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Small Business Website Design

Small Business Website Design

Vegan Dog Treats, People Who Wear Tie-Dyed Clothing, and The Relevance of Web Design in the Era of Social Media Saturation

Why do I even need a website these days? Facebook is free and it takes care of connecting with my customers.

One of the first and most obvious components of starting a new business is creating a relevant, vibrant online presence in a good small business website design. In an age where the use of social media like Facebook or Twitter is nearly a given, having a well-designed, dynamic website for businesses of all types has begun to be overlooked. Any small business owner with limited resources might ask themselves, “why even have a website when my company Facebook page is a free, useful tool to represent the products and services my business provides?” This is, of course, a valid question.

There are a multitude of reasons that a small business website design should still have a user-friendly, well-designed company website. One reason is quite simple: a larger reach for your customers to interact with your business. Anyone would agree that having a website creates a higher potential for company brand awareness than not having one.

And?

Another very important reason for any business to have a website is eCommerce. The purpose of any business, put bluntly, is to make money from the goods and services offered to the public. Having a place for a potential customer to make a purchase from a business online is an obvious and essential element to a company’s interaction with clients. While social media is revolutionary in creating brand awareness for a company, it is not a destination for the curious customer to actually procure the goods or services rendered. Especially during the holidays, the choice between leaving one’s house to purchase something on a rainy day in dense traffic or to buy something online is why companies like Amazon exists. We all know that nearly anything and everything is available for purchase online. If your company does not provide an option to a potential customer to purchase your family recipe for chocolate chip cookies sold at $5 each or the handmade wallets you have spent all year stitching together directly from you online, you risk losing a potential sale. Retail placement, one-on-one customer interaction, and advertising are key elements in increasing sales and should not be ignored. However, the value of having an easy-to-use, fun marketplace for your gluten-free vegan dog biscuits that retail for $12.95 a box is almost essential.search engine optimization

Having a direct and deeper reach to a company’s client base is what a website offers in addition to (not in place of) social media campaigns. When someone decides that Fido can only eat non-GMO, hormone-free, vegan, small batch, handcrafted, artisanal, free trade, gluten free doggie treats because it makes his coat so illustrious, you want Google to bring them to your website. Websites are what come up at the top of search results, not Facebook pages, not tweets. Of course, most companies do not offer such specific products or services, although they do exist. Simply put, a company website that connects potential customers to businesses are vital to company growth, if not its survival.

Alright. I am convinced. That was long-winded, but I agree that I need a website. Now what?

website design

One of the first things to consider is your company’s domain name, or URL. Let’s stick with our example of cage-free, local, soy-free dog treats. Suppose the company name is “Astrid’s Healthy Dog Treats” (I imagine Astrid wears a lot of patchouli and burns incense all of the time and has 11 Scottish Terriers, but I digress). The first thing to do is to find out if the domain “astridshealthydogtreats.com” is available for purchase. However, Astrid is too busy baking dog biscuits to worry about websites, not to mention somehow finding time for herself with all the hungry vegan doggie mouths to feed.

As a full-service online marketing company, blotter.com can help poor Astrid with her booming business and free up her time to listen to more jam bands play guitar solos for 23 minutes. As a her personal shaman for internet marketing, blotter.com can provide Astrid with the following services:

  • Selecting a proper website domain name: Blotter.com will guide Astrid in the thoughtful and intelligent selection of a company website name. “Astridshealthydogtreats.com” seems like a good choice.
  • Website hosting: Blotter.com can purchase and host the website for “Astrid’s Healthy Dog Treats.
  • Website Design: Blotter.com’s experience, professional team of website designers will create an online presence for Astrid that will truly be unique. It’s almost impossible that it would not be.
  • eCommerce: As mentioned previously, connecting Astrid with customers using intelligent website design is important, as is creating an online marketplace for her to sell her healthy dog treats. Blotter.com can create an online shopping cart for Astrid to hustle all of her inventive flavors, from Broccoli, Radish, and Rice to Peppered Citrus Sweet Potato Lemongrass, her customers will be able to refill their orders with ease.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Astrid has no idea what this means. But since she’s so happy with the clean, zippy website design and the subsequent sales spike in her 11 Scotties’ favorite flavored vegan dog biscuit, Honeydew Pimiento Orange Blossom Hot Pepper Dust, she trusts that blotter.com will make sure that her specific clients will quickly find Astrid’s Healthy Dog Treats on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Did we mention that Astrid’s dog treats are organic?
  • Continuously Updated Online Content: While this article is meant as a humorous narrative, hopefully it illustrates the range and ability of blotter.com’s quality of writing that it will provide to its clients. Clearly, tone shifts based on the goods and services offered by the companies blotter.com contracts with, but weekly postings of 600+ words of relevant original content is what blotter.com thrives on. Your small business website design should keep all of these in mind.

eCommerce

Groovy. Let’s sell some dog treats.

All silliness aside, blotter.com can provide your business, be it as small and niche as Astrid’s Dog Treats or as globally recognized as NBA.com, a satisfied blotter.com client, with the online marketing tools to create or improve new or existing websites.

Brilliant website design, original weekly content, and search engine optimization for businesses large and small is what blotter.com does. Contact blotter.com today for a free consultation.

In South Carolina:search engine optimization

210 West Stone Avenue

Suite #2R3

Greenville, SC 29609

(864) 735-8195

In New York:

384 13th Street

Suite 1

Brooklyn, NY 11215

(917) 524-7077

email: richard@blotter.com

Or find us on Facebook, Twitter, or blotter.com.

Relevant Outside Sources:

SEO for startups in under 10 minutes – Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead for Google presents a brief yet detailed guide to website creation for upstart small businesses in this excellent youtube video.

SEO Best Practice Strategies for 2015 with Rand Fishkin of MOZ – Another instructional video that provides step-by-step instruction for Search Engine Optimization. A much lengthier discussion of SEO, but great content and great advice.

Max and Ruffy’s – While the tone of this article is quite tongue-in-cheek, vegan dog biscuits do, in fact, exist. This website is a perfect example of intelligent website design optimized with eCommerce for a business that might sound silly but is clearly cleaning up online.

 

What We Do Is Search Engine Optimization

What We Do Is Search Engine Optimization

With blotter.com entering its 17th year of experience in the field of online marketing, website search engine optimization is one of the cornerstones of the services it offers. Some websites read as if it were written by a teenager in a text message, often replete with irrelevant content on the state of the world and/or pop culture, and littered with spelling and grammar errors that are common in today’s “advanced” dumbing down of the the English language for speed and technological convenience. Blotter.com, with its years of business, web design, and content creation from Owner Richard Wright, also makes use of the writing expertise of former English teacher and writing instructor Matthew Burt. In addition to his experience as a former small business owner, Matthew has had experience as a high school English teacher as well as a instructor at the collegiate level. He brings years of writing experience and an attention to detail and writing quality that is uncommon to online website content. In addition to Matthew, blotter.com employs a team of experienced professional writers who will insure the quality of your website’s content.

Founded in 1999 by Webmaster/Owner Richard Wright, blotter.com is a full-service online marketing firm. It is an experienced company that specializes in website design, online marketing, social media management, and, most of all, continuously updated original content written with search engine optimization (SEO).

So…What exactly does that mean?

The above is a short answer to what blotter.com does. Here is the long version:

Website Design

Blotter.com offers services to design your company’s website. Beginning with an agreed-upon URL (website name; for example amazon.com, youtube.com, blotter.com), blotter will purchase the website domain and design a website according to your company needs. Blotter.com has the capacity to host the site with necessary updates and maintenance for a monthly fee (contact Richard Wright at richard@blotter.com for specific pricing details).

Already have a well-designed and functional company website? Blotter.com can add e-commerce shopping cart features, clean up existing design issues and flaws, and optimize the static written content for better search results and traffic flow to your company website ***(otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO)).***

Online Marketing

The ways in which traffic is directed to your company’s website has changed in the last few years. Formerly, you could pay a marketing firm to optimize your website through search engines through keyword, key phrases, and tags alone. This was largely based upon a mathematical algorithm developed by Google that essentially counted the number of times a tag or keyword was used within a website in order to bring the website to the top of a search. While this process remains extraordinarily relevant (keyword and key phrase optimization is a large part of the services that blotter.com offers), content is equally important on a website. Thus, the frequency and quality with which a website updates its content with original material is more important than ever.

Social Media Management

search engine optimizationIn addition to website design and online marketing services, blotter.com offers social media management as a service to its clients as both an additional service to its clients with SEO content and as an individually priced service.

So…what exactly is “social media management”?

Using the social media “dashboard” Hootsuite, blotter.com creates five unique search engine optimizationpostings to be delivered Monday through Friday at an agreed upon time to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. The content of these postings vary in format and content daily. Had a recent company holiday party? Blotter.com will schedule the posting of individual or all of the photographs to your company’s social media outlets. Featuring a new product or service? Blotter.com will write a short feature about it with relevant website linking, complete with appropriate social media tagging on Facebook and re-tweet options on Twitter. This service is recommended for every business, and can be “bundled” with your SEO package or can be purchased as a separate service. Contact blotter.com for price quotes and proposals.

Search Engine Optimization

As mentioned in the Marketing section of this article, one of the cornerstones of blotter.com’s services is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By providing 600-word weekly postings to your company’s website and/or blog of completely original content, blotter.com produces results for searches on google, yahoo, or bing. Using keywords and tags agreed upon with the client, blotter.com‘s goal is to bring your company’s website to the top of the search results, thus “optimizing” your business’s access online through top search engines.

For example, Company X rents party supplies for events like weddings, concerts, public speaking engagements, and community and corporate events in Greenville, SC. An appropriate keyword phrase for Company X might be “event rentals Greenville,” logically, to bring Company X to the top of the list for search results when seeking its business or similar types of businesses. The writing of content provided by blotter.com would be “optimized”  by using “event rentals Greenville” multiple times throughout the 600-word posting, and that keyword phrase would be used in future postings weekly to achieve long-term search results through continually updated original content.

So, that’s the long version what we do. Contact blotter.com today for your company’ online marketing needs.

Related Reading and Resources

CodebabesThis is an interesting approach to maintaining one’s attention span when researching what is ultimately a dull subject: beautiful women in bikinis explaining SEO.

Keyword Research Made Easy: A video entitled “How to Do POWERFUL Keyword Research in ONLY 10 Minutes.” Pretty self-explanatory, and relevant to a further discussion of what blotter.com offers.

search engine optimization

Contact Information:
URL: blotter.com
Richard Wright, Webmaster/Owner

South Carolina:
210 West Stone Avenue
Suite#2R3
Greenville, SC 29609
(864) 735-8195

New York:
384 13th Street
Suite 1
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(917) 524-7077

email: richard@blotter.com
facebook: facebook.com/blottercom
twitter: @iblotter

 

How to set up a campaign website

How to set up a campaign website

Canvassing for votes is best done with a good campaign website and social media aggregation strategy. The five reasons to set up a campaign website are to educate voters, to motivate voters, to solicit votes, to centralize media and to show leadership. And don’t forget the importance of registering your domain names early and taking necessary security and legal precautions, too.

1. Educate Voters

While content is king for candidates who have set up a campaign website, Thought Leadership is the queen bringing legitimacy to the campaign as a whole. Education begins with an acknowledgement of the candidate’s background, mission and current activities within an event calendar. The website (rather than a Facebook page) is where journalists and constituents will go to find the detailed biography and background information on the candidate. Set up a campaign website to educate voters accordingly.

2. Motivate Voters

By capturing email addresses and posting periodic updates via social media and email newsletters, the education of voters will be assured while motivating them to vote can also be undertaken. Motivation to find the polls sometimes lacks for voters who feel their vote can’t make a difference. Set up a campaign website with motivation in mind, reminding readers “every vote counts” and “without their votes the election cannot be won.” Less than 15 percent of eligible voters actually make it out to vote, on average, so consider ways to motivate these voters using traditional mechanisms, for instance giving incentives such as barbecue picnics, free schwag (tee shirts, buttons, etc.) and guilt trips.

How to set up a campaign website

3. Solicit Votes

In local elections where victory is often measured in the hundreds, political rallies and canvassing at polls on election day are crucial to securing victory. Send out an eBlast the day before election day to spell out what it is a registered voter needs to do. Also, provide links on the website with tools for citizens to get registered in the first place. And don’t forget about the tried and true practice of phone calls. More than half of older Americans vote, a demographic that tends to learn about candidates through traditional media venues including print as well as email. Make your headline: “I’m asking that you vote in tomorrow’s election” clear.

4. Centralize Media

To help win an election for the candidate, website managers should combine social media feeds into the front page of the campaign website while ensuring your blog posts on the website are posted back to Facebook. Facebook is fast becoming the originator of organic clicks, measured by the number of “Likes” and tallied by Facebook to show the number of views on a site. Set up a campaign website with a Social Media Aggregator such as Hootsuite or BufferAp. Pushing content in parallel to multiple outlets shows organization and will maximize the impact of the content produced.

5. Show Leadership

The tone of a website and social media should not be too lighthearted or lacking the qualities of leadership. It is generally agreed there are eight favorable qualities in a leader:  Honesty, Ability to Delegate, Confidence, Commitment, Creativity, Intuition and the Ability to Communicate and Inspire. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, is best known for his honesty, listening skills and master oratory prowess. Emulate the tone of your favorite leader and set up a campaign website to reflect those qualities.

Security and Technology is Important

Demonstrating good practices in technology will protect a website from politically motivated hackers while satisfying legal requirements. For instance, legal verbiage must be placed on the footer of each web page and within each social media page. While there are few guidelines for exactly how and where to place “PAID AND AUTHORIZED BY COMMITTEE TO ELECT JOHN DOE”, cover yourself by posting the statement everywhere there is white space.

National attention to website and email security came into effect during the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Failing in basic privacy and consumer protection practices within a candidate’s Internet technology presence can be catastrophic.

Campaign Firewall

Firewalls demonstrate security for candidates.

Demonstrate Domain Name Competency

Politicians should use a dot-com for their website. The dot-coms can be registered for less than $10.00 each using most domain registrar services, so snap up as many as you think will come in handy before you set up a campaign website.

Finally, the ability to update your website and social media posts regularly and with focus to attention can be the difference between winning and losing. Scheduling posts and ensuring these posts have been reviewed by an editor will show organization and commitment in itself. A strong Internet presence with technology driving a candidate’s message will make the difference between that candidate’s winning or losing.

Why is my website down? What do I do next?

Why is my website down? What do I do next?

In 2011 Amazon cloud website services failed, resulting in nearly 12 hours of downtime for Reddit, Quora, Hootsuite and other major websites in addition to thousands of small businesses. The failure was epic and lasting, a phenomenon rarely so widespread. Nonetheless, outages happen every day and businesses take great measures to ensure we don’t hear about them.

No matter how careful a website manager is, outages happen. Follow these five progressive steps to find out Why is my website down? What do I do next?

  • Step #1 – Check Domain Name – Check if one of the big websites such as Amazon.com or Google.com is up and running. Then, visit a domain name checker such as those offered at http://whysitedown.com or http://downforeveryoneorjustme.com. These steps determine if you are the only one experiencing the problem. If the problem is not experienced by others, IT support representatives know the biggest problem with customers connecting to websites is software and hardware.

What do I do next?

  • Step #2 – Check Firewall – Now is a good time to find another means for connecting to the website. If your mobile phone (using cellular service) connects to the same URL that your desktop computer can’t (or vice versa), then you know there’s something wrong with the responsiveness of the website or DNS routing. Companies (and even countries) will block specific URLs and IP addresses.

What do I do next?

  • Step #3 – Contact Hosting Company – This step will save the day or throw the ball back into the website manager’s court for solving the problem. The discount companies are likely to respond with a stock answer such as:

In reviewing your site we are currently unable to duplicate the issue you are experiencing. I have also tested your hosting plan and am able to confirm that there are no known issues that would cause what you are describing.
–GoDaddy Representative

Full-service hosting companies such as GetFlyWheel.com cost more than discount hosting companies, but you’ll be very pleased with the responsiveness that comes with paying a few more bucks each month. The better hosting companies will rise to the challenge to help you determine how to fix the problem.

What do I do next?

  • Step #4 – Access Admin/Control Panel – Most hosting companies provide an administrative panel (i.e., http://yourdomain.com/cpanel) where you can manage hosting settings for your website, including database settings, email settings and basic website issues. Backups may also be available through this interface and can be utilized in the event there’s been a compromise to the production files or database.

What do I do next?

  • Step #5 – Check DNS – Your website’s name server is the actual address where traffic is being pointed. Free tests at http://dnscheck.pingdom.com or http://mxtoolbox.com/DNSCheck.aspx reveal these settings and may also find anomalies in the way the domain name is responding. DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to replicate, so ask yourself if any changes to the domain name occurred recently. Many hosting plans include a dedicated IP address that can be used instead of the domain name.

Check IP Address

If the IP address works but the domain name doesn’t, then you know there’s an issue with how the domain name is configured.

What do I do next?

  • Step #6 – Run Trace Route Toolhttp://www.monitis.com/traceroute is a diagnostic tool to see how your domain name and IP address is being routed. If there is a kink in the long chain, you’ll be able to see and measure the transit delays of packets across the networks making up the collective Internet.  This tool won’t solve your problem but may provide insight for troubleshooting with your hosting company, network administrator or domain name registrar.

What do I do next?

  • Step #7 – Remove Plugins – WordPress websites are especially vulnerable to corruption from plugins that have become either antiquated or compromised by third party negligence. Deactivate these plugins through the back-end and you may find the culprit who inspired the question … Why is my website down?

What do I do next?

  • Step #8 – Repair Database – The database is crucial to the operation of a content management system (CMS) running your website. WordPress is driven by the database which means that a corrupted database will cause a website to malfunction. The blog site Make Tech Easier offers a good procedure for repairing a database.

Why is my website down ... What do I do next?

  • Step #9 – Call in a consultant – Desperate times calls for desperate measures. At this juncture you’re ready to call in a professional, pay a professional.
    http://fixmywp.com – WordPress specialists who fix hacked websites, broken themes and crappy plugins.
    – http://www.helpfixmysite.com – Since 1999 they’ve been repairing websites. Their free quote policy means you won’t be surprised by the cost.

Why is my website down

  • Step #10 – Restore backup/Build again – It’s why you created the mirror website and why you have a copy of the database and files on a cloud server. UpDraftPlus Backup and Restoration for WordPress is the best solution for WordPress sites, but most control/administrative panels provided within your hosting package will also offer tools for backing up websites. Restoration of these backups often result in lost data because of the gaps in backing up, but it’s better than starting from scratch.

Why is my website down

How to customize user roles in WordPress

How to customize user roles in WordPress

Website managers can customize user roles in WordPress to enforce five basic permission levels, easily assigned within their default WordPress dashboards. But complex user permission configurations require advanced user role assignments beyond the defaults and require an advanced user role plugin for greatest control and flexibility.

Customize User Roles
 

The default permission levels available in WordPress are a good place to start thinking about assignments because user role plugins typically build on these assignments.

How WordPress manages user roles without a plugin

(Default) Basic WordPress user roles

  • Administrators – The god-like website manager who can control the destiny of everyone and everything within WordPress, different from editors because they can change themes, manage widgets and plugins and determine the roles of other users.

  • Editors – This is the vice president within WordPress who acts as the mouthpiece and moderator on behalf of the ones in charge. Editors mostly spend their time editing, deleting and approving comments. But they also have access to pages and most of the plugins on the website.

  • Authors – These are the senators of the website, managing their own interests by publishing their posts as they wish, without review. They can’t add or delete media files, but they can cause a lot of problems by publishing any words and linking to any website they wish.

  • Contributors – These are the children who must wait for their parents’ approval before leaving the house with their Halloween costumes on. WordPress contributors can write their own posts but can’t publish them until they’re approved by a more powerful user.

  • Subscribers – Can’t do much more than manage their pictures and profiles associated with the comments made on the website.

How WordPress manages user roles with a plugin

(Advanced) Plugins to change user defaults:

Customize User RolesHow do you assign administrative control to one plugin but not another? The default won’t cut it for website managers who need to add and customize user roles with granularity.

For instance, many organizations will want to assign a user to manage the website’s event calendar while another is in charge of sending email blasts to users.

There are a number of great (and free!) plugins for website managers to use for customizing user roles on WordPress, but only two that come in with more than 100,000 active installs and more than 4 out of 5 star ratings:

  • User Role Editor Plugin (Blotter’s Choice!) – Uncheck or check boxes of capabilities to add a selected role or add new roles and customize its capabilities according to what the user needs. This plugin is the most robust and intuitive way to manage user roles beyond their default assignments.

User Role Editor Screenshot

  • Members Plugin (Blotter’s 2nd Choice!) – Allows you to edit, create, and delete roles, control which users (by role) have access to post content and allows you to use shortcodes to control who has access to content. Many website managers utilize this plugin to create a virtual Intranet, making a website completely private to employees or assigned membership.


More about how to customize user roles …

There’s a number of folks out there complaining that the five user types are not needed and should be simplified. But WordPress approaches their defaults without consideration of user capability plugins that might be layered on top of their content management system. Indeed, there’s efficiency in this simplicity, and website managers should ensure they’ve mastered their understanding for these assignments before installing a third-party plugin which may over complicate the user roles.

A note on security

It is worth mentioning the very real dangers that arise when depending on third-party plugins to manage the security settings of a website, especially when permissions are involved. The integrity of a website is compromised each time a third-party plugin is added, so website managers developing a permissions protocol may consider writing a custom plugin. Also remember to enforce password security for all users assigned on a website. Website management involves multiple layers of security without having to compromise convenience.