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Written by National Cyber Security Centre

How to improve cyber security within your organisation – quickly, easily and at low cost.

Cyber security needn’t be a daunting challenge for small business owners. Following the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) five quick and easy steps outlined in the guide below could save time, money and even your business’ reputation. The NCSC guide can’t guarantee protection from all types of cyber-attack, but the steps outlined below can significantly reduce the chances of your business becoming a victim of cybercrime.

If you want to improve your cyber security further, then you can also seek certification under the NCSC Cyber Essentials scheme, which has the benefit of demonstrating to your clients (or prospective clients) that you take the protection of their data seriously. The NCSC website also has numerous free tools and more in-depth guidance, including videos and the Small Business infographic.

The NCSC has provided the material in this guide. For more information please visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/collection/small-business-guide

Step 1 – Backing up your data

Think about how much you rely on your business-critical data, such as customer details, quotes, orders, and payment details. Now imagine how long you would be able to operate without them.

All businesses, regardless of size, should take regular backups of their important data, and make sure that these backups are recent and can be restored. By doing this, you’re ensuring your business can still function following the impact of flood, fire, physical damage or theft. Furthermore, if you have backups of your data that you can quickly recover, you can’t be blackmailed by ransomware attacks.

  • Tip 1: Identify what data you need to back up
  • Tip 2: Keep your backup separate from your computer
  • Tip 3: Consider the cloud
  • Tip 4: Read the NCSC cloud security guidance
  • Tip 5: Make backing up part of your everyday business
Step 2 – Protecting your organisation from malware

Malicious software (also known as ‘malware’) is software or web content that can harm your organisation, such as the recent WannaCry outbreak. The most well-known form of malware is viruses, which are self-copying programs that infect legitimate software.

  • Tip 1: Install (and turn on) antivirus software
  • Tip 2: Prevent staff from downloading dodgy apps
  • Tip 3: Keep all your IT equipment up to date (patching)
  • Tip 4: Control how USB drives (and memory cards) can be used
  • Tip 5: Switch on your firewall
Step 3 – Keeping your smartphones (and tablets) safe

Mobile technology is now an essential part of modern business, with more of our data being stored on tablets and smartphones. What’s more, these devices are now as powerful as traditional computers, and because they often leave the safety of the office (and home), they need even more protection than ‘desktop’ equipment.

  • Tip 1: Switch on password protection
  • Tip 2: Make sure lost or stolen devices can be tracked, locked or wiped
  • Tip 3: Keep your device up to date
  • Tip 4: Keep your apps up to date
  • Tip 5: Don’t connect to unknown Wi-Fi Hotspots
Step 4 – Using passwords to protect your data

Your laptops, computers, tablets and smartphones will contain a lot of your own business-critical data, the personal information of your customers, and also details of the online accounts that you access. It is essential that this data is available to you, but not available to unauthorised users.

Passwords – when implemented correctly – are a free, easy and effective way to prevent unauthorised users accessing your devices.

  • Tip 1: Make sure you switch on password protection
  • Tip 2: Use two-factor authentication for ‘important’ accounts
  • Tip 3: Avoid using predictable passwords
  • Tip 4: Help your staff cope with ‘password overload’
  • Tip 5: Change all default passwords
Step 5 – Avoiding phishing attacks

In a typical phishing attack, scammers send fake emails to thousands of people, asking for sensitive information (such as bank details), or containing links to bad websites. They might try to trick you into sending money, steal your details to sell on, or they may have political or ideological motives for accessing your organisation’s information.

Phishing emails are getting harder to spot, and some will still get past even the most observant users. Whatever your business, however big or small it is, you will receive phishing attacks at some point.

  • Tip 1: Configure accounts to reduce the impact of successful attacks
  • Tip 2: Think about how you operate
  • Tip 3: Check for the obvious signs of phishing
  • Tip 4: Report all attacks
  • Tip 5: Check your digital footprint

To learn more about cyber security visit https://www.ncsc.gov.uk.

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Author: Esther Greenwood
CBL Business Advisor/Librarian

The UK’s growing tech sector continues to attract investment with £6.3bn* invested by venture capital firms in 2018 of which £5bn was in high growth scale up businesses.

In the UK tech sector InsurTech employs 15,643 people in the UK while FinTech businesses employ 11,855 people. The E-commerce and SaaS sectors both employ more than 8,000 people.

While many businesses are based in London, there are clusters growing around the country in towns and cities stretching from Belfast to Cambridge, from Dundee to Southampton.

So how can you find out more about the business in this expanding sector? One way is to use the Gibson Index, a listing of some 73,000 small UK businesses, highlighting small and medium tech businesses. These include early stage start-ups, University spinouts, SME veterans, technology-led consultancies and business partnerships.

If you wish to research the tech sector in the UK, you will find this an invaluable resource to connect with businesses you might wish to trade with or to research a specific subsector.

The search screen combinations will enable you to produce a list of businesses by sector, geographic area, number of employees.

The coverage is broken down into 44 subsectors enabling you to identify quickly businesses you might wish to connect with. Subsectors include Biotech & Pharma, Robotics & Automation and Instrumentation.

In addition, you can search for award winners such as recipients of The Queen’s Award for Export and businesses that have received UK government research grants or funding.

There is a profile of each business and contact details. Businesses are rated out of 10 according to their future potential using four main factors:

  1. Strength of Management’s Sales Track Record
  2. Quality of the Product or Process Pipeline.
  3. Size of the Potential Market, both in the UK and in international export markets.
  4. Fiscal Status – SMEs have intermittent or regular revenues – cash flow discipline is key.

Businesses that have been bought out or have ceased trading have a score of 0 but are retained in the database so that their history can be traced.

The team compiling the database have met over 25,000 entrepreneurs during their research to understand their businesses.

Data available through Tech Nation, powered by Dealroom.co provides open access to information about the UK’s tech ecosystem. As well as contact information, it details the investment each business has received in different rounds and the funds investing. You can search for potential investors from the corporate, venture and angel sectors using the matching tool and find organisations that can provide support such as Accelerators. As well as information about UK businesses, it also covers the North America and Asia regions.

The Gibson Index can be used free of charge at the Library.

*Statistics from UK Tech on the Global Stage; Tech Nation 2019 report

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City Business Library by Citybusinesslibrary - 1M ago

Author: Sophie Dean, CBL Business Advisor

Have you thought about taking your business to Hong Kong?

Located on the South China Sea coast, with a population of over 7 million people, Hong Kong is number 4 in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings, number 5 in the score for starting a business and is a gateway to China’s markets.

MarketLine’s Country Analysis Report: Hong Kong, In-depth PESTLE Insights cites UNCTAD’s ‘2018 World Investment Report, which shows that Hong Kong received the third largest inflow of Foreign Direct Investment in the world in 2017 after the US and China. MarketLine highlights Hong Kong’s “free ports, a simple tax system, and excellent infrastructure facilities”, which has made it an attractive place for investors, as well as its location as a gateway to China.

To help you decide on your next steps, visit City Business Library to access valuable market research data on Hong Kong, including:

MarketLine: Find Hong Kong industry profiles on online retail, travel and tourism, consumer electronics and more. The reports include a market overview, market segmentation and information on the leading companies. A PESTLE insights report is also available for Hong Kong.

Mint Global: The company information database Mint Global will provide you with mailing lists of companies in Hong Kong. You can download a list of 250 companies a day, searching by industry, company size and other criteria.

IbisWorld: Access 280 industry reports on China, which include the industry performance, outlook, competitive landscape and operating conditions. IbisWorld will have a stand at the event where you can have a demonstration of this database.

Would you like to find out more?
Why not attend City Business Library’s event, in association with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, on Thursday 6th June (5.30pm – 8.30pm)? The event, International Trade: Hong Kong – Gateway to China, will be an introduction to doing business in Hong Kong and China. You will find out about the opportunities and challenges and will learn about the support available to businesses. See the agenda and book a place here.

Additional resources
The following websites are also useful for information on Hong Kong (if you are considering any other region, let us know and we will do our best to help you find all the information you need):

CIA World Factbook: find an overview of the economy, geography, communications, transportation and more. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

Hong Kong Trade and Development Council (HKTDC) research: http://research.hktdc.com/

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Author: Kiran Kachela, Director/Business Improvement Consultant
Continuous Improvement Projects ltd.

There’s an old adage that says, ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. The adage has been invoked for generations as a way of expressing a desire to not change things. It is based on the belief that change, for its own sake, is not good. But is such thinking still valid? More specifically, is it still valid in a modern business environment that seems to be evolving at breakneck speed?

You can cite many examples of companies thriving by following the ‘don’t fix what’s not broken’ mentality. But nearly all of those examples are from a different era. Furthermore, you can cite fairly recent examples of companies completely collapsing under the weight of resisting change. These are companies that failed to keep up because they failed to innovate.

The Toys ‘R’ Us Lesson

Anyone who still believes the ‘don’t fix what’s not broken’ mentality should take a good look at Toys ‘R’ Us, the once proud retailer that defined toy shopping in the 1980s. Just six months after seeking bankruptcy protection in order to reorganise, the company announced it would be liquidating all of its assets and ceasing operations.

What killed Toys ‘R’ Us? It wasn’t the likes of Amazon or Walmart, per se. It wasn’t online shopping. No, what killed the chain was a failure to innovate. What’s more, their failure was not an overnight thing. Toys ‘R’ Us was already having problems back in the late 1990s when Amazon was just a start-up and Walmart was too busy competing against Sears and Kmart to worry about toy sales.

The biggest problem at Toys ‘R’ Us was an executive management that was content to continue doing things the way they were done in the 1950s and 60s. They failed to account for what customers wanted, both in the merchandise they sold and the customer experience they presented.

Plenty of other retailers have gone the way of Toys ‘R’ Us in recent years. Maplin Electronics is another example. They did very well as a traditional retailer in the UK and Ireland. But when it came time to adapt to online sales, they never quite got it right. The company finally ceased operations after running out of money and not being able to find a suitable buyer.

The Amazon Lesson

The antithesis of the ‘don’t fix what’s not broken’ mentality is the idea of constantly innovating in order to stay on the cutting-edge. Horse and carriage transportation was not broken back at the turn of the 20th century when Henry Ford started building cars. It worked just fine. But cars were better, so Ford built them.

Today’s top innovators are companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google. They do not rest on the accomplishments of the past. Nor do they let past glories define future endeavours. Rather, they constantly look for what consumers want and find a way to make it happen.

Amazon is the retail behemoth it is because executive management have found a way to monitor the pulse of consumers. Amazon now has its hands in industries that have nothing to do with retail. The same goes for Google and Apple.

The fact is that change is not optional in modern business. If a company is not innovating in order to stay on the leading edge of its particular industry, it is falling behind. Remaining static is not possible. As such, the ‘don’t fix what’s not broken’ mentality is no longer valid. It’s not a matter of fixing anything. It is a matter of creating something entirely new, something that will lead to further growth and expansion.

If you need help with fixing problems or creating entirely new ways of working to avoid falling behind, find out more at https://ciprojectsltd.co.uk/

Join Kiran at the City Business Library on 12 June 10:30am in her business support seminar Maximising efficiency and profitability for business growth.

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Author: Wendy Foster, Business Librarian | Startup Adviser
City Business Library

The first question, is WHY? Why do research? The simple answer is that it is empowering. And the best place to be when you are starting or growing a business, is to be empowered.

The slightly longer answer is that market research gives you an invaluable insight into your prospective audience and gives you a huge amount of knowledge to work with. And with this information you can compile a comprehensive and accurate business plan.

Business plans are essential, whether or not you need it to apply for funding. If you do want to apply for funding then your informative and detailed business plan will show your prospective investor that you know what you’re talking about, and that your business venture is a fantastic opportunity for them.

Even if you do not need funding, a business plan is still essential for your own knowledge, and a great boost towards your success and future growth.

And… believe it or not, researching your market can also be exciting and great fun. Honestly!

The second question is, WHAT is market research? Hmm, okay, so the simple answer is that it is researching your market. But to be honest, that doesn’t always mean much to people. So, here are a few examples of what you can find out from secondary research, and what the benefits are:

  • Find out who your customers are – what is their potential income, eg, will they be able to afford your product/service, and do their interests and/or needs make them likely to do so. Does the area you are looking at have a good number of your target audience that you can reach?This information will help you identify which area is potentially a good place to set up your business, and it will also help you when it comes to pricing up your product/service. Pricing of goods/services is essential, as this is the bottom line of whether you can break even and then make a profit (even if you are a not for profit businesses, any additional money can be reinvested into the business, and you will need some profit to help with your cash flow). It is also a starting point to help you work out your budget.
  • Identify your potential competitors – is the market taken up by the big players, is it saturated already, or is it made up of small businesses with plenty of space for more. This will help you understand whether you have a viable business idea, or if you need to tweak it to bring something new to your potential customers and fill a gap in the market.
  • What is forecast for your sector – over the next 5 years, is it expected to grow, stay stable, or decline. Will it grow in different areas to where you could move to increase your target audience.
  • Learn about your supply chain. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so reading up about the supply chain is really important. You may beleive there is a large enough customer base for your business, but will you be able to find a supplier [if you need one/more] with low enough costs for you to be able to provide your service at a price your customers can afford. An example of a supply chain for running a café might include the following
    • Economic drivers, eg, your customer’s disposable income, world price of coffee, etc.
    • Demand. Who are your customers and what need/want will you fill.
    • Supply industries. Who are your suppliers and what is happening in their sector, eg, coffee production, juice wholesaling, bakery production, etc.
    • Related industries. Will these impact on your business, eg restaurants, pubs and bars, juice and smoothie bars, etc. They might compete for your potential customers.
    • Thinking about the steps of how you get your product to your customer, including your own suppliers, is a great checklist to help you start thinking about what you need to research.

I fully recognise that the thought of research can be daunting, and I have seen my fair share of eyes glaze over at the thought of research, but once you start learning these things about your industry it genuinely becomes fascinating. The information itself is exciting, and the fact it helps you towards your end goal of running or growing your business is definitely exciting.

Final point to mention here is the HOW. I will make a heartfelt plea to everyone to not rely on a general internet search. There is a lot of great and fun stuff on the internet, but it is not always easy to know what data is accurate, current, relevant, and basically right. So, the best way is to use recognised and authoritative sources. There are companies out there that commission, research and write up reports on market sectors. Use these! And better still, use a Library that subscribes to these so that you can access a wide range of these reports.

Okay, so one more point – WHERE can you find this information. One place is the City Business Library. The whole purpose of the Library is to support and help people start and grow their business. With a wide range of specialist resources, the Library can offer you access to amazing data. Data that can help you get a solid basis for your business venture and give you the edge over your potential competitors. You can find out more details about our resources, along with seminars and workshops via our website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/cblevents.

We can even offer you remote access to some of our fantastic resources, including invaluable market research databases. Membership is available to anyone living in the UK, and you can find out more about our membership on our website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/cblmembership.

We are here to help you so please do ask us any question you may have about what the City Business Library has to offer. The City Business Library is a public business support service, funded by the City of London Corporation. We are open to all! As well as the information on our website, you can also contact us directly via email cbl@cityoflondon.gov.uk, phone 020 7332 1812, or even just pop in and speak to us!

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City Business Library by Citybusinesslibrary - 3M ago

Author: Esther Greenwood
City Business Library, Business Librarian/Advisor

FRANCHISE (Noun)

An authorization granted by a government or company to an individual or group enabling them to carry out specified commercial activities, for example acting as an agent for a company’s products.

For some people, franchising can be an attractive way of starting their own business by allowing you to buy into a business that already has a proven track record in its market.

Franchising is becoming an increasingly attractive business model; the Business Franchise Association states that the number of franchisee-owned business in 2018 was nearly 50,000. Over 710,000 people are employed in franchising in the UK and 97% of franchisee-owned units reported profitability.

Franchises can be found in all business sectors including food, education, healthcare and property maintenance and include well known businesses such as McDonald’s, CeX, Subway, Molly Maid and Kumon tutoring services.

How does a Franchise work?
Franchisees pay an initial fee for a licence to operate the business and then an annual management fee. In return the franchisor provides proven business systems, marketing and know-how and continuing support to the business.

What are the costs involved?
The cost of initial fees can vary considerably from £3,000 to over £500,000. Some franchisors require that the franchisee can pay all the fees unencumbered, but others will accept up to 70% of the fees being financed by a bank loan. If the business model is viable banks will consider lending finance for the purchase and often have specialist teams looking at franchise finance. Franchisees are responsible for the running costs of the business which need to be factored into business planning and start-up costs.

Who is in control?
The owners and and operator is called a franchisee, however the control of the brand, products and marketing reponsibility stays with the franchisor to control the quality and standards of the franchise.

Where can I find out about Franchises available?
Franchise exhibitions such as the International Franchise Show are good places to explore opportunities and talk to franchisors and other franchisees about their experiences. Before taking on a franchise it is important to ensure that the product or service is viable and that you can earn your living from it. Legal and accountancy advice should be sought if you’re not confident in these areas and advice from your bank if you’re considering getting a loan to finance the business.

City Business Library have a number of free resources to help you if you’re thinking about investing in a franchise or franchising out your business. Research is a crucial at this stage!

COBRA is one of City Business Library’s databases which give you a step by step guide to starting a business (available remotely with our free Access Membership)

Another useful database is Fame (available remotely with our paid membership), you can look at the finances of any franchise that is registered as a limited company and our market research databases will show if the is sector growing.

The Library also keeps a large range of books and magazines, Business Franchise, Making Money and Franchise World will give you a really useful articles from experts, listings of franchises for sale in every market sector and the initial fees charged. These magazines will also help demystify some common franchise terminology.

If you still feel unsure, come into the library and have a chat with one of our business librarians who are also business advisors who will be more than happy to sign post the way for you.

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Author: Gergana Dimitrova

A wise (and very successful) man once told me about the big posters on the London underground: “These spots are reserved for Jack Daniels and Richard Branson (Virgin).” He meant that the rest of us (small and medium businesses), more than ever before, face the nightfall of traditional advertising. While the big and shiny advertising spots remain a priority for the large companies, the way small and medium businesses market their products, is inevitably changing. And the way people and companies research, choose, and buy, has undergone a major shift.

So, if businesses want to keep it strong in a bustling market, a content strategy should form an essential part of their marketing. Simply put, a content strategy is the framework you design to deliver the content to readers.

Below are five reasons why you need a content strategy to make your business thrive.

Building customer loyalty

In the last seven years we saw digital marketing take a turn for the better – a remarkable transition from the reign of the clickable ads, to organic presence and extreme customer centricity. According to the Marketing Insider Group more than half of today’s users don’t click on ads, simply because people are overfed with information, and don’t trust them.

These days people want to read about things which solve their problems or give them value. They ask Google for solutions, and they want these solutions now! Value-creation through high quality and consistent content is therefore considered the Holy Grail of customer engagement.

By reading your blog or website and getting valuable and relevant ideas people begin to trust you and your business. They will stick to you, because with time, they start to believe in you. And building a trusting relationship with your clients brings repeat business – no clickable ad can vouch for that.

Brand awareness

Needless to say, but let me say it one more time: a good content strategy creates brand awareness. It is not a straightforward or easy process, but this is how it works. Engaging with good content, people become familiar with the specifics of your brand, and the different products or services your company offers.

A good blog or web content will make you recognizable, and it will make your business stand from the crowd. It will also help your product or service development strategy flow. Let’s face it: people are more likely to buy if they recognise a brand within a given category.

Lead generation

Because good and consistent content increases your online presence, more leads are drawn to your website with time. In marketing, leads are the prospect customers in your industry – people who may be potentially interested in your services but have not made a purchase…yet. These are individuals who have expressed an interest in your service or product. Content creation and distribution is an affordable and reliable way for small and medium businesses to generate more leads, compared to the old-fashioned ways of direct advertising.

Better revenue prospects

This one is inevitably linked to the previous. The more website visitors you generate through content, the higher the chance you convert. In digital marketing, conversion is turning the visitors to your website to qualified leads, and ultimately – to purchasing customers. At the end of the day it turns out that words do sell. And in a customer-centric world, this is a winning formula.

Better online presence

Finally, good content (with a strategy!), increases your online presence. It is now a known fact that Google likes good, organic and genuine content. Pages which regularly update and produce good text, are likely to rank better in the search engines. This explains why 72 % of marketers rank content creation as the single most effective SEO tactic. For good SEO results, one of the things you need is good content, bound by a long-term content strategy in place. Maybe back in 2008 Seth Godin was correct to say that “Content marketing is the only marketing left”.

So, put simply, in the age of the digital, small and medium businesses, young and old, can all benefit tremendously from a content strategy in place. This is simply because the world has changed, and so has the complex dynamics of the consumer mindset.

About the author
Gergana Dimitrova is the co-founder and managing director of content writing platform Writers Website. She regularly hosts seminars at City Business Library on writing digital content and content strategy. Her next session will be Content strategy and your marketing on 13 June 2019

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City Business Library by Citybusinesslibrary - 4M ago

Author: Gavin Kilgallon
Internet Dreams Studio

Creating a new website for your business does not need to be a frustrating or difficult experience. The design and development process for the majority of websites follow a similar format. This article will outline the research you should take before kick starting the project and the stages you should go through once you start the process.

Choosing A Domain Name

One of the first areas to research will be your domain name, ideally this should be your business name or represent the services or products you want to provide. It is important to select a domain name that is easy to spell and remember, keep it short and as memorable as possible.

Another area you need to consider is the domain extension, this is the text after the domain name. Gone are the days where there were just a few, there are now over 280 to select from. It is usually best practice to select an extension that is relevant for your business, for example, ‘co.uk’ will indicate that your business is based in the United Kingdom. There are numerous extensions available that cover geographical areas, business niches, organisational type etc. For more information on UK domains and what is available, Nominet is a good reference point and the official registry for UK domain names.

Hosting

Whilst thinking about your domain name also start to consider who you are going to host your website with. A reliable hosting provider will ensure that your website is always accessible. Key areas that you need to consider are:

  • Uptime guarantee (preferably at least 99.99%);
  • Bandwidth and storage (the number of page views and data a hosting provider can handle);
  • Customer support – 24/7, email, phone;
  • Security and backups solutions;
  • Performance such as loading times;
  • Country of hosting;
  • Scalability for future website growth and projects;
  • Clear pricing plans;
Research And Planning

Understanding the main purpose of your website will be is one of the key requirements. This usually falls under one of the following areas:

  • Increase exposure
  • Quality lead generation
  • Increase sales

Defining your core objectives is essential in order to be able to set key performance indicators and measure the websites return on investment.

Creating an accurate site map with a clear navigational structure is vital for the UX (User Experience) and effectiveness of your website. Understanding and determining what sections, sub sections and pages your website will have and the path you want site visitors to take will help ensure success. It’s always recommended that you look at your competitor’s websites, note down their structures and any elements that you like or dislike. Once you have this, try to create a site map for your own website.

Using software such as Moqups for wireframing can help you visualize and further understand the layout required and any potential UX problems. You can sign up for just a month which starts at US$19. If you are using an external agency, ask them for advice to help determine your site map.

Once you know the sitemap, it’s always a good idea to start creating text that will populate it. Leaving this towards the end of the development process often leads to deployment delays or poor content. Site content is not only crucial in creating a professional impression of your business, it also plays a key role in search engine rankings and user experience. You can either employ the services of a copywriting agency or write the content inhouse. From experience, we would recommend writing content yourself as no one understands your business better then you do. Some useful pointers when creating content include:

  • Keep it short and to the point, don’t write for the sake of it;
  • Keep it relevant to your target audience, help them find the information they are looking for quickly;
  • Keep style and layout constant throughout to enhance the UX;
  • Include keywords to aid your search engine rankings;
  • Showcase your USPs and benefits;
  • Showcase examples / case studies where possible;
  • Make use of interesting headlines;
  • Use internal linking to aid UX and SEO;
Build It Yourself Or Use A Web Design Agency?

When it comes to the design and development of your website, there are two main options. You can use a web building platform such as Wix, that allows you to create your own website based off set templates, or you can use a web design agency that will build you a bespoke solution. Both options have their merits and it will generally come down to your budget. If you are looking for a quick, simple, basic website and have a limited budget then Wix or a similar platform would probable best suit your needs. If you require a more bespoke, professional solution built specifically for your business then you would tend to use a professional design agency.

If you are going down the web design agency route, you will want to investigate the following areas thoroughly:

  • Look at their website!
  • Look at their showcase and examine their websites? Do they have a diverse portfolio, do their sites all look the same?
  • What is their area of specialty, have they built websites in your industry sector?
  • Do they have any reviews / testimonials?
  • How long have they been running?
  • Do they outsource their work?
  • Do they push one technology / solution?
  • What is their design process, payment structure and costs?
  • What after service do they provide?

You also want to consider if you need to constantly update your website? If the answer is yes, then you may want to look at incorporating a content management system (CMS). There are numerous solutions out there that are extremely user friendly, requiring no technical knowledge. One of the main platforms used is WordPress, there are also numerous other platforms such as Magento, ProcessWire, Drupal. From our experience, we would generally recommend platforms such as WordPress or ProcessWire for small and less complex projects. If you require more bespoke, complex and scalable platform we would recommend a bespoke CMS build using a development framework like Laravel. A CMS can provide a simple solution that allows you to update text, links, SEO, images, products, media (photos and video), documents (PDF, Word etc.) all through a simple password protected area.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to the ability to attract traffic to your website through organic search engine listing on Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. There are numerous factors that determine your rankings and no one precisely understands what these are as Google will not publish their algorithms. From extensive research, SEO experts are pretty certain the following factors combine to influence your rankings:

  • Website content and relevance (optimised);
  • Incoming links from relevant and reputable websites;
  • Domain age (older domains tend to have higher authority);
  • Mobile friendliness;
  • Page speed loading times;
  • Secure website;
  • Social media;
  • Website build such as title tags, heading tags etc.;
  • Internal and external links;

One of the best ways to improve you SEO is to research competitors that are doing well on Google. Simply type in a search term and look at your top 5 rivals. There are numerous SEO tools to help you do this, ahrefs, Moz, Semrush are some of the best. They often provide a free trial and are usually quite intuitive. They will provide a wealth of information to help you with your SEO including:

  • Backlinks;
  • Referring domains;
  • Keyword listings;
  • Top pages;
  • Outgoing links;
  • Anchor text (keywords that link to a website);
  • Pay Per Click advertising information;
  • Broken links;
  • Site audits etc.;

SEO is an ongoing process, you need to constantly review your rankings, read the latest SEO articles and look out for any sudden movements in your rankings.

Conclusions

Your website is your shop window to the World. It requires a well thought-out and structured approach to ensure success. It’s an investment both financially and resource wise that can pay massive dividends if you approach it with the right mindset. Ensuring that you get it right first time will save you time and money later on.

More about the author
Gavin Kilgallon is a Director at Internet Dreams Studio, providing web design and development services for businesses and individuals throughout London and the UK. If you have any questions or would like further information, feel free to call or email me anytime.

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Author: Sophie Dean
Business Librarian/Advisor

How can you prepare your business for Brexit?
As the clock is ticking down to the UK’s planned departure from the EU on 29 March, how can you prepare your business for Brexit? City Business Library have put together a list of resources that will hopefully help you to consider some of the key issues.

UK Government guidance
The UK Government provides a quick tool on the gov.uk website, called “Prepare your business for the UK leaving the EU”. Answer 7 questions about your business and you will see relevant guidance published for your industry.
Gov.uk: Prepare your business for the UK leaving the EU

Business support organisations
Business support organisations are a helpful source of advice and information on Brexit. Why not take a look at these links below, provided by the ICAEW, FSB and British Chambers of Commerce, which highlight considerations such as contracts, supply chains, staffing requirements and tariffs.

ICAEW: How to prepare for Brexit – checklist

FSB: How to prepare your business for Brexit

British Chambers of Commerce: Business Brexit Checklist

Industry news
You may already be following the latest Brexit news, but you can also keep up to date with how your specific industry is affected by Brexit by reading trade magazines. City Business Library subscribes to magazines including The Grocer, The Caterer, Construction News and Property Week, where you will find the latest news, analysis and opinion.

Market research reports
IBISWorld publishes in-depth market research for UK industries as well as USA, China, Australia and Global reports. Access UK Brexit Impact Statements on over 400 industries, which discuss the possible consequences of leaving the EU on your industry. This database is available at City Business Library.

You can also access the market research database MarketLine at City Business Library, which offers worldwide market research reports. Read analyst comment on Brexit and the potential implications on UK industries.

Business networking events
Why not look out for business networking events, where there will be the opportunity to meet like-minded businesses and discuss with industry experts what may change as a result of Brexit. The Cobra database, available at City Business Library, is designed to help people start and run a business. It is a great source of information on business events, networking groups and support in different areas of the UK. You can access Cobra for free outside of the library with a City Business Library membership card.

Exploring new markets
Have you considered looking at markets outside of the EU? City Business Library regularly hosts international trade events, which are aimed at introducing people to new emerging markets. Previous events have included countries in South America, West Africa and the ASEAN region and we are planning our next event on opportunities for UK businesses in Hong Kong. Details of future events will be published on the City Business Library website.

For further information on new markets, the following City Business Library resources will hopefully help you: Global Trade Tracker is a comprehensive resource for import and export data, EIU country reports include information on the economy, politics and business environment, and Exporters Almanac provides e-commerce information, country and industry profiles and links to online industry directories.

If you have any questions on City Business Library, please get in touch. We’d be very happy to help and hope to see you in the library soon.

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Here at the City Business Library we are being asked daily if businesses can still contact each other now that we have GDPR (General Data Protection Act), along with the Data Protection Act 2018.  It is great that people are asking, and it is not often a piece of legislation generates so much interest or awareness.

The simple, and happy, answer is yes!   Businesses can still contact each other.

There are compliance issues of course that you need to be aware of, but then we already had various systems in place for data protection, such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS/TPS), so really this is just an extension.

What you need to be aware of is that names and emails for directors, officers, or anyone from a company counts as personal data.  It is information that can identify an individual.  And although you can find these at Companies House, on LinkedIn or even on a company’s own website it is all about how you use that data, and as this is personal data it means you cannot just send out emails or telephone a named person without their express permission to do so.

What you can’t do:

  • Telephone/email a named person in a company (without their permission).
  • Telephone the company and ask to speak directly with a named person (without their permission).
  • Transfer permission to someone else, ie if you have been given permission to phone/email a named director, you cannot then pass that permission to someone else to use.

What you can do:

  • Telephone a company and ask to speak to the person in a specific post, eg ‘the company secretary’, ‘the HR manager’, etc. Once you have been put through you can then ask that person if you can contact them directly by phone/email.
  • Contact a company via their website ‘contact us’ information, and ask for your enquiry to be forwarded to the relevant person/position.

Obviously, the above is by no means all you need to know, so to find out the details you can check guidance on the legislation via https://www.gov.uk (government’s website) and you can use the Library’s ‘Law and Business’ database for a commentary on law pertaining to business.

Wendy Foster (Business Librarian at City Business Library)

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