In the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of companies who have a presence online. Almost every major retailer now offers the service to purchase their products online, while consumers are more likely to look up local businesses online rather than reach for a bulky telephone directory.
For small businesses or companies who previously have little experience with web design and site building, the process of building a website for their business can be an intimidating and often expensive venture. Beside the initial cost and time taken to create the site, there are considerations for updating, hosting and general site maintenance.
For those choosing to use Blogger as a means of building and maintaining a business website, such concerns about maintenance, hosting and updating the site are vastly reduced. As I’ve explained in previous articles, it is easily possible to maintain a professional blog for as little as $10 a year (and possibly even less). Hosting with Blogger is free, no matter how many pages you publish or how many visitors you receive: realistically, the only payment required is the cost of purchasing a domain name.
Blogger’s simple yet powerful interface ensures we can adapt a regular blog into a fully functional and professional online presence . In this two part mini-series, I will offer an overview of how this may be achieved.
What are the requirements for a small business website?
For a business building an online presence for the first time, the requirements may be rather simple:
- A landing page/home page which explains a little about the business
- An about page, which goes into more detail about the business and what it offers
- Contact details (ie: location, telephone numbers, email address/contact form
- Business “branding” in the form of consistent design, an appropriate domain name and more.
It may also be useful to add pages for particular products and newsworthy content of interest to potential customers and clients.
How we can adapt a Blogger blog to meet these requirements
Blogs feature certain characteristics which can be adapted to function as a business website rather than appear to be an online journal:
- Blogs have a home page, which usually feature a selection of recent posts. By adding content which is only displayed on the home page, we can create a “landing page” with information about the small business, and recent newsworthy items beneath.
- Creating blog posts adds new pages to our blog. We can utilize these posts to function as “About”, “Contact” and “Product” pages, which we can then make accessible through additional navigation in the blog design.
- The huge selection of free/premium templates available ensures we can find a theme suitable for consistent business branding. Furthermore, a business logo can be added to the header section while images of products can be inserted into blog posts (pages) to provide more information for potential customers and clients.
To make a Blogger blog appear even more like a regular website, we can disable comments; remove “post author” details and add useful design features to enhance the overall impression of our business.
Let’s get into the details for effective business website building with Blogger.
First impressions are crucial! Finding the right template for your business blog.
In my opinion, the most crucial step in building an effective business presence with Blogger is choosing the right blog template.
While there is a huge selection of free templates available for Blogger, not all templates are created equal. My advice to business owners creating a site with Blogger is to find a template which appears more like a business site than a chronological journal from the start: this ensures less editing of the template is required, making it easier to get a head start when creating an online presence.
There are several particular templates which I recommend to those building an online presence for their business. These templates offer a layout and functions which are more appropriate for business sites and meet the expectations of potential customers in ways which regular blog templates do not.
While the overall color scheme and imagery may not resonate with the branding of your online business, be aware that these visual aspects may be changed much more easily than the overall layout and functions of the blog!
Here are five free Blogger templates which are an excellent starting point for small business site:
1. The Daily Inspired by Antonio Lupetti
This template offers a section which only appears on the home page, plus titles only for posts which appear beneath it, making this an ideal basis for a business site.
You could add details about your business in the home page section and utilize the “What’s New” section for important updates and news of interest to your site visitors.
2. Transparency by Falcon Hive
Here is another template featuring a home page only section above the regular blog posts. The YouTube video space in the sidebar could be used used to add media relevant to the business.
3. WP Polaroid by eBlog Templates
WP Polaroid proved one of the most popular Blogger templates of 2008. This features a significant section in the header for business information and the “Polaroid” image could easily be adapted to feature a company logo.
4. Zinmag Primus by Falcon Hive
Zinmag Primus is an excellent template for a product-based business due to the slideshow feature above the main posts section. This area could be used to great effect for showcasing both the business and featured products, while the text beside images offers visitors useful information about the site and company motives.
5. Alpha Minimalist template
While this template by Falcon Hive may seem minimalist in design, the beauty of this is that design adaptations to reflect a business brand are very easily made. Again we have a featured section below the header for company information, but the addition of links to the right of this section is particularly useful as links to important pages can be highlighted for ease of navigation.
Adapting Blogger Templates to create Business Websites
If you have downloaded a new Blogger template as the basis for your small business website, chances are you will need to edit some aspects of the template in order to add your company details. Chances are you will find details for customizing your template from the author’s website and since each template differs in the manner of customization required, I will not detail these particular aspects here.
However, even after you have made these changes to your template, there will still be aspects of your design which require more attention.
Don’t forget that most Blogger templates are created under the premise of acting as a blog. Visitors to business sites have different expectations of how the site will function. So to meet these expectations, we need to tweak some aspects of the template even further.
Which widgets to use in your business blog design
When considering widgets to add to your Blogger layout, you should remember only to add widgets which are truly relevant to your business! If there are many irrelevant widgets in your design, these will detract attention away from the more important aspects of your site: your actual business, products and branding. Remember, we are building a site to act as an online presence for your business, not a blog (unless of course, your business is your blog!).
Aspects of the design which bloggers recognize as important are not particularly relevant for business sites. Your Blogger profile, subscriber count or the number of followers to your blog are not often relevant for visitors wanting to learn about your business. Therefore widgets such as these do not have a place in a business-orientated template: they make it appear more like a blog than the business website we are aiming for.
Instead, you should focus on adding product and company information, testimonials and other relevant information to your sidebar (and other widgetized areas) to ensure the focus of visitors remains on your business at all times. Videos are also useful if they demonstrate something useful to potential customers, as are any photos of your store-front or products which your business offers for sale.
Upload your company logo to the header
If your business uses a logo for branding purposes, be sure to add this logo to the header section of your blog.
To do this, go to the Page Elements tab of your Blogger dashboard and click on the “Edit” tab for the header section. Here you will be given the option to upload a header image to your blog’s header section.
Be sure to read any instructions offered by the designer of the template you are using in case there is an optimum size mentioned for your header image. If no header widget is available for your particular design (such as “The Daily Inspired”), you should find alternative instructions are offered from the download page.
Disable comments and backlinks from your blog
Most sites for small businesses do not allow visitors to add comments, nor do they offer details of other sites which link to each particular page. Of course, it it is important to you or your business to have such features in place, then leave these aspects alone.
If you would prefer to disable comments and backlinks from your template, here is how to achieve this:
- In your Blogger dashboard, click on the Settings tab and then on the Comments link in the menu.
- On this page you will be offered the option to “Show” or “Hide” both comments (right at the top of the page) and backlinks (about halfway down this page). Ensure you have checked “Hide” for both of these options, then save these settings using the link at the bottom of the page.
- Next, go to the Layout>Page Elements page of your dashboard.
- Click the Edit link for your Blog Posts widget.
- On the pop-up page, you will see options for what can be included in your post footer section:
- Ensure you have unchecked both of these boxes (to prevent anything appearing about comments or backlinks in your template) and finally save these changes.
These steps ensure there should be no confusing text mentioning either comments or backlinks in your overall business blog design.
Ensure there is a search function available for your blog
Search boxes have proved an extremely useful function for both blogs and websites in general. This is because searching makes it very easy for visitors to find the information they require.
The templates I have described above all include integrated search functions in the template. If you are using a different design which does not include a search function, I would advise you to add one to your design as this will enable visitors to search through your site with ease.
The simplest way to add search functionality is simply to add a Search Box widget to your sidebar through the Page Elements section of your Blogger dashboard. This relatively new widget uses Google Custom Search to locate information to your blog posts and can be applied in just a few clicks:
You can customize this search box by checking or unchecking the options on the pop-up page. I personally would advise you to only leave the “This Blog” option checked for a business site in order to keep visitors interested in your company (and not somebody elses!).
An overview so far…
In this installment of “Building a Small Business Website with Blogger” I have explained how Blogger blogs and templates can be easily adapted to perform the functions of a regular business website.
Rather than spend lots of cash or time in building an HTML based site from scratch, we can utilize Blogger templates and simple publishing utilities to present a professional site which appears as a regular website (rather than a blog) by using templates with particular styles of layout and making a few additional tweaks to the template code.
In the next installment of this mini-series, I’ll explain how to add business-related pages to your site using blog posts; how to link to and configure these pages, and how to present “news” to your visitors on the home page with ease so visitors feel they are visiting a dynamic and professional business site rather than a free, Blogger hosted blog!
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series so far. Please feel free to leave your comments and opinions by leaving your message below.
Oh, Now I Get It! How to Explain Complex Topics to Your Audience
Technical writers have a great number of skills, but perhaps the most important is the ability to adapt your language to the level of comprehension your audience has. A highly technical and complex article can overwhelm readers or even bore them.
“But it’s impossible to delight my readers and keep them engaged when I’m talking about the
IEEE 802.11ac principle of broadband technology,” We hear you cry. And, we get it. Turning a technical article into a sexy piece of content can feel like a daunting task, but it’s not mission impossible.
Here are a few content creation tips that will help you explain complex topics to your audience in a delightful manner.
Imagine That You Are Explaining the Subject to a Non-Tech-Savvy Friend
One of the most important things when creating technical content for a more broad audience is consistency. So, as much as possible try to use the same tone, level of knowledge, complexity of vocabulary, and so on. The easiest way to calibrate your writing style is to imagine that you are writing for a friend or a relative that has nothing to do with your area of expertise.
Imagine you are trying to explain a particularly complex topic to them, in a friendly and light discussion. How would you approach the subject? What elements you think would bore or frustrate them?
What helps you in the real world is adapting your style and vocabulary to the other person’s knowledge. You know that you don’t have to explain what an Internet browser does, but you might have to tell them more about the coding behind it when discussing responsive web design, for instance. Use common words and keep them engaged with a lighter, friendly style.
Adapt Your Vocabulary and Structure
Let’s take a look at how you can flip your technical writing to be more approachable. First of all: use concepts that your audience is familiar with or at least has a general idea about them.
A good start is to check what search words visitors use when browsing your website. You will identify commonly used terms that are related to the technology that interests them. Use those keywords yourself to keep visitors on your page.
Also, be careful about the structure of the text when writing online, especially when you are trying to explain something complex. Make sure to split your text into readable chunks. You can also help the reader understand the subject better by using titles and subtitles to separate the main ideas of your article.
Build up the Knowledge of Your Audience, from General to Detailed
Once you have established a common language and vocabulary between you and your target audience, start methodically presenting your topic, from general level information to more detailed aspects. Applying this rule will help you readers understand the topic better without wasting too much time. Online readers tend to ignore content that is, irrelevant or hard to understand.
While it is important to get the basics straight before getting deeper into your subject, make sure to summarize the purpose of your article at the very beginning, as it will let your audience know what they will learn about after going through it.
Use Style Tools That Help Your Audience Relate to the Topic
The fun part of writing about technical topics for a general audience is getting creative with it. Because you can’t use the “boring,” “stiff” technical jargon, you must come up with expressive comparisons, examples, and analogies. You can even evoke anecdotal evidence to support the facts since they are highly relevant for many of the users.
Helping them relate to the topic you are writing about is the key to grabbing their attention. Use day to day examples for the systems and processes you are describing, or mention the best-known similar thing. Give them examples of possible situations when they can come across the topic you are writing about and enable them to talk about it themselves.
Ultimately, is all about correctly identifying the level of knowledge your audience has. Encourage them to comment and ask any questions and keep the conversations alive.
IT Management Solutions: What is the Key to Improving Employee Efficiency?
There are many ways you can improve your employees’ efficiency. From decluttering the workspace to encouraging a stress-free environment, there is a whole range of things you can do to make your work life run smoother. One such technique you need to adopt for your company is an IT management solution.
What Does It Do?
An IT management solution such as SysAid takes all of the day-to-day programs that a business will use and consolidates them into one easy-to-use package. Every employee should be able to log on and complete all their work without having to leave the initial program.
It can contain such subsections as project management, customer relationship management, billing and invoicing, and a whole host of other features.
Why Should Employers Implement Such a Solution?
A system such as this allows managers to have better visibility over the company as a whole. They will be able to tell if an employee is completing their daily tasks to the best of their ability and will also allow them to see where they are lacking.
The data from the completion of these daily tasks can easily be tracked and analyzed to see where employees are struggling with efficiency. With some adjustments, efficiency can then be improved in these areas.
One of the key reasons to install an IT management solution is for the project management aspects. A good project management program lets all employees know where they are with their projects at all times. Whether you are just working on the project or a project manager, you will be able to see the stage that the project is at and all the steps and processes that still need to be completed.
This collaborative nature helps improve speed and efficiency and stops the project becoming grounded in a lack of communication. If you are not yet using a project management system, you will notice that many small but important problems like misuse of resources will be greatly reduced.
Customer Relationship Management
By having your customer service staff use one portal for all their needs, you will see a great improvement in efficiency when it comes to handling customer enquiries. An IT management solution can contain a database with all your customer’s information. This means that if a case needs to be passed from one team member to another, there is little to no chance of any relevant information being lost in the transfer. Everything should be in place in the one database.
Invoicing and Billing
Keeping your various accounts and invoices in different places can lead to items being forgotten or double-charged. By using an IT management software, your managers and accountants will be able to successfully keep track of all costs and reduce unnecessary spending. This will improve efficiency as multiple enquires are not being made to complete invoices and other reports.
There are just some of the ways an IT management solution can improve your business. If you feel you need to improve your company’s efficiency, consider implementing one today.
7 Less Obvious Keyword Research and Content Analytics Tools
Digital content has several powerful benefits over print content: It’s cheaper to distribute, it’s open and global (especially when it’s in English which most of the world can understand) and it offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand your audience better.
Actually, technology and digital content do wonders: Having both you can target your customers precisely when and where they are most willing to engage.
“Content and technology are strange bed fellows. We are joined together. Sometimes we misunderstand each other. But isn’t that after all the definition of marriage?”
To get an idea of how powerful digital content metrics can be, read and bookmark these articles:
- Top 3 Metrics to Ensure Successful Content Analytics via Piktochart
- How to Use Behavioral Design to Reduce Bounce Ratevia Shout Insights
Here are a few free or cheap content analytics options any blogger can afford:
UberSuggest is a free keyword research tool that offers quite a few cool content analytics features.
This tool is a bit broad but I felt it deserved a place on the list. It works by letting you put in key phrases and then gives you data on that and alternatives, including the power of that phrase on Google. You will be getting an idea of what phrases are already being cornered by competitors, as well as which ones are easier for you to target.
I also like this one as a content planning tool as I can find ideas for content related to an idea I had. I have come away from UberSuggest with my editorial calendar full many times.
Cyfe is not just analytics tool. In fact, you can use for anything under the sun, it’s a Swiss knife of business monitoring. And it has some cool analytics integrations that will make your analytics reports much faster and easier to access.
Use Cyfe to integrate your favorite Google analytics reports, monitor your social media growth, traffic spikes and more.
Tweriod might not be quite as relevant as it once was, but it is still a useful tool if you post a lot of content on Twitter. Find out what times your followers are most active. Discover optimal posting time. See what content was most popular and when.
All of this will help you use Twitter more effectively as a content marketing platform, as well as an engagement platform for one on one and influencer marketing.
Scoop.it is pretty cool but the free plan is very limited. Basically you get a single page and up to ten “scoops” per day. Basically it is going to curate relevant content to give you insights into what is working well within your industry.
As an overall marketing tool, the professional version is a pretty cheap way to improve your ROI and get more bites when it comes to clicks. It is worth signing up for a free account and getting a taste of what they are about.
HotJar is a cool heat map generator allowing you to clearly see which parts of your content attract most attention.
Heat maps are pretty cool. They work by tracking what visitors to your site are spending the most time looking at and clicking on. Then it gives you a visual of hot and cold areas of your site, which can point to anything from design flaws to lackluster or thin content. You can try them out for free and get a more complete picture from both a website and content perspective.
Here are more options for data visualization which will help you understand your audience and analytics reports better.
6. Social Mention
Is your content being shared or talked about? Is your brand being mentioned? You can find out on Social Mention, which allows you to search for proof of that very thing and find out what people are saying about you and what you post.
It is a bit simplistic, but very helpful.
Adwords and SEO keywords are a bit part of what you and other brands on competing for, not just customers. iSpionage gives you a look at what it is that those competitors are using and how it is working for them.
It is surprisingly affordable compared to many other similar tools and has a decent features list. I would definitely give this one a try.
Are there any other affordable content analytics tools except for the most obvious ones (like Google Analytics)? Please share them in the comments!
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