Posted on June 27, 2008
Filed Under (Advice, Ecommerce, Marketing) by jennifer

I just saw this article called “Writing for the Web — and Getting It Read” on InternetNews.com and thought I’d share. (The piece is pretty short, so won’t take long to read.)

The author, who interviewed a user experience specialist about the differences between writing for the Web and writing for print publications, such as a newspaper or magazine, makes some good points, which can help you fine tune your online prose and attract more traffic to your site.

Some other tips to improve your online copy — and get it read:

* Know who your primary audience is and write primarily to them, style- and content-wise.

* Keep headlines and subheads short and to the point, using keywords where and when appropriate (i.e., strategically)

* Keep copy short and punchy as people tend to skim when reading online.

* Use active words (verbs) and write in the present tense.

* Have your copy tell a compelling story that will get readers wanting — and clicking for — more.

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Posted on June 16, 2008
Filed Under (Advice, Ecommerce, Marketing, Tools) by jennifer

Ask anyone who does business on the Internet what the most valuable piece of real estate is and chances are they will say the first page of a Google search. “Being listed at the top of the results not only provides the greatest amount of traffic, it instills trust in customers as to the worthiness and relative importance of a company and Web site,” explained Lisa Cardarelli, an account manager at Bayshore Solutions, an award-winning interactive marketing services agency based in Tampa, Florida.

But getting to the top takes work and time. Optimizing your Web site so that the major search engines, in particular Google, can find you and give your business top placement in an organic search is a strategy every online business should pursue, but getting that high ranking can take months. And many businesses don’t want or can’t afford to wait that long. That’s where pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, specifically Google AdWords, comes in.

AdWords costs anywhere from a few bucks a month to a few thousand, depending on which keywords you want, and how often people click on your ads. It gives new businesses (as well as more established businesses, of all sizes) and businesses looking to promote a product or service online the opportunity to appear on the first page of a Google search (typically on the right-hand side, in the area called “Sponsored Links,” and occasionally right at the top in the center column) instantly.

But to make AdWords add up for your business, you need to do some homework. Above all, you need to determine how much you are willing or can afford to pay each month for keywords and which keywords will attract the most qualified traffic/leads to your business as you pay for each click whether or not it results in a sale or a lead.

To learn more about Google AdWords and to read a couple of (short) small business case studies, to help you determine if AdWords is right for your small business, check out my article, “Making AdWords Add Up for Your E-Business,” which appears on Ecommerce-Guide.com.

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Posted on June 2, 2008
Filed Under (Advice, General) by jennifer

People ask me all the time what it’s like to work from home and if I have any tips for setting up a home office.

As for the first part, like everything, working from home has its advantages and its disadvantages. The advantages: I am (for the most part) in charge of my own schedule, so if I want to go to the gym or need to run errands or pick up/chauffeur my daughter, I can – with proper planning. The disadvantages: Work is always there, lurking, even when I shut the door and walk away from my office. And it can be lonely. (Hence the need to build in time to get out of the house and be around other adults.)

As for how to set up a home office, whether you need a quiet place to pay the bills or are running a small business, having a home office makes good sense – and can even save you money at tax time. While setting up a home office may seem daunting if you have never done so before, carving out or creating a space to take care of business is actually pretty easy with a little planning.

Following are my Top 10 tips for helping you set up the perfect home office:

1. Before you begin, ask yourself: Why do I want a home office? How will I use this space? Write down the answers and use them to guide you. If the space is to be used for business, contact an accountant to find out what is permissible in your area and what the tax advantages are.

2. Survey your territory and pick a quiet, low-traffic room or nook with access to electrical, cable, phone, and network outlets (or has the ability to have these installed).

3. Get a desk that can accommodate all of your equipment (computer, monitor, scanner, telephone, printer or combination printer/copier/fax) and supplies (desktop organizer, pens, pencils, Post-Its, note paper, calendar or planner, paper clips, stapler and staples) and an office chair that will support your back. Comfort and support are very important, so go to your local office store and try out different office furniture/desks and chairs, so you find a setup that fits your style and build.

4. Pick a computer that fits the work you do. If mobility is important, get a laptop. If your work involves graphics or video, get a computer with a big enough hard drive and memory to support that – and a separate, large, flat-panel monitor. You can learn more about picking the right computer and find a computer that’s right for you by checking out sites like PC World and Consumer Reports Online.

5. Get a high-speed Internet connection. The two basic options are cable modem or DSL. Find out what’s available in your area and weigh the pros and cons of each.

6. Set up your own email account. Many Internet providers, as well as Google, MSN, and Yahoo, offer these for free.

7. Choose a printer. If color copies are important, get a color ink jet printer. If speed is important, consider a grayscale laser printer.

8. If you need to fax or make copies, consider a combination printer-fax-copier.

9. If you are running a business, think about installing a separate phone line, either a traditional land line, supplied by the phone company, or a service that works via the Internet (called VoIP), such as Skype or Vonage or Optimum Voice, which tend to be less expensive than traditional land lines but also less reliable in the event of a power outage (they won’t work).

10. Set some rules, with yourself and your family. It is very important when working from home to get dressed and organized every morning, as if you were going to a non-home office, to set a schedule, and to let your family know when you are working and what the rules are for interrupting you when they need something.

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