Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Irish author Brendan Behan said:  “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

Today as more and more people and companies join social web networks, everything from Facebook to Linked-In, our businesses are being exposed to publicity, both good and bad.

One enterprising business owner in New York felt like Mr Behan when he rode a rash of bad press and reviews all the way to the top of search engine results. The situation was so embarrassing to Google that they implemented measures to stop this from happening, and in an entry on Google’s official blog, Google Fellow Amit Singhal stated: “I am here to tell you that being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google’s search results.”

( read more here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/being-bad-to-your-customers-is-bad-for.html )

This tells me something very important. Bad press and bad reviews about your business will be bad for your business on the web. First and foremost, I am sure that you as a business owner want to do right by your customers, but I also know issues arise that can get out of control. What can you do about these issues?

1) Deal quickly with all complaints. If your customers come to you mostly on the web, more then likely they demand immediate attention. don’t let emails sit on your desk top, respond quickly and decisively to all inquiries or complaints.

2) If you should receive a bad review, check to see if there is a way to respond to this review. Most reputable sites that allow reviews (not just ratings) will give you an opportunity to address or at least reply to the review. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you to remain professional when writing any replies, but it’s so important, that I will anyway; Remain professional when replying to bad reviews! Also. DO NOT argue back and forth with an irate reviewer, it will only look bad on you.

3) If you or your company is in the wrong, own up to it. While this step will not remove the review, It will show what kind of business you run and will be received favorably by those reading the reviews.

 

4) Do you make it easy for your customers to contact you? By dealing with unhappy customers on your site you make it easier to control the situation in a more favorable venue.

 

One last thought. There are companies out there that promise to flood review sites with “good reviews” for your company thus drowning out bad ones. I have seen however that these can and usually do back-fire. The reviews often times feel canned. If I feel I can’t trust this company to play fair with the system, I don’t want to do business with them.

Here for example is what I do when I want to purchase something on Ebay, I check the posters overall rating first. this gives me an idea of their overall trustworthiness. Next I open the reviews themselves and look to see when the most recent BAD reviews were. At this point I could care less about the good reviews. They tell me very little about the company or person I’m going to be doing business with. Then I look to see how quickly and satisfactualy they handled the issues, if at all. I may be pessimistic, but if I see no bad reviews at all, I wonder if this company is for real.

We as business owners have to work for our customers. How well we deal with the unhappy ones tells the world who we really are.

The phrase “Search Engine Optimization” or “SEO” refers to all the things that go into making your web site more visible or rather more appealing  to search engines.

Why should that matter to you? It’s all about traffic, getting people to your site. Ask yourself, “Would you build your store or office somewhere you knew people would never find you?” I ask you, “Why build a website if you know people will not find you even if they type an appropriate phrase in Google or Bing or…?”

Here are a few things you need to know to make your site more visible:

  • Form your site correctly. This statement is a reference to the actual behind the scenes construction of your site. If you don’t know how, get some help.
  • Submit your site to search engines. Let the search engines know you are open for business. They will in turn “crawl” your site to see what’s there, this is referred to as “Indexing your site.” It’s a pretty straight forward endeavor, but can be time consuming.
  • Do some self promotion. Simply put, make sure your current customers and future prospects know you have a site, and what your address or URL is. Place your address on your letter head, business cards etc. Really any time you contact people, make sure they are aware you have a site.
  • Do some self promotion part II. Are you the most knowledgeable person around about your given field? Then tell others about it use social media like blogs and forums to advertise yourself. Not only will you be looking to create and keep active your own blog, but you should also go out and make meaningful comments on others blogs and forums as well. The goal here is to leave behind links to your website. NOTE: Care should be taken not to “spam” or write junk posts on others blogs. it can not only get you black listed on that blog, but also lower your standing with the more reputable search engines.

There is more to SEO, but not much. Give me a call, and we can discuss your needs. It’s always free to bend my ear. But if you like what you hear lets see what Untangle Web can do for you.

I’m sure you have all seen signs along the roads of our town pointing the way to the nearest yard sale. Some of those signs are more effective then others, some are new, others you can tell have been there since the road was paved. Others have a distinct look of being rushed together as if the person running the yard sale suddenly woke up that morning and realized that people may not be able to find them. Some are written so small you can’t even try to read them as you zip by in your car, for fear you may get into an accident.

Believe it or not, your website faces many of these same issues. Even-though you have a website, you may actually be driving people away because some very basic errors were made when it was created. So let’s spend a few moments and look at these.

  • How old does your site look? Why do we have a yard sale? It’s because we are tired of looking at the same old junk, we want a change. Is your website in need of a yard sale? Is it looking tired? How long has your website looked the way it does? Customers need to know that what they are seeing is fresh and up-to-date. Look for clues on your site that would tell a potential customer that you don’t care. Are there copyright dates from years ago? Do you tell them all about that award you received “last week” with a date from two years ago in the story? Make sure that you are reviewing your site regularly for broken links. Nothing says “We don’t care about our site” more then links that go nowhere.
  • Is your site inviting? Why do we go to yard sales? Many times it’s because we are looking for that one special thing that wows us. I can’t tell you how many times I have slowed my car down just enough for my wife to scan the odds and ends on the ground, so she can pass judgment on whether we should stop or not. The casual browser of your site is looking for that too. Is there a reason for the person to be there? Does your site hold a potential customers attention? You have about the time it takes for the person to scan down your home page to grab them. No more then fifteen seconds to tell them that you are special and they have found what they are looking for. So if you have crammed that home page full of words, they are gone already…
  • Is your site usable? If I were putting up a yard sale sign that I wanted a driver to be able to read. I probably wouldn’t have my four year old write it. If I seriously want customers I would make sure the sign did just what I needed to do –just the date and address, big and bold – and looked professional, not in crayon, you get the picture. Is your site professional? There are certain things that a  customer will be looking for on any site. If you have a navigation menu on your site, does it look and work like a menu? You may be the best plumber in town but if someone who just moved into town needs you, does your site scream “I know what I’m doing!” or does it look and act like your four year old put it together?

There are many other things that the space here doesn’t allow us to go over. I’m not a doctor, plumber, or mechanic. I would never think of trying to operate on myself, wouldn’t want to risk flooding out my house, or even dream of swapping out my car’s motor. Think about getting professional assistance in putting your website together. You are the expert in your field, make sure that is what comes across to potential customers who visit your site.

There are many reasons a small company may feel that a website is not for them, usually it is because they don’t know where to turn to get some direction. So I am going to try and open your eyes to the possibilities the web and other technologies hold out to you if you are willing to listen to some free advice…. As a way to introduce myself I thought we would take a look at some rather far-fetched reasons why a small company might opt-out of having a website.

  1. You don’t have any customers or don’t want any. Sometimes this is how it seems to potential customers who are looking for you. Suppose I want to find a local Florist, where am I going to look? I’m going to turn to the web and do a search for florists in Trenton. It’s much easier and safer then risking paper cuts on the yellow pages. If a florist has decided that a web site is not for them, I may miss them altogether. One other nice thing about the web is that I can find information about their reputation as well. What do others think of you. It is in your best interest to place on the web, a site that shows your best side, and showcases your successes.
  2. You feel your customers know too much about you already. One of the first thing I look for on a local company’s website is an “About us” or “Contact Us” page. Usually it’s because I’m looking for a physical location I can go visit. Yes even though I’m a creature of the Web, I still enjoy touching the “merchandise” or meeting face to face with the people or company I will be dealing with. People in general want to know who you are, they want to be able to find these things out with-out jumping through hoops too.
  3. Your customers have never heard of the World Wide Web or are scared of the 21st century. Come on now, who are we kidding? Yes there are some who just don’t want anything to do with the web. There always will be, but keep in mind that the number of those who fit in this category are quickly dwindling. Are these the only people you want to reach? Most companies I know of are looking for the widest possible exposure. Don’t overlook the Web. Another thought to keep in mind is that the target age group for your business should not dictate whether or not you have a website, My mother, who is beyond retirement age, put together her own computer. The first time my preschool aged son spelled out his name was on a keyboard sitting in front of a computer.
  4. All my potential customers know where I’m located. There are very few businesses that can say that everyone in their community knows who they are or where they’re located. Even if you’re establishment has been around since 1612, there are always new customers and potential avenues for growth that may be missed without a Web presence. The sign outside your building probably cost you a small fortune. Why did you put it there? How much effort or money did you put into designing it? Would you think of running your business with out one? How about your business cards? It is safe to say that one of the reasons you have these things is that people expect them, the same can now be said of the Web and a website for your company.
  5. I’m not selling anything. Whether it’s mousetraps or ideas for improving them, you are offering something to others. Blogs have become the information source for many in your community, why not be a part of it? The florist I’m looking for may have spent a few moments of their time to post about the best flowers to give a sick friend or maybe they want to champion a “Beautify our highways with wild flowers!” campaign. As long as the message doesn’t get too militant, these insights into your companies opinions will draw potential customers to your door (or shopping cart.)

Maybe you can come up with a few more reasons why your company still does not have a website. Don’t waste too much time looking for them though, your competitors are snapping up customers that should be yours simply because they have made it easier for people to find them.

Next time I think I might take you on a voyage into the dark and scary world of bad web design and some simple rules to follow when building your own site.

Well, that was relatively painless. I am now up and running and have a passable wrapping around my brand-spankin’-new WordPress blog. Here are two links I came across that enable you to create pretty nice skins for a WordPress blog site – Did I say cheap?

PixoPoint – Which is the site I used to create the theme I am using as of today.
– or –
Check out Yvo Schaap’s* site for a very easy to use theme generator.

the PixoPoint generator is more flexible – and as usually is the case has a bit of a learning curve if you are not into web development. If all you want to do is put a personal look on your blog then zip over to Yvo’s site. I was looking to make my blog look more like my main site, so I went with PixoPoint (by the way I like their name…) In the end when I am able to spend more time with the back-end of WordPress I will probably create my own theme (More to enable me to get rid of the PixoPoint links, not because I really need to.)

*(If that’s not your name please forgive and correct me)

The goal of any Blog in my opinion is to do just that, enable a person to express their opinions in an open arena for all to see.

The goal of this Blog in particular, is to allow me the opportunity to express my musings on the state of the WWW. In particular how the technologies available today and in the future of that thing we call the “web” can be harnessed by the small business. Inexpensively I might add.

Here are a few things I hope to be bringing to light:

  • Do I really need a web presence?
  • How can I get the most bang for my meager budget?
  • What are my options when selecting where my site will be housed or hosted?
  • What is Whois and Why?

I also have a few projects up my sleeve that I want to air in public. my apologies to any I may offend in the process.

  • Can a small company or department within a company actually have an intranet without running a server?
  • I am also interested in seeing if I can bring to life a small modular server using some pretty cool tech

Well I think you get the picture.

I look forward to tackling these and other thoughts, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Steve