Good Web Hosting Matters

I never aspired to be a web hosting reseller.

It’s true. In fact, I never aimed to design websites for clients. My first commercial WordPress site was something my client had to twist my arm to have me do. It worked out because I had to twist her arm to let me design a logo for her.

This is what the website part of my business felt like then:

That was five years ago this summer. I have learned so much since then. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed and how quickly it has gone by. The world has changed since then. My business has changed. And believe it or not, my clients’ businesses and organizations have changed.

This is what the website part of my business feels like now:


While I didn’t really aspire to be a web designer or a hosting reseller, I have always aspired to do good work. I want the things I do for clients to provide clear value. I even want to provide long-term value. So instead of rolling on with the status quo, I’m starting to rethink the way I’m managing websites to better serve my clients.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few months as the realities of being more or less responsible for 45+ client websites settle in:

  • Websites can be fleeting. As permanent and stable as we wish them to be, they are still temporary. And even when they are static, they are dynamic. WordPress updates are released. There are updates to themes and plugins. It takes a decent amount of work, over time, for a website to remain available — even if the owner of the site never wishes to change it. In addition to that, in fewer than five years, I’ve already seen the business cycle and organizational consolidation result in shutting down websites.
  • Websites can be fragile. This is true because website are, by nature, held out to the public Internet. And the Internet can be a very harsh environment. If the sites of giants like Amazon and Facebook stumble through occasional downtime and problems, be assured that your identity website with a desired reach no bigger than your ZIP code will take a beating. How much more sites with national aspirations? It’s not so much that sites are delicate; the hazards are just relentless.
  • Websites can be frustrating. It’s a challenge to cling the search ranking mountain. It’s hard when you need x amount of traffic and you need to convert y% of those visitors in order to keep the lights on. It’s mind-numbing to find spammy links pop up out of nowhere on your site. It’s a hassle to forget where things are and get locked out of your own site. Yes, it happens!

Websites are still worth the headache.

Despite the challenges, most businesses and organizations find their website to be a critical part of communicating their identity to the world. A site with even a modest amount of traffic can result in thousands of impressions every year. For small businesses in a local market, there usually isn’t a more efficient marketing option.

Since websites are so important to my clients, they have become important to me. Instead of slapping together one or two sites once in a while, website development has grown into a substantial percentage of my business. While it made sense at one time to have a hands-off approach to domain name and hosting, I’m now re-evaluating how I’m doing everything concerning website hosting and management. I expect I’ll be providing clients significantly more value in the area of hosting. Will it cost more? Probably. But it will be worth it.

My clients have been so good to me over the years. They are worth my best efforts and the best solutions I can offer.

I’ll post again as I solidify my plans for a better hosting configuration.

Tips: How to Get Likes on a New Facebook Page

Social media is here to stay. It’s something most of us touch daily. But being a user and making it work for your business are very different. When you have a brand new Facebook Page and you want to build your initial audience, where do you start? How exactly do you get likes on a new Facebook Page? I had a client ask me that very question today, and without much thought, I fired back this list. First, the screen grab of our conversation. Then scroll down for the list.

5 Tips to Boost a New Facebook Page

5 Tips to Boost a New Facebook Page

 

5 Tips to Get Likes on a New Facebook Page


First things first, I’m talking about a Facebook Page. This is not a personal profile where you set up your business as a person with the first name ACME and last name Widgets, Inc. I’m talking about an actual, proper business page. Here’s how  Facebook explains Pages:

If you’re logged in to Facebook and want to create a page, this link will take you to the right place:

When you create the page, you’ll need to add a good profile image. Your profile image should be your logo, ideally. If you are managing a personal brand in which you are virtually inseparable from your business, you might want to use a professional headshot for your profile image. This usually makes sense for people in the insurance business, sales reps, authors, and media personalities. Almost every other kind of business should use a logo for the Facebook Page profile image.

Don’t have a logo?

No worries! That’s something AJ Design can help with. Click here to get started.

In addition to having a well-built profile image, you’ll also want to set your Facebook Page URL. Your Facebook Page’s default address will be something like this:

http://www.facebook.com/My-Business-Name-829472633711178365/

Not cool. It’s not only not cool; it’s also pretty hard to type or remember. If you set your Facebook Page address, this is what you can have:

http://www.facebook.com/MyBusinessName

Much better isn’t it?! With those two preliminaries out of the way, proceed.


Okay, No More Teasing. Here’s the Five Tips to Get Likes on a New Facebook Page

1) Add an appropriate cover image.

Your cover image is among the first opportunities you have to make a good impression. What’s unique about your business? What can you do best? What are you most remembered for? Make sure your cover image features that thing.

2) Invite your friends and family to like the page.

Yep. Play the family card. Don’t be shy! Most of your family and friends (let’s hope…) like you and want you to succeed, right? Don’t ask them for a loan. Don’t ask them to buy things they don’t need. But do ask them to like your page.

3) Add a link to your page to your email signatures. Invite your customers and vendors to like the page.

Many people barely read emails, much less email signatures. But hey, having it there is likely to reach more people than not having it there. I would recommend adding a simple text link like this:

Like us on Facebook

And don’t hesitate to ask your customers and vendors to like your page. It’s usually good to be relaxed with this request:

Hey there Bob,

Thanks for getting that order shipped! I know that was a special request, and you really helped us meet the deadline. Thanks so much!

By the way, we decided to jump in to social media with a Facebook Page. If you are on Facebook, would you mind liking our page? Click here to visit the page. Thanks again!

4) Ask your clients’ permission to mention them (and tag them) in posts or images.

This may be a little tricky if you’re not used to how Facebook works. When you post an image with people in it, Facebook allows users to “tag” people in the photo. It’s a brilliant feature that allows you to say, “Let me look at all the photos on Facebook showing Sally…” The feature breaks down if people over-use it or use it inappropriately, though. If Sally is tagged in a photo of knockoff Oakley sunglasses, it’s a frustration. You wanted one thing but found another. Further, some users’ privacy settings disallow tagging. That’s fine. Note the first few words of this step: Ask your clients’ permission… If someone disallows tagging, don’t worry about it.

But if you ask and they grant permission (getting this in writing may not be a bad idea), you can post an update or an image to your business Page and then tag them in it. This has an organic “viral” effect. Facebook shows that photo in the News Feed of Sally’s friends. It may be presented with text that indicates, “My Business Name tagged Sally in an update,” or some other similar language. If Sally has a large Facebook network made up of people who could benefit from your services in the same way as Sally, this type of sharing can be powerful!

5) Learn about Adobe Spark and use it to create great images.

Spark from Adobe is AMAZING. It’s FREE. Spark enables you to create professional graphics for social media without having to be a designer. I routinely use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, but I reach for Spark when I am not in front of my computer. Here are several examples of images I created with Spark:

There you go. That list of tips for Facebook ought to take most new business Pages from zero to 300 likes and beyond.


If you need help getting things started, contact us. AJ Design works with start-up concerns, entrepreneurs, established businesses and large organizations. I would love to discuss your needs!

If you want some help managing your social accounts on an ongoing basis, Jennifer at Palmetto Social can help.

A Cold Calling Epic Fail

There’s a place for unsolicited interruptions in marketing. But for most of us, including myself, that place is the dustbin of marketing history. The reasons people may cite for disregarding an unsolicited sales pitch are legion, but one reason may be that the person you are calling really doesn’t need what you’re selling. Case in point? Here’s a Facebook post from my personal account:

facebook-post-seo-cold-call

Business Friendly Graphic Design is what this website is all about, and search engine results reflect that.

In addition to that tagline, AJDesignCo.com also ranks well for more general localized searches like graphic design greenwood sc or web design abbeville sc.

If you’re going to employ cold calling without landing a cold calling epic fail, make sure your people are geared toward open-ended networking and discovering opportunities, not just rattling off a script hoping to capture someone with a pulse.

When Is the Last Time You Were Inspired by Marketing in the Financial Sector?

Have you seen the #TDThanksYou video? Take a look:

Okay, okay…we know that #TDThanksYou is not a charity campaign; it’s a marketing campaign from a for-profit entity. And I’m sure there more than a few people who are a bit creeped out that a bank (or perhaps a bank’s employees in collusion with family members) essentially surveilled a few customers to get the details required to be so personalized with their gifts. And we know that everyone can’t expect to receive the same type of lavish experience at TD Bank.

All of that cerebral, skeptical stuff aside, is this not one of the best marketing tactics ever?! It’s like the best parts of Undercover Boss and Extreme Makeover Home Edition applied to the context of a bank’s relationship to a few of its customers. And here we are, discussing it of our own accord at no cost to TD Bank. It’s so genius, it’s almost evil. Almost. But most people including this humble blog author can’t help but have some degree of positive feelings about TD Bank after watching this video.

This kind of marketing inspires and challenges those of us who make our trade in persuasive communication. Yes, we can tell the story of our clients’ businesses or products and tout their best points. But it takes a special kind of effort and creativity to inspire people in the process of advertising or marketing. The generous nature of the thank-you gifts overwhelms the recipient in the video and many viewers as well. The personalization of the gifts to the situations, challenges, and desires of the recipients is so spot-on, it’s uncanny.

How are YOU (and how am I) being inspirational, generous and personal with YOUR marketing efforts?

Your turn…

What do you think about this video from TD Bank? Do you feel the love, or do you remain unconvinced?

Did Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Makes a Personal Attack on the Marketing Profession?

Jessica Stillman from Inc. wrote a provocative piece containing Jeff Bezos quotes. The title is, “7 Jeff Bezos Quotes That Outline the Secret to Success,” and you don’t have to scroll far to find something that moves counter to generally accepted wisdom.

This statement leaps from the page:

“The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies … The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention, and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”

Once I realized Jeff Bezos was advising people to spend less on marketing, I cringed a bit. My defenses shot up. At AJ Design and Marketing, LLC, I hang my hat on providing marketing resources and design services. How can this well-respected business giant say something like this that would hack away at the value proposition of little guys like us? And yet, when I pondered his words a little more deeply, I realized that Bezos is saying the same thing I’ve advised clients and prospects before: work on your business before you work on your marketing.

I was recently contacted by the owner of a small and growing boutique with about 1,500 likes on Facebook. The owner knew I had helped develop the site for 105 West Boutique, and she was interested in a website for her similarly positioned business in a different market area. Yes, 105 West Boutique had only about 40,000 likes on Facebook the day their website went live. Yes, they currently have more than 65,000. But I can almost guarantee that the owners of 105 West wouldn’t have invested $4,000 – $6,000 in web development when they had 1,500 likes on Facebook and and $20,000 in annual revenue. Where some designers or site developers may have tried to pitch a website as a way to solidify the business, this owner of the up-and-coming boutique needed different advice: solidify the brand and build a stronger cash position. Then when the business supports the capital investment, build an online sales channel that is appropriate for your current and anticipated volume, with room to grow a bit.

What Jeff Bezos advised, though it seems hip and almost contrarian at first, is what smart businesses have done for eons: Build your business on your core competency, that thing (or those things) you do better/faster/less expensive than anyone else around you. Don’t invent a new way to snooker people into becoming customers; invent a new way to make people’s lives better or easier. Get really good at serving people, and in today’s “new world,” serving people will lead to the growth you desperately want.

It turns out that Jeff Bezos isn’t such a bad guy after all. Yes, I went a little provocateur with my title (ok…a LOT). But I never really believed Bezos has a personal vendetta with those in the marketing profession. However, if marketers position themselves as those who facilitate spammy overselling tactics, then yeah, maybe “spend less on marketing” applies. But not to me. Ever since I started parlaying the hybrid business and design toolkit into my life’s work, I have felt that it is my responsibility to help build stronger clients. And that sometimes means advising a client away from an option or a project that would benefit me and toward a solution that benefits them.


Telling the truth, even when it hurts. That’s business-friendly graphic design.

Infographic: A Visual History of Google Algorithm Changes

Snow Storm Pax has pummeled the Southeast United States for three days. It is now moving on to the Northeast, but we in the South are still reeling. Most 2-wheel-drive vehicles are safest in their driveways. Most businesses, schools and government offices are shut down. But for any self-employed folks with a to-do list calling, today is a day of catching up. OK, maybe it’s a day to catch up after spending the morning enjoying fun times in the snow with family or friends.

Before settling in for a couple of hours of moving forward on projects, I wanted to share this excellent infographic from Hubspot and Moz on the evolution of Google’s algorithm. If you own or manage a website, you will be interested to take this in. Click here to see infographic this full size.

A Visual History of Google's Algorithm Changes

Emma, the Web & Graphic Designer Contestant on Wheel of Fortune

Layout of the Wheel of Fortune from Season 30, courtesy of Germanname1990 on Wikipedia

Big Winner!

I saw a rerun of Wheel of Fortune recently, and I happened to notice that one of the contestants was a web and graphic designer. Her name is Emma. She and her husband didn’t make it to the bonus round on this military family edition of Wheel, but the fact that she mentioned her name and her occupation on national television seemed like a potential big win to me as the owner of a small business.

Unless the show doesn’t allow contestants to tell about their appearance, I think the fact that your name and face are reaching a national audience would be worth a blog post or two and some social media updates, don’t you? Surely Emma would have agreed and I would find evidence of that on her website or in social media sites.

I hopped over to the computer to do a little googling after the show concluded. I was very curious to see if I could find Emma online by searching the few pieces of information I recalled.

Google: emma web graphic designer wheel of fortune

The top search result was a page on a blog that recapped Wheel of Fortune. I scrolled down the results expecting to find more. I didn’t find Emma, but I did notice in the recap that her last name is Rhodes.

Looking for Emma Rhodes

I searched on, looking this time for information on Emma Rhodes, web and graphic designer. What I was looking for was some sort of website or portfolio site that would allow a person to convert themselves from a viewer on Wheel of Fortune into someone who was in Emma’s sales funnel.

Despite my best Google-fu, I didn’t find anything that conclusively pointed to Emma’s business or career. I did find someone named Emma Rhodes that is an illustrator/painter in London, but she isn’t the Emma I was seeking. In my effort to make a connection between Emma’s appearance on Wheel to her revenue stream, I came up bankrupt (sorry for the pun…I just couldn’t resist!). There are several potential reasons for this:


1 Emma Rhodes is a designer, but perhaps she is an internal designer. If she is neither a freelancer or the owner of a firm, she would have no pressing reason to promote her services.

2 Emma Rhodes is no longer a web and graphic designer (the show originally aired on November 9, 2012 and I saw the show on August 2, 2013).

3 Emma Rhodes is interested in growing her business and finding new clients, but she does not have a website — this is hard to believe since she said she is a web designer (unless of course she has fallen victim to the Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes syndrome).

4 Emma Rhodes has a website, but she wants to be one of those best-kept-secret kind of designers.


I am not sure what the actual reason is that I was unable to find Emma Rhodes online. I suppose I would actually need to speak with Emma to solve that mystery.

The flip side of this little exercise is this: Will this blog post, with no special SEO magic, eventually rank well for emma web graphic designer wheel of fortune? I am no SEO guru, but I have learned a few things about content. I bet it will. Only time will tell.


Do you happen to know Emma Rhodes? Are you one of her clients? Please contact me and put me in touch with her. I would love to connect and network with her! It is always exciting to meet other professionals in different markets and learn from each other.

 

The Secret to Effective SEO: Content Creation

The Rainforest Strategy by Michael Q. PinkI was privileged to receive a copy of Michael Pink‘s book, Rainforest Strategy, when it launched a couple of years ago. It’s a great read for anyone in business at any level, especially those who are leaders or aspiring leaders. In the book Pink explains how he studied life in the world’s rainforests and distilled principles applicable to make any business more fruitful and profitable.

One of the processes he observed is a term he coined called fungigation. You will have to read the book to learn more, but Pink explained that fungigation is the process by which organisms in the rainforest (principally fungi like mushrooms and molds) take abundant waste matter such as dead leaves and transform it – fungigate it – into something useful and valuable.

Mushrooms on the rainforest floor.

This is a caption.

What does fungigation have to do with SEO or creating content? Everything. Let me explain.

I am not a SEO expert, but I have learned a few things over the years through training and practice. No matter how search providers’ algorithms change, the one constant has been and forever shall be content. It makes sense when you stop to think about it. But with all the SEO focus on keywords, off-page links, and increasing traffic, it is easy to forget that content is the central aim of any user of search engines. Content is what search engines index. Content is how search engines match results with users’ queries. Content. Content. Content. Without content, there is no SEO because there would be nothing to search.

Content is why blogging is often so important. No matter how well your five-page website is optimized today, it can’t complete with a similar site that has five static pages and a 275-post blog (assuming the blog is filled with on-message content). And how do you arrive at a 275-post blog? You have to get good (or at least prolific) at creating content.

Content creation. Sounds like hard work to me…

How do you create all this content? You can either hire a blogger or dedicate an extra five to ten hours every week to writing articles and stories for your blog. Or you can call a play from rainforest mushrooms and fungigate your blog content from other sources.

What sources are available to you? Your mileage may vary, but I’ve discovered a goldmine of content in my own business: emails to clients and prospects. I may not block out an hour every day just to write for my blog, but I often take 30 – 45 minutes crafting an email to a client or following up with a prospect. What is in these emails? Lots and lots of content. My emails to clients often include tips on marketing, website development, or graphic design principles. Sometimes I link external resources. Sometimes I provide examples and images. There is a huge body of content that I create as a matter of course in developing relationships with my clients and staying in touch with them. And it is just a matter of fungigation to craft some excellent blog content from these messages I have sent to clients. Remove this opening greeting, expand that thought with another paragraph, insert links to those resources, and in a short amount of time, I will have a new blog post. That is the beauty of fungigation as it applies to creating blog content.

This particular post isn’t pure fungigation, but I can tell you that in the future, you can expect to see more posts that began as emails sent to clients.

It’s your turn now.

What about you? What “shortcuts” have you found to creating content? Share in the comments so we can all benefit.

Mobile Marketing: Something Worth Doing Well

Today Hubspot offered a great post about mobile marketing. I have to admit that I’m not a mobile-crazy, app-developing, mobile expert (except that I’m a fairly adroit user of an Android OS phone). But I am aware of how mobile consumption of the web is trending, and I’m aware of how that trend is shaping design and the entire marketing function. For those of you who are jumping into the mobile world to promote your business, Hubspot’s infographic presents 17 factors you should consider before, during, and after your efforts.

In the wild world of business, sometimes you just have to shoot a few times then start aiming. This is especially true for start-up companies. But I highly recommend you at least consider these 17 suggestions and ask yourself, “Do we have a plan for that?” If you do, great. If not, make sure your business goal justifies the risk of ignoring these sensible and helpful principles.

The 17 R's of Savvy Mobile Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

Note about my relationship with Hubspot: I am not employed, in contract, or in any other way compensated by Hubspot. But I was certified as a Hubspot Inbound Marketing Specialist when I worked for Lee Resources International, Inc.