Create your own Web site

A recent survey shows that only 36 percent of businesses employing up to 100 people have a Web site. The other two-thirds should have one. A presence on the Web provides information about the business to prospective customers, suppliers and employees. Even a little information about the business is better than being nonexistent on the Web.

Today you can set up a site without technical help or Web hosting costs.

First: Buy a domain name (like To do it, visit any of the thousands of online registrars such as,, networksolutions. com. Search for the domain name you want. If it’s already taken, type in another, then click “Proceed to Checkout.” The cost ranges from $6 to $10 a year to secure a domain.

Second: Find a place to host your site. Several companies now provide Web hosting services free of charge. Visit sites such as Microsoft’s weebly. com or You can also buy your domains at these sites. Like all the ‘build it online’ services, you don’t need any technical knowledge at all to build an attractive Web site.

Third: Set up your site. A basic site includes a welcoming home page, a page that describes your business, and a contact page that tells how to reach you.

You can add to the pages by typing in text or dragging and dropping graphics. One free and easy way to improve your design is to use HTML coding, but you don’t have to know the codes, says

The Wall Street Journal. Many sites offer handy blocks of html that you can plug into your site as easily as copying and pasting text.

Presentation on Internet Trends 2008

Mary Meeker presentation on Internet Trends 2008
Slide show from the O’Reilly/CMP Web 2.0 conferences presentation done by Mary Meeker.

Get financial savvy through free educational sites

financial savvyMost of us are not wise about financial matters. We don’t know how to judge which stocks will be profitable, whether we should invest in bonds, or what the financial interests are of those who say they will give us the answers.
Knowledge is our best defense against bad advice, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
Your government has free help available. At, look for the “Your Money” button to download lessons about how to evaluate stock tips and read disclosures.
At, you will find postings about how to save for retirement and avoid scams. It also links to local authorities at the North American Securities Administrators Association site,
Independent and free information may be even better.,  started as a mutual fund research company, but now has an entire curriculum on stocks, bonds, funds, and more. The course starts with simple stuff and moves up to more-complex levels. It tells you how to evaluate whether a stock is well priced or not.
Borrowing offers interest rate quotes and advice on borrowing and saving. For more technical information, visit the American Association of Individual Investors at
Interest rates on home equity lines of credit are now at 8 percent or more. Many credit card companies, however, are still offering 0 percent interest for one year.
One problem is that you don’t know how much credit each card will offer you. Financial experts recommend that you return several no-interest credit card applications. Then you can cancel those that don’t give a high enough credit limit without doing serious damage to your credit rating.

Email can be hazardous to your career

emailYou can’t fault organizations for being careful. They have a number of things to guard against including everything from terrorists, to lost trade secrets, libel, and potential violence.
That’s why emails are routinely subjected to programs that search for dangerous words and suggestive remarks. The latest software is very sophisticated. It doesn’t just hunt for words and phrases such as “insider trading,” or “breaking the law.”
Some programs such as those by Cataphora, described in Fortune, additionally search for language that seems intentionally vague. It catches phrases such as “that thing we talked about,” and “what we spoke of the other day when we talked about the other thing.” And it catches words that indicate negative emotions, such as confused, bewildered, lost sleep, and regret.
Some programs examine any shift in email habits. If you usually use email in the afternoon, for example, and you suddenly begin sending messages in the middle of the night, the program will point that out.
For many people, however, emails that simply show a lack in judgment can wreak the most havoc. Remember that anything you write can be forwarded instantly to hundreds of others and to blogs where you may be ridiculed.
To keep email working for you the way it should:
Stick to business topics. Be concise and clear.
Keep it short and to the point, no small talk that could be misunderstood.
Know what types of words and phrases company software programs target and don’t use them.
Always keep common sense and good values in mind.

Getting a Web Site On-line

By Tammy Miller, President, Virtualtech Web Site Design and Promotion

Creating a Web site can be intimidating and overwhelming if you don’t understand what is involved. These feelings stop many people from proceeding, which is a real shame as a Web site is a powerful marketing tool and can be a lot of fun.

There are four steps in creating a basic web site, they are:

Step One: Domain Name (URL) Registration-This is the address people will use to access your web site ( Once you have determined that the URL you wish to use is available, the cost to register a name is anywhere from $8.00 to $35.00 per year. A domain name needs to be renewed every year.

When you register a domain name, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your contact information must remain current. If your email address is going to change (most often because of changing to a new Internet Service Provider) it is imperative that you change your contact email address BEFORE your old address becomes invalid.
  • Use a position (such as “President”) instead of an actual person as a contact-this is more stable, in case the person ever leaves the company.
  • Make sure your company/organization is listed as the “Organization Name” (the “organization” will be considered the “owner” of the domain name.)

To see if a domain is available, go to For more information about domain names visit

Step Two: Design of the Web Site. This is where the look, feel, and content of the Web site are determined and created. Web sites are created using HTML (HyperText Markup Language). This can be hand coded, or a program such as Microsoft Front Page or Macromedia Dreamweaver can be used. Often companies/organizations will hire a student to create a Web site because they know HTML. Just as you would not let someone who has taken one shop class put a new engine in your car, don’t have someone with no experience create your site. Your web site will be a reflection of your company/organization. Don’t let it be a bad one. Cost for web site design varies greatly depending on where the company is located and what the needs of your Web site are. Designers will either charge by the hour or by the project. If the designer charges by the hour be sure to have a detailed contract as to what they will do and how long it will take.

Tips for hiring a web site designer:

  • Visit their web site. Do you like what you see?
  • Ask the web designer for examples of other web sites they have designed.
  • Get the names and phone numbers from at least three of the web designer’s clients. Call them and ask if they would hire the person to work on another project.
  • Do they have a contract that outlines the agreement, what they agree to do and what your responsibilities are? Get everything in writing.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, from cost, to design and search engine placements.

Step Three: Hosting your web site on a web server. This is basically where you rent space on a computer that is always connected to the Internet. Price will vary, depending on the amount of disk space you will have and the connection to the Internet. Be cautious of a free or low cost hosting service, as they tend to be very slow and may put ads on your web site.

When choosing a hosting company here are some questions to ask:

  • Does it backup daily? If the server crashes, you don’t want to have to recreate your Web site.
  • Does it offer POP3 (password-protected) email accounts?
  • What kind of tech support is included?
  • What type of a connection to the Internet does it have? The minimum connection a Web server should have is T-3 (45 Megabytes per second). A T-1 (1.5 Mbps), or worse yet a cable or DSL connection (0.768 Mbps), is not adequate for the amount of traffic a commercial site will receive.
  • Does it support Full FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Access? This allows you to transfer files from your computer to the web server.
  • Does it offer web site logs showing you how many visitors your site has, what pages they are going to, how long they are staying, etc.?
  • Does it allow for use of forms and CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts? This allows you the ability to create a form where visitors can be asked questions or register for meetings.

Step Four: Marketing Your web site. You should be thinking about the marketing of your Web site as it is being designed. The content of the site needs to reflex the search terms you will want your site to appear on search engines. The first step to marketing your web site is to include your Web address EVERYPLACE your phone number appears. This includes brochures, business cards, print ads, etc. In addition, include your Web address on your telephone voice message and email signature.

Your site should be submitted to search engines a minimum of every six weeks. Currently you can submit to AltaVista, Google, MSN, Dmoz, Netscape, and Fast at no cost, while AOL, Excite, HotBot, and Snap are not accepting submissions. Yahoo!, Looksmart, Lycos and Inktomi all charge a fee to review and index your site.

Pay for click search engines, such as Overture, are becoming an essential part of web site marketing. These search engines work basically like an auction. First you determine what search terms you want your site to appear under, now search for those search terms and determine what the bid amount for the position you want is. You then open an account and place your bid. Yes, you can be outbid. For more information on marketing your web site visit

10 Ways To Make Your Web Site Work Harder For You

By Janet Attard, Business Know-How

You bit the bullet. You set up a Web site because new prospects and existing customers kept asking you for your Web site address. Then, too, there were all those stories you kept hearing about small companies bringing in significant business through their Web sites. So, you paid a Web developer thousands of dollars to put your business on the Web, or spent countless hours of your own time learning enough about the Web and about html to put up the site yourself.

But your site’s been up a couple of months and you haven’t gotten a single sale you can trace to the Web site. What happened? What’s wrong? What do you need to do to make your Web site start bringing you business? Here are several tips that will help you fine tune your site to make it a more effective marketing tool.

Make Sure Your Site Looks Professional
Take a hard, cold look at your site—or ask a friend who will be brutally honest to look at the site. Does it look professional? Are the graphics professional-quality and clear? Are the fonts, font sizes, and font colors used in a consistent way? Or does your site include design flaws like these that immediately mark it as an amateur production:

  • Photos that are squeezed or stretched out of proportion
  • Multiple elements on the page that are blinking, bouncing, scrolling or turning in circles
  • Multiple styles of type used for headlines and body copy
  • Colored background graphics or textures that make it difficult to read the type
  • Background graphics that are inappropriate for the content of the site (eg.: bubbles on a site selling bookkeeping services)
  • Text blocks that are out of alignment

First impressions matter on the Web, just as they do anywhere else. And, the first impression your site makes should be one of professionalism and appropriateness for the markets you serve.

Don’t Use the Name of Your Company as the Web page Title
Every Web page has a windows-style title bar. The title that appears in that title bar is determined by what you include in the title “tag” in the html code for the page. You or your Web site designer may want to make the name of your company the title of the page.

That’s not a good idea, however, unless the name of your business includes a descriptive term that someone looking for your services would search for to find what you sell. The reason: Search engines place heavy emphasis on the words in the title bar. Like the text on your page, the closer the text in the title bar matches the term a Web surfer is searching for, the higher your site will rank when the results of the search are displayed. So, if your company name is non-descriptive and little known, leave it out of the title page, or put it at the end of the title.

Don’t Let Your Home Page Be a Flash Presentation
Flash is a technology that allows you to put animated presentations and demos on the Web. Designers love it because it shows off their multimedia skills, to say nothing of increasing the amount they can charge for the site. Business owners often think it makes their site look impressive and make their businesses appear to be on the cutting edge.

But, Flash presentations can make your Web page take a long time to load. Search engines don’t pick them up, and they often annoy visitors who come to your site for product information or facts in a hurry, not entertainment. If you have a product or service that benefits from an animated demonstration, make that one of the choices on your home page (e.g.: “Watch a demo.”) Don’t make the Flash presentation the entire home page. And if your products or services don’t need an animated demo, don’t use the technology at all.

Focus the Home Page & Product Pages on Your Customers’ Interests, Not Yours
You’re proud of your business and your accomplishments. (As you should be.) So, it’s tempting to write a lengthy description of your business accomplishments and run it on your home page with a big photo of yourself, your building and/or your employees, saying, “We’re here to serve you.” But prospects and customers aren’t coming to your site to learn about all the great things you’ve accomplished. They’re coming to your site to find out what you sell and how it will help them.

Get their attention with benefits-oriented headline and text. The headline should make clear what you do and suggest a benefit. For example, “Fast, accurate transcription for Monroe County Medical Offices and Hospitals,” or “Phone systems that grow with your business.”

Don’t toss out that company information, though. After you interest the customer in your products or services, they may want to know more about your company before deciding to do business with you. So, if the purpose of your Web site is to sell your product or services, make the company information a link off your home page, not the focal point of the home page.

Avoid a Cluttered Look
If you sell multiple products, you want them all to be found. And if you are being billed by the number of “pages” on your Web site, you may want to keep costs down. But don’t try to squeeze dozens of images or product descriptions on a single page. The page will look cluttered and make it difficult for visitors to find the products or information they want.

Instead, put small photos of a few of your best-sellers or most representative products on the home page, and then have links to other products in your catalog. Break up the links into logical categories. For instance, if you sell sandals, you might have categories for women’s sandals, men’s sandals, and children’s sandals. If you sell footwear, you might have pages for men’s footwear, women’s footwear and children’s footwear, and then break down each of those pages into categories such as sneakers, shoes and sandals.

Minimize Graphic Sizes to Make Sure Your Pages Load Quickly
Photos and other graphic images make your pages look appealing and help illustrate what you sell. So, they are important to include. But don’t let the size of graphics slow down your Web site. In most cases, images should be thumbnail size—no more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches in size. If a larger image is needed to properly display an item, then you can add a link that says “Click here to see a larger image.” That way big images that take a long time to display will only be displayed by people who really need to see a bigger picture.

Be Sure You’ve Included Important Supporting Information
To turn Web surfers into customers, you’ll want to provide enough supporting information about what you sell to make them feel comfortable buying from you. If you sell software, for instance, you’ll need information about what platform the software uses, compatibility with other products, system requirements and links to press reviews, if any. If you sell graphic design services, the “supporting information” you need should include a portfolio of work you’ve done. If you provide consulting services, it would be a good idea to include case studies describing client problems, what you did to solve them and how they benefited as a result. (Be sure to get the client’s permission before using their name in this way on your site.) A page with testimonials from satisfied customers is beneficial as well.

Make Sure It’s Easy to Place an Order
Imagine how annoyed you’d be if you ran into the supermarket to pick up a container of milk, and couldn’t find the checkout counter? Web site visitors are no different. They will get annoyed if they have to scroll up and down or side to side to find a place to order from you. Avoid the problem by keeping pages short and including a buy now button or link in the same location on every page. A good location is just below the text that describes any product or service.

Be Sure Your Contact Information is Easy to Find
Customers not only want to know what you sell and who you are, they want to know how to reach you. They may have questions about the merchandise you are selling, want to know who they can contact if there is a problem with their order, or prefer talking to a “real person” instead of ordering online. Avoid losing sales by including your phone number, store location (if you have one) and phone number on every page.

Share Links With Other Businesses in Your Community
The tips above will help you get found in search engines and help make your pages more appealing to potential customers. But even in the Internet age, business still has as much to do with who you know as what you do. So talk to business owners who sell different products and services than you do, but serve the same market. Help get each others’ pages found by swapping links and giving each other referrals.Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning Business Know-How small business Web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.