ASA regulations also cover websites and social media

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is well known for governing the advertising campaigns of UK Businesses such as print publications and TV advertising.

However, many smaller business owners were not aware that the ASA also govern the use of advertising on digital platforms including websites and company owned social media accounts.

The announcement made by the ASA explains the extent of which their regulations cover is “Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts, or which consist of direct solicitations of donations as part of their own fund-raising activities”.

This guidance is fairly clear cut, but there are some key points that every small business owner should take note of.

1. All communications on your website are subject to the ASA regulations. These regulations aim to control communications that are designed to mislead, harm or offend. Particular focus is placed on communications relating to alcohol, health and beauty claims, children and young people, medicine, finance, environmental claims, direct marketing, prize promotions and gambling.

2. Social Networking Sites are included in other non-paid-for-space, and are subject to the same regulations as your own website. Interestingly, if you share a line of text on a social media account that is actually an advertisement then you should include a statement that tells people it is an advertisement, such as using the hash tag #Ad on Twitter, or placing an “Advertisement:” or “Ad:” warning on Facebook and other such sites.

3. Any comments posted by a 3rd party, such as a customer, will not be your responsibility. Only those communications that are posted by you or a representative of your business/company are subject to the regulations.

Simple pointers for effective ecommerce design

As e-commerce explodes through the development of technologies, increase in faster internet connection speeds and the wider access of the internet to all, so too does the level of competition that your e-commerce store will come up against.

With that in mind it is essential to plan, design and build your e-commerce website for optimum effect.

Here are a few simple pointers for effective e-commerce web design:

Mike It Clear

Your e-commerce website design should make it perfectly clear WHY your visitor should purchase from you.

Use big, bold yet simple messages and images to portray that communication.

Do you offer low prices? Is your dispatch service fast? Do you have a wide selection of products to choose from? Do you offer a set of specialised products that are hard to find?

Understand what you offer that will make the lives of your prospective customers easier and more enjoyable, and then tell them!

Make It Easy

Give your visitors lots of ways to find what they are looking for.

A top level navigation could give them the section that a product falls into, whilst a secondary navigation could give them a list of specific product categories.

A simple and advanced search option can help them locate the items that are a little harder to find, and a popular products list can help to encourage additional purchases.

Make It Convenient

By simplifying the process, speeding up the time it takes from landing on your site to making payment, you can significantly increase conversion rates as this makes your site much more convenient for the shopper to use.

Every last little pixel of your site should be scrutinized from the perspective of the customer, with a view to continual improvement of process. Don’t simply finish your site design and say “great, we’ll never have to do that bit again”.

Make It Engaging

Grabbing the attention of your visitor is obviously essential for making conversion, but you can go the extra mile through the use of advanced approaches including things like gift-giving options, order tracking abilities and a customized user account where they can view past purchases and make quick and easy repeat orders.

No Surprises… We Hate Surprises!

Make all your information available to the visitor quickly and easily including your Privacy and Security Policy, Additional Charges Policy, Returns/Refunds/Exchanges Policy and Shipping & Handling Policy.

Consider the use of a FAQ’s sections and keep it updated regularly.

Summary

A well thought-out, professionally designed and trustworthy e-commerce website will significantly improve your online business performance.

Remember, your website is your shop window, so make it as clean, tidy, attractive and engaging as possible to achieve that much desired conversion.

Want to know more about e-commerce web design? Get in touch.

Great content increases website conversion rates

Studies show that a half of pretty much all retail sales are influenced directly by content found online. Prior to making any kind of buying decision many people perform web searches for information on a product or service, and often visit multiple websites in search of that information. They make informed decisions based on both technical information and user experiences.

Interestingly, there is significant research that details a massive surge in consumers making online purchases via their mobile phones, further reassuring small businesses that buying habits are changing and that more and more people are now choosing to shop online versus making that trip to the shops.

Small Businesses are of course reacting to this, partly due to a better education surrounding the benefits of a presence on the Internet, but also due to these significant shifts in buying habits.

Once such reaction is to invest (however large or small) in a website and the related web marketing to drive qualified traffic to their sites.

However, spending all this money driving consumers to a website that does little other than display a little bit of text describing a product or service is very much like hiring the most expensive limousine you can find and having it drive you to a field full of manure… pointless!

Driving the traffic to your website is only one tiny part of the online challenge. The rest of the work requires achieving high levels of engagement and interaction, culminating in a conversion… which for most is likely to be a direct sale or at least an online enquiry.

There are key things you can do as a Small Business Website Owner, starting with ensuring that you offer outstanding content to your visitors.

If you are advertising a product or service don’t just publish a paragraph or two about what it is you are asking people to spend their hard earned cash on… give them a compelling reason to buy it. Turn their “want” into a “need”.

Ensure that you include a high quality featured image, then back it up with additional images so that if they want to delve a little deeper they can. Use a “grabbing” headline style product or service title, back it up with an additional sub-title, then offer simple, easy-to-read and energizing copy to get the consumer hooked.

Finally, use other consumers to seal the deal, and provide some kind of customer comments and/or ratings section, allowing genuine consumers to let everyone else know just how outstanding the product or service actually is.

You need to imagine that a website and it’s sub-pages are the same as the in-store sales process. You must greet the customer at the door (your home page), let them know you are there to help (onsite search and FAQ’s), present your sales pitch (sub-pages) and finally close the deal (online payment or direct contact page). Sales psychology doesn’t just apply to real bricks and mortar businesses… it is equally relevant online.

Keeping your website legal

For most of us building a website is a really exciting time in the business lifecycle. It’s our opportunity to add a little bit of creative flare into our business image, and it’s a way of introducing our business to the wider world.

Something that we often forget during this process though is the legal side of things. Keeping our web presence on the right side of the law, both here and in other countries is essential. It may not seem like anything to worry about at first glances (you are probably thinking that there are so many websites online that the chances of being prosecuted are minor) but the liability that you face is potentially huge should you not take some simple steps to protect yourself and your business.

Copyright

The first thing you need to understand is that all content both offline and online holds a copyright. Images, text and design are all examples of content that can hold copyright.

There are two ways you can ensure that you do not breach anyone’s copyright.

  1. Ensure that your content is your own work and unique to you. That means using your own words, your own images (taken by you or for you) and ensuring that your website is designed from scratch and uses unique code.
  2. Ensure that any content you use that is not rightfully yours is licensed for you to use, and that you use that content exactly as per the terms of your license. That means that if perhaps you don’t have your own images you may consider purchasing stock images from an online site. When doing this ensure that you check the terms of the license agreement and ensure that you retain proof of purchase and your granting of license. If you want to use other peoples text, designs or even want to link to their content then ensure that you first seek permission to do so, and keep a record of that permission just incase you are ever challenged.

Trademarks

Sometimes you can infringe registered trademarks without even realizing it. There are lots of different things that people trademark including images, words and phrases.

It’s not only the actual content of your site that you need to think about when it comes to this, but also the domain name (web address) that you register where your website is displayed.

You should carry out thorough checks before purchasing domain names, using straplines and so on, to ensure that you do not breech registered trademarks – be it intentional or not.

Defamation

Making false statements about someone or some organization that could be damaging to their reputation means that you could be held liable for a defamation claim.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t mention people or businesses online, but it does mean that you can be held accountable for what you say.

As a basic form of protection you should ensure that if you do have a need and a reason to pass comment then that comment must be based 100% on fact – the truth!

Linking

Without links the World Wide Web would not be World Wide, nor would it be a Web. However, there are a few no-no’s when it comes to linking.

Do not use an IMG link, which shows the images located on someone else’s website on your own. This is a form of copyright breech as you are using their work as your own. If you wish to do this you should first seek the copyright owner’s express permission to do so, and retain a record of that permission.

Using frames within your website to display external content. This again runs the risk of breeching copyright, than less of course that content belongs to you. If you wish to do this then again ensure that you first seek and gain permission, and have a record of that permission.

Usage Policies

Every website should set out clear guideline for use of the site in the form of a Terms of Usage or Terms and Conditions style document. The document should be easily viewable online and in some cases it could be worth providing a printable copy too.

A Privacy Policy should be in place to explain to visitors how you treat their privacy. This is especially important should your site collect information from them, sell products or services, or use cookies to track their browsing habits whilst on your site – even if you use external services such as Google Analytics rather than your own on-site service. And, as per new EU Legislation you must also seek to gain a visitors permission to use cookies prior to them using your site. A simple pop-up window that asks them to either agree to the policy or not use your site should protect the average website.

Accessibility 

The Disability Discrimination Act here in the UK means that if you own a website you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that it can be accessed by everyone, regardless of their ability.

In order to adhere to this legislation you should ensure that your website is built inline with W3C standards and you should regularly review your website design and performance to ensure that it remains compliant as technologies change.

Protection

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to stay totally within the law. It could be that the use of a single word could breech someone’s trademark, and potentially no end of research would flag that breech up.

If your website is commercially based (used for business rather than pleasure) then it would be strongly recommended to think about some form of insurance cover should the worst happen.

Many standard insurance policies for business now include a clause regarding the running of a website, or at least have add-in’s to cover for such things. If however you run an e-commerce site the it would be advisable to look into full e-commerce insurance to ensure that you are fully protected for all eventualities.

Summary

We are by no means experts on the law. We are not legally trained, nor should our advice within this post be taken as gospel.

Wherever possible, should you feel that your website requires it, you should consider seeking out professional legal advice.

However, hopefully this article will serve as a rough guide to help you make informed decisions.

Blogging is the new advertising

Blogging has been on the scene sine 1999 and you’ve probably heard countless times that as a small business owner you should be running a blog. The problem is… why should you even bother? And if you do decide to try, how do you even do it anyway?

What is a blog?

A blog is just a simple website, or a section of a website, where the owner of the site posts usually short but regular updates that are visible across the Internet. Every blog is different. Some choose to post several times a day, some once a week, and many just post intermittently throughout the year. There are lots of different set-up’s including entire websites dedicated to keeping a blog, small sections of a website where a blog plays just a small part in the overall mission of the site, and some blogs are hosted for free on worldwide platforms dedicated to keeping a blog. An example of such a site is Blogger.com – a blogging portal owned by Google.

Why and how will keeping a blog benefit my business?

The Internet is a massive place, and for smaller local business’ having a presence on the web can allow you to compete with your stiffest competition. The web allows you to reach both your existing customers and potential new ones. A blog is a great way to strike up a conversation with these customers, it allows you to create a relationship and build strong bonds, even before potential customers have actually spent any money with you. When you have a strong bond and a great relationship you can guarantee that YOUR business will be the first they think of when your services are required.

Interestingly, Google has recently applied a series of updates to its search algorithm which have been aimed at penalising overly-optimised websites. This means that all those sites that have previously held high search listing places stopping YOUR business from ever getting a look-in are now starting to find themselves falling down the rankings. Beautifully, it means that the tables are now turning, and small business’ everywhere are able to start competing for those much sought-after top spots on the search listings. All that you need to do is ensure that your website contains quality information that is specific to the kind of business you are in. And this is where blogging comes in…

Keeping a blog will help you improve your search engine rankings

By keeping a blog and posting content that is relevant to your business you are simply showing to your site visitors, potential and existing customers, and search engines, that you are an authority on your specific subject, and by engaging with your visitors you are actually proving that authority. It is this authority that will move your existing search engine ranking higher, and of course the more blogging you do and the more visitors that engage with you, the better your search placings will be. Hopefully we don’t need to tell you the benefits of achieving a first page search result!

So how do I get started?

The quickest, simplest and most cost-effective (FREE!) way of getting started is to sign up for a free blogging platform such as Blogger.com. You will find simple step-by-step instructions and you can even monetise your blog using simple plug-ins that are on offer at no extra cost.

If you would prefer to self-host your own blog you should look for a web hosting service that offers simple one-click install of platforms such as WordPress. The WordPress project has its own dedicated resource pages which will show you how to customise your installation and start blogging within minutes.

A few blogging tips

First, make sure that you are consistent. Choose a specific topic, which should really be something you are passionate about, as blogging isn’t a “quick-win”. Blogging should be a long-term marketing strategy, so don’t be down-hearted if you don’t see amazing results right away. Make sure that you post at the same time every week. If you are going to post every day then make sure you do. If you are going to post once a week then do it on the same day and at the same time every week. Make sure that those visitors who choose to follow your blog know exactly when they should be checking for new content.

Finally, keep each blog post to the point. Make it easy for people to read. Think about how you are going to engage your readers… using pictures is a great way of grabbing someones attention, whilst asking questions that will get your readers responding using the comments box is a great way to help influence your search results.

Whats next?

Simple… get blogging! And let us know how you get on using the comments box at the bottom of this post :]