Hawaii Web Tips

5 Incredibly useful TIPS for Hawaii Businesses

If you are a Hawaii Business finding yourself navigating the unfamiliar and ever changing world of the web you are no doubt looking to cut through the crap. The rapidly changing online landscape makes it hard for even the professionals to keep up. There is a lot of noise out there and these people are screaming out you from all directions. There is an over saturated market and not enough available education for our small businesses.

As a business you need to know that there are people out there right now targeting Hawaii Businesses. Our Aloha spirit makes Hawaii more susceptible to falling prey.

Through unethical advertising, false or exaggerated claims and outright lies people have succeeded in scamming many local businesses already. I have had many clients come to us trying to recover their losses.

The good news is, that it can be easily avoided.

 

RULE #1 – DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I can’t stress this enough. The secret to avoiding being ripped off, or ending up with something that will cost you more money to fix is this point right here.

CHECK EVERYTHING OUT!

No doubt many of you have already gotten emails, cold calls, even personal visits to your business, claiming they can help you spin your business into online gold.  Some of these people are nice, friendly and charming. Others resort to high pressure sales tactics.

It does not matter what any of these people say or how well intentioned they may seem. No matter how great their website is, how impressive their presentation or marketing materials are, no matter what they promise you. IGNORE IT and follow these tips.

TIPS

  • Avoid unsolicited services. If these businesses were doing what they claim, they would not need to solicit you. The best businesses have people coming to them. Many of them don’t market because they don’t have to.
  • Do your own research. Ask around! Get referrals from local business organizations. Better yet, look around and businesses who seem to be doing it right, and just ask them how they did it and who they use.
  • Avoid using businesses who don’t give examples of their work, or have vague information about who they are and where they are from.  Google them.  Check out their website.  If you have even a little trouble finding information about them on the web be wary. A reputable business will be transparent and easily accessible online.
  • Never rely on their own claims (even screenshots of their work can be manipulated). CHECK THEM OUT. Don’t take their word for it. Taking an hour to simply check out things like if they are a legal business, calling some of their clients, and actually going to the websites in their portfolios to see if they exist is a good idea.
  • Be careful of off shore businesses. Try to stay with local, or at list in country businesses who are REGISTERED legal businesses paying taxes. Not only does it show they are more serious, but it helps you recover damages. Local businesses also do a better job with marketing because they know the area and the keywords that only locals would know.
  • Be careful of Craigslist. I am not saying you can’t find any decent help on Craigslist, I am just saying that you need to know what type of people market there. I would say about 1 in 20 is trustworthy. Many of theme appear to be local, but are actually not. Again, not necessarily a bad thing that they aren’t local, the problem is that a company that is not being forthright and find it necessary to be vague and misleading about their origins and location are not trustworthy.
  • Do not trust a company that promises your page one ranking. No one can guarantee that and no ethical company would make that claim.
  • Try and find a FULL SERVICE company. Someone who not only designs the sites but also codes them. There are web designers and web developers. You want someone who is both. You also want someone who understands that Search Engine Optimization needs to be built into a website and someone who offers education and training, and knows how to integrate and leverage Social Media.

FACT: There are numerous businesses right now, marketing in Hawaii that have false information on their site, from fictional clients, to false local addresses.

 

RULE #2 – KNOW THE ENEMY

So who are the people we see cost businesses the most money? Let’s get to know them:

  1. The well intentioned family member, friend or start up company who set up a facebook page or website once
  2. The unethical money-hungry scam artists.
  3. The off shore or out of state company with the local sales people
  4. You.

 

The Friend or Startup

I am not saying your friends or new companies are bad people.  But well intentioned people can do just as much damage to your business online and it will cost your money in the end.  This could be your friend, your brother in law, your employee, a new business just starting out.  Any experience professional will tell you that we spend more time and more of our clients money repairing the bad work that resulted from a well intentioned person. You were looking to save money and in the end spent more than had you had paid someone to do it right the first time.

There is a lot involved in building websites and successful social media campaigns. It takes years of experience. No one can learn this overnight. Some of these people mean well and are looking for a way to make extra money or start a new career.  I have watched 11 businesses spring up around Hawaii offering social media services in the last 4 months at costs higher than I charge. ALL of them have new twitter and facebook accounts with less than 100 followers, no clients or campaigns to speak of.   They have some great looking websites, and well written content and marketing materials. But not one of them have any experience.

True story:  A client of mine had a sister in law that wanted to start building websites.  She had a built a few and told my client she wanted to redesign theirs.  She didn’t do a bad job with the design.  But she made a lot of rookie mistakes that made it clear she didn’t understand search engine optimization or copyright law.  The site got them in trouble with google and was removed from the searches, they lost all of their ranking and they got hit with $4000 in fees from copyright owners because she used illegal imagery and non licensed products.

 

The out of state company with the local sales people

There are quite a few of these in Hawaii now. They are either out of state or out of country firms that have created website specifically for Hawaii, that have local numbers and addresses (some real and some not). They have hired local sales people to attend meetings or solicit businesses.

The problem I have with these companies are their tactics.  I feel its unethical and misleading to encroach on another market by misrepresenting yourself as a local company. If you want to market in that area fine, but be forthright about who you are and where you are. Several local companies have contacted some of these people. When we asked them outright if they were local they lied or gave answers that implied they were.

You

Don’t hate me for saying this. But as a business owner, you can be your own worst enemy.  SEE RULE #

 

RULE #3   WHEN IN DOUBT, GET HELP

The TRUTH: You are going to have to pay for help. Its just that simple.  Think about your own business.  I am sure there are people who choose to try to do it themselves, or there are cheap options for what you do.  And you know, at some point they are going to need a professional.  If you try to cut corners, you are taking a risk. And if you do that, you only have yourself to blame.

If you can’t afford to hire someone to build your website or run your marketing campaign and plan to try yourself, try hiring a consultant.   Some companies are willing to offer consultations to small businesses. Maybe the web designer you wanted to hire but can’t afford might have an hourly rate and would be willing to sit down with you and help you. Be honest with them. They can discuss your budget, available options, and you can even hire them to teach you or your staff social media or how to update your website.

Workshops and seminars are also a huge help.  Try an attend regular events to help keep you in the KNOW.

 

RULE #4    BUILD A TEAM

When approaching someone to handle your web design or marketing needs, its important you understand a few important things.  You to look at them as part of your team.  You need someone you can trust and that has a history of supporting businesses in your community because things keep changing and you will continue to need help.  Building a relationship with someone now will save you so much time and money over time.

When hiring your own staff, try and find people with experience in social media or online marketing or who are interested in it. Having someone on your staff like that will be hugely helpful.  You can pay them a little more and give them a cool title and make them in charge of working with your web studio. Most will be grateful for the experience as well.

The biggest mistake you can make is treating your prospective web team like you are hiring a new employee and that its their job to impress you.

Here is a little inside information. You are being interviewed too!

You will be sized up and the results of that assessment will determine the cost and whether they will even take the job. In order for us to give you a proper proposal, we have to know what is involved in a project.

Most companies, have a set pricing scale they go from. But there are things that can come into play that will affect this scale and that is YOU. There are red flags they look for in potential clients.

Once you find a team you can trust its important you understand how to work with them. If you have done your homework and followed these tips, you should have a qualified team behind you and should not be worrying. Now, its time to let them do their work.

BE:

  • Timely
  • Available
  • Responsive
  • respectful

NO:

  • Micromanaging
  • Asking WHY too much
  • Nitpicking or complaining about cost

Follow these rules and you will get the best out of them and they will WANT to help you.

 

RULE #5  BE SECURE

There are so many security issues, that it is now more than ever, vitally important you take steps to secure yourself online.

I am surprised by how many people do not have IT people for their computers.   I see clients with very unsecure systems, passwords, emails, etc.

I can tell you that when something goes wrong, and it always does, it is huge and never a good time for them.

BE PROACTIVE, don’t wait for something to go wrong.  Having an IT person come by every few months to check out your computers and help you stay up to date is worth the money.

Have a password system in place, where you and your employees change your passwords regularly.

Consider investing in APPLE products.  Apple has a huge amount of resources, training, and support that does not cost anything and they have an entire department that supports businesses.

 

 

If you build it, will they come…to your website?

So you decide to finally get a website.  After launching your site out into cyber space, you sit there anxiously awaiting the floods of business to come your way.  But nothing happens.  And worse yet, your traffic shows only 2 people came to your site in the last week and most of those are probably you.

So what happened? If you build a website, shouldn’t the people come?

The truth is “No!” – Not without some work.   Educating people about how to get your website to work for you is something many web designers don’t do.    But its important to understand because building a website is like having a garage sale.  You can sit there all day alone, waiting for people to happen to drive by and see you  or you can get the word out and have people waiting outside your door before you even open shop.

Building your website is just part of creating your successful presence online. You are going to need more than just a great website.

  • SEO –  (Search engine optimization) Getting a professional to optimize your site will ensure you are being found organically
  • Adding link to your email signature line
  • Newsletters
  • Press Releases
  • Become an expert in your field with an internal blog.  Write useful and engaging articles that bring people back for more.
  • Submit your articles to Bookmarking sites like Digg.
  • Market your website in your store and on all your marketing materials.  Give people a reason to go there!
  • Try doing incentives like contests or events to get people interacting online
  • Do searches for people asking questions in your field that you know you can answer like on forums, blogs and social media sites.  Answer them and include a link to your blog.
  • Be sure you have a Google Places/Maps page with your website in it.
  • Add yourself to all the free local business directories
  • Utilize Social Media such as linked in, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter
  • Create a Craigslist Ad for your business and keep it active
  • Periodically run some Google Ads.
  • Find trade organizations, specialty directories and business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Develop a FREE service for your visitors.  (free home remodeling calculator)
  • Contribute articles to local publications, and include your website for more useful information.
  • Submit your site to DMOZ
  • Be sure to sign up for google alerts and monitor all things said about your business online so you can protect your brand

 

Being an expert in your field by writing useful blog content brings traffic.  Notice the image of my traffic, that the  top traffic to my site is not my business pages, but the articles I have written.  The most business I get is from word of mouth and people who have read my articles and liked what I had to say. I have also had various press and publication quote me or use my content.  Remember, that writers are often researching something they don’t know and looking for someone who does. Positioning yourself as a resource can give a lot of credibility to you and your business.

The internet continues to grow and the businesses and soon all businesses will have to be successfully navigating the online landscape to stay in business.  Staying on top of it is crucial, as the more your competitors compete for online business, they more your proactive involvement will pay off.  Those who wait too long will have to spend more money to compete with those who have a solid online presence already.

 

Dani featured expert – Hawaii Business Magazine and KHON Channel 2

How to Protect Your Company’s Online Reputation

Photo: David Croxford  Article by: Hawaii Business Magazine

Q. I seem to have no control over the things that are said about my business online. What can I do?

A. If a client searches on Twitter, Facebook or Yelp, they can see all kinds of things that have been said about your business – good and bad. For every customer you are aware was lost because of a bad online comment, there are likely 10 others that you don’t know about.

But there is a lot you can do to enhance your online reputation.

Remain visible: Become an expert in your field by providing useful information to consumers and others in your industry. Add a blog to your website and give people information they can use so they have a reason to come back and follow your conversation. Join groups and forums and post answers to questions related to your business, but be sure to include your business name and a link to your site if that is allowed.

Be active in social media: Tools rule, so use them to optimize the face of your business with immediate updates. RockMe Social Media, an online marketing system designed by Boss Hawaii, promotes your business while tracking your social-media networks. You are notified when online comments are made about your company and can schedule multiple media updates in advance.

Respond, even if it’s bad: Stay calm and do not criticize negative reviewers – that will make you look worse and could validate the critics. Counter their reviews by announcing positive changes that you are planning.  Be gracious and professional.

Be objective: You have no choice about whether people talk about you online. Your choice is whether or not to join the conversation. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: Consider the review objectively. As a customer, what kind of response would you want? What would it take to show you that the business has done everything possible to right the matter?

Daniela Stolfi is owner and creative director of Boss Hawaii, an online marketing-services company.

Reposting Duplicate content is not Plagerism!

I recently saw someone criticizing a writer, claiming more than half her content was “plagiarized”.  Its funny because as a Journalism major, I know that term but working on the internet so much I haven’t heard it for some time.

The issue was that the person got defensive so decided to look for faults in the writers content with the genius idea of running it through one of these FREE content checkers that will find errors and tell you if any of it is considered duplicate or “plagiarized” content.

The problem is, with the rise of the internet and the dissemination of information, it is common for people to re-post content on the web and cite or attribute the source.  These content checkers don’t consider that therefore cannot be accurate when it comes to web content.

Re-posting can have its negatives, it can actually harm your SEO if not done right.  The main issue when it comes to re-posting your content is that while search engines will reward you for links, they will not look so kindly on what they deem to be “duplicate content.”

The rule of thumb generally is that is if one page is 80 percent the same as another (regardless of whether it is within the same domain or not) then you run the risk of duplicate content issues.   Google’s own definition of duplicate content is “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”

Re-posting can be quite successful if done right. You can gain a whole new audience by simply working with what others are already saying.  Just be sure to make it unique and of course always give credit where credit is due!

What to expect in 2011 and how it will affect your website and online marketing strategies.

With 2010 nearing an end, we are all looking ahead optimistically towards 2011.   As small businesses, here are a few bigger trends shaping the way we’ll do business in the coming year.

Streamlined Websites

2011 means streamlined websites without the bells and whistles that became popular in the 1990s.   Smart businesses will opt for websites with less animations and other things that don’t matter.   In 2011, websites will be smarter.  Psychologists have educated designers to the fact that the customer can be steered by less items on a page. This breakthrough became public knowledge about 3 years ago. Pages are slimming down. Less is more.

Social Media Optimization

Close on the heels of Search Engine Optimization, comes Social Media Optimization, the newest incarnation of SEO.  New activity should be deployed to boost your presence on social networks.   Optimization activities may include back links from individual social media sites and  development of a credible profile on these sites. The greater impact you can have on the social networking sites, the more your SEO prospects will improve in the coming year.

Marketers are tentatively embracing social tools as a way to connect with customers and grow their businesses. Most businesses have some kind of social presence or say they plan to launch something: Most have attempted a blog or Facebook page, or have peeked at Twitter.

Still, most have yet to truly embrace the full social toolset for their business, especially in the B2B space.  Sometimes, it’s because they are unsure of the real value, and sometimes it’s because they aren’t sure how to approach it. The goal is to move beyond simply slapping Facebook and Twitter icons on your home page (and driving people to those outposts without any sense of a larger strategy) to more seamless integrating the visitor experience and aggregating conversations, so that someone doesn’t see an obvious difference between being on a home base or an outpost.

Owning your content

Most small  businesses  who have embraced the importance of online marketing have embraced the importance of becoming “publishers.” In other words, they understand that in addition to being in the business selling whatever they sell, producing useful content and information to their customers should be the cornerstone of their marketing, not only to engage and educate their would-be customers, BUT  to get noticed by search engines.  Small Businesses can significantly amplify their footprint online exponentially through the content they publish.

But at the same time, producing any old content isn’t enough. Businesses like yours have to produce the right kind of content: web content that is honestly empathetic and seeded with utility for your customers; content that reflects your businesses core values and is inspired by your unique perspective and authentic “voice.”

2011 will most likely see more and more businesses becoming the expert who can help people with their problems and offer solutions not just a product.  If you don’t have a BLOG on your website, add one.  Become a voice of trusted reason in your industry, about whatever problem it is that your service or product solves.  Elevate your status from just someone who sells stuff to someone who has an expert point of view and is a go-to resource.

Website Speed!

Site load time is going to be very important to how your website is  ranking in 2011. Google, in its effort to improve website performance, has decided to penalize those sites that have a longer load time. Also, improper use of Meta tags in website coding will have a negative effect on site rankings in the major search engines in the coming year.  If your site is too slow or not set up properly expect to see your rankings affected.

Going Mobile

Smartphones are fast becoming a daily necessity and people have started surfing websites on their mobiles more than ever.   This trend is going to grow in 2011. The number of mobile Internet users has touched 90 million already. The need for optimizing your site for mobile users will be crucial.  Your site needs to be optimized for relevant mobile applications. Google itself has stated that mobile search results take precedence over desktop search results when it comes to mobile searching.   This shows the need to invest your time and money into mobile SEO in the coming year.

Now users of mobile devices expect the same level of service that a regular web browser provides. The web has become more of a passageway of traffic than a reading mechanism. Every day in 2011, millions of people use the internet to make calls, and find restaurants. They do it from handhelds.

Online Videos

Video is the buzzword today. Your site needs to be powered with YouTube video clips, one of the most popular media on the web today. If you upload a video on YouTube for a particular keyword, your site gets a better chance to be “visible” by leading search engines like Google for that keyword.  One cannot ignore the growing popularity of YouTube. It has surpassed Yahoo! to become the second largest search engine in the U.S. Therefore, putting up a relevant video on YouTube not only enhances your site’s SEO prospects in Google, but boosts its SEO prospects in YouTube itself.

Personalized Search

One of the important trends in online search features is personalized searching. This trend will be even more notable in 2011. Google, the global search leader, has in fact made personalized search the default option. Unless users opt out of this default option, they are likely to experience only personalized search features from Google. Personalized search results are based on the user’s web surfing habits. The  probability of your website showing up in the search results is going to diminish unless your site is one that is frequently accessed by users. If your site is widely popular and users access it frequently, you are likely to enjoy better search positioning in the days ahead. Otherwise, you need to build up your site’s branding (by other means) and entice users to access the site.

Local Search

Leading search engines like Google have started depending on local search listings. As a business, you to make sure you improve or add yourself to local listings. Dominating the local listings is much easier since there are a lesser number of players.

Optimize your Bing campaigns. Bing should now represent 20-25% of your volume. Make sure you are in Bings Local listings, and that your site is ranking well on Bing.

Updates, updates, updates

The search engines  will be constantly changing, competition will be increasing, and their will be growing security threats so it is more important than ever to update your website regularly.  There are 2 kinds of updating that needs to be done.  Content, and CMS updates.

CONTENT: Websites that are not updated with great regularity simply don’t seem as important to search engines. This is the first major reason that updating your website frequently is critically important.   Search engines have programs that search the web and analyze websites based upon a wide variety of factors.   One of these factors is how frequently sites are updated and with what kind of content.   By updating your site frequently, you are effectively telling these search engine programs, often referred to as spiders or bots, that your website is dynamic, moving, ever-changing and interesting. Clearly, a website that is updated frequently will look as though it has a good deal more to offer potential visitors than a site that is updated once every six months or once a year.  More updates, means more visitors, which will help your sites rankings with the new personalized searches.

CMS/Wordpress updates: Since we mostly do wordpress sites, I will use wordpress as the example.  I can’t stress how important making sure your wordpress site is updated.  That means having the most current version of worpdress and ALL plugins.  This will protect your website from being hacked, and will also help with performance.  Because site load time will be important in 2011, an updated site will be crucial for your websites performance.

How will 2011 affect your business online?

Before checking how your site ranks in google…

SO you have gone online and and entered one of your keywords into Google to check your ranking in the search engine results page (SERPs). You see that you’re ranked #1 in Google! Yipeeeeee!!

Feeling pretty good, you decide to brag to all your friends.  You tell them to type in your keyword into Google and see what pops up.

They do it and and your site’s not there…You argue with them and check the keyword again.   Sure enough, there it is! SO what gives?

You have been PERSONALIZED my friend!

There are a couple of reasons why you are seeing different rankings than everyone else.   Personalization exists in Google for the average user to  help them find sites that they have clicked on before.   Google is smart, so smart it knows which sites should get bumped up in the rankings based on your past click-throughs.  Is it Big Brother?  NO, it is Because you’re logged into Google.  If you’re logged into Gmail, then you’re allowing Google to personalize your searches.

So how do you find your REAL rankings?

4 Ways To Depersonalize Your Search

1. &pws=0: Adding the command &pws=0 to the URL of a search query will depersonalize your search rankings without you having to log out of your gmail account. For example, if you enter the keyword “seo” into Google, the url path for that search results page looks like this:

http://www.google.com/webhp#hl=en&source=hp&q=seo&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=ff274912d96214e6

To depersonalize that search query add the &pws=0 command at the end of the URL path like this:

http://www.google.com/webhp#hl=en&source=hp&q=seo&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=ff274912d96214e6&pws=0

2. Depersonalizer: Don’t want to keep logging out of your Gmail account? No problem! Use this free online Google depersonalizer tool to check your rankings while logged into Gmail!

3. Rank Checker – This is a great FireFox plugin to check your rankings for your site. Although it’s not super accurate it is more accurate than a personalized search.

4.  Lastly is simply to logout of google before searching.