Non-Profits: Successful Online Strategies
|By Wendy Maynard
More and more non-profit organizations are developing websites to help share information about their mission and programs. This involves strategic planning about the best way to present your image and message online. Once your site is up, your organization also has to be ready to keep information current and to maintain consistent outreach activities. If your group is planning a Web site, consider:
1. How does your organization plan to use your site? Is it for marketing your organization, raising funds, providing information, announcing events, attracting volunteers, starting a discussion group, or something else? Answering this question will help you to develop a site that best suits your group’s needs.
2. Who is your group trying to reach? Think strategically about the audience you are trying to target. Are they current or potential clients? Are they donors? Volunteers? A particular group in the community? Tailor your website to speak to that audience.
3. What information do you want to include? Some of the components you can incorporate on your site include: your mission, a list of programs and goals, contact information (staff list, e-mail addresses, mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and directions to your organization), list of special events and dates, organizational history, links to other websites, volunteer opportunities, and press releases.
4. If your NPO wants to engage in online fundraising (and you should!), then carefully consider the following: How will online giving be managed internally? What online forms will you use to gather donor information? How will you ensure security for donor information and credit cards? What offline options will donors have who do not want to give online? Which giving options will be included on the site (ex: planned giving, current campaigns, future projects, etc.)?
Once you’ve decided on your content, speak to a web designer about the “look” of the piece. The impression that you give offline should be carried into your online presence. Your website is an important tool to reinforce your identity, image, and credibility. In addition to text, you can include full-color photography, your logo, and graphic images. Keep the copy simple and include interesting visual images that show the work you are doing in the community and the audiences you serve.
Marketing your site is as important as designing it. There are many ways to promote your website, both online and offline. Most people who visit your site learn about it from printed material, not from looking it up on a search engine.
For offline marketing, add your URL address to business cards, stationery, newsletters, brochures, fax cover sheets, and so on. List your website on any materials that you hand out at conferences, seminars, and workshops. Put it next to your organization’s mailing address and phone number. Send out a card or letter to announce the launch of your site and include an article about it in your newsletter. Send press releases to the local newspapers and to professional publications announcing your website. Make sure that your staff, Board, and volunteers know the site address and can discuss the content.
Online, you can register your home page with Web announce sites, directories, and search engines. Send e-mails to other related websites asking for a link. Send an e-mail to your clients, donors, partner organizations, and volunteers with a link to your URL address. Have staff and board members include this link at the end of the e-mails they send. Announce your site on relevant Internet newsgroups and lists – if you participate in these groups on a regular basis, you will help build an online reputation for your organization.
Another important online marketing strategy for non-profits is to list your organization with Internet charity portals. These websites offer a directory of non-profit organizations. Charity portals include CharityNavigator.com, GreaterGood.com, FreeDonation.com, NetworkForGood.org, and 4charity.comDonors often peruse these sites to help them with their research, so it’s important to keep your listing up to date.
Internet marketing is a never-ending process. It requires a commitment to send out regular e-mails, keep your site information timely and accurate, update your staff on the latest Internet technologies, and learn about other Internet resources that can benefit your staff and clients. There are countless ways to use your website to bring in and send out new information. As you learn more, you can also use your website as a means to recruit volunteers, raise funds for your current campaign, and encourage activism.
Wendy Gray Maynard is the co-owner of Kinesis. Kinesis specializes in marketing, graphic design, and business writing. Visit http://www.kinesisinc.com for more articles and free marketing wisdom.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Wendy_Maynard
Promote Your Local Business Online
|As a local business owner, you’ve probably been wondering what to do about the Internet. Maybe you already have a website or you might be thinking you should get online…but you’ve heard it takes too much time and money. It’s tempting to ignore the issue and hope it goes away, but a growing percentage of the population is turning to the web for information every day.Here are five reasons you should promote your local business online:
1. IT’S A GREAT COMMUNICATIONS TOOL
The Internet is the ultimate communications tool – fast and cheap. You can use it to communicate with suppliers, resellers, and of course, your customers. Some uses include
For some businesses, simply putting their catalog online has saved them thousands of dollars a year in printing and mailing costs. Of course there will always be people who want printed catalogs, and not every customer will have email. But in terms of cost, you simply cannot beat the economics. To follow up with 1,000 customers through direct mail will cost $370 or more just for the postage…but with email it’s virtually free. And being able to interact directly with a customer on a regular basis is priceless.
2. TO MAKE CONNECTIONS
There are lots of business people online, including people from your local community. People from the same communities have a way of finding each other online… and as always, it’s not what you know, but who. Just as you might pass out your card at a local chamber meeting, you can do the same thing online with your signature file – and a lot more people will see it.
It’s also a lot more time-effective than face-to-face networking. Rather than driving somewhere and sitting through another boring chicken dinner, you can get online and meet prospects and colleagues at any time of the day or night.
You can also develop a reputation very quickly online, adding to your credibility and opening even more doors for yourself – all without setting foot outside.
3. TO SERVE YOUR LOCAL CUSTOMERS
A website can be a worthwhile investment even if it’s just an electronic version of the Yellow Pages: street address, phone number, business hours, forms of payment accepted, contact information.
Except…what happens if you move, or your area code changes, or your hours, or anything else that’s printed in the Yellow Pages? You know the answer to that one.
But a website is dynamic — information can be updated at any time, plus you’re not limited to 2 or 3 lines worth of information. Plus there are so many ways to interact with your customer, which is a lot more interesting for them and potentially very valuable to you. Here are some very low-tech examples, very easily added to your website:
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions is a popular phrase on the Internet and in real life, there are always questions you hear over and over from your customers. These are the questions people have about doing business with you and you certainly want to make it as easy as possible. Why not save everybody some time and post often asked questions – and their answers – on your website?
Visitor Polls - Invite your customers to give their opinion about something of interest. For example, a business that caters to parents who home-school their children posed the question: “Which question are YOU asked the most about home schooling?” This question is relevant to the target market and something they most likely have experienced. It invites them to participate and along the way, give their opinion about something.
But most important to the business owner, it can be a source of incredibly valuable information about the customer – and it’s free. It also makes your website more interesting (as long as the poll changes often enough).
Discount Coupons - What better incentive for someone to visit your website than to save money? Customers love getting a bargain, and the great thing about coupons is the customer usually has to buy something to get whatever goodies the coupon offers.
Your coupon will especially motivate the prospect that was already thinking of doing business with you. Unlike a yellow page coupon, you can change it anytime.
These are a few simple examples, and this list can easily be expanded: order status, press releases, product information, a searchable product database. Again, the possibilities are endless.
4. BECAUSE YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE ONLINE
Did you know that 40-48 million adults went online last year looking for local content? The average local user is college educated, makes good money, and likes shopping online. They are more likely to make purchases than non-users of local content, either online or offline.
This demographic market is every business owner’s dream. As more local information becomes available online, people are starting to look at the Internet as something useful. Consumers are getting online in record numbers, resulting in a critical mass of local users in top markets, and spreading across communities of all sizes. Chances are a number of your local prospects and customers are part of this desirable demographic – and that number will only increase.
5. SO IS YOUR COMPETITION
Maybe you think nobody in your industry is using the Internet. But we guarantee, whatever your business, one of your competitors is successfully using the Internet to promote theirbusiness… perhaps not locally yet, but it’s just a matter of time. If your competition is there, you should be too.
So there you have it – 5 good reasons to get your local business on the Web. Notice we didn’t include the reason “to sell something”. Too many people have made that mistake – going online with the attitude of “if I build it, they will come” – slapping up a website and expecting the masses to beat a path to their door, credit cards in hand. It doesn’t work that way on the Web.
Many small businesses have had problems adapting to the Web. Fear, confusion, and business pressures have kept many owners from embracing the Net. For those that have tried, failure to understand the culture of the Web has often led to disappointment at the lack of results. To make matters worse, aggressive marketing by big brands is steadily eroding small business market share across many industries.
If small business is to survive, business owners must learn to harness the power of the Internet…or risk losing their remaining market share to competitors that “get” technology. For those who choose to ignore the “elephant in the living room”, hoping the Internet will go away, it’s only going to get worse in the days ahead.
6 Ways to Rev Up Your Web Site
|by Deborah Whitman
www.bcentral.comCreating a business Web site can be a major investment of time, money or both. How do you make sure that you get the most out of that investment?
Here are six suggestions for making your Web site work harder for you. They are derived from looking at hundreds of small-business Web sites and talking to several designers who work with smaller businesses.
1. Cleanliness is next to godliness:
Too many small businesses are enamored with speckled backgrounds, unreadable type fonts and a bewildering gaggle of buttons and animated gewgaws running across their Web sites. Resist the temptation. A simple, clean design will do a better job for you than a site that looks like a flashing slot machine. You don’t see the big guys like Amazon or Yahoo using pink marble or shadowy logos for their site backdrop. There is a reason for that. The background can quickly get in the way of the site itself, so keep it simple. Here are four smaller business Web sites that do a nice job of keeping it “clean.” One is a Virginia dentist, one a California day spa, one sells organic coffee, and one is a plumbing and pipe repair company in Redding, California.
2. Catch them in the first 10 seconds.
Your front page needs to be both a stop sign and a fast, effective messenger. “In two to three seconds the person should know exactly what the site is about or what the business does,” says Josh Beneviste of Nuba Design in San Francisco. Determine what image and message you want the customer to “get” in those first few seconds, and design your front page toward that objective. A short mission statement, or a summary of what your business does can be very helpful. Here are two bed and breakfast sites that quickly convey clear, albeit different, images and messages—the Blue Mountain Mist Inn in the Smoky Mountains and Manka’s Lodge in Inverness, California.
3. The first page should load FAST:
If you want to catch them in the first 10 seconds, your front page had better not take 20 seconds to reveal itself. Rod Thompson of Smokies Web, a Tennessee design firm, suggests that your front page should load in 12 to 15 seconds over a 28.8-baud modem. Test it to be sure! Photographs are usually the culprits when pages load too slowly. Many small businesses scan photos for their Web sites, but Beneviste warns that “just scanning a photo and throwing it up on your site is always a ‘no-no’”. You need to compress photo images so they are small enough to load quickly. Software packages such as Photoshop do this by removing some color information from your photo and reducing the quality of the image. It’s a balancing act to remove enough information so the photo loads quickly but not so much that the image look like an amateur pointillist painting. It is more art than science; a good designer often gets better results than a novice.
4. A navigation system that a 6-year-old can master.
Make it extremely easy for people to find their way around your site. On the Web, the system that helps you find your way around a site is known as its navigational elements. “Navigation should be clear to a 6-year-old,” says Sean Shelton, of Uversa, a Fairfax, Va., Web design firm. In fact, Shelton actually used to ask his son to test sites, before he outgrew the task around age eight. Navigation is easiest to find if it’s on the left side of the screen. One good example of a small-business site that has intuitive, easy-to-use navigation is Arrowood Vineyards. The graphics they use for navigational purposes could load a little faster, but it’s not painstakingly slow and the graphics ensure that you never get lost. Thompson notes that since some surfers still turn off graphics, you need to provide text-based navigation, as well. Most sites do this at the bottom of each page, as does the Arrowood site.
5. Update your site regularly with fresh information.
Bring people back to your site by providing important or difficult-to-find information. The daily fish report at Tradewinds Bait and Tackle, in Ocracoke, N.C., is a great example of this. Each day, they update the fishing report to tell people if it’s worth driving to the Outer Banks to cast for trout or bluefish. Another example is Pine Ridge Winery’s use of their Web site to showcase upcoming events and wine reviews. Retailers use thereviews to create timely point-of-sale information that can improve wine sales, and consumers can find out when Pine Ridge is holding an event in their area. The one caution here is that you must keep information up-to-date. Recently, I visited a restaurant’s Web site where the front page proudly featured a special menu for New Year’s Eve 1999. If you don’t have time to keep it current, avoid time-sensitive information altogether.
6. Hire professionals to design your site.
If you can afford it, your site will deliver better results if you work with a designer and a professional photographer. Unless, of course, you were born with awesome design skills. If you choose to hire a professional, be prepared to provide the designer with a project brief outlining:
Keep these tips in mind when it’s time to create your Web site or to give it a serious facelift. If you want to get a more in-depth look at web design philosophy, check out the book Creating Killer Web Sites by David Siegel. It’s a bit technical, but is a great guide to avoiding common pitfalls in site design.
Web Developer Planning Checklist
|by www.bcentral.comSimply put, developers should use their skills to bring your ideas to life.
But, as with any outside resource, you’ll need to work at your relationship with your Web site developer, to get him or her to execute your vision and to deliver the results you seek.
The following six items won’t take long to read, but will have long-lasting effects on the quality of Web site a developer creates for you.
35 Deadly Web Site Sins That Will Kill Your
|by Shelley Lowery
After reviewing thousands of web sites over the past couple of years, I have come to the conclusion that many business web sites are missing the boat.
For example; I’ve been working on some offline promotions and was searching for a simple targeted mailing list. I searched through about twenty sites and not one of those sites were, what I would consider, professional. Their standard blue links were enlarged to about a size 16 font, busy backgrounds, flashing images and very unorganized.
Did I purchase a mailing list from any of those sites? Absolutely not. Why? The way I see it, if those companies don’t take pride in their web sites, chances are, they won’t take pride in their products either. Large linked text and flashing graphics won’t make sales.
Your web site is a direct reflection of you and your business. The appearance of your site is the most important factor in determining your sites value. In other words, if your site doesn’t look professional or pleasing to the eyes at first glance, its perceived value and the value of your products and services will be low.
On the other hand, you may have a great web site, well designed and a quality product or service, but if it takes too long to load, the value will still be perceived as low. Why? Because your potential customer won’t wait. Ultimately costing you business.
Another consideration of great importance is your content. Not just links, but content with value. When someone is surfing the net and they visit your web site, they’re visiting for a reason. Your site has something they want. Whether it is your product, service or information, that’s why they’re there. If they don’t find what they’re looking for, they move on to the next site and so on. If you want your visitors to stay at your site, provide the quality content they’re looking for in a nicely organized fashion. Give them a reason to want to explore your site and to continue to visit your site in the future.
After receiving many questions, in regard to site design, from my visitors who weren’t selected to receive an award, I have devised a list of what I refer to as “35 Deadly Web Site Sins”.
Take some time to really look at your site. Compare it to sites that you feel look professional. Time your sites load time. Your customers won’t wait. Their time is valuable.
The simple, well designed sites make the sales. If your sales aren’t what you had hoped , take some time to seriously evaluate your site and make some changes before spending your time and money on advertising and marketing. You may be pleasantly surprised.
About the Author
Shelley Lowery is the Webmistress of Web Source – Your Guide to Professional Website Design and Development. http://www.web-source.net
The 10 Deadly Sins for Small Businesses
|by Deborah Whitman
So, you’re ready to bring your small business to the Internet. It’s time to create your online presence — your Web address, your corporate e-mail address, your business Web site; in other words, your marketing face in the online world.
Lots of businesses have walked this path already.
Here are 10 common mistakes many companies have made, but that you can avoid.
1. No-name nobody’s: Many small businesses choose to set up shop in the online world with a Web site name or URL on Geocities, Angelfire, Tripod or MSN, rather than having their own Web address. Which company would you feel more comfortable buying from — www.members.tripod.com/loudinismagicshop or www.loudini.com? (The latter is a real Web site, specializing in magic accessories.) I don’t think I’m the only online shopper who feels reassured by “real” business Web addresses. I’ve recently bought several gifts from an online company with a “no name” URL, and I’m wondering if the products will really arrive. A strong, easily recognized Web address is affordable for even the smallest business.
2. The same is true for e-mail addresses. If you are running a small business, it’s a great idea to set up an e-mail address that uses your business Web address. When you send messages to potential clients, to your bank or to suppliers, firstname.lastname@example.org (not a real site) looks far more professional than email@example.com. Bypass deadly sin No. 1: Make your Web presence a professional one by finding a good Web address for your business and using it for both your Web site and business e-mail.
3. Pokey pages: Many small-business Web sites load far too slowly. I’ve checked out small-business Web sites that have taken so long to load that my computer froze for more than five minutes. Most sites aren’t that bad, but if your Web pages take more than 10 seconds to load over a 28.8K modem, you run the risk of losing visitors to your site. Photos and graphics with large file sizes are usually the culprits when a page loads slowly. Use Photoshop or OptiView to reduce the file size of individual graphics and photos on your Web site to no more than 10K.
4. Picture paucity: You wouldn’t send out a marketing brochure that’s all words and no pictures. So why do so many companies create Web pages without graphics or photos of any sort? If a single picture paints a thousand words, use a judicious number of them on your Web site to communicate volumes. Photos of your store or office, your products, your employees — these images make your business feel “real” to online visitors. Images give you a tangible presence and let visitors get a sense of the kind of business you run. Harrell Remodeling, in Menlo Park, Calif., uses high-quality photos of actual projects and of the business team to convey a clear image.
Mind you, using pictures doesn’t contradict deadly sin No. 2. It’s important to use photos on your site, but it’s equally important that the file sizes are small enough to load quickly on your Web page. The other key is to use only high-quality photos, which often requires a professional photographer. Again, you wouldn’t send out a marketing brochure filled with cheesy photos, would you? Because it’s likely to be seen by many more people than most paper brochures, your Web site should be the best marketing brochure your business has ever created.
5. The “if I build it, they will come” delusion: One of the most common mistakes small businesses make is to assume that if there’s a business Web site, customers will suddenly start flocking to it. Don’t wait to start marketing your firm online. As soon as you are happy with your Web site, get going with the basics of online marketing. I recommend at least five marketing efforts when you launch a Web site. You can tell how strongly I feel about each of these marketing efforts because I’ve devoted an entire column (or two) to nearly each one.
Using these five steps, you can set up an online marketing effort that will help ensure that customers come to visit the awesome new Web site you just built.
5. Phoneless in cyberspace: Don’t forget to put your phone number prominently on your Web site. Many small-business executives have said the way their Web site is most frequently used is a customer looking at it while calling the company. Customers will refer to something on the Web site, but they actually buy products or order services on the phone.
Unless you are working out of your home, it’s also a good idea to put your mailing address on the site. It adds to the comfort level of knowing you are a “real” business.
6. A barrage of banners: Joining a banner exchange can help bring traffic to your Web site, but putting two, three or four banners on a page, along with buttons for Amazon, Netscape and five or six other affiliate programs just makes your site look busy and cheap. You’d never find a large-company Web site with multiple banners on a page (OK, don’t send me examples . . . I’m sure some big company makes this mistake, but don’t follow the lead).
If you join affiliate programs such as Amazon.com’s, you’ll probably find that you get much better results if you provide links to specific products in context, rather than a generic button to those companies’ home pages. For example, if you run a Web site selling Raggedy Ann dolls, why not show a selection of books about the history of rag dolls and link to Amazon.com so that customers can buy them? You actually get a larger percentage of the sale from Amazon this way. And you provide a service that makes sense for your business, rather than another distracting button on your Web site.
7. Disappearing acts: I am floored by how many small-business Web sites are here today, gone tomorrow, and back again next Tuesday. It’s been a real issue for me as I write these columns. More than once I’ve had my editors drop me a note asking why they can’t find a particular small business’s Web site, when I’ve visited the site only days earlier. It may sound obvious to say that it’s incredibly important that your Web site is up and running when customers go looking for it, but the disappearing act is a mistake that many small businesses make.
How to make sure your site is up? Either assign an employee to check the site several times a day, or use a service that will notify you if your site goes down.
8. Antique information: You’ll want to keep the information on your Web site current. I’ve seen small businesses that have forgotten to update phone numbers, showed daily specials that were months old or offered online coupons that expired weeks earlier. You’ve got to maintain your Web site to keep it current. Make sure someone on your staff is responsible for the Web site’s information and checks and updates it routinely.
9. Background noise: For some reason, many small-business Web sites use busy background wallpaper. You’ll find gray embossed company logos, wild patterns and other distracting background designs on many small-business sites. People think the designs add interest and panache to the sites, but all it does is interfere with the messages. Stick with a basic color for the site background, one that is consistent with your site’s image. A white background doesn’t have to be boring.
10. You do what?: The final deadly sin is to have a Web site that doesn’t quickly convey the kind of business you are in and the products and services you offer to customers. Sounds like another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many small business Web sites leave you looking at them for minutes while pondering, “What do these folks do?”
The front or home page of your Web site should include a short statement of your business mission. Consider augmenting that statement with a photo or graphic that makes it clear what you do. One site that does this well, despite offering a service that’s not familiar to many of us, is Brown Plumbing. The front page tells you that Brown Plumbing repairs pipes, and if you don’t completely get it, the next few pages offer clear graphics about how they repair pipes.
We all might as well learn from the mistakes of others. These are 10 mistakes worth avoiding. (And you thought you only had seven to worry about.)
12 Tips for Zooming to the Top of
|by Deborah WhitmanGetting listed on the major search engines is Priority No. 1 for promoting your business on the Web. But getting good listings is no easy feat.
Many small businesses tell tales of woe about their difficulties getting listed on Yahoo!, MSN, AltaVista and others. In my previous column, I outlined three options for getting your site listed, depending on how much time and/or money you have to focus on the problem: 1) doing it yourself, 2) using an automated search engine submission service, or 3) hiring a firm to manage the process for you. Today’s column offers some tips for improving the results of your search engine submission.
Getting a good listing on the major search engines is kind of the Holy Grail of Internet marketing, and it’s not always obvious how to do it. As Scott Marino, owner of WebUndies.com, notes, “The search engines don’t want you to know how they work.”
There are ways to improve your chances of getting listed, but it’s important to keep your expectations in line. If you are selling CDs online, there isn’t much you can do to get listed above Amazon.com in most search engines, except maybe to name your Web site Aggressive CDs, since some search engines list sites alphabetically within a category. In general, there is a limit to how quickly you can move your site up against a long list of competitor sites. But check out these tips to help get you listed and to identify which categories you want to be listed under, to avoid being lost amid hundreds of competitor sites.
Search engines vs. directories
Many people use the term “search engine” to refer to any site, like Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista or Google, where you go to look for something on the Web. However, there are two distinct categories of search sites, and they use vastly different mechanisms to determine whether and how to list your Web site. Directories such as Yahoo!, LookSmart (which provides directory results for MSN, Excite and AltaVista) and Open Directory employ people to evaluate Web sites and make individual decisions about whether a site should be added to their directory. Search engines such as Alta Vista, Google and Excite use complex automated processes to evaluate sites for listings. Most search engines scan your Web pages and the page title and metatags to determine where and how to list your site.
Getting your business listed on search engines and directories requires slightly different strategies. To find out some key strategies for listing on each type of search site, I talked with Jamie Silvestri, who manages bCentral’s search engine submission service, Submit It!, and Rich Wichmann, senior account executive at Webster Group International (WGI),a St. Louis company that specializes in online promotion services. Silvestri and Wichmann offered the following suggestions for getting well listed.
Tips of encouragement
Be patient. Realize when you start that you will not get listed right away. Most of the search engines and directories can take four to eight weeks to list your site. You can speed up the process at Yahoo! and LookSmart by using their fee-based express listing services.
Be persistent. If you don’t get listed after the first eight weeks, don’t get discouraged. It’s pretty common. Submit your site again; persistence pays in this game. It’ll save you time if you keep copies of the information you submitted to each engine. Many of the search engine submission services like bCentral’s Submit It! or Submission Pro! will save the information for you. If you have disappointingly low hit rates the first time out, check out the search engine tips on sites such as Submit It! or Search Engine Watch, and tweak your submissions before resubmitting.
Tips for listing on directories
With directories like Yahoo! and LookSmart, always remember that real people are reviewing your site. Try to put yourself in their shoes. They need to quickly decide whether your site looks interesting and somehow “good enough” to be listed, and whether it is a good fit for the categories you’ve chosen. Try the following:
Pick the appropriate category. Make sure the primary category you propose for your Web site fits your site’s front page extremely well. Choose a category that clearly matches what is on the front page of your Web site so the reviewer can quickly look at your site and have no question that it’s appropriate for the category. The person reviewing your site can choose to change the category, but he or she is just as likely to reject you if the match seems a bit off. For example, if your front page features printed invitations for all occasions, you’ll have a better chance of getting listed in a broader category like “Printing: Invitations and Announcements,” than in something more specific like “Wedding Invitations.” If you also want to get listed under wedding invitations, in this example, you can either list it as a second category (Yahoo! allows two alternative category suggestions) or create a separate Web site to highlight your wedding invitations and submit it separately.
Spruce up your Web site. The directories are all about trying to put together what human beings feel is good and interesting on the Web. “They’ve got to be making the call based on the look of the site,” says WGI’s Wichmann. The better your Web site looks, and the more interesting or useful it is, the better your chances of getting listed. If the major directories reject you more than once, consider overhauling your site to improve its look or content. You can check out a recent column for ideas on how to improve your site’s design.
Submit to the geographic section of Yahoo! Yahoo! has regional listings (for example, you can search for “dry cleaners Minneapolis”). If your business has geographical relevance, consider making one of your two alternative categories a geographical listing. Silvestri says Yahoo! is actively trying to build its regional listings, so you may have a better chance of getting listed there.
Avoid sales jargon in your site description and title. The directories dislike sales jargon. Again, put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes: She or he is trying to create an objective listing of the best sites offering your product or service. Silvestri says you are much more likely to get listed if you describe your site with a phrase such as “Online sales of baseball mitts, baseballs and other sporting goods,” than with a description like “Lowest-priced baseball mitts on the Web! GREAT DEALS!!! Buy now!”
Tips for listing on most search engines
Search engines such as Alta Vista, Excite and Inktomi use algorithms and rules to scan your Web site and decide where to list it. Each search engine has its own criteria and processes, but the following tips are useful for most of them.
Choose keywords that match how customers speak and search.
Tips for “special case” search engines
A couple of key search engines operate differently than the others. Google is probably the most important since, as of August 2000, it replaced Inktomi as the provider of search results for Yahoo! While Yahoo!’s primary results continue to come from its own directories, the secondary results now come from Google.
Google’s search engine looks at how many sites link to your site, as a proxy for how popular or interesting your Web site is, and uses the results to rank your site in its search results. The type of sites linking to you also is important. A link from a popular site (i.e., one that has many others linking to it) counts for more than a link from a wallflower site that has few linkers of its own. Direct Hit uses a similar approach. To improve your listing on Google, and indirectly on Yahoo!, try the following:
Exchange Links and Lure Customers for Free
|by Deborah WhitmanLet’s see. You’ve done the basics. You’ve created a well-designed Web site that markets your company and your products. You’ve listed it on the major search engines so that Web surfers can find you.
But you still aren’t getting quite the number of visitors you expected. How can you lure more customers to your Web site without spending a fortune?
Many small businesses are trading referrals with other businesses on the Web, just like they do in the offline world. When I was planning an event last year, the caterer spontaneously handed me business cards for a florist and a photographer she’d worked with and really liked. Those kinds of referrals happen all the time in the real world. Make them work for you online as well.
Creating reciprocal links
In the Web world, referrals usually take the form of reciprocal links. You agree to put a link for another company on your site in exchange for it linking to your business on its site.
To negotiate reciprocal links, you identify companies that might be willing to trade links with your business, and e-mail or phone them to suggest the exchange. Then craft a page (or pages) on your site to feature your reciprocal links. You can position this page based on how you set up your links. I’ve seen businesses call it “Cool Links,” “Nearby Attractions” or “Businesses We Like.” InnStyle, a Pennsylvania company that sells linens to the bed-and-breakfast industry, has one of my favorite ways to feature a links page. It calls its page “Links for Innkeepers,” positioning the page as a clear benefit to its customers.
Reciprocal links can help your Web site in two ways;
Small businesses report differing levels of success with the amount of traffic these links generate directly. Some say reciprocal links bring a large percentage of traffic. Others say it’s only a trickle. But figure that since you never know which visitors may turn into buyers, even a small flow of free traffic is a good thing.
What kinds of businesses should you seek out to exchange links with? Here are six suggestions.
1. Companies that offer complementary products or services. One of the more popular ways to do reciprocal linking is to trade links with companies that offer complementary services — things your customers need in addition to your product or service as part of the same experience or solution. An obvious example is a bed and breakfast or hotel featuring links to nearby restaurants and local attractions. The Inn at Occidental, a four-star bed and breakfast in Sonoma County, Calif., shares links with several nearby wineries and a spa, for example. A nursery might trade links with reputable gardening service providers or tree service firms, or a cabinet company might trade links with a flooring company, on the assumption that a customer will need both when remodeling a kitchen.
B & H Cedar Log Homes, in Fredricksburg, Va., has an extensive list of links to other sites that customers might value when building a log home. The company directs customers to log furniture manufacturers, gardening and landscaping sites and pool and spa sites. Owner Sandy Helms says he’s been putting the links together for six to nine months, and while traffic from the links is relatively small, it only takes a few log home sales to make the links pay off. He views them as “a service for the people who surf our site,” and credits the links with helping to drive his No. 1 position in Google’s search results for log homes.
2. Unrelated companies that serve your customers. You can also share links with other companies that target your same customers, but serve very different needs for them.
Arte Americas in Houston, for example, sells art prints and other products decorated with artwork by Hispanic artists. The company’s site shares links with a dozen or so others serving the Hispanic market, including Picosito.com, QuePasa.com and Chorizo Links. Owner Charlie Pena says, “I’ve gotten a lot of visitors and hits because of the links. It’s worked out really well.”
InnStyle’s “Links for Innkeepers” features reciprocal links to about 12 other companies offering an array of services for the bed-and-breakfast trade, including an insurance company that specializes in B & B coverage, a soap manufacturer and a coffee company. Founder Susan Sternthal says the links aren’t her best traffic generator, but they are “one more vehicle to bring people to your site. That’s what you need.”
Sternthal makes a point of keeping her list of links short and relevant to her customers. By being selective and choosing businesses you feel good about recommending to your customers, the links can be a great service, as well as a free way to reach new customers.
3. Local businesses. Some businesses share links with other local businesses, even when there is no complementary service or shared niche customer base. For example, a local dry cleaner might put up links to a nearby printer, camera shop or coffeehouse. Harpoon Brewery in Boston trades links with local businesses such as Tatnuk Booksellers and the Boston Ski and Sport Club. Montana-based Ballou Woodcarving promotes a number of other Montana businesses by trading links. Such links may not provide as much traffic as links to complementary businesses, but if they are not time-consuming to arrange, they can still bring new customers.
4. Your suppliers and distributors. Companies whose products you sell, or that sell your company’s goods, also are good to trade links with. Suburban Wholesale Lighting, in Paoli, Pa., provides links to vendors whose lighting products it sells, as well as to local building contractors who purchase and install lights from Suburban. Many of the businesses provide reciprocal links back to Suburban. Suburban gets only a small amount of traffic from the links its suppliers post. But if Web surfers are looking for a lighting distributor near Philadelphia, they can find Suburban on many lighting vendors’ sites.
5. Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations’ sites. Some chambers of commerce and convention and visitor’s bureaus have online directories of businesses, which typically are populated with local members. Bullard, innkeeper at the Inn at Occidental, says he gets a significant number of online visits from various chambers of commerce. Check with other organizations to which you belong to see if they have an online directory.
6. Competitors. Odd as it may sound, it may make sense to share links with competitors in some circumstances. The Inn at Occidental has a page on its Web site called, “Inns We Like,” which links to about 20 other high-end bed and breakfasts in California and Arizona, including several within a 20-mile radius of the Inn at Occidental. When I asked innkeeper Bill Bullard why he would do that, he replied that in a market where inns all tend to fill up on weekends, competition isn’t his biggest concern, and these links are some of his better online traffic generators. One nearby inn sends him more than 500 online visitors a year.
A good way to jump-start your thinking about who you can trade links with is to use Alta Vista or Google to see which companies link to your competitors. In either of these search engines, you can type “link:” before a URL to discover which Web sites link to a particular site. (For example, you can see who links to InnStyle.com by entering “link:Innstyle.com”)
By investing time instead of money, you can help build your Web site traffic with reciprocal links. After you have a dozen or so links up, you may find that businesses will start to contact you to suggest creating reciprocal links. One businessman says he gets one or two reciprocal link requests each month. Once you put link trading into motion, it may take on a life of its own.
Tips for Choosing a Web Designer
|When thinking about selecting a Web Designer and planning you Internet marketing budget, keep these tips in mind:
What to Look for in a Web Designer
What is Web Design?
Web design is the art of designing Web pages/Websites. Professional Web designers have the experience and knowledge to create powerful, dynamic, interactive Websites. They can actually help you achieve the success you are looking to attain, but contrary to popular opinion THEY ARE NOT A DIME A DOZEN! Finding a Web designer that has the know-how to apply the advanced techniques that can help you increase your Website traffic and keep your customers coming back for more is not an easy task.
Some of the questions you need to address are:
One of the best skills web designers can provide is writing and organization of materials. You can find out a thousand great programmers, but only a few good writers/editors. You need a web designer who knows how to organize your materials into a commercial presentation that’s easy to use-both logical and intuitive.
A good web designer combines:
What sort of ongoing support are you offered?
After you set up your website, the need to keep adapting to the audience is essential. Sometimes this means constantly updating your site; other times it requires simple repositioning, remarketing, and reuse of the same materials.
Many companies force you to accept the myth that all sites must be updated all the time. Find a company that works within a number of scenarios and knows how to apply them. There are many different, successful business models for the Web.
Look for a web designer who is multifaceted. While knowledge of computers and the Internet is important, so is creativity. A good web designer is part computer-geek, part graphic artist, part writer and part advertising executive.
Steer clear of website designers whose only language is “geek speak”. Your designer should be able to discuss it with you in plain English. Choose a website designer who’ll be honest with you about what’s possible and what’s actually desirable in terms of the bells and whistles on your website. A good web designer won’t try to sell you more than you need or build you a website that will take your customers a long time to load.
Do You Need a Website?
Where do you begin when choosing a web developer? We have included some guidelines for you below. Choose carefully, 60,000,000 potential customers will be looking at your site on any given day. Everyone knows that first impressions mean so much. You need a high quality, affordable, professional design team to work on your presentation.
The Pages – Does your designer make clean looking and simple pages? How fast do their pages load? Fast loading pages and quality content are the most important. Gadgetry, high end graphics and all of the other bells and whistles found on some sites increase costs and often turn visitors away due to the excessive time it takes to browse.
Internet customers will often move quickly away from a site that infringes on “surfing” time. If your site crashes visitors’ computers or requires additional software and plug-ins to view it, you can bet they won’t be back!
Does the designer have a unique style, humor, and/or professionalism that reflect the image you would like to have for your company? A style will bring in interest and business for you or your organization?
How does their own site look? Does it convey expertise and professionalism? Are words misspelled? Is the grammar appropriate? Does it load quickly?
Creativity. Functionality. Interactivity.
A successful site starts with a design incorporating all of these elements. Whether you wish to enhance communication, create a statewide, national, regional or global presence, or strengthen brand equity, an innovative, easy-to-use site will make you stand out on the web!
The most important task for any web designer is providing a site that is useful to its visitors, provides the right kind of information in a logical, organized way and attains the appropriate balance of graphic design appeal and download speed.
It is important that the design should fit the site’s target audience. A high-tech company can reasonably expect that potential customers are regular Internet users and will, for the most part, have fast Internet connections and the latest browser. A small manufacturing business, however, cannot make such assumptions and may therefore consider avoiding frames, browser-specific extensions, and large images that customers with 14.4 or 28.8 modems will have difficulty downloading.