How has 2018 been for you? How’s business? Competition is ever more fierce, cutting through an ever increasing amount of content is like wading through treacle. How will your target market find you? The good news is, if you get it right, you can be ‘up there with the big boys’. Google’s updates might seem complex, but ultimately what Google wants is to see a great user experience.
Six Easy SEO Steps for 2019
Show E-A-T: Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness
Keywords are still important. Research the most relevant keywords and use them appropriately
Optimise page headings
Optimise meta descriptions
Optimise the content of every page
Build relevant, good quality links
Quality Content is Crucial
Quality content ticks Google’s E.A.T. boxes. Your page content should not only make you shine, but it must demonstrate your expertise; take time to create authentic content to engender trust. Mistakes or inaccuracies will do you no favours, it is, therefore, a worthwhile investment. I have written for a wide range of businesses from accountancy to Science, research and fact-checking is essential to create authentic and accurate content for every client.
Feel free to browse through the SEO guidance throughout the site, contact me if you wish to discuss anything further.
I recently booked flights on Ryanair. Since 1st November the only way you can take a cabin bag in to the aircraft is by paying for priority boarding. Ryanair have also changed their seating policy. I waited as usual until 48 hours before the flight to book seats, ignoring copious emails explaining how I will be sitting alone, on a seat I didn’t choose if I didn’t pay for seats immediately. I checked, there were many seats available on the plane, I wasn’t falling for it…
And Here’s The Catch
On schedule, I checked in and as usual, went to choose my seats. However, those cunning little guys at Ryanair have fixed it so if you don’t purchase seats they are ‘randomly allocated’, in an expensive part of the aeroplane, far from whoever you are travelling with, yet in a sea of available seats. ‘That’s OK’, I thought, ‘I will just change them’. And here’s where Ryanair have got you ‘by the short and curlies’, you can no longer choose your seats for free, you have to have separate seats or buy new ones. Added to that, if you just move one person, you are forced to purchase an expensive (but available) seat beside the other. Either way, Ryanair get more money.
Is this a clever upsell on the part of Ryanair? The flights I paid for because they were cheap (I admit it), were not cheap at all, they were the price Ryanair said they would be + Priority boarding + cost of a seat. How did it leave me feeling? CHEATED, MISLED, DUPED.
Is This Clever Marketing?
Why don’t Ryanair just sell the flight for a price that includes a cabin bag, and a seat and say up front there are no hidden costs? Because then they wouldn’t appear at the top of the search engines when people are looking for the cheapest fare. Will I continue to use Ryanair in the future? Possibly, but henceforth, I will add another £15 to the stated price and see how it compares. Of course Ryanair know that people will continue to buy flights in the belief they are cheaper, but I wonder how sustainable this way of operating is as a business model.
A More Sustainable Business Model
Surely in time people will cotton on that the seemingly cheap fares will dramatically rise in reality? Will people continue to choose airlines like this? Would it not be better practice to advertise prices with a marketing message that there will be no hidden costs? ‘The price you see is the price you pay’, that’s the kind of open and honest message that would attract me.
It occurs to me, I might choose to forgo my seat and opt to stand/walk around the plane instead, I have after all, paid for the flight. how do you think that might go?
While on the topic of Ryanair, here is an interesting read about their other scheme to increase profitability, the scratchcards!
I get it! I know that some people cannot (can’t) get their heads around apostrophes. I know some people completely restructure their sentences to avoid using (or abusing) them. ‘Nicola’s dog’ becomes ‘the dog owned by Nicola’. I understand that, and that is (that’s) OK, at least they are applying effort.
What’s Happened to the Rules?
Here is (here’s) what I do not (don’t) understand. Why are we now seeing more and more of this?
You too kind
We in London
I been shopping
Evolution Should Be Improvement
I know that language evolves and that is (that’s) not a bad thing, who could not like the word ‘hangry’? But how is it suddenly OK to completely drop essential components of sentences? Is ‘We in London’ a case of the speaker not understanding how to use apostrophes? Or are they just too lazy to text the word ‘are’? Or worse, do they genuinely feel that ‘We in London’ is correct?
Safeguard Our Grammar
Social media is becoming increasingly dominant, how much of our valuable time is spent gazing at a screen? We are at risk of producing more individuals who cannot (can’t) write, converse or interact socially, and are unable to construct a grammatically correct sentence. Examples of poor grammar in business marketing seem to be on the increase, these businesses looks unprofessional and give the impression they don’t care enough to pay attention to detail. In a competitive marketplace, why put yourself at a disadvantage? Shouldn’t we be making every effort to safeguard literacy?
Apostrophes Made Simple
Apostrophes are used for ONLY two reasons:
To show ownership – Nicola’s dog (the dog BELONGS to Nicola)
To show omission – It isn’t difficult (it is nOt difficult – The O has been omitted and replaced with an apostrophe)
They are NEVER used to show plurality – More than one apostrophe is apostrophes, not apostrophe’s!
My post in April this year was based on a Linked in article I wrote a couple of years ago. I had walked into our post office and while gazing at empty shelves I was thinking, ‘what a waste’. Local small businesses, craft makers, hobbyists etc could promote their wares by renting space in this underused, and vulnerable resource. The post office stays open, local entrepeneurs gain, customers gain, what’s to not like? So I wrote about it, and talked about it with people, who are, as I write, putting it into practice.
Mackie Mayor’s, A Prime Example
Last week I visited a fine example of a shared space maximising its potential. Working with a client in Manchester, we had evenings to fill. Someone recommended Mackie Mayor so one night, off we trotted. What a place! In the same way that ‘food quarters’ are springing up in cities across the world, Mackie Mayor is an illustration of ‘strength in unity’. This 1858 disused market place in Manchester’s Northern Quarter has had the life bellowed back into it by the people behind Altrincham Market. Mackie’s is an eclectic mix of food outlets within a previously disused but magnificent building. It is now a bustling, vibrant experience, and it’s fabulous. Grab a space at a trestle table, choose from one of the oh so cool eateries, stop off at the bar and your food arrives at your table. The place was ‘buzzing’, mid-week.
Share The Overheads, Increase Your Profits
Step one – Find a disused building, preferably with character, and strength (literally, you don’t want to take on a money pit)
Step two – Take a look at successful examples and decide what will work
Step three – Find local, independent businesses who ‘fit into the big picture’, the overall offering needs to be a place people will want to come
Changing Face of Retail
In the way that shopping centres give customers choice and convenience, these shared spaces might be the way forward for retail. Each business shares the costs of having a retail outlet while enjoying the benfits of an increased footfall. The offering needs to be attractive enough to pull people away from online and into real life experience. What you could have over Amazon is, an amazing, unique customer experience.
As a content writer, User Experience (or rather dyslexically named, UX) is at the forefront of my mind in everything I do. Today I bought a new laptop, and so begins the joyful experience of installing software, email packages, apps, suites, remembering passwords, waiting for seemingly endless buffering (hence, time to write a quick blog post), it’s a necessary evil.
Cloud Storage – Where’s the Silver Lining?
I’ll say it up front, I am not ‘techy’, I just want stuff to work. I don’t spend hours (or even minutes) reading up, I depend on apps being intuitive enough to just use. I subscribe to Office 365, and Dropbox, and Google Drive, I have stuff stored on an Apple device, an external hard drive, OneDrive from Microsoft, Google Drive and Google Photos etc. three different email accounts for different clients, stuff everywhere.
Can We Please Work Together?
All of these companies trying hard for exclusivity means it isn’t always easy, or possible, to access files stored by rival companies. Overall, it makes for a frustratingly difficult and time consuming user experience. I frequently email files to my other e,ail accounts in order to access and/or store them where I need them. surely this isn’t particularly slick. Is it me?
A Question of Compatibility
Nowadays it just isn’t feasible to expect someone to be an exclusive user, faithful to one company, media comes in from everywhere. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone, and a better user experience if everything was accessible and compatible? Rant over, I’ll get back to watching my buffering.
And so it begins… Businesses and consumers find themselves unwittingly invited to the ‘marketing madness party’. How is it for you? ‘Trick or Treat’?
Let’s Get The Party Started
Since the arrival of GDPR in May this year our inboxes should no longer be a cacophony of noise from thousands of uninvited guests. If you are a business, by now your mailing list should only include people that are happy to hear from you, ‘by invitation only’. As a consumer, Halloween/Black Friday/Christmas invites to buy will flood in from businesses on every medium, have you ever felt so popular?!
In the UK Halloween has never been the ‘thing’ it is in the US, ho hum, Americans, fill your boots. Unless you are in the fancy dress or confectionery market, the chance to increase revenue is limited, many retailers have their sights set on christmas. Halloween is an opportunity for some social media fun.
Are we ‘over it’ already? Tales abound of retailers performing tricks to tempt people in who quickly discover the whole thing was an illusion. Weeks of hype. scant offers, hordes of people behaving badly and ‘Friday’ is at least a week long. If expectations are not met people will see through the smoke and mirrors.
How are businesses to benefit from this odd event? Research suggests people are spending money that they would have been spent anyway but they are taking advantage of discounts on offer. Consumer 1: Retailers 0? Sugestion: Create authentic offers, publicise them well, take every opportunity to raise your profile and develop loyalty to your brand.
People will continue to spend at Christmas, it’s what we do. As a business, keep the focus on how you can help your customers. How will your product/service enhance their Christmas/life? Write your product descriptions well, authenticity and accuracy have always been important to your customers, but it has never been more important to Google than it is now.
Prepare yourselves, for many businesses Christmas is the biggest trading period. Learn the lessons from previous years, develop strategies to cope, employ (and train) temporary staff if necessary and ensure you have enough stock to meet demand. Think about your offering. What can you say that will make consumers choose you? Portray yourself well, your website is your shop window, how does it look? Ask for an honest opinion from people you trust then take steps to look and sound your best.
Firstly, once a bad review is there, it’s there to stay. There are a few forums with difficult and lengthy processes to dispute reviews but the process is arduous, better to not find yourself in that position but human nature being as it is, there will always be that person that feels compelled to write you a hum-dinger of a bad review. Why?
They received bad service
Your courier has let you down
They are having a bad day
Your product did not meet their expectations
It is easier to rant from behind a screen than speak to people
What if the Review is Unfair?
Firstly, acknowledge their feelings, show empathy. Secondly, calmly and clearly show how it is unfair using evidence to back up what you say. Finally, use the chance to suggest something that will make the situation better and demonstrate to others how fabulous you are.
What if the Review is Justified?
If you have promised to fulfil your part of the deal with a valuable customer by providing a product or service but somehow let them down, here is your chance to shine:
Apologise – ‘I am so sorry…’
Acknowledge their feelings – ‘I completely understand why you feel…’
State how you will try to repair the damage (go the extra mile on this)
State what steps you will take to ensure this doesn’t happen again
Thank them for the feedback and the opportunity to improve
A Final Thought
What stimulated me to write this post? I had received wonderful service from a business and felt compelled to write them a good review to show them support. I was astonished to see that in amongst the rave reviews there were two or three one star ‘hum-dingers’. It happens, it could happen to any small business and may be due to factors outside your control. How you deal with it could be your moment in the spotlight, make it count.
Pack in as many opportunities to increase revenue as you can
All I Want is a Few Alpacas
Anyone that knows me well knows about my penchant for alpacas. I dream of sitting writing at my desk, looking out at a small herd of alpacas roaming happily around my (as yet non-existent) land. It’s a pipe dream.
Mothers Day (deliberate apostrophe omission) 2018 and my wonderful children presented me with…An alpaca experience! Here I am, with Jet.
A Small Business That Thinks Big
We drove down to Butlers Farm Alpacas I’ll be honest, we were busy so we needed to have the experience and leave. I’m not sure if the alpacas loved it as much as I did but we had a great time. Elizabeth, the owner, began with a few alpacas, and fell in love (with said alpacas), so ended up with 100. Alpacas don’t come free and are not cheap to run properly so the business has had to build around them. As well as running a (usually fully booked) programme of alpaca experiences, annual shearing results in the finest wool which in turn, results in some fine products. The business is making the most of every opportunity.
An Easy Upsell
I entered the obligatory ‘Disney style shop’ at the end of the experience in my usual mindset of ‘just look, I’m not falling for it’ but honestly, this shop was full of beautiful, quality products from the alpacas I had just spent time with. We were introduced to the range and left to stroke them at leisure, no pressure to buy but Elizabeth’s appreciation of the quality was infectious.
Come and meet my socks…
All natural alpaca wool so they can officially be worn for days without washing (I’ve stretched it to two and she is right, they would go on) and my feet are kept at a perfect temperature whatever the weather, it works for the alpaca so it works for me. They weren’t cheap but honestly, I wish I had bought a drawer full. Perhaps what I should do is get myself a few alpacas so I have a constant supply.
Well done to this thriving business, passion and expertise are fuelling steady growth, while the business offers authentic quality products, every opportunity is maximised.
Today marks 10 Years since the financial crisis brought upon us all as banks took excessive risks. I thought I would share something very simple, the best ideas are. Straight off the bat, credit for this idea goes to our local financial advisor, Stephen Graham
Steve came to visit to run through our finances, make improvements and find us a more competietive mortgage product. He achieved all of those things in one visit. Over a cup of tea he described the system he had used for many years to manage the family budget. No fancy App, no spreadsheet, no accounting software involved.
9 Steps to Better Finance Management
Analyse each outgoing, is it necessary? Could you be paying less?
Reduce costs where you can (change providers, stop unnecessary luxuries)
Add up your outgoings
Add up your income
Subtract total outgoings from total income
On a set day each week, draw that amount of money out in cash, no more
This is the money you have available to live on
If you an make online purchase, put that amount of cash in to next week’s pot
Next week draw out the total minus the cash in your pot
By physically seeing the cash you have available to spend it is far easier to appreciate the reality of your financial situation. Virtual numbers in a bank account are ever-changing and difficult to visualise, it is easy to over-spend. This is a great lesson in finance management, if this was part of the school curriculum we might have far fewer people in debt.
Financial Management for Small Businesses
In business or personally, understanding your financial limits is crucial. Clearly a business cannot deal in cash, but the theory is the same. Get yourself into a position of knowing precisely the money you have to spend. So many businesses fail because they spend money they simply do not have. If you speculate to accumulate, do so wisely and do the research to know that your ‘gamble’ has a high probability of success.
Last week, at 11:33pm, a client emailed me via 123 Reg Webmail to ask if I was available to work in Manchester for a week. The next morning I awoke to a Hotmail from Trivago, subject line, ‘Heading to Manchester?’
What happened to privacy?
If Customers Want It, They’ll Buy It, If They Don’t, They Won’t
Yesterday we browsed around a few shops, the aim of the day was pleasure as opposed to achieving the items on our vague list. We wandered in and out of several shops, picked up a few things, had coffee and cake. Now imagine if we arrived home to find we had been followed by every business owner. There they are on our drive, stuffing their flyers into our hands and through our letterbox.
At this juncture I refer to Jac Rayner’s Tweet:
“Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one. Necessity, not desire. I do not collect them. I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I’m not going to think, oh go on then, just one more toilet seat, I’ll treat myself.”
I know, I know, this is normal now, advertising got cleverer, businesses got much smarter…OR DID THEY? I created a quick poll asking how people felt about this kind of advertising…‘Does this stalking/advertising work for you or does it annoy you?’
90 respondents said this advertising annoyed them
5 Respondents (two of whom were married to each other) said it worked for them
So 95% of people surveyed are annoyed by this advertising, are they likely to buy?
The 5% who said ‘It works for me’ included people who do this for their clients for a living.
(94.7 rounded to 95, 5.2 rounded to 5)
An Invasion of Privacy
It might be normal now, but it does not make it right. It also doesn’t make it effective. Do businesses seriously believe that showing me they are snooping (yes, snooping) into MY private emails, then trying to shove their products/services into my face will make me choose them? It might work with a few people (maybe around 5%), but I can tell you, the majority of people find it annoying, and an invasion of their privacy. Would we allow these businesses to come and open our post? No! Why do we allow them access to our private email?
A few of the comments from the respondents to my survey:
“I hate it”
“I especially find it offensive when it comes from email, as I do find that a complete invasion of privacy.”
“Last year I had a miscarriage and for the following 5 months, was constantly shown baby/maternity ads.”
ENOUGH! What happened to being ethical?
A More Sustainable Solution
Begin with a great quality product or service that is needed/wanted
Create a well-written website that shows the world exactly what you offer
Optimise your website for search engines
Focus on being the best at what you do
Encourage customers to spread the word, nothing is more powerful than word-of-mouth