Basic SEO: Make Sure Your Web Site is Included in Search Engines’ Index

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SEO or Search Engine Optimization, in a nutshell, helps your web site be found online.

The very first step is to make sure search engines know your web site exists.  Or, more specifically . . .

CHECK WHETHER YOUR WEB SITE IS INDEXED

Search engines “crawl” the internet, reviewing each web page found, and then organize the content in their “index” to provide as future search results based on the relevancy to keywords searched.  If you’re not in the search engine’s index, you’re virtually invisible to searchers or, as applicable to us small businesses, potential customers.

Seeing whether your web site is in their index is easy.  From any search engine, search for “site:yourwebsite.com”.  (In our case, we search:  site:brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com.)

In our check, we found that most of our blog is a part of Google’s index.  Since Google performs the lion’s share of searches (see below), we’re going to focus on them.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR WEB SITE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE INDEX?

According to Google, a few common reasons explain why a site might not appear in search results.  The most popular issues and some potential solutions are listed below for you.

  • PROBLEM:  Other web sites do not link to your site, and/or your web site is simply too new.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  You can create pages for your business in social media venues (like Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and include links to your web site. 
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Find popular web sites that could benefit from content on your web site.  Once you’ve identified some possible targets, send an email or letter to the appropriate person (usually a contact page will have the needed information) and explain why you believe their web site would benefit from linking to yours.  Be sure to follow up.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Get online reviews.  If applicable to your products or services, create a page for your business on popular review sites (google, yelp, etc.) and seek out reviews.  If you know of a particularly happy customer that has a web site or a strong social media following, ask for a plug to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Think about business contacts that could help you promote your web site.  For instance, you may use intermediaries or suppliers that have an appropriate place on their web site to link to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: And last but not least, post quality content and be patient.  “If you build it, they will come.”  Whether a baseball field or a web site that adds unique value to the digital world, people will eventually find you, and they will link to your web site.
  • PROBLEM: Google’s ability to crawl the site has been hindered by Flash, other specialized technology, or a lack of text.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: If your web site utilizes Flash or another specialized technology, you may want to consider a redesign in HTML.  While this could be a significant undertaking, you want your web site written in a language that search engines understand.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Review the image to text ratio on your web site.  Do you have enough words for search engines to fully understand the content for each page?  If not, you can either replace your images with text (try to use formatting to achieve that same visual appeal) or supplement the images with explanatory captions.  Remember that you’re communicating with your web site’s audience as well as search engines.
  • PROBLEM: Your web site generated an error when Google tried to crawl your web site.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: The most common reason for this problem is secured content.  If your web site requires a log-in to enter the site, Google won’t be able to enter either.  Consider restructuring your web site so that your more general pages are open to the public and only the pages truly requiring a log-in get that restriction.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: You can also register your web site with Google’s Search Console, which can give you some more specific information about the errors generated.

Once you feel like you have sufficiently addressed your particular problem, ask Google to crawl and index your web site.

If you have any questions or comments about getting included in Google’s index, we’ve love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section. . . .

The next goal of course is to improve your web site’s search ranking, which will be the focus of a future post. 

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Branding Through Customer Service

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Most business owners appreciate the importance of customer service, but far fewer recognize the connection between the service they provide and the brand they represent.  Your customers’ experience with your business should reflect and reinforce your brand (or the personality of your company). 

Let’s look at two extreme examples. 

Amazon

amazon-vision-statement-mission-statement

Amazon’s customer-centric focus is a part of their mission and vision statements.  They are known for free two-day shipping (now with same-day options sometimes available), one-click purchases, and their virtual assistant (i.e., Alexa; lovingly known as Lexie in our house . . . or dumba@#$!, depending on the day and how well she’s performing her virtual assistance role). 

While having to wait ten minutes to speak to another company’s customer service representative may be annoying, most people probably wouldn’t be surprised.  However, we have different expectations for Amazon.  We expect to communicate with someone right away when we have an issue, and we expect that individual to capably handle the problem . . . and that’s only for those situations in which we can’t fix the issue ourselves (for example, “returning” a product without ever even interacting with customer service).  Quick, tech-savvy, and capable are qualities associated with Amazon’s brand, so we expect their approach to customer service to embody those same characteristics. 

Amazon also uses service interactions as opportunities to reinforce their brand.  They thank you for shopping with Amazon over the phone or via chat.  Afterwards, you’ll receive an email message from customer service, asking for feedback on your experience.  In that email, you’ll see the company logo, an email layout consistent with the company’s style, and a reference to the company building “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.” 

Amazon’s brand is reflected and reinforced throughout the customer service experience.

On the flip side, sometimes customer service that isn’t customer focused or service focused is actually an important part of the brand, too.

Ferrari

This company’s product is associated with luxury, quality, and exclusivity.  For the most elusive Ferraris with very limited production, you don’t simply order one from the new flashy and convenient car vending machines.  You don’t simply order one at all.  You “request” to order one, and those requests are not fulfilled in the traditionally expected “first-come, first-serve” manner.  If you have money, fame, and an existing collection of Ferraris, you will probably make the cut; no guarantees though. 

Robert Herjavec, the businessman turned celebrity on ABC’s Shark Tank, spoke about ordering a Ferrari in Wired magazine, “The funny thing is, you never really know if you’re getting one until you’re actually getting one.”

(Note that most of the cost is required in advance of being guaranteed your requested Ferrari!)

“. . . You wait for a while, then you kind of get a date range, then you get a closer date, then you get the actual date. Then it’s definitely Christmas,” said Herjavec.

If you happen to request a paint color for your new car that Ferrari deems to be in poor taste, you can be denied said paint color. 

So, you make an order (with payment) without guarantee of getting the product, you wait an extraordinarily long time IF you are given the privilege of being promised the product, and customization choices aren’t always yours to make.  All of these customer service attributes reflect the exclusivity that is Ferrari’s brand and actually add to the allure of their products.

While I am not quite Ferrari’s target demographic and haven’t been involved in this process, I would expect that their brand is reinforced at each stage of the way – indirectly and directly portraying the characteristics that define them (luxury, quality, and exclusivity), including visual brand components as well whenever possible (for example, the prancing horse).

Customer Service Characteristics that Represent Your Brand

While the two brand examples highlighted are extreme ones, all aspects of your customer service do communicate qualities about your business.  Below is a list of some different customer service opportunities to consider.  The way your company handles each of these items contributes to a brand experience . . . one that hopefully reflects your perception of your brand. 

-The amount of time taken to answer phone calls/emails

-The way customers and potential customers are addressed in person as well as via phone/email

-The extent of information available to potential customers

-The level of assistance provided to a customer when experiencing an issue

-The way customer input and suggestions are handled

-The background information included with a product or service

-The amount of detail provided with any instructions included with a product or service

-The inclusion of contact information in promotional materials and product documentation

-The extent of customer follow-up provided post-purchase

-The inclusion of your logo and tag line in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents

-The adherence to your company’s style guide in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents (If you haven’t developed a style guide for your business yet, read The Role of a Brand Style Guide.)

If upon looking at this list, you feel like your customer service experience is fully in synch with your brand, pat yourself on the back!  That is no small feat! 

Want an even stronger evaluation?  Ask a few of your customers to do the same review on your behalf. 

If one or more attributes could use some tweaking to either better represent your company or to better take advantage of the branding opportunities that exist, you’re not alone.  The good news is that you can make important changes over time that can have a big impact on your business and your brand.

Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers

Since I’m writing this post during that unique period in between Christmas and New Year’s . . . when you have no concept of whether it’s Tuesday, Sunday, or even still December, I figured I would write about something that brings me great joy.  Fonts.  I am a collector of fonts.  I have ones that are beautiful, ones that are classic, straightforward, jovial, and downright odd.  I learned today I have 1,266 of them to be exact.  Most I know I’ll never use, but hundreds of them MAY get used . . . one day.  I am a font hoarder.

As a Christmas present to myself, I decided I would find a good utility for browsing my collection.  When I am trying to decide on the perfect font for a project, this very common, teeny tiny, one-font-at-a-time preview is not nearly sufficient:

I went out seeking a utility similar to google’s font viewer . . . where I could type in my desired preview text and then browse the available options in an easy-to-see size and easy-to-scroll format.

If you are in the beginning stages of forming your brand, having a tool like this — to see your company name and test out body copy in all your currently installed fonts — would be a wonderful luxury.  Once your brand has solidified a bit, you’ll still have instances in which you’ll need to choose a different font for a specific need . . . whether you’re creating a Happy New Year graphic for social media or a “clearance” sign for display in your store. 

So I went looking for the best available font viewer.  I read a number of articles reviewing the options, and I sampled a select few of them based on the reviews . . . .

CPS Font Viewer
This program was my absolute favorite, checking all the essential boxes on my font viewer wish list, excepting the very important fact that my computer would freeze for about a minute every time I interacted with the program, which is designed for a 32-bit version of Windows.  (I’m guessing this is an important fact.)  Frustration prompted my uninstalling the program before even taking a screen shot for you, but I was able to grab one from the software provider:

If your computer is a rare gem running 32-bit Windows, this program is a great choice. 

FontBase

I initially really liked FontBase, performing the requisite job in a clean and modern interface.  I also like that you can easily switch from your fonts to Google’s selection of 2,533 free fonts as desired.  However, I really wanted to better utilize all that wasted screen space and increase the number of fonts I could peruse at a time.  Unfortunately, the ability to switch from a row view to grid style, along with a number of additional options, requires an upgrade and at a pretty hefty price tag at that.  Many seemingly functional buttons annoyingly transport you to this screen, where your options are $3/mo, $29/yr, or $180 forever. 

Since I try to resist the low-price allure of ongoing subscriptions whenever possible, I was left with the $180 option, which was about $100 more than I was willing to spend.  Goodbye, FontBase. 

If you don’t mind the free row layout and can quickly learn which buttons to avoid OR you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, this program is a solid choice.

Wordmark.it

Another modern and clean interface that can also easily switch from your installed fonts to google’s free fonts, this viewer is a big step up, providing a grid layout entirely free of charge.  In fact, this is the only utility I sampled that is browser-based and didn’t need to be installed.  Your only required payment comes in the form of one font block dedicated to an advertisement every other screen or so – a very reasonable price to pay in my book.  However, this utility scans and previews your installed fonts using Adobe Flash Player, outdated software that Adobe has announced will no longer be supported as of December 2020.  I noticed a bit of a lag on the web page itself and even more inconveniently in my other software while accessing Wordmark.it.  (So going back and forth from discovering a possible font option on Wordmark.it to trying out the font in my project was not a smooth flow.)  Hopefully, the company will find a more current way to make this utility available, because it’s pretty slick otherwise.

AMP Font Viewer

This program has an old-school feel.  The installation process and program interface are reminiscent of the good old days . . . Windows 97, 56k modems, and floppy disks.  I almost immediately wrote the program off as a result. 

Upon browsing all the options in the program’s menu, I found that the view is almost completely customizable, and I was able to scroll through my 1,000+ font options with ease. 

Unlike the outdated Flash Player, this program’s age adds to its allure . . . not modern and clean but user driven and quick.  I happily declare my unlikely victor!

Do you have a favorite font viewer?  Let us know in the comments below.  Did you have an opportunity to try out one of the reviewed options?  I would love to hear your experience.

How to Create a Facebook Page for Your Business

Your first step to your business’s social media presence on facebook is quick and easy.  In the five steps below, you’ll see how to create a page for your business.

1.  Log in to your personal account on facebook.  Go to Create > Page.

Select Business or Brand when asked to choose a category.

2. You’ll then be prompted to input an address, or you can click “Don’t show my address.  Only show that this business is in the City, State region.”

3.  Next, you’ll need to add a profile photo.  You’ll want to use one that can be squared, the corners rounded/cropped, and at least 170 x 170 pixels in size (which is pretty small).  We would ideally like to use our logo, but it’s not one that would work well in facebook’s profile frame:

If uploaded as is (as I did above), portions would be cropped.  If I added white space to the top and bottom so the sides wouldn’t be cropped, the logo would be very hard to see when displayed at 170 x 170 pixels and smaller.  As a result, I went with an icon version of our logo, created for purposes such as these.  White space has been added all around to accommodate the round frame. 

If your logo doesn’t work for your profile picture or you’d prefer to use a photo of yourself or some other image representative of your business, just be sure to regularly include your logo in your posts (preferably as an overlay on pictures related to the post).

4.  Next up is your cover photo, which displays at 820 pixels wide x 312 pixels tall on computers and 640 pixels wide x 360 pixels tall on smartphones.  The minimum size is 400 pixels wide x 150 pixels tall.  Since the dimensions of your cover photo will vary somewhat in different environments, a simple landscape photo is your surest best – as opposed to including your logo or other text.  (If you do go the route of including your logo or other text, be sure to include lots of white space, so the text does not get cropped regardless of the environment.) 

A Quick Note About Graphics Software:  If you’re not quite sure how to go about creating a cover photo that includes text or how to add white space to your logo, you may want to check out Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/), which is a free graphics editor that also makes a number of tutorials available:  https://inkscape.org/learn/tutorials/.

For our facebook cover, I just used the main image included on our home page for continuity purposes.

You can “drag to reposition” if desired.

5.  Finally, you’ll be asked whether you want to “invite friends to like your page,” which is recommended since pages with 10 or more likes get more engagement.  If you want to wait until you’ve been regularly posting for some time before inviting a lot of people, you can start off with a small group of your close family and friends until you get better established.

And you are done!  You have a facebook page for your business.  Unfortunately, that was the easy part.  The challenge is creating a regular posting schedule and sticking to that plan.  How often . . . ?  A number of sources cite one facebook post per day as optimal.  If you can commit to that, great.  If you feel like twice a day is better for you, just pay attention to your engagement.  If those posts aren’t getting sufficient attention, facebook may decrease your visibility and put your posts into a “spamming” category.  If you’re like us, once a week is a much more reasonable goal.  Do what works for you and your business, experimenting a little to find your optimal posting schedule.

Good luck!  Stay tuned for more posts about facebook.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a reply below. 

How to Set Up Simple Print-and-Cut Business Cards in Microsoft Word

You want simple, nice, and professional looking business cards.  Easy, Peasy, right?  Unfortunately, creating business cards from scratch can be a little intimidating for even a tech-savvy person.  Thankfully, Microsoft Word actually makes a decent amount of business card templates available to you.  While the focus is clearly quantity versus quality, their templates do save you a number of groundwork steps, so they are a good place to start.  You can go from a blank Word document to print-ready business cards in only ten steps. . . . 

(For a personalize-and-print option for $6, skip to the end.)

1.  From within Microsoft Word, go to File > New and type “business cards” into the search box. 

Scroll down through the search results to the vertical “flower personal business cards”.

Press Create.

2. Right click the cross within a square at the upper left and choose Table Properties.

Select Table > Borders and Shading > Border and set the Setting to All, the Style to dashed, the Color to light gray, and the Width to ¼ pt; press OK.

Then go to Cell and set the Vertical Alignment to Centered and press OK once again.  You now have business cards that are horizontally and vertically centered with very faint visual guides for cutting.

3. Delete all the content from the first card, insert your logo, and size to your liking, keeping in mind you will need space for your contact information.

4. Press enter to advance to the next line and set the font to Calibri, the font size to 11, and the font color to black.  Press Ctrl + D for advanced font and character options.  Click the Advanced tab and set the Character Spacing to Expanded By 3 pt.  Press OK and turn your Caps Lock on.  Type your name.

5. Press return to advance to the next line.  Change the font to Calibri Light and the font size to 10.  Click Ctrl + D, change the character spacing to .5 pt, and press OK; then, type your title.

6. Press return to advance to the next line and change the font size to 7.5.  Then include your contact information, limiting yourself to three lines. 

7. Place your cursor after your logo, right click, and go to Line Spacing Options.

Within Indents and Spacing, set the Spacing After to 6pt, and press OK.

Set the cursor after your title and repeat.

8. Once you’re happy with your layout, select the entire contents of that card, and copy by pressing Ctrl + C.  Then, select the contents of another card, press Delete, and Ctrl + V to paste your new design.

Repeat the process for the rest of the page.

9. Save your file and print; be sure to set your printer Print Quality to the best available option. (When choosing your paper, I recommend a quality cardstock in between 80 and 100 lb — any thinner, and your business card will be too flimsy; any thicker, and you risk problems using the paper in a conventional home printer. A matte versus glossy finish is really a personal preference, but you do avoid any potential for fingerprints on a matte stock.)

10.  Then, cut!  For the cleanest and straightest edges, use a paper cutter.   

A Note About Business Card Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and your business cards should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Personalize-and-Print Template

If you would prefer to forgo the instructions above and purchase a preformatted template, the file is available for $6. In this version, you need only enter your information into one of the cards, and the rest will populate automatically. Simply type your info, print, and cut!

$6.00