by Carla Alvarez | Jun 2, 2008 | Small Business, Small Business Tips
Everyone has an email addict for a friend. You know . . . the ones that send dire warnings that would take two minutes to debunk on Snopes or threaten,
“You will have seven years of bad luck if you don’t forward this email to ten friends in the next five minutes.”
Whenever I get those, I always think, “Gee . . . thanks for thinking of me.”
However, yesterday my friend, sent me a forward that truly made a positive difference in my day. It was a list titled “45 Life Lessons and 5 to Grow On” by Regina Brett of The Plain Dealer.
The list starts off with this:
To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 in August, so here goes:
Then follows 50 lines of absolute gems of wisdom, one of which is enough to ponder for a day.
As I read through the tips, there were several that hold true for businesses as well.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
While you need to have a plan for your business, it is important to remember that the plan is for the long-term. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Many times when I talk to a business owner about their marketing, they are overwhelmed with all of the avenues available.
You don’t have to do it all and not all at once. Prioritize and then take the next step.
13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
So, so, SO true, for life as well as your business. In a past article, I talked about the pitfalls of making business decisions based on what others were doing.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
Even a great idea coupled with an awesome plan will experience obstacles. If you believe in what you are doing, you not only have to go after it, but continue to plug on even when you feel like it is not going your way.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
You can’t control everything and life will just happen. Plan as well as you can and then have the flexibility to adjust the plan when the unexpected happens.
48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Be specific about what you need and what you are asking for. Suzie Cheel with the Abundance Highway is currently in the middle of achieving a goal she has set for herself. She clearly delineated what she wanted to happen, why it was important, and how others could help her achieve it.
If you’ve been following her blog, you know that the results weren’t immediate. She set her plan and started the actions, but it took a little while for the results to start manifesting. There were times of discouragement, but she kept following the plan and then her results started to snowball.
If you’d like to read the rest of the tips, visit Regina Brett’s column.
by Carla Alvarez | May 27, 2008 | Internet Tips, Small Business, Small Business Tips, Small Business Websites
This is part three of our Web Site Basics for Business Owners series.
In the last article in the series, “Web Site Basics for Business Owners,” we talked about how the different components of a web site work together. This week we are going to go into domain names in more depth.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is how people find your web site on the internet. The domain name system (DNS) is managed by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Among other responsibilities, ICANN determines which extensions will be available for registration (.com, .net, .org, etc.) and accredits private companies known as registrars to manage the actual domain registrations.
How to Get a Domain Name
There are thousands of sites out there that offer domain registrations. I use www.GoDaddy.com. They have great prices, awesome customer service (you can actually get someone on the phone without getting lost in a phone system purgatory), and have great tools in their account management.
I don’t use any of their other services; however, all of my domains get registered through them. If you need to find a domain.
One thing to remember is that you are paying to register to use the domain name and the registration has to be kept current.
Choosing Your Domain
Now there is an art to finding a good domain name, and I’ll cover several techniques in a later post in this series. For right now, here are a few basics to remember.
- Shorter is better.
- The .com extension is preferable.
- Avoid hyphens in the domain when possible.
There is an entire industry devoted to buying and selling domain names, yes people actually make a living from it. The Art of Money blog has four in-depth articles on choosing domain names. If you are just picking out your first domain name for your business, just follow those three tips above and you’ll be okay.
The Domain I Want is Registered
Finding a good domain name can be a challenge. Not only are there millions of businesses operating on the web, but there are domain speculators, or “domainers” that register domains to hold. If you search for a domain name and it shows that it is registered, you can take it a couple of steps further if you really want that domain.
First go to the domain to see if there is a site already active on the domain. If there is and it looks like it is an ongoing concern, you’ll probably have to move to your second choice of domain.
If it looks like a hobby site that hasn’t been updated in a few years, proceed to step two. If it is a site that only has advertising on it, it is likely that it is being held by a domain investor.
Next, check the WHOIS registry to see who has the domain. If you go through Godaddy, there is a “click here for info” link that will show you who owns it.
After finding the owner information, if you are still interested in the domain name you can send them an email to ask if they would be interested in selling.
Private Registrations: Many times people will pay for a private registration for their domain because they don’t want their contact information to be public. In that case, you have to send an email to the proxy email listed, which will then be forwarded to the owner.
Expired Registrations: Every once in awhile you will come across a registry that is in a redemption, or “pending deletion” period. Once a domain expires, there is a certain period of time in which the previous registrant can renew and redeem the domain. Basically, the domain is in limbo until it is out of the redemption stage.
What to Do Next
Once you have secured your domain, the next step is to point it somewhere by setting the nameservers. The DNS, or domain nameservers, tell the internet which server to route your visitors to when they access your domain name.
When you get web hosting for your site, your hosting company will give you a set of nameservers, which will look like ns1.myhostingservice.com and ns2.myhostingservice.com. You just go back to the domain management area of your registrar and enter the nameservers for the domain. It will take anywhere from a few hours to two days for the domain to point to the site on your new hosting.
If you aren’t ready to point the domain to your actual site, the registrar will normally have a “parked” page display when the domain name is accessed. Often registrars will offer a one page site included with the registration.
If this is an option, be sure to customize the page with your company information until you can get your actual site up. Include your company name, contact information, and a short description of the services that you offer.
by Carla Alvarez | May 21, 2008 | Small Business, Small Business Tips
A couple of years ago, I read an article in the paper about “time debt.” We promise more or overcommit to more time than we have to give.
I’ll admit, I’m a big offender in this . . . huge. No, not just huge, but “HU-ooGE” as Donald Trump would say (imagine the pursed lips.)
So after I read the article, I made a decision to be more accountable with my time.
Know What You’re Working With
The first step I took was to map out how my week looked and how much available time I actually had. I’m visual, so this was truly a schedule drawn on paper. I listed all of the things that I ideally wanted to do both personally and professionally: exercise, network, work on personal projects, etc.
What I quickly discovered is that I don’t have nearly as much disposable time as I thought I did.
After that shocker, I worked out what looked to me to be a reasonable schedule.
Track Time Spent
The next step was to track the time it took to accomplish tasks. Since I already kept a journal with running notes, this wasn’t too big of a stretch.
Again, it was sobering to find out that I couldn’t cram as much as I thought I could into a day.
However, as I kept on with the tracking, readjusted my expectations, and set more realistic goals, the amazing thing was that I actually found time. If I schedule three projects with realistic time budgets and one went more smoothly than expected, I might have a spare half an hour in my day.
Identify Time Stealers
Even with a clearly defined schedule, it is very easy to let time slip away if you don’t have a handle on the time stealers.
Don’t be afraid to set limits: If someone calls with a request, don’t hesitate to turn it down if it doesn’t fit in your schedule.
Have set time for emails and call backs: Rather than taking calls and returning emails throughout the day, schedule times to attend to them. Depending on the urgency of your business, once or twice a day should work for most situations.
Use a timer to control activity creep: Do you get lost in your RSS feeds, message forums, or industry news? Use a timer to keep yourself to the set time.
by Carla Alvarez | May 14, 2008 | Small Business Tips
So you’re working on a project with a client or team member that is out of state, or maybe you’re in the same area, but with the price of gas and the stress of traffic and you don’t want to drive across town and you need a conferencing solution.
There are a number of options out there including the enterprise level Webex, Adobe’s conferencing solution, and GoToMeeting.
But you want fast, easy and affordable.
Skype offers free conference and video calls to other Skype users. The conference calls can have a total of ten participants, nine others besides yourself.
Basic Skype services are free, which include calls (phone and video) and chats to other users. Purchasing a premium service enables you to connect to non Skype users. Think Vonage on steriods.
Signing up for the service is pretty painless. Just create an account and download a small desktop program.
The also make it very easy to outfit your computer, home, and business to fully utilize their service with an online store. They don’t only sell headsets for your computer, but WiFi phones, web cams and their fully loaded conference phone
by Carla Alvarez | Apr 25, 2008 | Internet Tips, Small Business Tips
I’ve wanted to get a toll free number for my business for a long time, but it takes me awhile to make a decision on that type of service.
I have to use Excel and create a Fishbein model to rank and rate all of the features. There are so many options out there, it is hard to decide. Some companies offer only the toll free service. Some have complete VBX systems along with a toll free number and there are a multitude of options.
But what finally pushed me to make a decision had nothing to do with a toll free number, but faxes.
I have a fax machine, and I’ve occasionally made use of Efax’s free incoming fax service. This has worked for me well so far.
But last week I had to send a 10 page fax and the transmission kept failing. I spent the entire day off and on trying to get it to go through. I finally gave up on the fax machine and signed up for RingCentral’s service.
If I was just looking to send and receive faxes, I probably would have stuck with Efax; however, since I also was looking for a toll free number as well, I went with RingCentral. It was only a few dollars more than Efax a month to have both and the basic RingCentral service includes a bare bones VBX system.
A few of the other services I checked out were myFax and CallWave Fax. Callwave has actually been around for a long time. I used their incoming call notifier service back when I was on dial up and only had one phone line.
Can you even imagine paying by the minute for internet access again? Well, I guess you still do for WiFi, but it still amazing how the internet has changed how we operate in just the past decade.
Want to find out more about RingCentral?
Get your own Toll Free or Local Number with voicemail for as low as $9.99 per month
by Carla Alvarez | Apr 23, 2008 | Internet Tips, Small Business, Small Business Tips, Small Business Websites
I was doing market research today on small businesses and noticed a few common mistakes when it came to to their web site.
- They don’t keep control of their domain names.This is a big one. I have worked with so many people to try to get their domain name back that has either expired or they lost control of that I should start domain recovery services.Your domain name is the online doorway to your business. Without it, no one is going to be able to find you. Don’t have someone else manage your domain name. If you absolutely just don’t want to deal with it, make sure that you and your company are listed as the official registrant and list your web manager as the administrative, technical, or billing contact.
- They don’t include their domain name on their other marketing materials. I’ve seen businesses spend thousands of dollars a month on a Yellow Page ad that doesn’t list their domain name. Billboards with a phone number, but no web site address.And my favorite, business cards with a url that goes nowhere. If you don’t have an actual web site up, don’t say that you do. It looks flaky.
- Focusing on the pretty and ignoring the content. Of course everyone wants a site that looks good, however designing for print is not the same as designing for the web. How the graphics and content are displayed can determine how effective your web site is.One of the sites I found did not have one single character of spiderable text on the entire web site. Not one. No, I’m not kidding.When I first looked at it, I thought it was a bunch of images masquerading as a web site. Actually it would have been better if it had been. At least then there would have been some text and links in the image map.
The entire site was Flash. It didn’t look like it at first because there was absolutely no interactivity other than calling up a new page when a menu item was clicked.
If you’re reading this and don’t understand why any of the above matters, images are to search engines what paintings are to a blind person . . . absolutely irrelevant.
- Not Keeping Their Web Site CurrentOne of the worst things you can do to your business’s credibility is having obviously outdated information on your web site: old phone numbers, old addresses, employees that moved on in the last century, “specials” dated from two years ago, and so on.
- Making Wholesale Changes to Their Web SiteThis may seem like a contradiction to #4; however, you can do just as much damage to your rankings in the search engines by making changes to it as you can to your credibility by doing nothing at all.Believe me, I’ve done this before. I was updating and changing the structure on one of my hobby sites which ranked really well for certain terms. Since it was just a hobby site, I didn’t want to spend the time on updating it properly and redirecting the old pages to the new.
So I just switched it . . . and the SERPs and traffic tanked for two months. It’s a very good example of what not to do.
If you have pages on your business’s web site that rank well for certain terms, be very careful of making changes to the key components of the page.
There are a lot of web solutions out there today that make it easy for a business owner to maintain a web site themselves. This is a plus in that it makes a site more affordable for some and can more accurately reflect the services and offerings of a business.
The danger in this is that it also makes it easy to make major changes that can drastically affect rankings.
One of my clients is very comfortable with updating their web site . . . which is great. They rank pretty well on several key words in their industry, but quite frankly I’m amazed that they rank at all because they are constantly changing page titles and categories. Those poor pages don’t have a chance to gain any authority at all before they are redone.