Post about "business"

All Grown Up – Why Your Small Business Needs A Web Solution, Not A Website

Raise your hand if you have a website for your small business. Now keep it raised if it is generating a significant volume of prospects or sales. Not holding your hand up anymore? You are not alone.Just a few years ago, small companies flocked to the web in droves, rushing to post their first website, anxious at the prospect of low-cost instant exposure. The web was going to be the great equalizer, putting small business on par with the big brand names, dangling the promise of visitors flocking to a company’s site to purchase its wares or partake in its services. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for most small businesses and organizations, the promise fell short and company sales did not skyrocket from an unending march of site visitors.So, what happened? For one, the web quickly became ultra competitive. Millions of sites sprang up in every business category making it virtually impossible to be found in the search engines. What little bit of traffic the businesses may have enjoyed when the site was first launched began to dry up. Also, as the web evolved to become a more interactive user experience, it became more technologically complex and many small business websites did not keep up. The other part of the problem was in the approach; not understanding that just putting together a website, even a pretty one, and finding some faceless company offering cheap web hosting services is not likely to make you the next great success story. A large hurdle that many small business owners and managers face is the tendency to compartmentalize the web into a few oversimplified tasks: grab a cheap domain name, find a budget small business website design and development person, look for some impossibly low-priced website hosting, and then expect their website to magically appear on page one of Google. Unfortunately, this ends up being a waste of time and money.A Solutions-Based Approach with Professional GuidanceTo create an effective web presence requires a solutions-based approach with clear ideas about what you want to accomplish and who the audience is you are targeting. The right elements have to be present; a well orchestrated website design with cohesive branding, solid technical acumen, clearly defined objectives for the organization, reliable small business web hosting services and some method of marketing your site and tracking the results. The web is constantly evolving and search engine competition is fierce. Being successful on the web requires consistently evaluating the site’s effectiveness based on your objectives, understanding the latest technologies and trends, having a dynamic website marketing plan and constantly fine tuning.While you don’t have to spend a fortune to create real value on the web, you should also be realistic. Understand that being successful will require an investment that you should plan for and a clear vision of how your website fits into the goals and objectives of the organization. If you don’t have the experience and technical resources in-house, working with a professional web solutions provider, preferably one specializing in small business web design and development can provide great benefits. A good starting point in the process is to have an understanding of the core elements that are part of a successful website strategy and how they fit together.The Elements of a Web Solution1) Domain names – Choosing the right domain name is an important branding decision which impacts how your organization is perceived and also how it is found in the search engines. Purchasing from a cheap bulk registrar or choosing can spell trouble.2) Website Design & Development Services – Find a provider that specializes in small business web design and development. An organization that offers a solutions-based approach can assist your company in doing thorough needs analysis and in designing all of the elements to work well together. First impressions count!3) E-mail Management – E-mail is a key communication tool for your business. The right system will help you maximize communications within the company, on the road and with your customers.4) Social Media – Social media such as blogging, Podcasting and other web 2.0 tools can greatly enhance customer communications. Your web services company should be able to help you evaluate how social media tools can best benefit your web presence and business objects.5) Small Business Website Hosting Services – All web hosting is NOT created equal. There are many nuances and technical consideration involved with hosting solutions. It is best to stay away from budget hosting companies. Look for a managed hosting provider who can help you select the right plan for your web solution goals, get your website up and running and support you as it grows and evolves.6) Website Maintenance – How will your site be maintained and updated? Having both small business web development and managed web site hosting as a package is immensely helpful for maximizing web server resources, identifying problems and keeping the site maintained and updated.7) E-Commerce – Will you be actually selling on your site or using it for lead generation or information dissemination? If you are selling products, who will create and maintain your product database. How will transactions be handled? What about web server requirements? Working with a professional can help ensure you make the right choices for your e-commerce site.8) Business Process Interaction (database development, customer relationship management, integration with your business management systems) – A website needs to be more than just an ad on the Internet to be effective as a business tool. There are many ways the web can be used to improve your business processes and integrate with your existing systems such as accounting or contact management.9) Website Marketing – How will people find you on the web? Will you optimize your site for organic search or employ paid marketing techniques or a combination? What directories should you list your site in? Search engine marketing has evolved to be a complex specialty. It’s critical that you understand the tools available for driving traffic to your site and if needed, know how to evaluate and engage a web marketing specialist.10) Website Analytics and Conversion – Having a great site isn’t enough if your visitors aren’t doing what you intended; buying something, contacting your company or using your site for an information source. Does your site have usability issues? What kind of reporting will you use to track site visitors? What do you need to know and do to convert your visitors into action-takers?It’s a Process and a Work in ProgressWhile there is certainly a lot to think about, creating the best possible website solution for your business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Your website can and should be a work in progress, evolving as your business grows. Because most small businesses do not have an internal IT staff to handle the technical elements of web development and planning, working with a web solutions provider that specializes in small business website hosting services and small business web design and development is a good start. Such an organization can help you identify your goals, manage the technical aspects of your site and guide you in your marketing efforts. They can also help you work within your budget to develop a plan that combines all the elements into a cohesive whole for creating and maintaining a successful web presence.Conclusion The web has grown up to be a terrific marketing medium for small businesses and organizations. Done right, it can be the most cost effective and powerful marketing and communication tool in your arsenal. The promise is still there. However, to truly leverage the power of the web, it is important to take a good, hard look at the website you currently have or the one you are thinking about creating. The elements of a successful web presence: small business web hosting, website design and development and web marketing are only the framework for a well thought-out web solution designed to reach your customers and truly benefit your business.

Top 10 Marketing Tools for Your Online Business Website

Does your website mean business? Are you getting the traffic you want? Does it send you qualified leads? How is your percentage of online sales growing? How do you choose among the vast and ever growing array of online marketing tools to give your online business website a boost? Here is the top 10 list of tools I recommend for the participants in my internet marketing workshops. If you set these up, and use them effectively, you will be far ahead of the game.Hardware
Even if you are not the workshop type, pay attention to your hardware. I’m amazed at the amount of frustration people tolerate with outdated equipment. This may seem like stating the obvious, but if you attend one of my workshops you will need a reasonably up-to-date portable computer with wireless card, charger, and power supply.
Firefox Web Browser
While it’s possible to use any modern browser for internet marketing, I strongly recommend Firefox, because some tools do not yet work with Internet Explorer. If you are not already using it, search on Firefox, and download the latest version. If you are already using Firefox, check that you have the latest version. In your Firefox browser click on Check for Updates from the Help menu.
SEO Toolbar
While you’re attending to Firefox, and add the SEOMoz toolbar. Think of this as your internet marketing Swiss Army Knife. Adding this to your toolbar will give you instant feedback on how your site stacks up against other sites in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Search on, download, and install SEOMoz toolbar.
Spreadsheet Program
If you want to build your business on the web, you will get nowhere without setting business goals, marketing goals, and measuring progress. Spreadsheets are simple and effective ways to do this. Check that your laptop has a spreadsheet program like Word. If not, you can get free office software including a spreadsheet program at:
For PC: search on OpenOffice
For Mac: search on OpenOffice for Mac
Word Processing Program
Don’t laugh. Getting found and doing business on the web is not about fancy tools, magic bullets, and over designed websites. It’s about generating original content that people want, will search to find, and will link to. While most modern websites have a content management system, to create really compelling articles, you will need a good word processing program like Word. You may need to you’re your work as a text file before uploading it to your website, but a good word processing program will help you in the planning and writing stags. Again, you can get free office software including a word processing program at the above website addresses.
Google Account
If you don’t already have a Google account, sign up for one. You will be using some of their free internet marketing tools. If you don’t have a Google account, sign up for one by searching on Google account new. Sign into your Google account and scroll down the page to My Products and set up the following:
Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool
Think of Google AdWords as your marketing research tool. You may not be ready to place ads. But, you can still use their free keyword research tool. Create an AdWords account.
Google Analytics
Think of Google Analytics as your internet marketing GPS. Properly configured, it allows you to get data to plug into your spreadsheet to see where you are in relation to your internet marketing goals. It’s best to set up Google Analytics linked to your Google AdWords account. Do this by logging into your AdWords account, and select Google Analytics from the Reporting and Tools drop-down menu. Follow the prompts and use your existing account information.
Google Webmaster Tools
Think of Google Webmaster Tools as a stethoscope to help you check your visibility on Google. Search on Google webmaster tools.
XML Sitemap Generator
A quality sitemap is important to get your pages indexed by search engines. Search on XML Sitemap Generator.There are many more internet marketing tools I could recommend. But these, in my opinion, are the ones to seriously improve your online business website performance.