Keys To Success When Writing Content Online

The internet is a fantastic place to make a name for yourself or your business. The problem is it is massive, and full of competition. So how do you go about writing things that get you noticed and build up your profile? In this post we are going to look at some handy hints that will help you on your way.

1. Find A Topic You Love

There is nothing worse than reading something and knowing in the back of your mind that the writer themselves was bored to tears when coming up with it in the first place. You may not be able to see the emotion on their face, but you can spot it in their writing style. That it is why it is crucial to write about something that you are interested in. It gives you the opportunity not only to show off the fact that you are knowledgable but you are also able to write with a passion that is more likely to engage your reader and endear them to you in some way.

There are several keys to writing good online content that are much easier to exhibit when talking about a topic that interests you, including:

  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Flair

If something interests you it’s more likely that you will research it properly giving you a greater amount of knowledge. You can show understanding because you write in a manner which explains the topic and its implications to the reader, and you can write with a flair that just isn’t possible if you don’t truly care.

2. Find A Niche Within That Topic

After choosing a subject to write about you need to think about how you are going to make what you have to say stand out from the other people who are already out there discussing it. In order to differentiate yourself you could focus on the following:

  • Style

If you are covering topics which have already been discussed look at the different ways in which you can express your information and views. Different people prefer different writing styles. How many times have you read a book by an author, and then decided to read another one by the same author? Not because the story is the same (as it wouldn’t be worth buying then would it?) but because you liked the way that they put that story together. There are hundreds of crime writers out there covering the topic of murder, but no two books are identical.

  • Sub-topics

A sub-topic is a topic within a topic. To stick with the crime writers example you have the topic of murder, and within that we have sub topics surrounding the motivation such as love, race and revenge. To delve further into a sub topic serves to differentiate yourself from other writers because it makes what you have to say more unique. One great example of this is the ‘How To’ guide. As a programmer it is not possible to know every single piece of code or function and often I find myself looking for guides on Google written by people who have overcome the same problems. If a guide is not available, and you manage to overcome a problem whatever it may be document what it was that you did and write about it. Chances are you will not be the only person who has had this problem, but you will be one of the first to publish a solution!

  • Improvement

Sticking with the ‘How To’ example from the previous point, if you come up against a problem and do find a guide online which helps you in some way to overcome that problem, look at what was missing from that guide and rewrite it. If you think that you can provide a more complete or easy to understand solution then you are probably right, and you won’t be the only person who found the previous offerings somewhat incomplete!

3. Write Without A Care

Please note this is not suggesting that you write ‘without care’ but is simply suggesting that when you write content for the internet you should write it as if you have one million readers even if you only have one hundred. Sometimes it takes time for good work to be fully appreciated (try asking Galileo!) and if you write with all the flair and quality of someone who has a million readers you’ve got more than half a chance of getting there. A small time attitude never got anybody anywhere in life and the same goes for writing online. It comes across in your writing and can either engage or disengage your reader.

4. Don’t Forget Your Keywords

Before you publish your article, whether it be about football or writing effective online content make sure it is rich with keywords (see what I did in this sentence?) that will enable your potential readers to find it. If you watched the UK version of The Apprentice in 2011 you may remember the ‘winner’ Thomas Pellereau and his back pain curing chair idea from the final show. Never once in his entire plan for his new product did he mention the word chair! Now if you were going to invent a new kind of chair, what is the one word you would expect to find plenty of times in your plans? This example just goes to show that it does happen, so make sure you re-read everything before it is published! Writing the best article in the world is a fantastic achievement, but it’s even better when people are able to read it.

5. Remember Content Is King

Whenever you are writing and get to the point where you start asking yourself ‘what is the point of this article?’ it’s time to stop. If the writer doesn’t understand the point of publishing it, then will the reader understand why you bothered? Quality content is the key to link building which in turn helps to promote your site online by boosting search engine rankings. If you publish something you don’t really understand the point of, then not only will your readers get the wrong impression about your writing but it may also put them off linking to your other better quality content as they read half of the first page they see and hit the back button and ‘get outta there‘.

 

Data Reporting For Tyre Dealers (And Their Fleets!)

Are you looking for a cost effective reporting solution to provide information to your fleet customers?

The independent tyre industry is now beginning to truly understand the need to be able to provide reports and information to their fleet customers. The growth of technology in all sectors of industry has created an expectation amongst fleet customers of all sizes that they should be receiving and analysing information about their fleet including:

  • Costs By Location
  • Costs By Vehicle
  • Damage Reports
  • Fitment Rates
  • Spend On Tyres vs Service

In order to compete with the larger firms such as ATS Euromaster who provide this information as standard there is now a real need for the independent tyre firms within the industry to take action.

The majority of tyre dealers within the industry use the Cameo tyre system to produce their invoices and control stock, although there are also many other users who opt for the TeamTyre system. These systems hold all the information you need to produce your reports for your customers, however a solution provided direct from either company will prove to be very expensive.

Whilst previously working within this industry I built and provided a number of systems at tyre management network Tyrenet and as such I am able to offer a much more cost effective range of reporting solutions to businesses within the tyre industry.

So if you want to provide your customers with in depth management reports without paying over the odds to do so please feel free to get in touch. All reports and systems can be tailored to your needs and areas covered include:

  • Spend Analysis
  • Casing Management
  • Fleet Checks
  • Accounting, Statements & Overdue Balances
  • Internal Reporting For Your Business Only

I have a wealth of experience in using the Cameo system especially. All the information you need to provide reports to fleet customers is contained within it, you just need to know how to access it and use it! For more information please contact me.

 

5 Great Reasons To Get Your Business Online

A website or online presence plays a vital role within any business. More than ever these days it is considered ‘the norm’ for a business, irregardless of sector or size to have some kind of online presence. But how many people out there are still wondering to themselves, why exactly? Well here are 5 of the top reasons why you should consider getting your business onto the internet.

 

1. Your Potential Customers Are There

Research has shown that around 85% of people now turn to the internet as their first port of call when looking for information. Due to the rise in computer use, and the accesibility the internet provides at home, at work or on the move it has become part and parcel of our daily lives. The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of people out there searching for the kinds of products and services your business provides. Without a website or strong online presence, how much potential business are you missing out on? And more importantly how much more business are your competitors getting?

2. Its Never Been More Cost Effective

If there had ever been a time to put your business online it’s now. The days of websites running into thousands of pounds making them an attractive investment for larger companies with cash to burn is a thing of the past.

Your website promotes your business at all hours of the day, every day of the week. It can contain much more information than a paid advert in a local newspaper or magazine ever could. Further to this once it’s online and it’s paid for that’s pretty much it. Every time your website makes you money because someone sees it and visits your business that cost of advertising online is reduced. Your website should be seen as an investment rather than a cost. It is a selling tool that creates interest and makes money.

3. Other People Can Promote Your Business (For Free!)

The rise of websites such as Facebook and Twitter has created an amazing marketing opportunity for companies of all sizes. With the right design and tools in place visitors can share your website with a community of people on the internet.

It can be as hands off (or hands on…) as you like. You can use these services simply to let others share your business effectively marketing you for free, or you can use it to keep potential customers, suppliers and even staff up to date on your latest news. The way you use it can be tailored to your business, which is why it’s important to have a designer that really gets to know your business.

4. It Conveys A Strong Image Of Your Business

Having a well designed website which is both clear and informative tells your customers something about your business. It has now become an expectation of businesses that they can be found online (and I’m not just talking about on the Yellow Pages website) and if you’re competitor has a great website, and you don’t I’m afraid that the reality is that they will reap the benfits of this new online customer base and you won’t.

Many small businesses are now using websites to good effect, in order to help them better compete with larger firms by conveying a professional image that shows that their service is just as good if not better. Now your service may be the best in the area, and your loyal regular customers would agree. However if you aren’t shouting about it online, then there are plenty of people who will never find out just how good you are.

5. You Can Combine Email Marketing Into Your Site

If email marketing is right for your business, then it is a great way to reach out to your customer base and save on printing and stamps. With the rapid developments in technology that have recently come about, it is now possible to integrate a form into your website which allows both current and potential customers to sign up to your mailing list, so you don’t have to lift a finger! You are able to send out vouchers, newsletters, reminders and pretty much anything else you can think of in bulk, for less, at the touch of a button.

My customers can have access to a secure online system which allows them to easily manage their marketing activities, view reports, and even segment and target specific groups of people. The great thing is that emails arrive in seconds not days, and they get right under the noses of the people you want to reach out to, unlike junk mail which most people put straight in the bin.

For more information, or just an informal chat about how a website could benefit your business you can contact me by phone, or send me an email using our handy ‘Get in Touch’ form to the top right of your screen.

 

The Google Accreditation ‘Scam’

Have you recently been approached by BT about a website? Did they tell you all about the importance of search engines like Google to your business and its website? Well good, because they are very important and it would be wrong of them not to tell you.

Did they also tell you that they are accredited by Google? Very impressive you have to admit!

Well unfortunately if you’ve been caught hook, line and sinker by this very slick sales pitch, I have some terrible news for you. That accreditation (if the said company has it…) means nothing when it comes to the success of your site.

This happened recently to a company that is now a client of mine. Around the time I tendered for the business BT got in touch to sell them their web design service. Now this I have no problem with, at the end of the day it is a free country, and large or small all businesses are free to compete.

However when this particular business owner said that he was already considering an offer from another business (aka myself) the sales pitch became very heavy. Apparently because BT are ‘Google accredited’ they will be able to provide a first page ranking for the relevant keywords. The salesman turned designer also then inferred that as I had no such accreditation, I would not.

Now unfortunately this is not the case. Google is in no way influenced by ‘accreditation’ as all search results other than pay per click are achieved naturally. Anyway, how is Google to know that your site was designed by one of these ‘accredited’ companies? Unfortunately it is little more than a sales pitch designed to get the attention of those who have little or no knowledge of search engines and websites, but who do understand that it is important to have a high ranking.

Now of course when it came to the meeting I understandably had to fight my corner, and explained the facts as such. It is unfortunate that many SMEs fall into this attractive sales trap, and potentially end up with a website that fails to reach its full potential.

To highlight this point, BT gave my client the name of another company in the same business sector for whom they had done work previously. Now I will admit that they did an excellent job with the look and feel of the website, and my client based some of his original ideas on their design and layout which is credit to the designer. However when we search for a number of keywords relating to this company, in one of the 5 locations in Yorkshire where it resides we were unable to find it within the first couple of pages of Google search results.

Finally to make it a little easier we looked the company up by name, and can you guess what we found? Unfortunately for that company their website didn’t even show up in the first few pages of search results when you looked for them by name.

If you read the papers, you’ll see from time to time stories of medical professionals with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. Did that piece of paper stop them from getting struck off for a missed diagnosis? Well, it’s the same with Google ‘accreditation’ presuming that it can and has been obtained by many of these firms. Just because they’ve paid to get it, it doesn’t mean they’re any good.

Now if that doesn’t prove my point with regards to these unscrupulous companies with their misleading and polished sales pitches backed up without substance then I don’t know what does. They have even tried to pitch their service to independent competitors offering the same service, as you see here.

And as well as being able to compete on service, as far as price is concerned once you take BT’s montly fees and minimum contract terms into account, along with charges for additional pages and every other add-on under the sun that I provide as standard where possible I was able to provide a better dealer, offering real value for money.

Using Custom Fields With Contact Form 7 Campaign Monitor Add-on

For those seasoned WordPress users out there, I’m sure that by now you’ve come across the Contact Form 7 plugin, which in my opinion is THE best contact form plugin available.

For those of you who also use Campaign Monitor a handy add-on was released which allows you to add a custom sign up form to your site on a post, page or sidebar widget like this one. The forms work great and can be used to boost the size of your mailing list by coaxing in new subscribers from your website traffic.

One of the things that attracted me to the add-on was the promise of using custom fields, which I use a lot to split a large mailing list into smaller more targetted lists for specific campaigns, but I could not for the life of me work out how to get the custom fields passed from the contact form to my campaign monitor subscriber list!

For more information on setting up the add-on, see the following guide. But if you’re just stuck with the custom fields then read on….

The way to get it working is very simple indeed, but when there are no easy to find guides online it takes a bit of thought. However when you check the ‘Use Custom Fields’ box you are presented with options for up to 20 custom fields with a ‘CustomKey’ and CustomValue’.

Put simply the ‘CustomKey’ is the name of your custom field in Campaign Monitor, and your ‘CustomValue’ is the tag in Contact Form 7 which represents the field in which the required information is entered (e.g. [your-age]) as shown below.

 contact form 7 campaign monitor addon custom fields

 

So if you had the same problem I did, now you can see how simple it is to configure and add some real valuable information to your mailing lists with minimal effort. Most people will probably have figured out how to use this, but as I couldn’t find a to the point guide online, I assumed I wasn’t going to be the only one, so hopefully someone will get some help from this!

MOT-Go: Reminder System For Independent Garages

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MOT-Go is a new product which has been designed for use by independent garages over the internet to help them better compete for both new and repeat business with national firms such as Kwik Fit and ATS Euromaster.

Every year around 26 million cars MOT tested in the UK, and many large companies such as those listed above ensure they get a large share of new and repeat business by sending out reminders detailing offers to as many customers as they can, simply by collecting a few details including an email address whether the customer has come in for a service, puncture repair or a pressure check.

The MOT-Go system has been developed in response to a number of requests from motor industry customers, and allows independent garages like your’s to manage and send personalised MOT & service reminders online to your customers by email to ensure that you get a bigger share of that business. The system has a number of benefits including:

  • Online access to your own secure account
  • Brandable templates including your company logo and colours
  • Easy to use interface
  • Easy to manage mailing lists
  • Reporting
  • Competitive pricing

Unlike other reminder systems MOT-Go can also be integrated with your business website to allow online visitors to sign up for a reminder without even visiting your depot. This unique optional feature helps to increase the reach of your business and create increase bookings for MOT & servicing.

Further to this the system can be used to include vouchers, issue servicing reminders, and to follow up a visit for feedback thereby encouraging customer loyalty and recommendations to others.

MOT-Go is a stand alone MOT reminder system designed to meet the needs of garages who are looking for an alternative to other products which also offer complex workshop scheduling systems, making them either too expensive or too complex for their needs by solely focusing on marketing their business in a simple and cost effective way.

For more information, and access to the MOT-Go demonstration system please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can also see a sample from our demo area here, but remember everything can be altered to suit your needs!

 

Web Designers – 5 Examples Of Poor Quality Service

Developers and techno geeks across the globe often come up with some fantastic and life changing innovations on a daily basis that make a huge difference to someone’s business. However many others out there in the technological world end up getting stuck with the idea that because it’s there, and a lot of people use it to good effect, it suits every business that they come into contact with and that their customers MUST have it.

To my mind that constitutes everything that is wrong with web design, and this list just serves the purpose to highlight why not taking the time to learn about your customer and not asking the proper questions can cause problems.

1. How about a section for your latest news?

Google, and therefore web designers love websites which are regularly updated with new content. With the advent of content management systems which allow customers to log in from work and create a new web page it has also become a very accessible way to help promote your website and increase visitor numbers.

Sounds all well and good during the initial design phase, but did you think to check that your customer has the time, knowledge and resources to keep the site updated regularly? No? Well unfortunately that lovely section set aside in a prominent position on your client’s new website might end up a bit like this.

Looks rather unprofessional doesn’t it? Well unfortunately it is not the customer’s fault, it’s the fault of the designer. However it doesn’t convey that image about the designer, it conveys it about their customer!

If you’re going to offer a news section, make sure that you explain that it needs to be updated regularly to maintain your customer’s online image as an up to date, knowledgeable force within their industry. And make sure you give them some advice and training on how to use a news section to its full potential….

 

2. Twitter, Facebook… you NEED them!

Working within the independent tyre industry, I can safely say that the above is not true.

To build a brand as a major manufacturer in new and emerging markets this tool is essential. But ask yourself this, how many people are likely to become fans of John’s Tyres facebook page, the guy in the greasy garage on the local industrial estate?

Answer = (Total Number of Staff / 0.4) + a couple of their friends.

Unfortunately for some businesses the product they sell is not sexy, popular or catchy and as such it is just an essential that you need from time to time. No one want it, but they get it when they have to. And furthermore they don’t have time to spend thinking what they can put on their Facebook page as an update.

At the risk of sounding like a heathen I am not suggesting that we abandon Facebook as it is a wonderful marketing tool, but for some businesses a simple “Like” button will suffice.

 

3. Contact forms are an essential

Most websites in the UK now have a ‘Contact Us’ section with a nice neat little contact form which asks for all your details, and lets you send your enquiry through to the business you’re looking at.

Doesn’t it get you annoyed when no one responds to you for hours, or even days? I know that there are very few things that make me look to take my business somewhere else.

You provide your customer with a lovely little contact form on their new website, but did you think to ask whether or not this customer regularly checks their email? Oops, well in that case you’ll have plenty of potential customers who feel ignored and go somewhere else never to return again (unless the competitor was terrible that is).

If your customer has people in the office constantly, concentrate on creating a site that says ‘PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL US’ and highlight the importance of their staff turning that call into a sale. And bin the idea of a contact form if necessary.

Remember the golden rule: Members of the public generally contact you because they want something, and quickly.

 

4. Copy and paste content aaannndd … DONE!

It is not unknown to have a customer who wants to write their own content for their website.

In many ways this makes absolutely perfect sense, because no matter how much research you have done, they know their industry inside out. However, there is also a danger here as your customer may wish to include content which serves little or no purpose to the website, and in some cases has a negative impact.

Take this section for example. The brands of many global companies are built on a rich history, heritage and tradition and placing some of this information on a website is fine. However, what did you think of when you read this particular example? I saw a company in decline, struggling to make ends meet, potentially cutting corners. Now not for one minute am I suggesting that this company cuts corners, and I know for a fact they offer a good service but isn’t it bad that I thought that? After thinking that would you take your car there? Now that is not an image you’d want to present to your customer.

Obviously there will be occasions when the customer demands that their content go into the website, warts and all. In this case it is the job of any good web designer to do their best with what they are given by rewriting and optimising as much as can be allowed, but not just to cave in without explaining the impact it may have upon the customers website and the negative perceptions it conveys.

 

 5. Overselling on looks

A website that looks good helps to sell your business. Fact.

Well actually, a website that looks good and gets plenty of internet traffic helps to sell your business.

Some web designers are suited to certain types of customer. If you’re strongest skills lie in producing lots of fantastic images in Photoshop, and creating a template that can only be described as beautiful then perhaps your websites are going to fall down on the number of visitors they receive.

It is a mere fact that fancy design features and images cost more money. But do they add any value to what your current client is trying to achieve? If the answer is no, then why are you selling them a website to them that contains features that provide no value yet cost them money?

It is important to stress at this point that I am not suggesting you should provide your clients with a plain, boring site with no features that gets lots of web traffic, because no one will be impressed enough by the website to use their business. However it is important to work with a client to strike the right balance between text and design.

A general rule as a starting point is;

Product – Focus on Images
Service – Focus on Text

Of course this is a little basic, but at the end of the day a service tends to be intangible, and therefore benefits have to be highlighted through the use of the written word. A product is something visible, and whilst many products also bring with them a plethora of benefits, the product itself is the focus, although each case should be judged on its merits.