Each week as Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with Cathy Larkin @CathyWebsavvyPR & @WhyDoWeBlog. Cathy Larkin is a social media strategist and 20-year public relations pro. Founder of Web Savvy PR, her boutique firm provides traditional PR and marketing support as well as social media coaching, strategy and execution. Her specialty is making social media less intimidating for folks who are not so “tech” savvy. You may also know her as the co-host of #SmallBizChat. For more info: http://WebSavvyPR.com and http://WhyDoWeBlog.com.
Smallbizlady: When do you know it’s time to reinvent your blog?
Cathy Larkin: The most obvious is if your site is not converting readers into whatever you are looking for — RSS or email subscribers; customers; brand advocates; attendees of your classes/webinars/workshops; buyers of your book, ebook, audio products; or not generating enewsletter sign ups. Between the growth and changes of your own business, shifts in the economy, and the ever-changing online landscape – your blog, website or homebase, may no longer be keeping up with your business. Your site may need a cosmetic “face lift” for a refreshing new look; it may need a few tweaks of its features and functionality behind the scenes (themes, widgets and plugins oh my); or it may need a major overhaul of strategy, content, focus and/or look/feel.
Smallbizlady: Are there any reasons why I should NOT revamp my site?
Cathy Larkin: If your brand is well-known, well-liked and is working for you – think long and hard before leaving it behind just because it “seems” old to you. You might just want some “blog botox” rather than a complete “blog facelift, let alone “blog reconstructive surgery.”
Smallbizlady: What are 7 questions small business owners should ask themselves annually about their business website?
- Does my site present my business in the way I want?
- Does the look of my site reflect my biz today?
- Do I post quality content frequently enough or too often?
- Is my content aligned w/ my reader’s needs & my business goals?
- Do I get comments/interaction, am I building community, engagement, trust?
- Is it easy for readers to navigate; are the buttons and features clear?
- Does my site convert readers into customers (or whatever conversion metric you consider important)
Smallbizlady: If someone wants to revamp their business blog what types of changes should they consider?
Cathy Larkin: If your site is looking old and tired, you may need more, better or different functionality. You haven’t been keeping up with plugins, theme or blog software updates/ upgrades. You are on a blogger/wordpress/typepad hosted site and want to move to a self hosted site on your own domain name. If you have a traditional website, you may want to add a blog. Or you may need to revamp your content – pages & posts.
Smallbizlady: What is the biggest reason why people but off updating their web presence?
Most of us know if our site needs work, but we put it off, it seems too much trouble. Some folks paid someone to put up a site for them, and other than putting up new blog posts – they haven’t done much else with it. It may be time for an overhaul.
Smallbizlady: What are the pros & cons of revamping a biz blog?
Cathy Larkin: Pros: A new updated look and feel can be as simple as a new blog header graphic and a refresh of site colors. Your goal is to create a better response when people land on your site. Better functionality can increase click thru and conversion rates and retention of readers. Better SEO or search engine optimization – organic search traffic; better response via social networking sites
Cons: Revamping a site takes time and or money, and if not done well can make it worse. You could also get push back from existing readers, who are used to a certain look or approach. You could suffer a loss of traffic. If you completely restart with a new URL or change your site to a new structure you could suffer a loss of links and page rank (although this is often temporary).
Smallbizlady: What are some external ways you can update your blog?
Cathy Larkin: Look at your existing branding from your logo and business cards, to your social networking sites and your blog. Do they present a unified brand image and message? If not you may need a graphic designer to help you unify the look and feel of your brand overall. Maybe all you need is a new blog header graphic, that communicates what it is that you do. Another key element is a tagline, which clarifies for someone, that they came to the right place. A strong tagline lets them know what it is that your site can do for them – right from the start.
I’ve added a post on http://WhyDoWeBlog.com – with an expanded check list of items to review and analyze on your site: http://bit.ly/a3eQ87
Smallbizlady: What are some behind the scenes things we can do to our wordpress blogs to tweak it?
Cathy Larkin: Before you do anything, backup your site on wordpress and your webhost before doing any changes to the site. Be sure that your theme, plugins and wordpress software are up to date. Check to make sure everything it working, check for broken links and old plugins that don’t work (or are no longer serving their purpose). Upgrade each plugin individually. When you go to upgrade plugins – make sure they are compatible with the version of wordpress you are running. If you have plugins that aren’t useful, deactivate and/or uninstall them; they can slow your blog down.
If you are active in social media – make it easy for others to share your content. There are many social sharing plugins. Once you add a plugin, be sure to go into the settings and set it up. For example, you can often add your @username to brand your tweets etc. For example, with tweetmeme, you can set it up so your @username is automatically added to the retweet text of your post on Twitter.
If you are using a free wordpress theme, it might be worth exploring a paid or premium theme – anywhere from $49 to $87. Or it might be time to barter with or hire a designer or blog consultant to customize your site and take your theme and blog to the net level.
Smallbizlady: What if I am on a hosted site (Wordpress.com, Blogger or Typepad) and I want to get more professional with my site?
Cathy Larkin: I am a wordpress.org kind of a girl. but I’ve talked with a folks who know Blogger and a couple who made the shift to a self-hosted site at http://wordpress.org. If you are taking the time to create content, you want to own your own content. The self-hosted wordpress blog software offers more tools and more robust functional themes and tools to change the look of your site as well. Blogger & Typepad both do have a way to host on your own domain, but Wordpress.org seems to be winning the “most functional and flexible” battle.
Smallbizlady: If I’m not a techy myelf – what do I need to look for in someone to help me out?
Cathy Larkin: You want someone who comes highly-recommended, whose sites you like, who is easy to work with. Beware those who want to do it all themselves and resent you looking over their shoulder. Beware of someone who is very techy and talks down to you. I have seen several folks have their sites taken over by “helpful” people and had disasters occur – I’ve had to help a few recover from vendors like that. Ideally – you want someone who tells you in a document – what changes they are planning on making to your site – so if there is a problem later – you can know where to start to fix it. Make sure you get access to passwords and links to anything that they set up for you. NEVER let anyone buy a domain name “in your name.” The one who pays – legally owns a URL. I know of at least two times a designer held a site & domain name hostage against payment when there was a dispute. Be a good client to work with too. Have a few model sites to share with the designer, be involved, but don’t get in the way. Discuss a plan going in, and a timeline for completion, I usually pay 50% upfront, the rest at the end, and get a project plan in writing. Confirm if your fee includes one or two revisions of the header graphic; find out in advance what changes are extra.
Smallbizlady: What about internal strategy and content changes?
Cathy Larkin: Yes, reviewing your content is a crucial part of revitalizing a blog. Make sure that your content (blog posts and static pages) positions you in the way you want your readers to see you – especially if your business model has changed. Look at how often you post. What posts convert for you? What gets comments, what gets retweeted or talked about on Facebook? What posts get linked to from other sites? (This is a big part of Google page rank) What topics have you been missing? What topics should you revisit from a different direction? Don’t be afraid to ask your readers what they want to see more of, or less. Could adding video or podcasting help you reach more readers? Look at what your audience responds to. I decided to launch a second blog site to focus on blogging, separate from my main brand, because that is what my readers best responded too.
Smallbizlady: What if our biz model has changed and we really want to make a real branding/site shift?
Cathy Larkin: Rebranding can be tricky, but it can be done. For this you really want to take a hard look at your site, URL, do a hubspot website grader analysis – see the number of incoming links, and your site’s page rank. Look at your RSS subscriber numbers and comments and retweets per post. You should understand know how many engaged readers do you have. Identify your business goals, Identify your niche audience, know where they hang out online, decide what content you can provide to get their attention. An example @JimKukral – kept his same site – but moved from blogging to video blogging for a year, and is now doing only ebooks from his site. Bold moves that seem to have worked for him. @DannyBrown shifted from his PressReleasePR site a few years ago to his http://DannyBrown.me site and let his old site go a month later – after he was sure the new one was working.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)