Friday, January 28, 2011

Building Your Own Website: Simple Tips for the Beginner

Before you start with your eCommerce website builder you should consider your target audience and the purpose of your website. The entire reason for having a website is to be found and once found, your clients or customers to learn more about you, your products and your services. It is important to keep this in mind when you are choosing a website builder because often times your products and/or services may change or you may want to add new updates in order to keep your site fresh. You need a website builder that you can easily navigate, understand and change as needed.

When you are building your own website keep in mind that although your audience may like to see large images, video and listen to audio clips it may be hard for them to enjoy if they have an older computer. Usually older models take quite a but of time to download or open to pages that are heavy with photos. Also remember that balance is key when you are designing your site. You will want to have your home page visually balanced and pleasing to the eye. Making it simple and strait forward is a must when you want to keep your visitor on your site and not become frustrated because there's just too much going on and they are finding it hard to navigate from page to page or find the information they are looking for at a glance!

Next we will talk about font and color when designing your website!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can I Afford to Have a Website?

I am often telling new clients about products or services that will help them launch their way into cyber space and hopefully make their own business successful in the process. One of the very first things that needs to be done is build a website. Yes, you can hire someone to build a website and maintain it for you however this option could cost you thousands of dollars. If you have a little time you can build your own website and easily maintain it by yourself. Sound daunting? It really isn't with a do it youself website builder that are located all over the Internet. These are what I use when my clients hire me to put together a simple, clean and manageable website with their specific company in mind. But is it affordable? Well, let's look at what makes a website unaffordable first:

A site is unaffordable when it's difficult to update because it takes too much time to figure out how to make changes or you have to hire someone else to make each change as you add a service or product.

A site is unaffordable when it doesn't work the way it should and your visitors become frustrated or annoyed which will certinaly make them lose all interest and leave your site.

A site is unaffordable if it looks unprofessional. Remember that your website is most often the first contact your clients or customers have and the first impression needs to be professional to reflect you, your products and services and your business as a whole.

A site is unaffordable when it's not search engine friendly, because you need to be easily found.

A site is unaffordable when it does not reflect what you are trying to convey to your potential clients or customers at all times.

People hire me to help them chose an eCommerce website builder because I am so familiar with the process but you can do this yourself. In the coming weeks I am going to post some tricks and tips when building your own website and hopefully this will inspire you to raise the bar and take control of your clients online experience!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is Your Coporate Blog Sabotaging Your Business? By Lisa Barone

The experts have long agreed: Creating a corporate blog is an important step in giving your company a voice, building brand, and establishing that all-important thought leadership.

Your blog is to be your hub, the place where all the rest of your social media marketing connects. It’s an opportunity to encourage users to connect and form attachments over their affection for your brand and what you represent. All of that is true and awesomesauce. Well, until your corporate blog attacks your business, kicks your customers in the face, and quietly sucks your sales dry. What, you didn’t know that could happen?

The surge in blogging over the past few years has resulted in some problems for business owners who blogged first, asked questions later. Because, for all its strengths as a communication platform, blogging can also help business owners shoot themselves in the foot if they’re not careful. Here are a few ways your blog may accidentally sabotage your business.

You dilute your link profile

If you’re reading this, you’re either someone who understands the power of search engine optimization and Internet marketing, or you just got very, very lost on the Internet (we’re sorry). Assuming it’s the former, you probably understand the importance of keywords and attracting links with a purpose.

You’re very deliberately trying to build links to your site and to your services pages to help them rank better and bring more awareness to your users. So imagine what it does to your link profile when you acquire 10,000 links to your home page for the very-useless term [lisa barone]. Imagine how that might throw off your rankings for the terms you actually wanted that page to rank for. Yeah. Welcome to me getting scolded by nearly every boss I’ve ever had.

One reason people pointed so many lisa barone-laden pieces of anchor text toward previous home pages was because there was no Lisa Barone page on the sites I blogged for. When someone wanted to reference me, they linked to the company that I worked for. Understandable, but counter-productive. Also make sure that you’re not diluting your own link profile by linking to your home page when you should be linking to your personal About page. Before you start a blog, take into account how the links coming into your site may affect it and have a plan for tackling that.

You make your blog your home page

When a new visitor lands on your site, they are there for a purpose. They’re looking for information about who you are, what services you provide, how you get the job done, why you’re different, what your rates are, and how they’re supposed to get in touch with you. The purpose of your home page is to answer these questions, show relevance, and to entice them to click and enter your conversion funnel. New visitors to your home page are not looking for your latest blog post. Serving them that will confuse them and leave them with no information about your business or what you offer.

Some businesses will make their blog their home page because that’s the page mostly frequently updated and where all the conversation is happening. However, it doesn’t mean that page best addresses your customers’ needs. And that’s what your home page should do. Instead of serving up your blog as your home page and making users figure out where they’re supposed to click, how they learn more, and who, exactly, you are, give them the home page they’re looking for.

It’s disconnected from the main site

Corporate blogs work best when they’re a natural extension of the rest of your Web site. When the content found on the blog serves to give more information/street cred to your services. And to do that, readers need to be able to see the connection that exists between to the two entities.

Your corporate blog fails when you put it on a separate domain and make it hard for people to tie back or access your site. It fails when your blog doesn’t link to any other pages on your site or reference your service offerings in any way. Sure, blogs shouldn’t be overly-promotional, but never mentioning your products or services is actually more awkward than giving people useful information as it’s relevant. If you treat your blog like a totally separate island, consider what value it’s really bringing to your company.

Your blog becomes your business

Blogging is a lot like working out – once you take to it, it’s addicting. You have to blog every day and you have to blog harder than everyone else around you. And that’s great if you’re a professional blogger and blogging is how you make money. But for most people, blogging is not their business. [Even professional bloggers have to worry about things like branding these days.] It’s one facet of much larger marketing strategy. Don’t forget about the rest of your marketing strategy just because your blog talks back to you.

Remind yourself about how your blog relates to your business, what its objective is, and what it’s supporting. If you’re involved in catering marketing, your blog may be one part of that. But you still have to figure out the rest of social media, network within your industry, and then, you know, find time to run your catering business. Don’t let your blog become a distraction, either because it’s more “fun” than your other work or because you like the way it makes your ego feel.

You don’t commit to it

As a small business owner myself, I can certainly understand how time consuming (and exhausting) it is to continually be producing content to publish so that you can publish it on your blog. However, showcasing a blog that you update once every you feel like it may not give the best impression to potential customers. It shows them that you do things without a plan and that you’re not always the most reliable service provider. If you can’t commit to blogging a regular basis (even if it’s just once a week), consider if it’s worth doing at all. What are you planning to get from it?

You don’t play well in the sandbox

As Outspoken’s Chief Branding Officer, I often recommend companies take on corporate blogs as a way to get their voice out there and to establish personality and a POD. If you can hook someone to your blog, you’re giving them a direct line to your company message and your way of thinking. Assuming they connect with that, you’re able to significantly lower the bar to winning them over as a customer.

Unless, you’re a jerk. One of the most awesome ways a corporate blog can sabotage your business is when you use it to attack, alienate, and annoy other people. If you don’t know how to play well with others and the idea of occasionally smiling for diplomacy offends you, then maybe a blog shouldn’t be your best friend. Because as Vitaly Borker found out, “crazy bully” isn’t a long-term business strategy. It’s only beneficial to let people “see the real you” when you think there’s a chance they’ll actually like the real you.

Lisa Barone is co-founder and chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, Inc.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! Bring on 2011!!

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. --Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy New Year!