EduNotes Blog

Plan for Success

Web sites don’t grow on trees. But they are organic. You are putting real money into your web site and you should expect real results. What kind of results you can expect depends to a large degree on why you created your site.

Do you have an e-commerce web site? That is a great start for setting expectations. Beyond “selling stuff” though, you should set numerical targets. Depending on your product it might make more sense to set percentages (increase sales by 30%) or number of sales (5 more sales a week) or a dollar figure (increase sales $2000 / month). With clearly defined numerical targets, you can begin to track whether the site is effective or not.

But there are other plans you should set for your site. Are you planning to develop long term relationships with visitors? Create ways for your visitors to interact with each other or with you. Blogs, discussion forums, and voting are great ways to provide interaction with your clients.

Is your site strictly informational? Determine, on each and every page, what you want the visitor to do. Do you want them to call you? Email you? Fill out an online form? Download something? No commercial web site is “strictly” informational. You want your visitors to become your customers. Plan how that can happen and then measure the results.

Once you’ve got a plan and have started measuring, evaluate on a regular basis. If the results are not what you’ve planned for, determine what your next steps are. Do you need to change what you’re measuring? Do you need to change the design or layout? Are visitors not able to do what you want them to do?

If you would like assistance in planning for success for your web site, call EduCyber at 720-275-4646 and we will help you determine what your next step is. (See – we planned this article out to help you realize the questions and then to call us for help.)

SHARE THIS:

Web Page Titles

Do you judge a book by its cover? What about its title? A good title can certainly help you get a feel for the content. In the same way, having good titles for your web pages is very beneficial for helping visitors get to the right content.

One of the biggest reasons to have good, meaningful titles, is it helps the search engines determine what your site is all about. If the titles describe the content of the page, it helps reinforce the key word / key phrase idea that is absolutely crucial to getting ranked well in the search engines.

One of the worst titles you could possibly have for a page on your site is “Welcome to <your business name here>”. A couple of reasons why this is bad. 1) it tells the search engines nothing about what content will be found on the page. 2) if the page title shows up in the search results it provides no context for the searcher to determine if your page has the right information. 3) OK, more than a couple of reasons – Should a visitor actually bookmark your page, their bookmarks or favorites are likely to read “Welcome to” and then run out of room. The likelihood of that bookmark ever enticing them to return to your site is very low.

So what kinds of titles are good? If you own a hair salon and have three pages on your site, the main page, a contact page and a list of services, you might determine that these titles both accurately represent your business and contain the key phrases your customers search for: Main Page –“Hair Styling, Hair Cuts, Hair Care Products”, Contact Page – “Contact Your Hair Stylist or Barber”, and Services Page – “Haircuts, Hair Styling, Hair Coloring: All Your Hair Needs” would be pretty good choices.

Did you notice what was missing? That’s right the name of the salon doesn’t appear at all in the titles. Why? If you’re trying to get more or new customers, they aren’t likely to search for your business name but for generic phrases related to hair.

Need more help with the titles for your web site? Call EduCyber at 720-275-4646.

SHARE THIS:

Is Search a Snap?

For many years we have been the biggest of Google fans as close competitors were not able to compete with the innovative technologies Google used. Now Snap.com is putting on the pressure with a whole new look. And it’s easy.

Snap lets you see not only the results but the actual pages that it finds right from the results screen. This saves you from having to click on the link only to find out that particular result is not relevant. This is about saving time and having an easy to navigate interface. I could spend a couple of paragraphs trying to describe how cool and easy it is but it’s faster to just go try it yourself. Go on. Try it.

Billing themselves as “The Other Way to Search” they really have implemented something different. When you start typing in your search phrase, don’t be surprised when Snap starts offering you suggestions (through a drop down box). If you’ve every used Google’s suggest a term function, it’s not too different but adds the twist of giving you the opportunity to search for news related to that phrase right from the drop down box.

With the dual pane view to show you both the results and the actual page of the highlighted result, you get easy navigation using either your mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard. You can also determine the size of the preview window (small, medium or large just like your favorite fast food restaurant). One click of the mouse and you can open the results site in either the same window or a new window.

Type in a location and you can also pull up a map of that location. Yes, the other search engines provide the same kind of functionality but the beauty of Snap is that you can see it right in the results window instead of going to a different page or window.

We haven’t yet had time to examine the quality of the links or results you get (does your search get you the information you want quickly?) but the first impression is certainly a friendly one.

SHARE THIS:

Your Data Is Gone!

Do you lie awake at nights worrying about your data? What would happen if you sat down at your computer only to find that the hard drive had died? Would your data still be safe?

The problem with most backup procedures for small businesses is that it involves a manual process. Somebody has to change the tapes or even remember to start the backup program. And if it’s manual, it’s easy to forget. If you do forget, it undoubtedly happens at the worst time (right before the drive crashes).

EduCyber has teamed with DataPreserve to make such worries a thing of the past. For as little as $15 per month you can backup all of your data online. Simply leave your computer on and the data will be backed up. Think of the worst case scenario. If your building either burned down or was flooded, with an online restore you could be up and running in just an hour or two.

Call 720-275-4646 today for details.

SHARE THIS:

How Much?

Do you know how much your home is worth? Have you built up a lot of equity? Zillow can help you answer these questions and is a great research tool if you are selling or buying a home. Located at www.zillow.com , you can type in your address and voila – you find out how much your home is worth. It’s useful for searching in areas because you can easily zoom in and zoom out and “grab” the map with your mouse to move to the next neighborhood.

The information and research doesn’t end there though. You can find out how the value has fluctuated (based on several factors including what homes in your neighborhood have sold for) over time. Verify that you are a real person (instead of a computer-bot) by typing in the characters in a picture and you get access to additional information like Property Taxes and comparable homes and their values in your neighborhood.

Whether you’re planning to sell, planning to buy, or just simply curious, zillow.com is a useful tool as you get started.

SHARE THIS:

Boost Your Web Site

Is your site getting the number of visits you’d like to see? Here are a few tips to help you increase the number of people coming to your site:

  1. Make sure that every piece of advertising that leaves your office has your web site displayed prominently.
  2. Ask your clients and vendors to link to your web site and also create a link from your site to theirs.
  3. Make sure that your site is listed in the big search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL. If it isn’t already listed, follow the links to add your site.
  4. Make sure that you use keywords on your site that others are likely to search for. For example the EduCyber site is careful to use words like website design and computer network on many pages so that it makes potential customers easy to find us.
  5. If you really want to make sure you’re getting not only more but targeted traffic, you can try a pay-per-click campaign such as Google’s Adwords Program .

If you have questions about any of these tips or don’t want to bother with them yourself, call EduCyber at 720-275-4646.

SHARE THIS:

Is Your Password Secure?

Do you have a secure password? As technology advances, so does the definition of what is secure. Not too long ago, a six character password with a number or special character was considered to be pretty secure. Now that has gone up to at least eight (try signing up for a Microsoft Passport and you’ll see what I mean).

Then there are the experts that say you should change your password at least every 90 days. In the corporate world the IT department can enforce (or at least make a reasonable attempt at enforcing) tough password policies. If we tried to do that with our small business clients, we’d likely find ourselves with fewer clients. Too many hats. Too much to do. I don’t need the hassles of trying to think of another password. Besides which, such enforcement usually leads to employees writing the password and leaving it close by. Such as taped to the monitor. Or the clever ones who put it on a piece of tape on the back of their keyboards.

So what is a person to do? Recently several experts in security have begun recommending long passwords that are also easy to remember. Why not have a sentence? “My name is Brian DeLaet ” would be long but is also easy for others to guess. “My nam3 is BriaN DeLaeT” is also pretty easy to remember but is pretty difficult for someone to guess. That password is 23 characters long. It combines numbers, spaces and case changes. A hacker using brute force (such as a powerful computer that can try every combination of 23 characters) would soon give up and look for someone with a shorter password. I’m no mathematician but I know that a 23 character (or space) long password where each character can be one of over 70 different choices (numbers from 0-9, letters from a-z and A-Z, and special characters such as spaces or punctuation) makes for pretty astronomical odds.

So as you consider your password policy for your network, consider making the passwords very long with a few deviations from a regular sentence.

SHARE THIS:

Building Web Sites that Work

Imagine building a house without a blueprint. Or a bridge without an architect and a good engineer. Every project needs a plan.

And so it is with web sites. If you don’t have a plan, if you haven’t architected or designed your site before you build it, you might find it falling over the first time it gets tested. Or worse yet, you put your site up “because everyone’s doing it” but you haven’t given a thought to what it should do or what you want to happen. Then you get frustrated because you’re not getting any business from your site.

To make sure that you build a web site that works for your business, plan for it:

  1. What is the purpose of your web site?
    Do you want to do ecommerce? Do you want to get more people to call you? Do you want them to email you? Do you want to lower costs? Increase revenue? Streamline processes?
    All of these are valid purposes for a web site
  2. Once you understand the purpose, determine the layers.
    How big does the site need to be to accomplish your purpose? A small business planning to add new customers might have two layers, a home page that links to the second layer of pages such as Sign up now!, Get a map to our store here and learn more about us here.
    A larger site might be required if the goal is to streamline an in-house process: Home page links to visitor’s pages and to a login page for in-house use. The in-house login page links to the next level where data can be input or received. As many layers as needed can be created.
  3. Now the architect can start talking to the engineer to determine what kind of materials are needed to build the kind of structure you’ve described. Do you need a database? Should you use Flash to demonstrate something? How should the navigation work? There are a whole host of questions to answer in this phase.
  4. Once those questions are answered you are ready to design the look and feel of the site.
    What color schemes will be effective? Do you have a logo? What are the consistent elements you’ll have on each page? What elements should be different on each page? Put all of these elements together and you’re ready for the next step.
  5. Now you’re finally ready to design each page.
    The question you should ask yourself on EACH and EVERY page is: What do I want someone to do when they get to this page? Should they call? Should they make a purchase? Do they need to fill in a form? Without a call to action or a solution to a problem, perhaps that page shouldn’t exist on your site.

By following these steps you can be on your way to creating a powerful web site that works for you.

SHARE THIS:

Microsoft and Google Go Head To Head

Last week I attended a seminar introducing the next version of the Microsoft Operating System. Called Vista, this operating system has some cool features. My Mac-friends will tell us that Bill Gates is still “innovating” in Steve Job’s footsteps though as many of the WOW features look similar to OSX running on Apple computers.
But a lot of the time saving features were very impressive. As I watched the demonstration of how easy the search would work, I had a nagging feeling I’d seen something similar before. And then it hit me – Google desktop search does (or tries to do) the same thing. Many of the new features I saw were obviously driven by competition whether from the Mac crowd or the Google crowd. As Windows Vista gears up for release late this year and early next, keep an eye on Google and Microsoft to see how this rivalry will play out.


Are you subscribed to EduNotes or does someone send this to you? If you’re not signed up, sign up now and get our “10 Mistakes in Designing Your Website” for free. If you’re already signed up and would like this publication, send a message to edunotes@educyber.com and we’ll send it to you.

SHARE THIS:

SEO

Someone asked me how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) works. I wish I had a handy answer but there isn’t one. It’s a constantly moving target, trying to get your web site to attain and maintain a high ranking in the search engines for your key words. But there are a few quick rules you can use:

  1. Determine the key words you want to be ranked for
  2. Actually use those words and phrases in your site
  3. Use meaningful hyperlinks – instead of “Click Here for your files” where Click Here is linked, try “Get your Important Files” where Important Files is linked.
  4. Check your web site statistics to see if your site is being indexed by the search engines (you’ll see visits by spiders like Googlebot or MSNBot or Inktomi Slurp. As strange or disgusting as these names might sound, they are good news because they mean your site is being indexed by the search engines.
  5. If you don’t see these spiders in your web logs, you’ll need to visit each engine and add your site to the mix.

Confused by terms like spiders and web blogs? It’s not quite a jungle out there but call EduCyber at 720-275-4646 to learn more.

SHARE THIS: