I have asked my wife, Alice, to write another guest post . This post discusses:
- Being the wife of a small business owner
- Deciding to try some marketing
- Increasing the number of website visitors
- Existing marketing practice
- Why the focus on blog posts
- Identifying and integrating keywords for Search Engine Optimisation
- Record keeping to keep track of the effects of SEO
- Future marketing plans
- Call to action
Being the wife of a small business owner
Richard regularly describes himself as a one-man business – often when having a bit of a moan about having too much to do, and really wanting to focus on using the knowledge he’s built of the industry to buy nice stock. It is true that his business is run by him on his own, without any employees. He is – to use a technical term – a sole trader.
I’m reminded though, at this point of the proverb “Behind every great man is a great woman”. I’m being somewhat facetious here, as I worry that quote could come across as sexist, suggesting that the work that men are known for is always based on hidden work done by women. This might have been true in the past, and has truth today on a macro level, but on an individual level I don’t want to diminish the huge amount of work Richard has put into building up this very unique business. Having said that… I mentioned a few of the ways I help out in my previous guest post, A librarian on a glass trip and Richard has now got me working on another task, trying to improve the reach of his website through Search Engine Optimisation (with better use of Instagram coming up too). While I do have my own job to do, as an academic librarian (documented to an extent on my own Researcher Librarian blog), I am interested in this topic, and as a business librarian it is theoretically within my territory.
Deciding to try some marketing
The impetus to work on marketing came from the awareness that Richard’s website has lots of people coming to it (unsurprising, considering all the pretty pictures of stained glass!), but not as many of the the views turn into sales as we would like.
While the business started as what could be described as a side hustle, it has for many years been Richard’s job, and a key source of our family income. There are probably things Richard (we) can consider doing to improve the rate of views leading to people pressing purchase at the checkout, but it is understandable really that people think and look for quite a while before investing in glass for their home. It’s also understandable that people want to check out the authenticity of a person who offers to ship stained glass all over the world.
Increasing the number of website visitors
A potential solution, to the fact that not enough of the people browsing are actually buying, is to expand the number of potential customers browsing the website. Even if there are lots of people already browsing there are surely more who don’t know of the business already, or don’t even know yet that an old stained glass window would be the perfect addition to their home – even if used as wall art rather than as a functional window!
I am quite active on LinkedIn these days, as I’m doing a lot professionally, and a post written by someone who works in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) came up in my feed. I liked the post, and she followed me, and I followed back (usually how things work on LinkedIn!). This now means that I’ve had lots of SEO posts appearing in my LinkedIn feed, and I’m regularly discovering ideas for how to increase the potential for Richard’s website coming up when people search on Google. What I’ve been doing is a work in progress, and I’m not an expert at it yet, but I (we) thought it might be interesting to share.
Existing marketing practice
Richard promotes his glass stock in various ways:
- through images selected for the website homepage, and his customer ideas page
- through email that he sends out to different groups of people (he has four identified customer groups: home owners wanting salvage, home owners wanting bespoke, trade buyers and people working in the stained glass industry needing spare pieces of old glass which is not made anymore)
- more recently through Instagram @cannglass
- through blog posts…
He gets me to read through all his email mailouts and blog posts before sending them out, checking for typos and tone (I don’t always agree with his tone – he can get a bit rude for my liking at times…!). Anyway, I have an interest in the blog posts, so this is where I decided to start with my ‘marketing campaign’ (when I write marketing campaign, I’m very aware of the various marketing professionals, researchers and students who I know – if any of them read this at any point, I know there is a lot more to the whole thing than the pulling together of ideas and trying things out that I am doing!).
Why the focus on blog posts?
Blog posts have value beyond being an opportunity to reflect and document and self-congratulate(!) on what you’ve been doing. They are a method of building a relationship with your potential customers without directly marketing products…
…they allow people to get to know you (and your family business). People might find a blog post on a topic they’re researching which isn’t directly related to your business (such as his QuickBooks post) and then become aware of your business, using or recommending it at a later date. Richard tells me these ideas come from my LinkedIn SEO contact, Emma Dow – I’ve been reading lots of things aloud to him, but forget where it comes from!
There’s such a lot of work that goes into the blog posts (some of them at least) and, while they get lots of views when they are first published, this is less common a few months down the line. I think there’s valuable content – that could help people in their glass purchase decision making – which gets lost as time passes and they disappear from the homepage menu. An example is Steptoe – the reality of architectural salvage dealing in modern London (it surprises me that it’s well over two years ago that this post was published – I remember it well, including doing quite a bit of research into how to attribute the Creative Commons copyright for several images).
Identifying and integrating keywords for Search Engine Optimisation
My reading about SEO – and my experience as a librarian from the search side (teaching people to search for academic literature and secondary data is a major part of my job) – tell me that the keywords you allocate to a blog post or webpage are vital for new people to be able to find your content. There are tools that can be used to identify the words that people coming to a webpage via a search engine are using, and possibly even words that people are using that don’t get to your website (maybe that go to competitors…). These tools can help with thinking about what words to include in your posts. This kind of software has a cost though, so is probably used more by marketing professionals who can invest in a subscription when working on campaigns for multiple businesses (if anyone does have a recommendation of a free keyword analysis tool, then please do let us know!).
I have done what I can with Google Analytics, which is included with Richard’s WordPress website subscription (WordPress is the platform where his website is hosted). To be honest, while the information available is very interesting, and gets me wanting to learn to use Google Analytics properly, it didn’t bring up any big surprises!
Following SEO people on LinkedIn, and seeing lots of posts on the topic, means that I am constantly developing in my learning, and not long before publishing this post I discovered a really useful post which includes advice on how to use Google Search Console. You can use this tool to identify potentially relevant words that people use when searching which don’t include your website high up on the first page of Google results.
This has been very enlightening, and even made Richard, when I showed him, tempted to change the strapline on his homepage (which is currently “British Leaded Lights and Stained Glass…”) on the spot. I managed to stop him before he did this – we need to explore the data more before making big decisions! Richard encourages me to say here what words we have concluded on, but this really is a work in progress.
When I write posts on my own blog, I always include tags – keywords that the blog post is about – and which can be included as a link to refer people to other blog posts on a similar topic. I also add Alt Text (a description) to images – this is mainly to ensure that my images are accessible for people using screen readers (for example people who are blind or partially sighted), but I have also read that use of Alt Text affects the order search engines might put you in on a results page.
Record keeping to keep track of the effects of SEO
Tags and Alt Text are two things I was aware Richard hadn’t been doing, so I have been on the case – sometime with the help of our daughter. There are currently over 70 posts published on the blog, so there’s a lot to do, but we have made a good start. I’ve treated it as a proper project, and have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what changes have been made to each blog post, and when (librarians love a good spreadsheet!). I then hope to be able to refer back to this in a few weeks (months?) time to see whether the search engine optimisation efforts have had any success – I know that you do have to be patient in waiting for these things to work!)
Richard assures me that he will take on some of these things himself when writing blog posts in the future. I’ve done it for this post myself though!
I wrote earlier that I’m constantly discovering new things to do to improve SEO. Another one, which I should really have cottoned on to sooner, is including headings in your blog post, actually formatting these as headings, and perhaps even including them as a linked list of contents at the beginning of your post. I think this advice also came initially from the LinkedIn post I referred to earlier. Doing this should help readers to get a clear idea of what the post is about, and give search tools accessible information to better trawl and promote your website. Richard’s previous blog posts only have headings in bold, rather than formatted as a heading – if they have headings at all. So I have lots of work to go back and make changes, including all the record keeping that I described earlier. The first blog posts that I included headings in – the latest post on my own blog – resulted in my highest ever number of impressions on LinkedIn.
Future marketing plans
There are many projects still to do to improve the reach of the website:
- Richard is working on an Instagram strategy – something I was originally going to write about now, but which we have decided to leave to another post.
- There is a frustrating oddity on the website in that the search box only searches stock, not all pages, meaning the content on the blog is hidden, and not easily searchable.
- We don’t have an obvious link to view all blog posts – they’re just displayed on the left hand side of pages when using a computer, and hidden away at the bottom of the page on a mobile device.
- Educating people to use the website product filters which again only appear on the left hand side of pages if using a computer.
- There are other things that should be considered when writing blog posts, some of which Richard and/or I are already doing – use of images, bulleted lists, and others which we’re not doing enough of, such as thinking about the placement of your post’s keywords within the post, and ending each post with a Call to Action (CTA).
- Finally, I have a feeling there are pages with stock on, or business information, which would benefit from have links to relevant blog posts, which might not have been published at the time.
Call to action
To finish with one of these plans for the future, here is a Call to Action: if you’re a regular reader of this blog, please would you let us know (via a comment, or an email), of a previous post that you’ve found useful or interesting and that you perhaps think we should highlight more. If you’ve found this post by chance, via a search engine, please let us know as well – it would be fascinating to learn how you found us!
Alice Cann is an academic librarian, who blogs at researcherlibrarian.wordpress.com. She is also Richard’s wife.
Alice doesn’t know I’ve written the following: she wrote the above so all I have to do is press “publish”. The bottom line is no matter how sophisticated my marketing strategies are, there’s no way I can operate my business without Alice’s unpaid support. She really does have a life of her own and a professional job! But she drops whatever she’s doing to help me. Other examples are IT trouble-shooting, the endless stream of window holding for photography (all the windows you see in pairs are held by her!) and being a devoted mother to my children while I obsess over my business. THANK YOU ALICE!