Monday, March 23, 2009

Mind Mapping - It Works!

How many on your have heard of mind mapping? I love the concept and for my (abstract) brain, there is nothing like a mind map to pull all my idea’s together in one place.

If you are not familiar –Wikipedia give a very succinct definition:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

This definition seems a little dry, it is really a lot of fun and even a little exciting to be able to map out your idea’s – business or other wise on a mind map. It is the first step to organizing your thoughts and putting them into motion.

I learned to do it as a teenager – I just took a big piece of poster paper and put my idea in the center from there I would draw lines to the steps to get to that goal.

It is simple and direct – for the high tech version there are a lot of programs and websites that can cost you a lot or a little, I found one that I love and it costs less than $50.00 a year, in fact – you can share you map with clients, partners, make as many as you want. I love doing it to help my clients plan out large projects.

In creating your business a mind map is invaluable – your can take an idea and break it down. You will find that it will help you in all areas of your life where you have goals but in business it rocks.

Here is a mind map I have created using an online website called mindmeister.com– click around on the map itself take a look you will see how cool this website is.

For complete .pdf - click here

I was doing a little history and found out that mind mapping is really not that old at all (maybe to you twenty something’s it is!)

Mind maps came along in the late 60s – this unique way to tracking and planning was the brain child of Tony Buzan. He found that because of the visual quality of the maps it made it much easier for his student to remember and review things they were learning. The non-linear nature of mind maps makes it easy to link and cross-reference different elements of the map.

Tony Buzan found a business partner in the mid-70’s named Peter Russell together they taught mind-mapping skills in a variety of international corporations and educational institutions.

8 steps to mind mapping…

1. Use just keywords and/or images.

2. Put the central idea in the center of your page and then start placing the keywords around it.

3. Use color to depict themes and ideas

4. Anything that stands out on the page will stand out in your mind.

5. Put ideas down as they occur. Don't judge or hold back.

6. If you get stuck go to another area and start there

7. Think three-dimensionally

8. Be creative have fun – think outside the box

Video of the actual founder Tony Buzan and how to mind map

If you have never done a mind map, there is no time like the present. You may find that you mind will become uncluttered and you will be able to plan out your strategies much easier – and with less stress!

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Pamela Jacob – Artista design

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are You Getting What You Pay For?

As I was finishing up a clients site – I started thinking about all the small details that had to be done and put into place before I could consider the web site complete.

A lot of businesses that hire web designers/developers really have no clue as to what makes a web site – an outstanding marketing tool. In fact, some web site designers have no clue (because of the lack of experience and/or knowledge) what needs to be in place for the “complete package”.

I have seen it time and time again, – so I thought I would take this thought and put together what you should expect, from a professional web designer.

I am sure you are aware of the standard things you want when your website is being developed such as:

  • A great looking and customer pleasing interface.

  • Graphics that are optimized. This will allow your website to load fast in any computer browser.
  • Copy/text that is professional and conveys what you are going to do for your customer – and why they should come to you, for the service or product you are offering.
  • Navigation that is straight forward and direct so that visitors can find whatever they are looking for in 3 clicks or less.
  • A opt in-box (auto responder) so you can capture the information from visitors that come to your site and are interested in what you have to offer.
What are some of the things you may not be aware of –, or that you didn’t realize your web professional can or should do for you?

  • Keywords should be placed in the copy/text of the page and reflected in the meta-tags. I have my clients send me the keywords they want to place and do a little research to see if those are the keywords that should be used, or if I can find something better but similar.

  • Have no more than 10 great keywords in your meta tags This is according to Hub Spot a leader in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

  • Make sure some type of analytics is available for your website. I always put Google analytics on each web page so that my clients can see a broad spectrum of what visitors are coming to their site, where they are coming from, what percentages are from search engines or back links etc. The information you can collect while using Google analytics is invaluable and can help you tweak your marketing.

  • Create a site map not only an html site map but an xml site map. It is so important – the search engines love site maps and so will your visitors when they want to find something fast.

A web site is much more than a brochure online – of course you can have that if you would like, but you will miss so many opportunities to market to your target audience –, and I am sure your competition will love you for it!

Some other things to think about – if you are not familiar with Internet jargon – (a lot of successful business owners are not), don’t be afraid to talk to your web site developer about hosting, domain names, and how to market your web site online.

You should also be able to count on recommendations about services and product that will enhance you targeted goals and/or can be used in conjunction with your online marketing such as web 2.0 sites, auto responder, what you need in a host, etc.

You should be able to have an open dialogue with the professional that is building your online business, without feeling stupid, or that you are being condescended to – if not – how professional are they??

Until Next Time -

Pamela Jacob - Artista Design

Check some of my sites! http://linkbun.ch/6ymj

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Squeeze pages, Opt in-boxes, Auto responders HELP!

Unless you have been living under a rock you should know that your database is gold and one of the most important things you can have on your website. FYI – opt in-box is just another name for and auto responder.

No matter how great your site is people get distracted and your visitor can be gone before you know it. That is why you need to collect information through an opt in-box (auto responder).

Capturing the names of visitors that come to your site only makes sense, you need to understand a simple fact, most visitors who come to you website will visit about 6 times before they decide to buy anything. The person who signs up, for your freebie is someone who is interested in what you have to offer, they simply do not know if they should trust you – or even if you know what you are talking about. Caution: Make sure and reassure you visitor you will not be selling, trading or other wise using their information for anything other than what they are signing up for…

This being said – it is essential to have it on our website(s), but have you ever thought about developing a squeeze page – and using this explosive combination!

The value of a squeeze page is you can micro - target your market and get people who are extremely interested in what you are offering.

This is why using a squeeze page with an Opt in-box (getting permission to follow up with your visitors) can be so powerful.

What is a Squeeze Page?

A squeeze page – that gives away something of value in return for information is one of the most important things you can do for your business.

Consider it a marketing page that distributes information of value FREE. And in return will give people a sense of your expertise and/or credibility in the market place.

A squeeze page is really a 'trading' page - you are trading something of value to your visitor and they in turn give you information about themselves.

Why do businesses use squeeze pages?

They help target and capture potential clientèle that are interested in your product and service. The most valuable squeeze page will combine two elements – offer the visitor a product at a discount and even when they don’t purchase the item, give them something of value for FREE… The visitor that signs up will be able to go away with a valuable piece of information. You will then have their information to thank them for visiting – and to announce other specials in the future.

Can you see why having a squeeze page can be invaluable? Having an auto responder, to collect information that you need, being able to market to that person, keeping your company/business name in front of them, letting them know when you have specials (etc.) is essential, for both a squeeze page and website.

It should be an integral part of you online marketing strategy.

Squeeze page Layout:

Keep the layout simple and to the point.

It is important to capture (opt in-box) only the minimum amount of information needed for the follow up - name; email address is all you really need.

Asking for state, country or phone should only be done later after they commit to more than the "freebie".

People are often reluctant to give up a phone number - especially on the first contact. They fear being put on lists or being called at all hours of the day or night.

It is important the visitor understand his/her information will be kept confidential. Remember that you can, and should, acquire more information as you develop the relationship between you and your customer.

You can make your own squeeze page but I am tired of seeing the same old page again and again… Are you??

Hire a designer to build a professional template squeeze page for you. This is especially important if you are not technically savvy. The cost of a good squeeze page is an excellent investment and well worth the money.

Make the effort to monitor your page by putting Google analytics or your favorite statistics code in the page. I love Google analytics because it is free and you can find amazing things about your visitors. If you don’t have a lot of visitors or people are coming and not signing up – you will be able to see what is happening. You can then go and tweak your page.

Graphics & Content:

Graphics are important – I am a visual person so I really love to see a page that is attractive and modern.

Copy – I am sure you have heard often – sell the sizzle not the steak. That may be true with the first page of your website but a squeeze page is different.

This page is should be very targeted and direct. Let your visitors know exactly what this information or product will do for them.

Put your picture and a short bio somewhere on the page, this will lend credibility to your offer, what a great way to introduce yourself to first time visitors. Don’t forget to link back to your web site.

You need a high quality offer to entice the visitor to hand over her/his information. It should be something that is valuable – don’t be afraid to share – I promise it will come back to you ten times over.

Free reports are great items for squeeze pages. And these items need not be your product but can be products for which you are an affiliate.

The information you are offering is only limited to your imagination – Example – lets say you are a sculptor and you don’t have a clue what to offer… What about the history of a famous piece of sculpture?

I guarantee anyone who is attracted to your page will want that information…

See what I mean. Be creative – put in the best keywords – send them out to search engines, tweet about your page – tell your friends on FriendFeed – and what about FaceBook, >LinkedIn, Plaxo…

The possibilities are endless. Need I say more?? Pamela Jacob - Artista Design Check some of my sites! http://linkbun.ch/6ymj

Monday, March 9, 2009

Don’t Fall Victim to Dishonest Web Developers

A Disturbing Trend

Yesterday I had a phone call from a person who was quite frustrated about a website he had a web professional do for him (that is what they called themselves – I beg to differ).

He had a basic website built and now could not get that person to send him any information on how to update it (no password, login or ftp) – nor was he informed on the very basics of the site its self.

That in its self is disturbing –, but as I looked into it for him, I came to find out that the domain name was not registered in his name but that of the business who built it for him. He did not even own his domain name –, and it is his family name.

This website was not a website at all but a Word Press blog. That isn’t a big deal except, he was led to believe that this was a website, on top of that it was built with a Word Press Theme template.

Consequently, no custom banner was ever involved, he was being led to believe it was custom, and this web business was being territorial about what??

This enrages me, it gives all web designers/developers a bad name – and I for one hope that none of you go through anything like this. As a result, I am writing this article to warn you.

Please be sure that whoever you choose to do a custom website for you – actually will do a website – if they want to do a blog as a website you need to know.

If you want a blog set up that is great but just be aware of what you are paying for.

What are you paying for? A template is a template is a template right! WRONG… When talking about a template with a potential web designer make sure that you differentiate what you are talking about.

Some templates that are sold –are not actually custom. You may be buying a template that a 1000 other people have with some custom features like – different website copy etc.

Some templates are semi- custom – these will be furnished with a different banner – your original copy and possibly some other graphics that are bought by you or the developers.

The templates that are truly custom, – are not always called templates you own the whole website - the design, concept, and copy. The whole website is yours and only yours.

No one will have a website like yours because it is one of a kind. You own the copyrights to it – you own the original graphics that are developed.

This can be true for blogs as well as website. As I have talked about in a few of my previous articles – make sure you do not – let me repeat – do not – put all you eggs in one basket.

How to Protect Your Business

I suggest you register your own domain name – I like godaddy.com – they are easy to register with, and you can transfer your domain name to any host. They are also inexpensive, but beware of the pop up screens that ask you to buy everything under the sun most of the time you only need the domain name – by pass the rest.

Host with a different provider – I like “Hands On Web Hosting” – they are prompt to answer my questions, I can set up my own emails, I love the staff – knowledgeable and customer service friendly.

If you want a cheap template that is customizable - hire a web designer/developer to help you customize it and upload it to your host – when you buy it from a host it is tied to the host… If you can afford it have a custom website – it is well worth it in the long run, and it is YOURS…

You do not want to be in the situation where you have everything done by one company.

Picture Yourself in this Situation

Scenario: You found a company that does everything – registers the domain, builds your website, sets up your emails and even hosts the website for you – WOW. How convenient is that!

Everything goes along smoothly and you are happy happy happy… Then something goes wrong – your email is not coming to you like before. You try to get a hold of them, and they do not answer. Your emails are you life blood, your income …

What do you do? You decide to take the bull by the horns and move to a different host – What happens when they own your domain name, or the custom template you bought isn’t custom at all and owned by the company, or what happens if they refuse to cooperate… Unfortunately, this happens a lot.

My Story

I had a host that I had used with for 5 years – they were great, you could contact them on the spot, and then with out my knowledge they sold the company – change of owners.

Everything changed, they would accept only email communications – that were not answered in a timely manner - I became really unhappy with the host, and I moved.

However, I had set up my business the right way and transfer everything without a hitch or hiccup.

Heed My Warning

Educate yourself before you jump in and decide what you want for your business – make sure you can trust the people you work with – that they are interested in your business success not just the bottom line – money in their pockets.

Find a professional that can answer your questions – remember, there are no dumb questions, especially when you are building a business.

Pamela Jacob - Artista Design Check out my sites at: http://linkbun.ch/6ymj