Make time, not excuses – 9 tips on how to be more productive and achieve your goals

Make time, not excuses – 9 tips on how to be more productive and achieve your goals

“How did it get so late, so soon?” – Dr. Seuss 

 

Procrastination. We’re all guilty of it. The intention to do something but putting it off for no particular reason.

It could be that the task in hand seems too great, you don’t know where to start or you don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t need to tell you that putting it off won’t help – you already know this.

It’s not only in a working environment that this can become an issue, it’s every-day life. You might be putting off a spring clean, sorting through your household bills, even a tricky conversation. But there’s a lot you can do to get motivated and make your life that little bit easier.

PMA

Having a Positive Mental Attitude to the job in hand is the best place to start, so that’s something that starts with you.

arms in the air

Cue Rocky soundtrack, high fives and cheers… OK, maybe that’s just me. But to get yourself motivated to take on a task you should try the following:

1 Have a tidy work/home environment . I’m a strong believer in tidy space, tidy mind.

2 Write a list of what you want to achieve . Famed motivational speaker and marketing consultant Simon Sinek talks about the science behind to do lists. 

3 Allocate some time, no distractions . And by no distractions I mean NO distractions. Try closing your email down – yes, I said it – for a specific time period. Even if only for an hour a day, you can achieve so much if you’re not replying to emails every few minutes.

4 Apply this to your phone , Skype and other communication platforms. By all means, let your colleagues know this is what you’re doing and why, but stick to it. If you’re at home, try turning off the TV or the washing machine so that the cycle doesn’t finish halfway through your allocated time. In the digital age, going offline even for a short period of time may leave you feeling a bit disconnected from the world, but embrace it. You’re in your own time capsule, so use it wisely.

5 Make sure you’re hydrated and had a small bite to eat. OK, I get it. This probably seems a bit obvious and slightly condescending. But there is real science behind this. In fact, a study conducted by the University of East London showed that drinking water can result in a 14% increase in productivity.

6 Prioritise your tasks . This is something that comes with experience, but there are tools out there that can help. Read our blog on Smartsheets which hosts a range of features that will have you streamlined in no time.

7 Use other tools that will save you time . Social media scheduling tools like Gramblr for Instagram and Hootsuite are essential if you’re not already using them. And Adobe Spark allows you to create professional looking graphics, web pages and videos in videos in far less time than traditional methods!

8 Get it right first time . Before you begin any task, have a clear objective of what you want to achieve. For example, you might want to quit the gym (you shouldn’t, and in my next point we’ll discuss that further). Plan the conversation/job in hand, decide how you’re going to deliver it and figure out obstacles you’ll come up against, take action and achieve the desired outcome.

want to quit the gym9 Take breaks . As previously mentioned, a fed and watered body is an efficient one. But to stay focused you need to take a complete break away from your desk. Go for a walk, or a run which can really help to reduce stress (again,  science proves this  ) or perhaps go and read a few chapters of a novel. Surfing Facebook or LinkedIn does not count as a proper break!

By practising these simple steps, you’ll find yourself using your time more efficiently, so you can achieve more. Achieving more in your day leaves more precious time for doing the things you love.

“If you’re not doing what you love, you’re wasting time.” – Billy Joel 

 

Instagram – the good, the bad and the beautiful

Instagram – the good, the bad and the beautiful

“Why do I need to be on Instagram?”

It’s a question asked by businesses large and small, from start-ups to PLCs and even the tech-savvy. Surely, it’s just a social platform where people share selfies, pictures of their cats, or avocado on toast. Sometimes cats and avocado on toast… #Catvocado or #Advocats? Avocado Cat But how can this hugely popular social platform benefit your business? Here’s some tips and facts that will have you hashtagging your way to social stardom and success.

The Good

With 400 million daily active users around the world that spend on average 25 minutes per day on Instagram, it’s the perfect place to reach with your audience. In many ways it’s no surprise that an image-based social network has become so successful. The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text, and people remember up to 80% of what they see (as opposed to 20% of what they read). It’s the perfect platform to get your brand and message across. You also have the Instagram Stories element to take advantage of. Content that disappears in 24 hours allows businesses to create more daring or enticing images and videos. One in five Instagram Stories receive a direct message. Why? Because you can’t like or comment on a Story like you can with a regular post, so if the viewer feels compelled to engage, they suddenly become a hot lead. And with Instagram Stories having 250 million average daily users…well, why wouldn’t you?

The Bad

On average, people miss over 70% of their Instagram feeds, so you need to post regularly to ensure your posts are seen. This can be seen as a negative because you have to spend so much time and resource posting on Instagram (it’s recommended that you post daily). Instagram has been designed to be used on Smartphones, so not all functionality is available on desktop. This could mean that your audience isn’t accessible all of the time. However, you could benefit from a useful tool like Schedugram which allows you to pre-schedule your Instagram posts for the evening when you’re more likely to engage your audience.

The Beautiful

The best images to share on Instagram can be beautifully artistic and alluring. Take Photoshop for example, who just share user generated content. Photoshop Their images are exceptional and showcase the skills of Photoshop users, which keeps their core audience engaged and also demonstrates the functionality and endless possibilities of using their software. Popular image categories are – Lifestyle : This could be brands you like, hobbies or even food (some people don’t like this…personally I LOVE seeing pictures of food) Celebrity : It may not be something that’s often possible, but if you happen to work with a celebrity at any point, make sure you get the opportunity to Instagram it. Because of our voyeuristic nature people love a celebrity! Aspirational images : We all aspire do to something, go somewhere, be someone. Posting aspirational images or quotes can make the viewer feel inspired to do something or take action. It could be to download a fitness app, apply for a job using your recruitment services, or sign up to a course. Inspire your audience to take action. Mercedes   Personality : Instagram gives you the perfect opportunity to show who you are as an individual or a business. People interact with people and not just faceless organisations. If you engage with your audience on a human level they are more likely to convert into leads. If you feel that as a business you’re philanthropic, fun (or even serious) show this in your personality posts. Tips/Actionable ideas : Only about 20% of your posts should be directly ‘selling’, so try posting useful tips and ideas. This could be CV writing tips if you were a recruitment agency, ‘how to’ guides for fitness exercises or even lifestyle hacks. When building our Instagram bank of images, try and remain consistent by using the same filters and similar colour schemes that complement each other so your Instagram style becomes synonymous with your brand. There may be a bit of trial and error to establish what your audience engages with, but don’t chop and change too much. If you’re building a brand you want people to trust, inconsistency will be your enemy. Setting up something like Hootsuite allows you to see your likes by filter, along with audience growth, gender of audience and other useful analytics.

Where do you start?

It’s as easy as 1,2,3:

  • Firstly, pick a good username and try to use the same name across all social platforms
  • Secondly, write a short but compelling bio with a link back to your site
  • From this point on, create high quality and consistent content using complementing colours and filters that make your brand easily identifiable.

Once you get the hang of it, you can begin using more advanced techniques. For example, using the right hashtags can help you expose your brand to large or targeted audiences. It’s useful to create a spreadsheet of hashtags that you’re planning on using. Start by looking at what hashtags your audience, competitors and industry leaders are already using. The narrower the scope of the hashtag, the more engaged the users are. The optimum number of hashtags to use is 11 per post. Top brands tend to post daily, with the best times to post on Mondays and Thursdays at any time except between 3-4pm. Posts with a location tag have 79% higher engagement and images with faces receive 38% more likes. Always engage with your audience – if you want to find the right followers, you might have to look for them. Take note of their use of hashtags too. For example a coffee shop might engage with people that have used the hashtag #coffee. By following them or liking their images they’re much more likely to check out your profile and follow you back. Share user generated content. This means taking the best user content from around the web and featuring on your Instagram account but giving credit to the original creator. Another way to do this is to create your own brand hashtag, for this we’ll use the coffee shop example again. Coffee Create a hashtag like #essentialcoffee and ask your followers to share their own coffee images using this hashtag. You can then re-post this image, crediting them. Simple.

Post, follow and share – that’s the fundamental beauty of Instagram.

10 tips on how to write great copy for your website

10 tips on how to write great copy for your website

Printed copy on the web – does it work?

One of the common mistakes made in business is using copy that may apply to printed collateral, on the web. It may seem easy, even logical to just ‘lift and shift’, however there should be some marked differences. Here’s a list of 10 tips to make your web copy more appealing and persuasive.

(copy = text!  Do you get funny looks from your non-marketing colleagues when you use the term ‘copy’?)

Extra, Extra – read all about it!

1. A winning headline

A winning headline is the determining factor whether or not your article will get read. Although commonly used, a list post (like the one used for this blog) is still very effective. The reader will subconsciously think “it won’t take me long to read 10 tips” so are more inclined to click through/scroll down.

2. Clear and concise content

You want to make it very clear what your article is about, so when someone is scanning web page they know instantly if your article/page is what they’re looking for.

3. Answer a question or offer a solution to a problem

If your headline offers a solution or answers a question –great! It makes it easier for the reader to find your article if you’re solving their problem. We’re in an age where people want fast answers and quick fixes, so make sure you can be found when they ‘Google it’.

Content is king

The difference between copy on printed collateral and web copy is that people READ printed copy, but SCAN web copy. Depending on your CMS (Content Management System) you may even have a limited character count. We recommend you-

4. Present your content in short, digestible chunks.

Much as a list post subconsciously has the reader deciding to read your article based on the length of time it’ll take, the same goes for short paragraphs. Try writing the message that you’re trying to convey down. Remove any unnecessary words and break down to 4/5 line paragraphs.

That way, it’s digestible, easy to scan the key words and phrases you’re looking for and doesn’t seem like a chore to do so.

5. Don’t overcomplicate things

Definition of jargon (noun) – special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.

Our advice is: don’t use jargon! Use a language that relates to all audiences. This doesn’t mean you need to ‘dumb it down’ but remember this simple quote –“if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

6. Direct your copy to the reader. 

Use ‘you’, ‘your’ so the reader feels like what they’re reading relates to them and only them. You want the reader to feel like you’re talking directly to them so imagine you’re having a one on one conversation. They’re more likely to engage with your content, and ultimately register/sign up or click through.

7. Present your core message ‘above the fold’. 

Keep your key points near the top, before the reader has to start scrolling down – this is where you lose people (regardless of screen size). According to Neilsen, up to 84% of users drop off after the fold. Sub headers are a great way to get the key points across, that will then entice the user to read below the fold.

8. Link to other relevant articles or pages within your site.

Like our interesting blog on practical SEO tips (something to bear in mind whilst writing your web copy)

9. Support your copy with good imagery or even an infographic. 

You can read more about Infographics in our blog ‘Don’t be infotragic: how to create effective infographics.’ 

10. Finish with a Call to Action

You’ve put in all the hard work and effort to keep the reader on your page so ALWAYS finish with a call to action. This might be an opportunity for the user to share the page on social media, sign up to your newsletter or visit your online store so make sure they don’t miss it!

Practical SEO tips that Tom, Dick and even Harry can action now!

Practical SEO tips that Tom, Dick and even Harry can action now!

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is a wonderful minefield of somewhat bewildering, and complicated actions or ideas that are absolutely crucial to your digital marketing strategy and efforts.

 

For those of you that have been tasked with optimising your website and improving your SEO by the Powers That Be, where the hell do you start? Online training tutorials? A course? A ‘how to’ guide? One on one training sessions with your office technical oracle/geek (we all have one…ours is Mike).

Well, you might want to try here! This is my guide to SEO made easy –

Step 1- Work out who your target market is and what it is they’re searching the internet for.

Step 2- Write content relevant to your target market using these search terms and keywords.

Step 3- Apply tags to your webpage (don’t worry, we’ll get to this)

Step 4- Refresh regularly and remove any old/outdated content.

Step 5- Make it easy for people to share, and link to your site. This is extremely important, I’ll explain why later.

Step 6- Add a sitemap, testimonials, reviews…anything that can add value to your site.

Step 7- Measure and learn.

Sounds fairly simple right? So let’s expand on these points.

The Nitty Gritty

Profiles

When you’re writing content for your website try and think of each customer profile/demographic that could potentially be your target market. For illustration purposes I’m using 3, but for your business it could be 1, it could be 100.

Think about the solutions/product/service they’re looking for and create your list of keywords, search terms and content relating to those keywords. Apply this to your website pages, paying particular attention to content heading and the appearance of keywords in the paragraph body and in hyperlinks.

Promote this content using social media, blogging, or other paid activity you may be using like PPC or paid social. Then, measure and learn using your Analytics and other metrics tools.

Doing this will give you valuable insight on what your key target market/s are, what content is engaging and justified and this will allow you to create the perfect formula for your digital marketing moving forward.

Codey stuff

Anatomy of HTMLSo now you have the hang of what you need to put on your website, there are some things you can apply behind the scenes that will really help search engines ‘crawl’ your site. Think of my illustration above as the anatomy of a webpage.

Once you’ve written your content and entered into your CMS, go to the HTML editor. Here, you can use some basic HTML techniques that will really make a difference.

If you’ve never tried this before head over to https://www.w3schools.com this awesome website gives you a full index of HTML tags and attributes and an area to practice using them. Definitely one to try!

Here are just a few that you might find useful.

<meta> tags allow you to insert a description of the page, keywords and author.

<title> tags allow you to give the page a title which will also appear in Google, for example-

EssentialCommunications | SEO Extraordinaires

<h1> Using h1-6, you can create headings or sub-headings. It’s really important to add your keywords or use your search terms in all your headings.

If inserting an image, make sure you rename that image before you upload it so the filename is relevant to what it is, and also in the HTML editor you can add an alt=”” tag and add a description of what that images is. So, if your picture loads slowly, a little text box will appear to say what the picture is of (when it loads).

That leads us to files, images and other assets on your website. If you try to add huge 75mb files these a) probably won’t upload or b) if they do, the page will take ages to load and this is highly likely to increase bounce rates.

Make sure you try and compress any images before loading them to your site. Using a website like https://tinyjpg.com allows you to reduce the file size of your image without impacting the appearance.

Last but not least

One of the most important factors in SEO that’ll increase your ranking is having other websites (influencers) link to yours. Don’t forget to add links to all your email campaigns, blogs, social campaigns, testimonials but use appropriately (Google have been known to penalise those that abuse this).

You should aim to have newspapers, magazines or high quality blogs link to your site if possible. If they think you’re important enough to talk about, Google will think you’re important too! A strong PR strategy really comes into play here (but we’ll save this for next time.)

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