5 Good Reasons Why You Need the Expertise of Professional Website Designers

Today’s guest post is from Tiffany Olson, who works at Optimize Worldwide in California, a small web development company that specializes in search engine friendly web design. Some of her hobbies include doing yoga, cooking, and reading.

Computer with Website Designed by Aleweb Social MarketingIn this day and age, marketing your next book or your next big talk requires a functioning website to serve as the face of your project on the Internet. However, a site that isn’t effective at making a positive first impression on its visitors doesn’t add any value and can actually end up undermining it.

Many people believe that creating a website is simple and they can save a few dollars by making it a DIY project, but more often than not, this doesn’t produce the lucrative results they desire. A well-built site can help to make projects and business ventures very profitable, and to achieve this, it usually takes the experience and know-how of professional website designers. [Read more…]

5 Unique Ways to Get Backlinks to Your Website

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Boisvert, who is an author who writes on a wide range of topics from small business to investing to high technology. She also covers social media and has written profiles of Bill Gates, Steve Wynn, and Chuck Hull.
Spider web image for 5 Unique Ways to Get Backlinks to Your Websites

Backlinks help readers find your website in the tangle of the Web! [Photo credit: Tina Phillips via FreeDigitalPhotos.com]

In this Internet age, websites are key to selling every product and service from books to videos and speaking engagements to webinars. But having a website is just the beginning. To get potential customers to find your specific website in the tangle of the Web requires having a high page rank for your keywords in search engines like Google.

Search algorithms increasingly rely upon backlinks to evaluate content strength. The logic goes that if a website is mentioned with a hyperlink to it on another website, then the content must be valuable to readers.

Knowing this, some webmasters went overboard creating links to hundreds of sites. Many of these backlinks also had no relationship to the subject matter or were connected to sites that bordered on spam.

Google responded to these tactics intended to “fool” the system, of course, and now includes relevance of subject matter in their algorithms. Consequently, backlinks of good quality are essential to driving more traffic to your website.

While it takes a little more effort now to get good backlinks, there are many unique ways to be sure your website stays within Google guidelines. Here are some tips to get you started.

Partner with Smaller Vendors

Large vendors like Amazon have established backlink programs for authors and product suppliers, but don’t ignore the smaller outlets. Get a list from your distributor of stores that carry your books and contact the manager or owner about backlinks. Organizations that hire you to speak are also a good source of backlinks. Of course, you’ll need to reciprocate and link back to these vendors on your website, but that is just good business for everyone.

Befriend Bloggers

Bloggers are always searching for new topics for blog posts. By searching for top bloggers in your subject area, you can build a list of potential websites for backlinks.

Perhaps they could include a book or podcast review, an interview before an upcoming book signing or speech, or a general interest story. This provides an opportunity for the blog to link to your website. As before, you need to be a good member of the online community and reciprocate. You can do something simple like create a page of News and Reviews with links and a brief description.

Twitter logo used in 5 Unique Ways to Get Backlinks to Your Website

Twitter is filled with media writers and bloggers [Image credit: Twitter]

Social Media

Twitter is a great social media platform for finding writers and bloggers who might be interested in reciprocal links. The Twitterverse is full of media types from national, local and international news agencies as well as bloggers covering everything you can imagine. Search for some keywords from your field and create lists of the writers you find.

There are rules of etiquette that accompany being a good member of the community. First, you’ll need to engage with the writers or bloggers, getting to know them in Cyberspace. Once you’ve established credibility and demonstrated that you’re not a spammer, you can ask for a backlink. Most Tweeters who “know” you are happy to comply.

Trade Associations and Other Organizations

Trade associations or other organizations are always happy to promote members. Often they will publish news about individual members or business and corporate members and include a backlink. This is true for every type of group from your local Chamber of Commerce to the national alumni association of your college alma mater. Get to know the membership director or IT specialist to see what kinds of backlinks they can provide.

Don’t Forget Fans or User Groups

It goes without saying that fans are always willing to help out since they are happy customers who want you to succeed. Reach out through your database or blog, but again, you don’t want to be a spammer! Limit the number of requests and, if possible, offer an incentive such as a small gift card or a promotional item.

Working on backlinks has an additional benefit beyond search engine optimization. You’ll be interacting more with the world, and it’s through being visible that good PR opportunities also arise. Following these five tips, you’ll be sure to increase sales of all your products and services through a variety of channels.

Testimonials Are Music to a Brand’s Ears

5-star-rating for Aleweb Social MarketingWe hear it all the time. Word-of-mouth referrals are a brand’s bread-and-butter.

No amount of traditional or social marketing can equal the power of a friend who recommends a product, service, book or experience.

Today is the start of the new week. You may own your own business and look for these longed-for referrals, but how do you get them?

Have you ever heard the adage “It is better to give than receive?” When it comes to referrals and endorsements, this rule holds true.

You can ask friends and close acquaintances to endorse your product or service, but after a while you’ll run out of people to ask.

As JFK was quoted as saying “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Or in this case “ask not who can recommend your business, but whose business you can recommend.”

Think over the past week.

Who have you interacted with? Where did you go to lunch? When you took your teenager to the mall, which stores did you go to? What book couldn’t you put down? Whose advice and support has been crucial to your own success?

I challenge you to come up with one thing each week for the next two months that you want to recommend to your friends. It can be a business that provided excellent customer service, an enjoyable experience, or that went out of their way to make your buying experience exceptional. Or it can be a book, play, concert, or any other experience that you loved.

Why two months?

I want you to establish the habit of looking for people and experiences you can appreciate. Enjoy that feeling. Appreciate the sense of gratitude. Pass it forward. Catch people “in the act of getting it right,” and let them know you’ve noticed.

It will change you too.

Being more focused on showing your appreciation for others will take the pressure off trying to get people to appreciate your brand too. You’ll internalize what you’re learning from brands that “do it right” and potentially improve what you’re doing as well.

Regardless, in giving, you will receive. And don’t be surprised if you start to see your own client testimonials increase as well.

So… Have you thought of someone for this past week?

Go ahead and think of one. We’ll wait for you…

Have it now?

Alright… Here’s the easy part. Go find that brand online. It doesn’t matter if it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Angie’s List, Instagram, Google, their website or wherever else you feel comfortable. Just find their listing and post a review.

What should your review look like?

Write it as if you’re talking to your best friend. Tell them about your experience and what made it so special.

Businesses hear often when they’ve done something wrong. Give them a boost. Let them know when they’ve done something right so they can do it more often!

Wherever you posted that endorsement, share it with your friends.

People like to buy from brands they know, like and trust. Your recommendation tells your friends who you know, like and trust, and exactly why. And perhaps that experience is exactly what they were looking for too!

Share a link in the comments below to a brand that made you feel special recently and let us know how they did it.

Facebook Timeline is Coming to Pages!

Today I sent the following e-mail to my Facebook clients. But I wanted to make sure that yougot it too!

____________________________________________________

I wanted to make sure that you’d heard that the new Facebook Timeline format is now available for pages. The current projection is that all pages will be automatically converted to the new format at the end of March. (I say “current projection” because there were multiple projected roll-outs for the personal Timeline format, and few of them were met!)

FB cover image

 

I recommend that you go to your page, click on the Preview button so that you can familiarize yourself with the new layout, and make any changes you want or need before the roll-out takes place.

If your page is ready, you can go ahead and initiate the switch yourself, rather than waiting.

Here are some key things you’ll need to know about Timeline for businesses.

  1. Design or select a great cover image. That’s the long image that goes across the top of the page. For the rules about what you can have in a cover photo, go tohttps://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=276329115767498. Important things to note?
  2. The cover photo can be up to850px by 315px but may NOT contain the following:

    • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”.
    • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’sAbout section.
    • References to user interface elements, such asLikeorShare, or any other Facebook site features.
    • Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”
  3. Default landing tabs have gone away! That’s a disappointment for many businesses who use that space to engage prospective clients. [Note:The tab still exists on your page, there’s just no way to send non-fans directly there.]
  4. You can pin a favorite post to the top of your page. This is where you could show a video, or do some of the other things that you once did with your landing page. Not a great alternative, but it takes a little bit of the sting out.
  5. All tabs are still available. But they’re wider now – 810px. So, you’ll want to make sure the content or apps you’re using fit the extra space nicely.
  6. You can now message pages using the Facebook chat feature. You can even install Facebook messenger on your desktop so that you can keep in touch with people without having Facebook open. That opens up some interesting customer service opportunities!
  7. As with your personal Timeline, business Timelines display photos, likes and apps at the top of the page. Photos will always appear in the first position, but you can change the order of everything after that. Since the first few are the only ones displayed, make sure you’ve got the most important ones first!
  8. There’s a new Admin panel for accessing your notifications, insights, likes and messages. This panel is at the top of your page, and you can hide and display it at will. Keep in mind, it’s only visible to admins of the page. So, leaving it displayed will never affect your visitors’ view of the page.

[Note: If you’re interested in a few more details related to the new features, check out Michael’s blog entry over at Local Band Review.]

As with the personal Timeline roll-out, you can use this time before the new format goes live to “tidy up a bit.” Get rid of posts that are no longer relevant by removing them from your wall. Remove tags for your business on photos or videos that aren’t appropriate. Sort and re-order photos, videos and apps to display the most important things first.

And if you get stuck with anything, or just need help getting ready, give us a call!

Reaching Your Goals for 2012

FocusAs 2011 draws to a close, everyone is busily planning their goals for the year to come, and strategizing how best to reach them. Sounds easy, right?! Well, yes and no…

We all know that goal setting is important, but not all of us know how to reasonably do that. The problem is that our goals are what drive the plans we put in place. So, without clearly defined objectives, how will you know whether you reached your target?

For a solo-preneur, entrepreneur or other small business, goal-setting may be as simple as figuring out how many customers you need to have in order to be successful in 2012.

It’s a fairly simple equation to give you a ballpark estimate, but one we often forget to figure out. So, take a piece of paper or open up Excel, and jot down how much you personally need to earn in a year, plus what your operating expenses are, and divide that by how much your average customer typically spends. Remember, this is only an estimate, but if you don’t know the answer already, it’s a great way to start. So spend some time on this…

Can you decrease your expenses in any way? Is the salary you want really what you need? Is there a simple upsell you can offer to increase your average customer spend?

If you’re just starting out and don’t have actual numbers to base this on, estimate what you believe they will be, and come back and recalculate when you have real numbers to work with. Once you’re satisfied with the numbers, make your calculation as to how many customers you need to reach your goals.

(Salary + expenses) / Avg. customer spend = # customers

Throughout the course of the year, you’ll want to periodically re-check this information to make sure all the factors are still accurate, and compare where you’re at with where you want to be.

Some of the things that will help you achieve these goals are frequently ignored. For instance, do you have a marketing plan? Taking the time to create one will help you to focus your message, making it easier to create pre-qualified leads that are interested in hearing from you.

My friend, Kevin W. Grossman, recently wrote on the HRMarketer Blog:

Whether you’re a big company or a small one, you need to develop an integrated and comprehensive strategic marketing plan that includes:

    • Marketplace positioning
    • Primary brand/product/service messaging
    • Target markets
    • Target buyers and influencers
    • Strengths and challenges
    • Marketing and media relations editorial calendar
    • Marketing deliverables and activities
    • Timeline of activities
    • Activities measurement

With your marketing plan firmly in hand, you can begin taking clearly focused steps to reach your goals.

As you develop the materials and resources that convey your message, be thinking of what your customer wants to hear.

If you’re selling a service, don’t focus on how neat your process is. Focus on what results you have gotten. Prospective customers are typically more interested in what you can do for them than in how you’re going to do it.

The same thing goes if you’re selling a product. Let your prospective customer know, in simple language, what’s new and different about your product compared to the other options they have. Will it make their life easier? Shine their shoes brighter? Last longer? Whatever value proposition you offer, make sure you can back it up!

As you focus on knowing your goals, developing and implementing your marketing plan, and staying focused on your message, you’ll be creating an environment of success for yourself and your business! Look out 2012… Here we come!

9 Easy and Inexpensive Ways for Businesses to “Get Found”

Image from Photobucket.com

I was recently asked the question,

What are some easy and inexpensive ways for companies to get their name out to the public?

This all depends first on what you have to start with. Do you have a website? Do you have an existing client list? Does it include e-mail or mailing address details? Are you starting totally from scratch? What industry are you in?

Off the top of my head, here’s what I’d do…

  1. Add your business listing to Google Places.
  2. If you have an established business, search for your business/product/brand and find all business directory listings in which you appear. Claim each one, and ensure that your listing is appropriately categorized and that the keywords are optimized.
  3. If you have a website already, review the keywords to ensure that they’re accurate and optimal. Use Google’s Keyword Analyzer to identify the best keywords for your site.
  4. If you don’t have a website already, create a free one using either WordPress.com or moonfruit.com. If you plan to include eCommerce on your site, you may have to go ahead and pay a little something. To see the differences between WordPress.com (the free site) and WordPress.org (paid version), go to WordPress’ Support page.
  5. Create social media profiles, as appropriate. Use Facebook to build a community around what you do, Twitter to share news and information, LinkedIn to network with potential collaborators, partners and referral sources, and industry-specific networks, as appropriate.
  6. If you have an existing mailing list, I use a fantastic online greeting card and gifting company to connect with my best clients. If you’re interested in doing the same, take a look at SendOutCards.
  7. If you have an existing e-mail list, consider sending out a newsletter or using the list to invite people to join you on your various social network profiles. Be sure to also add links to your online profiles in your e-mail signature and newsletter. (I use WiseStamp for this.)
  8. Ensure that you post links to your website and social media profiles everywhere that you can. Think of your online presence like a spider web. Each strand (site) should point people from one to the other, providing similar content with unique information at each place. (Some overlap is expected. But give people a reason to follow you in more than one place.) As these pathways from one place to another are created, a web builds around your online presence, making you easier to find.
  9. If you enjoy writing or sharing information, consider blogging or video-blogging. If having one of your own is too time-consuming for you, find people who would welcome a guest post from you.

Obviously, this is a quick and dirty list. There are many more things you can do, but this will get you started. Up to this point, everything I’ve suggested (except a WordPress.org site) is free. The only expense is your time and talent.

The only issue with this is, you probably didn’t go into business to do all of these things. You started your business to do whatever it is that you are passionate about. So, is your time and energy best spent doing these things on your own, or hiring someone to do it for you?

Whenever I take on a business-related task that is not part of my work, I consider this before I start. Where are the cost efficiencies? To make it simple, say you charge $50/hr for what you do, and the task you’re considering doing will take you 90 minutes. Are you willing to pay yourself $75 to do it, or is there someone else you can pay to do it so you can find a client willing to pay you for that time instead?

To give a concrete example, when I first started my business, I wanted to form an LLC. I spent some time on it, and found the whole thing very frustrating. I didn’t understand much of what I found. After wasting more than an hour on it, I found a website called Legalzoom.com. For $150, they would file the papers for me. Given how little progress I’d made, it was easily evident that it would cost me less to hire them (even though funds were limited) than it would to pay myself for my time based on my own rates. Plus, hiring someone else gave me the chance to focus my attention on what I love doing instead.

So, do yourself a favor. Balance “easy and inexpensive” against “experienced and cost-effective.” And if you decide that you want help, give us a call! Helping you get found is what Aleweb loves doing!