Dec
29
Posted on December 29, 2006
Filed Under (Advice, Tools) by jennifer

Every year, I am amazed — and yes, often confused — by the growing number of online (and offline) tools, services, and advice available to small business owners. And every year, obligingly, a number of publications feature a Top 10 or other list of the best gadgets, software, hardware, services, advice, and/or online tools for that year. This year is no different.

So without further ado, here are some “top” lists, with helpful links, that every small business owner should check out:

“Ecommerce Guide: Tips and Trends from 2006”

PC Magazine’s “A Dozen Ways to Boost Your Business”

Entrepreneur.com’s “Hot Ideas for 2007”

MarketingSherpa’s “Top 10 Best Blogs & Best Podcast of 2006: Readers’ Choice Award Results”

AllBusiness “Special Report: Top 10 Tax Tips for Small and Growing Businesses”

If you have any “top” lists you would like to share, send me a comment and I will post.

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy, and very prosperous 2007…

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Dec
19
Posted on December 19, 2006
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

More consumers than ever before are going to local online sites searching for businesses, reading user reviews, comparison shopping, and looking for deals.  You need proof?  During the three-day period ending the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday (because it puts retailers in the black), ShopLocal, a multi-channel shopping resource, reported an 84 percent increase in the number of consumers looking at local Internet sites for deals at offline stores and businesses. And that trend is not going away, with local online advertising predicted to increase 53 percent in 2007 to $2 billion.

If you have a small retail or service business — either offline or online — and getting local traffic is important to you, advertising locally online can definitely increase your foot traffic as well as your sales.

Almost exactly a year ago, SmallBusinessComputing.com published an article I wrote on the promise of local search called “The 411 on Local Search.”  Recently, I was asked by sister publication Ecommerce-Guide.com to write a follow-up piece. Instead of talking up the usual subjects, i.e., the local offshoots of the search engines (e.g., Yahoo! Local) and the online versions of the Yellow Pages, I wanted to find out how far local search had come in the past year and whether advertising on these local sites seemed like a good proposition for small businesses.

I was amazed by how much had changed in a year.

The latest trends in local search? Community sites, like Yelp and Judy’s Book, where users can read and write reviews — and find out about great deals at neighborhood stores and businesses — and new services like ShopLocal and MerchantCircle, which give local merchants all of the benefits of traditional print advertising but via the Web — and for much less than they would pay for print.

I encourage you to read my article, “Local Search Comes of Age,” and visit some of the websites I mention. And while I did not discuss the search engines, Yahoo! Local is still considered the dominant player in the field (at least according to a 2006 report from JupiterResearch) and Citysearch and Superpages.com also have their devoted users.

Before you advertise anywhere, however, be sure to check out rates and options — and ask other small business owners in your area or industry what site or sites they use and what kind of results they have gotten.

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Dec
12
Posted on December 12, 2006
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

I love learning about easy things I can do to improve my website and to improve the chances of my site being found online. And I have found that most (if not all) small business owners feel the same way. So I was delighted to get an assignment about what small businesses can do to maximize their chances of being found by those mysterious search engine spiders naturally — that is, without having to spend a dime on Internet marketing or advertising.

The result, which appeared on Ecommerce-Guide.com yesterday (December 11th), is an article my editor titled “DIY SEO: Four Rules for High Rankings.” I highly recommend you check it out. (It’s pretty short.)

For the article, I spoke with Jason Baer, the senior director of Mighty Interactive, which recently re-launched its website for search engine optimization (SEO). During our conversation Jason revealed the four things that web-based businesses need to do to get those all-important high rankings on the major search engines.

For those of you too crunched for time just now to read the article, the four rules for getting high rankings are:

Rule #1: Pick Specific Search Terms

Rule #2: Minimize Flash and Graphics… Maximize Your Site Map

Rule #3: Write Great Copy With Relevant Search Terms

Rule #4: Get Links

Do you have tips or tricks you’ve used to optimize search engine rankings that you’d like to share? Let me know. As for me, I am definitely planning on following these rules as I reprogram my website.

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Dec
05
Posted on December 5, 2006
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

There comes a time in every solo or small business owner’s professional life when you say to yourself, I need to take this business to the next level — whatever that might be. Most of us, however, procrastinate. Maybe it’s because we are so busy with the work we have that we don’t make the time to do the extra work to get more work. Maybe it’s because some part of us is afraid of taking risks. Or maybe it’s because even though we’d like get more work or better work, we fall back on the “good enough” couch and get too cozy with the way things are.

This fall as some of you know, I decided to get off the couch, take a risk, and stop procrastinating — and hired a professional design company, Logoworks, to redesign my website, to make it look and feel more professional. In the process, I wound up getting a new logo, new letterhead, new envelopes — and a new attitude. Coincidentally, I have also gotten A LOT more work, even though I have yet to re-launch my site.

Which brings me to my main point:  The real key to kicking it up a notch is attitude. Yeah, there are a lot of other elements involved, but your head and heart have got to be in the right place first. In my case, I made a New Year’s resolution going into 2006 to get at least one new really good client, which meant networking, putting myself out there more, being more open to opportunities, and trying to create good word of mouth. And it’s working.

So if you want to kick your business up a notch, my advice is to start thinking on the next level. To be new age-y about it, visualize yourself at that next level and then make a mental (or physical) map to get there.

Btw, since many of you have asked about my new website, here are design drafts of the home page and a sample sub page: 

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