Website Basics: Recipe for Success

The most frequently asked question I get is, "How can I do this myself?"  Let's first establish that building your own website is like installing your own fence instead of paying a contractor.  It's not going to look professionally done.  It won't be very hardy and you should expect it to break down more quickly than it would if you had invested in a pro.  That said, you CAN do it.  And, like building your own fence, you will be required to learn how to use the tools.  You can't just go toss some lumber and some nails on the ground and walk away.  You have to actually build a framework.  What is the main thing you want your website visitors to do? Buy a widget? Buy your service?  That is your Call to Action.  Make sure visitors know exactly what you want them to do when they arrive at your site.  Create a clear Call To Action and put it in the body of your page.  
Picture of a basic web page
Website Basics
Other pages might include About Us, Testimonials, Other products for sale, etc. So, go sketch out a plan for your site, keeping in mind your Call To Action!

Fresh! Refreshing Your Web Browser

Every once in awhile I get a frantic call from someone who can't see their web changes because they are looking at a stored version of a website.   One solution is to install a "no cache" meta tag in the header of the site.  It looks like this: meta http-equiv="Expires" content="0" / meta http-equiv="PRAGMA" content="NO-CACHE" / Certainly you should encourage your clients to do some basic browser maintenance. I found this helpful step-by-step resource for helping non-technical people manage their PC housekeeping, written by the I.T. department at the University of Indiana.  "Each time you access a file through your web browser, the browser caches (stores) it. In this way, the files (including any images on the page) do not have to be retrieved anew from the remote web site each time you click the Back or Forward buttons. You should periodically clear the cache to allow your browser to function more efficiently. http://kb.iu.edu/data/ahic.html"

Words Are Worth a Thousand Pictures!

Be sure your designer creates your website with text in mind, organized in managable, easily distinguised boxes or paragraphs with lots of keyword-rich headline h1 tags. You need to have lots and lots of real, searchable keyword-rich text on your site, especially on the homepage. Your homepage should contain samples of every bit of content you care to place on every page of your website. Not just -links, but nice descriptive paragraphs. Keyword-rich text text text all around. Google spiders should visit your site and eat up tons and tons of text and index you with loads of valid, solid information. Text that is written for the web isn't as lovley or poetic as it is for print, but it's essential that it be very straightforward, direct and descriptive.

Keyword Advertising: 10 Things You Need To Know Before You Spend Money on Keyword Advertising

Picture of thumbs up 10 things you need to know before you spend money on keyword advertising By Lori Bratz WebProHelp.com The best customers are the ones that come looking for you. I could sit and cold call businesses all day long and try to explain why they need me, but it's much easier to pay search engines or strive for high organic placement to send me qualified leads: people who are looking for my services already. It's good to strike while the iron is hot, and when keywords turn into hot customers, send them to me. What do you need to know to buy keywords that actually convert to sales? #1. Know your bottom line. An alarming number of business owners have NO idea what percentage of their money is being spent on essentials or how much profit they are earning, consequently, they don't know what they can afford to spend on advertising. Do not start buying advertising (or anything else) until you know your bottom line. #2. Know your customers. Who are the people that want to buy your product or service? Where do they live? Target those people in that area only. Highly targeted ads are more expensive, but they also deliver more qualified leads. #3. Know your sales cycle. How long does it normally take consumers to purchase your product after they decide they may want or need it? Usually, the more expensive a product or service is, the longer the buying cycle. If you're selling a $50 radio, you will probably see lots of conversion right away. If you're selling a $15,000 roof repair job, the sales process will take a lot longer. Your audience is taking time to make an informed decision, gathering information, taking to experts, financial institutions, insurance companies, etc. If you stop advertising before the buyer completes the buying process, then you wont be there when they are ready to make the purchase. Be prepared to go the distance. #4. Have a realistic advertising budget. Remember the old saying, "You need to spend money to make money." I always tell my clients that if the conversion is there, they should spend as much as they can on their advertising. That is, if it costs you $10 to make $100, why wouldn't you do as much as you could? Throwing just a few dollars at advertising is like throwing it out the window. #5. Know your acquisition cost in order to get started. That is, how much it costs you right now to get a customer. For example, if you spend $200 mailing out flyers, and you get 10 customers in your store, then your acquisition cost is $20. It costs you $20 to get a customer. Online advertising works in much the same way. Don't expect the internet to magically send you customers for nothing. Anything worth having is worth working for. It's a numbers game. Go go go. #6. Know your availability and inventory. Are you advertising so aggressively that you can't keep up with your orders? #7. Know your industry. If you are selling a product or service that is in a highly competitive market with major, corporate-backed budgets, consider niching. A niche is a specialty product or service. If your market is highly saturated, your keywords will be far less effective than a new or un-tapped market. #8. Know your competition. Study your competitors ads to see how they are representing themselves and then make your ad more inviting to customers. If you see that your competitor is offering your main product for less, then offer free shipping. Note: You must NEVER click a competitor's ad. That is plainly and simply stealing. When you visit your competitor's site, type their URL into a browser. There's plenty of customers out there for everyone. Fraud click is the lowest, most reprehensible behavior on the net. #9. Know when to try something else: You can learn what keywords people are searching to get to you by studying your search engine account page and you own website statistics. If you have keywords that aren't converting, then simply stop spending time and money on those keywords. #10. Hire a professional: There are lots of people who claim to be SEO specialists, but only a few truly deliver on these claims. You truly get what you pay for. Look for someone with proven results.

Government Contracts: How to Bid

Government Contracts: How to Bid By Lori Bratz Webprohelp.com Everyone thinks that winning a government contract is a big payday.  Think again.  Most companies earn only 15% profit on their governement contracts, which is, of course, a decent margin.  In addition to the contract NOT being a huge financial windfall, there is an enormous amount of paperwork and preparation involved.  You may want to hire a consultant who specializes in government contracting or commit a dedicated staffer to just do the legwork.   Don't bother sharpening an elevator pitch.  The federal government does not take unsolicited calls or proposals from the general business public.  They are interested in creating as level a playing field as they can.  When the Federal Government needs a vendor they open the bidding to all registered, qualified vendors.   So, roll up your sleeves and prepare to do lots of legwork so you'll be ready when/if the Federal Government invites you (and all your registered competitors) to bid on their projects. Step 1: Make sure your website is in good order.  Your website needs to look professional, be easy to navigate and have no objectionable content.  The Federal Government is populated with lots of very serious grownups.  They will not award a government contract to an organization that does not look like it will take the responsibility seriously.  That goes for most of the big companies that have sizeable project budgets. Step 2: You must be registered with Dunn & Bradstreet.  D&B serves as a central location that lists all businesses with a 9 digit DUNS number.  It registers and keeps track of all businesses seeking to work with the Federal Government.  You will not be able to get a DUNS without getting a Master Business License with your state.  (This article assumes that your business is a legitimate, tax-paying entity). Step 3: Set up a comprehensive profile with the Central Contractors Registry. You'll need your DUNS number for that.  Step 4: When you are invited to bid on a contract, make a serious and reasonable bid.   You don't want to bid so low that it's not profitable.  Once you are awarded a contract and agree to the terms, you have to deliver to the letter of the terms.  Make sure it's worth your time and that you can actually satisfy the contract. Good luck to you.

10 Things You Need To Know About Your Website

If you don't have interactive presence yet, a knowlegable consultant can help you get started on the right foot. If you do have a website, a consultant can help you to examine your situation and help you get the best value for your money.  If you fall into the latter category, take some time to do an inventory of what you have to show for the investment you've made.  Here are a just a few things you must have if you have an interactive presence.  Without thorough understanding of these 10 key components, you will waste thousands of dollars in time and money trying to upgrade or edit your website. 1. A professionally written technical specification. This is a document that details exactly how your interactive project was built, the code, the images, database structure, etc. A technical specification is the DNA for your interactive property. 2. A professionally written user’s guide.  This document is a manual that helps users know how to perform routine editing to your interactive property. 3. A professionally prepared design document.  This document defines the hexidecimal colors, fonts, sizes, etc. used in the design of your website.  4. Thorough understanding of your service provider’s SLA’s (Service Level Agreements): This is the agreement you have with your service provider that defines the amount of uptime you can count on.  The goal is 99.99% uptime each calendar month. 5. An agreement with your service provider about what penalties they will pay if they violate the SLA.  6. Thorough understanding of your service provider’s security policies, emergency escalation plan, backup & recovery processes, and server maintence schedule.  7. A non-disclosure agreement with all staff and vendors who have access to your interactive property. 8. Clear, clean, concise, keyword rich copy and content. Hire a professional writer with SEO experience. 9. Disaster recovery plan.  In case of technical disaster or site attack, you should have a plan for immediate site recovery.  In addition to frequent site backups by the service provider, you should have a clean electronic copy of your site available.  10. Information and permission to access your website.  You may need any of the following: FTP access, HTA access, database access.  The help of a professional, knowlegable consultant means a better return on the investment you've made in your interactive property and overall bottom line. Take our Free, Interactive Property Self Assessment Test now to see how vulnerable your website may be.

The Promotions Mix: Advertising

Today's topic: Let's talk about the promotions mix: Advertising. Every entrepreneur has to find effective ways to promote their business. What exactly is promotion? A promotion is an activity that communicates the merits of the product and persuades target consumers to buy it.  Defining a promotion is simple enough, but spending your hard earned budget to promote your business isn’t so easy.  You have to feel confident that you’re making the best decisions. There are several types of promotions that you can focus your advertising efforts and budget on. Let’s take a look at advertising. Advertising The most obvious member of the promotions mix is standard advertising.  You can advertise your business itself; selling or promoting your corporate image. This is sometimes called advocacy advertising.  This type of advertising is good for getting your name out there and getting consumers used to thinking of your company in a certain way.  Maybe you have a business that sells products to moms, and you want people to perceive your business as one that cares about education, or healthy lifestyles. This is called branding.  The advantage of branding is that potential customers gain product awareness and knowledge about your company, advertising is usually repetitious, and you usually achieve a wide geographic reach. If you have a tighter budget, you may choose to advertise a certain product, or category of products.  This type of advertising is sometimes called product positioning.  A common theme of this kind of advertising is direct competitor comparison.  In your ad, you tell why you are better than one or more of your competitors. Some distribution channels for advertising are: radio, newspaper and Internet.  Advertising on the Internet is a completely different genre of advertising that we will take a closer look at in the coming weeks. The disadvantage of advertising is that there’s a high absolute (immediate and out of pocket) cost, it can seem impersonal and standardized, and it can be ignored by consumers who feel they are being inundated with advertising clutter. This is especially true in Internet advertising where the saturation level of advertising has definitely reached its peak.  Note: banner advertising has dropped to nearly 10 percent of the Internet, where it used to be a major revenue generating channel.  

The Promotions Mix: Personal Selling

Today's topic: Let's talk about the promotions mix: Personal Selling Personal selling, or face-to-face selling is particularly important in business-to-business marketing.  You, as the salesperson give an oral presentation to a client, customizing your presentation to their business needs. The advantage of personal selling is that you have a chance to directly address customer objections and close the sale more quickly. The disadvantage is that it is very costly to do a face to face presentation. This is where your opportunity costs are accumulated: the time you spend preparing and delivering your personal sales call is time you could have spent doing other things.   Time is money, after all.           

How To Start Your Own Business: Legal Eagle’s Advice

by: Cecile C. Weich, Counselor at Law I write this article for all frustrated executives, born-again housewives and all women who want to start their own business. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! RESEARCH YOUR MARKET! AND MOST IMPORTANT: HIRE A LAWYER! The lawyer will advise you in the intricacies of being an entrepreneur, should you be a corporation or an incorporated business entity. Remember, you will pay taxes on both business forms, but one may be less expensive than the other and more beneficial to your type of business. If you are doing business with a corporation, you may want to be a corporation for appearance sake. Your attorney must work with your accountant (the next person to hire along with your attorney), to determine whether your business should be a corporation. Your personal assets may be involved at this juncture. Remember, whether or not you are a corporation, no bank will lend you money without collateral and the only collateral you, as a new entrepreneur will have, is your personal collateral, ie: your home, your car, your stocks and bonds. Although technically corporations are formed to avoid personal liability, a new entrepreneur will probably have to put up her own personal assets to secure the initial funding for her business. After you have researched the market for your business, found a good location, you will be called upon to sign a lease to sign a lease for this location. Again, you must consult with your attorney for the best possible terms to enter into a proper lease with your landlord. Remember, a good lease can make or break your business. Perhaps you have the kind of business that does not initially require outside space and you want to start up your business in your own home. A service business is uniquely suited for home offices. However, you must consult your accountant so that you take proper tax advantages of this business arrangement. You must not neglect to speak to an insurance person so that you are properly and adequately covered for business and professional liabilities. If you want to hire staff, you must consult with all of the professionals, especially your attorney, to determine whether this staff will be “on the books” or independent contractors. You must also consult with your attorney to understand the ramifications of the laws pertaining to sex and age discrimination as it relates to your “shop”. What about your business equipment? Should you buy it new or used, or should you rent it? Again, you must speak to your attorney and your accountant to find out the best possible tax ramifications for handling office equipment. Are you confused? Don’t be. If you are really determined to start your own business; if you have that “entrepreneurial spirit”, you are going to make it. Cecile C. Weich is a Prominent Attorney and Lecturer and one of America’s leading authorities on Women’s Legal Rights. She has been featured and quoted in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday and The National Law Journal, and she has been a guest on many radio and television shows including Court TV, Phil Donahue, The Today Show, MSNBC, CNBC, McGlaughlin Report, Oprah Winfrey, and Larry King Live. Ms. Weich is also co-founder of the New York Association of Women Business Owners and was the New York state representative to the National Women’s Political Caucus, she has been married since 1958 and has two grown sons.