5 Steps to the Perfect Blog

There’s a big difference between a great blog post and a good blog post; one, your readers will get to the end and share it around, the other will sound like a brain splurge of content that’s faintly interesting but soon turns your reader off. Maybe before they read the end and arrive at the Share Button.

5 Steps for the Perfect Blog with Digitally Sorted

Even if you’re not much of a writer, that’s not a problem – all you have to do is stick to the outline below to create something that’s not only readable, but gets the reader to take action too.

Your Blog Outline
1. Eye-Catching Headline

This is what makes the reader read your content over all the other on the page. It has to be attention-grabbing and it has create intrigue.

Here are 3 easy steps to producing a great headline:

  1. Know your target audience and write for them. Look at the other types of blogs that they read and the magazines they buy. What have they got on their front covers?
  2. Have a think about how you’re going to set your article out. For example, is it going to be a ‘How to’, a list, a personal story?
  3. Write several different headlines experimenting with the different benefits. Do the same identifying the problem. After all, people are looking for two things – something to solve a problem, or something to improve their gain.
2. Intriguing opener

Once you’ve pulled your reader in with your headline, don’t stop there. Provide your audience with a couple of lines to introduce further what you’re going to be saying. Statistics work fantastically well. Try searching for what you need online at National Statistics for example. Don’t forget to look at university research too.

3. Give Points and Evidence

Provide at least 3 points and supporting evidence. Give stories, provide emotional pull, use more statistics where relevant. Are there any case studies, graphs, or even cartoons that help provide colour to your article?

4. Conclusion

Don’t leave your audience hanging! Make sure you tie all the ends of your article together and think about giving them something to take away. Is it something to think about it or an action they take in the physical world?

5. Call to Action

If you don’t have a call to action, you’re not guiding your reader to take action once they’ve reached the end of your article. It’s a bit like presenting them with a dead end and no one likes that. Examples of call to actions include:

  • Share
  • Highlight a Product
  • Subscribe
And don’t forget:

Resources: if you’ve referred to any studies, don’t forget to provide a link to these.

Images: Images make all the difference to a blog post. However, you’ve got to be careful where you find these from otherwise you may get some unfriendly emails. Take a look at this list of free image resources to be on the safe side. 

Best Free Images Resources

If you don’t want to end up on the receiving end of a rather hostile email from a company accusing you of stealing images, you had better be smart about where you find them.
Death to Stock Photos

Death to Stock Photos – sign up and receive free photos each month.

Free image libraries don’t give you the same variety as royalty-free paid images and you’ll have to spend some additional time searching for the right one but they are fine if you’re on a tight budget.

Here’s my favourite list of best free images resources – believe me, I’ve tried several and these are the only ones I’d use.

Getty Images

Getty’s image service doesn’t let you download images, but rather to embed them onto your website. This does have the disadvantage that you can’t manipulate them but if an image is all you want, then it’s a good solution. It comes with a link back to the image on the Getty website.

Website: www.gettyimages.co.uk 

Unsplash

Unsplash is one of my favourite free image websites. Subscribe and you’ll receive 10 images every 10 days. The images are beautifully shot, although they have a certain style and may not be useful for every blog owner.

Website: www.unsplash.com

Death to the Stock Photo

Run by two self-taught photographers, subscribe and you can receive free images each month. The last ones were all to do with Desk images which are perfect if you’re writing about productivity, work environments etc. Each photos is beautiful and there is a wide variety of them. This doesn’t allow you to access the past photos – for that, there’s a Premium service which costs $10 a month and includes exclusive photos to your membership.

Website: www.deathtothestockphoto.com

Morgue File

A repository of free images with an easy search function. Some of the images look a little ‘homemade’ but the upside is that there are a lot to choose from covering almost every category you need.

Website: www.morguefile.com

Free Images

An easy search function and high quality images. Most of the images look professionally short and there’s a wide range.

Website: www.freeimages.com 

Flickr

Flickr is a photo sharing website that contains portfolios of professional photographers as well as the everyday enthusiast. Some of them are truly beautiful. Each user has the right to set different content rules and some of these are licensed to Getty. For those that aren’t, you can contact the owner directly and ask their permission.

For help with the Flickr photo using ‘rules’, click here. 

Website: www.flickr.com

And the best option of course? Take them yourself.

For a start, taking photos yourself means anything you snap belongs wholly to you and secondly it’ll be unique. You can also take perfectly good images with your iPhone and there’s a wide range of photo editing apps available for free or low cost.

Like this post? Share it with others.

WordPress Blog Template

If you write for an online publication and you don’t have access to the WordPress system then you’ll be asked to submit your blog, usually in Word.

If you’ve never had access to WordPress before, it can be tricky to work out how your blog post should be submitted and how you should lay out the content. Having worked with many bloggers across many different WordPress sites, this template is the one that seems to work best. So far at least – things are constantly evolving!

This template assumes that the WordPress website has an SEO plugin installed – most good websites will. Download it and get writing.

But before you start, it’s well worth reading this guide ‘Before you Start’.

Download your WordPress Blog Template here:

Free WordPress Blog Template

 

 

 

USEFUL LINKS

8 Things to Think About When Choosing Your WordPress Theme

Choosing your WordPress theme is fun and exciting, but it can also be stressful too – is this the ‘one’? Does it really reflect my product, business or service? Is it too serious? Too fun?

WordPress themes instantly add a professional look to your website yet unless you’re prepared to pay for bespoke coding and additions, be aware that you’ll also be limited to the functionality and layouts that the theme provides. Just ‘moving the logo along a little bit’ or changing the positioning of text isn’t possible unless you’re prepared to code it yourself or pay someone to do it for you. But don’t worry, there are plenty of great themes out there that will have more than you’ll ever need.

And before you get your knickers in a twist, take a deep breath and read through the main things to think about when choosing your WordPress theme:

1. How much do you want to spend?

Your WordPress installation comes with three free themes that are suitable for blogs and there are also free WordPress themes that you can download. If you want a company page or more functionality then paying for a theme makes sense and premium themes cost around $70 (approx. £42). For this, expect theme support, better functionality and ongoing bug fixes.

2. Match your theme to your purpose

Whilst WordPress used to be a platform dedicated to blogging, it’s now evolved so much so that companies are building their websites around their blog and many themes reflect this change, with more company-suitable designs being released.

3. Does your theme match your logo?

If you already have a logo then you’ll want to find a theme that it fits with. Check out the colour combinations that come with your blog and see what the fonts look like too. If you have further money to spend, you can have these changes made bespoke for you.

4. Don’t be fooled by its appearance

Many themes look great but also try out their live preview. Click through as much as you can and better yet, find other blogs and website using that same theme and test it out. Does it work from a user point of view? Also look at it objectively – the main criteria for your blog should be functionality – does it have the functionaliy that you want? If you’re setting up a blog for example and want to run adverts, then make sure it has a layout for at least 2 columns.

5. Choose a theme from a reputable supplier   

Anyone can design and code a theme and upload it for free or a small fee. If its not coded well or doesn’t have support then you may end up becoming hugely frustrated with your design. Changing themes at the start of a website isn’t too much of an upheaval but it helps to change it as little as possible as you then have plug-ins and widgets that may need reconfiguring.

A personal favourite is  StudioPress . They have high quality design and coding that is reflected in their prices, but it’s worth it. Their support team are responsive and there’s a great forum to find answers and guides to setting up your website.

Take a look: StudioPress Themes for WordPress

6. Is there Support?

Most reputable WordPress providers offer support as and when needed. Sometimes the designer is available to answer questions and help out directly, sometimes there’s a forum and in some instances wordpress theme providers require a fee in exchange for troubleshooting.

7. Is your theme compatible?

Make sure your theme is compatible with as many browsers as possible otherwise some people may not be able to see your content. By ensuring w3 validity and cross-browser compatibility, you’ll be off to a solid start.

8. Check the T’s and C’s

Especially when choosing a free theme. If a theme requires a lot of backlinks back to their site, move swiftly on – this shouldn’t be part of the ‘deal’. And there are thousands of free WordPress themes out there, it’s just a case of searching through them for the right one for you. A great place to start for free WordPress themes is the WordPress Theme Directory.

 

Which hosting with TSO should I buy?

Digitally Sorted TSO Host DiscountIf you want a website, you will have to buy hosting. There are often very reasonable monthly and annual hostings packages and often these include more than one website, as well as email addresses.

A favourite hosting provider is TSO Hosts. Having tried several in the past 10 years, TSO Hosts has never once had major, unexpected downtime (most hosting providers will have a small percentage of downtime – this is normal), have a responsive email ticketing service and customer care line and also have a one-click WordPress Installation functionality.

Here are instructions for buying hosting with TSO Hosts*
  1. Click here – www.tsohost.com – to land straight on the TSO web hosting page.
  2. Scroll down to see the Plans and Pricing.
  3. The Lite or Standard version is recommended.
  4. Click on Buy Now.

You will receive an email sending you all your dashboard details – keep these somewhere safe!

Which hosting to buy

*This is for people who want a personal website or small company website. 

Now you’ve got hosting – what about your URL? If you’ve not bought that yet, it makes your website easier to manage if you buy your URL and hosting from the same place.
Need some advice choosing a domain name? 

10 Things You Must Consider When Choosing Your Domain Name

Your domain name is your URL. It can be up to 67 characters in length and you can also include numbers and hyphens. Domain names can cost from as little as a few GBP a year depending on the extension you use and the likely popularity of the name. Choosing your domain name can be lots of fun as well being equally frustrating and painful. These handy tips will help you when choosing your domain name to make there’s no regrets later.

Where to start

Begin by summing up what your website is going to be about in 5 words. Then brainstorm these words, looking at ways you can combine them and work them together into something that makes sense.  There are several places online to check whether your ideas for domain names work.

A personal favourite is 123-reg.co.uk as it also gives suggestions for variations on your domain name as well as examples of different extensions that you could consider. However, before you go and buy your domain name, also think about hosting – it can make your website a lot easier to manage if you buy your URL and hosting from the same place. Whilst price is important, good hosting is essential so I would choose hosting first and after experimenting with various URL ideas, buy them from the same place. Take a look at ‘What is Hosting?‘ for more information about this.

Think you’ve come up with a good name? Before you click on any ‘buy’ button, make sure you ask yourself these 10 important questions:

1. Does it match your company / brand name?

With websites being the first port of call for people to go to when they’re searching for more information it’s important that your URL has some correlation with what your company or brand name is. For example, if your company name is Digitally Sorted these would be examples of names that could work, in personal preference order from best to worst:

  • DigitallySorted.com
  • DigitallySorted.net
  • DigitallySorted.co.uk
  • Digitally-sorted.com
  • Digitally-sorted.co.uk
  • DigitallySortedServices.com
  • DigitallySortedYou.com

If you try and reduce the ‘Digitally Sorted’ element down, it loses its sense of ‘what’. For example, ‘DSServices’ could relate to anything.

2. Does your URL say what it’s about?

If your URL describes what service or product you’re supplying then you’re onto a winner. This also makes it easier to remember. Single words make for great URLs although the availability of these are becoming less and less. There is a current trend for tech companies especially, to embrace one word names, such as Huddlah (sports community), Boxed (letting you buy goods in bulk from your phone), Estimize (crowdsourced earnings estimates for stocks), Watsi (crowdfunded low-cost, high impact medical care for those that need it most), Kiip (gives you vouchers for free products when you use certain apps), Lyft (easy to access, cheap taxi service).

There is also the trend to combine words together to form names and URLS, such as Coinbase (making it easy for users and businesses to use Bitcoins), WatchSend (helping developers understand how their apps are used), FlightCar (rent your car whilst you’re on holiday) and Homejoy (cost-cut home cleaning services).

3. Is it easy to remember?

Is it a made up word or a combination of words that already exist? Does it sound like something else? Whilst the URL may be easy for you to remember, other people may have difficulty so something as simple as possible is best. Having a random word as your URL is definitely worth it if you have time and investment to put in supporting brand development and awareness. Companies such as Google, IKEA, Starbucks, Skype, Amazon, Yahoo etc have all spent money on their branding.

4. Is the domain unique?

The domain name has to be unique in order for you to purchase this. However, is it similar to another website that’s out there at the moment? For example, if your service is organic health and food products and www.PlanetOrganix.com is free, then you may find yourself accidentally driving traffic to your competitor.

5. Is the .com version available?

There are so many new extensions becoming available such as .ventures, .company, .photography, .gb.net etc and the general rule is that the more unusual the extension, the more likely the domain name of your choice is available. However, the .com is the most common domain extension, driven by the fact that it was the first domain to be used commercially. Try if you can, to get your hands on a .com domain name as many people still believe this is the only extension available. If that’s not available, .net is the second most commonly used extension.

6. Is it easy to type?

This may sound silly but if your URL needs a lot of thought before the user types it in, due to length, unusual characters, use of unmemorable sounds or words then you may lose a good proportion of your visitors. There have also been studies in ‘awkward’ letters detracting from easy writability; these include letters such as ‘q’, ‘z’, ‘x’, ‘c’ and ‘p’.

7. Will other people like it?

Don’t forget that even though its your company and domain name, other people are your main target – after all, you’re already sold on what you’re going to be writing about, your service, product etc. Does it make sense in other people’s minds? Ask friends and family around you what they think of it.

8. Are you trying to be too clever?

If your company name is Made For You and the url www.madeforyou.com is taken, as are all other versions, think twice about getting too clever and replacing letters with numbers or adding hyphens. Whilst www.made-for-you.com works, www.m4de4y0u.com will be extremely hard for your potential customers to remember.

9. Does your URL infringe any trademarks?

Be sure to steer well clear from any already trademarked names, even if only part of the name is used. Whilst internet domain name law disputes are often full of grey areas, it’s not worth getting into a legal dispute over and these can be costly.

10. Does it still make sense as a URL?

Don’t make the mistake that some companies have done by not viewing their name as a URL. The Tech recylcling company, IT Scrap didn’t check what their domain name would look like and so it is unfortunate that it reads www.itscrap.com

The same is with:

www.whorepresents.com – Who Represents; a database of talent representatives

www.penisland.com – Pen Island; a pen company

www.therapistinabox.com – Therapist in a Box; a product offering emotional healing

www.powergenitalia.com – Powergen Italia; an Italian electronics company

And even if you think your name sounds ok, make sure you check it against the endings of your web address. As well as .com URLs, more are available such as .info, .net, .me, .name etc. Otherwise, you may end up with something like this:

www.budget.co.ck – Budget Car Rentals in the Cook Islands

www.swissbit.ch – Swiss Bit; for electronics

 

What is hosting?

Digitally Sorted TSO Discount Offer What is Hosting

In order to have a website that’s accessible via the world wide web, you need to have hosting. For individuals and smaller organisations leasing ‘space’ from web hosting companies is the most cost efficient and most easy to manage option.

So what is hosting?

Hosting is where your website will ‘sit’. Any images and content that you upload to your website will be stored with your hosting provider. It’s what gives the body of your website substance as it were.

If you’ve got personal websites or small business websites, then hosting can start from as little as a few pounds a month. Most hosting companies offer better deals if you buy annual hosting and this can start from £14.99 with companies such as TSO Host. Their Lite deal, for example, lets you host two websites, have 10 mailboxes and also has a one-click WordPress Installation functionality.

As well as using a hosting provider, many small businesses often have their own servers and can provide hosting for you, even if it’s not their main product. From a personal standpoint, managing your own hosting means that you have access to it as and when you want. In addition, many hosting providers have excellent customer service and can talk you through most problems.

 

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 >