Monthly Archives: April 2015

How to Increase Your Email Productivity

A quick dip into your inbox is often like wading through quick sand. The word ‘quick’ doesn’t really apply as more often than not you’ll come back out an hour later wondering what it was you went in there for. More and more correspondence is now conducted via email.  It’s highly convenient for the author who can crack off an email to get something important out of their head, but to the receiver of endless emails, it’s a nightmare.  Instead of being a helping hand, emails have become somewhat of a nuisance.  They are highly distracting and are zapping our ability to work efficiently.

How many of you can ignore the ‘ping’ of a new email?  What could it contain? Is it that highly critical email I’ve been waiting for? Chances are it’s not but you’ll go and look anyway and then get distracted by the other highly unimportant emails that have made their way into the inbox in the ten minutes since you last checked.

Emails are slowly taking over our lives and with people spending an average of 11.2 hours of their working week reading and responding to emails, we’re under a massive threat of decreased productivity, which is not what we want for ourselves and certainly not for our teams either.

We’re putting ourselves under immense pressure by feeling all emails must be addressed as quickly as possible, which obviously isn’t the reality, and this undue stress can have a significant impact on our mental health.  Constantly delving into our inboxes means we are losing our ability to concentrate on the task at hand and when you combine this with the added stress, it’s clear to see why productivity is at risk. We’re losing focus on what’s important.

So how can we regain control of our time and our worklife and get the balance back on track?

1Designate time – When arriving at work the first thing most people will do is check their emails, but this can often be the worst thing to do. Designate the first hour, or more if you’re able, to heads-down getting things done time. Once that inbox is opened there’s no going back.  Likewise diarise time later in the day, perhaps after lunch, for the same.  This may take a bit of getting used to but you’ll soon wonder how got anything done without it.

Unless your job specifically requires it, or you are waiting on something extremely urgent make sure you switch your mobile email access off when you leave the office.  In order to be at your best for work it’s extremely important to get adequate downtime.  Constantly checking your work emails throughout the evening can actually be counterproductive and can lead to stress.  Office hours are exactly that.  Evenings are for a rest and to get you ready for the next day.

2Lessen distraction – This step will have a massive impact, but can you handle it? You can help reduce the addictive nature of emails by getting rid of the notifications that come with them. The obvious one is to turn off any audio prompts but you can also turn off any visual ones too.  Get rid of the little yellow envelope in the corner of your screen and once you get used to it you’ll feel liberated!  Look at your emails when you’re ready to, not when your computer tells you to.

3Set clear boundaries – Tell your direct reports and line managers what you’re doing and why and ask them to respect your new way of working. The aim is to increase your productivity which must be seen as a good thing.  Give people access to view your diary so they can see when you are not available to answer your emails.  If colleagues have something critical they need to discuss with you during your ‘non-email time’ then encourage them to pick up the phone or physically come and speak to you.

Another way of setting boundaries with colleagues and contacts is by not answering emails as soon as they arrive.  If you are always prompt with a response this sets future expectations of you, so do yourself a favour and hold off.  Leave it an hour or more and answer in your own time.

4Delegate – if you’re regularly in receipt of truly urgent emails and have the ability to do so, give a team member access to screen your emails. This will allow you to knuckle down safe in the knowledge you’ll be alerted should something require an immediate response.  For this to work you need to delegate to someone you trust to be reliable, and who has the ability to differentiate between critical and non-critical business.

5Speak to people – Some conversations that can take a week going back and forward over email can be resolved in a few minutes face to face or over the phone. If on the other hand the person you need to correspond with is a well know chatterbox then stick with the emails!

The Next Generation of SEO

SEO has become a staple of any good business plan but this particular technique is going through a rapid change. The very fundamental aspects of SEO are in flux and many businesses will have to adapt to these changes or face falling behind. Here are just some of the ways in which SEO is changing and how to incorporate these changes into your overall strategy.


Keywords have always been intrinsic to SEO but in the past many companies would fixate on a single keyword and focus all of their energies onto that word and its ranking. This approach can be overly simplistic and reductive, which isn’t conducive to building long lasting relationships with consumers. Many businesses also tend to utilise generic keywords which don’t go into any real detail about the products or services they provide.

The approach towards keywords and their use within SEO has changed dramatically with meaning and semantics playing a much larger role. Businesses utilising SEO are encouraged to focus more on long tail searches rather than single keywords. This allows for a much more meaningful connection with consumers and therefore a greater potential for building a relationship.


Just like keywords, content plays an important role within SEO and as a technique has been used by companies for many years. The problem is that many businesses fall into the trap of creating content which would rank highly on SERPs without any regard to quality. Countless blog posts and articles are produced just to showcase a group of specific keywords rather than appealing to an audience.

Many companies have realised that content creation can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool. Rather than producing large quantities of low quality pieces, many businesses are now focusing on creating content for the reader. This means engaging and interesting copy which is produced for the sake of informing or entertaining consumers rather than manipulating search rankings.

Social Media

In the past SEO has primarily been about the pursuit of achieving a higher ranking in Google’s search results. Whilst this can be incredibly useful, many businesses have come to the realisation that a more comprehensive approach is needed and this includes the use of social media.  The way in which companies utilise social media has changed drastically in recent years with many businesses now using networking sites as their main method of communicating with customers.

More and more consumers are turning to sites such as Facebook and Twitter when deciding on a potential purchase. This means that companies are going to have to use more of a multi-faceted approach towards marketing in order to attract custom. SEO is a very useful tool but a company that aims to be futureproof will have to use a combination of techniques in order to achieve success.

Back Linking

One of the ways in which Google judges the placement of websites within its search results is by how much that website is being discussed. It does this by analysing how many other sites link back to it. This makes sense in theory but in practice many companies would employ unscrupulous tactics in order to manipulate the system. For example discussing their business on forums or even spam sites, just to boost their backlinks.

The way in which backlinking has changed and will continue to do so is very much tied up with the idea behind content. If a company produces regular high quality content, backlinking will happen naturally. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, businesses will need to adopt a more cautious approach when selecting a backlink source.

It may seem like SEO is being fundamentally changed but really it’s just being policed better. Google’s updates over the last few years are putting a stop to some of the more insidious black hat techniques in order to encourage ‘good’ SEO practices. Companies may have to put in more time and effort into their SEO but the potential benefits are much greater than those garnered from the many quick fixes of the past.

Getting Results from Social Media

‘Like it’ or not, social media has become a key player when it comes to promoting business.  Amazingly, a recent study carried out by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK indicated that almost 80% of consumers would be influenced by a brand’s presence on social media and would be more inclined to buy more in the future from a brand known to be on social media networks.  From this, it is clear that customers expect to find businesses and brands on social media and will make purchasing decisions accordingly.  However, it is not simply a question of broadcasting advertisements on social media sites.  This is not sufficient to engage followers.  What is required is time and effort, as well as an understanding of the platforms available.  Here are some tips from experts that will be useful, especially to the smaller business not yet in a position to afford social media specialists.



It is important to pick the platform that best suits your demographic.  Used Linkedin to market to businesses.  If you are pitching to consumers, Twitter or Facebook are good channels.  This is a very important step, because if you are using the wrong type of platform, the best posts in the world will do you no good, as they will not be read.



Just like relationships in real life, social media relationships take time and trouble to develop.  What SMBs (Small and Medium Sized Businesses) should be aiming for is loyalty.  Don’t try to gain a huge band of followers, but do try to build up a smaller group of loyal followers.  Create a community – encourage followers to talk to each other about your business.  Interactive content such as quizzes or live Q&A or even competitions will help to get your followers buzzing and get you noticed.  Once you’ve developed good solid relationships, these can be turned into sales by including special offers to generate sales.  Beware, however, of doing this too soon or too often.  It is generally considered that 80% interesting and topical content can be balanced by no more than 20% advertising content.  If you can devise ways to effectively direct your followers into your own on-line marketing programme, you may not need to promote directly on social media, whilst still gaining new customers on your own sites.



It is important to maintain a regular posting schedule.  Experts advise a minimum of two posts per day.  Of course, that means thinking of something to say that will appeal to your target audience.  You can get inspiration from the calendar.  Plan around national holidays such as Christmas, Easter, etc.  Find out the dates of niche days that are relevant to your company and/or products.  A beverage retailer could make good copy out of Hot Tea Month, whilst someone selling beauty products might comment on Bubble Bath Day.  Have a look on-line for special days and have some fun with this.



Of course, positive feedback is what you are after but it is inevitable that sometimes there will be feedback of the negative variety.  It is essential to respond to such comments quickly and thoroughly.  Such a comment can even be considered a good thing, as if people are taking the time to give negative feedback, it means at least that they have an interest and it can become an excellent opportunity for you to show that you pay close attention to good customer service and are willing to make changes for the better as required.



When you post interesting comments and answer queries thoroughly and knowledgeably, you are effectively demonstrating that you are an expert in your field.  If your contributions show insight and convey valuable information, your readers will feel they can trust what you are promoting.  If, for example, a garden centre shows it knows its delphiniums from its dahlias and offers useful tips on caring for both, your followers will feel confident in purchasing from your on-line or off-line site.



You should avoid using any of your existing usual marketing material on a social media site.  What you need to do is think up new ways to promote your wares.  Keep it current and up to date and targeted specifically at the particular audience you are aiming for on each social media site.



You can have the finest posts on social media, but they won’t do you any good if no one knows you are there.  Make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to make your social media presence known by including social media addresses in all your communications, including media advertisements.  It is a marketing maxim that no one goes to an event that they didn’t know was happening.



It’s an easy trap to fall into – posting the same type of content time and time again.  This will have a negative effect on your followers, who will soon perceive you, and consequently your brand, as out of touch with the times, boring and uncreative.



Whether you are the person solely responsible for posting content to sites or if, as is often the case with medium to large outfits, other members of staff are also involved, it is important to be consistent in both use and messaging.  The best way to ensure this is to devise, and stick to, a strategy that includes guidance aimed at achieving a consistent voice.  Your strategy should include a posting schedule, guidelines on responding to negative feedback and a collection of brand-related images ready for use.  It is also useful to prepare a document outlining responses to frequently asked questions.  A word of caution, however – avoid presenting uniform, ‘one size fits all’ replies.  Your followers want to feel they are dealing with a real live person, not an automaton.  It is vital that all responses, particularly to negative comments, remain personalised and fresh, dealing thoughtfully with each individual.



As we have seen, social media has become a very important tool for promoting all sorts of businesses and enterprises.  Included above are some tips which will help to make the best possible use of the various platforms available.  Remember to choose ones which best suit your brand and target audience.   Avoid the temptation to post on a host of networks – choose, say, two or three and keep up a regular and lively posting schedule on those.  It takes a lot of time and effort, but in the long term the results can be significant.  And most importantly, if you treat your social media followers the same way you treat your customers or clients on-line and in-store, you will reap the rewards.