Business Signage Creating the Right Balance Between Form And Function

  • August 21 , 2013

question mark_opt

Informing people of who you are and what your business does is very important but it is one thing many people do wrong. This post has been inspired by a talk I had earlier today regarding a shop that I live very close to.

sandwhich board.jpgThis shop is situated in a building that is mainly flats; there isn’t a huge shop front just a couple of doors which one is blocked off inside and a window with a display showing off some of the treasures the shop sell.

There is a large courtyard style car park that leads to the shop. They have a couple of chalk board sandwich boards on the pavement saying that the shop is open.

The writing is a scrawl and pretty hard to read, there is no way people passing in cars will be enticed into pulling into the car park to go into the shop. The sign for the shop itself is pretty small and hard to read from the pavement.

The shop front generally is obscured by the 2 cars that belong to the owner and her husband who for some unknown reason come at separate times in two cars which they then decide to park out in front of the premises taking up any space that could be used by customers.

the shop.jpg

I took this picture standing in the car park and was not on the pavement!

Remember this is a residential area consisting of flats and there are cars parked in the car park that belong to tenants. The red car in the photo belongs to a flat, I know, it is mine. We try and park away from the shop as best as we can but because of the layout of the building and car park we often have no choice but to park where we do.

You can see that the sign on the wall is small, has a dark coloured script style font and incorporates a name that doesn’t tell you what they do or what they sell. I can tell you that the shop is not making any money, they are on a very low reduced rent and the money they are taking isn’t even covering that.

They certainly are not taking home any wages. It is a good job that they have other jobs to go to in the week and that the shop is only open a few days in the week. If they were relying on that wage they would be in trouble.

They do not have a website or an eBay shop, we might live in a small town but there are people here who will buy what they sell and there is a world online to sell to but I personally have to say that if the business does not do well it isn’t down to the townsfolk but the owners themselves ‘playing shop’ instead of running a business.

August 22 Update: We have since been asked to move the car because ‘business isn’t good’, we were blocking the door apparently which was affecting business and then we were told the shop ‘owner can park her car there!!?!?’ Hmmm I would say the ‘bad business’ is due to the hours being constantly changed, the shop being closed early and the fact that once inside it feels like a meeting for the local WI group as the parents and their friends run the shop while the owner goes to work.

As we pay more in rent you could say I am slightly miffed that we are being classed as part of their problem when there are hundreds of reasons they are making their business fail.

The Importance of A Good Sign and Graphics

There is a fine line between form and function, we all want our businesses to have great looking designed signs and logos but if they cannot be seen clearly or tell people what it is that we do then we are wasting good money and harming the businesses future from the start.

all seasons florists_opt.jpg

An example of another local shop that started during the recession and has grown into bigger premises and they use far better signage than the first shop example above. Notice that they have also included who they are, what they do and have contact information?

They also have an online shop, I once ordered flowers to be delivered to my mother while I was 200 miles away and it was effortless. That was a sale they took without me needing to visit the shop.

John Brown, Mike Williamson… Who?

For years it was common for people to have their business vans covered with their names which is ok if it was followed with their trade for example ‘Williamsons Builders and Plasterers’ or Andi Leeman Carpenter & Joiner’ (Yes that is what I had on my ads and vans when I was in the building trade) at least as you saw the van drive past with a name on it you could also instantly see what they did.

It makes sense to also add a small list of the jobs that you do such as ‘fit new kitchens’, ‘make and fit doors and windows’ to help the fact that some people do not know what a carpenter & joiner is let alone what they do.

More importantly a phone number should always be included, how else can people get hold of you to enquire about work? After all, you set up in business to do work for people to earn money didn’t you? How else will you earn money? So it is vital that you get across to potential new clients what you do and how they can get hold of you quickly.

Sometimes people do use signs and graphics that include phone numbers and tell people what they do but they choose a font or colours that are hard to see and read or simply make people look away. We can all go for fonts and designs we personally like and think looks ‘cool’ but as hard as it is to admit this to ourselves, the logo is not for us it is for the success of the business and nothing else.

Think of the old greasy spoon café down the road, the food might be great but we are now so used to a world of great design and themes that when we enter the café and see pieces of paper plastered over the walls with hand written menus that are unplanned, have grammatical errors and the writing seems to shrink in places you cannot help but feel that the owners do not love their business or their clients enough to take that little bit of extra time and care to create a more welcoming feel. Many people will simply turn and walk out.

greasy spoon cafe.jpg

We now live in the digital media world and some brands use viral marketing and guerrilla marketing methods that require getting a branded name or word out in front of as many people as possible. They use the old ‘curiosity’ factor to get people to do a search online to find out more about the company and product. This can work well but you have to be seen and getting your name out everywhere can cost a lot of money.

You cannot rely on curiosity alone these days, we live in a small world and trying to evoke curiosity in people isn’t easy when we are just a click away from something else. Attention spans are getting shorter, we have access to so many new forms of media from around the world if you are trying to play the curiosity game then you could seriously lose out.

Time is precious and people know that, why would they waste their time trying to find out what you are offering when they know they can go to so many other places? Also if they saw your name or advert offline and were not in a position to do a search there and then, by the time they get home they could easily have forgotten or choose not to bother doing a search.

all seasons florists board_opt.jpgCuriosity brand building is best left to big businesses and TV companies who use it a lot for promoting future coming TV shows.  They have the budget and have an existing client fan base they can ‘play’ with and tease as well as get the image across to people as they relax at home near to a computer or smart phone.

When starting a new business you really need to spend some time thinking about your business name, logo design and signage. This is the first thing people will see, it is how many people will judge you and your services on. Get this wrong and it could spell disaster.

If you do not come across clearly and leave people confused, scared to approach you or even leave people thinking that they should avoid you then you are going to be fighting one seriously uphill battle to get work and earn that important money.

If however people can see who you are and know exactly what you do and can comfortably contact you then you have the best chance of becoming a very successful business indeed. Of course once they come through the door, ring you on the phone or come to your website your professionalism and customer service is the next important thing you need to work on and that is for another post another day 🙂

Do What You Love or Do What Works?

  • August 20 , 2013

love

This is one of the hardest decisions you need to make when it comes to starting an online business especially if you are thinking of going down the blogging route where you will need to create a lot of content.

Content creation is hard at the best of times, and if you want to build up an authority site where you require a lot of content then it can get really tough going, but if you are not in the best mood, tired or just feeling a ‘bit bored’ creating content will be the last thing on your mind.

If you are creating a blog based around a niche that you really love and enjoy then you can still write about something when the going gets rough, it might not be easy but it will be a lot easier than trying to write content about a niche that you are not passionate about or know very little about.

At least if you know about the subject something can ‘fall out’ of your brain, if you need to look information up and do research before you start creating content then it will be hard, very hard. And here lies the biggest debate in the blogging world, do you blog about what you love or do you blog about something that works?

You could do your research and find a niche that is popular and that has very little competition with some great products that you could become an affiliate for and with the possibility to create your own but it could very easily be in a niche that you know absolutely nothing about. If that is the case content creation is going to be hard.

If you have some funding behind you then it is possible to find a good content creator and outsource the work then it won’t matter if you are having an off day. If your content creator is having a bad day they have no choice but to work otherwise they do not get paid. They generally get paid per job and not on an hourly rate so if the work is not up to a standard you require then you do not accept it or pay for it.

Having someone else create the content for you is costly, so it is likely from the beginning you will no doubt be creating a lot of the content yourself. So it is advised that you find a niche that you really LOVE otherwise you can be dead in the water within a few weeks.

Try and remember when you were a child and you were told at school or by a parent to do something that you really didn’t like, it was hard wasn’t it? At that time you didn’t have a choice and wandering off to do something else just resulted in you getting in to some kind of trouble.

Now that you are an adult with the freedom of choice, your own house, car and T.V., when you suddenly become bored the opportunity to wander off and do something else more exciting and without punishment is great. I know, I do it regularly! J

It takes a lot of commitment and discipline to do something you do not like however if what you do is likely to make money quickly and it does, that early win can be the motivation required to put more effort in or evolve quicker into outsourcing the content creation and automating the process which in itself is a very attractive business model.

The way to find whether a niche is a good niche to get involved in you will need to do some research which usually involves a few keyword searches. For example if you go to Google’s Keyword Tool and did a search for Yoga Schools and Retreats and found that there were a lot of people searching for the keyword yet the competing websites in Google’s search results was minimal and that there were lots of school and retreats to promote along with Yoga DVDs and equipment then you know that you were onto a potentially profitable niche.

Even better if you love yoga with a passion, that way you will love creating the content for your website and building your online business.

What if you chose to work with a niche you don’t enjoy? What if you were into hardcore dance music but realised that the potential to make money less compared to other niches like ‘opera’. You would need to choose a niche that should give you a quick return or ‘early win’ as we like to call it.

Having an early win is often very important for new online businesses, if you love your niche and do a lot of the content creation yourself but your blog/business still hasn’t turned a profit, it is that love for the niche that can take you on further but only up to a point.

If after six months you have been beavering away and still not getting any favourable results you can become very demoralized. It is wise to plan out your new business venture so that you have an idea of where you are going and what you want to achieve so that can keep your mind focused and stop yourself becoming demoralized so quickly.

Depending on which method you use, blogging about what you love or blogging about a niche that you know that works, you should always have a plan. You wouldn’t leave your house knowing you had a 300 mile drive to a location you had never been before without a map would you? So why would you start a business without a map of where you want to end up and how you are going to get there?

So, you have to ask yourself which way are you going to go?  Decide then create that important plan, you do not want to be lost in the cyber wilderness trying to keep yourself motivated to produce a lot of content in a niche that either you do not love or does not bring in the rewards quickly enough.

google plus and seo

6 Steps To Make Your Google+ Profile SEO Friendly

  • August 19 , 2013

Joining Google+ is not optional if you’re serious about establiising a solid presence both socially and from a search engine perspective. The reason is simple. Google is throwing its weight behind its social media platform and is ranking websites with G+ pages highly. Your chances for appearing in top Google searches for any given keyword are exponentially higher if you have a Google+ page and have optimized it by taking the following steps:

How Google+ Works

Google offers customized search results these days. It knows your search history from your IP address and from your login, and will display  results on top which it thinks you are more interested in. If you have a Google+ page and one of your followers is searching for one of your products, Google will display your G+ result among the top results for that user (personalised search result). Google has merged its web search with its social media search, and the results have favoured  businesses which have a strong Google+ presence.

google plus seo friendly

Optimize “About Me” Section

Google’s spiders work off keywords to track and rank content. When writing the “About Me” section of your Google+ page, make sure that you include  keywords which your customers are likely to be searching for. The keyword(s) should appear as early in your text as possible.

google plus keywords

Establish Google Authorship

If you haven’t claimed  Google authorship yet, you probably should get started. Google authorship links all of the content that you produce across the web to your Google+ profile. What it means is that whenever someone searches for a piece of content you’ve created and sees the link on the search engine results page (SERP), your picture and name will be visible right beside the link to the content. The search results will also show the number of Google+ Circles that you are included in. This improves the clickability of this particular search result. Moreover, Google also recognises you as the author of this content and this builds towards your author rank but we’ll save the authorship and author rank discussion for a separate post.

example of google authorship

Use Circles to Build Relationships

There are other pages on Google+ that wield a lot of influence, basically because a huge number of people have them in their Circles. G+ Circles are like groups to which you can add people or pages. Similarly, other people can also add you and your page to their Circles. When you have made your Google+ page, the next thing you should do is look for highly influential pages in your category and add them to your Circles. Build your relationships with those pages by frequently sharing your updates with them but also sharing their content and engaging with them (not one way traffic). If they get to know you and share your updates, this could mean a lot of exposure for your brand. Also, there is the potential that Google will rank you higher based on your G+ influence, as your profile will have links from many influential G+ users.

Use Google+ for Immediate Indexing

Sharing your content on your G+ page ensures that it is indexed by Google crawlers more quickly. If you publish a post on your blog or website, Google can take weeks or even months before it displays your post among the search results. Sharing it on G+ is a surefire way to make the spiders notice it almost immediately.

Use Content SEO

All the rules of website FoogleSEO also apply to your G+ page. Use your keyword in your titles and posts and try to maintain a keyword density of 1-2% (as a basic rule of thumb). Your keyword should appear early in the text of your post. Use hashtags and title tags to increase your exposure.

Get a +1 Button

Google also favors content that has been +1’ed by a lot of users. After creating a G+ page, the next thing you should do is to get a +1 button for your website, so that people can share and +1 your content to their Circles. I recently wrote a post on the new Google+ follow button which you can easily add to your site.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this summary of how Google+ can really catapult your website up the search rankings if you employ the right SEO tactics to your G+ page. I’ll end this post by suggesting the golden rule to your G+ success is to engage, engage and keep engaging and not to continuously push your own content. Users will reward you by adding you to their circles but also approaching you for an opinion or seeking your advice which naturally turns you into an authority.

Good luck to your G+ success.

now you SEO me

What “Now You See Me” Can Teach Us About SEO?

  • August 16 , 2013

Weird title for a post I know but bear with me, this is actually an SEO post. Recently I went to watch the new movie “Now You See Me” – it’s very good – check it out. But whilst watching it I remember thinking the whole way through how is this going to end. The film has a few twists and turns in it and without spoiling the ending it sort of pans out as you would expect – in the end. Well, it did for me.

So what does this have to do with SEO?

Well, during the film the characters are often mentioning about being one step, two steps or even ten steps “ahead of the game”. There is a lot of manipulation, trickery and trying to fool the audience.

Now, I actually see this in a lot of SEO strategies online. Whenever there is a system, a set of rules or a strategy in anything in life there will always be people out to try and beat it or rather bend the rules to suit themselves or give themselves the advantage.

Online marketers are always trying to come up with the next best way to beat Google and get their site ranking above everyone else out there. I have been on record many times in saying that if you rely on Google alone as your only source of traffic to your website you are setting yourself up for a huge fail.

Simply put Google changes its rules and algorithms too much to keep up. Over the last few months alone I have heard of many of my fellow marketers sites dropping of the radar literally over night. Why? Because the system they once had is no longer what Google values.

So what can you do about it to future proof yourself from more Google slaps?

Here at BizzeBee we have some mixed opinions on SEO and the debate will always go on. I strongly recommend you read some of the other posts on this subject. I am going to break this down real simple. In my opinion it can be broken down into three steps. If you just follow these three steps, over time you will do ok and you will not get any slaps off the charts in terms of rankings.

Content. Links. Social Media.

That is it.

Now let’s talk about each one separately.

Content

This is by far the most important aspect of the three. Without great, kick-ass content then you can probably forget about the other two. Whether you write for a blog or are writing articles for a website the content should be great. Forget spinning articles, or buying below-par articles with bad grammar and spelling mistakes, this will not do. Your content should be aimed at providing user engagement, conversions and revenue.

The old days of optimizing for search engines are on there way out if not over altogether. It’s time now to write for guess what….. humans! Be sure to use catchy headlines and engaging content.

It should also be noted that exact match domains are a thing of the past – as well as exact match anchor text. You should now be concentrating on keyword diversity within the posts you write. I tend to just write – the keywords within the posts tend to find themselves.

Another thing that is great for SEO now is personal branding within your content. BizzeBee is a brand, so we try to reflect this in our posts, our downloadable content and our members area (coming soon).  Also add your personal brand to the content – adding Google authorship is a great way to start.

In a nutshell the better content you produce the more people will want to naturally share it, giving you better quality and niche matching links coming in. And this is the key – as having more natural links coming in is a good thing in Google’s eyes.

Techniques to avoid: Focusing on numbers, clicks and page views, trying to write for search engines, using EMD (exact match domains), being anonymous with your readers.

Links

I touched upon links in the closing stages of the last section. And links are still important but not the quantity as the old black-hat days would have led us to believe. It has been about quality of links for some time and nothing has changed really. Except make them natural. So, this brings us back to content SEO again. Natural links are when someone willingly links to your post or website from their own similar site in terms of content.

If you are a content marketing business then buying 500 links from Fiver linking to your site from various fake social media profiles or garbage hashed link farm websites is not going to give your post any credibility at all – in fact it will do it damage. However just a handful of links from similar or higher ranked websites will give your post a much better chance of ranking higher in the search engines. How do you do that – write great content, and let the readers choose to link it.

Or you could guest post – but be warned here. Do not just guest post for the sake of getting a link. Earn links from top ranked respected blogs or sites within your niche. Engage and interact with them first, establish a good working relationship. This will give you a better chance of getting a valuable link from their site to yours.

Do not participate in link exchange programs, these are a waste of time and quite often not what the person is saying they are. If you like some content and feel it should be linked or shared, then do so. It is good practice to offer links regardless of whether you get one back. Your time will come.

Techniques to avoid: Buying links, participating in link exchange systems, adding to directory websites manually, focusing on short term gain.

Social Media

Today is all about social media – its everywhere and it’s how people express their views on your work. Great content will naturally get tweets, likes, +1’s and mentions along the way. And – the success of social media campaigns comes largely down to what? I will give you a clue – it begins with C.

Yes, content. And there are a few more C’s. Communication and community are two more that spring to mind. Your social media profiles should be inter-linked with your SEO campaigns, you should encourage reaction to your posts or content and anyone who shares your posts or content should be noted. Be sure to follow up personally now and again to the share or link if anyone makes any comments.

Participating in a community of like-minded people is also great for your SEO. Answering and solving people’s problems is great and a sure fire way to earn you some respected traffic and social shares along the way to your content. Its these relationships that will help build your personal authority.

One last thing on social media with regards to your SEO, using #tags. Try to use tags where applicable in your content sharing across the social media networks.

Techniques to avoid: Spamming social media sites and communities, focusing on keywords too much, article submission sites, commenting only for backlinks.

So there we have it my social media jigsaw only has three parts. Content, Links and Social Media.

SEO 3 steps

The film “Now You See Me” was all about trickery, deceit and fooling the system (audience). With SEO you cannot do this. Sure, you may come up with a system that may trick Google for a short while but ultimately you will always fall.

The best way to be “one step ahead of the game” is to just write great, unique content. If you only do this then you are already at a long term advantage to those who believe in link farms and keyword stuffing.

If you stick with this and avoid all the black-hat rubbish that is out there your posts will have better chance standing the test of time and Google will have no reason to slap you down with the next update.

Thanks for reading, as always your comments are welcome. We encourage debate so please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

The Social Media Commitment | Bizzebee

The Social Media Commitment

  • August 15 , 2013

Hello Bizzebee’s,

Clair here again, I thought it would be a great idea to follow up on my last post, where I tried to break down “Where Would I Be Without Social Media” and talk to you this week a little bit about the Social Media commitment.

In order for Social Media to “work” there is a level of commitment involved often far bigger than anyone would realise from the outset. I hear and have spoken to a LOT of people who talk about ROI, and is Social Media really worth it?

The simple answer is YES it is, but it doesn’t come without work ethic and a level of commitment from YOU.

Your commitment is to TURN UP – for example, if you are running a Twitter account, it is your responsibility to BE THERE.

For me, because pretty much all of my working life revolves around social media sites, my audience know that over a weekend I am “off work” and that is across the major sites that I manage a presence on.

The ROI from Social Media comes once the trust has been built between you and your followers, the trust only happens when you’ve proven yourself to those around you – this can / is easy to do in a variety of ways, but all essentially boils down to the fact you need to be committed to your profiles on the platforms and be there.

There is nothing more frustrating than someone recommending another business or person for a service and then when you go check their profile out to find they aren’t utilising their profile. There are countless people out there all hungry for business, so you need to ensure you do whatever it takes to win that business, or at least be in the running too.

Unfortunately I see this all the time in my line of work. When I speak to people and ask them “what happened” I’m often met with the response “it doesn’t work for me” or “I don’t have time” – Both answers are true, to a degree if you don’t understand what it takes to make this commitment work.

If you embark on a Facebook page campaign or open a Twitter account – make your intentions clear from the outset – let your audience know when you will be around and who is managing things – this is a part of your virtual shop front, and very much an extension of your customer service team. That is the Social Media Commitment and you should stick to it without question.

Building trust doesn’t need to take a lifetime.

You don’t need to be knocking down doors 24/7 trying to sell one service after another through your social channels.

What you do need to be doing is talking to the people around you – look for those locally, those in your industry and forming bonds with those people. Are they after a recommendation for a service you’ve experience with, and then tell them where you’ve been!

Recommendation is the driving force in the success of Social Media marketing for small business owners. You get that “seal of approval” from a fellow twitter user, 9 times out of 10 you’ve then got the business.

As much as people will engage with you if you are active and out there, they won’t come looking for you if you suddenly go quiet – for the most part anyway. You’ve got to have a very good bond with your fellow social community for that to happen. There’s only so many times a person can walk past a shop to see if its open, until they start going elsewhere.

There is no “comfort” zone with social media, you never really get a chance to “rest” or feel “safe” if you want continued connections and success you need to keep working hard at it, and that is a commitment.

As business owners I appreciate that your time is precious – whilst it’s the most affordable thing you can often spare in the beginning, the whole commitment to turning up during the days you are open can be off putting, so use the time you have got and make it count.

Whether you have 30 minutes or 3 hours – you need to ensure you schedule your time properly.

There are lots of great third party apps out there that let you set up auto tweets (which are essential for time management and productivity) so you NEVER forget to get your important messages out there. Syncing profiles together so Facebook talks to Twitter (or Vice Versa) so you aren’t “doubling up” on some messages, which means your available time is put to real time engagement – replying to messages and tweets, reading through your timeline, getting involved in networking hours, live chats and generally seeing where you can add value.

Bizzebee as a collective understand the commitment needed to really make Social Media work, during the coming weeks as the site develops more you will see some really excellent training and advice from the team to really help you streamline your social media efforts which makes the whole social media commitment easier, and most definitely worth it!

Clair 🙂

Niche Blogging – Picking A Niche To Blog About

  • August 14 , 2013

 

If you are just starting out in the big wide world of blogging, then THE most important decision you will have to make is what you want to blog about, especially if your plan is to create a profitable site.  This is where niche blogging comes in and why I thought it would be good to talk over a few things to help you.

It may sound straight forward to pick a subject to write about, but you’d be surprised how many people struggle with this decision.  It takes time to build up a site, which can be demoralizing if 6 months down the line you decide that you want to switch topics and effectively start again.  That is why it is so important to plan out your site and decide on your niche from day 1.  Believe me, it will save you a lot of hassle in the long run!

What Is Niche Blogging?

Niche blogging is where you decide upon and concentrate on writing for a select audience.  Essentially, this could be on any subject, but you will have researched the subject beforehand to find out whether there is an audience out there for it.

Let’s back up a bit…

Normally, when people start their first blog, it’s usually a personal blog where they write about themselves and their everyday experiences.  This could include talking about their favourite hobbies, movies, books, university life, etc. usually a bit of everything.  I started in a similar way with my first site and I know some of the other Bizzebee writers did as well.

Whilst this is a good way to get into blogging, it’s not a very effective way of building a profitable one.  Whilst you may build up a bit of an audience, you won’t likely build up a significant one as you are writing about a whole host of different subjects.  People won’t know if you are a movie critic, food writer, book reviewer, etc.  Worse still, advertisers won’t know what you are about.

Niche blogging is where you select a single subject and stick to it.  That way, when people come to visit your site, they know what they are getting.  Advertisers will be much more likely to approach you to advertise their products/services that are related to your site and better yet, you will be able to build a bigger audience.

Picking Your Niche

So, now that you know that a specific subject is much better than lots of different ones, you can go and select yours, right?  Well, there is a bit more to it than that!

Is Your Niche Popular Enough?

In order for your site to be a success, you are going to need to pick a subject that has an audience.  After all, you could create the world’s greatest site on, let’s say, ‘Amazonian Blue Spotted Frogs’, but if only 7 people are interested in it, then is it worth it?  Well not if you want to make any money from it!

The more people who are interested in your subject from day 1, the more people there are to market your blog to.  They are the ones who will be your potential readers/customers, so make sure that you have a potential audience BEFORE you start.

Is Your Niche Too Popular?

You don’t want to pick an unpopular niche, but similarly, you don’t want to pick a subject that is too broad.  There are billions of people interested in sport, but that doesn’t mean you should create a site on all sports.  You’d be much better picking an individual sport (e.g. Football), or better yet an individual team.  At least then, you will have narrowed down your niche to be more specific, which will in turn attract more interested people.

It’s good to pick a popular subject, but the more you can narrow down your niche within that subject, the better.  People will see you as the go-to place to read about that subject.

It also helps to narrow down your subject when you are first starting your site.  If you are too general, you won’t get a look in as you will be competing against much larger, well established sites.

Is Your Niche Shrinking Or Growing?

Niche Blogging

Everything is changing all the time.  What was once popular a year ago may not be that popular anymore.  Likewise, there are some subjects that are only just starting to become popular.  You need to think about your niche and judge whether it is growing or shrinking.

For example, a site about board games would be a lot less popular than a site about video games.  That’s because board games are much less popular (shrinking niche) than video games (growing niche).

You want to try and pick a growing niche if you can, as you don’t want to find a couple of years down the line that your audience has all moved onto something new.

Google Trends

It’s not always clear to tell how popular a subject is, so it’s good to do some research before-hand.  This is where Google Trends comes in.  This great tool lets you look at what people have been searching for online over the last few years.  This can help you to see whether a niche is growing, shrinking or remaining stable.

Let’s look at the board game / video game example from earlier.

Picking a blogging niche

It’s pretty clear to see that we were right about these two industries.  Board games (blue) are clearly a shrinking niche, as year on year their popularity has fallen, only spiking at Christmas time.  Video games (red) one the other hand have remained reasonably stable over the years, again spiking at Christmas time.

Hopefully this just shows that you can use Google Trends to see how popular a subject has been over time.

THE Most Important Part About Niche Blogging!!!

Lastly, THE most important aspect of choosing the right niche for your site is YOU!!!  You are the one that is going to be doing all the work, so you need to be passionate about the subject.  Like I say, it takes time to build up a site from scratch, so if you love what you are writing about it makes it a lot easier.

What influences you when picking a niche?  What tools do you use to do research (if any)?  Please let us know below in the comments section.

Why You Need To Start Building An Email List From The Start

  • August 13 , 2013

email lists featured image

If you are planning on blogging and building up an online business one of the first things you need to do is build up an email list. Many of the big internet marketers say that the ‘gold is in the list’ this is true but not just for those trying to push dodgy Clickbank products.

Big companies like Pizza Hut use email to send out vouchers for offers like ‘two for one pizzas’ They may not be trying to do the hard sell or recommended related products but they can help increase revenue by tempting people into their restaurants. People who probably were not thinking of going but suddenly faced with a great offer they go and spend money at Pizza Hut that wasn’t originally destined for their tills.

Building an email list and having a newsletter is great for all types of businesses and not just the internet marketer. There are several great reasons why any business should build an email list and one seriously good one is that you can keep reminding people of who you are, what new products or services you have to offer and generally say ‘Hi how are you? Doing ok I hope, just a little reminder to say we are still here with plenty of great offers and advice so why not pop over to our website today!’

Now I am sure you have seen bloggers and internet marketers tell you that you can start a blog and an online business for a year for as little as $70 and this is true, the cost of a domain and hosting can be that for the whole year but not many of them go on to tell you the other costs that are involved in being successful.

If you are serious about starting a successfully online business then building an email list is going to pump up that cost. Compared to investing in many off line businesses building an email list is still fantastic value for money but you still need to know that there are costs involved.

Now there are many services that you can use to build your email list and send out email newsletters properly, MailChimp, Infusionsoft and Aweber. These companies vary in prices and also in what you can do. MailChimp for example used to dislike their system being used for internet marketing and affiliate promotions which is a shame as they are free for the first 2000 subscribers on your list allowing you to send 12,000 emails per month. To send unlimited emails you will need to start paying and it starts from $10 a month for 0-500 subscribers.

They prefer more business types of emails so if you are creating a business that isn’t internet marketing then it could be an excellent set up for you. I personally have not used MailChimp before; I have used Infusionsoft and Aweber. I personally do not like Infusionsoft, they are costly and the system is hard to use but they are more than just an email autoresponder service. They are a complete marketing system that you can run an affiliate system through and also take payments with.

The industry standard for many is Aweber; it is our preferred system and one of the best. They do a special ‘try it out’ offer for one month at $1 then after that it is $19 per month for up to 500 people on your lists. Once you go over 500 the price will increase.

Try Aweber’s $1 Trial Here

The Extra Costs Involved

Now I want to make this clear, this is something many people will fail to tell you at the beginning… the price is for 500 people on your lists and not subscribers… yes read that again. If you have 300 active subscribers but have had 250 in the past who had subscribed and then unsubscribed you will be charged the higher rate unless you clean up your lists and delete those names.

It’s not that Aweber are evil robbing bandits, it is just that not many people realise that that is their system and not many people will tell you that so list management is a must. Keep on top of your lists!

Ok so once you have started your online business and started to build your email list with Aweber you now add an extra yearly cost of $210 to your start-up costs ($1 +11 months @$19= $210)

A Well Managed Email List Is Always Worth The Money

As you can see this isn’t earth shattering, $19 a month is what… the price of a few coffees? We prefer you to know upfront though as many people will not tell you all of this. But that $210 is an incredible investment when you think about it.

Imagine that you were a small local Pizza shop and you decided to follow the lead of the bigger boys Pizza Hut and start to collect email details of people in your area.

pizza hut test.jpg

If you had a list of around 500 people and you sent out an email each week with special offer that resulted in just ten people coming in and spending roughly $20 each that they probably wasn’t going to spend with you before the email offer, you would have paid all but $10 of your years costs.

Now do that every month and you have generate extra money for your business which you wouldn’t have had without the email list. People use Facebook and Twitter to send out promotions and you should too, they are free and there to be used but email is still the better converter for sales.

You see Facebook and Twitter use newsfeeds that are crammed with anything and everyone, there are offers and promotions from all kinds of people and many users on Facebook dislike them with a passion. You see anyone can create a Facebook page or post a promotion and many have been scams so people are still pretty wary of promotions on these networks. Things are getting better though.

But with email, where does the email come from? The company or company owner themselves. Email is more personal and people still to this day believe that emails come from the companies that look to have sent them even if they didn’t. This is the reason why email scams worked so well and are still very popular these days. People generally trust email over all other networks.

Email is the first and original social media network and it still converts better than the rest so if you are taking your business online or planning to build an online business then you really should be setting up your newsletter and building your email list from the start.

Investing In A Website: A Better Return On Investment Than A Bank Account?

  • August 12 , 2013

 

Changing perspective can always make you see things differently, if I said that people should invest in a blog and spend a few years working on it most people would say that it wasn’t worth it. I however disagree, I believe starting a blog can be one of the wisest investments anyone can do. It can help you grow a business using the blog effectively, also getting a enterprise investment scheme can help you organizing an investment to grow a new business.

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When you consider the cost of starting a traditional offline business on the high street of your town, you are usually in big debt before you have started your first day of trading. This is pretty common and is one of the main reasons why people file bankruptcy when just started a new business. In many cases it can take years to make your money back and turn a profit. Many restaurants go bust within the first six months of starting and other businesses can go bust within the first two years. The odds are not good for offline business surviving especially during this global recession.

Starting an online business can be far better than an offline business for many reasons; this great article will tell you more.

Why Online Property Has A Better ROI than Traditional Bricks and Mortar Property

When you start an online business, and for this example I am going to talk about a simple blog, the start-up cost can be as little as $70 for the year. For that you will register your domain name and then get hosting. Hosting is your online rent; the cheapest package with Hostgator is $47.52. Unless you decide to outsource your content creation all of the work would be done by yourself.

So the cost for the year is around $70, you can start to build an email list if you like and often people suggest that you start at the beginning but there is a cost associated with building an email list and the truth be told, for the first 3 – 6 months you will probably get very few sign ups from organic traffic while you are growing your site. You could employ some paid methods to generate traffic to your site and start to build your email list faster if you wish.

Starting a blog and working on it can require some work and commitment on your part however I will give you a big, BIG secret here, the success of a blog is not always down to the commitment and work you put in but the quality of your plan. Every business needs a solid business plan and building a blog is no different.

Ok so you are probably wondering about the bank account part to this post, well I am writing this in the U.K. where we are currently in the 3rd year of recession or is it the 4th? Maybe more, it seems like the news has been going on about it forever!  The banks which are the traditional way of saving your money pays an interest on the money you have stored with them, people put money into banks hoping to make some extra via the interest they pay. For large sums of money it can be useful.

Originally this interest was paid as a thank you for lending the bank the money that they could then lend to other people with help from their Johnson City Savings Accounts, the bank would charge a higher interest rate as part of the repayment and  they would pay you back from that money as a way to say thank you. Everyone was a winner, the person wanting to start a business was given some start-up capital which he repaid back over time, the bank made a profit from the interest paid on the loan and you made a small profit for having your money in that bank.

Thanks to the banks getting greedy and making a big mess of everything they have had to claw back as much money as possible to prevent them going under and this has meant that many interest rates on savings accounts have been slashed.

While I write this I did a quick search and found on Google U.K. that if I had £3000 in an account and deposited £1000 each month for 12 months without an overdraft limited I could earn between £5 and £10 a month in interest.

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What is interesting is that one account would cost me £10 a month in fees and only generate £5.92 in interest. I know that if I do not touch the money then compound interest comes into play.

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” – Albert Einstein

But what I want to get across is this, I would need to have £3000 in the account and deposit £1000 a month to earn roughly £72. Now I ask, is it worth it?

I know you need to store your money someone where but it is wrong now to think of most banks and their accounts as a good way to generate money via interest.  The example above would have £15000 in the account after the first year and earn less than £100 in interest and you might notice that some of the rates drop down to 1% after the first year.

Back to the online business, a blog that can cost $70 to run for 1 year can in fact generate far more money back in return, and let’s not forget something, with all the technology that we have today a blog doesn’t have to mean more work or pressure for you, there are a lot of innovations that can help you out; in fact, the future of AI is changing very fast and for the better. While growing your blog, writing posts and sharing them on your growing social media networks (every blogger should build a network of fans and followers on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus) you could record a series of short videos or write an eBook complimenting the niche of your blog and then sell it to your site visitors.

Imagine that you created a series of 10 short videos and charged your site visitors only $10 to access them. You only need 7 of your site readers to pay for access and you now have $70, that is your money made back, increase that to 14 customers then you have doubled your initial investment. How hard can it be to sell 14 places to your online video course over 12 months?

Video and eBooks can be created very easily at home with the tools at hand. Videos can be made using free software like Screencast-O-Matic.com and eBooks can be produced using a range of free software like Libra Office and Paint.net for the images.

I know of one guy who was making around $300 a month from selling a blogging video course from a box standard WordPress site, he was charging more than $10 for access and it was his first project. His website cost was as little as $70 and he was using the very basic WordPress standard TwentyTen theme.

There is also the possibility of generating advertising revenue by using networks like Google AdWords or maybe even private advertising. Imagine selling an advert spot to a local business at $10 per month,  at the end of the year you will have $120 which is $50 profit after your $70 cost is accounted for. Now imagine selling advertising space to several businesses!

When you get a lot of site visitors and customers you may require to pay more each month for hosting as your bandwidth and disk space will need to be increased.

Patt Flynn the legendary blogger makes over $40,000 a month from his blogs, his monthly costs are not $70 anymore, I am sure he would like it if they were however as his business grew so did the costs.

This April 2013 his outgoings were $8,650.93 and his gross incomings were $58,412.33 leaving him with a profit of $49,761.40. Now you will not get that, Pat is well established and has several sites and products that generate income including iPhone apps and a bestselling book on Amazon but what is interesting here is the ratio of what he puts in and what he gets out.He started out as a simple blogger!

Also after a couple of years you decide you have had enough and if you have worked on your blog and grown it to something generating a profit or at least has a potential to grow into a profitable blog you could sell it, some blogs have sold for several thousand dollars with some reaching the hundreds of thousands, after two years and a cost of around $140 you were able to sell your site for a nice respectable $500 you have still more than doubled your money.

There are running costs to websites and they do increase over time however as I am sure you are beginning to see, the investment is not only well worth it, it outstrips any return you get from relying on your bank account to swell your savings.

How To Increase Your Facebook Photo Comments

  • August 9 , 2013

In late June, Facebook commenced their introduction of photo comments, a new feature which allows you to comment on posts through images as opposed to text. So now users have the opportunity to tell us how they feel via an image using a quick snapshot. I sense this update is bigger than most are making it out to be as it alters the way you engage with friends/fans on a post.

The bigger question is, how can businesses leverage Facebook photo comments when it comes to their social media strategy?

1. Make Your Fans Share Relevant Images

I don’t think it matters too much which industry your business sits in as there is always a way to make your fans share an image if you just ask them. For example, if you run a a dessert cafe, with this new commenting feature, you could reach out to your fans to share an image of a ricotta cheese cake they’ve liked. Your post could simply be “We’ve just introduced our home baked ricotta cheese cake, what’s your favourite? Show us a photo”. Asking your fans to share images can work for a digital marketing agency also. For example, you could ask your fans to share an infographic they’ve seen which explains the ins and outs of an optimised blog post.

There are numerous opportunites to take advantage of this particular element and it truly comes down to what aspects of your business are meaningful to you and whether they would generate more engagement in the form of likes and shares from your fans.

2. Discover How Your Fans Spend Their Day

So the common rule we’ve all been preached on Facebook is that 70% of your content should provide value and develop your brand, 20% should be attributed to sharing what others have posted and the last 10% goes to self promoting your business or your own brand.

So I realise the hardest part is hitting the 20% sharing mark, but it really shouldn’t as photo comments make it easy to share other people’s ideas. I would also recommend posing the the following question to your fans “How’s it going today, Show us via a photo of what you’re up to today!”

facebook 70/20/10 rule

 

If you work in the finance industry there is a strong possibility that the team heads out for lunch on a Friday. This is a good opportunity to share a photo of the team having a feed on the company page as it shows the team building element and fun culture which exists in the organisation. To take it one step further, they could ask their fans to share images of what they plan to have for lunch on a Friday (generally unhealthy so could make for a few interesting pics).

3. Commenting Milestones

There might come a time where you want to push your fans to reach certain milestones of sociability e.g. when this post gets 100 likes ot 50 shares we will release the next installment of our video series. As a business you could look into using photo comments to establish specific milestones in order to encourage your fans to spread the social love.

4. Ask Fans To Share Photos Of Them Using Your Product

Reach out to your fans and ask them to photograph themselves using your product in a unique manner and share these images as comments. This is an excellent method to get the creative juices flowing of your audience and also free marketing for your product to audiences who may not have seen your product in a particular way, but now they have.

Perhaps Mario Balotelli (pictured below) might be a perfect candidate for sharing a photo of himself to the manufacturer of those bright acqua earphones.

balotelli headphones facebook photo comment

Facebook’s photo comment feature opens up a new avenue for business owners to engage with their end customer. It allows creativity and fun by asking your followers to respond with a photo as opposed to text (the caveat being to ensure the images aren’t explicit). When you interact with each comment, I would recommend tagging the fan in the comment which expands the reach across Facebook as a whole

How do you plan to use Facebook’s photo comments feature as part of your business? Let us know but sharing your comments below.

10 Facebook Tips

Tips For Your Business Facebook Page

  • August 8 , 2013

Every business worth their salt these days has a business Facebook page. Why? Because times are changing or rather times have changed! Facebook has over 900 Million users worldwide so to ignore this platform would be unwise and just plain silly. You have the potential to reach an audience and spread your message in a way you never had before.

You can loosen the tie with your Facebook page – you do not have to be so “business” if you know what I mean. Have a bit of fun with it.

Facebook users are more of a “share and like” type – they love the interaction. Remember it’s a social media site, the keyword there being social.

It can be a great way to run competitions and if your message goes viral then you will be attracting a lot of extra potential customers but more importantly your brand will be getting more exposure. Great for the long game.

With a business Facebook page your potential reach to people comes directly from your “likes” to start with, but then what they like and share also appears on their friends timelines – further increasing your exposure. Sort of like a ripple effect – although Google will probably tell us off for using that term so, as Facebook calls it – insights.

Although the difference between a successful, vibrant, interactive page and one that just sits there gathering dust with nobody to talk to comes down to a few things.

If your page is brand new you should probably start by sending your page out to your friends, you can do this straight away from the invite friends link.

Whatever you do – DO NOT BUY LIKES – these will be fake, offer no interaction and be a waste of money. A page with 100 interactive fans holds much more value than one with 1000 fake fans. All these sites do is fuel peoples egos. They will get found out soon.

Do try to keep your content relevant to your audience but do not be afraid to test the water with something that you would not ordinarily be associated with. Consistency is also key with these pages, try to post at least once per day – this will give your audience the thought they are on your mind. Which they should be.

You could also add some personal touches to your Facebook business page, how about some pictures from the office, a staff party or perhaps a video of the production areas? Think a little outside the box – it can be a great way to show your human side. Things that you may want to keep away from your main website for example.

The 10 Tips Infographic below will give you an insight into improving your Facebook business page.

Facebook Tips Infographic

So, go ahead – get your Facebook business page online now and start to take action on the steps outlined above. You will soon see your captive audience grow.

Please, if you do have any comments or thoughts add them below. We would love to hear from you.

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