SEO – A 3-Letter Word That Could Change Your Website’s Performance

What the hell is S.E.O. you ask? Search. Engine. Optimization. This 3-letter word could very well change your website’s performance. It comes down to how well it ranks on search engines like Google without the use of paid tools.

What the hell is S.E.O.?

SEO is about key words first and foremost. But not the ones you are paying for (in which case we refer to “pay per click”). 

In a way, SEO is a result of your ability to create a website that stands out. But to achieve this, you have to gain a better understanding of Google’s (and other search engines) algorithm. 

Search engines have mini robots called bots. They travel the web and analyze everything they find. Think of a teacher and his report card. Different things are considered when assessing a website: content, length of text, images, key words, updates, credibility, and many more.

Since new sites come up every day and that others close down or are updated, it’s a never ending process, which means your ranking could change over time.

Why should I care about S.E.O.?

Why should you care about SEO? Because an optimized website can make the difference between one that is bringing you new clients and another that does nothing for your business. 

According to Moz, 71 % of clicks on Google happen on the first results page, and this number can increase up to 92 % in some instances. That’s why SEO is so important.

Your website should be a tool you use to help you reach your main goal, whether it’s to make a sale, book an appointment or get someone to contact you. It’s your perfect ally to generate passive sales, but for that, you need to make sure people can find it.

Ok, so how can I improve my ranking organically?

1. Be relevant.

There was a time when some optimization specialists used less-than-stellar practices such as inserting unrelated but popular key words on your website. 

Today, Google wants relevancy. The bots scrutinize the words you use, assess if they are linked to your field of work or expertise and to what extent your content is original and of interest to visitors. Content copied and pasted from other sites don’t pass the smell test. 

2. Write just the right amount.

Relevancy is also assessed in terms of text length. Content that is considered too short can bring your credibility down a notch and get the bots to penalize you for it. Something too short sends the message that the information is too superficial.

If you’re told that long reads are a no-go because of people’s online reading habits, know that interesting content will always find its public. Also, there are different writing strategies you can use to make sure your text is reader-friendly.

3. Update your website.

When you update your website, you send a signal to search engines saying you are interested in your visitors and know how to reinvent yourself. A website with no update will be perceived as obsolete, which will make it lose optimization “points”. 

Think about it. When you research a trending topic, do you choose the article published 5 years ago or the one published yesterday? Google’s logic is the same.

You don’t need to do a complete overhaul of your website. Adding blog posts or doing small edits here and there is often sufficient. 

4. Use key words (but don’t overdo it).

Fundamentally, SEO is about key words. Choose the most relevant ones based on your area of expertise, your geographical location and other words people are searching for online.

For example, if you’re a dentist in Toronto, people may search for “dentist + name of neighborhood”.

But if there’s anything that makes your business stand out (perhaps you offer a 24/7 service), use that. Truth is, some key words are difficult to compete for, there’s just too many people using them. There might be less people searching for a 24/7 dentist but there’s a good chance that those who do will find you.

Only use one key word per page and try to include it in your page title, your image desription and make sure to repeat it a few times in the body. 

5. Create a Google My Business account.

An easy solution to help optimize your search engine ranking is to create a Google My Business account. This will allow you to get a Google listing – the box with a map, hours of operation and reviews that appear on the right of the list of results when you Google a business.

If you have a Gmail account, it’s even easier to open an account because you’ve already completed half of the registration process. Not only will your account help you gain a better SEO, it will generate additional visibility thanks to that Google listing. 

Again, remember to update your Google My Business account and to ask for client reviews to help your optimization even more.  

6. Include images.

Always aim to include at least one image for each content page. Search engines will appreciate it.

But don’t forget to give your images relevant file names by using your key words. 

You can do it!

These are just some of the basics you can implement to help your SEO. The best part is that you can easily do this yourself.

However, SEO is not an instantaneous thing – it can take time to see changes happen. But the day you do end up on the first page, do everything you can to stay there! Because if the bots penalize you for something, the impact on your website ranking could be felt for a long time.

Obviously, there are much more sophisticated solutions to help optimize your website organically and this is a service many companies specialize in – at a cost – beyond paid optimization such as P.P.P. 

 

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The newsletter: enemy or best friend?

Many small business owners have a love-hate relationship with their newsletter. On one end, they understand its value but on the other, they don’t like having to put in the work to make it happen.

In any case, here are 7 good reasons why your newsletter should become your best friend.

1. A newsletter gives you access to an email list.

In Canada, the rules around spamming are very strict. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) dictates what you can and cannot do. At the very least, you need to get implied consent from the people you are contacting, and in many cases, express consent.

But don’t let that scare or discourage you. Follow the rules, learn a few (honest!) strategies to gather email addresses and you’ll do fine!

2. It allows you to stay connected with your audience.

Staying in contact with past, current and potential customers is the best thing you can do. You know the drill. Someone walks in your store – “I’m just browsing!”. Another person asks you for a quote but is not quite ready to commit. It takes time and effort to convert. And sometimes, it’s just about timing. You want to be top of mind when the day comes that your client is actually ready.

3. It helps you gain customers’ trust and loyalty and increases your chances of repeat business.

A customer who purchases your product or service might love it so much that he or she will come back for more – it’s just a matter of time. But we all need a little push every now and then and your newsletter can help clients come back faster.

This being said, trust doesn’t always come easily and some customers might be on the fence about purchasing from you again. You need to earn that trust and It takes time. Having a newsletter allows you to share bits and pieces about your business that might prove convincing in the long run and earn you lifelong customers.

4. It helps position your business as the leader or the authority.

In the same way, your newsletter is an opportunity to demonstrate your value and to educate your audience. Whether it’s by explaining why your product is better quality or how you keep yourself abreast of the industry, a newsletter gives you a chance to offer more in-depth information and therefore position your business as the authority.

5. It’s a quick and inexpensive tool that can reach many people.

A newsletter with a decent email list allows you to reach many people in no time. Looking to promote a last-minute sale? Forget about printing a flyer or placing an ad in the paper! These methods can be time-consuming and very costly. A good CRM like Mailchimp will make it that much easier and will only run you a few bucks a month if you choose the paid version.

6. It can be personalized.

Personalizing emails is a way for you to show your customers that you care while also generating additional opportunities for your business. You can personalize it with the recipient’s name but can also tailor the actual content to his or hers interests and needs, based on previous purchases, surveys or web browsing habits. 

Personalizing your newsletter will generate more interactions with your content, increase customer satisfaction towards your actual newsletter, increase open rates of future newsletters and provide you with valuable data about your audience.

7. It generates traffic on your website.

A newsletter should always direct readers to your website, even if you don’t have an online store. Whether you want to increase views on your latest blog post, ask people for feedback or advertise your upcoming event, more website traffic increases your ranking in search engines and shows that your website is relevant. People don’t necessarily think of visiting your website over and over if they are not prompted to do so.

Your newsletter should also include links to your social media so that customers can follow you and interact with you on different platforms.

 

Still concerned that a newsletter is too much work for you? We can help! From strategizing to developing contents to designing your template, The Storyteller has what you need!

 

Keep a blog to attract more of your ideal clients

Keep A Blog To Attract More Of Your Ideal Clients

Starting a blog – and maintaining it – can seem dauting to many. But the fact is that to keep a blog will help you attract more of your ideal clients and reach your target audience. There are different reasons for this and different ways to fill the gap if you feel you don’t have the time or skills to go that route.

Blogging positions you as an expert.

Yes, that’s right. Blogging is an opportunity to showcase your expertise, to existing clients but also to potential ones. The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a topic:

  • An in-depth look at a service you offer
  • A comment on a recent study that came out in your field
  • A presentation of a case-study (e.g. a client) of yours
  • A profile of one of your staff members
  • And so many more!

Go back to the reasons why clients buy from you or support your organization. What problems are you solving? What resonates with them? Brainstorm different ideas and see what value you bring to the table.

Try to approach the topic from a different angle to make you stand out. Also, make sure to use the same words your clients would. Avoid technical language at all cost and if you absolutely need to, always provide explanations. The last thing you want to do is confuse a potential customer who thinks your blog is not answering his question.

Blogging helps your website better perform on search engines.

Stagnant websites are the enemy of Google. If you never update your content, never show signs of activity and no one clicks on the link to your website, chances are search engines will penalize you for it.

The idea is that a search engine will see an “active” website as one that is current and potentially relevant to people browsing the web, while the one that is never updated is probably archaic. Posting new blog entries at regular intervals tells search engine that you are serious and committed and that viewers have more chances of finding something of interest on your website.

Blogging helps you keep your existing customers and attract new ones.

We all know that in order for relationships to thrive, they need to be nurtured. This not only applies to friends and family but to professional contacts as well.

How do you get a client who apparently no longer requires your products or services to come back, or better, to have an ongoing relationship with you? By letting them know of your other services, by developing another offering, by showcasing the benefits of a long-term relationship. But to be able to achieve this, you need to educate them. And build trust. Keeping your blog up-to-date gives you a reason to solicit clients, to remind them of your existence, to educate them and to show that you are constantly learning and adapting to modern trends. Imagine how you would feel if you learned your doctor prescribed medication that is no longer recommended for your condition because he didn’t stay abreast of what’s going on in the medical world? I bet you would be horrified. Doctors may not be able to give out advice on a blog for obvious legal reasons but there’s no reason why they cannot share things such as a recent conference they’ve spoken at or news of what’s going on at their clinic.

Equally important is the fact that, if done right, blogging can help you expand your audience. Thanks to the right key words, favorable algorithms and a well-performing post, Google can become your friend. It takes a bit of education to achieve this but a post that ranks well receives more clicks, and can therefore generate interesting results for your business.

Blogging comes in different shapes and forms.

Many people feel they are not fit to have a blog because they are not confident in their writing skills. The good news is that although traditional blogs mainly feature written articles, blogging can take other forms. Vlogging (“video logging”) comes to mind for those who are comfortable in front of the camera. Podcasts are good for those who like to talk. And photographers could certainly have a blog where pictures are the main feature, with just a little bit of text to contextualize their point.

However, remember that it’s not because it’s not text that the content and the page doesn’t need to be optimized for Google.

You don’t have to do it all yourself.

If launching a blog and maintaining it on a regular basis seems dauting, there are ways to go about that.

If it’s the idea of having to update your website that scares you, ask your web developer about maintenance packages. You could be surprised at how little that represents.

But to a lot of people, creating the content is the most difficult part.

If you have a good writer on your team, someone who has a good grasp of your vision and your expertise, why not delegate that task? You can always provide guidance on topics or discussion points and edit the final result.

Another option is to outsource to a blogger or copywriter. At The Storyteller, we typically start by assessing if we have the right resource for the sector you represent. Once that question is out of the way, we sit down with you to get to know your business and your industry. We do research of our own and come up with a list of potential topics that you can approve before we officially get to work.

Would you like to learn more about our blogging and ghostwriting services? Contact us!

How to create snazzy web content to amp up your ROI

 

How To Create Snazzy Web Content To Amp Up Your ROI

Every week, I meet entrepreneurs struggling to come up with content for their website. They don’t know what message to communicate nor how to structure the information. Here is what to consider to create snazzy web content to amp up your ROI.

Content That Is Fundamentally “You”

To get started, it’s important to think about your business’ identity, whether you’re a sole proprietor or are operating a distinct entity. What is your mission? What values do you stand for? Who is your target audience? WHAT DIFFERENCIATES YOUR BUSINESS FROM OTHERS’?

Think of your business as its own person. What are her characteristics? What does she particularly enjoy? It’s by describing its « personality » and by humanizing it that you will be able to present it best and better sell it.

If your brand is strong and consistent, it should be placed at the forefront of your visual concept and it should also influence your message and language. If it’s not the case, it’s essential to reflect on these questions before starting to develop your site and its content.

Your Story Makes You Stand Out

Don’t underestimate the value of an “About” section (also called “Biography”, “Business Profile” or, more and more often, “Our Story”).

Have you ever visited a website to learn more about it and hit a wall? There’s nothing more frustrating! People want to know who they’re dealing with. Using storytelling increases your credibility, enhances people’s trust and acts as a differentiation tool.

Your story can be told through text but also through photography and video. Include images of yourself, your employees, your clients, your workplace and your products (set amongst humans!).

Avoid stock images as much as possible, they are too impersonal! Watch out though, don’t use bad quality imagery (frame, lighting, context, etc.). Stay professional, but please, stay away from clichés and project an authentic but dynamic image, full of personality.

Accessibility, Consistency And Relevance

Your message should make a statement but we cannot insist enough that it needs to be clear. A misunderstood message will do no good. Make sure to use plain but interesting and straight-to-the-point language.

Think of your ideal client and try to identify why he would visit your website. What questions is he trying to answer? Is he wondering about the services that you offer? Your qualifications? How to book an appointment? Your operating hours? Answer all of these questions.

Don’t jump from one topic to the other; divide the information in different sections. Do as you would in school and stick to one idea per paragraph. Ensure ideas flow well and use subheadings.

Don’t Overcrowd Your Site

If your menu is so full its taking up the whole line, you probably have too many sections. Similarly, don’t make your pages too long. Each page should be airy, easy to read and not too “scrolly”. Understanding that 21% of people now browse the Internet on a smart phone, test your website on different devices and see if you need to cut down on the content.

Also, know that the eye doesn’t read web content the way it would print. Reading on a screen means a lot of content gets skipped and that only the main ideas get picked up. Write short sentences and create new paragraphs often.

Incorporate “Call-To-Actions”

Even if your intention is promotional, your content should remain informative. Avoid exclamation marks and “salesy” formulas. Quality content benefits your overall ranking in search engines but the contrary is also true and you could be penalized.

You should always include “call-to-actions” to encourage visitors to act. Do you want them to add a product to their shopping cart? Write it! Do you want people to book an appointment? Send them to the contact page. The idea is not to harass people but to encourage them to stay on your website as long as possible so that they take action and improve your ROI.

Need a bit of help with your website? Whether you want to evaluate the performance of existing content, to translate it, to create new written or video content, to organize a photo shoot or actually to develop your website from scratch, let’s meet, we have what you need!

whats-the-point-of-telling-my-story

 

What’s the point of telling my story?!

Every week, people ask me “what the hell is storytelling?! “. To which I usually reply that it’s the idea of showcasing the people behind their organization for promotional purposes. But what I realized is that what they are actually asking me is “what’s the point of telling my story ?”

The point is that nowadays, when we buy something – whether it’s a product or service – , we buy a P-E-R-S-O-N. Think about it. Have you ever wanted to buy a car only to realize the salesperson was getting on your nerves? Have you purchased an insurance out of the blue after thinking about it for years simply because you met the right person? Have you contracted someone just because your sister-in-law referred you that person? Chances are that you have. Why? Because it’s normal, it’s HUMAN!

It’s human to go towards people with whom we have something – or someone – in common. 

It’s human to trust our peers’ recommendations.

It’s human to want to encourage those we appreciate.

It’s human to trust those with whom we’ve exchanged and those we’ve gotten to know.

It’s human to support those whose journey we’ve come to appreciate.

But if you hide and never converse with your clients, if you don’t present yourself as your true self or if you insist on formality for the sake of professionalism, if you never share with your clients, how do you think people will want to encourage you? How do you think they will come to trust you?

Failing to expose yourself to your target audience can mean one of two things:

  1. People don’t have an opinion on your business
  2. People have an opinion based on their impressions, perceptions, experiences and on things they heard that may not be accurate.

If being qualified used to be enough to differentiate yourself, it no longer is the case today. The world is full of competent entrepreneurs who offer the same thing as you. What’s left? Yourself. Your story. Your values. Today, that’s what makes a difference and that’s what people look for when making their purchasing decisions.

Your story = your unique selling proposition (USP)

Telling your story is an opportunity to present yourself. To promote yourself. To stand out from the crowd. To be seen and heard. It’s your opportunity to shine and to remind your audience of your existence.

Telling the story of your business also allows you to share information that is harder to include in tag lines, ads or daily updates but that is nonetheless important.

Anecdotes and real life examples can also be exploited to talk about your experience and showcase the expertise of your business.

Beyond your story as the founder or owner of the business lies the story of your employees. Your partners. And even your clients. Storytelling is a tool to highlight your organization’s credibility AND to celebrate other people’s contributions. You can praise their good work, show them in the middle of the action or simply present them as the individuals that they are.

Whether you share your story on your website, your social media, your printed materials, at conferences or during networking sessions, there are many options to present yourself and tools to use to do so.

Wondering how storytelling can help your business? Contact us to discuss your options and find out more about the packages we offer. 

 

 

A Story of Food

Many community gardens can be found in Ottawa, where I spend most of my time. To the contrary of other cities, here, community gardening is a relatively new concept. Last year, the Community Gardening Network celebrated its 20th anniversary.

With experience working with local farmers’ markets and as an advocate for food security and food sovereignty, I write a column called “What’s on your plate?” for a local paper, and one of my articles addresses the benefits of community gardening. It turns out that in other parts of the world such as the UK, allotment gardens really took off during the Second World War when the government encouraged people to grow food within city limits through its “Dig for Victory” campaign, at a time when urbanization, economic instability and the war were leading to much food insecurity.

At the Ottawa Food Policy Council, where I lend my expertise, we encourage residents to grow food. We try to raise awareness about “Good Food” and how political decisions should be made, through a holistic “food systems” lens. Whether it’s container or community gardening, beekeeping or chicken raising, consuming the fruit of our labor is beneficial for our health and the environment as well as for our overall food security and literacy.

From a personal standpoint, hubby and I have been growing food for a few years now. First, on our apartment balcony, then in our backyard’s raised beds and nowadays, on a small plot that is part of a private “community” garden at Mike’s Garden Harvest, who has since become a client. Although I admit to not always having the patience, I have to say the experience of growing our own food is incredible. Learning about seeds, what varieties are native to our region, watching the veggies grow (and sometimes not!), testing different arrangements and even better, eating some of the most flavorful produce we’ve ever had, nothing can beat that! Have you ever seen a Brussels sprouts plant?!

Once upon a time…we grew our food!

If I’m telling you about this, it’s that for me, the process of growing food is a story of its own. We usually think about the consumption (e.g. eating!) side of it, and at best, the cooking portion. But we rarely think of how it all began, how it got to our plate. Doesn’t knowing where you food comes from and how it was grown part of the pleasure of eating it? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. Knowing things like where and how it was harvested and under what condition and by whom, makes it both interesting and educational. When you buy at the grocery store, the country of origin and a fair trade label tell you part of the story. Imagine how much you’d find out if it all started… in your own garden!  

Gardening is not only a hobby but an opportunity to reconnect with nature, to learn, to share and to eat delicious food. And while food literacy has never been so present in the public discourse, it all starts at home. Think about it for a minute. Can you portray yourself as a kid observing grandpa attend to his tomatoes or helping mom make a nice apple pie from the fruit you had just picked in the orchard? That’s what it’s all about. Knowing where the food comes from, how it’s grown, how to use it. And at the end of the day, it’s about the connections, the relationships and the delicious meal you get to eat with your loved ones.

At The Storyteller, we support our community by getting involved in different projects we feel are raising awareness of such issues and we’re happy to be able to work with farmers, restaurateurs and not-for-profits who share that same passion.

 

 

What the hell is storytelling anyways?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We’re seeing this expansion of what non-fiction can be in storytelling, I think they’re more thrilling than a lot of fiction films.” These are not our words but the ones of Laura Poitras, an Oscar-winning American documentary film director and producer. You think your story is boring, or worse, that you don’t have any? Think again. Everyone has a story, it’s just a matter of asking the right questions and finding the right way to present it to do it justice. Real life stories of “ordinary” people are often the best.

But what is storytelling and why should you care? In marketing, storytelling is the art of using your story to engage with your audience and build your brand. It’s telling who you are as an organization, where you come from and what you aspire to. This way, your audience can gain a better understanding of your DNA, relate to your experience and connect with your brand. Some organizations rely heavily on their leader’s story and vision, using their persona to brand themselves, while others prefer to let the brand shine on its own.

As the founder of his business, a visionary and a great communicator, Steve Jobs was an excellent example of what a charismatic persona can do for a brand. But not all leaders can do that and sometimes, it’s best to have them work behind the scenes in favour of the brand. The example below is interesting in that although it’s certainly not Steve Job’s most memorable speech, when compared to Bill Gates, it’s clear that telling a story is much more natural to him than it is to his Microsoft colleague.

Note: our objective is certainly not to make fun of Bill Gates but you may find yourself smirking while watching this video!

Like it or not, consumers have never been so solicited and they have the luxury of choosing where they spend their dollars. Globalization has flattened the offer and although this can be comforting to some, it’s harder than ever to stand out in the crowd. The result is that consumers are somewhat “blasé” and good customer service is no longer the norm. But when faced with it, people notice and acknowledge it. While we can argue that traditions are still valued by some, novelty – or at least the capacity to reinvent oneself – gets a lot of traction. Ultimately, you don’t want your business to be a trend that will soon be forgotten but you don’t want it to be an antique either; you want to show people that you value where you come from while being able to evolve and adapt. At the end of the day, telling your story can help you keep your existing clientele AND tap into a younger demographic.

How to tell a story right

Ever read a book that you can’t seem to put down or watched a movie a 1,000 times? Well that’s probably the result of good storytelling. Those stories may have been fictional but there’s no reason why the same formula can’t be applied to your own story.

Think about it. What are the ingredients to a good story? First, the plot. It has to be consistent so that it makes sense but it also needs to have a few punch lines to surprise you and pike your interest. Second, the characters themselves. Perhaps you feel a connection or perhaps you’re intrigued by the fact that they are total opposites of you. And there’s always some sort of villain, that you just love to hate. Lastly, there’s the way the story is told. In the case of books, some like the narrative to be extremely detailed so they can picture exactly how things would look like in reality. On screen, there may be a narrator but things like music, costumes, lighting, decor and the actors themselves all have an influence on what the final product will look like and how you react to it.

All of this to say that whether you are literally writing your story, creating a video, recording a podcast or assembling images for a presentation, you have to think about all the elements that will make your story a memorable one.

The power of storytelling

What you have to know is that length is not necessarily a gage of quality, nor will it guarantee that people engage with your brand. In fact, in some instances, it could well be the contrary.

Remember the picture of the Napalm girl? If the name doesn’t ring a bell, then you will probably remember that internationally renowned picture of a young Vietnamese girl running naked surrounded by a scene of horror. Although some truths behind this picture have lately been questioned, if you had never seen it, it would be fairly easy to put the pieces together. Perhaps your version of the story would be slightly different than the real one but the fact of a matter is that there would be a common thread between your story and others’ as the sense of desperation emanating from that little girl can’t leave anyone indifferent. A picture worth a thousand words; these are the keepers in all of their glory and their horror.

Minus the emotional aspect of it, infographics can have a similar powerful impact. The good ones in particular can relay information of a more practical nature efficiently and quickly while adopting a more playful tone that will help position your brand.

And while short written stories often don’t allow to describe something as much as we’d like them to in order to set the tone, the reality is that people’s attention span is nowadays extremely short. In order to grab their attention, the best is often to combine imagery, written words and video for maximum impact, and to divide your story in multiple short stories so to benefit from a repeat exposure and ensure that people heard and now understand what is your story.