August 4th, 2008 at 7:34 am
How to Plan and Setup a Web Site Part 2
In the first part of this article How to Plan and Setup a Web Site I discussed the first stages in setting up a web site:
Requirements – Features
Site Concept – Graphics design
In this article I will expand on the Site Concept – Graphics design stage and explain:
- Site Concept
- Site Design Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Contract – features, pricing, schedule
Based on your research and requirements the web designers will create several concepts for you to consider. The first and critically important point to understand is your site is not a piece of art, loving the design is not the issue. The reason you are setting up the site is to expand your business online. The site needs to be well designed visually, but will it catch the interest of someone browsing the web? The idea is to create a site where customers can easily find products and purchase goods? Simultaneously, the site must be optimized,(SEO) to allow Google to read, index and direct quality traffic. Receiving quality traffic is very important, you aim is to attract potential visits who can be converted to customers and who will be happy with the experience to return and purchase another time.
Consider the following:
- Does the site make an immediate impression? (Remember you have no more than 2-3 seconds to make an impression)
- Is it Obvious what the site is selling?
- Are Products clearly listed? (Enough space for photo, description, and price)
- Easy to navigate and add items to the shopping cart?
- Free Information (Articles about health food, recipes, fitness …..)
- Is the buying process fast and efficient?
- Will customers return to the site or avoid it?
- Is the site optimized for search engines? (Google) (Flash and photos cannot be read by Google)
Do not be frightened to reject designs and ask for modifications. Make sure you see designs for all the inner pages not just the home page, including “About” pages with background information about your company history and team members. Even in today’s internet world customers are interested in dealing with a company run by real people not computers. Do not be afraid to have a section listing your team members with photos and a short description. Any interesting stories about you or your employees is very good and will help create interest in your site and produce more customers. I will deal in more details with Content in a separate article.
Site Design Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The time to start thinking how to market and implement SEO techniques is while you are still at the design stage. Most web designers are not are not marketing experts, their job is to design nice looking sites.
Web Designers do not understand Web Marketing!
Very important to understand web designers design and build web sites, most know very little about SEO. I cannot over emphasize the need to consult with an SEO expert to verify the site is good for Google.
I just had a conversation with Danny from Tens Webmarketing who manage web marketing for Excalibur’s MIL-STD-1553 and MIL-STD-1553 Accessories sites. Tens visited a potential customer with Branko Rihtman their SEO expert, the company had asked “Tens” to give an opinion on their newly designed web site. Branko quickly noted a number of mistakes in the design where Google could not read the site, (like using Flash and images). However, the web designers refused to accept any criticism of their design! This scenario is repeated many times where sites are designed with little consideration for SEO.
I recommend having an independent web marking consultant look at the site concept before approving the design. Making changes at this stage is better than spending a lot of time and money later.
Remember the two groups who will visit you site.
- Search Engines (Google)
The two groups are very different. Customers are the guys you really want to come to your site and buy, yet if Google does not send you traffic there will be no customers? However, there are many ways to draw traffic apart from Google by getting customers go directly to the site without the need to use search engines.
I will deal with attracting traffic from other sources in a separate article, but here are few ideas. Josh already has an established a business with many customers who return to purchase more products. Josh can start by marketing his site to these customers. They already buy in the store, so there is a high probability they will buy online. Try to encourage them to bring their relatives and friends to visit the site. Here are a few thoughts on how to magnetize customers:
- Start a mailing list, (add birthdays, anniversaries, anything that can relate to the customer)
- Give discounts to customers who buy over the web
- Bonus to customers who introduce new customers
- Magazines, newspapers and local advertising
- PPC – Price Per Click, (PPC will be discussed in a separate set of articles)
Content and SEO
The site content needs lots keyword rich content
Contract – features, pricing, schedule
A common mistake in many businesses is to make agreement without a clear written contract. The contact must list all the features discussed in the specification stage with timetable of when each part will be completed. I suggest payment be linked to completion of each stage with 20-30% on starting. The site population and testing are also part of the development stage and even after airing the site the will be many bugs which will only show up after real customers interact and use the site. Therefore the last 10% should only be paid 30 or 60 days after launch.
Do not forget who is responsible for the photos? Will you provide them and/or hire a professional photographer. True everyone has a digital camera taking good pictures, but it is unlikely you will achieve the same results without good lighting.
My next article in this series will continue with:
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- Development – stages of development with schedule
July 14th, 2008 at 6:58 am
July 8th, 2008 at 10:53 am
How to Plan and Setup a Web Site
In my last article How to Get Good Rankings in Google Part IV, I discussed how my friend Josh was “planning” to setup his web site. Clearly Josh like many business executives has very little idea of the process of setting up and running a web site. Not surprising for a guy running a small health store business. Josh has no business management training, no MBA and no experience in planning and running any kind of project. How is he expected to know how to go about setting up a web site?
The web is a wonderful source of information. Sites about building web sites, internet marketing, SEO and PPC are in abundance, but how do you sift through the enormous quantity of information to find the most relevant data? Even for experienced and savvy web “experts” it is very difficult to select the relevant information, what chance does Josh have?
Planning, Business Strategy and Goals
Josh’s problem is actually much more acute. Josh has no planning, no business strategy and no goals. Josh needs a well defined business plan with clear achievable goals. The goals must be realistic with a good chance of succeeding. I asked Josh a few more questions to verify my impression of how runs his business.
Shia: Have you seen web sites you like?
Josh: A few
Shia: Do you have the URL of these sites?
Shia: Josh. How long do you estimate it will take to build the web site?
Josh: A few weeks!
Shia: OK - How long do you think it will take until the web site starts to bring in profits?
Josh: Oh I guess a few months?
Shia: I see! Has your friend (Bill) who is building your web site given you a schedule with dates for completion of each stage?
Shia: Did you write up a list of tasks and features you want include?
Shia: Josh, if I understand correctly there is documentation designating the features you want.
Shia: How did you make an agreement?
Josh: We just discussed the concept and Bill seems to know what to do.
Josh’s business has no organization; I do not have space in this article to discuss how to put your business in order. The main issues are the stage and planning needed for a new web site.
Stages for setting up a New Web Site
The following is an example of a list of tasks needed to setup a new web site based on setting up an online health food store. The principles apply to every business. The idea is give you an overall idea of the different tasks needed to compete a successful execution of a new or updated web site.
- Requirements – Features
- Site Concept – Graphics design
- Contract – feature, pricing, schedule
- Development – stages of development with schedule
The purpose of research is search out the online health food industry. Josh needs to know what’s out there. The type of products sold, prices and the look and feel of these sites. Here are some of the issues Josh should be studying.
- How are the products displayed?
- Range of products sold (organic, Nuts and Seeds, Beans and Grains, Macrobiotics)
- Location, (local, regional, national, international….)
- How much free health advice given, (diet, sports, nutrition, Vitamins …..)
- How these sites are designed, (layout, graphics, images, navigation)
- How to offer something these site don’t do.
Here are links to a few online health food stores, each has their own flavor
True Foods Market
Green Acres Natural Foods Market
Now Josh has a idea of the different designs used in online health food stores, he can visualize the type of web site to build.
Requirements – Features
Here is where Josh writes his shopping list, (products, feature and options). The planning stage includes requirements. This is where you or a consultant write up all the features you want for your site. For example you want to have a shopping cart where users can select items and add or remove them from the shopping cart. You probably want to arrange your products into and sub-groups, (see below for an example).
- CMS (Content Management Systems) where products may be added and updated
- Product title
- Shopping Cart - Payment gateway
- Stock Control
I cannot emphasis writing down all the features you want and ensuring the developer understands and signs the document with a well defined date schedule for completion of each stage. The payments should be linked to progress, as each stage is completed.
Graphic designer creates several examples how the home page will look, (no programming done at this stage)
The process is review and changing the design until you to arrive at final blueprint.
Next Site Concept and Requirements
Example of List of Products
Options for selecting from the home page (each option will have a space for photo)
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- Health food
- Nuts and Seeds
- Almond Nuts
- Cashew Nuts
- Raw Nuts
- Brazil Nuts
- Beans and Grains
- Bean Soups
- Organic foods
- Nutritional supplements (Vitamins and minerals)
- Macrobiotics and Whole Cereals
- Diet and Energy
- Sports Nutrition
June 11th, 2008 at 9:47 am
Apple reveals new faster iPhone 3G with GPS
Apple’s long awaited announcement of the new iPhone 3G
is both exciting and disappointing. Reports from Associated Press, Forbes and SeekingAlpha provide good coverage of the new iPhone features. However, there are some questions to answer and No in-home activation for iPhone 3G will be a big hassle for many people. The Street reports The iPhone Doesn’t Ring With Business explaining businesses “need the ability to manage those devices easily from a single centralized console …… the lack of which could become a deal-killer for the iPhone among enterprises”
Lowering the price for the eight-gigabyte model to $199 sounds great, but add $30 for data and $39.99 for voice makes a minimum monthly charge of $70 not including taxes. You end up paying less for the phone, but more in monthly fees. Before you go out and buy an iPhone remember Nokia are releasing the Nokia N96 in August with 16 GB and all the features you can imagine.
3G and GPS
The iPhone 3G includes faster 3G wireless networks making downloads faster and GPS - global positioning system.
The iPhone 3G will start at $199 for the eight-gigabyte model and $299 for the 16-GB model.
However the new price requires users to sign up for a two-year plan with AT&T. Before you pocket your $200, AT&T announced that it was raising the price of its basic unlimited data plan for iPhone 3G users from $20 to $30. (In addition to AT&T’s calling plans, which start at $39.99 a month). At $10 a month for 24 months means paying an extra $240! Total price $199 + $240 = $439.
- Enterprise Business -Microsoft Exchange services will include support for push email, synchronization, calendaring, contacts and other services.
- MobileME for personal users- Access and manage your email, contacts, calendar, photos, and files at me.com.
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June 2nd, 2008 at 6:16 am
May 28th, 2008 at 6:45 am
I had a very interesting conversation with Josh, a friend who owns a couple health food stores. Josh has decided to go online and found some friend to setup his web site. (Josh did not consider asking a consultant and was not aware of my involvement with the internet and web marketing). Similar to many business owners and executives Josh knows very little about business planning and even less about running an online business. They think all you need to do is put up a site, and customers will start buying. No thought is given to where the customers are coming from or the kind of products to sell online.
They understand having a store in a prime location in a busy mall will generate many potential customers who will pass by the shop window. Having an eye-catching window display will entice customers to enter the store and convert into paying customers. However, In the online world most customers will never know you exist and it is very unlikely the site will show in the top 2 pages of search results. Research shows must searchers only look at the first two pages of search results. As David Viney reports in his new book Get to the Top on Google
“84% of searchers never make it past the bottom of page two of search engine results”.
Getting to the top two pages requires a lot of time, patience and hard work. Josh has heard of Google, but has no understanding of search results, ranking, PPC(Pay Per Click) or SEO (search engine optimization). The whole process of site development, optimization and web marketing are completely unknown to him.
Josh’s approach is typical of many business owners and managers and is unlikely to lead to success. Most likely they will come running to consultants in 6-12 months when the site is not working out as “planned”.
Here are a few questions I asked him.
Shia: Does the “friend” who is setting up your site have experience? Have you seen sites he has created?
Josh: Yes, they are quite “good”.
Shia: How do know they are good? Have you seen sites they have created?
Josh: The sites looked nice!
Shia: Have you compared his prices and experience with other companies?
Shia: Has he setup similar sites with shopping carts and online payment gateways use PayPal?
Josh: No the sites shown were quite simple, just a catalog with no online purchasing.
Shia: Will the site have CMS – Content Management System?
Josh:???? (no idea what a CMS is)
Shia: A CMS – Content Management System is a database where you can add and update details about your products. Items like photos, information, prices. A CMS system allows you the site owner to update without the need of a programmer.
Josh: I will have to ask the guy who is setting up the site!
Shia: How many items are you planning to offer online?
Josh: 2-3000 to start, after which I will increase to 10,000 items.
Shia: Do you have backend setup, ordering, stock control, and shipping?
Josh: I have a few students to help.
Clearly, Josh has no idea about how to start an online business and has done little or no thinking about optimizing his new site or taken the time to investigate how the completion is playing the game. The story reminds me of Webvan an online grocery business that went bankrupt in 2001, read eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work. Webvan had a lot of financing with some highly rated consultants giving advice. However, they decided to expand too fast and offer a huge range of products. If they were a little more conservative and adopted a more modest plan they may have succeeded.
Josh runs a couple health stores, he has no idea how online customers will buy, and is not even aware of the cost of a conversion. (Conversion Rate). Josh should plan to start selling only a few items on line to test his system No more than 50 items to start. Sounds bad advice? Especially when he already has 2000 items in stock in his stores? Josh needs to understand buying online is not the same as selling to walk in customers. They will behave differently and their expectations are not the same as selling to customers in a store. Josh needed to consider whether he wants to sell to the local market, or aim for the national or even international market.
There are many online health stores, why should a customer buy from Josh? Josh should find reasons why customers will want to buy from his site. Here are a few possibilities:-
Sphere: Related Content
- Fast Reliable Delivery
- Expert Knowledge about Health Food
May 1st, 2008 at 10:49 am
A great interview by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, take a look at the full report CNBC’s interview with Google’s CEO, Dr. Eric Schmidt.
Here are few quotes:
Schmidt: And most people in most developed countries have a roughly 100
percent coverage of mobile phones……
Over the next three or four years, there’ll be more than another billion or so
mobile phones added. Eventually our numbers indicate that there’ll be five or
so billion mobile phones in a world of six billion or so.
On Display Ads and DoubleClick integration
Schmidt: Well, it just started. It started about three weeks ago. And
what we’re doing is we’re taking their products and our products and
integrating them so that people have better tools, advertisers have more,
literally, ads, and publishers have more spots that they can publish
information into. …………. it’s under way. It takes six months to get all the products
On Competing with Microsoft with applications like Gmail and Google Apps
Schmidt: Well, Google is actually trying to be an innovator, and we’re
always concerned about competition.
We’re trying in a new thing called cloud computing to offer very powerful Web services that do the common things–e-mail, word processing and so forth–where the data’s kept in the
cloud, it’s kept by somebody else, it’s managed by professionals. You don’t
need to worry about where you keep all that information. We like that model a
lot. We’re getting traction. It is a competitive threat to other companies,
but we think it’s a technological breakthrough.
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April 28th, 2008 at 5:40 am
I just came across this article by Joseph Pratt while reading “The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Marketing”. The article is free for republishing - Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_64157_7.html
The article is dated 16th June 2006 and makes interesting reading in light of the current uncertainty after the deadline set by Microsoft for the merger with Yahoo has passed in silence. Microsoft’s AdCenter is running in third place behind Google and Yahoo with little more than 10% if the US market. Microsoft have the money, but seem to lack ability to play the PPC and search game.
Let’s welcome Microsoft’s AdCenter to the PPC advertising field. A quick question, though, why is AdCenter here? Microsoft, the juggernaut, sat on the sidelines for quite awhile and watched as first Overture (later bought by Yahoo) and then Google took online advertising to the level which we see it today.
This business, hardly fully grown, yet quite developed, is still dominated by Yahoo and, in particular, Google. AdCenter is not an entry into the ground floor of a new field of business, but a giant undertaking in a field that, frankly, Microsoft will likely not be able to shove people around in. I suppose Microsoft could get in the microchip processing business, too, I mean they’ve got the money - the point is businesses don’t just enter new enterprises because they can. Inexperience taking on experience is rarely a winning proposition. Yet in this case, apparently, Microsoft is taking on Google just because they can - there is enough dough.
Microsoft has deep pockets, deeper than Google - no matter what Google’s stock price is, because they have the years of profitability. What kind of deep pockets, you may ask? In Nov. ‘04 Microsoft issued a special dividend and paid $3 per share to stockholders. Microsoft has over ten billion shares outstanding. So, in effect, they dispersed $30 billion dollars from their coffers to their shareholders. Too much money lying around - not a bad problem for a company to have, eh? If you check out Google Finance and look at Microsoft’s balance sheet, you’ll see that they have money enough to do anything still - and that includes dueling Google with AdCenter.
The basic aim of Microsoft’s AdCenter is to increase advertising revenue and directly compete with Google in the industry share of advertising dollars. Is it green pastures of profit or the lust of competition that’s brought Microsoft into this game? It’s tougher to sell the profit motive, honestly. Conventionally speaking Microsoft’s scenario today would have been unthinkable only four or five years ago - that Microsoft would try and become a major provider of online media.
Perhaps Microsoft is entering into an opportunity, partially by luck, where they can exploit Google. Google has made some quantifiable mistakes and created weaknesses that competition could exploit, possibly. I believe that one key to knocking Google off the top of the heap is to go after the advertising base.
I’ve observed AdCenter, advised new users, and even signed up for it myself. The AdCenter console is sleeker than Google and the reporting (and this is important for advertisers - possibly lost on Google) is better. Primarily, they offer a Cost Estimator for advertisers, to help keep within budget while providing rank, traffic and cost estimates per keyword. AdCenter, on the surface at least, seems intent on ceding information over to the advertiser.
Microsoft’s AdCenter can further drive a wedge between Google and its advertising base by raising the click fraud issue. Aside from being notoriously difficult to communicate with, for advertisers with concerns, Google has been secretive, almost sneaky, about their click fraud settlement - contacting advertisers to opt-out of the class action settlement with a harmless looking email, some say that resembles spam. Google may be creating an environment of mistrust that could, ironically given Microsoft bullying reputation, drive advertisers to Microsoft’s AdCenter.
I think that if Microsoft wants to step up their Search Engine Marketing platform, above what’s available they have a number of duties:
1) Bring more meaningful web conversion data for advertisers - and that’s exactly what they seem to be trying to do with their reporting interface options for advertisers.
2) Seek out partnerships here, there, and everywhere. The Yahoo and eBay announcement had thunderous effects on the search arena - a real blow, perhaps, to Google’s pride. Has success, as it’s known to do in human nature, bred contempt?
3) The toughest trick of all, and one where Google is only getting stronger - increase gross user search. This is the one factor that could make AdCenter’s whole existence futile. Google is doing a bang-up job of increasing an already dominant share of search. Just this week Google recorded 43.1% of searches conducted by US residents in April. This is up from 36.5% in April, 2005. Google has been taking all comers lately with charges of click fraud, secrecy, being hypocrites, even the protectors of child porn - charges don’t come much more scurrilous in the corporate world. But Google’s growing share of search is a magic bullet, impossible for competitors, short-sellers, or even run-of-the-mill ill-wishers to ignore. It confirms that they are the top banana in the world of Internet marketing. Simply put, when people want to find things on the Internet, they’re going to Google first. The inference is clear, Google’s search is best. While Google grows the competition claws to keep market share, competition that includes Yahoo, a company that only exists right now to slowly bleed search share to Google, a percentage point at a time, despite an impressive track record and performance in the field. And this is promising to Microsoft?
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April 14th, 2008 at 10:07 am
The “End” of Yahoo and the Beginning of the “End” for Microsoft?
The Times Online reports on the latest steps in the Microsoft (MSFT) bid for Yahoo (YHOO). The proposed deal has become more interesting with Google GOOG, Time Warner (TWX) and News Corp (NWS) paying attention to Yahoo’s 137 million visitors a month from the American market.
Google founder Larry Page has said that Microsoft is a “convicted monopolist and has a history of not playing fair”. No question, if Microsoft could dominate the search market they would do everything to squash the competition.
Microsoft will succeed in acquiring Yahoo in the next few weeks, but will they be successful in integrating the two companies into one entity capable of completing with Google? Microsoft is expecting to continue making huge profits from their desktop and operating system software, but these profits will in all probability be reduced as Google lures users away from the desktop. Both Yahoo and Microsoft have failed to beat Google in search, why will a combination of the two companies be any better?
A very good report from the Economist discussing Google’s missing clicks after a survey from Comscore showed a 7% sequential decline vs. December ‘07, in paid clicks for Google. Many see a warning of a weak first quarter for Google and sign of a slowdown in the U.S. economy affecting the online advertising market. However, Comscore reports on their blog Why Google’s surprising paid click data are less surprising. The change “is primarily a result of Google’s own quality initiatives that result in a reduction in the number of paid listings and, therefore, the opportunity for paid clicks to occur”.
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April 10th, 2008 at 4:19 pm