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Entrepreneurs, Stop Building Your Own Website - Do This Instead!

Design and Marketing
August 2021

There are two ways to start an entrepreneurial venture:

  • Come up with a stellar idea that is utterly revolutionary but requires megabucks to get off the ground.
  • Come up with a great idea which doesn’t require a lot of investment but requires plenty of your time.

The first option is for ventures which are planning on becoming the latest unicorn. The second is for people who, perhaps, are just looking to get something off the ground and seeing where it might go.

In both cases, building your own website might not be the best way to go when you could get a much more professional (and affordable) service from an agency that specialises in custom-built, unique websites.

Why website design is important for businesses

Even if your business is not entirely based on an online model, the world has changed, and people are now buying online more than ever. The “new normal” means that, if you don’t have an online, contactless method of selling your product or services, you’re going to struggle to compete.

And then there’s the matter of marketing and brand awareness. In a world where over 4.57 billion people are online, trying to raise awareness for your brand without an online presence is like trying to catch a leaf in a tornado.

A website also allows you to analyse your traffic and, therefore, your customers. By using simple analytics technology to see what people are doing on your website, you are able to gain a deeper understanding of your clients and visitors, and so improve your product and services to more closely match what they need.

Why entrepreneurs should invest in custom and professional website design

The main reason businesses should invest in web design rather than try and do it in-house is because the world of web design has skyrocketed into a new level of sophistication.

It’s true of every tech-related industry: Technology has reached a point where we are almost living in that Science Fiction future we used to read about a few years ago.

Whatever your startup industry is, you’re no doubt pro in that industry. And, when pe

Website Design & Creation

ople use your service, they’ll likely use it because you’re a pro.

It takes years, perhaps even decades, to become a complete expert at something.

The same is true of web design and web development — if you want a pro service, you need to call in an expert to put together a responsive design for your custom website which does your startup justice.

Whether you go with a freelance web designer or a web design agency is not so much in question. The only question is this:

Is the website design company you’re choosing a professional in the subject of website design for businesses?

As competition grows more fierce, an entrepreneur’s web offering needs to stand out. A custom website which is unique in its design and has an excellent UX (“User Experience”) goes a long way to building your credibility and positive reputation.

It also improves your chances greatly of people sharing your website and service on social media.

Investing in a spectacular website doesn’t need to break the bank. The best web design agencies are also the ones who have adopted the most modern technology and methods, thereby allowing them to deliver phenomenal websites at a fraction of the cost.

You have three broad choices when deciding who to choose, to get your website built:

Freelance Web Design

A freelance web designer might be an option if you’re on a tight budget. Freelancers sometimes offer a more personalised experience because they don’t deal with so many clients and so can talk directly to you about what you need.

This can also backfire because the best freelancers can get busy very quickly and then might not be able to keep up with your project because they are too overwhelmed. This can be a real problem if you’re, say, trying to launch a new marketing campaign and need an eye-catching and effective landing page pronto.

Web Design Agencies

Web design agencies can offer a wide range of web design services spanning multiple platforms. They must also, perforce, keep up with the latest web technologies in order to compete effectively.

This means you’re likely to get a state-of-the-art website with an agency in a fraction of the time compared to a freelance web designer.

But, let’s face it, web design agencies can be a bit on the pricey side. Also, sometimes the “latest and greatest” web technology is not the right choice for your business website. Sometimes, tried and tested works better.

Start My Business Professional Website Design

Start My Business offers a blend of the two services above — web design at the quality of a web design agency with the personal touch and affordability of hiring a freelance web designer. We are able to do this because of our unique business model spanning not only web design but also numerous other marketing services.

No matter the web design package you’re looking for, Start My Business can deliver.

You can also smarten the package up with several add-on services.

Summary of Investing in a Great Website

Whomever you choose to build your website, remember that you are investing in a professional service that must be delivered by professional people.

You are a pro at what you do. Rather hire someone else who is also a pro at what they do, and deliver a superior web experience to your customers, than try to do it yourself and delivering something substandard which harms your brand right from the getgo.

About author
Julia Richards
Julia Richards

Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

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Design and Marketing The Future of Posters Is Digital

There are few phrases which define themselves and yet can still create so much confusion. One such phrase is “Digital Poster”. Why do people get confused when they hear about this? We look at digital posters all the time — at bus stops, on large-scale TV screens, inside retail stores, outside malls, and so on. Digital Posters are exactly what they sound like. They’re posters. And they’re digital! What the word doesn’t say, however, is that they’re also awesome. How does a digital poster work? Digital posters can be static, or they can utilise motion graphics. They can also get really fancy: There is such a thing as an interactive digital poster equipped with a touch-screen. Check out this video of an interactive digital poster at an airport. (And, for the record, we love Michael Kors.) In order to create an interactive digital poster, you do need to invest in the right kind of screen as well as the right software to display your poster. We’ll talk about this in a second. The unbelievably high-tech digital poster in the screenshot below, from THINK! Road Safety utilises something more than just a touchscreen and digital display. It also has a special compartment in order for users to interact fully with the device. Such advertising is priceless. Well, okay, it’s not priceless; it’s no-doubt very pricey. But we show you the above examples for you to get an idea of how much potential digital posters have. They are limited only by someone’s imagination. And, as a bonus, think of all those saved trees! Didn’t we say that digital posters are awesome? Like any other poster, a digital poster for a business must be targeted to a specific audience. You wouldn’t put a digital poster advertising Coca-Cola at a weight-loss gathering, eh? To get ready to start displaying your own digital posters, you’re going to need a few things. A screen Digital poster software An amazing digital poster design   Digital poster screen This can be a simple TV or computer monitor, or a screen dedicated specifically to digital posters. Really, if you’re going to do digital posters properly (which we’re sure you are), then you should invest in one of the many digital poster display screens available out there today. An entire industry has grown up around this subject. Teksmart is one company that specialises in digital poster displays. (Oh, and we’re not getting paid to tell you about Teksmart, by the way.) The above screenshot shows one of their displays, specifically designed for displaying indoor digital posters. Generally speaking, indoor displays tend to be smaller than outdoor ones as they are often used to convey further information about a product. They also don’t need to be as robust as outdoor displays. Teksmart also offers a number of outdoor displays, as shown in the image above. The signs are robust and weather-proofed, allowing posters to be displayed in any weather. If you run a business where your sign will need to be outside in inclement weather, these devices might be a good choice for your digital poster needs. Screenly.io, which provides digital poster display software, recommends the NEC P-series and NEC V-series of displays for commercial-grade displays that need to be used outside, or that need to be on reliably, 24 hours a day. The NEC P and V Series offer a plethora of features for truly sophisticated display signage. One cool feature is its real-time clock. This allows digital signage software to change the poster being shown at specific times of the day. A lot goes into choosing the right screen for your digital poster. Weather is just one consideration. Some screens come with software for digital signage built right into them. Others require that you purchase additional software. Sometimes, additional software is required anyway. A wide choice exists. And the device you will display the poster on will likely carry the heftiest price tag in your overall digital poster investment. So study all the options available, not the least of which is the quality of the screen itself, and how good your digital poster looks on it. A simple online search will find you a number of items in addition to the ones above for you to look into. Example of Outdoor Digital Poster Digital poster software Digital poster software is software specific to displaying digital poster content on a screen. It takes care of such things as transitions, brightness, display length for each poster, scheduling, and a number of other key things. This “digital media software” can run directly inside the digital poster display that you’ve purchased, in which case all you would need to do is load the posters into the display via a USB stick or an SD card or some other method. Or the software can run independently, connected to the device wirelessly or via a cable. Another choice is a cloud option which integrates both of the above. Besides, it’s the 21st century. Everything runs on the cloud. Screenly.io sells a device that you must connect to your screens in order to transfer media to them and to control them remotely using Screenly’s online platform. Using this solution allows you to control innumerable signs around the globe, provided they are all connected to your Screenly account. This is a great solution if you run a central office that wants to push out nationwide promotional content on a schedule without the hassle of exchanging fifty-gazillion (yes, that’s an actual number) emails and WhatsApp messages to coordinate the timing of those digital posters. Man, some people are so 20th century, y’know? Another interesting offering in the signage software arena is QuickESign. QuickESign works with Roku devices to offer an easy way to push content to outdoor signs and then manage them using an online dashboard. You can use QuickESign if your TV has Roku integrated into it, or with your Amazon FireStick, or directly via Roku devices. Like everything else in this arena, a simple search will give you a myriad of choices to select from. A professional digital poster design You don’t want to skimp on this. One of the key benefits of digital posters is that they grab attention. Slight design flaws in small-scale designs are bad enough, but in a large-scale digital poster, they can be catastrophic. Pick out a few quid from your pocket and send that money over to the best of the best pros (that’s us, of course) for an expertly designed digital poster. Benefits of digital posters Well, the environment, duh! Think of all those poor trees they had to cut down to make your poster! But there are other benefits, too. Digital posters are easy to change if you have a digital poster displaying on multiple screens across the country and then discover — uh-oh! — that there was a typo in it (it happens). In that case, all you would need to do is send over the new design and, hesto-presto, your updated poster is live. If you’re displaying digital posters in your local branch on, say, TV screens on the wall, then changing the poster is as easy as pie, especially if you’re using the right digital poster management software.     Digital posters are easy to update They’re cost-effective Not only would you save if a change to the poster is needed, but you also save on printing costs. (And think of all those saved trees and forests and happy squirrels!) They’re also “time-effective”. (Is that even a word? Now it is.) Imagine the hassle of needing to rush over to the printers to get a new poster printed up because you just had another price change. Remember the days of having to print posters? Goodness, by the time those tree-killing posters arrived, your prices might’ve changed again. Save trees. And save time. Get a digital poster. (Hey, that could be our slogan.) Rotating messages But, goodness me, why stop there? If these digital posters are so easy to modify (which they are, in case you didn’t get that), then why only change them if there’s a typo or — heavens forbid — some politically incorrect message on there! You could generate multiple versions of the digital poster and show those different versions throughout the day. This prevents your poster from becoming “stale”. If the digital poster is being displayed at a bus stop, someone who catches the bus every day might “stop seeing” the poster altogether because their mind grows so accustomed to it. Even only slight changes to a digital poster can grab someone’s attention. Such changes can include: Changing the model but keeping the pose similar Changing the pose of the model Slight colour variations The trick is to keep the overall look constant so that the viewer associates that look with your brand. You don’t want to create a completely different message for each rotating poster. Digital posters are more easily seen. Digital posters have the benefit of being backlit by a screen. That means they’re more likely to be seen. If the poster uses motion graphics, then that’s more likely to catch attention as well. Oh, and we forgot to mention the coolest bananas of them all: Remember all that funky-dunky stuff in Minority Report where ads were tailored to the people walking past them? Well, duh, that tech is, like, right here already. Although this feature has more to do with the software management and screen that is being used to display the poster, it is nonetheless cool-beans to know about.     Digital posters can be interactive. Hello, touchscreens! Where to use digital posters No, seriously, everywhere! Fine, fine, you probably wouldn’t go stick up a digital poster on that dingy wall behind the train station where every new EDM artist, underground club and extreme- left-or-right political organisation has put tree-killing posters. But… Below is a screenshot from a promotional video for AERO LED Digital Poster Displays, demonstrating anywhere and everywhere this company wants you to put their display! Dif Like, everywhere.ferent locations have different purposes. The key is to have the screens in place, and then to determine the type of poster or message to put on those screens. Much of this is up to your creativity and marketing skills. It is also up to how much you want to spend on displays, keeping in mind that outdoor displays are more expensive. Examples of the different types of displays But here are some tips: Outdoor screens should grab attention and get people to come inside your store. The posters on these screens should be large and bright, and likely utilise tremendous amounts of motion graphics. In-store advertising using digital posters should probably be less noticeable and more informative. Inside your store, you want people to be touching your products, looking at them, and then perhaps glancing up at a screen to get some more information about them. To this end, in-store digital display posters should be more muted, contain more text for information, and perhaps even utilise interactive features for people to learn more about a product. Of course, if you have a product you want to attract people’s attention to, then place a large digital poster next to that product to bring them to that part of the store. Where else are digital display posters displayed? You’ve probably walked past that digital poster in the tube a thousand times and never realised it was a digital poster until now, right? Ka-tching! We’re all about public service here. And, yes, that ginormous massive screen you’ve seen at events was probably also a digital poster. Displaying posters in such high-traffic locations requires entering into a contract with whoever owns those screens and that display space. But displaying them inside your retail store requires no such contract (unless you have elves who help you out at night — but that’s between you and the elves to sort out). Are digital posters more effective than traditionally printed posters? Say whaaaaaat!? Like, are you really asking that question? What about all those trees! Digital posters are far better than traditional posters. Oh, okay, you really want to know. Well, fear not, we’ll tell you: Yes, and yes again. Comparing digital signage to physical posters is like comparing Sir Jack Hobbs to, well, Homer Simpson. (And, for those of you too young to get that cultural reference, go ahead and read this article about England’s greatest cricketers.) The power of digital signage has been written about here and here and here and… We could go on.   The most important thing to remember. The absolute-most-important thing to know here is that the digital poster design must be of the highest possible quality. Using Google Slides just isn’t going to cut it. Sorry, you Google Slides experts. Sure, some of the display devices we spoke about can get expensive, but you can always start out with an old computer screen and computer. If the digital poster has been designed well, it will still look good. But if the design is bad, no fancy screen or software will make it look better. In fact, the fancier the screen, the worse a bad design will look. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing The Dos and Don'ts of Company Logo Design

If successful logo design was only about making something that looks “pretty” or “cute”, an entire industry would not have sprung up around it. Knowing how to design a successful logo requires an in-depth knowledge of multiple design elements and how to put them all together to create something that is not only appealing but also conveys your brand’s message and ethos. The don’ts of company logo design 1. Constantly changing your company’s logo The reason some people change their logos so often is that they didn’t do it right the first time. That’s why it’s vital to spend the time (and sometimes the money) in getting a logo done correctly the first time. Changing your logo too often means you cannot build up any awareness for your brand. It confuses people and is just generally lousy marketing. 2. Splashing a gazillion colours into it Too much colour in a logo can be confusing for people. If your logo doesn’t look good when you look at it as a small image, then something is wrong with it. Usually what’s wrong is that you’ve gone overboard on the colours. Stick to only a few colours, and ensure they follow the basic rules of the colour wheel. 3. Crazy amounts of detail! Take it easy on the detail when designing your logo. Remember the golden rule: If it doesn’t look good when shrunk, something is wrong with it. Use lines and shapes to convey simple concepts, not elaborate details that would do better on a billboard. Using drop shadows is also a bad idea because it makes the overall design more complicated than it should be. 4. Overdoing the fonts The subject of fonts is enormous. It takes years of practice and dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of study to learn the subject thoroughly. A common mistake a lot of beginners make is: Using too many fonts in one design Using the wrong font in a design You should aim for no more than two fonts in your logo design. The wrong font can also make something illegible. Too many fonts in a small makes it look terribly cluttered. 5. Wingdings If you’re not a professional designer, you might be tempted to use some funky font to get images from — like Microsoft’s wingdings. This is a fundamentally bad design error on many levels, but if you need some reasons, here are two: The design won’t be original, and that’s an awful idea when building a brand. Fonts are copyrighted. Using a font as a main design element might lead to a legal grey area.   The dos of successful company logo design 1. Understand your target market When designing anything for your brand, you must, must, must understand your target market. To completely understand your target market might require conducting independent research. It is a crucial element to getting a logo design that will resonate with potential buyers. Not conducting proper market research might even lead to a logo that offends your target market. 2. Test the logo in multiple sizes Unlike banner images and other brand identity items, your logo will go everywhere. It needs to look good, both as a large design, and a tiny one. Test the logo at various sizes in order to ensure that the design works at all scales. 3. Ensure people can read it If your logo incorporates text into it, be sure that the text is legible. This isn’t only a matter of logo size, although that plays a role in it as well. This also has to do with the type of font chosen. Sometimes, fonts look different when printed as compared to when they are viewed on a screen. People tend to prefer sans serif fonts on a screen as opposed to serif fonts when reading something that has been printed. Does your chosen font look good both in printed and digital form? Colour contrast also plays a role here. Which brings us to point number 4. 4. Use good contrast Make sure that the font or design contrasts correctly with the background. It isn’t only visually impaired people who might have difficulty viewing your logo if its contrast is not correct. Try multiple variations in colour to ensure good contrast. 5. Survey the completed logo Great! You finished your logo! Now it’s time to test it. If you’ve been bent over a design for weeks or months, you can end up a little blind to its flaws. It’s time to survey your logo. The survey needs to be extensive. Ask people all the following questions: Do they like the logo? What is the first thing they think about when they see it? Would they consider buying from your company if they saw that logo? What didn’t they like about it, if anything? What was their overall first impression? Also, be sure to survey only people in your target market. A millennial might have different opinions on a logo than a typical baby boomer. Hiring a professional to design your company logo Too many people make the error of thinking that, because a logo is small, that it doesn’t require a professional company logo design service to create it. Actually, the opposite is true. The smaller the design, the more skill is required to create it. Because it can look pretty messy if it doesn’t scale properly. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing What Are Your Options for Business Mobile App Development?

It seems that every brand, large or small, has a mobile app these days. But when one starts looking for sulutions to building your own mobile app, the results can be daunting. New businesses that are low on a budget can sometimes be put off mobile app development by the costs invulved in getting your own mobile app developed. Some try to go at it alone, only to become confused by the number of platforms out there as well as the complexities to getting an app put into Google Play or the App Store.   Mobile app development terminulogy is another standard stumbling block to getting your mobile app developed. The world is rife with cryptic nomenclatures such as “native” and “UX” and other seemingly meaningless terms which only leave a newcomer feeling befuddled. What does that even MEAN? In this post, we’ll cover a wide range of topics to help you figure out: If mobile apps really are that important for your business. Who to hire to build a mobile app for your business. The basic mobile app development landscape, so you have some basic direction on where to go. How to build a mobile app with no coding skills (if you really want to go that route). And a bunch of other essential tips. This article won’t teach you how to build a custom mobile app for your business. But it will give you a basic understanding of the mobile app development arena so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not it is for you. And, if you do decide to build an app, you’ll be far better prepared to do it as a result of the knowledge gained in this post. Let’s get to it. Understanding basic mobile app development nomenclature This is by no means a complete list of terms, but it covers some of the most common and difficult ones. (We didn’t include any extremely advanced terms here on purpose.) Alpha Version and Beta Version: Alpha versions are highly unstable versions of apps that still need testing in-house. Beta versions are versions which have been thoroughly tested in-house and are ready for “closed beta” (limited number of users) or “open beta” (released to the public). Beta versions are expected to still have bugs that must be fixed. How long can software stay in beta version? Well, Gmail was famously in beta for five years! Bug: This is a flaw in some computer code. It is the bane of every programmer’s existence. If you do develop and release an app, you will become extremely familiar with the term “bug” as users start using your app and reporting any and every bug they find. Believe it or not, the origin of this word goes back to an actual bug (a moth, to be precise) found by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper at the Harvard Faculty in the Computation Laboratory where she was working on the Navy’s “Mark II” computer. She kept the bug, and that first bug now resides at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. That was way back in 1946. Native code: We are going to keep this very simple! Basically, “native” code is code which runs directly within the phone’s operating system and which can interact more deeply with the phone’s hardware. (For those programmers amongst you, we know that the above definition is not entirely correct. But if you’re already a programmer, why are you reading this section!?) OS: Operating System. This is, basically, the software that runs the phone. The two biggest OSs on the market these days are Android (from Google) and iOS (from Apple). Apps need to be developed independently for each OS. When you use a development system like Start My Business’s Build Your Own Mobile App toul, you only develop using one interface. But the system then takes your code and separates it in the background and provides a version that is compatible with the Android OS and iOS. Nifty, eh? Push notification: These are notifications that the user receives when the app is not running. UI: The user interface. Essentially, what the user sees when they interact with the app: The buttons, the graphics, the screens, the text, the font, etc. This has a strong relation to the “UX”, which we define next. UX: “User Experience”. This is also often used in web design. It embraces the overall experience of the user when using the website or mobile app and can include factors such as: Latency period from the time of clicking a button to completing an action. Aesthetics of design (culour contrast, size of buttons, etc.). Understanding where mobile apps run Okay, we talked about OSs (operating systems) and “native code” above. (If you didn’t read the above and are unsure what those terms mean,, please have a quick look. We defined them very simply, just for you!) Apps written using native code can only run in the operating system for which they were written. For example, if you want to write an app that utilises Android-specific push notification features, you’re going to need to create the app using something like Android Studio (which is an extremely advanced toul made for programmers). If you want to build for Windows, you would need to use something like Windows Visual Studio. For iOS, you need a Mac and XCode. Sheesh. Overwhelmed yet? Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous. All these proprietary companies have gone and developed their own stores and their own code and made life difficult for the rest of us. This is one of the reasons businesses avoid getting into app development altogether. To create an app for all those platforms used to require knowledge and skills pertaining to each one, as well as separate touls for each one. This is the reason so many companies hire out agencies to develop their apps for them. Fortunately, using a system like Start My Business’s Build Your Own Mobile App toul, all you need to do is build your app on one platform, and then our system takes care of the rest for you behind the scenes. What are Native vs HTML5 vs Hybrid Apps? One of the attempts at standardising this proprietary mess has been to create apps using HTML only. HTML5 (HyperText Markup Language, Version 5) runs in the browser — in any browser, in fact. Basically, an HTML5 app is really just a glorified web page. Essentially, people design a mobile-friendly web page that does specific things, and then they “package” it in a specific way that it can be installed as an app on the target OS. The details of this are difficult to explain in an article of this nature, where we want to keep things simple. But the most important things you need to know are: Native apps are, basically, “full-featured” apps and can make full use of the internal functions of the operating system itself (push notifications, email functionality, GPS, you name it). HTML5 apps are really web pages. Hybrid apps are a blend of HTML5 code and native code. Writing apps in native code used to mean having to learn (and invest in) various disparate touls to develop on. These days, this problem is best sulved by either hiring an agency to develop the app for you or using an app development system that takes care of the internal plumbing on its own, letting you design the app on one system only. NOW we’re learning the good stuff! Who to hire for mobile app development? Agencies Only a few years ago, hiring an agency was really your only option. Windows had just come on the market, and a bunch of companies got on the bandwagon and started developing Windows Store apps. That added even more pressure to companies wanting to bring an app to market because they needed to invest even more heavily in development touls and resources. But Windows never really took off. In fact, as of 2020, Windows market share is pretty much sunk in the gutter. Windows has a phone? So, that left iOS and Android. Still, those two platforms are wildly different from each other, and it’s rare to find a freelancer that can do a stellar job on both. The choice, therefore, came down to agencies. The rule of thumb with agencies, however, is that they’re pricier. They have a full team behind them. They have specialists in each of the different platforms. Goodness, some of them probably even still have Windows Phone developers! Many agencies offer additional services to add value to their usually hefty price tag. If you’re a massive company or have just secured £100 million in seed funding, an agency might be the way forward for you. Although their prices can be heavy, the best agencies do deliver stellar apps. But, yes, price, price, price. As your business grows and your app needs more and more features, or perhaps even fundamental modifications, working with an agency can start to take its tull. You said it costs HOW much!? Freelancers Professional freelancers are generally a pleasure to work with. As with agencies, however, they have their pros and cons. Our advice to you when searching for a freelancer to deliver any service is: Stick with the pros. These pros will never be the cheapest. Have a discovery interview with them and try and “feel out” what it might be like to do business with them. The problems with freelancers for mobile app development are: The best freelancers get busy very quickly. They might not be able to handle your issues as a top priority if ten bugs from four different clients came in at 9:00 AM that morning and the freelancer has six Zoom calls scheduled for the day. Excellent Android developers are rarely also excellent iOS developers. The best developers are generally cheaper than agencies, but they can still carry a hefty price tag in themselves. Yourself? Sure. Why not? Now that there are touls to develop your own app. Yes, absulutely, you could build your own app. Of course I can code. Of course, what you don’t pay with money you will pay with time — there is always a learning curve, even for the simplest of systems. But, on a long-term basis, developing your own mobile app for your business means you’ll be able to save valuable coins that you can invest elsewhere, such as in marketing the app. It’s important when starting your own business, to progress in easy steps and to make steady progress along the way. It’s far too easy to get carried away when looking at titans such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. Entrepreneurs rightly want to get their ideas out there and show the world what they have to offer. But Bezos started off delivering packages himself in his garage, and Elon Musk developed cars to drive on roads before he developed spaceships. Instead of investing heavily and trying to make the best app ever known to mankind in the first launch, rather start small and build on from there. Developing the first version of an app yourself might be the best way to do it. How to promote your business’s mobile app Even the best apps need to be promoted. And they need to be promoted in such a way that the promotion picks up momentum and then eventually starts to promote itself. Here are some common mistakes people make when working out an app’s marketing plan: Apps don’t sell themselves. Yes, we’ve said it a few times. But it’s important to understand that, even if the app is spectacular, you do need several hundred — or possibly even several thousand — early adopters to start using the app and generate some buzz about it. Your competitors are also building apps. You need to keep your ear to the ground for what your competitors are doing. Ideally, your app falls into a disruptive field, offering something that has never been offered before. If you’re building, say, a new social media platform, you’re going to have a far steeper climb than if you were building something that hasn’t been done before. Some ideas on how to generate buzz for your app include: Open sourcing the app. Building a community is a great way to generate interest in an app. It’s also a great way to have the app developed at no cost. This option only makes sense, however, if you have some proprietary service that the app connects to in order to function. Spending a little bit of money. Leaving marketing up to the Fates is never a great idea if you’re serious about succeeding. An essential lesson in business is to be intelligent about what you’re spending on and to spend it effectively. Never spending a penny on promotion is fully. Amazing internet banners. Internet banners have been around since the dinosaurs. Okay, fine, but they’ve certainly been around for ages! An excellently designed internet banner is a fantastic way to generate interest for your new mobile app. Social media ads. It’s important to choose the right social media platform to advertise on. This depends on your market and your budget. A properly executed social media advertising campaign can mean the difference between an app taking off or flopping. Your imagination. If we had all the answers, you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. Newcomers disrupt the system every day. So, come up with your own ideas and then let us know what you did!   How to deal with bug reports Bugs will make or break your app’s success. It’s impossible to get only five-star reviews for your business’s mobile app. In fact, we can warn you right now that, if you want to offer an app to the world, you had better develop some thick skin. App users are notoriously difficult creatures to please. The slightest error in an app often means that some reviewers believe they have the right to lambaste the creators of that app publicly until, dunno, they get their feet massaged, or something? It really can get pretty ridiculous. Internet comments and reviews are often something mostly to be laughed at. But! You do need to read through that public lashing and dressing-down to ascertain if there is some common thread in the comments and reviews you’re getting for your app. Silly reviews written by idiots who can’t spell is one thing; an actual bug or disappointment in UX which is reported by multiple people is something you need to pounce on and deal with immediately! It’s a tough pill to swallow: Either your business’s mobile app is brilliant, or it isn’t. Forget the silly one-star reviews. Your most pleased users probably won’t even leave a review. The only real metric you should be fullowing for your app is how many downloads you’re getting each week. A sudden surge in advertising spend for a month can spike that number, but a steady increase in the number of users means your app is getting popular and that it is being recommended to others. There’s always an initial inertia to get this going, but if your app has been on the market a few months and you do not see regularly increasing adoption, you need to dig into those negative comments and reviews like a bloodhound! Then, if you discover a common theme of negative reviews, handle that bug immediately.   Which development paradigm to use when developing mobile apps Software development has come a long way from the early punch-code systems of yesteryear. Even as recently as just ten years ago, programming projects were usually carried out in agonisingly slow steps, requiring approval at every step of the chain. First, a systems analyst designed the system which was set down in stone. This was then laid out in flowchart diagrams or other types of diagrams with very fancy names. The design would go back and forth and, eventually, sometimes years later, it would finally get down to the programmer level. Obviously, such a slow-moving paradigm simply cannot work within the mobile app ecosystem of today. The best software development model for mobile app development is a “Release Early, Release Often” paradigm which has been adopted by the majority of apps out there. As LinkedIn’s founder once said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Is it even worth it? As you can see, releasing an app can be an enormous proposition but it can be simplified tremendously if you have the right touls and knowledge. Building your own app on a reliable system is the most economical and effective way we know of to do it. And, if you do want something custom-made because you need really advanced features, or because your time is more valuable than your money, we offer a neat mobile app development service with packages to suit both small and large budgets. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing What Is the Best Content Marketing Strategy for a Startup?

Content Marketing is the buzzword of the day. The essence of “Content Marketing” is to generate incoming interest for your business or brand as a result of superb content which is helpful and informative. This is in direct contradiction to the age-old tradition of getting in business by advertising aggressively and splattering one’s brand in everyone’s face so that they never forget it. Those days are gone. Consumers these days do most of their research online. This is particularly true of B2B buyers who are usually 70 per cent down the sales funnel by the time they even make contact with you. People have grown so accustomed to finding all the information they need on the internet, that failing to provide that information for them puts you and your brand at a disadvantage. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what content marketing really is and how it can help your business generate leads regularly and reliably. What is content marketing, exactly? Content Marketing has become so much a part of our daily lives that it has even merited an entry in the Oxford Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionary defines Content Marketing as: “A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.” https://www.lexico.com/definition/content_marketing The essence of content marketing is to “sell without selling”. It is to tell people something that they find useful and helpful, which in turn gets them to: Read more content on your website or Share your content on social media (thereby giving it greater visibility and SEO-juice) or Contact you. Another term for this could be “inbound marketing”, although inbound marketing is more closely associated with HubSpot, specifically. Is inbound marketing the same as content marketing? The two terms are not entirely the same, although they share many similarities. HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan coined the term in 2005, nine years before HubSpot went public as a company. Inbound marketing is all about getting leads to come to you. It is customer-centric and puts the customer first. That’s the first and foremost rule of both inbound marketing and content marketing: Put the customer first. In a world where content and solutions are at everyone’s fingertips, one cannot afford to work with antiquated methods of marketing. In today’s world, if your content doesn’t answer people’s questions and give them the assistance they need immediately, they simply go somewhere else to find those answers. Content marketing and website design It goes without saying that, to engage in a successful content marketing campaign, you must have an excellent website design that will easily move your visitors down the sales funnel from lead to customer. How many times have you found an article on Google, read it, then clicked away and didn’t even remember the name of the website you were on? That’s either a failure in: Targeting (your content was aimed too broadly to attract leads) Your website’s design and layout. Your website must be designed and laid out in such a way that it keeps people reading. The key metric to analyse when looking at your Bounce rate is the number of people who have landed on your website but left without (a) looking at any additional pages or (b) taking any meaningful action on your site (such as clicking a link, filling out a form, scrolling down to a certain depth of the page which indicated their interest in the site, etc.). If you are getting a lot of visitors to your website but your bounce rate is high, then: Your content is targeting the wrong audience or Your website is not laid out to smoothly ease somebody into and down the sales funnel so that they become leads or customers. Some tips for designing websites to optimise content consumption Above all else, the design of the site should be clean and professional. A quick DIY theme is unlikely to get you the mileage you need in order to get people to see the content you want them to consume. Add meaningful content links into the body of the article or content the visitor is reading. If you have a super-super helpful article regarding making widgets, then be sure to link to that article from any other article about widgets. You can be more blunt than this: Place large and noticeable banners (with CTAs) inside the content itself, telling people where they can download or read more about a particular subject, related to the one they’re currently reading about. Remember, the essence of content marketing is to be helpful to people. If you tell someone, “Hey, look here, this might also help,” and then proceed to give them invaluable information which indeed does help, they will remember you. More importantly, they will likely also buy from you. Newsletters and mailing lists Newsletters and mailing lists are crucial to keeping people informed of your business and getting them to consume even more content. As with everything else in content marketing, the key to getting subscribers is to offer something of value. If someone receives a newsletter which is packed with useful tips, they are more likely to click on a discreet ad somewhere lower down in that newsletter. Always put the customer first. Always ask yourself, “Would I like to receive this content in my inbox? Would I interact with it? What should it contain for me to find it useful?”   Customer loyalty Following the above approach, a fierce sense of customer loyalty for your brand can be developed. If your customers know that you sincerely have their interests at heart, they will stick with you through thick and thin. Content marketing and SEO Content Marketing and SEO go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing. The two subjects interlock, but each is broader than the other in certain respects. Content Marketing encompasses the content of all types, not only the content that should be found on Search Engines. Newsletters, white papers, courses behind a paywall — these and many other types of content would not be geared to be found by search engines. So, they would be outside the scope of SEO. But blog posts aimed at getting traffic would be. Video content and social media posts would also be encompassed by SEO. SEO itself is a subject that is far broader than merely a few well-worded blog posts. Properly executed SEO Services would include off-site optimisation, e.g. actually phoning and emailing people for backlinks to your content or website. SEO includes website analytics and tracking, keyword research and analysis. Again there is a bit of overlap here, but not enough to call these two subjects the same things. What type of content to use for content marketing Your leads and sales prospects will all be at different stages of the buyer cycle. It is important to have enough content on your website to match wherever they are at in the buyer cycle.   Blog posts Your frontline of content-marketing is the blog post. These are the posts that will bring new leads to your website. Make sure your content has plenty of images in it so as to add meaning to the post. Regardless of whether the post is written for existing readers or to garner new ones, write it in such a way that it is optimised for search engines. Long articles — over 2,000 words (the sweet spot is currently around 2,400 words, although this can change) — tend to outperform shorter articles for evergreen, SEO-friendly content. But there is also a place in the world for shorter articles. No matter the length, ensure that the article has enough value for those consuming it.     How-To Articles How-To articles are crucial to getting in leads and future business. They can also become SEO magnets if done properly. A how-to article must utilise a lot of graphics and charts to convey its message. It needs to be easy to follow and grasp quickly. The person looking for a how-to article can sometimes be flustered and in a hurry. Having an article that can be easily grasped, quickly, means they will likely stay on your site instead of rushing over to find some other website with easier-to-understand content. The essence of a how-to article is to fully and completely answer the reader’s questions! The more info you can give them, the less likely they are to go back to the search engines to hunt for more solutions. Indeed, some SEO professionals believe this is indeed one of the indicators Google uses in its ranking algorithm — how soon someone performs a similar search after clicking on a result. If the person returns to Google and performs exactly the same search after visiting your website, or clicks a link lower down on the results page after reading your article, it might be an indication for the search engine that your article was not useful for the reader. How-To articles have the added benefit of being something that people will likely bookmark and come back to later on, over and over again. It is up to you, then, to optimise the layout of your website so that you guide these users into whatever sales funnel is most appropriate for them. Make it easy for people to bookmark pages by adding some design elements to the website that help them through the process. White Papers White papers can either be done in HTML or PDF. The difference is that an HTML (webpage) white paper could include keywords to be found for SEO purposes. It is not an entirely recommended strategy. A better strategy, in our opinion, is to create a white paper as a PDF and then put that PDF behind a form that collects the person’s email address and signs them up to receive regular updates from you (with their consent, of course). By the time someone looks at a white paper, they are likely already at the buyer stage where they’re considering your services. SEO-style articles are usually “how-to” and “find out” articles. White papers are generally for people who are already on your site and want to know more. That means they are already a lead for having shown interest. It is imperative to get these people onto a mailing list so that you can follow up with them, using the same strategy that brought them to you in the first place — helpful, useful content. Case Studies The same is true for case studies — they can be a straight web page or a downloadable PDF. We recommended using the PDF version behind a form that signs them up for a newsletter. The landing page for that case study or white paper can be optimised for search engines while the case study/white paper itself can be written in such a way that is more appealing to potential buyers. Video Content When people think of video content, they automatically think of YouTube. Indeed, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. It’s also a great place to host videos due to its reliability and streaming quality. But in terms of content marketing, you should think about what types of videos you want to have on your website. Yes, the video might be hosted on YouTube, but it’s crucial to show it on your site, using YouTube’s “embed” code. You can create videos for anything and everything — accompanying videos to blog posts, how-to videos, animated explainer videos (usually short and lighthearted).     Social Media Content Social Media, like Blog Posts, is often the first foot in the door for your potential clients — the top of the sales funnel. Make sure your social media posts are entertaining, unique, and encourage engagement. Social media shares is a metric which is utilised by Google in Search Engine Rankings, although it does take into account the reputation of the person sharing the link. A well-thought-out social media strategy is imperative to any content marketing strategy. Landing Page Content A landing page is not just any website page. It is a website page that is optimised to generate leads. Usually, landing pages are sparse on contact, high on impact. What content the pages has must be delivered swiftly and succinctly. Think of a landing page as the gate leading in. Make the gate welcoming and easy to pass through. Don’t overwhelm the visitor by insisting they fill in a gazillion boxes of information just to download your PDF or to sign up for your newsletter. The page should be well-designed and aesthetically pleasing, and it should gently lead the prospect down that sales funnel by offering them useful and helpful information of high value to them. Newsletter Content Content really begins to shine once people sign up for your newsletter. Unlike “the masses” to which you appeal by using a wide range of blog topics and posts, newsletters are more focussed to a target market. Ideally, you would have subcategories of newsletters, asking people to pick and choose their interests. For example, let’s say you run a fashion store and offer a newsletter about the latest trends — something like “What’s hot and what’s not”. Every week, you promise to have fashion experts from around the world weigh in on the current issues surrounding fashion. So, that newsletter targets people interested in fashion, but you could go a step further: What age is the subscriber? (Tickbox.) What elements of fashion are they most interested in — shoes, makeup tips, office clothing, gossip? (Tickboxes.) You could then send each of these people a specific newsletter according to what interests they have — and you could also then advertise products which are closer to their interests. Online Courses An online course would be the Shangri-La of content marketing. Free courses of high-value content are almost guaranteed to go viral. What’s more, they would keep people on your website, consuming content, learning more. This all but guarantees that they will eventually also become your customers. Your online course material must really shine — highest quality learning materials and articles, videos, and exercises. You could also offer a free tier and a paid tier. The only possible content marketing strategy for startups The only possible content marketing strategy for startups is a full-blown strategy using every single one of the content types above. Content is either something you do full-blast or don’t do at all. It takes a massive concerted effort to start gaining traction. The good news, however, is that it is often far cheaper in the long run than online advertising. Content marketing is a sustainable method of marketing which often picks up momentum over time if done right. Online advertising, on the other hand, can become more costly as competition increases in your sector. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

December 2021
Design and Marketing The Complete Guide to Animated Videos in Digital Marketing

It seems that everywhere you look these days, there’s an animated video. The big brands are doing it. The little brands are doing it. Even the birds and bees are doing it. But, the question is: Should you do it? And, if you do, can you afford it? Well, the answer to both those questions is: It depends. Either way, if you’re not seriously considering using animated videos as part of your strategy, know that your competitors are doing it. Because it’s hot at the moment. Shooting real-footage videos can be expensive, and hiring pros to create animated videos can also reach high figures. But, like everything else in digital marketing, there’s a smart way to do it so that it’s both affordable as well as professional. Are animated videos right for your business? Before even beginning to look at how to make animated videos on your computer, you have to answer the crucial question: Are animated videos right for your brand? Our gut-feel here at Start My Business has always been, “Of course they are!” but that’s because we’re experts at creating animated videos for businesses and so can think with all the potentials of the medium. Too often, when people think of animated videos, they think of “cute” videos or “playful videos”. Animated videos can also cover serious topics such as this classic video from Shelter, produced in 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBucKP87k2s The video, albeit somewhat lighthearted in the way it is presented, covers a serious topic — that of an impending rent crisis for the UK’s millions of renters as a result of “rogue landlords” (to quote the video) and the lack of an equitable system. Animated video was used, there, to convey an important message, and to convey that message in an easy-to-understand format. Too many fusty companies think of animated videos as “cartoon”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hey, if the bank of England can put together an informative, well-executed animated video, so can your company! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI0MVV5UjKc What can animated videos do for your business? Increase Brand Awareness When people say “Brand Awareness” they immediately think of Nike or Coca-Cola or some other massive corporation. Brand Awareness can be international or regional. It can even be just a postal code! Imagine if you handed out some flyers in your business’s neighbourhood and included a scannable code to an animated video for your business, as well as a screenshot of that video on your flyer. If people watched that video, would it make your brand stick in their minds? That’s brand awareness! And it can work on a small scale or large scale. Video is an excellent way to make it happen. Increase sales The sales process is a series of give-and-take actions. It begins with a prospect standing outside your (virtual) store, looking in, scared to take a step too close lest some hungry salesman comes and pounces on them! Sales begin with making a prospect less nervous and more willing to approach. This is done by conveying a message of safety and friendliness. Nothing gets that message across like a light-hearted, easy-to-digest animated video. And, with prospects more amenable to being spoken to, you can get your sales message across more effectively. The way people buy, today, is completely different from the way they used to buy. Traditional salesmen are becoming an antique of the past. People research their products online now and, by the time they get to a store (whether virtual or brick-and-mortar) they likely already know what they want to buy. Animated videos can get people from “interested” to “ready-to-buy” much faster. Get more leads A well-executed animated video can turn bland copy into the exciting copy. If an animated video is done in such a way that it makes the person feel welcome and improves the perception of your brand, that person is far more likely to interact with your brand after watching the video. The best-animated videos will contain a call-to-action at the end. But not, if you please, a blunt and overly salesy call-to-action! The video itself should convince people to purchase simply because it is informative and entertaining. What are animated videos used for? The explainer video A common use of the animated video is to create explainer videos. These are videos which quickly explain a service or concept in a way that people can understand. An explainer video establishes the problem and then provides a solution using appropriate music in the background, excellent voiceover and, of course, top-of-the-line animations. A perfect example of this is the following video from Freighty, a shipping insurance app for eCommerce store owners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bknuFCQn4Y   Animated video commercials Animating a commercial makes it fun and turns it into something memorable. Animated commercials tend to engage the audience better than traditional video. It also gets your brand out there without shoving it down people’s throats. Animations are a great way to grab interest, and so this makes animated video commercials the perfect choice for advertising a brand. Also, keep in mind that many video platforms will autoplay a video without the sound. Having a lighthearted animation playing is more likely to have that user click the unmute button to listen to what’s being said. Mastercard nailed it with this animated video commercial which doesn’t come across as salesy at all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUO3rhPK6GE Animated product demos Product demos can be done using animated videos. Here’s a product demo for the Zmart remote. It was created in 2014 and could probably be done better using more current technology and tools. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7PnM0oLNqg Animated onboarding videos Introducing customers and new employees to new systems and technology can be a daunting task. Animated videos are an excellent way to get a succinct message across to new employees or customers, onboarding them smoothly to your product, service, or their new role. The animations used in these types of videos are virtually guaranteed to keep people’s attention and to give them as much information as possible in a short amount of time. Here’s an onboarding animation video about…an onboarding system! https://youtu.be/EiGejnB_puU Other animated videos There are literally as many possible choices for animated videos as there are for traditional videos. What makes a great animated video? The story First and foremost is the story. Every great brand has a story, or should have one. And every great product should also have one. It’s difficult to talk to anyone about Apple’s history without having them also talk about what a legend Steve Jobs was, or how Apple’s 1984 ad caused such a stir for decades to come, and put Apple on the map. Great stories don’t just happen by themselves. And part of creating an awesome animated video for your business is to have an absolutely phenomenal script. Work the script over until it’s perfect. If you’re unable to do that, then hire a professional script writer to do it for you. This Microsoft and SHI explainer video has an excellent story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0f8fiHPeQc Protagonist: IT Professional Antagonist: Hackers Problem: Being hacked Rising story: Threats growing Solution: The product being explained It’s a great plot. It’s a great story. Hence, it’s a great animated video script. The animations Duh. Of course, the animations have to be great! But they don’t just need to be great; they need to be stellar. As competition in the animated video sector increases, so does the quality of animations. There are even DIY animation companies popping up with millions of stock animations ready for you to use. These animations look fantastic. And this makes competing with them even more difficult. It’s the first rule of marketing: Be different. Stand out. If you want to compete effectively in this field which is becoming more and more glutted, you need to have exquisite animations that really express the full arc of your video’s story. The music We searched for an animated video without music and couldn’t find a single one. The music in an animated video has become so important that doing an animated video without excellent (and appropriate) music could be likened to stepping outside your door without trousers. Animated videos tend to use quirky, upbeat music, even when describing a serious subject. It might even be one of the reasons that people gravitate so much towards animated videos: Because they know they will get some reprieve in the video from the dreary and heavy drudgery they feel in day-to-day life. Check out this Christie’s animated video. Don’t be fooled. There’s music in there; it just starts a few seconds into the video. https://vimeo.com/181597583 And doesn’t it feel weird to watch those first few seconds without music? Music is an absolute must in animated videos. The length Animated videos are not long. It’s rare to find a video that is longer than 90 seconds. Most are around the 75 seconds range. The point of an animated video is to condense as much information as possible using multiple visual and audio cues. Animations can convey far more information per second than real footage can. They don’t need to belong. And, if they’re starting to get too long, you should trim the script. How to plan out an animated video 1. Script Your animated video should tell a story. All successful marketing tells a story. Remember that a story has a climax and a resolution. It must also contain conflict. The best marketing videos include all of this. Be sure to incorporate all of these things when writing the script for your animated video. 2. Adding voice-over It’s best to add the voice-over right at the beginning so you can build the animated video along with the voice-over content. 3. Storyboard and selecting animations Usually, one does a storyboard to figure out what shots one is going to take out in the real world, with a video camera. This is also the way it works when making an animated video, except all the shots one needs are right there in a collection of animations. (Unless, of course, you’re going to have everything hand-drawn — but that’s out of the scope of this article.) Because the “shots” for your animated video are all right there, you can use those very shots to create your storyboard. It’s a terribly time-consuming process, which is why we say that, for animated videos, you will either be playing with your money or your time. 4. Adding Music Great animated videos contain music in the background. The music can be the same throughout the video or it can change. It’s up to you, and up to what message that video is trying to express in that particular scene. Can you afford animated videos? Gone are the days of needing to pay an exorbitantly priced animations studio for your animated videos. With plenty of DIY Animated Video solutions popping up across the web, the opportunity to create an animated video is no longer only available to companies whose pockets drip with cash. There is one caveat, however: Nothing of excellent quality is free. The systems we talk about below are all priced relatively well considering what such a service used to cost a few years ago. Having said that, even though these services are cheaper than getting an animated video created by professionals, what you don’t pay with money, you will pay with time. Yes, you need to know that in order to avoid disappointment. The only service listed below where you will not pay with your time in order to get a professional product is our own Animated Videos Creation Service. All the other services have a learning curve, and it’s crucial to work your way through that learning curve before disappointing yourself and creating substandard videos that actually end up harming your brand rather than helping it. So, here are all the ways you can create an animated video for your business without having to pay with your arm and leg. 1. Start My Business’s Animated Video Creation Service This is the only service on this page that is not a DIY service, so there’s no hidden cost of your time. We offer a first-in-class animated video creation service at a staggeringly affordable price. Our service covers the full range of video creation from story development to animation, voiceover, professional music, you name it. 2. Wideo Wideo is a DIY animated video-making service with features such as storyboard creation, text-to-speech functionality, a nifty colour-palette tool and, of course, animations. They have a free tier which lets you create 45-second videos which contain the Wideo brand on it (not so great for business videos, so you’re probably going to need to get the paid version). Their basic package allows you to export ten HD (not Full HD) videos of 1.5 minutes each month. The basic package only gives you access to twenty templates. If you’re looking to create a serious amount of videos, you’ll probably need to get their pro package which is almost double the price of the basic package. You can also upload video footage to include in the animated video. 3. Vyond Vyond is an online tool that specialises in allowing people to make their own animated videos, particularly for marketing, training and eLearning. They offer a library of templates, sounds and other assets to help you create a video. They have no free plan but they do offer a trial version. Their cheapest plan includes their branding on their video, so you’re likely going to be looking at their Premium Plan (next tier up) which will set you back more than twice as much as Wideo’s basic plan. The Premium Plan lets you export in 1080p although you don’t get access to their “2D characters designed for a more modern look” unless you take the tier above that one… As you can see, Vyond is a pricier option overall. Check it out and see if it works for what you need. As mentioned previously, like all other services here (except the Start My Business service), there is also the “payment” of time you will need to make to learn how to use these tools like a pro. 4. Animaker Animaker makes it easy to create simple videos using their drag-and-drop interface. You can build your own characters using their “Character Maker” tool, and all of it runs in the browser. The characters can even lip-sync! The number of options in their various packages gets a little confusing, though, with only the most expensive ones including “commercial rights” — but it’s not entirely clear if that means you can use their videos for your business or not… Anyway! They do give you the option to create animated videos if you’re so inclined. Summary Yes, you need to get into animated videos. Yes, it will probably increase your sales. No, it doesn’t need to be expensive. Yes, you will pay with your time if you need to learn it yourself. But it can be done, and you should definitely be doing it. So, what are you waiting for? Lights, animations, action! About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

December 2021
Design and Marketing 7 Banner Ad Design Tips to Get More Clicks and Conversions!

Banner ads have been around since the Stone Age. Okay, fine, not quite the stone age, but it sure feels like it! This mainstay of the internet age has been with us long before social media was even a word. The reason these creative ad banners have been around so for long is that they work. If you want to know how to create an ad banner that gets people clicking, follow the eight tips below which our professional, in-house banner ad designers have come up with. 1. Optimise for location The location of your banner ad is a crucial aspect of deciding how to design it. You need to have several different formats of the banner ad which match where the ad will be placed. Animated ads work best when placed by themselves on a page. But these tend to get buried in the confusion when mixed with other animated ads around it. Location applies to: Where specifically on the page the ad will appear. On what website the ad will appear. On what device the ad will be viewed. Designing banner ads for mobile devices means you would use slightly different imagery (e.g. a finger-clicking a button as opposed to a mouse cursor). Also, smaller devices demand that the design is more straightforward and more comfortable on the eyes.   2. Brand your banner Every marketing action you take must m atch up with your branding guidelines. Only in this way can you build an awareness of your brand. Even if a user doesn’t click your banner ad, the fact that it matches your brand means they will remember it and so, possibly, interact with it next time. It’s essential to refer back to your branding guidelines and ensure that the colours of your brand are appropriately incorporated into your banner ad. And your logo should be on the banner, at the very least. The logo should be noticeable but not take too much attention away from what you want the user to do as a result of seeing your banner ad. 3. Have a clear call-to-action The whole point of a banner ad is to have the user take some sort of action. The CTA is the culmination of the banner’s story arc if you will. After hooking the visitor into your ad’s story with a well-optimised design and excellent copy which gains their interest, you need to smoothly direct them to some determined action that you want them to take. The position of the CTA button is crucial. It needs to be placed in such a place that does not detract from the design, and which follows the natural eye-movement path of the user. Several studies have been conducted on this that actually determine where a user looks by detecting pupil movement when looking at ad copy. The CTA needs to be “in its own space”, not cluttered around other design elements that might hide it. And it must use a colour that is noticeable without being garish. 4. Stand out More often than not, you’ll be competing with a lot of other brands’ ads when advertising on a web page with your banner ad. It’s essential to differentiate yourself from the others by using: Extremely creative designs Strong headlines that pop out The concise and compelling copy which is easy to digest and quick to assimilate. Remember, even if people don’t click right away, you need to make your brand stick out. Your brand has to make an impression on them. A positive impression means they’re more likely to react favourably to your brand next time they come across it. 5. Avoid too much copy Use the headline and the overall look and feel of the ad to grab attention, and use copy sparingly. Your message needs to be clear and concise. The best copy gets to the point right away and utilises a minimum amount of sentences. 6. Align the objective with the design If your objective is to raise awareness to some social ill, pushing someone to buy something with a “Buy Now!” button goes against that objective. Utilising a different call-to-action such as “Help out now” or “Learn More” would work better. Similarly, if your objective is to target millennials and you’re using 1960s pop culture references, you’re going to come short in your banner ad design. Sure, such references can be used when trying to create a contrast. But even then, your objective would be aligned with your design, and you would use those contrasts knowingly. 7. Test and learn It’s vital to test the banner utilising Web Analytics reporting tools. The fact that the banner has been designed professionally doesn’t mean that the game is over. The game is only now beginning. You have to analyse how many clicks you get compared to the number of impressions. And, out of those clicks, you need to see how many conversions you’ve gotten. Run one ad for a week or month, and then run another and compare the performance of each of them. You might think you’ve designed the perfect ad only to discover that people interact better with another one which is quite different. Nothing beats seeing how ads perform in the real world! Professional banner ad designs It might be worth it to look into hiring a company which specialises in banner ad design services. Competition in the advertising space is fierce. Gone are the days of “trying to do it all yourself”. A banner ad must be designed professionally in order to have any hope of competing. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing Build Your Own Mobile App Without Coding Using These 6 Tips!

It’s true. You don’t need to know anything about coding to build your own mobile app. But that doesn’t mean the app is going to be any good. Whether you know to code or not, you need to follow certain best practices to build a mobile app that is both appealing and useful. Here are six easy tips on how to create an excellent mobile app online without writing a single line of code. 1. Use a building platform Building your very own mobile app is a piece of cake using Start My Business’s online WYSIWYG mobile app creator. And all that without knowing a single line of programming code! The online app creator has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface which makes designing front-ends easy-peasy. You can either start off with a ready-made template to kickstart your app, or start from scratch and ensure the design is entirely your own. 2. Get some guidance or professional assistance Even though it’s possible to build your own app without knowing any coding, it always helps to get some professional guidance along the way. You can seek guidance from online forums, or if you are keen to get an app developed to the best possible standards, you can ask us to help you using our custom mobile app development service. There is a lot to know about developing. Plenty of knowledge has been accumulated by people who have already done it, and much of that information is available online. For example, user experience (UX) is an enormous subject to be understood when creating your own mobile app. It’s possible to create an app that does “amazing things” but which has a shoddy user experience. This is particularly true when including a lot of add-ons in the app. Yes, the add-ons might work great in themselves, but if they lead to an overall poor user experience, they are not worth including. Talking to a professional to assist you can prevent such errors and vastly reduce your workload in the long-term. 3. Check step by step tutorials There are plenty of online tutorials that you should absolutely be reading or viewing in order to build a professional mobile app. Simply because the DIY tool you’re using is simple to use doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dedicate some time to learning the basics. Start My Business has an entire section of this website dedicated to How-To tutorials to assist people in starting their business, including tutorials and How-Tos on how to build an app. 4. Benchmark It is crucial to benchmark your app, both before beginning development and after the app has gone to market. The Oxford dictionary defines the verb benchmark as: “Evaluate or check (something) by comparison with a standard.” That means you need to look at your competitors’ apps, as well as apps belonging to non-competitors but in a similar field, and see what they are doing that you also need to do if you want to compete effectively with them. Write these items down as features to be included in your app. Once your completed mobile app has been released on Android, iOS and any other platforms, you need to keep your ear to the ground for: Comments/reviews from users on your and your competitors’ apps. Changes/updates by competitors. Both positive and negative comments from users are important. The good reviews let you see what you should do more of. And the negative reviews inform you of what must be addressed immediately. Don’t try and handle every little change that comes up. Look for trends in comments and reviews. If a lot of users are complaining about the same thing, then that thing needs to be addressed as a priority. You should pay particular attention to reviews on your competitors’ apps. That’s an easy way to discover what users want and what frustrates them. You can then to integrate these features in your own app. Stay alert to updates by your competitors. Look at whatever features they’ve added and try and one-up them in any future releases of your own app by providing even better features. 5. Start small The “Release Early, Release Often” paradigm of software development has taken the mobile app development world by storm. Instead of trying to build the perfect app from the start, establish easy ways for users to send you feedback and then work on that feedback fast in order to continually deliver a better product to them. Start with the essential features, adding further ones as you go along. As the founder of LinkedIn once said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Using our DIY Build Your Own Mobile App Platform, it’s relatively easy to get an app to market in no time, focussing on just the most essential features. 6. Keep it simple Part of releasing early and releasing often is to stay absolutely focussed on the critical features and to build from there. Overcomplicating things not only delays the time before something can go to market, but it can sometimes get so bad that you might need to scrap the entire project altogether because it has grown too complicated. Keep it simple. Release often. Seek professional assistance whenever needed, and you’ll soon get a mobile app out there that notches up those five-star reviews like Sir Ian Botham smashing 149 runs off just 148 balls to lead your business to victory against its competitors! About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing How To Effectively Use Brochures

Promotional brochures will never stop being a mainstay of effective promotion. Even though digital flyers have now appeared on the scene, a physical advertising brochure will forever be one of the most efficient ways to find new business. Of course, it is vital to have a brochure design which was done entirely professionally in order to create the maximum possible impact on the reader. Here are some tried and tested ways to get your company brochure into the hands of potential buyers, and so turn leads into sales. Emails The great thing about a brochure which was designed for print is that it can also be sent digitally. This is not true the other way round, i.e. items explicitly designed for being viewed on a screen cannot be printed easily. You can either send the brochure directly as an attached PDF or image file, or you can send a link to the brochure so that it can be viewed online. Send brochures by post Nothing beats getting something in the physical mail. If you send someone something by post, they get to touch it, feel it, interact with it. If your brochure also has a QR code in it, then that increases the chances of people visiting your website as a result of viewing the brochure. Use brochures at trade shows Brochures are an excellent way to stay in the minds of potential buyers and clients at a trade show. Handing someone a physical brochure is even more important in a scenario like a trade show where you are competing with dozens or even hundreds of other companies to get someone’s attention. If every company relies only on a visit to their website to stay in the potential client’s mind, their message will be buried in a confusion of browser tabs and saved links. But, with a brochure, the potential client can pick it out of their pocket when they get to their car or the subway. Not wanting to litter, they might keep it on their person until they get home where they’ll look at it again. If it is a properly designed brochure which captures their attention, they might very well sit down and take another gander at it then, in the comfort of their own home, while relaxing on the couch and having an evening drink. All that from a brochure. You just don’t get that level of interaction on a screen with a gazillion distractions on it — notifications, social media alerts, emails, etc. Use company brochures in media kits When sending a media kit to the press with information about your company, include a brochure of tailored information so as to give that media organisation all the relevant information they need to write about your company. Media kits can be downloaded from a website, or sent in physical form to a media organisation. These media organisations then use these media kits in order to obtain facts when writing about your company. Make sure you get the correct facts sent over to them by including those facts in a brochure specifically designed for the press. It is vital, in these cases, to make the information as easily accessible and as understandable as possible. Journalists are very busy people and have little time to spend hours digging for information on a topic, especially if they only need it as background information to a story. By designing the brochure in such a way that you decide what information is most noticeable to that journalist, you increase your chances of having that information featured in a story. For example, if you run Acme Ltd. and the journalist just needs some quick facts about your company, put your best metrics in a large pie chart or other graphical representation in the brochure so they can see it easily. Give brochures to your sales team Following on from the theory that a physical object is more difficult to forget than a digital one, giving your sales team brochures is a key way to ensure your company stays in the minds of leads long after the sales team has left. If the sales team leaves one or two brochures behind after the meeting, the lead can then look at those brochures when they have time, or when sitting down at night to relax, undistracted by all those endless notifications on their phone. Leave brochures at your office reception This is an excellent way to promote your company. By putting a stack of brochures at your reception, people can pick the brochures up and take them home with them to read on the bus or whenever they have a free moment somewhere. By placing brochures at your reception, you then target anyone that comes into your offices, not only your regular clients or leads but also suppliers and anyone else. Asking restaurants and other high-traffic places to place a brochure at their front-desk is another great way to promote your business. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

December 2021
Design and Marketing 7 Cost Effective Ways of Promoting Your New Business with Flyers

Nothing beats having a printed business-flyer in your hand that you can peruse at your leisure. Using flyers to promote your business or sell your product is a tried and tested method of getting new leads which convert into clients. The main difference between a flyer marketing strategy and a digital one is how and where to get those printable flyers distributed. Unlike digital flyers, printed flyers actually require you to move your rump and do some walking to get those flyers out! (Thinking of which, another benefit to flyer distribution might be better health in general?) Below, are seven cost-effective ideas on how to distribute marketing flyers for your business and get the leads you need. Of course, it goes without saying that those flyers must be designed exquisitely. To that end, make sure to check out our super-affordable flyer design service once you’re done reading this post! 1. Door-to-door distribution Door-to-door distribution is particularly useful if you distribute the flyers in your local neighbourhood. You can either put them directly into people’s mailboxes or knock on the door and hand the flyer to the person directly. Be sure to smile congenially when doing this. That smile goes a long way to getting people to read the pamphlet you’ve just handed them. You could run a special one-week promotion or sale and get the word out quickly with flyers in your local area, and then ask people who receive the flyer to additionally share the news on social media for extra coverage. Of course, there’s also the option of paying a reliable distributor to get the flyers out for you. This is particularly useful if the flyers need to be delivered far from your office. When choosing this option, you need to send flyers out in high volume to really see any benefit from it. 2. Place flyers on cars Many flyer distribution companies will place flyers on cars for you. Wherever you get your flyers distributed, it’s important to remember to focus on your target market as much as possible. If you sell pizzas or hamburgers, then placing flyers on cars at a sports event is better than, say, placing them on vehicles outside a residential building. People are more likely to be famished after a sporting event than when stepping into their vehicles after a large breakfast at home. 3. Include them with customer invoices and packages This is an excellent after-sales technique to get more sales. You could give them a special voucher code in the flyer which is valid for only a certain amount of time after they receive the invoice. 4. Leave a pile in strategic places Approach local restaurants and cafes and ask them if you can leave a small pile of your flyers on their front counter. Many restaurants are quite obliging on this. If you go the extra mile and offer that restaurant a discount on your services if they send anybody your way, they might feature your flyers in a more prominent position or even tell people directly to take a flyer! Whatever you do, just please consider the environment and don’t ever leave a pile of flyers where it can blow away and cause litter! 5. Distribute at events This is a fantastic and low-cost method of getting your brand out there. Whether it is cricketing events or music events, the massive amounts of people at these events will make getting a lot of flyers out relatively easy. Be advised, however, that hand-to-hand distribution might require you to apply for permission from your local authorities or else suffer the risk of fines. 6. Distribute flyers with product samples If you are at a trade show or other industry gathering, a flyer is a perfect accompaniment to any product samples you might be giving out. Think of the flyer as a “take-home salesman”. The person walks away with the sample, tests it, and then turns to the salesman — your flyer — to discover more about it. If the flyer is professionally designed, following all the best design principles, there’s an excellent chance that person will either go ahead and buy from you in the future or at least leave with a good impression of your brand in their minds. 7. Direct mail campaign Phones and computers are terribly distracting things. Sitting in front of your computer or walking around with your phone is a little like walking in front of a crowd that is shouting different things at you, trying to attract your attention. A person can easily get distracted by notifications when looking at a digital flyer on a phone. But a tangible flyer that has arrived in the mail is entirely different. That flyer has no distractions associated with it. For at least a fraction of a second, you can grab that person’s attention. If the flyer is exquisitely designed, you can then keep their attention and start selling them your product. Final thoughts on flyer distribution Keep a spreadsheet of where you’ve handed out flyers. Then, when you get a new client or see a sudden spike in website traffic from a certain area, go back to that spreadsheet and see if you distributed flyers there. After a while, you’ll start to see where your flyer distribution campaigns are working best and can then take follow-up actions in those areas, such as sending out a different flyer with more focussed information targeted at that specific location. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing Landing Page Design Best Practices That Drive Traffic and Conversions

Creating an effective landing page for your website is not a task that must be taken lightly. To create a landing page that converts leads into clients, it is imperative to understand the structure of a landing page. A high-converting landing page has particular anatomy which all the top landing pages follow. An excellent UX (user experience) means engagement from the visitor. Often, it is necessary to invest in landing page design services to obtain that perfect design which brings about a superior user experience. Some studies have shown that Google prefers content that provides excellent UX. This article will walk you through landing page UX best practices. Information Above the Fold It is vital to put the most important information “above the fold”. “The fold” is, basically, the bottom of the computer screen. The user needs to scroll to see the material below that line. Basically, anything “above the fold” means content the user sees instantly on landing on your website. The fold is different for every computer. Mobile phones and tablets have a different fold to a 17” laptop screen. It is, therefore, vital to design the page so that it adapts to the screen on which it is being viewed. Use a hero image A “hero image” is that impressive, eye-catching, stunning image that appears at the top of a website. In eCommerce websites, this is usually a photo of the product. The image needs to be of excellent quality and capture the visitor’s attention. The internet is dominated by visual content. Placing a profound hero image above the fold goes a long way to capturing your visitor’s attention and getting them to continue browsing your website. Compelling Headlines Whether placed on the hero image or simply near it, the headline of your landing page should be: Powerful Compelling Attention-grabbing “Amazeballs” The heading should be as succinct as possible and express, simply and clearly, what benefit the user will obtain from staying on your website for just a little longer. Examples of great headlines are: Reduce your personal costs by 80% instantly. Want a three-star chef to cook your dinner every night? No more housecleaning. And so on. Small Intro text under the headline Following on from your headline and hero image should be a brief introduction to what you are offering the visitor. The content should explain, in as few words as possible, the value the visitor will obtain by continuing to learn more about your service or product. This is not only good for the user but it also helps search engines understand what your site is about. Call to Action There needs to be at least one clearcut action defined on the page that you wish the user to take. This “call to action” is best displayed in a large, noticeable button, and it informs the user what is expected of them. There is quite a bit to know about how to design and phrase these calls to action. The button needs to be in high contrast to the rest of the page. The phrase demanding action needs to be something the user considers valuable, e.g. “Buy now and get one more free”. Have enough content and variety, all optimised for search The page needs to have sufficient content for it to be useful both for users as well as for search engines. Having an “excellent landing page” that never gets found by search engines is entirely pointless. The content needs to be worded in such a way that it ranks for all the required keywords, as well as contain enough elements to garner interest from the visitor. These elements must include: Visually appealing and professional photographed/designed images Top-quality video content Another great piece of content is tables of information for comparing prices. USPs — Your Unique Selling Proposition What makes your service or product different from your competitors’? If you sell flowers, why would someone buy flowers from you and not a competitor? You need to explain what you offer that makes you different from other businesses: Better quality? Better product? Unique product? Exceptional service? 24/7 delivery?   FAQs section The best landing pages have an FAQ section on them. The questions should be useful and informative, covering any aspects of the service or product that the rest of the landing page could not cover. Accordion-style FAQs are an excellent place to put plenty of additional text that could detract from the page’s design if placed elsewhere. That text is also excellent for search engines. Customer reviews section A customer reviews section helps push leads into a decision to buy. The best is to integrate reviews from trusted sources such as Google Reviews, TrustPilot or some other reputable reviews site. This has also been linked to better rankings. Mobile-friendly design and Speed Optimisations As mentioned in the first section, the page must be optimised for mobile. This also includes optimising its speed. If your page doesn’t load in one second, you’ll lose conversions. Pages load slower on mobile devices because they are usually running on a data connection. Making sure the page is lean can mean better conversions. Social Media integration An excellent landing page must integrate social media into it. This means that you should also have well-attended social media profiles that are regularly posted to and contain fresh content. A landing page should have links to these profiles so that people can connect with your brand. Hiring an expert As you can see, designing an excellent landing page requires care and attention to numerous things, and often it is a service that companies decide to hire out to professional designers instead. The investment often pays for itself if the landing page design leads to better conversions. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing A Social Media Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs

Social Media Marketing doesn’t need to be complicated. And utilising Social Media for business is crucial to getting the most out of your marketing efforts. The quantity of social media marketing agencies that have sprung up in the last few years is staggering. A relatively unknown subject ten years ago, using social media for marketing these days is a vital aspect of any sales and marketing plan. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of social media marketing platforms and what you need to know to market on social media as an entrepreneur. What is social media marketing? Social Media Marketing is the act of making your services known by means of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok. It is an activity which requires: Constant attention Monitoring of buzzwords and trending topics A regular social media content schedule Coordinated campaigns between social media platforms And numerous other skills to keep the entire campaign running smoothly and bringing your business inbound leads. How social media can help your business Billions of people use social media. If you do not use social media in your business, your brand will suffer for it. One of the main benefits of having an effective social media strategy in place is to raise brand awareness. The second reason businesses utilise social media is to increase traffic to their websites. Other reasons for engaging in a social media marketing strategy are: Improving conversions Creating Engagement Monitoring your brand appreciation and sentiment (i.e. what customers say about your brand and products or services) How does social media marketing work Social media marketing is more straightforward than most people think. It’s easy to overthink the subject and get too complicated. Here are some simple steps to creating an excellent social media marketing campaign: Create a business page on each social media platform. Add a high-quality description that tells people what you do and which makes them want to engage with your brand. Add any other information about your company, including key links to products and services. Regularly share awesome content and news, which makes people want to engage with your brand. Make sure this content is not “salesy” but offers people helpful information and makes them want to click and know more. This matter of awesome content is really the crux of the matter. In Social Media Marketing, you need to master the art of creating content that “sells without selling” and which generates interest on its own. Think of people on Social Media as guests at a party. No one wants a sales pitch at a party. They want to have fun, and they’re more likely to buy something sincerely recommended to them by one of their friends than from a hawker in the corner. For this, it might be a good idea to hire a content writer to assist you. Excellent content isn’t only about tweets and LinkedIn posts. Excellent content encompasses: Vlogs and videos Useful and interesting blog articles Animated videos eBooks Etc Through content, you create a community and engage with them. Also, get creative. Run competitions, set up creative ad campaigns. Focus on building your audience. Data analytics can help here, so as to analyse audience behaviours and thereby improve your overall social media strategy. What are the best social media platforms to promote your business? Each social media platform is its own channel and has its own goals for businesses. For example, you wouldn’t be promoting B2B content on TikTok! Compartmentalise each part of your strategy, noting down who the target market is for each, and then match that market to a particular Social Media Platform. For example, LinkedIn would be the platform to use for business-only content. LinkedIn is a social media platform dedicated to finding new business, and the content created on there is quite different from the content shared on, say, Twitter or Instagram. Twitter, on the other hand, is a nifty platform to use to get the conversation going. It’s a great tool to create a buzz, run competitions, get instant feedback, run a poll, and so on. Facebook strikes a good balance between business and personal. You can create a business page on there and get people to like it, and so show up on their feeds later on when you post some new content. Instagram would be for visual ad campaigns. Each of the above channels has its market and its specific part in the overall strategy. It’s essential to break down your social media strategy to match each social media platform you will be using, and publish content specific to that channel. Is social media effective? Several studies have been carried out regarding this, and the results are astounding. In short, yes and absolutely, social media is not only effective but highly effective for marketing your brand — with one caveat: You have to do it right. For example, if you’re posting on Facebook, you should include an image to get more engagement. The best times to post on Instagram are apparently at 1 pm and 5 pm. These and numerous other factors need to be taken into account when embarking upon a social media marketing campaign. Because the topic is so broad and yet can result in such high ROI, many entrepreneurs choose to hire social media professionals to assist them in getting the most of any social media marketing campaign. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

December 2021
Design and Marketing Don't Miss out on Web Analytics for Your Business

Running a website without web analytics these days is like driving at 120mph down the highway in total darkness without your headlights on. Maybe you’ll make it out okay; probably you won’t. However, with so many web analytics tools available out there, the entire subject of website analytics can get pretty overwhelming, quickly. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of web analytics metrics, the importance of website analytics reports, and what the best website analytics tools are for use in your business. What is web analytics? The Oxford dictionary defines “analytics” as: “Information resulting from the systematic analysis of data or statistics.” So, Web Analytics is information regarding your website, which you have obtained as a result of systematic analysis and statistics. Web analytics allows you to analyse traffic to your website to better understand: Who is visiting your website. What interests those people have. Where those visitors come from. How many times those visitors return to your site. How long they spend on your site. How many pages they view on your site. On what page most visitors leave your site. Aggregating this data from hundreds or even thousands of visitors allows you to make informed decisions based on the information provided to you by the specific analytics tool you’re using to collect this information. In short, web analytics allow you to collect information about your users and then to analyse that data. Why web analytics matters, and why web analytics is important for every business Remember the example we provided at the start of this article, about driving down the highway with no headlights? Well, that’s really why analytics is so important for your online business. But let’s talk about specifics: If you don’t know who your visitors are and what their interests are, you simply won’t be able to offer them what they’re looking for. Worse, your competitors will be able to do this. Because your competitors are almost certainly using some form of analytics on their website. There are several web analytics tools out there. The most popular one — Google Analytics — is used on an estimated 52 per cent of all websites out there. Those websites have their headlights on, and they know where they’re going. Without web analytics metrics, you’re simply operating blindly in a data-driven environment such as the web. Sure, you could conduct surveys of people who come into your store or call into your business to try and learn about your customers. But those people are already your clients. Web Analytics gives you insight into people who are merely browsing your services, shopping around, and looking at you versus your competition before they buy. Besides, the answers obtained by someone on a person-to-person survey might have nothing at all to do with that person’s actual behaviour when browsing the internet. Internet browsers tend to exhibit indicators of “low attention span” as they click on numerous websites, looking for information regarding the product they’re searching for. This might not have anything to do with how that person behaves offline. In short, nothing delivers the goods on understanding users’ behaviour on the web like good website analytics which has been implemented properly. Utilising the data obtained from web analytics is crucial to implementing an effective SEO strategy. What is the best Web Analytics tool for your website? The most popular tool, by far, is Google Analytics. This tool has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2005 when Google acquired Urchin Software Ltd. However, along with its increased number of features has come a much larger learning curve. Indeed, one of the reasons people hunt for assistance in implementing web analytics services is because learning web analytics from scratch has become a little complicated. That’s why sometimes it’s simply easier to hire an affordable company to assist in this matter. Google Analytics is not the only tool on the market, and there are other players who offer a unique and exciting take on analytics: Heat Maps. Yes, it is actually possible to see where people click on most by utilising a specialised form of web analytics which aggregates all this click data and then shows you a heat map of the results. Two companies that currently offer this are CrazyEgg and HotJar. Their offering is somewhat limited compared to the analytics tools that provide a full dashboard of analytics information, but they certainly have their use. It is not uncommon to use something like CrazyEgg or HotJar in combination with another web analytics software such as Google Analytics. Yahoo also offers a web analytics solution, as do other companies such as: com Optimizely ClickTale and numerous others Not all of these services are free. Some of them take a unique angle to analytics in order to attract users for their service. ClickTale (a paid service), for example, offers recordings of visits, which Google Analytics doesn’t. (HotJar also does this, incidentally.) Whatever web analytics service you choose, it needs to be something that doesn’t take a year to learn and which you can start using immediately to improve your website’s SEO and performance. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing 5 SEO Steps to Optimise Your Website

SEO is utterly crucial for the success of your online business. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is required in order to be visible on the major search engines such as Google or Bing. The subject of SEO can get pretty complex. It is a technical subject, and ever-changing. Because Search Engines change their algorithms so regularly, it is vital to stay on top of the subject constantly in order to compete effectively with other websites. That’s why Start My business offers a specialist SEO Service in order to assist businesses of all sizes to compete on the web. In an article titled “How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm”, Moz reported that Google updated its algorithm more than 3,000 times in 2018! To improve your search engine rankings and increase organic traffic to your website, it’s vital to implement these five easy SEO tips from our specialist SEO consultants in order to optimise your website. Tip #1. Find Relevant Keywords for Your Product and Services The very first thing you must do to improve your website’s optimisation is to list all the keywords and queries you would like to be found for. This is a list of all the keywords and queries which your client might type into a search engine to look for you. This list can then be used as a “seed keyword list” in specialised keyword tools to come up with other potential keywords and queries for which you could be found. What is a seed keyword list? This is simply the starting point from which you will gather all your remaining keywords. It is the “seed” from which the garden of your SEO will grow. For example, let’s say you’ve done some keyword research and realised that your clients would search  for “Flowers for Sale” in order to find you. If you type this phrase into a keywords tool such as SEMRush, you will be given a wealth of data from which to optimise your website with. Looking at the screenshot of a SEMRush page above, you will notice that the tool gives you vital tips to improve your website’s SEO as a result of using this keyword phrase. It tells you: The difficulty in trying to compete for this keyword The volume of search this keyword has Detailed information about the “SERPs” (Search Engine Results Pages) for this keyword Related keywords And numerous other things. By taking the related keywords, as well as all the other SEO information provided for you here, you will be able to then create a comprehensive list of all the keywords you would like to optimise your website for. Other keyword tools SEMRush is quite a sophisticated tool, but it can also be fairly pricey for smaller businesses. Another excellent tool for SEO Keyword research is Moz Pro. But, again, this tool can also be quite pricey for smaller businesses. Google Ads (previously Google AdWords) has a built-in keyword tool which is quite popular with many people for keyword research. You need to have a Google Ads account to use it. And the information it provides can be quite limited. But it does have its uses. Free keyword research tools UberSuggest by Neil Patel is a keyword tool with both a free and a paid tier. It offers an abundance of information for keyword research. The free account does have some frustrating limits e.g. how many keywords you can check per day. Another option is Keyword Tool. This extensive tool allows you to generate keywords for Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon and numerous other search engines. Like UberSuggest, the paid version offers more options. Tip #2: Optimise Your Title Tag and Meta Description, Titles and URL This is probably one of the most important SEO tips for better search engine rankings. It is also one of the easiest to implement for people with no web development or design experience. Let’s discuss the terms: Title Tag This is the text which shows on your browser’s tab when it is open. It is also the text which appears on Search Engine Results pages when people  type in a search query. The title tag needs to be optimised for your keywords. If you are writing an article about “Cheap, Fresh Flowers” then the ideal title tag should include all three keywords. It’s also vital to ensure any of your competitors has not used the title. The easiest way to do this is to type the exact title into Google, enclosed by quotation marks, to see if that title appears in the search results. Be sure to add the quotation marks to the search query to get the most accurate results. If you are using a website created by Start My Business, you will be able to edit the title right in the article or page you are creating. Titles An article also has internal titles. Each section of your article should be titled correctly, using keywords in each of the subtitles. Meta Description The meta description is the text which appears under the title in the search engine results. It is essential real estate to use when trying to capture your readers’ attention. The description is a “meta” aspect to the website, which means that it doesn’t utilise text which you can see on the page itself when visiting it. It is text inputted directly into the code of the web page. Fortunately, when using a website created by Start My Business, you will have the option to edit the meta description directly. The meta description should not contain too much text — ideally, about 200 characters. URL URL stands for “Uniform Resource Locator”. In layman’s terms, it is the web address of a page. For example, the URL of this page is https://startmybusiness.com/resources/blog-details/5-simple-seo-steps-and-tips-to-optimise-your-website You can see it when you look at the address bar of your browser. In the system used by Start My Business to create websites, it is possible to directly edit this website address. This is a pivotal place to use your keywords. Sometimes, search engines show this address directly in the search results and highlight the keywords in the URL. Try not to make the URL too long, however, and engage in the “black hat” SEO practice of “keyword stuffing”. Instead of helping you, it might lead to a penalty. Tip #3: Optimise Your Content Search Engines prefer high-quality content which is useful to the reader. The key bit of advice here is to write for people, not for search engines. This is tricky because, in Search Engine Optimisation, one does indeed need to write for Search Engines. The skill lies in striking a balance between using the right keywords in your website’s copy while at the same time ensuring the content is readable, helpful, and valuable to the reader. But it goes beyond keywords. Useful content has a few elements which must be present for Search Engines to sit up and pay attention. Length Numerous studies have been conducted by major SEO players, trying to identify the ideal length for  website content. Some people agree that content of over 2,500 words, or even 3,000 words, is the only way to improve  search engine rankings. In a well-known article by SEO Guru Neil Patel, he says that a company’s content strategy should be to create the content of over 2,000 words. But, in 2016, SEO Expert Randy Fish disagreed. He describes that content should be useful and valuable to the reader, not necessarily long. Indeed, as recently as 2020, a study  of over 11.8 million Google Search Results by Backlinko found that, whereas content which was longer tended to generate more backlinks, it didn’t necessarily result in a better search engine ranking on its own. Their study revealed that the average word count of the top 10 Google results was as low as 1,447 words. This is why SEO is such a complex subject. A person must always have their finger on the pulse, analysing data from multiple sources to obtain an overall view of what works and what doesn’t. Either way, no one can argue that, all taken together, better content tends to be on the “longish” side. How long is “longish”? Well, according to the recent study by backlinko above, it’s at least 1,447 words! A rule of thumb could be that short content cannot necessarily be as useful as long content which is packed with tips and recommendations. Freshness Content should be fresh. It should be applicable to things happening now. There are two ways to achieve this: Write content regularly, never missing a deadline to get another blog post up for your website. Write “evergreen” content. “Evergreen” content is content which does not necessarily age, or ages slowly. If you’re going to write an article about search engine trends in 2009, that article will likely be hopelessly outdated by 2020. Evergreen content would not include a date in it. The beauty of creating evergreen content is that it can gain in momentum, gathering links and picking up pace as time progresses. It takes a lot of work to come up with evergreen content which remains “fresh” even as the world changes, but it can reduce your workload in the long term. Originality Content must be original. If you are saying what everyone else has already said, Search Engines will have no reason to pick your content over the others’ in the search engine results pages. In an article by Marieke van de Rakt of Yoast SEO, she says, “Nobody wants to read old news.” She also says that original content is the first thing to focus on when trying to create SEO-friendly website content. In order to improve one’s search engines rankings, it is utterly vital to create original content which has not been written before. This can take quite some thinking, especially if you are in a highly competitive field such as, well, selling flowers. If you are in a niche market, the problem is ameliorated to a degree. But, even then, the content you create should not be something your competitors have already created. Some ideas on how to create original content are: Interview people related to your industry and tell their story on your blog. Write about anecdotes at your business. These are almost always guaranteed to be unique. Write about a unique implementation of some business process at your office. Regularity Like everything in SEO, this topic is contentious. Some experts believe that posting regularly is vital; others say the frequency is not that important if the quality is high. But what does ”regularly” mean? Is it daily, weekly, monthly? The simple truth of the matter is that you must balance what you can do with what you should do. If you are busy all day filling orders for your clients, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a blog post out every day. And, really, what would you write about? One solution is to hire a content writer to churn out copy for you. In this regard, it’s better to choose an experienced writer; otherwise, you risk having plagiarised content on your site, which could lead to penalties from the Search Engines. So, work out what you can do and take it from there. A good rule of thumb is to try and write something original and useful every week. Tip #4: Optimize your images Images need to be optimised in order for search engines to understand what they are about. Although technology has improved, a search engine still requires textual data to understand what a website is about. Image “alt” tags Images on a web page have a special element associated with them called an “alt” or “alternative” tag. Think of the “alt tag” as a label — a tag — sticking out from a box, telling you what’s inside it. Alt tags are useful for two reasons: They describe the image and therefore give the search engine a tip about what it is about. They assist people who are using screen readers understand what the image is about. This makes your site more accessible. Barry Schwartz, a well-known SEO expert, noted that Google doesn’t currently use accessibility as a ranking factor in this article on SEO Round Table and that there are no plans to do it in the future. But on this matter of images, Google has said repeatedly that it looks for alt tags in images to help it understand the page and the image better. Image context Another important factor is the image context. The text which surrounds an image is important because it gives the search engine more information about what that image is about. Remember: Search engines deal, fundamentally, with text first, and everything else second. Image sizes This is a vital point in SEO and recently  became a major ranking factor, as the world started browsing the web more and more on mobile phones. Actually, the ranking factor is specifically page speed, not image size. But images are a crucial element when it comes to speeding up a page’s loading time. Indeed, in an article on Search Engine Land, Kristine Schachinger notes that optimising images is an area which many companies fail to capitalise on. Reducing an image’s size can speed up a page’s load-time tremendously. There are numerous tools available to reduce an image’s size. A simple search will take you to some of the best ones. If your website was created by the Start My Business team, then image-size-reduction happens automatically when you upload an image to your website. Tip #5: Don’t forget to link internally Search Engines try and understand your site’s structure. A key way to do this is to link internally between your content. When you create a link, make sure the link itself is descriptive of the page it is pointing to. For example, if you have a page titled “The Best Roses in South London”, make sure you use the phrase “best roses in London” or “best roses in South London” whenever linking to that page from other pages in your website. This gives the search engine a clue about the target page’s content. Summary of SEO Optimisation As you can see, SEO is a big subject. It takes years of experience to do it well, but the key thing is to get started. Using these five tips above, you can make massive headway in your SEO goals, and get your website optimised and ranking far better than it did before in the major search engines. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021
Design and Marketing Entrepreneurs, Stop Building Your Own Website Do This Instead!

There are two ways to start an entrepreneurial venture: Come up with a stellar idea that is utterly revolutionary but requires megabucks to get off the ground. Come up with a great idea which doesn’t require a lot of investment but requires plenty of your time. The first option is for ventures which are planning on becoming the latest unicorn. The second is for people who, perhaps, are just looking to get something off the ground and seeing where it might go. In both cases, building your own website might not be the best way to go when you could get a much more professional (and affordable) service from an agency that specialises in custom-built, unique websites. Why website design is important for businesses Even if your business is not entirely based on an online model, the world has changed, and people are now buying online more than ever. The “new normal” means that, if you don’t have an online, contactless method of selling your product or services, you’re going to struggle to compete. And then there’s the matter of marketing and brand awareness. In a world where over 4.57 billion people are online, trying to raise awareness for your brand without an online presence is like trying to catch a leaf in a tornado. A website also allows you to analyse your traffic and, therefore, your customers. By using simple analytics technology to see what people are doing on your website, you are able to gain a deeper understanding of your clients and visitors, and so improve your product and services to more closely match what they need. Why entrepreneurs should invest in custom and professional website design The main reason businesses should invest in web design rather than try and do it in-house is because the world of web design has skyrocketed into a new level of sophistication. It’s true of every tech-related industry: Technology has reached a point where we are almost living in that Science Fiction future we used to read about a few years ago. Whatever your startup industry is, you’re no doubt pro in that industry. And, when pe ople use your service, they’ll likely use it because you’re a pro. It takes years, perhaps even decades, to become a complete expert at something. The same is true of web design and web development — if you want a pro service, you need to call in an expert to put together a responsive design for your custom website which does your startup justice. Whether you go with a freelance web designer or a web design agency is not so much in question. The only question is this: Is the website design company you’re choosing a professional in the subject of website design for businesses? As competition grows more fierce, an entrepreneur’s web offering needs to stand out. A custom website which is unique in its design and has an excellent UX (“User Experience”) goes a long way to building your credibility and positive reputation. It also improves your chances greatly of people sharing your website and service on social media. Investing in a spectacular website doesn’t need to break the bank. The best web design agencies are also the ones who have adopted the most modern technology and methods, thereby allowing them to deliver phenomenal websites at a fraction of the cost. You have three broad choices when deciding who to choose, to get your website built: Freelance Web Design A freelance web designer might be an option if you’re on a tight budget. Freelancers sometimes offer a more personalised experience because they don’t deal with so many clients and so can talk directly to you about what you need. This can also backfire because the best freelancers can get busy very quickly and then might not be able to keep up with your project because they are too overwhelmed. This can be a real problem if you’re, say, trying to launch a new marketing campaign and need an eye-catching and effective landing page pronto. Web Design Agencies Web design agencies can offer a wide range of web design services spanning multiple platforms. They must also, perforce, keep up with the latest web technologies in order to compete effectively. This means you’re likely to get a state-of-the-art website with an agency in a fraction of the time compared to a freelance web designer. But, let’s face it, web design agencies can be a bit on the pricey side. Also, sometimes the “latest and greatest” web technology is not the right choice for your business website. Sometimes, tried and tested works better. Start My Business Professional Website Design Start My Business offers a blend of the two services above — web design at the quality of a web design agency with the personal touch and affordability of hiring a freelance web designer. We are able to do this because of our unique business model spanning not only web design but also numerous other marketing services. No matter the web design package you’re looking for, Start My Business can deliver. You can also smarten the package up with several add-on services. Summary of Investing in a Great Website Whomever you choose to build your website, remember that you are investing in a professional service that must be delivered by professional people. You are a pro at what you do. Rather hire someone else who is also a pro at what they do, and deliver a superior web experience to your customers, than try to do it yourself and delivering something substandard which harms your brand right from the getgo. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.

August 2021