I saw Wonder Woman last week, and I’ve been thinking about the film ever since. So many lessons packed into a few (wildly entertaining) hours. The word “equality” is front and center.

Despite some violence, I think parents should make sure their daughters see this film. The positive elements far outweigh the negative (some violence).

For example…Since Diana (aka Wonder Woman) has never been exposed to mankind, she is pure, naive and innocent as the film starts. Raised by her mother and aunt with nary a male in sight, she’s been taught to be kind and caring. But she’s also been raised to be strong. As strong – or stronger – than the men she will one day meet.

wonder woman

Courtesy of Erika Wittlieb, Creative Commons

How she reacts to instances where she sees man’s inhumanity to man is sad, but powerful. When a war kills hundreds of innocent men, women and children, she doesn’t understand. Why would anyone kill innocent babies?

This kind of behavior is foreign in Diana’s world. And yet, the fact that it’s not at all foreign or unusual in OUR world makes this scene even sadder. We see pictures weekly of innocent people killed — by bombs or guns or knives or speeding vans. And we see our own people shooting one another at random. Especially if you live in Chicago.

So, what’s the takeaway I find in Wonder Woman? There are a few:

  1. Girls can be as strong…or stronger…. than boys.
  2. Strength and femininity are not mutually exclusive. Diana is drop dead gorgeous!
  3. Kindness does not make you weak.
  4. Raising our daughters to take care of themselves should be every parent’s goal.
  5. Loving someone doesn’t mean you always have to agree with them.
  6. In the end, goodness triumphs over evil.

Well, #6 is more wishful thinking than factual. But all change starts somewhere.

It’s tempting to want to pretty-in-pink our daughters when they’re little. To dress them in girly outfits and princess costumes. And that’s ok. As long as it isn’t accompanied by teaching them to be helpless, soft and weak.

Diana’s mother raised her to be strong. Strong women are much more likely to be successful than those raised as sweet helpless princesses. They’re also more likely to be happy.

Strong women can compete with men — in the business world and in life.

If women are to ever truly break the glass ceiling, we need to level the playing field when we’re raising little girls.

Take your daughter to see Wonder Woman. It’s a great start.

A great looking website is only as good as the traffic it gets. If no one finds it, it’s pretty useless.

So, before you build that new website, make sure you consider the seven most important words on the Internet. You’ll want to answer these before you start to write your content.

Help me, Google!

Depending on your type of business, these words are either “where do I find” (a product or service provider) or “how do I” (do something).

For example, “Where do I find”……. a good Thai restaurant, a movie theater near me, a dog park, a book store, a building supply store, a florist, a painless dentist, a nail salon, etc.

Or “How do I”….. learn to code, fix a broken lamp, publish an e-book, do my makeup so I look like Beyoncé, get help with my taxes, convince my son it’s time to move out, bathe my cat, and so on.

The point of this exercise is to try and figure out what potential customers will type into Google when they’re trying to find what you offer – whether you’re a retailer or a restauranteur, a doctor or a dance instructor. Not just keywords but phrases, or long-tail keywords.

Once you identify the tightest search terms possible, you’ll want to add those phrases into your content. The more specific you can be, the better, especially if your product, or service, is in an industry where there’s lots of competition.

Let’s say you own a furniture store. Competition for the keyword “furniture” will be fierce. So get specific. What kind of furniture do you carry: antique, vintage, contemporary, mid-century modern. What’s your price point: high-end, luxe, cheap, bargain-priced. Now some search phrases you might use: cheap contemporary furniture, high-end vintage furniture, best prices on mid-century modern.

Not sure what potential customers are typing into their search bars? Ask your existing customers what THEY searched for. Going right to the source is the best research you can do. And of course, you can always type “best keyword search tools” into Google.

Want people to read those blog posts you labor over? Here are 8 tips to help that happen:

  1. Determine your target market.
    Who do you want to reach? Before you write a single word, you want to know who you’re writing for. Who will be reading your blog post? That way, your content will be directed towards those readers you want to reach – potential clients.

    blogging best practices

    Photo Credit: kaboompics.com

  2. Frequency
    Nail down a schedule. Determine ahead of time whether you’ll blog 1x/week, 2x/week or 1x/month. Then stick to it.
  3. Keep it interesting.
    Don’t limit your blogging to just one topic. Mix it up a little so your readers don’t get bored. Think of what’s relevant to your target market’s interests and see what you come up with.For example, an architect might blog about current projects, industry trends, creativity, landscaping, architectural awards, landmarks, etc. A business coach might talk about networking, new business books, tracking projects, pitching new clients, etc.
  4. Add some visuals.
    Spice up your post with graphics, photos, charts, video, GIFS or other visuals that are relevant to the content you’re discussing. Visuals not only break up the copy — the right visuals enhance your content.
  5. Reference good resources.
    Add external links to industry experts or top media outlets. While you’re at it, include internal links to relevant information on your own blog posts and website pages (Google likes internal links).
  6. Length
    According to Yoast, longer posts outperform shorter posts (Google is partial to posts of 2000+ words if you’re aiming for good positioning). But since most small businesses don’t have the time or resources to write this length, you’ll be happy to know that posts of 600 – 900 words can also perform well. For getting comments from readers, shorter posts (under 400) do fine. These work well for companies announcing events like open houses, signing parties, seminars and forums.
  7. SEO
    Include keywords and phrases that relate to your topic if you want more visibility from search. Make sure to do some SEO (search engine optimization) to see what words and phrases you might add to your post. It’s worth the extra time.
  8. Share your posts.
    Make sure to share your posts on social media, in your newsletter, in client emailings and anywhere else you want visibility. While you’re at it, be sure to ask people to reshare your posts. It could lead to media visibility or the opportunity to write an article in an industry publication. And then you’ll have a bylined article to share with potential clients!

 

What’d you do this morning? Meet anyone interesting?

I met a pretty, charming 46-year old woman who told me she’s been sober for a little over two years. It reaffirmed my faith in humanity and the power of people to change.

An inspirational way to start the day.

Look around. See how fortunate you are.

The plight of homelessness. Image courtesy of MorgueFile.

I volunteer with a group from my chamber at a local homeless shelter. Once a month, we buy ingredients and make breakfast for the residents. The menu is pretty consistent – scrambled eggs, shredded potato patties, sausage or bacon, bean salad, fresh fruit, juice and coffee. We cook, serve and clean up. Then we join the residents for breakfast.

The dining room is bright and cheerful with paper flowers on each table. Over breakfast, we have a little time to talk. The woman whose table I sat at this morning had just come in yesterday. I’d never seen her before. She was friendly and kind and happy to be there. And speaking with her made me happy to meet her.

She told me she’d spent the past two years in rehab and how glad she was to be sober. She spoke of the challenge of being around family and friends who still liked to drink and smoke weed. She was proud that she’d never been arrested, never been in jail.

I told her she should be proud of being sober for two years and pulling her life together. Most of us, whether through personal experience or friends or family, know how difficult that is. And how many fail to turn their lives around.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have shelter, a job and food, might sometimes take those basic needs for granted. Our lives get bogged down with the day-to-day annoyances – the traffic, the weather, the difficult boss. Sometimes it takes moving outside of your world to remember how blessed you are.

An article in MarketWatch states, “Americans are starting 2016 with more job security, but many are still theoretically only one paycheck away from the street.”

A scary thought. But the reality is even scarier.

This morning, I met a woman who made me think about how fortunate I am. Nothing in my life changed this morning. But a brief conversation filled me with gratitude for all I have.

Suppose your business is in an industry with little competition. It would stand to reason that your website…. assuming it’s well optimized…..comes up very quickly in search. Page 1. Probably near the top.

Let’s also suppose that your website has been well designed. Smart use of color. Smarter use of white space. Good navigation. Everything clean and clear. A business owner’s dream website.

But there’s one problem. Your website simply isn’t engaging. It looks good, loads fast and seems to work well. But the copy is bland. Even boring. It’s not written to entice the viewer but simply to provide information. So visitors to your site just don’t buy in to what you’re selling. They don’t sign up for your newsletter or your blog. They don’t opt for your special offer. They just leave. And they certainly don’t share your site on social media.

How good is that website now? Not very. If you think that website could be yours, it might be time to rethink your web strategy. Here are 5 easy tips to get you started:

  • Think about the problem your products or services solve. Are you telling visitors to your site how you can help them? Don’t make them guess.
  • Have you defined your target audience? The way you “speak” to Millennials is not the way you should “speak” to Boomers. Your copy style is important.
  • Lose the word “assume”. If you want visitors to your site to do something, tell them. Sign up. Click here. Order now. Call now. Tell your friends. Short little sentences. Easy to write.
  • Make it easy for visitors to absorb your content. Is your product one that can be marketed with humor? Create a short clever video or cartoons to get your point across. Or use images ….like warm fuzzy animal photos….to convey humor. Do you offer services for a serious issue…..for example one that’s health-related? Easy-to-understand charts, infographics, copy with clear steps or bullet points and explainer videos are good ways to share important information.
  • Make it easy for visitors to share your content. If you’ve succeeded in bullet point 4, this should be a piece of cake. People share what they think others in their world will like. Content that’s interesting, amusing, informative, exciting or unusual. But don’t forget to tell your visitors to share your content. Share icons are important but saying “be sure to share this with your friends” is just smart!

    content imageYour website may rank high but if visitors aren’t engaged once they land there, you’ve got a lousy site. Bounce bounce. Make sure your content is clear, well-written and speaks to your audience in language they understand and relate to. If you can’t do it yourself, hire a professional copywriter. It’s well worth the investment.

This morning, I got in my car and, before I even pressed the start button, my phone told me how long it would take to get to my destination. And threw in that traffic was normal.

Really? How did my phone know where I was going? Although it was good to know this information, it was kinda spooky. My phone knows where I’ve been. I’ve traveled this same route for the past eight days. It’s a good assumption. But sometimes, I make a stop along the way and today that was not in my plan. How did “they” know? phone-918928_1280

Thankfully, I’m not currently being stalked. But I’m still a little leery that a device has this amount of information about my comings and goings.

Think about the ramifications of the technology we casually invite into our homes and our lives. Victims of domestic violence can lead their stalkers to their location. Kids with cell phones can be tracked by people you don’t want tracking them. Burglars casing neighborhoods for empty homes can easily discover when you’re away. Pretty terrifying.

I’m thinking we might be a little too careless when we use technology. Sure, it’s incredibly useful and convenient. In countless ways, wifi and passwords and GPS make our lives easier. But being easy isn’t the end all. There’s something to be said for security and peace of mind.

I’m reviewing my sharing and security settings on my devices. You?

 

By now we assume we can find just about anything we need using Google. Right? Wrong!

Don’t blame Google. It’s not their fault. Google search is efficient, fast and generally awesome. The problem is the companies with really lousy websites that make searching so frustrating. To me, that’s crappy customer care.

What’s got my goat?

I spent 3/4 of an hour this afternoon trying to find something I need today. It’s a healthcare emergency. According to my Google search (and please know that I am not an intenet novice), I found the product I needed from a number of sources. That was the high point of my search. The rest was downhill.

Searching the internet in vain.

Searching the internet in vain.

The top search result was a company that was closed on the weekend. Today is Sunday. The next one looked like it had a decent website, but I couldn’t find the product I wanted, and there was no search option. The third: a nice clean site that offered a chat function. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. To make matters worse, it offered me a follow-up survey to gauge my satisfaction (which was nonexistent).

I doubt that I’m the only person in the Chicagoland area who needs a health-related item ASAP on the weekend. So this certainly looks like a new business opportunity waiting to launch. But since I’m not particularly interested in starting another business, maybe some tips on how companies can make potential customers’ lives easier will suffice.

Here are six:

  1. Make sure your website is easy for people to use. Don’t make them dig around and waste a lot of time.
  2. Put a phone number in a highly visible place on your web page.
  3. Don’t have an 800 number on your site if it’s not manned 24/7.
  4. Offer a chat option — especially if your company deals with products where people will have a lot of questions. Like healthcare products.
  5. Make sure there’s a search option on your site. A searcher in a hurry does not want to scroll through a bunch of images to find what they need.
  6. Don’t infer that a customer can get an item today when that’s not quite true. That’s misleading. Ordering an item and walking out of a store with it are not the same thing.

Believe me, as someone who uses Google multiple times a day, not getting what I needed today is very surprising. If anyone reading this wants to start a new business in a market where there’s a big gap, think about a same-day home healthcare supply company. There’s a whole huge Boomer market that’s going to need it. Very soon.

One last tip. If your company’s website isn’t user-friendly and doesn’t offer visitors the opportunity to find what they are looking for, I’m a partner in a web design firm. We specialize in building great websites that help you increase your business – easy-to-navigate sites where visitors can find what they want (or need) quickly.

Check us out at whatagreatwebsite.net. We understand how people use the internet.

Having trouble reading the screen?

Having trouble reading the screen?

I just clicked on an article title that looked interesting. That was the end of my interest.

When I got to the website that hosted the article, I quickly scanned it to see how long it would take to read (anyone else do that?). My only impression — “there’s so much to read!”

Maybe there wasn’t. But it was laid out in very long paragraphs. The immediate impression was “no way to scan”. Followed by “doesn’t look like it’s worth reading”.

Continue reading

Caveat. Unless you’re a graphic designer.

You may have learned how to code. But that doesn’t mean you have the skills to design a website. Trust us. We’ve seen some of those sites. Actually, we’ve redone some of those sites!

Yes, this is one of those instances when hiring a graphic designer is well worth your while. Even if it looks like something you think you could tackle, there’s more to an effective website than just picking colors.

graphic design

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Thanks Stuart!

Here are five things a professional graphic designer brings to a website that you probably don’t:  Continue reading

When your business is new, you want all the work you can get. You’re hungry. You want to build your portfolio. So you may be a little less subjective about the work you take on.

Once your business is established, you should be able to be a little more selective. That means understanding that not ever potential project is a fit for you.

Here are four instances where you should turn a project down.

1. You have a nagging feeling that the client will not be a good fit.

Some clients are difficult to work with – overly demanding, not respectful of your time, haggling over fees….you know the drill. These are the clients who make your life miserable. These are the clients you want to avoid. Say no!

2. The project is way out of your area of expertise.

Keyword: WAY. If it’s just a stretch, there’s no reason to turn this work down. You can stretch. A little research. Calling on some colleagues for advice or help. You’ll learn something new and provide the client with some fresh answers.

3. The project time line is totally unrealistic.

Sometimes it’s enticing to say “sure, we can do that” even though the project time line is crazy tight and you know you’ll never be able to deliver on deadline. Why set yourself up for something that’s pretty much guaranteed to fail? Be honest. Say “thanks, but we couldn’t meet your timeline”. Who knows? Maybe the client will be realistic and rethink their deadline.

4. The client is requesting something you know is wrong.

Not wrong in a criminal sense. Wrong in that the end result will not get the client what he needs. These types of projects usually come with a client who is absolutely definite about what he wants and won’t listen to your professional advice. And this is the client who will never be happy with anything you give him.

Save yourself some grief. Eat noodles and cereal for a few more months and keep looking for clients you really want to work with – clients with realistic expectations who will let you do what they hired you for.

On a positive note….

the longer you’re in business, the more solid projects you’ll find. Don’t get frustrated. Get out and network more. Join new groups. Let colleagues and friends know you’re looking for more work. Be proactive and the business will come.

But always, when new business comes your way, listen to your gut. Are you getting bad vibes from a potential client? Pay attention. Look at the numbers. Are you shaking your head wondering how you can possibly make a profit when the margins are so low? You probably won’t.

Remember that you’re in business to make a living. If you won’t be able to do that, move on to the next opportunity.