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How to Market Your Business Online to Find More Clients – Part 2: Mobile Websites & Email Marketing

Marketing For Coaches
In part two of the How to Market Your Business Online to Find More Clients, I’m going to talk about mobile-friendly websites and email marketing.
Mobile-Friendly Websites
Google is now showing preference to mobile friendly and responsive websites. If Google doesn’t consider your website to be mobile friendly or responsive (even if you think it is), you may find you take a significant drop in search engine results. I’ve had some people come to me recently to have their older websites converted to meet the new standards.
In 2014, BaseKit released a report showing that 91% of small business websites are not optimized for mobile use! This year TechCrunch also found that 44% of the Fortune 500 companies failed the mobile friendly test. That’s an incredible number, especially for small businesses, but it really doesn’t surprise me. A huge percentage probably has no idea about the new Google mobile policy or that their website may not be mobile-friendly, and those who are aware may not have any idea what to do about it.
Until recently, my old (other) website was not considered to be mobile friendly, even though parts of it were responsive. It was in need of a makeover anyway, so I decided to switch over to a more modern, responsive theme. It took a bit of work because of the amount of customization I wanted, as many things couldn’t easily be transferred from the previous theme, but it was much easier than attempting to modify the code on an old, outdated theme. Not to mention the security issues that come with using an old theme that is no longer supported and updated by the developers.
I’ve had a number of people come to me lately with older websites that they want updated not only to be mobile-friendly, but to also have an updated look. It’s a lot of fun to see the transformation of some of the older sites that are… well… rather drab, dull and boring – seeing them come alive and showcasing the true personality of the business owner.
Click here to check to see if your website is responsive or mobile-friendly: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly.
Certainly, there are WordPress plugins that can be used to allow your website to appear to be mobile-friendly (and Google will see it as such), but they are not very attractive. Often, they don’t keep the branding and look of your site. It’s better than nothing, but not in your best interest from a branding and user experience perspective.
According to VisionCritical.com, mobile data traffic is accelerating at 81%. Mobile accounted for 25% of all web usage in 2014. “In short, if you’re still doing business and research only on the web (or offline), you’re missing out.”
Also, 80% of internet users own a smartphone. (Source 2015)
Email Marketing
In 2013, 41% of small businesses were using email to market to customers, a nearly 25% jump from 2012. (Source)
iContact claims that the average return on investment in email marketing is $44.25 for every dollar spent and that consumers who receive email marketing order 28% more often.
However, Unbounce says that 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance and that nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads, producing, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.
With these statistics, you definitely want to be using email marketing to communicate with your prospects. Therefore, you need an opt-in box on your website, and possibly even a dedicated landing page to send people to. But having just a box that says “Sign up for my newsletter” isn’t enough. Nobody wants more newsletters in their inbox these days. You need to entice them with an irresistible free gift. I’ll talk more about free gifts in a later segment of this Online Marketing series.
The most important thing is to get your website visitors onto your email list so you can continue to communicate with them, educate them, and offer them opportunities to work with you. Otherwise, when they leave your website they are likely lost to you forever. Chances are they will forget all about you and, when they are ready to work with someone like you, they will choose someone else who offered them a free gift in exchange for their email address, and who has been active in communicating with them on a regular basis, educating them and developing that “Know, Like and Trust Factor.”
Need help converting your WordPress website to a mobile-friendly theme or getting your opt-in box and email list set up? Schedule a Complimentary 30-minute Discovery Session with me and we’ll come up with a plan of action to get you pointed in the right direction quickly!

How to Market Your Business Online to Find More Clients – Part 1: Websites & Blogs

market-your-business-online-lg

Whether you work with clients only locally and in-person or internationally via phone and internet, as a Trainer, Coach or Consultant you need to market your business online.

According to ConstantContact, 84% of people say that the biggest difference in small businesses between now and five years ago is the use of more online marketing tools.

When you consider that as of June 2014 there were 3,035 million internet users in the world (source), why would you not take advantage of the opportunity to market your business to these internet users?

In this series of articles, I’m going to talk about why you need a website and blog, the current reality of mobile websites, the benefits of having testimonials, why you should create videos, the use of email marketing, as well as how to get more traffic to your website and grow your email list through the use of free gifts, your blog, social media, teleseminars/webinars/telesummits, and more.

All of these play an important factor in marketing your business online, including expanding your reach, creating awareness about your business, growing your email list, educating your audience, establishing the “Know, Like, Trust Factor,” and consistently attracting ideal clients.

In part one, I’m going to start with websites and blogs.

WEBSITES

In 2013, Open Forum reported on various survey results and stated that 52% of small business owners don’t have a website and, of those that do, 70% of small business websites have NO call to action on their website. They say, “If you don’t have a website, your business will become increasingly invisible, until it vanishes altogether.”

I can understand that there are still a lot of small business owners who don’t have a website, but 70% who do don’t have a call to action? If you fall under one of these statistics, you’re missing out on a big opportunity! Your website represents your business online and 44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine! (Source – 2012)

These days you need a website, and you need to tell people what you want them to do when they land on it! Do you want them to enter their name and email for a free gift (allowing you to build your email list)? Do you want them to sign up for a complimentary strategy or discovery session? Do you want them to buy something? Do you want them to read something? Do you want them to comment on a blog post? Do you want them to share something on social media? Every page of your website should be optimized with a call to action.

As of 2012, 49% of sites failed to comply with basic usability principles, and 50% of online sales were lost because visitors couldn’t find content.  (Source – 2012)

Make it easy for people to find what they need! Have a contact page with a contact form and your contact information. Have your contact information available on every page of your website (name, email, phone number, address – if applicable). Don’t make people search for it – because they won’t!!

Have a clearly laid out menu of pages that are well organized in content. In addition to a Contact page, you may have any of the following: an About page, a Products and/or Services page, a Testimonials page, a Media page, a Blog page, etc. Don’t forget your social media icons, as some people will look for them so they can connect with you on social media.

You may also consider including a search bar to help people find the information they are looking for!

BLOGS

Why is it extremely important to have a blog on your website? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because blogs are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than magazines (source – 2013) and companies with active blogs receive 97% more leads.

In 2011, Hubspot said, “Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic – The more you blog, the more pages Google has to index, and the more inbound links you’re likely to have. The more pages and inbound links you have, the higher you rank on search engines like Google—thus the greater amount of traffic to your website.

Blog-growth.com stated in 2013 that blogs give sites 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links!

Frequent, fresh, original content is what is going to help give you that increased traffic to your website, and more subjects and keywords to be found for in the search engine results. If your ideal client has a question, what are they likely going to do? Google it! When they do, you want them to find your articles in the search engine that answer their questions and address their concerns.

After all, content creation is ranked the single most effective SEO (search engine optimization) technique by 53% (source – 2013).

Having an active blog will educate your readers and potential clients, but it’s going to position you as a knowledgeable leader in your field and it will give you content that you can repurpose to use over and over again (social media content, free gifts, paid products and programs, and more).

Do you have a website? If you do, do you have clear contact information, a well-organized menu, a blog with fresh content, social media icons and, most importantly, a call to action? Tell me about it below!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of How to Market Your Business Online to Find More Clients. I’ll be addressing mobile-friendly websites and email marketing next.

Virtual Assistant in Canada

Choosing a Domain Name

There are so many things to consider when choosing a domain name, some of which can impact traffic to your site. Your domain name is essentially your website URL or address. Here are six tips to help you when you are choosing a domain to buy for your website.domain

  • KEYWORDS – Is it important to keep your keywords in mind when choosing your domain name? Yes and no. It used to be very important for SEO (search engine optimization), but not so much now. If you have too many keywords stuffed in there, you risk having your website tagged as spam. If you can combine your brand with a keyword or two, that would be ideal. What do you have or offer that people will be searching for? Generally, you should avoid using your name as your domain name, unless you plan to market your name as a brand. Is anyone going to be specifically searching for your name? If so, good for you! Go for it.
  • LENGTH – Avoid extremely long domain names. You want it to be easy to remember and easy to type. If it takes too long to type it in, people may not bother or they won’t remember it. The longer it is, the more difficult it will be to type in on smart phones, so keep that in mind too.
  • HYPHENS– Hyphens are not a great idea. Some people just don’t like hyphens in website addresses, particularly smart/mobile phone users, as it gives them problems when they are trying to type the address.
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    Google, in particular, has shown that it is very good at distinguishing multiple words that are put together, so it’s no longer necessary to use them to separate words, and testing has also shown that Google often penalizes domains that contain hyphens! Many spam sites use lots of hyphens in their domain names, so there is a risk of your site getting categorized as spam by mistake (that shouldn’t happen if you have a quality site with quality content, but some tests done by pros have shown otherwise).

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    However, the hyphen does act as a space, and sometimes it may be necessary to use one for clarity purposes.

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    If you already have hyphens in your domain name and it seems to be ranking well, but you find that people tend to forget to type them in or that it is a problem when verbalizing your website URL, there is another trick. Keep your hyphenated domain as your main domain address, but register another domain without the hyphens that is easy for people to remember, then redirect that domain to your website. You can use this simpler domain in all of your marketing materials.

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    Hyphens are routinely used for subdomains, such as for blog posts. If you look at the URL for this blog post, it is http://thevirtualsolution.com/choosing-a-domain-name. This is perfectly fine and it helps readability.

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    It is not recommended to use underscores in domains and subdomains ( _ ), as they do not work the same way in separating words for the search engines, so avoid using them in domain names.

  • SOCIAL MEDIA – It’s a good idea to try to register the same vanity name, when possible, with the major social media sites, even if you won’t be using them yet. At least then you have them reserved so someone else can’t take them. With my old branding, all of my social media accounts except Twitter are /transcribble. That was already taken on Twitter, so I had to go with /transcribble_va.  The benefit of having them all the same is that it makes it easier for anyone who is interested to quickly find you on all of the social media sites.
  • EXTENSIONS– What extension should you go with? The .com extension is the most common and well-known extension in North America. When someone is typing in a website address, the first extension they think to try is .com.  Therefore, I definitely recommend choosing a .com. If you are in Canada, also consider getting the same name in .ca.
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    “What if the .com name I want is already taken? Can I then go with another extension?” You can, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. In my case, I did. I already had my business established and I was ready to move from my free blog with a (http://transcribble.wordpress.com) to a paid hosting and domain. I wanted to keep it as short and similar as possible, and because I am in Canada, I decided to go with http://transcribble.ca. I really wanted transcribble.com, but it was already taken. I decided to take the chance and hope that maybe in the future, I might be able to get the .com as well. It doesn’t really matter now anyway because my branding and business name has changed.

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    In the case of my .ca website, it may be a little confusing for people who are most accustomed to .com, as they may type in the wrong extension and be unable to find my site. I know that similar things have happened with my email. Clients sent an email message to transcribble.com rather than transcribble.ca, and then wondered why I didn’t respond.

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    I could have gone with a variation, like Transcribbleva.com. For search engine purposes, Transcribblevirtualassistance.com would have been great, but in my opinion, that is way too long.

  • REGISTRARS – What registrars should you use? One of the most popular and affordable ones is GoDaddy.com. I have no problem with using them for purchasing a domain, but I do not recommend them at all for hosting!  (I recommend HostGator or BlueHost for hosting your website.) Because I wanted a .ca domain, I had to look a little harder for an affordable and reliable Canadian source. I found Hover and have been very happy with them. They also sell the .com and other extensions.
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    Can you just buy your domain through your hosting company? Sure. It may or may not be as good a price and it may make it more complicated if you want to move your hosting to a different company. If you buy your domain separately, then you have more control over it and it is easier for you, your web master or virtual assistant to direct your new hosting account to that domain name. Otherwise, you may have to pay a transfer fee from your old hosting company to your new one.

If you’re not the techie type, I can help you get your domain, website and blog installed and set up for you as quickly as possible. Services are available in both hourly rates and packages, which can be customized for your needs. For more information on a few packages that I offer see: WordPress Setup and Management

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Better Blogger - Canadian Virtual Assistant

5 Blogging Tips to Help You Become a Better Blogger

virtual assistanceIt seems like everyone has a blog these days.  Whether you’re a coach or a virtual assistant, it has become very mainstream and the “in” thing to do.

Blogs can be found on almost any topic imaginable, and while it is fairly simple to start and run a blog, there are several things you need to keep in mind.

  • Remember, what you write is public!  Unless you take special caution to make your blog private or to password protect access, anything you publish on your blog is public information; meaning anyone can find it, including your family and friends. If you don’t want certain information about you to be public, don’t post it on your blog.  Just remember, you never know who may be reading your blog posts.
  • Be yourself. Blog readers have an uncanny way of knowing if a blogger is authentic or not, and it takes a lot of time and effort to be someone you are not. You could spend that same time and effort doing something more productive and important.  To really make a difference blogging and to build the ‘Know, Like, Trust Factor’, you have to be yourself.
  • Spell check.  Don’t lose your blog readers because you don’t proofread your posts.  It will make you look unprofessional, and if your posts contain a lot of spelling or grammar errors, chances are people are not going to continue to read.  A quick spell check in your word processor is all you need to make sure your readers are able to understand the information you are sharing.
  • Don’t blind your readers. It’s important to keep the layout and design of your blog in mind at all times, especially the colors of the background and font.  Don’t use a dark background with a dark color font.  Your readers won’t be able to read anything you write that way.  Having too many colors and flashing items on your blog can actually turn readers away because it hurts their eyes to view your blog.
    Make sure your font size isn’t too small, the font style is easy to read and that you break up large blocks of text into small paragraphs. Just keep it simple.
  • Have fun. The most important thing you can ever do for your blog is to just have fun with it.  Your readers will know if you are growing bored.  Interject your blog with fun and informative information, and it will continue to grow, be interesting and attract new readers.

Every blog is unique and every blogger has something to offer.  By incorporating the 5 blogging tips listed above, you will be able to get the most out of your blog and hopefully increase your blog’s readership.  Just remember – it’s your blog and you decide how to run it.

Do you have a great blogging tip to share? Please comment below and share this article with your friends.

 

Did WordPress Leave Your Files Exposed?

If you’re using WordPress, there may be an issue with your uploaded files that you’re not aware of. Just because you have certain files set up so that people can only access them after going through an opt-in or shopping cart process, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the public can’t access them for free.

Right now, go to your website’s upload directory. For example, yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads. What do you see? You may possibly see your premium themes and premium plugins that you have purchased, numerous folders (with many files within each of those folders), and lots of images. Take a closer look. Wait a minute, could that really be the MS Word file, PDF or MP3 that you uploaded as part of an information product you are selling or training you offer?

What does this mean? Well… what this means is that anyone with a little bit of internet and WordPress savvy can easily access and download any or all of your files—for free. It’s really not hard to do. I figured this out by mistake when surfing the internet for a particular topic and found a cool template that linked back to the person’s WordPress upload directory. I took a look to see what else was there, and low and behold, I felt like I had hit the jackpot! So if your settings aren’t right, some of the files may even show up in the search engines.

I tested this directory URL on numerous WordPress sites that I knew of. Some had their upload directory hidden, but others did not! I’m ashamed to say I was one of those who was exposed…

I did some pretty fast research to find out what changes needed to be made.

Hiding WordPress Upload Directory

One thing to do is create a blank index.html or index.php file and upload it to the wp-content/uploads directory. This will hide your uploads directory from people just like me! 😉

Another (and even better) plan of action is to modify your .htaccess file in the root directory with Options All -Indexes. This is more complicated, but it will protect your files and folders from hackers. It disables WordPress directory browsing so no one can view your files and folders.

Protect Wp-config.php

This file stores information about your  website and WordPress database, and you certainly don’t want anyone getting their hands on that information! This file can be protected by modifying the .htaccess file in the root directory by adding the following:

<files wp-config.php>
order allow,deny
deny from all
</files>

Protect .htaccess

While you’re at it, you will probably want to protect the .htaccess file itself!

<Files ~ “^.*.([Hh][Tt][Aa])”>
order allow,deny
deny from all
satisfy all
</Files>

The .htaccess file can be found via FTP and edited with Notepad, but the easiest way to find and edit it is through your host’s cPanel (if your hosting provides this). Log in with the instructions given to you by your web host, go into your file management and allow display of hidden files. It will be in the root directory. This file manager is also the easiest way for you to upload the blank index file to the wp-content/uploads directory, if you choose to do that instead of modifying the .htaccess file.

This was a daunting project when I decided to do all of it because I found some conflicting and unclear information. Once I figured it all out and was finished, I realized it wasn’t as hard as it seemed. If you’re not the techie type, it may be better not to mess with the files and have your webmaster or technical virtual assistant handle it instead. Always remember to do a complete backup of your website first!

Make sure you get these security issues fixed today! If you would like me to take care of these issues for you, send me an email at lisa@thevirtualsolution.com.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Please share with your friends and leave your comments below!

 

What is WordPress and Why Should You Use It?

There are two types of WordPress platforms, and most technical-type Virtual Assistants are very familiar with the difference between the two.

 1.  WordPress.com

This is a free blogging platform that uses WordPress.org’s open source platform to run its blogging service, and it’s hosted by WordPress. The domain (web address/URL) is provided by WordPress.com and looks something like http://yourwebsite.wordpress.com.

It comes with a lot of restrictions. After all, you don’t expect them to give you their best service with free hosting, do you? 😉  You can choose from the free themes and widgets that they offer. Plugins and video uploads are not allowed.

Because of all the restrictions and the unprofessional URL, WordPress.com is not recommended for businesses, and it is against their terms of service to use the free blogs for business purposes (although many people do).

You can choose to upgrade to their paid hosting to get access to all of the features. I don’t recommend this option because others have had various negative experiences in doing that.

2.  WordPress.org 

If you haven’t yet been convinced about how powerful the WordPress Open Source Platform is, you will be soon. By using WordPress to build your website you’ll be joining some large corporations, universities and many thousands of small businesses who already know how fabulous WordPress is. WordPress is the most commonly used website platform in the coaching community because of it’s flexibility in design and use.

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Because WordPress is so very popular, you will likely be able to find expert help at an affordable price. It should be no problem to find a Virtual Assistant who is an expert in WordPress setup, design and security.

The WordPress software itself is free, as are many templates, themes and plugins. Templates and themes are the overall design of the site. You simply purchase or get a free theme and modify it to meet your needs. I strongly recommend purchasing a quality theme for increased support and security.

Plugins give WordPress extra functionality. There are thousands of plugins, including social media, security, shopping carts, membership sites, message boards, RSS feeds and much, much more. The possibilities are truly endless with WordPress.

WordPress is also extremely search engine friendly! Many people say that Google loves WordPress. It’s setup in such a way that even a novice, with the right plugins, can put in SEO features such as meta tags and descriptions. With WordPress, you can easily incorporate a blog right into your website, which will also help you rank higher in the Google search results. Additionally, creating a website with various types of layouts is easy.

A magazine type layout is just a click away with WordPress as a content management system. If you want to run a local business directory, simply find a theme or template that is already set up with the right look and plugins to do the type of functions you desire. Editing and creating new pages for your site is as easy as sending an email, and there is nothing to download. Everything can be accomplished via a web browser.

To use the basic features of WordPress, you don’t need to be a coder or know anything about HTML. The most important thing is to find the right theme and plugins to create your own look to showcase your brand and unique selling proposition.

Most people, once they learn how to use WordPress, are literally able to build a site and have it up and running within hours. There are tutorials available on the WordPress.org site. If you can follow directions and learn to work with cPanel, you’re ready to get started!

If you need help getting your WordPress website or blog up and running, check out my WordPress Virtual Assistance Services.

Do I Need An Opt-in Box On My Website?

“Do I Need An Opt-in Box? Why Would I Need an Email List? What System Should I Use?

An opt-in box is important for your website because you can build an email list database of your ideal clients and other interested people. If people are just landing on your website and leaving, you have no way to contact them to lure them back. If you can collect their email addresses, you can send updates and e-zines/newsletters full of valuable information and tips. It’s a great way to keep in touch and let others know what is happening with your business! The more you put yourself in front of your potential clients, the greater the chance they will remember you and your services.

Opt-in boxes are created through email management programs such as 1Shopping Cart (and private labels), AWeber, iContact, Constant Contact, MailChimp and InfusionSoft, just to name a few. Which one you choose really depends on what level your business is at now and your potential needs. The systems vary in price and services.

MailChimp is free and has a lot of great features, but it is very restrictive in that you must upgrade to be able to use autoresponder messages (emails set up in a series to send automatically after someone opts in), and MailChimp does not allow you to market affiliate products and services. According to the terms of service, doing so can cause your account to be seized and you may lose your entire email database.

AWeber, iContact and Constant Contact are some that are used for general email marketing and newsletters.

InfusionSoft offers every feature you can imagine and is crazy expensive. It is a really great platform. I generally recommend upgrading to this once you are making $10,000 per month or close to it. I’ve seen too many coaches get talked into using this too soon when they aren’t making enough money in their business to be able to support the cost. Then they end up downgrading to something more affordable. In doing this, you’ve lost the $1500-2000 set up fee, and if your business grows later on and you decide to go back, you’ll have to pay that all over again.

If Infusionsoft is just too expensive for you at this point in your business, you may consider Ontreport (some similar features to Infusionsoft but less expensive) and 1ShoppingCart. In many cases, if you need an all-in-one system with email autoresponders, a shopping cart system and possibly an affiliate system, 1ShoppingCart will do what you need at a much more affordable price. Most of my clients use either 1ShoppingCart or Infusionsoft.

The last thing you really want to do is to start a list with one system and then have to move it because it’s not serving you well. Sometimes it is necessary to do that because your business grows or changes in a way that you couldn’t have anticipated earlier on. The biggest problem is that you could lose a percentage of your subscribers in the process due to mandatory double opt-ins of some of the systems. If you do choose to move your large list via single opt-in, do check with the company you are transferring to. Make sure you meet their requirements and that your account won’t be flagged as suspicious.  Otherwise, you risk losing your list.  Because of the actions and abuse by some users, it sometimes causes problems for innocent users as well.

You never want to do your email marketing through your regular email account (ex. Gmail, your regular domain/hosting email, etc.). Not only is this inefficient, but it can get you into trouble with the CANSPAM CASL laws. The email marketing systems have measures in place to prevent both them and you from getting into trouble. These measures often consist of double opt-in, a spam score, displaying your company name and mailing address, privacy statement, disclaimers, and the option to automatically unsubscribe.

If you’re not sure what type of system you need for your business, you should do some in-depth research into the features of each one, or consult with a knowledgeable Virtual Assistant and have them automate the process for you.

Need help? Check out my Email Marketing Services or schedule a Complimentary Discovery Session below.

 

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