Wednesday
Jan202010

Analytics for Your Website

So you've got a website.  Great!  Congratulations!  You and a billion other businesses have made a great first step!

Sarcasm aside, whoever told you that having a website created on just sitting out there online will bring you new business was crazy.  It just doesn't work that way.  In fact, the website launch is just the beginning.

Step TWO is figuring out how to leverage your website to get more business.  So, very simply, you need to know who's coming to your site.  Who are they?  How often do they visit?  How much time are they spending there?  How did they find you?  All of this information gives you clues on how to market your website.

You can get all of this information for FREE.  Just go to:  http://www.google.com/analytics/

Get started by clicking on the "Sign Up Now" link in the blue box in the upper right corner.  Google Analytics will walk you through some somewhat simple steps to install Analytics on your site.  (If you're daunted by this process, you can certainly hire a consultant to take care of all the nitty-gritty for you...  hint, hint...)

Once you've installed Analytics, you'll have access to a whole bunch of information that you won't have a clue how to use.  The basic Dashboard will give you an idea if your web traffic is going up or down, but beyond that, what do you do?  Check out this Google Analytics Cheatsheet.  This will take you through some basic know-how and also show you how to use some pretty cool tricks.

Friday
Jan082010

StumbleUpon- What is it?

Have you heard of StumbleUpon?  I think I'd heard the term, or read about it somewhere, maybe two times before yesterday.  Here at Fresh Look Creative, we're gearing up to offer our clients some more intricate services in the way of Social Media Management, SEO Consultation & Execution, etc.  So I've been doing a lot of research about different online tools.  Yesterday, I read an article regarding StumbleUpon.  I've pulled a lot of this information directly from Ian Lurie's article, and you can click the link above to read it in full.

What is StumbleUpon?

is half site, half toolbar. You create an account online, then download their toolbar. From then on, you can give sites you visit a 'thumbs up' or a 'thumbs down':

By clicking on the "Stumble!" button, StumbleUpon will direct you to sites it thinks you might like, according to the interests you indicated you have when you created your StumbleUpon page.  By using the like & dislike buttons, StumbleUpon learns what you do and don't like, and uses that information when you're Stumbling.
You can add friends, see the sites they like, and comment on the sites you stumble.  You also get your own page.  Be warned, however, that this is an EXTREMELY addictive tool!!  Download the tool bar and click the 'Stumble!' button.  I spent over an hour doing this because I couldn't wait to see where it would take me next!!
While links from StumbleUpon.com don't help with SEO, (in order to prevent spammers from overrunning the site) it CAN help generate traffic for your site.  If lots of people give a website or page a thumbs up in a short time period, the 'Stumble!' button will display that site more and more often. That generates a snowball effect: More folks see the site, more folks vote on it, it shows more frequently, it gets more traffic, and so on.
How StumbleUpon Builds Links
Some of the traffic generated will be high quality.  Now, I'm new to this, but check out how Ian's traffic grew in relation to his StumbleUpon activity (this section is taken directly from Ian's article):
March 19th, I started seeing a huge influx of StumbleUpon traffic. Within a few days I'd received nearly 7500 visits from toolbar users:
My Technorati links surged a few days later:

And my Yahoo! inlinks surged almost exactly 4 weeks later.

I checked against 12 other bursts of traffic from StumbleUpon over the last year. Same pattern: Surge in traffic, then surge in Technorati and Bloglines links immediately, and a surge in Yahoo! links within 4 weeks.

Because using StumbleUpon frequently can mean more links, you will have more success in the search engines and possibly a lot more folks talking about you.  IT only takes about 5 minutes to set it up, and it's well worth it.

Using StumbleUpon

1. Download the StumbleUpon toolbar

2. Stumble stuff you like about 10 minutes per day

3. 'Friend' people who share similar browsing interests.

4. Stumble your own stuff if you think it's worthy.

On that last note, do NOT try to spam StumbleUpon.  Don't ask 100 of your best friends to do it either.  The filters are set to catch this sort of thing, and you can find yourself banned.  Follow these steps and you'll be building some strong traffic and links.

Tuesday
Dec292009

10 Ideas To Grow Your Biz THIS Week

This is a short week, and I've always thought of the week between Christmas and New Year's as kind of a blow-off.  Lots of people are on vacation, no one's really doing a ton of business, etc.  (Although, I have heard that the week between Christmas and New Year's is great for the car and furniture business....)

Anyhow, I'm guilty of goofing off and having snowball fights during this lag time instead of really looking for innovative ways to grow my business.  I've compiled a list of to-dos - the kind of things that you'd really like to make time for, and never really have the chance.  Well, if your business is anything like mine, you have time this week if you'll discipline yourself and commit to getting at least THREE of these done.

1) Come up with a rewards plan for your employees.  If you're a smart business owner, you know that your employees are your NUMBER ONE "public," meaning you should always keep them in mind, just as you would your customers.  Employees will make or break your company, and if they're making it, you should reward them!  (If they're breaking it, either fire them, or incentivize them to do better.)  This could be anything from an ice cream party to a monetary bonus, so set some realistic goals and follow through with some cool rewards for your people.  Truly, this will improve your overall business environment, and customers will feel the excitement and enthusiasm when they deal with your employees.

2) Improve your accounting systems.  If your business is anything like mine, towards the end of the year, a lot has fallen to the wayside, and accounting is one of those things I'm always trying to play catch up on.  Take 1-2 hours a day over the next few days and COMMIT to either creating a more organized system to keep track of your receipts, or simply to log entries into your accounting system.  If you're completely up-to-date, (congratulations, you overachiever, you!!) sit down and analyze where you lost money, and where you made money, and find a way to capitalize on your wins and overcome your losses.

3) Plan a vacation.  I'm not kidding!  As a small business owner, I know how burnt out you can feel at the end of a long day.  You won't do your business (or your family) any good if you don't take some time to recharge your batteries.  Even if you take a three-day sabbatical to the bowling alley, spend some time away, WITHOUT EMAIL AND CELL PHONE.

4) Come up with a special for the new year.  Everyone loves a good deal.  For the first month of the new year, come up with a new sale or special that you've never offered before.

5) Devise a system to get more information!!  Several years ago, businesses wanted to collect phone numbers for telemarketing lists.  Well, folks got wise and decided to stop providing that information.  This day in age, you should be looking for ways to reach your customers wherever they are.  Ask for email addresses.  Or, if you have a website, make sure you have analytics tracking how many visitors your website is seeing on a daily basis.  Also, make sure your employees are asking your customers HOW THEY HEARD ABOUT YOU.  Information is power, but you have to commit to collecting it in the first place.

6) Email marketing is cheap- try it out.  If you've tried email marketing for your business yet, you may want to give it a shot.  Online systems like iContact make it very easy to create your own email messages, send them out to your email lists and track who opens and forwards your messages.

7) Commit to trying a NEW social media marketing technique.  Maybe you've hopped on Facebook, or you've begun to blog.  But what about Twitter?  What about LinkedIn?  Have you learned about Digg and del.icio.us?  (If not, don't freak out, but take some time to Google these and learn a little more about how social media can help grow your online presence.)  If this all seems VERY foreign to you, you can certainly hire a SEO expert to do all of this for you.

8) Speaking of blogging, DO IT!  I mentioned blogging above, and since I'm such a fan, I'll mention it again.  If you don't have a blog, now's the time to create one.  Blogs allow you to create unique and original text that can and will be indexed by search engines.  The more original, relevant content that you have available on your site, the better the chances that your site will be listed higher in search engine rankings.  If you have a blog and you don't use it, shame on you!  You're wasting a golden opportunity to grow your business, PLUS, it looks really bad when people see that you haven't posted to your business blog in three months - they'll think you're lazy.  Take this time to make a list of 30 different blog topics, so when you're feeling lazy, just glance at the list and pick a topic.

9) Thank your customers.  You may have just sent out Christmas cards and/or gifts, and if so, good for you.  However, never forget how an unexpected small goodwill gesture makes YOU feel.  Take a look around your neighborhood.  Is there a locally-owned bakery or winery who might be willing to partner with you for reduced-cost gifts?  Develop such a partnership, and once a week, have your salesmen take a gift or two out to their customers.  Or, have an appreciation event at your place of business.  The idea is to let your customers know you're thinking about them- it's a lot cheaper to KEEP these customers than to try and buy new ones with advertising.

10) Make it look good.  I'm a huge fan of pretty stuff, of creative stuff, of original stuff.  So I hate nothing more than ugly marketing collateral, or "logos" that were created using one of the twenty different pre-loaded fonts in Microsoft Word.  Are you kidding me??  If you don't think your business is worth spending some time making what you put out there (be it logos, brochures, website, OR EVEN YOUR OFFICE) look good, then customers sure aren't going to think you're worth a hill of beans.

Happy New Year!  I hope you're encouraged to do something to grow your business TODAY!

Wednesday
Dec162009

Holiday Hours

I hope that this holiday season has been fruitful for you and your business.  This is one of my favorite times of the year- so much hope and anticipation building towards the holidays!  Even if year-end is not a particularly busy time of year for you, spend this time planning and improving your systems so you can hit the ground running next year.

Please be aware that Fresh Look Creative will observe the following holiday schedule:

Thursday, December 24 -- CLOSED

Friday, December 25 -- CLOSED

Thursday, December 31 -- CLOSED

Friday, January 1 -- CLOSED

It will be business as usual starting Monday, January 4.  From our business to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Friday
Dec042009

Crisis PR

There's an entire fleet of professionals out there trained to excel as other folks are crashing and burning.  Crisis public relations experts are employed to create contingency plans and strategies for every possible contingency. 

If a violent crime is committed at a Habitat for Humanity build site, you can bet a crisis PR professional is on the job behind the scenes.  If a notable public figure gets in an argument with another public figure at a highly-visible salad bar, I 'd guarantee that after the attorneys are called, the crisis PR professional is the second call made.  (By the way, I've seen both of these instances happen in my professional career.)

But you don't have to be a crisis PR professional to establish emergency contingency plans for yourself and your organization.  Very simply, all you have to do is sit down and think "What's the worst thing that could happen?"  If you own a tool company, the worst thing that could happen would be someone coming in, commandeering a chainsaw, and hacking you, one of your employees or one of your customers to bits.  A little graphic for you?  Probably pretty graphic for the 15 other customers who watched it happen.... 

You get the picture.... 

So you must establish an action plan for yourself, and your employees, on what would happen if any sort of emergency situation were to take place.  What are employees to do in such instances?  Who calls the cops?  Who knows first aid?  Who's in charge of calling employees' family to let them know every one is okay while police are holding everyone for witness statements?  Who talks to the media?

Crisis PR plans are very detailed, and a professional can help you develop such a plan.  But here's the first rule, for free.

Shut your mouth.  Tell your employees to keep their mouths shut.  The purpose of a crisis PR plan is, ultimately, to control the public's opinion of your business/ organization/ persona.  And if you have more than one mouth doing the talking, then there's a lot more to control.

Select ONE person who will be in charge of speaking to the media (probably the business owner, organization CEO or your attorney).  BEFORE this person speaks with the media, s/he should have talking points already defined: "The crisis site has been secured- everyone is safe and unharmed." "We are cooperating fully with the police."  "We have brought in trauma counselors to speak with on-lookers experiencing shock." Etc...  The goal of talking points is to NOT be caught off-guard, therefore not looking flustered, seeming as confident and compassionate as possible.

In the wake of Tiger Woods PR nightmare, a "What would you do?" question hangs in the air.  So, what would you do?  In a crisis, any crisis, what would you do?