The 2017 SEO Checklist you won't want to miss

THE 2017 SEO CHECKLIST

Check off items as you go along.
Note: Not all of these may apply to you!

 

mind-blown SEO Checklist

  1.  Have you set up Gmail filters for your new site, or setup a new email address? This isn’t necessary, but always makes things easier for me, click the SEO checklist off now.
  2.  Have you installed Google Analytics? This is not optional!
  3.  Have you installed Google Search Console? Again, not optional.
  4.  Have you installed Bing Webmaster Tools? Do this too.
  5.  Using WordPress? Have you installed Google Analytics by Yoast and Yoast SEO? These plugins will make your life 10x easier.
  6.  Have you checked Google’s Search Console for 404 / 500 errors, duplicate content, missing titles and other technical errors that Google has found? Make sure to keep up with any messages Google is sending you.
  7.  Have you used Browseo to find even more technical errors?  The most common detrimental errors people tend to make are 302 redirects that should be 301 redirects.
  8.  Have you used Screaming Frog to find broken links, errors, and crawl problems?
  9.  Have you used Google’s Keyword Planner? Be sure to consider searcher intent and difficulty, pick 1 keyword per page, and you’ll generally want to start with lower-volume keywords first.
  10.  Have you looked at competitor link profiles? This is the easiest way to get started with link building. This way, you can see what kind of anchor text they’re using, as well as how and where they’ve been getting their links. Something like the SEO ToolboxahrefsLink DiagnosisOpen Site Explorer, or Majestic.
  11.  Have you incorporated your primary keyword (or something close) into your page URL?
  12.  Are all of your title tags ~65 characters or less? Title tags over this will be truncated in results.
  13.  Are all of your meta description tags ~155 characters or less? Meta description tags over this will be truncated in results.
  14.  Have you used an H1 tag? Is your keyword in the tag? Is it before any (H2, H3, H4…) tags? Are you only using 1 H1?
  15.  Do you have a healthy amount of search engine-accessible text on your site? My recommendation is at least 100 words because you want to give search engines an opportunity to understand what the topic of your page is. You can still rank with less, and you don’t ever want to put unnecessary text on your site, but I recommend not creating a new page unless you have roughly ~100 words worth of content.
  16.  Did you use synonyms in your copy? Remember: synonyms are great, and using natural language that’s influenced by keyword research (rather than just pure keywords) is highly encouraged!
  17.  Do your images have descriptive ALT tags and filenames? Search engines “see” images by reading the ALT tag and looking at file names, among other factors. Try to be descriptive when you name your images. Don’t overdo it, though!
  18.  Are you linking to your internal pages in an SEO-friendly way? Are you describing the page you’re linking to in the anchor text, so that both users and search engines understand what it’s about? I recommend not using anchor text in your global navigation because it can look like over-optimization. Stick to in-content links instead.
  19.  Have you started off-page optimization and began building links? This is the hardest, most important aspect of SEO! Check out the ClickMinded Link Building Strategy Guide to get started.
  20.  Have you made sure your site isn’t creating any duplicate content? Utilize 301 redirects, canonical tags or use Google Webmaster Tools to fix any duplicate content that might be indexing and penalizing your site.
  21.  Are you using absolute URLs in your code? Some CMS platforms give you the option. Use absolute URLs instead of relative ones.
  22.  Have you checked your site speed with Google PageSpeed Tools?
  23.  Have you created an XML sitemap and submitted it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools? Use XML-Sitemaps.com or the Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin.
  24.  Have you created a Robots.txt file and submitted it in Google and Bing Webmaster Tools?
  25.  Have you claimed your business / website username on other major networks for reputation management reasons? Not only do you want to make sure no one else gets your account name, but you can often “own” all the results on the first page of a search for your brand if you’re a new website or company. Here is the URL structure of some of the major networks (I’ve avoided linking directly to sign up pages because they keep changing):
  • http://www.twitter.com/brand-name
  • http://www.facebook.com/brand-name
  • http://www.yelp.com/biz/brand-name
  • http://www.youtube.com/user/brand-name
  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.wordpress.com/
  • http://brand-name.tumblr.com/
  • http://pinterest.com/brand-name/
  • http://www.hulu.com/profiles/brand-name
  • http://technorati.com/people/brand-name
  • http://about.me/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.posterous.com/
  • http://profile.typepad.com/brand-name
  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/brand-name
  • http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/brand-name
  • http://www.etsy.com/people/brand-name
  • http://en.gravatar.com/brand-name
  • http://www.scribd.com/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.livejournal.com/
  • http://brand-name.hubpages.com/
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/brand-name/
  • http://photobucket.com/user/brand-name/profile/
  1.  Is your site mobile friendly? Have you checked it on multiple browsers with BrowserStack?
  2.  Have you set up social media accounts onFacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Google+?
  3.  Have you added Authorship Markup to your site? Authorship markup search snippet images are gone, but you may still want to add it to your site. Use theAuthorship Markup Walkthrough.
  4.  Have you used an SEO Audit Tool to double-check everything once you’re live?
  5.  Have you reviewed all of the free SEO tools at your disposal before completing this audit? If you don’t understand some of the high-level concepts, review the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

checkout the full list here


8 Reasons to Hire a Graphic Designer in 2017 | UK

Overview

Unfortunately, many business owners fail to understand the positive impact that hiring a graphic designer can have. Looking to cut costs they may well think that they can use stock images, graphs and charts from Microsoft Excel, and a free logo online creator and everything will work out the same. However, this is certainly not the case and this commonly held view is mostly down to a lack of knowledge about what a graphic designer does.

WHAT IS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?

A graphic designer is a professional who creates and assembles images, typography, or motion graphics with a view to improving the aesthetic appeal of your business. They can make your brand stand out in a crowded market, make it appear more professional, and open your product or services up to entirely new audiences.

 

Graphic designers are often mistakenly thought of as artists and many business owners wonder what an artist could possibly add to their operations. But the purpose of a graphic designer is completely different to that of an artist. Where a fine artist creates work that is left up to the viewer to interpret, a graphic designer’s work should require no explanation.

Graphic designers are the best communicators in the world, and if people are interpreting their message in a way that is not intended, the graphic designer is not doing their job properly.

WHAT CAN A GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

To better explain the benefits of hiring a graphic designer, we’ve gathered eight of the most significant ways in which a graphic designer can improve your business.

1. Prepare your business for the future

A picture says a thousand words, well, maybe not. According to Japanese studies into information processing it’s closer to 80 words, but a picture certainly has the power to communicate a complex message faster than a paragraph ever can. This is going to be a crucial tactic for businesses to capture audiences in the near future.

With decreasing attention spans in young audiences, marketing messages need to be delivered as quickly as possible and images are still the best way to do this. With small screen mobile technology becoming more prevalent than the larger screens of desktops and laptops, modern audiences aren’t as willing to invest time in reading your message. Images are what the future of communication is about. A perfect example of this being the symbol-based language of’emoji’  becoming the fastest growing language in the UK earlier this year.

As wearable technology (iWatches, virtual reality headsets, etc.) begin to jump out of technology blogs into the real world, screens are only getting smaller and smaller. Having a graphic designer on hand who can not only create visuals that will be effective at these miniature sizes, but also has the knowledge to adapt your digital marketing to different screen sizes will be crucial to success as technology changes.

Google’s recent efforts in improving image searches are bound to continue to separate the wheat from the chaff for users searching for high quality, relevant images online. A graphic designer can help ensure that your images, infographics, and videos are among the wheat.

2. Give your brand a boost

Not every business needs to stand out to succeed. A locksmith in a small community, for example, will gain enough trade from being the sole proponent of a vital service. For businesses with more competition, however, high quality branding is vital.

A brand is how your customers perceive you. It is made up from every customer facing element of your business – the way you answer the phones, your customer service policy, your company name, the tone of your copywriting, and – most importantly – how your brand looks.

Your company logo, the layout of your website and marketing materials, your chosen font, and the colours you use will give most customers their initial impression of what your company is like. It is what gives your company character. A professional graphic designer is able to expertly manipulate these elements to ensure that every customer perceives you in the right way.

A strong brand is memorable. It builds trust and encourages positive referrals from customers. A weak brand is instantly forgettable.

3. Save you time

If you’re busy running a business you simply don’t have the time to make a good job of your own graphic design. Good design is not something you stumble upon. It’s a combination of skills that require a specialist education and a lot of practice. It will take you years of dedication to master the software needed to complete all your graphic design work to a professional level.

The Adobe suite, flash animations, video editing – most modern graphic designers will come with all these skills intact, ready to use them to your advantage. This will free you up to focus on other pressing tasks for which you do have the skills.

4. Ensure that your message is consistent

 

channel 4 logo graphic designer

From the Channel 4 style guide

An inconsistent message makes you appear slapdash and unprofessional. If you have several different logos appearing in different sizes across your internal and external communications, all of which use different fonts and layouts, your company’s message is going to come across as confused as your design is. A inconsistent design makes the customer think that you provide an inconsistent service and that is not a good way to inspire trust among your audience.

A graphic designer can create a design style guide which can help you deliver a consistent message right across your brand. A style guide is of crucial importance if you’re planning on expanding your brand to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Different designers will be variously meticulous about the attention to detail they expect, but all will be guaranteed to have the ability to ensure that your visual branding is consistent. They’ll also be more than happy to let you know when it’s not.

5. Provide expertise

 

Which file types work in the best situations? Where’s the best place in the area to get business cards printed and how much do you need to spend to get decent quality? How do you make yourself look good in your photo ID picture?

There are many graphic design-related questions relevant to modern business which you can only really learn the answer to through experience. From their education, or if they’ve worked in the area as a graphic designer prior to the appointment, a professional will have the experience to answer all these questions and more.

Most modern graphic designers are also adept at editing photos, and usually pretty good at taking photographs too. They will be able to make your staff profile images on the company site look like a collection of bright-eyed professionals in an upmarket office, rather than sleep-deprived lunatics working in a cave. A graphic designer will also be able to use their photographic skills to capture the company’s key moments in time – a useful method to give your company the human touch on your website and on social media.

6.  Improve returns on digital marketing

Images not only improve but have been shown to be a vital part of a company’s marketing mix. For marketing campaigns, quality graphics have proven time and time again to be one of the (if not the) most important factors to their success. This is particularly true of content marketing as illustrated by the statistics below:

  • Blog articles posted with images get 94% more views than articles without images
  • 63% of online shoppers consider the quality of the product image to be more important than the product information and 53% consider them more important than ratings and reviews
  • 70% of marketers plan to increase their use of unique visual marketing in 2015

With these statistics backing them up, it’s apparent that a graphic designer is an important player in every successful digital marketing set-up.

7. Solve problems creatively

Modern businesses can never have too many creative thinkers, which is good because graphic designers have creative problem solving skills in abundance. Throughout a graphic design education students are bombarded with problem after problem and are encouraged to experiment to find their own unique visual solutions.

As a result, a graphic designer can help with your business decisions unrelated to their immediate area of expertise by showing you how to look at it from a different angle. If you’re at the beginning stages of a new project, think about involving your creative team members and see how differently they can approach a solution and how helpful this can be to the development of the project.

8. Inspire pride in your employees

If all of your internal communications, operations folders, website, and business cards are amateur and shabby they won’t inspire much pride in your employees. If they are created and polished by a professional graphic designer, however, your employees will acquire a whole different perspective of the company they are working for.

Good design inspires people. While it’s a bit more obvious that well designed external communications can attract new customers, internal communications are often overlooked. By creating a new website and polishing up internal communication materials your employees will consider themselves to be working for a cutting edge company. They might even become more likely to put in extra effort in helping the business succeed.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

With so much to offer your business it would be foolish not to find a graphic designer and get them involved in the mix at the next opportunity. As communication becomes increasingly visual and graphic design becomes increasingly critical to success online, you’ll need to act fast if you don’t want to be left behind.


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Useful Resources for freelancers in the UK

USEFUL RESOURCES FOR FREELANCERS IN UK

The following is a list of online resources for freelancers that will be helpful in setting up your freelance business; from how to find freelance work to keeping yourself productive:

FINDING WORK

Upwork – A great service linking clients to freelancers.

Hiive – Network with fellow creative professionals and potential employers and keep up-to-date with any new opportunities.

Onsite – For the more technically minded designer, Onsite is a great place to meet quality clients.

Elevate – Run by recruitment specialists, Elevate is doing a great job in promoting the skills of freelancers to the appropriate markets.

PeoplePerHour – PeoplePerHour is a place for prospective clients to search for the perfect person to solve their problems.

Freelancers.net – A great job board for a variety of freelance opportunities from around the UK.

YunoJuno – Sign up to YunoJuno and get access to a number of well-paid jobs from a variety of high-profile clients.

Aquent – Based in the US but with a lot of remote positions on offer, Aquent is a place to search for digital creative jobs.

TaskRabbit – TaskRabbit is a decent job site to keep you ticking over, but don’t expect to earn in excess of £20 an hour.

Fiverr – Again, as the name may suggest, don’t expect Fiverr to make you rich, but it is a good place to find a variety of interesting short-term projects.

Guru – Guru tends to be a place for big projects, so if you’re up for a long-term project, you should take a look.

GETTING ADVICE AND PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS

Freelance Advisor – Freelance Advisor is a useful service for getting a good insight into freelancing in the UK and discovering more about how to become a freelancer.

IPSE – Join the EU-based Association of Independent Professionals And the Self-Employed if you want help protecting your business.

FCSA – The FCSA works to protect a flexible work force in the UK and ensures all members are adhering to the legal requirements of running a business.

Chartered Society of Designers – The authority on professional design practice, the CSD is a great organisation to join if you’re a designer of any kind.

D&AD – A highly respected international body representing the interests of anyone working in the creative industries.

ACID – Copyright is often a complex issue for modern creatives and Anti Copying in Design (ACID) can help if you run into trouble.

The Association of Photographers – With over 40 years’ experience, the AOP defend the interests of their members and maintains the reputation of the photography industry.

British Institute of Professional Photography – The BIPP is an internationally recognised photography organisation that aims to train, qualify, and support professional photographers.

The British Institute of Interior Design – The BIID is a highly respected organisation representing the interests of interior designers internationally.

The Society of British Interior Designers – SBID represents the interests of interior designers, manufacturers, and educators in the interior design industry across the UK.

The Association of Illustrators – The AOI is a membership body that represents illustrators in the UK and campaigns for their rights.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY

MindMeister – Mind mapping application that’ll help you think through your projects with the option to turn your mind maps into presentations at the touch of a button.

FreedCamp –  Create shared to-do lists to keep on top of tasks. It’s a great free for all version of Basecamp.

Evernote – Evernote is a fantastic resource for staying organised across all your devices. As your freelance business grows, you can upgrade to the plus and premium versions.

Oh, Don’t Forget – Schedule messages to be sent to your phone to make sure you don’t forget important deadlines.

Remember the Milk – Remember the Milk is a simple but powerful task management app which integrates with Gmail and Siri.

TeuxDeux – The minimalist design makes TeuxDeux a popular to-do app. They’ve really stripped it back to the basics.

Strict Workflow – Strict Workflow is a plugin for Chrome that enforces the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ – blocking distracting websites for 25 minutes then giving you a 5 minute break.

Toggl – Toggl is a simple to use tool that tracks your time. In freelancing, time is money so you need to use a tool to stay well on top of it.

RescueTime – Rescue Time is another time tracking tool that gives you a great insight into your daily habits.

1Password –  Relieve the password headaches by using 1Password to keep them all in one place.

Dashlane – Dashlane is another popular tool for keeping all your passwords in one place and across all devices.

ZenWriter – As a creative freelancer, you don’t want to spend all day bashing away at the keyboard, so get it all done as fast as you can with a distraction free writing tool.

FollowUp – Staying on top of your emails is a crucial way to impress clients. Schedule emails in advance to make sure you never forget to follow up on a project.

The Email Game – The email game turns replying to emails into a game. Reply before the timer runs out and clear your inbox quickly or you lose precious points.

Sane Box – Sane Box uses a clever algorithm to determine the importance of each email and moves those deemed ‘unimportant’ into a separate folder.


COLLABORATION

Trello – Trello is a great tool for collaboration that allows you to organise all your projects into boards. At a glance, you can see what’s being done and what needs to be done.

Basecamp – Basecamp is the tool of choice for professionals who need to keep in touch on a project. It ensures everyone working on the project is up-to-date on what’s been done and what there is left to do.

Bidsketch – Bidsketch speeds up the time you take making proposals for projects and submits them to clients with a well-designed collection of templates.

DropBox – Sync all your devices to DropBox and store all current project files there to ensure you always have access to everything you need. DropBox also makes it really easy to share large files with clients.

Docstoc – If paperwork is not your thing, head to Docstoc where you’ll find templates for every business document you’ll ever need. There’s also a fantastic collection of resources to help you improve your business skills.

Clarify – It’s always surprising how many times you’ll need to take screenshots when working remotely. Clarify makes this simple allowing you to take screen recordings as well.

SnapEngage – SnapEngage is a live chat app that’s perfect if you get tired of the cumbersome emails. Keep up with your clients or collaborators in real time.

Hively – Hively makes it easy for customers to give you feedback. This is not only great for attracting new customers with testimonials but also a great way to ensure you give your best on every job.

Join Me – Join Me allows you to share your screen with clients easily, even if they’re not signed up.


FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

FreeAgent – Free agent is a fantastic service for keeping track of everything and anything to do with your finances. With their support team of accountants on hand and the ability to submit your VAT, RTI, and Self Assessment directly to HMRC, you’ll be able to focus more on getting on with your creative work.

Freshbooks – Freshbooks helps you to keep track of billing. Calculating rates and hours can turn into a heated email battle with some clients. Cut out the confusion by letting Freshbooks work it all out for you.

Shoeboxed – Shoeboxed makes scanning and organising receipts, business cards, expense reports, and any other paperwork you need to keep track of a lot easier.

Mint – Mint is a simple free tool for keeping track of cash flow, budgets and bills. Not as in-depth as many but great if you want to keep it simple.

Braintree – Braintree from PayPal aims to integrate payment systems on the internet to make paying for things a lot easier.


I'm a small business - why do I need a brand?

If you are a small firm or a sole trader, you could be forgiven for thinking that branding is not for you. "Big names spend money on branding, small companies just get on with the job" is a typical response when small businesses are asked about their brand activities. But this perception is wrong, as Rachel Miller writes

Even if you do "believe in branding", it may come low on your to-do list after vital day-to-day tasks that keep your customers happy and keep revenue coming in. That's understandable.

Why do small firms need a brand?

So how can I convince you that branding matters - whether you are a window cleaner, a solicitor or run a restaurant?

Perhaps the first thing to do is to tackle the wording. If you were to replace the word "branding" with "reputation" I might get your attention. You care about your reputation, right?

Well branding is all about the impression you make. If you want to succeed, that impression should do two jobs - it should convey what is special about your business and it should show you in a positive light.

Of course, many small businesses make a good impression most of the time without ever giving a thought to their brand. But think how much more successful you would be if you gave a good impression all of the time.

What I am advocating is that you think about the impression you want to make - your brand - and actively take steps to manage it.

There are two parts to this process. Firstly, you have to decide what you stand for - what your USPs are, who you are aiming at and how you want to position yourself. Then you need to make sure that all aspects of your business are in line with this.

It's about applying your values to everything you do, clearly and consistently.

There are many small firms that have seen real financial benefits as a result of improving their brand. Fiona Humberstone, managing director of Flourish Studios, has worked with many one-man-bands and small businesses. "For instance, we worked with a plumber on his logo," reveals Fiona. "He used it on some new business cards which he distributed in his area and immediately got three new jobs. We've also helped a management consultant with her branding. We redesigned her proposal document as well as providing a new logo and website. As a result, every proposal that she has made that year was accepted - a 100% success rate."

Mark McCulloch, founder of Spectacular Marketing says, "You have a brand whether you like it or not. It's best to embrace that and find the best way to connect your brand with your target audience."

Mark worked with a company called Exhilaration some years ago that sold experience days out and was run by a husband and wife team that loved sky-diving. The business came to a crossroads when it had to develop its online presence.

"It was a tiny company with a tiny marketing spend," says Mark. "The name was good - Exhilaration summed up what they did - but their communications were very dry and didn't convey the excitement of what they were selling at all."

Mark transformed the company's literature and their website and injected the excitement that was missing. "Personality was everything, so we gave all the communications a new tone of voice," he says. Not only did customers respond but suppliers and investors also sat up and took notice. The result? "Their turnover rose from £1 million to £3.5 million and they became second in the market," Mark reveals. Exhilaration went on to be bought by Lastminute.com.

Creating the right impression

But if you don't think branding is for you, you are not alone.

"Many small business owners I meet think that brands are something that only large companies need or can afford," says Bryony Thomas of Watertight Marketing. "But your company name, the way you answer the phone, what your customers say when they're asked about you - these things all build to create an impression of your company and what it's like to do business with you - and that is your brand. So, you can either just let whatever impression you give happen haphazardly, or you can take control and manage it to your advantage."

One small firm that has benefited by developing its brand is Gradwell, the Bath-based small business ISP. "I tended to pick marketing up on the rainy days, and then drop it again. I'd never really given it much focus," reveals managing director, Peter Gradwell. "We had grown organically among tech enthusiasts, but knew that for major growth we'd need to appeal much more widely."

Bryony undertook market research and discovered that Gradwell's existing image was off-putting to less tech-savvy small business owners. A new brand identity addressed this.

"It was a really tough decision to spend money on something that wouldn't directly generate leads.  It was about building the foundations," says Peter. "But, I'm absolutely sure that it was the right thing to do. It has had huge benefits across everything we do. To give a tangible example, we were approached by Hewlett-Packard to appear as a pretty high profile case study, and I'm sure they wouldn't have shared a stage with us if we hadn't looked as polished as we now do."

It goes to show that your brand may be just as important to your relationships with partners and suppliers as it is to your customers. Take Best Years, a supplier of knitted toys to independent and high street retailers. " Brand is extremely important to us," says commercial director, Gaynor Humphrey. "We have worked hard to put a distance between ourselves and our price-driven competitors. A strong brand boosts traffic to our website. And if our brand values chime with the values of retailers they are more inclined to buy from us. Our foot is halfway through the door before they have even met us!"

Dee Blick, author of Powerful Marketing on a Shoestring Budget for Small Businesses, has worked with many small businesses on their branding. "Branding doesn't take shed-loads of money. It takes passion and time and thought," she says. But you neglect your brand at your peril, she warns. "Businesses don't own their own brand, they are custodians of it. Perceptions can alter quickly. Brands are constantly evolving and they need a lot of tending."

The message is clear. If you've got a business, then you've got a brand. What you do with it is up to you.


9 tips for starting out in design

 

19 hours agoComments

We ask a panel of top designers: if you could give one tip to a designer just starting out, what would it be?

When you're just starting out in you design career, everything can seem like a struggle. You can ease the pain by having the right drawing tools and learning from inspiring design portfolios, but even so there's bound to come a time when you find yourself asking whether it's all worth it.

Everyone's been there, though; even the mightiest creative director has found themselves considering jacking it all in and running away to become an accountant at some point.

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And so we asked nine leading designers to come up with their top tips for anyone starting out in design. Read them and see your career in a whole new way.

For further career-enhancing tips from more top designers, take a look at Computer Arts issue 250.

01. Know your niche

Creative director Mads Jakob Poulsen says: "Think about what you can contribute to the world of design. What's your niche? What's your special secret weapon? Don't be like everyone else – do what you think is fun."

02. Have a singular vision

"If you make things the way you think they ought to be, they're more likely to be what you'll be asked to make going forward," says Spin's Tony Brook. "It took me a long time to fully understand this."

03. Be versatile

Anagrama's Sebastian Padilla comments: "A designer needs to be versatile, like a Swiss Army knife. You need to be comfortable with working in broad fields such as typography, composition and copywriting."

04. Refine your skills  

"Hone your skill set," says Matt Howarth of ilovedust. "Whether digitally orby hand, work hard on your craft every day and in time you will find a style that you are comfortable with and, most importantly, enjoy doing."

05. Follow your heart

Dawn Hancock of Firebelly says: "None of us really know what the hell we're doing, but if you think with your heart and go with your gut, it will all work out in the end."

06. Lose the attitude

"My tip for a new, young designer starting their career is to lose any sense of entitlement you may have," says Steve Simmonds of weareseventeen. "Just because you've studied for three or five years doesn't mean you can come into the industry and expect it to be easy. This sounds harsh, but I get young designers all the time telling me what they are and aren't willing to do from day to day.

"You must remember that it's not just graduates fighting for their place in this industry; seasoned pros and entire companies are fighting too and good attitudes make all the difference. Be keen and enthusiastic: it goes a long way. Bread and butter work is a staple in any studio, so expect to be heavily involved in a lot of this at first. Don't expect to be working on all the bigger studio projects. This will happen in time; just approach the bread and butter stuff with bags of enthusiasm and make those projects shine unexpectedly. Do this and your rise through the ranks will be swift."

07. Stay the course

Becky Bolton of Good Wives and Warriors says: "Our general tip for people is to just try and stick with it! A creative career is going to be peppered with rejection and potentially confusing times. Without sounding too trite, it's important to try and believe in the value of your work and keep pushing through the times when you feel like quitting!"

08. Take risks

Ady Bibby of True North says: "Stand for something. Take risks. Don't be happy to merge into the mediocrity of creativity out there."

09. Only work with people you like

Designer and teacher Fred Deakin comments: "Biggest lesson: only work with people you like on projects you care about. If you take your time to make great work then eventually the money will come."


How to write a successful blog that also promotes your business

Using a blog for your business website can be a great way to connect with customers and strengthen your brand
 Read more content on winning new business

Write for your customers

Your blog, like your website, is not for you. It's for your customers, so write for them. Ideally, your blog should aim to either solve a problem for your customers or provide fresh insights into your industry.

Plan your content

Lack of time and ideas are the most frequently cited reasons many small businesses cite for not having a blog. However, with a bit of planning, you can have enough ideas to keep your it running for weeks or even, months ahead.

Your posts can be answers to the questions most frequently asked by your customers. For example, if you are a jeweller, you could write a blog post on what to look for when buying a diamond.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool is another great way of finding keyword phrases that people are using to search for your services. The keyword phrase, once you've identified it, could be your blog title. It's a simple and effective way of driving traffic to your blog and letting the world know about your services. So, for the jeweller mentioned, his blog title, based on keyword volume research via Google's keyword tool, would be 'how to buy a diamond'.

Create valuable content

The key to a successful business blog is giving your readers valuable content. That is how you establish your website's authority in your industry. In addition, if you give your readers valuable content, they will reward you by becoming return visitors and also parting with their money.

If lack of time or lack of writing skills is an issue, you could outsource your blog to a blog writing service. These do exactly what it says on the tin – write your blog to meet your customers' needs and also drive sales for you.

Frequency

Opinion is divided on how frequently you should update your blog. Aim for a frequency that you can maintain. Fortnightly or weekly is fine. The key is consistency. Don't start a blog and then abandon it halfway.

Search engines like fresh content and the more frequently you update your blog (and by extension, your website), the more likely your website will climb up search engine rankings and also gain visibility for your target customers.

Develop your blogging style

Blogs are meant to be informal, so let your blog reflect the human face of your company. Give it some personality and try to keep the sales pitch down. You'll find that people are more likely to respond to you and also buy your services.

Word count

As a guide, a blog post should be about 400 words. If your post is longer than this, think about serialising it. People tend to scan web content, so make every word count.

Interaction

Just because your blog is not getting any comments does not mean that it is not being read. Think about the number of articles you read or blogs that you visit. Do you always leave comments? Many people don't. However, you will find that you get more comments as you slowly build up your readership.

Make your blog shareable

Links are the lifeblood of the internet, so make it easy for your readers to share your blog. The easiest way to do this is by using share icons. These are social networking icons (see example to the right of this article) that make it easy for people to share your post and consequently, drive traffic and potential sales to your website.

Measure your blog's performance

If you haven't already done so, make sure you have a web stats tool to measure your website's performance. The most popular one is Google Analytics. It's free and literally takes minutes to install. Over time, as you add more posts to your blog, it will give you a clearer picture of how people are finding your blog and, most importantly, which of your posts are popular so you know the kind of content your readers like.

There are many benefits to having a business blog and with these tips, you should well on your way to creating a successful blog that also promotes your business.

Abidemi Sanusi is the founder of Ready Writer Copywriting. The company can be found on Twitter @readywriteruk


Reasons Why You Need a Website in 2016

 

1 : Increase Sales and Revenue

Any professionally run business will make up the cost of a website easily over the course of the first year. And after that, the low annual running costs mean increased profits in the future.

2 : Cheaper Advertising

A website is the most cost–effective form of advertising you could buy. Compare a small advert in the Yellow Pages or Thompson Local with a small website, or compare a large advert with a large website: the website will generally be cheaper.

And a website’s running costs are much lower — just an annual fee for the domain name and hosting. With a paper advert, you pay the same large amountevery year.

A paper advertisement can only give customers a brief overview of your services. Your website will contain all the detailed information your customers need, at a fraction of the long–term cost of a paper advertisement.

3 : Give a Professional Appearance

Most people now expect a business to have a website. Even if a customer doesn’t visit your website, seeing a web address on a business card or in an advertisement gives the impression that you are a solid organisation.

Perhaps you work from home. Perhaps you have just started a small business. With a good–looking, professional website, you can show that you are just asserious as a larger, established competitor.

4 : Your Competitors Will Have Websites

Very few products or services are bought on impulse (apart from chocolate biscuits, perhaps). Customers like to do a bit of research first. Today, a large proportion of sales begin with an internet search, and that proportion is only going to increase. A business without a website is out of the game.

Actually, there is one exception to this rule. For a business, having anamateurish website is often worse than having no website at all. Find out about the dangers of using a cowboy web designer.

5 : Save Time Dealing with Enquiries

How often do you find yourself saying the same thing to prospective customers — describing your services, your products, your prices? If the information that people need is on your website, they can check it out easily, any time it suits them.

How much time do you waste fielding enquiries from people who are nevergoing to buy your products? Give them an easier way of getting the informationthey want, and you won’t have to cope with enquiries that don’t lead anywhere.

Put the information on your website, weed out the tyre–kickers, and concentrate on the serious enquiries!

6 : More Customers, All the Time, Everywhere

The internet doesn’t open at 9 o’clock and close at 5:30. Your website will be attracting customers 24 hours a day, from all over the world.

 


Do i really need a website? Here are 21 Reasons why

Why Do I Need a Website?

 

Reason #1 – Online brochure

Companies spend millions creating brochures and distributing them. By having a website you can skip that entirely. Your potential customers can find out about you and any of your products online. If you get most of your business through networking and personal connections, then they will want to check out your website.

Reason #2 – More customers

More than 2.4 billion people use the internet every day, and some 90% of those have purchased something, or contacted a company, online in the last 12 months. So by not having a website, you will be missing out on a big piece of the pie.

Reason #3 – Business value

Have you tried getting a business loan recently? It’s not easy, but if you try and the bank manager asks to see your website, you better have a pretty good one. It doesn’t just stop with the bank, the perceived value of your business will be lower in everyone’s eyes – especially your customers.

Reason #4 – Influence

By having a website potentially thousands of people are going to see it. You are able to influence people’s decisions and educate them.

Reason #5 – Time to show off

You know that great feeling you get when people recognize your work? Well, by having a website you can show off what you do and take pride in your work.

Reason #6 – Helps with business goals

That’s right! When it comes to writing the content for your website you are going to revisit things about your business that you haven’t in years. You will most likely reassess your business goals.

Reason #7 – Low barriers of entry

Ever wanted to start a business? Well, now you can do it with virtual space. In fact, by using this service and by clicking here, you can get decent rates on full branding, website and CMS for start up companies

Reason #8 – 24 hours per day

Your website runs 24/7 without any supervision or need to lock it up. You can always be there for your customers.

Reason #9 – Communication with customers

By having a blog or even just a feed on your website, you can update customers on your newest offers, products, promotions, events, photos, or any other content.

Reason #10 – Marketing

The internet has opened up a whole new world of marketing that didn’t exist before. Your website can attract new business by using a whole host of low cost marketing techniques.

Reason #11 – Customer support

You can greatly reduce the cost of customer support by have a ticketing system, or even just an FAQ on your website. I can think of about 5 companies off the top of my head that streamline your customer service straight from your website.

Reason #12 – [email protected]

I know there are other ways to do this, but by having a website you can have your own email [email protected] It is more professional and easier to remember. I know you love your [email protected] , but it doesn’t really resonate with customers.

Reason #13 – Press releases

I know that sounds a bit far out, but it is true. You can run really cheap press releases online about your business, but to do it you will require a website. In fact, I have had clients who were absolute nobodies get one million views on YouTube because of online press releases.

Reason #14 – Stick it to the man

The best answer to “Why do I need a website?” would be that you can stick it to the man. It is the easiest way to quit your job and earn a living.

Reason #15 – Any topic or hobby will do

Do you love sports? How about ballet, alternative dance, photography, holidays, Kit-Kats, cars, skateboards, science or animals? Well, then you have a business idea just waiting to happen. The internet has room for an unlimited number of niche blogs that can attract traffic and revenue. Just pick something you love and start writing about it.

Reason# 16 – Connect with fellow web masters

On a little side note, if you own a website you get to call yourself a ‘web master’. Pretty cool! But reason #16 for ‘why I need a website’ is that you can easily make new business and personal connections with other website owners. This can lead to extra streams of income for you!

Reason #17 – Gives you a voice

Have you ever been in an argument with someone and said “Well, I have written an article about that on my website, and actually, that isn’t the case.” It feels great! For some reason people don’t want to argue with you if you’ve written about something on your website. It also gives you a place where you can voice your opinion without judgment. If someone leaves you a comment you don’t like you can just drag it over to the spam folder.

Reason #18 – Do business your own way

You don’t need permission from your boss or company lawyer. Ash Ambridgedrops the ‘F-Bomb’ all the time because she can, and no else is asking her to stop. Now she has a world class business with thousands of customers.

Reason #19 – Beat the big guys

Have you ever wanted to get into business, but don’t know how to compete with all the big names out there? By creating an incredibly beautiful website with a solid strategy behind it you can smash the big guys to pieces. You have no chance of building bigger skyscrapers, but your website can break down the perceived wall between you and them.

Reason #20 – Instant credibility

Have you ever had difficulty making that sale? Or convincing someone that you are the real deal. By having a well structured website you can foster instant credibility with anyone. You can provide the ultimate proof that you are, in fact, the realest of all deals (couldn’t resist that phrase).

Reason #21 – Helps you to find a new job

I bet you didn’t see this one coming. I have been harping on about how a website can help your business, but it can help you personally too. Not only can a website host your resume or CV, but by owning and managing your website you have demonstrated tons of hard and soft skills. Having worked in HR once upon a time, I know it is valuable.

So… why do I need a website?

Can you think of a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t? It wouldn’t be a balanced argument if you don’t.


7 Reasons to rebrand in 2016

Rebranding can either be 'Evolutionary' or 'Revolutionary' but regardless of the process, the intention for rebranding is always the same: To differentiate the business or service in the minds of their target market.' 

Rebranding can also be one of the most rewarding and transformational undertakings an established business can make. However rebranding a business needs to be done for the right reasons:

Good Reason to Rebrand No 1

Coming of age.

In the life cycle of a business - a business will often begin, and experience growth, without necessarily having a professionally designed brand. However Rebranding becomes a crucial step for businesses to be taken seriously as they expand into more aggressive markets.

Good Reason to Rebrand No 2

Due to a fundamental change in the business, it's product or service or a change in direction or thinking. eg to reflect a new "green" corporate focus/citizenship.

Good Reason to Rebrand No 3

Need to differentiate the business from competitors. Many industry's are very competitive and have a large "middle tier" ie; where the majority of businesses sit in terms of competitive advantage. Usually the Mid Tier is undifferentiated and most businesses struggle to demonstrate an advantage in service. eg The Financial Services industry.

Good Reason to Rebrand No 4

To remain relevant to consumers in a changing market place. This is particularly appropriate to retail businesses. To shed a negative perception of image from the past.

Good Reason to Rebrand No 5

Relaunch of a product or service. Again this is often associated with remaining relevant to a particular consumer group. 

 

Good Reason to Rebrand No 6

Product differentiation

Rebranding can also be used as a way of retaining an original product brand while introducing a competing product in a different market segment or price point. Another form of product rebranding is when a business sells a product manufactured by another company.

Good Reason to Rebrand No 7

Rationalisation

As a business grows it develops or acquires various products and services, some of which develop into company brands. Often this organic brand growth can result in a complex and confused brand clutter not to mention a fragmented and expensive trail of advertising and media proliferation.

Rationalisation and consolidation through Rebranding has the power to transform this cluttered brand mish mash into an effective marketing tool and achieve renewed brand impact and strong growth.