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Why should small business owners read this blog?

Nowadays, a website is pretty much essential for any business but as I said last week, today's business operators need more than just a website if they're going to successfully reach their customers AND beat their competition - they're going to need knowledge. Some of the variety of options to consider as part of a complete online web presence include:

If the Internet is not your core business, you could be forgiven for finding all of this quite overwhelming. Where do you start, and what do you do next?

If your company is large, you could probably afford to hire someone like me, full-time, to handle all this online stuff for you, but small business operators usually don't have the budget for that. That leaves small business operators with a few choices:

  1. Do It Yourself (which can take hours away from your core business if you don't know where to begin).
  2. Get your 16 year old nephew to do it for you (chances are he may understand the technology but probably not the business perspective).
  3. Pay a consultant (quite likely to get done properly, but may end up costing a lot if you don't understand what's required in the first place).
  4. Pretend that this whole "Internet" thing just doesn't exist, and ignore it (not recommended).

Provided you're considering one of the first three options, it never hurts to come to the table armed with some basic knowledge. Unfortunately there's just too much information on the Internet now, and sometimes one page directly contradicts another, so how do you know who or what to believe? Who has the time or the inclination to sit there scouring through all that information anyway?!

Well, as it happens... I do. :-) During my years on the Internet, and in IT management, and setting up and running my own small business, and studying Internet Communications, I've picked up lots of interesting ideas and learned many tips and tricks on the best ways to get things done. So please consider this blog my gift to you. :-) 

Joomla 1.5x is approaching end of life

joomla_logoJoomla! have recently upgraded Joomla.org to version 2.5x. They have previously announced that version 1.5x will reach end of life sometime this year, although not before September 2012.

When a version of software reaches end of life, it means that official support for that version stops and usually, as a flow-on effect, people who have written components/modules/plugins for that version will also stop creating/supporting their own software versions not long after.

Having said that, some people are still successfully running Joomla 1.0x websites (which reached end of life in July 2009) so just because your website is 1.5x, doesn't mean you need to rush to upgrade it immediately. But it's definitely something to keep in mind for the future. Here's why:

  1. Problems may arise over time as underlying hardware, operating systems and software are upgraded to newer versions. For instance, most webhosts nowadays run PHP5.3, which is the underlying code that Joomla! runs on. But "old Joomla" was written for earlier PHP versions, and they won't work 100% effectively on a server running PHP5.3. Sometimes it's possible to perform minor hacks to force a site to keep functioning, but it isn't a happy relationship. So when a webhost installs a new, faster, bigger hosting server and moves all of the hosting accounts across to this new server, sometimes old websites will break and sometimes, they can't be fixed.

  2. Browsers. Every web browser renders websites slightly differently, and newer browser versions are designed to read websites coded in a particular way. Old websites couldn't be tested in newer browsers, so sometimes a new browser version will render your old website incorrectly. It may be difficult to find a fix when your old website's code is no longer supported.

  3. Smartphones and tablets. Websites don't magically just work on a smartphone or a tablet. Many older websites utilised Flash, which Apple don't like (and newer Android will soon also not like), so anything Flash won't even be visible. And newer, smartphone views of a website is actually a separate set of code that somebody has created, that force the content to display in a smartphone-friendly way. In a Joomla! website, this is built into the template. Template-creators have really only started doing this in the last year or 2.

  4. Social media connectivity. Really, you're not doing yourself any favours these days if you don't at least have a Facebook Page for your business. And you want to be able to add all those fancy buttons and feeds to your existing website, to show how social-media-savvy you are. Problem is, a lot of the time nobody had written nice modules to do that, back when your website was created.

If you decide it's time for an upgrade, you know where to find me. :-) 

Creating a custom URL for your business Facebook Page

So you've created your business Facebook Page and sent the link to all your friends and colleagues and asked them to "Like" it - right?  Good. :-)

Next you decide to add the Facebook address to your branding, along with your normal website URL. And suddenly you realise - instead of a nice, neat www.facebook.com/WebSolutionZau, you have something that looks like this:

             http://www.facebook.com/pages/<page-name>/<random-number>

So how you do get a nice, neat custom URL for your business Page?

Well, the quickest way is to visit this page to register what Facebook refers to as a username:

http://www.facebook.com/username

Select the Page you administer, type in the username you'd like your Page to have, and click on Check Availability. Once you find an appropriate name, register it. Done! :-)

Facebook provide a Help page here, with some answers to common questions.  I suggest you read it before you select your name.  Remember - you can only change your Page username ONCE and then it's yours forever, so choose carefully.

Don't have a Facebook Page yet?  Visit here to get started. Good luck! :-)

 

Creating your own blog

 Ever thought about creating a blog? It's not that hard! Two of the most popular blog tools are Blogger, which I use, or you could also try Wordpress. Or just try searching for "blog" in your favourite search engine. Sign up and away you go!

This study period I'm studying Web Publishing, which is primarily about blogging and I found a couple of this week's readings really useful for thinking about how to present items for my own blog, so I thought I'd post a link to them here. Happy blogging!

Blood, R. (2002). Weblog Ethics. In The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Perseus.
Available: http://www.rebeccablood.net/handbook/excerpts/weblog_ethics.html

Rowse, D. (2008). Nine Signs of an Effective Blog Post. Retrieved September 9th, 2009, from http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/07/10/nine-signs-of-an-effective-blog-post/.

Simple ways to promote your website

I'm often asked "now that I've got a website - what should I do next?"

The best way to promote your business online, is to get your website as high as possible on search engines (ie. Google or Bing). But this isn't easy, because everybody wants to be on Page 1.

Google uses over 200 fancy algorithms to determine where websites appear on their search engine results, and nobody really knows exactly what they all are because Google keeps them secret. However, Google's goal is to provide the best results for people who perform searches, and they value good, original content over dodgy tricks. So if an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) company contacts you and makes fast/cheap promises about Page 1, it would pay to do some research before immediately signing on.

WebSolutionZ can assist with basic SEO but if you want full-service SEO (ie ongoing monitoring and tweaking) then there are specific SEO companies that have the expertise, resources and time to do it properly. However, there are a couple of ways you can help yourself.

First, make sure they know you're there! You can submit your URL to Google here, and Bing here. This lets the bots know to come and visit you, which usually takes a few days. If you've updated your website recently, it doesn't hurt to let the bots know.

The next best way to get noticed is to use social media. If you've done a project with WebSolutionZ, we've already done this but in case you need assistance, please click here.

Next, list your website on some directory sites. Here are some free Australian directories that may be worth a look. There are obviously hundreds and it pays to be discerning - if Google doesn't like a directory then your site may be better off without!

http://www.hotfrog.com.au
http://www.startlocal.com.au
http://www.aussieweb.com.au
http://www.banyulebusiness.com.au/ (this is my local council and I think you need to live here to register, but check your local council for similar)

Obviously you can also pay to add your website address to some paid sites. Make sure you investigate the costs etc. carefully, to ensure you're getting the "most bang for your buck".

Got questions? Feel free to drop me a line. :-) 

2012 American Media Mom Report, And What It Might Mean For Your Business

A report was released this week in the United States by Nielsen and BabyCenter entitled 2012 American Media Mom, which has basically found that mothers are now multi-tasking, technological geniuses. Well, as a multi-tasking technological Mum, that's my take on it anyway! In all seriousness, this doesn't surprise me - the number of enquiries I get nowadays from Mums wanting a website has increased quite substantially since I first started doing this in 2006.

So what? Well, information like this is also worth considering when marketing your own business. For instance, the report says mothers spend an average of 66 hours per month online - 66 hours! And that compared to the general population, mothers are 38% more likely to own an Internet TV device, 28% more likely to use a tablet and 38% more likely to own a smartphone. At the same time, a greater percentage of mothers say that they now spend less time with live TV and radio than they did three years ago.

What does all this mean? Well, if your target market is the Mother-hood, it means a few things:

  1. Mothers are 58% more likely to shop via a mobile phone than the general population. So if you don't have a mobile-enabled website, you may be missing out on connecting with your audience.
  2. 40% of mothers go online while watching TV, and 75% try to skip through the ads. So if you've been advertising on traditional TV or radio, this alone may not be the most effective way to reach your market going forward.
  3. Mothers are 45% more likely than the general population to use social media. So if your business is not on Facebook and Twitter yet, you should definitely consider it.
  4. Mothers spend 63% more time streaming online video than the general population. So it may be worth considering YouTube as a part of your marketing plan, depending on your business type.

Very interesting report! Definitely worth a read. There's also a bunch of other statistics about how Mums are using their mobile phones for a whole range of things like price comparisons. So if you're not already considering Mums as a sizeable target market in the first place, then you should be. And if you are, then hopefully this report and my analysis will help you to clarify your own direction a bit. :-) 

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