Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where do I start with my website?

"Where to start planning a new website?" is a question I am asked quite often. This is a broad question and many resources already exist that help getting to the right answers.

Here is a link to a comprehensive blog post on the topic "Preparing to work with a designer: What to bring to the plate when you are planning your website?" It is well worth the read.

Or perhaps you prefer to get advice from a Rapper - see this SEO Rapper tell the story of web development.

Digital Daisy's blog also has a few articles that answers this same question:
Like all planned journeys, the web development process starts with a destination in mind. There are two questions that are important before embarking on the web development journey:
1. Why the heck am I doing this?
2. What do I want from my site?

A website has 4 basic elements that require planning:
  1. Design
  2. Content
  3. Navigation and
  4. Functionality
Developing content will most likely be your responsibility and the earlier in the process you get this done, the easier it will be on the rest of the process. A small business owner knows best who he/she is talking to, and what to say.

Planning a site's navigation is like planning a journey with its main route, detours and excursions. Think of how content in the site has to connect to each other. Two sites I like for planning, are GoMockingbird (great for mocking up a page that shows where all the elements of the page should be) and Slickplan (for creating flow charts). Microsoft Excel is useful for this as well.

The functionality you'd like your site to have depends on the site's purpose and could be an events calendar, a form, a photo gallery, social media widgets, a shopping cart or more. One piece of functionality that is almost a given nowadays is having a content management system (CMS) for your site. This allows you as the owner to add, delete and edit pages on your site in a user-friendly way.

Popular CMS's are Django, Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. Even Blogger which was originally a blogging site, now allows for easy addition of pages to the blog page. In the list of questions to ask a Web Developer - ask to have a CMS and ask to see an example of how it works.

Other benefits of a CMS: CMS's like the above are used by many developers across the globe who collaborate to write functionality for sites (also called plug-ins). These are often available for download by other developers (free). This means that you are able to "plug in" new functionality into your site as you need it at low or now cost very quickly, like a registration form or a calendar.

The most important point about content is that is should be written for the user and from the user's perspective. What is your reader looking for?
Other web writing tips are on this blog post 11 Tips for Techknowledgeable Writing.

The Hidden Bits
  1. Ensure that you get the domain name of your choice, that it is registered in the name of your company, using an email address/es that will always reach you.
  2. Make note of your registrar, its web address and passwords to your domain registration account.
  3. Make sure upfront that the web host you select can host the files your developer will create.
  4. Make a note of your web host's web url and password to your account.
  5. Meta content (page titles, tags, key words, alt-tags) are not always visible on first glance at the site. Make sure that they are there, that they are unique for each page and that they are search engine optimized.
  6. Plan for links: Link the content of your pages together. Hyperlinks is another form of site navigation and search engines like it. Also plan for other sites you want to link to or want to request a link from - good for users, good for search engines!
  7. Add analytics to your site - Google Analytics is a popular choice and ask your web developer to set it up on your site and to show you how to use it.
  8. Plan for Social Media - which of your social media would you like to integrate on your site and where? Widgets are available from most social media sites (Linkedin, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and more). This can help to keep your site fresh and interesting. Also plan for sharing options to add to the page such as RSS feeds, Email This, Tweet This, Like, comments and ratings options. One quick way to add this is by adding something like AddThis.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What are Canadians Doing Online?

Stats Canada published the following information on May 10 2010 with regard to how Canadians use the Internet at home.

Interesting that a popular use, Travel Planning, remained at the same level as two years prior, while the use for health & medical research; watching TV & Video online increased significantly as did contributing to social media activities (blogs etc.). Internet telephony increased - a trend worth watching.

The largest relative increase (2007 - 2009) in Internet usage was in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick respectively (both up by 15%).

Online activities of home Internet users
2007 2009

General browsing for fun or leisure7678
Obtain weather or road conditions7075
Research other matters (family history, parenting)7073
Search for medical or health related information5970
View news or sports6468
Electronic banking or bill payment6367
Travel information or making travel arrangements6666
Window shopping6065
Search for information about governments5157
Education, training or school work5050
Research community events4450
Order personal goods or services4550
Obtain or save music (free or paid downloads)4547
Use an instant messenger5045
Play games3942
Obtain or save software (free or paid downloads)3335
Job search3235
Listen to the radio over the Internet2832
Download or watch TV or a movie over the Internet2031
Research investments2527
Communicate with governments2627
Contribute content (blogs, photos, discussion groups)2027
Make telephone calls914
Sell goods or services (auction sites)913

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Haul Videos more Powerful than Like buttons?

ABC News recently reported on a new trend on YouTube called Haul Videos. Teenage girls, predominantly, use one of their favourite things, their web cam, to video blog (vlog) about one of their other favourite things: shopping.

Girls show off their purchases online, become YouTube stars and even attract sponsorship. The power of these "consumer reviews" by a group with tremendous retail purchasing power and influence is undeniable.

ABC News reported there to be about 110,000 haul videos currently on YouTube. Originally displaying predominantly cosmetic purchases, this has expanded to include anything from bags to shoes to clothing for their favourite pet - commenting on the quality or the purchase as they vlog along.

Even more powerful than peer reviews and like buttons, it is anticipated that marketers will be hot on the trail of this technique, canvassing user-promoters that are happy to promote their products - a second-cousin technique to mystery shopping.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

8 Tips: Listening as a Marketing Strategy

What a scramble to get on the social media bus - we tweet, update statuses, blog, comment and create. However, it is generally accepted that listening is the most effective social media marketing strategy. Here are some ideas for keeping your ear to the ground...

1. Eavesdropping on Twitter - Twitter Search

Twitter Search is ideal for finding out what is being said. No Twitter account is needed - just enter the search term in the search window on twitter.com to find out what others are saying about your topic.

2. Follow #Hash Tags & Monitor Search Terms

The so-called “hash-tag” that prefaces certain terms clusters conversations that include this tag on Twitter as belonging together. At conferences hash-tagged phrases often spring up spontaneously (such as #TedX) to cluster anything being said about this event.

A recent fun example was #doyletweets and #doylequotes, used to tweet about the Republic of Doyle. Doyle fans would tweet comments out about the episode while watching - a search of #doyletweets lets you in on the conversation.

Find a community that talks about topics you are interested in. Twitter Search will point you in the right direction. If you use a tool such as TweetDeck, set up columns for your favourite search terms or hash tags. One of mine is the town of Twillingate - every time there is a Tweet about "Twillingate", it is picked up in my "Search: Twillingate" column. This morning I was saved a speeding fine by a kind tweeter alerting me to a speed trap along the way #Twillingate. Catch negative comments about your business quickly and respond, or pick up on a business opportunity and follow the lead.

3. Follow Industry Leaders

Another technique for listening in on my favourite topics, is to search for authors of my favourite business books on Twitter. A few of my favourite Tweeps are authors @shelisrael (Twitterville), @tompeters (Thriving on Chaos), @anthonyrobbins (Unlimited Power) and @charleneli (Groundswell). Add a comment to share yours...

4. Plug into the Local Community

In our local tourism industry you may want to eavesdrop on what @nltweets (Dpt. of Tourism), @centralNL (Central Destination Marketing Organization) or @DestinationSJ (Destination St. John’s) are saying. Visit their pages (twitter.com/nltweets etc.) if you do not have a Twitter account, or follow them once you are logged in.

Follow @ryansnoddon to get the local weather report even before the weather office does! Each community has its tweet elite.

5. Follow the buzz on Facebook, YouTube or Linkedin

You have a Facebook page for your business? Great! So, what is more important… what you are saying or what “they” are posting? Comments and contributions from others become gold in your research. Why spend millions on research if you could merely eavesdrop on the conversation in your community. Here are some ways to engage your audience...

Have you ever searched for topics of interest on Facebook or Linkedin? Pages and groups reveal much through the conversation that is happening. Outsider comments on your own blog posts or photos are equally useful. While creating content is a good start, engagement and conversation are invaluable. It takes good fuel to start a fire - ask open-ended questions or throw out a provocative statement.

6. Get Google Alerts

Heard of Google Alerts? Let Google do the listening for you... Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. It is as simple as going to Google Alerts once you have logged into your Gmail account and entering the words or phrases you wish to monitor. A regular report will be delivered into your email account. Want to be alerted when something is said about your business or product? Set up an alert - Google sends be a daily email about where the phrase Digital Daisy is used on the Internet.

7. Keep Your Eye on Your Web Stats

A place with much hidden treasure is often overlooked. If a web site has stats such as Google Analytics, you can most likely see from those stats, which words were typed into search engines to bring them to your site. This provides an indication of what potential customers are looking for.

8. Listening to the gurus

Even though I facilitate online marketing workshops and develop strategies for clients, I never fail to learn something new when attending someone else’s workshops. Listening to others in your field of business – a workshop, a conference, a mastermind group or simply a phone call can provide great market research. "Two ears, one yapper" someone recently tweeted... for good reason.

7 Essential Social Media Instincts for Small Businesses

Small business owners see both the opportunity in social media and at the same time grapple with a successful strategy for using it. I found this useful article by Rohit Bhargava that captures solutions well.

Rohit says "being good with social media has very little to do with your technical ability." (big relief eh!) Essentially he makes these points - please read his full post for the entire picture...
  1. Be conversational
  2. Listen and respond
  3. Proactively comment and share
  4. Use questions in stead of statements
  5. Find groups and participate with those who share your passion
  6. Complement social media by meeting people - there is no substitute for knowing people in person
  7. Invoke good karma by genuinely helping, supporting and sharing with others
To this I would add: Find your topic and style and stick to it. This is a way to create followers that are loyal because they know what to expect from you - just like a good friend would.

I recommend Rohit's Influential Marketing blog for information about online marketing that is actually useful to business owners.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bookmark this: Social Media Workshop June 1

It is exciting to announce our first mini conference on Social Media. Sarah Stoodley agreed to do a presentation on Twitter - sharing strategies learned as the official Tweeter for Memorial University (@memorialu).
Sarah is such a vivacious presenter and has a host of real life examples that she draws from.

John Feltham will present a few of the exciting case studies that he has worked on. John played a significant role in creating an initial Social Media plan for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, did it again last year for Targa Newfoundland and more recently for Ruckus on the Edge - the week long music fest that accompanied the 2010 Juno Awards.

I am pleased to be co-presenting with these two leading edge social media marketers and will draw on my experience in business to make sure the content is focused on entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses.

Check out more information about the One-day Social Media Intensive and register online to ensure you get your seat. We are keeping the groups small so that there are lots of opportunities to share information.

And I'll be amiss not to mention the lovely venue - Myx Meeting Centre - and chef Denise's amazing cooking! (Yes, breakfast, lunch and refreshments!)

Register for One-Day Social Media Intensive in St. John's Newfoundland & Labrador,   on Eventbrite