Websites

I do love a good scam!

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Our wonderful wired world is bliss for scammers. Remember the old days? You'd get a letter offering you untold riches for something like $9.99 upwards. Owing to being a member of the Sydney Turf Club 20 years ago I still get hard copy letters offering me membership to a betting system from some hopefuls in Victoria. I've never bothered sending back 'not at this address'. Let them waste the postage. But I digress. Internet scams are brilliant. Really, I can spend hours stunned at websites that offer the world for so little. So much is at my fingertips with a little click or two. Sometimes I laugh out loud. Sometimes I shed a tear for the gullible. Have you ever clicked on one of the ads that appear in the sidebar in Facebook? I get lots about weight loss, because I'm female and therefore must be worried about my weight. I've clicked, out of interest, on every diet ad there is. Some of them radiant good common sense (= not scam). Some of them ask you to pay a fair amount of money for good common sense advice (=not scam but really, you can find this stuff out for free if you look around).  Some of them offer a magic pill. Aha, the scam alarm sounds. How do you identify a scam webpage?
  • Firstly, they're miles long. If you decided to print one out you'd be condemning at least one pine tree to eternity.
  • They are stand alone pages which don't have a friendly "about" or anything else useful. The contact address is typically a PO box or serviced office.
  • They usually throw in plenty of offers "worth" X amount of money. "Worth" is an interesting description. What, I can get $1499 'worth' of goodies and extras for only $79.99? Sign me up, Scotty!
  • Oh, let's not forget the testimonials. There have to be testimonials. All glowing. Often with before and after pics, particularly in health sites (diet, skin conditions, you know the ones)
  • They feature primary colours. Websafe blue and red, usually, occasionally with a hint of yellow.
  • Best of all, lots of ALL CAPS and EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!  The more exclamation marks after a statement, the more scammy is my rule.
I've mentioned Diet Scams as an example. With obesity raging through the western world there are a crapload of people trying to make money out of the insecure and overweight. Here's a useful website with the lowdown on some popular diet scams. Read it. Do Diet Patches, Dieters Tea et all ring a bell? A shame they didn't include some links. Never mind, I've got a few here:
  • Balance bands. They really work? Um.....nice use of bright colours in a mid-90s-I've-just-discovered-Front-Page way.
  • Foolproof 30 day diet. This one is just beautiful. A classic example of design. Lots of lovely testimonials too. It might not actually fall into the scam category as the sample menu sounds sensible, but the design, and use of bold type, makes it look very suspect
  • I do like this one. Liproxenol and its metabolic enhancing ingredients. Classier than the classic Lose Weight Now!-type website, but still a magic pill, and as we all know magic pills don't work... eating sensibly and exercising regularly does
If you're on Twitter, there's a lesson here. Before you retweet a link that shows up on your page, click through if it sounds remotely suspect. Check if it looks or sounds too good to be true. If it does, it's probably a scam. Twitter is a lovely new way for scammers to get their products out there. Passing on the odd scam tweet might not damage your credibility but passing on several a day might. Particularly if your Twitter account is biased to a particular industry. The same goes for blogging. If you have an automated blog such as one offered by Blog Overdrive, for heaven's sake, take some control. Moderate what's being posted on there. Oh, and really obvious point: If some unknown wally starts sending you email that's clearly spam/scam with an unsubscribe link, don't click on the link. Just add the emailer to your junk or blacklist. Otherwise you'll still be getting invitations to buy a betting system in 20 years' time. Hang on... just found a brilliant site offering dieter's tea with real herbs. Be back later.

New to blogging? Here’s the gen to get you rating from day one

Posted by | Marketing, Websites, Writing and Editing | No Comments

I love WordPress. So does Google. They're a pair made for each other.

But simply starting up a blog on WordPress itself or one your own domain name isn't enough.

If you're a newbie to blogging, there are things you need to know. Obviously you have to have your blog topic all thought out (and I'm not talking about the posts themselves, I'm talking about what your whole blog is going to be about.). And I'd advise, if you're using WP to build a corporate site, to sit down with a pen and paper or better yet an Excel spreadsheet and work out the framework of your blog before you press the 'install' button on WordPress.

Once you've done all that, and preferably chosen a good professional theme (as professional themes are better built for SEO), there's something you should read: 43 Blogger Tips for WordPress Installations.

Andrew Rondeau is from the UK and a very experienced and successful blogger (by the way, I am not affiliated by him, but rather impressed by his entrepreneurship). While I implement a lot of his tips on my site and sites I build for others, Andrew puts this advice so succinctly and clearly it's worth directing you to his post.

One thing I can add to Andrew's advice is to tweet your blog. Get on Twitter. Install Twitter Widget Pro on your site and tweet every post. More than once, if you can find something different to say about your post on a separate tweet or two.

Social media works best when it works in partnership: blogs with Twitter, or YouTube, or Facebook. Try and combine your social media memberships with your blog.

Monetizing your website

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Eager readers will know I've just added a bookstore to my site. Does that fit with what I'm doing in terms of business communications? Think about it - yes, it does. I'm offering people an easy way to get inspired and do more with their business as part of my portfolio.  And yes, if enough people buy books from me the nice people at Amazon will send me a cheque. Monetizing your website, whether you choose the way I've done it or accept paid advertisers, is a sensible move if the company you are monetizing with is a good fit and adds value to the products, services or information you are offering. I read a cycling blog, Lovely Bicycle, the owner of which has recently monetized her Blogspot blog. Her blog, which is far more regularly updated than mine, has superb photos and an engaging narrative style, was taking up so much of her time it was a case of either ditch the blog and concentrate on paid work or make the blog pay. She put the word out that advertising was available and was bombarded with suitable advertisers from the elegant cycling world (the lycra-free world... my world... where people cycle in normal clothing). Her blog has been a real success story in the 18 months since it started. Her advertisers pay her monthly for graphic links on her blog. Asking for paid advertising isn't something I feel comfortable with on a couple of levels. In all honesty my blog hasn't reached the same level of readership (yet) so expecting people to pay to go on my blog would make me feel like I wasn't giving them the best deal possible. Aside from which, this is my company's site with its own domain name. I will happily promote and link to people I work with - clients, associates - but essentially this little patch of digitalia is my online home and I don't feel comfortable with houseguests. On the other hand, a colleague put me on to Amazon affiliation. It costs me nothing to have my bookstore, and any money I've earned from it is from people who have used it to buy from me. Amazon doesn't give me a monthly retainer to have a store that might sell ten items one month and a thousand another. It's up to me to promote it or Amazon users to find it for themselves. Nor do I have to pay to use it; I can tap into one of the biggest sites on the net for nothing. Best of all, I can choose products that are a good fit for the services I offer. How good is that!? Essentially, I can target what I want to sell. Amazon has a huge range of merchandise these days; it's long past simply being a bookseller. I've started small and chosen to offer a range of books and software, as you'll see if you visit the store. I plan on extending the range a little but ultimately want to keep a balance of selling what I personally love to read in fiction and non-fiction (my hand is hovering over including cookbooks!) and what I believe are the best business and motivational books on the market at the moment, aimed at existing clients and potential clients, or people who simply are interested in my point of view on business communications. Setting up the store was a painless business. It's something anyone can add to their website with a little bit of time and patience. I'm now planning my social media-heavy marketing strategy for the store. I'll be telling people about specials and new releases on a regular basis via Twitter and Facebook; through Twitter it will also get to my LinkedIn contacts. Again, this costs me nothing. The potential for people monetizing their websites is enormous; if you're going to do it, do it now. The market will be saturated in a few years and only the strong will prosper from it. Most importantly, make sure that your monetization is a fit for your business and not just something you'll think will add to your bank balance. Your business is your credibility. If your business is selling cupcakes and you suddenly start advertising hardware on your website, your audience will scratch their heads. It's not a credible fit. So start looking now for your perfect match.

Digital Publishing

Posted by | Marketing, News, Social Media, Websites | No Comments
Digital evangelist Seth Godin has advice on navigating the new media landscape you can listen to here. It's a keynote address on the publishing industry. The digital age has certainly impacted on non-fiction publishing. According to Godin people who may have bought around 200 non-fiction books a year now buy around 50, and get their knowledge fix from blogs and other alternative media sources. Companies like Amazon provide infinite shelf space, especially for e-books. Traditional marketing methods such as launches and press releases have been superceded by viral marketing via Twitter and Facebook. So how do publishers change and adapt and thrive in the new media? And is it a better world for prospective authors? You'll have to listen and find out. A plug here for my bookshop: Seth's books are here for you in digital and traditional form.

Fresh content boosts your SEO rankings

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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!

Mini websites $499 including hosting

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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.