Using MySpace For Business Websites

MySpace is seen as a viable alternative to buying web hosting and a domain name for some businesses, according to an article in Honolulu’s Pacific Business News.

Local Web designers face competition from MySpace.com
Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – May 25, 2007

On the face of it, this is a good counter-argument to my post about Free Web Hosting and Blog Services vs. Buying Web Hosting and a Domain Name. It seems that some small business owners are using MySpace as a way to create a website for their business — for free — and they are getting good results in the form of new customers and purchases. One business featured in the article is a clothing boutique.

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It makes sense that people who might be looking on MySpace for things to buy would be interested in fashion and shopping for new clothes. And there are lots of other businesses that would appeal to the same MySpace demographic: coffee shops, skateboarding shops, surf shops, music stores…

Part of the appeal of MySpace is that people don’t necessarily go there looking for things to buy. They go there to talk to friends, share stuff they find interesting or funny, etc. But the fact that someone may find a store on MySpace that sells cool clothes, and then go to the brick-and-mortar store and have a great shopping experience, well, that’s huge, of course, because they are likely to talk about it on — duh — MySpace.

Obviously, if you are selling something like legal services or rare books, then MySpace may not be for you. However, if you have a business that appeals to 16-24 year olds, then setting up a free MySpace page might just be a no-brainer.

The Business News article sets up a false dichotomy — a choice you don’t really have to make — between creating a small business website on MySpace and buying a full-blown, professionally designed website for, as they say, anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000.

My point is, you may want to spend $5K to $20K, on a business website. You may need some serious eCommerce capabilities, or cutting-edge graphic design, or pages and pages of product samples or whatever. Most very small businesses should not pay anything like $5,000 for a site these days. There are just too many good low-cost options available — using WordPress, for example. But, regardless, there’s no reason you can’t have a site on MySpace in addition to a dedicated business website with your own hosting and domain name, and then link the two together.

The same is true for a listing sites like MerchantCircle.com. Check out the McBuzz Communications listing on MerchantCircle. These are free, easy to set up websites, and they are just one more way to increase the visibility of your business on the Web.

Comments: 0

Web Marketing Tip #3: Submit an XML Sitemap to Google

Web Markting Tip #2 told you how to use the free XML Sitemap Generator service to create an XML Sitemap of your website. Once you have your sitemap file, you need to create a Google Webmaster Account, then add your website to that account, and submit the XML Sitemap file. Google makes this process pretty easy.

1. Go here to create a Google account.
2. Login to your account.
3. Click on the Webmaster Tools link under Services.
4. You will see the Webmaster Tools Dashboard. It looks like this (below – click for full size image), without all the sites listed, of course. You will add your first one.

web marketing tip 3 webmaster tools screen shot 1

5. Put the address of your site in the Add Site box and click OK.
6. Now click Add a Sitemap for that site.
7. You will see the following (click for full size image).

web marketing tip 3 - webmaster tools screen shot 2

8. Choose Add General Web Sitemap.
9. Now you need to upload your XML Sitemap file to the “root directory” of your website. (“Root directory” just means the location of your homepage file.) Most website hosting services allow you to do this using the “Control Panel” for your account. If you need any help with this, just add a comment at the end of this post. Be sure to tell me who your hosting service is (for example: GoDaddy or Network Solutions or whatever the case may be).
10. Once the file is uploaded to your website’s root directory, enter that location into the “My Sitemap URL is” box. As noted, this will be http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml where “example.com” is the name of your domain.
11. Click the Add Web Sitemap button.
12. Done!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Comments: 3

Free Web Hosting and Blog Services vs. Buying Web Hosting and a Domain Name

Someone asked me yesterday about the state-of-the-art in website development for beginners or for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time learning HTML or CSS. I told him to check out mcbuzz.com for ideas about what’s available, but I realized I don’t have a post addressing this.

Web publishing has changed a lot in the past 4-5 years. You really can have a website or blog up and running in less than a day — without knowing HTML, CSS, PHP or any other code. You don’t even need to know how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol), which is what you normally use.

The way to do this is by using one of the many free services available.

What’s the difference between a blog and a website in this context? Well, WordPress allows you to use a “static” webpage as your home page. A “static” page is one without any chronological (aka “blog”-style) entries. Blog entries are short “posts” like the one you are reading right now. They always have a date, and they appear in order of most recent to least recent.

A website can be created and maintained using “blogging” software like WordPress without including any chronological entries. In terms of what the reader sees, there is no difference between such a site and a standard website. I don’t think Blogger has this feature.

Google Page Creator uses a more traditional website format: you create a home page, then add other pages like a Contact Us page — or whatever you want. There are no chronological, blog-style entries.

THE BOTTOM LINE: SHOULD YOU USE A FREE SERVICE?
Some small businesses might want to use a free web publishing service to get a site up quickly. Put the domain or URL (the website’s address) on your business cards and other promotional materials and you’re good to go!

Is this a good long-term strategy? For a business, I would say definitely not.

As Rae Hoffman says in this excellent post, “Before You Launch That Small Business Website“, one of the most important — and easiest — things you can do for your small business website is to buy a domain name.

One of the main advantages of doing so is the stability it offers for your site and for your business’s image or “brand”. Search engines like domain names that have been around for a while better than domain names that have not. So buy one now, use it and hang on to it. No matter where you decide to host your site, you will always have the same domain name and people will always be able to find you there. (You can change hosts without changing your domain name. — not true if you use a free service like Blogger.com, Google Page Creator or WordPress.com)

And, with your own domain name, you can create e-mail addresses for you and others that use the same domain. Again, as Rae Hoffman notes, “yourname@yourbusiness.com” looks much more professional and permanent than “yourname@hotmail.com” or “yourname@yahoo.com”.

Can you still use software like WordPress if you don’t use a free web publishing service and you don’t want to learn HTML code, etc.? Absolutely.

Many web hosting providers now offer WordPress installation as part of their hosting services. Ask about it before you sign up. If that’s not available, there is also a group of altruistic voluteers affiliated with WordPress that will install WordPress for free on whatever host you select.

If you need help with any of this, post a comment below!

Comments: 4

Choosing a Domain Name: .com vs. .net The .com is at least 10 times better!

Choosing a Domain Name? Don’t even bother with a “.net” domain.

A”.com” domain name is usually worth 10 to 20 times as much as the same name ending with “.net“, according to Ron Jackson, editor and publisher of the online magazine Domain Name Journal – The Domain Industry News Magazine.

Cobb.com domain name worth at least $45K, experts say
Jacksonville Business Journal – May 11, 2007

Jackson attributes the difference in value to the fact that people are conditioned to type “.com” rather than “.net” in an address. But it also seems fairly clear that a “.com” address carries more weight and respectability. I would be willing to bet there are no Fortune 1000 companies with a “.net” domain for their website — except for communications companies like Verizon, Comcast, Adelphia and Cox.

This is because the “.net” top level domain was intended for use by Internet service providers (ISPs) and other companies involved in Internet infrastructure, just as “.org” is for non-profits and “.gov” is for US government agencies.

When it comes to marketing on the Web, what’s good for Fortune 1000 companies may not always be good for smaller businesses and organizations, but in this case it is, because it’s a matter of branding your business: conveying an image of professionalism and permanence.

Do you think that the market value of a domain name — .com vs. .net — is an accurate indicator of its worth to a company’s brand? I do. Let me know if you disagree!

Comments: 2

Web Marketing Tip #2: Use XML Sitemap Generator to Get All Your Website's Pages Indexed by Google

This post answers the question of what to do if you discover that not all of the pages in your website (or blog) are listed in Google. See Web Marketing Tip #1 to figure out if this is the case.

The quickest way to fix this problem is to create an xml sitemap of your website and submit it to Google. There are a lot of web services that will make an xml sitemap for you. Many of them are free.

I have had success with xml-sitemaps.com and their free online XML Sitemap Generator.

Follow the directions on their site to create a sitemap. If you have more than 500 pages in your site, you can purchase a standalone version of the XML Sitemap Generator for a nominal fee.

Another nice feature of the sitemap tool is that it will find any broken links in your site. Web crawlers like Google’s need all the links in your site to work properly so that they can follow them and then let the Google PageRank software figure out how important or authoritative your site is based on those relationships. If you have a bunch of links that point to pages that no longer exist, that suggests you don’t maintain your site very well and, that your site must not be one that many people use. So find those broken links and fix them!

Now that you have your xml sitemap, you will need a Google account to perform the next step in the process. Go here to create a Google account.

Once you have a Google account, you can go here to see how to add a website to your account. And, when you have added a site, you can then submit the xml sitemap for that site to Google. You will need FTP access to your website for this.

Next, I will go through the process of adding a website to your Google account and submitting an xml sitemap for that site in greater detail.

If any of this does not make sense, just send me a comment using the handy dandy comment form and I will answer ASAP!

Comments: 0

Web Marketing Tip #1: Use "site:url" to Find Out If Your Website Is Indexed by Google

Here’s a quick way to find out how many pages in your website are in the Google index. In the Google search window, type “site:” followed by your domain. For this site, I would type in “site:mcbuzz.com” and hit return.

The list that results is all the pages in your site that Google has spidered (read through using web page-reading software) and added to its index. If you don’t see all your site’s pages, that’s not good — unless you don’t want people to find those pages!

Next I will talk about what to do if your pages aren’t listed.

MORE WEB MARKETING TIPS
Web Marketing Tip #2: Use XML Sitemap Generator to Get All Your Website’s Pages Indexed by Google

Web Marketing Tip #3: Submit an XML Sitemap to Google

Web Marketing Tip #4: Use Keywords in Web Page Titles

Comments: 14

Web-Directed Marketing and WordPress Websites for Small Business

This morning a client asked me if I wouldn’t mind sending him an e-mail with instructions on how to create and edit pages on his website using WordPress. Aha!

This was a great opportunity to do what I’m calling “Web-Directed Marketing”: taking material that you create to promote your business, answer customers’ questions, etc. and – rather than use it for that one purpose only – put it immediately onto your website, as well.

The result is a new WordPress Tutorials page on the mcbuzz.com website: How to Insert Images Using WordPress

Instructions on how to edit a website using WordPress are a good example of Web-Directed Marketing because, obviously, my client is not the only person who can benefit from the material. Other clients of mine can benefit, and – big key here – so can people who don’t even know about my business yet.

Web-Directed Marketing is not for everyone

It takes roughly the same amount of time to answer a question in an e-mail to a single customer as it does to put the answer into a format that other people can access on the Web. Obviously, getting your answer out to a ton of people on the Web is going to give your business more visibility than sending a single e-mail. And you can always do both.

The great thing about this approach is, even if you have already taken time to send an e-mail other people might learn from, it doesn’t mean that time was spent inefficiently. On the contrary, it means you already have the content you need for a good website or blog post! All you need to do is take a few minutes to put it up on your site.

Certainly, there are some e-mails you are not going to want to share with a broader audience, but why not consider retooling the contents so that they don’t contain any private information? If another client or prospective client asks you a similar question without referring to any specifics, that’s exactly what you would do to give them an answer, right? You can do that on your website or blog.

I will talk more about all the positive benefits this kind of “Web-Directed Marketing” approach can have. I said something about it here: Google’s Success Can Mean Web Marketing Success for Your Website and Your Business – on the old Making Communications Buzz blog.

The other point I want to make is this: A WordPress website makes Web-Directed Marketing possible for small businesses – because it is so easy to put new material on your website. You don’t need a webmaster. You don’t need a marketing department.

You do need to know how to use a computer well enough to use a web browswer and program like Microsoft Word. And you do need to know your business – meaning that you need to know your product or service inside and out, and you need to know what your customers and prospective customers are looking for.

With a WordPress website, you can put all the right kinds of information onto your site quickly and easily. By doing so in the next 6-12 months, you can set yourself apart from much, if not most, of your competition in a very significant way. And when your competitors wake up to the reality of web-directed marketing for small business, you will have been there, done that. Sound good? It is.

Comments: 0

Digg.com, Censorship, Piracy and Social Networking on the Web

Quotable: “When you hand the keys over to the mob, they’ll drive wherever they want to go.”

A great story on the front page of the L.A. Times today raises all kinds of interesting questions about the future of Search ranking, social networking, censorship and piracy (copyright) on the Web.

User rebellion at Digg.com unearths a can of worms
The site relents and lets members post a code that aids piracy despite threats of legal action.
By Alex Pham and Joseph Menn, L.A. Times

Digg.com is an influential social networking site that ranks news stories and blogs by allowing members to cast votes in their favor. You can find a Digg icon in the “SAVE AND SHARE” panel of the L.A. Times website. and it’s the first icon under the “SHARE” link on the New York Times article listed at the end of this post. With enough votes, a story can appear on the Digg.com home page, and this can significantly increase the number of visitors to the site carrying the story.

In addition to the increase in traffic that can come from Digg.com itself, sites that appear on the Digg.com home page also get an accompanying boost in search engine ranking. Digg.com is an authoritative website with 34,000 sites linking to it and a Google PageRank of 8/10 (i.e., huge). When Digg.com links to a site, it imparts some of its authority to that site, “authority” = better rank in search engines. Users may also decide to link to a site they see on Digg.com, boosting its ranking even further.

When Digg owners tried to remove references on Digg to a bit of code that allows people to make pirated copies of HD DVDs, users revolted by voting in favor of any and all pages displaying the code. Digg rankings were flooded these pages, effectively disabling the site.

Now Digg owners have decided to allow the code to remain on their site, which means they face a costly lawsuit from the DVD industry, a lawsuit that could potentially bring an end to Digg.com.

Who really runs Digg.com? The authority of sites like Digg.com is based, ostensibly, on ideals like free speech and the democratic nature of the Web. But, as the L.A. Times article notes, Digg owners already take down references to pirated copies of Photoshop software from their site. Where should Digg draw the line?

As companies like Google and News Corp. spend billions of dollars to harness the advertising power of social networking sites like YouTube and MySpace, it will be very interesting to see just how much they will be willing to let hoi polloi the People decide their fate.

Related Article:

In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly
By Brad Stone, New York Times, May 3, 2007
Sophisticated Internet users have joined up to distribute a code used to prevent piracy of high-definition movies.

Comments: 0

ConversionRater on RSS, Feedburner and Clicky

The ConversionRater blog by Pat McCarthy is one of the best at keeping tabs on Web Analytics and “montization” from a non-Google-centric point of view. Pat’s discussions are geared toward web marketing professionals more than small business owners.

I will occasionally refer to his blog here in the McBuzz website. I’m mentioning this because yesterday Pat wrote about monitoring RSS feeds using a service called Clicky, and RSS is one thing McBuzz would like to expose readers to from the perspective of benefits for small business owners.

McBuzz (Mark McLaren) also maintains a blog for web professionals called the Web Marketing Pro Blog. The goal of the main website/blog at mcbuzz.com (the one you are reading right now) is to communicate with small business owners and others about ways to market their business effectively using a website, web optimized press releases, RSS feeds, and such, without getting into the gory technical details.

For gory technical details, discussion of web analytics tools like Google Analytics, coding techniques, etc., see the Web Marketing Pro Blog.

RSS

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McBuzz.com 2.0 Will Launch Soon

McBuzz Communications will launch mcbuzz.com 2.0 in a few days. Until then, please visit the current mcbuzz.com website.

Comments: 1