Four Easy Steps to Starting a Free WordPress Site

Setting up a free WordPress site is simple with WordPress.com and it doesn’t take long at all. In fact there are just four easy steps you need to follow.

Step 1

To begin you need to go to WordPress.com and click on the link to start your own website. You’ll be given a choice of layouts to choose from. Choose the one that bests suits your needs.

Step 2

You’ll then be given a choice of themes. Choose one that you like the look of, and that will appeal to you audience. Your theme also needs to suit your content. Take into account the layout, design elements and color schemes, and choose one that ticks all of your boxes. With a free site, you won’t be able to add plugins and there are limited customization options.

Don’t worry too much, though, about finding the perfect theme right away. You can always change it later on if you find that it just isn’t working for you.

Step 3

This next step – selecting your domain name – will probably take the most time. Finding a name for your site can be tricky for any website, but even more so when you go with free hosting. There are limited choices available, and you will need to scroll through those on offer, and look at variations, to find the one you like.

It helps to do a bit of research first. Figure out a few possible options – think of names you would like and come up with variations of these. Avoid anything too obvious. Remember that there are thousands and thousands if websites out there, so anything very obvious is already taken, or likely to cost you. Here are some other tips for choosing a domain name.

Once you have a few choices, plug these in see what comes up. Choose the one that you like best. You’ll be using this one (hopefully for a long time), so choose wisely.

Step 4

Choosing a plan should be a straightforward choice at this point. After all, you’re looking for a free website. But keep in mind that you can always upgrade at a later stage, and it’s good to know what your options are. But for now, click on free and you’re done!

Have a look at the steps here:

Once your free WordPress blog is set up, you can move onto the fun stuff: adding your content, finding the perfect theme, playing with the design, and expanding on your blog.

Featured Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Creating A Call To Action That Works

Inaction. The opposite of something happening. This is exactly what you don’t want for your website or online business. A Call To Action, or CTA, that inspires action can lead to increased engagement, more subscribers, and greater conversions. 

What is a Call To Action?

A CTA is a button (or a part of your copy) that motivates your target audience to take some form of action. It gets people to do something. Online shopping uses CTA’s to get people to ‘Buy Now’, to ‘Purchase” or to “Check out your shopping cart’. But anyone can make effective use of a Call To Action. 

Maybe you want to grow your subscriber list. Or perhaps you want to increase donations. You might just want people to read more, or become better informed. If you want your audience to take action, in any way, you need to provide them with an opportunity to do so. 

But getting people to click a button isn’t as easy as it sounds. For one thing, most of the sites you visit use this tactic. Users have become wary of Special Offers and Limited Time Deals. So you need a fresh and effective approach. 

Creating a CTA

Where and When

There is plenty of discussion over where to place a Call To Action. Some argue it should be above the fold (and therefore visible as soon as you arrive at a page). Others don’t think this makes a significant difference. Some prefer pop-ups. Personally, I find pop-ups distracting and generally I close them before taking the time to read them. 

With Gutenberg and block plugins like Stackable, you can add CTA blocks to your copy, like the example below. Alternatively, you can use pop-ups that appear when someone enters a page, when they’re half way through or when they’re about to leave.

Your Main CTA goes here

Add some text to make your point and get your readers motivated

There are plenty of options – you just need to find out what works for your audience. If you’re not sure what works, do some A/B testing to see what gets the best response. 

Position is probably less important though, than timing. You want the CTA to be placed where it will have the greatest impact. If you want someone to ‘Read more…’ then they need to have read enough to know they want more information. To ‘Buy Now’ you need to first showcase what you’re selling. 

Consider your Audience

Knowing your audience can go a long way towards helping you make the right decisions for placement and timing. But there are some other factors you should consider when it comes to your users. 

People, no matter who they are, don’t have time anymore. Fast-paced interactions are the norm. So whatever you’re offering, make sure it isn’t going to cost anyone their time. Quick results, quick transactions, quick engagements!

Speaking of cost, your audience isn’t likely to want to spend money. If it’s free, or discounted, you’re on the right track. If it’s easy and painless, even better. 

Now you need to convey this in your Call To Action. You need your audience to see what’s in it for them, what the benefits are, while noting that it won’t take up their time or cost them too much. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

Call to Action examples

You can also create a sense of urgency. Nobody wants to miss out out on anything. So make use of this FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out); limit the time frame or the number of items on sale. Make it essential to BUY NOW!

Overall, an enthusiastic results-driven approach to CTA’s works. It shows your audience what they can get by clicking on the button. They need a reason to take action, so give them one. 

Watch your Language

The language you use is probably one of the most important elements of your CTA. It can inspire action, or stop your readers dead in their tracks. 

The tricky thing with a Call to Action is that you need to be concise. You can’t add too much info or your audience will stop reading long before they get to clicking the button. In other words, get to your point quickly. 

The best way to do this is to use direct, actionable language. Giving your users a specific action to take makes it easier for them. Words like ‘Buy’, ‘Play’ or ‘Read’ tell people exactly what you want them to do. It makes the action clear, while avoiding any confusion.

It also helps to use the right pronouns. Have you seen a pop-up promising quick results or a free course, or something along these lines? Then you are given two choices: ‘Yes, sign me up’ or ‘No, I don’t want instant success’.

The words may change, but the sentiment is the same. And it works because it gets you thinking about what you need. Clicking that No button often makes you pause and reconsider. Don’t I want instant success? Don’t I want to learn more, be more or do more? The use of first person pronouns makes it personal and it makes people think consider the answer. 

Make it look amazing

Your CTA’s appearance is another important factor. You can have the best wording in the world, but if it doesn’t stand out it won’t get any clicks. 

There’s some debate over which colour buttons work best, but all you’re really looking for is a colour that stands out. Use a colour that contrast with the background. If you’re using a picture, make sure it stands out and adds emphasis to your CTA (rather than just looking pretty).

When it comes to the button itself, go for something that looks like a button. Don’t make it difficult for your users to figure out where to click. You need to make your button clickable. 

Use numbers. Have a big 50% off or make the 1/2 price stand out. Promos, percentages and other numbers are eye-catching and appealing. They’re sure to grab your audiences’ attention and help you convert. 

Some final tips…

Your Call To Action should be emotive and encourage your readers to take action, whatever that may be. Get creative, keep your ideas fresh and original, but most of all, make sure it is clear what you want your audience to do. 

On that note, stick to one main CTA. Too many choices and your audience will be left feeling overwhelmed, and probably opting out of taking any action.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t have a secondary CTA: ‘Sign up now! Already a member? Login to continue reading’. The Call To Action is to sign up or register. But for people who have already done so, there’s a second, relevant CTA. This way you’re not losing any existing clients, and your appeals are both applicable to the action you want people to take. 

Keep your Call to Action fresh and relevant to your audience. Make it stand out and be clear about what action you want people to take. And remember to use A/B testing to figure out what works. Most of all, use your CTA to inspire action. 

Featured image by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

How To Make Your Website Content Work For You

Content is a key component of any website. Apart from supplying key information, it also works hand-in-hand with SEO. Your website content is such a critical element, that it can make or break your site (and by extension, your business).

Think about it. If your website content is of a poor quality, readers aren’t going to come back for more. If you have well-written content, but no visual appeal, people may find your content difficult to read. If you don’t supply links or easy navigation, your audience won’t know where to go for more information.

All of this means a drop in traffic and, in all likelihood, a higher bounce rate. This can impact on your search engine rankings. And if no one can find your site, they can’t use your service or buy your product. 

While this may sound a little far-fetched or overly simplified, the reality is that your content needs to work for you. If it isn’t doing this, then it could well be costing you customers. The solution? Make your website content work for you.

Readable Content

Readable website content uses good structure and interesting topics

What makes content readable? Readable content is easy-to-read. By this, we don’t mean it should be simple. Complex, technical content can be just as readable as a simple concept. So an explanation of compound interest can be as readable as an article on why children should get pocket money.

The things that make content readable are, primarily, structure and topic.

Structure

The layout of your text is an important element here. To begin with, you need a heading that adequately explains the content or purpose of your text. You should also use subheadings to break up the text into manageable chunks, and which also explain the content of each paragraph. 

Your paragraphs should be short. A few sentences each (if that), all of which should link back to your subheading. Try, where possible, to start each paragraph with a sentence that explains what will follow.

The reason for this is because people no longer have time to read through extensive texts. They are frequently looking for an answer to a question, and will therefore skim your article to find what they’re looking for. Make this easy for them.

The use of blocks in Gutenberg can also enhance the readability of your text. From headings, quotes and lists, to FAQ and How-to blocks, you can add a range of elements to your page.

Topic

The more interested someone is in what you have to say, the higher the chances that they will read your article. For this reason, your topic is important to the readability of your content. 

Choose topics that are relevant and interesting to your audience. But you should also ensure that your content is original. Apart from it being bad practice to say exactly what someone else has said, no one wants to read the same thing twice. 

When writing your content, focus on information that is original, educational and informative. And then ensure your content is well-written and to-the-point. 

Visual Content

Use visual content to engage your readers

You want to make your website content as visually appealing as possible. There are several reasons for this. People consume information far more quickly these days. Visual information can help them process and understand your content better. Many people also think visually, making visual content a better fit.

Images and image galleries can add a lot of appeal to your content. Gutenberg makes it easy to add images and image galleries to your page in WordPress. Alternatively you can use a plugin like FooBox (a responsive lightbox) or Foogallery to add more dimension to your images. 

Video is another great way to engage your audience. It’s becoming an increasingly popular channel, boosting traffic on your site and social media channels. 

Infographics and graphs can also supply visual information while making it easier to understand a difficult concept or process a large amount of information. When you do have a text-heavy article, graphs or other visual statistics can help break this up. 

Whatever visual content you use, make sure it is relevant. There is little value in using a cute cat meme or simply having images of stats that actually mean nothing. Unless they add to or complement your text, avoid using them.

Strategic Content

use strategic website content to boost traffic and conversions

Good content is a central factor of traffic and SEO. But you can help boost these, along with your sales, with some strategic content. By adding extra elements to your content, such as social share buttons, you can increase your readership.

Calls to Action are a good example of strategic website content. If your topic is all about improving your SEO, a Call To Action can encourage people to buy your SEO guide. CTAs should focus on one main action and stand out from the rest of the text. 

You should also be including links in your content. You should, where possible, link to other pages or blog posts on your own site. This improves the navigation and makes it easier for Google or other search engines to crawl your site. Include some outbound links to other credible, established websites as well. It can be good for your reputation.

Adding keywords to your content allows you to be found for the right reason. But you need to use relevant keywords the relate to your topic and your product or services. Avoid keyword stuffing though, and focus on the keywords for which you are most likely to rank.

Wrapping up…

Your website content can help improve your SEO, your traffic and by extension, conversions and sales. But only if your content is effective. 

Too many keywords, or visuals that aren’t relevant are unlikely to give you the boost you’re looking for. Likewise, adding good content, but without structure, may have a negative impact.

You need highly readable content, that is relevant and original. You need visual content that can help inform your readers while breaking up your text. And you need strategic content like CTAs to give you the extra edge.

Featured image by Banter Snaps on Unsplash

Using Gutenberg: Building with Blocks

WordPress 5.0 is set to be released in November, and with it will come the new editor Gutenberg. If you haven’t already started using Gutenberg, now is a good time to see what it can do.

What is Gutenberg?

On the off-chance that you haven’t heard about it, Gutenberg is the new editor for WordPress. It will become part of the WordPress core when it is updated to version 5.0. This is expected to happen later this year, probably mid-late November.

The new editor allows you to create pages and posts rich with visual elements. It does this through the use of blocks. Each block type allows you to do something different, such as add an image, write a heading or create a list.

Why Gutenberg is the Way Forward

As I’m writing this, Gutenberg has over 500 000 active installs. It also has 784 1-star ratings, as opposed to the 335 5-star ratings. Even when Gutenberg becomes part of the WordPress core, you will (in all likelihood) still be able to revert to the classic editor.

But why would you want to?

Using Gutenberg is simple. Alright it differs quite a lot from the classic editor, but it does everything that editor can do, and a whole lot more. Each block type comes with it’s own settings and there are plenty of block types available.

The result? Visually appealing texts that grab your readers’ attention from the get-go.

Why does this matter? I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase Content is King. Well, in the game of content marketing and online branding, content is the way forward. Improved SEO and better brand-awareness can both be achieved through content.

But the biggest problem is that there is so much content available online. Interesting, insightful and innovative posts go a long way to building your content-offering. But visually stimulating content gives you the extra edge.

Making the Most of Gutenberg

You can make the most of the new editor to create interesting and visually appealing texts. To do this, you need to use your blocks!

Add images in Gutenberg to create a better user experience.
Images can add to your appeal and improve user experience

Quotes also stand out from the rest of your text, as they’re now indented. You can make them even more impressive by italicising them.

You can add your reference or citation here.

These are just some examples of the block types available on Gutenberg. You can also create lists, add shortcodes or html, add audio, use different headings and more. Below are some examples of the blocks available to you, including a How-To block from Yoast. (We used FooGallery here, which works with Gutenberg)

You can transform your average paragraph into something a bit more exciting. You can add a colored background, change the font color and size, and add a Drop Cap at the beginning of your paragraph.


All of this helps you make your articles, pages and posts stand out from the rest. With Gutenberg blocks you can establish a greater brand identity. You’ll also be able to boost engagement, ensuring that your good content gets the readership it deserves.

Final thoughts…

Gutenberg is still in its infancy, and is sure to grow and change over time. It is however, a great opportunity to create rich texts and experiences for our readers. It is a way to reach and engage with a larger audience, which can only be beneficial in the long run.

For a more detailed description of how Gutenberg works, check out this post.

Featured image by Esther Jiao on Unsplash

Using Bounce Rate To Improve Your Website’s Performance

We’ve all heard the term ‘Bounce Rate’, but figuring out what this means and using it to analyse your site’s performance are two different things. Here, we’ll be taking a look at what your bounce rate is, and how to use this to your advantage.

What is Bounce Rate?

A bounce is a single page session on your website. As Google Analytics explains, it is a session in which the user doesn’t send any requests to the server. The user then navigates away from the site.

Another way to look at it, is that it is the percentage of visitors to a site who leave after only viewing one page. These visitors do not engage with the site, for example, by clicking on a link or watching a video.

A high bounce rate indicates that a lot of people leave your site after only visiting one page. This is often a bad thing. A low rate shows that people are engaging with your content, which is good.

The Right Number

But it’s difficult to put an exact figure on what is a good bounce rate and what is bad. This is because there are a number of variables that impact on your bounce rate, including your industry, where your traffic comes from, or the purpose of your page.

For example, mobile users tend to ‘bounce’ more frequently so if your traffic comes predominantly from mobile devices, your percentage is probably higher. If you have a single page site, or if people visit your site to get a single piece of information (like the weather), you’ll also have a much higher bounce rate.

Because of these variables, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact range for good or bad bounce rates. RocketFuel however, does give these percentages as a broad indication of what you should be looking for:

  • 26% – 40% is excellent
  • 41% – 55% is a rough average
  • 56% – 70% is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm
  • 70% and up is disappointing 

Of course, you need to look at your bounce rate in conjunction with your particular circumstances. A single page blog with an above 70% rate isn’t a concern. An Ecommerce site, on the other hand, should aim for a much lower bounce rate.

Using Your Bounce Rate To Analyse Performance

Using bounces as an indicator of performance can be an effective metric. But you need to know what you’re looking for.

Neil Patel explains that the overview bounce rate you see in Google Analytics is site wide. Because of this it’s more of a vanity metric. Instead it’s better to look at the bounce rate of individual pages,  or segment into categories, to better understand if your marketing is working effectively.

Looking at the percentage of bounces on individual pages can provide you with some valuable insights. For instance, a page with a high bounce rate could suggest that people are not finding what they’re looking for on that page. Or, if they’ve arrived at this page from an advert or another source, they may have been expecting something different. It could also indicate that you’re not reaching the right audience.

Fixing Your Bounce Rate

Yoast explains that a high rate suggests that there could be a problem. You may have a low-quality page (or site). You may not be providing visitors with the opportunity to engage, as in links to click or videos to watch. Your visitor may have found everything they needed to on their single page visit, or your audience may not be the right fit.

But if there is a problem, don’t despair. You can fix it.

Solutions For A High Bounce Rate

  • Match your adverts to your content: the content of your adverts needs to align with the content of the page you’re advertising. If you’re selling makeup but advertising a makeover, people who click on that link may be disappointed by what they find. 
  • Check your page or site design: an aesthetically pleasing page is less likely to scare visitors away. But even if your website is beautiful, it still needs to be easy to use, with good navigation. 
  • Ensure you have a mobile-friendly site: a site that doesn’t accommodate mobile users will leave a large portion of your audience feeling frustrated. Don’t give them a reason to click away.
  • Work on your page load times: slow page loads (anything over 4 seconds) could be increasing your bounce rate. Optimise your images, use lazy loading, review your hosting provider, and do what it takes to keep page load speeds to a minimum.
  • Use images and infographics: appealing graphics can go a long way to enticing your readers to stay, and to click on links. Just make sure your images and videos are optimised for the web.
  • Avoid distracting your visitors with pop-ups and adverts: too many images can be distracting, as can pop-up forms and special offers. If your users feel overwhelmed by flashing adverts and too much visual information, they could navigate away.
  • Add links, a Call To Action or find other ways to engage your users: use links, buttons, or CTA’s to entice visitors to sign up for more info or to click through to another page. 
  • Make your content easy to read: online users won’t take the time to read long drawn-out text, with no breaks or graphics. Use headings and short paragraphs to make your content easy to read. Add relevant images or infographics to break up the text and add visual appeal. 
  • Make your site secure: an insecure site, especially one where you are asking for personal details, is bound to make people nervous. Add an SSL certificate to your site, and any other necessary security, to alleviate users’ concerns. 
Tips to reduce your bounce rate

Final Thoughts

Using a bounce rate as an indicator of your site’s performance can be effective. It can tell you if your marketing is working, if you content or site design is effective, or if you’re reaching the right audience. 

But you need to look at your particular rate from the right perspective. If you’re attempting to understand your audience behaviour better, then this is what you need to focus on. If your exit rate is too high on a certain page, then you need to look at this page to see where you may be going wrong.

Simply looking at your overall bounce rate won’t really help. But if you target certain areas, you can use this tool to help you improve your site. 

Featured Image by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Social Media Posts: The Ideal Length + Other Tips

There always seems to be some debate around the best way to write social media posts. What’s the correct length? How many hashtags should you use? 

Obviously what you post will depend on where you post it. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all very different social networks (and that’s just the tip of the social media iceberg). So you wouldn’t use the same post across all of your networks.

To help you figure out the best approach, we’ve curated some guidelines for some of the more popular social channels. Keep in mind though, that while these are recommendations made from various studies, they are not definitive. If your audience responds to something different, go with it.

Facebook

Most sources agree that the ideal length for a Facebook post is between 40 and 80 characters. Short, concise posts get the job done. After all, people generally don’t have time to read much more than this.

Longer posts can also get cut off. So if your Call to Action or other crucial info comes after this, you have to rely on your readers to click on the ‘…see more’. 

If you do have a lot to say though, you can fit up to 63 205 characters into your Facebook post. And at 8 000 characters, the limit on comments is also generous.

Twitter

Given the nature of Twitter, the character limit is, well, limited. Twitter now allows for up to 280 characters in a Tweet, as opposed to the older 140 character limit. But that doesn’t mean you should use all of them.

The recommended number is between 71-100 characters. Short, to-the-point tweets encourage more engagement. Shorter tweets also leave more room for comments when people retweet. If you’re using a hashtag or two, try to keep these short as well. 

Instagram

While it’s a very visual platform, Instagram does set a limit on the characters you’re allowed in your captions. You can use up to 2 000 characters and 30 hashtags. 

But your caption will get cut off if it’s too long, so the recommended number of characters is 138-150.

For hashtags, try using between 5 and 10, and keeping these at less than 24 characters each. Studies show that engagement falls off after about 10 hashtags. Using the same hashtag all the time can also have a negative impact; Instagram may not show your post if you overuse a hashtag.

LinkedIn

A company update on LinkedIn can use up to 700 characters, but again this isn’t advisable. As with your other platforms, updates that are too long get cut off, so people have to be even more engaged to actually ‘Read more’. 

As LinkedIn is focused more on businesses and professional updates, a company update should be between 50 and 100 characters. Blue Compass says that if your post description exceeds 3 lines, LinkedIn cuts it off and uses ellipses.

The Right Length For Social Media Posts

Here’s an infographic that sums up the numbers. The numbers in bold are the recommended character figures – try these out and see if they work for you. 

Social media posts recommended characters

We haven’t included info on ads, sticking instead to organic posts. You can have a look at these sources for more information on character limits for both organic and paid social media:

As with any social media posts or campaigns, stick with what works for your readers. Having a good understanding of what your audience likes can help you choose the best social platforms and craft posts tailored for them. 

Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Content Marketing: What Is It and Why Do You Need It?

Content marketing is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to market your business. It’s a strategy that is gaining momentum, and is something every business should consider. Let’s have a look at what content marketing is all about, and how it can help your business.

What is Content Marketing?

There’s a good chance that you’ve encountered hundreds of examples of content marketing, probably without even knowing it. It is content on your website that adds value for your readers. It doesn’t promote a product or service (unlike your PR press releases) and it doesn’t sell you something (unlike advertising).

Content marketing promotes your business or product by providing value to your users. Your content may educate, inform, entertain or enlighten your audience. In other words, it gives them something of value. Because of this, they become return visitors, and they start to trust you (and your business or product). And this means they’re more likely to purchase your product or employ your services.

Content marketing also goes hand-in-hand with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engines are looking to provide users with content that is useful to them. So good content, which uses keywords sparingly but effectively, can often do well in search rankings. This is especially true for content that is useful, relevant and which focuses on the audience.

Content Types

When we think of website content, we often just think of webpages or blogs. Of course, these are both great examples of content, but they’re certainly not the only way you can use content to market your product or business.

eBooks or online courses are an excellent form of content. They are something that your reader can take away from your website, in the form of a download. And this means that users will be engaging with your content on an ongoing basis.

Infographics, images and videos are also valuable. They provide an alternative way to view and understand the concept you’re discussing, while engaging readers on a different level. They also make for interesting visual content – ideal for sharing on social platforms. You might even consider using a podcast to reach a wider audience.

If you have a wide variety or interesting and stimulating content, there is a greater opportunity to reach a wider audience. More consistent content means that you keep your audience engaged and coming back for more. This allows you to build on your relationship with them. And if you can establish yourself as an authority, your audience will trust your content and your product.

Why You Should Be Using Content Marketing

You may very well be asking whether this marketing strategy is right for you. You may be wondering whether it is more effective than traditional advertising. Or perhaps you’re thinking that product-punting would be a better option.

But content marketing does work. For one thing, it doesn’t cost as much as your regular advertising avenues. You may hire a professional writer, or you may do your content creation in-house. Either way, generating good content will still be more cost effective than advertising.

Blogs that offer value, or infographics that explain a key concept are also going to last longer, compounding your ROI. Your content will stay on your website, ensuring new and return users can read and engage with it. This is helped along by SEO, with good content leading to a potentially increased visibility in search engines.

As you add to your online content, you increase the potential for traffic and backlinks, you can establish your expertise and build on relationships, and ultimately, you can increase your conversions. Simply put, more valuable content creates a potential for more traffic which means a higher chance of someone buying your product.

Content marketing benefits

Of course, the emphasis is on offering something of value to your readers. So punting a product isn’t going to work. But you can still add a call to action, or tactfully mention your business or product. The key is to practice integrity and give your customers honest, useful information.

Wrapping up…

The online marketplace is busy. And with everyone trying to sell something, it makes it difficult for your business to stand out. But content marketing is an effective way of offering something more to your customers and readers.

Take the opportunity to provide information, or educate someone. Give your users something worthwhile to read (or view). This will set you apart from the competition and your users will remember this. They’ll grow to trust your brand and value your opinion. And when it comes to crunch time, they’ll choose your product or service.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Awesome Ideas for Generating Blog Content

Blog content isn’t always easy to come by. If you’re trying to generate new content every week, or more often, finding good ideas for fresh content can be a struggle. But not if you know where to look.

Here are some ways to generate awesome ideas for your blog content.

Google It

One of the best places to start is online. There are a significant number of people online, all looking for the answers to their questions. So starting here will give you an idea of what people are looking for and how to tailor this to suit your needs. There are several ways you can get this sort of information.

Google Search

This is a simple way to start looking for ideas. Simply type in one of your focus areas and see what pops up. If you have a specific keyword or key phrase around which you’re trying to create content, you can use this.

You’ll then see what else is available on the topic, along with more specific ideas that can help give your blog a bit more focus. The focus of each blog shouldn’t be too broad, so you can use the search results to figure out how to narrow down your topic.

You can also use the Related Searches, at the bottom of the page, to generate ideas. Say for example, you sell board games. If you plug this into the search bar you’ll find game shops, types of games, reviews and so on. This is already a good place to start. But scroll down to the bottom of the screen and you’ll get even more ideas from the Related Searches.

Blog content generated from related searches

Google Trends

If you want to delve a little deeper into what is trending on Google, have a look at Google Trends. This is a free tool that you can use to see just what people are looking for online. It’s also a great tool for refining your keywords to help with your SEO.

If you search on Google Trends for board games, you’ll see that this is a fairly popular search term. Especially compared to some of the related searches. But this also means its a very broad term. If you look at a few of the related search terms, though, you can see which work, and when. Christmas is the most popular time, with ‘best board games 2017’ doing just a little bit better than family board games.

Google trends shows popularity of search terms

As you can also see, if you click on your search term, you’ll get even more suggestions. You can further explore your keywords by refining your location, time span and categories.

Google Alerts

Another good way to stay up to date is by setting up Google Alerts. With this tool, Google sends you an email with new content every day or week. You enter a key phrase or subject in which you are interested, and Google then sends an email to you with relevant articles and links.

You can use this to understand how others are approaching the topic and generate ideas for your own blog content. As with any of these, if you see a gap that hasn’t been filled, or a topic that hasn’t been addressed, write about it.

Customer Support

Your clients, customers and readers are going to have issues. Or they’ll make comments. Or they might ask you questions. Addressing these in a blog post is a great way to generate content that your users want to read.

If someone has a question about how to place an order, for example, it means that they couldn’t find the answer easily on your site. They might think the order process is flawed, and complain about it on social media. Or they simply have a suggestion for you. This is a good opportunity to provide your customers with the information they need.

This sort of communication may not always fall into your lap though. If someone has a problem, they may take to Facebook to complain about your service. So you need to keep an eye on what people are saying about you on different channels.

Social Communication

Social channels are also a great way to get to know your consumers and readership. Through these channels you can understand what your audience is looking for. And if it isn’t obvious, you can ask them. Find out what information they want, or ask them to suggest content that they’d like to see on your site.

You can also use your social channels to share new content. This way you not only drive traffic to your site but can also gauge people’s reactions to your blog content. This can help you understand what’s working, what you need more of, and what to avoid.

Wrapping up

There are plenty of ways to look for blog content ideas. If all else fails, read up on your area of interest, explore the topic and learn what you can. Write down your questions and answer them in a blog post. Or find a focus area that hasn’t been dealt with and tackle this – this will also help you stand out as an expert and authority in your field.

Listen to what people are saying and asking. Stay up to date with what’s happening in your field. Your blog posts should be topical, current and focused. If you generate these sort of ideas, your content is sure to draw traffic and increase your readership.

Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

Why You Need A Website Analysis

So you’ve set up Google Analytics and you’ve connected it to your analytics plugin. You can see just how many people have visited your site and what pages they visited. But why do you need a website analysis? The short answer: to help your business grow.

It’s not quite as simple as installing a plugin or setting up Google Analytics though. You also need to analyse these analytics. In other words, you can’t simply use these tools to gather data; once you have the data you need to perform a website analysis. This will help you establish what’s working (Keep on doing this!) and what needs fixing.

Google analytics tools for website analysis

Data-Driven Decisions

The point of performing a website analysis is to gather data that can inform your business decisions. This is good practice and you should be comparing your analytics on an ongoing basis. But this is even more important if you’ve made big changes to your site or you’ve launched a new site or product.

This is because the data that you gather tells you about your audience, their behaviour on your website and when they leave your site. Analysing this data can give you actionable results. For example, once you’ve figured out why or on which page people are leaving, you can take action to change this.

In fact, you should be using your website analysis to create a ToDo list of actions you can take to improve your site’s performance. Regardless of the size of your business, your site can benefit from this analysis.

Website Analysis Tools

With Google Analytics you can track and monitor various performance metrics. You can also make use of the Insight tools provided on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, for example. If you’re running an external campaign, or something like Google Adwords, you’ll need to add your analyses of these to your other metrics as well.

Google Analytics offers a number of key indicators, which you can use for your website analysis. Here’s a quick look at what some of these are. For a more detailed description, have a look at this glossary from Loves Data.

  • Session: A visit to your site.
  • User: A person who is visiting your site. Unique users give you an indication of how many different people visited your site. You can also gain insight into the value of the information you provide by looking at the number of return users.
  • Pageviews: The number of pages viewed. This is different to Pages, which refers to which pages were viewed. In Google Analytics, pages are organised according to their popularity – that is, pages that are viewed the most will appear first.
  • Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of users who leave your site after only visiting a single page. The higher the percentage, the higher the number of users leaving. This is a handy tool as you can look at which pages have a higher bounce rate, and try to motivate users to click through to other pages.
  • Location: Where your users hail from. You can find out if you’re reaching the right audience, or if you need to adjust your content for a different audience.
  • Traffic: This tells you how your users are finding your site. It includes details about the channels (social, organic or direct), return or unique traffic, the search engines they’re using and other information. This provides insight into which channels are working and which either need more work or should be abandoned.
  • Referrers: The sites (such as Facebook or other websites) that refer users to your site. Again, this gives you insight into how people are finding your site and where to focus your resources.
  • Device: The technology your users are using. This data includes whether users are on mobile or desktop, their screen resolution (useful if you have a very visual site), whether they’re using iOS or Android and other such information.

Using Relevant Data

The above tools are just some of the many you have at your disposal, all of which can help you make data-driven decisions to boost your business. But your analysis needs to make use of relevant data. Without this, you’re wasting your time and your resources. For small businesses, with limited resources, this could end up costing you if you make the wrong decision based on the wrong data.

Say you decide not to make your website mobile-friendly as the overhaul would cost too much. But have you looked at how many of your users are on mobile devices? Or you decide to focus on an American audience, but the majority of your users are from European countries. Your efforts will cost you, in users, cash or other resources, if you don’t look at the correct data.

To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to start by establishing what data you need. Do you want to track the busiest hours on your social media? Should you be keeping an eye on the type of people visiting your site? What about bounce rates? And page views?

Essentially, you need to determine which performance indicators can help you grow your business. And by extension, which metrics to keep an eye on.

Getting Analytical

Once you have an idea of what data to track, you need to start analysing the data. It’s a good idea to do this in a spreadsheet, so you can keep track of your progress. This can help you avoid what’s known as vanity metrics – metrics without any comparative data, and which therefore cannot be examined in context.

To track your analytics effectively, you need to have a purpose. If you know your end goal, you’ll be able to more effectively find the information you need to make your decisions. For example, if you want to get a better understanding of your audience, you’ll need to examine your users and their behaviour. this includes the pages they visit on your site, the duration of their visits as well as their location and demographics.

As you’re analysing your data, you should be noting down anything interesting or actionable. Perhaps the majority of your users are on mobile devices; make a note to ensure your site is mobile-friendly. If your bounce rate is too high it could indicate that people are not finding the right type of info on your site, or a particular page. Try adjusting your content to fix this.

If you frequently record the relevant data, you’ll be able to see if your efforts are working. Maybe you decided your content needed a boost and you’ve started publishing a weekly business blog. Check the data. Is this driving traffic? Boosting sales? If you’re sending a weekly newsletter now, instead of a monthly one, can you see the results?

Wrapping Up…

Making change can be effective, but only if it is worth the effort and resources you put into that change. To do this, you need to institute a frequent website analysis. This should focus on your key performance indicators. Plus you should have a clear purpose, which aligns with your business goals.

Once you understand these factors, you can start to record and analyse your data. This information needs to be given to the key players in your business so that they too can make the correct data-driven decisions. This in turn, will help you grow your business.

Featured image by William Iven on Unsplash

What Is Your Marketing Message? (And is it the right one?)

How many times do you read a newspaper headline and cringe at the spelling mistakes, or marvel at the fact that typos and punctuation errors made it past the editor? Of course, we expect the news to be presented to us in impeccable English. But what about the marketing communication we receive on a daily basis? The blogs we read? The social posts? Is it okay for your marketing message to be any less impeccably presented?

The quick answer is a resounding NO! Because if your communication is anything less than exemplary, then you’re sending the wrong message. Sure, these are high standards, especially for the globalised world we live in. But why shouldn’t your customers expect the best? Especially if you expect them to purchase your merchandise, use your service, or buy into whatever it is you’re selling.

Where It Counts

Newspapers, magazines and other such publications are placed on a language pedestal. They employ trained, professional writers and editors. So we expect them to be able to deliver a story in decent English. But I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t also expect decent English from any professional communication.

And yes, this should apply to any platform of communication. If you’re sending a marketing email or communicating with your clients (or potential clients) in any way, use good English. From Facebook and Twitter to blogs, emails and even WhatsApp messages – your engagement with your clients sends a message. You need to make sure it’s the right one.

The Right Marketing Message

But how do you ensure this? Especially when English isn’t your native language, or simply isn’t your strong suit. Here are some common mistakes you don’t want to make, and some suggestions for how to improve your communication.

Spelling errors

It happens – you type too quickly and don’t notice the typo. Even when you read through what you’ve written, you might miss the mistake. The big problem here is consistently misspelt words – if you don’t how to spell a word, Google it! You can be sure that at least some of your readers will know how to spell it, and they’ll be wondering why you didn’t take the time to find out.

Words that shouldn’t be there

You read through your work, think ‘Oh, let me change that line’ and you forget to delete something else. Or you start to write something and change your mind, leaving half of the original sentence behind. Sure, it happens. But it can create a bad impression – it is a little sloppy, after all.

Poor punctuation

You don’t need an exclamation mark after every sentence. If you must use them, do so sparingly and where it counts. You do need full stops though. At the end of every sentence. Punctuation can change the meaning of what you’re communicating to your audience, so it needs to be done properly. I bet you’ve seen this one before, but it makes my point:

“Woman: without her, man would be lost.” or “Woman without her man, would be lost.”

Double meanings and Innuendos

In the marketing business, getting your meaning across is key. The wrong meaning can be detrimental to both your campaign and your product. Ambiguity, double meanings and innuendo need to be used with extreme caution.

Insinuating that a certain skin color, or gender, or religion is better (or worse) isn’t acceptable. Derogatory sexual connotations, or any belittling of someone else, isn’t acceptable. After all, can you afford for your marketing communication to send the wrong message?

We often wonder how big products can make these mistakes. Surely someone, somewhere along the marketing chain, realized the message could be misinterpreted? But smaller companies and products, or individuals working for or associated with a company or product, also need to practice caution. You can’t take to Twitter with inappropriate jokes or statements and hope that the world won’t take notice.

Things that just don’t make sense

Have you ever had to read a line, then read it again, and again, until you think you understand what it means? Giving your readers a brainteaser can be an effective tool to engage them. But not when it comes to communicating your message.

Personally, if I have to read something more than once, just to figure out what it means, I tend to move on. This leaves me feeling frustrated – why over-complicate something? Why use so many words when one would do? I simply don’t have the time to wade through long-winded overly-technical explanations when they don’t add anything meaningful.

Solutions

Creating the right marketing message is what we’re after. But how do we go about avoiding these common pitfalls? To start with, it helps to have someone else read your work. Of course, this may not be possible for things like social media posts. But it’s a definite must-do on your blog posts, webpages and any other long-form content. Ask someone to check for basic errors, but also to read deeper, looking for comments that could be misinterpreted.

Then correct your mistakes. If you don’t pick them up before you publish, don’t panic. You can always fix something when you do notice it. If it’s a Tweet (which you won’t be able to edit) and you’ve just published it, delete and repost. If something that you’ve published has caused offence, own it and (if you need to) apologize or explain. You may also want to remove the offending post.

Creative license

Using words like ‘And’ to start a sentence, or getting creative with your punctuation, really isn’t the norm, but it can be effective, or just sound right. Playing up double meanings and innuendos is another effective creative tool. Personally, I don’t like it when words are misspelt on purpose (I don’t think it’s gr8) but again, it can make an impact. But if you’re going to employ these tactics, do it sparingly and save them for when you want to make a point.

Remember, for the most part, readers don’t want to wade through long, complicated sentences. They don’t want to see glaring errors. They don’t want to have to figure out whether they should be offended or not. The essence of effective online communication is ease: easy-to-read, quick-to-understand, simple but powerful communication. So make sure your marketing message says the right thing.

Featured image by Marcus dePaula on Unsplash