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How do you market a website anyway?

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I can’t really give you a silver bullet on marketing the site. The marketing is going to be dependent on who your target audience is and the product/service you’re selling.

You can use search engines to pull in clients. This article I wrote can help you understand some of the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Websites that work for Small Business

You should also be thinking about your marketing this way… Facebook is a great place to advertise if you’re trying to reach college students. It’s a really bad choice if you’re trying to reach people looking for retirement housing (although there has been some noteable growth in the 55+ demographic). Not that you can’t target your ads at Facebook to reach the people you’re trying to reach, it’s just might not be a grand slam.

Instead, think about your marketing in traditional terms and then translate that to an online medium. You’ll need to clearly define who opens their wallets for what you’re offering. Then you’ll test market, and refine the message until you’re pulling them in left and right.

If the site is simply content and you’ll generate revenue from adverts, you’ll still need to do the same process so you’ll know who your reader is and what advertisers will pay you to be in front of those eyeballs.


Written by Karlie

December 25th, 2009 at 10:25 am

So what is the right domain name?

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Domain name can play a role in your business success, but it’s not as vital as it once was.

People use to worry that a long domain name would be hard for people to remember as if it were a long phone number. But the reality is that your new domain name can can be almost any length as long as it describes your business well.

While I’d avoid BigTonysAllKazooPolkaBand.com* due to excessive length, it’s not inappropriate if, in fact, you are Big Tony and you lead an All Kazoo Polka band.

Now if the name you want is already taken, you’ll be better off finding another name. If the site is established, the registrant isn’t going to be too keen on giving it up and they won’t do it cheaply. If it’s simply a squatter, you might be able to negotiate a good price. Just keep in mind that a year of domain registration is usually under $10, so if you’re paying a few thousand dollars to a squatter the name should be really fantastic.

* Factoid of the day – once upon a time I was the owner of BigTonysAllKazooPolkaBand.com

Written by Karlie

December 23rd, 2009 at 10:24 am

Beginning with the finishing touches

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So here’s another general response that pops up all the time when I’m counseling at SCORE.

The question is usually something like “Is $1400 too much to pay for a 5 page website?”

So my answer is usually something like this…

If I knew more about the type of business, the better I could tailor my response here, but in general, you’ll want to go Open Source.

Open Source software is publicly licensed. It’s underlying code is open and available for modification and to top it all off, it’s usually been tested and tweaked a thousand times before you use it so you’re less likely to have problems or need support contracts.

Also, if you find something that’s close enough to what you want your site to do function wise, you’ll only be paying a professional to shine it up for you. So instead of months of custom code that will need complete bug testing you’ll be looking at a week or less to get things up and running.

You’ll also need to think about the site in two ways… What’s behind the scenes managing content, catalog and check-out process – usually the database portion of the website and your admin panel. Then how that data feeds out into your site.

The good news, the graphical layout is really a minor detail once the back end is working properly.

You’ll usually have a template of some sort (Cascade Style Sheet – CSS or XML) for the graphical layout with snips of code to indicate where the various components go. Menu on the left or the right – no problem. Don’t like the colors, again, no problem. Simply tweak the style sheet and all your information will fill in just where it’s suppose to go.

Every page will have a similar look and feel while allowing you lots and lots of dynamic space for content.

You might even be able to find an open source template that you can modify to suit your needs.

For instance, http://on-disk.com/ is http://demo.oscommerce.com/ We have modified the code and the database to meet our needs, but the sky’s the limit on graphical modifications. We’ve kept somethings the same, but there’s no need to be stuck with anything.

Another example is Webpath.net The back end is a custom wiki/blog hybrid that we created a long time ago, but the layout started out as a free template called Invention. I liked the general layout, but wanted it co-branded to the On-Disk.com website so the color scheme and graphical elements needed a quick change.  All in all, the updates took about an hour to complete and most of that was time I spent looking and deciding if I liked it or not.

But these are just examples. You’ll have lots of choices with Open Source Shopping carts, Content Management systems and loads and loads of templates to choose from.

Just think of your business functions in Must, Should and Can features. Knowing what you need will help you sort through options as you research components for your site.

What must the site do from the beginning? What should be included in phase 2. What can we integrate now for future upgrades so that we don’t have to re-write the code?

Have I overwhelmed you? In any case, let’s stop here for now. Comment with questions.


Written by Karlie

December 15th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Websites that work for Small Business

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A website doesn’t have to be complex to be an effective tool for Small Business owners. The key to making a website work for you is taking advantage of the passive nature of websites.

Websites, in their natural state, just sit around waiting for someone to browse the content. They only become active when we begin driving visitors.

The good news, is that you don’t have to go to great expense to bring in your visitors.

The Advantage of Being Passive

All too often we are dragged into feeling that we must aggressively compete. That the Internet is a turf war and if we can’t go big, we should go home.

That’s just not the case.

In any business, there’s a target market and the key to having a successful website is getting your information picked up by the search engines so very specific customers will find you.

Relevant Content and Searchable Terms

The key to understanding what the engines will sort into the top 10 listings is Relevant Content.

Think about listing websites from the search engine perspective. There is an infinite number of websites with similar content. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll search with another engine. To keep the “good stuff” front and center and the users in front of their advertisers, they have created complex systems to sort out the good from the bad.

Relevant to the engine usually means hitting as many of the search terms as possible within written content of any given website. And it’s important that the terms are within standard sentences because the engines will read your site and can tell the difference between coherent sentences and lists of terms.

Relevant content is including the information your customers want to find.

That means, you shouldn’t get hung up on key words as stand alone terms. Instead think of providing information that is not only a good read, but is also very descriptive so that you’ll have more opportunities to include relevant content.

By including as much information about your business as possible, the search engine can’t help but sort out a very specific group of customers to send you.

The more ways you can get your point across, the more likely you are to include relevant, searchable terms that will bring in the customers you were hoping to reach with your website.

If you do business locally, your location and distances from landmarks is very relevant and will drive foot traffic to your store.

“On the Corner of Main and Center.” “Across the Street from {Landmark}.” “Just 3 Miles from Downtown {City}.” “Serving the Greater {City} Area.” “In {Shopping Center} near {Anchor Store}.”

If you sold shoes you could say something like, “This {brand name} ladies shoe has a 2.5 inch heal and butter soft leather…” would hit on searches for {brand} shoes, {brand} ladies, ladies leather etc.

As far as your use of the relevance, {brand} {location} is very relevant if your customers know exactly what they want and where they want to buy it. By including your location somewhere on the same page as your product listings, you’ll be able to catch the attention of these very specific shoppers.

Getting Listed in the Search Engines

Getting listed in the search engines is FREE and requires no special software or service providers. Best of all, it’s easier than you think.

You can submit your site directly to the engines by visiting each one you’d like to be listed in and finding their submission criteria. While it may take you a while to do it manually, you’ll only ever have to do it once. Once the engine knows about you, that’s all that’s required. Sending it in over and over again doesn’t increase your ranking.

Just give the listing process time to work.

The engine wants your information and will send an automated program called a Spider to your site in an attempt to catalog your content.

It’s called a Spider because it crawls across the world wide web following links in an attempt to visit every page.

Relevant links

In the same way that Relevant content on your own site can bring a specific type of customer, so can relevant links from other websites.

It does two things for you. First, it will deliver a certain number of like minded people. Secondly it will help boost your “relevance” in the eyes of the search engine.

Think of it this way… What’s more relevant than the corporate website for the brand itself? Logic then dictates that if they list your website as a point of purchase, you are relevant too.

Again, if the aim is to align yourself with the most relevant content, you can’t get much more relevant than a link from…

  • The Manufacturers of the products you sell
  • National, Regional and Local Associations you may belong to
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local business listings to establish your relevance to local customers. (Tourist Info, online yellow pages, etc)

Maintaining Relevance

In passive mode, all that’s required is to be sure the most relevant key words are present on your website.

If you want to take things a little farther, the key to maintaining your relevance to the engines is to keep your content fresh. Changes in your content will trigger a listing update at the engine for your site.

If you add new pages, you’ll also get another listing opportunity and another chance to reach your target audience.

Though you’ll probably find that it’s your human viewers who’ll benefit the most from new information. After all, the ultimate goal is to be relevant to people by way of the engine.

Boosting Relevance and Search Engine Rank

If fresh content isn’t enough to boost your relevance, the first place to turn for answers is your website traffic statistics. (Ask your webmaster if you aren’t sure how to check your stats.)

With your site stats you’ll be able to see a basic snapshot of who your average visitor is and what’s bringing them to the site.

Most statistics programs will show you which engines your visitors are coming from and which search terms they used to find you. Sometimes you’ll see that your customers are finding you for reasons other than what you intended.

For the most part you’ll probably discover traffic flow from unintended key words. This is usually a good thing! It’s only bad when the search terms are misleading because anyone arriving at your site is likely to leave the moment they discover you don’t really have what they were looking for.

If customers aren’t finding you using what you think are your main key words, type them into the engine to see what other sites are beating you out.

Then just tweak your message until you’re ranking where you’d like to be.

Just one word of caution… it may be impossible to get top 10 for some key words and phrases, so pick your battles and focus on the areas you can win. Remember the idea is to use the engine to sort out customers most likely to make a purchase.

Written by Karlie

December 14th, 2009 at 2:22 pm