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Why You Need a Website
Even if you're not planning on selling online, a well-crafted site is essential for any business.

Q: My business is very small, just me and two employees, and our product really can't be sold online. Do I really need a website?

A: That's a good question. In fact, it's one of the most important and most frequently asked questions of the digital business age. Before I answer, however, let's flash back to the very first time I was asked this question. It was circa 1998, during the toddler years of the internet.

I was giving a speech on the impact of the internet on small business at an association luncheon in Montgomery, Alabama. Back in 1998, which was decades ago in internet years, the future of e-commerce was anybody's guess, but even the most negative futurists agreed that all the signs indicated that a large portion of future business revenues would be derived from online transactions or from offline transactions that were the result of online marketing efforts.

So should your business have a website, even if your business is small and sells products or services you don't think can be sold online? My answer in 1998 is the same as my answer today: Yes, if you have a business, you should have a website. Period. No question. Without a doubt.

Also, don't be so quick to dismiss your product as one that can't be sold online. Nowadays, there's very little that can't be sold over the internet. More than 20 million shoppers are now online, purchasing everything from books to computers to cars to real estate to jet airplanes to natural gas to you name it. If you can imagine it, someone will figure out how to sell it online.

Let me clarify one point: I'm not saying you should put all your efforts into selling your wares over the internet, though if your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly be considering it. The point to be made here is that you should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.

That said, it's not enough that you just have a website. You must have a professional-looking site if you want to be taken seriously. Since many consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like it was designed by a barrel of colorblind monkeys, your chance at making a good first impression will be lost.

One of the great things about the internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big boys. As mentioned, you have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well-designed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I've seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.

You also mention that yours is a small operation, but when it comes to benefiting from a website, size does not matter. I don't care if you're a one-man show or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don't have a website, you're losing business to other companies that do.

Here's the exception to my rule: It's actually better to have no website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, "Hey, look, we take our business so seriously that we have created this wonderful site for our customers!" or it screams, "Hey, look, I let my 10-year-old nephew design my site. Good luck finding anything!"

Your website is an important part of your business. Make sure you treat it as such.

Tim W. Knox is the founder, president and CEO of four successful technology companies: B2Secure Inc., a Web-based hiring management software company; Digital Graphiti Inc., a software development company; and Sidebar Systems, a company that creates cutting edge convergence software for broadcast media outlets; and Online Profits 4U, an e-business dedicated to helping online entrepreneurs start and prosper from an online, wholesale or drop-ship business.

What is SEO and how can it help my website’s Google visibility?

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation or SEO refers to the process of improving the position that your website appears at in the "organic" search results returned by sites such as Google.

As a general rule of thumb, sites that appear higher up in the results will get more traffic to their pages, and so potentially more business. Your goal is to get to page one and ideally to position one, but whether that is feasible largely depends on the market that you are operating in. If you're in the mobile phone space or travel, you'll be fighting a losing battle unless you've got a sizeable budget to spend. However, if you're offering a niche product or a service in a defined geographical area, you stand a pretty good chance of at least getting to page one if you are patient and follow these basic principles.

Keyword rich content

One of the key tools that search providers such as Google and Microsoft (Bing) employ to determine your rankings are "spiders". A spider is a piece of software that crawls the web in a methodical, automated manner. They browse your website (and everyone else's) to identify the actual copy written on the page along with things like use of key words and phrases. This data is then used to determine the relevance of your site when someone enters a keyword or phrase into Google, Bing or any other search engine.

A useful free tool for identifying your keywords is the Google AdWords keyword tool. This is designed to help prospective advertisers identify the most relevant keywords for their chosen market, but it is also very helpful when writing copy for your website.

Once you have identified your keywords, ensure that they appear in the body of your pages, as well as in the metadata of your page, which is the unseen data that gives the spiders key information about your page. This can either be done by yourself, with a little knowledge of HTML and access to your server, or it can be done by your web designer.

Linking

PageRank is a number scored out of 10 that is given to your website based on inbound and outbound links, and helps search engines to verify how trustworthy your site is. Linking between sites allows "link juice" to be carried through, so if your site is linked to by a site with a good PageRank, link juice will be carried forward to your site, improving your ranking.

While you cannot generally control the inbound links to your site (and Google disapproves of link farms and other artificial ways of linking), there are some steps that can be taken to improve your PageRank score. Ensure that your site is linked to from your social media content, most notably Google+, and attempt to get listed on free open directories such as DMOZ or professional bodies associated with your market.

Both outbound and internal links are crucial. Wherever you mention a site or a source, make sure these include a reference and a hyperlink. As for internal links, meticulously linking will increase the time spent on your site by the spiders. You may wish to revisit your menu structure, or to insert a quick links footer, which will ensure that each page on your site has a link to all the other pages on it.

In order to determine the PageRank of your site, you can download a browser plugin such as PageRank Status for the Google Chrome browser.

Keep it fresh

The rate at which search engine spiders crawl your site is in part determined by how frequently the content of your pages change. With this in mind, you may want to create a monthly task to change text, images, or add or remove pages, in order to ensure that your content is regularly updated.

Alternatively, set up a blog on your site and allocate time each day (or week) to write or curate some content that is relevant to your target market. This might seem onerous or daunting, but once you get into the habit it becomes second nature and shouldn't take more than about half an hour a day. For reference material – which should always be credited – use Google Alerts to keep up to date with online content that matches your keywords.

Keeping up to date with SEO

The algorithms used by Google and Microsoft to determine the order of their results are subject to tweaks and improvements as they attempt to deliver ever more accurate search results. As a result, SEO is something of a moving feast and it pays to stay up to date. That said, these basic principles are unlikely to change significantly as they are key determinants of your ranking.

- This piece was originally published in January 2014

Natalie Lines is a web developer and digital marketing executive at WriteUpp, a provider of practice management software for small healthcare practices

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7 Predictions on Mobile Marketing Trends in 2015 You Need To Know

7 Predictions on Mobile Marketing Trends in 2015 You Need To KnowThe notion that the current year is ‘the year of mobile’ is becoming very real.Predictions on how we will interact with our mobile devices and how they will interact with us, are often overplayed or take many more years to come to fruition than first thought due to unforeseen market forces, technology constraints or poor user adoption.But it’s time to start asking, will 2015 be the year of mobile?

The notion that the current year is ‘the year of mobile’ is becoming very real.

Predictions on how we will interact with our mobile devices and how they will interact with us, are often overplayed or take many more years to come to fruition than at first thought due to unforeseen market forces, technology constraints or poor user adoption.

It’s time to start asking, will 2015 be the year of mobile?

A recent report by eMarketer predicted mobile usage worldwide to reach 25% in 2014. Looking forward, OVUM predicts that another 1 billion people will connect to the web by mobile devices by the end of 2015. Whatever landmarks are reached and bridges crossed in the intervening period, you can make no mistake that progress on several fronts is speeding up.

Here is a infographic from wearesocial.com that provides some perspective on the scale of mobile in a social and mobile web world.

image: http://www.jeffbullas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/mobile-marketing-trends-1.jpg

mobile marketing trendsLet’s look forward to the year ahead in mobile and explore the new opportunities and challenges that are opening up for consumers, developers and marketers. Here are 7 mobile marketing trends you need to know about.

1. Mobile security rises up the agenda

With some very high profile hacks this year (Sony’s email leak and the Snapchat hack spring instantly to mind) security is going to be at the forefront in the minds of consumers and developers alike. Expect passwords to continue to be replaced – or at least used in conjunction with – other forms of security like biometric identification and a push towards tightening up security around cloud based services. With the growth of Internet of Things connected devices set to rocket as well, 2015 could be the most critical year yet for addressing the issue of mobile security.

2. 4.9 billion connected devices by the end of 2015

With Tech Crunch predicting a phenomenal 4.7 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet by the end of 2015, expect to see the term ‘Internet of Things’ surface more and more in the popular press as well as the tech press, as we enter this brave new world of interconnected devices and massive data. This is a world that goes far beyond thermostats that turn themselves on before you get home. Expect cars, white goods, a whole host of new wearables and even children’s toys, to start changing the way we live and connect, as well as opening up huge new opportunities for ever more targeted marketing as third parties begin to collect more and more data about our daily habits. On the heels of these new devices you can expect the debate around security to start hotting up as well.

3. Wearables to take-off

We’ve long been promised a world of wearable tech but as of yet it’s failed to materialise. From the faltering Google Glass to devices like the Apple watch, it’s become easy to write wearable tech off as a fad. But as mobile technology and infrastructure improves, so to do the opportunities these devices present begin to diversify. Ever more detailed health and fitness stats will help us to constantly monitor our own heart rates, blood pressure, skin temperature and breathing rate, or perhaps more importantly those of elderly or infirm loved ones who are living on their own. There are also numerous of B2B applications here with Google Glass potentially seeing a renaissance in business applications.

4. Mobile payments could begin to gain traction

Driven in large part by millennials who are spending more than any other demographic using their smartphones, expect to see a sharp boost in mobile payment from digital wallet services. Apple Play may well succeed where Google Wallet failed, due in part to the fact that so many of its customers already have their credit card details stored on their iTunes accounts and the consensus it has gained from the big three payment companies (Visa, American Express and Mastercard).

5. Proximity technology and smartphones as ‘bridges’ to omni-channel marketing

The use of proximity technologies, like beacons and near field technologies, could see mobile marketing campaigns become more intimate and personalised than ever before. As marketers become able to “follow” consumers around the world and understand more about their purchasing habits, so they can target advertising at them in more effective ways. Through the combination of sophisticated joined-up datasets and imaginative non-linear content marketing campaigns across multiple devices, marketers can understand and interact with their key audiences in real time and in a way never seen before.

6. Mobile marketing and advertising spend increases

In 2014 mobile e-commerce overtook traditional desktop e-commerce, accounting for 22% of online sales. This trend will continue unabated in 2015 and as a result you can expect to see increased investment in mobile web spend in 2015. The UK is expected to be the first country in the world where advertising spend on digital tops 50% and 29% of this will be on mobile. Display advertising is set to take up 20% of this budget, with 37% of that being on mobile. Finally, on the subject of advertising, expect to see a continuing rise in programmatic ad buying on mobile. In a study conducted by IAB with MTM, 37% of mobile digital display spend was spent programmatically in 2013, with forecasts of a rise to 60% in 2014. The IAB predicts that programmatic ad buying could rise to between 60 and 75% by 2017, so expect to see a continued surge in 2015, as more and more advertising is purchased using ever more sophisticated software instead of humans.

7. Non mobile optimised sites will be at a disadvantage

Many businesses slow to adapt to mobile will feel more pressure to adapt in 2015, as Google announces a new mobile friendly label in its search results pages on mobile devices. Perhaps more tellingly, it also announced that this would soon become a ranking factor. Unresponsive or mobile unfriendly websites could therefore start to lose out to their mobile friendly rivals in the near future, forcing more and more companies to invest in mobile website optimisation.

About the Author: Jon Mowat is a former BBC documentary filmmaker and now runs British based video production and marketing company, Hurricane Media. He has written extensively on video marketing and social media marketing and has given talks on these subjects both in the UK and abroad. He has worked with companies of all sizes, including well known brands like Canon, Sony, BMW and Peugeot. You can connect with Jon and Hurricane on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Read more at http://www.jeffbullas.com/2015/02/24/7-predictions-on-mobile-marketing-trends-in-2015-you-need-to-know/#oPDMu9PtZVL7B038.99