Techy Tips and Useful Links

This section is packed with techy tips and links to help you find the answers to your questions about using digital technology in your business.

 

Creating a Website

 

You do not necessarily need to be a programmer to build a website, but you should remember getting it right is important, a badly created site is likely to put customers off! However, you technically build your site think about who your target customers are, what are their issues, what appeals to them, and which other brands they like. For maximum impact you should create pages relevant to your core services, describing those in a way that your target customers would identify with. Profiling tools can help guide your thinking, this site can help you profile your typical customer looking at other brands and companies they find of interest.

A useful checklist for site features and optimisation can be found at.

 

Choosing a Domain Name 

Before you start to develop your online presence, choosing a domain name is a vital component. Make sure you register the name, not your designer! This gives you ownership so that when the renewal comes up you get the notice. The name you choose is not just so that your customers can locate your website, it also forms part of your branding. Points to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • Keep it short – less is more
  • It does not have to be your company name
  • Can be descriptive or abstract dorsetplumber.co.uk v www.brighterbathrooms.co.uk
  • Avoid using hyphens
  • Not just .co.uk – consider other top-level domains – .com, .uk.com, .ltd.com
  • Get trusted friends/family to read it aloud – checking different pronunciations of the name to check it does not trip anyone up

You can buy domain names from a number of different registrars, these will typically offer hosting packages alongside the domain registration. You can always add on hosting later or select hosting from another company once you have chosen your website solution as this may have a bearing on the hosting package you choose. Firstly locate a domain name registrar that offers domain name registration. Examples include:

Check to see if the domain is available, and any other options you think might be useful. Remember you can have more than one domain name pointing to the same website, although only one can be the primary domain that you will build the site on. The search process will show you the cost for each and once chosen simply follow the online instructions to register and pay. Remember to keep your address details up to date so that the renewal notice is sent correctly otherwise you might lose your domain! The domain will usually point at a holding page until you have selected your web-hosting.

 

Choosing Hosting

Whether choosing to DIY your web site or have a site developed for you, always consider contracting your web hosting. This can be a service your designer recommends, but having the account in your name with a company external to the designer can safeguard you in the future. Hosting ServerVisit either the domain registrar or conduct a web search for UK hosting providers that are compatible with your chosen solution. Some have easy installers that once you have chosen your hosting, you can simply click through the wizard to install the open source software into your space. Companies such as the following could be considered, and most have supported options for those needing additional ongoing technical help.

 

DIY or Agency?

Typically there are 3 main options for creating a web presence:

  • Do It Yourself
  • Use an Off the Shelf Service
  • Engage A Designer

DIY

If budgets are limited then there are a number of DIY options open to you. By far the most popular solution is WordPress. It was originally created as blogging software but there are now thousands of business templates available, some free, some charged for, but these are typically easy to customise and can help to create a professional web presence. More information is available at:

Themes can be download & purchased from sites such as:

Off the Shelf (Template)

A template approach is often a good choice for those wanting a simple web presence.  It is important to research your preferred solution before buying so read reviews and check on search engine optimisation effectiveness and usability. Consider the support that is offered and some will run special offers including free domain names. Generally speaking, you will not have to register for separate hosting as this is included in the package you rent. Remember should you wish to move away from the platform in the future as it is not open source the pages and look and feel will all have to be migrated or recreated. These include:

Agency/Designer

If your business needs to make a really good impression online then we suggest you consider using a Web Design Agency. Not only can they guide you through the development process but will usually input into the creative process to make your site effective. The Dorset Growth Hub can signpost to local developers and agencies that you can work with, or just do a simple Google search.

Remember that if search engines are going to be an important route to market for you, you will need to include the requirement that the site should be optimised during the build. It is also important to look at the content management system that comes with the site, that it is easy for you to edit content and add new pages if needed.

Ensure that moving away from the designer is discussed up front, as some designers use content management systems that they own, so should you move in the future you could lose what holds the site together, so consider a CMS such as WordPress.

If having your site designed by an Agency or Developer then you should discuss the issue of who owns the site content. Ensure that all rights or licences to copy, images, and the design are assigned to you on completion. This will future proof yourself should you wish to move to another agency. More information can be found on this topic at

Designing for Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are increasingly used to browse the web so it is important that your website works for mobile users as well as for a range of internet browsers. Different browsers will often interpret a webpage slightly differently from each other and in turn the “look and feel” of your website may change when viewed in one browser compared to another. Mobile Devices

Google now applies a check to websites to test if they can be viewed by visitors using tablets and mobiles. If you do not pass the test this could affect your search engine rankings as it is thought that Google will lower your ranking for mobile and tablet-related traffic.

If a high proportion of your visitors use anything other than laptops or PC’s then your site should be mobile responsive (i.e. should work when viewed on the most common mobile devices). You can check to see if your site is responsive to mobile traffic by using the following tool. If the site fails it also gives tips on how to resolve the issues. https://www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/  

 

SEO

 

Search Engine Optimisation is the tool that allows your website to be found by customers when they are doing a web search. Being found in search engines is an issue many business owners struggle with.

Before you get into optimising your website you should, first of all, decide which phrases you want to be found from (which ones are your customers most likely to use when doing a search?) and which of those you might stand a chance at getting a Page 1 ranking for.

Essentially you want to build a list of words or phrases that are highly relevant to your business and then prioritise 3 top phrases for each page of the website. Each page can have its own phrases with the homepage likely to contain the main priority phrases.

Ask yourself this: What would someone type into Google to find your website if they have not heard of you? A useful guide to conducting a key phrase exercise can be found at

Optimising the site is often a job for a professional however there are some easy wins that you can achieve yourself and if you want to invest time becoming more advanced, here are some resources that you can read to help you tune your site.

 

Selecting an Online Marketing Channel

 

There is a wide range of online marketing channels available to your business, however, when starting up a business time resources are often limited so prioritise to use those that have most potential to help you to connect most effectively with your customers and use those well rather than trying to do them all but badly!

Typically the core digital channels to consider are: Website – this could be a template solution or designer/agency built Social media – such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram LinkedIn – business-oriented social networking YouTube – the second biggest search engine behind Google Local Directories & Listings – ‘Google My Business’ and other local presences

Social Media

Using social media, just because you think you should, may mean wasting precious time and missing out on much of its potential. Start off by deciding what your purpose and goals are for your social presence, for example to:

  • Gain new customers
  • Encourage repeat sales
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Reduce helpline calls

social-media-488886_1280There are numerous social media networks each presenting different opportunities, some more relevant than others depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C, which include LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and those increasing in growth such as Snapchap.

An overview of Social Networks can be found at http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/2015-04-13/worlds-21-most-important-social-media-sites-and-apps-2015 For best results try to focus your time on one or two channels rather than spread yourself too thinly.  Here are some links to each of the main channels where you can find out more:

Social is an ever-changing landscape but the good news is there are information sites dedicated to providing updated information and tips.

Managing all your social activity in single portal approach can be useful. Tools such as Hootsuite allow you to manage up to 3 social profiles for free, and upgrades are available for those wanting to manage more.

No matter how much time you spend on social media, it is important to know how effective it is in supporting your business goals. If you have Google Analytics and Goals setup then you can track how effective the networks are in sending traffic to your site and what happens when they get there.

https://blog.kissmetrics.com/google-analytics-social-reports/ Each social network has its own measurement platform so that you can see which of your posts are the most successful, the main ones are:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/help/336893449723054/

Twitter https://analytics.twitter.com

LinkedIn https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4499/~/viewing-analytical-data-about-your-company-or-showcase-page

 

E-mail Marketing

 

From keeping in touch with customers to playing a role in marketing campaigns, E-mail can be an important part of the marketing toolkit and getting new contacts for your E-mail database is important.

Consider allowing visitors to your website to sign up for a quarterly newsletter, or to receive new product information so that you are constantly growing your database. E-mail marketing tools will help you design emails that look good, as well as providing you with statistics such as open rates and click through to your website.

Don’t forget to stay within the law.  You can find out more about the legal issues on the Government website:

 

Measuring Online Effectiveness

 

Once your website is set up you will need to monitor how well it is working for you.  Measures such as conversion of visitors to enquiries should be monitored and one of the best and industry standard packages is Google Analytics. The software can help record goals to track the level of enquiries to measure the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns.

Link Google Analytics with Google Webmaster tools to get the full picture that includes your site performance

Within Google Analytics are features known as Goals and Events, typically a Goal is an activity such as completing your enquiry form measured by the display of a thank you page URL, an Event could be downloading a product information sheet or guide, measured by the click activity of the download button.

Creating Goals, and if possible giving a goal a £ value, will help you determine conversion rates and performance of your website. For example for every 100 visitors how many will make an enquiry and how many enquiries does it take to turn those into a single sale?

Here is some more information on setting useful goals https://blog.kissmetrics.com/critical-goal-types/ Setting up an online dashboard can be a great way to pull all your digital stats into one place to measure and evaluate all digital activity from a high level. You can customise a Dashboard in Google Analytics to just show the information that is most relevant to you.

To make it easier, some popular dashboards can be found at: https://econsultancy.com/blog/62828-10-useful-google-analytics-custom-dashboards/ Online dashboard tools can also bring in all of your marketing channels to one place, but are usually chargeable services. These tie into all the main online marketing systems:

 

CRM

 

Dealing with large numbers of prospects and customers can be challenging, so using Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM) can be the solution. CRM systems vary enormously so it is important to get one that is right for your needs.

For example, consider which features you need, for example, would like the CRM to talk to your accounting package or e-mail marketing programme, or would you like the website enquiry form to populate directly into the CRM?

Some CRM systems are free if there are only a small number of users, but think about whether they provide all the features you need. Here are a few of the most common ones to look at:

Accounting

 

Invoicing promptly and recording expenditure as you go rather than leaving it all for a few months down the line (or at worst year-end) can be a challenge when operating a busy business.

Often your accountant will recommend a package such as Sage or Quickbooks to make the year-end an easier process.  However, there are a number of alternatives designed for small businesses that are worthwhile comparing before you make the final choice.

Consider if you would like a solution that includes Payroll option, and can also submit to tax returns to HMRC directly.

 

 Online Security

 

With an increased use of technology, physical devices, websites, email accounts and social media profiles have become targets for hackers wanted to gain access to information, disrupt businesses or impersonate you, your employees or business. web-design

For almost every modern business, the ability to safely email, work remotely and operate a website is crucial to its everyday operation and success.

The basic safety rules are similar to those we apply to our personal computers and other communication devices, but there are a number of differences which are based mainly around the number of different people working in the business, and a duty of care for a business to protect not only itself but also its customers and other parties.

In response to this escalating threat the UK Government launched a Cyber Essentials scheme helping small businesses to identify basic risks and put controls in place to address. Cyber Essentials is mandatory for central government contracts advertised after 1 October 2014 which involve handling personal information and providing certain ICT products and services.

The Cyber Essentials scheme has been developed as part of the UK’s National Cyber Security Programme and in close consultation with industry.

You can complete the Cyber Questionnaire at https://www.cyberstreetwise.com/cyberessentials/#questionnaire

Here are some basic steps that you can take to protect you and your business:

Passwords

Hackers can use your email to gain access to all your personal accounts, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft or fraud. To create a strong password simply choose three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed, however, using three random words is the key to creating a strong password.

Security Software

Security software such as antivirus helps protect your device from viruses and hackers. Devices include phones and tablets as well as traditional laptops and PCs.

There are two main types of security software: securitySecurity software packages: These are full security packages that provide virus scans and other protection including a firewall, spam filtering and parental controls.

Good quality free security software is available from many providers for computers and mobile devices, with an option to upgrade for additional functionality and technical support.

Antivirus / Antispyware scanners and malware removal software: These scan your computers or mobile devices for existing infections and remove them. They can usually be set to check your system on a regular basis. As computers can appear to function normally when infected, it is a good idea to run these regularly in addition to installing antivirus software If your security or scanner software is unable to remove a virus, then contact a computer specialist and they will be able to help.

Installing Software Updates

Software updates contain vital security upgrades which help protect your device from viruses and hackers. Your computer, tablet or smartphone may sometimes prompt you to let you know that a software update is available. While it’s easy to hit ‘cancel’ and go back to what you’re doing, the few minutes it takes to download and install the software updates could save you an enormous amount of time and trouble in the long run.

On top of having the most up to date security, software updates also usually include new features and functionality.

Back-Ups

Computer viruses often corrupt files. Back up your files regularly to ensure that if you are unlucky and have to wipe your machine to fully remove a virus, you’re critical work is safe. It is wise to keep all your valuable files constantly backed up in the cloud. That way, if a virus attacks, you can wipe the computer, re-install all the software and allow the cloud service to refill your hard drive with all your precious work.

We have a Blog post on the topic of Backing Up Your Data here.

File Sharing & Cloud Access

File sharing services allow multiple users to share and access files over the Internet, using cloud storage. Many offer free accounts with a small amount of storage space, such as Dropbox or Box.com. Remember that if you are storing or sharing any personal details using a cloud service, the Data Protection Act requires the service be certified by Safe Harbor or have its servers based in the EU. Section content attribution to Cyberwise – for more information and advice on these issues and more detail on issues facing businesses please visit https://www.cyberstreetwise.com/

 

Working Flexibly

 

Mobile devices and tablets are now commonplace and many business owners and managers rely on them to stay connected to their business as well as providing basic email services.

Combined with cloud storage solutions, you and your team can access any document anywhere and anytime which means that you can work flexibly.

The choice of tablets and devices are vast, from iPads to Android, and it often comes down to your personal preference and budget to what is right for you. Tablets typically have built-in functionality like email, scheduling meetings, and a web browser but rely on ‘Apps’ to handle more advanced tasks like editing Microsoft Documents or other business applications.

More information about the range of devices can be found at http://www.enterpriseitguide.com/connectivity/mobile-devices-in-business/

Some businesses adopt a ‘bring your own approach’ BYO. This can be a popular approach as businesses do not have to purchase mobile devices when employees willingly use their own.

However, there are a number of issues to consider first: http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/buyersguide/a-small-business-guide-to-mobile-device-management.html

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