Website Pirates Strike Again!!

They’re out there…waiting…and, then they strike!  It’s those website pirates striking again.  I first wrote about them on this blog at Website Pirates.  They had copied my whole website, including my photo and identifying information twice.  Well, they struck again — two more times.  And, I’ve just discovered a fifth crook!

In case you’ve noticed and wondered why my posts have been sparse, the reason is those d*%$ pirates have also stolen my time.  This has happened four different times now, with four different hosting companies.  I suspect the person, who appears to be from China, is responsible for all four raids. 

I’m writing about it to share what to do if this happens to you. There are several different ways to determine if your site has been hijacked.  The website www.copyscape.com  allows you to type in the url for a page on your website and it will show you any sites that have the same page.  Or you can type any unique text from your site into google and see what other sites have the same text.

Then you need to find out who the hosting company is and send that company a letter that meets specific requirements.  This is called a DMCAA letter.  Just google DMCA and you’ll find sample letters.  The hosting company is required to remove the site if it is copied once they receive the DMCA letter.

Three of the hosting companies that I contacted worked with me, even telling me what info I had neglected to include in the DMCA letter.  One, however, dreamhost.com  (located in California) was a different story.  My opinion is that they didn’t want to let go of the money they were receiving from the fraudulent company in China.  They made it extremely difficult to get the site removed–even telling me that just because my copyright info was on the homepage of the site didn’t mean that I owned the copyright on the other pages (even though there is copyright information on each and every page of the site.)  They also told me that I had to hire a copyright lawyer to get the site removed.  Not a good hosting company and not a very ethical one either, in my opinion!

Hopefully, you will never be highjacked by these crooks.  But if you are, there is something you can do about it as long as the hosting company is in the U.S.  If it is in another country, most don’t respect any laws.  And your primary action will need to be contacting google and the other search engines.

SEO Myths

I think you may be surprised by some of the SEO myths reported by our Guest Blogger, Laura Wheeler of Firelight Business Enterprises. REID ON for more from Laura. . .

1. Pages can “leak” pagerank. A misinterpretation of a statement by Google lead to this myth. It was really only perpetuated by people who thought that writing an SEO book was the key to getting rich quick (unfortunately they rarely knew enough about it to get it right!). There were enough of those though, that this myth is regularly ressurected, even though pagerank isn’t that valuable a marker anymore.

2. More content is better. Wrong. More content is just more content. More GOOD content IS better. If it ain’t good, it is just debris.

3. Articles help you promote better. Not unless they are GOOD articles. There are so many bad ones out there that even mediocre articles are a waste of time. They’ve gotta be original, and they’ve gotta be good.

4. Keyword tags matter. Not anymore. Don’t bother with these they’ll just waste your time and risk doing more harm than good.

5. Start with keyword research. Start with COMMON SENSE. That will get you further, with less effort, than any amount of research will. Research is only good AFTER you’ve done everything you can with common sense.

6. You have to be on the first page of Google to get any traffic. Absolutely NOT true! This is so badly misunderstood that even fairly popular SEO “gurus” think it is true, or like to say so because it gets them more money. Fact is, you don’t even have to be on the first 10 pages for your top keywords to get found, and to make a boodle. There are plenty of backdoor tactics that get you traffic without first page placement. This is so important, we’ll explain it all in our next issue.

7. Bold the keywords on your page. No, don’t. Bold the words you want people to pay attention to, and bold the thoughts that are most important. That is how you are SUPPOSED to use bolding.

8. Keyword density matters. No, content matters. Good, understandable text that explains what you are trying to say, and explains it well. Keywords happen naturally from that, without even trying. And the keyword patterns look so natural to a search engine that you never have to calculate the percentages.

9. Search engines don’t read words in domain names unless they are separated by a dash. We’ve proven that in fact, they do! Search engines will interpret words in the domain name, based on the words in the copy. If there are similar words in the domain name, they’ll pick them up and rank you for them whether or not there are dashes to separate them. This isn’t theory, we’ve proven it.

10. Search engines can now read Flash. No, they can’t. Google recently acquired the technology from Adobe to read it, but it has not yet been fully implemented. Further, when they CAN read Flash, they will only be able to read text that was entered into the animation as text, not text that is part of an image. So the ability to read Flash will depend on how the animation is constructed, and the value will vary from site to site. There has also been no word on whether or not they’ll delay reading it to reduce the load on the bots – reading Flash is VERY time intensive for the bots.

11. Search engines index plain HTML sites better than they index dynamic sites. NOT true. As a rule, search engines are just as capable of crawling and indexing a content management or shopping cart system. Years ago there was a difference, but this has not been an issue for many years. This is only an issue with badly coded sites, or with excessive use of Flash.

12. SEO is hard/easy. It isn’t really either. It is more a matter of understanding what really matters. Once you understand that, it takes work to create what matters. But it isn’t really hard to understand what matters – it is people! Help people understand what you have, in a way that appeals to them, and in a way that search engines can read. Everything else is just implementation.

Laura Wheeler and her husband Kevin own Firelight Web Enterprises in Wyoming. We like to feature articles from Laura periodically as we consider her one of the experts that can be trusted.

Keep Your Business Thriving During Tough Times

Although the credit crunch is still weighing on millions of people, it doesn’t mean the end for every small or medium-sized business. In fact, this is a great time for savvy entrepreneurs to grow a business and prosper by thinking creatively and strategically. To make sure your business thrives during the downturn, you need to take a good hard look at your business.

Here’s how you can flourish during difficult times. It just takes a bit of creativity…

1. Trim the fat. Now’s the time to review your company finances in a calm and collected manner. Be sure to look at what is being paid on time. Then look for waste and how you can save – there are sure to be a few places where this is possible. Eliminate expenses that aren’t essential to your core business.

2. Know your customers. Spend time with your customers and find out more about their needs so you can deliver what they want when they want it. Also consider sending out a customer satisfaction survey to gain additional insights. Continue offering great service and going above and beyond so that every customer feels as if they are getting the VIP treatment.

3. Stay ahead of the competition. Researching your competition is invaluable so you can make sure you’re competitive with their quality and service. Also remember that during a downtown, some of the people who are laid off may start their own businesses. Monitor the market for newcomers, but remember that you have a head start.

4. Enhance your offering. Cutting prices is one way to make your product or service more attractive, but it’s not the only way. Once you lower your prices, it can be hard to raise them again. Think about adding other incentives like reduced delivery times or added bonuses instead.

5. Adapt to the market. If you notice that sales are declining in one area, focus your efforts on areas that are seeing more sales. Don’t waste your time on sectors that are in freefall. If your business is focused on a single product, consider repositioning it and be ready to cater to people’s changing needs.

6. Invest in you. Now is the perfect time to build on your knowledge, skills, and talents by attending conferences, taking a professional development course, or investing in a business coach. It will help position you as an expert in your field and give you a competitive edge!

7. Make more noise. Continue advertising if you can afford it, but look for other inexpensive ways to get the word out. Perhaps start a blog, join web forums in your field, or write a column for a trade publication or local newspaper.

8. Prepare for the good times. Remember that a recession is a periodic event, but it doesn’t last forever. Resist the urge to run for cover. Instead, keep doing business.

Come out fighting and energize your business to ensure that you don’t go the way of the dinosaurs. The good times will come again – this is your chance to make sure you’re a part of them. 

Today’s guest blogger is Ali Brown who  is devoted to creating financial freedom for women globally through the power of entrepreneurship. To learn how to create wealth and live an extraordinary life now, register for her free weekly articles at www.AliBrown.com

Why don’t my gift baskets look like those in the magazines?

mastersHave you ever looked at one of our trade magazines, delighting in the exquisite designs and huge variety of products used in each basket, and then asked yourself: “Why don’t my gift baskets look like that?”

The designs in the magazines are what those new to the industry see and try to emulate.  When they either fail to achieve the same effect OR have accumulated cases of the many products OR can’t sell the completed designs because they cost too much, they consider themselves a failure.

What they don’t realize is that there is a big difference between many of the baskets designed for the magazines and those that sell to our customers.  The next time you receive a trade magazine, with its many gorgeous designs, take a more careful look at those designs. 

Yes, they are gorgeous.  Yes, they entice you to strive for a higher level of design.  Some of them are even designs that we can emulate and sell.  But there are many that I could never create and sell in my market area.  They are the type of baskets that I would produce as a donation when I want to really impress but could never sell and make a profit.  They were designed to give you ideas and to encourage you to strive for more than just an “everyday” look.  They were designed to sell advertiser’s products.   Many of them are winners or entries in design competitions at the last Convention.  They were designed for the design effect with little thought given to cost or whether the design will sell. 

Ask yourself how these designs will look wrapped in cello–which is essential to keep the products in place.  Can they even be sucessfully wrapped in cello at all?  How will they look when the bows, perching promptly on either side or front of the basket, are suddenly moved to the top of the cello?  How much does the excellent photography techniques used affect the appearance of the basket? 

Look at the products used to create the basket.  Are they primarily high cost products or a mixture of high-end and reasonably priced ones?  How much of the cost of the basket is dedicated to gorgeous enhancements and floral treatments?  Think about how much time was spent designing this particular basket.  Do you have that kind of time to devote to each and every basket that you sell?  If you’re familiar with wholesale prices–and most of you are– sit down and calculate what you would guess the basket would cost to create.  Then use your formula to determine what you would need to sell that basket for. 

Look at the holiday themed issues.  Count the number of holiday specific themed products are used in one basket.  Can your business afford to buy cases of a dozen or more holiday themed products for a holiday such as Halloween?  My business certainly couldn’t.  I’d be eating Halloween candies and cookies for the rest of the year.

Now that you’ve looked at these gorgeous works of art and asked yourself the above questions, look at them as they were intended.  Most, but perhaps not all, were not intended for you to copy and sell off your store’s shelves or website pages.  They were intended to give you ideas and to encourage you to buy advertiser’s products. 

With that in mind, take the bits and pieces of what you like about each design and create your own.  Create designs that you know will sell for you.  Use your imagination and design talents to create something similar, but more practical, with products that you can use in a large number of designs.  Incorporate one or two themed items and even some florals and enhancements (if that is your style) keeping a careful eye on the total cost of products and labor. 

When you are finished, you probably won’t have a gift basket that looks like the ones in the magazines but you’ll have a design that you can sell and make a profit on in your local market.  And isn’t making a profit what being in business is all about?

And, just in case you are wondering, the basket shown above is one of mine that was created specifically for the 2007 Designer of the Year competion.  It won second place as “Best Corporate Design” and, no, it’s not a design created to sell. It was created for a specific purpose and served that purpose well but the cost of the products used and time involved to create it would make it a difficult one to sell for a profit.

One Minute Wisdoms

When I first started this blog, I decided that creating a sucessful business is about more than just making money.  Since I use this blog to say what I want to say and to tell it as I see it, here is another of my one-minute-wisdoms.
Each of us started our business with goals and dreams.  But before we actually had a business there had to be customers.  Always remember  to keep your eye on your goals and your dreams in your heart.  Never forget that behind every reader of your web page, and every sale that you make, there is a real person.  And you never know, when you can be the one to make a difference to that person.

So . . .Make a difference – don’t just make money.

It’s easy to make a buck. 
It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. 
~Tom Brokaw