Author Archive

Think it’s a good idea to build your own website? Here’s why you should think again.

You wouldn’t consider building your own car would you? The answer, unless you are a hardcore grease monkey and car fanatic, is of course you wouldn’t, it would be crazy to even attempt it without mechanical 2knowledge.

So why would you think it’s a good idea to build your own website? I’ll tell you why. As small business owners, we love the Do It Yourself approach. We’re operating on shoe string budget so the more we can do ourselves the better. I’ve been there too. When I started out in 2002, I did all of my own everything. I remember night after night tracking down pennies and trying to balance the books but eventually I realized that it’s better to hire a professional, someone who knows what they are doing (and now I have a bookkeeper and accountant just for safe measure). The same goes for websites. You have to ask how much is your time worth?

Regardless of what hosts like GoDaddy and DIY tools like Wix might manipulate you into thinking, building websites isn’t as simple as they make out. Yes, you can create your site and it might seem simple to drag and drop elements to make it look pretty but what do you know about navigation, taxonomy, URLs and calls to action and, even more importantly, what happens when things go wrong? And they inevitably will.

In my job, I’m often brought in after the site has been built, to work on getting the right traffic to the site. Time and time again I see WordPress sites that are badly set up, either because of the DIY approach or because it seemed like a great idea to hire someone from Fiverr to build the site and now they’ve gone AWOL. The trouble with scrimping or DIYing a website is that, beyond the look and feel, you have no idea whether the back-end code is good or whether you’ve been left with vulnerabilities that could make your site a magnet for hackers.

I often work on (and have to fix) WordPress sites with all kinds of plugins that are out of date or superfluous or that have ancient versions of WordPress. Did you know you should update plugins regularly and delete those not in use because they leave your site vulnerable? No, you probably don’t because you didn’t even know to ask. Not your fault!

Your website is likely the first impression a prospective customer or client might have of you or your business. So do yourself a favour, spend the money and do it right. Work with professionals who are well established and will be around in the long-term to help you should anything go wrong and who can show you how to properly maintain your site. It will save you a lot of grief in the long term, and your brand will be much better for it!

Our website packages start at an affordable $1,500, and you’ll discover that we care about your site even more than you do. Ask our customers, they’ll vouch for this!

Learn more about are services and contact our team.

What I’ve Learned From Writing 600 Blog Posts

This is it, Out-Smarts 600th blog post. I started this blog back in 2006 on the old Outsmarts Sales and Marketing website with the goal of using the medium to:Typing 600th post

  1. to establish expertise (having just made the shift to focus solely on social media and online marketing) and;
  2. to share my knowledge of the Internet and with other entrepreneurs and small businesses.

It has been almost 8 years and quite the rollercoaster ride. A lot has changed for blog technology, social media as well as the way we do business in general. The first Out-Smarts blog post was titled Why Companies Should Blog and most of the content that first blog post is still appropriate today though. I’ve learnt a lot along the way; my blogging style has evolved, and I’ve discovered that a blog has many uses, not just branding and sharing.

Here are a few of the takeaways from my 600 blog posts.

1. Blogging is a labour of love – when I started out I regularly blogged several times a week and would recommend that clients do the same. These days I blog less and believe that quality trumps quantity. If you have time to write only one blog post a month, make it count.

2. The more you blog, the more visitors your site will get. This seems like a juxtaposition to point 1 above, and it is. Yes, if you blog more often you will get more traffic but, and this is a big BUT, you have to ask: is it the traffic you want? Are you attracting your target audience? Back when we blogged more frequently here, we got more visitors to the site but the traffic was less targeted, so our conversion rates on the website were lower, and bounce rate was higher. It wasn’t helping us reach our strategic goals.

3. Content should be unique and interesting (or some say outrageous) and it should add value to your audience. There is so much noise out there that it is hard to get attention, but you have to balance your brand and authenticity with the need to get noticed. Sex and sensationalism sell but what does it say about you or your firm – it might be great for Gawker but is it right for you?

10 Tips for Creating Authentic Blog Headlines that Drive Clicks

4. Finding blog inspiration can be a challenge. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and write for them not for you. Ask yourself what you know that you can share that will be useful or stimulating for them. Find inspiration in your day to day activities. Read an interesting article that you found inspirational? Blog about it. Someone asked you an excellent question. Share the answer with your followers.

5. Make it easy for people to share your content and make your content attractive so that people will want to share it. Social media makes it easy for your readers to share your content. Make it even easier for them by adding widgets to your site so that people can quickly click to share where ever they wish to do so.

6. We live in a content marketing world. Today’s marketing mantra seems to be ‘the more you give away for free, the more you get back’. But that isn’t always the case. For small business generating free content has to be a balance, don’t make the mistake of spending so much time creating and giving away content that you don’t have time for revenue generating activities.

Inspired Blogging – 10 Tips To Get The Blog Juice Flowing

7. You don’t have to have a blog to take advantage of blogging. Blogs are a great way to learn and be inspired too. By reading the right blogs it can go a long way to helping you stay abreast of developments in your industry or location.

8. Your blog can be used as a central repository of information so that when people ask you a question you can easily point them in the right direction if you have the answer. It is also a useful tool to engage online with people that you meet in real life. For example, I teach regular education sessions at Small Business BC and will often mention specific blog posts that go into more detail about the topic I am discussing. This enables students to connect easily with the blog during or after the event.

9. Don’t just share once, share often. Share your blog posts often and across your different social platforms at various times in order to reach more people.

To this day, people who are thinking about doing business with Out-Smarts will check out our blog.  I believe we’ve done a great job in establishing our expertise here and as for sharing our knowledge, the blog has been a great vehicle to allow us to do so. 600 blog posts seem like a lot but looking back it was truly a time well invested. Here’s to 600 more!

Read more of our blog posts about blogging.

Learn about Social Media and On-line Marketing Tactics at Small Business BC

Join Mhairi at Small Business BC to learn about the basics of social media for Small Business.

Seminar Date

Friday, February 18, 2015 – 1:00pm to 3:30pm

Social Media and On-line Marketing Tactics

Just because you know what social media is, does not mean that you necessarily understand how to use it to grow and develop your business. This workshop focuses on understanding social media, what is it and how it’s connecting people.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how/if social media should be an important part of your marketing strategy.
  • Understand what opportunities are available for you to leverage social media for business growth and prospecting.

This seminar is hosted at Small Business BC in Vancouver and delivered to other locations via live webinar. All webinar participants will also receive access to a recording for seven days after the live session.

Buy Now, choose your preferred location:

 

 

 

Wishing You A New Year to be Thankful For

I don’t know about you but the first day back after the Winter holidays is always challenging. You’ve woken up earlier than you have in a fortnight, you’re bleary eyed but you have a list of goals for 2015 to hand and you’re damned if you’re going to let a little fight with the alarm clock get you off to a bad start.

Goals

Out-Smarts Goals 2015Goals, written down, in hand (because if you right them down you are more likely to follow through), you land at your desk. You’ve had the good sense to tidy up your space over the holidays and everything is spic and span but where is the rechargeable battery for your mouse….

And maybe you should just have another cup of coffee.

Getting down to business.

Getting down to the business of avoiding procrastination is probably easier at this time of year than after any other break because we are motivated by the new start but it can also be hard, with all these fresh new ideas knocking around in your head, to actually get down to the business of getting things done.

My advice on getting down to business is to take a tip from Santa, make a list of things you will do today to help you achieve your 2015 goals, you don’t have to worry about the checking it twice (sorry that’s so last month). Prioritise that list in order of importance and then just get your head down and get started. The key to getting this right though is to focus and that means avoiding distraction. Don’t get sidetracked by a cute cat videos or a discussion on Facebook about accents (this happened to me just yesterday). Work on each list item till you are done and before you know it the first work day of the New Year is over and you’ve achieved everything you’ve set out to do for the first day of the year at least.  And may this set the precidence for the New Year.

Incidentally, what are your goals for 2015? Do you even make any? Only 10% of resolutions are carried through to the end of the year they were concieved in so I can see why you might not bother. What do you do to kick start your year? Any tips or tricks you would like to share?

A New Year to Be Thankful For

Wishing you a year to be thankful for in 2015 regardless of your goals and and how you go about achieving them. Unless of course your goal is to set up or implement your online strategy, in that case give us a shout, we would love to help.

 

Do You Have Any Blankets Or Warm Items to Donate?

Help Us Spread the Warmth

All this cold weather has me thinking how thankful I am to have a roof over my head and warm clothes to wear and especially of those less fortunate who don’t have these luxuries. So when Marc Smith put out the call for participants in his annual Thirty Days of Kindness project I jumped at the chance to take part.

On November the 28th we will be collecting warm items in and around Vancouver: gently used or new blankets, hats, gloves and coats. If you have any of these items that you no longer use or have grown out of or if you would like to donate a new item please let me know.

Marc and I will be collecting these items to donate to Blanket BC a local charity that has assisted more than 50 other charitable organizations, shelters and Churches that open their space to the homeless and families in need of help.

Donate

Please contact info@out-smarts.com to arrange for pick up on the 28th. Thank you for helping us spread the warmth!

 

 

Easy Things You Can Do To Make Your Site Rank Higher

Design and development aren’t the only things you need to factor when launching your small business website. It is very important in the design and development phase to consider optimizing your site so that it is more likely to be found by your target audience when they search on Google.

Here are some simple SEO pointers I shared with a client recently to help his WordPress website rank higher – I thought you might be interested in too:

1. Each page on your website including your blog posts should have a META Title Description and one keyword in the META – you can use as many keywords as you like in the content just don’t use them overly repetitively.

In order for you to rank more highly for that keyword in Google search your keyword should be contained:

  • The in the URL of the page
  • In the headings on the page
  •  In the content of the page (less than 6%) rather than repeating the keyword too often you can use other secondary keywords.
  • In the META Title – Should be less than 60 characters in the format: [Company Name | Short Description of page]. The description should  include keyword you have identified as the one most likely to get you the most targeted traffic.
  • The META Description which should be less than 160 characters and should tell people what you do and who for with a call to action i.e. find out more / sign up now.

2. Use the All in One SEO Plugin to add the META Titles and Descriptions to our WordPress site – you add them by going to each page separately and scrolling to the bottom where it allows you to enter your META ‘Title”, ‘Description’ and keyword. All in One SEO has a red, amber, green light system that helps you to visually determine whether your SEO ducks line up.

3. Brainstorm, research keywords and use your knowledge of the industry to come up with words that people would use to find you. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Use Google to try out different terms and see what the results are. Come up with a list of a few words for each page. Check in on Google Webmaster and Analytics to see what words people are using to search and find you and include those on the list too. Use Google Analytics Keyword Tools to research keyword volume and competition based on PPC data and Trends to track trends over time. You are aiming to have a main keyword (which will be used in each area outlined in 1 above) as well as secondary relevant keywords that you can incorporate into your content on the pages of your site.

Need help with SEO? It’s what we do. Call 604 909 3532 to see if we might be a good fit.

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New Website Launch – A1 Windows

A1 Window’s old website looked fine but it was difficult and costly to update: the interface was cludgy and it often took a while to get changes made because they had to go back to the developer each time they wanted anything done.

A1  needed a website that they could easily manage, add content to in house and that generated leads. After going through an in depth proposal process they decided to work with Out-Smarts. We built them a brand new, easy to update WordPress site complete with calls to action and lead flow integration.

They can now add pages, post content and upload new product images and information in house easily and quickly. Not only that but the new site allows them to promote their latest specials front and centre.

 

A1 Website

 

 

10 Tips To Create Authentic Blog Headlines that Drive Clicks

I was watching the Daily Show the other night – maybe you saw it too – there was a segment about journalism  (and side boobs…) that intersected journalism students and their idea of what headlines are best with a guy from Gawker sharing his experience of what drives click online. The students were using traditional approaches using headlines that actually described the content of the article but were a little boring whilst the Gawker guy was all in for the sex and sensationalism sells even if the titles had little reflection on the content.

It got me thinking about blogging and how challenging it can be to come up with blog titles that are short, sweet and compel people to click whilst at the same time representative of what the article is about.

There a a tonne of things we have to think about when coming up with a good blog title. We have to juggle grabbing attention with making it authentic all within the boundaries of SEO and search limitations. And then I found this great infographic on the Hubspot blog originated from Quick Sprout.:

To encapsulate the things you need to consider for crafting great headlines (I’ve added a couple too): Capture

1. Make them concise and upbeat – keep your titles short so that they look good when people find them via Google search

2. The perfect length for a headline is 6 words – less word = more likelihood of retention

3. The first word and last words count the most so make them stand out.

4. Speak directly to your audience and make it personal.

5. Include adjectives that are interesting such as effortless, strange, essential.

6. Use negative wording – I am not a big fan of this as I see too much manipulation through negativity online.

7. Use numbers rather than words like using 10 tips in the title rather than Ten.

8. Go the extra mile – make it intriguing. The example used on the infographic is 15 Ways to Study (9 is a must!).

9. Formula: Trigger Word or Number + Interesting Adjective + Keyword + Promise – a lot to fit in to a title!

10. This one is mine: Once you have a great headline stick it in a Google search to see if other bloggers have used it. You are aiming for something unique but with all of the content online it’s hard to achieve, if it is though you can get a windfall of clicks.

 

New Website Launch – Pam Schmidt Coaching and Consulting

Today Out-Smarts launched this brand new website for Pam Schmidt Coaching and Consulting.

Pam is a Vancouver based consultant specialising in corporate change management and personal coaching. She wanted a simple, stunning and easy to navigate site that would reflect her personality and showcase her services and experience. She also wanted a site that was easy to manage and to grow. We worked with her to develop her logo and website design and to create a CMS based WordPress site.

Here it is – it’s so fresh you can still smell that new website smell!Pam Site

 

Out-Smarts E Manifesto

In view of the new legislation coming into law soon, I would like to personally share Out-Smarts E-Manifesto with you so that you understand our commitment to you in these our electronic communications.

Out-Smarts E Manifesto

1. Out-Smarts builds business on trust and relationships – not by using slimy sales tactics – we don’t cold call nor do we send spam and we never will.

2. Out-Smarts is committed to adding value and providing Internet and social media marketing information that you can take and apply for yourself.  All newsletter communication from us will be educational and NEVER aimed at selling you something you don’t want.

2. Out-Smarts values your privacy and will never share your contact email with third parties or anyone else – unless you specifically ask us to (in writing)!

3. Out-Smarts newsletters will continue to be infrequent (4 per year or fewer) and we will never bombard you with content you don’t need or want.

4. All newsletter communications will contain a mechanism allowing you to easily unsubscribe at any time (usually in both the header and the footer).

5. We will never send you unsolicited communications via text, SMS, IM or Direct Messages on social networks. Promise!

You have my word.

Mhairi Petrovic