Is corporate video dead?

Italian Cooking by Basecamp Productions

Italian cooking by Basecamp Productions

Is corporate video dead? Gosh, no.

Since the first electrons burbled from a black-and-white studio camera seemingly right into our home television sets, we’ve been fascinated with seeing ourselves on the screen. I don’t mean that literally, of course. (more…)

"But I can't afford web site design"

Apple iPhone 5C

Apple iPhone 5C, which started at $590

Posh. You can afford a telephone line, right? A cell phone? A vacation once or maybe several times a year? It’s a matter of priorities.

You can install a web site very economically. Most web designers won’t tell you this, but if you’re at all computerish, you can have a simple web site up within a few hours.

Now it may not be fancy, but it can be tasteful and appropriate for your business. And the process of setting one up might help you prepare answers to marketing questions from web designers later down the line.

Mind you, your homemade web site will not be effective. I mean, I don’t know anything about plumbing. How could you know anything about web sites other than you look at them in the evening?

If you’re in business, you DO need a web site. Just like once we all HAD to be in the Yellow Pages if we wanted to be found.

Whether you’re a plumber or a landscaper, a web site often reassures potential customers that you’re “for real.” A web site can also explain how you do business, and it certainly can earn you customers if it’s well designed.

What about Mc-web sites? The web sites that cater to specific businesses — you know the ones. They do all of the plumbing web sites, or all of the homebuilder web sites. These web sites all look the same.

I can’t afford web site design

If you want to look like everyone else, then go for it. And I don’t mean that derogatorily. You might well want to conform to a certain look and feel.

Otherwise, here’s what I recommend if you have a few hundred dollars or less and you need a web site designed:

1. Get your own URL. Don’t go with plumbing.com/williamsburg_va/your_business. For one thing, if you’re on someone else’s web site, you won’t be able to show up well in search engine results. You might not be able to control your own file names, and that can be important.

You can get a one-year license for a URL for 8 to 12 dollars a year. It’s well worth it. Also, I advise against otherwise great services such as Wix.com for the same reason. Your site, SEO-wise, can’t compete. Plus, Wix, although it has changed in 2014 and 2015 to include responsive web sites) is Flash-based or at the very least formulaic. Flash-based means that your site will struggle (read: fail) to compete in search engine results. (And I’ve read plenty of accounts of frustrated users who expected more of SEO, but I do think that Wix is perfect for many users.)

Plus, you’re not allowed to design your site on Wix and take it to another server. I should also say that Wix is brilliant! One day all web design will be this easy. I’m just saying that if you’re a company that might depend on search engine results for business, this is definitely not the place to go.

2. Find a good host. I use bluehost.com. They’re reasonable and super-responsive. If hosting your own site frightens you, consider asking a web design company (ahem) to set it up or manage it for you.

3. Create your web site with blogging software such as WordPress.com. Wordpress is a CMS (content management system) that’s fairly easy for most users to master.

You install it (or gave it installed) on your web site, and then make it look the way you want. I recommend WordPress for ease of use and flexibility, but don’t overlook security issues. WordPress requires some pretty high security because of its popularity.

You can make a very clean and elegant presentation using WordPress, and you can do it with absolutely no HTML skills. You can even start out hosting your WordPress site for free on WordPress, and it won’t hurt your search engine marketability. But doing so will limit some control you might like over your web site (such as adding forms, and other web doodads).

If you do decide to go with WordPress for your first website attempt, try one of these:

There are other trustworthy web vendors. Just know that if you buy from a factory web vendor such as Template Monster, the designs and capabilities are all over the place. You will be frustrated.

By all means, I don’t intend for you to STAY with this little site you’ve started. I expect you to grow it, tend it, and make it work.

And then, when you realize that your web site isn’t doing as much for you as you thought it could, call me. My number is all over the place on this web site.

Otherwise … keep in mind that there’s one truism that really is true: Stagnant web sites will not be found.

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Why can’t I do my own SEO?

Architecture of a Web crawler.

Architecture of a Web crawler. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why can’t I do my own SEO?”

You can, of course, do your own search engine optimization (SEO). That’s the beautiful, democratic thing about the web.

Anyone can rank high for his or her chosen keywords, with a little elbow grease.

You just need to: (more…)

How can I blog if I can't write well?

Zemanta

Zemanta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How can I blog if I can’t write?

I hear this a lot, especially from people who run their own businesses. They might be plumbers, doctors, or geeks — no matter. They’re usually successful at their work, but don’t feel confident in their writing.

I give these folks a lot of credit. They already recognize the importance of blogging. They know that if they blog, they’ll be adding rich content to their web sites, and that Google “spiders” will like that and increase their ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Google flat-out likes web sites that continually add new content — in most cases, Google figures you’re  helping people understand your product or service better, and that’s a good thing. Stagnant sites rank low by comparison.

You can still blog if you can’t write. And by doing so, you’ll still add rich content to your web site, and you can do it every single day if you like.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Reblog. A service called Zemanta lets you take someone else’s content and “stick” it to your web site. You’re not violating copyright, either — you are simply creating a link to the story or article or blog. You can write a few words of introduction — or not. This little plug-in also helps you add helpful links and photos to any blog — Zemanta is a free plug-in for browsers such as Firefox and Safari.

2. Link to news or trade content. You can simply link to a website that offers news that you think your audience might find helpful. For instance, if you’re a landscaper, you could link to stories that get customers interested in their yards. You might offer stories from your local cooperative extension service, or a gardening club, or someone who blogs about lawns and gardens. It’s helpful if you add an introductory sentence or two, but not absolutely necessary.

3. Pay or barter with someone to blog for you. You’d be surprised at how well this will work for you — sit down with a writer and tell him or her what kinds of things you think your audience will be interested in, and perhaps your writer will have some ideas as well. What will sell your products or services? Consider a long-term arrangement, which will probably make more financial sense to you both.

4. Make lists and publish them. Making lists isn’t so scary, is it? If you’re a plumber, you can make a list of 10 things homeowners should check every year — or have checked (hint, hint), or 10 tools every homeowner should have on hand in case of a drip, or a flood. The important thing is to be useful. If people see that you’re concerned about houses and your community, and not just $65 an hour, they’ll respond. You’ve become human to them, and people would rather deal with humans than with web sites.

5. Be sure to set up tracking for your web site. This is the only way you’ll be able to measure the results of your blogging. If you’ve never used a web analytics program before, now’s the time to begin. You can measure the success of your key words, links, and other marketing efforts. The web makes ROI not only possible, but fairly accurate.

The important thing is to get started. Your business world is only going to become more competitive. It would be nice to start understanding now how to make progress in it, yes?

Let me know how you do!

Write how your (web) audience writes

a chart to describe the search engine market

Image via Wikipedia

No, I don’t mean sloppily or with bad grammar. For pity’s sake.

I do mean that you want to infuse your web site with the kind of verbiage your potential customers use when they look for your services. If you think they enter “great motel within walking distance of downtown,” then that’s the copy you need to put on your web page(s). “Near downtown” or “close to the mall” won’t do it if that’s not what your audience is searching for.

This news always seems to come as a surprise to my clients. I tell them, if you want to be found, write how your audience writes.

A couple of months ago one of my clients sent me a heated email. “You don’t write a headline as a sentence!” he snipped. Well, maybe not. But maybe you do if it helps you get customers. And in Google‘s (the 600-pound gorilla) world, writing the sentence “I need help with my taxes” in a headline counts for more than the same exact phrase in body copy.

And, note that this copy is written in the first person. People don’t search for phrases such as “Do you need help with your taxes?” Their searches are about THEM. So if you want to come up high in the search engine results pages (SERPs), pay some attention to THEM and their concerns.

In the copy I’d written for my client, I had said something like:

*****

“I need help with my taxes.” (headline)

Is this something you say every year around April 15?

*****

You get the idea.

But don’t overdo it.

You wouldn’t want to write something like this: “Every year, people say to themselves, “I need help with my taxes.” If I needed help with my taxes, I’d call a professional. Because when I need help with my taxes … (etc.).

Your copy has to sound natural, or you’ll lose your audience.

How do you determine your best search phrases? A good place to start is with your (successful) competition. If you have software that checks on key word placement, use it. The results may surprise you, and in a good way.

Happy keywording!

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