What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
If you have a website or are looking to get one soon, one of the first little acronyms that you'll hear thrown around is "SEO". But what is SEO and how much do you need to invest in it? Why should you care, and can you do something about it yourself? In this first instalment of 'The Basics', we dial back the technical terms and get to the guts of what SEO means to you and your business.
SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - what's that?
SEO stands for 'Search Engine Optimisation'. It's a broad term that covers a range of techniques used to try to get your site performing the best it possibly can in search engine results naturally. So rather than paying Google to run your ad at the top of the search rankings, the goal of an SEO plan is to bring your website up to the top of the rankings without needing to pay Google.
But how does it work?
Imagine reading through every website on the internet and then trying to put them into topic categories, regions, and in order of which site is the best match for a topic and a region. That's effectively what Google's algorithm is doing every day and is a great starting point for understanding how SEO and search engines work. Unfortunately, Google can't watch through the videos on a website, or see a picture and know what's in it (although we're sure that may change in the future!). What Google can look at is what is written on the site and where it is written. That's the starting point for SEO - the 'on-site' factors which tell Google what your site is about. The search engines also then look at how the site relates to the rest of the internet (eg what other websites are talking about a site), and that makes up the second part of the equation - the 'off-site' factors. A good SEO plan is all about getting those on-site factors and off-site factors targeting the topics and search terms you want your website to show near the top of the rankings in.
So what are the on-site factors I need to worry about?
Exactly what the Google algorithm looks at in ranking a website isn't absolutely set in stone. As the algorithm evolves, different elements of your site will be looked at differently by Google, but there are some 'rules of thumb' you can follow.
And what about off-site factors?
The off site part of SEO can be a little trickier to get your head around. While looking at all the sites on the internet, Google is also following the links between sites to try to better understand what they are about. For example, if your local Rugby Club has a website and it links off to the local Netball team website, Google will be looking at that link to identify if they are related in some way. On top of that, the search engine knows that if a high ranking, high quality website is linking off to another site, then that other site should be looked at in higher regard. Equally, if a low ranking, low quality site links off to another site, then that negative may rub off on that site as well. So where possible, if you can have your site featured in articles on well regarded sites that are about the same topic area that you work in, you'll see benefit.
Also think about sharing your website links through your social media channel's regularly. Google has an uncanny knack of identifying popularity on the internet in general, so if your social media channels flourish (and you link back to your website), then expect good things!
Do I need to worry about anything?
As you do a search for SEO you might see the terms 'white hat' and 'black hat' SEO pop up. These terms basically allude to there being good ways and bad ways of doing SEO, and they get thrown around in different contexts that can be quite confusing. The bottom line is that as Google evolves, some of the techniques used in the past to jump up the search rankings have started to have negative effects. As a basic rule, anything a human would look at as 'unnatural' on your site will increasingly be recognised by the search engines as you trying to game the system. For example, cramming hundreds of keywords in the site meta data used to be the way to tell Google what the site was about - that no longer really works. Same goes with overloading your page with keywords (ie having only keywords on the page without other text around it). Link building in particular can be slightly risky these days - beware of a 'toxic link' - ie a link from a website that has nothing to do with your topic area, from a site that Google doesn't necessarily trust. If you have an SEO specialist that suggests a 'link building' campaign, just make sure they are cautious about where they are getting those links from. Some of these dodgier SEO techniques may give your site a short term bump, but long term could damage your rankings.
Do I need to do anything?
So the good news is that even if you do absolutely no SEO on your site, it's possible it will start moving up the search engine rankings. There are so many factors that contribute to a ranking, that if you have a reasonably good site in a niche that isn't super competitive, then over time your site can creep towards that coveted front page ranking. However, if you aren't running a rankings scan, and haven't got an eye to the SEO side of things, then you are leaving things to chance a little bit. It would be like Usain Bolt showing up to the Olympic final without training for the last year - his natural talent miiiight pull him through, but it's far more likely the runners that have been training will cross the line in front of him. SEO is very much like training in that regard - it can be a pain in the ass, and if you don't do it then it isn't the end of the world...but if you want to win - then it's probably something you should look into.
For more information about SEO or anything in our "The Basics" series, don't hesitate to contact [email protected] .
Giving for good this Christmas
As the end of the year quickly approaches us, businesses throughout New Zealand will be looking at thanking their clients and showing gratitude in what has been an extremely tough 2020. But is there a better way to give this Xmas?
Bottles of booze will be wrapped, gift boxes will be sent, and branded items will fly around the country as we all look to make sure our clients and suppliers know just how important they are to us. Small gestures can be huge, and it's always important to thank those in our circles that have made 2020 just that little bit better. However, this year in particular has shone a light on alot of kiwis that are doing it tough - and there is no time like Christmas to look outward when it comes to giving. Increasingly, businesses and clients really appreciate seeing social good being done, and there are a huge range of fantastic charities around that you are able to donate to on your client's behalf. This year, instead of sending out our annual Christmas gift, 543 are going to direct those funds into a few donations to charities - and we'd really encourage anyone who was thinking of sending us a gift to do the same.
With New Zealand having 27,000+ charities - the real trick becomes figuring out where to send a Christmas donation. From child poverty, to medical advances, there are literally thousands of worthy causes to get behind. If you're so inclined, you can dive into the Charities Register to have a look through all of New Zealand's charities, but below we've provided a few thoughts to help you land on the charity that is right for you.
What's important right now?
Choosing where to give probably starts at having a think about what is going on in the world right now, and what charities might be needing help in this moment in time. 2020 has obviously seen alot of families fall on tough times, so for us a charity like KidsCan, or The Salvation Army makes alot of sense. Housing is also a burning topic at the moment - so Habitat for Humanity could be another good option, or take a look at The Kindness Institute - which focuses on overcoming anxiety, fear and stress. Equally, you may recognise that alot of attention will be going the way of those charities this year, and so might look towards something like Canteen or Forest & Bird to make sure those other areas in need continue to get some backing while the spotlight is pointed elsewhere.
What's important to you?
Ultimately everyone has their own passions and life experiences that will guide their giving. You might want to get in behind climate change and our future leaders with Generation Zero or perhaps you have had someone close to you touched with dementia and Alzheimers NZ holds a special place in your heart. If there is something very important to you, you're bound to find a fantastic charity in New Zealand to get behind.
Go local - or look abroad?
For 543 one of the first things we did was have a look around for charities in our region. The Hawke's Bay Foundation, with their approach of spreading donations across a range of charities locally was a natural fit. You'll be able to find your own local charities with a little bit of looking, and in 2020 it does seem fitting to support local. With that said, New Zealand's response to Covid-19 has put us in an enviable position globally, and there are alot of overseas causes that will have increasing need of help. The poorest countries in the world will be the last to get a vaccine, so something like Unicef for example will remain important.
What is happening around you?
The last little consideration that we looked at was where our colleagues and fellow businesses have directed their giving this year. We're truly stoked to have seen both our competitors and friends already donating to Surf Life Saving NZ and Send A Little Smile. Those are both charities we could easily get behind, but knowing some other awesome businesses have backed them, also let's us have a look around at other options to share the love this Christmas season.
At the end of the day, if you are choosing to support a charity this year instead of send out gifts this Christmas, who you donate to will be a really personal choice - and there shouldn't really be a wrong answer! Above are just a handful of example options we've included - hopefully they spark a light bulb moment for you about where you'd like to give this year. Have a look around, understand what the cause you are getting behind stands for and give for good in 2020.
It's the time of the year when the internet starts to go crazy with specials! Given how tough 2020 has been for so many people, here at 543 Design we've decided to extend a 20% discount for 2020's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale. Just complete the below form before 1 December 2020 and we'll apply a 20% discount to your website design fee. Our prices are already some of the best in the business, so get yourself an incredible site for an incredible price this weekend.
*Can be applied to as many sites as required, however discount is a maximum of 20% and can not be used in conjunction with any other 543 discount.
How subtlely rebranding can keep your company identity
It should come as no surprise in today's online economy that positive reviews are hugely beneficial for your business. Whether you have a physical retail store, own a cafe, run a law firm, or have an e-commerce website, Google reviews may be one of the first things a potential customer sees about your company. It's hugely important to cultivate a good selection of reviews, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by sending a Google review link directly to your customers. Below are a few simple steps you'll need to follow to create that Google review link.
How to Create a Google My Business Review Link
1) Claim your Google My Business Profile
This may be something you have already done, but if not, it's a crucial first step towards not just improving your Google reviews, but also improving your general profile on Google. To claim your profile simply head to https://www.google.com/business/ , sign up, and create your businesses profile. If you have a marketing company working for you, they may have already done this, and you'll just want to liaise with them about the next few steps.
And you are done! Hopefully this has helped you get your review link out to more of your clients, but if you have any questions about this, website design, or anything else on our site, don't hesitate to contact us today.
Is e-commerce right for your business?
With Coronavirus seeing more and more individuals self isolating, the world of e-commerce is going to become increasingly important. Have you geared your business up to be able to sell your products or services online?
It's fair to say that over the last decade the way that we do business has changed. The wealthiest company and man in the world has their entire business based around the concept of buying goods without ever having to step foot in a physical store. Gone are the days of needing a storefront and physical premise to run an effective business. The not so new, but ever more important frontier of digital business is becoming the driving factor to many companies profitability.
For New Zealanders, that spells opportunity. Whether you are an established business without an online presence, a new shop that hasn't branched into e-commerce, or someone just starting out their journey - starting an e-commerce website could offer you a fantastically cost effective way to increase your bottom line.
So what is e-commerce?
In it's simplest form e-commerce is any online facility that lets consumers buy products or services online. This could be physical products, digital products (like books or videos), or even online services like video and skype consultations. The key component is that the offering is paid for through the website.
Why is e-commerce such a good option?
E-commerce can potentially open up a whole world of consumers to a company. New Zealand in particular has a fantastic reputation globally, so for some of our industries in particular e-commerce opens up overseas markets that absolutely love us. Coronavirus has proven that when something like a pandemic hits, brick and mortar day to day business is put at danger, while an opportunity opens up online as more consumers seek to have their goods and services delivered to their doorstep. It's a trend that existed before this global health event, and it'll be one that continues after it.
Can my business operate an e-commerce site?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is 'do my products and services NEED to be performed in person'.
For most physical products, the answer will be absolutely not. If you can pick it up and hold it, chances are you can package it up and sell it online.
For intellectual services, your knee jerk reaction may also be 'I can't sell what I do online' - but have a real think about that. Could you digitise your knowledge? Create a series of articles or videos that you could sell online? Could you run online seminars, or hold consultations via Skype or online? There is a huge amount of scope for growth in the majority of professional services businesses online.
And lastly that leaves those industries that rely on physically touching and seeing their consumers. Your physio's, doctor's and dentists for example. Obviously alot of your job will be based around in person consultation, however, you also hold alot of valuable knowledge that could be digitised. Doctors clinics are already looking at running video consultations for example.
What does it cost to do e-commerce?
Generally the cost of e-commerce will vary depending on the solution you go for. It would be rare for you to have hosting costs of less than about $50 per month, and inevitably if you take payment online, you'll be paying a percentage of each sale to a payment gateway provider (around the 3-4% mark). There are obviously delivery costs to consider, and the initial cost of setting up or creating an e-commerce website. You can see our website design pricing here. Our pricing is below $2,500 + GST for a website design - putting us at the lower end of what a website designer would charge for an e-commerce site. You can of course make a site yourself, but having a professional opinion can often pay dividends in the long run.
So why haven't you got an e-commerce site yet?
If you've been thinking about it for a while, this Coronavirus scare might be just the prompt you need to get your e-commerce website underway. There is plenty of upside, and in times like these it's important to look at how your business can adapt and improve. It's never all doom and gloom, and where there is hardship, there is often opportunity for growth.
As we've said in a number of blogs now, if sales slow, remember that alot more people are going to be online as more self isolation occurs. Shift your focus to online advertising, and take any slow period as a chance to improve what your doing as a business. Your website design is a great place to start that.
Be sure to get in touch with us if you have any questions at all about an e-commerce website or anything online.
Coronavirus & working from home in New Zealand
As the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) begin to be felt on New Zealand shores, more and more talk will be circulated about working from home and whole businesses moving to working remotely.
543 Design are strong advocates of the 'work from home' model and in this blog we take a look at the benefits of letting your employees work from home, as well as a few considerations on how to make it work.
First up, we should definitely acknowledge that working from home isn't for everyone - both individually or as a company. There are a ton of industries out there that survive on face to face contact (I'm not sure how well my hair cut would go over Skype!). There are also alot of individuals out there who thrive off the structure that an office environment or workplace will bring. So with that in mind, the first thing to think about is whether you can complete all your day to day tasks without face to face interaction, and whether you'll be able to do those tasks in a way where you stay productive. Even if you can manage some of those tasks from home at the moment, it could possibly benefit both yourself and your company in the long run. Here are our 'pro's' for working from home:
The benefits of working from home or working remotely:
How to work from home - and how it can be tricky
Above all else, in this chaotic time, business needs to keep rolling. Working from home might help your company just stay afloat, or it could end up being a way to see it flourish and become more profitable. Keep focusing on your online advertising, and remember your website design and web presence in a time where more and more people will be doing business from there computer and online.
If you have any questions at all - don't hesitate to contact us!
The importance of a good review
As we end January and businesses across the country really start churning along we've had alot of client's ask about whether they should be seeking Google or Facebook reviews. Every lay person seems to have a different opinion, and we've heard some businesses go so far as saying they don't want any sort of Google review profile because it opens them up to the risk of bad reviews. There is some logic to that, so in today's blog we weigh up the importance of reviews, and look at what a consumer should be turning their mind to when leaving a review.
Should my business have Google or Facebook reviews?
Here at 543 Design we are a huge fan of both the Google and Facebook review system. As a professional services business, people will tend to only leave a review if they are prompted (which tends to end up being a high review), or if they have a terrible experience (which we aim to never happen!). Our philosophy has always been that if we do a stellar job with every client then they are likely to only leave positive feedback. That feedback can be seen by future potential customers and is one of a myriad of factors that Google takes into account when establishing their search engine rankings. You'll notice that the majority of the top search rankings also tend to have a good review presence - and that is no coincidence.
The flipside of that is if you do end up getting a number of bad or indifferent reviews. For a services based company, even a 3 star rating is going to have a negative effect. That's unfortunately just a fact of life when it comes to review systems - you need to be prepared to cop the bad along with the good. Luckily, if you focus on performing a good job for every customer, you will have a huge range of clients and customers to call on for a good review. By following those positive customers up, you will be able to flood your listing with high reviews and keep your rating strong.
Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of an outlier in the mix. Someone who doesn't know your businesses, or leaves a frivolous or unfair review that brings your rating down. We've recently experienced this, and while Google does offer some remedies for removing a review, for the most part you won't be able to get rid of it. Should this happen to you; read the review, understand what the customer/client's issue is, and respond in a reasoned manner. Never over-react or get too deep into a 'he said, she said' that would aggravate the reviewer further, but try to leave a response that other potential customers can relate to. In the ideal world the reviewer would change their review - so contacting them directly in a positive light could even be worth a try. Should that fail, try to find three people who would leave you a positive review to drown out the negative one.
As a consumer, when should I leave a review?
Since owning a business we've become hugely more aware of how a review can impact your company and possibly even sales. That leads us to a much more circumspect approach to reviewing, and we'd absolutely love it if everyone asked themselves a few simple questions before leaving a rating:
A bit of context
It's important to read the above with a little bit of context about 543's experience of the Google review system. As a website design company it took us about 4 years to build up 26 positive (5 star) reviews from clients that used us for a full build and loved our work. We're now sitting at a 4.9 star rating after a one off sales enquiry phone call where the client left a review saying they might use us in the future, but didn't have an opinion on us yet (so left a 3 star review). A crushing way to lose a hard earned 5 star rating and a real lesson to us in the consequences involved in the reviews we leave for other companies!
Web Design Tips & Tricks
It's getting to the time of the year when focus throughout New Zealand shifts from business to festivities. The sun is shining and while retail booms, corporate New Zealand takes a breath and we all get to take stock of the year that's been. Whether it was a tough one, a great year of growth, or your first year in business, the New Year always presents a great line in the sand to springboard forward. That will mean different things for different companies - but there is always room for growth online.
With that in mind, we are really excited to offer your first year of hosting free if you sign up to build a new website between Christmas '19 and the end of January 2020. That also extends to any current clients thinking about a big refresh, so if your site is around that 3-4 year old mark and you are wanting to do an upgrade, definitely get in touch with us to lock this deal in. That hosting starts at $180 + GST per site, so we think it's a great little incentive if you just need that little kick start to starting your site
Above all else though, from everyone at 543 Design, we hope you have a fantastic holiday period if you do manage to escape the grind. We're available throughout the Christmas and New Year's period, and are really excited to launch into 2020 with all our clients.
The Google BERT Update
At the end of October 2019 there was a huge change to your day to day which you likely didn't notice and didn't know about. Google, the favoured search engine of about 75% of us released it's biggest update in 5 years. It was so big that the notoriously secretive search engine goliath announced it to the world and we're already starting to see it impact the search results being shown.