Magazine Articles

Montly articles written by the Alledia staff, for 400 Edition, a North Georgia magazine. The column appears under the heading, “Web Savvy”.

How Can I Keep Track of People Visiting My Website?

counters.png

Anyone like myself who spends all day online and browsing across many different websites, will be able to tell you one thing: “spotting an old-fashioned website is as easy as spotting an old-fashioned movie or car”.

Wheres an old movie may be in black-and-white and an old car may have a running board, its easy to spot old-fashioned websites because they contain something that looks like this:

  counters.png

These are hit counters, which increase by 1 every time a visitor comes to your site. They are the Ishtar and Yugo cars of the Internet. They are not only outdated but also a problem for your website. Let me give you three reasons why:

Problems With Hit Counters

• The numbers only go up. If a website has 2 visitors in January and 1000 in February, that would be great. However, you could have 1000 visitors in January and 2 in February. That would be a big problem, in both cases the hit counter would say “1002”.

• They are ugly. See the picture for proof.

• They allow other people to see your visitor details. Your website data should be a competitive secret rather than being openly available.

Fortunately, there is are options that will allow you to collect information about your visitors in a much more detailed, unobtrusive and accurate manner. In this article, I’m going to talk about the most popular option:

Google Analytics


Back in April 2005 Google purchased a small company called Urchin that provided data on who was visting people’s websites. Now Urchin was charging between $495 and $895 per website per month for it services. It took a while to Google to properly integrate Urchin’s software into its own setup but in August 2006, they announced that the previously expensive service was available for free, to everyone.

It really is great news and if you’re not taking advantage of this free service, you’re losing the opportunity to see a lot of valuable data about your website.

This is available from http://www.google.com/analytics/.


• Sign up for an account

• Click “Add Website Profile”

• Take the code that Google will give you and add it to every page on your website. The code will never show so people who not be able to see your visitor data.

There are over 80 unique reports available, showing everything from the location of your visitors from around the world, to which pages they used to enter and leave your site. It’s a powerful for everyone to learn more about their website.

Google Analytics Problems You Should be Aware Of

  • Some people say that Google often under-reports the number of visitors to websites. Its always worth having a second data collection source  to make sure.
  • Occasionally it can slow your website down.
  • Some people may have ad filtering software on their computer which may prevent Google Analytics collecting data about them.

Overall, we have installed the software on over 50 sites and have found these problems to be relatively minor in comparison to the usefulness and accuracy of the data that the program collects.

 

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Is Flash a Good Choice for My Website?

Flash is it allows a web programmer/designer to implement animated graphics, movies, and even sound at a website. It can be used to create an entire website or just small pieces. It is the tool used for some of the most creative websites yet seen by web users, such as LeoBurnett.com. However, its popularity has been challenged because of various problems experienced by users. In this article, I’ll talk about those issues and help you decide whether a Flash website is right for you.

1) Not Everyone is Able to View Flash

This problem is not as big as it used to be.  The number of web users who are able to view Flash has been steadily climbing. Currently around 95% of visitors will be able to see a Flash website.

2) Flash Websites Don’t Rank Well in Search Engines

True. Site such as LeoBurnett.com are such extraordinary endeavours that they can get some search engine traction simply because of the number of people admiring their work and  linking to them. This is a problem with all but the best-designed Flash websites. Increasingly, cutting-edge designers are coming up with ways to enable search engines to index the content of Flash files. However, for most new Flash websites and for nearly all Flash websites designed more than two years ago, a good search engine ranking is impossible.

3) Flash Websites are Difficult for People to Update

Also true, I’m afraid. Most people with Flash sites end up never updating them or relying on their designer to make all the necessary updates. On today’s Internet neither solution is really satisfactory, because fresh, regularly-updated content is the essential for a successful website.

4) Flash is Used to Liven up Boring Content

Simply, because the content on a website is not that interesting, some people’s reaction is that Flash is the best tool to liven things up. However, boring information is boring information. Make sure that Flash is an extra bonus on your website rather than they key reason for considering your site “interesting”.

5) Flash Websites are Difficult for Users to Navigate

  • The "Back" button does not work. Clicking it will take you back to the previous website rather than the previous Flash page.
  • Link colors don’t work, so its hard to tell which pages you have already visited
  • The "Make text bigger/smaller" button does not work, making the site difficult to read for people with poor vision
  • They are often slower to load than traditional website.

6) Flash Websites are Expensive

Normally, a well-designed Flash website will cost between $5000 and $10,000 which is about three times the cost of a static site. To me this is the key problem with Flash websites. A great Flash site can overcome almost all of the problems outlines above, but such websites are beyond the budget of all but the most wealthy companies.

Flash is a good tool to add dynamism to static webpages. However, unless you have deep pockets or very talented and generous friends, Flash should be restricted to playing a small role on your website.

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Keeping Track of Your Domain Names

There was bad news for one New England Church this week as they learned they’d forgotten to renew their domain name. To make things worse, the name was purchased by people with something very different than Bibles on their mind.

The mix-up happened a few weeks ago when the church changed Internet service providers and the church failed to keep track of the domain’s expiry date. The church’s pastor said he believed the church could keep its Web site name but the old service provider put the address up for sale and it was bought by a pornographic Web site.

The church has spent the last few weeks trying to figure out how this happened, he said, and recently received a letter from the Internet service provider admitting it made a mistake by selling the domain name.

The pastor said the Internet company told him pornographic sites often like to buy Web addresses once used by churches. Although the mistake was troubling, the pastor was able to have some sense of humor about it.

"It will be interesting to see who shows up to church now," he said. (Quotes from SeaCoastOnline.com)

So what can you use to keep track of your domains? I’m sure many of you have domains spread across multiple registrars after seeing a special offers here and there. Its not unusual for people to call us up and admit that they’ve forgotten WHERE they registered their domain, let alone WHEN it expires. We used to do the same thing ourselves.

How can you make sure that you never end up in the same situation as the church?

  1. We use a product called "Domain Punch Pro" to keep details on all our domains and those of our clients. It’s available for $129 from DomainPunch.com and soon pays for itself if your domains are valuable and important to your  company. We really haven’t had any domain registration problems since buying it and its also helped notify us when several great domains that have dropped.
  2. Use the innovative domain registrar called Rebel.com . Their free software allows you to track all your domains across all registrars.
  3. We register all important domain names for at least three years. Not only does this provide increased security, but it provides a boost in search engine rankings. Google likes to see sites where the owner has made a long-term commitment.
  4. Finally, for those of you serious about looking after multiple domain names, you can always become a reseller. Our site, AllediaDomains.com is affiliated with ResellerClub.com. Not only do we get cheap domain registrations but we can add registrar locks on to valuable domains and easily search through expiry dates. One added advantage is that our clients can register their domains in a place that is very simple for us to manage. The downside is that although you can get started with a refundable deposit of $199, you need to put down $499 to start getting the big discounts.
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Advanced Search Engine Optimization

Most of you with experience of running a website have the chance to dig into the world of Search Engine Optimization. Basic tasks include making sure your keywords are correct, trying to get more sites to link to you and checking to see where you rank on Google. However, with competition online becoming fiercer by the year, many companies see the value in a more detailed and advanced SEO strategy. In this month’s column we’ll discuss two of the most useful techniques, building more than one site and concentrating on your inside pages.

Building More Than One Site

A lot of companies are taking the view that they need to do more than concentrate on their main website. Google rankings are notoriously unreliable and prone to sudden changes, and so smarter and larger firms are moving to reduce their risk by building multiple websites. (Bear in mind that this technique is in for people with quite a lot of time to spend on their company’s website and for firms with a longer term view of SEO.)

Imagine that you are a Car Parts dealer. Ranking well in search engines for the phrase “car parts” is an intimidating prospect. You have over 85 million references online for that phrase and many huge firms to compete with. So what’s a small company to do? You might decide to build several small sites each of which focuses on a smaller and less competitive niche. For example, you can build a site with information all about “transmission in Dodge vehicles”. The domain name does not have to be expensive or easy to remember – it need only be keyword rich. As we speak www.dodgetransmissions.net is available for registration.

Your company would then fill the site full of articles and information about the topic. There is no need to write everything yourself because there are plenty of articles available online that are free to use. Then repeat the trick with other highly specific phrases related to your business. Finally, link the sites together so that they are easy for search engines to find. Many of the more successful online companies have between 10 and 50 mini-sites like this.

You can then turn these mini-sites into profits in two ways. One method is to fill the sites with advertisements for your own company. The other method is to wait around a year for the site to mature. Then you can put Lesson 2 of Search Engine Optimization 2001 into action:

Concentrating on Your Inside Pages

The first goal of SEO is obviously to get the front page of your website ranking well in Search Engines. However, its common to have a website where only the homepage is ranked in Google. The remainder of your site is not bringing in any customers at all.
Here are several common remedies to fix this problem:

  • Ask people to link to your inside pages rather than your front page.
  • Once one of your mini-sites has been around for a year or more, redirect it to an inside page.
  • Write articles that will be of interest to a wider audience and submit them to online article directories. People will be able to republish them but legally require them to provide a link to the original page.
  • Buy domain names that have expired but are related to your business. To continue our car example, www.carloanexperts.info expired at the end of November with a Page Rank of 3. These can then be forwarded to an inside page of your choice, brining traffic and incoming links.
  • Make sure you keep an up-to-date site map and that each page can be reached from your homepage in just 2 or 3 clicks.

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October 2006 – A Very Exciting Month

One of the great things about working in technology is that exciting developments occur so frequently. Some ideas are gone within months whereas others change the business completely. Whether the events of October 2006 go down as boom or bust might not be known for several years, but I thought it might be interesting to revisit two events that have the potential to reshape the World Wide Web.

Internet Explorer 7

Throughout the history of the Internet there has been but one way to surf the Internet – using Roman characters. If you’re language used any script other than A to Z, then you were stuck trying to navigate through a world that made little sense to you. If you wanted to visit a website you would need to type in a foreign language.

All that is slowly changing and the process recently received a huge boost from the release of the first version of Internet Explorer. Version 7 is the first to support IDNs (International Domain Names) so it is now possible to search for “DVD Player” or “Digital Camera” in your native language rather than in English.  It means that numerous Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Arabic-speaking people who previously had difficulty in surfing the web will now have the opportunity.

This new generation of consumers shopping and interacting online will present a large new market for those companies savvy enough to take advantage.

Both China and India are on course to have more Internet users than the United States by the end of 2007 and the launch of Internet Explorer will hasten that event.

Mobi

“Isn’t that whale?” “Wasn’t that a dance music DJ?” Its easy to make fun of the name but the launch of the .mobi domain name extension has the potential to accelerate the number of people who use the internet on their phone rather than their P.C.

Those of you who surf from your BlackBerry or cellphone already know that many sites do not work on the small screen. In comparison. .mobi has restrictions ensuring that all websites with a .mobi ending will work correctly on the move. Essentially, the aim of the extension is to take the guesswork out of using the mobile Internet. If you go to a .mobi site you will get a site that works.

There are still financial and technological problems to overcome. Surfing via a cellphone is still not easy or within the price range of most people but that is likely to change within the next two or three year.

Flowers.mobi sold for $200,000 and Fun.mobi fetched $100,000 at a recent auction and those sales have only increased the excitement about the possibility that .mobi could become the next .com. Already 4 handheld devices are sold worldwide for every 1 desktop computer. The future of the Internet is mobile. Many people are hoping it will also be .mobi.

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Out of Site, Out of Mind – Buying Domains

When setting up a retail business, there are many hoary clichés and pieces of advice. “Out of sight, out of mind” is among the oldest and the hoariest. It basically warns you to buy or lease the best real estate available to you in order to make your company visible.

Well, what was true in the 1900s is still true today, and thus you should be thinking about buying good real estate online. Domain names are often referred to as “21st century real estate” and this is declared with good reason. A good domain can make a business. A bad name can have the opposite effect.

This month’s column is a beginner’s guide to seeking out the perfect domain name for your business.

Shorter is Sweeter

If there is one rule of thumb, it is that shorter domains will be more valuable than longer ones. The shorthand most commonly used is “L” for a letter and “N” for a number.

So I6.com would be a LN.com and 2BBQ.net would be a NLLL.net. What is the difference in price between the different combinations?

LL.com. A well-know example is KW.com which is used by Keller Williams, the realtors. There are only 676 available (26 x 26). These can fetch anywhere from $50,000 to several million dollars. EZ.com is currently on the market for a seven-figure price.

LLL.com. Obviously these are substantially cheaper than LL.com simply because there are 17576 potential combinations (26 x 26 x 26).  However, they still sell for a pretty penny – anywhere between $2,000 and millions of dollars, depending on the value of the letters. To give one example, ABC.com would be towards the top of this range whereas ZQW.com would be toward the bottom.

LLLL.com, LLLLL.com and higher. This is where people like me and you are normally able to enter the market. You won’t be able to get a dictionary word for less than $10,000 but an acronym may be available for registration or for purchase at a cheap price. Put bluntly, Golf.com is out of our range, but TSInc.com or a similar domain that makes sense may be available.

Domain Prices are Like Scrabble

Domains are often graded according to the letters they contain. It’s the opposite of Scrabble – the more common a letter is, the more it is worth. An example of a premium letter is C, because it stands for company or corporation and it also appears in a wide range of acronyms. Others are A, B, D, E, I, M, N and P. Letters that are less common are less valuable, for example: J, U, K, V, W, Z, Q and X.

You Don’t Have to Focus on .com….

…..but I would recommend it. Another possibility is .net which normally sells for around 1/20th of the price of a .com. The only real rival that I can see emerging to these is .us which sells for approximately 1/50th of the price of a .com. Deciding to go with a .us is a choice that you can make if you will be selling exclusively within the United States. If you do decide to go with an alternative, be prepared to lose some leads to the .com version of your domain name. The question is whether the extra clients are worth the extra cost.

Clients Make Mistakes – You Make Allowances

I probably make a typing mistake in every sentence I write and I bet your customers are little different. If you have a name that is easy to misspell, I would strongly recommend that you try to buy those typos of your domain also. This is particularly important for companies that have long domain names. SmithPlumbing.com may lose a lot of potential clients to someone that has a website called SmithPluming.com.

Typogen.com is a tool that can help you generate common misspellings of your name and you can also use a more prosaic method: open an Excel document and type your domain name. Press “Return” and type it again. Repeat this around 100 times and then get a couple of friends or colleagues to do the same thing. By the time you are done, you will have a great list of potential typos for your business` name.

Domains are 21st Century Real Estate

Which means that you can think of your name as an investment. If you have a generic name that other people can use for their business such as baseballbats.com or Hdtelevisions.com that it is a reasonable bet that you can sell it for more later. Domains often increase in value simply because of their age – Search Engines trend to trust older domains more than new one.s

A good domain name is an asset rather than an expense for your business – and it doesn’t depreciate in value.

Where to find out more:



DNJournal.com – This site contains a list of the all the domains sold in the past year.

Sedo.com – An online marketplace for buying and selling domain names.

NamePros.com and DNForum.com – Web forums with plenty of advice on buying a domain name.

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How Much Should I Pay for Web Services?

Like so much of like, getting started on the web is often a case of trial-and-error with people making plenty of mistakes in their first months and years online. In order to help our clients we’ve developed some guidelines to help people find their feet and we though we’d share them this month. This WebSavvy is a cut-out-and-keep guide to how much you should be looking to pay for important services.

Domain Names

Under no circumstances should you be paying more than $10 per year for a .com, .net or .org domain name. The companies that actually register the domains normally get them for $3 to $6. A 50% mark-up on that is the maximum you should be expected to pay. Very reputable companies such as GoDaddy.com sell domains for less than $9. For that price you should also expect some extra such as email, domain forwarding and domain name server management. If they expect you to pay extra for them and that takes it over $10 – run a mile. Companies that are guilty of this and should be avoided include: NetworkSolutions.com and Register.com. Over at AllediaDomains.com we offer .coms for $7.45 and add-on services for a dollar.

Hosting

The cost of hosting really depends on what software your website is using and how big your site is. What I can do is give you some general rules of thumb to follow. Nearly all small business can exist happily with the “small” option. The large option involves having a dedicated server all to yourself and is only necessary if you have thousands of people accessing your site on a daily basis. Of course, once you start to reach 100,000s of people per day you will need more than what is on this list, but most small companies should pay no more than $120 per year for hosting. 

   Small Medium Large
 HTML, PHP $10 per month  $20 per month  $100 per month
 ASP (Microsoft)  $10 per month  $35 per month  $200 per month

Maintenance

A maintenance contract from a web design company should cost no more than $100 per month unless they are actively updating and working on the site. You would need a very good reason to pay any more than this.

Contracts

The first thing to say is that you should never sign a long-term contract for web services. You’ve heard about how old-fashioned cell phone companies that force you to sign a 2-year contract are being squeezed by more customer-friendly brands that allow you to cancel at any time? So it is online. If you can’t pay month-by-month then you need to go elsewhere. A long-term contract is a company’s way of saying that they’re not confident that their product and prices are good enough to keep you.

Web Design

Whereas the first four topics were relatively straightforward, webdesign is a more complex area with different niches. Again, some ballpark figures might be the best idea. You should be able to higher a very good webdesigner for between $50 and $80 per hour. For very demanding and complex tasks which demand rare skill-sets you can justifiably expect to pay between $75 and $150. Any more than that and you really should be shopping around and comparing prices from rival firms.

All in all, the Internet is a great hotbed of capitalism. The sheer number of companies offering their services means that price-competition is strong. It’s a buyers market and I hope you’ll be able to take full advantage.

 

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Why Use a Content Management System?

Is there anything more off-putting than a visiting website to buy something and seeing © 1998 at the bottom? Well, yes‚Ķ.trying to keep your site up-to-date and relevant can seem equally disheartening.

A few years ago, if you‚Äôre company had some exciting news you‚Äôd call up your web-designer, hand over $200, wait in-line while they dealt with their other clients, finally get your small changes made, see they‚Äôd made a mistake, call them up, wait in line…

Well, people have been working on software to simplify that whole frustrating process and put the power to update your websites into YOUR hands. If you’re looking for an easy way to publish and manage your company’s news and information online, you might consider Content Management Systems (CMS). At first sight, a CMS might be mistaken for a blog, but although similar they have several clear advantages.

WHY NOT TO USE A BLOG

A lot of people keep blogs but there are key reasons why they are generally considered inappropriate for companies:

  1. To make a really interesting blog you need to allow people to comment on your articles. This can work if you have a lot of time to manage the comments but otherwise they can fill up quickly with spam, rude comments and other things that will reflect badly on your company.
  2. Blogs thrive on controversial and outlandish opinions. That means your company needs to keep up a constant stream of patter. This isn’t recommended unless you’re building a business on the back of your personality ala Donald Trump from “the Apprentice” or Jim Kramer from “Mad Money”.
  3. They are limited in their what they can do. Most blogs don’t offer the possibility of adding an online store, a portfolio of your company’s work or calendar of events. A CMS can do all of this.

WHY USE A CMS

  1. The key idea behind a Content Management System is that people need a really easy way to manage and categorise their content. So if you write an article about a project your company has just finished you can store it under “Projects”. If its about a new member of staff then it can be filed under “Staff”. A good CMS is something your grandmother could understand and run.
  2. A CMS expands easily with your company. If you’d like to add a photo gallery, portfolio, event calendar or other new feature, it can be done with a few mouse clicks. The software has been already written and developed. The possibilities are numerous.
  3. Large numbers of developers work on CMS software. There’s a phrase in web design called “Golden Handcuffs”. Basically it means that once a designer has their hands on your site they can make it so complex that you have to keep hiring them because only they can understand it. With a CMS you can easily find someone plenty of other people to help you out.
  4. Most are free. Some are for sale but many high-quality CMS are distributed free-of-charge.

Overall, a CMS can offer an excellent way to make sure that your site welcomes visitors with your latest news and a tagline that reads © 2006.

WHICH CMS TO CONSIDER

  • Joomla (www.joomla.org). Regarded as the most user-friendly of all CMS.
  • Drupal (www.drupal.org). Good if you need lots of users with the permission to do different tasks on the site.
  • To take a trial run of many free CMSs you can visit www.opensourcecms.com
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E-Mail for Busy Professionals

This came about after talking to a client who runs a big company that advertises widely. He asked me why the vast majority of his leads came via his website or the phone when he took such good care to place his e-mail address at top of each advertisement. Why did no-one seem to use or remember it?

Our subsequent conversation produced advice that I hope will be useful for everyone else out there who uses their e-mail as a business tool:

Don’t Use a Free E-mail Address

That includes Hotmail, Yahoo, Google, BellSouth, Alltell and others. There are given away free to anyone who wants to sign up. That image doesn’t match with the professionalism that most businesses want convey.

Do Use an E-mail Address Based on Your Web Address.

When you’re advertising, its vital to make things as simple as possible. People will be confused if your web address is www.IsellHouses.com but your e-mail address is [email protected] As a quick test, I went through two widely-distributed. magazines, Over half of the advertisers had committed this simple mistake.

Simplify things by setting up an e-mail address such as [email protected] I sometimes hear the reply that “I haven’t done this yet, because its too difficult”. Well, if you can’t find a friend, your computer-savvy son or anyone else to help you master the intricacies of Outlook Express, there are websites such as Mail2Web.com where you can pick up your e-mail directly. The technical term for e-mail like this is POP3.

Do Advertise Your E-mail on Every Page of Your Website

It’s a myth to think that you are automatically opening yourself up to spam by placing your e-mail on the web as often as possible. With a little snippet of code you can easily protect your e-mail. Either your webdesigner can help with this or by searching Google for “Hide Your E-mail Address from Spam” you’ll be able to find the answer easily. Your e-mail address is much too important to hide away.

Don’t Put Your Logo or Any Images in Your E-mail

There are numerous problems cause by adding an image to every e-mail you send out, but I‚Äôll just list a couple here. First, you’ll mislead people who receive your e-mail and see that there is an attachment to your e-mail. Second, some e-mail software can misread a logo attached to a signature and cause it to repeat all over the background of the e-mail.. The same advice goes for using odd fonts, bright colors and long-winded company details in your signature. Keep it simple.

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How to Sell on the Web

E-commerce has been around for more than 15 years now and people are increasingly comfortable opening their wallets online. However, I still come across a lot of websites that are a real turn-off to customers. Hopefully yours isn’t one of them, but just in case, here are my top four hints for making your website sleek, speedy and secure:

1) You need an SSL.

That stands for “Secure Socket Layer”. What does it mean? It means that a special form of encryption is used to protect the details of everyone who sends you information via your website. If you go to any big site such as PayPal.com or Amazon.com, look for two things. First, the http:// address will become https://. Second, there will be a little yellow padlock at the end of the bar that contains the website address.

Image

SSLs cost between $70 and $150 per year and you can buy them from nearly all web-hosting companies. For this small price you protect your customers` information and you protect yourself. Without an SSL, your company could well be legally liable for costs resulting from the theft of people’s personal data.

2) You need an online merchant account.

PayPal.com is the most widely accepted, but 2Checkout.com and Authorize.net are also strong contenders. They can handle the invoices and recipts automatically for you. If all you have is a form on your site to collect people’s data, then you will have to create all the paperwork yourself. On average, these merchants take around 3% of the payment but the ease-of-use make the cost worthwhile.

3) You need an Open-Source Shopping-Cart.

What does Open-Source mean? It means that the code needed to make the cart run can be viewed and changed by anyone. That means that if you decide that if you want to change from web designer that you are working with, it is easy to find another who can help. If you go with a shopping cart that is sold by just one company, then you will find yourself working with them forever after. Best of all, open-source software is free.

So which ones do I recommend? OSCommerce is the cream of the crop. Over 100,000 stores have been built with this software and it has the widest available number of extras available, including code that can integrate it with QuickBooks. Also good are ZenCart and VirtueMart. All three are well-documented with community forums to help you find answers to your questions.

4) You need a niche.

I find it hard to imagine people making money by opening a general store on the web. You don’t want to find yourself competing with Amazon.com and WalMart.com. However, one smart businessman from Marietta has made millions of dollars by just selling banjos (banjo.com) and unicycles (unicycle.com). Focus on whatever it is that you’re good at and don’t try to expand until after you’ve become successful.

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How to Make a Killer Real Estate Website

In March, I talked about the Open Directory (www.dmoz.org), which is one of the most important places on the web to get your site listed. It is also one of the most difficult. In fact, a few people wrote to me after the article came out and agreed that it had been almost impossible for them to get listed in the Open Directory. Several of these people were realtors and when I was doing some research to help them out, I ran across this statement from someone who judges sites for the OD:

“there is one type of site that is becoming increasingly difficult to list: local real estate agents.”

The writer went on to explain that this was because most real estate sites nowadays were just bad, and for a number of reasons. So, for those who e-mailed, and for others out there, this month’s column can simply be titled: “How to Build a Great Real Estate Website”.

1) Do make your site personal. Have the contact details and a photo of the agent selling the house at the bottom of every listing. You need to associate yourself as closely as possible with your product.

2) Don’t use templates. Your company doesn’t have the same logo and the same staff as your rivals and so you shouldn’t have the same website. Also, the photos of the houses at the top of the template are often taken in California, Las Vegas or another part of the country. You are not selling those kinds of houses – you need photos of houses in North Georgia on the front page.

3) Do add a complete biography for all your agents. People want to see what you bring to the table. Often people who use templates will change one or two words in the biography and leave the rest untouched. I’ve seen one agent’s photo and life story repeated on multiple sites.

4) Don’t use the content provided by the company that you are working with. Search Engines such as Google and Yahoo, plus listings directories don’t like sites that are cookie-cutter versions of other website. Oh, and did I mention that customers also hate to see the same text and the same articles everywhere they surf on the web?

5) Do invest in your website. 2 out of every 3 homebuyers is looking online for houses and 2 out of 3 homebuyers are using the Internet to research their new home and find a real estate agent. A 2002 Realtor.org study revealed that these Internet Homebuyers spend more money and make their buying decision quicker than non-internet users. For less than price of one billboard by the highway, you have the opportunity to generate a lot of quality leads.

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