Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cool Site of the Month!

Have you ever wanted to make a sign that looked like a billboard, a cartoon, maybe a road sign? Txt 2 Pic has an awesome list of sites that make it easy and quick to do while looking like you spent hours creating it!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Give a business gift, get a write-off

Tis the season for gift giving, even in the business world. But when it comes to tax time, how much of that gift can you really write off? Check out this article and advice on hwo to possibly get around the limits:

Give a business gift, get a write-off

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

See real-time weather on a Google map

Weather junkies, your site has come in. Weather Bonk gives you not only the local forecast, but also traffic webcams, monthly averages and live conditions overlaid on a Google map.

read more digg story

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How to Create a Strong Password

Need ideas on how to come up with your new password? Check out this article from Gwen Nicodemus!

How to Create a Strong Password

Friday, December 08, 2006

How To Unlock Your Cell Phone

Do you have your eye on a new cell phone, but it's with a different carrier? Have you ever wondered how cell phones get "unlocked"? PC Magazine demystifies the process and gives resources on how to unlock your phone!

PC Magazine Special Report: How To Unlock Your Phone

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Top 10 Reasons Santa needs a Virtual Assistant

Top 10 Reasons Santa needs a Virtual Assistant!

10. He could use help making those lists!

9. His VA can take on the time-consuming task of checking it twice…

8. Who else is going to read through all the letters from children?

7. A VA will have that trip around the world planned in no time!

6. His VA could ship all those toys directly to the children’s homes…

5. Santa’s so busy, he needs a reminder to get Mrs. Claus a gift.

4. He could have his VA drop-ship reindeer food along the travel route.

3. The VA can easily manage all those Elves and their many projects!

2. A VA will organize his calendar of speaking engagements.

…And the #1 reason Santa needs a VA:

1. The world has gone electronic and Santa needs a website!

Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Could Have Hired a VA

One of my local colleagues and the President of the International Virtual Assistants Association, was interviewed for a great article about hiring a Virtual Assistant - check it out! I Could Have Hired a VA

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Website Sell 24/7

I know - I've been neglecting this blog way too long! My early New Year's resolution is to keep you informed and updated on business at least once a week, if not more often. Starting now!


Top 10 Ways to Make Your Website Sell 24/7

I've spent more hours that I care to count attending networking functions, and I continue to be amazed at all the people I meet who don't have a website. Many entrepreneurs love what they do but hate marketing and selling themselves. A well-written website is one of the most effective tools at your disposal that will sell for you 24/7, provided you have written compelling copy for the site.

Here are ten ways to make your website your unpaid sales force:

1. Networking
A website permits you to pass out your business card to thousands of potential clients and lets them know how to reach you and what you sell. If, in your sales copy, you tell your story of why you're in your business, write a bio that accurately reflects your voice and style for your site, and upload your photo, your potential customers will begin to get to know you, without having to meet them one-on-one. Nothing is more amazing to me that to walk into a networking event and have total strangers come up and begin a conversation with me as though we were long-lost friends. They think we are. Why? Because they've visited my website or read my email newsletter or blog to the extent they have begun to get to know me, like me, and respect me.

2. Make Business Information Available
Help your customers find out more about you. What are your hours? What methods of payment do you accept? Where are you located? Being the "Internet snob" that I am, I go online first to check out a business before deciding to do business with them. Sometimes it's to check the menu, if it's a restaurant. Sometimes it's to see if they offer a discount coupon. Other times I just need to find their hours of operation or driving directions. If I can't find their website, I'm apt to find their competitor's site that contains precisely the info that I'm seeking.

3. Better Serve Your Customers
Make doing business with you as easy and effortless as possible. With an online presence, you could make forms available to pre-qualify clients for loans if you're a mortgage broker, enable your clients to upload their files for typesetting and printing if you're a professional printer, or allow your customer to see if the coat he wants is in stock if you're a clothing store. My sister is a "shoes horse" and desperately wanted a particular pair of shoes from a nationally-known department store in Houston. She checked their website to see if the shoes were in stock in her size at the store closest to her. She discovered they weren't, but was able to find another branch that did have them in stock and was able to swing by and pick them up. When your clients are over-committed and trying to squeeze another hour out of the day, how much more will they appreciate your online presence if you can help them save one of their most valuable assets -- their time?

4. Release Time-Sensitive Materials
You may have a service business that relies on appointments to make your money, like a hair salon or a chiropractor's office. You walk in on Monday morning and discover that only about half of your appointments are taken for the week. Do you decide to take part of the week off? You could, if you needed a vacation. Or, you could email the customer list you've built through your website and let them know that you're taking appointments at a special discounted rate this week only, or on certain days of this week, or that they'll get a free widget if they book an appointment by a certain date or time. How quickly do you think your customers would take advantage of this time-sensitive offer?

5. Be Open All Night, 365 Days of the Year

Internet surfers don't go online to buy--they go online to find free information. However, we live in an immediate gratification society. If you have a product for sale that fulfills a need to a particular problem, you can add a shopping cart with credit card purchasing ability to your online product catalog and enable someone to buy something from you at 2 AM, for example, when most of us are in bed. If your shopping cart permits immediate delivery of an electronic item, like an ebook or audio file, all the better, as your customer can have the information he has ordered within minutes after purchase. How many sales are you losing because your prospective customer has to fax or phone in an order or wait for your office to open to talk to you? Your e-commerce-enabled website can be your 24-hour automated salesperson.

6. Make Pictures and Sound Files Available
What if your widget is great, but people want to see it in action? Your website permits you to add sound, static images, and video to better explain who you are and what you sell, or to demonstrate use of your product or service. No brochure will do that. Additionally, audio and video testimonials from enthusiastic customers are now becoming more commonplace on websites. If you hate to sell, have a happy customer tell your website visitors how wonderful you are and how well you solved his problem. People believe enthusiastic testimonials from others who've successfully used your product or service.

7. Answer FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Every business has questions that customers ask again and again. Do you have the staff, or want to dedicate staff time, to answering these questions? Instead, post the questions and answers to your website and remove another barrier to doing business with you. Or, if you have the staff to do so, install a "live help" program on your website so that your site visitors can click and log-in to ask their questions right away while the question is fresh on their mind.

8. Offer Special Membership Access for Current Customers
If you're selling a service on your site, you may want your current paying clients to have access to certain information that is generally not available to the public. With your website, you can create a password-protected, clients-only section, or special membership section, for certain groups of clients. And, as website visitors are always curious and will try to get into private areas for additional information, you can use the "authorization required" page as another opportunity to tell them about the benefits of your product and service and how their lives will be better and richer for purchasing it. And, upon purchase, they will then become a member of this "special clients" club and have all the information and privileges associated with that membership. American Express is right -- membership has its privileges!

9. Open to National or International Markets
For most of my adult life, I've lived in parts of the country that have never recovered from the mid-1980's recession. Because I've had a virtual business with a website, I've never had to rely on the local economy to make a living. If you have a product or service that won't sell locally, or you have a brick and mortar operation and are trying to break into new markets, a website can help you open up a dialogue with nationwide or even international markets as easily as with the company across the street. Can you stand to make more money in your business?

10. Test-Market New Services and Products
Got an idea for another line of products for your business, or an additional service you'd like to add? Create a special page on your website and see how your current customers like the new offering. Ask them about price, appearance, and usability. They will let you know what they think faster and easier than any other market you may reach. Take their feedback, make necessary changes, and then roll it out to a larger market.

If you don't currently have a website for your business, get one! If your website only serves as a pretty brochure instead of bringing you qualified customers or sales, perhaps it's time to hire an expert to bring it to the next level. What difference would it make for you to get 95% of your clients online?I bet that would make your marketing efforts much more streamlined, and who doesn't want to make more profit in less time?

(c) 2006 Donna Gunter

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Read about running an online biz at our blog,

Monday, September 04, 2006

12 Free SEO Tools You Must Use

12 Free SEO Tools you Must Use
by Christos Varsamis

Effective SEO strategies require a lot of effort and time. Although in the search engines market exist very advanced tools that cost a lot, there are many free SEO tools which can help the novice and advanced SEO marketer to save valuable time.

Here is a list of free and proven for their effectiveness SEO online instruments:

1) Alexa Ranking . It displays multiple domains instead of one. Therefore, you can have instant traffic results from Alexa Rankings instead of typing and search each time separately.

2) XML Sitemaps . Sitemaps are extremely important for websites because they help search engines crawl and index them. This is a free xml sitemap generator.

3) Directory Manager . You can track your submissions to various web directories and you can also visit regularly to see new directories added to the list. You just tick the appropriate submission boxes when you submitted your website. It's very easy to use it.

4) 123 Promotion Keyword Research Tool. This is a very powerful tool. It displays, based on the Overture and Wordtracker keyword search tools, similar data, including search figures from the previous month. It also adds statistics for average searches per hour, day, week, projected figures for the next 12 months and then also a figure to see how searches may look in 3 years from now.

5) Keyword Density Checker . This keyword density tool is useful for helping webmasters/SEO's achieve their optimum keyword density for a set of key terms/keywords. This tool will analyze your chosen URL and return a table of keyword density values for one, two, or three word key terms.

6) McDar Pagerank and Backlink Checker . This is another Excellent Resource. When you enter the appropriate URL and keyword, it will display Pagerank and Back links pages for the Top 10 websites.

7) Robots.txt Generator You can create a free robots.txt file with this resource. So, you will be able to direct the search engines to follow the pages structure of your website and also direct the search engines not to follow and crawl specific web pages of your website you don't want to be crawled.All you have to do is filling the fields and when the robots.txt file is created you upload it to your root of your web server.

8) Nichebot . This website displays keyword data using Wordtracker and Google search results. You just enter the keyword and press the button.

9) Domain Stats . You Enter the domain and get: domain age, number of pages indexed, and number of backlinks. The statistics include Alexa Taffic Rank, Age of the domains, Yahoo WebRank, Dmoz listings, count of backlinks and number of pages indexed in Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, Msn etc. It will help you figure out why some of your competitors are ranking better than you.

10) Compare Search Engines . Shows top results from 3 search engines. This tool helps you get all kind of statistics of your competitor's domains.

11) Verify Result . This verification tool checks to see if your site is in the top three pages of a search engine result for a specific keyword. You enter your URL/Keyword and it displays top 30 for 11 Search Engines.

12) Related Keywords. This tool generates a list of possible keyword combinations based on lists of keywords that you provide.You enter a list of terms, one per line or separated by commas. This is very effective for Google Adwords and Overture.

About This Author
Christos Varsamis is Internet & Affiliate Marketing Specialist. Get your Free Reports “Internet Marketing Myths Exposed” & “How to Generate Revenue from Your Sites”

Friday, August 04, 2006

How to Hire Some Help and Give Yourself a Rasie� by Online Business Coach Donna Gunter

How to Hire Some Help (A Virtual Assistant) and Give Yourself a Raise

"There's no way I can hire anyone to do what I do. No one can do it as well as I can."

Do you resemble that remark? If so, you've got much in common with most other business owners in the world. We never think that anyone else will give something the time, attention, and dedication that we will. And, you're right, to some degree. No one cares as much about your business as you do. However, if you don't choose to delegate those things that prevent you from engaging in business development, marketing, and sales activities, you won't be in business very long.

Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for awhile, the thought of bringing on a support team member can be daunting, and you wonder, "How can I bring in someone else when it's just going to increase my expenses?"

You need to make the shift to seeing this cost as an investment in your business, rather than as an expense, and let go of the need to be in control.

I recently read about a statistic quoted in the life insurance industry, which stated that for every additional support team member employed in a small professional services firm, the firm experienced a 40% increase in gross revenues. Why does this increase occur? Because your support team takes work away from you, which allows you to focus on increasing revenues - either by making more sales or working on the marketing systems that will lead to more sales.

I realize this sounds overly simplistic -- if you want to increase your revenues by 40%, simply just employ someone on your support team. Of course, it is not that simple in reality. Hiring a support team requires you to trust your own judgment and ability to use this extra time to generate more revenues. And that's the key here - if you hire a support person and keep doing what you?re doing, the concept won't work. You have to hire the person and ensure that you're taking on the role of business development.

The best way to illustrate this is to look at your "lost opportunity" costs. Say, for example, you're a marketing consultant and you charge $175 per hour. Yesterday, your ACT! database was malfunctioning and it took you 7 hours to fix the problem and do the mail merge and printing and mailing of your sales letter to the new list of 100 prospective customers that you just purchased. Do you realize that 7 hours really cost you $1225? How? Your hourly rate of $175/hour multiplied by the number of hours it took you to do this task (7) equals $1225.

What would have been more effective? Finding a great Virtual Assistant to do this for you in half the time for a portion of your hourly fee. If you had hired the expertise of a masterfully skilled Virtual Assistant charging $45/hour, for example, my guess is that she probably could have completed the project in a portion of the time, say 4 hours, for a final cost to you of $180. Big cost savings over the $1225 it cost you to do the same project. With that project off your plate, you then have the time to go out seeking more $175/hour opportunities.

Amazing, isn't it? For a $180 investment, for example, you now have the time to complete the proposal to do that corporate training program you spoke about with an HR person two weeks ago. A week later, the HR person calls and tells you that they've accepted the proposal valued at $10,000 in income over the course of the year. Would you have had time to complete that proposal if you had not handed off this ACT database project? Perhaps, but I bet it would have forced you to work late into the night to complete it.

What operational aspects of your business could you delegate to someone else? If you had extra time, how could you increase the revenues of your business? Give these questions strong consideration--you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.

(c) 2006 Donna Gunter

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to get more clients online at To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Web Site Leverage

Ever go to a web site and find that after poking around a few pages you just click off and go to another site? Of course. It happens millions of times a day on the web. Why? Good question!

This is number seven in my series of "Dumb Marketing Mistakes" where the mistake I'll explore is "Not Leveraging Your Web Site." This is an important one because if you can't get people to stick around your site and eventually contact you, your web site is just taking up cyberspace.

What does a results-producing web site need? Let's start with quality design, clear formatting and substantial content on every page. And you need to answer the "What's in it for me?" question every step of the way. But that's just the beginning.

Even sites that have all the bases covered often miss the key to turning visitors into clients. It's the difference between a web site that "just sits there" and one that gets a prospect to give you a call or send an email saying, "Can you help me?"

And that big key is called the "Call-to-Action." And you don't just use it once, but over and over throughout your site. Here are some important calls-to-action that you can easily add to your site:

1. At the bottom of every page tell people where to go next
Then include a link that points there. If you don't, your visitors will scratch their heads thinking, "Where do I go next?" and then scroll up to the navigation bar to figure it out. Don't make them think. Make it obvious where they should go next.

Your directions might say something like: "Now that you have a better idea of the kind of clients we work with, click here to learn about the results you can expect to receive from our services."

2. A "Contact Us" link, also at the bottom of every page

Who knows when the inspiration will strike to contact you? Have you ever been on a web site and wanted to contact the company but couldn't find an email address or a phone number? Bye, bye business. And make that Contact Us page more than a phone number, email and address. Tell them what will happen when they contact you. Make it easy to do business with you.

3. A response form at the bottom of every services page

Take an extra step here. Insert a small form that they can fill out to request even more information about that service. Get their name, email, company name and the answers to a few questions about their needs. Yes, people do fill out these forms. But keep them simple!

4. Have them do something that will get them involved

This is the psychology behind the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. It would be easier to just have people mail back the form. But they found that the more involvement, the better the response. You might try a survey of some kind.

5. Have prospects apply to be your client

When I created the Marketing Action Groups, I decided, instead of a "payment link" at the end of the description of the groups, to put in an application form. This way I can screen applicants, as I don't accept everyone. Then I send an acceptance email to those I felt would get the most from the group with a payment link. The conversion rate is still very high. When I accepted individual clients, I used a similar application form.

6. Capture their name and email address

This is really the number one purpose of a web site. Offer a pithy article or report, plus an email newsletter (in that order) in exchange for their contact information. Once you have them on your eZine list, the marketing really starts. I call it "keep-in-touch marketing."

7. Offer ongoing calls-to-action in your eZine

I generate much more business from the eZine than from new visitors to the web site. Think of the web as the place where you introduce yourself to your prospects. And think of the eZine as the place they get to know you. Then invite them to explore your services in more depth (by sending them back to the web site).

Now go back to your site and start inserting all these calls-to- action. I promise you'll start getting better results!

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert's web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Before You Give Away Your Old PC...

Important information to know before you pass on that old computer to friend, charity or unknown third-party!

Solutions from PC Magazine: Before You Give Away Your Old PC

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Secure Your Web Domain Name or Risk Losing It

Secure Your Web Domain Name or Risk Losing It
by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing

I run across small business owners everyday that put all of their web assets, including their domain name, in the hands of a web designer or consultant. Web sites are easy to replace, valuable domain names are not. Make sure that you have ultimate control over your domain name or risk losing it or suffering some serious downtime if your web host goes belly up.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't trust your web designer, I'm just saying that for many small businesses, your actual domain name may be one of your businesses most important assets and you should treat it as such.

First a couple points that may need to be clarified.

Your domain name is just that, control of the name - for example. Your domain host is another element altogether and is probably your web host. You assign who hosts your domain name by controlling your domain name. Many web designers or hosts will set all of this up for you including registering your domain name - you need to separate your domain name control from your domain host and keep it secure.

If you do not ultimately control your domain name - meaning you can't log in securely and update your domain's records, here is my recommendation:

Set up a free account with and ask your web host or designer to transfer administrative control of the domain to your GoDaddy account #. Once this is done you can use features at GoDaddy to give your IT person or designer access to make technical changes for instance, if you wanted to move to a new web host, but you need to control your domain name.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Designing sites for search engines and directories

by Andy MacDonald: Swift Media UK

In terms of layout, many web sites are not designed for optimum search engine and directory visibility. People or companies seem so centered on their corporate or personal images, products, and services that they neglect to design their web sites with search engines and directories in mind. Search engines and directories vary in the way they rank your web site in a search query. Some search engines place primary emphasis on the text within your title tags. Some search engines place emphasis on the main ideas presented in all of your text on a single web page. Some directories emphasize the text you submitted in their "Description" field. How and where you place your text, both in the copy your visitors see and within the HTML tags your visitors do not see, will affect your ranking.

Keyword selection
Keyword placement
Keyword frequency
Links & architecture
Site statistics

Keyword Selection
Of primary importance is selecting the best keywords for your industry and the keywords you believe your potential customers will use to find you. Selecting the right keywords requires research.

Look at your company's printed materials. What words do you use over and over? When you speak to new and current customers on the phone, what questions do they frequently ask and what words do they use? Ask your current customers how they would find you on the Internet. Then go to the major search engines and directories. Type in the keywords you want to use. Study the source code of the web sites that appeared in the top 20. Look at how your competitors ranked in a search query. Adjust your keyword selection accordingly.

Keyword placement
Of equal importance is keyword placement on individual pages. The text in your title tag is one the most important elements for ranking well in search engines. The text in your titles should be descriptive, using the words and lingo in your industry, and should accurately reflect the contents of each web page.

For optimum search engine positions, your keywords need to appear at the top of your web pages. Thus, before you design your web page, ask yourself if you (or your web designer) have strategically placed your keywords within your title tags, meta-tags, headings, graphic images, and the first paragraph within your body tag. If not, you might need to rethink your site design.

Keyword Frequency
What is important to both the search engines and your target audience is keyword frequency and keyword prominence. Designing and coding your site with keywords in the right locations and the right frequency is an art form. Keywords need to appear frequently on your web pages, but if they appear too frequently, your site will be penalized for word stacking (also known as "spamming the index") or could be removed permanently from the index.

Also, some search engines ignore meta-tags. Thus, if you have included your keywords in your meta-tags but have not placed them elsewhere, you have missed a huge target audience, namely AOL users. Sites with frames have problems being indexed well because there is little opportunity otherwise to include additional text with keywords.

Very, very few web sites can get in the Top 10 of all the major search engines (AltaVista, FAST Search, HotBot, Google, Lycos, Teoma) without spamming. We cannot emphasize this enough: if you hire anyone (a submission service, an individual, an online promotion service, etc.) to do the services we just described, they need to have both HTML and design experience, online marketing, and excellent copy writing skills. You do not want your web site to be permanently banned from a search engine or directory due to ignorance or lack of experience. Furthermore, submission services usually do just that: submit. Many do not perform keyword research, the HTML coding, and copy writing necessary to get a site optimally placed within the search engines. Ask a lot of questions before handing over any money.

Links & site architecture
Placing keywords throughout your web pages is useless as a search engine marketing strategy if the search engine spiders are unable to record the text on your web pages. Therefore, always have a link architecture (also known as a site map) on your site that the search engine spiders can follow. Oftentimes, this means having two forms of navigation on your site: one that your target audience prefers, and one for the search engines.

Site Statistics
For the first few months after you have your web site submitted to the major search engines and directories, you should see a jump in traffic. If you look at your site reports with your visitor statistics, which should do frequently, you will see when the search engines spider and index your site.

Hopefully, because you have been thoughtful enough to give potential customers a reason to return to your site again and again, people will bookmark your site, and your web statistics will show an increase in a "No Referrer" category under referral URL's. Your site reports should show you where your potential customers are coming from (i.e. which search engine or directory they used to find you) and which keywords they used to find you.

After your site has listed in the search engines and directories for a few months, review your site statistics and determine where the majority of your traffic comes from. Then focus your advertising efforts on those directories and search engines. You get better sales from targeted marketing than from spreading your net too wide.

One client did exactly what we recommended, from keyword selection to monitoring site statistics. They found most of their sites referral traffic came from Yahoo queries. They bought banner space from Yahoo for two months. Whenever two of their keywords were typed in a search query, their banner would appear. Their traffic increased over 500%, and their sales reached five figures per month.

Lastly, the saying "Content is King" still rings true. You can increase traffic to your web site, but if (1) people do not like what they see, (2) you do not offer potential customers what they want to buy, or (3) you do not give customers incentive to stay and/or bookmark your site, they will click off of your web site as quickly as they clicked on to it.

About This Author:
Andy Macdonald owns and runs his own
web design business called Swift Media UK, which incorporates logo design, & website hosting.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Google search tricks

Don't always get what you were hoping for on your Google search? Take a look at these tips (.pdf) on how to improve your searches!

Google Cheat Sheet
Google Guide's Cheat Sheet

A couple of tricks I learned:

Numerical Ranges
What it does: searches for a range of numbers
What to type: Willie Mays 1950…1960
What you’ll get: results about Willie Mays during this time period

What it does: converts units of measure
What to type: cm in foot, 28C in F, $ in pound, days in
fortnight, miles in league, mph in speed of light, etc.
What you’ll get: the converted answer

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Google Calendar is Live!

Check out this article on its features: TechCrunch - Google Calendar is Live or go to it directly.

Monday, April 10, 2006

10 Things to Do With Old PCs

Not sure what to do with that older computer? PC Magazine has some ideas for you: 10 Things to Do With Old PCs.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Printing while on the Road

Need to print out a report from your hotel room? Check out these tips for printing while traveling from Microsoft's Small Business Center!

Traveling? Quick printing tips

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Building a Professional Website that Achieves Your Goals

Building a Professional Website that Achieves Your Goals
by Stoney G deGeyter

Your website is an electronic extension of your business. Poorly designed web pages often fail to provide users with a satisfactory online browsing or shopping experience. By nature of being an electronic medium, web surfers have constantly growing expectations from the sites they visit while online. The web page equivalent of local kid’s $5 car wash flier, or a poorly produced cable show or infomercial is no longer effective when it comes to convincing shoppers that you take your business—or them—seriously. The appearance of your business website lends directly to your credibility. If you can establish credibility then sales will likely follow.

Meet Industry Expectations
A “professional” look can vary from industry to industry. For one industry you might need a site that screams “corporation,” while another industry might perform best with a mom and pop feel, still another might need a fun or artsy look. Building your site to meet industry expectations simply means knowing your audience and what they expect. Be careful that you don’t confuse any of the above with shoddy design. Whatever “feel” you give your site, make sure it comes out looking great.

Start by researching your competitors and taking an in-depth look at their websites. If all your competitors are going for a particular feel then maybe there’s something to that. Be sure to do your own research so you aren’t solely relying on what your competitors are doing. Often times you’ll find that your competitors are doing the wrong thing entirely.

Overall, make sure you are doing what’s right for your audience. In your design you don’t just want to match your competitors, you should seek to exceed them. Have your site designed to look and perform better, while still providing the overall tone your target audience is looking for.

Incorporate Usability Elements
As you put together your design elements, think: usability. There is nothing more frustrating to a visitor than trying to navigate through a website that is poorly constructed and does not provide obvious, user friendly markers directing them to the information they came looking for.

Intuitive Linking
Use textual links within the body content as part of your navigation scheme. Your website is not a brochure where people flip from one page to another; it is an active document that should allow visitors to navigate as they read, following links to wherever interest strikes them. Contextual linking in the body content provides that avenue without forcing the visitor to rely on the main site navigation to decide what to do next.

It’s the difference between asking your spouse what movie they want to see or asking if they would like to watch a comedy, sci-fi, action, drama or chick flick. With the first, you’re forcing her to do all the thinking and decision making for herself. With the other you are simply presenting options, allowing her to make a decision based on what she desires. That is how you want your visitors to feel. You want them to go where they want, but at the same time be leasing them, through various routs, to the point of action (i.e. sale, conversion, sign-up, etc.)

Emotive Colors
Colors fuel emotions so be sure the colors you use for your website bring out the emotions that best reach your audience. Integrating color elements effectively can create a more inviting website that can easily lead your visitors to take the desired actions.

Calls to Action
You’ve heard the saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” On the web, many people try to get the horse to drink without even leading him to water. When visitors come to your site they need to be lead to their desired destination. Use visual calls to action throughout your site that will direct your visitors to click, buy, purchase, read, get, view, order, continue, apply, enter, or whatever else you want them to do.

Careful and strategic planning before you begin developing (or re-developing) your website can help you build the best possible website that meets both your, and your customer’s needs. Consideration and implementation of the above mentioned elements will ensure that your website is effective at pulling traffic and converting your visitors into buyers. Throw in some quality customer service and you’ve got something for your customers to tell others about, which is the most effective kind of marketing there is.

About This Author:
Stoney deGeyter is president of Pole Position Marketing, a
professional search engine marketing firm providing search engine optimization (SEO) and website marketing services since 1998. Stoney is also a part-time instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College, as well as a moderator in the Small Business Ideas Forum. He also contributes daily to the (EMP) E-Marketing Performance search marketing blog as well as the author of his E-Marketing Performance eBook.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

And we have a Winner! Thanks WorldWIT!

I never win anything. Ok, there was the time in college when I won a gift basket from 9News for filling out a survey on the new StarTrek exhibit at the museum. (no, I'm not too embarrased to have been a Trekkie in my former life!) But other than that... My sister has always been the lucky one for things like that. We used to exchange scratch lottery tickets at Christmas. The 10 tickets I bought her invariably ended up netting her $30 or more. The 10 tickets I received netted... $3. And if I had bought 10 tickets for myself, I'd have the same result. Just last year, my big sister won a fabulous trip through her work to the Caribbean. I just don't have that kind of luck.

But this week was different. I won where it counts - exposure to my business. A few months ago, I joined yet another online networking group - WorldWIT (Women, Insights, Technology). I'd known some other VAs who were involved and had success with the group, so I decided to give it a try. Shortly after joining, I placed their logo and link on the home page of my website alongside several others. I had forgotten about it entirely. Until I received a phone call last week from the National office for WorldWIT. They'd had a contest running and out of all the members nationwide who linked to them, I won their contest! Woo-hoo! I never win!

They had several prizes to choose from, and frankly, I would have been happy with either the iPod Shuffle or the free marketing exposure through the WorldWIT newsletter. But I chose to take the free registration for Camp WorldWIT, their national conference coming up in May. I love conferences and know how much they can help with networking and promoting my business, in addition to giving me a big boost of energy to work on my business when I get home.

It's not quite to the level of winning the lottery (I'd have to buy a ticket to get that, anyway!), but it's certainly more beneficial to my business. Thank you, WorldWIT (and my local group, RockyWIT!), for supporting women in business. I look forward to meeting you all at the conference in May!

See What Your Website Visitors Are Doing With Crazy Egg

Here's a new way to see what your website visitors are doing on your site: visually see where their mouse moves to and how long it stays there. Intriguing!

TechCrunch - See What Your Website Visitors Are Doing With Crazy Egg

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Online Classes by Creative Assistants

I'm excited to announce that Creative Assistants has partnered with The Entrepreneur's Toolbox to provide on-going online classes related to software & technology productivity! Other collaborators have already started their classes on topics that will "help new and established entrepreneurs build their business success".

We will be holding our first class on Thursday, March 23 at Noon MST - the topic is "Advanced Microsoft Office".

On Tuesday, March 28 at Noon MST, the topic will be "Technology for the Virtual Office".

Be sure to check out these and many more fabulous offerings! And if you're a member of IVAA, you'll get a discount from this preferred partner!

And let us know if you have topics you'd like to see on the calendar!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Could you get fired for blogging?

Here's another twist in the free speech debate: bloggers posting anonymously (on personal time) get fired for their comments. - Bloggers: Use caution

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Wireless networking baffling you?

Trying to network your home computers? Can't figure it out? Baffled? The good news (if there is any) is that you're not alone.

One of my clients is a local ISP and I work with his customers every day troubleshooting networking issues. Therefore, this article came as no surprise to me: "Wireless networking baffles some customers". Even in my own home, I can't get the wireless feature of my (aging) router to work with my brand new computer. It's an industry-wide problem that needs some serious consideration. How can they make it easier for the average consumer to use this technology? And when will they improve the hardware so the failure rates are significantly lower?

From my experience, the easiest wireless router to set up is Linksys. But even that is no guarentee everything will go smoothly. My recommendation: Try setting it up first on your own. Then call the free product support number for help. Then call a professional, we can help.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The 411 on Broadband

You know you need broadband internet for your business - it's no longer a luxury, but a necessity. With so many options available today, which is the best one for you? PC Magazine explains your options so you can make an informed decision!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Is FrontPage on its way out?

According to Microsoft, the popular website design program FrontPage will be faded out beginning in 2007. In its place, Microsoft is introducing SharePoint Designer and Expression Web Designer. Check out more information in this article from

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Are you Security-Savvy?

Are you security savvy? What kind of firewalls do you have? Is your wireless network secure? Are your passwords? Get tips on these security issues and more from PC Magazine: Maximum Security: 94 Essential Tips for Staying Safe

What's your link popularity?

How does your website stack up when it comes to link popularity on the major search engines? MarketLeap has a great tool that will tell you how your site compares to other similar ones. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Owning a website is more than just having it built

A great article by Joe Balestrino on what you need to think about when building your website:

Owning a website is more than just having it built

Friday, February 03, 2006

New Virus - update your Software!

You've heard it on the news. Seen it on the web. But what is it really all about? Is it that dangerous? Check out PC Magazine's articles on the new Blackworm virus and learn what you're dealing with.
Blank Out Blackworm

Now, go make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date!