You Have a Website… So, Now What?

October 14, 2010

Congratulations, you have spent the last few weeks/months prepping, and getting your site ready to debut and the time has finally come to unveil your site to the world…. so now what?

For the most part, if you have a website the purpose of it is generating income, whether it be from direct sales of products and services online or simply pushing people to physical places to buy your products. But, generally speaking a websites purpose is usually to either get information out, bring people in or convince people to buy something. With that in mind, please note: just because you have a website, doesn’t mean you will profit from it. Thanks to sites like Angelfire and Lycos in the past and WordPress and Blogspot today anyone can set up a blog/website with little to no costs and attempt to convert internet surfers to customers.  There are billions (under-estimate I’m sure) of websites out there trying to get you to buy their product, so why would people choose yours?

Well if you’re in the business of providing a service, there are three primary reasons that you will get business: 1) Because you’re the best. 2) You are cheap. 3) They know you or have been recommended by someone reputable.  Let’s break that down some more. The best way to get good business is to be the best. To be the best you need to be knowledgeable, respected in your industry, (usually) not a new-comer, provide great customer service and quality work. With that combination, odds are you’ll get the most traffic. The next way to achieve a good conversion rate with your website is being cheap. People are cheap and often want the best quality for the lowest price and also people will often sacrifice quality for a lower price if they can get away with it. Being cheap brings in business, but it also usually reflects in your quality of work produced. The last main reason people will come to you is because they know you or have been referred to you. Personal recommendations have a far greater impact on decision making (especially when it’s quality work) than almost anything you can do on your own… unless you’re a celebrity. And people seem to just buy their stuff simply because they are famous. With that in mind, if you really want to generate leads and sales, first try to be the best. Second, have a good reputation which will generate good recommendations. And if you must, simply be cheap and you should get traffic. But there are no guarantees here.

Having a website doesn’t = sales. You are competing not only with local competition and other businesses that your potential clients have talked to, but now since you are online you are also competing with people all across the globe. A website is a great start to promote your business, but just because you have one doesn’t mean people will come, you need to promote yourself to have that happen. And you also need to be able to produce quality content in a manner that will make people want to hire you. That’s why you need to be the best and stand out from the competition. What makes you better that Joe Somebody down the street? Do you have better prices? Have you been in the industry longer? Are you more knowledgeable  when it comes to (fill in the blank here)?

People want to hire the best candidates. The better the quality content produced the more likely to be hired. Oh, and people like to have specialists. Be great at one thing. It’s not a business plan to be a jack of all trades and master of none. For me, I specialize in web design. Which encompasses graphic design (and branding) and how it all connects between the logo, the website, banners, fliers, newsletters, etc. I’m not great at programming, but I’m learning and the more I work with it the better I’m getting at it.  So on my website, I will say that I can code programming sections of the site, but I am much better at the visual aspect of websites, which is why I’m more of a front-end developer rather than a back-end coder. Therefore I will branch out and focus on the design and aesthetic components of a website more so than the functionality, not that I don’t do it, I just am better at the design.

In conclusion, be the best at what you do. People want to hire a master of a trade rather than jacks of all trades. A website does not make you receive traffic. It also doesn’t automatically generate income. You have to promote your business and work hard to sustain it. Personal recommendations go much farther than you think and being the best at what you do helps a ton.

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Meet the Family of the Dust Bunny Mafia

October 11, 2010

Frankie, Vinnie, Jimmy, Leo, Vic, and Benny

 

Meet the Family of the D.B.M. Here.


International Freelancers Day (Sept. 24-25, 2010)

September 23, 2010

Tomorrow and Saturday comprise the first annual International Freelancers Day, two days packed with 25 great speakers in 1 spectacular event. And the two best parts of the event are: 1) It’s completely free; and 2) It’s all online (no travel required). I’m attending this event and I can’t wait to watch some of the presentations and learn what I can be doing better for my business and if you’re even slightly interested in this I recommend you sign up for it too! All you need is an email address to sign up, and you can do it here. For more information on the event, watch the video below or take a look around their website, http://www.internationalfreelancersday.com.


Authors Writing For the Web

September 8, 2010

From CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to the Average Joe from the Starbucks down the street, more and more people nowadays are finding their voices online through the use of blogs. This post is dedicated specifically to the authors of the world, but also provides useful information for everyone else writing for the web. Without any more introductions, here we go.

Balance the lengths of your articles. Not every post to your website/blog needs to be a chapter of a book. There are certain lengths of articles that are more acceptable for about 75% of the articles you’ll produce; most of these are less than a standard typed page. You will have some longer articles, but for the most part, know that even the most dedicated of audiences aren’t willing to read pages and pages of the same article on the web. For me, if the website doesn’t offer a “view entire article” option and has more than say 3 pages, I will skip the article altogether. When writing for the web, keep in mind the attention span of your audience. Shorter, concise, and straight to the point articles keep audiences happier and make you look like a better author.

Write it like you mean it. Everything that you post to your site should have intention to it. Whether it’s intended to promote an upcoming event where you’ll be at, a press release detailing a new product or simply a light-hearted post about something intriguing that happened this week to you, have a purpose for everything that you post online. If you want people to take you seriously as an author, show that you know what you’re doing. I’m not saying that you can’t write rants or show your personality online, you need to do that to set yourself apart from the rest, but what I am saying is have a purpose behind everything that you publish online.

The last thing to keep in mind when writing for the web is making sure to write it well. Whether or not you have journalism training, keep in mind that a poorly written article can kill your credibility even amidst a sea of well written articles. The simple techniques and practices to writing that you learned back in school still apply today and should be used effectively in your writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King with thousands of followers hanging on your every word, to a random journalist with a free blog and a handful of friends who sometimes follow your posts. Well written articles sell your credibility.

In conclusion, keep it short, make it meaningful and write well. Writing for the web is different than writing in print. Sure, there are overlapping features in both settings, but in general they are different and need to be treated that way.


5 More Elements That Kill Your Website’s Credibility

August 11, 2010
  1. Using Google Images as Your “Professional” Images
    Anyone can go to Google images perform a generic search, save the image files and post them back onto their website, but please stop using them as your professional images. If I can find pictures from your site on Google (and the original isn’t from your site), you lose credibility. Here are just two of the many ways to find good images for your website: 1) Use stock photography. It’s cheap and sometimes you can even find free images on these stock sites. Generally, stock photography costs less than having a professional photographer come in and take pictures. Also, the photos on stock websites are of great image quality, which only improves the credibility of your site. 2) Call in a favor with a photographer. It doesn’t have to be a professional photographer, but at least have a friend with a good camera come in and take some real photos of your building, property, people, etc. I would much rather see amateur shots of your company on your site than generic images that people take off Google images any day.
  2. Reusing the Same Set of Images
    This point follows closely with the previous one, but is important enough to merit it’s own bullet point. Now, I am all in favor of using images to their highest potential, but if you only have one image of your customer service staff, then show it once on the site and that is enough. Please do not use the same image over and over (unless its your company’s logo, trademark, etc).
  3. Images of “Visa, Mastercard, AMEX” and “Paypal Payment Methods”
    These images were originally intended to improve credibility on websites during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Now, they just make your site look outdated. Just about every company these days accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and if they don’t they will clearly state it. You don’t need to show it with an overused image. The same thing goes with Paypal Payments image, if you use Paypal, show it. Have a link to Paypal payment methods in the shopping cart checkout section, that’s really all you need to promote your working with Paypal.
  4. Not Including Enough Company Info
    Your website is the primary means of communication online for customers and potential customers to get a hold of you, so why wouldn’t you want to give people several different ways to reach you? A phone number is nice, but in all reality, if all you have is a phone number of your company on your website, you didn’t put enough effort into reaching out and connecting with customers on your site. Generally the more ways for people to contact you the better it is for your image. On a contact page you should at least have: 1) The company’s address; 2) A phone number; 3) email address; and 4) a contact form. If your company is on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) add links on your website to those pages. This way people have a variety of methods to reach you. People want to know about your company and make personal connections with them. Personal connections keep people coming back. That’s another reason to have a company address listed on the site. If you say your company is the number 1 seller of solar panels in Eastern Washington, giving an address (of Eastern Washington) drastically improves your credibility.
  5. Long Pages of Scrolling
    There are certain unstated standards when it comes to web design. One of these has to do with scrolling pages. It is a fact now that scrolling on websites pages is acceptable (which wasn’t true in design standards about 5 years ago) and is frequently used. Some types of pages are more acceptable to have longer scrolling times, such as blogs, tutorials, specific product lists, etc. Others however, should not have long pages of scrolling. Take photo galleries for instance, these should not be long scrolling pages; instead, try using a sample of thumbnail images and when you click on them it pops up with the full size. This will improve credibility and shorten page lengths.

5 Reasons to Have an Updated Website

July 26, 2010

Everybody wants to bring more traffic to their site, whether its a personal blog or a corporate company, but it can be difficult to know exactly what you need to achieve this. In this article, I describe 5 ideas to help you realize why your website needs to be updated consistently.

  1. Your services, rates and content will change over time.
    If you have the same content on your website that you’ve had since you started, it’s probably time to freshen up your website. If your website text only changes when you add a new page, visitors won’t want to return. People want to know when the products and services will change so that they can do what is necessary on their end. If you suddenly increase your rates or add a new service but never tell your customers then you will end up missing out on more business. People can’t utilize your new addition if they don’t know about it. Keep your content updated and your clients will be happier. And it will also be less trouble to update in the future.
  2. Design changes.
    Look at fashion, hair styles and even art from ten years ago. I can guarantee that the styles of then do not match up with the current trends of today, unless they are some of the select that coming back into style for a little while.  Design is no different. The way that websites appealed to people in the 1990’s does not work today. People want to see things change and evolve; your website is no different. It should reflect the look and feel of your company of today, not who you were ten years ago.
  3. More traffic to your site.
    The more you update your site, the better it will be indexed and ranked on search engines. Everyone wants to have better placement and rankings in search engines, so the more you update your site with good content, the more it will be noticed by search engine robots. With better placement and getting your content out there it will further extend your brand’s reach which will in turn open up the possibility for more people to come back to your site.
  4. More relevant keywords = better specific traffic.
    Deriving from the last point, the more you update your content, the more keyword optimization you are able to use. The main thing to keep in mind in here is that you could simply fill all your pages with just keywords, internal links and not have any real content, but that practice is called keyword stuffing and it’s not recommended. Sites that keyword stuff are more likely to be lowered in search engine rankings, flagged as spam sites and then your credibility is shot, which results in lower traffic, if any at all. At that point it is very difficult to gain your credibility back. But if you have fresh content being added to your site consistently there are more keywords added into each page which will bring in more detail-specific traffic; the people are often going to stay longer as well because the content on your site is relevant to their searches.
  5. More links add traffic.
    The more you update your site with fresh content, the more links you create. Each of these links are potential bridges that connect your website to the world. The best way for these new links to receive traffic is to promote them. The most efficient way that I have found to implement your new content is publishing it on other sites, or at least link to them. Some of the most prominent sites for linking your content are: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, DesignBump, etc. On that note, when you are on those sites, share links and contribute to others links. If you are on Twitter and tweeting only your links you won’t get as much traffic (at first) until you start contributing too, respond with your followers, keep it business oriented and follow some of your followers so that you can keep the circle of information going. Find others with the same industry, follow them, learn and give your two cents and you will start receiving more traffic.

In conclusion, there are many different ways to receive more traffic to your website. And ultimately that’s what a website is for. Further, the best way to bring in more traffic is to keep your content updated, your website looking good and keep the people reading interested. Without updating the content and design regularly you are only hurting yourself and your business.


Follow Me on Twitter

July 15, 2010

This is a shameless plug. I started a twitter account recently, @JulianoWebpages, for the sole purpose of providing useful business, freelance and design tips and tricks. If you’re on twitter, come follow me.