Category Archives: Small Business

What problems does your Website solve?

My little town of Warrenton, Virginia, started off life not as a destination, but rather as a convenient stopping point between other destinations. In the late 1700s, it had a road running through it between Falmouth, a port town on the Rappahanock River, and Winchester, an early European settlement and frontier town where once a 17 year-old George Washington was offical surveyor in the area. That road crossed paths at the place where Warrenton would grow with a road between Alexandria and Culpeper, Virginia.

At the crossroads, a trading post was set up, known as the Red Store (the original building has been incorporated into a larger building, and still exists on Main Street in Warrenton). A blacksmith shop and an inn or two also came into existence, and the commerce in the area originally existed primarily to serve those who were traveling down one of the roads or another.

Others started settling into the area, and a decision was made to set up a Courthouse at this crossroads, and a County to manage governance of the land. The town grew up around the crossroads until the late 1960s, when a bypass brought traffic around the center of town, as well as moving the focus of much of the commerce in the area. The Old Town section of Warrenton is still host to a number of stores, but many of those passing through the area no longer have to travel its hilly and narrow streets.

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Turning Fireworks into Submarine Horns

The Washington Nationals no longer set off fireworks after someone hits a homerun at one of their games or when the team wins, and I think it’s great. Instead you hear three blasts from a submarine horn. The team is creating its own unique identity.

Nationals Park is located next to the Navy Yard in Washington DC, and many of the teams fans are from the military. According to Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post, who wrote about How the Nats went from fireworks to a submarine horn this morning, the team visited the Navy Yard looking for alternatives, and found one with the sub horn.

The hope is to have something unique, distinctive, and appropriate to the team, its location, and its fan base. If you were switching channels on TV without necessarily watching the screen, and heard three blasts from the horn, you should be able to recognize that a Nationals game is on, and either the team just won, or someone hit a home run.

My last post inquired about web site quality, and exactly what “quality” might mean. The Panda updates from Google seem to focus upon the quality of pages found in the search engines index, and boosting pages in search results based upon quality signals. Something that might be tempting to web site owners is to emulate or imitate quality sites. Perhaps too much. A thoughtful article from Dr. Jakob Nielsen last year, Should You Copy a Famous Site’s Design? points out a number of reasons why that might not be such a good idea. Perhaps the most important is knowing your audience, and focusing upon who they are.

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Just What is Web Site Quality?

How credible is your website? How likely are people to believe what they find on your pages, or contact you to learn more about what you offer, or conduct a transaction on your site? Would you consider your site to contain high quality content? How do you measure the quality of the content on your pages?

Search engines seem to be placing more emphasis on the quality of web pages, such as with the recent Panda updates at Google, as described in a couple of blog posts on the Official Google Blog:

If Google is now looking at the quality of content on pages as part of what they consider when showing pages in search results, just how do they calculate the quality of pages?

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Small Business Blogging Content Strategies

One of the challenges facing someone when they first decide to start a blog is figuring out what to write about, whom to write for, and how to incoporate blogging into their daily routine. This is true for businesses that to decide to add a blog to their website as well.

Coming up with a blog content strategy can make those challenges much easier. The first step involves asking yourself why you’re considering blogging to begin with. Why blog?

Blogging Objectives

One of the first steps you want to take with a business blog is to define what you want it to achieve. That might include:

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Virginia SEO and Internet Marketing Meetup for Small Business

In its very earliest of days, SEO by the Sea began as an idea to have a gathering of people interested in internet marketing and search engine optimization away from the big cities, the expensive hotels, costly conferences, and crowded conference centers.

The idea of returning to those roots is something I’ve been considering for a while.

On Sunday, I took the first step by registering at meetup.com the Virginia SEO and Internet Marketing for Small Business. Meetup.com hasn’t officially announced the group yet by sending out emails informing meetup.com members of the new group, but should within the next day or two.

The meetup group is for small business owners and website developers and designers around me in Virginia who might be interested in learning more about internet marketing and search engine optimization. If you work on local government or nonprofit sites, or have a personal or professional blog, and are interested in learning more about SEO or internet marketing, it would be great to see you as well.

I have some ideas on places to hold local meetings, and am hoping to get some local businesses and business organizations involved.

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Web Self-Help for Small Business

While in his Late 20s, Benjamin Franklin came up with a list of 13 virtues, which he thought were areas in his life where he could improve. He wrote these virtues down in a book and kept notes on how he was addressing them in his life. He chose a different virtue to focus upon each week, meaning that he would revisit each one 4 times a year.

Franklin was one of the first Americans to write about self help and self improvement, and the 13 virtues that he listed appeared frequently in his writings to the public. The virtues that Franklin focused upon were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.

Dr. Benjamin Franklin at a writing desk with quill in one hand, paper in the other, and behind him through a window lightning shown striking a building - engraving by Pater Noster Row, dated 1778.

I remember when I first started working on a web site, and recall how much that site changed as I learned more about HTML, graphics, usability, marketing and other topics. Looking back, I’ve been wondering if it would have helped to have a list like Franklin’s, that I could have used to focus my efforts on building, maintaining, and promoting a web site, and that I can use in the future.

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The Importance of Listening

When I was fairly young, my family picked up roots and moved from New Jersey to Ohio. As a six-year-old, it was quite a culture shock. I remember how much more slowly people talked in the great Mid-West, how polite they were, and how they had funny names for things, such as calling soda by the name “pop.”

Those half-dozen years in the Garden State were enough to indoctrinate me to the speaking habits of the region, and I remember in our new home fumbling with the fact that I spoke at a quicker rate than my classmates and the neighborhood kids. It wasn’t that they were slow, but rather that they just talked that way. Looking back, I realize that I probably cut off some conversations during pauses, because the delay between words was long enough that it seemed to signal a completed thought.

Seven years later, we found ourselves packing everything up and moving back to central Jersey, close again to our extended family and to a new business that my father had started up with some others in his industry. Seven years in the land of fields of corn and dairy, of Cincinnati Reds and riverboats, and I picked up some of the customs of my midwestern environment.

Returning to New Jersey meant experiencing a culture shock in reverse, where my classmates and neighbors talked much quicker than I did, and interrupted me when I talked. It wasn’t that I was slow, but rather that I just talked that way. I knew better than to ask for “pop” at the local pizzeria, cause they more likely might have tried to help me find my dad than giving me a Soda.

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Writing Content for Small Businesses Online

There are creative ways that a small business may use to help visitors find them online, engage those visitors and customers, and keep them coming back. The Small Business Administration has a article that describes some ways that many businesses can use to promote their business in 15 Foolproof Ideas for Promoting Your Company. The article offers ideas like holding contests, or publishing a newsletter, offering demonstrations and seminars and more. Many of those ideas can work well in an online setting.

When you create content for an ecommerce site, it also can help to think about more than just how you may present the products or goods that you offer on your pages. Many ecommerce sites on the web simply break products own into categories, and provide very little beyond a listing of those products and brief descriptions about them.

Understanding how people may search for what you have to offer can be really important, especially if you hope to have visitors find you through search engines. It can be a key to finding creative ways to bring people to your site who might be interested in what you have to offer.

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