There’s no way around SEO

You’ve built your website, added a shopping cart and gorgeous pictures, and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Where’s all the traffic.  Why haven’t they found you?

Regardless of how beautiful or efficient website you may have, there’s simply no way around it.  The internet is not a place where “if you build it, they will come!”

Search engine optimization is one strategy that you can’t ignore.

It’s not all that difficult — rocket science and brain surgery are much more difficult and takes longer to learn.  But you have to be careful who you learn from and what you learn.  There are all sorts of “tips” and “tricks” that folks online guarantee will quickly take you to the top.  But beware.  If you use the wrong “tips” and “tricks”, you might get your listings listed on the back pages of that favorite search engine — or even nowhere to be found at all.

It doesn’t take “tips” and tricks.”  It takes a bit of knowledge and time.

In some future posts, I’ll talk about some of the things you should do to increase your standings in the search engines.  Equally important, however, are some of the things you SHOULDN”T do.

1.  Forgetting the title tage for each page.  The title tag appears at the top of the browser and tells the search engines what the page is about.  Forgetting to include it is just like your forgetting to sign a letter you send out to your customers.

2. Using the name of your business or the url name as the title tag for each page.

3.  Stuffing the title tag with a list of words such as:  gift baskets, gourmet gift baskets, holiday gift baskets, gift baskets for kids, mother’s day gift baskets, and on and on.

4.  Using the title tag to welcome your customers.  It’s great to have a friendly website but the title tag is not the place to tell them how glad you are to have them there.

5.  Keywords meta tags, that are well written and contains just one or two keywords, is the way to go but unfortunately most search engines ignore them.  But a keyword meta tag that includes a long string of words or trademarked names of other businesses can get you penalized.

6.  Typing your keywords over and over again at the very top or bottom of your page  is an old trick that can hurt you.  How many websites have you seen that have every state in the Union listed as places they deliver to?

7.  Hiding words by using the webpage background color for the color of the text.  This little “tip” can get you banned from Google.

8.  Using keywords, that have nothing to do with your website,  to trick the search engines into sending traffic to you.

These are just a few things that can create problems with the search engines.  Seach engine optimization is very straight forward and doesn’t require tips and treats.  We’ll be talking about this more later.  In the meanwhile, make sure that you aren’t making some of these seach engine killing mistakes.

Beware – You Can Create A Whole New Person on the Internet

As more people lose jobs or income, more and more scams–or less than honest opportunities– are appearing on the internet.  As a professional writer, who personally knows a lot of other writers, let me say that you should NEVER believe everything you read.  As someone once said, “Don’t believe most of what you read, and only half of what you see!”

Talented writers, professional motivational speakers, and website entrepreneurs can be very creative.  They can even create a whole new person and make you believe that they exist.  Unfortunately, anyone can say anything on the internet as long as it doesn’t lible someone else.

What does this have to do with gift business owners who are Creative Gift Entrepreneurs?  A lot!

How many times have you received emails telling you how wonderful a particular product or service is and how great the person behind it is?  We all have at one time or another.  Most of us regularly receive emails offering to put us on page one of the search engines if we only hire them to optimize our website.  Or how about the minister wanting to buy large quantities of a particular gift if you’ll only let him know how to pay you?  There are many scams– and the internet is a gold mine for scammers and those who are less than honest.

Innocence or Deceit — Which is it?

A person, who wants to impress potential customers,  can even create a whole different personality and resume for themselves in order to lure you into their web of deceit.  Sometimes it’s very innocent as in the example of the gift basket entrepreneur who has created a “twin” to handle the marketing aspect of his business or the business owner who has created an “assistant” to handle the customer service and email responses.  There’s nothing wrong with either of these creations.

But other times, it’s not so innocent, particularly if the person is trying to take your money for a product or service that doesn’t exist.  The statement “Buyer Beware” is very true of any internet website or email wanting to sell you something.

How to Protect Yourself?

How can you protect yourself?  It can be difficult as folks, who do this, are truly creative entrepreneurs.  Their background and experience and even testimonials can sound so convincing that any of us can be easily fooled.  But, unless you are personally familiar with a particular person, product, or service, ask someone that may be more familiar with what you are considering.  Does their resume include speaking and writing experience?  If so, ask for references and check them out.  Do they include testimonials?  If so, ask for names and phone numbers and check them to see if they actually exist.  Even then, a reference may be a “friend in on the kill.”

If it is a website, check the domain name and see when it was first registered.  You can do that easily at whois.com or any other website where you can buy domain names.  If it is brand new, I would be a little suspicious.  It could be legitimate or it could be someone out to make a fast buck before disappearing.

If it is an opportunity or product related to your own industry, it’s easy enough to ask others who are familiar with the industry what they know about a particular person, product, or service.

But, as I said, anyone can say anything or even create a whole new persona on the web.  I could tell you that I’ve published ten books about the gift basket industry and they’ve each sold over a million copies.  That would be a lie but you would have to do some research to discover that it is untrue.  I could tell you that I’ve been a speaker at The Basket Connection Convention in Orlando and again in Atlanta and that I was a regular staff writer for our trade magazine, Rave Reviews, since it began.  That would all be true and could be checked out with anyone who is familiar with our industry.

So, if you are considering spending money for a product or service that you are unfamiliar with, check it out.  It could be the best thing since sliced bread or it could be someone anxious to take your money in exchange for little or nothing.

Creating niches with your gift website

One of the best things that you can do with your website is to develop your content around keywords and phrases that are generic gifts such as “Flagstaff Gift Baskets.

“But my competition is doing the very same thing,” you may say.

That’s true, but that shouldn’t stop you.  Just take it a step further and expand on those generic niches.

There are many niches you can create that people will actually be searching the web for.  “But I don’t have any niches,” you say.  “I sell gift baskets.”

Yes, you do have niches.  And, each of these is a niche that can provide opportunities to create very focused content, with key phrases your competition isn’t targeting.  How about:

  • Flagstaff gourmet gift baskets
  • Flagstaff apartment gifts
  • Northern Arizona University care packages
  • Flagstaff Medical Center Get Well Gift Baskets

If you look at traffic statistics for a gift website that receives high traffic, you’ll be surprised at the search phrases that brings in that traffic.  These phrases are called “the long tail” of seach.

There are a great many more search terms that you can use to create a niche.  Then create content that is focused on these niche  words and phrases and optimize the page for both visitors and search engines.  There will be far less competition, and you’ll do much better in the search engines.  You don’t need to write a novel on these topics.  Five hundred words or so is usually adequate.  The text, combined with photos of what you can create for these niches, can make a very effective search engine magnet.

Your site can develop several niches, each as a major page with sub-pages for each title and phrase.  Why compete for the major words when you’re able to get first page search positions for the lesser-used key phrases?

If you have more information than you feel comfortable putting on one page, link to sub-pages that expand on even more focused niches.

By spending time on this one part of your website, you can go a long ways towards beating your competition.

 

It All Goes Back Into The Box

Ken Blanchard, author of “The One Minute Manager and other business books,”  told the story about the little boy who really wanted to beat his grandmother at Monopoly.  He studied.  He practiced.  He learned.   Until one day, he beat her at the game and told her, “Finally!  I beat you.”

She smiled as she picked up the pieces and put them back into the monopoly box.

She then told the child, “Yes, you did.  But let me tell you another lesson that I’ve learned about playing the game of life.  You can work hard, study, practice and become whatever kind of person you want to me.  But when the game of life is over, it all goes back into the box.  The only thing that’s left behind is what you’ve created or done for others.”

I’ve heard the phrase “You have to give to get,” and have also heard results of how people have been blessed as a direct result of what they have given to others.

But I have a different philosophy.  I don’t think you have to give to get.  I think you give, not because of what you will receive in return, but because your giving is from the heart.

There’s a country-western song that tells the tale about a young man who stopped to help an elderly lady stopped on the highway with a problem with her car.  The young man was broke but instead of taking payment for his help, he told the lady to “Pass it On!”  The song goes on to tell of a waitress, who was pregnant, tired, and discouraged.  An elderly lady left a $100 tip.  That night the waitress laid in bed beside the young man who had helped the elderly woman with her car and told him about the woman who had left the $100 tip.  And the song ends with the magical words of “Just Pass It On.”

I am a business coach for a County Business Empowerment Class in my community.  Last week, a local entrepreneur, who has become very successful, spoke about how he started his business hoping to make lots of money.  He said that he was in the business for the money–not just because it enables him to live well and do things he’s always wanted to do–but because he can use that money to help others as well.  I remember the author of “Everything I needed to Know About Life I learned in Kindergarden” say basically the same thing.

Successful entrepreneurs have to be interested in money if they hope to be successful.  You can’t just forget the financial parts of a business and operate it any way you feel like.  How you treat your customers, your investors, and even your vendors go a long way towards determining how financially successful you will be.

There are, of course, those like Ken Lay of Enron fame and Mr Matoff of Ponzi scheme fame, who cheat others to make their millions and then use it to live like kings.  Then there are those entrepreneurs who achieve their business goals while practicing the principal of “Pass It On!”

When the game of life is all over, and it all goes back into the box, the Ken Lays and Matoffs of the world will leave behind people who have been hurt or destroyed.

The “Pass It On” entrepreneurs will leave a legacy that may not even be known by most but will be appreciated and remembered by those they helped.

We are in the midst of changes in the world.  Changes bring opportunities.  What will you do with them?  Share your comments!

The Face in the Mirror or What Did You Learn Today?

Look at yourself if you want success

three-bearsRemember that girl called Goldilocks?
And how she broke into the house of the Three Bears?
And how she ate their porridge, sat in their chairs, and slept on their beds?
All while the three bears felt that their little home in the forest was safe and secure while they went into the woods for a picnic that day.

Well, that’s what has happened to many business owners.
Something has eaten your porridge, rocked in your  chairs, and rustled those
sheets while it slept in your bed — all while you felt you were secure enough that you could relax and go into the woods for a picnic while your business took care of itself.

And suddenly you arrived home to find the doors unlocked, the bed unmade, and the porridge all gone.  “Woe is me!” you moan, as you wring your hands.  “What is a hard working business person to do?”

I’ve read posts on the gift basket bulletin boards both from people starting a business and from those who have been in business for years.  They ask, “What can we do to rescue our businesses in this economy?  What techniques are working for the rest of you. ”

“Tell me, Tell me quick so that I can do it do,” they seem to say.

Businesses are closing daily while others are in dire need of  resuscitation.  But you’re looking for the wrong Goldilocks.

  • It’s not the economy.  People are still spending money on “feel good” gifts.
  • It’s not the lack of customers.  They’re still there, waiting to buy.
  • It’s not the industry.  As a whole, it is as strong as ever and will remain whole even if your business doesn’t.

The answer is easy.  Take a few moments, step into your bathroom, and look into the mirror.  You’ll see the answer staring you in the face.  Ask that person that you see looking back at you, “Are you taking advantage of every resource out there to keep your business growing and thriving in today’s world?”

Then step back, think a few moments, and listen to the answer swirling around in your head.

I believe that the strength and the backbone of any industry, including the gift and gift basket industry, rests with the educational offerings, resources, and information shared with each other.  The world is changing.  The gift industry is changing.  That’s not news.  It has been changing from the time it first began.  There are always new ways to attract customers, new technology to embrace, new ways to keep our customers coming back, and new ways to motivate employees.  There are always new products, new techniques, and new resources.

So let me ask you the question:  What did you learn today?  What resource did you take advantage of? What new technique did you try?  What idea did you put into practice?

And don’t say, “How can I do that?  There aren’t any resources!  I’m all alone.”

It’s not a question of a lack of resources.  There are numerous Facebook groups available for your use — all frequented by many experienced in this industry that can help guide you through the maze. Most, like our GiftBasketNetwork group  are free.   The others either require a subscription to our national trade magazine or a membership in a gift basket directory, or a membership fee to use the board.  The advantage that the private boards have over the free open-to-the-public boards is that those with knowledge to share are more willing to share if they show what they are sharing isn’t going to show up in the search engines.

Are you taking advantage of the other resources?  GiftBusinessInsider, a monthly digital publication for the gift basket  industry, isn’t free.  GiftBasketNetwork is the leading directory, for the least cost and the most benefits, for driving traffic to your website.

You can operate your business on a shoestring but you can’t grow it without spending some money on important resources.

Are you learning everything you can about changes in the industry and in technology?

Some of you are while others are stretched out on the grass sleeping away the afternoon while Goldilocks trashes your house.

So look in that mirror and place the responsibility, for making sure that your business continues to grow and thrive, where it belongs.

Today, and at the end of each day, ask the face that is staring back at you, “What did you learn today?”