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There's a lot of things Newry businesses can't control today: Brexit, a global pandemic and a double-dip recession. But if you improve your website and online presence you can give your business the best chance of success as we adapt to our 'new normal'.

One of Northern Ireland's most experienced digital marketers, Newry-born, Freelance Belfast Copywriter Paul Malone from Tall Paul Marketing, on how your business can adapt, improve your website and succeed in our 'new normal'.

There are now seven uncertainties!

Your business website is the equivalent of a shop window; prospective customers have a look and either enter your shop (buy online) or walk on to the next store (check out your competitor's websites).

There are not many guarantees in the world now, while we're in a global pandemic.

One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, once mused: "In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes."

If he were alive today that quote might be a little different, in my opinion.

There are now an additional five things that are certain.

Firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic isn't going away any time soon.

There's a growing consensus amongst scientists globally that the Coronavirus might become a regular unwelcome guest with the same regularity as the common winter flu.

Secondly, there won't be a return to our old 'normal'.

Mask-wearing, social distancing, self-isolation and a myriad of other phrases that entered our conversations could be here for another couple of years.

Thirdly, we're about to enter a global recession (we're technically already in it).

Certainly, when global recessions arrive, marketing and advertising spend is usually one of the first to be cut.

But it's important to remember the famous quote from Henry Ford, the American businessman and founder of Ford Motors.

He warned, "A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time."

Fourthly, in Newry, we're about to experience the unique repercussions of Brexit and sharing a land border with a European country and a sea border with the rest of the United Kingdom.

As a result, this could mean isolating Northern Ireland businesses from three key markets: the Republic of Ireland, the UK and eventually the European Union.

Moreover, with just months to go before we leave the EU, we're still no closer to knowing what the future will look like.

Will there be a no-deal Brexit?

Is an Irish Sea border arriving in 2021?

Will there be a hard border in Ireland?

How will border workers be looked after?

In the same vein, can we trust a Tory government under the leadership of Boris Johnson and his right-wing Cabinet to have our best interests at heart?

Lastly, if you thought technology was moving fast before, it's now moving at an unprecedented pace.

In other words, everything is going online.

Everything is going online

And while those above paragraphs make for depressing reading, the last point can also be an opportunity for your small or medium business to change direction.

To clarify, today is the time to say to yourself: "My business is going to survive, adapt and succeed."

It's time to improve your website and online presence.

Here are five simple ways you can improve your website and transform your company's online presence.

Most importantly, it's a guide about how to attract more visitors to your website (potentially customers) and ultimately, generate leads (and sales!).

1. Improve your online presence today by getting rid of dormant and unnecessary Social Media accounts.

Every time a shiny new social media platform makes the headlines, we all experience #FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

And of course, we create a new account, add a business logo to the profile picture and get on with our day.

However, the reality is - now more than ever - people visiting these accounts only to find no recent activity might assume, given the pandemic and suffering of local businesses - that your business has closed down.

Most importantly, please resist the urge to join new social media platforms unless you know everything about them, their audience demographics (and your own audience demographics).

Not every social media platform is right for every Newry business.

For example, an aspiring singer in Newry might want an account on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Tik Tok to showcase those exquisite vocals.

However, would all of the above platforms be good choices for a Northern Ireland software start-up company?

Probably not.

They'd most likely have a significant presence on LinkedIn and perhaps Twitter instead.

That is to say; you need to know your audience and your target customers.

Think about who your target customers are.

What do they like doing? Is there a specific age group for your customers? 

Make sure you're active on the social media platforms that they use.

For instance, there's no point having a Tik Tok or Snapchat account unless either you or your company sell something that's visually and audibly appealing.

In short, the take-home message is clear: don't stretch yourself too thinly on social media.

Concentrate on one, two or three platforms, and give them all of your attention.

It's such a simple tip but one that is guaranteed to improve your website and online presence.

2. Improve your website by cutting down on unnecessary content.

Cut down on unnecessary content

Your website is one of the best places to make an excellent first impression to customers.

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

And when a customer visits your website, it should have straightforward, focussed content.

In addition, your homepage should say who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why your business is incredible.

Every other page should be consistent in tone and so that Google understands it when its robots crawl the website, it should be clearly structured.

Most websites benefit from having a simple structure:

Homepage

About page

Blog/news page

Services/Products on offer

Contact page

Of course, if you've got glowing testimonials or want to showcase your work, by all means, add them in; it will definitely improve your website and online presence.

But try and cut down on unnecessary content wherever possible.

Firstly, print out every page of your website.

Secondly, get a highlighter and go through each sentence and ask yourself: "Do potential customers really care about this?"

I guarantee you, you will surprise yourself at how little of it you need to keep and the repeat of information on multiple pages. Be ruthless with your content cull.

To clarify: short, snappy, concise is the name of the game.

Take a look at my website homepage to see how short all of the content is.

To sum up: website visitors aren't going to read paragraph after paragraph on every single page of your website.

Nobody cares about your business as much as you do.

Therefore, they will scan through quickly.

Customers want to be educated, informed, engaged, entertained or to buy a product or service that benefits them.

Make sure your website and all content match those points.

3. Improve your website and online presence by investing time (or money) on your website's blog or news page - known as 'Content Marketing'.

Invest time (or money) on your websites blog or news page.

Your blog is one of the most valuable, yet most neglected, parts of your website.

Above all, Content Marketing has transformed businesses around the world.

The Content Marketing Institute describes Content Marketing as "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."

Money is tight at the minute for most businesses.

Forget about quick wins like spending money on online advertising.

Resist the urge to click 'Boost Post' on Facebook.

Shun the expensive Pay Per Click world of Google Advertising (unless you've got a helluva lot of money to throw at it!).

Instead, invest your time and money in Content Marketing.

Content Marketing is one of the smartest ways to improve your website.

Invest your time and money in Content Marketing
Invest your time and money in Content Marketing

Create quality, engaging, informative and entertaining content consistently, and you'll get bigger, long-term rewards and reach a whole new world of customers.

It's your chance to showcase what your business does, provide informative and helpful content and instigate discussions in your industry. 

In addition, it can even improve your search ranking on Google, Yahoo and Bing with savvy SEO optimised content.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Google PPC advertising or Facebook advertising - they serve a purpose and do it very well.

But for small and medium-sized businesses in Northern Ireland, every penny is a prisoner.

And you want sustainable results that drive customers consistently.

In short, decide today that you're going to commit yourself and your business.

Start small. 

"I will update my blog/news page once a week."

Baby steps.

There won't be any quick wins with this, so don't expect overnight success.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

However, if you commit to weekly blog posts, you'll gradually start to attract more visitors to your website, and those that do visit will come back for more.

While a boosted post or PPC advert might give you instant results, they come at a cost. 

And once your money is spent, the visitors stop coming. 

As a result, you're back to being invisible online.

That's why a commitment to Content Marketing now will guarantee you'll have visitors coming back time and again.

Also, the content you write for your blog or news page can be used as snippets for your social media content too, killing two birds with one stone.

* Shameless plug alert * If you don't have the time to write your blog content every week, why not hire a freelance copywriter like me? 

I'm a Newry-born, Belfast-based freelance copywriter and I create website blog and news page content for businesses around Northern Ireland that don't have the time to do it themselves. 

Find out more about Tall Paul Marketing here.

4. Check (and update) all business listings for consistency to improve your website and online presence. 

Check and update all business listings
Check and update all business listings

Certainly, this one is a quick win.

Customers don't always find your website by typing in the business category and town.

Sometimes they find it through local and national business listings websites.

If you're not already listed in them all, I would highly recommend joining a couple of the biggest ones.

The best business listings pages, in my opinion, are:

  1. Google My Business
This is what the Tall Paul Marketing Google My Business listing looks like
This is what the Tall Paul Marketing Google My Business listing looks like

Here's what the Tall Paul Marketing Google My Business listing looks like:

  1. Yell
  2. Yelp
  3. Bing Places

If you're on the above already, log in to each and make sure the following are consistent across all websites and accurately mirror your website and branding:

  1.  Images
  2.  Business Description
  3.  Opening Hours (if applicable)
  4.  Business Category 
  5.  Address
  6.  Website address (URL)
  7.  Phone number

I cannot overstate the importance of consistency and accuracy of information about your business on the world wide web.

An out of service phone number, a broken website URL, missing information, or out of date branding can confuse potential customers.

To sum up: Don't lose out on driving traffic to your website with conflicting information and web presence. 

If customers are not visiting your website to make a purchase, you can guarantee they're visiting your competitor instead.

To conclude, here are the four tips to improve your website and online presence:

  1. Get rid of dormant and unnecessary Social Media accounts.
  2. Cut down on unnecessary content
  3. Invest time (or money) on your website's blog or news page
  4. Check (and update) all business listings for consistency and accuracy.

About Paul Malone

Newry-born, living in Belfast, Freelance Copywriter Paul Malone is one of Northern Ireland's most experienced marketers. 

Tall Paul provides Copywriting, Content Writing and Blog Writing services for businesses across the country.

Follow Tall Paul's blog for more business marketing tips, tricks and advice by clicking here.

Connect with Tall Paul on social media:

Tall Paul Marketing Facebook | Tall Paul Marketing Twitter

Tall Paul Marketing LinkedIn | Tall Paul Marketing Instagram

Email Paul: paul@tallpaulmarketing.com

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