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.

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Category: Online Visibility

  1. The importance of PR for small businesses, and how to increase your chances of getting featured in the media

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    The importance of PR for small businesses, and how to increase your chances of getting featured in the media

     

     PR business

     

    Securing PR as a small business can be transformational for your visibility; literally bringing you to the front of peoples’ minds and grabbing their attention. If you are seeing time after time in the local and national news another small business being featured and you wonder how they managed to get themselves front and centre in the media candy grabbing machine, and how you can get yourself there then you are most definitely not alone.

     

    In this article we are going to be focussing on why PR is so important for small businesses, taking a look at some examples of where entrepreneurs have secured PR which has had a positive impact on their business, and giving you a guide on how you can get yourself noticed by journalists and editors for potential features.

     

    In this post:

     

    • Why is PR so important for small business
    • The impact that securing PR can have on a small business or entrepreneurs journey
    • How to get PR for your small business

     

    Why PR is so important for small business

     

    “ PR has helped my business grow by building trust and credibility amongst my clients” Deep Bajwa, Opulence Events London.

     

    PR for small business is so much more than having a feature in your local newspaper that makes your Mum proud (you know the drill, where she carefully snips out the article and adds it to her memory box promising to show Uncle Colin next time he is over). Securing a positive feature for you and your business can have the following effects:

     

    • Build awareness of your brand and its purpose
    • Showcase your products and services to a local audience which boosts sales
    • Build trust and credibility for your business
    • Drive traffic through having quality backlinks to your website
    • Establish you as an authority or expert in your niche

     

    Building brand awareness for your brand

     

    Being able to tell your story, your why for starting out and what makes your business unique is an important part of establishing your brand identity, and being featured in a high quality publication is a fantastic platform for this. The challenge here is going really deep on understanding what makes your why so unique – because there are a million “rags to riches” stories, many, many “I was broken and this saved me” tales, and a whole bunch of “this is my calling” vocational documentaries. Your story needs to be able to appeal directly to a particular audience, and it needs to connect on a deep level to make it stand out from the others.

     

    " PR wasn't on top of the to do list when I first started my businesses and I actually thought I had to wait until I was "successful" to go down that route. Once I'd been quoted and featured in some articles I realised that the opposite was true! Everywhere else in my business there was a focus on visibility and I'd let this one fall through the cracks. You need PR now ... whatever stage you're at and it will increase your visibility with positive results you can rely on" Dawni Baxter, Beyond the Dawn

     

    Showcase your products and services

     

    I will always remember when Victoria Beckham mentioned shopping at M&S food as being the ultimate treat when her and David were in the UK, and the sales absolutely rocketed for M&S food stores straight after. This is a perfect example of where PR can really elevate your products and services, and not just to your established audience, but to new audiences too. M&S Food experienced a wave of new, younger clientele as a result of that celebrity endorsement, which gave them a much needed lifeline for their flailing business. Securing a mention, a feature or a review of your products in publications and through influencers can be game changing for your businesses if managed carefully – but you need to be ready for it, or be able to quickly react to the change in demand if you are suddenly inundated, because the effect can be doubly damaging if you fail to meet the expectations of all of those new potential customers.

     

    “PR For me is a new way to showcase my brand, core values and reach out to brides to be who want their wedding to be a lavish and timeless event” Abha Benjamin, Owner VLW Events.

     

    Build trust and credibility for your business

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    One of the biggest positives that you can take from securing PR for your small business, is in the endorsement that your business will get from being mentioned. Word of mouth is hands down one of the best ways to get people to buy into your brand, and if you get included in an important publication it can add a credibility to your business that you can then leverage in your marketing campaign.

     

    Similarly getting positive reviews, winning or being nominated for industry recognised awards and establishing authoritative testimonials are also examples of positive PR which can have a positive impact on your small business. People are 72% more likely to trust and buy from a brand that has been reviewed or has received testimonials from either peers or established authorities (source: seo tribunal) so getting PR for your small business can really set you apart from your competitors.

     

    Drive traffic to your website through having quality backlinks from reputable publications

     

    Ahhh the holy grail for SEO that is backlinks! The more backlinks you can get, the more you will boost your small businesses online visibility and SEO, so getting publications to give a link to your business is a proper positive result of securing PR. The rule here though is to be careful in who you want to approach for getting those links. The saying all PR is good PR is a controversial statement which requires it’s own post entirely, but for the purposes of SEO and adding authority to your website, you definitely need to be selective about who you approach for getting PR or endorsement. Poor quality publications which have a low domain authority can actually harm your website performance rather than improve it, so make sure you vet your target publications before pursuing them.

     

    If you can get a high quality backlink from a publication then this can have the effect of driving additional traffic to your pages from your ideal client – which is what happened when Kate from BrambleSky, luxury wedding décor producer was mentioned in the luxury wedding blog Rock My Wedding. “Being featured in RMW for a real wedding last year added lots of positives for my business. I got more traffic from the link, but also brides knew that my products were on trend and high quality because RMW wont feature if you are not!” Kate Palmer-Irani, BrambleSky Founder.

     

    Establish you as an authority or expert in your niche

     

    “PR has helped me to position myself as an expert in my profession. It has helped me to grow my income, audience and visibility immensely. I am now regularly contacted by journalists across the media such as The Times. It’s helped me to gain more speaking opportunities, award nominations and more importantly to increase the impact my work has for women” Catherine Morgan, The Money Panel

     

    If you are building a brand where you are the brand, then being featured or quoted as an expert on your niche or industry can open further doors for you as well as building up your own business. Like Catherine has quoted above, once you become known for your expertise then journalists and editors will come to you – because they love a go to, and they love a trusted source for unique content. The trick with this is making yourself marketable to the media industry, and there are a number of ways that you can do that.

     

    Examples of where PR has had a positive impact on a small business

     

    “I’m the-style-whisperer, a home and wardrobe stylist for women over 40 who are going through life changes such as divorce, the menopause, or career change, and want to evolve their style to suit their new life phase, and feel more gorgeous, confident and comfortable in themselves.

    I’ve been featured in everything from Vogue and Self Service, to The Express and The Telegraph. Press is invaluable -and there are so many more outlets than ever before! Sometimes it’s the unexpected press that gets clients calling, whilst some is for credibility building. I was featured in Forbes recently, which was a personal goal, so that helps your confidence as well as positioning!

    Before working with private clients, I worked for luxury brands and magazines, and once quickly made an earring out of a coke can for  Kate Moss - someone called asking for one!!! You never know who is watching, but I’d generally say press is part of your long term strategy.

     

    Aleksandra Olenska, The-style-whisperer.com

     

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    “‘We persisted with the press a lot, it didn’t just happen over night, but when we did it made a huge impact, the more we were in the press the easier it was to get more and more PR opportunities and people were talking about us, it really opened lots of doors for us.

     

    The more we spoke to journalists who wanted to report on us and tell our story the more confident we were to keep on doing it. Getting PR opportunities has been huge for the success of our business.’

     

    Charlie - Co-founder of Phonics with Robot Reg.

     

     

     

    “I worked with Pamela to craft a PR strategy around our international expansion into new markets with our luxury gin, and it was a real boost when Pamela managed to not just get us into the Manchester Evening News, but also a TV feature on the BBC News! The result was an increase in our website traffic and enquiries, but also an increased number of press enquiries which has been great for building our brand. I’m grateful to Pamela for her hard work to help build our luxury gin brand.”

     

    Andrew Niedzwiecki, Founder Worsley Gin

     

     

     

    How to get PR for your small business

     

    So if the rest of this article has been a but TL:DR and you’ve scrolled straight to the strong stuff then here you will find the advice and guidance on how you can secure PR for your business. To secure PR for your small business you need to think about:

     

    • Crafting your story
    • Branding your expertise
    • Creating a media kit
    • Targeted targeting
    • Local outreach
    • Get expert help 

     

    1. Crafting your story

    This is where it is hard to not sound like a broken record to be honest, because everyone will tell you to craft and hone your story, your why and your USP to make a compelling pitch to the media. Of course, you need to make sure that you have delved deep into your core purpose, your vision and your “why” to be able to tell your authentic story – but here is what journalists will respond to – why your story is shareable. Why do people need to know your story? What difference can you make to the audiences lives as a result of sharing? Journalists have the shareability of a feature on their minds all the time, so put this at the forefront of crafting your story and you may get better results.

    2. Branding your expertise

     

    People are creating how to guides, useful tips and insights all of the time, so if you think that just producing these will get the journalists salivating for your content, then you may want to think again! Branding your expertise is a great way of making you memorable – whether that is because you have a particular style or methodology, or you have a unique way of presenting information – look at what makes you different to your competitors, and then brand your expertise. My approach is to offer jargon free humorous takes on online visibility and digital marketing. It doesn’t make me the go to choice for the Financial Times, but my ideal clients don’t read that so I’m ok with it. It does appeal to business blogs, small business networks and female entrepreneur publications, and that is where my target audience hangs out, so I’m happy with that!

    3. Creating a Media Kit

     

    Here is the thing – if you want to get serious about getting PR for your small business then you are never to small to have a media kit. If you are thinking what the hell is a media kit then don’t feel overwhelmed – it is simply a pack of information regarding your business. Include key statistics about your business and include high res high quality images so that you are basically handing the press your business bio on a plate. Create a page on your website with a pdf of your media kit available for the media – you can then link to this when pitching to your target press.

     

    4. Targeted targeting

     

    What I am referring to here is both creating your list of targeted publications and putting yourself in the target area for that desired media. The trick here is to create your list with a sliding scale so that you don’t feel disheartened if you are knocked back (or ignored which happens more often than is good for anyone’s mental health) by the big guys straight away. Build your target list with smaller blogs, magazines and local publications, moving up to the more national and international outlets. Understand that you are going to be ignored and knocked back, but persistence is key, and will pay dividends if you consistently look to outreach.

     

    The other side to this is making sure you are hanging out where the press, journalists and influencers are hanging out. So many small businesses have abandoned Twitter because they don’t think it serves their business, but it is still a major hang out place for journalists – so get yourself on the platform and follow the #journorequest. You never know when there might be a story that someone is working on that you can spin to you and your business! Other places to get yourself involved include the Facebook Groups Lightbulb and Feature Me! – both of these look to connect journalists with entrepreneurs for story opportunities. The other place to register is HARO ( Help a reporter out) – all of these outlets will give you opportunities to match your story to their feature needs.

     

    As mentioned earlier in the post, make sure you check out any targets to make sure that they are high quality and that you are given the opportunity to read back whatever is being featured so that it correctly represents your business.

     

    5. Local Outreach

     

    Research local events, charity functions and community initiatives that you can get involved in as a business – these are great for local PR and you don’t always need to donate money – donating time or resources can make a huge difference. The latest coronavirus pandemic has been such a massive blow to small and local businesses, but the amount of positive PR pieces that have come out of the situation is unreal – from craft gin distillers turning their skills to making hand sanitiser, to local fitness businesses like Leah at FarmFit offering free classes to NHS workers.

    The event décor company Sweetness and Lights North West have donated a full wedding décor package to a couple from the NHS who are having to delay their wedding and Worsley Gin gifted a luxury hamper to a worthy keyworker. These examples get the small businesses lots of positive PR, but also the word of mouth effect which will help their businesses once the world reopens for business.

     

    6. Get Expert help

     

    Now more than ever is the time to think about getting expert help if you want to propel your PR to the next level for your small business. Which is where expert PR strategist Nicola Rowley can help.

    nicola rowley

     

    As the owner of a Communications Agency specialising in helping female entrepreneurs get visible (NJRPR), it’s more important than ever to ensure your PR Strategy is aligned with your business strategy.

     

    I know that times are uncertain right now, but think about your messaging, your expertise and how you can help your ideal clients at the moment.

     

    Journalists are looking for positive stories about business owners who have diversified, who have pivoted to help others or are offering something that’s invaluable.

     

    Being visible right now through the power of Strategic PR storytelling has never been more important. And it all begins with understanding your story and your hey messaging. Don’t just make knee-jerk approaches to media outlets in the hope of being quoted. What do you want the outcome from every piece to be?

     

    If you haven’t yet worked out your story or what you can offer right now, I have 10 PR Strategy Sessions available to help you get clear on your communications. Email me at [email protected] for more details.

     

    And if you would like lots of free advice, tips and to join a community of fellow entrepreneurs and Journalists visit my Facebook group The Communications Community. We’d love to have you with us:

     

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheCommunicationsCommunity

     

    Nicola’s website can be found at: https://www.njrpr.com

     

     

     

    So if you are serious about getting PR for your business, have been convinced by the impact that it can have for your business journey and have got some tips to move forward with – what is stopping you from becoming a media magnet…

     

  2. How to create an ideal website structure that brings you traffic to your web pages

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    How to create an ideal website structure that brings you traffic to your pages!

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    When you say the words website structure, most small business owners will reach for the nearest duvet to go hide under – the phrase intimates something technical and scary and – gulp – expensive! Cue the hundreds of SEO professionals gathering around like a pack of hyenas offering their services to “fix” or “optimise” your website structure so that you get that elusive number one ranking position or achieve some sort of holy grail with your website.

    The truth is, a good website structure is something far more simple than that, but something so important that small business owners should not be overlooking it. In this post I will explain the elements of a good website structure and how you can plan your website for success.

    In this post:

    • Why is a good website structure important?
    • What goes into designing a good website structure?
    • How to plan your website hierarchy
    • Planning a good navigation for your website
    • How links are important in your website structure
    • Creating a sitemap for your structure
    • Testing, reviewing and staying curious about your website structure

    Why is a good website structure important?

    Having a good website structure is important for three key reasons:

    1. Your user experience. You want your users to not just click on your website, but you want them to stick around and spend time there – the more time they spend on your website the more likely they are to buy your goods or services, so having a good site structure that encourages session time is really important.
    2. It will help you to plan your SEO goals and targets. If you plan out a thorough and comprehensive site structure you will then be able to map out where you need to build relevant content and backlink opportunities. You will be able to estimate how much time it will take you which will help you to prioritise where you invest your time with content creation and backlink outreach.
    3. A good website structure is easier for the Google spiders to crawl. A messy structure which has lots of pages off of other pages without a clear hierarchy will likely cause pages to be missed when they are being crawled.

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    What goes into designing a good website structure?

    Interestingly it does not involve having a load of technical knowledge or expertise! The fundamental elements of designing a good website structure are based upon knowing your business, understanding your industry and most importantly, understanding your ideal user and how they will interact with your website.

    You do not need to have a degree in programming or an ability to understand complicated algorithms to be able to design the ideal structure for your website.

    Here are the things to think about:

    • What does your business do?
    • What industry does your business operate in?
    • Why does your business do what it does? What purpose does it serve?
    • Who are your ideal clients? What are their demographics?
    • What is your call to action? (Shop now, sign up, book now, download now…)

    If you brainstorm these fundamentals then they are going to give you the basis for all of the essential information that you are going to need in your website. This will also give you the basis for keyword research and competitor analysis.

    Knowing your ideal client will provide you with all the information for structuring your website

    Your ideal client will have a problem they want to solve or a desire they want to satisfy. They will have a language they use and a behaviour pattern they follow that will tell you what is best for structuring your information and call to action.

    Example: Ideal Client is a new Mum, time poor, needs to find an outfit for World Book Day for her child to go to school but doesn’t want to break the bank or have the kids complaining about how itchy the costumes were last year. Feels she is up against the yummy mummies who will either have made something amazing or will have ordered something extravagant and expensive. Wants a solution, and a user experience that is friendly and non-intimidating and easy to return if it isn’t right. She needs to be able to trust who she is buying from because she has ordered rubbish in the past.

    The problem: An outfit for World Book Day

    The influencing factors: Time poor, needs to be comfortable, needs to be affordable, needs to be stylish, needs a friendly experience

    What this tells you for your site structure:

    1. The experience needs to demonstrate that the outfits on your site will solve the problem
    2. There needs to be a quick and easy shopping process.
    3. There needs to be details about the products that demonstrate the style and quality of the products
    4. There needs to be a transparent returns process.
    5. The experience needs to be soft and approachable.
    6. The site needs to have social proofing to demonstrate trust.

    How this translates into a website structure:

    1. HOME PAGE LAYOUT Welcoming home page with clear shop now call to action
    2. HOME PAGE CONTENT A language that demonstrates you understand the problem and have the solution with good quality imagery and emotive language.
    3. SHOP PAGE LAYOUT Easy to browse categories
    4. SHOP PAGE CONTENT Clear and simple product descriptions, size guides and washing instructions
    5. VALUE PAGE CONTENT Testimonials and reviews which demonstrate your brand can be trusted
    6. VALUE PAGE CONTENT About Us Page which demonstrates your understanding of the pain points and your why for being in business
    7. ESSENTIAL INFO LAYOUT Clear returns process, delivery information and terms & conditions
    8. ESSENTIAL INFO CONTENT How to return, how to complain, how to query, how privacy and data will be managed.
    9. SOCIAL PROOFING LAYOUT Link to social media and social media reviews. Link to Testimonials
    10. SOCIAL PROOFING CONTENT Reviews and case studies which demonstrate how you have solved the problem.

    When you think about it logically and put the customer at the heart of your decision making, crafting a site structure that is built to convert does not seem so complex!

    Keyword Research is integral to website design

    When you are brainstorming your businesses purpose and going deep on understanding your ideal client and what their pain points are, you are already going to be doing keyword research without even realising it.

    The thing with keywords is that they are never what you originally think. If you are a wedding photographer you can be forgiven for thinking that wedding photographer should be your top keyword, but this is actually not the case – for a couple of reasons. 1. That exact keyword phrase is so saturated that unless you have a tonne of money to spend on expensive backlink outreach and a team of content writers then you are unlikely to rank highly for them. 2. Your ideal client may not even be using that search term. If you are based in Birmingham and your ideal clients are based there then you would get more success focussing on wedding photographer Birmingham, and even better focussing on the driver/influence for that ideal client. What I mean by this is what is driving their search – with the latest update from Google search intention is a really important factor for content ranking, so look to find the driver or intent for the search and this will give you keyword inspiration. So examples would be “best wedding photographer in Birmingham” or “cheap wedding photographer Birmingham” “documentary style wedding photographer Birmingham” “LGBTQ+ wedding photographer Birmingham” – I hope you get my drift.

    When you are researching your keywords it is really important to understand how competitive they are and how difficult it will be to rank for them. It is also important to understand how much those search terms are actually used (it is no good ranking for something that no one searches for!). A good tool to use is searchvolume.io although there are a load of others including Googles Keyword planner. This will help you to plan the target keywords you are going for so that you can include this in your structure plan for titles, descriptions and content.

    Get to know how good your competitors are so you can plan your structure to beat them

    It is as simple as that. Research how good your competitors are (ubersuggest is a good spying tool) and this will inform you how to structure your site to compete against and beat them. Look at how their pages flow, their call to action and their content and use this to build a plan which is superior. The tip here is not to try and take on everyone! Find one competitor that you really want to target and make that the basis for your analysis and actions.

    How to plan your website hierarchy

    The key things to think about with having a good website hierarchy are:

    -          It has to make sense to the user

    -          It has to be clear

    -          It shouldn’t have too many sub categories of categories

    Take your time when planning out your hierarchy because this is determining how many clicks a user is going to have to take to get to their desired content and how long your URLs are going to become! The longer the URL the more chance it can have of getting broken (this is quite an old school idea but I think its really valid – like when you roll out play dough into a snake and the snake gets longer and longer until it breaks!)

    The other point to think about is your plan for your website growth – it is no good investing time in your website structure to get a good foundation and then willy nilly adding content here there and everywhere and mucking up your site structure a few months down the line! The absolute best practice is to have a phasing – but if you can’t commit the time to this then just bear in mind to think about where additional content is going to go.

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    Planning a good navigation of your website

    This is similar to hierarchy but refers more to your content than the placement of your pages. How you navigate on your pages is an important element of your site structure because it will massively influence how long a user stays on a page and where they then progress through your website. This is where you need to plan your assets on your pages – that is your content, imagery and links. The idea is that you should be telling a story with every page. Going back to your ideal client and what pain points they have; this should form the basis for your page navigation. Try to break up content into meaningful blocks to keep the user occupied and to help keep order on your pages. Use separators and colours to keep content distinct and this will help with creating a navigational journey which will reduce bounce rate on your page and increase session time.

    How links are important in your website structure.

    The world wide web is basically a giant spider web of links. Google uses its algorithm to bounce around those links and give answers to search queries so your link structure and strategy is essential for creating a website which will be visible to the search engines.

    Most small businesses are unaware of the importance of including links in their website, both internal links and external, and they underestimate the power that a quality backlink can give them to getting organic traffic to their website.

    When compiling your site structure make a list of the links which will be included on each page – internal links to other pages and external links to other websites. You can link to other websites to recommend their products or services, to answer a particular query or to reinforce a point that you are making in your content.

    Getting backlinks from external websites into your website is also an incredibly important part of your online visibility strategy – so while you are compiling your structure think about what websites you would want to link to your pages. Influencers, media outlets, independent reviewers, high quality directories; these are all examples of where you can target for getting backlinks that point to your website.

    Creating a sitemap for your structure

    This is basically creating a list of the pages that can be found on your website, and it is the final task to be done after completing all of the above! What you need to remember is to keep updating your sitemap every time you make a change to your pages – if you add or delete pages then you should create a new sitemap and submit to Google Search Console.

    Do I need to have a sitemap link in my footer?

    In short, no – this is very old school! If you focus on creating a clear structure for your website with clean navigation that has the ideal client at the heart of its construction, then you should not need to have a sitemap link in your footer. It is a bit like carrying around a diagram of your body all the time; if you know what is on your body and others can see it – a diagram shouldn’t be necessary!

    Staying curious about your website structure

    One of the biggest disappointments that I find when working with small businesses and their websites is that once it is built they think it is “done”. Once they have seen it go live and posted on social media they then let the pages fester and then wonder why 12 months later they are not ranking on Google or they have been overtaken by some zealous whippersnapper. The reality is your website needs to be worked on just like any other area of your business, and there is a direct correlation to how much time and effort you invest in your online visibility to the results you will get. People mistakenly think that managing their website is something that is too difficult, and because it doesn’t yield immediate vanity results in the same way that social media does, they then default to leaving the website. As there are over 6 billion searches every day this is a real shame and I am on a mission to get people loving their websites as much as they do their Instagram grid!

    Diarise time to review the impact that your website structure is having, what pages are getting the most traffic and what pages are not working, and be curious as to why that may be. Get regular feedback and make a content plan that constantly updates your website just like your social media. Well if not as regular as your social media then a lot more regularly than you might have before!

    As an online visibility specialist my passion is to help small businesses with getting their websites seen by the search engines. Check out my free Facebook community which shares daily hints, tips and advice on all things SEO, Social Media and general visibility!