Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blogging for small businesses – are you missing out?

Business blogs can be very effective for marketing, PR and branding purposes. They help differentiate you in a crowded marketplace – especially if they create buzz, eliciting feedback and comments.

To promote your business, write about something you are passionate about, something related to your business, perhaps trends, latest releases or "how to" tips, this way you position yourself as the expert in your field. Write in a personal, maybe casual manner so that you can impart some of your personality through your blog then if people like what they read they will contact you for information or to leave feedback - now you’re doing business! Just remember to put your contact details in your blog profile.

You can write about anything you love - short stories about how you got to where you are now, case studies, snippets from your everyday experience in your industry, these all help establish your brand and promote your business.

If blogging sounds like something for your business you can be up and going in just minutes with the help of either of these two popular, easy to use websites - or It’s free, you can do it all online, there’s no technical stuff to get your head around and in just a few minutes you could be increasing the profile of your business – wouldn’t you like more buzz and customers!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Look Professional for less than $53 a Year

Earlier this month I was following a car into Wellington that had been beautifully sign-written with the owners email address - - Oh dear, not very professional, how could they be so careless to pay all that money for sign-writing their car and overlooked the most basic thing you can do on the internet for your business - get a domain name. For less than $53 a year this person could have:
  • on their car
  • on their print advertising
  • www.mybusiness on their business card
A domain name makes you look so very much more professional in all your advertising and promotional material. Who do you want to promote - your business or Xtra?

You can purchase your own domain name online from any number of New Zealand or overseas companies although I recommend using a local, New Zealand comapny. Simply, Google "domain name registration" for a list of businesses offering this service or try one of these -, or Your local web designer probably offers this service too.

Once you have purchased your domain (actually its more like renting because you pay an annual fee) you can set up your email - and if you have a website, blog or facebook page you can even point your domain name at that, so people can find out more about you and your business.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Can I say "Send me an email" with any confidence?

Don't throw away the FAX machine!

If you were one of the people affected by Telecom moving it's mail servers to Australia then you understand. Last week every one of our customers, that uses the Xtra/Telecom mail servers had issues with their mail. Because Telecom has such a large share of the market this impacted on just about everyone in New Zealand. Emails delivered late, received late, lost in spam filters and now the latest - spam not being filtered and coming through into our mailboxes.

There's plenty of comment on the fiasco in the New Zealand Herald if you have time to read it - the links are at the bottom of this post. The important points, for the future of your business are
  1. We cannot rely on Telecom to provide the service we expect.
  2. What can we do about protecting our businesses from this type of problem in the future?
What can you do?
As business owners, we are assessing risk everyday in our operations. You probably, hopefully, have backup procedures for your office data and now might be the time to consider what you are doing to maintain the flow of information into your business, in particular, email. Here's a few ideas:
  1. Change to another provider, of course the same may happen to them in the future - no guarantees.
  2. Install software such as Microsoft Exchange on your office server thus eliminating the need for an external mail server.
  3. Use GMail for all your mail. GMail can be set up to look professional if you configure it carefully.
  4. Stop using email for your important communications (yeah right!).
  5. Setup a dual system enabling your mail to be delivered to two different places. If one mail repository is down then switch to using the other.
If you are a Spiral customer, you are welcome to call us. We can check the status of mail on the internet and we can check the website of your mail provider, although you can do this too. Where we manage a customers domain name the mail is often setup to flow through our server like water in a stream. When there is a blockage downstream, similar to a log blocking the flow, we sometimes see a buildup on our server. If this happens the mail sits on our server while it waits for the blockage to be cleared. During this time our server logs messages saying the mail was undeliverable and it will try again later, which it does.

Remember, if you are sending a really important email and you don't get a reply then use the telephone.
Looks like the fax machine will be around for a bit longer.

Links to articles and comments on the Telecom mail problem.
Telecom admits Xtra email fault
Has Telecom done enough over the Xtra Bubble fiasco?
Deborah Hill Cone: Email? Sorry, try Australia

Blah blah wastes your dollars and your customers time

Introductory, or blah blah text, found at the top of web pages is skipped by readers unless it is relevant and succinct.

The worst kind of blah blah text is pure filler and platitudes such as "Welcome to our website, we hope you enjoy your visit"make you look incompetent and insult the intelligence of your visitors.

So why have any intro text?

The introductory text on a page

  • can help people better understand the rest of the page
  • lets people know what they are getting into
  • provides a brief summary of the page

How do I write intro text?

Focus on your visitor and answering these two questions
  • What will visitors find on this page?
  • Why will they care?
Captivate your visitors with information that is delivered quickly. Don't waste words, people read very little on web pages so give them what they want and help them stay on your web site.

How keywords attract customers to your website

It is critical for small businesses to have a website, but building a site is only half the battle. You must also attract customers.

One way to draw customers is to have a high listing on search engines. You want your site to appear in the first few results when potential customers do web searches related to your business. Optimising your website for your keywords is the best use of your time and money, heres how:

Which keywords?
Keywords are the search terms customers use to find you. Getting a high listing with popular keywords is difficult because there's a lot of competition for them, instead choose narrow, focused search terms.
For suggestions on keywords try Yahoo's overture tool

Use product type, people search by product type rather than brand so if you are selling Masport lawnmowers use lawnmowers rather than Masport in your keywords.

Try location, you may want to optimise by location. If you sell lawnmowers locally then use "wellington lawnmowers" as your keywords

Using your keywords
Use your keywords in your page text. Don’t go overboard, remember people will be reading the page along with search engines. Keywords placed in the following locations on your page are given emphasis by search engines
  • the title meta-tag
  • description meta-tag
  • -h1- page heading
  • the first paragraph
  • headings
  • bullet points
  • the last paragraph
Monitor how you are doing on the search engines and be patient as it can take a few months to see results. You will need to keep tweaking your website because search engines change their algorithms and as other webpages get higher rankings yours will be pushed down.

Try these simple things on your website and see your website listing soar!