Tips for Small Businesses

Search Engine Optimization How To

As another part of my small business series, I’m going to delve into some SEO tips and tricks. I’ve tried paying for SEO (at high cost and low return) and then finally taught it to myself.  End realization: For any smaller operation, doing it yourself is 100% the way to go. So!  Here’s my Search Engine Optimization How To post! SEO Optimization How to : A tutorial on SEO Tips and Tricks for beginners

Search Engine Optimization How To

For my examples I’m going to pretend I have a website that sells sewing patterns for handmade clothing.  I use WordPress as my website builder.

Part I : Choosing Keywords

It’s pretty easy to make a blog post SEO friendly.  The tricky part is choosing a keyword that is actually going to get you some visits.  This first part will show you how to choose a good keyword. Step 1: Sign up for a Google Adwords account.  You will need to enter your credit card but don’t actually need to make a purchase of any Ads.  You just want to use one aspect of the account, the Google Keyword Planner. Step 2: Think of a relevant blog post topic that would draw in an audience that might also be interested in buying your patterns.  An example would be “Handmade summer dresses”. Step 3: Navigate to the Google Keyword Planner page. Enter the general topic you want your blog post to be about in the top box, the one labeled “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas”.  For this example I put in “Handmade summer dresses”. I don’t usually bother to enter my website but you can if you want Google to have a quick look over it and use it to suggest ideas to you. If you only sell to a certain country, you can limit the audience to that country (but I don’t usually do this). Under Keyword Filters, I also usually click the “Competition” box “Low”. This is simply because I am lazy. After I write a blog post that is really strong for SEO, I don’t want to have to do anything like backlink it and such.  If there is a lot of competition for the keyword I’m using, other people are probably putting in effort to get their posts and pages to the top, which means mine will not make it. SEO Optimization Tricks for beginners But if you think you’ll put in the effort, by all means go for the “Medium” ones too, because they often have more people searching for them. Step 4: Click Get Ideas and you’ll end up at an ugly page like the picture below (click for larger version).  You’ll want to navigate to the tab under the graph that says Keyword Ideas, which I’ve pointed out with a yellow arrow: Search Engine Optimization how to: SEO tips and tricks for small businesses and marketing beginners    Step 5: Scroll down the list of Keyword suggestions until you find one or two that are relevant and have a decent number of monthly searches.  I usually aim for one that has at least 50 monthly searches, but the more the merrier.  For example, this post you are reading uses the keyword phrase Search Engine Optimization How To, which returns over 12,000 searches a month but somehow still is only Low competition.  Unless you are already a Fair Ivy reader, I bet that’s how you got here  😛  However, posts I make on handmade goods are usually only for 50-100 monthly searches. Ok. I’m going to choose the keyword “How to Make Summer Dresses”, which has Low competition and has about 70 searches a month.  If you don’t see any that work for you or have decent monthly searches, try a new search term in the top box.

Part II : Wordpress SEO Tutorial

Step 6:  Head on over to your WordPress dashboard.  If you don’t have it already, install the plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast. Step 7:  Create a new blog post. In the title, put your keyword phrase.  Make sure your permalink also has the exact phrase in it, like below.  If it doesn’t look like this, head on over to Settings → Permalinks and make sure the structure of your posts is either /post-name/ or /category/post-name/ Search Engine Optimization Techniques : WordPress SEO tutorial Step 8: Scroll down and find the box labeled WordPress SEO by Yoast.  In the Focus Keyword box, put your exact keyword, “How to Make Summer Dresses”. In SEO Title, include the exact Keyword and any other words you want to show up.  This is the title that will appear in the google results. In the Meta description, also make sure you include the exact keyword but make it a compelling description that will make people want to click through. See my example below: Search Engine Optimization Techniques : WordPress SEO tutorial   Step 9: Save your draft. When the page refreshes, you’ll see a little colored dot next to SEO in the Publish box on the right: Wordpress SEO tips for beginners Step 10: When writing the post, your goal is to make that little dot green.  If you click the “Check” link next to the colored dot, it will show you in detail all the problems with your post’s SEO quality.  It will be a bit overwhelming, like this: seoblogpost5 But obviously you haven’t written anything yet, so not to worry!  Start writing your post, keeping in mind the things that the plugin is looking for. Here’s a couple of quick pointers:
  • Use the exact keyword at least a few times in the body of the post.
  • Have at least two pictures, and for their “Alt text”, use the keyword.  This is also good in case someone Pins the image, because it’s the image description that will show up—so make it a complete sentence, like “This fantastic post shows you exactly how to make summer dresses, step by step!”
  • If possible, use a header that contains the keyword.  If you look at this post you’re reading right now, I have two H2 headers.  Both of them include SEO keywords.
  • DO NOT make the post all spammy.  Make it an actual blog post.  If you just keep writing “How to Make Summer Dresses” over and over again in a poorly disguised way, Google will not be happy with you. The plugin should also tell you if you’ve used the keyword too much.
  • Also, don’t panic about making all the little dots green.  I never manage to get them all green.  Just do as many as humanly possible while still having a well-written, useful post for your readers.
  • Once you get comfortable writing good SEO posts, you can try and include multiple keywords in future ones. The way to do this is to just change the keyword in the “Focus Keyword” box, and see how it checks out when you hit Save.  You don’t want to remove your original keyword from anywhere else, but you can use the SEO checker to see how your new keyword looks.
  • Make sure you casually include information in the post or in the sidebar about what you sell or do, so the reader can take action rather than leaving your site when they’re done.
That’s it for the basic intro!  NOTE: It takes at least 6 months for Google to crawl your page and integrate all the changes, so after 6 months you may start to slowly see a response.  Don’t expect anything soon than that—so remember, this is the long game!

More detailed SEO Tips and Tricks

Tips for Small Businesses

What to Name Your Company (Small Business Tips)

I’m in the process of putting together a full series of how to start up a small business online—so bear with me as it may take awhile to get all of them out.  But here’s the first of my 6-step series!  

What to Name Your Company

It’s a pretty important question—the answer to which will (hopefully) last many years into the future. It can make or break your brand, so it’s a task not to be taken lightly. Following are my tips for choosing a business name. What to Name Your Company

What to name your company – Approach 1: Nondescript Name

The first way is to choose a nondescript name/word that you like.  Something that maybe vaguely sounds relevant to what you’re doing, but doesn’t shout out your product or idea in explicit details. The main PRO of this type of business name is: if for any reason your business plan or products change, you can keep your business name and all the hard work you’ve put into it doesn’t have to be scrapped.  This was the case with Fair Ivy — the business concept has changed quite significantly since inception, but the name has been able to stay the same, due to it not particularly meaning anything at all. It can become whatever I want it to become! Another potential PRO to this approach is that your business name can come to MEAN something completely new to your customers….like creating an entirely new word for a dictionary. Good examples are the companies Xerox and Kleenex.  Prior to these companies, the products for them were called copies and tissues—but now we can substitute the business name for the item itself, which means no-effort marketing.  Obviously these are extreme large-scale examples, but in your specific niche your customers can also come to adopt your name.

How do I choose this name?  

Well, you can always just brainstorm with friends and family members, or you could use a business name creator website such as which generates creative business names based on words you like, which should help you figure out what to name your company. But before you settle on one, make sure the domain name is available for purchase—you can check domain availability on, which is where I register all my domain names. (Side note: GoDaddy also makes for a great hosting company—they are inexpensive and offer great phone customer service.  I’ll go into more detail about setting up your website later). 30% of GTLDs at GoDaddy!

What to name your company – Approach 2: Descriptive Name

In this scenario you choose a business name that pretty much tells your audience what you’re selling, right in the name of your product.  So for Fair Ivy, had I gone this route we might have been called something like “Box a Month Subscription”. The main PRO of this type of business is for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.  Which means that if someone were to type a search into google, and your company name was the search phrase (e.g. “Custom Screen Printed Shirts”), you’d have a lot easier of a time getting to the top of the returned results. A second potential PRO to this approach is that if someday you decide to discontinue operating the business, the domain name and all it’s associated SEO strength might be able to be sold to someone new.

How do I choose this name?

If you really want to take advantage of the SEO potential, make sure you choose a name that isn’t already saturated or TOO desirable. The best way I’ve found to do this is to sign up for a Google AdWords account.  An account here is worth it for a multitude of reasons, some of which I’ll discuss in later posts.  You don’t actually need to spend any money on Google Adwords if you don’t want to (I don’t, anymore).  What you’re looking for at the moment is use of Google’s Keyword Planner. On the landing page of the Keyword Planner, you can type in a phrase you think might be a good start for your business name.  Enter any criterion you want (e.g. customer location, etc), and hit submit. What you get is a page like this (click for a larger version): What to Name Your Company: Tips for choosing a business name   You can mess around with some of the filters on the left, but the most important thing you’re looking for is something that has a decent number of monthly searches, but with a low competition rating. For most of my blog posts, if I want them to show up in SEO without too much hassle on my end, I usually choose keywords that return 10-30 monthly searches, with low competition. This is because a lot of my posts are on topics that have been written about—like handmade silver necklaces, or wrapping a gift.  10-30 monthly searches may not sound like a lot, but if you write 3 blog posts a week for a year and each of them get 20 monthly views on average….after a year of posting you could potentially be getting around 3,000 views per month on your website. For my personal blog, since the blog topics are a little less common (e.g. Paper Mache Dinosaur Mask), I go for 500-1000 monthly searches. So make sure you take into account how unique the blog post is when you’re deciding on your idea monthly search quantity. Once I’ve made sure the post is SEO friendly, I just sit tight for a few months for Google to do its page-crawling, and bam—I start getting visitors on my site who searched for the exact terms I planned them to. And this is just the beginning—there are many ways to help boost your posts even further, but that’s for another day! I understand that this step might be tricky, so if you need any help at all feel free to drop me a line ( and I can get you sorted out. 
That’s all I’ve got for you today folks! I hope the above tips have been helpful in answering the big question of what to name your company.  Whether the name was created via a random business name generator or via carefully analyzed SEO research—take your time to discuss your final company name with friends and relatives, to review any potential problems or drawbacks. Until next time—when I discuss starting to get your business online via domain registration and hosting plan setup. What to name your company
Tips for Small Businesses

Small Business Marketing on a Budget

Small Business Marketing on a Budget If you’re looking to grow your small business but don’t have the money to throw at marketing (I wouldn’t recommend the throwing part even if you do), you’re not alone.  It’s tough starting a business, and reading up on some tips is a great way to start. Owning a handmade subscription company, I spend a lot of my time talking to handmade artists about their products and businesses. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about how to do small business marketing on a budget, and I thought it was time to share a couple of tips here—I hope they can benefit you as well. So here we go:

My top 2 tips for Small Business Marketing on a Budget

Tip 1: Get a review….or ten

Regardless of how wonderful a product you have, it is highly unlikely that the world will ever hear about it unless you can get other people to start talking about it too. The best first step in my opinion is to get an independent source to review your product, online.  If you are selling a physical product, figure out your target demographic and do a web search for blogs that have the same target market.  For example, if you create a cool handmade baby product—find a mom blogger with a baby and contact her, letting her know about your product and asking if she’d like to check it out for free. How to choose a blog & write the email:
  • Choosing a blog: Don’t aim too high. This may sound like the opposite advice your mother used to give you, but take heed.  If you try and aim too high your email will likely not be read at all.  Depending on the stage your shop and product is in, you want to choose a blog of an appropriate readership size.If you’re quite a new business, with just a so-so website/shop and product photos, find a blogger that has a nice blog and a decent amount of readers (you can get an idea of that by the number of comments on each post or use one of these analytics sites here).   A blog that gets only 2 or 3 comments on each post is a good start if you’re really new to the game.  That being said, if you already have a bit of online traction and have stellar product photos, you can shoot for a blog that is a bit more well-read.
  • Be personal: Connect with the blogger When addressing the email (“Dear xyz”), make sure you use the blogger’s actual name. Most personal bloggers use their real names online, and if you haven’t taken the time to look around their site and figure out what it is they may write you off.Comment on something (positive) about their blog.  Make sure you actually take time to explore their blog and read some articles, so you know a bit about the blogger you’re talking to.  Blogs are usually personal spaces, and bloggers like to interact with people who truly read their articles. A good example would be “I really enjoyed your article on your favorite books to read to babies—I used to read the same ones to my little one!”.
  • Be polite: Ask for their opinion Instead of outright asking them to help you market your product—let them know that you value their opinion in the relevant marketplace, and that you would love feedback on your new product.  Don’t mention that you are trying to do small business marketing on a budget —it will sound like you are asking them to work for free so you don’t have to spend any money.  Instead, simply offer to send them a sample free of charge, in exchange for an honest review.

Tip 2: Make the most of your current fans

Even if your current customers/fans consist exclusively of your family and friends, make sure you utilize them as a resource.  You are a single voice, so get a few other voices working in your favor.  How to make the most of your current fans:
  • Make a Newsletter….and use it! MailChimp & small business marketing on a budgetThis actually took me awhile to get the hang of, because it seems like it would be a pain in the butt.  But now that we do it at Fair Ivy, I can’t stress enough how much of a difference this makes to sales. My advice is to get a free account over at MailChimp, and start with one of their signup forms (for your website) and email templates. It’s as simple as slotting in your own text and a couple of images, and the newsletter looks pretty professional. A good idea is to start with some simple news, such as new products or links to new product reviews, and see what generates the most response (MailChimp includes analytics so you can see what people are doing with your newsletter emails).  Try sending new newsletters once a month at first, and then twice a month.  Once you feel like you have a good grasp on the newsletter system, try out some new ideas, like small giveaways, or asking for customer feedback or reviews on your shop.  Regardless of the newsletter content, make sure you always include links to your shop!
  • Reward fans for their loyalty Your best customers are the customers you’ve already acquired.  Studies show it takes a lot less effort to get a new conversion from a previous customer than it does to generate an entirely new customer—so make sure you keep those previous customers happy and coming back for more! There are great ways to do this without spending any money—it just depends on what you’re selling. A great thing to give away is knowledge.  If you are an expert on a particular topic, write a blog post about it and share the content with your loyal fans first. If you do graphic design, create a badge or graphic that your previous customers can download and use for free on their own websites!  Here’s a great example below from the lovely Wedding Chicks:Small business marketing on a budget If you don’t have the ability to distribute things like free printables, sometimes the best way to reward customers is to simply write them a personal email and let them know how much you appreciate their business. It’s surprising, but I haven’t received many of these—but whenever I do, I feel really touched and connected with the small business or artist who sent the message.  Suddenly they feel more like a friend than a faceless internet being—and the next time they message me, I pay more attention.
So there you go!  Those two tips for small business marketing on a budget should hopefully get you on the right track.   Keep your eyes on the blog, because I will soon be posting more tips for small businesses (especially handmade businesses), such as the importance of good product photography (I bet at least one of your friends knows how to take great photos—ask around!) and how to price your products.
Handmade products Tips for Small Businesses

Making Jewelry: Targeting your Customer {Part 1}

Making Jewelry: Targeting Your Customer

Making Jewelry

Regardless of whether you are making jewelry for fun or for a business venture, there are multiple variables to consider before you even sit down at your crafting table.  But before you even consider those, you have to figure out the answer to a single question: Who is your target customer?

Targeting your Customer (Part 1)

Once you figure out your target customer, you’ll be able to alter the variables in your crafting business to engage and draw-in this target person.  We’ve found that it’s better perfect your product to appeal to single group of people rather than trying to appeal to everyone and satisfying no one completely. Trust us, we know.  Fair Ivy used to have A LOT of options for monthly surprise packages.  We had Fun Ivy, a branch that sent silly surprise gift boxes to girls every month.  We had Fred Ivy, which sent monthly surprise boxes to men every month.  We had Fair Ivy (of course), which sent monthly gifts for women (yes, that one is still the same!).  At one point we almost opened up Fairy Ivy, which would be for little girls.  And the conclusion we came to?  We were best at handmade gifts for women, and those were the customers that responded best to our products.  So we focused.

How do I figure out my Target Customer?

Well, you could always do it the lengthy and expensive way like we did (as mentioned above).  But I wouldn’t advise that. Making Jewelry - Target Customer When it all comes down to it, you are most likely making jewelry because YOU enjoy doing so.  And you probably have a specific style that you lean towards, because it is the style that you yourself are attracted to.  So what we suggest is working backwards from your product and find who already likes it, rather than finding your target audience and trying to mold your product to them from scratch. Suggested Steps for determining your target customer:
  1. If you already have been selling your product:  Write down some features of your previous customers.  Gender, age, style, what sort of venue they were purchasing through, etc.
  2. If you’re new to selling:  Create a few different samples of your product.  Start by taking them to friends and family and ask for who they would purchase the items for, and which one their favorite is.  Some honest friends will probably let you know that it “just isn’t really their style”—and that is OK. DO NOT try and change your product too much to suit these people, as all you’ve determined is they are not your target audience.  Remember: making jewelry should be enjoyable for you, so don’t stray too far from what you enjoy.
  3. Post your product on Facebook and ask for people to “like” it if they’d consider purchasing it.
  4. Find blogs in a variety of genres and offer up some items for giveaway.  Watch the response and see who is entering the contest.  We suggest asking for a Facebook like on your fan page as a way to enter—that way you can have a quick peek at the public profiles of the people entering and get a tiny snippet of who they are : their gender, general age, overall style, and if you’re lucky their geographical location.
By the end of these three steps you should have a bit more of an idea of who is digging your handmade jewelry gifts.  Are they being purchased mostly by men?  If so, for whom?   Are they perfect gifts for new moms? Gifts for a long-distance girlfriend or wife?  Or maybe as a gift for Mother’s Day?  If women are buying your item mostly, are they buying for themselves or as a gift?  What sort of a gift?  Is it a surprise birthday gift for a best friend? A just because gift for a co-worker? These are all very important questions to try and answer, before we delve into the next phases of this Making Jewelry series.  Once we have some of these answers (even if they are vague), we can focus on these individuals when you are doing a (tiny) bit of product tweaking and determining your marketing plan. (These should come before you start making jewelry!). For even more factors to consider, check out this useful article.

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We’ll be posting again soon with subsequent chapters in the Making Jewelry series.  Stay tuned! Ps. If you are already making jewelry and think it fits with Fair Ivy’s vibe (see our Past Surprises for examples), we are looking to feature you as a monthly gift box!  Connect with us.
Gift Packaging Tips for Small Businesses

Cute packaging tips – Washi tape: Washi tape

A month ago, the marketing representative at Whole Foods in Santa Monica asked me if I’d do a cute packaging tips presentation for the holidays…of course I said yes! I sat down and started to plan what sort of packaging I’d present and teach the class, and came up with three categories of cute packaging that were easy to do and looked fantastic:  Organic packaging, feminine packaging, and creative packaging.  However, I decided that no cute packaging presentation was complete without a quick mention of washi tape!

Cute packaging tips - Washi tape

…so I purchased some.  Ok, I purchased a lot.  32 mini rolls to be exact!  StickerStop on Etsy has a wonderful collection and allows you to get little sample sizes of a ton of types of washi tape, and lets you pick each and every design you want included.

Cute packaging tips - Washi tape

Even though I saw the photos on Etsy beforehand, I still squealed with delight when I saw these little rolls, all wrapped around tiny little wooden spools.

Cute packaging tips - Washi tape

Washi tape is a wonderful easy go-to for turning a plain wrapping job into a really cute packaging gift!  Use kraft paper, wrapping paper, or even newspaper, and then simply use washi tape instead of regular tape.  Many of Fair Ivy’s surprise gift boxes have incorporated washi tape in their adorable packaging designs—it has a really cute, handmade vibe to it.  Check out StickerStop on Etsy for some awesome washi tape designs! Here are a few great examples of the many ways you can incorporate washi tape as cute packaging tips, or even use them as a a branding style for your handmade business!

Cute packaging tips: Washi tape in action:

Cute packaging tips - Washi tape






Want more fun washi tape ideas (not just packaging ones)?  Check out! I bet you’ll have as much trouble as I did tearing yourself away!

More Gift Packaging

Tips for Small Businesses

Handmade product photography: Tips!

Handmade product photography Tips from Fair IvyFor people who hand-make products, putting your best foot forward in product photographs can make all the difference in an potential customer’s decision.  Here’s our little guide to simple, inexpensive, and beautiful handmade product photography.

Get that perfect photo!

Handmade Product Photography:

  1. Products generally stand out better if your background is not too distracting.  Simple textures on the floor (e.g. a nice wood  table, bricks, a tablecloth) work really well.  You don’t need to try and be crazy unique with your background. Handmade Product Photography : from Fair Ivy
  2. Take your photos in an area with indirect natural light.  If you are outside and you look at the floor and your shadow is really faint or not there at all, it’s the perfect time.  An overcast day, just after dawn or just before dusk usually work well.
  3. If your item is rather simple (like a bar of soap), think of adding a small garnish to spice it up.  For soap, use one of the ingredients—for example, we sat the Oatmeal honey soap from our February surprises down on some actual Oatmeal:Handmade Product Photography : from Fair Ivy
  4. Take a bunch of photos, in all different locations.  Do some close-ups, straight-ons, as well as some crazy angles and further-away shots.  You may be surprised what ends up looking the nicest. Handmade Product Photography : from Fair Ivy
  5.  Do a little bit of post-editing in a photo program.  This doesn’t have to involve monster Photoshopping skills.  On a Mac, open the image in Preview, go to Tools>Adjust Color.  Try increasing the exposure just a tad (to the right) and pushing the Saturation a tiny bit to the right as well.  If there are a lot of shadows in your image, try moving the Shadows bar to the right a bit.  This might not work for every photo, so play around with these settings a bit.  IMG_7434-2
  6. Be sure to crop your photo so that the product is the center of attention.  Crop out any messy background distractions.
  7. Voila!
Want some help with a particular photo?  We’d love to give you pointers or make quick little edits!  Email : for help! Ps. We have some other lovely examples of handmade product photography over on one of our Pinterest boards: check it out here!