Ready for a website?

computer-userThere are a number of different ways, and levels of expense,  to create a website.  You can have someone build and maintain it for you.  This is usually the most expensive but the least time consuming way.  The drawback is that you have no control.  And without some knowledge of what you need and what it should cost you, you could be taken advantage of.

You can have it built by someone else who will teach you how to make changes and maintain it.  They will usually continue as a fee-based consultant for those times when you run into problems and need help.  This can be less expensive over the long term, is more time consuming for you, and allows you to have some control depending on how much you wish to learn.

The third option is to build your own site.  And once again, there are several options.  When creating my first website, my business hadn’t grown enough to allow me to pay someone.  But what was of greater concern for me was that I wanted total control.  The trade-off was time.  The first website was built on a “free” service and wasn’t beautiful but I learned the basics. 

After a few months, I made the decision to move it from the free server to my own domain and to learn how to build it myself from the ground up.  I purchased Front Page and several dummie type books and dug in.  I joined a google group about Front Page where my questions could be answered, and the site began evolving.

Knowing how important search engines are for providing traffic, once again I learned how to do it myself.  There are many companies out there begging for your business, guaranteeing they can put you on page one of google by optimizing your site.  Some are legitimate.  Many are not.  But no one can guarantee you a position on page one of google unless they pay for a Pay Per Click ad and then you’re not in the organic search results–you’re in the ads. 

I am the kind of person that doesn’t want to hire someone to do something for me when I have no idea of whether or not I’m being taken for a ride.  Optimizing is not hard.  It’s just knowing how to do it and taking the time to implement what you know.  There are free classes online and books available if you are willing to invest the time.

Fast forward a few years and I can honestly say that doing it myself was the very  best decision I could have made.  I now own a number of different websites, all of which I’ve built and optimized myself.  Believe me, it’s a wonderful feeling when those orders come rolling in and you know that you did it!

But my decision may not be the best one for you.  Each has to weigh the pros and cons and decide what is best for themselves.  For those of you who have the desire to step out into website building, here are several options that are currently available to make it easier for you.

Microsoft, the creator of FrontPage, now offers their newest website building program called ExpressionWeb.  If you would like to try it with little cost, for a limited time Microsoft has a page listing web hosts that are offering a free copy of Expression Web v2 with 60 days of free hosting.  For this offer, see  http://www.microsoft.com/web/ jumpstart/ platinum- hosting/default. aspx for more information.

If you would like to have someone build a site for you and hold your hand as they teach you how to maintain it, I recommend Laura Wheeler of  Firelight Web Creations.  Located in Wyoming, she can be reached at [email protected] .  She’s honest, patient, and has worked with several members of GiftBasketNetwork either building or rebuilding their sites.

If you want easy, you might take a look at ProStores. They say that ProStores has everything you need to start selling online today- shopping cart, domain hosting, merchandising, reporting, and more!   I build my own sites so haven’t used it but it does appear to be everything it says it is.  Check it out and decide for yourself.

Regardless of which option you go for, in today’s world, every business should have some form of internet presence.

Creating Trust For Your Business

“Four Star Restaurant and Coffee Shop”

These were the  words in an ad in my local newspaper today for a coffee shop that has been open less than a year and has just begun adding dinner to their coffee shop menu.  Perhaps I am alone (but I don’t think so), when my thoughts were, “Said who?  You?”

Last week, I received an email newsletter from another local business.  There was a glowing testimonial signed simply “Anonymous cosmotologist” .

Did either of these ads do what they intended — make me trust their business because it was recommended by others?  No.  And the reason is simple.  You can create anything or anybody on the internet, on paper, or on the airwaves.  But the creation is not what makes people trust you. 

rock - creating trustTrust comes with knowing that real people or real organizations endorse you.  And those real people and organizations have to have names.  Even then, the endorsing person or organization should have credibility and be trusted by those you are marketing to.

Testimonials are valuable marketing tools.  But, all too often, we dilute the value of them, by making them seem make up rather than real.  Anybody can write a series of glowing testimonials but by using initials or anomymous as the writer, you’re wasting your time.  They aren’t believable.

The same is true when you list a series of names as references or past customers.  Most people will never take the time to contact these references nor will the list create credibility.  I could sit down and write you a long list of refences for this blog, but think about it?  How many of you will contact those references?  How many of those references have ever even read this blog?  How many of those references are going to be positive?  How many will be negative or neutral?  The same is true when you list a series of names in your brochure or on your website.

Testimonials are the most valuable marketing tools that you can use to create trust for your business IF THEY ARE REAL AND IF YOU USE THEM CORRECTLY.  So, go to those people who have used your business more than once and ask them for a testimonial.  Ask for permission to use their name.  If they won’t let you use their name, the testimonial is worthless. 

And, if you’re a new business or have been in business for a short period of time, don’t use testimonials or references.  They simply aren’t believable and don’t create the trust that you are trying for.  If you’re new in business, there are other ways to build trust and believability.  Use those instead!

Website Pirates

You suck in your breath!  Your heart starts pounding! Your adrenaline skyrockets!  You know your blood pressure is in trouble.

No, you’re not in love.  You’ve just discovered that someone has copied your website and it appears under a domain name that you’ve never heard of.  You click on the “about us” page and see your face smiling back at you and your name telling the world how great your business is.  The blood pressure rises higher as you click on the “Contact us” page.  There you find an address and phone number that definitely isn’t yours.

You pick up the phone and dial the number.  The number doesn’t exist.  You take a deep breath.  What can you do now?

website-pirateThis experience has happened to me twice–most recently last week.  And it could happen to you.   And it’s much more serious than someone who copies one of your photos.  If you discover website pirates, this is what you need to do.

First check the whois for the domain.  You can do this easily by going to any company that registers domain names and type in the domain name that you’ve found.  I used godaddy.com.  The registration for the domain shows who it is registerd to and what company is hosting the domain.

The first step is to contact the domain registrar and the hosting company.  If you’re lucky as I was last week (I wasn’t so lucky the first time), they are both with the same company.  Most hosting companies have a page on their website that explains exactly what you have to do to file a copyright complaint.  In my case, I had to submit an email to godaddy that stated the following:

  1. An electronic signature of the copyright owner, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive copyright that has allegedly been infringed.
  2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works on that site.
  3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to locate the material.
  4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to contact the Complaining Party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the Complaining Party may be contacted.
  5. A statement that the Complaining Party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the Complaining Party is the owner, or is authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Once I did this, godaddy’s copyright department removed the offending site and notified the offender that it had been removed. 

Sounds fairly simple but it’s not always easy.  If the hosting company is located in another country, it’s a whole different ball game. 

How could someone copy a whole website consisting of hundreds of pages?  It’s easy with software that now exists.
Who does this sort of piracy?  It’s usually someone located in China or Russia who wants to use the copied website as a means of distributing a virus or worse.

How can you find out if your website has been copied?  Since the website is copied exactly as is with the exception of contact information, the copied site is going to rank very similar to your own in the search engines.  I know what keywords I’m ranking for and check them frequently.  This is how I discovered the second offense.  The copied site ranked two places below mine.

Another way to check is to pick out some text on your homepage that is unique to your site.  Put that text in google search and you may be surprised to find another site showing the same text.

You can also file a complaint with google to have the listings removed from their search engine.  But you will have to address each page that is copied.  And with over 300 pages, that’s a big job.  It’s much easier to get the site removed by the hosting company and then it will just gradually fade from google.

Do you sell based on price?

moneyIn today’s economy, price is important.  But even more important is value.

If all you talk about when marketing your gifts and gift baskets is price (whether on the internet or in person), that’s what your customers will base their buying decisions on.

If what you feature is the needs and benefits to your customers, they  will base their decisions on how well you meet those needs and desires with your product or service.

What do you talk about?