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How to Take a REAL Break This Christmas
As small business owners, it can be incredibly difficult to take a real break from work for any meaningful length of time. By real, I mean one which is…
If this sounds like a pipe dream to you, you’re not alone! As Dynamic Business reports, only 5% of small business owners feel they’re able to ‘truly’ take a holiday, which they define as never checking work emails (or other messages) on vacation.
Yet, we all know the value of genuinely putting work out of our minds and reconnecting with our families, ourselves and nature for a more extended period of time. So, how can we make it happen?!
Here are some suggestions to help you peel yourself away from your ‘business baby’ this festive season and enjoy some well-earned rest…
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
You may already schedule social media posts, newsletters, payments and other business processes from time to time, but ahead of holidays, you need to get serious about it. Ensure you have enough of the following (as required) scheduled to cover you for the entire time you’re away. Ditch any non-essential requirements from your list and pare back to only those tasks which you MUST do during that time. Great tasks to schedule in advance include;
Delegate and Automate
Look carefully at your typical weekly tasks during the time period you plan to be away. What can you delegate to a team member, or outsource to?
There are businesses (usually described as Virtual Assistants, Content Managers or Social Media Managers) who, for a fee, will manage your topline customer service during the period you’re away. Typically, you provide them with a thorough list of FAQ’s (and their matching answers), and a set of standard responses to provide potential customers who enquire via email or messenger. This kind of resource can also create and post blogs and social content for you, though you may need to approve content before you go away if the service is relatively new to your brand.
Look also for apps which automate processes you normally handle manually. Examples include invoicing apps which send automated payment reminders; ‘flow’ email managers which are set up to send sequential emails to customers based on certain behaviours; and chatbots which are pre-stocked with answers and solutions on your website or social platform.
In the first few days of Sydney’s recent 107-day lockdown, I received an email from the small business owner who manages our website content and SEO. It explained in a frank but friendly fashion that as she’d be homeschooling her two kids while working her normal full-time load for the foreseeable future, her usual level of service should not be expected. She asked that any non-urgent projects be delayed, and preempted complaints about response times by stating that she’d be working odd hours and would reply when able.
Her point was (and it’s my point here as well) that small business owners are people too! We are not superhuman robots. Other people (yes, even our customers for the most part) believe we deserve a break. And as long as they’re aware of it in advance and can work your absence into their own plans, they are generally happy for you!
So, tell everyone you’re going away! Tell them you really need to cut the umbilical cord with your phone, and that anything non-urgent should wait until you’re back. Set up an out-of-office which supports this (a bit of humour never goes astray!) and power down that laptop!
Consider Creating a ‘Work O’Clock’
We all know Wine O’Clock. Well, when you’re away, if you find it genuinely impossible to completely sever contact with your business for more than a few days, consider instigating a ‘Work O’Clock’!
What this means is that you turn all notifications off from your work email and various messaging services. Then, every day (or even on alternate days), you spend 30-60 minutes checking and speedily replying to anything urgent, while ignoring anything non urgent. It might seem counter-intuitive, but knowing you have this short period of time in which to check in on your business can make it easier to leave your phone in the holiday house the rest of the day, while you enjoy yourself!
Accept There Will Be a ‘Gap’
There is likely never a ‘perfect’ time to be away from your business, especially if you don’t have a big team to run things smoothly in your absence. It is likely you may miss an opportunity or two, or potentially have an unhappy client when you return (who doesn’t agree that small business owners need breaks too!). But you won’t ‘break’ your business. You deserve - and need - a holiday, and not one where you’re lying poolside frantically responding to Google Reviews or creating Reels on the sly while bushwalking with your kids.
Get organised, take a deep breath, and detach...
By Lauren Hamilton, Guest Blogger
What About Ads?
Listen up, because this is one of the most important social media tips for small businesses. Boosting posts is an option presented to us frequently via our Facebook pages, but it is NOT the way to spend your money, if you’d like to effectively reach more people on FB and IG.
Within the Facebook Ads Manager software system where Digital Advertising technicians build high quality, effective Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns, there are 11 different objectives you can choose between.. Selecting the Boost Post objective tells Facebook you just want as many people as possible to see your post, regardless of how likely they are to take action after seeing it. This method of advertising was invented to take dollars from page owners lacking sophisticated knowledge of how the platform ‘works’. Simply showing your post to as many people as possible – even within the parameters you set to refine your target audience – is the equivalent of using a blunt axe in a world of shiny scalpels.
Written by Guest Blogger, Lauren Hamilton of Digital Narrative. Lauren has worked with small businesses on their social media, websites, SEO and all other digital marketing requirements for almost a decade, and prides herself on demystifying jargon and myths to take the stress out of having a great online presence
Digital Narrative Founder & SEO Expert
SEO - aka Search Engine Optimisation - gets a bad rap, even among us digital marketers. In my 7 years working with SEO for small businesses, I've come to realise most people see it as a confusing, time-zapping and expensive thing to improve. Most people assume you need a very high level of 'techiness' to even attempt it, which enables unethical consultants to charge insane prices and gives them an incentive to keep quiet about what exactly they’re doing back there...
That's why 'demystifying' SEO is one of my favourite things to do. Simply gaining an understanding of how search engines - mainly Google in Australia - find and display your website is a great place to start. Knowing what floats Google's boat, and how you can give it more of what it loves (and less of what it hates) is the next step. Wrap your head around these and commit a few hours a month to your website, and you're on your way to great rankings!
Get started below, with my favourite ways you can begin to make a difference to your website's level of optimisation yourself. Once you've tackled these, if you're still not appearing as a search result when your main keywords are Googled, only then is it time to call in an SEO specialist.
Page Speed Upgrade
Google h-a-t-e-s a slow website. Head to Google Page Speed Insights and check how quickly your site is loading. If it’s performing poorly, look at the list of suggestions there to improve the loading time. Some may be too complex to address alone. Some - like reducing photo size - are simple fixes you can get onto immediately. There are many photo resizing tools online OR WordPress and Shopify site owners can install a simple plugin to compress images without losing quality.
Metadata is another one of those words which makes people cover their ears when I start talking, but I promise, it’s not scary. All metadata means is information (data) which tells search engine ‘bots’ what your actual data (your images, videos, pages, files) are ‘about’. What's in them. This metadata allows search engine bots to rapidly discover what info your site contains, which it loves.
The most important metadata is your meta description on each page; this is the sentence or two which appears on search results under the heading. If you can ensure every page of your website has a thoughtful, well written meta description, that's a great start. If you can get the main keyword for that page in there, even better.
Otherwise, the simplest metadata you can adjust yourself is probably photo data; the name or title and the ‘alt text’ of each image should reflect the page topic and the keywords you’re keen to show up for.
People get worked up about backlinks, but they're actually very straight forward. They’re simply links from another website, back to your site. An example is your Instagram profile - it probably has a link to your website in the bio, which counts as one backlink. Other simple places to score backlinks include other social media profiles, directory listings and networking sites you’re a member of. Once you’ve knocked off all these obvious places, it’s time to put your thinking cap on. My favourite ways to score backlinks from other websites are;
- Reach out to collaborators or online publishers for your industry and offer to write a guest post for their blog, on the proviso your ‘by-line’ is linked to your website.
- Write a testimonial or review for a supplier or collaborator. Ensure the review goes on their website, and that your name is again hyperlinked to your website.
- If you’re a major client of a goods or service provider and they showcase their clients on their website, make sure you’re listed (hopefully with your logo shown!) and that the listing is linked to your site.
- Check out your local Chamber of Commerce and other local business network opportunities.
- Look for paid guest posting opportunities. Some websites charge a fee (between $5 and $120) to show off your content on their websites. You may wish to consider these when all other natural ‘free’ backlink opportunities have been exhausted.
Do you have a Google My Business listing? How about Google Search Console or Google Analytics? These free tools are all must-haves to help you rank better in searches and also monitor and manage your SEO. There are oodles of tutorials on YouTube which can teach you how to set these accounts up and manage them (hot tip; use the same account when you’re setting them all up to avoid future frustration!)
Google Search Console allows you to check that your site is being indexed properly, see where your traffic is coming from, and get suggestions to improve your SEO. Google Analytics helps you track website activity such as session duration, pages per session, bounce rate etc, all of which is helpful to know. And Google My Business is a) another free backlink b) another chance to appear in search results and c) another thing that floats Google's boat!
There are many, many more aspects to SEO than I’ve listed above - this is really just the “101” on the topic, but if you conquer these tasks and feel you’re ready for more, consider enrolling in an SEO training course online to take it to the next level.
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