Website Tips

A Solid Foundation

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Success is built on a solid foundationAs I drive around I see that there are a lot of construction projects going on. What I’ve noticed about them is that they start out as a hole in the ground then over a relatively lengthy period the foundations are laid. Seems like not much activity for a long period of time. Then all of a sudden, the building almost springs out of the foundations.

There is a lesson to be learned here that can be applied to most areas in business and life. I’ll leave the life lessons to your personal life coach and look at it from the perspective of your business and website.

Let’s start off with a simple question. Why did you start your business? Sick of working for fools? Wanted to be the master of your own destiny? Wanted to be the next Warren Buffet? Whatever the reason, one thing remains true for all:

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

I know it’s a trite old saying but there is a reason it has been around so long. It’s true.

Usually when you start your business, you have an idea for a product or service that you want to offer. Most people know about their product but not about business. It’s one of the reason that most small businesses fail.

In the Illawarra, there are around 2,500 new businesses starting every year and just as many closing. Why is that? In most cases it is not because they have a bad product. Business Know How sites 7 common reasons[1] for a business failing.

  1. You start your business for the wrong reasons.
    Would the sole reason you would be starting your own business be that you would want to make a lot of money? Do you think that if you had your own business that you’d have more time with your family? Or maybe that you wouldn’t have to answer to anyone else? If so, you’d better think again.
  2. Poor Management
    New business owners frequently lack relevant business and management expertise in areas such as finance, purchasing, selling, production, and hiring and managing employees. Unless they recognise what they don’t do well, and seek help, business owners may soon face disaster.
  3. Insufficient Capital
    Business owners underestimate how much money is needed and they are forced to close before they even have had a fair chance to succeed. They also may have an unrealistic expectation of incoming revenues from sales.
  4. Location, Location, Location
    Location is critical to the success of your business. Whereas a good location may enable a struggling business to ultimately survive and thrive, a bad location could spell disaster to even the best-managed enterprise. This is also for your online location.
  5. Lack of Planning
    Anyone who has ever been in charge of a successful major event knows that were it not for their careful, methodical, strategic planning — and hard work — success would not have followed. The same could be said of most business successes.
  6. Over-expansion
    A leading cause of business failure, over-expansion often happens when business owners confuse success with how fast they can expand their business.
  7. No Website
    Simply put, if you have a business today, you need a website. Period.

Click here to read the full article at businessknowhow.com

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” (Thomas Edison)

So if you want your business to succeed, you need to plan and to build a strong foundation.

Number 7 on the list was “No Website”, I would also add to that “The Wrong Website”. Let’s look at some of the reasons[2] a website fails and can add to the failure of the business and what you can do about them:

  1. Lack of content
    If there is nothing useful to your target audience, there is no reason for them to visit.
  2. Wrong domain name
    No one searches for Bob Smith and Co. so a domain name of bobsmithandco.com will attract very little attention. People do search for Warilla Tyres so try to get the domain name warillatyres.com, even bobsmithwarilltyres.com is a better option. Notice that there are no dashes in the names I’m using. That’s because dashes make it harder to tell people your address. Try saying “bob dash smith dash warilla dash tyres dot com” to someone. It’s a real mouthful and hard to remember. It’s much easier to just say “bob smith warilla tyres dot com” and easier to remember.
  3. Most website owners don’t update or proofread their sites
    Lot’s of spelling and grammar mistakes tells people that you are not very good at your job and it’s a huge turn off. Also, why go back to a site if there is never anything new there. One of the things Google looks for is “freshness”; if you don’t update, you slide down the search results. Make sure the content of your site is well written and give your visitors a reason to come back.
  4. Too many adds on the page
    You create a web page to tell your customers about your business. A load of adds will just turn them off. A few well placed adds that complement your business is fine but don’t overdo it. It looks very unprofessional.
  5. Spending too much on your site
    You don’t start your business off as a multi national corporation. Your website needs the same consideration. Don’t try to build everything at once. Look at your site as a long term investment. Start with the basics and build on it as your business grows and evolves.
  6. Not enough time spent researching keywords
    What if I build it and no one comes? It’s a question everyone asks. Well the way to get them to visit is to make sure that they can find it. One way to do that is to make sure your site is built on the right keywords. I’ve started a series on this[3]. Check it out here.
  7. Not optimising your website
    Huh? What does this even mean? Very simply, it means building your site in such a way that the search engines rank your site well so people can find it. It’s about using the right keywords and phrases that people will search for and structuring your site around them and the use of things such as social media and social bookmarking. Stay tuned, I will be creating a series on how you can optimise your site.
  8. Not responding to visitors
    People hate being ignored. If you have a contact page on your site and someone sends a query, make sure you respond quickly to let them know you care. It is also good to have an automated response to let them know immediately that their message has been received. It should also tell them when they can expect a response.
  9. Not having a site at all
    Most businesses are aware that they should probably have a site but don’t know what to do about it so they do nothing. The good news here is that you don’t need to know that much. Just like you know you need a car so you get one and leave it to the dealer or the mechanic to service it, you need to find a site developer that can develop a site that suits your business. Pick someone that can understand your business and what it needs to ensure that you get a site that helps you build your business.

This all sounds like a lot to take in and there is a whole lot more if you dig enough. What is important is to understand what you want from a site and then build a solid foundation around that. A website should complement your business, not be the centre of it. It is your connection to the world. Build it the same way you build your business.

References

Free Images

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Are you looking for images for your website? Would you like to get 50 images for free? Then check out Dreamstime. Whilst they have a huge selection of royalty free images you can purchase, they also have over 40,000 images that you can download free of charge and you can download up to 50 of these without having to pay a cent.

Before you ask, yep, I do get a benefit if you sign up and decide to buy some images. You can still sign up for free though and download your free images, no questions asked. Another thing important to know, I signed up in July 2009 and I have nt had any spam from them or any affiliates. Always good to know.

So click here and get a few images for free to help liven up your site.

Something About Keywords (part 1)

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When creating a web page, you hear a great deal about keywords and getting them right. So what are people talking about? Now, to give you an in depth understanding on keywords would take a very long time and there are some very good (and long) books on getting your keyowrds right. All I’m going to do here is, hopefully, give you some basic information that may help you understand what they are talking about when other people bang on at length about them.

OK, so what are keywords and why do I need them?
A keyword is effectively a word or phrase that someone will use when looking for your site or a site like yours in a search engine. Most people searching for something on the web won’t know you exist, so you want a way they can find you. Typically, they will go to their favourite search engine, type in a word or phrase and click search. They’ll get back a list of sites that match the terms they’ve entered. If you have built your site around the selected keywords, then you have a better chance on being near the top of the list.

Where do I put these keywords?
Your site is built around your keywords, so it’s a good idea to work them out before you start building (we’ll be looking into this in Part 2). Now there are a number of different places that you want your keywords to appear. Some important ones are (in no particular order):

  1. Your page title:
    This is the little strip of text that sits at the very top of the browser. You want your title to not be too long (a dozen words or so) and it should contain what you consider to be your main keywords.
  2. Your URL:
    This is your web address. You won’t always be able to get your main keywords in your web address because someone may have got their first but it can help to have a main keyword or two in there. Say you are providing aged care services, you could try to have an address like www.aged-care-services.com or something similar.
  3. Your keywords meta tag:
    Huh? Don’t worry if that sounds technical, it isn’t really. It’s simply a piece of code stuck in the heading section of your website that contains all of your selected keywords. Below are the keywords used in the Illawarra Consulting home page.

    <meta name=”keywords” content=”website, web, website design, web design, hosting, web hosting, website hosting, wollongong, illawarra, shellharbour, web design wollongong, web design illawarra, web design shellharbour, business services, web maintenance, website maintenance, website health check, health check, small business web site” />

  4. Your page description:
    This is another piece of code that sits in the heading of your web page. This is a description of your site. It’s important to get this right becuase often this is the text that search engines will display below your link. This too needs to contain your main keywords. Here’s the one from the Illawarra Consulting home page.

    <meta name=”description” content=”Website design and maintenance for small businesses within Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Illawarra. Web design services to get your business on the web. Illawarra Consulting, bringing the world to your door.” />

  5. In your page test:
    Surprisingly, this is the one that most people get wrong. They go to some trouble to find the right keywords for their site and then don’t use any of them in their page text. It’s important that your keywords and phrases are used in your page text.

Why do I put my keywords there?
Simple really. That’s where search engines look when deciding whether your site matches the entered criteria or not. These days the search engines look at all of these factors (and a whole lot more) and compare whether they are consistent with each other. Get them right and you could see your page appearing on the first page of search results.

Join us next week when we look at some ways you can select effective keywords.

Blog Posting

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I was wondering what to put in this weeks offering. Should I put something in about getting the front page text right or maybe something on page titles. I was very undecided just what pearl of wisdom I would share with the world. That was until I was bombarded with comments to this very blog. So I thought I’d share with you my feelings on blogging etiquette.

For those of you writing a blog

If you are maintaining a blog, I recommend that you make sure all comments are moderated. That means you get notified every time there is a message and you get to choose whether to it gets posted or not.

“But that could take ages to look after!”, I hear you scream. Yep, it could, but the down side if you don’t is you get offers for cheap Viagra and bodily organ enhancements as comments on your blog about how to code CSS or your astute political observations. It kind of reduces the tone and quality of your efforts. You see, there are a lot of unsavoury types out there that are after as many back links to their site as they can get. Back links help to increase search engine ranking, thus increasing traffic and hopefully increase sales. Sounds like a noble endeavour but do you really want to turn your site into an advertising site for the undesirables.

In order to maintain the quality of your site, you want to make sure that any comments posted are relevant to your site and any back links posted are to clean and relevant sites. If one of your readers clicks on a dubious link and ends up with a nasty infection, it doesn’t do anything to help maintain your readership.

Most blogging software allows you to easily moderate your posts. I’m using WordPress and it allows me to look at all the pending comments, quickly approve the ones I think will support my blogs aims and then delete or mark as spam the rest of them. It takes only a few minutes a day to do. When I find a post I’m not sure about I check the site link out. If it is rubbish then the post is removed.

For those of you posting comments to a blog

We understand the need for cross promotion to improve your website ranking. After all, the more links to your site you can get out there, the better your chances of being page one on Google is. Well in theory at least. Search engines are getting smarter, they are now starting to look at the relevance of the links you post. Posting a link about curing acne to a blog about website tips (yes, I’m using an example from this very blog) just doesn’t cut it. Put out enough of these useless posts and you will find your site vanishing from the rankings as most search engines do not like spam. You may be able to get your site quickly to the top but it will vanish just as quickly. Then you’ll need to start all over again. Is it really worth it?

Please keep your posts relevant to the topic at hand, don’t post abuse at other posters and make sure your links are to sites that are related to the post in some way. I run a blog to support my clients, and help promote better websites and internet practices. I really am not interested in cures for acne, cheap ugg boots, discount “legal” drugs or dating Russian babes.

Keep it relevant or stay away.

Getting the Size of Your Images Right

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One of the most important things on a website are the images. They can help bring a site to life and as they say; “a picture tells a thousand words“. Good pictures can be a real asset to your site and bad pictures… well you’ve seen bad pictures and they just turn you off the site.

In this post we’re not going to look at what is a good or bad image to use. That is very much down to personal preference. Here we are going to talk about getting a picture to look the way it is meant to by getting the sizing right.

Many people think that the higher the resolution of the picture the better quality the image will be. Very very wrong! In fact an image that has a resolution too high will look very grainy and will not be appealing at all.

Have a look at the two images below:

band band

Which looks better?

The one on the right does. Guess what? The one on the left is the high resolution image. It is 1696×2544 and the one on the right has been re sized using a free re-size tool to 250×375 before it was uploaded.

So not only does the one on the right look better, it takes up less space and as a result it loads faster.

OK, I hear you asking “shouldn’t a higher resolution picture look better?” and that would be a fair question.

The answer comes down to the screen you are looking at the picture on. Most laptop or LCD screens can show 96 pixels every inch. Each of our pictures used here are restricted to display in 250 pixels across. This means for the the image on the left which is 1696 pixels wide, in order to fit into the space allowed, 6 out of every 7 pixels are ignored. This leaves a grainy looking picture.

The image on the right, however, is 250 pixels wide and therefore none of them are lost when it is displayed.

But won’t an image re-sizer just do the same when it shrinks an image?

No it won’t. When it is shrinking an image it looks at all of the colours in the surrounding pixels and adjusts the colour of the pixel it is keeping to keep the clarity of the original picture.

So next time you want to add a picture to your website, get the picture you want and then re-size it to fit where it is going to be put before you add it to the site. Just do a scan for “image resize” in any search engine and you will be bombarded with free tools to do it for you.