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.

A Blog Post About Not Blogging Enough

I’m composing a post about how much I write for my blog. Or how much I don’t write. Yep, I’m blogging about not blogging enough. Okay, I really just got tired of seeing the latest post in the most recent slot, knowing it was old news and knowing that it wasn’t really compelling. So maybe a quick cathartic rant — laced with a little bit of empathy and encouragement — is just the ticket! Need a new blog post? Write one about not writing. That’s a very Jerry Seinfeld thing to say, is it not?

JUST DO IT! MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!No, the irony isn’t lost on me.

So what do you do when you know you ought to blog but you can’t find the time? Well for starters, here’s some encouragement from Shia LaBeouf.

How Much Do YOU Need to Blog?

Maybe a better approach is to ask yourself, “Self, do I need to blog all that much?” The metrics on blog frequency and successful lead generation are a ridiculous burden for most small businesses to bear. I recall one article shared on the Fuel Your Photos Facebook group showing through data that  the most successful companies publish more than 16 posts per month on their blog (!). That may be realistic for several types of businesses, especially those with a business-to-consumer mode of operation and those who have someone with a full-time responsibility for marketing. However, in my experience, 16 posts would be a good year in blogging for most small business websites.

By the way, Corey Potter is an amazing wealth of insight and information concerning SEO and marketing. Check out Fuel Your Photos on their website and their Facebook group. It’s geared toward photographers, but I have found the information to be applicable to pretty much any small business.

More Is Better, Right?

Anyone with a website and a blog knows that more content, more traffic, more conversion is always better. It’s the lure of productivity. There is certainly a point at which more web traffic (and more blog posts that give a place to that traffic) is a good thing. But let’s look at a reminder from Sabrina:

More isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.

But to be honest, from a SEO perspective, it’s better to have more instances of your keywords and your message occurring in the index. SEO algorithms are somewhat unintelligent in that they generally equate quantity to authority. For example, the more I blog about business friendly graphic design, the more the search engine considers me to be an authority on the subject. The organic results from Google, Bing and Yahoo would agree.

Reaching for An Excuse — and Hope

Okay, you got me. I’m not really making a case for blogging less. I’m just reaching for an excuse to justify how I could possibly be content with such an infrequent and irregular blogging frequency. Yep, that’s pretty much it.

But really some businesses do okay not blogging once a week or once every two days. But a target like once a week is a good thing. If you mess up and only do half that much, over the course of the year you’ll have 26 blog posts. And if you do a good job of staying on message while learning just a little bit about SEO, your website will have at least 26 more opportunities for people to find your content and maybe become interested in what you offer. Ah, there’s the hope.

And here’s a little real-world example of how this plays out: I was inspired to create a new post about 9:42 a.m. I said, “I wonder if I can knock this out by 10:00 a.m.?” That didn’t happen. It’s 10:24 a.m. and I’m not quite done yet. But I’m about to hit the Publish button, and I’m only about a half hour over what I aimed at. Not too shabby.

If you strain for a goal that’s beyond what you think possible, you’ll do more than if you simply don’t try.

When you’re ready to “try” but need some direction, contact us. AJ Design can help you get started with a blog, website, or ecommerce platform.

Featured Photo credit: Thom

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:


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

In addition to that tagline, 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.

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.