As we continue to examine the top 10 questions each business owner needs to consider when taking their site to the next level, we look at question 2: How do I expect people to find my site?
The Kevin Costner approach in Field of Dreams does not work. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken with people who honestly believe “If I build it, they will come.” But it just isnt’ so. If you want to get people to come to visit your site, you have to have a plan to market that site.
Here’s a quick list of ways you can plan for traffic to your site:
- Make sure every piece of paper and email you generate lists your web address
- Run a Pay Per Click campaign in one or more of the search engines
- Provide an incentive for current or past clients to come and visit – include that in your newsletter
- Get others to link to your site (this can be as easy as picking up the phone and making a call or as easy as offering the right partner a small amount to link to you)
- Ensure that your site is optimized for search engines like Google, Yahoo and Live
- Get involved in social bookmarking and bookmark relevant pages in your site
- Highlight your site in any print advertising you do
- Create a blog on your site and post to it regularly so that people have a reason to come back
These ideas are just intended to help you get the creative juices flowing. The important thing is that you have a plan for your site and then you go about implementing that plan.
For more than a year we have been offering the 10 essential questions to answer when you are ready to take your site to the next level. The response to this has been so good that we are going to take a deeper look at each question.
The first question is “What are the goals for my web site?” While the question seems simple enough, a lot of people struggle with this one. Too frequently the complete answer we get is “Because everyone else has a site.” Putting aside the parental instinct to reply “if everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you?” we sit down and talk about what reasonable goals people can set for their web site.
If you are selling goods or services via your web site, you will want to set a goal some kind of sales goals. If the site already exists, perhaps your goal will be to increase sales 50% over the course of the next year with a redesigned web site. If the site is brand new, you can set a dollar goal for numbers of sales.
Even if you aren’t selling anything on your site, you should still set goals. We track where every new customer comes from. So we know when we get a new customer through our web site as opposed to getting it through word of mouth. If your goal is to get 5 new customers through your web site each quarter, this will help you plan out your site. I had one client who had an existing site and he stated that his goal was to educate customers. I said he must be doing a very good job because the page we were looking at had 100s of visitors but almost no conversion to customers.
He looked at me for a moment and then said, “Well ultimately I’d like them to call.” I gently asked him where his phone number was on the page and suddenly a great big light bulb went off inside his head. Now that he had a goal – get people to call – he could evaluate his site and make changes as needed.
Tune in next time for “How do I expect people to find my site?”
If you are on the web at all (and you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't), you've probably come across some kind of wiki. Know what a wiki is? Almost sounds like it has something to do with witchcraft but it doesn't.
A wiki is a web site that allows lots of different people to contribute to the content. Apparently the name comes from the Hawaiian "wiki wiki" which means quick. Probably the most well-known wiki can be found at www.wikipedia.org, the online "encyclopedia" of our times. You can learn quite a lot about the world at wikipedia because literally 1000s of folks have contributed articles and updates to articles on the site. They've got more than 2 million articles in English and a couple of million more in other languages.
Wikipedia, though, is not perfect. There are constant minor scandals about how bios of political candidates have been hacked and just today there was an article in the www.pennlive.com web site about how wikipedia falsely reported that the 2012 G8 summit would be held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I would disagree however with the Harrisburg spokesman who said "You can't believe anything you see on Wikipedia".
There are some tremendous resources on history, geography, science, math and more to be found on Wikipedia. My recommendation is if you're quoting wikipedia on anything that could be remotely controversial, that you make sure you have other sources that also back up what you're saying.
Other wikis to check out include www.memoryarchive.org, en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page (open source books), www.wikia.com/wiki/Wikia (wikis on just about anything).
We do a lot of web site redesigns. Often the goal is to spiffen up the image of the site with engaging colors and graphics. But we also end up making the site more usable as well. And it is amazing how many of us (yes, we’ve made some of these mistakes as well) don’t design usable sites. Here are a few tips to make your site usable (easy for your visitors to use):
Keep all information within 3 clicks – 1 click away is even better. Our newsletter used to be buried down a few clicks to actually see the current newsletter. Guess what? We didn’t get too many people looking at our newsletter. Since we made the newsletter accessible from every menu, readership has gone up dramatically. And that is a priority for us.
Tell your visitors what they get, not what you do. Instead of a “We’ve been in business for over 10 years serving this region. We strive to serve our customers with the best service.” the first page should tell visitors how they will benefit from your goods or services like this “Need more customers? Need a web site that sells your goods? Would you like to spend less time on the phone and more time in front ofÂ your customers? EduCyber can help.” The goal is to phrase your offerings as benefit statements – how will your customers benefit from what you’re offering?
Include a call to action on EVERY PAGE. Simple yes. But take a look at your existing web site. Does every page has some kind of call to action? One of the first questions I ask is what do you want people to do on this page? Frequently the answer is “I want them to call me.” “So where’s your phone number?” I ask. Don’t make your visitor have to look for ways to contact you. Provide your phone number or email address or, if you’re in retail, an address with a link to a map.
Adhere to the KIS principal (Keep It Simple) by avoiding technical terms or, if you must use them, providing definitions or explanations. The world of web site design and marketing for example, is filled with terms like SEO and Meta-tags and cpanels but we avoid those terms or explain that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process used to get your site ranked high in search engines like Google.
So if you have questions or would like more information on how to make your web site more usable, contact Brian at 720-275-4646 or at email@example.com.
There are three requirements for a web site to really shine:
- Usable. A good web site is usable. This means that a visitor to your site can easily and intuitively do what you want them to do. If they have to really think about what your intention is, you will lose them. Say, for example that you want someone to purchase your gizmo in the online store. If they don’t see gizmos on the front page, they likely get their gizmos elsewhere. If they see the gizmo they want right on the front page but can’t add it to their shopping cart from there, they’ll go looking for a site that makes it easy to buy gizmos. If they have to give up all kinds of personal information just to buy your gizmo, they’ll find a gizmo site that isn’t so invasive. So the key is to make the site usable, whether you’re selling something or whether your goal is to get them to call or email or whatever, it has to be easy for the visitor to do so.
- A great site is searchable. In this case it doesn’t mean that you have a search feature on your site. Instead it means that I can go to Google or Yahoo or Live and do a search for gizmos and end up at your site. You would be surprised at the number of web site owners who haven’t carefully thought this one through. If you want to be ranked for “funky gizmos” you need to use the phrase “funky gizmos” on your web site. Attaining and maintaining high ranking in the search engines is an art and science. If you’ve got the time or someone on staff has the time, great. If not, outsource it (yes, that’s a plug for EduCyber).
- Lookable. OK, that’s not really a word but it fits with the first and second requirements. What we mean is that your site ought to look nice. And yes, these requirements are listed in order of priority. Often a web site owner will spend the most time on number three and not much if any attention to one and two. Statistics show that if a site is usable and listed in the search engines, it can be very successful even if it doesn’t look pleasant. Myspace has some of the gaudiest looking pages possible but as it fills a need (for people to share and connect), it has been wildly successful. We believe that a good looking site is a requirement however. That’s because your site will be your marketing message. This is what your customers and prospects will see when they encounter your company. You need to present a good public face to them and that is why it is required.
Most small business owners go to great lengths to protect their client communications from outsiders while also making sure those communications are kept so that they have something to refer back to. What would happen though if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) shared those records?
You’d go crazy, right? Well what would you say if they shared your email with the government, unbeknownst to you? Since your ISP ensures that your email gets toÂ you, and since you’d be mad at them if it didn’t get to you, did you know they had a copy of my email?
What am I getting at? Well today, June 19, 2007, a federal appeals court affirmed that as business owners we have an expectation of privacy of emails, even emails stored on your ISP’s server. The ruling says that the government has to get a warrant to get those emails. This is definitely a win for small business owners (large businesses typically have all their emails stored on their own servers).
Technologies that every Small Business Should Know About:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Blogs. Having a blog or using other blogs correctly can help you increase targeted traffic to your web site. Writing your own blog can help create the kind of community that every web site owner covets.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Pay Per Click. Just about every business can benefit from a Pay Per Click campaign to get prospective buyers to your web site.Â For some businesses this would be a year-round campaign and for others it might just be a seasonal campaign based on enhancing your boom season or mitigating slow times by offering special offers.
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â XHTML. Most people that html is the language of the web. So is XHTML some racy version of HTML? Not hardly. It is actually a stricter web language that follows XML guidelines. OK, that probably didnâ€™t clear up much so let me try again. HTML is a very forgiving language. You can screw it up pretty bad and a web browser will still show â€œwhat you intendedâ€. XHTML is much stricter and requires the programmer to not leave out important pieces like something called closing tags. As all kinds of devices are now becoming web-enabled, having a stricter language like XHTML will ensure that all devices from handhelds to laptops to desktops (and even refrigerators) will be able to correctly read and display the web pages.
PC Magazine has posted the list of the 10 most common passwords. Is your password on the list? We hope not. What do you think about having a 6 – 8 character password? Some people really struggle with creating a password of this length, coming up with complex patterns like q2!%vSDv. But can you remember something like that? We continue to advocate creating long but easy to remember passwords.
For example, start with a simple sentence: I like to waterski in the summer. That makes 33 characters – a good length. Now we make a few transformations. We change the l (el)to 1 (one). W e change one of the i’s to an exclamation point (!). And we change one random letter from lower case to upper case. The end result is: I 1ike to watersk! in the sumMer. It’s easy to remember. I’m no mathematician but I believe that is something like 94 possibilities for each of 33 characters which makes an astronomically large number to try to crack.
What do you think? Is this a good password or not?
Getting your web site ranked high in the search engines should be the goal of every site owner. And if you have carefully defined the niche that your business and web site serve, then it is that much easier to get that high ranking.
First you need to make sure the key words you want to be ranked for are actually used on your site. Sounds simple, right? Take a minute to consider the words your site should be ranked for and then look at your site. Have you used them?
Next it is a good idea to use those key words in the links on your site. For example, a store that rents tuxedos might have a page that explains how to rent a tux for prom. Rather than saying “Click here for prom tuxedos” link the actual text for prom and tuxedo like this “Need a tuxedo for prom?”
Third you should think about naming or renaming the pages on your site to match your key words. Instead of calling a page home.htm or page3.htm, give it a meaningful name like prom-tuxedo.htm. That will not only help you understand what page it is but it will also help the search engines identify what the page is about and what your site is about.
Using these three tips will help get you started on the road to getting your site ranked well. As always, give us a call if you’d like some help in this. We’re at 303-268-2245. Ask for Brian or Maki
Do you ever search for local things – a restaurant or other business – online? A lot of folks are. A whole lotta folks. In fact, you might be missing out on local searches if you haven’t prepared for it.
How big is it? Well, simply by the fact that every major search engine has a special vehicle for local search should tell you something. For Yahoo! you can visit local.yahoo.com. For Google it’s local.google.com and for Microsoft it’s maps.live.com.
It was easy to sign up for Yahoo and Google (register my business so that it would be listed) but even though I have a Microsoft Live account I spent about 20 minutes searching for a way to register my business so it would show up. That search proved fruitless. Both Yahoo and Google allow you to sign up for free. Yahoo offers additional services for additional cost. Google offers additional services at no extra cost. You can add coupons, upload images, and add as many services as you like.
The Google local search wants to make sure that you really are at the address you list so they send a letter with a code that you have to respond to. The process takes a week or two. Yahoo reviews your info in four to five days and then posts your listing.
We recommend getting listed in all three of these local search engines. Local search is only going to continue to grow in importance and popularity. Get in now and continue to monitor your progress. Need help getting listed or benefitting from your listing? Call EduCyber at 720 275-4646