6 advantages of a WordPress theme for your small business website

6 advantages of a WordPress theme for your small business website

This has been one of the big factors in why WordPress runs on millions of websites and is the most popular choice for self-hosted websites.

Using customisable themes isn’t a new thing but with cleaner, simpler designs for mobile they make a compelling argument over a custom website.  Of course, they are not for every business  There might still be a need for custom website (a design built entirely from scratch) but for those who want a fast and cost-effective solution, using themed templates are the way to go.

As a small business owner, opting to use a template might be more beneficial. What are the benefits though and what might you get for your money?

We are making the assumption here that the installing, modifying and launching of a new small business website is an area requiring outside assistance.  If you have these skills already, good news as you won’t need as much outside help.  If you do get stuck, our support team are ready to help

1. WordPress themes can be considerably less expensive than custom websites

Using themed templates to create a website is a more cost effective option for many sites.  It takes less time to set-up and you don’t need to hire designers to create the overall look for desktop and mobile.. Themes also often come with their own ready-made features that you can use to fit your business.  This means you might not need to purchase anything else unless you want to add another feature to your website.

But not always.  Choosing the wrong theme or extensively modifying a theme will increase the time and costs to build.  Additional code will introduce additional bugs and require additional testing.  Sometimes this can end up being more expensive than a custom site from the start.  Write down your objectives for the site and ensure your developer or partner is offering the right advice based on time = money.  There is a sweet spot that avoids “wheel reinvention” and still provides the flexibility to shape the site to fit your needs.

2. Quicker to get going

Building a website, for the most part, is a long process. Design needs to be discussed. Features need to be coded and added in. Basically, you create something from nothing and it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take many weeks / months to complete an entire website.  In it’s simplest form, with a prebuilt theme, you can just download the theme you want, install it, and change certain elements like images and some colours.

3. Lots of choice

There are thousands upon thousands of themes that you can choose from. And while you might run the risk of seeing a website that uses a similar template to yours, it doesn’t really matter. This is because you can customise it. You can change colours or the order of items in your navigation bar.  You can add your own images or add more pages.  The point is, you can personalise your website to suit your needs and your branding. Choosing a theme relevant to your business makes things easier but some of the most creative sites will be using a theme originally designed for another purpose.

Again – it all depends on how much time you want to spend (or pay someone else) to replace the stock images, colours, typography and layouts and make the site personal to your business.

4. SEO and mobile is generally built into the design

Modern designs often have features built into them that optimise your website for search engines. This means that you don’t need to worry about the design elements that search engines use to help your site appear in web searches.  Themes can help your site to meet SEO standards.

5. Additional features are often included

WordPress themes can come with many built-in features to to help you promote your services, highlight content, get in touch or maybe even a few administrator options that make changing some elements of the site easier. Built in features remove the need for adding plug-ins, both removing additional complexity and optimising performance.

6. Updates Keep Your Site Functional

If you’ve purchased a WordPress theme from a reputable source, chances are, you’ll have free updates to keep you site secure and up to date. Note that whenever WordPress updates and decides to make changes, it might cause some problems to your theme. Updates from your theme developers are often fixes to resolve compatibility issues with WordPress or to further improve the performance of the theme.  So be safe be sure to only use themes that are being actively developed, have a large install base and are marked as compatible with your version of WordPress.

So what are the cons?

  • Its NEVER as easy as the theme developer makes out to recreate the sample site.  Even our developers struggle at times to get features working and fix issues –  with mobile especially
  • You need to be both experienced in managing WordPress and have patience.  Expect that some things will be a compromise and you will spend many hours googling if you are not a web developer
  • You spend too much time “tweaking” to make it look your own
  • ….or not enough and your business site looks just like your competition

WordPress themes can be a great choice and are worth exploring if you are looking to refresh your site of get something new built quickly. Tomorrow we’ll tell you why custom design may not be the best option for you.

Want to talk more? Don’t hesitate to send us a message or click on the chat icon if you have any enquiries.

Small Business Website Problems and How To Fix Them

Small Business Website Problems and How To Fix Them

As a small business owner, your website is one of the essential tools you can use to promote and showcase your products.  It is an effective way of engaging your clients through the content you post in its pages. You can use it to tell your story and what your company is all about. Ultimately, it helps build and strengthen connections between you and current and future clients. More often than not though, small business owners tend to fail at managing and maintaining their websites. These can have a negative impact on your brand and could lead to you losing customers instead.

In this post, we will talk about some common small business website problems and how you can fix them.

 

1. Outdated and Poor Design

 

Website design has been constantly evolving since internet use boomed in the 90s. The introduction of mobile internet devices such as internet capable feature phones, smartphones, and tablets have changed the way sites are structured too. While most small business owners realise the importance of investing in a website to establish a web presence, design maintenance isn’t one of their priorities. Some websites are not optimised to be viewed in different devices. Keep in mind, a website viewed on a desktop or a laptop may look completely wrong on mobile. Consequently, old websites that have not been updated in ages will start to look clunky when compared to updated sites with modern designs. These will not only look bad but will be full or problems due to incompatibilities too.

Having an outdated website design or an unresponsive site doesn’t build confidence. In fact, it ruins your chances of converting your leads into sales.

Fix:

If your website has not had a change in more than a few years, you’re probably due for a design update. Customers need a mobile site that is as easy to use as the desktop version.  Google search prefers  websites that are mobile-friendly and the tech giant considers it a requirement if you want your site to come in search results.

A simple, clean responsive design that looks great on different devices is required.  This needn’t be expensive and in the age of mobile, simple designs are preferred. 

 

2. Forms That Don’t Work

 

So, you have a good design and everything looks cool on a PC and a smartphone. Someone wants to enquire about your products and services but your contact form just refuses to work. What happens now? Obviously, your potential customers might just go away.

Having fully functional forms provide your site visitors the opportunity to fulfil their own needs. Are they curious? Are they making a purchase? Forms help the client interact with your site and your business.  At this stage, you’ve already hooked them in. The only thing left to do is for you to give stellar support. Go the extra mile by making sure your forms are working and they are safe.

Fix:

Forms that don’t work may be due to many things. Some parts of the code might have been edited or deleted altogether. It might be a server issue. Or, something just changed and updated and it messed up your set-up. If you’re using a plug-in, this might be the case. An update could generate compatibility issues and render the forms useless. If you don’t have the confidence or the skill to go look into it yourself, you can have an expert investigate. Always consult with someone who has knowledge in these things. You might do more harm than good if you try to fix it yourself.

Another tip is to always make sure that the forms you use are secure if you plan to get information through fields that people can fill in with their information. Having a secure connection for financial transactions and a confidentiality clause or terms of agreement can make your site visitors feel at ease.

 

3. Poor SEO

 

Who wouldn’t want more visitors to their websites? Many small business website owners complain about their site not attracting enough visitors. The question is whether they’ve made efforts to make their website discoverable on the internet. 

An effective marketing campaign might be able to boost visits to a page but it can cost more in the long term. The quickest way to find things in the web is to use Google or a search engine. For this to work, websites should be structured specifically for search engines to recognise and recommend. This is what Search Engine Optimisation is all about. Sadly, website owners fail to do this and their sites fail to appear in web searches.

There are factors that affect SEO and these can the focus for development to improve visibility.

Fix:

Have an SEO campaign that improves your search visibility. This means using all the right keywords, having updated quality content, a responsive and secure website, among other things. There are tons of benefits of having a secure website. Developing your website around the elements that affect SEO generally improve overall website performance.

 

4. No Social Media Presence

 

Another problem that small businesses have a hard time trying to solve is their social media presence. Business accounts are created but they are not being updated regularly or they are not being utilised to their full potential.

Social Media can be a powerful tool in digital marketing and it provides another channel for interacting with potential and current customers or clients. This also makes the business ‘more human’ as lighter topics, conversations, and stories can be utilised to spark interest. Social media can give a business the face and the soul that it often needs.

Fix:

Link your website with all of your social media accounts and do the same for each platform you use. Create a social media strategy document. It doesn’t need to be a formal and final word file but it can be a work in progress until you develop clear goals and objectives. This is where the use of all of your social media accounts will revolve. Share articles and stories that are relevant to your business and add a personal spin to it. Just be creative and update regularly. Interact with clients and those who post questions. Being a responsive business owner pays in the end.

 

Your business may be unique.  Your small business website problems are not.

While no 2 businesses are the same, website challenges are common.  With the right resources and the expertise required to solve the more technical bits of owning a website, management and maintenance shouldn’t be a headache.  We have years of experience managing websites for businesses and have a range of support packages to help remove the headache.

If you have any questions or are interested to find out we can help improve your small business website, feel free to contact us.

8 Important Factors That Affect Your SEO

8 Important Factors That Affect Your SEO

Whether it’s for your restaurant business or hosting your products, having your website optimised for search engines will help more people find it, increase traffic, and even help convert the visit into a sale.  With all these benefits, basic SEO is just common sense for any small business website.

How do you improve SEO?

There are many factors that can affect your SEO and these can all make or break your website. The best case scenario is having each one of them work together to achieve your goals. While these may seem daunting to do at first, it becomes easier as you slowly work your way up.

1. Quality Content

Content is King! This phrase is nearly as old as a the web and remains true to this day.  It is no surprise that having quality content is top of our list.  Your content is what defines your site. It’s what people are after when they first click on that search result link. Good content simply means that your business pages, blog posts, product pages or any other page found on your site has all the relevant information that a potential visitor would like to see. Format also affects the quality of the post. In a nutshell, your pages should be comprehensive, readable, and interesting.

2. Keywords

Keywords remain one of the factors that affect SEO too. SEO keywords are words or phrases that people often use to search for things in search engines. Imagine yourself looking for something on Google— the words and the phrases you type into the search bar is collected by the tech giant and then analysed along with millions of other searches that are similar to yours. They then come up with a set of keywords for that specific search. That’s the reason why google can come up with a search suggestion before you even finish typing.

When a website uses keywords in its content, it makes it easier for google to put the page on the search results. However, just putting random keywords on a page without it being relevant to the content negatively affects SEO instead.

3. Backlinks, Outbound Links, and Interlinks

Another one of the more important factors that affect SEO are links and they can be three types. These are:

  • Backlinks (links TO your website from an external one)
  • Outbound links (links to external pages from your page)
  • Interlinks (links from one page to another within your own site)

While this bit might be confusing at first, this should not deter you from using links effectively.

Backlinks: Try and get your site linked to from external sites where possible.  Common sources are social media accounts, industry membership / professional bodies and business directories.  Comments on forums and blog posts work well if that is relevant to your business.

Outbound links: Adding external links to an article you wish to publish on a page already affects your SEO score— for as long as the link is relevant and it comes from a reputable source, you should be fine.   WARNING: A quick google will turn up lots of offers from people to do this on your behalf – but there is a real risk they will use unscrupulous methods to do so and attract penalties from Google – which is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve.  Take the time to do this yourself or outsource this to a reputable company only.

Interlinks: For those who have blogs or stories in their websites, linking old posts with new ones also improves your score. Existing articles that you have that are relevant to your new posts give your website a boost in credibility and make a better user experience – which adds to visitor time onsite.

4. Mobile Site Optimisation

Because of the trends in mobile technology, Google has made a shift to include mobile versions of websites as a factor for SEO. This means that having your website optimised for viewing on smaller screens helps google recommend your site to potential visitors. The key here is that Google wants their users to experience only the best. Whether they be on a desktop or mobile phone, website visitors should be able to access the best content optimised for the device that they are currently using.

As a small business, competition for media mileage and exposure is tough but it doesn’t have to remain that way. The use of mobile phones to access websites have grown in recent years and developing a mobile version of your site is an investment that will not only help your business but improve SEO as well.

5. Fast Web-page Loading Times

It’s not new that loading times affect user experience when visiting a webpage. Kissmetrics has illustrated that websites that load longer are often abandoned by visitors. 25% of users abandon a site at 4 seconds and abandonment increases with each passing second. For businesses, this could be devastating because of two things: you lose potential customers and your site won’t be optimised for search engine results.

6. It’s All In The Tags

Tags come in various forms – header tags, title tags and meta tags, Of these,  Header tags and title tags are relevant.

To differentiate, title tags are html tags that give the user a brief description of what the webpage is about. Header tags are html tags that differentiate content through headings and levels. While gone are the days where header and title tags were very strong factors for improving SEO, having relevant title tags and effectively using header tags in posts still have a place. Title and header tags improve click rates while highlighting the relevance of your page.

7. HTTPS Encryption and Security

In this article, we included the importance of HTTPs in SEO ranking. Google’s stance on using HTTPs has been firm over the years. With its browser (and other majors ones) flagging websites not using HTTPs as unsafe, a conversion should be due. Businesses, in particular, benefit from using the more secure HTTPs as it protects customer’s information from being used elsewhere. Your customers will thank you for using a more secure connection for their payments and transfers.

8. Social Media Sharing  

People are social creatures whether it be in real life or online. We love our social networks and the existence of many platforms to maintain our social connections is a testament that we will be this way for many eons to come. It would be common sense by now to use social media to share your interests or your business. Building a good social following and an online presence improves SEO. And while there is an ongoing debate about backlinks from social media platforms, engagement means more people visiting your site. That is always a good thing– especially for a small business.

Wrapping Things Up

The world of SEO is ever changing with new algorithms and procedures to further improve user experience when searching for products and content on the internet. Though it may seem like there is no end to keeping up with the trends, there will always be factors that matter most. By investing in any of the above, you’ll work your way up. Optimising your site to improve discoverability through SEO doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Find yourself a good team to help you improve your site’s SEO.

If you have any enquiries about how you can start improving your website for SEO, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d be glad to help you.

10 handy SEO setup tips for new sites

10 handy SEO setup tips for new sites

For this TechTuesday article we’ll focus on the technical aspects of SEO related to site structure, link format and page layout.  By applying these tips you will set your site up to increase both traffic and awareness in search engines.

One of the most important rules is to make your site for humans, not a search engine bot.

SEO is an ongoing commitment and all new content much be checked as it is added.  If you don’t want to worry about this, remember that Site Management clients benefit from a monthly SEO health check of new content and site setup.

SEO Setup Checklist

  • Add your keyword to your site title tag. Try and make the title meaningful and relevant.  Also add your keyword to your site meta description and again, make it compelling
  • Ensure every page has only one H1 tag and ensure that it sits above any H2 / H3 tags
  • Use a reasonable page length – aim for over 100 words.  Use plain english and write for your audience, not a search engine bot
  • Add descriptive ALT tags and filenames to all images
  • Make sure your site is mobile friendly – use Google’s mobile test tool
  • Install Google Analytics and create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google Search Console
  • If you have a WordPress site you can get analytics in your dashboard by installing Google Analytics for WordPress plugin
  • Install an SEO helper plugin.  Our favourite is Yoast SEO
  • Check Google’s Search Console, Screaming Frog and Browseo to find crawl, duplicate content, missing titles and other errors
  • Create a robots.txt file and submit it to Google Search Console
Improve your website security and trust with SSL

Improve your website security and trust with SSL

Last time out we explained what HTTPS is and what advantages it brings.  This week we’ll show you how you can get a free SSL certificate and install it on your web site.

Aren’t SSL certificates expensive?

They can be, as they often come with financial guarantees and you can be sure the largest sites on the internet spend many thousands of pounds on security and the certificate is just one part of this.  If you are reading this the chances are you don’t need this level of cover and a more basic certificate will do.We love LetsEncrypt as a great free solution – there really is no reason not to run SSL on your site nowadays.  Of course, you can choose to purchase an SSL certificate from a provider, but we’ll be focusing on doing it with LetsEncrypt in this article.

Introducing LetsEncrypt

From their website:

Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit. It is a service provided by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).We give people the digital certificates they need in order to enable HTTPS (SSL/TLS) for websites, for free, in the most user-friendly way we can. We do this because we want to create a more secure and privacy-respecting Web.

How to install through your hosting provider

Hopefully, you’ve chosen one of the many hosting providers that have chosen to support LetsEncrypt, as this makes it trivial to set up and automatically renew your SSL certificates.  The full list of providers can be found here.  Log in to your hosting control panel and look for the setting in and simply follow the instructions there – a few clicks later and you’ll be all set.

If there is an option to “enforce” SSL then select this to automatically redirect site visitors to the secure version of your website.

Website Management

Does worrying about hacking, defacement, security problems, updates, malware, website availability and performance sap your time and energy away from more important things?  Let us take care of it from £30 a month

Website Plans

We’ve created our plans to give established and growing businesses a fresh new site, fully managed and hosted with development time included each month for ongoing changes for a fixed monthly price for 12 months.

Support

When you need help the most, we’re there for you. Unlike a freelancer, we can be relied on to answer the phone or read your requests.

Unlike some other agencies, we charge by the minute, not the hour.