Tag web

How’s your web site?

TXland.com screenshotI finished this real estate web site for a client not too long ago. Because of the dynamic property listing database and the user content management system, it was the most complicated site I’ve overseen. Fortunately, I work with some great people, so things went well.

As complicated as things are on the back end of this site, the site itself communicates its message in a fairly simple manner. We’ve talked before about the need to keep things simple in order to communicate effectively, and this is still true even for a web site. Because so many things are possible in a web site, it is tempting to try to incorporate as many flashy elements as you can in order to get attention. This is always a mistake. If your message is relevant, then it will get attention. If you message is not relevant, then all the flash and pizzazz in the world will not help you grow your clientele.

Slate recently did an article on why restaurant web sites are so bad. It’s worth reading. And ask yourself, “Is my web site driving my customers mad?”

spam irony

No Spam!I get lots of comment spam. As readers, you don’t see it because it gets filtered and eventually deleted. But every now and then one catches my eye because of the complete idiocy of the attempt at advertising. Here’s one such example:

Hi, i simply needed to come here to inform you of a super inexpensive service that posts comments like this on millions of WordPress blogs. Exactly why you might ask, well you may wish to sell something and target webmasters or merely just increase the quantity of backlinks your website has which will improve your Google rankins which will then bring your website much more visitors and cash. Take a quick take a look at this website for much more info. <*link removed*>

So… a spam comment that tells me how I can post comment spam on other people’s blogs. Oh, the irony!

It’s stuff like this that gives advertising a bad name. How you advertise says a lot about who you are.

The most important aspect of your website

When most people think of a website, or think of putting a website together, they think of how it will look. But unless you are planning on simply showing a bunch of photos you’ve taken, then how your website looks is not your first concern. For any business, small or large, the chief concern of their website should be what it says. Why have a website except to say something worthwhile to your potential customers?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a great looking website. In fact, how your website looks and functions sends a message to your customers. But first and foremost, your website must say something of value to your customers. A graphic designer can make your website look good, but it takes an entirely different skill to craft your message and make it resonate.

One step at a time

We’re about a decade into the 21st Century, so most of you now realize the importance of having some sort of web presence. While there are people who will do a web site for you for $300 or $400, these sites are minimal and as the designer can only afford to put a few hours into creating the site, they will not serve the needs of most businesses.

A web site doesn’t have to be expensive, though. There is nothing that says you can’t make a small site and improve and expand it later.

At the moment, I’m working on a web site for one of my clients, Cold Stone Logging. We just finished up a logo and new business cards for them, which you may remember seeing their logo here. We are currently ironing out the final details for their letterhead as we simultaneously begin gathering information for their new website. While we were working on business cards and letterhead, we didn’t let their web site sit stagnant. Instead of the usual “under construction” graphic, a custom splash page was made that let people know that the client had a legitimate web presence, where they were located, and how to get in touch with them.

Here’s the minimalist web page in its current form:

You can see how it looks on the actual web site here, at least until the new web site is completed. The email address is an actual link, so although the site is minimal, it still has some functionality to allow potential clients to quickly and easily contact the company.

If your business does not have a web site but you are not ready to invest a couple of thousand dollars into developing one, a single on-line page might serve you well until you have the time and resources to put together a more in-depth web site. The important thing is to be in a place where potential customers can find you. The web is slowly but surely taking the place of the yellow pages, so you’d better be there. Besides, not only is a web site more effective in terms of the amount of information you can give, it is by far less expensive than the phone book.

Quick and Inexpensive Advertising

Last week, a commenter responded to a post asking, “what are some simple ways or advertising medium that a business owner could turn to if they had to cut back [on their advertising].” Here are some concrete things you can do to promote and advertise your business at very little cost. In the long run, you’ll want to do more than this to grow your business, but if things are tight this will keep you in the game.

1. List your business with Google Places and Bing Local Listing.

According to Alexa, Google is the most visited web site in the world. Bing is Microsoft’s new search engine that launched last year and is becoming one of Google’s biggest competitors in search.

Both search engines allow you to list your business for free, although you do need to sign up for a free account with each one. If you have gmail, then you already have a Google account. If you have a Hotmail address, or a Windows Live ID, then you already have an account with Bing.

Once you’ve added your company’s information, anyone who searches for your business name and city on that site will find you at top of all the other search results.

If you have a web site, be sure to include that in your Google Places and Bing Local Listing information.

2. Start a blog and tell people about your business.

There’s lots of free blogging solutions on the web. Some of the more popular ones are WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous. You don’t need a web domain name or anything, just sign up and start writing about your business — what you do and why you are different from you competition. Don’t just write one entry. Write something at least twice a week.

If you have a web site, link to it in your blog posts and “about” page. And be sure to include your blog’s web address in your Google Places and Bing Local Listing entries.

3. Let your friends, colleagues, current and past clients know about your blog.

Don’t blast them all in a single email. Take a few minutes each day and send out a half-dozen or so emails letting those people know about your blog. If you have a Facebook account, tell about the blog in your status update. But be nice, and don’t annoy anyone as you tell them.

Everything I’ve suggested here is free — there is no cost to your business other than the time it takes to do it. You’ll want to move on to other forms of advertising as your business picks up, but in the meantime you are still promoting your business.

Oh, I almost forgot. All the other things I’ve said about advertising still apply.

You’re looking at today’s yellowpages

When was the last time you picked up the phone book?

Now when was the last time you googled a business name to find their phone number?

Last year, I scaled back one of my client’s YellowPages spending. We dropped all of their ads in every category, opting for bold listings instead. The client told me yesterday that they haven’t noticed any change in traffic. Earlier this year, we launched their web site. Business is picking up.

It used to be that if you weren’t in the YellowPages, no one would find you. Now, if you don’t have some sort of web presence, no one will find you.

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