With a completely re-vamped website to match all the work I’d put in- along with starting to expand into writing this blog, and becoming more active on my Facebook page, it occurred to me that I really needed a more ‘complete’ look- something that I could carry forward into any future branding and marketing. I turned to then-13-year-old Curly- already not only showing artistic tendencies, but wanting a future in graphic design/ illustration of some sort. I told her the sort of idea I had in mind, left her with it for a couple of days- and she came up with my ‘dolly’ logo, which now features on everything from my invoices to my Instagram page ❤
After an initial small flurry of orders at Christmas the first year after CE testing, sales continued to be a lot slower than they had been before, and I longed for the days of hectic late night sewing just to fulfil my orders. Of course a lot of it was to do with the bad state of the economy along with Brexit and rising inflation, but it really began to feel like I’d put all that hard work and effort into my business for nothing. My days were spent researching into how to get my website seen easier on search engines, on examining my product descriptions and re-wording each one many times over in the hope that they would be loved once again. By now I had further upgraded my website to cover the number of items I was making and, still recovering from the expenses of the last few years, I was well and truly making a loss.
As a ‘last ditch’ attempt to make my brand work, I bought a further website address- exactly matching the name of my shop, Facebook page, Instagram and blog address, changed over to using that one as the main address and further updated the website. It worked to a degree, but sales- particularly over the following Christmases, were disappointing and almost non-existent
It never occurred to me until I was on the point of giving up, that maybe I was trying too hard… that conversely, by over-working my descriptions and keywords, I was actually confusing things. I was naïve in my thinking that I was making things better- I hadn’t realised how much time it takes for search engines to play ‘catch up’ with each new update, and that updating too soon could therefore be seen as ‘spam’. I hadn’t thought that maybe it was time to move my website to a new provider, one where I could start my design and descriptions afresh and just let my products speak for themselves- with just a bit of help from the website host company, of course!
And then one day out of the blue someone messaged me on my Facebook page- telling me that they could provide a better website package than I was obviously getting! Although I immediately dismissed the message as rude- as ‘spam’ and a waste of time, it set my mind thinking. I’d been with the same company for eleven years, they were no longer meeting my needs and I needed a change- although from a totally unsuitable company, maybe there was more to the message than it appeared…
Changing provider was a scary thought- everything I knew about running a website was tied up in my commitment to them, and I was happy (ish) with the online store I had created. Could I really change all that on the off-chance that it would be better for my business? But then I realised it was nothing- compared to re-locating a large family 240 miles across the country, or going through the upheaval of losing a house in a fire; building a new online shop with existing know-how would be simple! So I took the plunge and searched once again for website providers.
The choice this time was far broader, with providers and packages catering for all tastes and products- from small handmade businesses like mine, to far larger business set ups. Though it had never been a major problem as such, with the time difference between my US web hosts and my UK business having sometimes been a bit of an issue when any problems arose previously, this time I chose a UK based company- one that seemed particularly geared towards smaller business, with good reviews, a good ‘feel’ and a month’s free trial.
Again the set up was easy to use- basic templates to choose from and then personalise with your own colours and design, but also with many options that can be added to any page making the site completely unique to each individual business owner. The trial period allowed an entire website to be designed offline and all the options tried out without impacting sales at all- as I was able to continue using my existing website while playing around with the new one. If I’d wanted to I could even have run the two side by side as they even provided a temporary web address. If necessary (and it was) I could even continue planning and designing before committing, just by signing up and paying the first month’s fee.
I was so impressed with how much I could achieve with the design, how easy it was to add products, how quickly I got a response from someone when I queried anything… and the fact that everything could be played around with offline and wouldn’t be seen live until I chose to publish it (another niggle with the previous hosts) that I made the huge (for me!) decision to switch my site to them permanently. A few teething problems with switching the actual domains over to them, and by the end of May last year- three months later than planned thanks to COVID interrupting my mojo, I launched my brand new website 😀
Though a little sad to be saying goodbye to the company that had seen me launch my little business, I was so excited by my new shop that I couldn’t wait to see if it would change anything for me. I needn’t have worried as only a few days later my first order came through- the first for several months! This was followed swiftly by another… and I’m now back to averaging more than one order a week. Okay, fairly slow compared to how my business was at one time, and it probably sounds extremely slow to some people maybe, but for me it feels fantastic- especially given the length of time each order takes to make up!
What really amazes me is how I can be sitting here now, with a website that needs far less attention but which is far more successful. Where the other site needed constant filling with ‘keywords’, descriptions that included every word that someone might just look for in a search engine, the need for filling the online form in with ‘keyword rich’ descriptions that no customer would ever see and only search engines would read, lists of words and phrases typed in for the search engine section of each and every page or item or option… now my site is fuss free. The search engine section simply asks for a shortened product title and a sentence describing it- not pages and pages. And something about this set up obviously works far better!
Little Dolly Clothes Shop‘s website is now busy once again- and once again I have a steady stream of orders coming in. I know now to take things slow and steady, and not to over-react when slow times happen- re-working product descriptions again and again can confuse search engines, whereas sitting back and waiting for better times to come is the best way forward. Life for all of us has been very up and down in recent months- just like it has for my poor website right from the word go.
Having the right attitude, being willing, brave and having the faith to change things when necessary- as well as having a lot of patience, is needed to survive out in the ‘big bad’ world- something I’ve never been very good at, other than having the faith to believe in things working out when they feel like they should. As such, I’ll never really know just how I ever ended up running a business… but it certainly keeps me busy ❤