Posts Tagged ‘tools for small business’

Web stuff to think about

Friday, April 4th, 2008

The Cluetrain Manifesto

The Cluetrain Manifesto was written ten years ago by four great Webcelebs; Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger. It’s targeted at businesses that want to understand their customers better, and turns your understanding of marketing and communications on its head.

From Chapter 1: Internet Apocalypso

The question is whether, as a company, you can afford to have more than an advertising-jingle persona. Can you put yourself out there: say what you think in your own voice, present who you really are, show what you really care about? Do you have any genuine passion to share? Can you deal with such honesty? Such exposure? Human beings are often magnificent in this regard, while companies, frankly, tend to suck. For most large corporations, even considering these questions – and they’re being forced to do so by both Internet and intranet – is about as exciting as the offer of an experimental brain transplant.

Blogged Directory

Launched in February 2008, Blogged is a clean, fresh looking, human edited blog directory.

Once you submit your blog (free), the editors check it out, and if it passes muster, they include it. When I submitted BlogWell, it was reviewed within 24 hours.

From their about page:

Our blogs are reviewed, rated, and categorized by our editors, so you won’t have to experience the frustration of filtering through blogs that are either spam, outdated, or irrelevant.

52 easy ways to optimize your blog while on your coffee break

Jennifer has put together a brilliant list that describes how to optimize your blog, and each tip takes no longer than 15 minutes (your coffee break) to implement.

Do yourself a favor and bookmark this post.

Add your blog to your email signature
Yes, many of us are lazy and don’t add a signature to our emails, whether it is because we send out emails that are totally not related to the blog, or just one of those things that has been on the to do list forever. Add a blog and a short tag line to intrigue people to visit. You never know, your daughter’s softball coach might actually be a fan of whatever you blog about and your signature just got you a new reader.

Choosing a Blogging Platform

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

weighing-options.jpg

Credit: Capt Kodak

This is the third in a series of posts about how to blog well. If you’ve missed the others, you can find them here:

Blog Well Files – Part 3: Choosing a Blogging Platform

Once you’ve made the decision to blog and created a blog plan, the next question you need to consider is:

Do you want to host it yourself, or do you want someone to host it for you?

Self Hosted Blog Platforms/Blog Software

With a self hosted blog, you’ll need to download the software and host it yourself.

The two most popular blog software products are WordPress and Movable Type.

Both require some technical ability. It is essential that you are familiar with FTP and databases. You will be in charge of installing updates, making backups, and ensuring anti-spam plugins/add-ons are kept up to date. A basic understanding of CSS and PHP is useful too.

Although more technical skill is required, self hosting your blog gives you complete flexibility and control.

Hosted Blog Platforms

With a hosted blog there is nothing to download, and you don’t have to worry about any of the backend stuff because it is all done for you by the host. The most popular blog hosts are WordPress, Blogger and TypePad.

However, by not fully controlling the back end, you’ll find each platform has its own limitations. For instance, Blogger won’t let you have pages, so no about page or services page; TypePad offers no free service, and WordPress won’t let you run advertisements.

Blog Platform Comparisons

I’ve created two tables to help you figure out what is best for you. The first compares WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad, and the other details the differences between WordPress and Movable Type software products.

If you decide you want to go with a hosted platform, my only recommendation is to buy your domain name through the host, or pay to redirect it to your own domain. That way, if you choose to host it yourself in the future, you will keep all the links you amass, and from the outside, it will look exactly the same.

blogging-platform-comparison.jpg

Download Blog Platform Comparisons (PDF)

The decision on which blogging platform to use should be made now. Not because you can’t change your mind later on – you can – but changing brings other problems down the track.

I started blogging with WordPress.com, and then decided to use WordPress software on my own domain. All of my rankings tanked and I had to start building them back up. I’m not saying it can’t be done; I just want to warn you that it does take a lot of time and effort to do. If I had known then what I know now, I would have seen no effect on my rankings when I moved to hosting it myself.

This post is in no way the definitive guide on blogging platforms, and while no one can help you determine what is best for you, I can tell you that I’ve tried WordPress (both self hosted and hosted), Blogger, and TypePad and still lean heavily toward WordPress. I find that it is easier and simpler to use, offers more options for customization, has a huge community that welcomes any newcomer, and is amazingly quick to help when you get stuck.

I invite you to share your own experiences in the comments below so that we can all continue to learn and hopefully help others avoid making the same mistakes that we did.

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100+ Useful Web Resources for Small Business and Non Profits

Monday, February 11th, 2008

I often get questions about creating, maintaining, and optimizing an online presence from small businesses and non profits; how to get into search engine results, how to redesign an old site, what tools are available that are useful, inexpensive or free.

If you know of any tool or resource I have not listed, that is particularly good for small businesses, please take a moment and leave it in the comments below.

Before you Launch your Small Business Website

Before you Launch that Local Small Business Website

Read Rae’s tips on what you need to think about before you launch your small business website – particularly good if you have yet to begin your online presence.

Your Domain Name

If you want to create a professional and credible site, one that enhances your product, service, or business, it is imperative you choose your domain name with care. Problogger Darren Rowse explains how the right domain name can make or break your business.

10 Tools for Researching Domain Names

Not only is it important to find the right name, it’s imperative to make sure that the name you decide on doesn’t have any bad history associated with it. Steven explains it best and offers 10 tools for you to use in your research.

Blog Dammit!

Duct Tape Marketing author, John Jantsch, provides number five in a five part series, Blog Dammit! and explains why you must start and grow a blog in 2008 if you haven’t already.

WordPress: Not Just for Bloggers Anymore

Did you know that WordPress lets you build an entire website; one that is optimized for search, easy to setup and maintain, and requires very little technical nouse? If you don’t, read this article by Barry Ochsner

Creating and Maintaining an Audience

How to Get Repeat Visitors for Your Website

There are two types of visitors to a site: new visitors and repeat visitors. In this article, Maki provides insight into how to create an online place that people will want to return to.

Give Your Readers Room to Participate in Your Blog

If you are having a hard time getting visitors to leave comments, read this article by Problogger Darren Rowse that explains how you can gently encourage and engage your readers, and build a reputable online presence.

10 Free Ways to Get Blog Exposure, New Readers and Success

There is much you can do if you want to spend money on getting exposure on the Web, but what can you do to increase exposure without having to pay one cent?

Analyzing Your Site

Analytics On The Cheap: Six Free Stats Packages for the Startup or Small Business Owner

If you’re not analyzing your website, you should be. Tamar Weinberg describes six free statistics packages and explains how they can help your business.

Competitor Analysis to Build Traffic and Links

Having an analytics package isn’t enough. You need to understand how they work so you can perform competitor analysis and use the results effectively to grow your own site.

Website Grader

Website Grader measures your site’s marketing effectiveness. It gives you a score that incorporates information from Alexa, PageRank, Technorati, Del.icio.us, and offers information about the health of your site (how many links in, from where, etc). Good for an overview, but will never replace a professional SEO audit. Read Michael Gray’s post Why Website Grader is a Bad Idea for more information.

Check your Google PageRank

Type in your URL and your Google PageRank will be displayed.

Google Webmaster Tools

See how Google crawls your site and any problems it’s having; you can also see how your site is performing here.

DNScoop

DNScoop attempts to estimate the value of an established website or a domain name, by using factors such as; links, popularity, age, pagerank and traffic of the domain.

Business Blogging

Business Blogging 101

Darren Rowse gets you thinking about how businesses should use blogs, and gives you the basics in plain English if you want to start blogging.

Choosing a blog platform

There are many blogging platforms around, some requiring technical know how, others not. Read this post if you are not sure which platform suits your needs best.

WordPress.com

For an easy to use, non-techie approach to blogging, WordPress will give you more than other platforms. Ad-Free, customizable, and optimized for search, Google loves WordPress, so will you. If you are tech inclined, you can run WordPress software (free) on your own site. See also, WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org for more information about the differences.

How to install WordPress software

Ten video tutorials from Stefan Mischook on how to install and configure WordPress if you want to give it a go yourself.

Ninja Blog Setup

If you decide to go with WordPress software and host it yourself, but don’t want the headache of setting it up yourself, these guys will set up a blog for you, for free. They make their money by providing hosting partners.

Small Business Blogging: What to Blog About

If you’re not quite sure what to write about, read this post by Dan Bricklin that offers practical advice for small businesses.

Legal Guide for Bloggers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a basic guide to laws surrounding bloggers.

De Clutter your Blog

If your blog looks cluttered but you aren’t sure which components you should remove, read this. This is particularly interesting for those who cannot work out the ‘musts’ in a sidebar.

10 WordPress Plugins that Encourage Visitors to Return

If you want your blog to be user friendly, there is no nicer way than to offer visitors options that are useful and helpful.

10 Things CEOs should know about Web Design

Anita Campbell points out what works and what to steer clear of when it comes to Web design.

Design decisions that annoy readers

Things to think about and not do when designing your site.

9 Ways to Gauge Your Visitors’ Experience

Vandelay Design helps you understand the opinion of your visitors, and explains why you need to take the time.

Signs it’s Time to Redesign your Website

Erin Ferree points out seven ‘tells’ that will let you know it’s time to redesign.

Does your Web Site Suck?

Two checklists from Vincent Flanders, author of Web Sites that Suck to help you determine whether you need to overhaul your site. Fill them in, learn from them, and then use this page to help you fix things.

How to Redesign a Website

You’ve made the decision to overhaul your site, now what? From .net magazine, the things you might want to consider.

How to evolve your irrelevant corporate website

Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research explains why your website may be irrelevant, and gives tips on how to rebuild to stay relevant.

Best Premium WordPress Themes For a Non-Blog Look

If you don’t like the blog look, but want the advantages that a blog brings, take a look at Donna’s post.

Cream of the Crop: Six Cutting-Edge, Minimalist WordPress Themes

According to Skellie, these six themes are at the forefront of modern, minimalist, typographically interesting WordPress theme design. She also tells you how to tweak them for maximum impact.

Content for Your Small Business Website

The Seven Deadly Sins of Website Copy

Michel Fortin shows how simple copy changes to your site can transform an average site to a great site.

The Power of the “About Us” page

Do you have an “About” page? Was it just thrown together, or did you spend time putting it together for maximum impact? Bryan Eisenberg gives expamles of the most common mistakes.

Building More Effective “Contact Us” Pages

When putting together a site, not many people think about their contact information. It’s time you did and Bryan Eisenberg shows you how.

Forms that Work: From the book Web Design for ROI (Sample chapter PDF)

If you have forms on your site, read this and make sure you don’t annoy your visitors by making your forms too tricky

Page Not Found: Error 404

What makes up a good error page? Have you even thought about it? If you haven’t, it’s time you did. WebMama shows you what to think about.

The “Coming Soon” page

While not everyone agrees you should have a coming soon page, if you decide you need one, take a look at this first.

A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images for Free

Skellie shows you how to make your site more interesting by incorporating great imagery. It doesn’t need to cost much; oftentimes it will cost you nothing more than time.

Search Engine Optimization for Small Business

SEO Jargon Buster

A complete glossary of essential SEO jargon for beginners.

13 Ways to promote your local business for free

Small businesses take note. Michael Gray gives you quick and easy tips to get noticed in search results, that can bring more traffic to your site.

10 Tips to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking

Mike Busson explains that search engine optimization is not rocket science; you just need to be aware of the basics.

7 Steps to Get Your New Site Indexed in 24 Hours

There are ways to speed up getting noticed by the search engines; you just need to know what they are. Michael Jensen explains.

7 Simple Ways to use Universal Search to Appear on Top of Google

Tad Chef walks you through the various components that make up Universal Search and how to use them to increase your chances of being included in Google’s search results.

What is the First SEO Question? What is the Second SEO Question?

The first two questions you should ask yourself before you embark on an SEO program, and a third on the way from WebMama.

Introduction to Keyword Sniping

How to choose keywords, and how to use keywords; one of the most important articles you can read from Courtney Tuttle.

All about Permalinks

Mark Blair explains permalinks, and why it is important to get them right if you want search engines to like your site.

All about Title Tags

Title tags make up the text that appears in the top left hand corner of your browser when you visit a Web site. Did you know that you can choose to put your own words there? Jill Whalen offers the ultimate in title tag explanations.

All About Description Tags

Rand Fishkin shows you how to make the most of your meta description tags. If you don’t know what they are, you will by the time you read this.

Optimize Video for Search Engines

Video is getting bigger on the Web every day. If you decide to use video, Jody Nimetz gives you tips to optimize them for search engines.

Optimize your Website for Google Image search

Maki explains how to optimize your images, make your site more visually attractive, and attract search engine traffic at the same time. If you’re not doing anything but uploading pictures, it’s time to understand how it all works.

Linking Strategy for Small Business

The Ultimate guide to building the perfect link

The biggest problems small businesses face is getting links to their site. Matt McGee walks you through types of links, how to approach them and what not to do.

102 Ways to get backlinks

Written in the order they need to be done, Courtney Tuttle walks you through how to get links to your site the right way.

Link to Yourself Using Anchor Text

Anchor text is extremely important if you want search engines to notice you under specific key words, Darren explains why and how to do it.

20 Ways to Get Legit Links Without Getting Penalized by Google

If you don’t want to annoy Google, but want people linking to your site, try Tad’s recommendations – they work.

Link Buying Guide: Directories, Ads and Reviews

If you want to buy links, buy links that don’t jeopardize your online presence. Loren Baker lists his favorites.

PR and Marketing

Blogging’s a Low-Cost, High Return Marketing Tool

From the New York Times, a recent (Dec 07) article explains how, for some small businesses, blogging is the way to go if they want a great tool to raise the company profile and build their brand.

Ways to Market your Business Online

You can’t expect to compete as a small business today without choosing from a growing arsenal of online marketing tools. Here are four ways to get your business noticed on the Internet from CNN Money.

I am Clueless About Your Product: Sell it to Me Correctly

Tamar Weinberg points out the importance of using everyday words on your site if you have a product to sell. Use the KISS method, easy but often forgotten.

The Etiquette of E-mail

Good business means communication, and although e-mail is used a lot, it’s not always used correctly. Gina Trapini shows you how to do e-mail right.

Features Vs. Benefits: The Showdown

Do you know the difference between the features and the benefits of your product or service? If you don’t, you should. It makes marketing your small business oh so much easier. Naomi explains.

Lowdown on press release optimization

Lee Odden shows you how to write a great press release, and offers a list of wire services you can use to distribute them.

How to Advertise your Website or Business: 8 Paid Advertising Models

Advertising is one of the fastest and easiest ways to bring traffic to your site—if you do it right. Read this if you want to understand the various types of advertising, and how to work out the best places to advertise.

How to Get News Coverage

A beginner’s guide to getting media coverage, particularly useful for those with small budgets.

Reputation Management and PR for Small Business

Online Reputation Management for Beginners

Andy Beal walks you through the importance of online reputation management. Did you know there’s a good chance that your name, your company, or your brand is out there somewhere on the Web, quite possibly put there by someone you may not know?

Search Engine Reputation Management Techniques

If you’ve ever come across your name (or your company name) on the Internet, in an unflattering light, try these techniques and turn the bad press around.

Want Your Business to be Featured on CNN? Send an I-Report

Share your tips in with CNN and you could be featured on television. Just fill in the form and you’re set.

Social Media for Small Business

Ten Reasons to Use Social Media

Tad explains the importance of using social media; why and how it can benefit your online business.

Strategies for Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

Charlene Li, senior analyst at Forrester talks about what business objectives and results can be achieved with Web 2.0 technologies and how social technologies will transform your business in the future. Audio and Video available (approx 1 hour) at PARC (Palo Alto Research Centre).

The Importance of Social Media Marketing

Maki explains how social media marketing is a low cost way of promoting your site that will get you links, attention and lots of traffic.

Online Networking and the Professions That Use It

If you haven’t been networking online, it’s time you start. Muhammad Saleem points out networks for the medical profession, musicians, educators, photographers, and business folk.

What is StumbleUpon?

Garrett Camp, Founder of StumbleUpon talks about what StumbleUpon is, how it works, why it works, and what they have learned over the years. A presentation for PARC (Palo Alto Research Centre) Audio and Video available (approx 1 hour).

What is Facebook?

According to Sugarrae, this is the updated, unofficial and smartass guide to using Facebook. If you’ve always wanted to know more, here’s your chance to find out what it’s all about in a fun way.

Facebook Ads and Will They Work For You?

Facebook advertising isn’t for everyone, but advertising on Facebook may work for you. This article explains how.

Ways to use Twitter

17 ways you can use Twitter: A guide for beginners, Marketers, and Business Owners from Maki

The Big Juicy Twitter Guide

A seven part series on what Twitter is about from Caroline Middlebrook

Effective Marketing on LinkedIn

If you’re using Linkedin and are not quite sure why, Helen shows you how to effectively market yourself with this business networking tool.

Useful Tools for Small Businesses on the Web

Blidget

Create a blidget; a widget that sits on your website and pulls in the latest entries from your blog. Customizable and free

Browsershots

Browsershots lets you test how your site looks in different browsers; Firefox, Opera, IE, Safari, running on different operating systems; Linux, Windows, Mac.

Colour Lovers

If you are planning changes to your Web site, Colour Lovers helps you work out what color schemes work well together. It also gives you RGB and Hex reference numbers if you want to pass them on to your site developer.

Contribute

If you are paying a programmer for each tiny change to your website, it can get expensive, and quickly. Contribute allows you to easily update pages on your site using your browser; no technical knowledge required and can save you tons of money in programmer fees. From Adobe – $169 with free trial period available.

Decluttered

How to declutter your desk. Not so much a tool, but a how to on making your desk neater; always good for business – and cheap and easy to do.

Deyey

Design your business cards online for free; then save them on your own PC and print them up. A nice alternative to better design without the cost.

Favicon Generator

A favicon (favorite icon) is an icon that is displayed in the browser address bar before the site’s URL. If you don’t have one, but want one, upload an image and the favicon generator will create a favicon for you to use.

Fax Zero

If you’re in the US or Canada and don’t have a fax machine, go to this site, upload your document and send your fax for free.

Feedburner

Feedburner is a free media distribution service for blogs and RSS feeds. This means you can automate the process of sending your news to your audience via e-mail or RSS. It also allows you to track who is reading your content.

GIMP

Gimp is a free powerful, full-featured photo editing program, comparable to Photoshop. Available for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Google Alerts

If you want to know what is being said about you or your company online, Google Alerts offers you an easy way to keep track. Type in the words you want monitored (your name, your business name, your competitor etc.) and let Google e-mail you each time that word appears in search results.

Goog 411

Instead of calling 411 for information call 1800 Goog 411 ( 1 800 4664 411) and get a street address or phone number for free.

Icon Buffet

You need an icon, but where to get it? Become a member and get free icons sent to you, or buy your own packs here. The philosophy is quite neat. They give away free icons every month, but not everyone gets the same ones. The idea is to swap them (sorta like swap cards) and use what you like.

Icon Factory

The Icon Factory offers great looking icons you can use for your site as long as it is not for commercial use (then you have to buy them). But, for non profits, this just might be the way to go.

International Time

Does your business deal with customers internationally? Make it easy for them to contact you by adding a link to local time on your contact page–customizable.

Jott

Jott is a free service that converts your voice into text and sends it to you via e-mail or text message; great if you need to record something but don’t have a pen handy. (US only.)

Media Convert

You upload one file format, and Media Convert will convert it to another file format. Works with most formats of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, video and audio.

Montastic

Montastic monitor your website and send you an e-mail if it goes down. This free service can check your site every ten minutes, and saves you the trouble of visiting your site as often.

Open Source Web Design

Over 2000 free designs for you to choose from for your Web site.

PC Decrapifier

Have you ever bought a PC only to find it filled with pre installed junk you don’t need? The PC Decrapifier gets rid of all that stuff. Free for personal use

Resizer

A free image resizing site. Upload your pictures and edit them online.

SEO Tools and Lessons

9 SEO tools you shouldn’t be without from Aaron Wall (with free lessons).

Stock Xpert

Stockxpert is a royalty free stock photography community. With over 100,000 images, search by keyword for the image you need. Costs per image range from $1 – 3.

The elements of typographic style applied to the Web

For the tech inclined.

Typeflash

If you’ve ever been stumped for inspiration when it comes to typography for your site give typeflash a go.

Widgetbox

A useful assortment (over 30,000) widgets that you can add to your site – all free

How To and What is?

Understand Search Engines and Subject Directories

UC Berkeley offers lessons on how to search, including explanations on the differences between search engines, subject directories, and the invisible Web.

What is RSS?

RSS and all its bits explained by Darren Rowse.

The best 10 RSS readers for Windows, Mac and Linux

There are many free RSS readers out there, Tad shows you the best.

Understanding Domain Names

What is a domain name and how does the domain system work? A non technical explanation from Internic.

How to Podcast

A free step by step guide for anyone wanting to create a podcast

How to Design Web 2.0 Style

A tutorial that covers various common graphical elements of Web 2.0, with explanations of how, when, and where to use them best.

HTML for Beginners

In English; also has intermediate and advanced HTML.

CSS for Beginners

In English, with intermediate and advanced CSS guides.

Photoshop Tutorials

Easily understandable and doable, if you’ve ever wanted to give it a go, try visiting this site first.