Monthly Archives: April 2012

Common mistakes made when choosing a web hosting service

There are countless web hosting services out there and let’s face it, it’s one of those things – like electricity – that you only think about when the bills comes or when it’s not working. At least you hope that’s the case.

But if you’ve chosen poorly, you could be in for a lot more headaches than you think.

Here are the three most common mistakes made when selecting a web host – please note, they are all driven by the almighty dollar.

1/ Price over reliability, quality and service: We all love it when things are cheap (even better if they are free), but when it comes to web hosting, choosing based on price alone could be a losing strategy. Remember, you are in business to make money, which means you need a reliable web service. Every minute of downtime affects your bottom line. And then, when you realise your plan is not up to scratch, the time it takes to find a new one eats into the time you have to work on your business. So why not do it right the first time. That’s not to say that there aren’t some reliable services offering competitive pricing, but it pays to spend the time researching them before you jump in feet first.

2/ Web hosting is never “free”: Some hosting services offer a basic hosting plan which is “free” but it means you don’t get a customised URL (your personal “address” on the world wide web), and the features are limited. And when you want to upgrade – or get your customised URL – it will cost money. As author Robert Heinlein wisely put it TANSTAAFL (“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”). And then when users realise that they need to pay to get more features, they will pay the same hosting service that they signed up with for “free”, which means you will be sharing with many, many “free” users and there’s only so much bandwidth to go around. It would be like sharing your house with a bunch of freeloaders who eat your food, use your electricity and leave their rubbish all over the place. In other words, a very bad idea. Also, many of them don’t have full 24/7 customer service, so when something goes wrong, it may be a while before you can get hold of anyone.

3/ Long contracts: Web hosting services want to lock people into long contracts, so they offer them as a cheaper rate than if you pay monthly. But contracts are hard to get out of if the service is poor. We recommend you start with monthly payments, check out the service and if you’re happy, move into a longer contract to save money.

Direct Sites Online offer a small but feature-packed selection of hosting options, for a wide range of business needs. Our 99.9 per cent uptime and 24/7 service means your site will be online when you – and your customers need it to be.

For more information or to order a webhosting package, contact us today at info@directsitesonline.com or phone 02 9557 7623.

 

The importance of colour in web design

While we have posted before about how important clean design and relevant content are when it comes to the success or otherwise of your online presence, there is a third vital element – colour.

Your website colours will affect the moods and emotions of your visitors, as well as reflect your business identity. Just think for a moment about colour and what it may signify – “green with envy”, “sad and blue” “red hot lover” (or red hot rage).

Don’t think you need to be bound by the colours of your logo – a logo is just one part of the whole corporate look and feel that needs to be developed around your branding. There are many sites out there that offer colour palettes to complement your logo.

So what do colours signify and what colours would be best for your site?

Red is a powerful and attention-grabbing colour. It passion and fire, love and lust, and has been shown to raise blood pressure and cause perspiration. Red is for a business that wants to be noticed and needs visitors to take action – now. But beware – the downside of red is that it can also be used to symbolise violence, rage, war, aggression and bloodletting.

Pink, however, is red showing its softer side. It’s romantic, calming and feminine and is often used when the target audience is new mums, or young lovers.

Yellow: Yellow is sunshine and daisies. It symbolises youth, vitality, energy and hope. It’s perfect for kids wear or sites promoting healthy living. But used in the wrong way, it can also mean cowardice or illness.

Orange:  Orange is vibrant and warm. It has many of the same attributes as red, but is more cool-headed. It’s a great colour for food-related websites as it has been known to stimulate the appetite.  As a citrus color, it can also symbolize health and wellbeing.

Blue: Blue is considered one of the most calming colours in the spectrum. It’s great for sites that want to show confidence, reassurance, trust and wisdom – business coaches, politicians or educational institutions for example. Blue, however, is considered an appetite suppressant, so food-related business should avoid it at all costs!

Green: Green is another great colour for websites promoting a healthy image. It signifies health, growth, renewal, fertility and wealth. On the downside, however, it can mean jealousy or inexperience.

Direct Sites Online has more than 10 years’ experience in web design and can find a colour scheme that is perfect for your business. Contact us today on at info@directsitesonline.com or phone 02 9557 7623.

 

 

Tips to effectively use Linked In for your business

In the right hands, Linked In can be a very powerful tool for your business. It may not have the reach of Facebook or Twitter (yet) but it is considered THE social media site for professionals.

If you are already on LinkedIn, but not sure what to do next, here are a few secrets to help you boost your LinkedIn networking:

  1. Customising your URL: Let’s face it, it looks much more profession to promote your Linked in Profile with a customized URL, rather than with that bizarre combination of numbers you got when you signed up. And using the same name across all social media networks adds to your brand awareness. You can get a custom URL by clicking Profile > Edit Profile in the main navigation bar. At the bottom of the window showing your basic information, you’ll see a Public Profile URL. Click “Edit” next to the URL and on the right hand side of the new screen you will see a link to “customise your public profile URL” click it, write in the new URL and specify what you’d like your address to be. When you’re finished, click Set Custom URL.
  2. Customize your website link: LinkedIn lets you display links to up to three URLs. While you get several choices to identify the websites (ie personal site, company site and so on), it’s even better to customize those. To do this, select Edit Profile again and then in the same box as above, next to “websites” click edit. Then choose “other” from the drop-down menu. A new box will appear that lets you name the website and enter the URL. When you’re done, click Save Changes.
  3. Add your blog feed: If you have a business WordPress blog, you can add the feed to your LinkedIn profile. To enable this setting, select “more” in the main navigation bar and select “applications”, then “more” again. This will bring you to a page with various LinkedIn Apps. Click the WordPress one, click “add application” and enter the link to your feed. The blog will then appear in your profile and will update each time a new post is added.
  4. Add connections: There’s not much use having a social network profile if you’re not networking.  So mine your email contacts and check out Linked In’s recommendations, then stalk you friends and colleagues connections and see if there’s anyone interesting there. If you know the person, you can send a direct invite (and don’t forget to personalise it) and if you don’t you can ask your friend to virtually introduce you.
  5. Become anonymous: If you are doing some serious stalking, maybe to research competitors, job hunting and checking prospective clients/suppliers, you might not want people to know you have been looking at their profiles. To make yourself anonymous, click “settings” under your name in the top right hand corner, then click “privacy controls” and “select what others see when you have viewed their profile. Then click your preferred level of privacy. Once you’ve finished, make sure you switch your settings back— remaining anonymous on LinkedIn kind of defeats the purpose.
  6. Ask for recommendations: Social networks are no place for the shy. Ask colleagues, peers, friends, workmates, clients, anybody you know to recommend you, and their recommendations will appear on your profile for all the world to see how brilliant you are.
  7. Hide recommendations: If you get a recommendation that you don’t want to be on your profile, it’s an easy fix. Select Profile > Edit Profile and go to the position with which the recommendation is associated. Click “manage”. Uncheck the box next to the recommendation that you want to hide, and click Save Changes.
  8. Block your recent activities from competitors: If you don’t want your competitors (or current employers if you’re on the hunt for a new job) to see what you are up to you can hide this activity from select people. Select Settings > Account > Customize the updates you see on your homepage. In the pop-up window under General, uncheck the box that says New Connections in your network. Scroll down and, under Groups, uncheck the box next to Groups your connections have joined or created. Click Save Changes and you’re set.

Hopefully, these hints will improve your LinkedIn experience and you’ll be on your way to making Linked In work for your business.

If you don’t have the time, or are daunted by social media, Direct Sites Online’s social media packages can help. Call us today on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.

 

SEO: Watch out for “snake oil” salesmen

If your business depends on website conversions for its income, then the best marketing investment you can make is in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

So how does it work? Put simply, each search engine uses a different algorithm to rank results. They look at various components of your site including the title, meta tags, keywords in the URL, keywords in the text, headings in the text, number of pages, and external links into the site.

Unfortunately, there are many SEO “experts” out there who would have probably made a great living as snake oil salesmen.

For example, some software used to promote you site can actually negatively affect your rankings. As can “cloaking” techniques which shows different content to search engines than to real live visitors. These are known as “black hat” SEO, and while they may work in the short term, may be disastrous later on.

Another vital thing that is often overlooked by these “experts” is that the number of visitors to your site is irrelevant if they are not targeted. For example, you might end up ranking high for “cheap widgets” but when visitors come to your site, what they actually see is “premium widgets”, so they leave immediately.

Which is why it is important to invest in an SEO company – such as Direct Sites Online – which will only use “white hat” SEO techniques to manual optimise your site for the necessary keywords, which will drive real potential customers to your business.

A good thing to look for when choosing an SEO company is whether it offers some kind of guarantee. But be careful if the guarantee is something like “number one spot in just one week” – this is a very good indication that their methods are not quite right.

Direct Sites Online’s guarantee is that we will follow accepted practices that will help search engines find relevant results for people looking for your product or service. Because we know that search engines regularly change algorithms and it’s just not possible to accurately predict the future.

We use techniques that we know have worked in the past, and we anticipate they will work for most businesses.

Direct Sites Online offers a wide range of SEO packages for our clients – from simple link building to our premium service.

If you need more traffic to your website, contact us today at info@directsitesonline.com or phone 02 9557 7623.

 

Does your website need a revamp?

Is your website looking a little 2011? Maybe it’s just not attracting the leads and sales that you had hoped for, or perhaps it is invisible to search engines.

Remember, to the casual observer, your website is an online shopfront, which means it has to be be eye-catching, well-maintained, and always offering something new. It’s easy, however, to get caught up in the day to day running of your business and neglect your website. But, like a neglected storefront, this means it can quickly become out-of-date, unattractive and ignored by potential customers.

Well, the good news is that Direct Sites Online can help, and the even better news is that we make it as painless as possible.

Here’s a checklist to help you decide if a revamp is in order:

1/Does your website meet its objectives? Was it developed as an e-commerce site? Or to get people to send an email? Make a phone call? Visit a bricks-and-mortar store? Or simply as an exercise in branding? Whatever its purpose, now is the time to evaluate its effectiveness.

2/ Does it align with your business strategy? It isn’t unusual for business to evolve, meaning business plans are revisited and strategies are refined. And your online presence needs to evolve with you.

3/Do your customers like your site? The only way to find this out is to ask them, so set up a simple survey using a free tool such as survey monkey or zoomerang and ask them what works and what doesn’t. You may be surprised.

4/ Do you have a blog and/or an e-newsletter? These are both great ways to keep your content current AND position yourself as a subject matter expert.

5/ Does your website direct people to your social media presence? Your website is just one facet of your business’s online strategy. The others – at the very least – are Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. And if you run an arty or crafty business, then Pinterest is a must.

6/ Is it appealing and user-friendly? Be honest here – maybe get the opinion of people who have never visited the site. And remember what was considered appealing in website design just a few short years ago is often considered garish and over-the-top these days.

If you answered no to the above questions, then your site is probably overdue for a revamp. Contact Direct Sites Online today at info@directsitesonline.com or phone 02 9557 7623.