Negative Review Response Plan

Negative Reviews

Getting a negative review need not be the end of the world.

Online customer reviews are very important for local businesses. Reviews display what other people, your customers, think of your product or services. If you respond to reviews, you show potential customers that you care about their opinion. It also makes your business stand out from other companies that don’t make an effort to respond to their reviews.

Be careful though, you’ll not be only writing to the person who wrote the review. Your response will be out there for all potential customers as well as your competitors. The way you handle reviews can have a huge impact on the way people perceive your brand.

Receiving and displaying positive reviews are great for business (and SEO) but what should you do with negative feedback?  

Don’t panic

It’s never pleasant to get a negative review and sometimes it can feel unfair. People can easily take a harsh tone and be overly (and perhaps unreasonably) critical and condescending. Don’t panic – it’s human nature for your first reaction to be emotional. Keep calm and avoid becoming angry or frustrated. Take a breath, walk away for a while to gather your thoughts and decide on how to respond. If it makes you feel better, grab a pen and paper and write the response you’d love to send. Read it to yourself, revel in the satisfaction then screw it up and throw it away. Now you are ready to write a response that will help your business position. Get someone else who is not directly involved in the event to proof-read the response. 

Develop tactics

Bad comments are often similar in nature and it’s unhelpful to waste too much time on them.  For simple negative comments or reviews you could use a short template to deal with them quickly. Being prepared with a set of canned responses is a real time-saver and you avoid wasting mental energy on non-productive events. Make sure you spread the canned responses out as it’s not a good look to respond with exactly the same message every time. Wherever possible you should adapt responses to the specifics of the event. 

Take ownership

People generally don’t write negative responses without a good reason. Depending on what type of business you run it could be that they didn’t like their room, had a bad meal, weren’t given enough attention or didn’t get what they paid for.  Most of this has to do with expectations and perception of outcomes. This is why it’s important that you set the expectation from the outset and deliver accordingly. Some people are impossible to please but you should start with apologising for their negative experience.  This may be hard to swallow particularly when it’s not your fault but you should be sorry that your customer had a bad experience. 

Own up and apologise in cases where you or a staff member made a mistake. Make sure you investigate the circumstances and learn from it and respond to the feedback with the learnings.  We all make mistakes from time to time and most people are forgiving when they receive a thoughtful response. Mostly they just want to be heard and recognised and your response enables you to turn a negative into a positive for your business.

Get to the point

Avoid writing lengthy responses to negative feedback. Keep things simple, short and personable (not personal). A short snarky negative comment shouldn’t generate a ‘War and Peace’ response. Often people don’t even want a response – they just want their voice heard. Don’t respond to personal insults with a personal response. Remember, this will be there for all to see so maintain your professionalism and be polite. Take another look at the screwed up message if it helps.  Reply just once and never get caught up in one of those lengthy trails that you see all the time online.

Offer offline contact

Local businesses have the opportunity to deal with a customer’s bad experience face to face. Invite them to drop by again for a discussion about what occurred and ask them how they could have a better experience next time.  This is a real chance to turn detractors into advocates. Unfortunately people are 90% more likely to post negative feedback than share a positive experience. Make things right if the complaint was real such as they didn’t get the room they booked or they got salmonella with their salad.

What to do next

Potential customers like to see a few less-than-perfect reviews for their decision-making. It makes a business look more genuine if you have had some negative responses. Encourage everyone to have their say and make it easy for them to quickly add a good message. It is possible to have really bad ones removed with consent of the submitter, but concentrate on turning them around and ask them to post a final positive message to show the world how you fixed their issue.

If you have any questions about this topic or your business website in general please feel to get in contact.

 

HTTPS Explained

https explained

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) secures the connection to the website you are visiting. No doubt you’ve seen this online. Take a look at the address bar in the browser and find the lock icon on the left side. If the lock is closed then the connection is secure. If it’s open or is there is another icon or message, then it’s not secure and vulnerable to attack. Using a non-secure connection means hackers or criminals could intercept the data such as personal information, email addresses and passwords.

What’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

When you type in a URL in the search bar, your browser asks the site for its IP address. The browser makes the connection. This is all done with no encryption so anyone can intercept this traffic. So when you want to log in to a site that you connect to via an HTTP connection, the username and password is sent in plain text. This is really not great practice.

HTTPS secures this process. HTTPS encrypts the connection between the browser and the site, therefore making sure that no one can intercept the data sent between those two. Every site that wants to secure itself needs a so-called SSL certificate. The browser checks the certificate of the site and verifies its legitimacy with the company that issued it. If you want to see who issued the certificate, please click on the lock icon. By using HTTPS, sites not only secure your login procedure and personal data but also what you do on a site and which sites you visit.

Besides securing the web, HTTPS is necessary for sites that want to upgrade to a new, safer and much faster internet protocol called HTTP/2. This protocol includes different new technologies that make sites a lot faster to load.

What is the benefit of HTTPS for a site user?

All internet users have the right to privacy on the web. Everyone is doing so many mission-critical things on the web these days that we value any kind of security we can get. An ever-increasing number of websites are moving to HTTPS because it’s a must. Even if you own the bakery around the corner and don’t send or request sensitive data via your website.

What is the value for HTTPS for Search Engine Optimisation?

Google announced in 2014 that HTTPS would become a ranking signal. Today, your rankings will hardly change when you activate HTTPS although some businesses have reported traffic drops shortly after switching. But it’s not just about rankings as much as it is about user experience and gaining trust with your future customers. It’s inevitable that we are moving to an all-HTTPS web. It is, therefore, incredibly important that your site makes the switch to HTTPS as soon as possible.

How do I make the switch on my business website?

Obtain a security certificate as a part of enabling HTTPS for your site. The certificate is issued by a certificate authority (CA), which takes steps to verify that your web address actually belongs to your organisation, thus protecting your customers from man-in-the-middle attacks. When setting up your certificate, ensure a high level of security by choosing a 2048-bit key. If you already have a certificate with a weaker key (1024-bit), upgrade it to 2048 bits. When choosing your site certificate, keep in mind the following:

  • Get your certificate from a reliable CA that offers technical support.
  • Decide the kind of certificate you need:
    • Single certificate for single secure origin (e.g. www.mybiz.com.au).
    • Multi-domain certificate for multiple well-known secure origins (e.g. www.mybiz.com.au, cdn.mybiz.com.au, mybiz.com.au).
    • Wildcard certificate for a secure origin with many dynamic subdomains (e.g. a.mybiz.com.au, b.mybiz.com.au).

The best place to start is with your existing web hosting company. They have a vested interest in getting their clients to transfer and will make things as easy as possible. Just remember that search engines such as Google consider the switch from HTTP to HTTPS as a ‘site move’. This can have temporary impacts on traffic which affect some business more than others.

Get in touch with us if you are considering making the switch. We’d be happy to take a look at your current website arrangements and advise on the best way forward.

Structuring Your Website

website structure

Why structuring your website and menus is important.

Visual structuring your website is, in most cases, presented by the menu of your website. Permalinks and breadcrumbs assist but these are not important for your visitor. Your main navigation menu is crucial. To keeps things orderly and focussed the menu consists of a limited number of top-level items. Ideally, a single level is what you should strive for. Today, many sites use secondary menus to make way for additional content. Business site owners with many product offerings struggle to fit everything in but there are other ways to get from one page to another and your menu isn’t the only navigational option on your website.

Home page through to Contact Us page

Most business websites have menus starting with HOME followed by various product and/or service options and ending with CONTACT US. Internet users are aware of this concept and expect to see them displayed prominently. 

  1. Justification – Navigation choices include left or right justified or positioned in the centre of the page. It’s worthwhile spending time on deciding what you include and just as importantly what you exclude from the main menu.
  2. Relevancy – Screen real estate is valuable so it’s important to show your key pages in the most prominent position. For instance, all business sites need pages for Terms & Conditions, Privacy Statements etc. but their links they don’t belong in the main navigation menu. If your site goal is sell a product or service give visitors an easy way to see what you have and don’t distract them on the journey.
  3. Cross-site linking – Search engines like to see sites linking to pages within its own structure. Internal linking can be topic-specific and therefore not a great candidate for a standalone menu option. It’s best to plan internal linking from the outset but retrospective structuring is better than none at all.

Planning how visitors flow through your site

Knowing what you want your site visitors to do is always essential. Then it’s your task to make it as easy as possible to get them to your (and their) goal. Here’s where you start if you already have a site that has seen pages and content added over time. 

  • Limit your desired menu(s) to 2 if you can. 
  • Review your pages and fit more of the pages you have created over time into the menu structure. 
  • If your business has shifted focus you’ll find that some pages are no longer relevant to the menu they are sitting in. If the page is still worth having, consider linking to it from the body of another page or blog post. This actually helps with your search engine relevance so it’s certainly worthwhile. 
  • People reading a piece of content will follow links to ‘read more about . . .’ or ‘learn how to . . . ‘. Google and Bing will crawl these links too so make sure they are included in your sitemap.
  • Remove pages from your site if they are out of date, distracting or just not accurate anymore. It’s important to redirect the URLs as there may be links to them out in the wild. If clicked on after deletion they will display the unwanted ‘Page not found’ error.  To avoid this problem add a ‘redirect’ (301 redirect) for these pages to your home page or any other URL on your site. Ideally the new link should be somehow related to the original topic.

If you have a business website that could use a structure refresh we’d be more than happy to help.  Contact us now for a free appraisal.

Business Blog Guidelines

Blog post structure

What should you write for your business blog? 

Business Blog publishing essentially needs to be interesting and relevant to your audience but also needs to be well structured and easy to consume. Grabbing attention and ensuring readers get to the end and follow through on your desired action are two goals for all online articles. 

While writing for search engines shouldn’t be your #1 target it shouldn’t be overlooked. So the question is how to write engaging business blog content targeted for human and SEO algorithm consumption?

Below are some tips on writing business blog posts that are both very readable as well as SEO-friendly

Plan ahead and think before you write anything.

  • Decide what your key message is. 
  • Understand what you want to tell readers.
  • What key question are you asking?
  • Make sure you understand the purpose of your text. 
  • What do you want your readers to do when they reach the end?

Get your business blog post structure sorted out.

Every post should have:

  • an introduction – what are you going to tell your readers?
  • article body consisting of logical content blocks – what is the full message to be delivered?;
  • a clear conclusion which summarise your most important concepts and provides an easily understood follow on action.

Write down what you want to write in all these three sections. This will set out the summary of your post.

Use appropriate headings.

Headings structure the entire page, so you should use them in a structured way. They’re important for human and search engine readability. Headings help Google to grasp the main topics of a long post and can help in your ranking. If you want people to find their way in your articles, you should also use subheadings. Subheadings will lead people, help them scan your page, and clarify the structure of your articles. Make sure you use your keywords in some subheadings. Don’t overdo things as this can make reading more difficult.

Don’t just write a single block of text – use paragraphs.

Make sure to use paragraphs that make sense and help readers to consume your message. Don’t start a new sentence on a new line, just because it looks nice. There should be a reason for making a new paragraph. Every paragraph should have its own idea or subject. Ask yourself what the main idea of each paragraph is. You should be able to grasp that main idea in only one sentence. If you need more sentences you probably need more paragraphs.

Avoid using passive voice.

Passive voice occurs if the noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice. If you want to write an article which is easy to read, you should attempt to avoid passive voice. In sentences with passive voice, it remains unclear who or what is acting. Blog posts (or any written content) using a lot of passive voice tend to be hard and unattractive to read. Avoid using the passive voice as much as you can.

Be aware of and use ‘signal’ words.

Signal words help people scan text and aids in understanding the meaning. Signal words include things like ‘first of all’; ‘secondly’ and ‘finally’. Also, words like ‘nevertheless’, ‘surely’ and ‘indeed’ give a clear signal to your readers. Readers will instantly get that a conclusion with follow words like ‘consequently’, ’so’ or ‘for this reason’. Signal words are very important to structure your text.

Proof reading by someone else.

Before publishing your post, ask someone else (a colleague or friend) read the article first. Ask them whether they understands the main idea of your post. This also helps to find typographical errors and sentences that aren’t structured of formed correctly. Make sure you fix them before sending the post live.

Optimise article length.

It’s generally accepted than an online blog post gas a minimum of 300 words. Search engines like Bing and Google like long articles. However, if your article is too long it will scare away readers who don’t have the time or energy to get through more text. So you should aim to write between 300 and 700 words. If your concept deserves more that 700 words break it into logical sets and use multiple blog articles with proper linkages. 

Focus on search terms.

When it comes to writing for search engines make sure you have at least one focus keyword or phrase that you want to be found for.  This means for a blog post of 300 words you should mention your keyword 4 to 6 times. If you use WordPress as your CMS there are many plugins that help improve your writing and make sure you don’t miss opportunities to improve your formatting and content delivery.

Link to previous content.

Add internal links if you have previously written some content about the topic of your current post. This adds strength because you show authority on the subject. Furthermore, your linking structure is important for your ranking in Google as well. 

Add new content regularly.

Adding real and functional information to your website will give Google the idea that your website is alive. If it’s not an active website, Google will crawl it less often negatively impacting your rankings. This is a major advantage for having an active business blog.

Thinking about starting a business blog soon?  Get in contact with us if you’d like a free appraisal of your current business website.  Well put together a 6 point plan of things you can try straight away.

Website support and why you need it

You need help to keep your website up to date

Website support for your business is important.

You’ve invested time and money in establishing your website and everything looks great. Neat, tidy, cool and inviting for visitors to engage with you or buy from you. But that’s just the beginning. The internet is ever-changing and you have to keep pace with it to avoid damage and loss. Software changes regularly and there are plenty of nefarious people trying to hack, disrupt an steal from easy targets online.

You need an effective safety net. Most business people are experts in their own market and have skills and knowledge that bring them good income. A small percentage of these people are also skilled at keeping their online assets functioning smoothly and safely. Having an expert looking after your website is essential today. Business people use the services of solicitors and accounts for their specialist skills and digital consultancy services are required as well.

Who is the best person to have manage your business website? Ideally you are looking for a digital partner. Someone who has your business’s back. The person who built your site could be the best choice but some digital agencies don’t offer after-sales support so it’s crucial to know this upfront. 

What needs to be maintained?

Assuming you are serious about running a business website (and you should be),you’ll need a digital consultant to ensure the following:

  • Content management system (eg. WordPress) is always kept up-to-date for security reasons.
  • Software including plugins are maintained and kept up to date for functionality and security reasons.
  • Database and files are backed-up regularly (at least weekly) for disaster recovery reasons.
  • Help if security issues arise your site (i.e. it gets hacked)

What else should I look for in a digital support consultant?

  • Easy of contact. You should be able to call at any time to ask a question.
  • A ticketing system to lodge requests for content changes or new functionality.
  • Prompt replies to email if you are too busy to call. Often the ticketing system is a better option for this but you need to be happy that your digital partner is responsive in a mutually accepted way.

What about training for me and my team?

Any good digital business consultant will ask what level of training will be required after the website launch. Knowing this upfront allows careful planning and inclusion of team members along the journey (where appropriate). The amount of training depends on how active the business team will be online. Some people hand everything over but plenty update their own content, blog posts, product tweaks, imagery etc. We offer video tutorials covering all aspects of how to maintain a WordPress site. They are broken up into short duration modules designed to provide quick and easy-to-consume instructions. 

Another thing to look for is the quality of Frequently Asked Questions provided by the digital consultant. We try to keep ours up-to-date on our site with the intention of providing good quality information that can be self-served by our potential clients.

If you have a business website that you need support with we’d be happy to take a look and see what level of support we can provide.  Please feel free to contact us soon to discuss.

Mature Age Investment

Mature Age Workers Great Investment

Mature Age Investment in Human Capital

In this post about SMEs employing mature age staff we highlight an excellent article from Inside Small Business.  The article was originally written by Margaret Paton, Journalist/Copywriter, Communications: Keeping It Real.  Taking on a mature-aged workers can mean reaping benefits.

Knowledge and experience

Hire a worker aged 50 + and you’ll tap into their years of experience and knowledge, plus their contacts. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science says mature workers can bring a depth of understanding into how your business operates and customers think and act.

“They can help you look at your business operations from a different perspective, improve your business processes, fill skill or knowledge gaps in your workplace, offer mentoring to less-experienced employees as well as train up your employees by sharing skills,” says the Department of Industry and Innovation’s website.

Maturity is what Vicki, 64, sees as a drawcard for her role working in Telstra’s services and complaints’ department. Her younger co-workers ask her for advice in work situations and they’re mentoring her about tech gadgets.

The Australian Government even has a toolkit for employers considering investing in those with experience.

Well-practised at fitting into workplaces

Chances are mature workers have had a range of jobs in more than one career. They’ve honed their skills in adapting to new workplaces to fit in and deliver. Often they hit the ground running in a new role. They’ve tackled new systems and processes throughout their work life and can bring insights to businesses grappling with change and transformation. Wouldn’t you like such a worker on side as your business learns and adjusts to new technologies?

So much more than just showing up

Mature age workers don’t just show up for work. They’re often very committed and loyal to their employers. On average, such workers deliver a net benefit of almost $2000 a year to their employer compared to other workers.  That’s due to higher retention rates, lower absenteeism, slimmer recruitment costs and a better return on investment. (It’s a myth that older works are more likely to have health problems, according to a workplace age discrimination study, by the Australian Human Rights Commission). Another study, by Australian Health Management, and cited by Safe Work South Australia, found workers aged 55 and above worked at their best for about seven hours out of an eight-hour-work day.

If you want to make your business more productive, put the spotlight on workers aged 50-plus, like this SME did.

Mature age workers key to this business

Hiring a mature worker through Jobactive made good business sense for Michael Hole, part-shareholder of fruit and vegie wholesaler S J Fresh. It hired four mature-aged staff including previously long-term unemployed Paul Lintott as a warehouse assistant.

“The Restart program has supported us very well. The attitude Paul’s shown us from day one has been exceptional.

“The program is a fantastic conduit between business and long-term unemployed,” he says.

A wage subsidy (of up to $10,000) helped Michael offset some of the time he needed to train those new workers.

Celebrate a diversity of ages among your staff

The Australian Government thinks mature age workers are such a good idea, it’s promoting them to businesses and employers.

Read the original Inside Small Business article.

Sell Global – 7 Benefits of e-Commerce for Local Business

Open For Business

Think local – sell global

To sell global, local businesses need a well-designed website so they can benefit from potentially lucrative new markets.  There is a massive amount of at-your-fingertips information to show how easy it is to go online.  Ever improving software applications make it easier than ever to construct your own e-commerce solution but it’s advisable to get some help when you start out.

You hear about e-commerce all over the place these days but in simple terms it means doing business on the internet. Businesses of all sizes in many countries are keen to take advantage of the modern way of selling.

With the ever increasing use of mobile devices people are not just buying online from home. It’s important to have this in mind when you get someone to design your website.  If you are brave enough to do it yourself you should consider using one of the software as a service platforms such as Shopify.com.au. You won’t need any coding skills but you will need professional quality product images and well-written product descriptions.  These make your online store more appealing and more likely to convert to sales.

Good advice for first time e-Commerce businesses

Get a toe in the water. Start out small with some basic products and then once you are familiar with the process flow – add more products.  You can grow your site at your own pace.  Resist the urge to become the next amazon.com and focus on your best-selling items or products that are easy to ship. There is a monthly cost for all platforms but most offer a free trial period which is great to get a feel for it

Don’t be a Robinson Crusoe.  Learning new things is always more enjoyable when done with a team mate.  If you have a staff member who is keen to learn e-Commerce then include them in the journey.  You are likely to forget some things along the way so having a buddy will double the memory power.  Keep good notes as you go in order to assist when you have to train somebody else.

Rinse and repeat.  Everything you do in your online store can be undone and changed. If you make typographical errors or a product picture doesn’t look great then simply make the changes as you go.  Think of every fix as a learning experience and you will find your flow and improve your quality over time. 

Privacy and security are important. If you go with a platform make sure you check their terms and conditions and privacy statements.  They should all handle customer personally identifiable information and payment processing securely but due diligence on your part is mandatory.  The same applies when you have someone build e-Commerce into your existing website.  In most cases a web designer will use a third-party such as WooCommerce for the product display and credit card payment processing. Ask them to provide statement about how privacy and security will be handled. 

Benefits of having an e-Commerce store.

  1. Expand your business. You won’t be limited to selling locally. Your online store is open to the world but you need to consider how to handle shipping.
  2. Open 24×7.  Your online store can be selling for you while you sleep. Just make sure you display good information about shipping and handling, returns and general customer support.
  3. Customer tracking. Using free tools you can see how visitors are finding you, where they are coming from, what products they view and how long they spend on your site.  This information will help with future marketing campaigns.
  4. Lowering your costs. Your online store will cost a lot less than your physical shop.  Grabbing more sales from new online markets will help defray the overall cost of doing business.
  5. Generate repeat sales. Having access to customer details such as email addresses opens up a whole new communication channel.  Build a relationship with these people carefully (don’t oversell) and they will buy again and tell their friends about you as well.
  6. Savings on product inventory. Easily track your stock levels and keep an eye on what is selling best.  You don’t even need to stock all the items you promote.  As long as you can source them quickly you can make online sales then fulfill in a few days time. 
  7. Bundling orders.  When people know they will have to pay for shipping they are more likely to purchase more than one product.  Identify what people generally buy together in your bricks-and-mortar shop and put them together as a bundle online.

 

If you are considering taking your business into the e-Commerce world feel free to contact us.  We’d be happy to provide some advice about your options and how to get things started.

5 Ways to Save Time With FAQs

Save time and answer questions before they are asked

Save Time Spent Answering the Same Old Questions.

Save time you and your team spend handling everyday enquiries from existing potential customers.

We suggest to business operators that they implement a good FAQ page on their websites.  It can be a very powerful tool. In addition to helping establish your expertise, it can boost your online sales, keep your customers satisfied and even push up your website on Google results.  It’s important to mention that not all businesses will need one.  Don’t think that you have to have a FAQ page if your business is obvious or customer questions are limited to specific interactions.

But simply adding a FAQ page brimming with miscellaneous information about your business won’t do the trick. To create a page that really answers your clients’ questions and improves your sales takes a bit of planning and know-how.

We’ve learned a few things over the years about how to create an awesome FAQ page – here are 5 ways.

One – They save you time (and money).

Just adding this single page to your website can save you time and money. When written and organised well, a FAQ page should do exactly what it says – answer questions that your customers frequently ask. You should also add questions that you don’t want customers to ask.  This is your chance to get ahead of the game.  When visitors can read important information directly on your site, they won’t bother you and your team with unnecessary or repetitive phone calls and emails. This will free up time to focus on running your business. And time, of course, is money.

Two – They make it easy for customers to find what they need.

Make sure your FAQ page is easy to navigate so visitors can easily find what they are looking for. Consider which questions are truly most helpful to your clients and not only those that you personally think are most important. Write the answers in simple language that is easy for potential customers to understand. Avoid technical language, jargon or unnecessary details.

A good FAQ page should be easily scanned, so visitors immediately access the questions that are relevant to their issues. When designing your page, we like to display the questions and only reveal the answers once the question is clicked.  This avoids showing too much text at any given time.  Make the answers as brief as possible while ensuring the question is adequately addressed.

Three – They position you as an expert in your field.

Your FAQ page is a great place to present yourself as an expert in your industry/market. Customers prefer to work with professionals, so this added value will increase the likelihood that visitors will buy from you. While potential customers may initially have more trouble trusting an online business, a good FAQ page can make all the difference by establishing your legitimacy.

It’s essential to make sure that all the information on your FAQ page is correct and up to date.  Avoid including variables that may change over time.  For example avoid adding prices into questions as these can become out-of-date very quickly.  This reduces your look of professionalism and causes confusion.

Four – They improve your sales.

Ever heard of the term “conversion rate”? A great FAQ page can actually increase the percentage of visitors on your site who do whatever it is that you want them to do on your site. This could be to buy at your online shop, visit your blog or contact you in the way that best suits them. Once you’ve earned your customers’ trust, they are far more likely to buy.

To increase your conversion rate, make it easy for visitors to take action directly from the FAQ page. Link each answer and the entire FAQ page back to your Home Page, Contact Page or Online Shop. When designing the page, keep in mind that you don’t want the FAQ page to be the last page that a potential client visits on your site; you want to encourage them to click on other pages and lead them as quickly as possible to buy.

Five – They can boost your Search Engine rankings (SEO).

FAQ pages are very helpful in getting your website to show up on Google. Search engines scan your website for key phrases to understand what your business and website are about. When writing the questions and answers on your FAQ page, use keywords and phrases about your business. This will help Google understand what type of business you are so they can rank your website appropriately in relevant searches.

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Google My Business

Google My Business

Google My Business is Here and it’s free !

Anyone in business selling products or services have probably tried many ways to attract traffic to their websites.  This includes via hits from the various search engines. ‘Page Rank’ particularly from the Google algorithm are impacted by various paid strategies.  These include Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns and social media campaigns via sites such as Facebook and other social media marketing.

Have you considered ‘Google My Business’ ? The search giant introduced this free service in 2016 for businesses of all sizes including bricks-and-mortar and home-based operations.  Its purpose is to assist businesses establish direct connections with their potential clients/customers.

Why Use Google My Business ?

Formerly online as ‘Google Places’, Google My Business takes things to a new level.  Providing several features normally found on a business website.  Rather than replacing sites this product allows searchers to see your business information shown in the right-sidebar next to the usual search results on the left.  Done correctly the information shown allows quick and easy access to your business. Via phone, Google+ or location map as well as linking to your website.

It’s really staking your claim as the business owner and making your key contact information highly visible and easy to act upon.

What are the benefits?

  • Improved search visibility. As Google is the search engine with the largest user base, displaying your business info in the search results is great for drawing attention and attracting traffic.
  • Google Maps integration. For bricks-and-mortar businesses, being pinned on Google Maps gives your credibility a big bump and a competitive advantage if your competitors have not cottoned yet.
  • Display key business information. This includes your physical business address, products and services description, photos, open-for-business hours, website URL and contact numbers.
  • Works great on smart  devices.  Designed to be fully responsive on mobile phones and tablets, Google My Business displays all the info available from the desktop version but also includes a click-to-call button to make it even easier for people to contact you while out and about.
  • Encourages comments and reviews. Social proof is extremely valuable so Google My Business enables your customers to submit responses that you can control via a dashboard (need to log in).

How do I get this going?

While not complicated, there are several steps required to sign up and it’s very important to get things right so some patience is required. As a quick summary here are the steps:

Step1 – Open a Google Account.

Most likely you already have an account (Gmail, Google Analytics, Google+ etc) but if you don’t – follow the ‘Get on Google’ instructions.

Step2 – Build your Business Profile.

Once signed-in, you are redirected to a Google map on which you are asked to search for your business to see if it exists. Type your business name or address into the search box. If no exact result is returned, you will need to add your business manually by clicking on the link displayed.  Included here will be questions about ‘delivering goods’.  If you are a home-based business and don’t want your private address shown, select the option that relates to ‘Deliver Goods at Customer’s location’ and enter postcodes or distance radius you service.

Step3 – Verify your business.

To make sure only authentic business owners submit entries Google will send you a verification email containing a code that you enter on the next screen. Once submitted your Google My Business entry is live but will be empty of info that you’ll need to add (in Step 4).  This process also creates a new Google+ Page which you can populate with extra information later.  Although Google+ is not as popular as Facebook it’s a good idea to at least have a business presence there even if you don’t intend to be active.

Step4 – Add Information to Your Profile.

  • Write a concise but meaningful description of your business (products/services).
  • Fill in your hours of business for each day of the week.
  • Add the URL of your website.
  • Provide some professional-looking images that ‘sell your business’.  Consider getting help from a pro-photographer if you don’t already have good images.  Start with one if that’s all you have – you can add more later.

Step5 – That’s it . . . make yourself a coffee

. . . but it’s not a case of set-and-forget.  Just like your website you need to make sure the information is kept up-to-date.  Updates can be made from your desktop or mobile device at any time you are online.  There’s even an option to update via an app that is downloadable for the Apple Store or Google Play.

Taking it a step further.

Appearing professional in the search results is great but don’t forget that your business website is still your ‘home on the internet’.  We can show you how to integrate Google My Business on your site so you can display all the comments and reviews to build your social proof and encourage more customers to take up your offerings.

 

 

 

Motel Bookings 6 Website Must Haves

Integrate Reservations on Accommodation Websites

Motel and B&B Website Must Haves.

Accommodation providers need an effective customer-facing site.  The overall look of the site needs to be professional and inviting by using modern fonts and top-quality images to encourage site visitors to stay on your page and make a reservation.

While it’s tempting to start a blog, it is time-consuming for you and distracting for your site visitor so it’s important to consider the pros and cons.  You should always focus on what the key goal of your website is – and for accommodation sites it should be to get bookings.  This means you need to make online bookings as obvious and easy as you can and this means integrating a system that will do the job for you.

The system you choose should not only enable online reservations, but also integrate seamlessly with 3rd party booking engines such as Booking,com, Wotif.com, Lastminute.com and many more.  What else makes up a great system ?

System Must-Haves

  1. Professional-looking interface that is appealing to the eye and that allows you to show images of  rooms and facilities on offer.  Don’t just focus 100% on your rooms – if your property is in a popular tourist location make sure your site includes top-quality imagery and good text to sell the reason for someone to stop at your place.
  2. Easy to use interface that is comparable to those used by the larger booking services.  Don’t re-invent the wheel – go with what any potential visitor expects to see.  There are many Software As A Service (SAAS) applications on the market – do some research of your own and assess the functionality against your requirements and your budget.  If you are short on time take a look at the Capterra review of some the top software offerings.
  3. Reception-desk, point-of-sale booking system for times when guests arrive without a reservation.  This also includes features such as key management, wake-up calls, cleaning schedules and maintenance tasks.
  4. Availability management and real-time integration with 3rd party systems to avoid double-bookings.  If your establishment is listed on sites like Booking.com or other Open Travel Alliance (OTA) site you need to make sure your room availability is synchronised.
  5. Simple to read dashboard and reporting suite that preferable integrates with your accounting system.
  6. It should also form a key part of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and be able to receive and automatically display visitor reviews and ratings.  And don’t forget to make your contact details very clear on your website.  Phone, email as well as location maps are essentials.

Questions to Consider

  • Are you using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms to market your property and interact with your guest before and after their visit?
  • Does your website seamlessly integrate with those social media platforms?
  • Does your website enable visitors to share pages/content with social media sites?
  • Do you already have a property management system in place and if so how much effort and cost will transitioning to a new system pose?
  • Do you currently sell (or in the future intend to sell) add-on products to guests during their stay?
  • How comprehensive and easy to use is your 3rd party (OTA) hotel reservation software system?
  • What kind of information do you want to collect about your visitors and what do you intend to do with this data?

Making the decision to implement an online booking system is the easy part – deciding on which system to use is the hard part.  The last thing you want is to go for the first one you see and then discover it doesn’t have the functionality that your business needs.  If you want some advice about motel booking systems and how it can fit into your current website just drop us a note,we’ll take a look at your website and provide options and advice.

SEO for Shakespeare

Shakespeare and SEO

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

If Shakespeare had a website and wanted people to find his works he, like all of us online business-people would have to understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

At the heart of being found online is ‘Keyword research’ which is a catchall term for the activities you undertake to create a good list of words and phrases you would like to rank for, towards the top of a search engine results page.

Another term commonly seen online is ‘Keyword strategy’ which comprises all the website change decisions you make on the basis of your keyword research.  Keyword research is the basis of all search marketing including native search results from what people enter into a webpage search box or text used as part of a paid advertising campaign (Bing Ads, Google Adwords etc). It all starts with outlining what your business does or sells in the language that your potential customers use. Methinks using fancy outdated language from Shakespeare’s days may perchance not always return the search results needed for a business of today. Keyword research helps you find out what you should be ranking for, or at least intend to rank for.

The importance of keyword research.

Effective keyword research will make clear what search terms are used by your customers/site visitors / audience.  I often find clients have a specific set of words they use when referencing their services and products. However their customers are not always in on the game and use a different set of words and phrases. Optimising for words and phrases that real site visitors never use is bad for business.  You need to change for them.

Completing effective keyword research ensures that you use the words your target audience uses, and therefore completes the circle of optimising your website and delivers more site visitors. Once you have them make sure your site goals are clear (read more about conversions).

Find the voice of your customer

  • How do your potential customers search?
  • What terms will they use?
  • What problem are they wanting to solve via your website?

Try creating a list of all search terms site visitors could use and come up with combinations and alternatives within those search terms.

 What’s the difference between Keywords and Keyphrases?

The two terms are interchangeable. A keyword can actually be two (or more) words such as ‘slings and arrows’ or ‘outrageous fortune’. It’s crucial to make sure that keywords fit your business website. Understand that you only need to be found by people actually looking for the service or product you offer. Being found and ranking #1 for ‘slings and arrows’ when you sell baby food will be of no benefit to you or the searcher. This could lead to your site registering a high ‘bounce rate’ which will impact your future ranking as the search engines penalise sites for inappropriate keyword usage.

 Don’t just set and forget

Keyword research is an activity that needs to repeated and refined regularly. You are running a business so you need to balance time and effort against physical business activities and decide the best intervals for keyword research. If you don’t have time or the right skill set to DIY there are outsourcing options you could choose. Be ready to answer questions and provide information about your business and your competitors if you decide to seek help. If your business changes or you add (or remove) products and services it should be a trigger for a keyword research review.

DIY Keyword research tools from Google.

In days gone by there were several free tools that site owners could use to undertake research themselves. As the Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing (SEO / SEM) industry has taken off, tools are more closely guarded and it’s a pay-to-play game these days. Getting pro help could be a good idea as keeping up-to-date with search engine algorithm changes can be a full time job. If you are keen to give it a go consider trying:

Google Adwords Keyword Planner – to find new and related keywords. Unfortunately the search volume data is not available for Australia, which makes it unhelpful for keyword decisions, but it’s still a useful tool idea generation.

Google Trends – allows you to compare the traffic for sets of keywords. You can even see the difference for many geographical regions but again the low Australian search volumes limits the effectiveness. It’s useful to check Google Trends if you expect that some of your keywords are seasonal.

What’s next?

These keyword research tools should enable you to create a list of search terms relevant to your business. You should make sure to create awesome landing pages for keywords you want to be found on and make sure you update heading tags and content on your site’s pages. Don’t just limit the changes to your home page.  We undertake keyword analysis and optimisation using professional tools for customers on our Essentials and Professional plans but are happy to undertake a review of any site to give advice on how to attract more relevant traffic.

2 Options for Serving Video Content

Video for your website

It’s no surprise that video content is continuing to grow in popularity.

The YouTube video platform is the second most used search engine after Google. Creating video content and publishing it on YouTube will assist your website to gain traction with your target audience.  Here are two ways to integrate video on your site so let’s explore which method is better and why. 

Video Embedding Method #1 – Hosted on your own website.

Depending on duration, videos files can be very large particularly if they are High Definition (which they should be).  Large files place a heavy drain on your server which can negatively impact the performance of your site.

Uploading video files to your website will take up a great deal of storage space.  There are bandwidth issues too and will take longer to load than a YouTube video even if optimised.

Be aware of how to maintain the minimum acceptable standard of video hosting on your website site. You must manage and resolve technical issues including software updates and media player idiosyncrasies.

Delays in a video playback or even worse a non-functioning player will annoy your site visitors and prompt them to leave and seek what they need elsewhere.

Video Embedding Method #2 – Embed from YouTube server.

Rather than uploading your video to your own server upload it to YouTube (or other video hosts such as Vimeo).  It’s very easy to create your own channel so that people can see all your clips in a single place. However this article is about adding a single video to your website.  

Important.

Prevent “Related Videos” offer. Once people finish your video they (by default) are presented with other video suggestions.  These could include links to competitors or less-desirable content so you need to deal with it. It’s a simple matter to add &rel=0 to the end of your embedded YouTube URL to disable this feature.

Once you have the video uploaded YouTube will present you with a unique URL.  It won’t have an easy-to-read name but rather a string of seemingly random letters, numbers and special characters following the standard https://www.youtube.com prefix. All you need to do is copy and paste the Youtube url into a line in WordPress and it will present the video with a preview image that you set when uploading. 

I always recommend the YouTube method but there are some tweaks required on your site to make sure the clip performs appropriately.

Make sure you set a maximum size.

 YouTube videos are embedded with a default size across all WordPress sites.  You need to make sure this is suitable for your page size and/or blog by changing the width or height.

Using video on websites is becoming even more popular as it is with social media sites such as Facebook. So consider including some on your business site.  But be careful to stick to relevant and engaging content and keep the durations short (less than 3 minutes).  If you have longer content break them up into 3 minute videos rather than an extra large single clip – your site visitors will thank you.

If you’d like some advice about this topic or anything to do with getting more from your existing business website – ask for a free review and we’ll get back to you soon.

10 Photoshop Tips for Beginners

Most Photoshop users only use a fraction of the features available.

Don’t let the apparent complexity of the tool put you off giving it try.  Everyone with a website or needing to use visuals for social media could benefit from some basic technical knowledge of how to use the great Adobe tool that now reached a landmark of 26 years in existence.

Relying on stock images can make your site or posts look less professional especially when you see your selected pics turning up all over the internet. Even if you’ve never used Photoshop, it’s true this photo-editing giant has made a great impact on digital life  . . how many times have you heard someone say “that picture has been photoshopped”?  Whether it’s for touching up selfies, removing your ex from a group shot or adding some extra impact to a holiday snap Photoshop offers something for everyone.

Once regarded as a complicated tool of trade only for graphic designers, these days anyone with a Mac or PC can get real outcomes with some time invested in practicing.  There are heaps of how-to videos on YouTube and lots of great info on Adobe.com to get you focussed on any specific need.

There’s a great article from Wix.com that outlines some of the basic things most new users can master with a little practice.

  1. Transform: Change the size of an image, rotate, flip or distort it.
  2. Change the Unit of Measurement
  3. Magnetic Lasso Tool
  4. Magic Wand Tool
  5. Custom Shape Tool
  6. Adjustment Layers
  7. Layer Styles
  8. Spot Healing
  9. Dodge Tools
  10. Blur Tool

More than Just Bookings – Sell Packages and Gift Vouchers

How do appointment packages and gift vouchers work?

Acuity Scheduling is the weapon of choice for savvy business people who are looking for a competitive edge and a robust system to organise their busy operations.  The development team have extended the functionality of the scheduler to also include an e-Commerce facility.

Now your clients can buy products, packages and gift vouchers.  Here’s a detailed ‘how to’ taken from the Acuity Scheduling site that explains not just what is possible but how it’s done.

Setting up a Package

Appointment packages allow clients to pay for a several appointments at once. So if you’d like to offer a promotion like “5 appointments for the price of 4”, that’s doable with an appointment package!

Within the Business Settings > Packages & Gift Certificates section create a new appointment package by:

  1. Click 
  2. Title and price your package, with the option to add an image and description.
  3. Check the “Hidden?” box if you’d like to keep the package private.  All packages created will display in your store for clients to purchase, but if you’d like to keep a package private for admin use, or to share with a specific client, you’ll want to keep the package hidden.
  4. Give your package an expiration date (optional).
  5. Designate the appointment types the package can be applied towards and the total number of appointments the package can be redeemed for, or, the total amount of appointment minutes the package can be redeemed for.

After clients purchase a package they’ll see the package code that’s been generated, and they’ll be emailed the code as well, which they’ll use on your scheduling page to redeem for their appointments.

Image title

Want to offer a printable gift certificate? Edit a package and check “Gift Certificate” to include a link to view and print a gift certificate. This is included on the confirmation page after purchasing, in the confirmation e-mail to them, and you can also look it up for a client by viewing their past order.  This way clients can buy an appointment gift certificate from your store.

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Image titleClient Purchasing a Package

Clients will go to your online store to purchase packages. You can get to this through the “View Products/Packages” link at the top of your client’s scheduling page. You can also embed your online store separately on your website, underBusiness Settings > Packages & Gift Certificates in Acuity click “Direct Link” in the upper right to view the code to embed.

After a client purchases a package from your online store, or purchases a gift certificate, a code will be generated for the client to redeem for appointments and also a link for them to schedule their appointments. That code is needed to redeem their appointments and is included both on the final receipt page after purchasing and in the e-mail along with a link to schedule the appointment in both.

When they redeem their code towards an appointment, it will deduct that appointment from the balance of their package. So after the client has used up all appointments on their code, their code will become invalid and they’ll need to purchase another appointment package, or individual appointments on your scheduling page.

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The team at Acuity Scheduling have made some recent improvements:

Several new changes make it even easier for clients to use codes and for you as the admin to manage them:

  • Now when using “Add Code” to manually generate a code you can assign it to any email address. This will show the email in the list of codes so you can see easier who you generated it for.
  • Clients can enter an email address in the code field, instead of needing to have the exact random code, to redeem a certificate. So if you assign a code to someone’s email address they can just enter that email address when booking.
  • When clients are scheduling an appointment they can now enter a code on the second page right before paying. This will also remind them if they have any codes they can redeem for this appointment based on the email address they entered.
  • Individual codes can be edited within a package or gift certificate and change:
    • The expiration date for that individual code.
    • How many appointments the code can be redeemed for.
    • Which client the code is assigned to.

 

If you are interested in giving Acuity Scheduling a try use this link and sign up for a 14 Day Trial.  The guys have an awesome support team to handle any technical questions that you may have.  If you need any local assistance I’d be happy to speak with you as well.

If you don’t have time to set things up yourself drop me a message via the web form.

Get Content for your Website

You don’t have to produce all your own content.

Having recently completed a project for a group of Driving Schools in Melbourne it was clear that the majority of business owners struggled to find quality content for inclusion on their websites.

Despite the best intentions of engaging their potential customers, attempts at written and visual content falls short of the mark on most sites.  The 3 main issues are:

  1. A perception that they need to entertain everyone who visits their site.
  2. A lack of skill in producing imagery and video.
  3. An aversion to including shared Public Domain content.

The message to the group of business owners was to focus on their core goals and limit visual and text content to only those that moved their site visitors to their goal.

Website Goal – a site visitor books a driving lesson appointment.

  • Tactic – Make the website more personal and ditch stock imagery.
  • Tactic – Build social proof and make the most of your client feedback.
  • Tactic – Realise that a Contact Form is NOT a booking form and get real online scheduling integration.

See the full review in this related post >>

Stock imagery use in the Driving School niche is rife and the same pictures of young people holding up ‘L’ plates appear on multiple sites.  Several driving schools have great Facebook pages where simple pics of successful learner-drivers are shown but they are not linked back to their main website.

There are a few driving school sites that are doing a great job in displaying general informational videos.  While the quality may not be as slick as professionally produced videos the DIY clips portray a great sense of personalisation which really does help build trust.  However for businesses that lack the time, skill or equipment there are ways to take advantage of video content that is perfectly legal to share.  The important thing is to assign credit to the original source to keep everyone happy.

An example of this type of content is a series of videos put together by Vic Roads designed to be consumed by learner drivers and their supervising driver (usually a parent).  These videos have a safety theme and should be compulsory for all parents and drivers and savvy Driving School operators should consider adding them to their sites.

[video_embed url=”https://youtu.be/STFrE1iFyog” embed_style=”default” width=”300″]

See the full Vic Roads Supervising Drivers and Learners Playlist

While this example is specific to Driving Schools just about all small business could find shareable content based on their industry.

Want more articles like this?  Look for the subscription box at the top of the page.

 

13 Signs That Indicate You Need Help

Out of Order

Need help maximising your productive time?

Sometimes earning more income is less important than reducing your cost overheads.  One of the major time-sucks in business is in getting clients in the front door.  There are plenty of them phoning you, sending you emails and filling in web enquiry forms which is great for business but the time it takes to deal with them should be better spent on actually delivering a quality service.

Never fear – there is a solution.  Any business that relies on clients making appointments can benefit in a range of ways by offering online bookings on their website (and/or Facebook page).  But how do you know if your business is a good fit?  Here’s a quick set of questions to ask yourself – if you answer ‘Yes’ to any of them you are a perfect fit.

[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Does your business rely on clients requesting appointments with you?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do your clients book recurring or repeat appointments?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do you spend time talking on the phone with clients about appointment availability?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do you have a webform on your site that clients use to enquire about making a booking?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do you need to modify your availability from time to time?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do you lose sales because clients can’t easily contact you during work hours?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do you need to capture information from clients ahead of their appointment?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Do you sometimes experience ‘no-shows’ where your client fails to show up?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Would it be beneficial to receive client payments upfront ahead of their appointment?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Would it be beneficial to send reminders to clients ahead of their appointment?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Would it beneficial to have your booking system linked with your accounting system?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Are a lot of your clients active on Facebook?
[icon name=”hb-moon-circle-small” size=”small” color=”” float=”left” link=”” new_tab=”no”]Would it be beneficial to be able to quickly modify your package offers?

The next step is to get help integrating a booking facility on your website.  You can DIY but first find out how I can help you get this going in less than 48 hours.

Road Map to a Successful Website

Road Map to a Successful Website.

Stop wasting your precious time searching through volumes of random webpages about how to build a website. Follow the Website Builder Expert’s road map to find everything you need to get started.

What you think you need and what you actually need can be quite different. Don’t over-complicate things with unnecessary stuff.  Have a look at this great checklist and 6 step visual guide to see everything you need to start building a successful website.

Source: Road Map to a Successful Website

If you have a website that is under-performing get a free appraisal consisting of a screencast video with commentary to get back on track.

How To – Online Bookings Part 2

Online Bookings Part 2 – Setting Up Your Availability.

To set up hours of availability, go into the Availability section and under Regular Weekly Hours input your set schedule. For example, let’s say you have a fixed schedule of 9:00am-5:30pm (including a one hour lunch break) on all business days. When typing in hours, be sure to always include the minutes as well as the correct am/pm; typing in 9-5 will not register and will revert back to the default time of “closed”. Forgetting the am/pm can result in the wrong hours being scheduled.

To account for a lunch break you’ll need to divide your hours into two sections which are comma separated. For instance, if you take a one hour break at noon everyday you would input that as “9:00am-12:00pm, 1:00pm-5:30pm.” Be sure to include the comma.

The system does not require you to include a break into your scheduling hours, the hours/days of availability depend only on you! If your Wednesday hours vary and you work from 12:00pm-5:00pm, go ahead and put that in, it’s your schedule. Always remember to hit Save Hours.

Limiting the Amount of Appointments Scheduled Per Day or Per Time Slot

Another feature Acuity has is the ability to limit the number of appointments you’d like to schedule in one day. For instance, as a massage therapist the work is pretty labor intensive, and it would be best to work no longer than 5 hours a day. In the Availability section there is the option to accept new appointments until completely booked per day or to accept a maximum of appointments per day.

I’ll set the maximum amount of appointments to 5, allowing one appointment to be scheduled at a time. If your business allows for multiple appointments to take place simultaneously, you can modify that number where you see “Allow appointments to be scheduled during the same time slot.” Input however many appointments you can book at a time there.

Blocking Off Time

Blocking off time for events is super simple. In the Calendar View for day or week click on the time you’d like to start blocking off, and drag down to the end time.

You can then write in a note as to why you’re blocking that time off (a dentist appointment, a wedding to attend, etc.) Be sure to hit the Block Off Time button to save your changes!

To make blocked off time recurring for a set amount of time, just hit the Repeat button and input for how long you’d like this time blocked off. In the example, I’ve selected to block off every Monday from 2:00pm-4:00pm until December 15th.

Blocking Off Time for Vacations and Holidays

To block off time for a vacation or holiday, go into the Availability section and hit the Override Regular Hours button. Let’s say you’re going on vacation for 3 days and won’t be available to take appointments, select the first day you’ll be out then select the last day.

This is an example of what the end result would look like if I needed to take off the 24th, 25th, and 26th. This ensures that my availability would be blocked off on my calendar. Make sure you hit Save Hours to finish.

If you think you are ready to try Acuity Scheduling yourself use this affiliate link to sign up for a free trial.

Or remember that you can ask me to do it all for you if you don’t have the time or resources.

In Part 3 we’ll be looking at how to capture extra information from clients at the time of booking.

How To – Online Bookings Part1

Online Bookings Part 1 – Setting Up Appointment Types

For the purpose of this series we’ll use a business owner who works independently. She needs to set up her Acuity Scheduling page with her hours of availability, appointment types, forms, packages, payment, the whole box-and-dice. We’ll walk through how all of this is accomplished using screenshots along the way.

Using Acuity Scheduling is a bit complex and time-consuming when first starting out so remember that you can ask me to do it all for you if you don’t have the time or resources.

Setting Up Appointment Types

Appointment types are the services you offer to your clients. They will be the first thing a client chooses when scheduling an appointment.

Access appointment types in the left hand menu at Appointment Types. When you first open the Appointment Types section it will look like this:

To create a new appointment type click +Add Appointment Type. This will take you to a page where you will create your appointment type. On this page you will:

  • Name the Appointment Type. This is what the client will see when choosing an appointment to schedule.
  • Set the Duration and the Padding. The duration is the length of the appointment. Padding is time added to the end of the appointment that acts as a buffer between the next appointment. When the appointment is scheduled, Acuity will block the duration plus the padding. The client will only see the duration of the appointment.
  • Set the Price. If you set the price to $0.00 the client will not any mention of price.
  • Designate a Category. Categories are a way to organise and group the appointment type drop down menu on the scheduling page. For instance, I could create categories for Therapeutic Massage, Hot Stone Massage, etc., and the appointments would be grouped accordingly on my Scheduling Page.
  • Color Code the Appointment Type. When an appointment is scheduled it will show on your calendar as the colour background chosen here. This will be shown only in Daily View.
  • Determine Who Can Access This Type of Appointment. “Everyone can book this” will have this appointment type available on the scheduling page for clients to schedule themselves. “Only admins can book this” will hide this appointment type from the scheduling page, it will be available for scheduling on the back-end. The client will have the opportunity to schedule themselves for this appointment type if the direct scheduling link to the appointment type is shared with the client. After creating the appointment, when editing the appointment type, the direct scheduling link will be in the upper right of the page
  • Setting the Appointment as a Class. If it is a class or group event you will choose the box at the bottom. More info on class appointment types to be discussed further.

After you’ve set these items you will click Create Appointment Type.

Creating A Class Appointment Type

When creating class appointment types you’ll follow the steps for creating a regular appointment type then at the bottom you will:

  • Check the box for Make this a class, workshop, or group event.
  • It will then prompt you to set the maximum number of people in the class.

You will then Create Appointment Type

Once the Class appointment type is created you will be given the opportunity to set up when you’d like to offer this Class appointment type

Classes have a different availability set up than regular individual appointments. Class appointment types must be offered on specific dates and times. This window will look like:

You can update that under the appointment type when you are editing the appointment type or by clicking+Class on the main calendar page.

If the class is as recurring you will choose the frequency and the number of weeks to offer the class. You will then choose Add Times and after reviewing the date and times list choose Save Class

 

If you think you are ready to try Acuity Scheduling yourself use this affiliate link to sign up for a free trial.

Or remember that you can ask me to do it all for you if you don’t have the time or resources.

In Part 2 we’ll be looking Setting Up Your Availability.

 

 

 

7 Call To Action Goals

Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) on a webpage is intended to coax a click.  

Common examples of CTA are:

  • buttons
  • banners
  • text

Once clicked, the code behind the element starts moving the clicker down a (hopefully) carefully constructed conversion funnel so that it results in the completion of the intended action.  

The premise of an effective CTA.

Calls to Action converts a site visitor into a lead and later into a customer. Success can be measured using a conversion rate formula. It calculates the number of clicks over the number of times the CTA was displayed. Further more, comparative testing can be done by switching CTA elements (ie. different images or text) during a certain period. You can determine which produces the best conversion rate (make sure you have a way to collect the results).  This is known as A/B testing and is more of an art than a science.

You may be using CTA on your site without really understanding why and how.  There is an extremely large inbound marketing and permission marketing industry constantly tweaking things to ensure increased conversion rates.  It’s nearly impossible to keep across everything without professional help. So just make sure you have at least one of the following call to action items on your pages.

Common desired conversions includes a site visitor.

  1. purchasing a product
  2. signing up for a service
  3. joining as a member
  4. subscribing to a newsletter or future blog articles
  5. downloading a file
  6. signing up for a free trial or service or product
  7. make a booking

Challenge – take a look at your site and identify how many Calls To Action you are presenting.  It’s important not to bombard your site visitors with too many and where they are positioned on the page is also very important.

If your business relies on making appointments with clients I recommend and support the integration of Acuity Scheduling.  As an example of a call to action here’s one from me . . . go on . . click it !

[button title=”Start Your Acuity Scheduling Free Trial” link=”https://acuityscheduling.com/?kw=YToxMjE5MDU0OA%3D%3D” new_tab=”no” color=”carrot”]

Tool Review – Canva

Stuck for graphics for your Website or Blog – Consider Canva

Finding original content to use as images for blog posts can be time-consuming so a lot of bloggers and affiliate marketers are turning to online graphic creation tools such as Canva.com for inspiration.

Having taken Canva for a spin I have decided that I will use it from time to time – perhaps when I’m low on ideas or time.  Here’s a list of things to consider if you are considering using it as well.

Pros:

  • It’s free to use with limited but usable output options.
  • Ability to upload your own original content to use in conjunction with native elements.
  • Good off-the-shelf templates based on common image sizes for blogs, social media and print.
  • Excellent range of scalable fonts.
  • Export as .png file (transparent background)

Cons:

  • Possibility that outputs are very ‘Canva-like’ and may diminish visual effectiveness as wider use grows.
  • 100% focus on the trendy ‘flat design’ look so there’s no sign of drop-shadows, embossing etc (might be a ‘pro’?).
  • Cost could add up if you are a power-user. Although there’s a lot of free content some elements cost $1 per usage.  You can use your downloaded file as often as you like but if you create another graphic using the same element you pay $1 again.

Verdict – Everyone should at least give Canva a try.  It will cost you nothing except some time but the payoff could be massive when you generate that next social media viral graphic.  Only caveat is that you need to use it judiciously to avoid your images looking everyone else’s.

Here’s a short 5 minute video showing how to create a very simple graphic using Canva.

 

SaaS Review – Typeform

Typeform is a web-based platform for enabling the creation forms without writing any code.

Some of the suggested uses are:

  • Surveys
  • Contact forms
  • Polls
  • Questionnaires
  • Job application forms
  • Invitations
  • Online order forms
  • Quizzes & tests
  • Contests
  • Registration forms
  • Waiting lists
  • Guest lists
  • Landing pages
  • Interactive storytelling
  • Simple apps

Typeform is for anyone who wants to ask people questions online and give them a great experience across devices (desktops/laptops, tablets, and smartphones).

Visit typeform.com for further information and leave a comment if you are an existing (or past) typeform user.

Alt Text explanation

What is alt text?

Most visual elements on a web page should have alternative text. For example, pictures, audio or video should have a text equivalent.

Why is it important?

Not including alternative text means that search engines and users with visual impairments are unable to identify that content. This is particularly important where an image contains text that is unavailable elsewhere, such as a phone number or company name.

Including alternative text is one of the most crucial first steps towards making a website accessible, optimised for search engines and compliant. It is also very easy to address. All visual elements of a page should have a text equivalent, for the benefit of those who cannot see the image (e.g. visually impaired or blind), and for search engines, which cannot understand images like people can.

There should be alt or longdesc attributes on visual elements such as the <img> tag.

  • jpg (a filename)
  • Click here (assumes use of a mouse, doesn’t provide a description)
  • Image or Picture (no actual description)

Some images are automatically excluded, where they are recognised as belonging to an Analytics tool. All images with a width or height of one pixel are exempted.

A website may use images which it could argue need no alternative text, for example spacer images. The correct practice to use with these images is to specify an empty alt value, e.g. <img src=”image.png” alt=”” />  Most images of this nature are more properly found defined in CSS, where alternative text does not apply.

So the bottom-line message is wherever possible, specify useful alternative text that describes the visual content. This is a very simple process, and is supported by virtually all Content Management Systems such as WordPress and Squarespace and website editors.

An assessment of the use of alt text is one the elements included in my Site Appraisal product which is a screencast movie and commentary on how your site is functioning and what may need to be fixed.  Get yours now.

How is Accessibility Testing calculated?

Accessibility refers to how accessible a website is to people, particularly those with disabilities or non-standard browsers (such as mobile phones). This includes people with visual impairment such as colour blindness, long sightedness or blindness), learning difficulties and an inability to use a mouse or keyboard.

As an example of what testing engines use to assess accessibility Sitebeam uses these key metrics:

  • Alternative Text test
  • Broken Links test
  • Headings test
  • Internal Search test
  • Mobile test
  • Readability test
  • Redirections test
  • Search Engine Results test
  • Speed test
  • Stylesheets test
  • URL Format test
  • W3C Compliance test

 Why is it important?

  • More people can use accessible websites. Even from an entirely ‘selfish’ perspective, inaccessible websites turn away potential business.
  • The principles behind accessible websites are extremely similar to those for good SEO and tend to ensure greater compatibility with web browsers, particularly future ones.
  • Accessible websites are usually easier to use for everyone, regardless of disability or access platform.
  • In some countries a certain level of accessibility is a legal requirement. Failure to make a website sufficiently accessible is considered discrimination against people with disabilities.
  • Lastly it’s just the right thing to do. You’ll be helping improve the quality of life for disabled users by allowing them to access your information along with everyone else.

An assessment of accessibility is one the elements included in my Site Appraisal product which is a screencast movie and commentary on how your site is functioning and what may need to be fixed.  Get yours now.

If Moses Used WordPress

To avoid site visitors ‘bouncing’ (leaving) too soon it’s essential that you make it as easy as possible for them to find what they want.

Consider these to have been written on stone tablets – commandments to work by.

  1. Thou shalt not be too businesslike. People might be on your site to buy but make it fun for them as well.
  2. Thou shalt not hide thy products behind fluff. Make them clearly visible with brief but accurate explanations.
  3. Thou shalt not undersell the advantages of your offerings. If something you have is of exceptional value then make the claim. Remember to sell the sizzle not the sausage.
  4. Thou shalt not bury your buy button. Don’t make potential customers click through various layers to get the submit button.
  5. Thou shalt jettison the jargon. Don’t assume that every visitor knows the technical terms for what you are selling (and make sure you explain acronyms).
  6. Thou shalt simplify thy navigation. Too many links and sub-links is a sure way to bore your site visitors. Also make sure the wording is visitor-friendly.
  7. Thou shalt review and test then review and test again. Get fresh eyes on your creation as well.
  8. Thou shalt not think that day 1 is the end of development work. Keep adding and removing content as appropriate.
  9. Thou shalt love your logo but not expect everyone else to. Branding is fine but don’t overdo it.
  10. Thou shalt deliver to your customers what your customers have ordered. It’s an old cliché but under-promise and over-deliver still stands.