Category Archives: Websites

Your Website “To-Do” List

When you get your website you can just check it off of the list and forget about it—right? …umm, not so much. This sort of thinking fits in the same box as “Build it and they will come” regarding web traffic.

There are several problems with this approach. Websites are valuable tools, and your best return on investment is to refresh the content from time to time. It used to be that search engine optimization (SEO) which attracts search engines revolved around things called “meta tags” where keywords were stuffed into the code for your web page and many people called it good. Keywords are still a factor, but they have become a much more interactive process. Search engines now look for what is referred to as “fresh content.” This could be a new blog post or any other changes to the content of the website. This applies to website visitors as well, and is of greater concern. Unless your website has a useful tool or a terrific set of resources, why should they come back if nothing ever changes? Search engines and visitors have a lot in common in this respect.

Another reason to check back in with your website is security—someone is less likely to hack or shanghai a website that gets regular attention. This is true of all sorts of websites, but particularly so for WordPress.

The thing about WordPress is that it is constantly being updated with improvements—new features, improved security—all of which affects the themes and plugins created to work within it. If you allow your website to go unattended for long periods of time you run the risk of it needing serious repairs rather than simple preventative maintenance. If you are not prepared to do this yourself, this is something to keep in mind when you are asked if you want someone else to maintain your website for you…

To your business success!

Why go mobile? and what does mobile mean?

You hear a lot of buzz words when people talk about mobile. Responsive, mobile apps… there is a lot of confusion, and it is unfortunate that this leads to a lot of businesses ending up with something that won’t meet their needs.

One thing that all of these options have in common is that when someone goes looking for their website using a phone or tablet (aka “mobile device”) some version of their site should come up that is appropriate for the size of their screen. This means no more of the “postage stamp” look needing to be zoomed in on or, worse, the exploded view of a tiny corner of the site.

There are really three different types of mobile to consider for websites, each appropriate for different needs and circumstances.

One buzz word is “responsive.” This is a type of website designed to scale in size depending upon the size of the viewer’s screen. A well written one can look good on everything from an oversized wall monitor to a smart phone. This is great, but not for everyone. Someone browsing with their phone is going to be unhappy when a site that is heavy on large images bogs down their browser and sucks up their media allowance. The context and intent of the viewer needs to be taken into account. Someone looking for an address or hours could care less about a massive shopping cart.

The second option is a mobile website plugin that reconfigures the content of the despot site. This is effectively the same as a responsive site, but can be an easy solution for some WordPress sites.

The third is a standalone site that presents only the content that is appropriate for someone browsing on the go. This can be a great solution when the site is big and complicated, or the searchers are local and looking for a storefront business. It also offers the twist of hooking an editable WordPress mobile site to a static desktop site that the business owner needs help with updating.

Next week’s Tip will address the differences between a mobile website and a mobile app.

To your business success!

.com, .net, .biz, .mobi…

What to do about your domain TLD (short for top level domain) suffix.

I am often asked what kind of domain to get, and if it is important to purchase all of the available options for your chosen domain name or URL. There is often the feeling that it is important to have a spread to prevent competitors from taking your business. Thus, I could have,,,,…

I spoke with Kent Lewis, a successful owner of two local businesses specializing in search optimization. His answer was to just get one and focus on promoting it. While there are businesses that do reserve all of the options and have them all redirect to one, his feeling was that unless you have a really major brand like Coca Cola, it just doesn’t give a good return on investment. Another source I queried felt that if your business is going to have an international presence choosing to have a spread would be advisable. In this case the top choices would be .com, .net, .biz and .mobi.

It’s really a matter of what you do to promote your site that is going to make the biggest difference. .Com is the oldest and always the best, but as names get taken and people get increasingly imaginative with their naming the other suffixes have gained acceptance. If you find that .com is taken for the name you have your heart set on, here are some guidelines and suggestions, some of which might be different enough to be memorable.

First, keep in mind that every country has it’s own suffix. The United States is .us, Canada… a perfectly respectable choice for a business, especially if you are going to have an international presence.
.co was created as an overflow option for .com.
.biz is for US business sites.
.info was originally for information sites, but businesses have been using it as well.
.mobi is specifically for mobile websites, smart if your business will be making use of mobile marketing.
.net was originally created for companies like internet service providers, but it is widely used as a substitute for .com.
.org was originally created for non profits, but it too has been overrun by businesses.
.pro is for professionals like accountants, lawyers and physicians.
.store is for retail business sites.
.tv is for domains that will be emphasizing video, but it is best to have a more mainstream option as well.
The one to avoid unless you really want to go there is .xxx for adult entertainment.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas to work with.

To your business success!

Tell Me a Story…

When new visitors come to your website you have 3-5 seconds to convince them to stay. This doesn’t sound like much time, but if your website and content are well designed and engaging it’s more than enough. This is where knowing your target people really well comes into play. Attractive colors, appropriate images and attention grabbing headers are the first step—but what does your header say?— and is the rest of the content written in a way that makes your new visitor want to “turn the page?”

A technique that can be successful with businesses that rely on relationships is to employ storytelling. This is particularly true of service-based businesses. What pain are they trying to solve? What do you have in common? Why are you in this business? Why and how can you help them? And what does opting in with you look and feel like?

If you can capture their interest in those first few seconds long enough to begin to read, there are those who will read a well-crafted website through to the end of the story. Those that stay with it to the end are highly likely to become your clients if your website has done it’s job of assisting with getting them to know, like and trust you.

To your business success!

Lights! Camera! Action!

When visitors come to your site what do you want them to do? Do you simply want to present information or would you like them to be able to sign up for things? Or perhaps purchase something, leave comments, watch an instructional video…? Planning things like this in advance saves on costly changes later.

One of the most common mistakes that website owners make is to not place a clear “call to action” on their home page. Simply having contact information like your phone number and email present is not enough. A button instructing visitors to “Sign Up Here” or “Schedule an Appointment” helps to increase the likelihood of them taking the desired action. The bigger and bolder, the more likely it is that it will demand enough attention to get results. Sadly, this is a case where “ugly sells” is likely to be true.

Also take a look at where your call to action is placed on your site. It could be in a different location on your home page, but it should be on every page, and above the “fold” so that site visitors don’t have to scroll down to be able to see it.

To Your Business Success!

What’s in a Name? (Choosing Your URL)

It used to be that finding a good name for your business was a fairly simple matter— Does it fit your business? Do you like the name? Is it different from the competition? Easy to remember?

Then websites, internet marketing and search engines came along and things get a bit more complicated. Meet the URL. Some basics to keep in mind—
1. Shorter is Better, three words maximum.
2. Avoid odd spellings and hard to pronounce words.
3. While you CAN use hyphens and underscores, a solid “word” is better.
4. Avoid multiple syllable words unless it’s just one word.
5. While .com is the first choice, now the other options have become more accepted and are ok to choose.
6. Just say “no” to buying multiple domains to squat on the name. Unless you are a major corporation with major brand control issues it’s not really worth it.

If you can’t get your exact business name, choosing a name with keywords that are likely to be used when searching for your services or products is a good choice.

A technique that few businesses employ it to use subdirectories to get more mileage out of your domain name. This won’t mean much to the “non techie,” but here is an example. Say your domain name is If a subdirectory were created and named “get” you could have “” Food for thought—I suspect that as it gets harder to come up with domain names you will see more use of this strategy.

To your business success!

Don’t Be Held Hostage by Your Website!

Who will be responsible for keeping the site updated? If you would like to maintain your own site and be able to make your own changes, are the time and technological resources available to support this?

One of the reasons WordPress sites have become popular is that the Administrative “back-end” to the website is a user-friendly dashboard. This means no more waiting for months until your designer/developer has the time—or you have the money—to make a few tweaks to that time sensitive announcement.

Also, if you have decided to include a blog have you allotted time for writing posts and maintaining it? For a blog to be effective it really needs to be updated at least monthly, better still every one to two weeks. This is what is referred to as “fresh content” and the search engines like Google are never happier than when they find fresh content to reward with improved search rankings. But if you hate to write, this might also be a good time to consider whether you’d like someone else to write it for you, be it an intern, paid staff or an outsider.

If you consider yourself to be a closet luddite, would paying someone to maintain your website be a better investment? Seriously, do-it-yourself-er or not, if you don’t understand techie things and would prefer to be out conducting business, these are all questions to be realistic about when providing the answers. Half of my clients are small business owners who have tried the “do it yourself” route and said “enough.” They came to me saying that they were spending so much time struggling to learn that they were neglecting the business it was intended to support. Your website should be the star of your web marketing team—not a time suck that you learn to dread!

To your business success!

What do Websites & Buildings Have in Common?

I wrote the title to this and then started making a list. It immediately became clear that they have a LOT in common. For starters, there are the parallels of their roles and functions—skyscraper/corporate site, office or shop/business site, house/personal blog or portfolio.

They both require planning. A building begins with detailed paper blueprints, then gets built from the ground up, foundation to roof. A website is planned by first considering the purpose, audience and functionality, then moving on to the design and construction of the site.

Buildings and websites share the need to look good for their appointed role and audience. Buildings, especially homes, are rated according to their “curb appeal,” while websites are commonly discussed in terms of their “look and feel.”

Both have security concerns. Buildings use locks, lighting, fences and alarms. For websites the language changes to passwords, firewalls, SSL, encryption, etc, but the purpose of keeping the bad guys out remains the same.

And then there are the optional add-on services—websites can connect with online schedulers, e-commerce shopping carts, social media sites, etc, while have yard service, the mailman and deliveries of pizza and packages.

To your business success!

Planning for Mobile

What viewing platform(s) will your site be viewed on most frequently? It used to be mostly a Mac vs PC or Internet Explorer vs Firefox sort of question (not to mention the issue of which versions!) but mobile has become increasingly important in the world of internet browsing. While this is a part of knowing about your target audience, it is also a factor that is vital to consider when planning for the future. Many features on static websites are terrible for mobile and will drive users away.

Apple made the decision to give no support to Flash on it’s mobile devices. This now means that if you have a Flash-based website it is like hanging out a “closed for business” sign to anyone on an iPhone or iPad. Similarly, the majority of websites online today were not built to be mobile-friendly. Mobile search has now surpassed desktop search, with the numbers climbing fast. It is rapidly becoming essential for any business who wishes to remain competitive that they have a mobile-friendly version of their website ready to hang out the welcome mat.

A few other things to consider for mobile—
⁃ If you have lots of large image files or videos on your site, make sure they have been optimized so that they will load quickly and not bog down someone’s smartphone browser.
⁃ Avoid the use of popups.
⁃ Don’t have links opening new windows—or if you must, post a warning that this will happen.

To your business success!