Creating a Website for a Small Business

There was an era when introducing my small business to someone for the first time, I was always asked for my business card. Times have changed and now, when I mention my company, the question inevitably posed is, “Do you have a website?” Nowadays, I find it’s quite rare for a small business owner to not have a website.

There is no need to feel overwhelmed if you don’t have one. Technology has also adapted to the times, and it’s no longer a huge expense to own a piece of real estate in virtual space.

The first step is to decide the purpose for your website. For example, it can start out as a glorified online business card with your contact information and a little about your company. Add on a few more pages, and you’ll have site that provides valuable information for your customers.

Now you can begin to promote and sell your products. You’ll need marketing language, product descriptions and a way for people to buy the products from the website. It’s really that simple.

Choose a design for your website that represents the message you wish to convey. Templates are inexpensive to purchase and can be customized with your own photographs and graphics. Don’t confuse your visitors by making it look crowded.

The navigation tabs that allow them to move around the site should be obvious and identical on each page. The most important information should be available from every point. For example, if you have an online store, your visitors should be able to immediately link to the store regardless of where they are on the site. Include a Site Map that allows them to see everything available.

Be very generous on your “About Us” page. Provide plenty of friendly information and pictures that help your visitors begin to develop a sense of knowing you. Remember that “people buy from people they know, like and trust.”

It’s a good idea to add an email capture field and/or a “Contact Us” form where visitors give their contact information. This is how you create a “warm” list for leads. You can follow up by contacting them by phone or by including them in your email updates.

Search engine optimize your website to make it show up in the search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo for keywords specific to your business. Potentially, there are thousands of other companies selling similar products to yours, and you want your website to show up on the first page for a keyword search.

The beauty of a website for a small business is it puts you on a level playing field with the “big dogs.” Your company can be very small, but your web presence can be enormous. It gives you the opportunity to do business around the globe without ever having to leave home!


The Beauty of a Beautiful Website

A website is the primary front of the company in the worldwide web. Just like having a cozy office and presentable looking employees, the company must make the right impression to internet surfers. Choosing the right features and graphics on a website is crucial. The entire impact of your website must portray the principles of the company. Too much glitz and ditz could make the company appear too amateurish and cheap. But the right amount of sleek and elegant graphics would spell chic and professional.

The aesthetic contents of a website are major attractions to viewers. The site’s primary concern of drawing more viewers to visit it will be easier if the website is beautiful and appeals to the senses of the viewers. Internet surfers only spend seconds browsing a web page. If they’re looking for professional service or products, it will only take them a matter of seconds to decide whether to take a look in the site or go to the next one. They must be suitably impressed with what they see and stop to explore your site better. Or else, your site will be lumped as just one of the run-of-the-mill-never-noticed sites. Aside from attracting web visitors, a beautiful website also can make such an impression that viewers will keep visiting it. And more visitors could mean a trickle to your sales.

Beauty, for a website, must also not be skin-deep. It must also be designed in a way that it is both SEO and user friendly. The code markup must be clean and easy to read, increasing your search engine visibility. It must be clearly viewable on all major browsers, thus your site can appear in front of everyone. The contents also count a lot in making your site beautiful inside and out. The articles must represent your site’s services concisely and fully. The wide variety of viewers who could read the articles must be considered. And so, they must be written in a way that can be understood by any number of readers.

All in all, creating the right impression really counts. You don’t want to just create a website just to keep up with the trend. Remember, your website is the flagship of the company in the worldwide web and thus, the design must be both beautiful and tasteful. Not judging the book by its cover no longer counts. Viewers do judge the book by its cover.

Kimberly Jessy, Your Media Darling, Pink Carpet Celebrity Goddess, signing off!


Be Consistent with Your Website

In regards to web development, consistency is a medium that can and should be followed from the first draft of a website, to the coding of CSS, and all the way to adding content. Whether we think about it or not, great designers tend to be consistent in all processes of building a website – not only for ourselves, but for our audience as well.

Consistency needs to start before you sit down and write your first bit of code or even sketch out your initial layout. You need to devise a game plan, in essence, you need to produce a starting point and a finishing point for your project. Set up goals that are achievable yet rewarding.

As you venture deeper into your project, you’ll find yourself designing your layout. Consistency also takes place here in various forms: color, link placement, advertisement placement, fonts, and theme. Matching these appearances is critical to a great design and cannot be forgotten. The reason for their importance is not simply just implied, rather it creates a better experience for the user. It helps the user in subtle ways; such as cross-site browsing. For example, most users are accustomed to seeing a websites header along the top of the page – therefore it only makes sense that designers consistently put headers above the fold.

  • Tip: Originality isn’t everything. We have a tendency to attempt to be original in everything we do. Unfortunately, being unique probably wont benefit your web design – things are they way they are for a reason.

Once your layout has been created you’ve reached the last step of website development: coding. In terms of functionality, constancy in coding can be the most important to you, the coder, rather than the viewer. An inexperienced browsers won’t notice the difference when they go from a .php page to a .html page. So you may be asking yourself, why be consistent if only you know? Only you knowing is far more than enough. Being consistent will help you develop a clean, fast, and functional website than can be easily updated and added to.

  • Tip: Stick to what you know, don’t attempt a new programming language half way through a project. Learning a new language can take months of messy coding to master. You don’t want that slowing down your site’s speed.

From design to coding, you’ve completed your website and it’s up and running for the world to see. Now comes the most important part: be consistent in the content you create. This is critical in terms of both type and frequency. Content should come in the same form and style each time you update, furthermore, it should always be relevant to the theme of your website. If your website is about politics, write exclusively about politics. Just because you enjoy technology, doesn’t mean it will be a great additional content for your website.

Updating often can be great, but what is more important is updating consistently. Set up a schedule for when to add content to your site, though, make sure your schedule is realistic and can be met each time. If you promise to update daily – then you have to update daily for users to stand by you and your website.

  • Tip: Consistency over quantity. Instead of promising new content twice a day, then not meeting this promise. Try changing your schedule to one a day, or one every two days. You need to find a pattern than be be met without any problems.

To a large extent, consistency is what gives your site its identity – or more precisely, it makes it easier to see your site’s identity. Without it, websites would simply seem random and uncompleted. Searching for things would be difficult if erratic types of content were uploaded on irrelevant types of websites. Consistency allows the user to view the content they need in the short time they have – and that’s what’s important.


Localizing Your Business Website

At last count there are 366,848,493 websites on the internet. This seems like a daunting number. Let’s say you are a dog sitter. When you do a Google search you will find over three and a half million web results for “dog sitter.” This in itself is a startling number. Now let’s say you got a website designed for you and now the web designer is nowhere to be found. Or if they are available, they want to charge you $500 a month for marketing your website. You might be feeling some buyer’s remorse for spending $500 for a website that doesn’t even show up in a Google search. There is some good news. There are a few ways that you can promote your site for free or find a reasonable internet savvy person or web designer to do for a small fee. Google, Bing and Yahoo all have a system in place to give local businesses a leg up on the national competition when it comes to search results.

If you search “Google Places” or “Bing Local” you will find similar systems for promoting your business in their local search directories. Have you ever searched for a local service and saw the little upside down red rain drops on the maps showing local businesses? These are local listing. You can list your site as one of those markers by going to Google Places or Bing Local. In order to list in these directories you must have a Google account for Google or a Microsoft Live id for Bing. These are accounts that are easy to set up. All you need is a valid email address or a Hotmail or Gmail address. After you have the proper credentials to get into the sites, you simply follow the step by step process laid out by each site.

It is good to be prepared before you try to set up the listings. Otherwise you might find yourself trying to fill out the form all night long as you think of what to write. Both sites will ask you similar questions. You will be asked for your normal contact information. You will need to gather your business name, address, website, phone number and other contact info. You will also have to write a short business description. It is a good idea to have some localizing key words in this description. My place page description reads as follows, “Victory Web Productions is a small business website development company located in Guilderland, NY. We serve clients all over New York State. Our main customers are local small businesses.” You will notice that I have mentioned where I do business twice. I mentioned that I am located in Guilderland, NY and that I serve clients all over New York State. Adding location keywords will make sure that your listing will show up when someone does a search for your service in your service area. It is also good to mention your business name in the description and what you actually do.

The listings will ask you what business category you fall into and ask for you to upload photos and video if you have any. Photos and videos can enhance your place page dramatically. Visuals can help draw attention or in the case of a service, personal pictures can put a human face to your business. Having your picture can also help when it comes time to meet with a client in a coffee shop or other public venue. The listing will also ask for hours of operation if available and what types of payments you accept.

After you list all your business information, you will have to verify that you are actually the owner of the address you listed in your business. This is the backbone of the local directory system. This prevents national companies from simply posting local listings in places they have no real location for. Both Google and Bing will send you a post card with a PIN number. This card usually takes 7-10 business days to arrive. Your posting will not show up until you receive this PIN and entire it into the listing for confirmation. Once entered, your listing should show up within 24 hours for Google, and a few weeks for Bing.

Now is the time for the caveat. Although this will give you a leg up against your national competitors, you will still have to compete with others in your business genre. Depending on how many businesses of your type are present in your service area, you might show up as the lone business listing or you might show up at the end of a long list. This is where your description and other factors will come in handy. The better your description is at pinpointing your service area and location, the better chance you will have at showing up closer to first. Also if you have a unique service that others in your industry might not offer, perhaps focusing on promoting this in your description would help you stand out from the crowd. There are no guarantees that this will get you to the top of Google, however, not being listed at all will ensure that you do not show up in the place pages at all.


Simple Tips for Promoting Your Website

The Internet has been around for quite a while now and if you still have no idea how to promote a website that you have owned for the last five years then it’s time to get serious. It’s now no longer enough to just have your website seen on a search engine or listed on some famous website. These portals are cluttered with all sorts of links! So it’s time to get creative and show off your site a different way.

Specific keywords

Now, we all know that search engines work around the concept that when a user types in a certain keyword, he or she gets all sorts of results. This is where you can help your websites exposure. Write all the important keywords that lead to your site on the first paragraph of your home page. The more keywords you put in there, the greater the chances are of your website popping up as one of the first ten on Google or Yahoo Search. In fact, whenever possible, make sure that these keywords appear in as many pages as you can. Of course, the tricky part is to not make it too obvious or else your site will just be a site of keywords and nothing else. Another effective place to use keywords is in your hyperlinks.

Page titles

Over the years, it seems that everybody has forgotten how important a title can be. On the blue bar found at the top of your web browser, you will find that there is a space specifically made for page titles. Use this space, it really works. Search engines will scan these particular areas and display them as hyperlinks. So if you have a good title that has all the right keywords (minus the fillers like “and”, “or”, etc.) then chances are more people will run into your website first upon searching.

Specialized Site Directories

Although you can be found on all the usual portals and search engines, it would be probably be best if you submitted your site to a directory that is specific to your business or activity. For example, if your website is all about dogs, then join a community directory that is tailor fit for that specific subject. This means joining a directory that lists everything about animals, pets, or as specific as your topic: dogs. Chances are you may have to pay for something as specific as this, but it won’t be a big sacrifice once you notice all the hits on your site.

Write for others

Another way to promote our website is to write articles for other people to use in newsletters that they may be sending out to their email lists on a weekly or monthly basis. This single strategy will assure you new traffic and also exposure on a regular basis. How? Well, for starters, you can write your name and website at the end of each article that you write. It’s simple, effective and a lot less hassle on the HTML coding.

Sit back and think of the various ways to attract more people to your website. It’s not too late for a strategy makeover and it won’t hurt to work just a little harder on making your site number 1.


Web Conferencing Solutions Are for Small Businesses, Too

Despite or maybe in spite of the global economic crisis businesses are networking globally. Gone are the days when web conferencing was seen as being just for the big boys. These days any company, even small solo operations can utilize the benefits of web conferencing.

Some small businesses may worry about having to pay huge monthly fees or set-up costs for web conferencing services. These days nothing could be further from the truth. Any business can find affordable web conferencing and remote support to help them become more efficient. Best of all the current technology enables interactivity between attendees.

No company seeking to maximize profits and minimize cost while growing should ignore the power of web meetings. Web conferencing services by RHUB are geared towards assisting businesses of all sizes succeed and take advantage of online communication.

This online meeting service is also suited for small businesses because there is no software to download and configure. Systems that do not require download are generally easier and quicker to use. In fact, such systems can be set up for anyone as opposed to just IT specialists.

Some factors that should pay a part in selecting a web conference system to go with are:

  • A pricing structure that meets your needs and budget. With the variety of systems available today for remote meetings, the buyer can afford to be choosy.
  • A platform specific to the needs of your company.
  • Ability to run on all platforms, especially PCs and Macs.

In addition to meetings, web conferences can be used by small businesses for presentations and teaching purposes. Some small business owners may worry about online security. This is especially so as many small businesses cannot afford an IT department. Fortunately RHUB is an on-premise appliance allowing you to put it behind your firewall for maximum security, therefore remote support and remote access are extremely secure as well.


How to Conduct a Web Conference

Conducting an online meeting can reduce expenses, boost employee productivity, and improve the level of communication between participants. Having said that, like any business gathering, its effectiveness is largely dependent upon its execution. There are several aspects that can increase the likelihood that your online meeting will yield the results you want. In this article, we’ll provide an overview regarding how to conduct a successful web conference.

Start On Time

Beginning late is a common mistake and it’s even made by experienced facilitators. Often, the reason it happens is not because the facilitator is running behind schedule. Instead, he or she waits for late participants to arrive before starting. The problem is that the people who logged into your web conference at the scheduled time are penalized by having to wait for others. Start on time and let the late parties catch up on their own.

Choose A Person To Manage Questions

If your online meeting is small (for example, less that seven people), you can probably field questions simply by opening the call to the floor. However, doing that with larger groups can quickly become unmanageable. If you plan to have more than ten people participating, select somebody to whom others can direct questions. That person can manage their priority and let you field them at your pace. Not only is that easier to manage, but you’ll be able to stay on track without getting distracted.

Consider A Second Screen

If you’re planning to share applications so other attendees can see your screen, consider using an extra monitor to log into the meeting as a normal participant. Sometimes, you might think other people are able to view your screen flawlessly when they’re actually observing something different. The second screen will allow you to monitor what they’re seeing. If you need to make technical changes on your end, you can do so quickly without wasting a significant amount of time.

Conserve Performance Capacity

As the presenter, it’s possible to reduce your web conference’s performance if you have several applications running at once. Before your meeting begins, close other software you won’t need during your presentation. That will prevent them from creating a lag.

Close Your Instant Messaging Client

There are few things that are more distracting when presenting a web conference than a pop-up instant messaging client. Now, consider how distracting it can be for your meeting’s participants. Make sure you disable the software before your conference begins.

Web conferencing can be a great way to bring a large group of people together for a common project. Not only can they be organized quickly, but they won’t take people away from the office. Use the guidelines above to make sure your next online meeting is a roaring success.


Top 3 Myths About Becoming a Web Content Producer

The Truth About a Hot Work-At-Home Career

It’s finally here. After years and years of online work-from-home scams, there is finally a legitimate online job opportunity. Websites must have content in order to draw customers if they are going to compete in the worlds of search engine giants like Google or Yahoo, but most webmasters are not qualified to do the writing for these articles (or they simply don’t have the time). They might have a general idea about what kind of content will drive customers to their websites, but they need professionals to word these articles in a way that will make them rank highly in search results. That’s where web content producers come in. They write quality articles for specific sites that are key word dense without compromising the quality of the information. Sounds simple, right? Not quite. Just like any legitimate career field, web content production is becoming a competitive market. Before you quit your day job to pursue this vocation, make sure that you aren’t guilty of naively believing the following untruths.

Myth #1: “Web content producers work whenever and wherever they want.” What so many freelance writing hopefuls don’t understand about writing for websites is that they will have strict deadlines to meet. Webmasters do not assign work and allow you to complete it at your convenience. In fact, deadlines for web content production are often even more harsh than print deadlines. While you will have a bit more flexibility, you can still bet on working eight hours a day, at least, in your home office.

Myth #2: “Web content producers can find work everywhere.” There are two ugly lies wrapped up into one big myth here. The first is that you will always have work available, and the second is that that work will always pay your bills. Sure, there are millions of potential clients out there, but many sites are non-profit or are strictly in existence for the purpose of leisure. In other words, not everyone is trying to make a profit from their site. Secondly, even if you do find a great deal of work, you can expect to have to write revisions constantly. Webmasters have very specific needs, and if you cannot get it right the first time, you will eventually lose money. For example, if you end up spending two hours on an article that you are only making $10 on because the first draft was rejected, you are not even making minimum wage. You have to be willing to work through these rough patches, and if your bank account will not allow you to do so, you’ll be in a sad predicament while trying to build your business.

Myth #3: “Anyone can write web content.” Well, sure, anyone can technically write down their thoughts and place them onto a blog or their personal website. Not everyone’s work is payable, however. While you may have a good general knowledge on several specialized topics, that is no guarantee that you can transform that knowledge into interesting reading material. Web surfers must be almost instantly captivated by an article upon seeing it or they will quickly go on, meaning that you must know how to write in a manner that will intrigue them. That being said, not even a good writing ability is a promise for a successful future in web content production. Web writers are everywhere, and the market is tough. Today, only those with literature/journalism degrees and/or prior writing or publishing experience are getting the jobs. You will need to create a professional resume and market yourself, just as you would with any desk job. If you don’t have the background experience, you won’t get the assignment. It’s that simple.

The Internet is seeing a new revolution. While the nineties saw an explosion of worthless and poorly written work, now readers are more savvy and want to peruse the content of only those writers who are professionally qualified. It’s not easy to feign this qualification, either. Even if you do pull it off, you will still need marketing skills and a considerable amount of time to devote to the profession if you wish to pursue it full time. Approach web content production as you would any business, however, and you stand a chance at making a name for yourself among potential clients. Start slow, gain experience with non-paying work, build your resume, and be ready to work long hours. If you can discipline yourself to do so, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be running your own successful web content production business in a reasonable amount of time. Now get to writing.


Elements of Website Customer Experience

Understanding the Steps Your Online Customers Take

Meet the elements of user experience. When I first began my schooling, I remember waiting patiently for my books to arrive so that I could dive right in and get a head start. But, my first shipment of books puzzled me….The Elements of User Experience? I thought to myself… why do I have a book like this, I’m supposed to be learning HTML and CSS and all the other useful things a person needs to know to build a website. But, what I didn’t realize is that if you don’t understand a user’s experience on the web, you can’t build an effective website. So, I’m going to share with you five elements of user experience. These are the “stages” or steps that customers go through when they land on your site.

The Surface Plane: This is what your users see….web pages made up of text and images, all performing some certain task or function. The surface plane includes your logo, backgrounds, navigation buttons, etc.

The Skeleton Plane: Beneath outward appearances lies the skeleton of the site, the “bones”, if you will, behind all the pretty stuff. These elements are arranged for maximum efficiency, so that visitors can easily recall where your shopping cart button is, eliminating the stress of wanting to make a purchase, but not knowing how to go about it. Shopping carts the web over end up being filled, then left to desertion and more times than not, it’s because the process was to time-consuming or, very simply….the visitor couldn’t find their way back to the cart to checkout. Sad, but very true.

The Structure Plane: Think of the structure as something like a family tree, complete with branches and parent entities. The structure makes up your navigational system and the hierarchical order in which pages appear. if your visitor comes to a page, it is the structure’s responsibility as to how they got there and where they can go next.

The Scope Plane: Where the structure defines the ways in which the features and functions of the site fit together, the Scope is what those features and functions are. If you have a site that requires or offers a login feature so that addresses can be saved for future visits, it would be included in the Scope of your site.

The Strategy Plane: This is where we get down to fundamentals. What do we want out of the site? What will our users want out of the site? In the case of e-commerce, the strategy could be very simple, we want to sell our products and users want to buy them. Figuring out how to please both sides of the spectrum is the strategy behind building the site. We want a stress-free, easy-to-navigate system that will make it not only possible for purchases and surfing, but enjoyable for our users. That, then leads us to figuring out the strategy for which to incorporate our features and functions into an enjoyable site.

Understanding these planes can go a long way in improving site rankings and sales. These elements provide a conceptual framework for discussing user experience problems and the tools we can utilize to solve them.


Seven Web Site Benefits

Seven Awesome Web Site Benefits for Small Business Owners

A small business Web site is a simple solution for attracting new business, saving time and leveraging your strengths against competitors. Even if you run a one-person home based business, you need to have a small business Web site. The Web site benefits to your bottom line can be stunning!

Webs Site Benefits 1: Stop Chasing Dead Leads

There’s no sense in wasting time chasing prospects that don’t understand or aren’t aware of the products and services you offer. Use your small business Web site to weed out potential customers that can’t afford or aren’t a good match for your products and services.

Web Site Benefits 2: De-Clutter Your Life

Reduce painful distractions by posting answers to routine customer questions on your small business Web site. Provide commonly requested documents and information online, such as billing policies, driving directions, client intake forms, and more.

Web Site Benefits 3: Fatten Your Wallet

With over one billion people now online, even a small market is enormous online. Use your small business Web site as a marketing tool to find previously untapped sources of new customers. Fine tune your marketing and target specific industries and customer demographics and what your sales blast off!

Web Site Benefits 4: Do More With Less

Use your small business Web site as comprehensive marketing tool at the center of your efforts to attract new customers. Create a massive online network of touch points to funnel potential customers into your Web site for prescreening and converting into sales.

Web Site Benefits 5: Improve Customer Relations

Your small business Web site is a fantastic opportunity to build stronger, tighter customer relationships. Through continual marketing to customers on your Web site and by increasing your availability, your customers will be better educated and feel more connected with you.

Web Site Benefits 6: Fight Off Competitors

Your small business Web site is a fantastic marketing tool to differentiate your products and services from competitors, build your brand and form a positive first impression of your small business. A Web site is a great way to stand out from the crowd, whether your competition is across the street or around the globe.

Web Site Benefits 7: Save Money

Eliminate or reduce expenses from non-billable functions and improve customer support by beefing up your Web site. Post downloadable documents and forms online and enhance customer support with self-help online options, such as frequently asked questions, directions, guides and automated e-mail support. Trim additional expenses by converting brochures, catalogs and more into digital format for your website.