Local Buyers “Invading” Local Austin Websites

A recent study by the Kelsey Group confirms what most of us already know, but all too rarely think about: Seventy percent of all U.S. households now use the internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services.

As America’s leading provider of market research and analysis to publishers of Yellow Pages, electronic directories and other local print media, the Kelsey Group knows as much about local buying trends as any research organization anywhere. Among other things, they use daily consumer surveys and statistical analysis to evaluate business, social, economic and technology trends that are changing local markets and forecast how those trends will effect local and regional businesses.

So when the Kelsey Group says that small businesses without a web presence are at a serious competitive disadvantage in today’s shopping environment, you can take that opinion to the bank.

The fact that consumers in 70 percent of American homes are now using the web to research products and services they intend to purchase locally, also puts a tremendous pressure on local and small-business websites of all types to increase both the size and, most especially, the quality of their online presence. Think about it for a moment. If you’re a local businessperson with a sporting goods, apparel, toy, drug, consumer electronics, or any one of a dozen other types of stores, you’re not only competing fang and claw with WalMart, Kmart and Target in the brick-and-mortar environment, you’re also going head to head with them online.

If a consumer in Your Town USA likes Walmart.com better than he or she likes YourSite.com, they’re more likely to get in the car and go to Walmart to make their purchase than they are to visit your store.

Fortunately, there’s good news as well as bad in the Kelsey Group report.

Let’s read Kelsey’s conclusion again. Carefully.

Seventy percent of all U.S. households now use the internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services.

Long about the middle of that sentence we see two crucial words: Information source. That 70 percent isn’t necessarily using the web to decide where to buy products. In a vast number of cases they’re using the web, to get information on what to buy and why product A will work better for them than product B.

Fortunately for small-business entrepreneurs, big-box store websites generally do a fairly miserable job of providing any information beyond the barebones descriptions printed on product boxes. And they provide absolutely zero information that will help anyone except totally generic consumers decide what to buy.

Two quick examples: Neither Walmart.com nor Homedepot.com offers any real guidance to help people decide which of the many snow blowers they offer is best suited for dry, dusty Montana snow and which aren’t terribly good on powder but are excellent for the heavy, wet snow common on the East Coast.

Staying with seasonal products, some air conditioners are engineered to give peak performance in hot desert climates; others work best in hot, humid conditions. National chain websites don’t tell consumers which is which, local appliance store sites can — and should. Though it may not be immediately apparent, the fact that a huge number of local consumers are turning to the web for information is of incredible benefit to savvy local businesspersons competing with big chains.

What keeps local TV and appliance vendors, for example, in business when the same products are available in big box stores for less money? Nine times out of ten, there’s two one-word answers to that question: Expertise and service.

Some chains, think Costco and Best Buy, do make an effort to have their “sales” people memorize a line of technological patter about the various products they’re selling. But such information is generally sketchy at best and, at worst, totally compromised by which companies are offering the best “spiffs” (extra commissions on specific models the companies are trying to unload) on any given day. Then there’s Walmart, Costco and all the lesser “marts” and “co’s.” Try and find someone there who can intelligently explain the pros and cons of plasma vs. LCD flat-panel HDTV. The “try and find someone” part is often difficult enough, the intelligent explanation part is almost always impossible.

Consider the difference at a local consumer electronics/appliance store. Yes, the prices are somewhat higher, but the staff is educated, they know their stuff. If they didn’t, they would have gone out of business years earlier.

And they’re a lot less likely to sell you an inferior product just to pick up a fast 20- or 30-buck “spiff.” Dependent, unlike chain stores , on repeat customers and word-of-mouth advertising, their imperative is selling you what will work best for you, not what will make a few extra dollars for them. With more and more retail shoppers turning to the web for their preliminary product research, local businesspeople are now able to establish themselves as their community’s real specialists in their fields online as well as in their stores.

Adding well-written professional content — articles, blogs, extended product information — to local sites elevates local businesses above chain stores. It gives customers confidence in the merchant as well as the merchandise.

To go back to the HDTV example, a blog discussing technology, programming, surround sound, room lighting and all kinds of consumer questions that are never answered on BigBoxStore.com can drive customers away from Walmart and into local stores. Similarly, a local garden products retailer can use a website to win customers away from the chains by including regularly updated articles on local climate and growing conditions.

One of the really great things about adding more quality information to a website is that it’s one of the few business moves you can make that has absolutely no downside. Unlike buying more newspaper advertising or radio spots, adding pages to a site generally costs nothing. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with your copywriting ability, acquiring customized web copy from a service like GetWebContent.com is relatively inexpensive.

You don’t even have to worry about providing too much information. The more questions you answer online, the more new ones consumers will think of. Best of all, the new questions will more advanced — much more impossible for a big box store clerk to answer — than the original ones.

Imagine Customer A, a true newbie, looking at a 56-inch TV in Costco. The four-line information tag says “Dolby Digital sound.” After a great deal of effort, Customer A lassos a clerk and says “that Dolby Digital there, is that the same thing as surround sound?” The clerk, not knowing or caring if the set’s surround sound is dependent on external speakers, says “yes.”

Not a complete answer, but more or less correct.

Now consider Customer B, who’s studied HDTV 101 on your website. Customer B goes to Costco, lucks into an employee, and says “Does this set support 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 surround sound?” Look for that person, Customer B, to leave Costco, shaking his or her head, and drive straight to your showroom.

Create Crazy Viral Content That Will Explode Your Ability To Make Money Online

Having a blog can be somewhat exciting and rewarding at the same time. But sometimes if you aren’t getting the traffic that you want or the search engine rankings you are looking for it can be discouraging. So how you can improve these areas and make money on the internet?

One way to get great results and make money on the internet is by coming up with some great viral content that will keep your readers coming back for more continually. There are some great ways that you can really attract a lot of readers and over a long period of time also.

What Is Viral Content?

Viral content may be a term that you are not familiar with but you may have been hearing over and over again lately. So why not learn what it is so you can take full advantage of it? The advantages of having viral content on your blog could not only help you now but their effects last a long time.

Viral content is usually something that is easy to access and understand and is generally worth sharing with others. A lot of viral content comes in the form of great lists of information or other forms of great information all rolled into one. These are posts that will be looked at time and time again.

How To Come Up With Good Viral Content

One place to start looking for ideas is on other people’s blogs. A lot of times, the best place for ideas is on other viral content. Start reading other posts on other blogs and decide which ones really catch your attention. These will also be the ones that won’t be updated soon and that are full of good information.

Now that you have a good idea of what others are posting using viral content, you can take a stab at it. Try to come up with a good list or bunch together some information that will be useful to many and that will not be outdated as soon as you post it. Try to make it as interesting as you can–something that you would enjoy reading over and over again.

What Kinds of Benefits Can You Get?

One of the major benefits that you will get from having viral content on your blog is that others will come back to your post. And not just over a few days, but hopefully up to a year! Just think how successful you can be if you have several different great viral posts? You will be on your way to making money on the internet in no time!

No matter how you do it, just make sure that your content is something will be really worth their time reading and exploring. Good viral content should not be hard to come by. If you are having a hard time deciding what to post, then try to think of something new and exciting that you would want to know about and then learn it and share it with others.

5 Tips To Motivate Visitors To Stop Browsing and Start Buying

Buying requires action and action requires energy. So when you lull your website visitors into peaceful browsing, they won’t be motivated to take that extra step.

They’ll feel bland and blah. They might even go to sleep.

Most visitors don’t realize they react emotionally to websites. They just forget they visited. They might find ourselves reaching for the mouse to click away.

But what happens when your website radiates energy? You communicate excitement. Your visitors want to stay. After all, everybody wants to hang out with vibrant, successful people. Nobody wants to spend time with lazy losers.

So how do you create website marketing strategies that motivate visitors to stop kicking tires and start entering their credit card numbers?

Write copy with words that carry emotional charges and communicate energy.

Examples include Smash, Hammer, Develop, Master, Triumph, and Crush.

Use strong verbs in your headlines as well as opening bullet points and even lists. But strong verbs are like cooking spices: use sparingly and creatively to create flavor. And be natural: readers notice when their copywriter seems to be grasping for novelty.

Create a show room, not a tea party.

Phrases like, “Welcome to my site,” and “Please look around my website” will signal, “I’m not really comfortable with marketing.”

Let’s face it. Your visitors know they’re welcome.

After all, you bought a domain name and paid for hosting. You’ve provided at least one menu bar so they’ll look around. Like, duh.

Okay, okay: I know a few people who violate this guideline, yet attract lots of business. I would encourage them to run a test, comparing the “welcome” site with a more direct marketing site. Some markets respond to gentle. But don’t be too sure.

Paint word pictures.

We’ve all heard “perfect life,” “take it to the next level,” and even “boost your business.” Instead, let your readers put themselves in the picture.

“Imagine yourself in a bookstore, standing next to your published book…”

You can be even more vivid:

“Imagine yourself signing your first published novel in the Miracle Mile Borders Bookstore…”

Choose photos and images that supplement your copy.

Photos of sailboats, mountains and rivers. Woodland scenes. Sunset over the Golden Gate bridge. If you’re a scenery photographer, include them all. If you’re a sailing instructor, definitely include photos of sailboats, preferably with yourself in your instructor’s role.

But if you’re a business consultant, use photos of yourself working with clients. If you use stock photos of people, dig for photos you won’t find on every site. There’s one photo of a young woman with a laptop that seems to show up everywhere we look.

Quote yourself — not Chopra, Gandhi or Kennedy

Don’t get me wrong. These folks are worth quoting.

But for your website, use your own words to share your message. You’ll come across as more authentic and convincing. Your readers stay focused and, yes, feel energized by your words.

And that’s when their fingers start tapping out numbers from their credit cards to your order form.

 

Increase Sales and Grow Your Business in Three Easy Steps

Business owners are constantly seeking ways to increase sales and gain new and repeat customers.? You have a quality product or service that you have worked hard to create. ?How do you get customers to “walk in the door”?? Better yet, how can you convince them that you do indeed have what they are looking for?? Most sales come from those customers who are ready to buy today, but is it possible to build that connection with a customer that has “walked out the door” because they were not quite ready to buy?? Is there an easy way to remain in communication with a potential customer until they are ready for that purchase?

As customers, we are constantly seeking a good deal, a freebie, a perk.? We want to feel as if we have been treated to something.? It is our nature to want a discount or something for free.? Sometimes it is this “good deal” feeling that inspires us to go ahead with a purchase or to come back and make a purchase at a later time.? How can businesses satisfy this need and give the customer their “great deal” while still practicing good business and making a profit?

A wise business owner will not only satisfy with an offer that is of value to the customer, but will use this offer as an exchange of information.

An offer can consist of a free good or service or a discount on a good or service. The customer simply fills out a form either in store or online with their contact information in exchange for the free or discounted item or service.? The contact information should at least include the customer’s name and email address.? The business owner can then use this contact information to market to the new or existing customer through an automated system that will provide special offers, sales, discounts, and events that create interest in order to gain a new customer or to bring an existing customer back for another sale.

An offer is an important and effective part of a four step strategy to marketing.

The?exchange of information provides the customer with something that is valuable to them while providing the business owner valuable contact information.? This begins the exchange and places customers into a marketing funnel by which businesses court a customer until they make the decision to purchase.? Marketing to these customers who may not have been ready to make a purchase on the date of the exchange provides businesses with an opportunity to gain a client when they are ready to make a purchase.? This opens an opportunity for future sales.

To Recap:

  1. Offer potential and current customers a free or discounted good or service that is of value to them in exchange for their contact information.
  2. Ask customers for valuable contact information in exchange for an offer.
  3. Place future and existing customers into a marketing funnel where you court them with information, special offers, sales, discounts, and events that create interest until they are ready to make a purchase.

Don’t “close the door” on potential sales.? A simple exchange of information can offer the business owner many opportunities to gain new or returning customers.? Offers increase future sales and grow businesses!

What Does Your Customer Really Want?

It’s as important today as it was before the invention of ecommerce and the Internet. No matter what business you’re in, customer feedback is one of the most important things you’ll need to work out if you want your business to grow and become successful. To that end, the Internet has presented the online entrepreneur with a great advantage over his predecessor who could only rely on postage stamps, envelopes and the telephone to get an accurate feel for his customer. Today’s business owner has the use of technology that makes getting a feel for what the general consumer wants almost instantaneous with technologies like email and pay per click testing. There’s absolutely no reason in today’s world for the business minded go getter to design a static web site that’s got only what he or she thinks the customer wants on it.

In the Internet world, getting the necessary feedback is fast and a lot cheaper than the methods used only several years ago. In virtually minutes, it’s possible to gather information from customers who bought from you-what it is they bought, and how much they spend, as well as whether they plan on coming back. This kind of data can be gathered and analyzed in house. There is no need to guess at what attracts customers to your site and what keeps them there. Almost all website hosting accounts include ways to track the statistics for your website such as which page is popular, how long they’re staying on your website, what they like or dislike and so much more.

There’s no reason not to build your site with the intention of adjusting at least the written content once you’ve got it online. We gives you the option of allowing you to change the content through an administration site at will. By following the visits to your site, you should be able to quickly adjust the written content to get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Other methods combine the new technologies with older more traditional methods. “Was this information helpful?” boxes somewhere on various sites should give a clear indication of how the site works. Some of these even go a step further and ask respondents to number their responses from one to ten.

Remember that you’re trying to sell something when you start an online business. Following the trends, regardless of your personal opinions of them, can be a great way to keep your site on or near the top of the page rankings. For example, one of the latest trends is incorporating video into your websites. These short clips are on the cutting edge of what’s popular today and they add an even more personalized touch to the other graphics and sound bites available to web designers. These videos often introduce the principles in the company or demonstrate part of the product line.

The basics of SEO writing

I’ve always known Brandon as a web designer that works a lot and produces quality sites. So when he contacted me with an offer for an SEO writing job it was pretty exciting, especially considering he just saw a well written Facebook status of mine and decided my writing skills were what he needed in his web studio.

It started with a more in-depth explanation of exactly what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) writing is (I knew the concept and had seen it practiced in most articles online, I often practice it myself online to get more exposures for publications and comments) And then a talk how dramatically it can affect the appearance and exposure of a website. The simple changing of wording in a few sentences can change where a site appears in a Google search.

Website exposure is a huge deal for businesses with websites, around 90% of people will choose a business/online service to work with off of the front page of a Google search result. My goal as an SEO writer is to optimize the web pages were working on to appear on that first page.

Keywords, reading level, bold words, anchor-links, titles, backlinks, and page layout were all things I had overlooked for years because of I’m typically one of the 90% that picks a page off of a first-page search result. Beautifully informative, well-written pages, it turns out, don’t just happen. And they certainly don’t just make their way to appear on their competition in search results. SEO writing involves hundreds of different parameters to consider, and while it all seems technically overwhelming at first, I’ve come to learn it’s something every web designer can, and certainly should, be doing! (if they’re not already)

A lot of simple writing techniques such as minimal word usage, proper text body layout, and what words you start your sentences with can have a significant impact on where your page lands on a Google search. If you’re a decent writer, you’ll probably make a decent SEO writer. All those little tricks learned about essay writing in high school pay off in an almost overly complicated game for more views and more page visits.

The skills involved in SEO writing have an exponentially shaped learning curve; Meaning the initial coordination with new tools and understanding of the basic practices can be done rather quickly. Learning the more detailed rules, search algorithms, and proper wording, however, can be rather time consuming and take much effort to retain.

I hope this article explains to you a bit more about what SEO writing is, why its a skill necessary in anyone you choose to publish any information about your business, as well as gives you some idea of my writing style. These blog posts will be published on a weekly basis regularly, and simply contact Brandon or myself if you have any questions about web design, Search Engine Optimization, or how we can help your business with setting up a web page for communication, advertisement, and/or online commerce.

4 Ways to Improve your Websites Load Time Speed

Since the widespread introduction of high-speed internet access, users are accustomed to finding things quickly. Web sites can represent a business or a personality in an accurate an enjoyable way, But when that message is so muddled and slow, you run the risk of frustrating an audience and losing an opportunity.

Improving your site’s speed, beyond doing it for vanity purposes, will help your site be more accessible to people with slower connections and streamline any future changes to your site.

Generally speaking – the secret to a fast site is to clean up the code and assets of your site. Sit back and review your site from top to bottom. Find redundancies such as junk code and strip them out, saving you valuable load seconds.

Here are my top 4 practical tips to make your website design code leaner and nimble, to help your visitors browse your site in a flash (if they want to!)

Run YSlow on your site to identify quick-fixes

A key part of improving the speed of your website is having a frame of reference. It’s a good idea to check the current of your site before and after making changes to your site and see how they may have increased your sites loading speed. You can check your sites speed by using the ySlow plugin (http://developer.yahoo.com/yslow/). Doing this sort check now and then will also help keep you up to date on how your site is doing.

Spring-Clean your Code

One particular way to trim down the load speed is to carefully review at the actual HTML and CSS of the site itself. On many occasions, even the best website designers can write functional but messy code with gaps and white space. Removing these chunks of white space form the HTML and the CSS can improve your sites speed.

Avoid in-line Javascript CSS styles

Another consideration in website design is how the CSS and Javascript coding is implemented; this is an important part of the functionality of your site. Some web designers will code the CSS and the Javascript in-line or inside of the HTML code. But if you want to improve your site’s speed, CSS and Java script should be coded into separate files. A good web designer should have no problem making this change.

Don’t be lazy and use uncompressed images

Image size is another important consideration, and you should always try and insure your pictures, video, and audio files are broad enough to be clear, coherent, and audible, but not so big that it takes web browsers a long time to load them. One solid method to deal with image size, in particular, is to compress files that already fit the dimensions you need you require for the page before you upload them to your web server.

Conclusion

These methods will ensure that more users will be able to enjoy your site. People tend to avoid websites that have speed and lag issues, and this sort of bad press can follow your site around and tarnish your reputation.

Smart website design is as much about the way your site functions and the way it works for the user as it is about branding and access.

What other tricks have you employed to speed up your site?

5 Quality UX Blogs Designers Should Read

Being a web designer should hopefully come with an inherent want to produce and design websites that are great to use for the end-user. As such it makes sense to stay up to date and informed on recent developments, assertions and techniques in relation to User Experience.

The following blogs are how I keep myself informed and improve my understanding of the discipline:

The UX Booth

The UX Booth is a blog by and for the user experience community. Our readership consists mostly of beginning-to-intermediate user experience and interaction designers, but anyone interested in making the web a better place to be is welcome.

Johnny Hollandjohnny-holland-its-all-about-interaction_1281176037649-1024x475

 

Johnny originates from the need to have a place where creatives can talk and discuss in a normal, honest and pure way. A place where they can focus and learn about the issue that’s really important: interaction (in the broadest sense of the word). It’s a place where we can get inspired, dare to make mistakes and are able to feel enlighted.

Usability Post

UsabilityPost is a blog about design. Design isn’t what something looks like, design is about how it works. Making something usable means understanding what people expect from your product and thinking of ways to make the use of the product simple and enjoyable.

UI Section – Smashing Magazine

Founded in September 2006, Smashing Magazine delivers useful and innovative information to Web designers and developers. Our aim is to inform our readers about the latest trends and techniques in Web development. We try to convince you not with the quantity but with the quality of the information we present. We hope that makes us different. Smashing Magazine is, and always has been, independent.

UI Trends

UI Trends (uitrends.com) is intended to be

1. a dynamic light-weight repository for interesting user interface designs and trends for website and web applications
2. a place to comment on and discuss user interface designs and trends
3. a source of inspiration for designers and developers

5 Free Web Design Proposal Contracts

I recently wrote an article: what to include in a design project proposal. Which helped me think through the things I normal include in say a branding project. However, for the web its evident different things are involved. In my web travels I have found the following sample contracts and proposal examples – thought it would be nice to share. Hopefully you find these useful to use or to help create your own bespoke proposals.

web proposal legal

I recently also came across a useful web application called Quote Robot which is a great tool for streamlining your workflow and sending out proposals in a much faster time than normal. It has a plethora of features for most needs, so have a look!

Find below the contract template downloads.

Proposal / Contracts Downloads
Web Proposal 1 – DOC – 80KB
Web Proposal 2 – PDF – 124 KB
Web Proposal 3 – PDF – 264KB
Web Proposal 4 – PDF – 9.2MB
Web Proposal 5 – PDF – 1.1MB
Many thanks to the creators of the above documents.

Website Designing – 5 Common Website Development Questions Answered

Your design process will be more successful if the learning at intervals at each step of the way. When you understand shape of your business with regards to web design, you should really be proud to have achieved positive results Achieving this can add time to designing web page early on, but later on, you’ll be such a pro that doable ! crank sites out in droves.

web-design

Another factor is your brand. Most web design companies is able to offer a brand as a package, but most would a little more than happy to incorporate existing brand straight into a new website.

Do finest to stay consistent of your efforts a person have are learning web design. You don’t need to learn quite a number of things then come back a some weeks later and test and learn a new challenge and have actually forgotten the data that that you had previously learned complicating all your web design process.

Your design process will be going to more successful if the learning at intervals of step of this way. When you understand shape of your car of web design, should really move in order to another. Achieving this can add time to designing web page early on, but later you’ll be such a pro that doable ! crank sites out in droves.

Planning: – After analyzing the project we stop by the associated with planning. The design process includes brief discussion about the project that how home furniture develop and design the website.

Who will own the copyrights for the finished product or service? Make sure you find out regardless of whether your designer takes full copyrights with the website. Often designers will also want to apply your website designs as a part of their collection. They should let you know this in maximize.

Why does Google care where an individual is located? Google’s mission is to gift their users the best search results possible. So if I apparent someone just to walk my dog in Tiptoes. Austin, Texas, it does me little good to obtain a paid search be caused by Texas. In which a real example – my brother has a pet sitting business, and I’ve used local Google search engine advertising they are new clients to his organization.

No Title Tag: Like the “Untitled” tag, another key mistake is solely leaving out the title indicate. If you do a view source (Internet Explorer: Right Click and select View Source), and the title tag doesn’t present themselves. then you don’t have a title tag.