Small Business Blogging

How to Create Blogging Success

A blog is still one of the best formats in which you can generate traffic for your website and encourage your targeted audience to learn more about your brand.

Google and other search engines are increasing their focus on the content which blogs naturally provide, therefore integrating it into your online sales process is an important step.

So how do you ensure you achieve blogging success? Read on to find out more.

 

Topics and Themes

To ensure that your intended audience are discovering your website, you must first get inside the head of the reader. These days, people rarely search for a product on a search engine. It is much more common for them to search for an answer to a problem or a distraction. Therefore your main focus of topics and themes should be to offer useful content which can provide a solution to a problem or entertainment.

This isn’t as hard as some companies think. Every industry has a problem which their consumers face on a daily basis or there is something in popular culture which is of interest.

You can start by making a list of the common questions which are asked of you by your customers. Customers can be a great source of topic generation and it is likely if one customer is asking you a question, there are dozens asking it on the search engines.

 

Length and Frequency of Posting

The concentration span of the average person has dropped considerably in the past decade. It was once 12 minutes, it is now only five. Therefore you need to consider this when writing your blog posts. Too long a post and your audience won’t read to the end, but at the same time too short a piece and it might not provide enough useful information to be considered valuable to the visitor.

Informative, problem solving blogs should be between 500 and 1200 words, although some technical blogs can go higher. You could have a short blog post, but it has to contain all the important aspects of a post, e.g. a strong intro, informative content and then outcome. This can be challenging to achieve in a small post.

For the frequency of posting there is no hard set rule on the number of times. Some audiences will prefer once a week, others will prefer a more frequent arrangement. The only thing to consider is that your release of blog posts must be consistent. If your audience see you post every Friday they will expect it and missing out can hurt your reputation.

To solve this particular problem, it can be useful to write a few blog posts in advance. Having a bank of blog posts mean you are never rushing to complete one at the last minute and you’ll always have content to publish.

 

Keywords

Keywords have changed dramatically from the old days. Not so long ago businesses could keyword stuff their content and see a top spot on Google and other search engines. This is no longer the case. Google has taken steps to penalise companies which do this with a succession of updates to their algorithm. The search engine is aiming to provide its users with higher quality content rather than being keyword heavy.

But that isn’t the only reason why you shouldn’t concentrate on a single keyword. The searching habits of the consumer have evolved over the past few years. Previously consumers would ask a search engine to draw up a list of results based on 2 or 3 word phrases. Now the common search tactic is a six or seven word question.

Therefore you have a tough job to achieve. You’ve first got to get the question right in order to use it as your keyword and then you’ve got to use it just enough to get it recognised but not too much that it gets penalised.

The exact Google algorithm is not known, they keep it under wraps, but it is probably best to keep the ‘key phrase’ (as it should now really be known as) to being used two or three times at most in your piece.

 

Sharing

Promotion of your blog is important. You can't rely just on the search engines to draw traffic to it. Therefore utilising a wide range of platforms is a good method of generating traffic. Social media and email are standard ways of drawing traffic to your blog. Many of the best brands who blog, send out announcements their blog has been updated through both formats, and it is an assured way of generating some traffic.

Twitter is specifically useful. Tweets have a short lifespan, only about 10 minutes for most posts; therefore you can mention your new post two or three times on the first day and re-post it periodically (but leave at least a week before you do so, preferably longer).

However, both methods do little to expand your reach as the majority of the traffic from social media and all the traffic from your email is going to be those already connected with your brand.

To reach new audiences you need to allow people to share your content in their social networks. Having a share button on your blog can be a good help.

Another thing to consider is by going onto forums or social media groups. Many of them won’t appreciate you just talking about your blog posts but if you are clever and interact on different topics you can often garner enough favour to post the occasional blog update.

For forums the best thing to do is to contribute to their conversations and include your latest blog post in your signature.

You can also leave relevant comments on other blog posts. Talk about the issues they’ve discussed and in the website box which many blogs offer commentators, leave the url to a relevant blog post of your own.

 

Other Items

There are other items to consider when blogging which can really allow you to achieve success, for instance the use of images. Good quality images can help you generate an emotional response in your audience and images are processed by the brain faster than text, therefore they can set the mood of your content.

Also consider the way you link to other content online. Try to avoid one word links, unless it is a brand name. It is also best to avoid ‘click here’ or ‘try this now’. It is better to use phrases which are connected to the content you are linking to such as ‘achieve blogging success with some easy to implement tips’ or ‘join the discussion on the latest online marketing techniques’. Alternative simply use a URL.

Finally consider using outside experts in your blog posts. Interviewing some can be a perfect way to get free publicity (they are likely to share content they’ve written) but you could also try finding quotes they have given other media outlets. Always remember to quote that source however.

 

Conclusion

There are many items to consider when wanting to make the most out of the marketing opportunity which blogging offers. Yet each step is also fairly easy to implement. If you ensure you tailor your useful content to the ideal length and consistent frequency, with the right keywords, you can start your journey to blogging success.

 

Action Steps:

  • Research blogging platforms and choose which is best for your business
  • Research which keywords your desired customers are using
  • List topics in which you can write about on your blog
  • Create a publishing scheduling so you know when you are going to publish content
  • Create content matching the keywords and topics together
  • Publish the content!

Freedom Business System

Business or Busy-ness?

Small businesses, by their very nature, are made up of just a few staff members. Each one of the team has a role to play in the company (or more often than not, various roles) and a series of tasks they do on a regular basis.

For example, John is an accountant, with a team of ten spread across two offices in different areas of the city. He has a secretary in each office (Jane and Jill), as well as several book-keepers, advisors and other staff members who work on client accounts for him. Great, right? Well, most of the time…

All too often John and his team will find themselves ‘fighting fires’. What I mean by that is that they will come up against a series of challenges every day, which they deal with as and when they arise. The exact method of dealing with each situation will vary from person to person, and generally be forgotten until it has to be addressed by a different member of staff at some point in the future. Bob solves a problem for Client A in his own way in January, and Bill solves the same problem in his own way in June for Client B.

What this essentially results in is inefficiency and frustration. Inefficiency, because each one of the team is working in isolation to resolve something that has probably been done multiple times in the past. And frustration, because when you are ‘fighting fires’, the forest simply cannot grow, much less allow you time to appreciate its beauty.

What’s sad is that this is the modus operandi of the large majority of small businesses everywhere. Their owners or directors have little time to see the bigger picture, as they are bogged down with the daily minutiae of business-as-usual, often working amazingly long hours just to keep up.

 

Sound uncomfortably familiar?

It certainly was how Aflua functioned in the early days of our business. We built websites and helped brand companies, each time using an approach which was different, depending on the designer or manager who lead the project.

Our invoicing, accounting and all the other ‘behind the scenes’ activity was largely ad hoc and problems were solved by whoever had the time, in the way they saw fit. Our bottom line seemed to remain unchanged by throwing increasingly long hours at the work to be done.

Then, early in 2011, I discovered a book that was to change all that, and take us to a different mindset altogether.

 

Work the System

Despite its rather dubious title, ‘Work the System’ by Sam Carpenter outlines, in exact steps, how to systematise your business tasks to avoid the “busy work” and delegate tasks to other team members or employees with complete confidence.

In the words of the book:

[blockquote author=""] "...Carpenter reveals a profound insight and the exact uncomplicated, mechanical steps he took to turn his business and life around without turning it inside out. Once you “get” this new vision, success and serenity will come easily for you, too." [/blockquote]

Essentially what Sam proposes is a method for dissecting and documenting your business so that the proverbial ‘man off the street’ could follow them. He defines five steps for doing this:

  1. Make the various systems consciously visible.
  2. One at a time, bring them to the foreground for examination.
  3. Adjust them.
  4. Document them.
  5. Maintain them.

Apart from the obvious benefits associated with clearing up any ambiguity around your processes so that your team members can carry each one out effectively and efficiently, there are hidden benefits to undertaking this exercise too, as we have found at Aflua.

The mere act of systematically surfacing the different actions you take every day in your company and defining them as part of a larger system makes you aware of them, and able to analyse and improve on them over time.

And time is a key factor here: many reading this will be thinking, “how can I possibly give up the time to do all this documentation, I have work to do!” Reverse the idea in your head for just one minute - maybe you are so busy precisely because you lack the documentation to enable you to delegate the simpler tasks of your business out to others.

Do you work on your business, or are you just working in the busy-ness?

 

Action steps:

I highly recommend you take a look at the Work the System Academy, which will drive your success to a whole new level.

Also, you can get a free copy of the book over at www.workthesystem.com


Web Designers

Why Your Web Designer Sucks

99% of website designers suck because they sell website designs.

What? Just read that back again. What does that even mean? Let’s break it down.

Aflua used to be a design agency. What I mean by that is that we produced high-fidelity, impressive designs for our customers to drool over and buy into. We were polished graphic designers for the Internet.

This produced good short-term results for us: we wowed the client, built websites for them, took their money, and then mostly said goodbye. We pumped and dumped.

This is exactly what most web design agencies still do. They focus nearly all their efforts on 'making the sale’, pushing appealing design as a vehicle to sell websites. And this is truer than ever in the small business sphere.

So why does this suck? After all, website designers sell website design, right?

Wrong. The Internet is much more complex than it was back in the 1990’s. It is no longer enough to expect that a graphic design, adapted for the Web, will cut the mustard.

 

A Website is a Customer Engagement Platform

What that grandiose phrase really means, is that your website needs to be much more than just your company brochure converted to HTML.

  • It needs to offer compelling, fresh content on a regular basis, managed through a simple yet flexible Content Management System (CMS).
  • It needs to react correctly to the device it’s being viewed on, restructuring page layouts to best suit smartphones and tablets, which are fast becoming the default way for your audience to visit you online.
  • You need to know and understand statistics about traffic sources, and why they are leaving certain pages more than others.
  • Depending on your industry, it may need to be able to accept credit cards or PayPal payments directly, so you can generate revenue.
  • That being the case, it may need to send information to your accounting software and produce and send an invoice to the buyer.
  • It may need to integrate with other systems to streamline and automate parts of your company workflow.
  • It needs to communicate with your social media pages, and allow your visitors to share across those social sites they frequently use.
  • It needs to answer your potential and existing customers’ questions, whether through an FAQ, help desk software or through a form you interact with.
  • It needs to ensure the quickest path to your visitor finding what they are looking for, and cater for that need better than your competitors.
  • You need to have a basic understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) best practises, to ensure you keep Google (and Bing and Yahoo!) happy and your site stays in their search results pages.
  • And yes, it needs to look stunning and be branded correctly to your company identity.

Of all the points on the list, the last one is the least important. After all, would you rather be the owner of the most beautiful store on Nowhere Street, or own the average-looking store on busy Central Avenue.

Of course that's a bit extreme - you can have a great looking website that generates fantastic results too - but you get the point.

If your website design firm is producing great design but not making a difference to your bottom line, maybe it's time to take a step back, and think more strategically about where you would really like your online business to be.

I guess the bottom line is this: if your website is not generating leads or sales online, then it is useless.

 

So How do you Find a Good Designer?

So if you are looking for a designer, one of the most important things is to ask questions before you start. A good designer will have no problem in explaining things to you in common language. Take time to understand how they work, what their area of expertise is, and also who will have responsibility for which parts of the site during the build and once it goes live.

Secondly, never make cost your main criteria for choosing a designer. Everyone looks for a bargain, but ultimately you get what you pay for. So if you are being offered a fully-functioning e-commerce website design with all the bells and whistles for a one-off payment of $200, then alarm bells should be ringing: that designer will cut corners in the best case, and leave you high and dry half way through the project in the worst. A good designer will value their work.

That’s not to say that good quality website design needs to cost the earth either: at the other end of the scale, if you are being quoted $2,000 for a 3-page website with no functionality other than a simple contact form, you should be equally skeptical.

Most important of all is to ensure you have ongoing advice and support for your project, from someone who realises that your success will contribute to theirs.

Don’t get pumped and dumped. Good designers will stick around, and be active over time in the development of your online presence.


Website as a Service NZ

Web Design as a Service in NZ

It is no exaggeration to say that the internet runs the world and, that being the case, for any business that is looking to remain relevant, a website is an absolute necessity.

There are many people who claim to be professional website designers in New Zealand. The reality, however, is that quite a number of these so-called professionals are only interested in making money in the short term. Sadly, most business owners only come to this realization when it's too late.

 

The Hit-and-run Model

Many web designers in New Zealand still subscribe to the traditional way of doing things where after being paid for work done they simply move on to the next project. If the client happens to face any problems with his or her website in the future, they will have to sort it out on their own, find someone else to do it, or pay the company an often inflated hourly rate to resolve their issues. Clearly this hit-and-run model is not a good one; it makes life difficult for business owners.

The traditional approach to website development mostly benefits the designer, and this should not be the case. The good news is that this is not the only option that business owners and anyone else in need of design services have.

For many clients, a much better alternative is the Website-as-a-Service approach where, after development, the developer will continue to provide support and maintenance services to the client so as to ensure that everything works perfectly in the long run, and that the client’s mid- or long-term business objectives are achieved.

 

Ongoing Support and Peace of Mind

At Aflua, we like to think that we offer some of the best web design in New Zealand. Our goal is to ensure that none of our clients ever has to worry about the performance of their websites once they are up and running.

Some of the most noteworthy aspects of our service include the fact that we use open source platforms which simply means that, in case of any problems, solutions can easily be found, thanks to the enormously supportive communities that tend to congregate around such solutions.

Our WaaS offering also covers a free domain name, email and web hosting as standard, in addition to providing hands-free management if needed. What the latter means is that our experts, if you so choose, can handle the updating of your website. Obviously this will take the bulk of the work from your hands, and as a result, you will be able to focus on your business.

Website as a Service guarantees peace of mind because a business owner does not have to worry about their website going down anytime in the future and with no one to provide assistance. Simply put, this particular form of website design in NZ is a continuing service and not a one-time engagement.

Aflua's designs are top of the range and cater to each business’ unique requirements. All websites are fully compliant on multiple modern browsers including Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari amongst others.

Despite this being a monthly service, clients do not have to sign lengthy, complex contracts that will force them into a corner. In addition, our clients do not pay large upfront fees; instead they only pay for the features they use every month, because the system offers modules and add-on functionality which can be chosen in line with the customer's needs.

This is an ideal arrangement because not all businesses have the financial capacity to make a significant one-time payment. Every website is designed to meet the client's needs specifically.

If you would like to know more about our WaaS offering for Kiwi companies, please check out the plans we offer.


Responsive Web Design

Is your Website mobile-ready?

Mobile technologies have changed everything. Smartphones and tablets are now so entrenched in our work and leisure time that we feel almost naked when we have left our devices at home.

Since 1990, we have gone from practically zero mobile phone adoption to over four billion in 2013, of which over a quarter are smartphones.

Mobility has affected our social interaction, as the images below highlight extremely well.

So I guess the major takeaway of this post could very well be to think twice when planning your new, mobile-ready website design: is it prepared for different device touchpoints? If you are not considering a responsive website layout, quite frankly you are leaving cash on the table. After all, it is projected that by 2014, over half of all Internet accesses will be made from a mobile device of some kind or another...

Need help with ensuring your new or existing website look great on all the different mobile devices? Aflua can help: just take a look at the link at the bottom of this page.

 

Crowd without mobile technology

Crowd with mobile technology

 


Web Design Blog

Welcome

Hi, and welcome to the all-new Aflua blog. This is just our drop in the ocean of blogs, to contribute some extra commentary, insight and thoughts about the digital landscape.

If all the references to oceans and landscapes sound very ecological to you, then that's all good with us: after all, we are based in New Zealand, and get inspired by the views!

So without further ado, let's talk about Web design in NZ and elsewhere, as well as a bit about branding, marketing and how to get the best out of digital in your organisation too.

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Here's to your business. I truly hope you get some real value out of this corner of the website, and that we have the chance to help your business reach its goals soon.

Cheers, all the best!

Jake Burdess (Aflua Co-founder & Director)