Monthly Archives: November 2013

First Directory Superstar: Louisa

Each month a member of staff  is awarded the “First Directory Superstar” award for going above and beyond what’s expected of them. This month in recognition of her fabulous team spirit and the example she sets to us all Louisa was awarded this trophy, and some incredibly decadent chocolates, as well as the opportunity to tell you all why she’s here and how our company fits into her life and career.

So from Louisa in her own words:


First Directory Superstar Cup

The First Directory Superstar Cup

What is the key to happiness? How do I become a success? Why do I sometimes punch myself in the face when I’m pulling up the duvet? All very important questions, I think you’ll agree. Well … I don’t know the answer to all of them, but I can shed a modest spotlight on a couple of them.

I decided last year to take positive action and find a new career. I wanted to stop doing a boring secretarial job and do something completely different. I became disillusioned with the drudgery of filling in spreadsheets and organising someone else’s diary. The lure of coffee making and minutes taking was beginning to wear thin and after 20 something years of touching typewriter keys I decided to channel my best endeavours into a proper career, that I actually enjoy! Something that makes me happy and brings success. I found all of these things at First Directory.

I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a professional dancer, (mainly because I am a huge fan of Strictly come dancing), but then I realised I’m 47 and have a bad back… hmmm. Sanity prevailed and I applied for a sensible job. Actually I applied for hundreds of sensible jobs, but having no experience tends to be a disadvantage and very few employers noticed my brilliant potential.

Happily First Directory detected a hint of genius (or something) and my journey began. The interview process was arduous; four stages of fear! Stage one was a phone call from the managing director. My CV must have had something good in it, so I tried selling myself without sounding a fool. Not easy when he calls at early o’clock on a Monday. I attempted to give the impression that I’d been up and alert for hours in fully lucid state, rather than the reality, which was pyjama clad torpor. Stage two was an online test, which proclaimed me not to be a lunatic so this flowed naturally to stage three which was an actual face to face interview. No pyjama’s this time, instead a smart business suit and nicely combed hair (school photograph style). I did talk too much but said the right things because this led to stage four…. the role play interview. Hours hunched over a blank piece of paper attempting to write what I planned to say, then came the actual call to the boss, who was pretending to be Mr – not interested in marketing – customer. Success! I got him interested enough to offer me a job.

They wanted me! Hurrah a new job and a new career! I was happy but scared. Very scared actually… What was I doing? The negative voices were starting to whisper “I’m a middle aged Miss Money Penny. I can’t change now, I’ve always been a secretary, I’m good at being a secretary. The salary is ok… ish. The work isn’t that boring….”. Actually NO! I said to myself, sternly. Come on!!! It’s time to change. Change for the better!!! I’m sick of not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m going to flippin well stomp down that gloomy tunnel and turn the b*****d light on myself..

The first week was a whirlwind of training that was essentially learning all the ins and outs of successfully marketing a business through the medium of the online directory and trying to understand the technical minefield that is ‘the internet’. I confess now to stifling 6 yawns, but I managed to absorb 87% of the information offered… so far so good. Armed with my new found knowledge they allowed me to use the telephone!

It was hard at first, I had never met with such a challenge before, and there were times when it got the better of me. I sounded like a chipmunk on helium that first week, and unsurprisingly not every business man or marketing manager had the patience to listen to me, and some people just didn’t want to understand. Some people were simply not interested and that’s fine, I’ve developed a backside fashioned from the thickest of rhino hide and a backbone made of titanium. I picked myself up (more than once) and I can hold my own now. I spend my days talking to customers; helping them get better marketing exposure for their business. Most of our customers are lovely people and an absolute joy to talk to. Some of them are grumpy, but not for long; I put my happy hat on, and get them smiling.

I have been on a profound learning journey, and and emotional journey too. It’s only now -one year later- that I feel confident about my new vocation. The agony of gaining a new skill is far outweighed by the ecstatic feeling of a job well done. My family has always labelled me ‘little miss chatterbox’, and who would have thought I could earn a good living by talking all day. I still can’t believe I’m getting away with it. But stop! Wait! I’m sounding frivolous…. It’s much more than just talking. It’s a passion, it’s fervour, it’s joy …It’s belief. Belief that our directory can help. And it really does. First directory is appropriately named! It’s the first directory you need, and it works. It’s simple and uncomplicated. It’s the ideal tool to find the right supplier. It is the catalyst that lights the spark for industrial buyers to find the right products.

First also means winner… and I am surrounded by winners at First Directory. The team vibe is amazing, and that brings me back to Strictly. The dancing dream may not have been practical (in fact if I’m honest the ambition to dance was just my secret wish to repeatedly put my hands on Artem Chigvintsev – I do love him!) and I may not be Darcy Bussel, but this is my personal ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. The similarities are striking. It’s a challenge every day. It’s hard work, and it’s constant hard work, no slackers allowed! The payoff is that it feels fantastic when it goes right. It’s like a standing ovation in the Albert Hall, it’s the Oscar winning performance that brings a tear to your eye, it’s the Olympic athlete breaking the tape for the gold medal. All of these things take effort, but by golly they are worth it. Marketing is such a passion with me I eat, sleep and dream it! It’s been a tough journey, but I’m so glad I took the leap and changed career.

I am constantly amazed by the huge number of proper grown-up humans, who don’t follow their hearts, who don’t find the job that makes them happy. But I shouldn’t be surprised because I was one of those humans! I coasted through life, just marking time. It wasn’t until I came to First Directory that I found a personal challenge that really gets my face smiling and my mojo tap dancing!

My old job was nice. I chugged along nicely, doing nice work, in a nice office, with nice people for a nice salary. I don’t do ‘nice’ anymore! I need to learn, and improve, and be the best version of me that I can possibly be! I’m constantly striving for improvement and I know I still have a huge amount to learn. However, I love my job! I laugh out loud every day, I sing out loud too (slightly annoying), I high five my colleagues when we do well and I go home knowing I’m a success. Ok the duvet still gets the better of me, sometimes. Hey! I don’t have an answer to everything. Just the happiness and success stuff!

SEO Tips for Small Businesses

The boiler has broken down. You need someone to repair it ASAP. What do you do? You call a plumber. But where do you get the number? You find it on the internet. But how? You type “plumber Milton Keynes” (providing you live there, of course) into Google or Yahoo! and see what comes up. You then spend a few minutes perusing the top five or ten results. If it’s a particularly cold day then you probably call the first number you can find from the first name in the list.

And so SEO has done its job – it’s brought you, the customer, to the business which it serves.

Put simply, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a strategy for improving a website’s position in search engine results pages when certain keywords are entered. It’s how the plumber won your business. They had probably invested a lot of time ensuring that their website appeared at or near the top of the results pages when the search term “plumber Milton Keynes” was entered. Depending on the resources available to them, they may have even hired an SEO ‘guru’ to do it for them. Larger business will often employ their own team of SEO specialists who spend their days trying achieve that elusive No.1 spot in the Google rankings (which, by the way, is never guaranteed).

Of course, for small businesses this isn’t really an option. The cash flow just doesn’t permit it. And yet a good SEO strategy remains vitally important: if your website isn’t featuring in those first few pages then you’re not going to receive a great deal of traffic, and you’re unlikely to gain many new customers. Worse, you’ll probably be losing out to a competitor who does have an effective SEO plan in place.

So, short of hiring one or two search engine specialists, what exactly can you do to compete? The answer is that nobody really knows, because it’s not entirely clear how the search engines determine which results to show and in what order. However there are a few known SEO techniques that can help, some of which don’t cost a penny.  Put them into practice and you should start to see some results – a higher position in the rankings, more visitors to your website and more custom for your business.


1. Build links

Any SEO expert will tell you that link building is one of the most important aspects of a successful SEO strategy. The more links you have going to and from your website, the more likely it is to achieve a higher ranking. This is because Google and other search engines determine your website to be more authoritative and more trustworthy if there are other sites linking to it (and if you are linking away to other quality sites).

Inbound Links

Links that direct browsers to your website are known as inbound links. Of course it’s quite difficult to get these on domains managed by people other than yourself. The best place to start is with the directories – you can add your company details to a number of general directories (such as Google or Yell), and you can also have your business listed on those that are specific to your trade or the industry you work in. This will often involve a listing fee, but the price you pay is far outweighed by the amount of revenue that can be generated from new customers (who are either immediately redirected to your website or drawn to it later on; thanks to an improved results page ranking).

TIP:  Only list your company with directories that are relevant to your business
or which cover a wide range of industries (First Directory, for example). Having
your engineering firm listed on a directory for florists is not likely to pay

Another way of creating inbound links is through blogs (like this one) and social media channels. You can find out more about this in Tip Number 3.

Outbound Links

Links that direct browsers away from your website are known as outbound links. These also help to improve your standing with the search engines, though the overall effect on your position in the rankings depends on how important the sites you are linking to are deemed to be by the likes of Google and Yahoo! It’s also important to note that any broken links will actually have an adverse effect on your position (because they make your website less trustworthy). Make sure you go through your website and check that they are all working.


2. Regularly update your website with fresh content

In the world of SEO, content is king. Google, Bing, Yahoo! and all the other search engines love it. They adore it. They worship it. Indeed, they give due prominence to any website with a lot of it. But there’s a catch: the content needs to be fresh, original and engaging. If not, the relationship will soon turn sour, and before long you’ll find yourself slipping down those rankings.

Include Keywords

Keyword Stuffing Example

An example of keyword stuffing

One of the most important things is to ensure your content includes keywords that will be picked up upon by the search engines when a search term is entered by the browser. Remember that plumber? He or she probably had “Plumber in Milton Keynes” written several times on his or her website. They may have even included it in page titles, subheadings or metatags. But what they certainly will not have done is have used the phrase “Plumber in Milton Keynes” over and over again. This is more than just frowned upon by Google et al – it’s actually punished. Your website will be pushed way down the rankings.

Be Original

Another thing the search engines hate is copied content, so don’t be tempted to use somebody else’s work. Not only is this unethical and in some cases illegal, it’s also completely counter-productive. Spend some time writing new articles, blog posts or just general information about your products or services. And if you don’t have anything new to say then try recycling some old content. Re-word paragraphs, change the structure and add new photos – it all helps to freshen up your website. Do this on a regular basis and your position in the results pages should improve.

Don’t Force It

Always keep in mind who you are creating content for. It’s all well and good trying to appease the mighty search engines with paragraph upon paragraph of keyword-driven copy, but never lose sight of the people who really matter: your customers. Content that appears forced isn’t likely to impress or engage them, which defeats the object of bringing them to your website in the first place. Think carefully about what you upload and the way in which it is presented and you’ll soon be converting browsers into buyers.

Continue reading “SEO Tips for Small Businesses – Part 2”


SEO Tips for Small Businesses – Part 2

In the first part of “SEO Tips for Small Businesses” we covered the need for Search Engine Optimization and our first two tips:

  • Build links
  • Regularly update your website with fresh content

‎Continue reading three more important pieces of advice…

3. Recognise the Importance of Social Media

Social Media

Recent years have seen social media channels like Facebook and Twitter revolutionise the way in which organisations interact with their customers. They can now instantly publish information about new products or services, generate interest in their brand through regular posting and get a feel for the market by simply monitoring what’s going on in the social media community.

If used in the right way, a social media account can also improve your ‘search-ability’. Indeed, making a post on Facebook or ‘tweeting’ on Twitter has become a key element in many businesses’ SEO strategy. This is because search engines like content that is shared, ‘retweeted’, re-blogged or otherwise. So if, for example, a ‘tweet’ containing a link to your website is ‘retweeted’ by 50 people, the robots at Google, Bing and Yahoo will deem your website to be more authoritative and therefore more worthy of a higher position in the results pages. The influence (i.e. number of followers) of those sharing your content also plays a significant role in determining your website’s authority.

Of course the best thing about social media is that it’s free. You can create an account and begin posting immediately. There are a number paid services which can help you boost your following, but these are not essential.

Blogging and Bloggers

A blog can help your search engine ranking in two ways. Firstly, if incorporated within your website it gives you a handy platform for creating fresh new content, the benefits of which are outlined in Tip Number 2. Secondly, if created as an external microsite it can be used to link directly back to your products and services in a way that is both discrete and effective.

Of course, the blog itself needs to have a decent following (or ‘authority’) for this to have any significant SEO benefits, which is why many companies will pay for a more established blogger to do the link-building for them. That person will usually get paid for every click a link receives.

For small businesses this may not be a viable option. An alternative would be to send out one or two products as giveaways and allow bloggers to review them.


4. Sign up to Google Analytics

Google AnalyticsOne of the keys to successful SEO is to know which techniques are working and which are not. This allows you to adjust your strategy in order to get the best results. Tip Number 4, therefore, is to register with Google Analytics – an online application that gives you a clear indication of how your website is performing. It shows you how users are interacting with your website, where they are landing, where they are leaving, and where they are coming from in the first place. Perhaps most importantly it shows which keywords are bringing users to your site.

This is all valuable information that helps you to better understand consumer behaviour. It also enables you to fine tune your SEO strategy. For example: if your website is receiving a lot of visitors from one of the online directories you registered with, then you’ll know to register again next year. If you see that a particular page is causing a lot of visitors to leave your website, then you know you’ll have to review its content. If you notice that most visitors are being drawn towards one particular product or service that you offer, then you know it’s worth your while promoting it.

Remember that the market is very much a moveable feast and the behaviour of consumers is constantly changing. That’s why the performance of your website must be constantly monitored rather than periodically checked.


5. Follow the guidelines provided by Google – and be patient

If there’s one thing you’ll have gathered from this blog post so far it’s that the search engines are the ones who call the shots. It’s their algorithms that determine your position in the results pages, so ultimately you have to do what they say whether you like it or not!

The best course of action (in lieu of bringing them down from the inside) is to follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – these provide detailed advice on the kind of SEO practices that will improve your rankings and the kind that will lead to a penalty and subsequent exile from the upper echelons of the results pages.

Search engines (and particularly Google) are notorious for changing their algorithms, so it’s advisable to keep checking the guidelines and reviewing your SEO strategy accordingly.

You also need to be patient. Don’t expect all your hard work to deliver immediate results. It can take weeks or even months for your website to start climbing those rankings. But if you stick at it and avoid bad practices, it will happen.