, ,

How clear is your website message for your audience to understand?

Getting your website message clear enough for your audience to understand is crucial to getting people to stay on your website long enough to see if you’re the right business for them. This is often one of the biggest challenges business owners face with all their marketing – is my message clear to my ideal customer?

Who is your audience?

As with all aspects of your business, this is the most fundamental part of all of your marketing – offline and online. Without a clear picture of who your audience is, you won’t be able to accurately use the right language for them to know you’re talking to them.

There’s lots of ways of getting really clear about your target audience, and we recommend Thoranna’s “Target Groups Untangled“, for a step by step guide. If you prefer to listen, then my interview with Thoranna has some excellent pointers for getting really clear who your target audience is.

How do I keep my website message clear?

is your website message clearIf your website message is clear, your audience will know they’re in the right place and continue to see what you offer, and if it’s right for them. During my conversation with Tim Gray, we spoke a lot about keeping it simple, from your website structure, to the words you use on your website.

Tim spoke about colours on your website too, and his article about the psychology of colour is fascinating, and well worth considering when you’re reviewing your website, and if it’s talking to your ideal audience. It’s not only colour that can be off putting for a reader, but the images and videos you use too.

Let’s look at an example:

If you’re a holistic therapist serving an area local to your home, then your website message needs to include the following:

  • Who are you & why do you do what you do
  • What you do
  • How it can help
  • Who you help (be really clear who your ideal audience is. If it’s women, say it. If it’s teenagers say that)
  • Where do you help people
  • How do you do your treatments
  • Your price
  • How people can contact you and also book an appointment

Think about it, and apply these questions to your own business:

  1. Does your ideal customer know exactly what they’re looking for? they may not know that your treatment can help their particular health issue
  2. Is your ideal customer scared or unsure about their current situation? you may need to reassure them with a story of another customer you’ve helped
  3. How have other customers found you? What were they looking for? Were they your ideal customer? use the analytics you have access to & your records to see if your website is attracting your ideal customer, or someone else. Do you want to change the words you use?
  4. Can your customer find what they’re wanting easily from any page they happen to arrive at on your website? Does the menu make sense to a lay person not fully aware of the terms you may use in your business or industry if they are totally new in searching for help in this area?

Tips for keeping your website message clear

Just like for all your marketing, get others to help you and sense check what you’re doing. Do you have a group of friends, or a network of business owners who understand your target audience enough to be able to give you good feedback? Use them. We’re doing this all the time in the Business Cheerleading Club, sense checking each other, and giving honest feedback.

Keep it simple. From the structure of your website, to the words and images you use, and the twiddly bits you add. What does your ideal customer like to look at and read? Do they like watching videos, or are they more readers to glean information before they make a decision? Are they busy and need to find what they’re looking for quickly? Keeping all your marketing simple will ensure that everything ties together when your customer sees your message in other places.

Ensure your website structure is easy to navigate, using terms your target audience use themselves in their everyday language.

Use words and phrases that your audience will understand without jargon they may not have heard of yet. Be explicit in your language. Remember you are writing your words for a HUMAN reader, not a search engine robot. 

Use headings and sub-headings to make the information easy on the eye and easy to find what you’re looking for as you scan text quickly.

Does your website look inviting and friendly? Is that what your ideal audience is looking for? Or are they looking for clinical and factual?

What questions do you get asked most? What questions are your audience looking to answer? Add these questions, and their answers to your website to help your ideal audience find what they’re looking for more easily.

Be yourself. You are your business, so you want to ensure the audience knows who you are, so they can relate to you and your business.

We all know that businesses grow and things change all the time. If you sell products you may have some products which sell  out that need removing, and new products going on to your website. Keeping that up to date can feel like a full time job in itself, let alone checking your website message is still clear for your customer.

Yes, your website message is important, just like all your other marketing messages. And marketing is just one part of your business. Yes, your not alone in thinking this is feeling a bit overwhelming. So, get your friends and network to help you. Find the right people to check your website message with you. The Business Cheerleading Club is a great place to ask for that support, and work with others to make any changes you may need.

Or, you can work one to one with me to Get your Website Working.

What have you done, or are doing, to get your website message clear for your target audience? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

,

Is your website working for you?

Your website is a real asset to your business. Is your website working in the way you want it to? Is it bringing you new leads, new sales, supporting customers, making your free resources available easily to your clients?

Is your website working for your businessYou will know if your website is working for you by the results and measures you check regularly – sales, enquiries, traffic, downloads. So, if your website isn’t working quite how you want it to right now, read on. (If it is, and you’d like to be a guest on our #tipsforbusiness interview series to share how you’ve got your results, please get in touch. Other business owners would love to hear from you).

3 tips to get your website working for you

Add content regularly to your website. This could be new products you add, or resources for your clients to download, or creating articles of interest to your ideal customers. It will depend on your business and the purpose of your website.

By adding content regularly, you’re telling the search engine bots (that crawl around your site every so often), that your website is alive and well, and that your business is available to serve customers in your particular area of work.

Think about it. If you visit a website and it’s not been updated since 2014, what do you think about that business? Ready to serve you? Or out of business?

Create links to your website from other relevant websites. Essentially, if your website is showing up in relevant business directories, and industry, or local searches, (where your customers are looking), you’ll be creating quality backlinks to your website. The more backlinks, the more your own website will be well thought of by the search engines.

There’s more about this on our Commenting article, which is a perfect way for you to start creating backlinks to your website from relevant.

If you ask a friend to refer you to their favourite restaurant you trust them right? So, all backlinks are doing, are telling the search engines that your website is a recommeded place to go for xyz information.

Ensure everything is working on your website. Sometimes we update a page, or remove a product that we no longer stock. However, if we’ve linked to this page or product somewhere else on our site like on a blog post when we first introduced this product to our range, or when it was on special offer, that will create a missing link on our website.

The easiest way to check that everything is working well, is to regularly check your google webmaster tools. If you haven’t got this set up yet, our tech team can sort this for you, as it’s a valuable tool recommended by the search engines.

When you reach a web page that’s no longer there, what do you think about that business. Is that website working for their business?

Need help getting your website working?

We know it’s not everyone’s favourite thing, getting technical. Or even focused on your website asset. Many business owners we speak to find their website, and online marketing scary. It’s just not “their thing”. However, those same business owners aren’t flush with cash, and/or don’t trust others to touch their websites either.

We’ve created a 10 step process to walk with you, so you can learn how to get your website working for you.

You can download our free checklist by adding your email below , or join our 10 step programme to walk you through each step and make sure you understand each part of it.

The first 10 applicants will pay only £97 for this 10 step programme, done at your own pace, which includes a one hour audit and action plan call, plus a year content planner, (together worth £114), then the price goes up to £197.





If you want to talk to us before you buy this programme to check it’s suitable for you, use ourcontact page.

 

 

,

How commenting can increase your website ranking

It’s not just about being online, or “doing social media” that helps your online visibility. Whilst conversation and commenting may feel a bit old fashioned, they’re actually a fabulous way to increase your website ranking.

Now it’s not just me saying this, I learnt this from Alice Elliott, from The Commenting Club, in our conversation this week.

in conversation with Alice Elliott, the commenting clubAlice has been studying blogs, comments, online conversations, and the correlation with website rankings for the last 6 years. Commenting went out of fashion in about 2014 when spam increased and caused the larger blog sites to stop comments on their posts altogether. Commenting moved to twitter, a micro-blog site, and conversations grew more remotely.

Many people complain about how social media is used for “getting at” others, and in some ways you can see how it’s happened. The art of conversation and commenting has been lost when people only see a snippet of someone’s views.

Tips for commenting (& being commented on)

Alice gave us many tips for commenting on other people’s blogs, on LinkedIn, on You Tube. The summary is below.

  • Your comment needs to be relevant
  • Don’t be afraid to disagree with the writer. They’ve started a conversation and you’re joining in with your view. On your own website, don’t be afraid of sharing comments which disagree with you either. It shows you accept others views
  • Allow conversation to happen naturally in the comments section
  • By allowing conversation, you’re allowing a community of readers to develop who will share your work with others
  • A comment can be a mini-post of your own. Don’t write more than 500 words, and ensure it’s not longer than the original post
  • When you add your url to your comment, use a url to a relevant article on your own website. That keeps the conversation alive and shows other readers that you have experience in the topic being discussed

Alice suggested starting with trying to write 5 comments a week on other people’s work as a starting point.

How does commenting improve your website ranking?

commenting starts conversationEvery comment with a link back to your website adds a back link to your site. Every relevant conversation to your website (and the pages you link to), adds a tick in the search engines box that your site has good information about your topic.

When you reply to the comments on your own website, you’re adding more engagement on your site, and that’s creating more links and visibility to the search engines that your site is an expert in your topic.

Commenting develops your reach. People may see your name in different places, and start to look at what you do as they agree, or disagree, with you, and they want to know who they’re talking to.

Where do you find places to comment on?

Use keyword searches to see who’s talking about the subject you want to talk about. You may already be following some blogs relevant to your area of work. There’s lots of different ways to keep on top of other blogs, such as Feedly, and Digg.

You may just set aside some time to look at interesting things and make comments where you want. Your online commenting doesn’t have to be all business related. In fact, Alice suggested that simply being yourself and adding to conversations where you want, shows you at your best.

You may be in a networking group (online or offline) where you can read each others posts, comment and share them. That’s a great way of reading a wide variety of content, and sometimes practicing your commenting, if you’re not too confident to start with.

Commenting is about creating relationships, so whenever you comment, think about that. It’s not just about getting the backlink to your website. How can you engage with the author to develop your mutual understanding? Could you cultivate customers through commenting?

I found our conversation fascinating – the whole interview is here.

Online Visibilty Workshop Friday 27th April

Book your place to learn how to grow your online visibility by commenting HERE

If you want to learn more about commenting, take a look at The Commenting Club. There’s lots of articles to give you a flavour, and with Alice’s support you may well want to develop your commenting skills.

We also encourage sharing and commenting in the Business Cheerleading Club, where members share their website posts for other members to comment on and share – that networking I talked about earlier.

What’s your experience of commenting? Do you enjoy it? Are you a regular commenter?

What #tipsforbusiness have I missed off this list?

, ,

Blogging for business – why bother?

You may think blogging is ‘old hat’. Or heard that blogging for business is “a waste of time”. Yet, there’s a lot of businesses who are growing their online visibility through blogging. What do you do? Why bother with blogging?

In our recent #inconversationwith business blogging expert Sarah Arrow, she walked us through how she’d taken her husband’s business website from no traffic, to 700 visitors a week, which led to a massive increase in sales. That’s how her blogging for business journey started. She, and Kevin, now help many business owners to write content on their websites to grow their business reputation and increase sales.

Why bother blogging for business?

in conversation with sarah arrow blogging for businessAs Sarah said so eloquently, “If you want to leave those customers for me to have, that’s fine. I’ll take them!” She went on to say, “when I asked my customers how they’d found us, they said, “I typed it in google” ” Simple as that!

Sarah told me how she wrote blogs, (or posts, or articles), whichever term you prefer that answered customer queries that she was getting on the phone. She wrote posts that helped her understand Kevin’s transport business. She wasn’t a writer, and didn’t want to write. However, she found that, when she wrote a post, (on BT Tradespace which is where she started blogging for business), that the phone would ring with a booking, or enquiry. Instead of writing 3 times a week, she decided to write daily, to keep the phone ringing every day.

The more you write, the more people are able to get to know you. They understand how your business works. They understand, know and like you as a business owner, and know they want to do business with you.

We discussed that many business owners are frightened of blogging, for all sorts of reasons. The main one I see and hear, is those businesses who aren’t wanting to be visible, or aren’t certain about what their business does, so aren’t able to talk about it. Others are scared that they’ll say “something wrong”.

What do your customers need to know?

If you’re ready to get started, and I highly recommend Sarah’s 30 day blogging challenge as a starting point, then start with talking to your customers about what they need to know:

  • About you
  • About your product or service
  • Why did you set the business up?
  • What can your product or service help them with? In marketing speak, what “pain” does your product or service “relieve”
  • What do you offer that they can’t get from another business which sells the same product?

And that’s just a starting point! Can you see? Whether you like the term blogging, or content marketing, all you’re doing as a business, is sharing your skills and knowledge with your customers and potential customers.

You’re helping your website be found by people searching for places to get a particular product, or fix a particular issue.

As Sarah said, when you’ve got water gushing everywhere, you simply need the first plumber that comes up in your google search who can come right now. If Joe Bloggs Plumbers who lives down the road doesn’t have a website, or is consciously promoting himself online, he’ll not be found when you search for ‘plumber’ in your area.

How to get started with blogging for business

I recommend Sarah’s 30 day blogging challenge. It’s focused on blogging for business & not only takes you through the writing aspect, giving you ideas of what to write about, but also how to set your website up to get maximum traffic.

The Business Cheerleading Club supports all aspects of business, and we’ve been exploring with some members the how to of blogging, and have even helped add a blog to a website to get them started. Each month we explore a business topic, but as a member you can ask questions, get support, and share your blog links to get extra traffic from club members.

In fact, the last two Action Spotlight Coaching sessions have focused on content creation and blogging for members. We talked through the types of content they could create, and how they could schedule their time to blog regularly, to “improve your writing muscle”, as Sarah said.

I like writing, and sharing my knowledge by blogging for my business. I know it’s increasing traffic to my website, as my stats tell me that too. I’m getting more potential customers find me and talk to me, and it’s growing my business.

Do you blog for your business? Or do you think you’d like to get started now you know a bit more? We’re here to help 🙂

,

Are you making the most of your website assets

Business assets are often thought to be cash in the bank, property and stock. Your website assets are just as important, even if they’re not listed on your balance sheet.

I know some businesses will have a value put on their website as an asset in the business. Often when a business is sold, the website assets are clearly part of the pricing, and due diligence within the sale.

However, when we work with clients website assets are often not valued in the same way as stock is.

What do you mean, website assets?

website assetsWell, you have your business website don’t you. It may be simply a place for people to find out basic information from you, or it may be your whole business, with stock or services being bought & used from the website.

If you have a full e-commerce site, or site where people come for training courses, then you may well consider your website to be one of your biggest assets in your business. However, this isn’t always the case.

I’ve also helped people create their own website, and once it’s created they just leave it there and expect it to “do it’s job”. Huh? Getting a website live is only the first part of the journey. Now you’ve invested in a website, you need to make it work for you. [We’ve created a 10 module course, with 6 months support, for business owners, as we see this a lot. It’s for anyone with a website that wants to make the most of this asset you have. It’s still being re-worked, hence the price].

Outside of your website though, are all the things linking to your website, which are also considered part of your website assets. Such as, links to your website; social media channels; google my business profile; profiles on industry directories. Everything digital, linked to your website is part of your website assets and helps to maintain your online profile, and your business reputation.

So when that person advises you to start doing some blogging, or linking to your website from your instagram account, they are telling you to put some support in place for your website assets. Having a website sat in the inter-web by itself isn’t enough. It may look beautiful and be perfectly formed, and run so smoothly that it’s a dream for your team to manage.

You may think I’m being cruel here – it’s just some files and technical coding (my web developer friends aren’t going to be happy with me are they?). Yes, they’re your files and coding and they are unique and special to you and your business. And that’s exactly why I’m being honest – look after them. Love them. Love your website and it will love you back.

Make the most of your website assets

There are some simple things you can do, fairly easily and regularly, if you’re looking after your website yourself. Or you these are the things you need to get your web or tech team, or online marketing support team to do for you. These are basics. It’s not a full list, but it’s a start for you to get making the most of those website assets you’ve already got:

  1. Create new articles regularly. Now our friends at SarkeMedia will say creating new content every day will really make a difference. It will, but we’re just starting here. So let’s say you add something new to your website twice a week. We highly recommend the 30 day blogging challenge, run by Sarah and Kevin Arrow. You’ll learn far more than just about blogging, and their support is excellent. You’ll also see that if you use their strategies, you’ll see results to your website traffic, and online engagement in general
  2. Create links to your website from social media Now there’s all sorts of suggestions about how best to do this, but if you’re starting from nothing, then doing something is better than nothing. Depending on your business, and your target audience, you may use a variety of social media channels. Use what’s right for you, not what your friend tells you to do.
  3. Ensure your business details are on the relevant industry directories, or local pages and are kept up to date. There’s nothing that annoys us all than details being out of date is there?

If you need help working through what you’ve currently got, and create a plan for making the most of your website assets now you understand a bit more, why not book a call with Tracey-Jane? Or join the Business Cheerleading Club, and talk things through there with club members, or use the Action Spotlight coaching session to work things through.

Do you think about website assets in your business? Do you look after them as lovingly as you your property and stock?

, , ,

Get your website working for you

One of the hardest things in business is to keep juggling all the plates just to stand still. Or that’s what it feels like!

We’ve been there, (and have these moments of juggling every few months!), when you’ve spent months getting your website just right. You’ve worked hard finding the right words, sourcing the right images. You’ve tested all the functions and that the pages link together. You’ve had friends and family test the site for you too, and you all jumped with excitement when the site went live. Yay! All that hard work at an end.

My website is live, now what?

So, what are you doing now? Your website’s live, right? So nothing more to do on that. Tick it off your list and move on to the next big item on your business agenda.

Right?

WRONG!

In some ways, now your website is live, this is when the work really starts. Now you need to keep the website updated. You may need to update links on the site, and certainly ensure, if it’s an online shop, that the stock is right, and listed at the right price.

You know your website looks fantastic, and has a wonderful widget that is amazing and is perfect for your ideal customer to find exactly what they want. If only they came onto your website and used it!

Now you know your web developer told you that they’d fully SEOd the site, so the customers should be coming easily shouldn’t they? You even paid extra for that part of the service, so you know it’s all fine. You just need to wait until google finds you. All will be well. Right?

WRONG!

Get your website working for you

Your website is an asset to your business. You’ve spent hours getting it just right, and maybe spent quite a bit on it too, so your accountant may well be telling you it better be a good investment and work as you’ve said in your business plan, “or else”. Well, that can be a pressure too can’t it? Making the financials work out?

You can affect who finds your website. You can affect how many potential customers know about you. In fact, it’s often this one thing which frustrates us more than anything else – the fact that business owners put so much time (and money) into a website, then just leave it.

When you recruit a new member to the team, do you just leave them to it? Or do you welcome them, nuture them and develop them?

When you buy a new piece of equipment or software, do you just buy it then forget about it? Or do you spend time learning about it, and how to make best use of all the functions to make your business more efficient?

So why not your website? Why do you leave it alone?

Well, many business owners we support leave it alone for these reasons:

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t have the money to put any more into the website
  • I don’t know what to do
  • I’ve lost interest – all my effort went into creating
  • It’s not my job
  • I’m paying someone else to do that

We don’t think that’s right that you should leave this wonderful asset unattended. It really doesn’t take much to keep on top of things. Even if you ask someone else to do it for you, you need to know what they’re doing, so you can check that things are working OK, and you’re getting value for money.

This 40 minute tutorial shows you the basics of what you need to do, each month, to keep growing and developing your website, to make it work for you. You’ll get the basics of what you need to do to get your website working for you.

If you want to skip the tutorial and just grab the checklist, well, it may not make total sense, but it’s here for you anyway. Who are we to tell you what’s best for you?

Get your website working for you course

And if you’re really serious about making your website work for you, we’ve created a step by step course just for you. We’re teaching this live over 4 weeks, with some lovely experts, including online marketing expert Alison Rothwell. For more details and to sign up at a bargain price (you wouldn’t even have access to Alison for 20 minutes at this price, but she’s agreed to be part of our teaching team).

You’ll get lifetime access to the course materials, so you can come back again and again to re-watch the step by step tutorials.

get your website working for you

Don’t delay – the course starts 6th November, and will never be at the bargain price of £47 again, so join now and get your website working for your business in 2017 🙂

 

 

, , ,

Domain names, hosting, and servers – what do I need?

Domain names, hosting and servers what do i need?

confused about domains hosting and serversThis is a question we get asked a lot when meeting business owners, or business start ups. Even established businesses get confused about domain names hosting and servers when they are looking at revamping or upgrading their website. Here’s some guidance for you to get you more confident to make the decisions you need for your business.

Website terms

When you create a website, for the first time, or re-do a website, many business owners get confused by the terminology web developers use, or what they actually need to do. Being baffled by words doesn’t fill you with confidence when you’re working hard to get your website created, and ready to go live does it?

Domain names

You can own as many domain names as you like, and you buy these through a domain registrar. To check who owns a domain name, use Nominet, or to check who you can register a domain through, use this list here. All registrars will have different prices, so you may want to shop around to save a couple of pounds. We recommend 4UHosting.co.uk who we’ve used for the past 13 years and are UK based, with excellent support.

Website Hosting or Server Space

These terms are often used interchangeably, so don’t be alarmed if the person you’re talking to uses both terms.

Every website needs to have some server space where all the files of the website are stored. They are essentially separate coded files, which link together, (much like the links from this page to other internet pages), and are stored on a big computer. If you are sorting your own website out, you need to purchase some website hosting.

Now, website hosting comes in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no one recommendation for all sites. The questions you need to ask yourself, and your web developer if you have one, are:

  • How much space do you need (if you’re a new website, 5GB is probably enough to start with)?
  • What bandwidth do you need (this is for the traffic to your site). If you’re expecting large scale traffic from a TV advertising campaign, go large, otherwise, for new sites, 50GB monthly bandwidth is likely to be enough
  • What functions do you need on your server? Do you need a MySQL database (you do if you’re using WordPress)
  • How often does the server backup the site? What happens if there’s a malfunction – does the server set your backup site live?
  • Can the server space grow quickly and easily if my website traffic grows quickly and I need more bandwidth, or I need more space for a new function for the site?
  • What support does the company offer & is it in the right time zone for me, when I need it?

The other question you’ll need to think about is, “Do I want a shared server, a cloud server or a dedicated server?”

A shared server is usually the cheapest option, and is one where your website shares a server with many other website owners. This big computer will have lots of files and folders on it, and will have lots of traffic coming to all the different websites stored there. This can be a problem sometimes, if you’re sharing with a site which gets high traffic at certain times and leaves less bandwidth for your visitors. However, when you’re starting out, this is likely to be a good option for you. Cheapest is not always best though, as some hosting companies don’t manage their shared servers as well as others.

A cloud server is a good option for growing websites, or where you get heavy traffic, even if only for short bursts. This option will store your files on ‘clouds’, thus spreading your website across a few different spaces to spread the load, spread the risk, and have more flexibility if there are issues with a site or a server.

A dedicated server is one which only your website uses. You will secure the right space and bandwidth for you with the hosting company, and only you and your website technicians will have access to this space. This reduces all the risk of being infected by other websites on a server, and is suitable for those websites which need more space, and where your budget allows this level of support from the hosting company.

How are you creating your website

Again there’s many options, which is often why people find it confusing, especially when they are starting out.

You can start with free site on someone else’s server, like wix.com or wordpress.com, but you won’t always be able to have your own domain name linked to it e.g. mydomain.co.uk It may look something like mydomain.wix.com. If you need your own domain name, then check carefully before starting on one of these sites, as they’re all different.

Then you can use premium versions of templated sites, again, wix.com or ekm.com for a shopping site. These have templates you can use to set up your site and make it look like the image in your head. If you’re wanting total free reign on the design of the site, these options may not suit you, as web developers don’t have access to a lot of the styling of the site.

You can create your own WordPress website, on your own server space, or you can invite a web developer to set the site up for you. You can use free wordpress templates, which have elements of customisation, or you can choose some paid for themes (often one off charges), to create your totally bespoke site. There are also website developers who will create the site from scratch on wordpress for you (creating style sheets).

Obviously, the cost goes up, with each of these options. Website design is mainly about the time taken to style the site, and then add all the functions you require. A shopping site will take longer to style than an information site.

Finally, you can get a website development company to create a totally bespoke website for you. Depending on your end goal, and what you want the site to do for you, this can be an excellent option to ensure the site looks right to the customer, and the backend of the site is simple enough for you and your team to update.

Still confused? Need some help? Ready to get your website started, but not sure your next steps?

Contact us, and let’s talk you through your options. We have a few web developement teams we work with, plus our own in house web developer to help you fix those little bits which are causing you a headache! We also project manage website development projects from start to finish, or from whatever stage you need support.

We’re here to help you Manage Those Things, so get in touch & let’s get the website in your head, onto a server and live 🙂

 

website terms - domain, hosting, server and website

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

, , ,

Why I can help you with your website development

T-J Hughes

T-J Hughes

You may be wondering why I’ve suddenly started helping others to manage those things they can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do themselves, including website development. Well, as usual, there’s a very good reason behind this business. There’s probably a hundred reasons, if I’m honest, but I’ll just share one for now.

My website nightmares

In 2004, six months after my second son was born, I set up a business, called bras4mums. It does what is says – sells bras to pregnant and breastfeeding women. Very specific, and it’s still going 12 years on.

Back in those days, internet shopping was only just starting out. I set up my own website, using a templated system, and it worked really well as the business grew. However, like all things, they get old, and outdated, and the coding was starting to get a little crumbly. There’s lots of personal stuff going on around this time, apart from my children growing up, and the business growing exponentially, and us moving the business out of home, into premises. All scary, but exciting times.

The website, whilst working OK, was starting to not function properly, and it was limited, and not ideal for coping with the complexity of bra sizing. Now, please don’t feel sorry for me, but my Mum died in May 2009, aged 65, and I’d spent a lot of my time travelling the country to be with her during her last few months. We were lucky to have that priviledge of knowing her illness was terminal. However, I’d obviously taken time out of the business to be with her and Dad. More ‘little things’ were going wrong on the website, and it was increasingly frustrating.

My Dad very kindly offered to pay for a new website to be created, from scratch, to help me with the next phase. We discussed how an improved website structure, and back end system would help the bras4mums staff team, with efficiency, and improve the customer experience. I’d met some people I liked and trusted, and was ready to go with a new shiny website.

There’s lots of details which aren’t important here, but, hopefully, you can understand that as I’d created my own website, and learnt a little bit of basic coding, I knew what I was after in my new website. I’d done a little shopping around for a website creator, and decided to go with an agency who had a wealth of experience in marketing and branding as well as the web design side. I felt they understood the complexity of lingerie, and how to get it across online.

The web design agency came up with a proposal using a templated site, so it wasn’t written for me, but they could customise to my specifications. I questioned it at the time, but they seemed convinced that this was the right way to go. So, we went ahead. I created a very specific timetable and list of instructions, including the web team adding the products and attributes to the site, within the project fee. I remember a conversation whilst away spending time with the family, after we’d scattered Mum’s ashes in a favourite place, that started to make me nervous about their knowledge and skills to get my project right.

The team were 2 weeks late going live, and my staff team had had to spend 100+ hours on product input as the web team couldn’t get it right. I should have pulled out then, shouldn’t I? I was so focused, and believed in the people I was working with, and if I’m honest, during this period of grief, I wanted something sparkling new to look forward to, and move the business forward again. 2009 you’ll remember was the start of the deep recession.

Even at the going live stage there were issues. For those of you who are technical, the DNS wasn’t pointing in the right place. As I was keeping control of the domain in my own account, (and I’m so pleased I’ve always insisted on this), and the web team were hosting the site on a new server capable of the new fancy site they were creating, they hadn’t transferred files over from the development server correctly, and hadn’t asked me to change my nameservers, etc, etc. More signs of things to come?

Oh yes, the story doesn’t end there! The brief wasn’t complete, and there were functions I’d asked for, which were in the design document, and in the payment schedule which seemed to be causing an issue for the web developers. As I got to know the web developers more, as I’d started working directly with them, rather than the account manager who hadn’t a clue about the techincal side of web development, I started to understand that the template wasn’t working for my products. Well, fancy that! My exact question right at the start! So, the account managers had ‘sold’ me a ‘solution’ that didn’t match my needs. It would have cost less to have had a site coded from scratch, that would actually work. Yes, I was getting increasingly frustrated.

I’d paid for some very expensive PR agency to work alongside the website launch, as some of the features were totally unique to bras4mums and the service we offered. I wasn’t getting the whole benefit as some of the promised features weren’t yet working properly. So, I was, in essence, throwing money away.

A few months after the live date, my final payment for the site was due. I hadn’t had enough sales to cover this payment, (I’d spent Dad’s investment on stock for a retail show at Earls Court), as I’d expected the websales to start kicking in now, with all the PR we’d paid for. I also believed that the web agency would shut my site down if I didn’t make the payment, even though there were outstanding issues not yet fixed on the site. Yes, I can hear you all shouting at me. I borrowed the money from some friends, and made the final payment. The web developers were even more illusive after this. You can see why I learnt so much can’t you?

So, January came and went, and little tweaks were still happening, but we still hadn’t got to the end product I’d originally briefed the web design company. I’d got another retail show in February, and wanted everything fixed for then. “Yes, of course, no problem. We think we’ve found a way of doing it”, the web developers told me. We were making progress, and web sales were picking up again, and we had high hopes we were over the worst of the issues.

How wrong could I be? On the Saturday of the retail show, customers told us our website wasn’t working. It was offline. Being a weekend, the web team don’t normally work, but as I’d been working so closely with them, I’d got contact details clients wouldn’t normally have. So, I spoke to the team leader to be told that yes, the server had caught fire and they were doing their best to restore the site. The only problem was, that when they restored a back up, it was a month old! All those tweaks they’d made, and all the stock I’d sold weren’t there – we were literally a month behind….again.

I still can’t believe this really happened. The excitement of the new site, even though it wasn’t perfect, was a much better one than the one I’d created. And then to have the crushing feeling of seeing everything my team and I had worked hard for, for the past 8 months to just disappear, through no fault of my own, was devastating.

I spent days just looking at my website, and refreshing the page to see if they could get it back. They couldn’t and didn’t. There seemed to be no-one taking responsibility for the issues caused between web host and development team. Contractually it was messy, as the agency I’d employed, had sub-contracted work, including the hosting to other companies. As I’d paid out the whole fee, even though the site wasn’t complete, what leverage did I have?

Over the next few months I kept trying to put things right. I paid out more money to the web developers directly to try and fix the issues which were still outstanding. I had lots of screaming matches, (and that really isn’t my style, but I got so frustrated that all my hard work, and all my Dad’s money was going to waste). I then asked a solicitor for advice, and with all the evidence I had kept, I had a strong case to pursue for the losses, and lost business I’d incurred. However, without insurance to cover my business contracts, I took on the risk of this myself, in the belief that “good will always win over evil” – well, it works in the movies doesn’t it? I employed more ‘specialist web developers’ who worked specifically on this templated software, to fix the issues.

Eventually, after another year of trying to fix something that was never right, I set up my own site, using another shopping template, so I could finally rid myself of the awful nightmare I’d been living in. That in itself wasn’t easy, as I lost the specialist features I’d created, but I hadn’t the money to do anything else.

My legal case went on and on, and I eventually ended up with my money back. I’d lost so much by this time, and lost faith in the legal system as well, that it’s a part of my business history I’ve not really talked about.

What I’ve learnt about websites

  • As a business owner, you understand the outcome and customer process much better than a web developer, or account manager. You need to find someone who ‘gets it’, and pursues your end goal, not theirs
  • You can do a lot, yourself, for free. Yes, you need to buy space on a server, (and there’s different qualities of these too!), unless you have your own on which to store your website, but then after that, you can do pretty much everything else for free, and come up with some amazing results
  • Know, and understand where your domain names are, and check that they are registered to you, and your registered address
  • Backup, backup and backup. Know how your server is backed up, and either keep backups yourself, in your dropbox account, or on a hard drive, or ensure someone you trust is doing this for you
  • Be clear at the start of your website development what your end goal is, even if it’s a phased process. Understand the phases of development, and how this will impact the development of your website
  • If your website development team aren’t meeting their targets, find someone else
  • Have a clear contract of engagement, with pull out times if targets, or specifications aren’t met
  • Having a beautiful website doesn’t mean people will find it easily

How I can help you with your website development and management

With over 12 years of business experience, and this lovely awful experience in the middle of it, I have a lot to offer others. I’ve been advising friends, and local business owners on website development for a number of year, as well as creating my own sites for blogging, promoting and selling for my different businesses.

I’m now in a position, through Manage Those Things, to help more of you to:

  1. Map out your website plans to take to web development teams
  2. Help you source the right web development team for you and your project, goals, and budget
  3. Project manage your website development on your behalf with the web team you’ve selected
  4. Create a simple wordpress website for you and/or with you, which doesn’t cost a fortune
  5. Guide, advise, and support your ongoing website health and security
  6. Help you get your website visible

Are you ready for some help? Contact me now, and don’t suffer like I did.

, ,

Do you use Google Webmaster

When you create a website, you want it to be found, don’t you, so google webmaster tools are there to help you become more visible. The free tools which Google have made available to everyone, within what they call, Google Webmaster Tools, are perfect for beginners and experienced techies alike.

Use the checklists Google has created for you, watch the tutorials, and action everything on your list. It’s advised that you check your google Search console at least monthly, (maybe weekly if you have a busy site), to fix any issues it finds. Google is your friend, and it wants you to be found online. Use the free tools available to you, and don’t be fooled into paying out for services you can do for yourself, for free.

 

google webmaster tools search console checklist

From search console

There’s a wealth of information and support for everyone available within Google Webmaster Tools, with tutorials showing you how to do things. Most of us are able to work through these to get our websites found by the google search engine. However, if you need help, or support, find someone you know and respect to help you.

How do you find using google webmaster tools? Confusing, or straight forward?

We’re here to help if you need support, getting visible online.