Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More SEO Tips

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. No, I didn’t get kidnapped by a ghost at Halloween or hospitalized for over-eating during Thanksgiving (although I probably could have been ☺).

I’ve been busy working on redesigning our own site and will be launching it in the New Year.

While working on the new site we’ve been busy thinking about SEO and I thought I’d share a few reminders with you…

If you haven’t already purchased your domain name, consider purchasing one with your main keyword. If your main keyword is in your domain name, along with quality content and linking, you’ll be golden.

You may also want to consider using dashes in your domain name. Rather than WidgetsforSale.com, try widgets-for-sale.com. Although it won’t be your exact brand, it will help with SEO as the search engines will consider the dash a null value.

You should also make sure that your TLD (top level domain) is a .com if you can as they are usually ranked higher.

Even if you’re already established, you should still work on your SEO to get more traffic to your site.

Do your keyword research and build your pages accordingly – keeping in mind that you’ll need to sprinkle the pages with them. Use a header tag with your keyword in it and make sure that you don’t “spam” your content with overuse of the keyword. Keyword density is important. Try to keep it to only 3 or 4 times on the page (depending upon the amount of content you have).

Your inbound links are essential! Try to set up link exchanges with relevant businesses that will be helpful to your site visitors. Are you stuck and don’t have any idea where you should go? Try putting in your main keywords during a search and investigate the top results. See who they are linking with and approach those sites to see if they are interested in exchanging with you.

Don’t forget about your analytics. They will help you to see who is coming to your site, where they are coming from, what keywords they used to find you and what pages they are exiting from. Take the information and use it to refine your SEO and keep your site moving on up!

Wishing you the best of success!

Joanne

Friday, October 3, 2008

How to Get New Business during the Economic Crisis

Times are tough right now and more than ever, small businesses need money coming in.

Small business owners will be losing sales to the businesses that can afford to advertise during this down turn in our economy.

How can you grow your business if you don’t have the available capital to start an effective advertising campaign?

One way is through the Internet.

If you don’t already have a website, investing in one should be your #1 priority.

With gas prices up, consumers are shopping from the comfort of home and comparing pricing online before venturing out to make purchases.

Whether you are providing a service or a product, you should definitely have an online presence so that they can see what you have to offer.

Several times I’ve seen small business owners who have a splash page up with their contact information and the words “Site under construction”. This is a big mistake. Google and other search engine’s will not index the website if it has “under construction” on it. If you’re one of those business owners and you can’t afford to move forward with your site design at this time, at the very least, alter your web page to remove that phrase.

How can you increase your visibility on the Internet?

  1. Place content on your page that lists relevant keywords that pertain to your product or service offering.
  2. Submit your site to online directories
  3. Make sure you include your meta tags including keywords, title and description of your business.
  4. Write articles relevant to your business and include a link to your site and then submit them to article submission sites. Many other websites create RSS feeds from those article submission sites that can lead to many sites linking to your business.
  5. Post comments on blogs, social networks and articles to market your business by providing useful information. (Beware of the hard sell, make sure your comments actually offer advice or insight.)
  6. Seek out businesses that are related (and not direct competitors) to your business and exchange links with them.
  7. Write a press release outlining a community benefit to using your product or service and distribute online.
Small businesses need to stick together during these rough times and reaching out to other businesses in your community could prove to be beneficial if you can team up together to offer special deals to your potential customers. If you own a pizza parlor near a video store, you could work together cross promoting each other by offering a special deal of showing your receipt to receive a discount.

You can also team up with other small businesses in producing a flyer or postcard to be distributed for added exposure.

Join your local chamber of commerce (it usually doesn’t cost too much) and network. Go the functions and meet business owners from your community.

Even if your marketing/advertising funds are low, you can still generate new business by working online and through your community.

Please do write in to let me know if you have success or if you would like to share any great ideas with the small business tips blog readers.

Joanne

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Small Business Link Building






How do you get inbound links to your small business website?

Read on for some great tips!

As we’ve mentioned before, search engine algorithms consider linking to be a significant part of the equation, such as:

  • Anchor Text - Remember that “click here” doesn’t carry as much weight as “your product or service” will as a link.
  • Number of links - (both inbound and outbound are important), link to sites that are related in nature to your website.
  • Quality of links - If you are selling pet food, your incoming and outgoing links should be relevant to the pet industry, and not flood insurance. Consider exchanging links with other businesses with a good page ranking.
How can you beef up your link strategy?

Blogs
All websites should have a blog and information related to your primary service or product. Create articles to share information with your visitors. Providing your site with fresh content and helpful information will do wonders for you.

Articles

Write articles and then submit them on the Internet. Place your contact information in the Author section along with a link to your website. Other sites will soon pick up your articles and post them, creating inbound links to your site.

Press Releases
If you have something exciting going on with your small business that will be interesting and beneficial, by all means issue a press release. You’re article can be picked up and distributed throughout the Internet.

Outbound links
Place content on your pages that is useful and helpful to your visitors and be sure to include outbound links to higher authority websites. Placing a link to a page rank 5 site will help you!

Social Media sites
Use social media sites to comment on other people’s posts, articles, videos, etc.., make sure that you are commenting about the topic at hand and not spamming them regarding your business or service. A little bit of networking can go a long way!

Investigating the Competition
Do a search using your main keywords and see who’s showing up in the SERP’s. Follow up by searching for the competitor’s links (link:theirsite.com) and then contact the websites who are linking to them to see if they are interested in exchanging links with you.

Just remember to stay away from dishonest practices if you do the work, the benefits will be well worth your time.

Joanne

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Benefits of Having a Website

I have met a few small business owners recently who still think that they don’t need a website. If you are one of those business owners who feel like it’s a waste of money, let me ask you this…

When was the last time you actually picked up a phone book to look for something?

If you can honestly say that you don’t use the Internet to look for things, who can argue with that? However, most people today fire up their favorite search engine when looking for something. Wouldn’t you like to grab a portion of those sales?

Whether it’s a new product they are interested in, learning a new hobby, looking for travel destinations to self-help, the list goes on and on.

The benefit of being able to do research on the Internet is that you can retain your anonymity; there aren’t any sales people in your face while you are doing comparisons and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

Most people I speak with tell me that if they are considering buying anything they check it out first online. The next step is to seek out local companies that have the service/product they are looking for. They enjoy the experience of being able to research the company, see their product or offering and examples. After doing their initial research, some purchase online and others move forward by either making a call, submitting an online form request or heading down to the physical location.

Now that we’ve covered potential sales, lets talk about your service or offering…

Lets say you spent $1200 on printed materials to pass out to your potential customers and your product changes or your company moves to a larger location – you’ll have to toss them or worse yet, line out the incorrect information and write in the new. What does that say to your potential clients?

If you have a website, your online brochure can always be updated easily. If you decide that you’d like to try selling something new – add it to your site. If sales are through the roof and you’re moving to another office space, update your address on your site.

One of my favorite benefits to having a website is that your business can always be open to distribute information to your potential customers. Your website is up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. People can browse your services or products, find your location, learn your business hours and read testimonials from your previous clients while you are at home snuggling in bed. If you provide them with a web form to fill out they can also leave you a message indicating their potential interest and you can get back to them first thing in the morning!

By far, one of the greatest benefits to having a website would be marketing. In the past when businesses advertised, they often weren’t sure where their customers were coming from and what advertising efforts were working. With a website you can install analytics that tell you exactly where your customers are coming from. Not only can you view their location, what url or search engine they came from, but you can also find what keywords they used to find you. You can then adjust your advertising accordingly to gain more business.

In summary, the benefits outweigh the initial cost of getting a website up and running.

Check out the poll at the upper left hand corner and let me know what you think. As always, I welcome comments too.

Joanne

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How Do I Create a Search Engine Friendly Site?

Good Question!

If you’re going to spend the money to have a website designed for your company’s online brochure or any other purpose, having one that will be seen should be your number one goal. Otherwise you’re just throwing money away.
5 things to avoid:

Flash intros
I love the look of a good flash intro and we still design them for our clients when they ask for them. However, I always advise not to have one if you are looking to optimize your site for search engines. A search engine friendly site has readable text that the search engine crawlers/spiders/robots can read. They cannot read the content in flash. Consider having a flash header or another flash element on your homepage in addition to readable text instead. It will give you better SEO results.

Lacking content
I always say “Content is King” and I mean it. Having plenty of keyword rich content on your site will help you get noticed by the search engines and visitors alike. I always bookmark sites that have a wealth of information useful to my business or me. If you are looking for a minimal design for aesthetic reasons, you may want to rethink it. Quality content will create visitor loyalty.

Outdated content

If you’re going to place a calendar of events on your site, you should be prepared to update it. If you leave old information on there from last year and don’t have anything current, visitors may just close the browser and look elsewhere. In addition, search engines pay attention to continually updated sites. If your website is static and never changing, you’ll be ignored. Try to continually add fresh content for optimal results.

Too many images or animated gifs
I know they look cool and are fun to play with, but honestly, when you go to a site that is flashing and moving everywhere – don’t you feel lost? A little bit of movement works well to draw attention to the areas where you want people to pay attention, but continual movement throughout the entire page can be tiresome to the visitor. Furthermore, the crawlers can’t read the images. Having your sales message in a slick image rather than just plain text might be your desire, but if you’re looking for performance in your website – you’ll want to use actual text.

Generic linking
You should always avoid using “click here” to get your visitor to the next page. The crawlers also see it and give you more weight in the results if you are using proper anchor text in the link. For example, if I want to draw attention to our design page, I might use something like this: Please review the Complete Business Systems website design portfolio to view some samples of our design work.

In addition to the items to avoid, always remember to use your meta tags for title, description and keywords as well as the other SEO tips that I regularly write about. If you need a refresher, have a look through the archives located over on the right hand side of our blog.
Link

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ACS Relay for Life, Santa Cruz - CA

On Friday, July 18th - I had the honor of singing our National Anthem to open the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Santa Cruz.

The event was held at Cabrillo College and began Friday night at 6:00 pm and continued for 24 hours to honor cancer survivors, pay tribute to lives lost, and to raise money to help fight cancer.

By walking around the track for 24 hours, teams of 8-15 people work together to raise money through sponsorship and donations to help in the fight.
The official numbers aren't in on how much money was raised this year for cancer research, but one thing is for sure - our community cares.

I have participated in the event for several years by singing the anthem and my family has had teams in the past. This year KION's Hunter Finnell was the host of the opening ceremonies and I had the pleasure of being introduced to him - he was very charming and put me right at ease. He is also a cancer survivor, having suffered from bone cancer at the age of 18.

It takes almost a year of planning to bring the event together and countless people donate their time and money to make a difference.

This year, as the survivors came around the track for the first lap - I couldn't hold back my tears as I stood alongside other strangers as we clapped for them. It's a very powerful, emotional event where laughter and tears are shared amongst people who care and share one common bond - all of their lives have been touched by cancer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New iPhone 3G...should I get one?

I know what you're thinking...this isn't a small business tip...

Oh yes it is!

Well not really a tip, but more of a call for advice - which will lead to tips from the blog viewers...or at least that's what I'd like to think.

Many of us small business owners have taken to "smartphones" so that we can run about doing our business on the go. I have the Treo, many of my colleagues are using the Blackberry and I have friends and several family members (my nephew works at Apple) who are sporting the iPhone.

I remember when the first one came out - my business partner and I were salivating. We are both in love with our Macs and iPods. The thought of a phone incorporating it all was nirvana. (I'm not even kidding here.) The cost of the phone as you remember was a bit pricey but we didn't care, we wanted that bad boy. We almost paid the penalty on our Verizon plans and went for it. Common sense got a hold of us and we decided we should wait. Apple always comes out with something better.

Sure enough, it's here - the 3g.

I'm on the fence. Should I dump Verizon and go with the iPhone and AT&T? Or should I stay with my current Verizon plan ($165/month) and upgrade to the new Blackberry? What to do???

One thing is for sure, my Treo is done! This is my second one and I have to say, my Treo is a disappointment - I continually miss important messages, sometimes my phone goes straight to VM without even ringing (and no it's not Verizon, because I'll be sitting right next to someone else with the same plan and no problems). It's always been a little glitchy, automatically restarting on its own - not letting me know I have text messages unless I pull out the battery and put it back, (and then they come flooding in). Email downloads stopping and freezing.

Last month we were in Palm Springs and we were heading to a wedding and we got lost. My nephew whipped out his iPhone and GPS and wham we were on track within minutes. My phone...sadly...just a mere disappointment.

I won't bore you with the new features, but instead I'll share this funny sarcastic video with you:


Video tutorial: unlock iphone


I definitely need a smartphone to operate my small business effectively. My clients count on being able to get a hold of me and I take pride in being available for them. What about you? Are you using an iPhone, Blackberry, Treo or another brand for business or personal that you'd like to recommend?

Please post your comments and opinions, and in fact...I'll put up a poll over on the right hand side of the blog. Weigh in, let me know what you think!

Thanks,

Joanne

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Copywriting for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

So you have your new website design up and running...

You purchased a nice web CMS (Content Management System) to go with it so you can get an upper hand with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by providing the search engine crawlers with fresh content.

Congratulations!

You’re on your way to having a successful website that people will visit without you having to shell out an arm and a leg for PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising.

How can you ensure that your website copy helps with your SEO?

Follow these five tips:

Title Meta Tag: Always place a title tag on the page that describes what the page is about. If you are selling rare tropical fish, your title tag can be:

Your Company | Rare Tropical Fish

Description Meta Tag: Always make sure that you include the description of what your page is about. Your description will be what is shown when someone performs a search using the keywords that your page includes.

Keyword Meta Tag: Many of the search engines still do put weight on the keyword meta tags even though it has been rumored that they no longer place importance on them. Be wise and include them, but don’t overdue it, only include the relevant keywords to the particular page.

Header Tags: Using a header tag, you are telling the search engine crawlers what your page is about. They place weight on these words and you should use them to present your important keywords.

Internal Links: Use your keywords and keyword phrases in the links on your site to other pages on your site. Don’t use “click here” to link to other pages, use “Rare tropical fish” to link to another page on the site.

There are so many things you can do to get noticed and all it takes is a little time and effort. Look through my previous posts for more SEO tips. You can read them by clicking on the archives on the right hand side of the page.

Wishing you the best with you new site –

Joanne

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

8 Website Essentials

It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on your website design if people aren’t going to see it.

As I’ve said many times before, SEO (search engine optimization) is key to your website success.

Keep the following in mind if you intend to utilize your website to attract more business:

1. SEO. Your website must be able to be crawled by the search engines. If the spiders, robots and crawlers cannot read the content on your page, you are not going to be found. 2 common examples of sites where the content cannot be read are websites created entirely in flash and websites that rely on images in order to create a great “look”. Big name corporations who have the advertising dollars can afford to have an artistic “flashy” website, unless your brand name is known nationwide, don’t risk it.

2. Content is king!
A common mistake many first time website owners make is to use their company name and “welcome” as the site description. “Welcome to My Company!” Refrain from using your site title or company name for your main site description. Search engine crawlers consider your site description in the formula for SEO. You want to have meta tags that convey whatever product or service that you are selling so that when people search for those keywords, they will find your site.

3. Links.
You should include a resource section on your website that links to other websites that are relevant to your industry. You also want to have inbound links coming to your site, these help tremendously with search engine optimization. How can you find how many links you have to your site? You can do a Google search: link: yoursite.com to find out. Remember your search engine results rely on links as part of the algorithm.

4. Anchor text.
Always use proper anchor text in your linking strategies. For example: “click here” simply doesn’t have as much weight as “read our small business tips”. Search engines read those words and they put weight on those links.

5. Articles.
Having articles on your website with your keywords in them can help tremendously to get you noticed by the search engines. Do not stuff your articles with keywords; instead use the proper keyword density for the size of your articles.

6. Blogging.
Blogs are a wonderful way to drive traffic to your site. While your website is your online brochure, your blog is your connection to the public. Blog posts are indexed quickly and a great way to get noticed on the Internet. You can gain a large following by posting helpful tips, links to other resources of interest and interacting with other bloggers.

7. RSS feeds.
RSS feeds are a wonderful way to distribute your site updates as well as contribute to your site by including related industry news on your website.

8. Analytics.
You need to keep track of your website analytics and monitor what is working and what isn’t. Keeping track of whether or not your website is converting visitors into buyers can help you tweak your site to create a working sales funnel. If you are using PPC advertising, you’ll be able to easily assess your ROI. Don’t forget to utilize A/B testing!

Good luck!

Joanne

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) – Do’s and Don’ts

If you are new to PPC (Pay Per Click), you may find the whole process a little daunting. You’re not alone – it can be confusing if you don’t do your research.

The way I look at it, you have 3 options:

  1. The big 3 (Yahoo, MSN and Google) have services available to help you with your campaign.
  2. You can hire a reputable firm to help you with your SEM (that can cost you a bundle).
  3. You can do the a little research and try your hand at it.

I worked for a company that practiced a couple of the options listed above as well as just blindly going at it on their own (without researching).

What happened?

When they first signed up, their CTR (Click Through Rate) was non-existent. They barely had any impressions and not one person clicked through to their website.
Result: Google canceled their campaign for them.

Next, they signed on with a high profile SEM (Search Engine Marketing) firm and paid roughly seven thousand a month for advice and management of the campaign as well as their advertising dollars that they had budgeted per month (another thirty thousand).
Result: They spent a ton of money to have many visitors to their website, but the ROI (Return on Investment) was a big bust!

Moving forward, they decided to just pay the search engine team to manage the campaign. It was cheaper than the former option, however the search engine team didn’t really manage the campaign quite as closely as they would have liked.
Result: More money spent, less than desirable outcome.

Finally, with a little research – they managed the campaign in-house, reduced the amount spent per day and cut out the middleman.
Result: Their conversion rates increased and the ROI improved.

It wasn’t the easiest route, but it certainly was the wisest. An important factor was that they paid attention to their analytics and search results, used campaign ad variations as well as landing pages and they did A/B testing.

With a little research, you too can take control of your PPC advertising. You don’t need to pay an expert. If you do decide to go with an expert, be on the lookout for a company that is bringing more traffic to your site without converting. If that’s the case, you are just paying to have more people visit your site but you aren’t making any sales. Every time someone clicks on your ad in a search result, you are being charged for that visit. If they aren’t contacting, leaving their email address or purchasing your product, you are throwing your money away!

5 Steps to taking control of your PPC advertising:

  1. Tracking. You need to track the results of your ad campaigns and find which ad groups are working for you. The search engine provides you with CTR’s, but you’ll need to check your analytics to see where they went from there. The tracking needs to be at keyword level so that you can tell which ones are working for you.
  2. Testing. You need to split test your ads. A tiny change can make a huge difference. Is your call to action producing results? You can optimize the title, copy text and url to improve your CTR.
  3. Utilizing negative keywords. Removing unnecessary words that don’t pertain to your product or service will limit the number of CTR’s that aren’t relevant – resulting in using up your ad dollars quickly.
  4. Relevant ads. If you use the same keywords for all of your ads, you won’t know which ones are working with which ads. It’s better to split them up.
  5. Geographical targeting (Geo Targeting). The big 3 allow you to target your keywords to your biggest performing areas. If you are selling sheepskin boots and your sales come from colder regions, you can target those areas for those keywords.
I’m a big fan of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in conjunction with PPC. I believe you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

You can do a Google search for some PPC tutorials and get started learning how to manage your campaigns to produce great results. If you consistently monitor your campaigns and analytics, you’ll know soon enough if this form of SEM is working for you.

Good luck!

Joanne

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Martin Fire in Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz County

Unfortunately we have another fire here in Santa Cruz County. They are calling it "The Martin Fire".

It's in the Bonny Doon area near Boulder Creek.
It has been a few hours and it has already grown to 50 acres and 1400 people have been evacuated.

Officials expect it to grow to 1,000 acres quickly.

The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at San Lorenzo Middle School in Felton.

I just went outside and took these pictures to share. This one is even closer than the Summit fire to us.

We've heard that Gary Meehan from Bonny Doon Farms is out with hoses trying to save his business.

For local news coverage you can check out KSBW.

I created a Google Map of the Martin Fire in Bonny Doon and I plan to update with pictures and information. Just click on the fire icon and you'll see images and updates from Scotts Valley.

Joanne

Friday, June 6, 2008

What is an RSS feed?

Today’s post is for those of you who aren’t sure what an RSS feed is, how you can use one and what the advantages of RSS feeds are.

For those of you “In the Know” who regularly read (and subscribe to my RSS feed) and who are involved in businesses that revolve around the Internet, websites, blogging and articles – I’d love for you to leave your feedback or advice to newbie’s in the comments!

When I spoke at the Monterey Bay Consultants Group in April about blogging, I remember one of the questions asked from the group was, “Who has time to check and read all of these blogs?” It was a great question. I answered the question with my method of deciding which blog posts to read and that is by looking at my RSS feed. Some of the members of the group had no idea what I was talking about. I then took the opportunity to explain to them what it is and how I use it.

Let me break it down as simple as possible for you here:

RSS stands for “Real Simple Syndication” and people use “RSS feeds” to distribute and gather information from throughout the Internet. If you have content on your website or blog that you are continually updating, you can set up an RSS feed for the information. Subscribers to your RSS feed can then receive your updates via their “RSS feed reader”. That still sounds confusing doesn’t it? Let me go further into it…

Let’s say you are into celebrity gossip and you love to know what’s going on all the time (I know, it’s shallow – but the best example I could think of that the majority of readers can relate to). Every day you visit PerezHilton.com, popsugar.com, tmz.com and many of the other celebrity gossip sites. You could spend all day sifting through the many posts and all the content to get to the information that you personally are interested in. With an RSS feed reader, you could be updated continually with the posts from all of the sites in one place and click on only the ones you would like to read.

I’m sure you’ve seen the standard orange “RSS” symbol. Usually, where you see that symbol, that’s where you’ll click to “Subscribe” to a feed. When you subscribe to a feed, you can then send the feed to your “Reader”.

Readers” are also known as “Feed Aggregator”, “Feed Reader”, “News Reader” or just “Aggregator”. These readers are web applications or software, which aggregate syndicated web content including podcasts, blogs and news headlines all in one location so you can easily view them.

I currently use Google Reader. It lets me know when the blogs that I read have new posts and I can choose which ones to click on and read the stories I am interested in. Since my work involves the Internet, industry news is of particular importance to me and I keep updated by reading several blogs daily, however – I only read the stories that pertain to my niche.

Before RSS feeds were readily available, it took hours every day to keep up with industry news. Now I can get all of my information much more quickly and skip the information that I don’t need.

As a site or blog owner, how can having an RSS feed help you? Well, if you are trying to drive traffic to your website by using content such as new articles and posts, having an RSS feed available of your new items for your visitors to subscribe to will make life easier for them (as explained above).

You can also place RSS feeds from industry related sites directly on your website or blog in order to provide your visitors with even more information.

If you are using blog software, you can automatically place an RSS feed subscription button on your site, they all come with them. If you would like to create an RSS feed from your website content (perhaps your articles section), you can easily create one and just add a snippet of code to your site to get going. Most of them have detailed instructions and tutorials for you.
In conclusion, if you’re not using RSS, it’s time you got on board – time is money!

Joanne

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Santa Cruz County Summit Fire

We're experiencing a really big fire in Santa Cruz County. The pictures posted are from the KSBW site from viewers who sent in photos. We're close (in Scotts Valley) but not close enough to have to be evacuated. We did have to close all of the windows because it smells like smoke outside and it was starting to come inside.


1400 people have been evacuated thus far.


As of now, it's been burning for 12 hours and is currently out of control, there are more than 500 firefighters on scene and it's approaching 4,000 acres scorched. 40 engines, 8 tankers, and 8 helicopters are on scene. They are expecting it to burn 10,000 acres.

One of the major factors is the high wind we have been experiencing. Our power went out earlier today due to the high winds.

Google Maps is updating on the fire with evacuations, road closures, destruction, videos and images too.

We've been hearing the helicopters and sirens all day too. You can read the full story on KSBW. Local residents have already begun posting on YouTube. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

We have friends in the fire department fighting the fire and we hope for a quick and safe containment of the fire.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What is a Web Content Management System?

If you're asking that question, congratulations! You're on the right track to taking control of your business and coming out ahead of the pack.

A Web CMS will help you maintain your website and provide fresh content to your site.

A CMS can help with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by providing the search engine crawlers with fresh content from your website. If you have one, you'll be able to continually add new links and articles too.

If your considering a new website design, I definitely recommend you look into getting one. You can have your web developer implement many of the open sourced ones such as Joomla!, Drupal and even WordPress.

We developed our own CMS and have found that it's much more user friendly and easy to use, but of course we're biased! We love our own products! We have a page on our website that explains our custom CMS and why it's a great resource for you. Check it out at Complete Business Systems - Content Management System.

As always, please feel free to post your opinions - I love to hear what you have to say!

Thanks,

Joanne

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Complete Business Systems participates in Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Complete Business Systems is a proud member of Bloggers Unite and participated in their last call to action in December "Acts of Kindness", and do so again today because we believe in it.

Today is Bloggers Unite for Human Rights.

Human rights refers to the "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled".

The reason for today’s post is to bring awareness to human rights issues and the atrocities people are suffering every second of every day. The only way there will ever be change is if people come together and demand it. The only way that can come about is through awareness.

Just to name a few of the atrocities:

Children’s Rights Violations

  • Child offenders are executed in China, Iran, Pakistan and Sudan.
  • There are 100s of thousands of children who are abducted at school, on the streets or at home and recruited into armed forces and militia groups.
  • Many countries use their children to work and don’t allow them to be educated.
Violence Against Women
  • One out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime.
  • Domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for women ages 16 - 44 in Europe.
  • In the US a woman is abused every 15 seconds and raped every 6 seconds.
  • Women are being trafficked, forced into labor, abused and sexually exploited.
  • In Guatemala, Russia, India and other countries, murder of women often go unpunished.
  • Famale genital mutiliation is still occurring right now in Africa
Darfur Conflict
  • More than 2 million innocent people are homeless
  • Reports of more than 400,000 people have been killed
  • 4.27 million have now been seriously affected by the conflict
The top 10 countries deemed the worst offenders of human rights by the U.S.
  1. North Korea
  2. Myanmar
  3. Iran
  4. Syria
  5. Zimbabwe
  6. Cuba
  7. Belarus
  8. Uzbekistan
  9. Eritrea
  10. Sudan
(The U.S. has removed China from the list)

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. Can you help? Yes. Where can you go to find out more information?

Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Youth For Human Rights

If you are interested in posting a blog and raising awareness, consider joining the Bloggers Unite Group and posting your link.

Joanne

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How Can I Figure Out My Conversion Rate?

Just what is conversion and how can it help your bottom line? Wikipedia defines conversion as the transformation of one thing into another.

Website conversion can be defined in the same way. The transformation of a website visitor to a customer, or simply put - a shopper into a buyer.

Is your website converting your visitors to customers?

You may be thinking, “I don’t sell anything on my website, so I don’t pay attention to conversion.” In my opinion, you should. Whether you are selling something, or just using your website as an online brochure for your business, conversion matters.

In today’s society, most people are out searching on the Internet first before going into a store or business. They want to see what’s out there. They shop online. While some people aren’t yet comfortable making an online purchase, they may still come to your site first to see what you have to offer before coming into your physical location or making that first call.

How can you measure conversion rates? One important method is to install analytics on your website. You need to track the visitors coming to your site to see where they came from and where they are going.

If you have an ecommerce website, when setting up your analytics to measure conversion, you’ll want to create a “sales funnel” (more on that in a future post) with a final goal page that will validate that you have made your sale.

You can set up your sales funnel to have your “thank you” page, (the one that comes up after a sale has been completed) as your final goal. That way you can track how many of your visitors reached the final goal page (the verification) of a purchase.

To figure out your conversion rate, you’ll take the number of sales and divide it by the number of visitors. For instance, if you have 4 sales and 75 visits, you know that your conversion rate is .05%. 4/75 = the percentage of your visitors who converted to sales. Obviously, you're going to want to have a higher percentage than my example :)

Once you know your conversion rate, you can gauge whether or not you are doing better converting your visitors to buyers with your new pricing, new landing page, etc.

You can also measure conversion rates for your online brochure site. If your ultimate goal is to have the potential client contact you once they have had a chance to review your services, you can create your funnel using your “Contact” page as the final goal. Another option would be to get them to sign up for your newsletter and leave their email address. Many business owners have their websites as a means to create leads. By capturing their visitors email addresses, they then have targeted leads that are interested in the product or service they have to offer.

Once you begin tracking your conversion rates, you can then begin A/B testing to increase your conversion. Only when you have a benchmark to begin with, can you measure whether your site changes or improvements are helping or hurting your bottom line.

I recommend every website owner keep track of visitors and conversion rates via analytics. The best part is, it’s easy to do!

Joanne

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo at Complete Business Systems

It's Cinco de Mayo! What does that mean for Complete Business Systems? Not much at all...I thought just MAYBE that there wouldn't be as much work today, (you know, people love any reason to celebrate). I was dead wrong.

Today was really hectic! A few of our longest clients contacted me today with new business ideas. Other clients who haven't sent in final content decided today was the day to finish their websites. New potential clients called in with ideas for websites and logos.

So...I didn't have time to write a small business tips blog today.

With that said, tomorrow I will post a small business tip you can use.

For now, I have this to pass on:

Today really isn't Mexican Independence day.

Yahoo placed a lovely image for you.

Google showed no love for the holiday.

I'll post something tomorrow - as it's getting late and my margarita, chips and salsa are waiting.

Joanne

Yah

Monday, April 28, 2008

Do You Need a Small Business Blog?

Today's question was inspired by a meeting I attended this morning at the Monterey Bay Consultants Group, sponsored by IMC (The Institute of Management Consultants). I was on a panel with two other bloggers and the topic was “Blogging – what is the big idea?”.

I was very hesitant to accept the invitation to speak, I originally wanted Michelle to go as she's the better speaker and writer in this duo. Plus, I have to confess - I'm not fond of speaking in public. Originally we were going to be the only company presenting, but due to my hesitance, John Zott (the meeting presenter) found two other bloggers and made it a panel event. Once I found out I wouldn't be on the spot, I signed up.

The other two bloggers were Emily Thomas from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Carol L. Skolnick, from Clear Life Solutions. It was great to hear their perspectives on blogging and how it helps their businesses.

I met all types of consultants and I enjoyed myself. I have to admit, I ended up speaking more than I expected because of the subject. I'm passionate about blogging and how it has helped my business grow.

So...to answer the question, "Do You Need a Small Business Blog?", my answer to you is YES. Yes you do! Here's a few reasons why I think you need one (based on the meeting from this morning):

1. Blogging gets you in touch with your customers. While your website is your online brochure to get your company message out, your blog personalizes your business and humanizes you to your potential clients.

2. Blogging is free. It doesn't cost you any money and can be a welcome addition to any of your current marketing campaigns. Emily uses her blog to showcase the events her company attends.

3. Blogging is instantaneous. You can post something and it's live on the Internet right away. You don't have to wait for search engine crawlers to find your content. Your blog is alive. People can comment on it too.

4. Blogging brings in business. Several of our customers found us through blog postings. It's a wonderful tool for getting your message out there.

5. Blogging creates new connections. Whether you are making connections on Digg, Facebook, Sphinn, Blog Catalog or Twitter - those connections can bring you potential business. Isn't that what every small business wants? More business?

Although today's meeting was a bit early for me (had to get up at 5:30 to be there on time), I had a wonderful time and met some great people. Funny enough "blogging" was the reason I met them...

Joanne

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When Planning Your Small Business Office Space, What Do You REALLY Need to Make it Work?

Photo credit (Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Universal)
If you’re starting a new business, you’ll need a place to work. Whether you have decided to work from home or to lease a space, you’ll need to plan ahead to stay organized with your new business.

The three essential pieces you’ll need to run your new office are:

1. A COMPUTER
Let’s face it; you’ll need one in this day and age to effectively manage a business. Do they even sell typewriters anymore? Your computer will be the hub for many of your business dealings. You should set up a computer station that’s ergonomically correct and comfortable for you. You’ll also need:

  • An Internet connection
  • Back up hardware
  • A combination printer/scanner/fax machine
  • Software to manage your finances (I’ve discussed this in other posts, it’s important that you keep track of your business expenses from the beginning.) If you don’t start off keeping accurate records, you may get too busy to enter the information later. You’ll need to account for every dollar come tax time and you don’t want to fall short on your record keeping and get penalized as a result.
2. A BUSINESS PHONE LINE
Whether you choose to go with a local number or to have an 800 number, it’s essential that your potential clients and vendors can reach you. Nowadays there are online "800 number" services that allow you to maintain a professional appearance without all of the expensive phone equipment of days gone by. No longer do we need “phone rooms” with miles of wiring to keep communications up. You can have your business line forward right to your cell phone when you’re out in the field making connections.

3. A BUSINESS ADDRESS
Whether you are working out of your home office, or leasing space; your customers will have more confidence if you have an address. Especially if you have an online business, you should always have a physical address posted. Some small business owners choose to go with a P.O. Box to start off and allow for growth. It can be a smart idea if you expect rapid growth of your small business. You don’t want to spend hundreds on your company printed materials only to have them be obsolete a few months down the road because your business took off and you need a new space.

Obviously you'll need additional items for your business, but these three essentials are key to getting started. When you're just starting out money is tight, make sure that you research every aspect of any item you are considering purchasing so that you don't regret your decision later.

You can do it!

Joanne

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day at Complete Business Systems

As I'm sure you know, today is Earth Day.

You may be asking yourself "How you can I help save the earth when I'm just a small business owner?".

Every little bit helps, maybe you commuted today or rode your bike, perhaps you used the same paper cup to drink from the water cooler all day. Or maybe you haven't done anything...yet. It's not too late!

Here's what we did today to contribute:

1. We purchased re-usable shopping bags.

2. We changed out the light bulbs in the office to CFL's (Compact Fluorescent Lamps).

3. We used Blackle today instead of Google.

Small beans I know, but if every person just made a few small changes today - we could make a huge difference.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you did today to honor earth day. We love hearing from you!

Tomorrow I plan to post another small business tip regarding setting up your office space and what equipment you will need.

Thank you to all of you who have emailed regarding the last post and poll!

Joanne

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Should Graphic Designers Provide Mock-ups?

That question is a tough one. Many designers feel adamant about not providing mock-ups because the time and effort spent on conceptualizing and designing is time that they should be paid for. I couldn't agree more.

However, consumers want to make sure that the designer they hire can get the job done for them. Often times designers who claim they understand what the client is looking for and can deliver, fall short. This is a valid point too.

We've had potential clients ask for design mock-ups from us in the past. We've experienced both positive (getting the job) and negative results (loss of income) from doing so. As a result, we decided to make it our policy not to do mock-ups until hired because the risk outweighs the benefit. It's a difficult balance as sometimes we aren't chosen for jobs because we won't provide a free watermarked mock-up. On the other hand, we've had potential clients contact us (because of our affordable pricing) with a watermarked mock-up that another designer had created which they wanted our designers to copy. Keeping that in mind, we decided it wasn't in our best interest to offer them.

I read an article the other day from a consumer who purchased a logo design from a designer and the sole deciding factor was that they were provided with a mock-up before an agreement was made and that made the designer stand apart from the other design firms in the running.

I also read an article from a designer furious at other designers for providing mock-ups. He was angry because he felt that it was destroying the industry of graphic design. His gripe was that designers are working for free without the guarantee of being compensated and that the practice can also result in copyright infringement.

I wrote this post today because I want to hear your opinion.

Small business owners, please weigh in, tell me what you think! Should designers provide you with mock-ups? Do you feel that it is standard practice in business today?

Designers, are you providing mock-ups to your potential clients? Do you think it is increasing your sales? Or hurting your bottom line?

Please post your comments, or if you don't feel comfortable sharing in public, please feel free to take the anonymous poll in the upper right hand corner. Or, if you're one of my regular readers, email me. I'd love to hear what you think!

As always, thanks for reading...

Joanne

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

7 Things Every Website Should Have





















Don’t monkey around with your future. If you’re going to invest in a website - do it right the first time!

What do you really need?

1. A Professional Design
Trust a professional to design your site for you so that you can avoid all of the common mistakes many small businesses make. Just because you can build your site with Yahoo site builder, doesn’t mean you should. Take time researching professionals and go with one that has a proven track record and clients to back up their claims.

2. Meta tags
That’s right, you still need them! Time and time again I speak to clients who have a page rank of 0, yet they have had their website up for years. Every time I click the link to view their site and check the source it’s always the same. No description, no keywords, no title tag. Some argue this point that the search engine crawlers don’t pay attention to this due to over-use. I argue right back that you’re wrong. I’ve seen evidence of it for far too long.

3. Keyword rich content
A delicate balance should be used here. Often times people over stuff their content using the same word over and over. Does it help you in a natural search? No it doesn’t. Sometimes it penalizes you. Study up on keyword density (as it’s also ever changing) and publish your content accordingly.

4. A web CMS (Content Management System)
Unless you have the budget to have a Webmaster on staff, or the budget to continually hire a contractor when you need changes, make sure that you get a CMS solution that will allow you to update your site yourself. It will help with your SEO (search engine optimization) by allowing you to continually provide fresh content to your site.

5. Analytics
It’s vitally important that you have analytics installed and that you actually look at them and use them. It doesn’t matter if you go with a paid option such as ClickTracks, WebTrends or if you use Google. Just make sure that you do include them. Just think if analytics were available in traditional advertising all these years? What a wonderful tool to be able to tell which one of your marketing campaigns is working. What page on your site is driving people away? What website referrals retain visitors longer. Knowing who your customers are is imperative, and having the ability to make tweaks and measure improvement is a fantastic tool that we all should be using!

6. Good Hosting
If you don’t have a reliable host, how will people view your site? If the server is consistently down or your email isn’t working – you could put your business and your reputation in jeopardy.

7. Basic SEO
You don’t have to pay a bundle to see search engine optimization results. Don’t trust any company that guarantees you #1 placement. No one can claim that and even if they could get you there for a minute, they’d have to continually work on your site full time in order to keep it there. Also, don’t fall into the trap that you have to plunk down a bunch of cash on a PPC (pay per click) campaign in order to be seen on the Internet. It takes time and effort to show up in a natural search result, but if you invest the time – the benefits are well worth it.

Most of all make sure that you properly research the designer you decide to go with. Make sure you Google their name and their company domain name. Contact their previous clients and make sure that you feel comfortable talking and that they will be there for you in the future if you need help.

Joanne

Monday, March 31, 2008

Business KISS

If you’re in the business world, you’ve probably heard of the acronym KISS. What does it stand for? Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Too many times, business owners decide to write their own company materials, whether it is their main website copy, their promotional materials or even their business plan. Often, they can be “too close” to the business, as they have been a part of it since its inception. The mistake that can be made is that they say too much in their message and they lose potential business because of it.

As I posted in the previous blog, you want to make sure that you can fit your company message on the back of a business card. If you can’t, it’s too complicated to explain to your target market in an advertisement. Customers like uncomplicated products with a simple value proposition.

When you are looking at another company’s information, it’s easy to see when you are being shown too much information. You can feel it. You glance at the page and feel overwhelmed. You can’t grasp the general message. As a result you put down the written material, close the browser window or tune out or mute if you’re watching a commercial.

The same can be said for your company brochure or packaging. I know you want to get your message across, but the key is to pique peoples’ interest, not tell your entire company story.

If you have ever purchased anything from Apple, I’m sure you felt the difference in the experience. When you opened your quality packaging with minimal copy on it. It felt sleek; it felt special. Rather than sporting a bunch of bright stickers demanding your attention, with a lot of hype, all of their product packaging is just simple and streamlined. (Now I’m sure you windows users are immediately turned off by what I just said – but until you’ve had that experience, please give me the benefit of doubt) Less is more.

When it comes to your own business, it can sometimes be easy to forget that you may be saying too much. It’s understandable. This is your baby and you’ve got a lot to say about it. You’ve invested long hours and good money in this thing and you want to make sure everybody knows how great it is!

I myself am guilty of the very thing I’m preaching about. I’ve got a lot to say! I’ve got things I want to show people and I have a tendency to want to include everything. I have to constantly check myself to try and make sure that I’m not going overboard.

In the next post I’ll look for some examples of “too busy” to show you.

Joanne

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chicken Soup for Small Business


What do you need today in order to be successful in your small business?

Lets start with the basic recipe:

  1. A sustainable idea/product or service. If you are starting a business building cheap VCR’s you’re obviously not looking to the future. Make sure that you’ve done your market research to see that your business idea can endure.
  2. A unique approach. Even if you are getting into business with an idea that’s already proven, you’ll need to come up with a way to sell your business to consumers. If it is just the “same old thing”, why would they want to go with you over someone who’s established? Offer them something they haven’t seen before.
  3. Keep it simple. If you can’t summarize your business on the back of a business card, it’s too complicated to explain to your target market in an advertisement. Customers like uncomplicated products with a simple value proposition.
  4. Solve a problem or inconvenience with your business. In today’s society, now more than ever, people are spread way too thin and need help. Does your business fit the bill?
  5. Money. You’ll need some to get your business started. Sit down and plan out each aspect of what you’ll need and budget accordingly. If you are planning on seeking out funding, you’ll need a business plan.
I’ll be posting more in depth about the ingredients mentioned above in the next post.

Joanne

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I found out today that the Chicago River is dyed green every year for the celebration of this holiday. How did I not know this?

The topic today reminds me of how people perceive things differently. Especially in the design business, it’s often difficult if you are a business owner to get your idea across to your designer of what you’d like your logo, website, business cards or stationery to look like.

I usually ask my clients to send me websites and images that they like the look of so I can get a better idea of what type of design they prefer. More often than not, their taste is not the same as mine and it helps so that we can both get on the same page.

If you happen to have an Irish pub or you know someone who is need of an original “Irish” site design, drop us a line – in honor of the holiday, we are offering up this site design for dirt cheap:

Why you ask?

It’s a website design mock-up that we never used for a clients website and we’ve been holding on to it, waiting for a match. The perception of what was desired and what came to be, varied vastly:

















I realize today’s small business tips blog wasn’t too helpful, but I promise we’ll post something worthy of your attention tomorrow. (That is if we don’t consume too much green beer and corned beef tonight!)

In the meantime – you should read what the experts have to say when weighing in on what technology marketers should be paying attention to in 2008. (They quote my favorite branding guy Darryl Ohrt from Brand Flakes for Breakfast.)

Kiss me, I am Irish - Joanne

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SEO Tips

I just sent this to a potential client and since I wrote it all out in an email, I thought I'd just cut and paste into here. Yeah...I know...it's not exactly something new and fresh, however - I was thinking about you! I thought you might need a gentle reminder of some basic practices you can do yourself to help with your SEO.

For your inbound links, the search engine algorithms rely on several different factors:

  1. Quality keyword rich content (including using your keywords on pages in the headline ‘H1’ title of your pages)
  2. Inbound links from relevant businesses/sources using anchor text and ‘deep links’ going to different pages within your site (this also applies to links within your site)
  3. Meta tags and descriptions including text in the title tag and also in the body of the pages (although some argue that Google doesn’t count them, many other engines do)
  4. Sitemap (one that you submit to your webmaster account and that you continually update when new content is added)
  5. Articles (relevant to your industry and keywords with the keywords in the urls)
  6. Analytics (having a good analytics program in place that you monitor)
  7. Alt tags for images
  8. Manual submission to search engines (and submit only once)
  9. Once your articles have been added to your sitemap and indexed by the search engines, article syndication is a great help as many of the syndications keep the link to your article on prominent pages (thus encouraging more click-throughs to your site)
  10. Have a blog on your site where the content is updated frequently
More small business tips to come, I promise!

Joanne

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Good Links

I've been a busy little bee and I haven't had much time to post on the blog this week.

So...I thought I'd post some good links for you faithful readers!

1. People are always requesting to show up #1 on the SERPs (search engine results page). So many dishonest designers claim they can do that for them. I thought I'd pass on some REAL advice that you can use by directing you to a posting where 37 experts of organic search weigh in on SEO practices. Check it out at SEOmoz.org

2. I've posted before about Twitter, and I'll continue to do so until you all have joined! Why Twitter? It's a great tool to network with and to keep track of what's going on. Think of your RSS feed reader but with personal posts and tiny urls. It's microblogging. People are sending tweets from cell phones, laptops and desktops all over the world. Who's Tweeting? Everybody. Join us.

3. The World Beard and Mustache Championships. Why is this good? What does this have to do with small business? It's just fun :)

Stay tuned for a relevant post within the next few days...

Joanne

Friday, March 7, 2008

A-Z Email Etiquette

Do you know what you should and should not be doing when sending emails? Let me break it down for you...

  • Attachments: If you are sending an attachment out in your email, your recipients spam filter may perceive your email as spam. If it is a particularly large attachment they may not receive it. It’s better to zip the contents if you can or do an ftp upload to their server when sending large email attachments.
  • BCC: Use the BCC (blind carbon copy) field when sending to multiple recipients. If you are sending out a bulk email to several people at once, you should use undisclosed recipients instead of placing each address in the “To” or “CC” field. If you use those, you are publicizing someone else’s email without their permission. Or you can do a mail merge with Outlook and Word if you have them.
  • Caps: If you don’t already know it, typing in all caps is perceived as shouting and can turn off the reader of your email. Emails are also harder to read when all of the text is capitalized.
  • Delete Messages from Server: You should have your email settings set to delete messages from the server after downloading so that you don’t clog up the server or worse yet, have email rejected due to a full mailbox.
  • Delivery Service Notifications DSNs: You receive a DSN message if you send an email and it is bounced back to you because the address was wrong. It can also be the notification that an email was downloaded (not whether or not it was read).
  • Email or e-mail: Which is correct? In the beginning we all used e-mail, but throughout the years the hyphen has been dropped in order to simplify. EmailExperience.org is trying to “officially” changing the spelling to be “email”.
  • Email Disclaimers: You should include an email disclaimer to protect you from the possibility of being sued by amongst many things, unknowingly sending a virus (in an attachment) to your email recipient.
  • Exclamation points: If you are using more than 3 exclamation points to get your point across, your intended recipient may not receive your email. Excessive use of exclamation points (sometimes even just using one in the subject) can cause your email to go to their spam filter.
  • Forwarding: Always be sure to double check who you are forwarding an email to and any comment you may be adding.
  • HTML: Always remember when formatting your outgoing emails that your recipient may not be able to see the formatting that you have applied, whether it is html or rich text. They may only be able to see plain text emails.
  • Junk Mail: Don’t reply to it to have yourself unsubscribed. All you will be doing is confirming that your email address is active and it will only generate more junk or “spam”.
  • LOL and Smiley Faces: If you are sending out a professional email representing your company, be sure not to include these until you have established a rapport with the client. Only then will you know whether or not it is o.k. to insert them.
  • Message Thread: If you are replying to someone’s email always be sure to include the previous message thread so that they can reference each point and won’t have to go back and look at older emails. This is especially helpful for businesses that receive several emails per day from different clientele.
  • Priority Emails: When marking a message as priority or urgent, only do so on a message that truly is. Overuse of the priority feature will have the “boy who cried wolf” effect and one day when you truly do need to send an important email, you may not be taken seriously.
  • Reply to All: When replying to an email that was sent to multiple recipients, make sure you are replying to only the sender when you respond. That is unless you have something to add to the email that is relevant to all of the recipients. Many people have been removed from their positions by accidentally sending inappropriate emails to unintended recipients.
  • Return Receipts: Although it is a great concept, it almost never works. Most email programs do not support return receipts. When an email client does support them, the viewer is usually prompted with a message asking them to let you know that they read their mail and this can be perceived as rude. In addition it also has the option to cancel the notification to you. The room for error can be that you think they have read your email when they have not, when in fact it was only downloaded to their email client yet remains in the inbox unread. The best way to know if your email was received and read is to confirm with the recipient.
  • Spam and Chain Letters: There are many scams out on the Internet today and new ones are coming out every week. Don’t be fooled by email from PayPal or your credit card companies asking for personal information. Additionally, don’t forward chain letters, they are fake – you are not going to be struck down with bad luck if you don’t forward within 10 minutes to everybody you ever met. Many of them contain viruses – just delete them.
I think it’s also important to mention that even though you sent an email to someone, it doesn’t mean that they received it; it could be sitting online in their spam folder. Before jumping to conclusions, take the time to check and see. It should also be said that they might have seen it but been unable to respond at that time (perhaps they are on the phone, maybe they had a meeting to go to), patience should be practiced. It isn’t an instantaneous mode of communication.

I hope the advice above helps you and if you can think of anything to add, by all means – please comment.

Joanne

Monday, March 3, 2008

Domain Name Scam

Why the fortune cookie?

I made this image to go with my post because I want to help you build and maintain your company “fortune”. One way I plan to do that is to alert you when I hear of a scam.

As mentioned in my last post about domain names coming up for renewal, there are scam artists out there that want to get your hard earned money.

The latest one comes from a company called China Net Technology Limited. They are sending out emails to companies in an attempt to get them to register every domain name under the sun at a higher rate than you should pay.

One of my clients received this message today:

Dear Manager,

We are China Net Technology Limited, which is the domain name register center in China. I am very sorry to bother you and have something need to confirm with you.

we have received an application formally, one company named MieDac Holdings Limited applies for the domain names(.c .com.cn.info.asia.biz.hk etc.) and the Internet Brand Name( ) on the internet Mar 3. 2008. We need to know the opinion of your company, because the domain names and keywords may relate to the usufruct of brand name on internet.

we would like to get the affirmation of your company,please contact us by telephone or email as soon as possible. Please let someone in your company who is responsible for trademark or intellectual right contact me freely.

Please confirm you have received my mail. Thank you!

Warm Regards,

Air.yi

Sponsoring Registrar:

China Net Technology Limited.

Tel:+(852)30759838

Fax:+(852)3177 1520

Email: air.yi@china-net.hk

Website: www.china-net.hk


Fortunately, my client had the good sense to forward the email to me to review. (I removed his domain name from the email for his privacy.) In addition to the numerous spelling and grammar errors above, I also Google’d the company and found many other posts on the Internet of people they are trying to scam.

In the future if you should receive any type of questionable mail regarding your domain name, run it past your webmaster or hosting company - or if you are one of my clients, feel free to contact me to make sure you aren’t getting scammed too.

Joanne

Friday, February 22, 2008

Domain Name Renewal

Is your domain name coming up for renewal?

If so, take into consideration the tips below in order to make it a painless process:

  • Don’t get fooled by scammers and pay through the nose for your domain name. If you are new to owning a website and domain name, you may have purchased just a year in the beginning to wait and see if you were successful or not. If your domain name isn’t private, people can look up the information and contact you to renew your name.
  • It happens every day and what they do is contact you pretending that you need to order the domain name from them. You’ll notice that the name is significantly higher for the second year and you may not recognize the company name. Many people have no idea they are being scammed and send in their money to keep their domain name registered. Often times the fake companies will take your money and run.
  • Additionally, there are companies who like to swoop in under your registrar and get you to order your domain name renewal and transfer it to them at a higher price than your regular registrar.
  • When in doubt, contact your domain name provider to see if they have indeed sent you a renewal notice and be aware that a domain name should never cost more than around $14.00 tops. If you’re paying any higher, you are overpaying!
  • Lastly, it has been reported that having your domain name registered for more than a year will help you with SEO. There are people who firmly believe this and others who do not. If it is true and you purchase 2 or more years, you’ll most likely get a discount for ordering more than one year. If it isn’t true and you get a discount anyhow, you’re saving money and don’t we love that?
The whole process can be quick and painless, just make sure that you don't let it expire and have the dreaded "parked" page up there. Pay attention to always managing your company website and keep things current.

Joanne

Friday, February 15, 2008

Too busy to post?

Yes, I have been too busy to post on the small business tips blog. So...rather than leave you high and dry I will give you two fabulous things to look at:

1. My new favorite video website Howcast.com. Why? Think Youtube but with instructions. Fun informative videos such as how to throw a frisbee, how to tell your kids you are getting a divorce, how to write a love song, and for you golfers, how to clear a wicked slice...you get the picture.

1. You know I've mentioned twitter before and how I think it is a great tool. Check out this story from Jaffe Juice about the layoffs at Yahoo and the tweets from Ryan Kuder.

I was going to give you three...but alas I have run out of time.

Next week I promise to give you some good tips you can use. In the meantime, use the good tips on howcast.com, why not?

Joanne

Monday, February 11, 2008

How to Rank Better with Keywords

We’ve discussed this before, but of course I like to always go back and talk about subjects that were "hot" for our new readers.

Do you have a keyword strategy? If so, please weigh in and leave a comment. If not, check out some steps you may want to consider:

Quality Content
Your number one goal should always be to create quality content for your keywords. It will drive traffic to your site if it is useful and your visitors recommend your site to other visitors.

SEO
There is a lot of advice out on the web regarding SEO and many arguments about what does and does not work but one thing remains constant, if you take the time to optimize your pages for the search engines, you will receive better results than if you didn’t. One popular method is to have your keyword in the headline or H1 title of your page. Make sure the keyword is included in the first and last 25 words on the page. Pay attention to keyword density and don’t overstuff your pages with your keyword, it won’t work.

Blogging and Web 2.0
Your site should have a blog and an RSS feed attached so that you can use them to boost your keyword ranks. Make sure you tag your posts too, Blogger has a form where you can put your keywords (tags) for each blog post and WordPress uses categories that will automatically be seen as tags.

Article Marketing
If you want to be found using your keywords, try writing an article and placing it in a relevant section on your site. Once Google has indexed your site and has found your article (you can speed up the process by uploading a new sitemap and letting Google know about it), go out and syndicate that article by submitting it to other article sites.

Long Tails
You can work off of your master list and use related long tail keywords. Use one of the free keyword searches to find out what the daily searches are and go for the ones that aren’t in high competition if your site is relatively new. If you don't know what a long tail keyword is, please let me know and I'll do another post on that!

Domain names, URLs and Titles
If you haven’t purchased your domain name yet and you know that you are going to have a specific keyword that will relate to your site, buy a domain name with the keyword in it. Make sure that you have your keyword in your URLs to your pages and in your meta and title tags for the page.

Links
Use anchor text incorporating your keyword to link to your page. What that means is, instead of “click here” put the keyword so that it is the underlined linkable text. In addition, try to get quality one-way links from other websites that are related to yours. For instance if you sell baby clothes, try to get a website for moms to link to your site.

Useful Links for keywords:

Google Keyword Selector Tool is great, it can scan your site for existing keywords as well as give you suggestions for related keywords.

Want to see what people have been searching for in the past on Google? Try Google Suggest and start typing in your keyword.

Enter your site url and see what sitereportcard.com has to say about your optimization or keywords. It’s a fun and free tool for you to use.

There are many other tips for getting your keywords to work for you and I’d love to open up a discussion here so that we can help you grow your business. If you are one of my blog readers and you have some advice to share, please post a comment and give us your opinion.

Joanne