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With the new Google Instant, results are now streamed live as a user types. If a user is to pause for just three seconds, the ads shown count as an impression. If your Click-Through Rates start to trend downward, it's because Google Instant is skewing your impressions upward. So don't pause that ad just yet. The solution is to use long-tail keywords in order to keep your impressions highly targeted. A long tail keyword is something like "Northwest Suburban Web Design" while a short tail keyword would be just "Web Design." An explanation from the Google AdWords Blog:
Although Google Instant doesn't change the way ads are served, ads and search results will now be shown based on the "predicted search." For example, if someone types "flow" into Google.com, our algorithms predict that the user is searching for "flowers" (the predicted search) and therefore display both search results and ads for "flowers". However, if that user then adds the letter "c" to the query, our algorithms may predict that the user is searching for "flowchart" and show the corresponding natural and paid results for flowchart.
Source: Google Instant: A More Innovative Approach to Search
One of our recent clients told us that they had been the victims of fraud twice in a row at the hands of people posing as web designers. The first was a man who asked for a deposit and then disappeared, the second was a man who was unable to complete the work due to a complete lack of technical skill. The following are some red flags that could mean you need to seek out a better designer:
  1. They don't have a website or the website is "under construction."
  2. They are not active in the web development community.
  3. They don't use social media.
  4. They have no address or use a PO Box.
  5. They ask for 55% to 100% of contract fee upfront.
  6. They offer prices that sound too good to be true.
  7. They don't accept credit cards, they demand cash or PayPal.
  8. Check their code. Does it use the <font> tag? if so, they're amateurs.
  9. Ask what program they'll use to code your site. This is a trick question. If the answer is anything other than "by hand," they're a hack.
Since there is no barrier to entry to web design, it's very easy to declare oneself a designer or developer. You need only access to CraigsList to post an ad and begin building awful websites or scamming unsuspecting clients. Don't let bad web design happen to you. Your website is the 24/7 face of your company online.
  1. Between 85% - 96% of all local customers research a business online before contacting or buying from them.
  2. Print Circulation is down 7 million in the last 25 years, while in the last 5 years online news publication is up 30 million.
  3. This year traditional media advertising is down by the following numbers
    1. Newspaper:18.7%
    2. Television:10.1%
    3. Radio:11.7%
    4. Magazine:14.8%
    5. However, online advertising is up by 9.2% and mobile advertising by 18.1%
  4. Bloomberg reports that online advertising spending has surpassed print advertising this year. For the first time Print advertising will only comprise of 30% of advertising budgets, while digital advertising will make up 33%. That means $119.6 Billion will be spent online, vs. $111.5 Billion will be spent on print.
  5. All online advertising is trackable and targeted- you know if it is effective or not. Whereas with offline ads, the advertising generally is broadly targeted, not trackable, and more expensive!
  6. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Myspace,in that order, have been found to be very effective marketing tools by businesses this year. In fact Dell released figures stating that they have made an extra $3 Million since 2007 just from Twitter posts.
  7. According to Outsell's online marketing study, of current marketing tools, websites generate the highest ROI followed by conferences and exhibitions.
  8. Finally, cross-media marketing efforts (e.g. combining offline and online advertising) have been found to be the most effective. 78% of businesses combine two or three marketing methods to maximize effectiveness.
Trust Seals are unequivocally scams in the long run. They prove nothing except that the site owner is gullible enough to pay for a graphic. When measured as a percentage, illegitimate sites are more likely to display "trust" seals. Seals, certificates, badges, shields, etc are meaningless. You can't buy your customer's trust with an image, you have to earn it.
Your website is the hub of your marketing strategy; it is the 24/7/365 face of your business online. Consumers, whether driven by advertising or just browsing, will check your website to learn more about your business. It's natural, visiting a website is absolutely easier than driving to, calling up, or researching any business. Consider your first impressions of a brick and mortar store. How are the employees dressed? Is the store well-maintained and uncluttered? A well-kept store with well-dressed employees conveys professionalism and promotes consumer-confidence. First impressions matter. The same is true of your website. If your website was just made by your nephew, what message is it sending to your potential customers? Is it an accurate representation of your physical store? If you have an entirely professional looking website, visitors perceive that the business gives meticulous attention to every detail. They understand that you care about professionalism. A great website says, "I'm professional, organized, and committed to my business."
Good Copy is Easy on the Eye. Reading your website should be easy. The font should be reasonably sized. Ornamental fonts can be used but should be reserved for headlines. The main body of your content should be written be written in a web-safe font like Georgia. Colors and contrast matter. Use dark ink for light backgrounds and vice versa. Good Copy is of Appropriate Length. Mark Twain once wrote, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." If it can be afforded, a professional copy editor for your sales text is a valuable investment. The average person will spend less than a minute on a new website- less is more! Good Copy is Direct. Within ten seconds of landing on your homepage, will a visitor know what your business does? If it's not self-evident, it's time to reconsider your layout and copy. A person must be able to immediately discern if a website is relevant to them or they will leave the page without viewing anything else. Good Copy is Not All Talk! Good websites are not all talk. If you've got claims to make, you better make sure you can support them with solid facts and figures that are certified by valid and reliable authorities. A good website gives readers a reason to believe in them! Good Copy Knows its Reader. No matter how good a website you have, remember that writing it will do you no good if in the end, it doesn't fit the needs of your target market. A good website will always be tailored according to your target market's preferences.
When creating your first website, you shouldn't feel intimidated. You can get started on your own in one day for as little as ten dollars. 

Let's walk through the steps to getting started for almost nothing. 

Buy a Name 
The first requirement is to buy a domain name (ex: YourBusinessName.com). Your domain name fee is a yearly subscription of around ten dollars per year. While we personally use Gandi, we recommend GoDaddy for beginners. 

Get Hosted 
Hosting is the act of storing a website's content on a computer connected to the internet. (No, hosting it at home is not a good idea, I promise.) While most small businesses who rely on their website pay $1,000 or more per year for hosting, you can pay as little as $50 annually with a discount host such as eNom, 1&1, or GoDaddy. Your host will provide you with instructions on connecting them to your domain name. 

Build It 
This is the hard part. Your options are to do it yourself or hire a professional. (*cough* ethercycle *cough*) If you choose to hire a professional, your initial investment will be larger but the results will be significantly better. If you choose to roll your own, our strongest recommendation is to use a Apple iWeb. If you're limited to Windows, the easiest alternative is Mozilla SeaMonkey. Once you outgrow your DIY website (or become frustrated managing it yourself) you can always hire a web designer to redesign it. 

Getting Traffic 
For people to be able to find your website, you need to be listed in search engines. The most direct way is to submit it to them. Start with Google. It may be several days before you see your site listed though our personal record is four hours. If you're having trouble getting listed, we have SEO packages that guarantee you'll be listed. 

Tracking Success 
Once your website is up, you'll want to track your visitors. The industry standard for doing this is Google Analytics. Follow its instructions to track your visitors and learn where they came from, what they viewed, and how long they viewed. Once you have a large enough sample size, you can use this information to effectively redesign your website.
We recently upgraded our workstations to multiple monitors. Our most enterprising effort was the use of three identical 19" displays on a Mac Pro. A Microsoft research study found that use of multiple monitors improves productivity by 9 to 50 percent:
The first study revealed that the users' productivity increased by 9 percent. Further studies showed even greater increases - at times up to 50 percent for tasks such as cutting and pasting. Mary Czerwinski, the VIBE research manager, is excited about her group's discoveries, asking, "If you're able to squeeze 10 percent more productivity out, do you know how much money that will save?"
After several weeks of use, we concluded that while two displays are significantly more useful than any size single display, the gain is not linear as additional displays are added. The problem is that three or more displays provide more screen real estate than can be efficiently navigated by even the most proficient computer users. Our recommendation is that nearly all users can benefit from dual display workstations. The productivity increase will almost certainly pay for the initial investment. [Microsoft Research: Two Screens Are Better Than One]
Speaking in Styles by Jason Teague Speaking in Styles aims to help Web designers learn the "language" that will be used to take their vision from the static comp to the live Internet. Many designers think that CSS is code, and that it's too hard to learn. Jason takes an approach to CSS that breaks it down around common design tasks and helps the reader learn that they already think in styles--they just need to learn to speak the language. How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy Graphic designers love to talk about sources of inspiration, but less willing to discuss the basics on location work, pricing, and how to handle irate or non-paying clients - so it's essential that any graphic designer operating independently have this practical reference. Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, it pairs clear explanations of every design concept with visual examples of the concepts applied in practice. Every major design concept is defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge. Decoding Design by Maggie Macnab Revelations on how common symbols resonate at a gut level. Readers will find deconstructions of famous logos and examples of variety of different designs that effectively use symbols, patterns and shapes to convey greater meaning. Sexy Web Design: Creating Interfaces That Work by Elliot Jay Stocks This is an easy-to-follow guide that reveals the secrets of how to build your own breathtaking web interfaces from scratch. You'll be guided through the entire process of creating a gorgeous, usable web site by applying the timeless principles of user-centered design.