Services

Fresh content boosts your SEO rankings

Posted by | Services, Websites | No Comments
Last month Google announced changes to the way it indexes and ranks websites. In a nutshell, it rewards sites which consistently publish fresh content. This is where blogs come into their own. Having a business blog on your website, which you update regularly, can give you an edge on your competitors. So can including regular video updates (hmm... now which huge organisation owns YouTube I wonder?) and maps (there's that organisation again). Google also owns blogging giant Blogger, but of course there are alternatives such as WordPress and other blogging sites which you can use and which will still see your content included in rankings. It's fair to say that most if not all search engines take their lead from Google. The complex algorithms behind Google's power are able to deliver remarkable results. For instance last year I wrote an article on my Blogspot personal blog mentioning the Melbourne Cup, with comments about a specific horse, jockey and year in the 1970s. I was trying to find out if anyone remembered the horse that came second (everyone remembers the winners). I typed the horse, jockey and year into Google ten minutes after I'd written my blog post - my blog post was the third site down on the first page. That's the power of Google. Ten minutes. If you have a fairly static brochureware website, which lists your professional services, I strongly urge you to write a blog or at least regular news to add to your site. Also too get yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and link those social media memberships back to your website. Maintaining a blog and social media memberships IS time-consuming, so budget a couple of hours a week if you can - at the very least one hour - to write updates. If you've never written a blog before and are not sure where to start and what to write about, find news items about your industry, link to them in your blog and comment on them; even if it's only a few lines it's your take on the news and how it might affect you or your clients. It's a good way to get started. You can also blog about your clients and how you've helped them (use "Mr X" if you need to!). Keep a notepad and jot down topics for your blog as they come to you. Now... go forth and get your SEO rankings up!

The Power of Fonts

Posted by | Design, Services | No Comments
iLOAD

iLDAD? or iLOAD?

I was driving down the M2 Hills Motorway a couple of days ago when a white van pulled in front of me. I noticed the Hyundai logo and then the van's model name. I thought it said "iLDAD". Ill dad? Blimey, I said to myself, that's a strange model name. Maybe something got lost in the translation from Korean.
Austin Allegro

Austin Allegro

Ah, but wait. I tailgated the van for a moment or two just to read the name more clearly and realised it said "iLOAD". The font that was used featured an "o" with square corners. Had someone in Hyundai been channelling the designers of the ill-fated 1970s Austin Allegro with its quartic steering wheel? (For the unenlightened, the quartic steering wheel wasn't round. It was rectangular with slightly rounded corners. I suspect it caused many bruised thighs and was a key reason for the Allegro's lack of sales. There is a reason why steering wheels are round.) The upshot was that it was hard to tell the "O" and "D" apart. A classic case of not thinking carefully before choosing a font or typeface.

similar but different... not quite the Hyundai font but the same effect with the quartic O

The typeface used by Hyundai was modern and clean - probably too modern when used in that particular word. A car model number has to be readable at a swift glance. When you're driving, your brain is reacting in fractions of a second. You may need to recall that car's model name and number plate for any reason - let's say you heard a police report on the radio that police were searching for a white Hyundai iLOAD which had been involved in a major crime. Oh, you think. Well, that's not the car in front. That car is an iLDAD. It's not just car names that have to be readable at a swift glance, either - it's anything you put on paper or the internet that is intended to attract customers. The exceptions may be heavy metal band names or products aimed at Generation Y or Generation Z. But for most of us, finding a font that matches our branding and is easy to read is paramount. That doesn't mean sticking with Times New Roman (ugh); there are literally thousands of fonts out there for the taking, ranging from the striking and simple to the elegant and filigree. Even fonts with swirling serifs can be eminently readable. There's no excuse for doing an iLDAD! (And by the way, Hyundai, what's with the lower case i? Channelling Apple as well?)

Chance or Opportunity? You decide

Posted by | Writing and Editing | No Comments
Maybe I'm just getting grumpier with age, but these days I tend to mentally edit a lot of what I read in newspapers, magazines and online. One of my main causes to get out the mental red pencil is the use of the word "chance" when the writer was really describing an "opportunity". What's the difference? I was taught back in communication school there's quite a lot of difference between the words, although both may mean similar things. Let's a have a look at the meanings of both. Dictionary.com offers the following meanings, among others, for chance: –noun 1. the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency: Chance governs all. 2. luck or fortune: a game of chance. 3. a possibility or probability of anything happening: a fifty-percent chance of success. 4. an opportune or favorable time; opportunity: Now is your chance. And it says this about opportunity: –noun, plural -ties. 1. an appropriate or favorable time or occasion: Their meeting afforded an opportunity to exchange views. 2. a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal. 3. a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success. You can see areas where both words overlap (ie meaning 4 of chance is similar but slightly different to meaning 1 of opportunity), but let's look at using them in context. One of my clients is Ryde Business Forum, and I organise many events for this association. In the invitations I write, I offer members and guests the opportunity to hear a keynote speaker, not the chance. Chance suggests a gamble in what the visitors might get out of the occasion - it could be good or it could be rubbish; opportunity suggests they're going to hear something to their advantage. If I'm organising a charity auction, I advertise that bidders have the opportunity to win the object of their desire - this isn't a game of chance, they have to put the highest bid in to be successful. If I'm organising a charity raffle, then ticket buyers are told they have a chance of winning as they don't, unlike an auction, have any say over the outcome. If you are writing a media release, copy for your website, an invitation to an event or other promotional material, think carefully before using chance or opportunity to make sure you're using the correct word for the situation. It does make a difference to the way your readers will perceive you and your chosen topic. If you're confused about which word to use, drop me a line on the contact form you'll find on this website!

Switching off

Posted by | Services | No Comments
I read an interesting article by David Frith in the Australian's IT section this week. It's all about switching off occasionally - turning off your mobile phone at weekends, distancing yourself from your social media network when you're not in working hours. I've always been a champion of work/life balance, of having time to yourself where work just doesn't intervene. Like, for instance, weekends. But now I think about it, I can't remember the last weekend in which I didn't do some kind of work. Update someone's website, respond to work emails... if you're like me you know how it is. The last few weeks have been super-hectic for me. I've been working late at nights and working weekends to finish tasks for people. I've been available and 'switched on', and realistically it's taking a bit of a toll. I woke this morning stressed out because I realised, late last night, I'd left my phone switched off all day. I'd been in a meeting the afternoon before and switched it off, because I didn't even want disturbance on 'silent' mode. I'd left it switched off for the drive home as I hate the phone ringing when I'm driving. I won't answer it because I find talking on the phone distracting when I'm confronting Sydney traffic, and if it rings a portion of my mind is wondering who rang and what they want when I should be thinking about the idiot in front of me with a penchant for not using his indicator. So my subconscious took the matter in hand for me, and neglected to remind me to switch the phone back on. As a result I had a reasonably stress-free day yesterday. My interruptions were minimal, and I got a ton of tasks done. I did wonder why several people emailed me asking them to ring me, and didn't find out why until I went to put the phone on charge that night. Oops! My subconscious had the right idea, though. I needed a day to catch up. I'd been making mistakes, not doing updates for people which I said I'd do, rushing jobs and making typos. Not good. Not professional. You might say switching off the phone isn't professional either, but if it gives you the breathing space to do good work, then it's a good thing. I switched the phone on this morning and collected my messages and thankfully I'd addressed most of them in the course of yesterday's work day, so the stress levels dropped quite a lot. Remembering how grumpy and stressed I was over breakfast, worrying about how many people might be chasing me, and how relieved I was at realising it wasn't as bad as I thought when I switched the phone on afterwards, has rung some warning bells. It really is important to take time for yourself. Perhaps not switching the phone off for a working day, but switching off at dinner time and not turning on until the next day - switch off the phone, don't be tempted to access your emails, forget tweeting about business stuff. I've been a bear with a sore head for more than a week as I haven't been having enough 'me' time. There's a novel calling my name, and I'm off to read it now and indulge in some necessary escapism. Don't feel guilty next time you want to do the same.

Are you still on Facebook?

Posted by | Services, Social Media | No Comments
So it's International Quit Facebook Day. I'll be interested to read tomorrow how many people actually quit; I'm sure it'll be in the news somewhere. Or someone will tweet it. Here's the news so far. There's been a lot of panic in the media over here this month - see this article and this one for examples. Facebook's privacy policy is an overlong nightmare, but let's be realistic for a moment. Key advice: be sensible what you put on Facebook. Carefully look at your settings to see how much information you're giving out. For example, don't be daft and display your full date of birth and the town you were born in. Identity thieves may love you for it, but do you really want their love? (And if you're worried that the folk at Facebook themselves might do something nasty with your identity, cross your fingers behind your back and type in a different date of birth to your actual one. Not nice, I know, but we all have a ton of information out there in the ether these days; protect it as you can.) If in doubt, click the options which give out the least information to the world, and keep your wider profile visible only to your friends (and even then, do think about just how much info you want to give out). As with LinkedIn, it's a good idea to only allow people you actually know to befriend you, or possibly friends of people you trust, if you are concerned about your privacy and identity. Yes, that might mean you don't have 567 friends - you might only have 80 - but they are people you actually know. If you're a business person and you're using your personal Facebook account for business, be sensible about what images you load up. Nobody wants to see you drunk and disorderly at a party. It might have been fun at the time, but it could influence the way future clients think about you. You have less control about the tags other people put on their photos, but you can control your own account as you like. Realistically, if you're going to use Facebook for business, start a business page. Keep it businesslike. Attract fans. Direct your clients to it. Make it a separate identity to your own Facebook personal page. Facebook is growing in popularity as a business tool. I don't, at this point, use it for my own company but I do maintain a business page for one of my clients. It's another way to advertise your products and services for free using viral marketing. Oh, and think about this: Facebook has received a ton of publicity this month. Even if it wasn't all good, it's the name that's on everyone's lips, or fingertips.

Mini websites $499 including hosting

Posted by | Services, Social Media, Websites | No Comments
Do you only need a little website? Up to three pages and a blog? We can build you one for $499 inc GST and one year's hosting. You'll be able to make your own changes so maintenance costs could be zero. We know there are lots of options out there for business owners and people who want a personal site to download a free or low cost Content Management System (CMS) template for their website and then tailor it to their own needs. If you're a business owner, and customising website templates isn't your specialty, it's probably costing you more time than it's worth to try. What do you charge an hour? And how many hours might you be spending tweaking a template and getting frustrated when it doesn't work like it should? And lots of hosting companies also offer free website templates, but when you read the fine print you could be up for $80 or more a month in hosting costs. These are reasons why you should talk to us. We know what it's like being in small business, with a lean budget to work with. We can save you time and frustration, and most of all, money. If you're a small business or need a personal site and would like a website with up to four pages*, this deal is for you. Your site will have:
  • Content Management System which allows you to edit pages
  • A unique look and feel appropriate to your type of business, your branding and corporate colours, or your personal interests
  • A Home Page, About Page, Contact Page and
  • The option for a blog
  • Tailored Search Engine Optimisation on every page to increase your search engine rankings
  • Links to your social media pages, ie Twitter, LinkedIn, should you want them
  • RSS feeds so people can automatically get updates from your site
  • Site stats and analytics
  • One year's web hosting
  • Training on using your new site
  • Up to 3 email addresses for your domain name
If you want an e-commerce shopping cart, that's another story and will cost you more (price determined after we sit down and have a chat about what you need). The site will have a template customised to your needs and your preferences for colours. We'll throw in the hosting costs for the first year as part of the deal, but after that, hosting costs and domain name renewal should be the only costs you need to budget for with your new site. We arrange hosting with a reputable supplier and have not experienced any downtime with any of our clients' sites. Current cost for hosting is between $50 - $120/yr  with the two hosting providers we recommend but that fluctuates, so we'll keep you informed of changes. You'll be doing all the updating yourself using one of the simplest CMSs available - unless of course you'd like us to maintain it for you. We'll give you free support for the first month after your site is uploaded. After that, if you need our help, we do charge an hourly rate (with 15 minutes the shortest billing period). It's unlikely you'll need us though unless do you want a new look and feel for your site, or you've done something horribly wrong which you can't repair yourself (unlikely... but we've seen it happen). Contact us to talk more about this special offer. *The fine print. Registration of your domain name, if you don't already have one, is at your cost. Domain names are pretty cheap these days and we can arrange for registration through our hosting suppliers at from as little as $12/year (current as at May 2010). We supply you with three pages and a blog. If you'd like extra sections or pages added to your site we can arrange that for $25 for a basic page. We can also give you add-ons such as photo galleries starting at $25 per gallery setup.

Websites – are you looking after yours?

Posted by | Services | No Comments
Who doesn’t have a website? Hands up!  If you’re in the hospitality or retail industry or you’re a tradie, you might be able to get by having a listing on a website such as etradesman.com.au, truelocal, or eatability.com.au However, you can say much more about yourself and your business with your own website and your own domain name. If your business is a consultancy, for example,  a website is a must. Even if it's only one page, it's a far more personal and professional look for your company name and brand than just a listing on a site that uses the same template for every listing. If you own a website, it does need regular care and feeding though. Think of it as a pet or a tamagochi. If you don’t look after it, it’ll die. Who out there has updated their site in the last week? Couple of weeks? Last month? Any time in the last year? Imagine you’re a visitor to your own website. You read that the last bit of news posted there was in 2007, and the copyright info at the bottom says 2008.  Hmm, you think, perhaps Joe Bloggs is so busy he can’t update his site, or perhaps his business has gone down the tubes and he can’t be bothered any more. Your website is there working for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You need to keep it looking fresh. For example, you have to give people a hook to connect with you. Have a call to action on your home page, such as Special offer for June 2010. 5% discount to all new clients. Or Contact us for your free report on FairWork. Make sure you change your 'hook' regularly. If you enjoy talking and writing about what you do or your industry, consider writing a blog and having the latest posts show up on your home page. You’ll have to make time to maintain the pace though – nobody’s going to return if the last blog entry was six months ago. Make sure you have Search Engine Optimisation on each page of your site, to help you through the rankings. Reciprocal links with other sites help you too. Consider using Google adwords. This is a cheap and cost-effective way of advertising and because it can be tightly targeted demographically is an excellent spend for your dollar. Do you know who’s visiting your site? You should have access to your statistics or have Google analytics installed. You should be able to find out from your stats what people are typing into search engines to find you, and what other sites have referred you. If you discover the majority of visits to your site are from your Mum showing you off to her friends, you have a problem with your search engine optimisation. Add "Share" and RSS options to your site, so people can tell their friends about you or see when your site changes and new content is added. And of course add your social media links - preferably with the smart little icons you can download from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube etc. If you use Twitter as part of your internet and social marketing strategy, have a Twitter feed on the home page of your site. I'll be writing more on branding and using social media soon in another post and how you can use viral marketing to enhance your online presence.

Free business cards in June 2010

Posted by | Services | No Comments
We have a special offer for new clients ordering our $990 small business website package in June 2010 - we'll throw in 250 single sided full colour business cards which complement the design and colours of your new website and/or your logo or wordmark. Business cards are for one individual only. We can do you a special price for reprints or extra cards for colleagues - just ask. Your business cards will be professionally printed by one of Australia's most reputable printing companies. They will be 'plain' cards in that they won't have embossing or coatings on them, but they will look great. This offer applies to Australian businesses only. Contact us to find out more. [form 1 "Contact form 1"]

…and it’s only Thursday

Posted by | Writing and Editing | No Comments
Having started this new blog with the current incarnation of my website the intention was to post something every couple of days, but the last week has been tremendously busy. I've hardly had time to think about what to write; even worse, I did have a good idea, didn't jot it down and now I've forgotten it in the cocktail of things I've been doing for people! Grr! Busy I might be but it's all exciting stuff. I'm currently working with Martin Sekel of StreetViewHQ on rebuilding the Ryde Business Forum website in Joomla. Martin's doing the lion's share, especially some of the back end stuff with databases and online payments. I get to do the pretty graphic bits among other tasks. With all the work I already do for RBF I don't have the time to build the site myself, and as I'm not as experienced in Joomla as Martin he can get it done in far less time. Monday and Tuesday this week passed in a fug as I spent about 14 hours each day, coming up occasionally for food, working on the site and flicking ideas back and forth with Martin. We hope to have the site live sometime in June. Last weekend I did a rebuild for OctoberFirst's website. It didn't too long as it's not an extensive site, but it certainly put paid to at least half of the weekend. I knew I had fat chance of rebuilding it during the week as the RBF site was beckoning. In addition, it seems some of my smaller clients think it's a good idea to update their websites this week. So far I've done changes for Christian Community Aid and BlandsLaw, and now Devine Law at Work has sent me a bucket of changes too. Something I'll have to get out of the way this morning as this afternoon I have to head to an Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting at the City of Ryde. Oh, and  I'll have to write and send out an e-news for RBF by the end of the week.  As well this week I've had a board meeting with RBF, recorded a slot for 2RRR-FM, and the usual several hours' worth of admin/marketing work for RBF. I'm hoping to have some time off this weekend and put the work/life balance back in better order.

Lost in translation…

Posted by | Writing and Editing | One Comment
Sydney's a multicultural city, and people whose first language isn't English can sometimes find it hard to market successfully to a wide and sophisticated audience. You can have the best idea, product or service in the world, but you need to be able to tell people about it clearly and professionally. That's why one of the services I offer is editing material for people for whom English is a second language (ESL). Often these people can speak English fluently, but written English can be a much harder challenge. How many of us have had a giggle at the "Engrish" photos people have posted on various websites showing signs, products and other material translated into English, which either don't make sense or are downright suggestive. Admittedly most of those photos are taken in countries where English isn't readily spoken. Writing in a language that isn't your native tongue is hard and fraught with spelling, punctuation and grammar dilemmas which could leave you looking less than professional. Sometimes words and phrases just get lost in translation. My editing services help ESL speakers engage with their Australian audience without losing their own personality. I met a lovely lady at a function very recently; she's Chinese and is a super sales person with a vivacious personality. We got chatting and I told her some of the things I did in my business, and she's keen to talk more with me about my proof reading and editing her hard copy marketing materials. I'd love to help her, because she's very professional in her outlook and honest in her business, and it wouldn't take much to rework and polish her marketing documents. I've put a call in to her office and we'll see what comes of it. First impressions count, and if you get a flyer or brochure in your letterbox that has spelling errors or sentences that don't make sense, what's your first impression of the company that sent it? Are you going to trust them and use them? Or do you think, "Hmm, if they send out information full of mistakes, how good a job are they going to do?" Think about it. If you know someone I can help, or if you ARE someone I can help, contact me now to talk about my rates, which are very reasonable.