Why Don’t You Have More Web Site Hits?

One of the questions most often asked by new web site owners is “Why don’t I have more hits on my site”?  It is an unfortunately common misconception that, with web sites if you build it, they will come.  This just isn’t the case.  Web site owners have a tough time understanding why their site doesn’t rate higher with search engines, and why, when people search for the subject matter their site deals with, their site isn’t number one (or two, or twenty!) on the list.

Many web site owners spend large amounts of money and/or time on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and still don’t get the results they want.  Why not?  Understanding SEO is the key.  Meta tags and titles don’t have the SEO impact they once did because of the sheer number of web sites available on the internet. Far more important are a well written web site created with an eye toward key word usage, availability to search engine spiders, crawlers and robots and well chosen inbound links.  This usually means you need a pro to look over your site (or create one for you).

The simple fact is that the days of using the web as a tool to drive market share, or as an effective way to acquire new customers may be gone.  Estimates put the total number of web sites on the World Wide Web at about 250 million in 2009, and in the years preceding 2009, the web was growing at the rate of about 66% per year!  If that rate holds true, by the end of 2011 there will be almost 690 million web sites available on the internet!

With that kind of competition, unless you’re dealing with left handed, single action, lavender mousetraps – or something equally unique – a simple web search on your subject matter is unlikely to produce great results for a brand new web site.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t invest in a web site?  Absolutely not.  There are a number of things that go into deciding if a web site is right for you: your goals, your intent, and the potential return on investment to name a few.  Having a web site created may still be a good idea especially for small businesses.  It is how you use your web site, and your expectations for your web site, that may need to be adjusted.

Web sites are a great way to communicate with your current clientele, provide a market venue for folks who know about you and your brand, and introduce new products or services to your existing clients.

But what about new customers?  Just having a web site is much like just having a business card.  If you don’t use it effectively, it isn’t going to be of much help.  Web sites take work – lots of work.  While there may be value in hiring some SEO companies, a web site owner needs to get involved!  You need to work with a professional to understand how to get out on to the web, and place as many road signs back to your site as you can.  This can mean writing articles about your area of expertise both for your site, and for on-line media with a link back to your site, blogging about what you do with a link back to your site, using any “social networking sites” you have (like Facebook, or Twitter) to link back to your site (or establish accounts for your business!) and finding complimentary web sites with which to exchange links.

A good web site also offers a place for you to send new clients that you meet while marketing your business in more conventional ways.  Your web site address should be included in all of your correspondence, on your business cards, in your letterhead, on your email signature and on all signage or other advertising for your business.

If you do trade shows, look into having a live internet feed at your booth with your web site (and on-line store, if you have one) up and running on a computer.  Explore sending out emails to your existing clients inviting them to visit your web site.  You can also use tradeshows (or other gatherings of business – like your local chamber of commerce) to establish reciprocal link agreements.

Today, your web site is just one tree in a forest of 690 million.  It is no longer possible to set up a web site, and then just wait for people to find it.  Web sites continue to be a great tool, but only if you have a realistic expectation, and you use the tool properly.

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That New Customer Discount

 

 As a small business owner, there are some things that you just can’t afford to do, and chief among them is alienating your current clientele.  There is a trend in industry just now to entice new customers by creating “first time” or “new customer” deals or discounts.  While this practice may well open the door to new business, the idea can be a double-edged sword – especially for small business.

While it can be tempting to try to attract new customers by using special deals, discounts or other special treatment, it may be worthwhile to remember that your existing customer base is what keeps the lights on. Whatever a small businessperson does to attract new business, you should be very careful not to offend or alienate the folks who already spend their hard-earned cash with you.

Most people can understand that staying in business these days is a tough thing to do, and because they understand that, your current customers are not likely to get upset over a reasonable one time or very short term discount for new customers. It is worth remembering that a special deal that offers special services for a new customer are only going to be acceptable as long as the deal is both REASONABLE and short-lived.

It would not be a good idea to offer – for instance – a new service free to only new customers, or to offer, say, a 10% discount for life to new clients. While this may make your new customers happy, and even entice them from a competitor, it will surely cause discontent among your current customer base, and will likely cause existing customers to go elsewhere in search of a “new customer discount”.

It is a long standing (and true) maxim in small business that it is far cheaper to retain the clients you have than to attract new ones. It is likewise true that a dissatisfied customer is more likely to just leave than to give you an opportunity to solve a problem. Hand in hand with this is the fact that a disgruntled customer is far more likely to share their dissatisfaction with others than a satisfied one is to brag about you!

If you’re going to offer special deals for new customers, make sure a comparable plan is available to your existing clients at no cost to them. If you upgrade services free for new customers, make the upgrade automatic for existing customers.

If you want to do something special for new customers, do so – but ensure that you have also done something special for those folks already supporting your small business. If you get complaints about new customer offerings from existing clients, do whatever it takes to make those existing customers happy.

A small business owner in today’s economy just can’t afford to alienate the folks who have made it possible for you to get this far. That’s a valuable lesson to keep in mind. Always.

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Building a Website – The Case Against DIY

Building a Website

By: Codie Hart

With what is available today, anyone can build a website.   There are dozens of low cost and free software packages, and with many of them, there’s no need to even learn to code in HTML or any other language.  With a little patience you can find a WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) software package, and quite easily, with some clicking and dragging, you can create a web page in under five minutes.  Yes, you could.  But the fact that you could does not mean you should. 

The World Wide Web is literally littered with thousands of poorly written, poorly executed unvisited websites that have disappointed their operators, and in many cases have cost far more money in the long run than if the site had been done properly from the beginning. 

Unless web design is your core business, creating your own website is roughly equivalent to doing your own dentistry, or representing yourself in a court of law.  It’s possible, but not recommended.  A website is every bit as important to your business as your brick and mortar shop.  Just as you wouldn’t set up shop in a tumble down shack, you need to be sure that your website conveys the right impression to your potential clientele.  

So, why consult a professional?  There are some very good reasons, indeed. 

The look and feel of your website should convey professionalism from the moment a visitor arrives.  The site should be polished and sleek, with the design and layout that web users have come to expect.  The site should flow with a strong element of continuity and seamless transitions from one topic to the next.  The page order must be thought through and logically sequenced, and the pages must be linked together with both graphic links, and static word links.  The relationship between your site and complementary sites must be developed and presented in a manner that is both intuitive and easy, without ever risking the possibility of a visitor leaving your site altogether for other sites.  Your graphics must be used properly, and often, and the images themselves need to be created professionally, or, if you choose to use commercially available images, the copyright issues must be considered and properly handled. 

 Web users have become accustomed to a certain level of sophistication in their web experiences, and the majority will simply skip a site that fails to live up to that expectation.  There are simply far too many competing professionally done sites for users to bother with amateurish examples, and the general feeling is that if you can’t field a well done website, you can’t deliver whatever you’re selling either.  Web users have no patience for “creative” fonts, non-standard layouts or other gimmicks.  They want to see very well written text handled properly, and kept to a minimum.  They want interactive, well done graphics, good link management, and the proper type of link used for a given function.  Web users expect good graphics management – and that translates to an interesting site that loads quickly. 

Aside from the web users’ expectations, website operators and owners need to rely on their site to drive traffic and increase sales or, at the least, generate interest.  Simply publishing a website will do neither.  A site needs to be properly designed, and then properly managed and published.  The very content of your site must be honed to drive traffic.  Search engines index sites according to some specific criteria, and search engines are responsible for routing the vast majority of traffic on the web.  In order for the search engines to index your site, and to increase the popularity of your site among search engines, you need someone who understands the intricacies of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Your text, your graphics, your links all play into this very important and exacting web science.  You need someone who understand inbound links, outbound links and considerations external to your site (like article generation or web rings) which are among the many facets that increase your rankings, as well as negative practices like link farms or hidden keywords that can get your site banned from a search engine altogether. 

There is also a need to understand SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and programs that can use legitimate ads on the internet to bring traffic to your site, or use your site as a profit center by selling ad space or participating in available affiliate programs. Someone needs to understand how to leverage these ideas, all while managing your cost for such programs. 

Another area for external expertise is managing your website after it’s published.  In this day and age, you simply can’t post it and forget it.  Someone needs to be responsible for maintaining your site, and for ensuring that there is new content posted regularly, and that links are constantly checked to guard against a broken link, or a link that leads to an unexpected destination. 

Whether it’s your intention to publish an informational site, a display site or an e-commerce site it is important to remember that this is an area where it will pay handsome dividends to employ someone who understands the science of web development.  It is as crucial to contract a professional in this area as it would be to hire a professional for taxes, bookkeeping, legal issues or plumbing and electrical.  Although it is true that most small business people are take charge people, in some cases it just isn’t a good idea to DIY. 

About the Author

Codie Hart is the founder and owner of Owl Creek Communication Services. He has more than two decades of business experience, and specializes in helping small businesses prosper.

(ArticlesBase SC #3212475)

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/Building a Website

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Is a Website Right for Your Small Business?

Is a Website Right for Your Small Business?

By: Codie Hart

When determining whether or not a website is right for your small business, there are a number of things to consider.  Not all small businesses will benefit from a website, and the business decision to spend the money to develop one should be carefully considered. First on the list should be to develop a plan for the website.  What do you hope to accomplish?  Will you be providing information?  Developing an on-line market?  Establishing a communication forum with your customer base?  There are many uses for a website, but you must know exactly how you expect to use it to determine whether or not a website is a good business investment.  Yes, of course you can develop additional uses over time, but you must begin with a plan.

 Secondly, a website is a business investment, and among the metrics used to make such decisions should be the question of Return On Investment, or ROI.  In it’s simplest form, ROI is simply the percent of gain from an investment as a result of that investment. 

 The idea is to determine whether or not you can afford a website, and whether or not that website would pay for itself, and increase revenues.  While this sounds like a relatively simple idea, it can get complex.  For instance, should you decide to operate a static informational website, it can be difficult to determine how – or if – that website is impacting your business.  This is made easier perhaps by using the website to offer coupons or special deals offered only on the website, and then tracking the use of these incentives by customers.

 An e-commerce website is a little easier to track since it is a source of direct sales, though one must be cognizant of any increased cost of goods sold such a site might incur, including additional shipping costs, additional warehousing or increased labor cost.

 The entire exercise is made even more complex by the fact that there is no “right way” to calculate ROI.  The basic formula is: ((gain from investment minus cost of investment) divided by cost of investment).  This formula will produce a percentage, and that percentage is the return on the initial investment.  Keep in mind, however, that this number may vary depending on what you elect to use in the various inputs, and on what period of time the calculation is predicated.

 For instance, one way to calculate this number might be as follows:

 Let’s say your business averages $100.00 per day of gross revenue.  Now let’s say that your Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS) is 52%.  Based on these numbers, your net sales before operating expenses and taxes is $17,520.00 per year.  This number is also known as your Net Operating Income, or NOI.  Now let’s say that you want to operate a small e-commerce website.  We will suppose that the website will increase your sales revenue by 10% the first year.  However, we think that this portion of the revenue will be subject to an additional 10 points of COGS due to additional shipping and various other costs.  The NOI on this number is $1,387.00.  Let’s assume that the development of the website, and the first year of the website’s operating expense will be an investment of $800.00.  By applying the formula above, we can see that in this case, with these numbers, the ROI is 73.4%.  This number represents the return on the initial $800.00 investment.  That is to say, you got back your original $800.00 and an additional 73.4 percent of the initial investment in revenue gain.

 The same formula, using only the website gross sales as the input yields a 356% ROI.  It will be up to you (and perhaps your bookkeeper) to determine what numbers go into the formula.

 The last thing to decide before you jump onto the web is whether you have the time (and/or money) to operate a website.  You can not simply publish you site and forget it.  Someone must update the content, monitor external links, and perform various administrative tasks.  You can either take on this task yourself, or hire someone to do it.  Often the firm that does your website design and publishing will offer these services.    Either way, you must be sure that you have the necessary resources for this part of the project.

 Most businesses will profit from a well planned, well designed and well developed website.  Certainly you should consider what your competition is doing before making any decisions, and, as with any project outside your core business, you should consult a professional to help create your web presence.  See you out on the web!

About the Author

Codie Hart is the founder and owner of Owl Creek Communication Services, and specializes in helping small and very small businesses prosper. He has over two decades of business and technology experience.

(ArticlesBase SC #3197213)

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/Is a Website Right for Your Small Business?

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10 Steps to a Small Business Website

10 Steps to a Small Business Website

By: Codie Hart

In today’s marketplace, a small business almost certainly needs a presence on the World Wide Web.  I say almost certainly because there are business verticals that may or may not benefit from a website – say a local coffee shop or a Mom and Pop café.  Anyone else had better own a place on the web, because you can bet your competition will!  What follows are ten points to consider before you, as a small business person, should make the leap to http://www.yourbusiness.com:

 1.  Understand what you want to accomplish with your website.  This should be a business decision.  Having a website for the sake of having a website is just not good business.  Like any other business investment, you should have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, what your budget will be, and what you can expect the return on investment to be.  Do you want a static site that provides information on your goods or services?  Do you want an e-commerce site, a virtual marketplace from which to sell your goods or services?  Do you want to enhance customer input, or provide customer service, or answer frequently asked questions?  Maybe you simply want to show potential customers how you can help them, or simply provide a forum for feedback. Whatever business goal you might have, have a good, concrete vision before you begin.

 2.   Don’t do it yourself.  Yes, you probably could get a website up by yourself, but the fact that you could doesn’t mean you should.  A properly constructed business website entails a lot of fairly intricate detail.  There are many not immediately apparent considerations – from the type of server you use to the types of files you use.  At Owl Creek Communication we’ve spent a lot of time repairing and rebuilding websites attempted by well meaning do-it-yourselfers.  It’s a far wiser (and in the long run, cheaper) business decision to hire a professional to get it done right the first time.  In addition, hiring a designer means you have someone responsible when you encounter that broken link or corrupt image file on your website, and to lay the framework for good search engine optimization, orderly file handling, superior usability and the clean, crisp, professional image your site must portray.

  3.  Talk to a designer BEFORE you make any decisions about your site.  As I mentioned above, a lot goes in to creating an effective business website.  While you should definitely have a plan for your site (see Rule #1), don’t make any hard and fast decisions concerning any part of the project until you’ve had a consultation with a professional.  There are considerations to ponder before you even start the design work.  You’ll want to talk the entire process over before putting a stake in the ground.  Listen to what the professional has to say.  This won’t be their first rodeo, and you can benefit a great deal from their experience.  Make sure that you communicate your goals and aims, and ensure that you’re being heard.  A good design company is indispensible – and you do need their input – but in the final analysis, this is YOUR website.

  4.  Consider hosting.  One of the decisions that you’ll need to come to even before the design process is the question of hosting.  It’s worthwhile to understand that even if you have the best website design in the world, it’s useless without a hosting arrangement.  Some website design companies do their own hosting, and some have relationships with third party companies that they will use, and roll the cost into their final price to you.  Still other website design companies will have recommendations for you, but will use any hosting provider the two of you decide upon.  You will definitely need a designer’s input here, because not all hosting providers are created equal.  Any hosting provider can get your website on the web, but some will offer services or products that make it easier – or harder – for your designer to work with them.  Some hosting providers offer different types of server environments that can affect how your website will look and act on the web.  Some hosting providers will limit the size and use of your website, while others don’t.  Sometimes you can get services such as email addresses specific to your business, and some can offer discounted (or even free) services such as e-commerce utilities, web site traffic analysis, SEO (search engine optimization) services and much more.  You will definitely need to talk this over with your website design firm.

  5.  Get help with your site (domain) name.  One of the things a good website designer will do is help you find and register the name of your website.  With the right designer, this may even be a free service.  There is much to be considered here.  Your website or domain name is called a URL, and there are definitely bad choices here.  Consider the site dedicated to finding the name of a celebrity’s agent.  The business is called Who Represents.  Unfortunately the URL is http://www.whorepresents.com.  There are many, many cases of domain names that were just not thought through.  It’s worthwhile to note that there are companies whose business it is to register as many attractive domain names as possible.  In this way, if you wish to use one of these names, you must buy it – at a premium – from them.  A good designer may be able to help you here by showing you cheaper (or even free) options or derivatives of the name you want, or even the name you want with a different extension.

  6.  Oversee your content.  You hire a designer mostly to – well, to design.  The designer is going to do your layout, and with your plan in mind, create the look and feel of your website.  They will draft – or help you draft – the text that will appear on your pages with an eye toward SEO and driving business traffic.  They will create your imagery or use the images you provide, and develop the site so that it is user friendly and compatible with different browser environments and screen resolutions.  They will recommend user interface strategies, and build the necessary forms or links and handle their placement on the page.  Your designer will do all of these things and more , but you must see to it that they are doing it all under your supervision.  Remember, this website is an extension of your business, and you must ensure that the final product is one you are proud of.  Insist on reviewing every aspect before it is published to the web.  But remember that your designer is a pro.  If your designer and you disagree :

  7.  Understand the ramifications.  Your designer may be urging you to accept his version of the text because his version is specifically designed with SEO in mind.  What you say on your website, the images and links you use and the way the site is laid out all have an effect on how search engines like Yahoo and Google see and rank your site.  That in turn can have a huge impact on how much traffic gets driven to your site, which in turn has an impact on the return on your website investment.   Your designer may want you to use smaller images than you like because of load times and abandon rates – the longer it takes your site to load on a user’s computer, the more likely they’ll just skip your site and move on.  You’re the boss, but listen to your designer and understand clearly the decisions you make.

  8.  Consider your content.  Be sure that your website is fun to visit.  Dry and boring websites don’t get viewed, they get skipped.  Encourage your designer to use pictures, maps and other graphics, and to use relevant links to other places on the web.  Consider joining a web ring.  These are loose collaborations of websites on a common theme.  Find complimentary businesses that you can establish reciprocal links with, and provide links to places like your local Chamber of Commerce.  Take the time to write articles in your area of expertise (like this one!) and publish them on your site, or on content sites with a link back to your website.  Use content sites to find relevant articles, and repost them on your site.  Give people a reason to visit your site over and above the visit to your place of business.

  9.  Use multiple contact methods.  Insist that your designer incorporate multiple contact methods between you and your customer base.  Use email, postal addresses, information forms, and telephone numbers to provide ways for people to contact you, and acknowledge EVERY contact.  The World Wide Web is a great method of establishing communication, but don’t fall into the trap of supposing your email address is all you need to provide.  There are still plenty of folks out there who want to call, send a letter, or simply request a specific piece of information via a filled out form.

  10.  Review and update regularly.  Check your website every day for broken links or missing images.  Update your content, and put new information on the site on a regular basis.  If you have an e-commerce site, make sure the shopping cart works, and that all the links for checkout are functioning.  Some designers will do this for you for a fee, and others will teach you to do it yourself, if you wish.  No matter who does it, it’s up to you to make sure it happens.  Nothing is a bigger turnoff for a potential web customer than visiting a site with broken links, images that don’t appear, or an online store that doesn’t work.

  A website is a must for small business today, but there are many potential traps and pitfalls out there.  Just as you get professional help for other aspects of your business like accounting, taxes or legal issues, you should seek professional assistance for this very important aspect of your business.  As with any other contracted professional service, ensure that there is a clear scope of work and contract  – or at least an agreed upon rate or price in writing – in place, and keep these ten rules close at hand.  See you out on the web!

About the Author

Codie Hart is the founder and owner of Owl Creek Communication Services, a business communication firm. He specialiizes in helping small and very small business prosper, and has more than two decades of business and technology experience.

(ArticlesBase SC #3197189)

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/10 Steps to a Small Business Website

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