Blog

  • 10 Myths About Business Websites

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Here's the truth about the most common misconceptions people have about Websites and online marketing:

    1. "If I create a Website, it will automatically be at the top of Google search results."

    The truth is that getting a good position in search engine results takes more than just creating a Website and submitting your domain name. Each search engine has its own formula for determining which order sites appear in its search results. Basically, to get the best ranking possible for your site:

    • Make sure your site's content, especially headings, includes the keywords that people will use to find your site.
    • Get other popular sites that feature similar content to link to your site. For better results, make sure the link text includes the keywords that people will use to find your site.

    For more tips, read Google's suggestions and our article on Search Engines.

    2. "If I have a Website, people everywhere will find out about it and visit my site."

    Wrong. There are millions of other sites competing with yours. Just like any business, to get people to visit your site, you have to tell people about it. Here are a few of the best ways to let people know about your site:

    • Print your Website address on all of your marketing materials (business cards, brochures, letterhead, ads, etc.)
    • Advertise your site with online ads or traditional advertising.
    • Get people to link to your site by making your content easy to read and informative.

    3. "I can save money by having my nephew/friend create my Website."

    Sounds like a great idea at the time, but you get what you pay for. If you want a professional site that actually works and that people will take seriously, you need to have a professional designer build your site. Hiring a professional might require a larger investment, but you won't have to redesign your site, saving you time and money in the long run.

    Learn more about our Website design services.

    4. "I should just pay a company to optimize my site and submit it to 1,000 search engines."

    Submitting your site to a bunch of search engines won't help your results. Smaller search engines will pick up your Website from the big search engines anyway. And optimizing your site's content won't get you the fantastic results you want. Most companies that try to sell optimization or search engine marketing services are scams.

    For more information, read this informative article by Google about SEO companies.

    5. "If I send an unsolicited email to a million people, they will all come to my site and buy my products."

    Do you like getting unsolicited email from people trying to sell you things? The people you email about your products and service probably don't either. However, a very focused email marketing campaign to a small group of people who are your target market can get results.

    Sending unsolicited commercial email is illegal in many states. Protect yourself by sending only to "double opt-in" addresses (people who have requested email from your site and who replied to an initial confirmation email from your site).

    For more information, read our article on How to Market Your Website With Email.

    6. "If I just buy a bunch of online ads, my business will explode."

    Online ad programs like Google and Yahoo! are an excellent way to attract new customers to your site. The nice thing about online ads is that you can track the success of your campaigns and tweak your approach to get the best results. However, the bottom line is:

    • How much does it cost to get one person to click on your ad and come to your site?
    • How much does it cost to get one person to buy a product or service from your site?

    Here are a few of the most popular online ad programs: Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Ask, LookSmart, and Miva.

    7. "If I just put Google ads on my site, I can make money without doing anything."

    Putting 3rd party ads on your site can be a great way to make money from ("monetize") your Website. However, keep these points in mind:

    • Google can pay you as much or as little as it wants to without telling you why.
    • If your site's content is not matched to what people are looking for, then the ads that are shown on the page will be for products or services that don't appeal to your visitors.
    • Very few sites make much money from ads.

    8. "If I write lots of hyped up content, people will be so motivated they will buy my stuff."

    Lots of hype on your site irritates visitors and actually hurts your credibility. Instead, provide objective, usable information about your products and services. Try to show how your products helped real people.

    For more information, read our 7 Rules for Website Content.

    9. "If I just add this magic feature to my Website, people will think it's cool and buy my stuff."

    Before you think about adding an E-zine, teleseminar, survey, newsfeed, widget, etc. to your Website, ask yourself: "Why am I adding this? Is it because everyone else is doing it? Because I think it's cool?" If you keep adding things without a plan, your site will quickly become cluttered and confusing. Each feature of your Website should be designed and added to accomplish a specific objective.

    10. "I can fool the search engines into giving me a higher search ranking."

    Most of the popular "tricks" don't work:

    • Duplicate content is ignored. You can even be penalized for having too much of it.
    • Most big search engines ignore META keyword tags and pull keywords from the actual content on the page.
    • Cloaked or hidden content (usually lots of keywords) can actually dilute the strength of the content on the page.

    Search engines are designed to give people the most relevant results for their search; and they are constantly adapting and getting smarter. Instead of trying to fool Google (and their team of Ph.D's), you will be more successful in the long run by providing them with informative, well-organized content that people are looking for.

  • 7 Rules for Website Content

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    How To Get Your Customers To Read What You Write

    You have a PhD's vocabulary and want to use it. Unfortunately, no one knows what you are writing about on your Website, get frustrated and leave. Don't let this happen to you!

    When people use the Web to find what they need, they don't want to wade through endless paragraphs of words with which they need to use a dictionary to understand. People would rather leave your site and go to someone else.

    Keep customers on your site by using...

    The Golden Rules Of Website Content:

    1. Keep content valid and original

    • Make content readable that fits the needs of the reader (clear and well written)
    • Do not steal from other sites

    2. Keep it current

    • Update your site monthly so as to keep repeat customers interested

    3. Keep it consistent

    • Your whole site should have a unified look and feel

    4. Keep it credible

    • Look like you are a bigger business than you actually are

    5. Keep it convenient

    • Make it easy to use and to get the info they need

    6. Keep it clear

    • “I know what you need/want… this is how you get it.”

    7. Keep it simple

    • text to a minimum
    • use everyday language (no geek speak)
    • uncluttered site layout
  • How to Market Your Website to Other Countries

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Of course, you know that the Internet is available around the world, and you want to start offering your products to a different country, but you don’t know where to start. Below are some helpful tools to make your Website competitive in the global market.

    Look Local to Your Global Customer

    • Get a Website domain name that is appropriate for that country (e.g. France uses the “.fr” extension instead of our .com)

    • Use that country’s date/currency format

    • Sort search results alphabetically in that country’s language

    • Localize your content – make sure you don’t offend your global customer by using language that means something entirely different in their country.

    • Use a local translator when changing your content into a different language

    • Make sure your policies are legal and can be supported for international shipping

    • Remember, any changes to your site must be updated in for all the major languages in the countries you ship to

    • Handle customer service for that country in that country

    • List on country specific search engines

    Accept Multiple Currencies

    Pros

    • Worldwide market access
    • Easy for customer to pay for product

    Cons

    • Difficult shipping and price conversion on backend
    • Increased fraud potential

    Procedure

    1. Check with your merchant bank and with your credit card processing software provider about getting real-time currency feeds
    2. Ask customer early in the ordering process, what country they are in
    3. Show all shipping and tariffs at checkout (reduces charge backs)
    4. Use companies in the customer’s country to handle returns (customers do not want to pay for returns to the U.S.)

    Provide Billing and Shipping Information

    Pros

    • If you don’t ship globally, you run the risk of being left behind in a global market.

    Cons

    • On the operations side, you need to have systems in place to handle shipping overseas, collecting and paying for tariffs, handling customer service, handling returns, and fraud checking and resolution.

    Procedure

    1. Find out how much traffic to your site is coming from other countries (usually 30-40%)
    2. Publish your shipping policies in an easy to find location on your site
    3. Make sure your billing/shipping form on site can handle international info (e.g. zip codes, countries, unusual addresses)
    4. Make customer service accessible globally (use “Click to Voice” on your website or a “Real Time Chat” option), email does not substitute a real voice for customer service.
  • How to Use Search Engines to Promote Your Website

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    "Hmmm... where do I find widgets on this Website. Maybe if I click on "Products" it will show me what I want. No that wasn't it. Maybe this...No. Oh well, I will just go to the competitor's website and shop there instead."

    Make shopping for products or finding information easier for your customers by adding your site to a Search Engine Directory.

    Why Are Search Engines Powerful?

    A search engine will increase “qualified” traffic to your site. Shoppers who know exactly what they want, do comparison shopping, and are ready to buy it. The longer your business has been listed on a search engine, the higher the ranking above your competitors.

    Some things to keep in mind...

    More work required to keep accurate records of what you sell on your site. The more you resubmit to an engine, they might lower your ranking and the you will have to work your way to the top again.

    Procedure

    Link submission to the top ten search engines (Yahoo, MSN, Lycos, Netscape, InfoSeek, Excite, AltaVista, Snap, Looksmart, AskJeeves, GoTo, iWon, Google)

    • Make sure your site is running smoothly before submitting
    • Use a meta description tag that includes a unique descriptive paragraph for each page that describes what you sell/do
    • Submit your URL by personally entering your information on their site (these are given priority and a higher ranking)
    1. Submit your link on other sites to be cataloged when crawled by a search engine
    2. Link all your existing sites together
    3. Keep site light on images and rich in text, making it easier to catalog
    4. Leave image size parameters off or the search engine flags it as a bad information
    5. Use natural language directories (e.g. “AskJeeves.com”)
    6. Pay for relevancy words (e.g. “Looksmart.com” and “GoTo.com”) by bidding on the the most relevant words that drive traffic to your site
    • Must choose words according to your traffic data
    • It is better to use a product model name for electronic equipment rather than a general keyword
    • Pay for sales not clicks
  • How to Market Your Website Using List Feed Programs and Universal Shopping Carts

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    What Are List Feed Programs?

    A list feed is a file of your inventory that you make available to aggregators so that they can display your products on their sites. You pay to be where the customers are going to search for a specific product.

    How your business might benefit

    You don’t have to be the “one stop” shopping mall on the Web. You can sell your unique product instead of diluting your business. Instead of the sale being completed on the list feed site, it is completed on your Website.

    Something to keep in mind...

    You are listed with all your competitors. Also, you have to comply with the aggregator’s product listing format and rules. These vary according to aggregator, so listing on multiple sites can be frustrating.

    Procedure

    1. Figure the cost of participation on a list feed site (e.g. PriceSCAN.com, BizRate.com, AltaVista.com, etc.) and see what method would work for you

    • Click through rate
    • Pay on Performance
    • Commission on sale

    2. Learn about the effort needed on your part to comply with their system

    • Larger sites are more willing to work with whatever data you send them

    3. Research how much traffic the list feed site gets

    • A lot of traffic with high conversion is best

    4. Ask for a trial period of 30 days to test their site before being locked into a contract

    What Are Universal Shopping Carts?

    Universal shopping carts are an extension of aggregator (list feed) sites. The customer collects all the products he wants into his universal shopping cart on that site and makes the purchase on that site. You fulfill the order when notified of a sale.

    How your business might benefit

    A universal shopping cart is a way for small or new businesses to access customers that they would otherwise not have access to.

    Some things to remember...

    • You are listed with your competitors
    • Sale is not completed on your site, but on the universal shopping cart
    • Any Credit fraud charges are your responsibility and you are responsible for denying the order.
  • Keep Your Customers Happy With Inventory and Order Status

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Why Are Inventory And Order Status Important To Your Customer?

    Imagine this...

    A customer has just selected a product on your site, entered in their credit card, address and shipping information, only to find out that the item is no longer in stock. They have just wasted valuable time and not only that, they are disappointed in not getting what they wanted. They don't trust your company very much now. They probably won't go through the hassle of ordering something else not knowing if it too is out of stock. Goodbye customer.

    Or this...

    A customer ordered a product from your site. They spend a lot of money on your product and become uneasy about whether or not they completed the sale successfully. They do not get a confirmation email from your company, nor a shipping status link. The customer grows impatient by the day, and they get more and more upset. Just when they are at the breaking point, they call your customer service number on your site and talk to you. You have to spend your valuable time searching as to whether the product was shipped and, if it was, where it is at this moment. Goodbye customer.

    You can see from the above that having real-time inventory and order status information capabilities on your Website is important to you and your customer.

    The following are some positive aspects of using these powerful tools:

    • Low cost to your business
    • Increased repeat customers looking for your new inventory
    • Decrease customer frustration in ordering a product that isn’t in your inventory
    • Decreased need to phone customers

    Some things to remember...

    • There will be more work on the backend of your Website (link to Database Services)
    • Accurate inventory needed at all times requiring employees to update daily

    How You Do It

    1. Have an Order Management System (OMS) in place that tracks orders and updates inventory in real time.
    2. If you use a distributor for your products, make sure they are willing to feed your site real time data about inventory status.
    3. Let the customer know if the product is “in stock” or offer to show how much of the product is in stock.
    4. As they put items in the shopping cart, show what their running total is at all times (including shipping and tax if you already have their zip code)
    5. Include all taxes and tariffs at checkout
    6. Let the customer know up front how long processing and shipping will take for the product
    7. Offer shipping time estimate based on zip code, this lessens calls from customers wondering when they will get their product.
    8. Send a confirmation email of the sale and the shipment. This cements your relationship with your new/loyal customer by including the following in your email:


    • Thank them for ordering your product
    • The merchant’s name
    • Customer service information
    • Order confirmation number
    • Itemized list of items purchased
    • Tax
    • Shipping cost
    • Order total
    • Billing information with account number omitted (e.g. Visa XXX-XXXX-XXXX-1234)
    • Shipping information
    • Date and time of order
    • Expected date the order will be shipped
    • Expected date/time the order will arrive
    • Link to your site for customer to track order status
    • Instructions on how to cancel the order, correct the order, and any fees involved in doing this
    • Thank the customer again for placing the order

    9. Offer promotions for the next order that includes the following


    • Include a coupon code
    • Include a refer a friend promotion

    Congratulations, you have a satisfied customer that will likely return to your Website to buy more!

  • How Email Works

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    How Email Works

    Overview

    When you send someone an email, you don't send it directly from your computer to their computer. A series of email servers passes your message along until it finally is read by the recipient.

    Email Programs vs. Webmail

    Using an Email Program

    When you use an program on your computer (like Outlook or Thunderbird) to send and receive your email, the program communicates directly with your email server. To receive email, the program uses POP3 (Post Office Protocol), which checks for new incoming messages, downloads them to your computer, and deletes them from the server. To send email, it uses SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) to send the outgoing message to your server, which delivers it to the recipient's email server.

    The advantage of using an email program is that your messages are stored safely on your computer. However, to get your email, you have to use your computer.

    Using Web-based Email

    With Webmail, instead of using a program on your computer to compose and store email, you access an email provider's Website. When you send an email, your Web browser sends the message to the email server, which delivers it to the recipient's email server. However, incoming email is stored on the email server. You can view the message in your Web browser, but the message isn't downloaded permanently to your computer. It stays on the server.

    The advantage of Webmail is that you can access your email from any computer with Internet access. Also, you don't have to update your software, since the email provider updates their interface. The downside is that your email is not stored on your computer.

    Email Options

    Forwarders

    Forwarders are virtual email accounts that don't store incoming messages, but forward them to another email address. For example, you could set up forwarders so that email sent to sales@yoursite.com and customerservice@yoursite.com are automatically forwarded to your personal email account. When you view the forwarded message, it will show the forwarded email address in the "To:" field. You can also set multiple recipient addresses for a forward so that the message is forwarded to more than one person.

    One smart way to use forwarders is to have special email addresses that you give out to the public or use when signing up for things on other Websites. The forwarders point to your personal email account. If you start getting a lot of junk mail on that address, you can just delete the forward and the junk mail will stop.

    Catch-all Accounts

    A catch-all account receives all incoming email to any address at the domain name and forwards them to another email address. This allows you to receive email to sales@yoursite.com, info@yoursite.com, whateveryouwant@yoursite.com, without having to set up a forwarder for each address.

    The downside to catch-all accounts is that junk mail is often sent to random email addresses (e.g. kd93j5nfz@yoursite.com) and you will get every one of them in your inbox. To stop the junk mail, you will have to set up a new junk mail filter for each new random address they send it to.

    Vacation Messages

    When someone sends you an email, this feature saves the message, and then automatically sends the sender an email with a message that you select.

    Junk Mail Filters

    Email servers can scan incoming email and filter out messages that look like junk mail before they get to your inbox. They can also check with 3rd party services that flag the IP address of email servers that send junk mail.

  • How the Web Works

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    How the Web Works
    When you enter a Website address in your browser or click on a link, a lot goes on behind the scenes to get you the information you're looking for. 

    When you view a Website, your browser first needs to find the Web server that it will download the information from. It checks with the domain name registration company (e.g. GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.) and Domain Name Service (DNS) to get the IP address of the site's Web server. If you are using Simplimation to host your Website, this will be the IP address of our Web server.

    Once your browser knows the IP address of the site's Web server, it requests the page directly from the Web server. The page may contain links to additional files that it needs in order to display and work properly (e.g. images, stylesheets, Javascript). Your browser requests each of these files from the Web server also and shows the page.

  • Before Making a Website: Know Your Market!

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Why Is Knowing Your Market So Important?

    All potential customers have unique abilities and needs that need to be met by your Website in order for these customers to feel comfortable enough to pay you money.

    Knowing your market and catering to their Internet style will increase the likelihood of a sale.

    Market profiling 

    Web surfers most likely fall into one of the following categories. Before you have a Website built, it is always good to know these profiles. This knowledge will help you to gear your Website to meet the needs of most, if not all of your target audience.

    1. The Simplifier – one who uses the Internet to make their life easier. They search with a specific purpose in mind. Your site needs to be uncluttered, have easy access, and your policies and customer service contact information easily available.
    2. The Surfer – one who is a “stimuli junkie” and is more likely to jump from site to site and they love to download. Your site needs cutting edge design and effects in order to catch their eye. A note of caution, the surfer is less likely to spend money – don’t gear your whole site to this profile if you want to make money.
    3. The New User – one who is new to the Internet scene, let alone computers. They like to find specific things and are more likely to be your loyal customers. Your site needs to not use unfamiliar things that the New User may be afraid to use. Your site needs to be kept simple and needs to reassure the New User every step of the way to the ultimate sale of your product or service.
    4. The Bargain Hunter – one who is on a quest for deals on the Internet and the hunt is exciting to them. They are most likely to tell their friends about how they got the lowest price. Your site needs to show them price comparisons and why you have the best quality at the best price you can find.
    5. The Traditional User – one who likes news and finance sites. They like to read content on a site. Your site needs to keep it’s content to the point and link to other sites for more information.
    6. The Sports Fanatic – one who is like the Traditional User, but his interest is geared towards sports information. Your site needs to be fresh, colorful and offbeat.
    7. The Information Seeker – one who wants to know everything about anything, especially the trivial. Your site needs to be the expert in the field in which you do business.
    8. The Gamer – one who likes puzzles and interactive material. Your site needs to have widgets or user controllable features to appeal to this profile.

    If you already have a Website and don’t know your market, it would be very helpful to use a customer profile request form on your Website in order to gather this priceless information.

  • How an Identity Can Help Your Business Stand Out From the Crowd

    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    What Is A Business Identity?

    It is what makes your business stand out from the competition. It involves a unique, instantly recognizable logo. It also includes a consistent color palette that is used in all your marketing materials and your Website along with text font options that help your business have a consistent image that customers will become comfortable with and come to rely on.

    Why Is It Important?

    Your business identity reflects on you and your business. Does your logo look like an amateur made it? Your customers will feel that your services or products will have the same quality.

    A professional logo and color palette will be timeless. Does your current image span generations? Your logo and color palette need to be classic, a recognizable industry standard.

    Your identity is an investment. Do you change your look often? The more you change your look, the more expensive it is to update all your marketing materials and website to retain a consistent look. A good business image should stay the same for many years to come, saving you money.