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The low barrier to entry when joining social media sites makes them very alluring to small business owners looking for low-cost effective advertising. The reality of content strategy and social media management rarely occurs to an entrepreneur as they spend an evening clicking through signup pages on half a dozen web 2.0 sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Flickr. Once signed up for these services, they end up providing little more than profile backlinks for the business. While backlinks are great for SEO, being overwhelmed by social media is not. Our advice to starry-eyed web business owners is that yes, you should engage in social media, but you should only invest your resources in the networks that you're certain your customers are using. Let's first agree that the relevant social media networks to businesses are:
  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. LinkedIn
  4. YouTube
  5. and Blogs (Blogger & WordPress)
To determine which is the most relevant network, search the above networks for your niche keywords, ask your customers what they use, and engage in some common sense. For us, I know that Twitter is the most active, YouTube has had the greatest return on investment, and LinkedIn has resulted in affiliate partnerships.
  1. My first loyalty in any web project is to the users.
  2. I will use the most up-to-date web standards and technologies to guarantee my users a positive experience.
  3. I will do the best I can to support the least capable of my users without compromising the experience of my best ones.
  4. I will always adhere to a separation of content and presentation in my markup.
  5. I will always use sensible and semantic CSS.
  6. I will not use HTML elements purely for presentation.
  7. I will design for the content.
  8. I will enhance my websites using semantic technologies wherever possible.
  9. While I understand and practice good SEO, I do not, and will not ever use black hat SEO techniques.
  10. I will do my best to support and educate my fellow web designers on the importance of web standards.
  11. I will not degrade my work, nor my industry, by working on spec.
  12. I shall not, through action or inaction, allow my company or my clients to use work on spec.
  13. If I meet a professional web designer who uses table layouts, I will punch him or her in the face for degrading our industry.
Source: Sneak-Attack Philosophy by Bernard Yu
Last night I watched the VMAs (in a misguided attempt to support Chelsea Handler.) Lady Gaga cleaned up with eight awards including Best Video. Her tearful acceptance speech thanking her fans, who she refers to as her "little monsters," was amusing and touching. She got me thinking, "What can Lady Gaga teach me?" On design: "When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condom-less sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time." The difference between a good design and a great one is that the great one was made with heart, it conveys emotion. If you're feeling uninspired and robotic, your designs will reflect that. Get inspired about your next project and the result will shine. On branding: "I used to walk down the street like I was a fucking star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be- and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth." The moral is that a designer can only be as big as they appear. Believe in your ability, charge the full amount that your time is worth, and people will see you as the proverbial rock star designer. On marketing: "You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way. I'm just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time." On fashion alone, Lady Gaga is known as a force to be reckoned with. Her collaboration with designers and utter dedication to aggressive fashion has netted millions in free press. When your portfolio is both well executed and emotionally inspired, it will speak for itself. Lastly, love your work and you will succeed: "I am focused on the work. I am constantly creating. I am a busy girl. I live and breathe my work. I love what I do."
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, 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.