I’m Not Really a Waitress …

April 29, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, Marj Wyatt's Musings

When I launched my wordpress website design business a few years ago, my enthusiasm for helping people make money online caused me to develop a business model for myself that involved a lot of personal time with my clients.  They seemed to appreciate the level of service that I offered for reasonable rates and it was fun for me to learn about the various businesses people were trying to bring online.  I’ve never had to advertise.  My business has grown solely by word-of-mouth and referrals, which is no accident.

Lately, it seems like new clients have expectations that exceed their budgets.  It remains true that my all inclusive wordpress website design and consulting services are rare and I totally understand what it feels like to not know how to do what needs to be done where skills are lacking.  Wherever possible, I extend myself to help out.  I”m recently reminded that the speed with which I isolate and resolve problems seems to be projecting the idea that , because I make it look easy, it is.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard a new client tell me that they don’t want to know how something works and that is why they’ve hired me.  I also can’t count the number of times that clients have protested my resistance to continuing without additional compensation.  A handful have been presumptuous enough to question why it would take so long to do.   Excuse me?

With all due respect, if you don’t know what it takes to get something done and you don’t want to take the time to learn how to do it yourself, don’t challenge the person who does know how to do it when they tell you how long it will take to do what you need to have done!

I like living with the belief that all people are reasonable and that they are also willing to parlay a little give and take in our business agreement.  Recently, a handful of  new clients and prospects have come my way who are much happier with the “take” part of the equation, however.  These same people have had no qualms expressing their opinions about wordpress website design services that I should deliver for free or at an unreasonably low price when the simple truth is that they don’t want to pay fairly for the services they are requesting and they are upset about the fact that they are unable to convince me that I should perform those services within their limited budget because they are low on cash.

For those of you who are reading this and are feeling a twinge of guilt about making similar demands of your website services professionals, please ask yourself these questions:

  1. If you wanted to buy a luxury car and couldn’t afford it, would ranting at the salesperson change the facts?
  2. If that sales person felt sorry for you and went the extra mile to find a financial program that lowered your monthly expense, would you blame them for the fact that the payment was still out of your reach?

wordpress website designWhen I chose an entrepreneurial career, I was happy to leave my IT Executive role behind in Corporate America because I was weary of leading teams whose contributions to the company’s success were repeatedly diminished by some top-level executive who viewed IT as a necessary evil.  It would seem that I’m growing weary of explaining to new clients and prospects that the skills and knowledge that I’ve gathered throughout my professional life are worth much more than a waitress’ wage.

Yet, referrals keep coming in from my large base of previously satisfied clients.  Several times a week, new business comes in through my website at http://virtuallymarj.com.  Generally speaking, life is good and I enjoy working with the many nice people on my client roster.  I also enjoy taking on a good challenge now and then so I guess I’ll continue growing my wordpress website design business  and keeping it fun by choosing to work with clients who are willing to take advice, understand the value that I bring to their efforts and are willing to pay fairly.  :)

Mixing Friendship and Business is a Bad for Business

March 24, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Entrepreneur Mindset, Featured

For the past two years, I’ve been in a business relationship with a client whom I felt had also become my friend.  After extracting more than twice the amount of labor than was allocated under the terms of our monthly retainer agreement for WordPress Website Development services over several months, these local clients have reminded me that mixing friendship with business is a bad idea.

In an effort to overcome my disappointment about their denial about what is owed for my services … or even discuss a compromise, I decided to write a post to advise and educate small business owners on better ways to structure contracts with clients who expect to receive benefits prior to payment.

Qualifying Business Prospects

As a former Realtor, one of the refrains that they drilled into my head during training was that Buyers were Liars.  We were taught to qualify people for mortgages prior to investing time and energy in setting up showings or writing contracts.  This is easy to do when you can “spin” your request for qualification as a service that will benefit the Buyer but it is not so easy to do in other service businesses.

The difficulty may lie in the fact that most small business owners cannot afford to use expensive credit checking services.  Thus, the qualification process involves interpersonal communication that almost seems intrusive while qualifying a prospect for their ability to pay.

In a perfect world, you would take 100% of the payment up-front but that is a hard sell.  In lieu of that, insist on a retainer of no less than 50% of the total contract price and establish milestones that pay the remaining 50% for each deliverable at the time of acceptance.  You may want to consider using an escrow service to ensure that you will be paid as tasks are completed.  If you are in the middle of their project and they begin to tell you they are having trouble paying their bills, stop working on their project.  Retainers are non-refundable.  You cannot recover the time you’ve spent once it is gone.

Get it in Writing!

If there is no written contract to enforce a business agreement, things can easily go wrong.  At the very least, put the request into an email message after you’ve agreed to deliverables and pricing.  Don’t begin work on the project until you have an email reply that acknowledges the agreement.

Stick to Business

Since time is the commodity that service providers trade, don’t allow yourself to get engaged in personal discussions with your clients during the project.  Clients will act friendly and they will say anything to get what they want.  Inevitably, they will try to gain your sympathy and convince you that they will pay you later when they want more than they can afford.  In my experience, this never happens when the bill comes due and the friendship that you felt was merely the tool they used to get what they wanted.

Negotiate Before You Do the Work

mixing friendship with business is bad for businessIf a services client requests work that you know will take more time than the payment arrangement allows for, take notes about their request and tell them that you’ll have to get back to them with a price.  Regardless of their insistence, don’t lift a finger to get the work done until you have reached an agreement about compensation and received an additional retainer payment.  This is business and you are delivering value.

I repeat:  Don’t budge if they say they will pay you later.  They won’t.

Don’t be Afraid to Walk Away

As the saying goes, when one door closes another is opened.  If you feel that your client is difficult to work with and they are exhibiting signs of ambivalence about your requests for payment, this is a sign that you need to move on to another client who understands that this is your business.  You are not their employee and you owe them nothing.  You are an independent business owner and it isn’t your job to save them at your expense, no matter how nice they seem.

Don’t Get Distracted by the Noise

When a client knows they are wrong, they will endeavor to assign blame to you for their irresponsibility.  If you get caught up in their accusations, you’ll get distracted from the goal of being compensated for the work that you’ve done.  Acknowledge that you have heard what they are saying but do not engage in a debate about why you are demanding to be paid and do not involve yourself with explanations about your actions as you pursue payment.  You did the work.  In a business relationship, you deserve to be paid.

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Social Monkey Automates Building Backlinks for SEO!

February 10, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under SEO Strategies

Building backlinks to your pages is an essential part of SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization) for two reasons. The first reason is that it helps your pages get indexed faster, which is very important because you want the search engines to find them as soon as possible and crawl them regularly. The second reason is that it helps your pages get higher search engine rankings for the keywords of your choice. The more backlinks you have, the better. Period.

building backlinks seoHowever, building backlinks can be a time-consuming, boring process and waiting to realize the results of your efforts can seem like watching paint dry. You can outsource the process to an agency and pay a lot of money… Or you can do it yourself with SocialMonkee!

SocialMonkee is an instant backlink builder that will help you with building backlinks, every day, FREE! All links are on unique C-Class IP addresses and domains. Imagine being able to create 25 unique backlinks every day, with the click of a button, FREE! Well, you can stop imagining…

So, 25 unique backlinks every day… That’s a total of 175 backlinks every week, 750 every month. If you upgrade for a one-time fee of $47USD, you will be able to build 100 uniques backlinks, 3 times a day! That’s a total of 2,100 backlinks every week, 9,000 every month! The good news is… you can get a Premium Account, FREE! All you need to do is to refer 12 members, and your account will automatically be upgraded. If you’re not really into referral marketing, you may upgrade right now for a low one-time fee.

Submitting a page to SocialMonkee via the members area takes under two minutes, but there’s an even faster way! They created a Firefox plugin that allows you to submit your page to up to 100 sites in just a few clicks, using nothing else than Firefox! If you have a Premium Account you will also get access to link reports and RSS feeds, which are great assets for building backlinks and getting them indexed fast. Submitting your RSS feeds to RSS submitters is actually a very important step in link building.

So what are you waiting for? Join SocialMonkee now while it’s still free!

http://budurl.com/SocialMonkey

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Eliminating Blog Spam on Your WordPress Website

December 20, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, Website Design

The longer your wordpress website is online, the more pages that are listed in search engines.  Getting pages listed is good for your business, for sure, but it also makes it easier for blog spammers to target your site in their efforts to get links to their own sites.  One method of doing this is referral spam.  Perusing some of the comments blocked naturally by Akismet, it is fairly clear that they were not written by a human.  Even though some of the malformed subjects and content created by spinning tools can become a source of amusement, having to manage your blog spam queue is a PIA and waste of time.

Blog Spam EliminationTo keep your site healthy, you have to learn something about how things work and keep code up to date.  Another term for this is website maintenance.  Over the years they have been online, I have tried several things in my efforts to overcome my blog spam at GetIncomeBlog.com and my WordPress Website Development business site.

Within this post, I offer some alternative solutions and details about the one that I’ve settled on which is working perfectly for me.  :)

Disabling New Comments

Within the WordPress dashboard, under Settings –> Discussion, there is an option to automatically close comments on articles older that a user definable time frame.  This is probably the easiest counter-measure against blog spam but I’ve never enabled that option because most of my content is not time sensitive and I don’t want to disallow comments for people who might find it weeks, months or years after the post has been published.

Plugins

For a while, I used the Antispam Bee plug-in.  It was effective against blog spam but it didn’t allow me to review comments that had identified as spam.  Because there have been times when I’ve found comments from people that I know which have been marked as spam by Aismet, I didn’t want to risk it.

Referral Blog Spam Comments

Referral blog spam is generated by software and used by people who are looking for links back to their pages.  These people are banking on the fact that their blog spam will land on blogs where comments are automatically approved.  I’ve never set up a site that way and I’ve never allowed any of my WordPress Website Development clients to do so either.

The biggest headache for me was referral blog spam.  Recently, I implemented some changes.  After 72 hours of testing, I’m satisfied that I’ve found a solution that is worth sharing.  Bona fide comments are still delivered and there been ZERO referral spam comments.

What a gift!

Eliminating Referral Blog Spam

The  technique that I used involves three things:

  1. WordPress configuration
  2. Modification of .htaccess
  3. Captcha plug-in
  4. A little vigilance

WordPress Configuration

First, here is a screen shot of how my Discussion settings are configured at all of my sites:

Eliminating Blog Spam by GetIncomeBlog.com

Recommended Dashboard Settings

Some of these are defaults but others are not.  I do not automatically approve comments from people whose past comments have been approved.  By way of explanation, the reason that I only request notification when a comment is held for moderation is because that second email that comes after I’ve looked over a comment and approved it was redundant.  :)

.htaccess changes

To completely eliminate referral blog spam, you must add a few lines of code to your .htaccess file.  This is a file that resides on your server and was created at the time you installed the wordpress application.  It is critical that you retain a backup copy of this file because your site may become non-operational if you do not get it right the first time and you need to recover quickly when things go wrong.

# DENY ACCESS TO NO-REFERRER REQUESTS

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} POST
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .wp-comments-post. [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*YOURDOMAIN. [OR,NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ ^http://YOURDOMAIN.com/your-page/ [R=301,L]

These lines of code are placed just above the line that says # BEGIN WordPress. You will need to customize the code to agree with your domain names and destination URLs. This post does not endeavor to teach you the function behind the above code but, in summary, what it is doing if diverting comments that are not originated through the comment form on your site and, if someone’s software is trying to do that, they are directed to a page on one of my other domains that counts down the time until Christmas.  Granted, referral spammers will never see that page but it gives me a way to track their attempts when I review statistics that are logged by the Statpress plug-in.

You can use any text editor to read and modify the .htaccess file.  When you are saving the file, you must use double quotes so the file extension is not “.txt”.

Captcha plug-in

After a little trial and error, I decided to use the SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam plug-in.  All that I can say about my choice is that this one did not require any additional coding and it accomplished the task.

Vigilance

WordPress also incorporates the ability to blacklist commenters.  You can bar a comment that contains user defined words in its content, by commenter’s name, by URL, by e-mail, or by IP.  For those referral blog spam comments that slip through the cracks for any reason, this will be the final authority on whether or not you have to manually handle their unwanted comments.

Caveat

There is one caveat to my preferred anti-referral blog spam method.  It will only work with a self-hosted WordPress website.  In other words, if your blog is hosted at WordPress.com, you will either have to put up with referral spam or install one of the available plug-ins through your dashboard.

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The Proposal …

November 23, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Business Basics, Small Business

In my business, potential clients sometimes ask for me to submit a detailed proposal that outlines deliverables and costs for milestones on a project.  This usually follows a lengthy phone conversation.  This is not an unreasonable request but preparing these proposals takes time that cannot be spent on other business activities and exposes details about my strategies and methods so my quandary is what level of commitment to ask of the prospect in exchange prior to delivering the document.  Although it is part of doing business, nobody likes paperwork.

Project Proposal GetIncomeBlog.comWhen I launched my business, I submitted detailed proposals without a second thought.  However, I modified my approach after a potential client failed to acknowledge the receipt of the proposal and ignored my requests for follow-up and negotiation until he contacted me to share a listing he had placed on a freelance site which was a verbatim copy of everything I had written in my proposal.  I was shocked.  He seemed pleased about the fact that he had sourced the project at a lower rate than I had proposed.  He has returned with new requests since then but I’ve declined.

My proposals now include a time limitation for pricing and a copyright notification that is intended to discourage prospects from using my content to shop their projects around.  In spite of these measures, there still are people who promise to meet with me after the proposal is sent, fail to return calls or emails for a while, and send a cryptic email saying that they “going another direction” with their project after a couple of weeks.  This is disappointing … and suspicious.

This isn’t a sour grapes post.  I certainly don’t expect to win every contract but I honestly don’t know how to handle prospects who leverage my copyrighted content to shop around for better pricing.  It is a bona fide conundrum.

These are the possible solutions that I’ve come up with:

  1. Withhold the delivery of all proposals until a mutually agreed to meeting time where we can walk through and discuss each point/price.
  2. Charge a flat fee for preparing and delivering detailed proposals and estimates that covers the cost of my time.
  3. Propose only an hourly rate for all projects in the future and track time, which is a big headache for me.
  4. Join the Circus and escape it all.  :)

Well, the last one isn’t really an option but it is fun to muse about sometimes.

Good Website Design and SEO are not Mutually Exclusive

July 29, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, SEO Strategies

Website design is a process of function and aesthetics.  I’ve just completed a project where the desires of the graphic designer took precedence over search engine optimization and website performance.  I had only heard about these sorts of debates before and had never been involved in one.

The designer admitted they cared more about look and feel of the site than they did about its features and functions.  Ultimately being forced to defer to the graphic designer’s logic by putting a scroll box into a post, for the sake of aesthetics, enforced website design tactics that have not been popular since the late 1990’s.  Neither the project initiator nor the graphic designer seemed to care at all about search engine visibility, website performance, or the impact their design-based decisions were having upon the website design functionality or the user experience.  Regardless of my feelings about it, I did as I was instructed and delivered a site that has absolutely no SEO value, much to my chagrin.  I contributed my ideas and they were ignored.  What else was there for me to do?  :)

website design seoBut, my position stands firm that graphic designer opinions should NEVER take precedence over website design performance, function, and search engine optimization.  I will augment this by saying that website design aesthetics and website functionality are not mutually exclusive goals.  With a little bit of understanding, beautiful graphic designs can be rendered to highly functional code that performs well and is also optimized for search engine visibility.

In my experience, graphics designers rarely have website design development or SEO skills.  I have the distinction of possessing wordpress website design, development and SEO skills, among other things, so this is not true of me.  My composite skill set is extremely rare, so I have been told.  Because it is important to my clients, I keep abreast of current online marketing tactics and website design and development trends so I can educate my customers and offer choices, should the need arise.  Of primary concern to me is overall website SEO and performance.  A properly designed website can garner organic traffic, especially if it uses the built-in features of a content management system like WordPress, and performance does not have to suffer if the developer knows what they are doing.

With the caveat that there are many people out there who know as much or more about this topic than me, I will share a little of what I know about these things in this post.   It is not all inclusive, for it would be impossible to encapsulate years of experience on such large subjects into a single post.

Why Should You Care about SEO?

A pretty website design pleases the eye, and aesthetics do matter, but your website SEO strategy can make the difference between a profitable website and a wasted expense.  If you are not doing your own development work, you have paid a professional website design developer real money in exchange for their time.  Viewing your website as a marketing asset should not be taken lightly.  With good planning, design, and a solid SEO strategy in mind from the onset, your website can become an extremely valuable tool that facilitates your business success.

Search Engine Optimization is not a huge mystery.  There are several sites with valuable and free content out there for people to study, if they are willing to invest the time and energy.  While each SEO “expert” seems to subscribe to their own philosophy, seach engine algorithms are based on math some factors are constants.

Generally speaking, there is on-page SEO and off-page SEO.  On-Page SEO is what you do with your website design and post content.  Off-Page SEO can be loosely defined as the linking strategies you employ to elevate your site’s authority on the internet.  Both are important, but the latter has very little to do with website design.

On Page SEO

Each page of your website is viewed individually by search engines.  Thus, it is possible for some of your pages to have a more elevated listing status in the search engines than others.  Content management systems, like WordPress, offer really cool SEO features like internal linking and frequent updates through RSS feeds and commenting features.  As a website design consultant, one of my functions is to help my clients choose rich keyword terms for categories.  While some Graphic Designers hold steadfastly to their belief that there still is a place for straight HTML websites, open source applications like WordPress, which is continually improving, make that belief all but obsolete.

Within a page, search engines are alerted by text styling tactics of using headings (H1 is best) or bold text to call attention to important content that contains the keywords you are pursuing.  Enabling WordPress plugins that permit you to specify relevant meta titles, descriptions, and post-specific keywords will assist with acquiring organic traffic and gaining better page listings and rankings.  Since I put up my first WordPress Website Design years ago, I’ve been using the All in One SEO plugin, although there are others out there.

Having a keyword rich domain name and page title goes miles toward a quick ranking.  Post titles and overall URL length matter.  The last time that I checked, search engines only read the first 256 characters of a URL.  This could have changed, so don’t quote me.  So, if you have a long domain name and a long page/post title, your effort in researching and placing keywords could be pointless.  WordPress setup defaults are not the best for creating links.  There are multiple opinions about what is the best way to customize the permalink structure.  In any case, finding ways to eliminate unimportant words and numbers from the link is the only way to go.

Off Page SEO

This is, in a nutshell, your linking strategy.  Over the years that I’ve been involved with website delivery, I’ve seen hundreds of offers for SEO automation tools that claim they can drive floods of traffic to your site by exploiting loopholes in search engine algorithms.  I’ve never taken that bait.  As for other tools that offer SEO link building assistance that is white hat, I’m skeptical that these products have delivered the results promised but I do confess to not having tried more than a handful of them.  In my humble opinion, high quality external links are earned through the time-consuming work of posting articles, providing high-quality responses in active forums, and building an online reputation for your site’s authority by offering sincere and relevant blog comments or appearing as a guest blogger on a high ranking site.

Freelancers offer SEO services of link building through article creation, blog commenting and forum posts.  I cannot compete with offshore service provider pricing so this is not a service that I offer.  I educate my customers on link building tactics and sometimes refer work out to colleagues.  There are article spinning tools that allow you to write one good article and spin it multiple ways so you can have unique content up on multiple sites.  As for automating blog comments, I don’t approve spam comments on my sites so why should I expect anyone else to do so?  :)  Forums may seem like old news but there are some very busy forums with high authority on which I’ve been actively pursuing links back to a few of my sites.  Just ensure that you become active in a forum that is related to the main topic of your site if you choose this tactic for link building.

Website Design Performance Notes

If you are using images on your site, upload and reference them with keyword rich names.  Embedding keywords as alt text for your images is a important too because search engines can read it.  More and more frequently, websites are being found through image searches.  Although it makes a site or post more interesting, excessive use of images is discouraged because each call for that image results in another http request which can inhibit performance.

Pages that are designed entirely in flash are … well, flashy.  I truly admire the skills that flash programmers have honed but I have never recommended flash introductions when text and images will deliver the same message.  Opinions may vary but mine is that flash intros and pages are not good for SEO.  Additionally, flash is a client-side application that relies on the technology configuration of the viewer’s computer.  Most non-technical people are not as fastidious about PC maintenance and technology upgrades as I may be and no website design expert can write code to overcome that.  Hire the flash developer, by all means, but keep in mind that your multi-thousand dollar investment for flash programming may be lost on a portion of your potential audience who is frustrated by the fact that they see nothing on the page or it is taking too long to load.

When moving a site from HTML to a content management system, I frequently hear my clients say that the site seems slower.  That’s true.  It is, by comparison.  This has to do with PHP and database access speeds.  Website design architecture and code that works as optimally as possible is my responsibility, so I’m not abdicating entirely.  Recently, when this protest kept coming up, I set up the same site on two other hosting services so they could compare site performance.  It was a proverbial “no brainer” decision.  Their hosting service was the stumbling block.  Both A2 Hosting and JustHost eclipsed Network Solutions for page loads and video performance.

The use of CSS sprites improve website design performance because only one image is referenced.  I do not advocate for the use of image-based menus, however, because their use removes text from the pages and eliminates dynamic addition of navigation links.  This is best explained by example.  One of the features of WordPress is that it automatically adds new category links to menus without having to alter site code.  This translates to ease of use for my customers, once they’ve gotten a handle on the difference between pages, posts and categories.  With the exception of the site that I was recently asked to develop, all of my site navigation code has been pure CSS, clean and simple.  After working with a beautiful theme that used one image for all of its iconography and backgrounds, my custom theme designs will be making much more use of CSS sprites.

Website Conversion Tactics

May 14, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, Website Conversion

Designing a website for conversion is something that every business owner cares about, if they are savvy and have a solid business goal for their sites.  Top gun internet marketers sell memberships and consulting services to people who want to get income online.  It is a good idea to have a mentor when you are starting out, for sure, but I wonder if there really is a one-size-fits-all approach to building an online business.  My instincts say no.

As an Online Branding Consultant and website developer, I’ve been monitoring website tools and trends for years.  When my daily research introduced the idea that the color orange converted better than any other color, it seemed like a reasonable thing to try.  Within a few months, just about every site that I saw had an orange buy now or add to cart button.  Recently, this button has gotten much larger.   Does the image below look familar to you and did you feel compelled to press the button?  It took me 2 seconds to find one.  :D

www.GetIncomeBlog.com | Website Conversion Tactics

One trend that I have no argument with at all is to use WordPress website technology as the basis for a business and sales funnel.  The software is remarkable, easy to manage, and delivers great SEO benefits too.  Many top guns have migrated their sites to wordpress with good reason and anyone paying attention knows that WordPress is much more than a blogging tool.

Video capture pages are a very good idea and they have been for a long time.  However, there has been a disturbing trend with them recently.  The latest video marketing tactic is to enforce an opt in before one is granted access to the video.  This is a ploy to build a list, which I understand, but if you do this please manage your lists so you aren’t broadcasting the same message multiple times.  That is kind of irritating.

Another rising video marketing trend is to put up content with no controls or information about duration.  I find to be both inconvenient and rude, and I know I’m not alone.  If it is off-putting, why does it convert?  Perhaps someone who is doing this and tracking results can enlighten us all.

The OTO (one-time-offer) tactic has taken on new proportions of irritation.  When I opt in to something for free, I expect an obligatory up sell but is it really necessary to introduce two, three or more?  Newbie or not, I’m betting that I’m not the only person who loses patience and gives up.  It would be great to see the split testing results that support the claims of people who say this builds loyalty and increases sales.  :)

Please save us all from the disingenuous “fear of loss” call to action tactic.  If you aren’t sure what this means, it is the one that compels you to decide right now and threatens that, if you don’t, the offer will be lost forever.  If it really is a limited time offer then using this tactic doesn’t constitute coercion.  A high percentage of the time, however, the claim is not true.  How many times have you bought something because you were led to believe you needed to decide right away and found that same site months after the fact?

When internet marketers began to sell products that teach how to target local business owners, it intrigued me.  I wondered if they really knew what they were talking about.  As it turns out, few internet marketers have ever dealt with offline business owners so please don’t expect them to teach you everything you need to know in order to succeed in this niche.  I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea but, trust me, it isn’t an automatic gateway to wealth.

If you want to have credibility with a local business owner, you need more than a spiel and a ghost written book to hand to them at your first meeting.  You must understand THEIR business and be prepared to explain how you can help them improve their bottom line.

Think about the different businesses that you see in your neighborhood for a moment, excluding chains and franchises.  I doubt that the target market for an attorney, accountant, florist, or day spa lends itself to hype, being forced into opting in to view a video that has no controls on it, or the huge orange “add to cart” button.  Please let me know if you think I am wrong.

Small busines owners understand their niche and they’re good at sensing deception or they don’t stay in business long..  You won’t know how to help them if you haven’t done your homework.  Customer acquisition costs are a factor to small business owners, as well as return on investment.  If you want to play in that field, make sure you understand business basics first.

The bottom line is this:

No internet marketing formula is one-size-fits-all.

SEO and Watching Paint Dry

May 11, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, SEO Strategies

We joke about watching paint dry when time seems to move too slowly but, believe it or not, this is an actual role for which people are paid.  Duties include touching the painted item to ensure that it is dry.  What does this have to do with businss and online income?  Read on…

Many people put up pretty websites and expect immediate results.  Very few people get what they desire, unless they have found a particular niche that is in demand and has not already been exploited or they have a well established and responsive list.

As a website consultant, I’ve always recommended beginning with the end in mind.  During initial meetings with any new client, I always inquire about their keywords and SEO strategy.  Of all the hundreds of sites that I’ve built, only one customer actually had a plan in place.  Statistically, those who did not embrace the idea that they needed to identify niche keywords and strategically pursue them experienced less than optimal results.

Once you’ve determined your SEO and linking strategy, you must set about the task of doing the work necessary to accomplish it.  This entails tactics that will build relevance based on keywords through on-site and off-site content.

Perhaps the best known method for getting links to your website is writing articles, adding a link to your signature in a forum, or commenting on blogs.  But, how do you know which sites have importance from Google’s point of view?  Michelle MacPherson recently released a free tool for monitoring top internet properties for your content and links.  I don’t know if it is still available but I’ve used it and it is very helpful.  The caveat is that each site has different rules so make sure you read the fine print when you register and begin to use them.

Lately, there has been a resurgence in using videos to promote your business or opportunity.  This isn’t big news.  Video marketing has been a great way to give voice to your brand for years and new video distribution channels are popping up every day.  Your videos need to go viral, for them to really provide benefit, and if you don’t use good keywords when posting the video, it is just “out there” waiting to be found.  Alternatively, and as I mentioned earlier, you can deploy it to your dedicated and responsive list.

Differentiating yourself online may be the biggest challenge you face.  Most of what I observe is a lot of emulation.  That isn’t a bad idea.  Heck!  It worked for me when I wanted to learn to sing like Joni Mitchell.  :)  Still, emulating what everyone else is doing only makes you like everyone else.  Your market will choose to buy the offer, if it is something they want or need, and they will buy it from a link that appears in early in their search results.  Thus, if you have no SEO strategy, whether or not you’ve done your niche research homework, there will be a lot of people ahead of you in the pile.

Assuming that you’ve are now convinced that learning SEO and keyword research is important to your business success … online or offline … what can you do?  Well, you can begin by learning more about SEO and keyword research from an expert.  Dan Thies has availed a great ebook entitled Fast Start SEO which you can download at this linkDan Thies also offers a free membership where people aspiring to learn more, or those who are active in the arena already, can interact and swap ideas.  You can choose to outsource the task to someone who knows what they are doing, if you feel you have more important things to do,  but I imagine it will be hard to sift the wheat from the chaff  when interviewing potential outsourcing partners without any knowledge so learning something about how SEO is done is still advisable.

www.getincomeblog | SEO Like Watching Paint DryBuilding an online brand requires patience, dedication and belief.  Once you have your keywords and SEO strategy in place, all that remains to be done is to implement it.  However, waiting for the benefits you seek can be difficult if you are impatient.  Not much different than watching paint dry, I suppose.  But, if you’ve done your homework and selected a good niche and linking strategy, your results will come.

Tools help.  I use a product called Micro Niche Finder that is easy to understand and provides a lot of data very quickly.  If you don’t want to buy a product, you can also use Google’s free keyword research tool.

If you’d like to know how I can help you, please don’t hesitate to ask.  You can complete the contact form at www.VirtuallyMarj.com and I will certainly respond.  I’d love to learn more about your business and, if it feels right to us both, help you build your online brand!

Technorati Tags: keyword research,business basics,branding and marketing

Should You Fire Your Client?

When you decide to work with a client, your business relationship has potential to develop into a friendship.  This can be very rewarding, as long as the boundaries between friendship and business are established and maintained.

Very few people understand how awkward it can be when questions they are asking begin to encroach on the time you had set aside to relax.  Under most circumstances, gentle reminders that you are “off the clock” will be enough.  Conscientious people will never ask you to work for free and there is no reason to feel guilty about accepting compensation in exchange for your expertise.

Here are a few gray areas that you may have encountered:

  1. Someone expects you to do something for them which is a service for which clients normally pay.
  2. You’ve earned an affiliate commission because someone clicked on your link and that person treats it as if they are owed services in exchange.
  3. Sudden demands for a “finder’s fee” months after an introduction.
  4. Promising future work for reduced fees.

Expecting Free Help

We’ve all hit financial speed bumps.  My first response to someone who asks me to work for free so they can preserve their cash is to suggest that they need to adjust their mindset.  This sounds brutal but it isn’t.  We are what we believe and, if we believe we are broke, we are broke!

Many philosophies, including the Law of Attraction, conceptualize thought as energy that attracts like-kind energy.  If your thoughts are trained on what you lack, you will attract more of that.  In other words, your lack will increase.  This is so stupidly simple, yet so difficult to master!

Placating your associate’s fears by working for free is a choice that you make based on whether or not the time commitment will put your real business obligations at risk.  We all like to help people out but, if you do, recognize that it can be a slippery slope.  Like silencing your barking dog with a treat reinforces bad behavior, your associate may expect that you will continue to work for them for free.

Leveraging Affiliate Commissions

You’ve taken the time to set up accounts and establish affiliate relationships for products or services that you want to recommend.  Affiliate earnings are intended to be passive.  Thus, any expectation that you will provide services in exchange for an affiliate commission you’ve earned is flawed logic.  All that person did was click a link to buy something of value that they wanted.

In the rare instance that someone insists they could have purchased the same product on their own, it may be their way of inducing guilt.  Don’t fall for it.  If you are like me, you have not overpriced your services to begin with and you’re worth every penny.

Does this mean you should not offer affiliate links to clients and friends?  If you do, ensure that you disclose the fact that you will earn an affiliate commission and that it is their choice to purchase elsewhere.

What Finders Fees?

True Story:  A year or so back, a “friend” asserted that he was owed 25% of everything that I had earned since we met.  This came out of nowhere so I was stunned when I realized he was serious.

I explained that I would never have agreed to referral fees of that magnitude without having a formal contract in place.  This fell on dead ears.  His rage and desperation, coupled with some other observations about his online behavior, created an awkwardness that ultimately ended our friendship.

Expecting Immediate and Repeated Help

Most people admire my intuitive grasp of technology.  I will always answer quick questions but, if I know that a request will take more time than I have available, it must be postponed.  When I find a solution, I take the time to carefully explain exactly what solved the problem, in layman’s terms, so people can more become self-sufficient.

Some folks repeatedly return for help with the same things.  I don’t mind re-explaining but, if I can’t drop everything at the moment of their request, enduring unfounded accusations or complaints is unacceptable.  My rule is no tolerance for such bad behavior.

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

One client relationship relationship evolved into spending a lot of time exchanging ideas about WordPress website design, CSS and Photoshop techniques.  Those sessions always began when they would ask a “quick question.”  Since my associate already had some skills, it didn’t occur to me that I was providing information they planned to use to start a new and competing business.  When they announced their plans, they invited me to become a resource, with the provision that I could not use my own business name or offer a link to my website.  I declined and wished them luck.

The tactic of promising “future work” for a discounted rate is the proverbial Pandora’s Box.  In my experience, such requests better serve the requester.  In one extreme case, my willingness to work in this way resulted in many delinquent invoice payments and their expectation that the delayed payments would not compromise the development schedule for the project.   This particular client also neglected to mention very time-consuming development requirements at the time we settled on price and refused to discuss additional compensation.  When their behavior turned into abuse, they were summarily fired with no regrets … at least on my part.  :)

Choose to NOT Diminish the Value of Your Expertise

Be True To YourselfWe all have unique skills to offer in professional liaisons.  The confidence you gain through exceeding customer expectations can lead to business expansion.  When your clients trust you, they will naturally recommend you who their friends and colleagues.  Referrals from such sources are the best kind of business.

Matt Mullenweg: Entrepreneur with a Vision

December 2, 2009 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, How to Market and Brand

WordPress was awarded the 2009 Open Source CMS Award last month. Not only is this a great honor for the software, it validates a decision I made to specialize with this CMS years ago and all of the recommendations that I’ve made to website clients for the past several years. WordPress is a powerful CMS and, with the improvements introduced during the past year and this award, it is crystal clear that the software has stepped up to the plate for consideration as the basis for any website project.



WordPress Website Design

WordPress Website Design



Many of you who know me understand my deep appreciation for WordPress. I began using the software as a blogger in late 2004 when I set up my first self-hosted blog. Since that time, my interest in blogging has become a way of life for me.  My WordPress development skills have been a good source of income for me and I love being a self-employed entrepreneur.

In fact, entrepreneurship is a frequent topic on my blog. An important attribute of being an entrepreneur is having a willingness to take measured risks but crucial to entrepreneurial survival, regardless of one’s niche, is resilience. Ideas bloom, excitement builds, partnerships are formed, and there are many ups and downs along the way.

This amazing interview with Matt Mullenweg, the father of WordPress, really gives a lot of great insights into a smart way to start and grow a company. Other participants in this show are Jason Calacanis and Joel Spolsky. All are visionaries and well respected in the internet arena. The interview is nearly 2 hours long but it is well worth your time to listen, at the very least. I must caution you that Jason uses some colorful language while telling some of his stories.

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