Branding your business can be difficult. Twitter is a great tool to help reach a wider audience. However many of the twitter applications that make twitter easier to manage also steal some of your thunder. Many of these applications for twitter put a link back to their site at the bottom of your tweet. Thanks to my friend Dean Hunt, I found a twitter application called Tweet Brand by Market Me Tweet that lets you take that link back!
Tammy Fenell, co-creator of Tweet Brand and Market Me Tweet and I met up for a brief interview to let you in on how you can use this twitter tool for marketing your business and take those links back on your twitter page. She also shared with me some of the future of Tweet Brand and Market Me Tweet and what we can look forward to.
Here is a link to pick up this great tool absolutely free. It only took me a few minutes to set up!
I know, how can I use the word ugly when referring to flash? Well flash is not ugly – it is truly awesome. My goal is to help with business web basics. I want businesses to carefully choose when to use flash and understand why it might not be the best choice.
Flash-based sites have truly improved over the years, and as Macromedia continues to rock out with super cool and trendy features, there will be more attraction to use flash sites for businesses.
Google Analytics can even track a Flash based site. There was a time when no one even considered that! However, Flash based sites have been disputed in regards to Search Engine Optimization. So, here it is as I see it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Flash’s Action script has almost unlimited possibilities! Games, cool movie trailers, video advertisements, banner ads are showing up when we do a daily search and are creating followings. I loved the “Elf Yourself” from Staples. Everyone sent me that e-mail! Programmers are using Flash to create these interactive, addictive internet phenomenons. There are Flash based items like cool inquiry forms to user friendly Flash-based games. From a link building standpoint or an interactive internet visit, Flash is better than good it is GREAT!
If you have a Flash website, it will work with any browser. This is a great benefit because a CSS site, or template site, or other types of sites, have to be cross checked in various browser platforms. Once a Flash website is finished it will look the same on every computer…that is IF the user has a Flash Player installed.
If you want to brand a message in an effective manner – like using animation, or video with text, Flash is a great option because it is vector based which means the file size is smaller unlike a movie file, which is HUGE! Smaller files make quicker downloads.
Ok – enough about the good. Here is the BAD.
Getting a Flash Player:
Do not kid yourself by thinking everyone has one because they do not. So if they land at your awesome Flash website but can’t see it until they download a Flash player, YOU risk losing that customer!
I think that is pretty bad – but it gets worse…
You have to put an outgoing link on your business website directing the user where to go get a Flash player. So the visitor has landed at your site and you ask them to leave, go get a Flash player, THEN they have to download the player – let’s hope it works – BUT WAIT what else do they have to do? They have to INSTALL the player. Pretty Bad right!
By this time you have lost some of your traffic – I promise you not all people want to see your site so bad they will go through all these steps!
Now the Ugly:
It is VERY HARD to rank a website that was built with Flash. Your website is all graphics so there is not any “text” on the page. Search Engines will not be able to index your content. So you have an AWESOME website but the “keywords” you want to rank for you can’t. Now I think this is ugly. Really ugly.
I want to say this – if you choose to have a Flash site for fun, or as a community playground, or as a viral interactive application – go for it! BUT… if you want to give your business the best opportunity to have keywords rank in a search engine. Go another route! If you have a DEVOTED Flash programmer, that has come up with creative options to have text be in the html great, try it out but why when you can start right from the beginning!
Can it get any uglier? Well yes it can. If you go with a business Flash website your visitors will face they ultimate killer with websites…
If I have to wait – I hit the back button. Most users do not like to wait. So even if they already have a Flash player, how long will it take to download your site? Trust me even if you have your website hosted at the fastest server in the world – it does not matter.
It depends on the users ability to get it. I know you are thinking “doesn’t everyone have cable or DSL?” No, they don’t. Even if they do you are thinking all is right in their world to download your whole website.
Look at one of the largest sites in the world – Google. They distribute Flash ads but they do not have a Flash website. Yahoo – same thing.
So – I think I gave tons of Good, Bad and the Ugly.
You choose – I say only use Flash if you do not care about driving traffic. Like an art gallery for example. They can have a great html website then have their gallery pictures available in a flash movie as an OPTION for the user to see. Or a health spa can have a CSS and html website that loads very, very fast with tons of navigation and one option is a Flash movie of their treatment rooms.
This gives the VISITOR information AND allows them to CHOOSE to see the Flash content.
Yes you can and it is simple… you reduce load time through image, audio, and video optimization!
I live in the United States and even though more and more Internet users switch to broadband every year, a large portion of the web’s population is still running on a good old dialup connection. So… we can NOT count them out of the equation when designing your website, and a very major consideration we have to make for dialup users is the loading time of your website. Although I have a lickity split Internet connection I have still had clients whose website’s load time is slow even for myself.
The text on your website will be loaded in a very short time even on a dialup connection. I want to be clear that I mean actual “text” not a graphic that looks like text! The main cause of slow-loading sites is usually large images, audio files, or videos on your website, and it is very important to strike a delicate balance between using just enough of these features to attract your users and not to bog down the overall loading time of your site.
I truly suggest you simply go to great lengths and optimize every image, audio, and video file on your site to make sure it loads in the least time possible. How is this done? Hoe is it simple? Well…, every webmaster has access to software that handles these issues. So… if you have a full time webmaster and they do not have the software to fix these issues – buy them the software, why buy it – so if the webmaster leaves and the next one comes in they have it as they continue to ad to your site. Now, if you outsource for your webmaster, they should already have this kind of software. If for any reason they do not – I would question their abilities!
There are many FREE programs online that resize images. Search for Image Resizer better yet search for FREE Image Resizer. I suggest you start the search with PC or Mac depending on the type of computer you use. I like JPEG or PNG over GIF files, they all work BUT I have seen images compromised with GIF.
As far as audio files… this is a compression and bit rate factor. If you do not know about audio – have your Webmaster do this for you! I usually use 16 kps. I find the quality is just fine over the Internet.
Video files usually involve conversion to a format such as flash. I caution you on long flash files!!! Once the conversion is made the compression rates need to be set. Again unless this is something you are familiar with – let your Webmaster handle.
Once an image file, an audio file, or a video file is on your site. Be sure when you hover over the file you visually “see the name” this is a form of “labeling” your file AND “optimizing”, in the html code it is called ALT tags.
Reflecting on the last year before the New Year Comes is a good metaphor with web strategies. Always looking at what works and what does not work. Get rid of the old and fly with the new!
Your website is where your online business web presence resides — it’s like the headquarters of your company for the entire world to see – in digital format. First impressions mean a lot when meeting someone for the first time and when your customer lands on one of your web pages, it is the first time they are meeting you, so you and your company need to make a GREAT first impression!!!
So to have great first impression it is important to practice good design principles. It is the business owner’s responsibility to make sure the right Webmaster is in place!
Let’s review some business web basic strategies that most company websites aspire to achieve.
1) That the website reaches out to the maximum number of visitors and sells to as many people as possible.
2) That the website has clear navigation. The navigation menu should be very easy to use so that visitors know how to navigate around your website without confusion.
3) Make your site load quickly! Any image on your website MUST be optimized! Slow loading sites make visitors leave.
4) Keep customers on your site. Content on a page should have paragraphs that have a reasonable length. If a paragraph is too long, it will deter visitors from reading your content. This means they do not stay – they go to a more “user friendly” website.
5) Make sure your website is cross-browser compatible. This is a simple step that when not taken will cause your company to lose out on a lot of prospective visitors.
The cookies keep Santa coming back year after year
A lot of successful websites depend on returning visitors to account for a major part of their traffic. The site creates credibility and the “fear” issue of is this site “good” just melts away. Returning visitors are easier to convert into paying customers because the more often they return to a site, the more trust they have in that site. So here are some ideas to keep your visitors coming back.
1) Start a blog
A blog is like keeping an online journal. It is a place where you can freely write about your company, your employees, your products, and many other types of information that you think your customers would appreciate reading about. The most important piece of a blog is to keep it updated with latest news about your topics. Human beings are curious creatures and they will keep their eyes glued to the monitor if you post fresh news frequently. Posting (simple term for writing) regularly on a blog will build up your credibility as you are proving to your readers that there is a real life person behind the website curtain.
2) Carry out polls or surveys
Polls and surveys are offer additional forms of interaction with users in a website. It is a simple and easy option to get information to your users or to get information from your users. Surveys and polls provide a quick way for visitors to voice their opinions and to get involved in your website. The results from polls or surveys can be published in an article. Publishing the results accomplishes two things, it gives you the website owner fresh content, and it encourages the visitor to come back and see the results! Remember to use polls or surveys that are relevant to the target market of your website.
3) Update your site frequently with fresh content
Update your site frequently with fresh content so that every time your visitors come back, they will have something new to read on your site. New and fresh information is the most widely known and most effective method of attracting returning visitors. Do not get confused and think this means to “update your content” this means to “add NEW content” to your website! Do not blame your webmaster (unless your webmaster also writes your content) if you do not have regular content added to your site. Don’t be lazy – write content – or hire a content writer. A simple trick is this, write content for 365 pages, then ask your webmaster to post one each day. Now that would be GREAT for your site! Visitors do not want to browse a site that looks the same year after year, day after day, so keep your site updated with fresh info!
4) Host a forum or have a chatroom
When you host a forum or have a chatroom, you are providing your visitors a place to voice their opinions and interact with their peers — all of them are visitors of your site. As conversations build up, a sense of community usually follows and visitors want to come back to your site regularly. The reason I say forum or chat room is not meant to be separate, you can have both. So people prefer to engage in posting questions or problems and reading results. A forum keeps threads of conversations (basically a digital record) so many people can get involved. A chatroom is usually just for the present. You log in and speak with who is there. Friends meet and they then schedule times to chat. Great ways of interaction on a website.
5) Hold puzzles, quizzes and games
Just imagine how many office workers procrastinate at work every day, and you will be able to gauge how many people will keep visiting your site if you provide a very interesting or addicting way of entertainment. You can also hold competitions to award the high score winner to keep people trying continuously to earn the prize. Be careful for sweepstakes, there are legal issues that vary state to state. Anything that holds someone’s attention will keep them coming back!
6) Offer bookmarks
Offering bookmarks is a great way to encourage a visitor to not only visit your website again but to “save it” by book marking the page. Most browsers allow a visitor to bookmark a page by adding it to their favorites category. Having this option on every page can actually have a visitor bookmark more than one page. A bookmark can be to an internal web page not just the home page. Bookmarks are good and customers use them!
When it comes to your website, extra attention should be paid to every detail to make sure it performs optimally and serves its purpose. Here are seven important items to observe to make sure your website performs well.
1) Naughty – Do not use splash pages…
Splash pages normally have a very beautiful image with words like “welcome” or “click here to enter”. In fact, they are just that — pretty pages with no real purpose, or content. Do not let your visitors have a reason to click on the “back” button! Give them the value of your site up front without the splash page. Say what you want on the page they land on!
2) Naughty – Do not use excessive banner advertisements
Even the least net savvy people have trained themselves to ignore banner advertisements so you could waste valuable website real estate. Instead, provide valuable content and weave relevant links into your content, and let your visitors feel that they want to buy instead of being pushed to buy. Use banner placements that accentuate your products in a tasteful way.
3) Nice – Have a simple and clear navigation
Provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors don’t know how to navigate, they will leave your site.
4) Nice – Have a clear indication of where the user is
When visitors are deeply engrossed in browsing your site, make sure they know which part of the site they are in at that moment. That way, they will be able to browse relevant information or navigate to any section of the site easily. Don’t confuse your visitors because confusion means “abandon ship”! Many visitors like to simply “go back”; unfortunately some websites do not allow this.
5) Naughty and Nice – Using audio on your site
If your visitor is going to stay a long time at your site, reading your content, you will want to make sure they’re not annoyed by some audio playing on and on and on and on… you get it I am sure! If you add audio, make sure the user has control over it. Ideally the user will be able to click a “play” button if they want to hear the audio, and they will be able to adjust the volume.