what Google and other search engines use as the name of the page (the bit in blue that you click on in search results) when your page appears in search results.

Below the head, we have the body, which starts with <body> and ends with </body>. Everything between these tags will appear to the user in the browser and form to content of the web page, unless told not to by a CSS command.

And that’s it – a very basic web page.

Need a website?

If you need a website of for your business, brand or organisation, talk to us today to see how we can help.

How To Sell (According To The Wolf of Wall Street)

April 9th, 2021

Lately, I’ve fallen in love with Audible. I have always enjoyed reading and really believe in the power of books. But in recent years, I often don’t have the time to dedicate an hour a day to reading a book. Audiobooks, on the other hand, are fantastic. I can listen while I drive or while I work.

I like to try and keep abreast of books in the business and marketing space and The Way of The Wolf, owing to the hit movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” has gotten a lot of attention.

In the book, Jordan Belfort explains his selling system. He calls it the straight line system. And it is the process of turning prospects into buyers.

I wanted to talk about one specific aspect of that system in this post. And it’s something Jordan calls The Three Tens.

There are three aspects of a sales situation that the prospect must rate as 10/10 if there is to be any hope of them buying from you.

The three aspects are:

  1. You (the sales person)
  2. The company
  3. The product

In face-to-face sales, the sales person needs to be trustworthy and genuine. They need to look smart. And they need to conduct themselves well.

The company needs to have a good reputation. The prospect needs to believe that the company is a good company to deal with.

The product needs to solve the customer’s problem. They need to believe that the product will make their life better.

Let’s translate this into digital.

In online sales, your website represents two out of three of those aspects. The sales person is the sales page and the website design and branding represents the company itself.

This is exactly why going cheap on web design is false economy. Your website is everything (except your product) in the 21st century. You need high quality web design. Everybody does. And the higher the price of your products, the higher quality web design you need.

Because web design is the key to having your prospects believe in you.

How Do Search Engines Work?

April 7th, 2021
Google logo neon light signage

Search engines have one objective: to organise the Internet. They help people search the billions of web pages out there for pages that are relevant to whatever the user is looking for.

But how do they do that?

21st century search engines are complex. They use all sorts of signals and complex algorithms to decide which pages are relevant to any given search term – even to the point of offering up different results depending on the device you conduct your search from (mobile search results can be different to laptop search results). But it all started much more simply…

A simple search engine works by counting links. It counts the number of links from 3rd party websites, which link to a particular website in question. Of course, it does this for all websites, so what it actually does is build a map of all the hyperlinks between all the pages on the observable Internet.

It then looks at details like the anchor text of all the links linking to a particular page, the title tag of that page, the heading tags in the page and the amount of text and frequency of any reoccuring words or phrases within that page. And of course, once again, it does this for every single page.

Based on this information it decides according to it’s algorithm, how relevant every particular web page is for whatever search query the user types in. And then it generates search results giving you, in descending order, the top 1000 pages relevant to your search query.

And that’s a simple search engine!

Advanced search engines like Google use all sorts of signals above and beyond this basic bedrock to decide the order of relevance of pages on the Internet for any given search term.

Businesses, brands and organisations that would benefit from being one of the websites a search engine refers users to for a particular search term spend a considerable amount of money on hiring SEO specialists to audit their website and link profile in order to increase their chances of being ranked well and getting that traffic.

SEO is a perfectly legal and ethical practise – though there are plenty of people who try to cut corners. Cutting corners never works in the long term because Google is constantly improving itself and if the Google engineers find a loophole in their system, they’re sure to patch it up soon and if you spent resources on exploiting that loophole, even if you’re successful, your success will be short-lived.

If you think your business or brand could use more search engine visibility, get in touch and we’ll discuss how we can help.

Should You Hire A Marketing Agency?

April 3rd, 2021
marketing agency

There is a very prevalent school of thought within entrepreneurship and among small business owners that the lone wolf entrepreneur or small business owner should do everything themselves. From servicing customers to marketing to graphic design, building and managing the website, the lot! And, of course, it works for some people.

However, I’ve often found that when I get to know these people better, other parts of their life are struggling and it becomes clear what has happened.

At Smart & Slick, we follow a philosophy from the world of software development. It’s called…

The Single Responsibility Principle

The philosophy goes like this: each and every part of a program should have one job and only one job. This makes it easier to solve problems when there is a malfunction. It means that replacing that one part of the program will not affect anything else. So fixing one problem will not create another problem.

I’ve come to believe this is a very useful philosophy outside of software engineering. It applies to business too, but sounds like this…

You Cannot Do Everything Yourself…

And nor should you! Part of being a business owner and leader is knowing that you aren’t fantastic at everything. And to try to learn everything is going to spread you very thin. There are also going to be jobs you just don’t like doing and make you feel uneasy, a feeling you’ll take home with you and will play on your mind and seep into other parts of your life.

But there’s a solution…

…So Don’t Try!

Decide what your job within your business is. All other demands of the business should be delegated to other people and organisations. Get an accountant, hire a digital agency to take care of your digital infrastructure, hire a marketing agency to take care of your marketing. Empty your plate as much as possible.

This will have a number of effects: You’ll be much more focussed and high performing in the role you’ve given yourself. You’ll also be more relaxed generally and able to give some energy to other parts of your life.

Question From Potential Client: “If you’re so good at ranking in Google, how come when I search for web design in my location, your site isn’t where I end up?”

March 31st, 2021
SEO question

This is a common and perfectly valid question. It seems logical that if we are as good at search engine optimisation as we say we are, then SmartAndSlick.com should rank for web design in every location, right?

SEO is an interestingly paradoxical service to offer. The fact that you may not have found this page by having Google refer you to it from a search result (which is pretty unlikely for this page, by the way) may be suggestive that we’re all talk and no results.

But there is in fact, a really good reason why you didn’t find us on Google…

We do not intend you do. We haven’t really tried to rank yet for those search terms.

Let me explain…

The thing about SEO is that, of all the possible marketing strategies out there, SEO is one of the longer term strategies. It doesn’t pay off over night. Thus, for a young business like us, SEO is not the best way to spend our time or money.

As well as being a long term strategy, the exact road map to a #1 ranking in Google for any search term or keyword phrase is never known. As we get closer to the number 1 spot, the competition tends to get increasingly fierce. So while Google still displays a list of 10 search results for any search term, the distance between being 5th and being 4th may be much greater than the distance was between 6th and 5th. This makes SEO a little bit speculative which again means that it’s not where we recommend startups focus their attention and resources.

One day, we will rank for web design and our other services in almost every location in Britain. For now, we’re doing far better by targeting long tail keyword phrases with our blog articles. Yes, it’s more labour intensive, but the point is that it works.

Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved. Smart & Slick