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October 2006
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Choosing the Right Online Market

Yesterday I went out with one of my good friends for dinner.  We discussed possibilities for creating additional revenue streams. My friend is already doing well with one of his side businesses.  He's known as "The Gumball King!" The King wants to expand his empire with other business ideas.  As always I pushed my online agenda.  One thing I mentioned was that he needs to choose the right market before expanding his ambitions.

Ken McCarthy, an online marketing guru, makes an excellent point when it comes to choosing the right market.  Success for many online businesses comes down to one simple thing. Are you choosing the right market?  Mr. McCarthy stresses that the right market should also be an easy market.

Ken McCarthy's list for an easy market:

  1. Easy to reach
  2. They have a burning desire for what you have to offer
  3. Based on past behavior a willingness to spend money on what you have to offer

If your online market exemplifies the above characteristics you should be in for a much easier journey.  Too many people fail the day they start their online business because they choose the wrong market.

The most immediate example I can think of is the fast food industry. Millions of dollars have been spent to ensure my brain associates fast food with McDonald's.  Yes, there are a number of other companies.  But unless you have very deep pockets, it is going to be very difficult to compete with all the fast food chains that are already established.

Are you in an easy market?

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Are You Targeting The Correct Search Keywords?

People always ask me about keyword research and why it is important to their web site.  Not targeting keywords and optimizing for those terms is a missed opportunity at getting more targeted traffic to your site. You start most SEO projects with basic keyword research.  It involves finding terms that relate to your web site or product and to what extent those terms are searched on search engines.  You optimize for those terms in your title tags and body copy. 

Many companies misunderstand or overlook keyword research.  Sites that rank well in search engines are targeting and optimizing for a set of keywords.  Some of the most successful companies online target specific niche markets. Keyword research is also an ongoing process. You can't just do it once and forget about it.

Are you targeting the right keywords for your web site? There are a number of web sites and companies who choose to target the wrong keywords or not target at all.  This isn't intentional, but most likely because of a lack of knowledge.  I know of one major US Corporation that is missing massive opportunities because they are targeting the wrong keywords.  They are missing out on millions of dollars in potential sales.

Continue reading "Are You Targeting The Correct Search Keywords?" »


Thomas Edison & Highly Successful People

This article is based on Michael Michalko’s research into the creative thinking exemplified by Thomas Edison. Mr. Michalko is one of the world's foremost experts on creative thinking.

Try, Try Again . . .
Would you be willing to try something thousands of times to make your web site or business successful?
If Thomas Edison was still around today he wouldn’t flinch at making that many mistakes with his business, event, or online endeavors. If you want to be successful online, focus on being tenacious and determined. Where you start and where you end up are usually worlds apart . . .

"Thomas Edison, while pondering how to make a carbon filament, was mindlessly toying with a piece of putty, turning and twisting it in his fingers, when he looked down at his hands, the answer hit him between the eyes: twist the carbon like rope.

B.F. Skinner summarized a first principle of scientific methodologists: when you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. Too many fail to answer opportunity's knock at the door because they have to finish some preconceived plan. Creative geniuses do not wait for the gifts of chance; instead, they actively seek the accidental discovery."

Michalko, p 228, Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius

Far From Perfect
Edison was considered a genius, hence most people don’t think they’re capable of the same level of thinking.  In fact, Thomas Edison never had a true formal education (didn't go to university), most likely had ADD, and was almost completely deaf in one ear.  What separated Edison form other people was his creativity, tenacity, and approach to problem solving. You don't need to be a genius to try something multiple times.

Young Thomas Edison The Edisonian Methodology
Thomas Edison’s methodology falls directly inline with the biggest  internet success fundamentals.  Try as many times as it takes until you achieve your online goal. If you don’t succeed analyze the failure and try it another way.  Most people respond with “I won’t waste my time trying to figure this out” or the classic, “I don’t have the time.” Those simple statements separate the successful people from the unsuccessful online and elsewhere.

You can try many things with your web site that don’t cost you any additional money, just time. Take a lesson from Edison's methodology: “You can only fail at something so many times before you are successful.” There aren't mistakes, only lessons to be learned.

My personal friends, who are doing amazingly well online didn’t get it right the first time or after the hundredth time. They stuck at it - Focus on being tenacious and determined.  One friend gets over 40,000 visitors a day to his web site. On his best day he’ll pull 60,000 visitors.  Another successful friend sells t-shirts online and converts leads at a rate of over 30%.  The t-shirt business is a highly competitive online market. Their success didn't come overnight. It took years to get both their web sites where they are today.

Be tenacious and determined with everything you do in life!

Additional Resources:

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Event Marketing and Search Engines

My involvement on both sides of the air show industry, performing and producing, has taught me a great deal about event marketing. Specifically how user search for a given event online.  Traditional advertising and brand awareness definitely come into play.  But for users who lack brand awareness or aren't in a local advertising market, the ability to search and locate information online is a critical.

Make Finding Information About Your Event Easy
One particular event this year illustrated the frustration users can endure.  A few days before leaving for the event, I went online to try and find out who else would be performing at the air show.  My first stop was the search engines.  I tried standards search terms and some abstract search terms.  In the end I couldn't find any information on the event.  My total time searching had been about 30 minutes and no information to be found.  It was a very frustrating experience. They had a web site, unfortunately you couldn't find it in the search engines.

Is Your Site Easy to Find in Search Engines?
One of the first places any users looks to find information about your event is search engines.  The following advice is predicated on you having a web site for your event. At the top level people will typically search for the type of event (air show) and location (Rochester).  Secondary search terms include your event's main attraction (Snowbirds, Thunderbirds, Canadian Harvards) and event performers (Sean Tucker). I believe the same methodology can be applied to most event marketing. Never work from the assumption that because you have a web site you are easy to find.

Look At Your Log Files
If you have a web site that has been up for at least one subsequent event, analyze your server log files
. This is the single best place to find keywords people are using to locate you online. Concentrate on finding the top search phrases and keywords and optimize for those terms.  At the same time don't discount relevant search terms that might not be in your log files.  Always be on the lookout for good keywords.

Not every event is branded or advertised outside local markets.  People looking to attend your event are looking for information online.  Make sure information for your event is easy to find.  Optimizing for search engines is one of your best forms of low cost or free advertising.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Online Video Explosion

It seems like many people are jumping on the online video bandwagon.   With Google's recent purchase of YouTube more people are looking to integrate video in to their web site.  As with everything else in life, with every virtue comes a vice.  There are a number of things you should consider before using video on your web site.

Wilbur_small_1The virtuous side of video is that almost anyone can easily post their videos online.  In years past video production was a very expensive process.  Today people with camera phones are capturing video and quickly posting it online.  Video allows you to easily present messages in different ways.  A number of companies and organizations are pushing online video through their web sites.  You can show your users or potential consumers something that words might not always be able to convey.  Video also allows you to pass along sound and music with your imagery.  George Lucas, states it best: "sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie."

How can video be a vice?  With so much video going online very little of it is high quality content.  The quality has nothing to do with how nice the video looks, but the quality of the information you convey.  The more time passes, the more low quality video makes it online.  How many times have you sat through a two minute video and found it to be a complete waste of time?

Use video responsibly.  If you are going to post video on your web site make sure it relates to what you are trying to convey on your site and to your target market.  Tease people with your videos.  There is a reason why movie trailers are only a minute or two long.  They want to get you wrapped up in something without boring you or giving too much away.  Many people forget to optimize their online video presentations. They'll post large files that take a while to download even with broadband connections.

Take a look at how YouTube.com presents video.  After you select a video to watch, featured video is presented in the main window with related videos (presented as static images) off to the right.  You don't want to overload your user with options. An example of information overload can be found at: http://www.dosomethingamazing.com/. The videos are nice but presented poorly.  They are task saturating the users as soon as the home page loads with sound and video.

Online video is here to stay. Make sure you use it tastefully and responsibly. One of the most important things to remember is because you can have video on your site doesn't mean you need to have video.  You can create highly effective messaging with words and pictures. Some of the most effective messaging comes courtesy of the written word.  Make sure you don't load your site up video just so you can say you have video.


The Mobile Web Experience

Today is a quick overview of my brief mobile web and smart phone experience.   Yesterday I decided to upgrade my LG phone to the Motorola Q.  The first few hours were quite the experience.  I'll delve into some simple points about smart phones and designing for the mobile web.

It all started with holding for customer service to for an hour and a half.  I was having an issue restoring my contact list. For whatever reason they inadvertently hung up on me three times.  In the end, a nice gentleman was finally able to straighten me out.  All I was looking for was an honest answer. Not someone telling me "you're doing something wrong."  It shouldn't be this difficult for a geek!

Here is the big point for today: I've been hearing for years about how the mobile web is going to explode and that everyone should jump on board.  This day is eventually coming, but I think we still have a way to go. 

Companies are pushing "up to near broadband speed." with specialized service. Unless you are standing outside next to the cell tower with perfect atmospheric conditions, you won't be getting anything near broadband.  Only one person from the company I have service with has actually admitted to me that the technology is far from perfect.  And I'm not expecting perfect. But I do expect you to deliver something close to the service you advertise for your company.  There is a good article on 37signals.com that addresses my I've had it up to here with "up to" issue.

There is still a learning curve for me to figure out how to surf the web with my phone. But given my personal experience it should have been a bit easier.  Most sites don't render properly because they weren't designed to be displayed on mobile phones.  I fully understand that.  The easiest sites to access were those sites that were primarily HTML based. 

If you are designing for the web, especially the mobile web, keep it simple!  Use a sub domain: mobile.mywebsite.com or redirect users to a mobile optimized page of your site. It should contain more HTML text that images. I don't recommend Flash or video within your mobile pages. Mobile  Flash content delivery is very archaic. The big companies are pushing their own technologies via their networks for video.  I have yet to see a personal site or small business site that delivers quality video to mobile phones. There is a reason why everyone likes big computer monitors!

The new generation of smart phones are best suited for the power users.  If you are looking to purchase a smart phone they do have their limitations.  Surfing the not mobile web is very tedious. Email and messaging seem to work the best. Do you homework on which phone might best suit you.

The mobile web is still waiting in the wings.  If you don't need a smart phone, I would recommend staying away for a while. Good luck!

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Why Create High Quality Content?

In a previous article I explored Jakob Nielsen's HOME RUN acronym. In this article we'll look more closely at the High Quality Content portion of HOME RUN.  Two very important things to consider regarding content is how the content relates to the user and how content is viewed by search engines.

The biggest reason to create high quality content is for your users.  Ask yourself this question: "How often would you revisit a web site that is never updated or has nothing that is interesting to you?" I'm guessing never. Always think in terms of the user experience and what you can offer.   

he most popular web sites give users exactly what they want in terms of content.
Those same sites keep users coming back by offering high quality content on a regular basis.  You need to do the same with your web site.  Most of your content should take the form of HTML text. Write specifically for your audience, NOT for your own ego.

Continue reading "Why Create High Quality Content?" »


Location Does Not Matter (Here)

There were a few personal experiences yesterday that rekindled a strong personal business belief.  We've all heard the business phrase "location, location, location." I firmly believe the Internet allows you to operate your business from anywhere. This is one of the oldest maxims of the Web. And, I'm not saying anything most people don't already know.  I bring the point up because every once and a while we need a reminder.  If you have a business idea, look at the online possibilities.

My friends would always tell me "if you're looking to do something big in business, it isn't going to happen in Rochester, New York."  I disagree with their assessments. Most young people end up leaving the area because of a lack of opportunity in the job market.  I agree that there might be a lack of job opportunity in comparison to other cities.  This happens all over the world.  But there definitely isn't a shortage of business opportunity. 

Because of the Internet it doesn't matter where you are located.  All you need to do is have access to the Web.  I know of friends and local businesses that are doing five to six figures in revenue per month within the greater Rochester area.  They are making that sum of money through their web sites.  In many cases the revenue doesn't include their retail sales.

For today my message will be short and sweet.  With the Internet, it doesn't matter where you live.  If you play your game on the Internet you enjoy the privilege of playing by a different set of rules.  Make the most of it.

Additional Resource:
Top 10 Dumbest Online Business Ideas That Made It Big Time


Online Communication - Email and Telephone

Being able to contact a person or company is essential to any business.  It is the at the forefront of customer service. One particular deficiency that I notice on many web sites is they don't always make the contact info easy to find or upfront.  If you are doing business online, you need to make sure people can easily contact you. 

Most users will send an email before they call via telephone. Email is a quickest and easiest way to make contact, it's painless.  For some people email isn't enough.  You should always offer a telephone number where people can contact you or your business.  If someone is desperate for information or has a pressing issue it will come as a telephone call.  People call when there is a customer service or technical issue.

A great place to feature your contact information is on the home page, above the fold.  One standard location is in the mast head or header bar.  The contact info should be noticeable, yet discrete.  You can also feature a contact us page link in the navigation or footer of each page.  Doing so builds redundancy into the system and ensures people won't miss the information.  Make sure it is easy for the user to contact you.  It should be noted, based on the size of your company and privacy issues, you might not always want users to contact you directly.  In this case it is the company's discretion on what information to make public.

One particular hurdle that I find many users reacting to negatively is online contact forms.  Instead of allowing the user to contact a company directly they need to fill out a form.  I understand that the forms help companies deal with a multitude of inquiries.  But, in many cases having an email or telephone number available can resolve an issue much faster.

Communication is an essential part of any business.  You need to ensure people can quickly and easily get in contact with you.  Good contact information is essential to the user when making online purchases or the consideration of services. This also helps to build trust and credibility for your company.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

 


Missed Opportunity and Online Strategy

Most companies with a web presence never realize their full online potential. My personal belief is that a company’s web site is one of their best marketing tools. Regardless of this belief, you still need some of your marketing rooted in traditional offline advertising.  Two significant miscalculations that most companies make online are the inability to learn from their online mistakes and the refusal to try something new.

Here is an example of refusing to learn from the past.  One perspective client wasn’t keen on trying PPC advertising again.  They tried it before and it “didn’t work.”  I’m reasonably certain had the company tried another PCC campaign with conversion tracking, thoroughly researched keywords, and a new strategy, they would have been successful in the PPC arena.  They had a negative experience, but refused to take the lessons learned and try again.

Many companies refuse to try something new online.  On the net the adage of “if it is not broke, don’t try to fix it” is a terrible policy.  I know plenty of business owners who live by this motto in regards to their web site.   They refuse to change any aspect of their site.  In many cases a small change can bring great rewards.  Consider reworking your homepage or try new search keywords.  There are so many possibilities for your web site. You might discover additional revenue streams without having to spend a dime.

Another example of trying something new comes in the search arena.  Several companies ignore any type of organic search engine strategy.  They don’t have the time to build links or refuse to hire someone to create new relevant content for their site.  No matter how hard you try to sell the benefits of organic search, most companies won’t make the time or investment.  Investing in organic search can bring you traffic for your particular niche market.  The web sites that generate the most revenue are usually at the top of the search engines for certain keywords.

There are a number of companies that are perfectly positioned on the Internet to increase revenue via their web site. Doing something different online requires ideas and patience.  You don’t always need to spend additional money to learn new lessons.  Follow the path of people who have become successful online.  They all write books about it!

I encourage any company to take “baby steps” online.  Formulate a strategy and stay the course until the strategy works. If you do make a mistake or miscalculate, turn into a learning opportunity.  On the web, change is good.  If an idea doesn’t work, you can always change it back.  Sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference on the online world.

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How Web Users Navigate and Read

On the web users have a certain way they navigate and view web pages.  The two most common ways users navigate web sites is either known-item searching or surfing.  When users are on your web site they don't read every word, users scan text.  Keep these facts in mind when creating your user's experience.

Known item searching involves a user looking for very specific information.  This is typical of a user that is doing research on a product or service, or looking to make a purchase.  The process involves use of search engine to find the companies that offer a certain service or product.  Chances are that when a user visits your site they are known item searching.

Surfing is most analogous with going through a web site or series of sites with no particular purpose.  The user might jump from topic to topic and visit a variety of different sites.  It is just like channel surfing on television or the radio.  When they find something that is of interest they might stay around or go elsewhere.  Users who surf tend to be the minority online.

After getting to your site users probably aren't going to read every word. They will most likely scan the text.  The user will pick out keywords and look at dominate elements on your page.  Known-item searching comes into play with this process.  The user wants to find information online quickly and painlessly.  You can assist the user by making your copy user friendly.

Online Copywriting Tips:
Writing for the Web, Kilian

  • Group your text in chunks, 100 words in a group
  • Orient users with headlines and subheads
  • Break down information into bulleted lists
  • Don't try to impress the user with your vocabulary
  • Use simple sentences: Subject + Verb
  • Organize information into a hierarchy, use navigation as supporting tool
  • Print out the page to proofread

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Is Your Text the Right Color?

Everyone should know some fundamentals about online copywriting.  It is a very vast topic area. For today, I'll concentrate on one particular aspect: text color.  There are a plethora of web sites that aren't sticking to basic online text standards:  specifically, text color in relation to background color.

Online Reading Issues
Remember that you put significantly more strain on human eyes when reading text off a computer screen.  Unlike a book, our eye must interpret light coming from the screen. Because of this, you need to keep your text as easy to read as possible.  One of the easiest ways to ensure better readability of your site is by choosing the right text and background colors. Seems logical, right? It's amazing how often people deviate from logic!

Watch Out for RED on Dark Backgrounds
If you are using text on a light colored background, make sure that text has enough contrast.  Use dark text on a light colored background.  The same applies for dark colors.  If you have a dark colored image or web site use light colored text. The more contrast between colors, the easier it is to read.

Red_text_dark_background_2 One particular color to watch out for is red.  My understanding is the color red is difficult for the human eye to detect because of the particular spectrum of light.  (Consider the example to the right.)

Make sure you don't use red colored fonts on dark backgrounds.  Recently we had a client insist on red fonts on a dark background.  (The client's always, right ... right?) In my professional opinion, the client made a poor decision to use red text and it not only dilutes the quality of their site, but it makes it nearly impossible to read.

Always mind your text color. This applies to both online and traditional advertising. Make sure you provide your reader with text that minimizes eye strain and maximizes readability.

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Try Not To Splash Please

Years ago splash pages seemed to be all the rage.   Thankfully there are far fewer web sites that use splash pages.  But, there are several prospective customers that still request splash pages and several web sites that use splash pages.  This leads back to the all too common struggle of being cool versus useful.  Remember what motivates web users: useful information.

Here is the typical scenario when being exposed to a splash page over time. The first time you see a good splash page, it is "really cool."  The second time you load up the splash page it is "nice."  By the third time around you are looking for the "Skip Intro" button.  Hopefully there is a skip intro button. Each subsequent visit is followed by prickly comment under your breath.

My issue with splash pages is that they are usually used as a canvas for pictures and sound.  For too many graphic designers the splash page becomes an opportunity to showcase their talents.   There are some great looking splash pages that do little to enhance the user experience. Imagine if your favorite news site used a splash page before allowing you entry?  Highly trafficked news sites know that doing so would be online suicide.

Splash pages are detrimental to on site search engine optimization efforts.  Because splash pages typically include a large graphic or flash multimedia, it leaves little for the search engines to index. Remember that search engines look for HTML content to crawl. You can still rank decently with a splash pages, but it is difficult.

I have yet to come across a splash page that is really useful or enhances the marketability of a web site. Splash pages are a barrier to entry. Most people prefer to not to sit through all the commercials and trailers before seeing a movie.  It is our recommendation to avoid using splash pages altogether.  Make sure the first page to load on your site is full of useful content, not flashy introductions.


Hitting a HOME RUN with Your Web Site

When it comes to web usability, we subscribe to the concept presented by web usability expert Jakob Nielsen on the essentials in successful web sites. In his book, Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, his concept is summed up in the acronym HOME RUN. Users look for High quality content, that is Often updated, with Minimal download time, Easy to Use, is Relevant to the users needs, Unique to the to online world, and Net-centric to corporate culture.  For the purpose of this article we will concentrate on the HOME portion of the acronym.

High quality content
“Research has shown that web users generally prefer writing that is concise, easy to scan, and objective (rather than promotional) in style. We incorporated these and other attributes into a redesign of web content. Doing so required trade-offs and some hard decisions, but the results were positive. The rewritten website scored 159 percent higher than the original in measured usability. Compared with original-site users, users of the rewritten site reported higher subjective satisfaction and performed better in terms of task time, task errors, and memory.” In Applying Writing Guidelines to Web Pages - by John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen, it is established that well written content is high quality content.  Make sure your website is loaded with high quality content.

Often updated
The reason news sites are visited frequently is because they always have something new to offer. Because there is not as much information to disseminate on company web sites as news sites, releasing new and compelling content is the best way to keep people coming back to your site.  Whould you return to your favorite news site if it didn't update regularly?

Minimal download time
Your web site needs to load in the minimum amount of time. In the past, the average attention span of a web user was eight seconds. If they could not load a website in that time, users were very likely to leave that site. Try to keep your home page and individual pages under 100 KB.  Around 50% of home users have a high speed connection.  Hence, attention spans are getting shorter.  You only have a few moments to get a point across to users.  Make sure the information is at their fingertips.

Ease of use
The more information you can provide the user, the better, right? Not necessarily. Your principle tool for organizing information and making it accessible is your navigation or menu bar. I recommend keeping navigation items organized either horizontally along the top of the page or vertically along the left hand side. Make sure the information and navigation follows a logical progression.  Your navigation needs to make sense to the user.

One of your top priorities on any web site is to keep navigation consistent and above the fold. Some people might ask, “Above the fold?!?!”  This phrase comes from our friends in the newspaper business. If a newspaper is folded in half, the most important headlines and articles are found on the top half. The same is true on the web. In the case of the web, “above the fold” is the all information that appears in a user’s browser without needing to scroll down.

Make your web site easier to use by following the HOME RUN acronym.  It is the easiest way anyone can make their web site more attractive online.

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Web Centric Marketing and Marketing Leverage

The Ultimate Marketing Tool
I always find myself in a debate when I tell others that "Your web site is your most important marketing tool." That is a bold statement, and I believe it to be true.

Today, it is fairly rare to see or hear an advertisement that does not include a web site address. Is it easier to remember all the information that was given to you over the radio in 30 seconds or a simple web address?

No Commercial Interruptions
Remember, when people visit your web site their attention is focused 100% on you. There are no commercials to interrupt the "program," and most likely, they have chosen to view your site by choice. In radio and television, you are typically limited to a quick 30 to 60 second blurb.  Web sites are presented for the convenience of the user, not the convenience of the broadcaster.

Another advantage of your web site is that it is located in one place, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is available for anyone to view across the world 365 days a year.

Compare your web site to print advertising. If a piece of collateral material requires a change, you might run into significant revision costs. In most instances your online information only needs to be updated once and in only one place. Your web site also provides you with the ability to circulate information digitally. In some cases, this can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars annually on printing costs.

Traditional Advertising Is Still Important
But, don't forget that traditional advertising is still an important part of your marketing. Make sure you prominently display your web site address, so you customers always remember your address. You can have the greatest web site in the world. But if people don’t know the address, it is of little use to interested users.

Your web site is also a valuable customer service tool. It allows you to quickly collect feedback and respond in short order via email or other online tools.

Balance Online With Traditional Marketing
Web sites offer you a tremendous competitive advantage over traditional advertising
in both cost and the ability to update almost instantaneously.  Make sure you are maximizing your marketing through your web site. For all the advantages the web can offer, you still need to effectively and efficiently utilize traditional media to build awareness of your company and your web site.


The Billboard Test and Beyond

Does you Domain Name Pass the Billboard Test?

Airshow_billboard_sm When we first started designing billboards for airshows and other events, we quickly became aware of getting the message across in the shortest and most effective way possible.  The billboard methodology can be applied to almost any form of traditional advertising. 

The Magical Number Seven
Keep in mind most people won't remember specific details of your billboard the first time.  I'm a firm believer in "the Magical Number Seven." In short, you can only remember small bits of information upon your first exposure.  This has little to do with intelligence.  It is a cognitive limitation of the human brain.  In most cases we can only remember 7, plus or minus two bits of information.  As a result, keep your messaging simple.

My personal belief is that all your traditional advertising should take a web-centric emphasis.  If you can get people to visit your web site, you can pass along far more information for less money.

Emphasize Your Domain Name
The limitations of the human brain and driving 55+ MPH makes it increasingly more difficult to remember small details . . . So don't cram your billboard with a bunch of information that nobody is going to be able to remember.

When advertising for your company, service, or event: keep the domain name prominent, your message direct, and make sure it is easy to remember.  If possible, use a strong call to action and drive people to your web site.

You might want to consider dropping the "www." from the domain name.  Make sure your hosting company supports no "www." with your domain.  Here are some domain name guidelines for ensuring your billboard passes the billboard test.

Holiday_billboard_smThere are far too many billboards that clutter their message with useless information.  People won't always have traffic to carefully study your billboard. Dates, times, ticket prices, etc. are pretty much useless on a billboard.

If they remember anything from your billboard or another piece of your event marketing, make sure it is your domain name.

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Stories and Connections

Yesterday, I had a very good meeting with a prospective client.  The meeting should have gone on for 45 minutes to an hour.  Ultimately the meeting ended up being almost three hours long.  Most people would assume that a three hour meeting would be completely boring and a waste of time.  In fact it was one of the best prospective client meetings I had in a long time.  I found a mutual connection with this person because of aviation. We spent half the meeting talking about airplanes and sharing aviation stories.  In business you need to find common ground, especially when you initially meet someone.

The ability to find common ground isn't an every day event, nor is it easy.  At the start of the meeting I had no idea that the person was passionate about aviation. On my business card I have "Specializing in Airshow Web Sites" under our logo. Even for people who aren't aviation buffs, the "Airshow" line gets more unique conversation than anything else. 

According to Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends & Influence People ". . . even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15 percent of one's financial success is due to one's technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering - to personality and the ability to lead people."  Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I know personally are excellent communicators and charismatic.

Two topics I think every business student or entrepreneur should be skilled in are the ability to communicate effectively and storytelling. These skills help tremendously in building trust and creditability.  Clients want to work with vendors with whom they can relate.  Be sure you hone your communication skills. But don't forget to be a good listener, first!

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Benefits of Web Usability

In "What is Web Usability" I briefly defined usability.   Now that you know a little about web usability, let's delve into some of the benefits of web usability

Some of the biggest benefits of usability are reflective of what web site owners seek daily, traffic and conversions.  According to research by Jakob Nielsen, web sites with higher usability increase online conversion by 100% and increase the online visitor count by 150%

Any web site owner should implement some form of usability testing on their web site.  It can be as simple as getting family and friends to surf your site and getting feedback.

Users flock to sites that are simple and concise. During one web site redesign we reduced the total number of pages on a client's site by 85%.  The 100+ page web site had a tremendous amount of information, but people were not accessing all of it.  When we analyzed the server usage logs we were able to find only 5-10 pages had 90% of the traffic.   Looking at usage logs can tell you what the user finds most interesting. After we implemented the findings and reducing the size of the site, visitor traffic began to rapidly increase.

The benefits of a usable site also come into play with E-commerce web sites.  I cannot stress enough the importance of making the shopping experience as simple as possible.  There have been many E-commerce web sites that have failed because they were difficult to use.

"E-commerce sites lose almost half of their potential sales because users cannot use the site. In other words, with better usability, the average site could increase its current sales by 79% (calculated as the 44% of potential sales relative to the 56% of cases in which users currently succeed)." - Jakob Nielsen

Ensuring web usability also saves you time and money.  Usability testing allows you to determine if you are investing budget into technology with no ROI.  Too many companies dilute their message  with "bells and whistles."  Users are looking for a straightforward message that isn't hidden behind intrusive technology.  From the time perspective, you won't be investing effort that isn't beneficial to you and your company.  You are providing the user with the most direct message in the shortest period of time.

When you make your site easy to use, visitor traffic and online conversions go up. Easy to use web sites leave the user with a higher sense of trust and credibility for the site.  Trust and credibility are significant motivating factors to online buyers.  Keep your web site usable and reap the benefits.

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Face Reader

Recently, I said something that a friend took completely out of context.  My statement was a bit of a "jab," yet I did not mean anything seriously or maliciously.  Unfortunately, he was really offended by what I said. This incident was a good check into being wary of what your body language might tell someone.   It is amazing all the small cues you can pick up or give off. 

I am currently reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port.  It goes over body language and getting the right message across.

"It's More Than Just Words - The 55/38/7 Rule

There are so many different way to articulate your message.  Don't just depend on your words to do it.  How you communicate goes far beyond the spoken message. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a communications researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported in his book, Silent Messages - which was based on extensive clinical experiments on communication, attitudes, likes, and dislikes - that 55 percent of the way that people respond to you is based mostly on facial cues, 38 percent is based on your tone, and only 7 percent is based on what you say - the information you provide."

So much time can be lost in business if you aren't getting the proper message across. Always be conscientious of what your body might be telling someone else.

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Danger - Why Weak Passwords are Very BAD for You!

Today I'm checking in from lovely Kerhonkson, New York.  A quaint cove nestled in the Catskill Mountains of New York State.  The air outside is clean, crisp, and refreshing. It reminds me of Canada.  And when I think of Canada, I think of my good friend "Gnome." He is one of Canada's top ethical hackers and provides me with some of the best Internet security advice on planet Earth.

On Passwords . . .
Everyone has a password for something they do online or off.  Passwords represent the front line of defense against people who might look to access your personal or business information.  Identity theft is a very real threat. It is important to ask yourself "how secure are my passwords?"  Consider the comforting statistic below brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture:

"Your computer password is the foundation of your computer security, and it needs to stand up against the tools that hackers have for cracking it. There are 308,000,000 possible letter combinations for a six letter password using all upper case or all lower case letters. A readily available password cracker can check all of them in only 2 minutes 40 seconds."

Pretty comforting statistics, eh?  Are you using a weak password to protect your sensitive information? You need to make sure you have the best password possible.

Example of a bad passwords:

  • bob1967 (Name and birthday)
  • Blueleaf23 (Simple words and numbers)

Great, Yet Simple Password Suggestions
Gnome told me to include a space in passwords. The default setting for many automated password cracking programs don't check for spaces.  Also use nonstandard symbols such as "%, !, &" and "MiXed cAse," plus numbers.  Obviously longer passwords are more difficult to break. Doing these simple things will ensure that your passwords are significantly more secure. Be sure that the system your using can accept "spaces" or nonstandard characters.

Example of good passwords:

  • 45g-$ sd
  • 2^hu4@1p
  • ds%3D26Cr

A Password Protocol
Aside from a good password, you should also adopt a password protocol.  Other people engage in the nefarious activity of social hacking. Social hackers are individuals who misrepresent themselves as agents for various companies. This involves trying to get people to unwillingly give up their passwords. Never give out your passwords to anyone over email, telephone, or otherwise.

Keep yourself "safer" on the online world.  Use a good password for everything you do online.

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