Nicky Jurd

Effective Small Business Websites

Archive for April, 2008

Links Page

Wednesday
Apr 30,2008

Have you got a links page on your website, or are you thinking of asking your webmaster to create you one? Don’t.

Links pages started as a logical place to store the websites you linked to in order to raise your search engine profile. I am not a fan of reciprocal linking as you might have read in previous posts, and ditching the links page is an extension of my distaste for this marketing method.

I never look at people’s links pages, and of the websites I monitor that have a links page, it is always the least popular page on a website. There are much better ways of linking to websites which your customers may be interested in.

Remember it is your customers who pay your bills. Make the website for them – not for the search engines.

Tuesday
Apr 29,2008

You may have read previously how against reciprocal linking I am – but perhaps I should clarify – I’m against dodgy reciprocal linking. That is, when you exchange links with a website you have nothing to do with in the hope of raising your search engine ranking.

There are lots of legitimate reasons to link to another website. Here’s my favourites:

  • Existing business relationship.
    Companies who you deal with regularly and whose service or product you can vouch for.
  • Relevant or useful.
    Ideally these are within your industry or region. For example, if you’re a bed & breakfast operating on the Blue Mountains you might link to a region guide.
  • Complementary.
    A product or service which goes with yours. For example, if you sell air conditioners, you might link to an electrician who installs the models you sell.

It’s much better to write some good quality text around your link rather than just having a list of links off to the side in a links page. Visitors are much more likely to visit the links this way, and it enables you to be seen as a helpful expert in your area. For an example, see the blog post I wrote about Flying Solo. How boring would it have been if I just stuck it off the side in a links page!

Stealing Photos

Sunday
Apr 27,2008

When you shoot a photograph the copyright of that creative piece is automatically assigned to you. Nobody is allowed to use your copyrighted material without your permission. You are the sole owner.

Many people don’t realise this, and might search the internet for a photo to use on their website. Google Images, Flickr and Picasa are popular places to search for photographs. If you want to use any photos you find you must contact their owner and ask permission.

Although the internet seems like a big anonymous place, you might find it’s smaller than you think when you steal pictures of someone. Taking photos without permission can be an expensive exercise. Photography companies will often charge you for using the picture, recently I heard of someone being charged $4,300 for a single photo they used on their website.

If your web designer uses a photo on your website which does not belong to you, check to ensure they have purchased it on your behalf from a stock photography library like iStockPhoto, or that they have permission to use the picture.

When you receive permission from someone to use their photo, you should credit them appropriately.

Cut Limes. Photo courtesy Kaj Haffenden.

Cut Limes. Photo courtesy Kaj Haffenden. Knife courtesy Erick Zegeer. Limes from Rusty’s Markets. Chopping board from Yungaburra Markets.

Monday
Apr 21,2008

Google has made it so easy to include a map on your website. Once you include the map it has all the same great functionality you see on the Google maps site: zooming, dragging, different views.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Go to Google Maps.
2. Search for your address.
3. On the right hand side of the map, click Link to This Page.
4. Copy the embed in website link, and paste it in an email to your web designer.

Below is an example of the result – and a map to my office if you’d like to chat with me over coffee.


View Larger Map

Adding Testimonials to your Site

Saturday
Apr 19,2008

Many businesses like to use testimonials to raise their credibility. But because testimonials are easy to make up, they’re also difficult for some people to believe. Here’s what you should do to make your testimonials carry more weight with your visitors:

  • Use the referrer’s full name.
    So if you were listing a testimonial from me, you’d use Nicky Jurd. Don’t use N.Jurd, or Nicky J, or NJ.
  • Include a photo.
    People will recognise faces they’ve seen in the community, and it’s harder to fake a testimonial provided by someone who also is willing to show their face.
  • Include a logo.
    When your testimonial is provided by someone within a company, with if that company will allow you to post their logo with the testimonial. Logos are instantly recognisable as a corporate symbol and will add considerable weight to the testimony.
  • Link to their website.
    If the referrer has a website, include a link. They will then get some benefit from providing you with the testimonial, and visitors can review their website to check the credibility of that company.
  • List the referrers position.
    This is particularly important with business testimonials. So if you were quoting myself you might use: Nicky Jurd, Partner, cityofcairns.com.

Have a look at these two testimonials and give me your thoughts on the one which appeals to you most:

Love your blog Nicky! I subscribe to your RSS feed and always gleefully read the snippets of website goodness you write every day. I encourage others to sign up for the RSS feed too. Keep up the good work.
B. Vere.

OR

Head Graphic Designer at cityofcairns.comLove your blog Nicky! I subscribe to your RSS feed and always gleefully read the snippets of website goodness you write every day.

I encourage others to sign up for the RSS feed too.

Keep up the good work.

Belinda Vere
Head Graphic Designer, cityofcairns.com.

Friday
Apr 18,2008

Search engines don’t care what your website looks like. In fact, it even seems to prefer the ones most people would believe are old and in need of a re-design. Why is this so?

Google uses the text on your website to determine what you will rank for. It’s a major determining factor.

Google can’t read images. So it doesn’t matter how beautiful your sunrise picture is, or if you’re smiling on your corporate profile page.

Google isn’t fond of flash. Anything that moves, wiggles and blinks doesn’t contain a lot of information, so Google doesn’t look at it as seriously.

Google loves headings. Break up your text into logical pieces with headings on each. Don’t scrimp on this.

Google loves copy. The more text you write and the more pages your website contains will reward you with great rankings. Put important text up the top.

Google hates copiers. Don’t steal other people’s text. It doesn’t belong to you, and you wouldn’t like it if someone stole yours!

Background Textures

Tuesday
Apr 15,2008

A trend of the 90’s which has persisted in the dark depths of the internet are background textures. These are images which when tiled next to each other produce a (hopefully) seamless pattern. Popular backgrounds in the early days were stars, logos, sand, crinkled paper and clouds.

Background textures should be used sparingly, if at all. They should definitely not have text written over the top of them.

If a texture is part of your brand, use it on the non-text areas of your website.

Sound is Bad

Monday
Apr 14,2008

I’m fairly opinionated about this, but I an explicitly against including any sound on websites. Most especially background music.

Let’s say I’m sitting in my office surfing the web looking for a nice apartment by the beach to stay at on my upcoming tropical holiday to Cairns. I’m *supposed* to be working. The pleasant sounds of birds chirping and the beach rolling in starts blaring through my speakers. BUSTED! Everyone in the office looks toward my computer to see what I’m doing… so I quickly shut down my browser window to stop the sound.

You might think this isn’t likely on your website, but check your traffic stats. Most websites get a large percentage of their traffic during office hours, likely from people who are supposed to be working.

If you must use sound on your website, don’t play it by default. Allow your customers to turn it on if they want to hear it.

Friday
Apr 11,2008

Small businesses, just by their size, have an air of uncertainty about them. Help your customers make the decision to do business with you by showing off your strengths as a small business:

  1. You’re approachable.Include a good photo of yourself and your team on your website. Customers love being able to see who they’ll be speaking with and buying from.
  2. You have a story.Hordes of small business owners went into business because they’re an expert, a specialist and have a great track record of doing what they do best. Tell the story on your website through a company history or professional profile page.
  3. You’re easy to talk to.The phone number and premises address are easy to find on your site, and you answer your emails within 24h hours.
  4. You take credit cards.Be confident about your payment methods, and proudly display the logos of the credit cards you accept on your website. Credit cards are big businesses. Displaying their logos acts as proof you’re operating a reputable business. If you accept credit card payments on your website also make a big deal of your secure payments area.
  5. People already do business with you.Proudly display your business successes with testimonials of previous customers, informative lists of services you’ve conducted for which companies or a portfolio listing of people you’ve worked with. Wherever possible try to include full names, business logos and people’s photos – they’re much more effective.

Remember customers and businesses hide behind the anonymity of the internet. People will be happier doing business with you if you’re transparent, honest and keen.

Thursday
Apr 10,2008

One of the major annoyances customers experience with websites is trying to locate contact details, especially phone numbers. Amusingly, the worst offenders are often large corporations who should know better!

My preference is to include some basic contact details below the footer of every page on the website. This means that no matter which page your customer is on, the moment they make a buying decision they don’t need to search hard to find out how to contact you.

Have a clear, easy to find contact page. This should include your extended contact details including details like a map to your shop or office, your fax number, postal address and a contact form.

Please post great examples of contact pages you’ve seen on your surfing travels.