Creating A Stellar Website

Creating a website for your business is one of the first steps to take in any marketing plan. It’s one of the things that cements the reader to your brand and really allows them to explore who you are, what your business is all about. It also tells them why they should use you for your stellar product(s) and or service(s). Think of it like a window into the soul of your business, because that it essentially what it is.

Your site should be exciting, clean and straight to the point. Lay out who you are, what you do and any other information you think will be useful. Sell yourself and your products.

Think about the way you design the website to begin with. No one wants to be looking at a screen with 20 different colours, a flying unicorn going across the screen and flashing lights, do they? Refer to this article to give you some ideas on how to start off.

Simple, clean and refined is the best place to start. You can build on that and make your website reflect who you are as a business after that. The key is to build your foundation first.

Typography and calligraphy is what comes next. Take a look at some different fonts and find one which is dynamic, unique but easy to read too. Then once you’ve decided on that you should look at your line spacing, the size of the text and the colour. Black is traditional however slate grey may add that air of modern to the site.

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When you pick your colour scheme, don’t think that more is more; because it’s really not. If you try to incorporate every colour of the rainbow into your website you will fall flat and the customer will be confused as to what your theme is supposed to be.

Think about the implications of certain colours and what they will mean for the tone of your website. Here are a couple of examples of colour schemes to get you started:

Grey, Yellow, and White – Monotone colours with a splash of vibrancy can make your website spring to life and feel incredibly clean and modern.

Red, White, and Pink – Using different hues of the same colour is a clever way to add tone and depth to your design when you want to stick to just one colour.

Green, White, and Blue – Cool tones will always make you think of the great outdoors or a sense of calm. Using pastel shades is a way to make the space feel larger and more sleek, whereas splashes of colour add that element of character.

Your logo and branding is possibly the most crucial step in creating that website which is ready for your information and content. Designing a logo that represents the tone, mission and overall feel of the brand can be difficult, but it is a rewarding mission once you have completed it.

You will need to take extra time making sure that the banners and headers for your website and social media platforms are cohesive with the logo and fit your tone of voice well.

Finally, once everything is designed you can look at the content. Remember to stay engaging, informative and to be transparent in your delivery. Gaining trust as a company takes time, and the website is the perfect place to start.

8 Apps to Turn You into a Productivity Machine

For the entrepreneur or small business owner looking to stay ahead of the curve and on top of every challenge, it’s essential to have the right sort of tools at hand to deal with every eventuality that might arise, and to aid performance wherever it can be aided.

In the 21st Century, many of those tools will be in the form of various types of software, with computer programs and web-based apps and services available for just about anything you could imagine, ranging from debt collection software, to programs which monitor the productivity of your employees during the working day.

Whatever the industry you work in, and whatever the structure of your business, you can be sure that there are apps to help you up your game to the next level.

Here are a few specific recommendations.

RescueTime for catching you red-handed when you procrastinate

RescueTime is arguably the most popular time management app out there, and for good reason. While many bits of software do a great job of allowing you to record timesheets or determine how long you’ve spent on a project, RescueTime goes behind your back and holds you accountable in ways that self-reporting tools seldom can.

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There are two key parts to the RescueTime system. The first is a desktop program which runs quietly and inoffensively in the background. The second, is the web-based app, which features your RescueTime dashboard and the assorted reports, settings, and tools that you’ll be using.

The desktop program records the time you spend in various programs, or visiting various websites. It then reports this back to the web service, which creates graphs for you, breaking down your recorded time that day, and categorises it into various productivity scores.

If you’re on Facebook, for example, that will be recorded as unproductive time. Microsoft Word, on the other hand, will be tracked as productive. Fortunately, in case the program has misjudged a site, or program, you can reclassify their productivity scores which will affect future records.

RescueTime also allows you to create “focused” blocks of time, by blocking sites and programs rated as “distracting”, for certain blocks of time.

Toggl for tracking your projects

Toggl is the king of manual project-focused timers, and does exactly what you’d want from a program with that kind of focus. With Toggl, you create different task entries (and can assign them to specific project categories) and simply click on the start button to begin timing.

Toggl will show you how much time you’ve spent in total on a given project or task — even if the total contributed minutes span days, weeks or months.

The program will also allow you to track how well your actual working time lines up with your estimates for a given project, by allowing you to set an estimated time, and budget, for each project.

Finally, Toggl also allows you to create straightforward, effective timesheets, to allow for easier invoicing for different projects.

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Time Doctor for nudging you to stay productive

While RescueTime keeps an eye on what you’re doing, in the background, and while Toggl allows you to focus on the total time you’ve spent on a given project over a particular span of time, Time Doctor’s focus is in forcing you to remain aware of how you’re spending your time, minute by minute, throughout the day.

The Time Doctor setup is quite straightforward. It includes a desktop program, where you enter various tasks (which can be grouped by project).

As you enter a task, a timer for it automatically begins. If you want to stop the timing, you have three options; click “pause”, which causes Time Doctor to start a separate “break” timer, switch to a different project, or click “finish work”, where Time Doctor stops recording any time.

Whenever you’re away from the computer but Time Doctor is left tracking a task, it’ll bring up a “were you on a break? Yes/No” pop-up when you return. And whenever you leave the timer on a “break” but are still active on the computer, it’ll periodically ask if you’ve returned to work yet.

StickK for holding you to your commitments

StickK is a web and app-based service designed specifically to hold you accountable to your pledges. The way it accomplishes this is by having you create “commitment contracts” and then pledge money to achieving them.

The system allows you to bring in “referees” — friends, colleagues, or family — to double-check that your reports are truthful. If they turn out not to be, or if you fail to report, your pledged money will be deducted.

Where does this money go, you ask? You can either nominate a friend to have it sent to, or a charity of your choice (from a pre-selected list), or an “anti-charity” (an organisation that you’d hate giving your money to. There’s a list to choose from.)

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Beeminder for building positive work habits

Having the right habits in place is one of the keys to productivity in work and in life. Beeminder is an accountability system aimed not at getting you to achieve a certain task by a certain date, but rather at developing the right habits and sticking with them on a day-to-day basis.

The way Beeminder achieves this is by having you pledge to do something “more” or “less”. You can set the specifics for each habit, including the number of units of that thing you’d like to do on a daily or weekly basis.

Beeminder then creates you a graph, with a carefully marked off section, known as the “yellow brick road”, which is the sweet spot you’ll want to stay in. If you fall below the yellow brick road, by not failing in your task for several days in a row, you get charged money.

Each time you fall below the yellow brick road from that point on, your financial pledges will grow in size.

Nozbe for keeping track of your projects and tasks

Tracking your time is all very well, but it’s even more essential to keep a list of the various tasks and projects you need to accomplish, and for that list to make sense to you, and allow for an effective, comfortable working situation.

Nozbe is one of the best of task manager services on the web, and it’s free. It uses the famous “Getting Things Done” method, pioneered by David Allen, and popular in boardrooms across the globe, as its template and goes from there.

With Nozbe, you enter in your tasks that later appear in an “inbox”. The goal is to empty your inbox fast, by assigning each task to a project. The tasks then group together into their project categories, and provide a clear picture of what you need to do before the project is complete.

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Remember the Milk helps you remember the milk and everything else

Even the most organised project management system can still fall apart if you forget to carry out your tasks when required. That’s where Remember the Milk comes into the picture.

Remember the Milk is a way of making sure that you don’t forget anything important, for any reason, at any time. It features a system for tracking tasks and their deadlines, and then setting email, pop-up, and even text message reminders when they’re due to be carried out.

Trello for team collaboration

Trello is a system which allows you to create workboards, where team members can sign in simultaneously, see, organise, and work on assorted tasks for various larger projects.

When you manage a team who might be working remotely, or on different shifts, having a tool like Trello is critical for effective collaboration, not to mention avoiding a situation where team members end up stepping on each other’s toes.

Basic Technology All Aspiring Business Owners Should Have

As a newbie in the world of business, you will be working your way down a list full of ‘to-do’ jobs that need to get done before you can even call your idea a business. Some of those things will be boring yet necessary legal stuff, like registering your company and working out your taxes, some of them you will find that you don’t need to do at all. And some things are fun and creative that will really kick your company into gear. These things tend to be the more tech orientated jobs. But what you need to decide is which technology is the best choice for your business.

Define Your Website’s Purpose

If you’re setting up a website, as every business should, you need to decide what is going to be the prominent use of the site. Is it going to be used for commerce, research, blogging, photography, etc.? There are so many different options for your site, and you need to determine which angle you’re going to take.

If you’re a travel writer, obviously your site will be geared towards your writing. If you’re a florist, you might choose to promote your work through photography. Once you have chosen what sort of site you want, you can decide on which platform you want to use. Popular DIY sites include Wix and WordPress, where you can build your site from existing templates.

You also have the option to have a free site, although that does limit your options and won’t allow you to own your domain name.

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Begin at the End with Your Online Store in Mind

You might be setting up an online store rather than a physical service, and this calls for something a bit different from your average website. A lot of platforms aren’t geared towards selling products, so it can be tricky later on when you try to mash the two together. If you begin with an all-in-one ecommerce platform, you lessen the risk of having to start again further down the line.

An online store needs to be kept up to date regularly, and needs to be a lot more secure than any other type of website; people are willingly entering in their card details, trusting that they will be kept safe. So when you choose a platform for your store, ensure that the security is top-notch.

Communication via a Business Email is a Must

Whether you’re communicating with clients or with employees, you need to make sure that you do a good job of it. Set up a business email from day one and make sure you check it multiple times during your working day and reply to the emails you need to. You can link your email with other useful apps, like your calendar, to make sure that nothing is lost in your inbox.

Using sites like G Suite will help you keep everything together. You should also set up a group chat on messenger or WhatsApp with your employees so that you can quickly convey information to them all out of hours.

Get Yourself Familiar with Webinars and Fast!

Webinars are becoming very popular in the world of business. Because everything is based on technology nowadays, if you aren’t already using webinars to market yourself — you’re missing out. It has never been easier to get your business out there and draw in attention and create leads, because there is so much that you can do now.

Here are all the reasons why webinars are the new must-have.

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Webinars help with training and education

Webinars let you hold live streams and webcasts that allow you to have how-to videos that give the chance for other people such a customers or clients, to learn about various areas that will, of course, all have a connection to your business. Just think about the different topics you can cover live, in real-time with your audiences.

Not only that, but it will mean you can receive feedback immediately too, rather than having to wait for surveys to be filled out and sent back to you. You will be able to teach others about exactly what you do and why, while showing off your new products or services that are being offered out. Plus, you can interact with a large number of people at one time, rather than having to do everything one on one.

Webinars build your contact list

Let’s say you have your own YouTube channel, and the more content you post, the more interest you create which leads to a larger form of contacts. Well, the same works with webinars. They allow you to build up an audience with potential customers, clients and business partners.

You can even bring in guests every week to talk about a topic that will not only inform people, but will promote whatever your business is selling. Even with such things like web sms services give you the chance to stay in touch with customers and keep them in the loop about any upcoming sales or launches.

Webinars let you reach mass audiences

If you make your webinar current with the latest news and trends that are on everyone’s mind, you will be able to touch many different people who all share the same interests. This is why it’s great for zoning in on your target audiences — as long as you give out content that they want, there’s no reason they shouldn’t all turn into positive leads.

It’s all about taking that extra time out to make sure that your webinar is not only interestingly informative, but visually stimulating and appealing too. The more engaging they are, the more invested your audiences will be when watching.

Webinars are very cost-effective

Webinars aren’t expensive to get up and running, while some are even free. Having said that, it’s best to invest money into one as there will be a lot less chance of them bugging or having any other issues. But you won’t have to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to keep one — and that can’t be said about a lot of other technology out there nowadays. This is why it makes the perfect kind of marketing tool for businesses. Not only is it cost-effective, but it works.

Protecting the Business When Tech “Bytes” Back

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are have become heavily reliant on tech. There are very few, indeed, who don’t use a network of computers to create a more efficient team and nowadays. The online market is making it more lucrative than ever to both market and provide services directly over the internet. But the more you rely on something, the greater vulnerability it can be if it’s at risk. As a business expands and shifts more and more focus to the tech side of things, business owners need to be aware of the dangers that come with it.

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Security comes first

Number one priority is making sure that any and all data in the business should be protected from the very real risk of cybercrime. The best protections start with securing your network, first and foremost. Business anti-malware software is something every growing enterprise should invest in and, as the business grows, IT services can help tighten up any vulnerabilities in your system.

But even a secure system is prone the vulnerability of human error. Strong emphasis needs to be put on responsible computer use in the office. Enforcement of strong passwords, logging out of computers not in use, and ongoing education about threats need to be part of any business relying on tech.

Get the law on your side

When it comes to taking the business online, there’s not only security to worry about, but whether your online practices are entirely legal. As of late, online sales and marketing have been subject to a lot of regulations dictating what businesses can and cannot do. Privacy is a big part.

If your business collects data in any way from customers, you must have disclosure telling them exactly what you’re collecting, how it’s being used, and if you intend to share it. The other big concern is with online sales law. You need firm terms and conditions, simple transactions, and a cooling-off period depending on where you sell.

Don’t break down

Then there comes the very real risk to productivity that relying on computers can also bring with it. The software we use to work, to measure performance and the digital methods of exchanging information and documents can all make an office greatly more efficient and effective.

But reliance on those same tools can mean huge holdups when they’re suddenly unavailable. Beyond assisting with the security issues mentioned above, IT support teams are worth considering for the cloud hosting assistance they can offer to make sure that your important data is accessible to you even when your computer isn’t.

You need to put together a business continuity plan, getting back up on your feet and recovering as much data as possible after a digital disaster.

The points above, while well worth being aware of, shouldn’t scare any business from relying more on digital storage or taking the business online when they have a chance to scale. But if you do it without any knowledge of those risks, it could end up costing you more than it gains you.

Are You Using Your IT Properly so Your Business Survives Daily?

There are a lot of things that have changed in the business world over the last few decades, but it’s hard to deny that anything has had more of an impact that the rise of the computer and the internet. Where the use of this kind of technology was once considered something of a luxury, only ever used by the most advanced and well-established companies, it’s now something that your business simply can’t survive without.

Every single business, outside of very small, specific ones, relies on IT almost every single day in order to function. However, despite this, there are a surprising amount of businesses that simply don’t know how to properly utilise IT. They assume that having things in place and having a vague idea of how to use it. However, if you really want to make the most of your business, then you’ve got to be able to make the most of the resources at your disposal. In order to help you do that, here are some ways that you can make sure that you’re using your IT properly.

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Make sure it’s managed properly

IT is an incredibly multifaceted and complex part of your business and trying to stay on top of it while dealing with everything else can be something of an uphill struggle. Because of that, it’s a good idea to use managed IT services that cannot only make sure that you can focus your energy elsewhere but that your IT services are always running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

It can be difficult to hand over parts of your business to an outside company, but it’s actually a great way to reduce any mistakes that could potentially be made by leaving it in the hands of people with specific expertise.

Keep your equipment well maintained

Far too many businesses fail to keep their IT equipment properly maintained. This is because if something is working, then it’s very easy to forget about it. However, if you do this then things are pretty much guaranteed to go wrong and when that happens your entire business can potentially grind to a halt.

By making sure that you maintain and monitor your equipment regularly, you can save huge amounts of time and money. Sure it might seem like a lot of effort, but it’s nothing compared to the problems that could arrive if you fail to look after your equipment.

Train your employees

In the world of IT, there’s a fairly well-known acronym: PICNIC. It stands for “Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.” When there are IT issues in your business then there’s a surprisingly high chance that the IT itself is functioning properly, it’s just that your employees aren’t fully aware of how to use it properly.

Of course, there’s only one way to solve this problem, and that’s to make sure that your employees are properly trained in how to use it. Whether you deal with this by only hiring those with specific IT skills, or you provide dedicated training to your employees is up to you. But leaving your employees to figure things out on their own is almost always a recipe for disaster.

How to Protect Your Website from Hackers

Digital marketing blogs often like to compare business websites to old-fashioned main street shop fronts. It’s where customers get to peer in and see what you’ve got to offer. But the parallels extend much further than many bloggers would like to admit. In fact, just as regular physical shop fronts are a potential security risk for criminal break ins, virtual store fronts – that is, your website – is vulnerable to the digital equivalent.

To make the situation worse, unlike with physical property, many companies have a legal obligation to keep their data safe. In other words, if somebody else decides to steal your data, you could be the one in trouble.

So what can you do to eliminate the risk of a website security breach?

Hide your admin pages

Admin pages are a potential security risk because they allow hackers to get control over the tools which control your website. Sometimes, unless you specify otherwise, Google’s algorithms will index these pages, just like all the other pages on your site, which could leave you vulnerable. Use a robot.txt file to prevent these critical pages from being indexed.

Store uploaded files outside of the root directory

Uploaded files are a major potential source of viruses. Once files with viruses are uploaded, they can provide hackers with unlimited access to your site’s features and functionality. To prevent this, store all uploaded files in a separate directory from your root directory. You may need the help of your hosting company to do this, but it is well worth it.

Have security managed externally

Most small companies, especially startups, don’t have the resources to pay somebody to keep an eye on their website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s why many are using an SOC for cybersecurity – a security operations centers which monitor websites remotely and predict when an attack is likely. The benefit of these SOCs is that they not only prevent threats, but they also evaluate both failed and successful attacks with the purpose of making your website defenses stronger in the future.

Make your password policy more rigorous

Office computers are a major security risk for your website. A single office computer account with a weak password can compromise your entire system, providing hackers access to your website functionality. It’s a good idea, therefore, to make your password policy more rigorous. Things like increasing the frequency that people have to change their password and upping the number of letters a password must contain can help significantly.

Keep a software update schedule

Updates are a warning. They’re a sign that somebody else’s system has been hacked, and now everybody using that same system needs a fix if they want to escape a breach of their own. As such, updates are essential to maintaining the integrity of your website and should be implemented immediately. During the period between the hack, the fix and the installation of the update, criminals are able to scan thousands of websites for vulnerabilities, stealing their information along the way.

Here’s the Right Way to Do Video

Ever since the launch of YouTube, businesses have been interested in its power. However, YouTube is dominated by personal users. The most popular videos are of sweet skateboard moves, cute cats riding Roombas, and even the odd beauty tutorial. The reason why businesses haven’t flooded YouTube with their content? Time, money, and production values. So what did they do instead? They went to Podcasting.

Podcasting is great. It’s quick and easy, and you can risk it streaming live because nobody can see you. A good mic for your laptop costs very little compared to a quality video setup. And it doesn’t matter what you personally look like. You haven’t got to ensure you look the part of a high-powered entrepreneur.

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The trouble is, everybody is doing it now. It’s thought that 3.3 billion podcasts were listened to in 2015. This year is certainly hotting up to be the biggest year for podcasting. So how are you going to make sure listeners come to you and stick with you when there is so much competition for their ear?

This is why moving toward video might be the answer to offer something unique and higher value to your following. Sometimes describing something verbally just doesn’t cut it. If you’re creating products that need convincing demos, or you’re keen to enter training and education sectors, video is essential. Visual communication says so much more and does it so much quicker.

So what do you need? Well, you’ve already guessed that you need to invest more time and money. That’s why you need to carefully select the purpose of your video. As a producer of a series of entertaining video adverts, you will need to make sure they each hit the mark. Additionally, you’ll need someone carefully script and storyboard each of your videos. It’s vital you hire the right talent to deliver the performances your business deserves.

Anything that might hit television screens or even the big screen needs to be shot on a sound stage. This means the dialogue recording is impeccable. Everything from lighting to camera movement can be carefully controlled. You can look at websites like https://goyastudios.com/los-angeles-sound-stage/ to see the full benefits of using a sound stage rather than squeezing everyone into your back office. Ultimately you want something broadcast quality, even if it only appears on social media and your website.

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Don’t forget, any video or series you produce should have the potential to go viral. As you know, nothing goes viral without a little push from the originator. Consider what is topical right now and try to tie that in with your video series.

What can you add to your content that will entertain and inform your target audience?

For video production, always consider the purpose of that medium. You want to show something. It might be someone doing something, or a full product demo. Maybe you’ve got a great interview? What about each of those concepts is going to excite your audience?

If you’re going to do video, then it’s important to do it right. Production values count for a lot. There needs to be a point to showing the audience rather than just telling them on a podcast. How does your company tackle video content?

How to Protect Your Business from Data Loss Using These Strategies

Data is increasingly becoming the lifeblood of companies. They need it to understand their customers, develop products and keep an eye on the competition. But as data becomes more valuable, data loss is becoming a bigger catastrophe. When it happens, companies suffer extreme financial loss and may find it difficult to get back on their feet again. Data loss can result in tax issues, legal judgments and deteriorating relationships between the business and their customers/vendors.

The good news is that there is a lot that businesses can do to protect themselves from data loss. Here’s what you should be doing right now.,

Use Paper Backups

Using paper backups might feel like you’re regressing: after all, your company, like many others, probably made the transition to digital records because it wanted to save money, reduce waste and get more efficient. But sometimes, the cost of losing data can be so high that you have no choice but to keep paper records.

What type of business data would be a good candidate for paper records? Accounting information is one. The IRS is merciless, and so anything to avoid an audit is preferable.

Test Storage Vendors Before Jumping In

Often, data isn’t stored at your business. Sometimes, it’s held in the cloud. The cloud is a cheap and effective solution which provides an unparalleled level of flexibility, but with so many vendors on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to choose a good one.

IT consulting for businesses has improved dramatically over the last decade or so. Most consultants recommend starting out with a small, short contract with a cloud vendor to test the water. You want to make sure that their customer service is up to scratch and that their servers are secure. You may also want to install your own monitoring applications to ensure that their network (and your data) is safe, before migrating your entire data stack over to their platform.

Finally, get them to carry out recovery drills in case of an emergency to make sure that they really are regularly backing up your data. These drills will help you to ensure data integrity and tell you how long it will take, following data loss, to get back up and running again.

Redundancy Should Be Mandatory

Many business leaders extol the virtues of regularly backing up data. But is this something that your business actually does well in practice?

Backing up data sounds like it should be a simple process: just make a copy of everything you have on file. But making a decision about exactly what to back up is rarely a straightforward process. Should you backup all files or just those which are essential? How often should you backup your data? And how many people should you employ to oversee the process?

Different companies will have different answers. But for most, the 3-2-1 policy works best. This is where you have your data in three copies on two different mediums with at least one stored away from your main facility.

Forget the Digital Guessing and Go with Inbound Marketing

For many, the digital world has made marketing a little harder to understand. For sixty years, marketing was dominated by shouting loud in every direction and seeing what stuck. Radio adverts, television campaigns, spread in the yellow pages and all that sort of jazz. Nowadays, though, how you market yourself in the online sphere is critical.

Luckily for you, we’re here to clear the air a bit because inbound marketing is hands down the way to go. This is because it is getting cheaper and cheaper, it latches on to the idea of getting the customer to come to you and it is easily achievable with nothing more than a website and some great content.

With that at your disposal, you’re ready to attract visitors. Winning. Of course, we’re not just going to leave you with that. Oh no, we’re going to hit you with the best strategies within this bell curve.

Ramp Up Your SEO

If you haven’t got the first clue when it comes to SEO or how to improve it, then we suggest you bring an agency on board because, as Sticky Digital explains in no uncertain terms, ninety-three percent of all online experiences start with a search engine.

We’re talking about Google, Yahoo or Bing. Your job, as such, is to get onto the first page of these search engines, which means increasing your ranking. Do that and you’ll see more traffic wash up on your shores. More traffic, more chance of making sales. It’s that simple.

Make Sure You Blog

We dropped a pretty astounding statistic on you above, and we’re about to do it again because businesses that have an up to date blog get 77 percent more traffic than those who don’t blog. Seventy-seven percent! That’s no small change.

That’s a huge difference and one that means you are seriously falling behind in any tussle you are having with your competitors.

It isn’t just traffic that is boosted, though, it is also sales. This is because blogging has a way of creating value, trust and credibility, all of which are good words to latch onto when customers are concerned.

Use Other People’s Audiences

Another way to get paying customers to take notice of your brand is to leverage the audiences of influential people. In fact, the average response on this front is a six to one return. To go down this route you have a few options.

It could be that you use hashtags to better suit your social media impact, or start getting your brand synonymous with people of influence through commenting on posts of relevance.

However, the best way to reap the rewards on this front is to engage with people who already have the audience that you want and need, and then use this audience to boost your own following.  

Retargeting Really Works

You would be forgiven for think display ads are nothing but annoying and infuriating, and they are to a degree.

But they also work wonders because those visitors who are then retargeted with display ads are over seventy percent more likely to pop back and click your purchase button.

Not only that but by retargeting (remarketing), you are also improving your brand awareness online, which makes it a double win.