If you’re blogging on a business website, you want to make the most return on your efforts. Here are 5 tips to help your blog posts or news items hit the mark.
An effective website can be an asset to any business, but many small business websites end up hard to use disasters that never fulfill their potential.
Many business owners see their website as a cost and a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Blogging on your business website can bring all kinds of benefits – especially to your bottom line – but getting going is easier said than done.
This post is for you if you’ve wondered whether you should blog, have been told you should, or if you’ve always intended to, but never got going.
Videos can be a powerful tool in business websites, but all too often it’s used badly and without thought. Here are some things to consider before you use video on your website.
There were big changes to the law covering online shops and consumer rights in 2014 – and many online shops are breaking the law and don’t know it.
The new laws demand consumers get more information and rights than before, and for the first time imposed legal standards for online shops, and penalties for those who don’t comply.
When was the last time you checked to see if your shop complies with the new laws?
Consumer rights law 2015 – the basics
We’ve put together a quick guide that covers the basics, but if you want to be sure your shop complies we recommend you see a specialist lawyer.
This short summary will give an idea of what’s required and the infographic below adds a wider context.
Information you provide
You have to be upfront about everything, especially:
- Provide full contact information, including your address and a non-premium phone number
- Provide information on all payment options, your returns policy and delivery charges before checkout, including any extra charges
- Provide receipts including all of the above
Everything must be in clear, easy to understand language, with no hidden charges or other shady practices such as automatically adding products to shoppers’ carts are all banned.
Much of this is common sense if you want anyone to buy from you, but it’s amazing how many online shops still don’t have this information, and it’s one of the main reasons why online shops fail.
Returns and cooling off period
In short, a customer can return a product bought at your shop for any reason, within 14 days of receiving it – until last year it was seven days.
You must have a simple, clear policy on returns and things like who pays for postage, as well as a returns form and these must be easily found on your website.
The rules are quite detailed on how this should be done, and there are exceptions for things like perishable goods and personalised goods.
Who do the new laws apply to?
The law applies to anyone who sells anything online, from physical products, to e-books, to appointments, courses and subscriptions. Selling online means where transaction takes place on a website.
The rules, especially for subscription and membership sites, are very complex and need to be looked at in depth. There are links to resources at the bottom of the page.
Where to find out more about the Consumer Rights Directive
This post is only intended to provide a flavour of the law and the main points you need to look at and should NOT be taken as legal advice.
If you want to know the full detail, you’re going to have to do your homework and we strongly recommend you do, so here are some resources.
- Waterfront Solicitors – Consumer law is changing – 5 key pointers for online businesses
Official guidance from the EU and from the UK Government
The EU guidance document (in PDF format) is a massive 79 pages!
The UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills guide is a mere 26 pages: Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation, and Additional Charges) Regulations (PDF format)
If you still need help with how to comply
Then ask us for help. We can audit your site pointing out areas for attention.
If you spend any time looking around the web, the chances are you will have come across the latest craze that’s pretty much guaranteed to annoy – or at the very least confuse website visitors: Pop up light boxes, also known as interstitials.
If you have a website, chances are you get bombarded with emails from Search Engine Optimisation ‘specialists’ offering to get you onto page 1 of Google. But can they really help your site do better in web searches? We look at the truth behind the claims of the SEO email spammers.
We thought we would take three of them up on their offer of a free report and website analysis.
For the test we used a hobby site of ours, ApriliaFutura.co.uk. The site isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough and most importantly sits at the top of Google searches for lots of the appropriate search terms.
It also gets probably one email a week from an SEO company touting for business, so we didn’t have to wait long for them to come to us. In a previous blog post we covered how another of these spammed us without first doing their homework.
Can they really help your website?
Unsurprisingly each of the companies found a lot wrong with the site and offered to do lots of totally unnecessary work to put right problems that didn’t exist.
Their claims – and the true position – are posted here so that you won’t fall for them if someone tries to tell you this is what you need.
All three reports we received insisted there were no links anywhere on the web pointing at our website – they included a screenshot of a Google link search – i.e. the result of typing link:www.apriliafutura.co.uk into Google.
The truth about backlinks and SEO
This method does not display all links pointing to the site but it’s a great way to make people think they have none at all.
In fact only the owner of a website can see how many links point at it, and that’s through the Google Webmaster Tools account. Actually there are 2,593 links pointing at the site.
We pointed this out to one of the companies and they told us they were talking about ‘Google backlinks’, which are different from ordinary backlinks. There is, of course, no such thing.
It’s true that links pointing to your site are important and can help your site do better in searches – but they have to be from the right places. Above all they should be relevant to the subject matter and ideally from a site Google thinks is authoritative.
For years SEO companies have seized on this as a way of pushing sites to the top by posting links on all sorts of sites. For a long time it worked, but Google can now detect dodgy backlinks and downgrades or even black lists sites that use them.
Creating backlinks remains one of the favourite tactics of dodgy SEO companies, and if you use them you may well regret it.
2. Dmoz listing
All three of our reports (two with identical wording) insisted that getting a link from Dmoz was essential as Dmoz is the ‘most authoritative site by far’.
So what’s Dmoz? http://www.dmoz.org, also known as the Open Directory project, was an early attempt to put all of the web on a directory. But while it was important when the web was young, it’s not these days.
The truth about Dmoz and SEO
These days a link from Dmoz isn’t really worth any more than a link from many other sites. Today most sites aren’t listed on it, yet still do fine in searches. But it’s a great way for someone looking to do unnecessary SEO work to find fault with your site.
As Google engineer Matt Cutts puts it: “It used to be the case that people would have a check list of the links they really wanted to get. And it’s not that there’s something special or different about the Open Directory Project. It’s a very well known directory, but it’s not a requirement. It’s not the sort of thing where you have to get a link from Dmoz.”
More information on Dmoz listings and backlinks
Google Webmaster Help video: What role does being in Dmoz play in rankings (this video also covers the backlink: issue)
Note: Dmoz was closed in 2017 but we’re leaving it here because this still crops up in dodgy SEO emails.
3. Yahoo Directory/Yellow Pages listing
Two out of three claimed we needed links to our site from both of these online directories. One also mentioned Alexa, another directory site.
The truth about directory listings
All these directories are seen as authoritative but links from them are not essential to do well in searches. Again, it makes unnecessary work for our SEO companies. Getting links from these sites won’t make much difference, if any.
4. Reverse IP
Our site currently shares its IP address with many others sitting on the same server. Two out of three of our SEO companies suggested the site should have its own IP and claimed search engines prefer this.
The truth about shared IP addresses and SEO
In short, this is totally untrue. There are reasons why a dedicated IP is necessary for some site that we won’t go into here, but SEO is not one of them. It has absolutely no effect on search and never has.
This is another great way of creating demand for your services as the vast majority of websites are on shared hosting and therefore share their IP address with upwards of 1,000 other sites.
It’s easy enough to look up and sounds technical enough to fool the average business owner.
More information on shared IPs
Other dubious SEO claims
Generally all the reports did their best to mark the site down with false statements and subjective judgements – remember this is a website that scores in the top of the first page for hundreds of relevant search terms.
But they still managed to mark it down for quality of page content, a couple of errors in the code, keywords (which Google doesn’t even look at now) and even not having a live chat feature on the homepage of the site!
The interesting part came with the follow up email conversation where we asked one of the firms which search terms they would optimise the site for – something none of them had mentioned.
They came back with a list of terms most people wouldn’t use when looking for the information on the site, missing out on the most obvious ones, possibly because the site is already on page one for them!
How to pick a good SEO company
As we said at the beginning, if you own a website then you will have received emails from these SEO companies.
We know a few people who have fallen for them and ended up paying hundreds of pounds per month for no obvious benefit.
The site we had assessed is in the first page of dozens of Google searches because we followed some basic rules when building it – they are in Google’s SEO guide for everyone to see – and because it’s useful to the people it is aimed at, who helpfully post lots of links to it on social media. And because it’s relevant.
And here’s the key: Follow the basic rules, make your site relevant and useful and have some good links pointing to it and you won’t go far wrong.
There are plenty of good SEO companies to choose from, but most are too busy to send out masses of emails to random website owners.
A good company will ask you straight away which search terms you want your site to do well at, and tell you whether that is realistic. No-one will guarantee you a page 1 listing for any term you choose, especially if there is a lot of competition.
Search Engine Optimisation is a young industry and it seems there are plenty of companies ready to take advantage of changing requirements and confusion over what matters and what doesn’t.
Get your content right and the rest will follow
We mustn’t lose sight of the most important factor in search engine optimisation – content!
Good content trumps many of the factors our SEO companies picked on – and by good we mean relevant to the information searched for.
And in the race to get people to find our website we mustn’t forget one crucial fact: Getting people to the site should not be an aim in itself – it’s what happens when people get there that’s most important.
Google webmaster help video: How can good sites that don’t know SEO rank well?
We’re only just back from a trip to the Netherlands for a European conference for people who work with WordPress – known in the community as a WordCamp.
What did we learn? Well lots actually and we’ll be putting a lot of it into practice in the coming months, but for now we’re just going to share this presentation which details how WordPress is fast becoming the top choice for big business, never mind small business websites.
WordPress, which is Moghill’s favourite website tool, now powers more than 20 per cent of the web.
The presentation is by Sara Rosso of Automattic, the company that runs Wordpress.com and leads the WordPress project.
Ever given up on an online transaction – like filling in a form – because it took too long? You and just about everyone else.
Web contact forms play a big part in every day web use. If your business has a website, chances are there is at least one contact form on it.
Many people visit business websites to get a phone number, but others will want to contact you using your form.
But instead of making it easy for people to contact you, that contact form could be acting as a barrier.
Are you asking for too much information?
Often businesses and organisations use contact forms as a way of prioritising how quickly to get back to them – or whether to respond at all.
Sometimes forms ask for totally irrelevant information, or at least information that isn’t needed at this early stage.
But if you want potential new customers to contact you via your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for them, and that means asking as few questions as possible.
You may have to deal with more people you can’t help, but form submissions will rise too, as will the number of conversions.
There have been plenty of studies that back this up.
Why keeping forms short helps sales
Holiday company Expedia discovered it was losing $12 million in sales thanks to one extra form field on their website. The field asked for the visitor’s company and people filled it in wrongly, causing the transaction to fail.
A study by Kevin Hale, co-founder of online forms company Infinity Box Inc showed that site visitors are more likely to fill out shorter forms because they require less effort. The number of questions on a form correlates closely with the rate at which people abandon the form.
And a study by US web company Imaginary Landscape showed how reducing the number of fields in their forms from 11 to four resulted in a 160% increase in forms being submitted and a 120% increase in their conversion rate.
The smaller 4-question form resulted in a significantly higher number and ratio of submitted forms. In addition, the quality of the submissions remained the same, even with the reduction in submitted information.
Also, the quality of submissions stayed the same.
How to keep your website forms short and efficient
Ask for essential information only – only what you absolutely need to progress.
On a simple contact form this often need be no more than a name and a means of contact – an email address or phone number, of preferably both.
Once you have these then it’s all you need, though it helps to have a comments form that people can fill in if they like.
If you are looking to trim an existing form then ask whether everything you are asking for is really necessary for a first contact. Do you really need to ask for company information? You will find it out soon enough.
Six Revisions: 10 tips for optimizing web form submission usability
Smashing Magazine: An Extensive Guide To Web Form Usability
Inman News: Increase online conversion rates
Imaginary Landscape: Contact Form Case Study
There’s possibly nothing more disappointing when browsing a website than following a link only to be met with the message: Page Under Construction.
Although Under Construction pages are not as common as they used to be, they are still with us, and often used by businesses who should know better.
Often they are accompanied by nice graphics, as if to somehow make sloppy look professional.
They could have used the time it took to make the graphic to put some information in the page instead!
Frustration and disappointment are the main reasons people give up on websites, and finding pages under construction is a great way to do both to your website visitors.
It also reflects badly on your business.
In many cases your website is the first contact your potential customers have with you.
You have promised but not delivered. They followed a link expecting information, only to be disappointed.
It looks like you can’t be bothered.
An obviously incomplete website could indicate a business that is disorganised – even a business about to go under.
Under construction pages tend to stay that way a long time, if not forever, and most people will not check back soon, if at all.
Even the phrase Under Construction is negative – apart from being a little pompous and unhelpful in its language.
There are better ways to say it.
How to avoid using ‘Page Under Construction’
The simple rule is if your page isn’t ready, don’t put it on your website. And don’t release an incomplete website.
Don’t tell visitors what you don’t have – focus on what you can do here and now.
If the information is important to your website then put some brief useful information there. You can always go back later and add more.
Better to have something than nothing at all.
It’s part of the beauty of the web: You can change anything on your website at any time. Your website should never be finished.
Don’t say ‘Coming Soon’ without giving a date
Often alongside Under Construction messages is an invitation to check back soon to see a completed page.
These almost never have an indication of date, so what does soon mean: In the next few minutes? Next week? Next month? Next year?
To the website visitor, ‘soon’ doesn’t mean anything without a context. So rather than ‘soon’, commit to a date and stick to it.
But still it’s easily avoided – and you’re still talking about what isn’t on your site.
Do you think there’s a place for Under Construction pages on websites? Have your say in the comments.
Sitepoint: Top 7 Usability Blunders Of The Big Players
Openglobal.co.uk: Don’t display ‘under construction’ pages
Jakob Nielsen: 113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability
More Website Sins
Things to avoid saying and doing on your business website.