5 Ways To Anger Website Visitors (and lose them forever)

FacebookGoogle+LinkedInStumbleUponPinterestRedditShare

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Remember the good old days of the “Website Under Construction” banners? That is actually how I used to find a lot of clients. I would use my spider to go out and look for “construction.gif” and a short time later have a small business website client ready to go. It was almost like, well – you know, fish in a barrel. Only clients aren’t fish. Clients are people and they have the same personality traits as the rest of us. Heck, you’re a client to someone.

The web has changed a lot since I did my first site for Media Play back in 1994 – which never made use of the afore mentioned (and pictured sample) greeting. In fact I rarely see the sign but what I do see is equally or more disturbing. Many of these are simple to address and cure even if you, heaven forbid, do you own online development.

Five Tips To Drive Away Clients

Small business websites are just as crucial, perhaps more so, to a small business as enterprise sites are to major corporations. For the small business person a website usually handles part of the job of sales clerk, part of the job as communications tool and even part of the job as marketing intern. Converting casual visitors to dedicated clients is generally the goal so wasting their time in the first visit generally means that’s there last visit.

  • Noise that plays automatically – in crude terms people refer to this as ear rape and it’s a great way to have them click away from your site and even say negative things about your site in social media networks. Silent pop-ups, silent auto streaming videos and even silent redirects are all more acceptable to visitors than anything which makes noise when they visit your site. Imagine someone at work trying to sneak a visit to your site or someone in a shared workspace – or a parent who just got their children to sleep. Noise that plays automatically is here at the top of the list because it’s an horrible offense.
  • Broken Links – websites with broken links are generally websites with too many links and no dedicated webmaster. Promising someone a peak at your menu using a broken link generally results in them navigating away never to return. The worst broken link you can have is your “Contact Us” link but any broken link is not a good thing. Trim your links, use a service to scan regularly and have a human person double check at least monthly.
  • No live chat response – and I admit I have been guilty. If you are going to install one of the many “Live Chat Now” services on your small business website be sure to either (a) turn it off when you cannot monitor it or (b) pay someone to monitor it at all times. In addition be lite on the canned responses. For example if the user types in “small business help” as their user name and your system says, “Welcome small business help, what is your question?” then ten seconds later posts “Just one moment small business help I am answering your question”, then ten more seconds “While you’re waiting, small business help, please check our FAQ section” … you get the picture.
  • Past date events and announcements – not too long ago I stumbled on a site which offered a local meeting I was interested in. It was talking about “next week” and giving the date of May 11 and I was interested in going. As I was completing the free RSVP I noticed it was May 11, 2010 and this is 2012. Why is that still on this site? What else on this site will I waste my precious seconds reading?
  • Excerpt marketing – you’ve seen it. You go to your favorite search engine and typed in “price of 10k gold” and clicked on the link which took you to a page that simply has a link to another article about the price of gold. Just a short line designed to capture search engine traffic for page impression purposes. Google is trying to thin these out but they often pop-up, get high in the ranking and trick a lot of people before they are de-indexed. That’s the black hat method but you can also be guilty of it on a small business website by doing the same thing in innocence.

 

Small Business Websites and Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM)

It is my belief every small business needs a web presence. While brochure sites are easy to build they don’t do much for the prospective client except ask them to pick up the phone or stop in. Contact automation has a powerful place but must be used wisely. Using the big name companies with fees of $30 to $100 per month just to manage a small list of contacts really doesn’t make sense when you can own your own, custom developed CRM for about the same as it costs to subscribe to a major service for a year. You never worry about a customer who forgot they signed up and reports you for spam or how many emails you can send to each contact per month when you own your own Customer Relationship Management System.

What, Exactly, is SEO and Why is it Important to Small Business?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Small business SEO is the realm of snake oil and magic bullets. It’s the place in cyberspace where digital hustlers spread their lore and captivate audiences with stats and stories from around the globe. You will find both the trustworthy provider as well as the ant-lion hustler spewing great gushers of acronyms in volume enough to spin the heads off ten penny nails.

Let’s see – what all did I confuse the search bots with in that paragraph? I got “small business SEO” there at the lead then I hit it with “snake oil” and “magic bullets” in one sentence. I think by the time I got to “ant-lion”, “hustler” and “ten penny nails” the Googlebot probably thought I was using an article spinner. That’s another topic in and of its own but for now let’s get to the pertinent information for the small business online marketer who, let’s face it, needs to be found in search engine searches.

How we got here today, I mean the history of search engines, is important but that’s a little beyond the scope of time I expect you to invest in learning the what and why about small business SEO. Today nothing matters more than Google. That said there are other important tools and systems relative to online search marketing but none of them tops Google. In fact Google dominates the search engine space with 83% of the search engine activity as of May 2012 (resource).  The closest “competitor” is Yahoo with 6.5% and Bing is all the way down at 4.15% of total global search share.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization, SEO, is the practice of creating or modifying a website, a webpage and/or the content thereof to be more “search engine friendly” and thus result in more searches displaying your page higher (ie closer to the first result) in the search engine results pages (SERP). As an example if Janet makes wood beads for jewelry she would certainly like for her website link to appear at the top of the search engine results when anyone searches for “wood beads for jewelry” or “wood beads”. It could mean the difference between a few sales and thousands of sales – this, of course, depends on the demand for the product.

Five Startup Tips for Small Businesses

Chances are you have thought about it, dreamed about it and even discussed the idea of starting your own business. Congratulations you still believe in the American Dream.  There are currently somewhere around 25,000,000 small businesses existing as a legal entity inside the United States of America. I chose the word “existing” instead of “operating” for the simple fact that some of these small businesses never quite get off the ground. I further used the word “legal entity” because there are also thousands, if not millions, of small businesses operating “under the radar”.

Starting a small business is a big decision. Making big decisions requires planning – if you plan to succeed. True enough many, maybe even most, small business owners start out by “just jumping in there” but there are many pains which can easily be avoided just by taking a few breaths and planning.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When considering starting a small business, at least the first one, most people are quite clueless, even in this age of the Internet, about required steps, suggested steps and steps to avoid. Don’t count on this article answering all of those. However, from my 33 years as a small business person having owned and operated nearly a dozen with an array of results, there are some pointers from experience I can share with the average person to possibly make things a little better for you. These tips should apply well to almost any business and will certainly give every reader food for thought on how to start a small business.

Tip One – Passion

If you’re not passionate about what you are thinking of doing then sleep on it until you are passionate or until the idea passes. How many people have gone to a food storage container party or a make-up party on a whim only to leave with hundreds of dollars worth of product samples to go home and start their own business? As an avid yard-saler I can tell you it appears to be a very large statistic. My favorite place to buy those well known kitchen items is at yard sales from people who are selling their demonstration kit for pennies on the dollar. If you haven’t been already planning and strategizing for at least a few weeks I strongly recommend waiting until your emotions level out.

Small Business Blogging: Why Do People Blog?

Why should you blog?

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Blogging is an elective. There is no requirement for blogging just as there is no requirement to eat diet food … unless, of course, you really need to. Likewise with blogging. If you study the statistics for small businesses you will find certain types of businesses do much better as a result of blogging than others. We know, for example, that social media’s highest participatory demographic is females between the ages of 18 and 34 (report link). We also know that companies who blog have 55% higher website traffic than companies who do not blog (report link).

Every legitimate business should have an online presence. If any business has an online presence they should also employ some method of making sure that online presence is seen.

Small Business Blogging

For the small business person the concept of outbound marketing to gain inbound results really is simple: find the highest return for the least investment which pays off the quickest. What some “social media gurus” may try and sell you is that blogging and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all you need I, who depend on internet marketing clients to buy my pies, disagree in a pretty major way. While these tools certainly should be in virtually every small business marketing strategy they should never be depended on to achieve your fullest results.

Every legitimate business should have an online presence. If any business has an online presence they should also employ some method of making sure that online presence is seen. One advantage of blogging over a simple, static, brochure type site is the frequency at which relevant content can be published. Google prefers new to old and so do readers. If you are in a business like many of my clients who are either in the mortgage business, real estate business or training/public speaking business the content of your business is constantly changing and therefore needs to be reflected in your online information. Blogs are perfectly suited for this by leaving the older copy available in an archive and publishing the most current and accurate information regularly.

When A Small Business Person Should Hire A Professional

Now.

The end.

“And now”, as Paul Harvey made famous, “the rest of the story.” I get it – you’re a small business owner. You know how to do it better, faster, more efficiently, with a special twist, or any other number of ways to make it “better”. If you did not think one, some or all of these to be true you would not be a small business owner or independent contractor. For you the world offers few challenges you are not willing to take on regardless, or in spite, of your experience in the given field.

Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe truth is I could do my own dental work. I can certainly cut my own hair and even press my own clothes. Just because I can does not mean I should. Even the pressing clothes one has a trade off which may prove best to contract the services of a professional for any number of reasons. One big failure of small business people is to calculate the true value of what may prove to be our most valuable asset: our time.

But I can do it myself

Recently I explained to a client I can write, comfortably, SEO articles on virtually any topic. I can write real estate SEO articles and I can write articles on recombinant DNA. What I failed to include is that I can also do my own taxes, file my own corporate formation documentation and even represent myself in court – should the opportunity so present itself. So where should I draw the line?

Remember you’re not the only light in the sky. It takes thousands and thousands of (visible) stars to make the night sky dazzling. One star alone does not a starry night make. Learn to identify your limitations and leverage your strengths to create opportunities for the true professionals – the other stars in the sky. When it comes to where you are the sunshine then you’re still not the only light in the sky but in your time you will outshine the others.

There are currently around 27,000,000 small businesses in the United States and that according to old figures from 2007. We are pretty certain that as a result of corporate downsizing  and economic disaster many people have joined the self-employed and small business ownership ranks since 2008. If you are one and you’re still finding it difficult to fit all of the necessary hats on your head perhaps this is just the discussion for you. Rather than spending hours listing things you probably suck at but attempt to do anyway, like your own website and your own payroll (if that’s you), let’s look at recommended ways of determining your strengths and leveraging the results from exercising those to cover the small monetary fee for hiring a professional to take their field off your table.

How To Record Skype Calls

You bet it can be valuable to record conversations on Skype. But I bet you have search for “recording skype calls”, “skype call recorder” and even “free skype call recorder” before you found this article. According to Steve Ballmer’s CES closing keynote there were over 300 billion minutes of Skype conversations in 2011. It’s fair to say many of those were important business calls or even audio interviews which need to be archived. For my personal use interviews for either Social Media Edge Radio or RETSO Radio are a regular part of my week. Using a Skype call recording application is crucial.

Using this free application to record Skype calls is definitely not the only way it can be done. I have tried others including PrettyMay, Freecorder and others. Of all the few I have tried for Windows the MP3 Skype Recorder (available from here) has been the easiest to setup and use and has delivered the highest quality of its class.

Yes there are other ways! If you have a different way please share it with us and tell us why you like it.

The Facebook IPO and Your Next Venture or Investment

Remember back in 1998 and 1999 when everyone, at least in my world of web and application development, was getting checks for just crazy sums of money? It was the Dot Com Boom, yes it is. I mean was. Or is?

What We Learned About Web Start-ups The First Time Around

Back in the late 90’s I made some pretty good cash doing websites for people who really needed a data driven, dynamic web presence. They already had businesses and not just business ideas. It was the day of Front Page and early Dreamweaver when people were finally learning the difference between “the Internet” and AOL. It was in the days when you asked for someone’s email address and they gave you their AOL username without the @aol.com part. It was the wired west.

My sister ran the front office for a startup here in Atlanta who received millions of dollars from angel investors and proceeded immediately to buy everyone matching BMWs, rent some of the most expensive space in town and fill it with ungodly expensive furniture and decor. Since that wasn’t enough they overpaid everyone and threw lavish parties. They didn’t even make it to the bust, they were long gone before that happened. Bad management, no real product and pure money lust propelled them to failure – along with the millions they never earned or repaid.

Dot Com Boom 2.0?

Because we have now seen the failure of “the field of dreams” scenarios and the success of some of the most unlikely cast members investment funding for idea projects is once again flowing. In reality one is much more likely to win from investing in a successful Internet startup than they are to win big in the lottery or at the casinos. Why, then, does it seem such a challenge to get small investments from large crowds of the same people who will gladly spend $500 a year on the lottery and have no problem losing a few hundred at the craps table? Perception …

How Facebook’s IPO Will Change The Way We Invest

Until recently before one could “go public” and accept investment funds from ordinary people who also want a shot at greatness the corporation had to jump through many legal hoops to prove their viability. Likewise investors had to prove their financial status to make investment early in start-ups. Not that this stopped bigger investors but that only lead to people with money getting the first shot at big payoffs while smaller investors didn’t stand a chance to get in before the IPO or in the first round of sales.

As long you’re investing money that you can afford to lose, helping someone take a crack at making his or her dream come true can actually feel pretty good.

Enter 2012 and some very important changes to the laws which affect how companies, specifically start-ups like Atlanta’s CheepMonkey, can raise capital. Prior to the passing of the JOBS Act the system was, “set up so that you have to have a certain amount of money in order to invest in startups,” Alen Peacock says. Regulations require that you have $1 million, excluding the value of your house. “So for people who don’t meet those minimum requirements,” he says, “they’re just out of the game.”

Simple! Create Your Own Business Website on Google Sites – and it’s Free

Why would a web developer be giving a tutorial on how to create a web site? Simple: you need a professional one that does a lot of things you probably cannot get your own to do but you also need others to help build your network for lead generation. Google Sites provides just such a location to help you catch a few more eyes and turn them in to fingers that call you or enter their credit card number into the form on your main site.

Because Google Sites does allow HTML you’ll be able to do quite a bit with the site even if you are an advanced user. But the beauty is you really don’t need to know one line of code to create a decent site, for free, on Google Sites. My intention is to do a series of video tutorials as short in length as possible to get you going. Don’t worry if someone comments on the video or blog about how juvenile this is or how you can never depend on these pages for business – they’re just jealous of you. In reality you can’t have too many web pages. It is mathematically impossible.

The only link you need is http://sites.google.com and if you don’t have a Google account, I mean if you’re one of the last 37 people who don’t, now is the time to get one. Then follow the video and you’ll have a website in less than 10 minutes. Very basic, but a site none-the-less.

Read along as we develop our site or visit it if we’re already finished: https://sites.google.com/site/yadogs7/

File uploads for small business websites

Recently a prospect contacted me with a need for their clientele to be able to upload a few different types of files via the website. The company requires documents from their clients and wanted to move away from the fax machine and allow customers to upload files directly from their computer to the site. The files needed were PDF, DOC, TXT, and ZIP.

Since the company already had an existing WordPress installed for their Content Management System (CMS) they needed a solution their WordPress guy had no idea how to create but needed it to work with their theme he had customized. This mean it had to be created in such a way that when their existing guy quit handling it and new updates were made the application would not break.

Web Development

The coding of the file upload application was identical to any that would be created for any stand alone site not encumbered by a CMS like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Since the maximum file sizes would be around 3 to 4 megabytes we simply used a PHP upload function and stored the files in a non-web accessible directory above the root. This was done for security purpose. We then created a simple way to inject the application into the loop on WordPress using a shortcode so that wherever ##UPLOAD## is found the application is inserted into that location on the page or a sidebar.

There are options, too, if you do not have PHP on your hosting account or if you want to go above the limit for PHP uploads. One option is to split larger files into smaller files and rejoin them on the server using PHP. The other is to use Perl to upload any size file (based on server limitations). Either way the solution is there and cost is based on how it is used.

When a whisper online screams big opportunity for small business

As  a small business professional, meaning I have started, built, operated, and sold small businesses since 1979 there is one thing I always wanted to have and worked like mad to discover or create: a desirable advantage over my competitors (thus eliminating them as threats). For example: In 2000 I was coding ecommerce sites for Swissartex (later renamed to ICHA) at the rate of about 2 or 3 per month. Business was

small business keywords

Use the Google keyword tool to determine which "secrets" are most spoken!

excellent. I had one assistant, Anusha Patel, and a couple of contractors who came and went. We were well content in what we were doing. But with so many coders out there how did a little no-name, one office developer, land such a great gig creating ecom sites for Fortune 1000 companies at the rate of dozens per year?

First you have to know I only had one real competitor in my area, that was Bella Web Design and they are my friends, but I didn’t want to do just local, I didn’t want to make things pretty – I wanted to make things work and lift heavy loads. That’s when I quit doing sub work which ended up on the back ends of sites for people like The Atlanta Braves. I quite literally created a spec work ecommerce solution and readied it to come out of the box. When I finally got the chance to demo it live not one person ever turned it down – even for the price I was charging.

I didn’t know anything special I just heard a secret: I heard (read online) that a new company called PayPal was going to make it possible for anyone to operate an online store and accept credit cards and checks. It was just a whisper in a message on a board.

Here is my advice if you are listening for whispers today. Think about the things you may overhear in a conversation between complete strangers standing in line at a restaurant that would make you speak up and introduce yourself and toss in your pitch. Go set those as Google Alerts. Seriously. Then even if you don’t respond to the alerts read what people are saying when they are using your keywords. One of these things may transpire:

  • You may contact them directly and establish a transactional relationship with them
  • You may be inspired to create a global solution including the desires you picked up in whispers
  • You may write an article with the answers to questions you see repeated often using your keyword and attract new business

Think about it. How can you use “whispers” you pick up online? What whispers have you heard that have been leveraged into business for you? Your contemporaries love knowing about your success, please share it in the comments below!