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Monday, January 31, 2005

What is a good web page?

Today I would like to talk about fluid design. You may be wondering just what is fluid design? Well, I would like to call it as design that adjusts and accommodates depending on how your viewer is viewing your web pages on your web site.

Ultimately, the best sites are sites that genuinely care about their user’s experience when they visit the web site. What I mean by this is, you do not impose flashy graphics or force the user to create an account etc. Remember, most users are searching for information, while few want to buy something. Keeping this simple rule in mind will save you time and grief later on.

If you know your user has come to your site looking for information, why not make it easy for him/her and give that? In fac, if you provide quality information without any expectations, your credibility will go one notch higher in your users’ eyes.

However, most sites rely on heavy usage of graphics, flashy banners, animated buttons, mouse trails and colors to attract a user’s attention. This has been proven time and again it isn’t one of the best ways to grab your user’s attention. Sure, slick graphics for an advertisement in the corner of your page might pass. But think about it. How many times have you reached for the fast-forward button on your remote control when you are watching a movie and the producers are trying to “dump” you with advertisements? Don’t you think the same holds true for your web site? Believe it or not. It does.

Unless you are in the entertainment industry, use of flashy graphics, flying banners etc. tend to be out of place. Even though a web designer may suggest (perhaps even insist) on doing some of these “tricks” (more $?), you as a business owner need to seriously ask yourself; “Is my user visiting my web site because of my fancy graphics? Or because of my content/service/prodct?” The answer to that will determine where you need to focus on your web site.

Laying out content (and a few graphics) in an easy to read format may seem too simple to ask on a web page. But it doesn’t surprise me how many times you see web pages that are designed to be viewed at a specific resolution? Or on a specific browser? How many times have you heard people say, “Well, it looks good on MY browser?” What does that tell you? It says, your web designer is fixed on one type of design. It says, you don’t care how your information gets displayed to your visitors. Have you seriously thought about that? Did you even know that your web site may look different on different browsers or screen resolutions?

If this is news to you then be prepared to work a little with your web designer. In fact, in some cases you may have to switch your web designer/developer to accommodate what is being said here. Why? Because your visitors’ experience is what matters in the end.

Can this be done, you ask? Well, stay tuned for my next article(s) that will explain how this can be achieved.

Elvin Picardo
Delivering Net Results to Small Business
Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
NetMedian.com
Contact Elvin

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ensure your web site is on time and budget

A common problem that is rampant with businesses is that projects either:

a. Do not get completed on time, or
b. Provide poor visibility on completion status

Why is this? In my opinion, a project plan that is planned and executed well will alleviate most of the problems that may arise with your web development group.

But how do you go about creating a good project plan. Let me provide you some simple tips.

Start off by writing high-level tasks you will need to get your web site created. For example:

i. Conduct kick-off meeting – in 2 days
ii. Receive draft 1 of web site – 10 days after i
iii. Complete testing and provide feedback on web site – 2 days after ii
iv. Make necessary changes to web site – 4 days after iii
v. Finalize production release – 2 days after iv
vi. Launch web site

Note: this is a very high-level simplistic plan. However, you should be able to get a fair idea of what I mean. As well, after each of the tasks I have had a timeline (expected) which is linked to the previous task. I normally call this as “dependency”. Your plan may not have such dependencies in the manner that I have laid. However, it is important to identify all dependencies in your plan so you can track progress and highlight trouble spots early on.

Depending on your level of comfort (and the amount of control you would like to exercise), take each high-level task and create sub tasks that contribute to this high-level task. For example, in (i) above, I may have the following sub-tasks:

a. Identify stakeholders for meeting
b. Send meeting invitations
c. Plan agenda for meeting
d. Book meeting room/refreshments
e. Prepare handouts/material for discussion

This gets indented inside (i) above to show that they all belong to (i).

The next step to undertake is to identify the necessary resources (i.e. people who will actually do the work). Write down the names next to each task/sub task. This will instantly tell you who is doing what.

If you would like to go further, also identify the start and end dates as well as the effort it will take to do the task.

What’s the difference, you say? Well, start and end dates merely give you the duration of the task (for example 3 days), but the effort will actually tell you what it takes to do the task (for example, 6 hours). The reason it is important to identify both is so that you know what is involved in doing a particular task and when it is expected to be completed.

This will also tell you a lot more, if you would like to read into it. If I see a task like,

Prepare web design prototype – John Doe – Jan12 – Jan 16 – 5 hours

And John Doe isn’t included in any other tasks, that would tell me that either John is working on some other project, not mine or is planned to go on a holiday or something else. This would then lead me to use gentle probing questions which might flag other questions. The reason for such questions is that you get a fair idea of who is doing what on your web site.

Think about it. If you had not created the plan in the first place, you wouldn’t have a clue who is working on your web site. As such, you then wouldn’t be able to ask any questions except take a back seat and pray everything goes smoothly. Then when the first hurdle hits you, you get surprised.

A project plan is easy to create. There’s a variety of software that will let you create all sorts of fancy charts etc. However, if you don’t have the budget or the time to familiarize yourself, or if your project plan is small enough, even a simple spreadsheet will do. I love spreadsheets because you can very quickly create a template and sort/filter the information to create your own custom reports or queries.

I will end with the famous quote, “You don’t plan to fail, you fail to plan”. A project plan should be your first step towards a successful web site.


Elvin Picardo
Delivering Net Results to Small Business
Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
NetMedian.com
Contact Elvin

Thursday, January 27, 2005

How do I plan a web site?

How many times have you heard people say “I started building my web site, but now it has exceeded my budget”? Or, “My web designer told me he would finish the project in three weeks. It’s been three months now and I still don’t know when I will see my web site”?

Common, huh? Well, if you understand how the web design and web development areas evolved, you might be able to understand your situation better.

When the Internet took off in the mid-90’s, it became the “next best thing” or the “in thing”. People were building web sites and attempting to automate their business without batting an eyelid. Well, it was expected. The money did not flow in and nothing really worked. Everything was hype. The “dot bomb” was inevitable.

During that time, most students, professionals and everyone in between jumped on the bandwagon. Everybody became a “graphic designer” or “web developer”. Colleges and training institutes were churning out these “graduates” in weeks and months. Most were text book based courses. Everyone wanted to jump on the gravy train. Hey, if my customer has no clue to what I am doing, I can charge any price I want. They will pay. Because they are paying for the hype, not the work I do.

Today’s scenario is very different. The web has slowly matured to be a place where you can have a legitimate business and truly cross national boundaries. It has become the most cost-effective way of doing business. Businesses are a lot more savvy about the Internet than they were a decade ago.

However, projects still fail. Some of the developers or the graphic designers of today still come from the old school. They may have the skill or the trade but fail in other areas. If you do get a web development company that is good in requirements gathering as well as project management, you’ve got it made. Why do I say this?

Well, the old saying is true. You don’t plan to fail, you fail to plan. Rookies or inexperienced web businesses generally don’t plan. Everything is developed as we go along. As a result, requirements are gathered as the project progresses. Can you imagine building a house by laying the foundation based on some arbitrary requirements the home owner gave you? And then when you finish the ground floor you find the owner “actually” wanted a first floor as well. What are you going to do about it? Tear down what you have built and rebuild again?

Does this generally happen in the real world? Seldom. Does this happen in the Internet business? All the time. Yet we fail to do anything about it.

So what do you need to do before you start/hire a web developer? Or even after you’ve hired to ensure delivery is on time? Here’s a few pointers:


  • Plan. Start with the end in mind, the end being how do you want your web site to look and function. Of course, what drives this are your business requirements and your corporate/business goal/vision.


  • Budget. Do you have a budget in mind? A common mistake most businesses do is they call a web development company and say “I want a web site. How much will it cost”? This is close to saying “I need a car. How much will it cost”? What I am trying to say is that businesses tend to operate in different layers/areas compared to the way we live and deal with practical issues. I think they are largely the same. The question is difficult to answer because now the web site can say one of two things. “Well, it depends on what you want” or “$xxx for a 5-page web site”. Both may be unsuitable for you. But you have not helped the web company by providing additional input.


  • Gather your requirements BEFORE you talk to a web development company. In other words, communicate your expectations and requirements at your very first meeting. This way, if the web company is interested, you will know right away. Time is too precious. Why continue a discussion if your expectations cannot be met?
    Having said that, have realistic expectations. If you do not know how much a web site will cost, ask around. Remember, cheap is not necessarily the best. However, ensure there is fair compensation for the work that is being done.

  • Ensure the web company knows your business process. Frequently, web businesses may start “developing” right away without truly understanding your business. This could spell disaster sooner than you know.

  • Plan on having staged deliverables. Make this clear to the web development company. Staged deliverables always ensures your site is being built using the building blocks model.

  • Plan on having a separate testing area. I cannot emphasize this more. DO NOT let the web development company “test” in your actual web site. You will not know what is actually in “production” as against what is being “tested”.

  • Communicate often and keep the channels open. Refrain from letting a web development company “disappear” into the ether and emerge out after the project is complete. Depending on the length of your project, plan on appropriate communications (email, phone, face-to-face meeting) so both parties are aware of issues, concerns or new developments.

  • Avoid scope creep. This refers to both sides. Frequently a web development company may try and “upsell” you on a cool new product. Before saying “I do (want that)”, evaluate what you are getting, for what price and most importantly, how will it impact your timeline for the web site. If the web company says 0-impact, watch out. Probe till you find out.

  • No “geek-speak”. Make it clear to the web company you want someone who can communicate in “English”. Although the “techie-talk” sounds interesting, it’s not for a regular business person like you.

I can go on about this but I hope I’ve given you some pointers on how you can ensure your web site project does not get derailed. If your questions haven’t been answered, you can contact me directly.

Elvin Picardo
Delivering Net Results to Small Business
Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
NetMedian.com
Contact Elvin

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Typical Web Page Design Styles

In this article we will talk about typical web page design styles that are used in the web today. What’s that? Are there standards to designing a web page? Can’t I just use my own. Of course, you can. The “standards” are not necessarily standards, but more the norm. These layouts are time-tested and have proved to work.

Why am I saying this? Well, in case you want to get your web page designed externally you need to be aware of what is best for you, what is in use, what people expect etc. etc. Not what your graphic designer or site builder tells you.

As a software developer, I used to frequently fall into that trap. Build what I think is cool, not what the customer/user wanted. That was way back in the past. Now, I focus on what the user wants, not what I think they need. Of course, there is an entire process that can go with building your web site, but I will talk about that in a later article.

Fundamentally, a web page can be divided into sections or columns. Some of the most common layouts are the 3-column and the 2-column layout.

C1 C2 C3




In this case, Columns 1 and 3 generally contain navigational items and advertisements etc. while Column 2 is your content area. Of course, this is generally modified to include the header and the footer like below.

Header
------------------------------------
C1 C2 C3



------------------------------------
Footer
------------------------------------


The other classic is the two column layout. This can go one of two ways.

Header
----------------------
C1 C2



----------------------
Footer
----------------------


Many times, designers will change the navigational column from the left to the right. This is generally a design decision.

Why deviate from the norm?

Well, frequently you will come up with sites that have an entirely different look and feel. Think back to the sites you have visited and found to be a navigational nightmare. Ask yourself, how long did you stay on such sites. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum are sites that have images flying all over the place and very flashy graphics. Arguably, some of these sites do look good.

However, before you jump into developing a site that “looks good” ask yourself,

Is this the norm? Will my visitors get confused in having a different layout?
Are flashy graphics contributing to my web site? Am I putting them just because I think it looks “cool”?
Are the graphics and colors I am using taking away from my actual message on the page?
Am I focusing more on looks rather than content?

I have told this in my previous posts and will tell it again. In the end, content will rule over style. If I have a slick web page that can somersault on one hand but don’t have any content, it would be like going to a circus. You see it once and won’t see it again. Why? The novelty wears off.

People, by default, resist change. If a visitor landed on your page via a search engine query, they are visiting your site for a reason. If you don’t fulfill that reason, they are bound to leave and (perhaps) never come back?

Can I get a pleasing web page AND have content?
Yes. The web has made considerable progress in aiming to please and satisfy most web designers and developers. Some of my later articles will discuss these in detail on topics like Cascading Style Sheets, Frames and the impact on search engines, as well as critical questions you must ask every web developer who designs for you.

Elvin Picardo
Delivering Net Results to Small Business
Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
NetMedian.com
Contact Elvin

Monday, January 24, 2005

How Do I Search using a Search Engine?

Let’s face it. Life today wouldn’t be the same without search engines. In today’s day of information overload, the Search Engines tend to bring a calming effect as well as a balance to this plethora of content.

However, most of us get overwhelmed even searching for simple common terms. This is primarily because there is way too much information that we can’t seem to grasp at once or is frankly, quite overwhelming. This article will try and explain how we can search better using simple search techniques. I will focus on complex searching in a later article.

I relate searching for content and information more like filtering the information through a funnel. The information and results that you get is directly proportional to what you search and how you search for it. What I mean is that you could be at either receiving end of the funnel. A Y or an inverted Y. You always want to be receiving information through a Y channel. The top part of the Y stands for the Internet and the bottom “stem” of the Y is the information that is being “funneled”. This way, you limit/control the information coming to you. For the inverted Y scenario, simple reverse the situation above. Now you have way too much information coming at you. This is when a typical internet surfer gets “over-whelmed”.

So how can you control the amount of information coming to you? Search engines have become smarter these days and will let you search using specific criteria. What I present here is basic and should work for most scenarios. However, as you get experienced you can get on to the more complex ones.

Perhaps the best way to learn about searching is to go through an example. Living in Beautiful British Columbia I would like to talk about Whistler, a popular ski resort. So for my example, I want to find out resorts that I can stay at, in Whistler. (Note: All example results below are using the popular search engine, Google. Other search engines may display slightly different results.)

I go into Google and type “tourism Canada”. I get 15.5 million results. That will take a while to browse through. So I go back to my search engine and type “tourism british columbia”, since I know I am interested in the province of British Columbia. Now I get 6 million results. Ah ha! Progress.

Now I get back and type “tourism +british +columbia”. All of a sudden I get 3.9 million results. So, what happened? You see the + operator tells the search engine to ensure ALL words with the + sign should be present in the document otherwise don’t return the result.

So what if I type “tourism +Whistler”. I get 743,000 results. Looking better. But what if I type “tourism +British +Columbia +Whistler”. Now I get 243,000 results. Do you see a pattern here? The more +’s I have, the more I am funneling my results. Of course, taking this further O can type “tourism +british +columbia +whistler +resort” since I am looking for resorts in Whistler. Now I’m down to 138,000 pages.

We learnt a very fundamental principle about search engines that we can apply to all of our searches as well as in our business. The principle was that “the more number of words we type in the search box, the narrower our results”.

So what does this tell us? This simply tells us that people who use one or two word search phrases in search engines are simple researching or trying to find out more information. People who use 4+ search phrases in the search engine box are potential buyers. A very important fact to note.

Of course, you don’t get by with just a +. Here are some other “tricks” you could use in search engines.

- This tells the search engine to exclude the respective keyword from the search results. For example: typing in “job manager -technical -software” displays 14.4 million results as against 22 million results without the – keywords.

“” So far, all search phrases have been without quotes (although I’ve typed it because I’m writing an article. The “” help us to search for all words ensuring they are close to each other. For example, searching for “tourism British Columbia” without the quotes will return pages that have all three words, but they could be scattered across the document. So my page may not be of relevance. However, enclosing the search string in “” tells the search engines to ensure the words follow the same sequence and are in close proximity to each other. This increases the relevance of your searches as well as the quality of your results.

Elvin Picardo
Delivering Net Results to Small Business
Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
NetMedian.com
Contact Elvin

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Build A Successful Business By Staying Connected

Over the course of your business life you'll come in contact with a number of other business people. They could be lawyers, business services, suppliers, customers, etc. These people are important to your business in more ways than one. If you hired them or they bought your product or service, you can also gain their business knowledge, experience, ideas, and advice. How do you do this?

Stay Connected! And Network!

Networking is when two or more different businesses stay in contact on a regular basis to build and improve each others business.

Consider all the benefits you'll gain from talking to other business people:

· Knowledge or information that you didn't have before
· Advice on how to solve a current business problem
· Leads to a new business project or opportunity
· Joint ventures and cross promotion deals
· Learn important skills that you didn't have before
· Constructive criticism that improved your business
· Brainstorming that sparks a profitable business idea
· Encouraging and motivational statements

Of course, there are many ways you can meet business people. Join business clubs and associations. Ensure these clubs or associations are of interest to you and are also relevant to your business. Many businesses make the mistake of joining clubs or associations because others told them to, or because a friend is in that club/association. I always go asking myself, “Is this relevant to my business”? Participate in on-line business-related forums, e-mail discussion groups, and chat rooms. I cannot over-emphasize this point. Participating in forums and other online discussion boards will create two things for you that is critical to your business and to your web site. It will create links to your web site and will also establish you as an expert in your business. The more you participate, the better you will be able to build a relationship with your peers/customers.

As well, go to business expos and trade shows if you can. If not as a vendor, go as a guest. You will be surprised by how many people you can connect with in such events. All it takes is one good lead.

If you have the time, start your own networking group. You could hold meetings at a local seminar room, at a park, or at your own business building. Many libraries/recreation centers also rent out meeting rooms. If you want to hold meetings on-line use a discussion board (forums) or a private chat room. Online forums help in that your physical presence is not required and the general atmosphere is one of being casual and less formal. Great if you want to build a relationship with your peers and other fellow associates.

Of course, you can also publish a print or e-mail newsletter to keep members informed of meeting time and dates as well as other relevant information related to your business.

Keep all your business associates' contact information all in one place. Have it organized by business type or profession for easy finding. So when you need some advice on a new marketing campaign you can call that marketing expert you met at that trade show in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. I find maintaining this information electronically is extremely convenient. You can slice and dice it anyway you choose. If you don’t have a database program, maintain your contact information in a spreadsheet. If you read one of my earlier articles, you would have seen that I took a database of my contact information and used it very effectively to send out Xmas cards that were customized to each of my contacts.

Networking is a surefire way to build a successful business. I have strongly believed in this technique and will continue to use it in my business. You meet interesting people, learn a ton of stuff and make new friends.

Elvin Picardo
Delivering Net Results to Small Business
Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
NetMedian.com
Contact Elvin

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Web Sites – Should I learn or not?

A common dilemma most small and medium businesses face when coming to their web site is if they should take the time to learn how to build a web site or not? Here’s my honest thoughts on this topic.

If you read my previous article you would know that a web page is fundamentally written in HTML (let’s leave the dynamic stuff out for now). So, if you’ve got to create a web page you need to learn at the very least, HTML.

Is HTML difficult? Not really. But ask yourself:

  • What do I need my web site for?

  • What do I expect to do with my web site?

  • How much time do I have to spend learning?

  • How much time will it take away from my regular business?


  • There’s tons of other questions you can ask yourself but this will do.

    Learning a new “skill” isn’t difficult if you have the right teacher. But then, once again, if you had to learn how to construct a house and that really isn’t your background, would you do it? Or take something smaller, like changing your bathtub? How about a light bulb?

    Do you see what I’m getting at? It all depends on the task at hand, the degree of your familiarity with the subject and your willingness to learn. Let me give you my own example. Sometime back we wanted to change the faucet off our kitchen sink. Here’s the exact steps I took:

    We went shopping to three Home and Garden stores.
    Evaluated the prices, features etc.
    Chose one faucet and brought it home.
    Hunted around for the right tools.
    Went to my borther-in-law’s house and borrowed some more tools.
    Came home and removed the old tap.
    Fixed the new tap.
    Collapsed.

    Literally. The entire episode took me an entire day. Now, some of you may laugh and say, “What? I can do it in two hours!”. My response would be, “Yes! Certainly. But if you aren’t a programmer (and I am) can you write a program in two hours?”. Ah ha! Now you get it? You see, I’m not good at fixing taps. I had to “learn” how to fix taps. I knew how to do one in my country of origin (India, by the way) but had to learn the new way of doing it here.

    In the end, I asked myself, was it worth it? Definitely not. My time is far more expensive than experimenting around trying to learn something that I really didn’t want to do.

    On the flip side, we wanted to make some jam during the summer. It was something I truly wanted to do and walked into the whole situation fully knowing I had to learn and that it would take some time from me. However it was worth it. I can think of many situations where this same analogy applies. For example, painting my bathroom (I did it) as against painting my living, dining rooms (I got a professional painter).

    The same applies to the web business. Ask yourself, how technical are you? Do you enjoy learning new technology? Most important, if this isn’t really your primary business, would you rather spend your time doing something entirely different? Perhaps yes, or no?

    The unfortunate problem is that several software vendors today tell you you can build a web site within minutes. And they are right. If you like what their product builds for you. Some even tell you, you don’t need to learn HTML. Yes. Once again, if you can conform to their design, great. But the minute you want to change something that does not conform, now you have a risk of blowing it all up. How much time do you want to invest in “fixing” things? Also think of the work that would be involved if someone else takes over from the mess you’ve left it in? All of this costs.

    So, in the end you really need to decide if it is worth it in you learning something new? If you’ve consistently gone around this article and nodded yes to all of my questions, then go ahead and take the plunge. You will be able to do it and will succeed. However, if you’ve got that small nagging voice at the back of your head telling you you really don’t have the time or the inclination, then don’t do it.

    Finally, if you’ve never built a web site or created a web page, and you need one for your business, I personally recommend you get a professional to do one. I’m sure you would have made the right decision.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    The Internet – Truly Fascinating

    Today I would like to talk a bit about the Internet and how your pages really get seen by your visitors. The main reason I am writing this article is because I strongly believe in foundations. You don’t need to fully understand everything I am saying but knowing just a little about the inner workings of the Internet will at least give you some degree of confidence. I will endeavor to not go into too many technical details as I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to do so either. So, I’ll try and keep it simple.

    The Internet fundamentally runs on computer numbers called IP addresses. IP stands for Internet Protocol and is part of the operating system that runs the Internet. IP addresses are typically of the form xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx. Every computer that is connected to the Internet is given a number. Some of these numbers are permanent while others are temporary. For example, if you are connected to the Internet from your home, you typically use an Internet Service Provider or ISP. When you “login” to the ISP, you are assigned a temporary IP number.

    Your ISP is permanently connected to the Internet via a network of computers. This gets really fascinating. The beauty of the Internet is that these machines really don’t need to be connected to ALL the computers. They just need one more computer they can “talk” to. Note this is a very simple view of the Internet and is intentionally kept so. The Internet is really a group of large networks that are interconnected with each other. Each of these large networks then sells bandwidth to smaller ISP’s who in turn, sell it to you.

    So how does my computer really “know” where to go when I type www.mydomain.com?

    Good question. Lets try and see how that works.

    A visitor types in your domain name. This name is translated to a machine name / number. Your ISP refers to its little database that has a translation table that translates the domain number into an IP address. Note that your ISP only holds a small portion of the database. The higher you go in this chain of networks, the larger the database of domain names to IP addresses that are stored. If your ISP cannot find the IP address of the domain you types, it send it upward in its network in the hopes that some other computer will “know” what IP address to go to. Pretty fascinating, isn’t it? And it is.

    Well, finally, the signal reaches the ISP that has the actual web pages of the domain you are visiting. How do you actually see these pages? All ISP’s run another software program called a web server. A web server, well, serves web pages.

    What do we mean by “serving a web page”?

    When you type in a domain name, the ISP will go to a directory on their computer network and locate for the filename that was requested. If no file is requested, the web server will “search” for a index.htm or index.html. Note that with advances in web languages, the extension can be something else (.php, for example).

    The page is read and transmitted over the Internet to the visitor who originally requested the page. Before the “page” is displayed, the browser collects the information from the web server and formats it accordingly.

    Whew! Can you believe all that takes place just because you or someone else typed in www.mydomain.com in their browser window? Fascinating, isn’t it? I get fascinated till this day.

    So what language does my web page really use?
    Well, at the heart of everything, a web page still uses HTML to display all of its content to the user. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. This language is fairly easy to learn for a simple page and essentially consists of “tags”. These tags get translated by the user’s browser before displaying the web page. For example, if a word is typed like Hello, the word Hello will be Hello, i.e. in bold type. There are standard tags that dictate how information is represented and presented in a browser.

    With the advances made in development languages, a variety of languages have evolved over the years that perform a lot of functions on the Web server before a user even sees it. For example, if you would like to greet a user based on the time of day, this logic can be put into your web page in a specific language. This will then get translated before it makes it’s way to the users’ computer. These new languages have suddenly enabled us to create a more dynamic web site that provides a more meaningful experience for your web site visitor.

    The Internet and the web have been a truly fascinating subject area for me. A day doesn’t go by where I think how businesses can truly leverage and take advantage. The primary reason I personally like it is because of the cost of transmitting your message to millions of people around the world. It’s peanuts. Compare that to any other medium (print, for example) and you will instantly know why the Internet became so popular.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    10 Ways To Keep Visitors At Your Site Longer

    Have you ever watched a video tape or DVD and "fast-forwarded" a particular section? Or switched channels while watching TV? Ask yourself, why you did you do this? It's most probably because you did not like what you saw, or it was boring and did not interest you.

    Welcome to the Internet's "fast-forward" button, a.k.a. the dreaded "Back" button. People will not stay at your site for a variety of reasons. Look at my previous post for some of them. Here I will try and list some ways that you can use to help visitors stay longer at your site.

    The more time people spend at your web site, the more time you'll have to persuade them to buy your product or service. Here are ten powerful ways to keep visitors at your web site longer.


    1. Provide your web site visitors with content they can't read anywhere else. I’ve said it many times before. The more original your content, the more likely people are going to stay at your web site to read it.

    2. Remind your web site visitors they can print out your content. Many people like to print content and read offline. Making it easier for them to print (like placing a Print This button on your page) shows you care.

    3. Offer your web site visitors a freebie if they take the time to fill out your online survey. Surveys are a good mechanism to ask your target audience before doing something. If your survey is of interest to your target audience, they will stay at your web site longer and might even buy something afterwards.

    4. Offer your visitors free software that they can download right from your web site. Software is very popular in the Internet world. If it is free, that’s even better. Your visitors can read some of your ads while they are waiting for the download to start/finish.

    5. Provide a huge online directory of information that your visitors could search. If you provide a directory of information or links, it makes it convenient for your site visitors. They will often tend to spend more time at your web site. Of course, the directory must contain information your visitors would want.

    6. Make sure all your web pages load fast or your visitors will leave fast. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a web page to load (because it is graphics intensive). Most visitors won’t wait at your site while the entire page loads. Time is precious, after all.

    7. Tell your visitors what's offered at your web site at the very beginning. Laying out a good map and placing all relevant information/links at convenient places in your site will make it easier for visitors to navigate. If people are confused about what's being offered they may leave too early.

    8. Publish your web site professionally. People will get turned off and leave if they see a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes. This is also related to your web site taking too long to load.

    9. Make your site text easy to read. Most people won't strain their eyes trying to read text that is too small, light or bright. Ensure your web site does not follow a strict display format. Ideally, it should learn to adapt to your visitors screen/monitor resolution. This makes your web site’s design fluid in nature and you won’t have to worry about increasing/decreasing your text. (I will speak more about this in one of my later postings)

    10. Use headlines and sub headlines all over your web site that will grab visitors’ attention. Layout your headlines and sub headlines in an easy to follow pattern. Even if your visitors only read the headlines and sub headlines, they should get a fair idea of your content. Laying out your content in logical sections will attract your visitors to explore your web site longer.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Friday, January 14, 2005

    10 Reasons Why People Don't Visit Your Web Site

    So you've built a web site but no one's coming? Well, I could write an entire book on what you can do to fix that but here's a sampling of some reasons why people generally don't visit (or come back to) your web site.

    1. You don't offer free original content. Content is king. The more original the content on your web site, the more it will appeal to visitors visiting your web site. Ensure the content is relevant to your business and target market. It's important to give your visitors information they can't find anywhere else. If you're the only source for a certain type of information, people will flock to your web site.

    2. You don't offer free software. If software is relevant to your business and you have software that you can offer to your target market, do so. If the software is relevant, people will remember and come again. As well, you can get visitors’ email addresses before allowing them to download the software. If you can give the software away for free, that is even better.

    3. You don't offer a free contest or sweepstakes. Everybody likes to win or have a chance at winning. Offering a contest will certainly generate more traffic to your site and encourage people to tell others about the contest.

    4. You don't offer a free directory. If possible, give people a chance to create a link to their web site. This way you can create a directory of web sites on a particular topic that is related to your target audience. Having a directory of links in one place encourages people to visit your site often since they can find all relevant links in one place.

    5. You don't offer a free e-zine. Most people love to get free information that they're interested in and is relevant to their business emailed to them on a regular basis. You offer your knowledge, expertise and opinions on topics relevant to your target market and visitors will certainly subscribe to your e-zine or newsletter.

    6. You don't offer a free community. People like to have a place were they can have discussions with others on a particular subject. You could add a chat room or message board to your web site as well as a forum. This way, people sharing similar interests can share their knowledge and experiences. There is nothing like a community to generate more traffic to your web site.

    7. You don't offer a free affiliate program. Affiliates are the best thing that’s happened to the Internet. If you can create an affiliate program, then do so by all means. Have ten, thousand or more “salespeople” promote your business across the Internet. When you offer people a free opportunity to make money they'll line up to visit your web site.

    8. You don't offer a free online utility. When you offer a utility that can solve a problem for people on your web site, people will visit your web site. They could also bookmark your site. Even better. Remember to have the utility that is relevant to your site and your visitors’ general needs, else it may not work.

    9. You don't offer free current information. Supply news stories related to your web site. People want up-to-date news on the topics they are interested in. They will also be interested in visiting your web site.

    10. You don't offer free samples of your product or service. The Internet is full of one scam or another. As such, people are generally wary of investing in a product or service. Giving people a chance to “try before you buy” eases that concern people may have. It also puts your product or service in a good light as you bear the risk. This shows the confidence you have in your own product or service.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Thursday, January 13, 2005

    Registering a domain for your web site

    Perhaps one of the biggest decisions (at least initially) you will spend is deciding on a domain name. After that will come hours of “where do I register my domain?” and “how do I register my domain?”. That will come next. Today I just want to talk a little about domain names.

    Domain names are your unique identity on the Internet. I look at domain names like fingerprints. No two domain names are (can be) the same. However, just like your fingerprint (or your hand), domain names can tell a lot about your business, if it’s descriptive enough. More on that later.

    So how should you go about choosing a domain name? Here’s some suggestions I can provide.

    A domain name will always follow the following format:
    <domain>.<extension>

    Let’s deal with the extension first.

    1. .com, .net, .tv, .org – What should I choose? Most businesses aren’t clear about what extension their domain name should have. Unscruplous vendors will try and sell you anything. .com extensions were the first extensions and generally stood for a “commercial establishment”. However, during the Internet boom most people reserved almost all of the .com domains possible. Some still make it a business trying to reserve and sell popular name domains. Anything for a quick buck, eh? Although the new domain extensions are slowly getting popular, the .com is still popular. This is primarily because a .com still give the impression of a business being longer in existence than other domain extensions. Of course, if your business is purely local and you want to intentionally advertise the fact, you would probably prefer having a domain with a country extension. For example, the country extension for Canada is .ca. So if you see a domain name of mybusiness.ca, it implies the domain name is registered under Canada. A good place to check all the different extensions for countries is http://www.domainit.com/country-domains.htm

    2. A good domain name – Simple rule – try to keep it short but descriptive. Of course, almost all one word (and perhapd two-word) domains have all been taken. However, it does not mean all of them are taken. You just might be lucky. Try http://www.register.com/ to search for a domain name to see if it is available or taken. You can also visit http://www.checkdomain.com/. Another very popular site to visit is http://www.godaddy.com/.
    3. Sometimes the challenge is to even think of a good domain name. Sometimes, it may not be uncommon to spend hours (or days) trying to think of all the various combinations for domain names that are relevant to your business. Luckily, these days (thanks to technology), there are sites that may help you by trying to generate domain names by you entering some keywords and letting technology do the rest. For example, you can visit http://www.nameboy.com/ to generate a few good domain names for you based on your keywords. You start off by typing a primary and secondary keyword, then you select a theme/category. You can also specify if you want your domain name to rhyme. Once you start the search, Nameboy will display domain names that are available, taken as well as names that are available for sale. Another good site is http://www.e-gineer.com/domainator/ . Of course, you can also go to a search engine and type in “domain name” or “domain search” and broese through the results.

    4. Keep your domain name short and relevant to your business. The more meaningful your domain name is, the easier it is for your customers, prospects to remember.

    5. Remember that domain names are not CaSe SeNsItIvE. Besides, they can only contain alphabets, numbers and hyphens. Spaces and symbols (special characters) are not allowed. Also ensure your domain name is easy to spell and not susceptible to mis-spellings. Which brings me to the next point.

    6. Register mis-spliings, if possible. If your domain name is susceptible to people mis-typing your domain name, register the domain name with the mis-spelt word as a separate domain name. You just might get some extra business on that initiative.

    7. Think about registering your domain name with multiple extensions. This is just in case you truly want to pick a unique identity and want to ensure no one else “grabs” it. For example, if you register your domain as mybusiness.com, you may want to register mybusiness.net, mybusiness.org etc. Of course, it may not be necessary and just depends on how unique you truly want to be.

    8. Register your domain. Domain registrars are all over the place and their prices vary too. Shop around but don’t try to get the “best” bargain. However, be wary of sites that tell you they can register your domain for free. In my humble opinion, there is no free lunch. A good site to visit is http://www.godaddy.com/.

    9. Ensure your domain is registered in your name. Often times I have seen a web host try to register your domain for you and leave themselves as the registrant, contact name etc. This is not good practice. Later if you want to “move” your web host, you could have problems getting the domain name “transferred”.

    That’s it. Have fun registering your domain name. Be creative, yet distinctive.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Web Sites - The Essentials list (for a business owner)

    OK. So you hear about the wonders of the Internet and now want to get started by building your very own web site. But wait! Horrors! You don't know how to build one. Well, not to worry, you say. You'll go out and get one built. Cool.

    So you go with your budget and find that:

    1. John Doe's (who you met last week at the Christmas Party) brother-in-law's son creates web pages.
    2. Your retired neighbor has a computer and can create web pages.
    3. You search the Internet and everyone tells you, you can create a web site in 5 minutes.
    4. You phone a company downtown and they won't even talk to you (of course, you are offended) unless you are a "corporate" or have "$$".

    And now you are confused. How do you even get started. In my experience, the following questions will typically go through a potential customer's (i.e. you) mind at this stage:

    a. How do I choose a web designer/site builder/company?
    b. What do I need to know before I start talking to these people?
    c. What materials/information should I have before starting?
    d. What are my expectations of a web site?
    e. What time frame am I looking at for getting started?

    And of course, many more. But this will do for a start.

    I will try and cover the basics here and elaborate further in other posts. There is so much to cover (remember, people have written books on this; although the information I will share with you is not "easily" available).

    At the very outset you need to know:

  • What you would want out of the web site and

  • Your budget.


  • Also remember that you will generally get what you pay for. If you are not sure what you will get out of a web site ask the potential web builder. This will quickly separate the sons/in-laws/neighbors from the better ones. The rookies and the amateurs won't be able to tell you. Look for creativity and originality in their answers. You are not giving a test but you don't want to hear the common buzz words as well.

    Once you have a good idea about your web site you need to think of other things.

  • Content

  • Graphics

  • Domain name


  • Let me deal with Graphics first. Having a business and having printed cards does not necessarily mean you have the graphics. The amateurs will scan your business card and place that on the web site. Not good enough. Things get really bad when you resize such graphic files. You need the ORIGINALS. My own web design experience has taught me that most businesses don't think too seriously about their assets (i.e. graphics for business card). As a consequence, when it is time to build the web site, they are literally scrambling to find the "original". If you don't have a logo, create one or get one created. If you do remember your "graphic artist", ask him/her for your original. If they can "export" your logo in a common web application format (like Adobe Photoshop), you are laughing. Do not underestimate this. I have personally found that a lot of "graphic designers" are very focused in their world/work. As a result, requesting files in any other formats tends to lead you to somewhere between Jupiter and the Milky Way.

    Of course, the smart web designer will simply charge you extra to coordinate/liaise or to redo the graphic. So save yourself the time, money and the aggravation.

    Let's talk content. The Internet rules on content. Remember, people generally go on the Internet to research/explore thoughts and ideas. They want information. A simple rule is to provide quality information that is relevant and specific to your target market. Start thinking about what content you can provide (even if it is at a basic level). Not sure, ask your web designer. They are not sure? Ask me.

    Content can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Most web designers will generally not be able to help you out in this area. However, there are some that can actually help you write content that is good, makes sense and is business relevant.

    A domain name is a name that identifies you on the Internet. Think of it as a fingerprint. No two domain names can be the same. It is far more preferable to pay ($6 - $20) for a domain name registered in your name than to get a "free" name. The domain name registration fee varies depending on the "services" that company will provide. Domain names is a chapter in itself and I will elaborate on this one later as well.

    So to summarize:

    1. Identify your expectations from the web site
    2. Decide on your budget
    3. Make a list of questions to ask your potential web design "company"
    4. Prepare your corporate logo and other graphics ahead of time
    5. Plan out your content
    6. Identify/Register a domain

    This topic can go on forever. And it will. I will elaborate a lot more in future articles. Some of the topics I will cover are:

    1. How to choose/register a domain name?
    2. How to ensure your web site is completed on time and budget?
    3. How to decide on a budget for building your web site?
    4. What you need to do after your web site is built?
    5. What "hidden costs" will hit you after your web site is built?

    There's a lot of information that I will share with you in these postings. However, if you can't wait and need a friendly voice, talk to me.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    An Example of Business Automation - eCards with pizazz

    Hello once again,

    The last time I spoke and went into a bit of detail on business automation. Today I would like to give you some details of how I actually used it personally so you get to see first-hand what I wanted, how I went about doing it and finally executing it.

    Last month was Christmas. Of course, having a lot of customers, friends, family and associates I wanted to send Christmas greetings and/or Holiday wishes. So I thought about this and came up with the following criteria.

    1. I wanted to send greetings to approximately 130 people. These people are in my email list.
    2. The greetings had to be personalized wherever possible.
    3. The greetings had to have my corporate logo with a link to my web site.
    4. The greetings had to divided into separate groups for customization purposes.
    5. Once setup, the "system" would have to track viewer statistics.
    6. I should be able to "select" anyone from my list to send a "special" card.
    7. Once setup, the "system" should automate the entire process so I can take a "Hands-off" approach.
    8. The system should be capable of displaying a specific font and generate the card on the fly to my visitor. And should also be capable of playing a suitable Christmas carol in the background.
    9. Finally, the system should be capable of allowing me to reuse for other occasions.

    Armed with these requirements I went about searching the Internet for a suitable application (of course, why reinvent the wheel?). Guess what? I didn't find any. Yes, there are a lot of e-card places out there but tell me which one will match my criteria above?

    So, I decided to write a little "system" for myself. The "system" took me 3 hours of development and 1 hour of tweaking. When it was done and tested, I launched it. It took me 5 minutes to send the 130+ cards out. Here's what it did:

    1. Allowed me to select groups of contacts based on criteria I provided.
    2. Allowed me to select a card and appropriate music to be sent.
    3. Customized each email to the recipients name or alternate greetings (ex: John and family, instead of John doe).
    4. Inserted the name of the contact in appropriate places making the email even more personal.
    5. Sent the email out with the appropriate link to "view" the greeting.
    6. Created an electronic log of who the greeting was sent out to, when (date and time) and details of the greeting.
    7. Tracked when a person opened the greeting to view the e-card (and how many times).
    8. Created a "on-the-fly" greeting that was customized to greet my visitor the way I set it to be.
    9. Brought my contact to my web site (http://www.netmedian.com/) contact page with a personalized message to them.

    Not bad for four hours of work. I was happy to say that from all the emails that my contacts received (some did not because of Hotmail accounts - lesson learned), 100% clicked on the link, visited my web site and sent me thank you's, reciprocal greetings or just general comments.

    Needless to say I was happy because it saved me hours in going out, getting cards, personalizing it, mailing it etc. etc.. With this "system" I not only saved hours but will continue to save them every time I use it.

    Can this system be extended? You bet. My plans are to extend it to start creating gentle reminders to me on special "anniversary" dates of my clients, friends, family. This way, I will let the system do the work from my "working" list. The ultimate idea would be to create a system that would automatically allow me to stay in constant contact with my contacts. Something every business should be doing anyways. talk about a win-win situation.

    Would you like to take advantage of my handy "system"? Send me an email and I can see how we can set you up.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Friday, January 07, 2005

    What is Business Process Automation?

    Today I would like to talk about business process automation or BPA for short. This was a buzzword a few years back with anyone and everyone claiming they were experts in this area. Maybe so. But to really realize its true potential you need to understand what business process automation is and why you will need it?

    If you own/run/manage a business, take a look around yourself at the daily activities you perform to run your business effectively and efficiently. If you do observe closely, you will quickly notice that you (or your staff) do perform a lot of tasks that are generally repetitive in nature or they may be administrative tasks; tasks that you have to perform and are necessary to run your business.

    Let me elaborate that with an example. A customer calls and enquires about a product you market. You tell the customer you will send a product brochure. You take all relevant information like prospect name, address etc. and walk over to your secretary. Your secretary takes the information, chooses the appropriate brochure, creates a covering letter, puts it in an envelope and mails it to your customer. Sounds familiar, right?

    Well, what if I told you that process automation automates the entire process above using the Internet? And all with zero involvement from you? Or anyone else from your organization? Would that be cool? Let me help you visualize it.

    Your prospect comes over to your web site, browses and is now seeking more information on a specific product. You have the prospect fill in all relevant information from within your web site. When the prospect submits the information, your web site will automatically save the information electronically in a database and send a personalized email to your prospect (i.e. thanking him/her for the enquiry and providing instructions to download the brochure). Your system can also follow up automatically after a few days with that specific prospect asking if they have any other questions or if you could be of any help.

    This is, in essence, business process automation. You are automating the different business processes within your business. The beauty of automating this is the zero-involvement from your business. Let's take this a step further. If the prospect does decide to buy the specific product, they can purchase it directly from your web site (via a shopping cart). Your web site will already know what your prospect had received so you can "speed up" the process by simply collecting payment information over a secure line, process the transaction and then send new shipping details to your customer. The prospects details now go into the customer database (because you have converted a prospect into a customer). The order details automatically get sent to your order-processing department for order fulfillment. When the order is shipped, your order-processing department updates the "system" with ETA for the product. Your customer can now automatically track the status of their order. And you can actually get an overview of how many orders were received, shipped, transacted; all through a browser. Even if you were holidaying and were miles away from home/office.

    Can you think of all the costs you have saved by automating routine, mundane tasks that have typically needed human intervention in the past?

    That, in essence, is the power of automation.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    Why you should write an e-book (and then give it away for FREE) - Part 2

    Here's part 2 of the article.

    10. Give away the e-book as a special gift to your current customers letting them know you appreciate their business. This is another popular mechanism to keep your subscriber base loyal to you. Often times, giving away something free that is “exclusive” to your customer base lets them know that you care about them and would like to give them a “gift” for being loyal to you. This is always well accepted.

    11. Gain free advertising by submitting the e-book on freebie sites. When you submit your e-book to sites that give away free stuff, your book will automatically get free publicity. Couple that with a hot topic (i.e. something people are interested in) and you have an unbeatable combination.

    12. Make money selling the reprint rights to people who would like to sell the e-book. You can also sell reprint rights to people who would like to sell the book on your behalf. This approach ensures everybody wins. People will buy the reprint rights to your book and sell it to their subscriber base. You win because you get the initial money for selling the reprint rights. But you also get long term benefits because of the links, information and advertising contained within your book.

    13. You'll gain valuable referrals from people telling others about your e-book. An e-book is one of the best ways to get others to spread word about you and your book. When you provide valuable and meaningful content that is relevant to your target audience, they will spread the word for you. In fact, they will share your book and point to your web site as if they are passing on a guarded secret. This will, of course, result in more hits to your web site.

    14. Make money cross promoting the e-book as a free bonus with other people's products or services. If you have partnered or have affiliates with other complementing products, it is extremely beneficial to include these links within your product. Since these products/services complement your own content, there is a strong chance your target audience will click on some of these links. If they do buy from any of these sites, you will get a commission, generating more revenue for you.

    15. Gain free publicity sending press releases announcing your “Free E-book Giveaway”. Press Releases are one of the best ways to get free publicity on your e-book. There are many web sites on the Internet that cater specifically to publishing press releases. The more publicity you generate for your book, the more likely people will come and visit your web site to download your e-book.

    16. Increase subscribers to your e-zine by giving away the e-book as an incentive to subscribe. It is a well known fact that you need to develop a subscriber base within your target community. Publishing a newsletter or e-zine is one of the best ways to provide valuable content and to service your community or customer base. But what if your customers are actually prospects? What if they are considering joining your list but are just not too sure? After all, how many lists can you “really” subscribe to? Offering a valuable free e-book for subscribing to your e-zine might just be what you need to convert skeptics into loyal subscribers.

    17. Give away the e-book to people that join your affiliate program. Even though you may not start with affiliates when you just start your Internet business, you will eventually do so. At that point, your free e-book could prove to be invaluable to people who want to join your affiliate program. This could be because your book will provide valuable information to them about your product or service which will help them market it better.

    18. The biggest reason you should write an e-book and then give it away for free: you'll feel good helping people improve their lives. Granted. This is one of those “touchy feely” things. But honestly, don’t you feel good inside and outside when you know you have genuinely helped someone. Especially when that someone comes back and praises you or thanks you for having touched their lives? Ultimately, I honestly do believe in the saying “What goes around, comes around”.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    Why you should write an e-book (and then give it away for FREE) - Part 1

    One of the most powerful ways of attracting customers/visitors to your site is to write an ebook (electronic book). E-books are extremely popular on the Internet and as a method in Internet Marketing because of its ease in distribution as well as the fact that the entire process can be easily automated. This, of course, reduces maintenance considerably. In other words, it tends to lead your process to: set it up, market it, forget about it. Well, not literally, but you get the idea.

    So why would you want to write an e-book and give it away for FREE? Here’s 9 reasons. The other 9 will be elaborated in tomorrow’s blog.

    1. People will visit your web site to get the free valuable information. It goes without saying: the more people visit your site, the better chance you have of building a relationship with them. Remember, most people search on the Internet to research/learn about something. Providing free, quality and relevant information makes you look good.

    2. Advertise your products or services in the e-book. You can advertise your products and/or services for free inside your ebook. Whenever your prospects read the book, your ad will always be there to gently remind them of who you are and what you do.

    3. You will become known as an expert on the subject of the e-book. This goes hand-in-hand with the content quality of your book. Good quality in content is always appreciated. No matter what subject you are writing on; as soon as you put it down in writing there tends to be an aura around you of an “expert”.

    4. Offer the e-book as a free bonus for purchasing one of your products or services. Today, just like the real/retail world, the Internet is full of deals and bonuses. However, people are getting used to the lame, cheesy bonuses that everyone offers. Your quality e-book will be like a breath of fresh air. Not only will you be recognized for taking this initiative, but it will complement your product or service as well.

    5. Allow other people to give away the e-book to increase visitors to your web site. This is an age-old trick to “spread the word around”. This can be easily accomplished if your e-book contains content relevant to your target market. When you give permission to others to “give away” your e-book for free, you are creating what is generally called a “virus” (more like viral marketing, but more on that later). You send it to one person, who sends it to three other people, who in turn each send it to three other people. Soon, you have quite a few people reading your e-book.

    6. Gain new leads by having people sign up and give their contact information before they can download your e-book. Everyone knows the true foundation of Internet Marketing is to build a quality subscriber base. If the e-book you offer contains quality information that your target market needs, you can ask for their email/contact information prior to allowing them to download the book. This way you can build your subscriber base and continue marketing to this list long after they have downloaded the book and read it.

    7. The word "FREE" is the most appealing word on the internet. Let’s face it. Whenever you hear the word FREE or No Cost your eyes light up. This is because of the general tendency to make your last dollar go a long way. The Internet is closely related to a medium of free information. Giving away your e-book for free closely matches customers’ or prospects’ expectations.

    8. Conduct market research asking people to fill out a survey before getting the e-book. You can also conduct a brief survey on questions/topics related to your business or industry. If the survey is short, you can often times get some pretty good, fair and accurate results for (literally) peanuts.

    9. Make money selling advertising space in the e-book. If you know you have a good target market and the information you are offering for free in your e-book will be popular, you can approach other businesses and sell advertising space. This way, you can easily recoup any “costs” associated in creating the e-book.

    Watch out for Part 2 tomorrow.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Why do I need a web site?

    Today I would like to talk about the bare necessities. Even though the Internet has been around for a long time and many people are "educated" about the Internet, most have little knowledge about what a web site is and what can it do for their business.

    A web site is anything and everything you want it to be. Let me elaborate on that.
    • If you have a business and want to expand your markets, you build a web site.
    • If you have a business and want to improve customer satisfaction, you build a web site.
    • If you have a business and want to take advantage of technology while remaining fairly unbiased in technology at a basic level, you build a web site.
    • If you want to market to customers outside of your geographical boundaries, you build a web site.
    • If you want your friends and family to view pictures, communicate with you, you build a web site.
    • If you are just starting in your business and need a way to inform potential customers about you and your business, you build a web site.

    As you can see, a web site has many uses. It wasn't uncommon in the early days (6-7 years back) of the Internet to see "This is me and my dog" web sites. However, the trend has changed today and business sites have taken over.

    One thing I like about the web and the Internet over traditional (print) media is the fact that changes and updates can be made (almost) instantly. Try that in print.

    As well, a web site can be made truly dynamic and flexible; almost making it totally customizable to each user, giving them a unique and personal touch.

    In my business, I come across tons of questions on what really is a web site and what do I need to do to build a web site for my business.

    I will list below some of the key criteria you will need to get started with a web site. Remember, these are my thoughts and opinions. If you are confused, send me an email at epicardo@netmedian.com.

    1. Your domain name: Your domain name identifies you and gives you a unique identity across the Internet. Domain names come with an extension. In the earlier days .com was the most popular domain name. It largely is today as well, although many other extensions (.net, .biz, .tv) are gaining popularity as well. Shop around before you buy a domain keeping in mind that the cheapest may not necessarily be the best.

    2. A web host: Your web site needs to reside on a computer (typically called the web host) that runs special programs (typically web server among other things) and is connected to the Internet. It is through this computer that your information can be seen by prospects/customers around the world.

    3. A web site: This is simply a collection of pages, images and information that reflects you and your business. Creation of web sites are an entirely different subject altogether and I will address this in separate posts. If you need to know right now, email me or visit my site and view the Web Design page.

    4. Web content: Can you imagine reading the newspaper everyday with the same headlines and information? You would stop reading it, right? Well, the web is the same way. New and fresh content keeps your site alive and the search engines happy. Content that is relevant to your business always brings back visitors. In fact, if your content is really good, others may start linking to it or promoting it, giving you added links and visitors.

    5. Visitors: Build It and they will come? Sadly, this isn't true with the Internet. Once a web site has been built, there are quite some other activities that need to be done in order to get your visitors to visit your site (also called hits, in a general way). This opens up the topic of Internet Marketing, another of my favorites. However, I will address this in a series of posts later on as it can be fairly exhaustive. You can visit my web site section on Internet Marketing to get a sneak peek.

    6. Other useful and needed stuff: Besides the points mentioned above, you also need good sales copy (stuff that people/prospects read) to convert visitors into buyers, you need to develop a good mailing list so you can harvest that list by offering complementing and relevant products to your buyers. you also need to automate some of the backend processes so you do not waste time processing each and every transaction, query or enquiry from your visitors/buyers.

    • Can this be done for a small- or medium-sized company? Definitely.
    • Is it too expensive to get started? Certainly not.
    • Does it take too long to get a basic web site built? I would say approximately two to three weeks.

    The web is a very interesting medium to disseminate information about you, your business and your products. People have made careers by specializing in areas like Web Design and Internet Marketing. In my opinion, the Internet has truly leveled the business playing field. My advice: don't get caught behind.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Know your beans before trying to grow a beanstalk

    1. Hello everyone,

      This is my very first post in my own blog. I have decided to create and maintain my very own blog for a variety of reasons.

      1. It is an easy tool for me to update you with my thoughts, ideas and recommendations on everything related to my business i.e. Internet Marketing, Web Design, SEO etc.
      2. My experience within my business has provided valuable insight that I am ready to share with you. This experience has humbly taught me that even though I live and breathe internet marketing and web design; my customers don't. My blog will attempt at helping and assisting such businesses.
      3. The world is full of "professionals". However, I have found most businesses (small, medium or large) are primarily interested in getting a web site created quickly and efficiently. This is generally followed by "how do I market this?" type of questions. My blog will provide the much-needed information on how to proceed with this first baby step.

      As time goes by, I will regularly post information and tips on:

      a. How to get started with your web site
      b. Some of the basic things you need to have in place BEFORE you decide to start building or hiring a web design company - to save you grief
      c. Some of the simpler aspects of Internet Marketing you need to know so you acquire knowledge in topics like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and business process automation.

    My ultimate idea is to educate you and provide valuable information in a simple, easy-to-understand language, thereby removing the technical complexities as much as possible.

    Elvin Picardo
    Delivering Net Results to Small Business
    Author of numerous articles on web development and Internet Marketing for small business
    10723 159th St, Surrey, BC V4N 3J1 Canada
    NetMedian.com
    Contact Elvin

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