At Wagada our team are experts at working with small businesses. We’re passionate about helping them to build their brand and increase their website traffic through high quality search engine optimisation. However, one question that we often get asked by small companies is “how on earth can my SEO compete with the big brands?”. Of course at first glance a local hairdresser may appear to have little chance of competing with a national brand such as Toni and Guy, and a small fabric shop may wonder how they can ever have an advantage over a company such as John Lewis when it comes to SEO!

It is true that big sites do have a number of advantages when it comes to SEO and you would often expect a popular brand to benefit from the additional finances that they have to plough into their website optimisation. They are often working with digital marketing budgets that stretch into millions of pounds which would be unheard of for smaller businesses. This large budget also means they have the ability to invest in their website as a priority when it is required such as at the run up to Christmas or if another new big competitor comes onto the market.

Another benefit for large brands is that their website often has a very high domain authority. This can be due to a range of factors. Firstly they are likely to have a high number of good quality links coming into their website and bringing them the all-important ‘link juice’. These links will often come from a diverse range of trusted websites, all of which will influence the search engines to rank them higher than a much smaller or newer site. Large brands are also seen as trustworthy by online customers. It is often the case that they have built up their brand and reputation over a long period of time and therefore consumers have faith in their products and services. A smaller business still has to work very hard to build up their authority within their market and to gain the trust and loyalty of their customers.

So, whist the big brands may seem to hold all the cards when it comes to SEO, don’t worry just yet – we’re here to show you that in fact there are many benefits to being a small business that can help your website to appear higher in the search engine rankings. In fact, there are a number of ways that you actually have an advantage over the more established names within your industry.

How Small Sites Can Have An SEO Advantage

 

  1. Flexibility and Creativity

Large companies mean large teams and this can often lead to a long-winded decision-making process about digital marketing campaigns that may involve a large number of people. This means that any changes to their SEO can take time to make, and then they still need to be approved and communicated to separate web design, marketing and PR teams. But, with a small business you don’t have any of this to worry about! Instead the small size of your team means that you can be extremely reactive to changes, both in the business and online world. If a new Google algorithm comes out in the morning, you can start to make the relevant changes to your site that very same day. Lack of bureaucracy means that small businesses are perfectly placed to get things done, whilst larger brands are still discussing them in the boardroom.

The same rationale applies to creativity. Long approval processes in big brands can stifle the intuitive creativity that often needs to be applied to your website SEO. In a small business you have the luxury of breaking boundaries – and you can quickly turn your blue sky thinking into tangible results.

  1. An authentic voice

When you run your own company, you become the voice and face of your business. This means that you can often be far more authentic with your digital marketing and social media than a larger brand. Big companies often appear ‘faceless’ to their customers and you can capitalise on this by showing your potential clients that you’re a real person. Write about your own personal experiences and show them you are there to help. Answer them directly on social media and let them get to know you as a person.

  1. Working in a niche

Large brands often have to be all things to all people and it can be difficult finding a voice through their advertising that hits all of their target demographics. Getting their marketing wrong can mean that they alienate a segment of their clients and they often struggle to appeal to everyone. This is where small businesses can really come into their own. You can pick a very specific target market that you know and understand. You can really work to build up their trust in your company so that you become the go-to business for that particular group of customers.

Our Top 3 Ideas To Help Small Firms Compete With Larger Brands

Hopefully after reading about all the advantages that you have as a small company you’re now feeling a lot more positive about how you can gain a competitive advantage. At Wagada we know that there are a number of ways to help you compete and here are our top 3!

  1. Choose your niche and build positive relationships with your target audience

Earlier in this article we looked at how building a very specific niche was a key advantage for a small business. Therefore, it’s vital to spend time considering your target customers, so that you can start to really understand what they respond to and what they want from your business. You could run some focus groups to discover what your potential clients want and you should think about what you can offer them that larger brands can’t. For example, a small fabric shop may not be able to offer the range of products that a competitor such as John Lewis can, but they could offer more unusual brands or focus on Fairtrade material. They could also offer clinics to give advice to people about sewing and dress patterns.

Small companies can also reach out to online influencers and build personal relationships that can’t be replicated by corporate PR teams. These strong relationships with bloggers, local business communities and the local press can help build trust in your brand and will also see your social media and blog content shared more frequently.

  1. Make sure your website content provides value and don’t be afraid to pursue harder-to-monetise content

A small business can often put much more time and effort into one piece of content than a larger brand may be able to. Because you really understand your niche and the keywords that they will be searching for, you can focus on creating content that meets this need. This in-depth content will also help to build authority for your website in your target market and help you gain trust and loyalty from your clients. Whereas, large websites are often looking for a quick route to monetisation, you can focus on creating relationships and providing content that keeps customers coming back to your website.

  1. Focus on keywords that larger companies won’t be using

Keywords are obviously vital for successful SEO. Big brands will often choose specific keywords to focus on but there will also be a large number of keywords that they will not target as well – and that’s where a small business can find success. High profile companies will often target shorter and more popular keywords so you could focus instead on the more specific long-tail keywords that your clients could be using. For example John Lewis may use ‘beautiful fabrics’ as a keyword but a small fabric shop could target the phrase ‘best place to buy ethically produced fabrics in Hertfordshire’.

You will also find that large companies won’t often attempt to compare themselves to another large brand, but as a small company you can do this and make the most of using comparison keywords. This is also the case with editorial keywords. A small business can find these keywords very powerful and they are not constrained by the business relationships that a larger brand may have. Therefore they can definitively recommend one supplier over another due to their personal experience.

As you can see, small businesses can actually benefit from many advantages when it comes to SEO, compared with the larger brands. You have the freedom to focus on what you need to do, when you need to do it, without facing complicated approvals processes. You can really capitalise on the creativity of your team and build up a niche audience where you can develop trust, authority and positive relationships. Remember to focus on the keywords that large companies choose not to use and really invest in high quality, in-depth content that your target customers will love.

A Beginners Guide to Vlogging

If you take an interest in the online world and enjoy reading or writing blogs, then you might have noticed that there’s a new kid in town – the vlogger! Vlogging is simply a video version of a blog and its gaining popularity fast, especially with the younger demographic. Some famous vloggers such as Zoella are even getting book deals and product ranges based on their online presence.

We already know that blogging can be great news for your website – it attracts potential customers to your site, shows Google that you are an authority in your industry and can get you lots of social shares and recommendations. However, many people are now asking if vlogging can have the same powerful effect. We think that vlogging can be brilliant for your business but there are also a number of issues that you need to consider before you create your first video. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the vlog.

Vlogs can bring your business to life

Vlogs can really show you at your very best to your customers. If, as with many small businesses, you are the face of your brand, then it’s a great way for potential clients to get to know you before they decide to purchase your product or service. When you create a video, it builds a very immediate connection between you and your viewers. It’s as though you are there with them in their living room having a chat! People often feel more engaged with a vlog than a blog and it shows the human face behind your business.

However if you are planning to make a video you do need to consider your own personality and whether you would feel comfortable featuring in a vlog. It’s great if you are confident and bubbly but if you are more of an introvert you might not enjoy appearing in a company vlog. Don’t worry though as you can still utilise online video. Maybe you can narrate off camera whilst showing viewers around your premises, or you could encourage other members of staff to get involved on screen. Ultimately you need your confidence and industry knowledge to shine through, so if you feel happier with the written word then don’t be afraid to stick to blogging instead.

Vlogs are a great way of showing off your product or service

A picture may speak a thousand words, so just think what a video can do for your product! The great thing about vlogging is that it can literally show your customers how your product or service works in a way that a two dimensional photo just can’t do. If you’re selling a product, then a video enables you to give a live demonstration of how customers can use it. For example a hardware store might want to publish some “how to” vlogs about various D.I.Y. tasks or a florist could show clients how to create a simple floral table decoration. Vlogs can really help potential customers to understand what you do, and they are also a great resource to show off your industry knowledge and to encourage customers to keep returning to your site as a hub of information.

Vlogs appeal to the younger demographic

Vlogging has a great appeal to younger customers, particularly the under 25s. They love engaging with vloggers and will really expect to see some video content on your website. Whilst older customers can enjoy vlogs too, they may feel more comfortable with the written word, so before you decide to start a vlog, think about your customer demographic. If you are looking to appeal to a young clientele, then vlogs are a great way to do so. The under 25s are also more likely to share your content on social media if they like it, so make sure you get it right! It’s worth taking the time to do some research first to see what sort of video content your customers are looking for, so that you can ensure that your vlogs reach your target market.

Make sure you have the right vlogging resources

If you’ve invested in great branding for your business and spent time and effort setting up a fantastic website, then you don’t want to let your business down with a poor-quality vlog. This means that it’s important to make sure you have the resources you need to create high impact video content. Blurred images, fuzzy sound and patchy editing will look unprofessional and could end up losing you credibility online.

A good camera and a high-tech editing package means that you can create professional looking vlogs that your users will really enjoy watching. Don’t forget to add the extra finishing touches such as music, graphics and subtitles too.

Don’t forget to write a vlog transcript

If you’re keen on vlogging, you need to remember to add a written transcript to your website too. At this point in time, Google doesn’t have the ability to watch blogs which means they are not able to index them. To ensure that Google knows what your vlog is about, add a description or transcript to your page. You will need to do this to make sure that Google can rank your content in the search engine. It’s often recommended that you embed your vlog into a short blog post based on the content subject.

A transcription can also be useful to customers who are hard of hearing or who have English as a second language, and it means that clients can print the transcript too if they want a written record of the information on your vlog.

Vlogging is a fantastic way of reaching your customers and of highlighting your products and services. Before you start your vlog, make sure you have high quality equipment and that you feel confident on camera! Don’t forget to research your target market too, in order to make sure that you are vlogging about subjects that interest them, and always add written content to help Google index your site. We think we’re going to see more and more businesses utilising vlogs in the future and so it can be a great idea for your company to get a head start in the vlogging world!

When deciding where to position a site in their search engine rankings, Google uses a number of complicated algorithms to determine how to award the places. Usability, high-quality links and good content are just some of the factors included. However, because the algorithms are fairly fluid and are regularly updated, they incorporate many other elements too, one of which might be click through rate.

Click through rate measures the number of people who click onto your site via a search engine query. For example if you were to search for “the best pizza restaurant in Hertfordshire” you would see the results listed on your screen, and the one that the majority of people chose to click through to would have the highest click through rate.

Many SEO professionals are starting to notice that click through rate could work as a ranking signal – but is this really the case? Google have not given a definitive answer to this question and some SEO companies feel that measuring the click through rate for the vast range of search terms used would be too hard to implement even for Google! However several digital marketing experts have decided to do their own experiments as to whether click through rate can actually impact on ranking. Rand Fishkin of the popular MOZ blog performed a trial last summer that showed that when he spent over an hour clicking on a particular site for a particular search term (he used the search term ‘best grilled steak’) he saw that site quickly move up from number 4 to number 1 in the rankings. However there was a query as to whether this was a short term fix and whether this intensive clicking would only produce short term results.

Search Engine Land contributors Cesarino Morellato and Andrea Scarpetta have also conducted a detailed experiment into whether click through rates have affected a sites ranking in the search engines. Interestingly their experiment did show significant results. After a week of activity, the clicked URL improved its ranking from the 10th to the 3rd position and maintained an average rank for the rest of the time between the 4th and 5th positions!

If you would like to find out more about the full experiment it’s definitely worth a read. To summarise, their conclusion was that whilst they couldn’t say that click through rate was definitely a ranking factor, they did believe it to be a significant offset which would change the search engine results so that there was a correlation between the clicks and visible ranking of a query. This means that making sure your page has an engaging title and well written meta description, in order to encourage people to choose your site to click through to, can have a really valuable effect on your rankings.

We thought this was a fascinating message. At Wagada we have definitely noticed a link between the click through rate and page ranking – and have been testing this out for a number of our clients to great effect!

 

Here at Wagada HQ, we’ve been really busy this quarter, attending a number of exciting and high-profile business awards. Some were specific to the local Hertfordshire business community, whilst others attracted companies from across the UK.

In July, we were thrilled to find out that we’d been nominated as a finalist in the mumandworking awards, as Flexible Employer of the Year. We were quite shocked and very chuffed to make it to the final. We attended the awards ceremony on October 11th and were utterly gobsmacked, not to mention completely thrilled, to be named as the winner of the Flexible Employer of the Year award! Fantastic result!

In mid-September, we found out that we’d been named as a finalist in the St Albans Chamber of Commerce Community Business Awards, in the Business Growth category. We got our glad rags on and a group of us went to the awards ceremony at the beautiful Sopwell House, where we met up and networked with hundreds of other Hertfordshire Businesses. The team enjoyed a great night out, knowing they were part of a very special, growing business.

Later in September, we headed to the finals of the Herts Digital Awards where we were thrilled to be nominated as a finalist in the Social Media for Business category. It was great to see our name in lights and to be amongst such inspiring company. Many other marketing agencies from across Hertfordshire were present that evening and it was exciting to be part of the line-up.

In early October, we heard that we’d been shortlisted for the prestigious national Best Business Women Awards, hosted by Debbie Gilbert and her team. So, we booked our tickets and went along to the awards dinner. We were absolutely delighted that our MD, Cheryl Luzet, was named the WINNER of the Best Business Woman in Technology Award.

Finally, at the start of November, we went along to the prestigious Working Mums Top Employers Awards in London, having been nominated as finalists in two categories; SME Award (up to 25 employees) and Working Mums Champion Award. To be honest, we didn’t feel worthy! We felt privileged to have made it there in the first place. We were surrounded by so many large corporate entities, and there we were, St Albans-based Wagada, flying the flag for the SME with flexible working! We felt honoured to be part of the evening and met some amazing people. It was also very inspiring to hear the stories of what other businesses are doing to support working parents.

These days, time and marketing budgets are more precious than ever, so a business owner or a marketing director needs to ensure they utilise their marketing resources as effectively as possible. At Wagada, we firmly believe that entering business awards is a vital element of a successful marketing plan. However, businesses must ensure they select the most appropriate awards to enter.

To help you develop a strong marketing plan, here are Wagada’s 9 reasons why you should incorporate business awards as part of your marketing strategy.

  1. Entering business awards can be an extremely effective way of supporting a business’s SEO strategy. Whether you are a winner, a finalist or a nominee, you will get backlinks from the award organisers and sponsors as well as associated press, and these will likely be very relevant, authoritative websites that Google will like, so it will improve your rankings.
  2. Being nominated or shortlisted for an award means you’re receiving independent, industry-leading recognition for all your hard work and dedication. How motivational is that? Plus, it really can make a business shine brighter than its competitors.
  3. Sometimes, and particularly for small and growing businesses, it can be hard to spare the time to reflect and articulate on your achievements and success. Spending time working on an award submission makes you take a good look at your business, your track record and your processes and allows you to crystallise these achievements on paper.
  4. Award nominations and wins are fantastic for generating free marketing and PR opportunities. The pre- and post-award marketing and media coverage you can receive, as well as the networking that comes from being at the awards ceremony, can support a marketing strategy in a number of ways. You can leverage your nomination or win across social media and marketing campaigns, generate coverage in the local and regional press, show off your award in your advertising, go to town about it on your website, use it in business proposals, on business cards and email footers, even on the wall of your office.
  5. Award wins and nominations can help your recruitment and can attract new talent to your business. Who doesn’t want to work for an award-worthy employer?!
  6. There is nothing quite like being voted as a finalist or a winner to really boost staff motivation. It can create real pride amongst a team and help support staff retention.
  7. When a business spends time preparing for an award entry, it automatically pushes the business to compare itself to its competitors. It’s the perfect opportunity to think more strategically about how to differentiate yourselves.
  8. Often award entries ask you to respond to challenging questions, and the process can help you to identify areas for improvement within the business.
  9. It shows your prospects and customers that you are a serious business, worthy of an award, and this can really drive customer loyalty and retention.

 

When you are using Twitter or Facebook to help support your business your aim will be to get your posts seen, liked, shared and engaged with by as many people as possible. However as social media is now so busy and fast paced many businesses find that it can be all too easy for their posts or status updates to get lost in other people’s timelines.

One way of increasing your company’s visibility via your social media channels can be to create and use a social media calendar. By planning ahead you can make sure that your posts are as relevant as possible and that they pick up on the most talked about topics of the moment. This a great way to encourage interaction and will often get your posts seen more widely too. Whilst it may take a bit of time to set up a social media calendar we feel that it is a great investment as it means that you’ll always be up to date with your tweets, you’ll know the right people to engage with and you will be able to get the coverage that you want. So here’s our guide to setting up a great social media calendar.

Choose topics that are relevant to your brand

If you do a search on Google for seasonal events you could find several different topics for each day of the year!  However not all of these will be relevant to your brand so it’s best to go through and refine the dates and items that you are going to add to your social media calendar. This will help you to make sure that they fit in well with your business and will help you to meet your objectives.  Obviously it’s great to pick up on the major occasions of the year such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween but you should also look at niche topics where your business can shine. For example a restaurant may want to create a new pie recipe to share during National Pie Week or a clothes boutique may decide to blog about the latest trends during London Fashion Week. Pick subjects that you have a real expertise in so that you can chat to others on social media about them and show them that your business can offer help or advice in that area.

Include hashtags in your posts

Most large events or celebrations now have their own hashtags. These hashtags mean that anyone searching on social media for posts about that topic will see the hashtagged posts in their timeline, so potentially using your hashtags wisely can mean that will reach more people via social media than you normally would. However be expedient in your use of hashtags. We find that posts with a high volume of hashtags may look spammy or too sales like and people may ignore them. We recommend using one or two hashtags in a post. It can also be a good idea to do a search yourself for the event hashtag and start to interact with and share posts from others using it. This is a brilliant way to get engagement and they may well reciprocate by sharing your posts too. It’s also a good way to explore which posts are working well online – you can then model your posts on the ones that seem to be getting the most shares and comments.

Follow, share, like and comment on the relevant account

Many large shows or events have their own social media accounts now, so as well as using the relevant hashtags take the time to like their Facebook page and Twitter accounts too. Some large campaigns may be run by particular brand i.e. #breakfastweek is fun by a cereal company – so like and comment on their timelines. These brands will be keen to encourage people to join in with their campaign and so you are likely to get a comment back or a share or re-tweet which could be seen by thousands if they are a popular company!

Create your own social media events

Of course you don’t just have to use other people’s events or significant dates to highlight on your social media calendar – you can also have a go at creating your own.  This can be really effective as you can make sure the event ties in with the product and service you are offering. A good example of this could be a Hertfordshire Deli setting up a #MadeinHerts week where they promote products made by local producers and sourced from local farms. If you can get other retailers involved too you can really harness the power of social media by all using the same hashtag and sharing and re-tweeting each other posts. For example a hairdresser may choose to work with other beauty providers such as nail artists and personal shoppers to create a #localbeauty day where you could promote special offers on social media. There are no limits to what you can achieve and your day could even become so popular that it ends up on other people’s social media calendars!

Keep up to date

Of course it’s great to plan in advance but you should also remember to leave space for the latest events and news that might be pertinent to your industry. When a large newsworthy event occurs it is often seen first on social media and people may be using a hashtag too which could start trending. So make sure you keep up to date with the latest news and if you think it’s something your customers will be interested in then get posting! It could be new of a royal baby or the latest celebrity selfie – if people are talking about it then it’s good to get involved.

As you can see using a social media calendar to plan your posts can really help to keep your social media profile alive and up to date. By tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment you can ensure that more people will see your posts and will want to engage with you on social media.