Small Business Support Blog

If you are interested in reading about how to get your business visible online, with regular insights into being an entrepreneur and navigating your way through the business world, then this blog is for you!

We regularly post interesting articles on topics on leadership, management and visibility - with guest articles and features from experts in their field.

If you are interested in collaborating and would like to do a guest feature then please email [email protected] 

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  1. The importance of branding in 2021 and how branding photography can help your small business with SEO...

    Importance of branding photography in 2021

     

    Branding is such a hot topic for 2020 and 2021. With every small business looking to get ahead against their competition and stand out from the crowd in a post coronavirus environment; the word brand has become even more popular, and it can be confusing to understand what it actually means - particularly when it is something which is synonymous with pretty logos and a trendy colour palette.

    In this post we will explore the meaning of branding for small businesses, and what branding, including branding photography can do for your online visibility and SEO. If you don't know me already, I’m Pamela, Manchester branding specialist and online visibility expert, and I’ve been helping small businesses for years with establishing their brand identity, defining their brand messaging and developing their brand to support their business growth. I’ve helped hundreds of businesses with their SEO and getting visible online, and I know first-hand how important it is to craft a brand that will give you a firm foundation and platform for success against your competitors.

    What is branding?

     PRW Wine

    Branding is defined as the key attributes of a business that create differentiators to the competition. In the 1950s when branding and advertising started to become the key drivers for product sales, the main focus was on creating an eye catching visual and recognisable slogan - think Shake N Vac and Fairy Liquid as examples.

     shake n vac

    Fast forward to 2021 and the emphasis for a brand is much more of an eco-system that takes into the account all of a businesses functions, its behaviours and it’s stakeholders. Which may seem a bit grand for a small business who is just trying to make their way in their local area, but think again. With the rise of internet usage and social media giving a platform for new businesses like never before, it has never been more important to think about your brand as a small business to give yourself a fighting chance of standing out against the competition. The stark reality is that a new website is created every 8 minutes and there are over 20 million business accounts on Instagram - spending over £25 billion a year on ads. Now there’s a stat bomb if I ever heard one.

    Your brand is defined by your vision, your values, your behaviours and your messaging, which should all be completely centred around your ideal client. And when I say ideal client, I mean a real person that has either bought from you, or you want to buy from you that currently buys elsewhere. Creating a fictional avatar is a bit redundant in 2021 - you want to be focussing on what you know, and going deep into understanding your ideal client so that you can meet their needs effectively, and crafting a message which makes you stand out from your competitors which could become the game changer for your businesses visibility in a post covid world.

    Building and curating your brand messaging should be a careful and considered task - and not just seen as a content creation hamster wheel (because let’s be honest, when you feel like you are creating content for the sake of creating content it can be soul destroying - check out my previous post on this). Having clearly defined your messaging you are far more able to be genuine, authentic and show up for your audience in a way that will help them and motivate them to buy from you. You are integral to your brand, which makes presenting yourself to the world in a way that supports your messaging is important, and it’s why branding photography will be an essential part of a small businesses toolkit in 2021. So how can you craft such amazing brand messaging that will make you stand apart from your competitors?

    Brand messaging for small businesses

    1. Completely immerse yourself in your ideal client and get to know them in every way possible. Their pain points, what brings them joy, how they behave, how they live.
    2. Think about how your business serves your ideal client. How you help, how you solve a problem or satisfy a desire. How do you elevate their life?
    3. Think about your USP. What makes you different?
    4. Think about how you can demonstrate those differences - what will help to create connection, engagement and trust with your ideal client?
    5. Unlock your superpower - what transformation do you bring?

    Going through this 5 step system will give you a couple of things - for one it might give you a heart attack if you are not used to thinking about your business outside of your products or services! What it will most definitely give you though is an understanding of how to connect with your customers on their level, which will inform you of the content you need to create to build the know, like and trust factor essential for anyone to make a purchasing decision. It will also give you a bank of content that your ideal client is searching for online, which means you can create messages which will get your business more visible online...

    What will probably be uncomfortable is thinking about your superpower and valuing your part in the process. Although it may be uncomfortable, this will be what separates you from your competition. It’s often why branding photography (or professional headshots if you want to be more traditional with terminology) are a brilliant way to invest in your business. Not only will they provide you with high quality content in line with your other brand visuals, a good branding photographer will help you to unlock the you in your brand, which will boost the know, like and trust factor exponentially.

    But I thought branding was just a logo and slogan with a pretty website?

    Branding is so much more than a pretty logo and a colour palette that you stick into canva to make some visuals with. Your overall aesthetic, and the visual you create across every digital touch point must support the emotional connection which you are building with your brand messaging. It takes on average 7 times for a potential customer to see your business before they will buy from you, so that’s 7 sets of consistent messages that someone needs to see. In this post we will not delve deeply into the values, community and stakeholder behaviours of branding, however they are incredibly important for building your brand profile beyond what your products and services deliver. Who you procure from, what provenance there is behind your brand, how you operate and who you operate with are all so important for brands in 2021, and with the latest google algorithm update pending, small businesses that are already looking to incorporate this into their messaging will fair better against competitors who aren’t thinking brand rather than business for their long term future.

    Branding photography is something which is really growing in importance as a way of building the connection with the owners and founders of small business with their audience - whether it is to demonstrate expertise with action shots of creating unique products, or lifestyle imagery that reflects the entrepreneurs personality and values; branding photography can elevate a business beyond just a nice set of images.

    Manchester SEO Specialist

    How can branding photography help SEO?

     There are a few ways that branding photography can help with SEO:

    1. High quality imagery makes a brand more discoverable (image search is the highest growing search trend)
    2. Great branding photography adds to the user experience on a website which increases session time - a ranking factor for google
    3. Your branding photography has the power to stop someone from clicking elsewhere, which reduces your bounce rate - another ranking factor for google
    4. Photos with faces are more likely to be engaged with on social media, which can increase the share-ability of content which can boost SEO.
    5. Great photos can give you the confidence to create more relevant content for your audience, which adds to the user experience, which can help with SEO.

    How much should I be investing in branding photography to help my online visibility and SEO?

    The investment needed for creating a great portfolio of images will vary depending on a number of factors, including location, the experience of the photographer and number of images required. Here are some questions to ask a branding photographer when understanding the investment required:

    • How long is the branding photography session
    • How many locations will be included in the shoot
    • How many outfit changes will be included in the session
    • How many images will be taken on average during the session
    • How are images presented post photoshoot
    • How long does editing the photos take

    Will branding photography really help your business to succeed? That question depends entirely on you, and how much you choose to make it part of your overall brand messaging and approach for driving your business. It can be the difference between someone liking your business and trusting your business, so it is definitely food for thought...

    My branding photography was captured by Bolton Branding Photographer Jo Bishop, at the wonderful Chetham Farm Retreat.

  2. Why guest blogging is bad for SEO...

    Manchester SEO Specialist

     

    Ummm what now?! What are you talking about? Guest blogging to build links is one of the first things you teach Pamela so why are you saying this now?!

    Because it’s true. Guest blogging purely for building links is bad for SEO. Quite simply because Google knows when link building is artificial. It knows when you’ve been artificial and it won’t do you any favours. John Mueller (one of the honchos at Google) has been quoted as saying “if you are guest blogging for links, you had better no follow those links” - and that is because Google wants link building to be natural, not artificial.

    I’ve been really encouraging my SEO membership group to get active with blogging and guest blogging, and it’s been great to see them enthusiastically exchanging details and looking to exchange content. What I need to emphasise even more though is that the quality of the content that they are producing is of upmost importance, and that merely exchanging a few hundred words with a few links thrown in will not actually help them.

    So now you are thinking should I carry on guest blogging for my SEO then?

    Guest blogging for SEO, when you focus on high quality content with natural link references can be a great tool for building up content and authority on your website. You have to think about a number of things however to actually get the benefit of doing this type of SEO activity which all centre on producing high quality content:

    • The structure of the content
    • The volume of the content
    • The relevance of the content
    • The natural references
    • The value add for your audience


    In this post I’ll go into each of these in a bit more detail to help you understand more about guest blogging for SEO, and how if you are careful and considered, focussing on creating high quality content, it can be a benefit for your website ranking.

    guest blogging bad for SEO

    Guest blogging for SEO tip number one - The structure of the content is important

    Poorly written guest blog posts which have very little structure and that are hard to read will not fair well, and you are better off not doing them. This is where you need to be selective about who you choose to collaborate with. If they are producing guest blogs purely to advertise their business rather than add value to your audience, say no. If they are looking to guest blog to generate high quality information which will add to the user experience for your audience, then you can wholeheartedly say yes to this.

    Well structured guest blogs will have a clear outline in their introduction, they will have organised information with relevant headings, sub headings and a good summary to conclude. The information will be clearly laid out and there will be images and graphics to accompany the piece.

    Guest blogging for SEO tip number two - The volume of content really matters.

    I’ll start to sound like a broken record here, but fundamentally if you are blogging for the sake of it just to build links, you would be better off doing something else with your time. If you want to guest blog to produce valuable content to increase your audience then creating a post which actually is useful and comprehensive will take time and effort. I’m often asked how long should a blog post be - well the reality is that pages that rank on the first page of google on average have between 1200-1800 words, and Hubspot say that a blog post should be at least 2000 words! Yes I said 2000. There is an irony to this because if you google "how long should a blog post be?" the rich snippet is from Yoast which says 300 words - which prettty much says everything you need to know about the yoast plugin.

    So do I literally have to write an essay every time I blog I hear you say? Well, if you are serious about creating blog posts that are going to be seen, you’ll need to write something that is pretty comprehensive, yes. The next question is how do I find something to write that much about? The answer to this lies with you, and how much you can go into detail about your topic. The more detail you can go into your topic and give thorough explanations, the more the post will be recognised as a quality post.

     

    Guest blogging for SEO tip number three - the relevance of the content is essential

    Broken record time - blogging for the sake of it and just to build links is useless and could actually be damaging for your SEO because it could get flagged as being Spam if you have loads of low quality blogs with dodgy links which are obviously there just to advertise.

    Being careful and considered when choosing who to partner with when guest blogging is really important, because you want to make sure that the content you produce is going to be relevant to that website and the audience. This is why I always encourage people to collaborate with others in their niche or industry, or at least related industry so that the content they produce is both relevant to the audience and has more likelihood of being interesting to that audience! The moral of the story here - if your business is in finance, there is not a lot of relevance to guest blog on a cake makers website if you are writing about a finance topic.

     

    Guest blogging for SEO tip number four - natural references not artificial link building is the aim of the game

    Stuffing keywords and stuffing links is about as old fashioned as my Aunt Mildred’s wardrobe and should be avoided at all costs (a bit like Aunt Mildred’s wardrobe!). In order for links to be of any use to you for building page authority, you need to make them natural and relevant to the post you are writing.

    Linking to further information on a topic is a good thing for SEO. Linking to a relevant product you’ve been describing is a good thing for SEO. Linking to evidence on something you are discussing is a great thing for SEO. What is not great for SEO:

    • Listing links
    • Links which have no context to the text
    • Links which don’t add value to the text

    Natural references, evidence building and further information are the way to go with incorporating links into your guest blogs to make them effective for SEO.

    There was an interesting statistic from Hubspot which indicated that 43% of blog posts are only skim read, which means that links have to stand out and be interesting to a reader to make them click on them. Links to videos or other dynamic content also stand a better chance of being clicked on.

     

    Guest blogging for SEO tip number 5 - You have to focus on adding value to your audience

    Wait for it - blogging for the sake of it just to build links is not worth it. Spend the time working on your social media or upping your meta description game instead. Because honestly, unless you want to add value to the audience you are writing for, with well structured, thorough, detailed content with good natural references, you are not going to glean the results from blogging or guest blogging.

    But people don’t actually read blog posts anymore do they? They do if they are interested in the content! It’s true that people want quick answers to questions nowadays which is why featured snippets have become a popular trend, but at the end of the day people want answers to their search terms, and they want to be entertained. This gives you opportunities to solve those problems or satisfy those desires (I had to get that in or Aunt Mildred would have been unimpressed). For example, you’ve read this post! There are a number of reasons why you have probably read this post: 

    • The headline shocked you because it goes against what you think I’ve been telling you
    • Because you are interested in understanding if guest blogging is worth it
    • You were also probably wondering if you have been doing it wrong and looking for the answers on how to do it right (which I hope that this post is doing!).

    If you focus on adding value to your intended audience then actually you can get your content noticed. This works especially for guest blogging. It’s bad manners to create a guest blog for someone that you haven’t put a lot of time and effort into - and that won’t be of interest to their audience. Really consider the topics you are selecting when you are providing guest blogs, and be really selective about who you choose to publish guest content on on your website.

    So what have we covered in this post? We’ve established that poor quality content (ie blogging for the sake of blogging) and artificial link building is about as useful for your SEO as putting your TV remote in the fridge. We have explored the reasons why - that google can identify low quality and spammy like activity and we’ve made it clear that google is looking for high quality, relevant, thorough and accurate information to give searchers the answers to their search terms. We have dissected the elements of quality content production and discussed whether people even actually read blog posts anymore. After all that, I think we need a cup of tea/Diet Coke/wine! Who’s with me?!

    PRW Wine