How to train your website – LESSON FOUR: Health & Welfare of your website

Having completed Lesson Three: Exercising your Website, you know your website is getting all the exercise it needs. But even so, is it healthy? You may be putting a lot of effort into all this ‘exercising’, but how do you know whether it’s beneficial for your website?

Website Health CheckUp

In order to check up on the health of your website, you need to have some kind of tool that is collecting data so you can establish a) if there’s traffic going to your website b) which parts of the website are doing well c) which parts of the website aren’t doing as well as they should. There are many free tools for this, with one of the most popular and easy to install being Google Analytics. Once you have Google Analytics installed, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your website statistics at least every month or so.

There’s no point looking at each individual data strand separately – these mean nothing unless compared to other data points. And the data should be analysed over time so you can look at the trends over time.

Here’s your checklist for what to look out for in Google Analytics *:

AUDIENCE What does it mean? Why is it important?
Unique Visitors The number of individual visitors to your site. This is most useful viewed over set periods of time so you can take note of trends and increases or decreases in your website’s traffic. This is best viewed in conjunction with the number of visits.
Visits This is the total number of visits to your website. This records each and every time a user lands on your website, even if they visit it more than one. Understanding how many visits your website is getting in total can help you gain an idea of how many people are visiting your website more than once.
Pages  / Visits The average number of pages each user is clicking onto. This tells you how many different pages each visitor is clicking to. This helps you understand whether your website is encouraging users to travel through your website.
Average Visit Duration The average amount of time that the user is on the website on The amount of time users spend on a website is  a good indicator of how engaging your website is.
Bounce Rate The percentage of users who land on the homepage and leave straight away without looking at any other part of the website. The higher the bounce rate, the more people are leaving your website as soon as they land on the homepage. This often happens when people don’t know where they’re clicking to.
% New Visits The percentage of new visitors who visit your site. As well as retaining existing visitors to the site, increasing your reach is important too and this will help you determine whether your ‘exercise’ is paying off.

 

TRAFFIC SOURCES What does it mean? Why is it important?
Search Traffic The percentage of people who visited the site through a search engine Are people finding your website using the keywords that you’ve optimized your content for? Data around this will also tell you what keywords people are using to find your website.
Referral Traffic The percentage of visitors who landed on the website after coming via a link from another site. These count as inbound links and the better quality the website, the  more favourably search engines view your website.
Direct Traffic The percentage of visitors who arrived at the site directly, by typing in the URL. This will tell you how many already know about your website (they may even have visited it before) and that they remember the URL or have this saved somewhere for quick access.

 

CONTENT What does it mean? Why is it important?
Content This shows the pages on your website that have the most visitors. This helps you understand the pages that are generating the most page views. And also the pages that aren’t doing so well. If you can work out why some pages are getting more views than others then you’re onto a good thing.

 

Don’t forget, you should also keep a close eye on how your social media updates and emails are doing too. Was there one tweet that had more replies than others? Or a Facebook status that didn’t get any Likes at all? How does it compare to other Facebook statuses that had several Likes? It’s also a good idea to look at timings too. For example, what time did you sent out that email? Was it the best time? Are most of your target audience even awake and checking their emails at 7am on a Sunday morning?

The most important thing to remember is to QUESTION EVERYTHING. Pretend you’re a kid again. Ask WHY. A lot.

Question EveryThing

Having successfully completed Lesson Four and established a healthy website, you can start thinking about what accessories you need for your website > 

 

* This is a healthcheck for traffic and user interaction on the website, and assumes that elements such as site structure and SEO is all already sorted. 

How to train your website – LESSON THREE: Exercising your website

You’ve got your website fully-trained and on the way to behaving as you want it to. But every website needs to stretch their legs, run about and travel!

There are many many ways to get your website out and about in the digital world and the ones listed below are only a small selection. However, it’s up to you to experiment with what works best for you and your website.

How to Train Your Website - Exercising

The Sprint (getting your website out to your existing users)

This type of exercise for your website is great for keeping your existing users up to date with new content on your website. You know that they’re keen to hear about your news as they’ve already subscribed to your emails, or Liked or Follow you on Twitter. This helps maintain and increase your return visitors.

Emails

The world seems to be divided as to the value of emails. Some say “It’s great because everyone gets my content straight into their inbox!” and other say “Eurgh, people already have too many emails, no one ever reads them and they just get annoyed when they receive them.”

There is truth is both of these, and the only way to find out if it works for you is to try it and see.

Which platform to use?

There are many email platforms out there that are easy to use and that don’t require any HTML or coding knowledge. I recommend MailChimp or Campaign Monitor which are both user friendly and either free or reasonably priced.

Campaign Monitor Icon

The best bit about it is that you don’t even need any design skills that use Photoshop, Illustrator or the likes. Both MailChimp and Campaign Monitor have easy-to-use editors, so you can easily and quickly create personalized, professional content. If you’re looking for something a little more bespoke, no need to worry, you can always hire a designer with coding skills to make you your own template.

MailChimp icon

TOP TIP: The best bit about sending out an email is seeing how well it does. How many people opened it? How many clicked on your links? This is where it gets exciting. Experiment with subject lines, perhaps change your content around, increase or decrease the length of your email and don’t forget to compare how well they’ve done. If you can get an account with A/B testing, even better! (A/B testing is where you produce two versions of one email, split your email list in two and see which gets a better response.)

You can also:
  • Add a Subscribe button to your website
  • Add a Subscribe button to your Facebook Page
  • Send out the link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or GooglePlus for users to subscribe
  • Add perks for sign up, e.g send out a free guide or document, give your subscribers access to events first.
Content Ideas for Emails
  • Latest news
  • New products
  • Changes to regular service e.g. earlier closing times
  • A round-up of recent blog posts / events etc
  • Notice of future events
  • An Employee Spotlight
  • Competition

MailChimp is free for less than 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails

Campaign Monitor have a monthly and per campaign option, starting from as little as $9 a month for less than 500 subscribers and 2,500 emails, or $5 + $1 per recipient.

The Long Distance Run (making your website visible to potential new customers)

Attracting new customers can often seem like a hard and difficult task. And it is. Don’t forget that even if your potential new customer is receptive to what your website has to say, it doesn’t mean that they are willing to take the next step and become a paying customer. To convert these people in paying customers, you need to establish trust and authority. But first, they need to hear about you and this is where you need to approach them in their own territory.

Emails

Yes, emails feature in the long-distance run too. Emails are great for ongoing engagement with your customers and will keep them up to date with your most important and latest developments and of course, your blog posts!

Social Media & Networking

With more than 200 social media out there (here’s a full list of all the social networking sites), it would be foolish to try and get your brand or company out on all of them.

Social networking is all about creating a community – one where users feel like they’ve got some kind of connection with a brand or company. This is of huge value to you – you can generate trust and respect from your users, and increase your visibility to attract new users.

But how do you choose which social network to invest your time in? Currently (and yes, this is likely to change by the end of this year even), the social media platforms that I’ve found most people have at least heard of if not used, are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Whilst it may be easier and perhaps the lazy option to go with the social network that you already know or have heard about, it helps to do your homework. For example, there’s no point investing a lot of time and money in a social network if none of your target audience is actually using it.

Have a look here for the 10 most popular social networking sites from 2011 >

Due to most SME companies and brands focusing their efforts on Facebook and Twitter, with some on Google+ and LinkedIn, these are ones highlighted in this blog post.

Facebook

Facebook IconIN A NUTSHELL: A social working site that connects people with their friends and family and share what they’re doing, where they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: Uploading photos, sending private messages, uploading videos, sharing public status updates.

NUMBER OF USERS ON FACEBOOK: Over 1 billion (as of September 2012) users

HOW CAN FACEBOOK WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: By building a community that have a common interest in your company, there is a ready and waiting audience who are keen to hear your updates. You’re targeting people in a place where they’re already hanging out which can make your users more receptive. Facebook can help create an emotional bond with your existing users, build up your email list by cross-promoting the two and engage your audience with rich content such as videos. 

Twitter

Twitter IconIN A NUTSHELL: A social network and microblogging platform that allows its users to share text-based updates, known as ‘tweets’ in 140 characters. Photos, videos and links can also be attached to these updates.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To keep in touch with friends and colleagues, and to find out latest news from companies, services and brands.

NUMBER OF USERS ON TWITTER: 500 million registered users (as of 2012), with over 10 million users in the UK.

HOW CAN TWITTER WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: For many users, Twitter is a daily habit often checked via their mobiles. It is a way for brands to connect directly with their users and vice versa. Many users are using Twitter to complain about companies and brands so if you’re not on there, you’re not going to know about it. Businesses can use Twitter to market their service or product, keep users updated with their latest news and gain customer feedback.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn IconIN A NUTSHELL: A business-orientated social network that allows users to share and exchange knowledge, ideas and opportunities.

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To find jobs, to connect to individuals in their industry as possible clients, to find prospective new hires, to network with their industry, to promote their business, to keep in touch with people.

NUMBER OF USERS ON LINKEDIN: 200 million users (as of January 2013)

HOW CAN A LINKEDIN COMPANY PAGE WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: Businesses can use LinkedIn to increase their visibility, attract new talent, establish credibility, connect with top prospective candidates and expand their marketing. Just as with Facebook and Twitter, your company page can attract followers, who will receive any updates and insights that you post in their feed. Any blog posts or updates that you make to the site are most likely to be relevant to share on this platform too.

Google+

Google+ IconIN A NUTSHELL: Google+ is a social networking platform that combine many of Google’s existing components. It allows users to group connections into ‘circles’ so you can easily choose who you want to share your updates with. As well as circles, Google+ also has Hangouts (where users can virtually ‘hang out’, Huddle (group chat) and Sparks (where users can find out things that they’re interested in – a bit like a search, within a search).

HOW DO PEOPLE USE IT?: To connect with new people who weren’t easy to connect with on Facebook, to build awareness with a new audience, for self promotion, to keep up to date with people and companies of interest,

NUMBER OF USERS ON GOOGLE+: There has been much debate about how many users Google+ really has, but according to Wikipedia, Google+ has 500 millions registered users (as of December 2012)

HOW CAN GOOGLE+ WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?: As Google owns Google+, companies with a presence on Google+ are more easily found via search. It is also a great opportunity to be connect with your followers. Companies have the ability to add a +1 button to their content, which is a bit like a stamp of approval – it lets their friends see what they like and also the rest of the web on Google Search.

Examples of how to engage users via social networks:
What Example
Invite people to comment on your blog post <Blog post name> Do you agree or disagree? Let us know.
Ask people to take an action if they’re going to your event or if they agree with what you’ve written about We’ve teamed up with our local artists and will be holding an exhibition at XXXX on 20th June. <event link>Like (or Retweet) if you’re coming.
Highlight news that your users need to know about IMPORTANT: New changes to our opening times. <Link to page>
Include a quote or interesting fact from your blog post “85% of people who take our XXX course, sign up to XXX” Have you done our course and what did you think?
Let your users know exciting updates / content is coming up Watch this space! We’re about to release a video and we would love your feedback.
Invite people to sign up to something If you would prefer to receive all the latest updates straight to your inbox, you can sign up to our email newsletter here <link> It takes less than a minute and is hassle-free.
Behind the scenes exclusive content <Photo> And the scene is set for tonight’s event. Will we see you there tonight?

 

These are only just a few ideas. And these ideas are all based around your company. There are many social marketeers who believe in the 70/30 rule, whereby 70% of your social media updates are based around your business and 30% is based around ‘insider’ information that relates to your industry, but not necessarily to your company.

Other content Ideas for Social Networks
  • Videos from other resources
  • Immediate responses to current affairs / events in the company
  • Links to related content on other sites
  • Ask questions. Use Polls if possible (available on Facebook)
  • Link for users to sign up the newsletter
  • Answering questions – if you’re on a network such as Twitter, search for topics that your company is an authority on and answer them directly.
  • Include quotes that highlight what you’re company is all about

Experiment and see what works best for your audience. Take a look at your competitors and see what they do.

Other important platforms to share your blogs and pages on:
Reddit

Reddit LogoReddit is a social news website and entertainment website where users can submit content (limited to link or text). Other users then rank the content ‘up’ or ‘down’ which determines its position on the sites’ pages.

By submitting your content to Reddit, you have the ability to reach thousands of users.

It’s imperative that the content you submit is relevant and in the right group as it can be taken down if not.

 

Delicious

Delicious IconDelicious is less of a social networking site and more of a platform where users can bookmark their favourite websites. Users can tag each bookmark with a term of their choice and when visitors search on Delicious, they can see each link tagged with that phrase.

Users use Delicious mainly to keep track of interesting links they come across and discover new content. By submitting links to Delicious, you can share your content with thousands new users globally.

 

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon LogoStumbleUpon is a discovery hub that throws up websites based on your preferences and others’ recommendations. Once the user has completed their profile and customized it to their interests, they can click the ‘StumbleUpon’ button (either accessed direct from their toolbar or from the website) and discover new websites.

 

Inbound / Outbound links

Amongst many things, websites are ranked by search engines, not only by the number of inbound and outbound links, but by the quality of them too. The more authoritative and respected search engines find the website that your site is linking to and from, the better visibility in search.

The higher the relevance of the site linking back to your website, the better quality the inbound link. It is generally harder to influence other websites and get them to link to your website which is why inbound links are considered of greater value than your outbound links.

Inbound link = link directing users to your website. These are also known as backlinks

Outbound link = link directing users from your website to another website.

5 ways to gain inbound links
  1. Ask. What other organisations and companies are out there who would be happy to feature a link to your website? Could you the same for them in return?
  2. Create great content that people will want to read and share with their friends.
  3. Comment on related blogs. This is a great way to introduce your website to others, and most importantly, your expertise. Don’t forget, add value, don’t just sell.
  4. Guest blog on another site. Increase your reputation and gain traffic to your website by writing an article for another site. By including your website address within in, you’ll be getting exposure to many users that might never have come across your website.
  5. Join in with forums. Use resources such as Quora to answer questions directly related to your industry. Even better, if you’ve written a blog post that relates to someone’s question, include a link to it, with a short explanation of what it’s about.
And the most important of all… Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth happens everywhere

Whilst Word of Mouth is one of the most important ways in which you can help drive traffic to your website and ultimately business, it’s one of the hardest to achieve. Mainly because unless your service or product is top-notchingly exceptional, people won’t talk about it. Word of mouth is the passing of information orally from one person to another and in this way, personal recommendations come with a lot more weight than any great campaign from a brand or company.

Companies are now having to above and beyond the expected to ensure that they are being recommended. And personal recommendations are like gold dust. It’s more common for people to complain to others about your company or brand, than compliment.

 

This can all seem somewhat overwhelming, especially as there’s no hard and fast set of rules as to what you should or shouldn’t do. Polls for some companies work well, but videos don’t. So how do you know what to invest time in? Once you’ve worked out where your target audience are spending their time, experiment, analyse and try different things.

The next lesson is all about working out just how healthy your website is. Are you ready for it?

How to train your website – LESSON TWO: Training your website to work for you

“It is a truism to say that the dog is largely what his master makes of him: he can be savage and dangerous, untrustworthy, cringing and fearful; or he can be faithful and loyal, courageous and the best of companions and allies.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Put in the hard work training your website and you will be rewarded. The success of a website is dependent on the amount of love and care you give it. Yes, you will have to put a lot in, but it will be worth it. If you’re in charge of managing your company website, then this set of articles ‘How to train your website’ will help you be successful in your role.

Please note, it has been assumed that your website has good basic health already. That is, it has been set up with SEO in mind and has all the basics, such as a site map, proper header and title tags etc.

Training your website to work for you

If only your website could do the washing…

Feeding your website (aka content)

The food you feed your website has to be correct for it. Just like there are breeds of dog out there that require certain nourishment for their long silky coats and others who need more protein, websites are the same. The better you know your website, the better you’ll become at working out what ‘food’ is best. Food, aka content, for your website can come in many forms. For example,

  • Blog posts
  • Updated content
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Images

All will help keep your website healthy.

Image of a dog eating a cake

Just as there are some things a dog shouldn’t eat, you should feed your website the right content.

The right food for your website

It goes without saying that the content that you post has to be relevant and in a suitable tone of voice. Make sure the tone and style suits the nature of your business.

When thinking about content for your website (and I’m focusing on written content here), there are several important factors you need to ensure before you even put finger to keyboard.

These are outlined below but you can find the full article about writing a blog post here >*

Before your start writing content for the web

  • Choose your keyword/s carefully (more about keywords here >).
  • Establish what images you’re going to use and get permission to use these if necessary (e.g. if you’re looking to take these from Flickr).
  • Know what action you want your users to take at the end of your blog post
  • Are there any people or organisations that you could link your content to? Even better, could they link back to your website? Getting high quality links to your website is great for SEO.

Read the full articles on ‘How to write your blog post’ here >

You can find a list of inspirational content ideas for your website here >

* Whilst the title of this article explains that it’s about writing a blog post, most of the points are also applicable for writing any content for the web.

When to feed your website

Your timings for writing content and releasing it can be critical to your traffic.

For example, if you’re responding with a blog post on a current event, publish it as soon as possible. A blog post that goes live a day later, even a couple of hours later, can be old news.

If you are producing ‘evergreen’ content (evergreen content is content that remains relevant regardless of the time of day, time of year etc. for example, an article entitled ‘Top Ten Healthiest Vegetables’ is applicable all year round, as opposed to one entitled ‘Best pubs to go to for St David’s Day’), do some research and find out when your target audience are most often online and release it during those times.

Feed your website with new content often, and regularly.

TASK: Put together a Content Planner. Depending on how often you update the website (at least once a month, if not once a week is best), write a list of topics / blog posts / new content titles that you plan to post throughout the year. And stick to it.

Download an example of a Content Matrix Template here >

Don’t forget that depending on the time of year, your topics may change to reflect that. For example, think about what people may want to know more about during different seasons such as summer and winter etc. And also events and occassions, such as Easter, summer holidays, weddings, starting a new school, the new year etc.

This template includes a few of the main events that are celebrated in the UK to give you inspiration for blog posts. This is really to be used as a starting block for you to add your own, relevant events. For example, not all companies will find it useful to know that ‘National Stress Awareness Day’ is on the 2nd November.

Loving your website

Image of a heartA website will work much harder for it if you love it. Even if you don’t, pretend it’s covered in fluff and has big cute eyes.

Talk to people about your website – why is it so great, what can it do for people etc. If you’re enthusiastic, it’s likely that other people will take notice.

Is your website fully-trained? Well then, it’s time to move onto the next lesson, ‘Exercising your website’ >

 

How to train your website – LESSON ONE: Getting to know your website

The most important thing to do if you’re going to start looking after a website, or have one built, is to understand the why, who, what and how of it all. The most important question being ‘Why does this website exist?’

If you can answer all these questions below, then you’re qualified to move onto the next lesson.

Getting To Know Your Website

If only websites were as cute as dogs, eh?

WHY does this website exist?

Whilst humans can spend many hours pondering on the reasons behind their existence, websites were made by humans. For a purpose. And this must not be forgotten.

More often than not, reasons for why businesses have websites is to generate an income. This is either by selling a product or service.

You can generate income via your website in several ways (please note, this is not an extensive list):

  • By selling a service or product directly via your website.
  • By encouraging people to sign up to an email list so that you can target customers directly. You can also use this as a way to get more useful data such as address, telephone number, interests etc from your customers which will increase the accuracy of your targeted marketing.
  • By encouraging users to download a resource or guide that will increase your reputation in your field. You may even hold back your download in exchange for more information from the user.
  • By selling advertising space on your website.
  • By including a ‘donate’ button on your website. You don’t have to be a charity to have one of these. If you’re providing content that your readers find valuable, they can be encouraged to donate money to keep your website going. If you’re a charity, then you can obviously also ask for money to be donated.
  • By including content or links to another website that other companies pay for.

Depending on the business, one or more of the above tactics can be used.

TASK: Write down all the things that you want your website or the section that you manage, to do, in order of priority.

WHO is the website aimed at?
Image of a green target with red darts

Ensure your website has a target audience in mind.

If your answer is everyone, rethink.

Your website should have been built with a target audience/s in mind. Once you understand who this is, you can begin to find out more about their behavior online and adapt your website and its content for them.

TASK – Once you have identified your target audience, think about the other types of websites they would visit also and see how those are laid out and the site functionality. What do they do differently to you? Identify the elements of other sites that you like and those that you don’t.

HOW am I driving traffic to my website?

It’s all very well having a website but that doesn’t mean people will automatically flock to it. With an estimated 186 million active websites (interestingly, apparently there are 447 million inactive websites) there are more websites in total than any one person can visit in a lifestyle. What are the chances that they visit yours?

TASK: Write a list of all the different ways you hear about a website and why you visit them. Do you visit a website because you’ve seen a good advert? Do you use Google to find different websites? Do you visit a website because of a recommendation? Or a status update on Facebook?

Image of a red toolbox

It is important to understand how your website works.

Another ‘how’ is ‘how does my website work?’ If you’re the content manager for your website, you need to know inside and out what your website can do in its present state, and what it cannot. How will you be updating your website? Using a Content Management System? Or do you have web developers? If you’re using a content management system, do you know how to use it to its full potential? It may sound silly but there are a lot of people out there with a hugely powerful CMS behind their website using only a small percentage of its worth.

If you or your company want a website and if you answer yes to any of the below reasons for having one, rethink. Or talk to someone who knows more about digital marketing than you. If you get a website built ‘just for the sake of it’ and without having pinned down answers to the above questions, it is likely you will be wasting time and money on a useless venture. There is nothing more frustrating asking someone why they have a website and for them not to know.

If you agree with any of the following, do not invest in a website just yet. 
  • My competitor has a website
  • Everyone else has a website
  • I want to have a URL on my business card
  • I’m not sure why I need one but I can get it for free
WHAT do I want people to do once they come to my website?
Sign Post for places in London

Where should users be directed to when they finish reading your blog post?

Congratulations for getting people to come to your website. The hard work doesn’t end there however, as visitors need to be clear what the website’s expectation of them is.

If you have one or more target audiences, is it easy for them to understand which sections of the site are dedicated to them?

What is the action that you want your user to take on your site? Is your website easy for the user to navigate and find what they’re looking for?

 

 

 

Once you are comfortable answering the why, who, what and how of your websites, you’re ready to move onto Lesson Two: Training your website to work for you > 

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR WEBSITE*

It amazes me that there are so many companies out there with badly behaved websites – some are off having a holiday, some need an urgent trip to the vet’s, many are lazy and others have behavioral problems.

So if you’re in charge of managing your company website, or for updating content, and you want it to work harder for you then you’ve come to the right place.

Just like puppies, websites need training too

Now all you need to do is imagine your website is cute and furry, just like this puppy.

 

Here is a list of the different lessons. It helps if you do them in the right order. Enjoy!

‘How to Train your Website’ Lessons

 

How to Train Your Dragon DVD*For those who enjoy great films, this title  of this set of posts was inspired by the animated film, ‘How to Train your Dragon’. I highly recommend it. 

Content Inspiration for your company website

If you’re aiming to update the content on your website regularly (say once a week), it can be tiring trying to think up new things to write about. Don’t worry though, there’s an infinite amount of things you can post, these are just a few inspirational ideas to get you started:

TOP TIP: Make it a habit to look at everything you do, see, hear or read and ask yourself ‘would my target audience want to know about it?’ If it’s not worthy for your website, could it be a good fit as a status update or link on your social media platforms?

Inspiration for your website

  • There’s a new event coming up that you believe others would be interested in attending. Feature it. Or, if you’re hosting it, write an article on why people should go.
  • What do people most ask about your company or service? Perhaps write a ‘Top Tips’, ‘Guide To’, ‘Ten of the best’ post inspired by the most frequently asked questions that your customers ask.
  • Respond to a story in the newspapers. By having an opinion, you will stand out from others and be noticed. Establish your organisation as an authority.
  • Do you have a new product or service? Tell people about it.
  • Are you discontinuing a product or service? People will want to know.
  • Do you have any upcoming price changes? It is important that you let people know.
  • Is your office closing due to a special occasion? For example, a Bank Holiday or Christmas? Let your customers know. If you’re staying open, people will need to know too!
  • What’s going on in your company? Did someone at your company get a mention in the newspaper? Did someone review on of your products or services? Write about it.
  • Got something to give-away? Perhaps a short course or a product? This is a great way to increase traffic to your site. You could even use it as a way to get more details from your users by asking for certain information as a condition of entry. In the same way, you can help spread awareness of your website by asking people to share your content across their social media networks.
  • Need more staff? Make sure you’re promoting the fact on your website.
  • Is your industry undecided on a certain topic? Why not write a blog post on it and invite others to comment.
  • Create a regular feature – for example, every week or month consolidate relevant industry news on your website.
  • Write a book review that’s relevant to your industry.
  • Ask someone else to write a guest-post for your website.
  • Add an interview – many people love to be interviewed and you can make this as long or short as you wish. You can do a simple Q&A, or even a video or podcast.
  • Attend an event that’s relevant for your industry and review it. Was it worth going to? Who was there? What were the 5 main points you took from it?
  • Profile a company or individual who’s relevant to your industry. Make sure you send them the link too so they can share it with their contacts. Maybe they could even link to their site to yours?

 

If you’re hard-pressed for content ideas, or don’t have time to find news related to your industry, set up a Google Alerts for a couple of your industry keywords and have stories delivered straight to your inbox. You can use these as inspiration for your next article, respond to them via your website or round them up into a consolidated page.

 

Google Alerts Screenshot

 

Got an idea that you’re keen to write about? Before you start, read this – ‘How to Write Your Blog Post.’ > 

How to Write Your Blog Post Part III – Driving Traffic to your Article

Desert Island

A desert island is a bit like your blog post. Useless if no one knows about it and if there are no easy ways to visit it.

Your blog post is live. Whoop. Time for a break? Not quite, people won’t just flock to read it, regardless of how great you think it is.

This is where the hard part comes in – whereas you can play the game and write for your audience and make sure its search-friendly, you have no control over who decides to visit it. Having already identified your audience in the blog preparation stage, you also need to find where they hang out online.

There’s a fine line with sharing your blog post and spamming people – the best thing to do is try all these ways, then use one or a combination of ways depending on the reception and feedback you get.

Tell people before you post your article

It’s most likely that if you’ve set up a blog or write for one, you’re doing it because you want to, rather than for the money. In which case, you *should* be enthusiastic and passionate about it and are most likely telling people already. You could even ask their opinion on it; for example, for my ‘Guide to Turning 30’ blog post, I asked several friends about what they would include, thereby adding valuable points to my blog and ensuring that I had a ready audience once it was live.

Top Tip: Don’t go around telling everyone about your latest blog post. Pick people who you think would be interested and likely to read it. Otherwise, it’s just verbal spam.

Share on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and Google+
Sharing on LinkedIn

Status Updates – Share your blog post link via your status. You can also post to Twitter from here.

Post in Related Groups – Join groups with a similar interest to your blog posts and keep your group updated also with a link to your blog post.

Top Tip: Depending on what your blog post is about, it may or may not be the right thing to share on networks such as LinkedIn. Think before you post your blog post everywhere.

Sharing on Twitter

Status Updates – Include a link to your blog post in your status. Make sure you wrap it up with an engaging teaser or introduction so users know what they’re clicking on, especially if you’ve used a shortened link like Bitly.

If you’ve been clever with your blog post, you will have mentioned others who you can refer to in your tweets, including of course, a link to your article. Fingers crossed, they’ll reply or retweet it to their followers, thereby increasing exposure to your blog post.

 

 

Increasing engagement via Twitter posts

Previous tweet including the author of the book reviewed. 

 

 

Targeted sharing – Search for users on Twitter who are talking about topics related to your blog post and share your blog post with them directly. Do this sparingly and it can increase your Twitter followers. Otherwise, it’s just spam.

Top Top: You can also let people know what’s coming up with a few teaser tweets and even include a date and an approximate time for when your blog post will go live.

Sharing on Facebook

Status Updates – Share your blog post in your Facebook status. Invite people to comment and share.

Post on Related Pages – If there are Pages on Facebook that talk about topics related to your article, then include your blog post there. But don’t just interrupt, that’s rude – introduce yourself and also explain why your blog post may be interesting for the members.

Sharing on Google+

Status Updates – As with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can share the link directly to your wall and also choose the different circles to share your post to, for a more targeted approach.

If you use WordPress, there are Plugins like JetPack which can automatically publicise your blog posts and share with your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts – great if you’re short of time.

Also make it easy and encourage others to share using Social Buttons on your blog (see ‘Things to Think about before you write your blog post), so that it’s easy for others to spread the word.

Include a link to your blog in your footer

If you’ve got an email footer and you’ve got a blog post that you’re especially keen to share and drive traffic to, include a link to this in your footer.

Share it on StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon helps people find online content tailored to their interests. The more you use it, the more StumbleUpon ‘learns’ what you prefer and so offers content more suited to you.

As well as browsing sites on StumbleUpon, you can also add websites based on categories.

More about StumbleUpon here >

Include a link to your article in other blog post comments

Search for other blogs that also cover your topic and include a link to your blog post in the comments. Ensure it’s relevant to the blog.

Share on Pinterest

This only works if you have images in your blog post so ensure your image is a great one and helps sum up what the rest of the article is about. If possible, add a caption to your image using Photoshop, or something like PowerPoint if you don’t have anything else.

Target people you know who are likely to share
Word of Mouth Image - Paper Men

Spreading your content.

These are people who you should value greatly. These are the types of people who are generally ‘connectors’ and help because they want to help and are genuinely interested in what you do.

By personally sending such people a link to your blog post, your click-through and share rate will be higher. Yes, it’s more time-consuming, but it’s worth it.

Top Tip: Don’t specifically request people to share. Those who value integrity will feel uncomfortable sharing if they don’t think it’s suitable, so instead include a line like ‘Please feel free to share if you enjoyed reading it’.

Submit your blog post to Reddit

Reddit is a social news and entertainment site where users submit content and users vote it up or down.

There are often specialized groups on Reddit and if your blog post fits within one of these then you should most definitely add it.

 

Done? Well, not quite. Check Google Analytics or whatever other stats you have on your website. If you don’t, you must add it immediately, otherwise you have no way of knowing if what you’re doing is effective or not!

 

 

 

 

How to Write Your Blog Post Part II – Writing your article

 

DO NOT UNLEASH EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE – it can be awkward reading. Do your readers really want to know about all your crap? Can you somehow turn it into something they can take advice from or learn from?

Woman with angry face

Depending on the type of blog post you’re writing, emotional baggage may or may not be acceptable. Use it sparingly, if at all.

Once you feel confident you’ve done the necessary groundwork before you write your blog post, then it’s time to write it. I would advise writing it in Word as opposed to putting it straight into WordPress, Tumblr, Umbraco or whatever you use. There are several reasons for this; firstly, if for some horrific reason you get a horrendous virus on your site and have to take it down and lose all your content (it happened to me), then you have backup. Secondly, you can continue writing even when you’ve not got internet – great for it you’re writing on the go. 

Things to think about when writing your blog post:

A good headline

Like a newspaper where headlines sell, your headline needs to be click-worthy. This means, it has to be intriguing, topical, shocking, useful or have something sexy about it. Often, such blog titles get more interest. It would also help if your headline has your keyword in also – but not if it makes for awkward reading.

Length of your article

Unless you’re writing a thesis, keep blog posts to between 600 – 1000 words. Often, people online are looking for information so will need to find things quickly and easily, which is why a clear layout is so important.

Using keywords sparingly

Once you’ve established your keyword/s, don’t go crazy as it makes it hard to read and search engines will start to think you’re a bit spammy. Add a nice sprinkle of them:

  • In the heading
  • In the first sentence of your blog post
  • In the last sentence of your blog post
  • In the Alt tag of your image
A good layout

I’m sure, like me, your heart sinks when you click on a link and you get a giant scrolling page of nothing but black on white text. Eurgh. Dull.

Make your blog post look visually easy to read. Break up your post into different sections using sub-headings, bullet points and styled text, such as bold words and italics. Links are often in a different colour so add these too where appropriate.

And obviously, add images where you can and where appropriate.

A Picture Is Worth A thousand Words

This image was taken from Linchi Kwok’s Blogspot: http://linchikwok.blogspot.co.uk/

Adding images & links

For accessibility, make sure your links have the relevant descriptions. Most CMS’s such as WordPress, Umbraco etc, have the option for you to add in a short description. This helps the user, the search engine and screen readers understand where the link is going to take them to. Make it relevant and ensure it describes the link so that the visually impaired understands where it is taking them.

It’s the same with images. Don’t upload an image that has the description ‘IMG_1027.jpg’ and no alt tags. Use a description that describes the image.

If you have an image, can you link it anywhere relevant? If so, do, again making sure you add an alt tag description to let users know where this links to.

 DO NOT RANT– it can be funny but swiftly gets tiring.

The final check before your publish your blog post

For every change, preview your article. Sometimes, your CMS can do strange things – WordPress recently did something weird whereby if you made a word italic, the next word would appear on the following line automatically. I didn’t realise this until I’d pushed it live and then felt  like a dick when someone else spotted it. Schoolboy error.

Make sure you’ve checked the following before putting your article live

  • Does it look good to read? Are there interesting images? Is the page set out well?
  • Does it read well?
  • Is it easy for the user to understand why I’ve written it and what I want them to do at the end?
  • Are there any spelling mistakes?
  • Do all my links work?

Written your article? Then it’s time to get it out there! Read how to drive traffic to your blog post >

NB. Writing for the web is different to writing print articles.  Whilst both require you to write with your audience in mind, you also have to think about how search engines trawl websites, how users read online and cutting through all the other competition.

How to Write Your Blog Post Part I – Before you start

Things to think about before writing your blog post

Writing a blog is like cooking - image of ingredients

Writing a blog post is a bit like cooking – you need all the right ingredients before you start to make it a success.

You may be eager to get that blog post you’ve been dying to write for ages up and live, but before you even begin tapping away, there are several essential questions you need to have established the answers for before you start. This is critical if you’re going to engage people with your blog post and keep them reading until the very end.

Who’s your audience?

If your blog post is a mere stream of consciousness then a) no one will read it and b) if they do attempt to, they won’t understand it and most likely, neither will you.

Make sure that whatever the subject of your blogpost, that your audience is getting something of value out of it, whether it’s information, wisdom, humour etc.

What’s your keyword?

There is great debate about the importance of keywords in blog posts – some say you must tailor your content to them and some say they’re not so important. I say, they’re important, just as long as they’re used wisely (more about that later).

But firstly, let’s establish your keyword. Be a bit clever and use the Google Keyword Tool to work out what other people are searching for and how many times its being searched for. If possible, find a keyword tool that is well searched for with a low or medium number of results.

Before you write a blog - Google Keyword Tool screenshot

Search for ‘Google Keyword Tool’, enter your proposed keyword and determine whether it’s the right one to use.

What images are you going to use?
Flickr Logo

Ask people for permission if you want to use a Flickr image in your blog post

Images are ideal for telling your story and making your blogpost more interesting to read. If you have personal photos, use a couple of these to highlight points. If you don’t have any images, see if you can find anything suitable on Flickr (ask for permission first, most people will say yes, especially if you include a link back to their account). If you’ve got the budget, use stock images from places such as Shutterstock.

Shutterstock Logo

You can buy images from as little as £29 for 5 downloads

If an image absolutely won’t be the right thing to use, choose some important text from your post and make a quick and simple image in something like PowerPoint or Word. Colour and visuals really will increase engagement on your post.

 

What do you want people to do at the end of reading it?

Do not lead your reader to a dead-end. Don’t just finish your blogpost with nothing. It’s so depressing and rather disappointing for the reader.

Before you work out what you add at the end, work out what you want people to do after they’ve read your blog post. For example, do you want them to buy something, or click to a related website, or leave a comment, or share it? If so, tell them! If your platform allows for it, use something like Shareaholic that makes it easy to share your post to all the main social media platforms.

Writing your blog is the easy part, getting traffic to it is takes effort.

Sharing using Social Media

An example of just some of the social media sites your readers could share your post to.

Can you include other people or organisations into your blog post that can help spread the word once its written?

Be crafty with your blogpost and see if you can include links to people or companies who can help you spread your blog about. Once you’ve found suitable links, see if they have a Facebook or Twitter page that you can post it to, or include them in a tweet with a link to your post. After all, if you only have a couple of hundred followers on Twitter, but someone with several thousand follwers retweets your tweet that includes them, or better still, tweets their own thing about your post, then your exposure is suddenly a lot greater.

If you’ve done all your preparation for the above, then you’re ready to start writing your blog post!