What is a CMS and why would I want one?

What is a CMS?

CMS stands for Content Management System, basically it’s software that allows you to manage your website without any technical knowledge. If you had a CMS on your website you would have a special part of the site where you could login and change text or add images as easily as if you were writing emails.

A couple of good reasons why you might want a CMS include:

  • Save money over time not paying a web designer to handle changes to your site.
  • Keep your content fresh by making frequent changes easily thereby encouraging repeat visits.

To learn more about content management systems see our article 5 Advantages of a Content Management System

5 Tips to Increase Web Traffic

Set your website on fire

All too often businesses get their new websites designed and then forget about them and expect the website to do the rest. Business people sometimes assume that if a website does not take off right away, that the web designer has not done his job correctly. While that may be true in some cases, for a website to really excel it needs to be treated like a high maintenance girlfriend. Here is my list of the top 5 things you can do to set your website on fire and increase web traffic.

  • Blog – This brings us back to the old cliche about content being the ruling monarch or some other such drivel, the point is that your content is everything. Good wordy content drives search engine ranking up, it also encourages people to spend time on your site and it motivates visitors to return to your site again and again. Blogging is the best way for a website owner to add content to a website regularly and tools like RSS help disseminate that information and increase web traffic too. Set a schedule and stick to it, one new entry a week, or a day or whatever works with your schedule.
  • Inbound links – Probably as important to website ranking as good text content is inbound links, that is links on other sites that point to your website. There are a myriad places online where one can get linked. Online directories related to your local area or your particular industry, reciprocal links, blog comments and discussion forums. It takes more time and patience than anything else to find these places and get linked, but your efforts will be rewarded as your search engine ranking rises. Search engines aside, inbound links are good for the traffic they naturally generate too.
  • Social networking – Another great way to increase web traffic is to get your business on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking websites. Be aware though that simply creating a presence on these sites is not enough, you need to contribute to these communities by connecting to others and posting relevant information. There are tools available now that will connect many blog systems to your social networking account, so for example, when I post this article to my blog it will also appear automatically on my Facebook and LinkedIn account. This saves time posting to a lot of different places and makes short work of keeping all your online marketing efforts up to date. Other tools of use in this area are sites like hootsuite that can post to various social networking sites at once.
  • Email newsletter – Implementing an email newsletter is another good way to increase traffic. This is fairly inexpensive to add to your website and can bring great returns because once you are set up it costs you nothing to send out as many of these as you have names in your database. If you are going to set an email newsletter up on your website take the time to schedule a time each month (or whatever schedule you want to keep) to write and send out your newsletter, a newsletter system that does not get used is money wasted.
  • Mix things up – A static site does not encourage repeat visitors, update your website frequently. This is especially true of your home page, at least once a year you should change the look of your home page. This gives the impression that your company is active and will encourage people who have been to your site before to spend some time digging deeper to see what else has changed often times reading information that has been there for a long time.

A well designed, well thought out website can do a great deal on its own, but to really excel it needs care and nurturing. This doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact all of the above suggestions you can do yourself, you just have to make the time. The time spent will pay off when you see an increase in your web traffic.

Any other ideas? What have you done to make your website take off? Leave comments below.

The Ultimate Web Publishing Platform

The best web publishing platform is...

For years I experimented with various web publishing platforms to varying degrees of satisfaction. The ultimate, in my opinion, has to have several important elements.

  1. Easy to use admin interface: this is critical, for a web publishing platform to be successful it has to empower the website administrator, making it easy to add and maintain content quickly and easily.
  2. Extensibility: the system should be able to add new functionality and features as needed, relatively inexpensively and quickly.
  3. Easy to use templates: the look and feel of the site needs to be easily customized, so the templating engine should be easy to work with.

For awhile I used Drupal as my web publishing platform of choice to create a number of websites and it works pretty good. But I found that adding functionality to Drupal beyond what it was designed to do out of the box, was quite difficult. Also, the Drupal admin interface was difficult for some people to come to grips with, making it difficult for me to recommend it to my clients with limited technology experience.

Then I started experimenting with WordPress and have had fantastic success. WordPress makes it so easy to keep a website up to date that people are more likely to add new content. The admin interface is very simple and easy, I have no reservations about introducing the most computer illiterate users to the WordPress admin interface, it’s that easy. Additional functionality can be easily added to a WordPress site and I have been able to quickly and easily customize a website’s look and feel because the templating system is very easy to work with.

The number one thing you can do to make a website more successful is to add more content. More content means more things for people to look at and read, more reasons for people to link to your site, more pages for search engines to index and link to, more reasons people to return to your site. So an easy to use web publishing platform encourages more and better content by making it very easy to add and edit content.

Call and talk with us about making your web site more successful by adding WordPress.

Increase Web Traffic With Fresh Content

Increase web traffic by using the keyboard

It is often said that a year in real time equals anywhere from 4 to 12 years in “web time”, meaning that time moves much faster on-line than off. It is true that the content of your web site can become outdated before you’re done writing it. It is always surprising to me how many businesses are satisfied to put their web site online and then just forget about it, as if the web site could take care of itself from there on out. Keeping a web site current does not need to be a daily or even a weekly activity necessarily, but it is very importance to update the content periodically if you want to continue to increase web traffic.

The truth is that the simple task of adding to and updating the content of your website may be the easiest, least expensive and yet most neglected way to increase traffic.

Here are my top 4 disadvantages of not keeping your web content fresh.

  1. New visitors can recognize old content: If visitors to your web site perceive that your content is not fresh, they may look at it once, but it is unlikely they will bookmark it and even more unlikely they will return. It’s like the difference between a brochure and a newspaper, a customer may pick up a brochure and read through it once, she may even save the brochure, but believe me, she will not be pulling it out once a month to read through it again, and after a period of time will probably forget she even has it. A newspaper, no matter how small, always has fresh content so that if someone picks it up and likes what he has read, he will likely pick it up again later to see what it says now. Your web site is similar, visitors perceive whether your web site is a brochure or a newspaper and treat it as such.
  2. Returning visitors will not come back again: When a persons visits your site and likes your content, they may bookmark it and return another time to see what’s new. After a period of time when there are no updates, people assume it is not going to change and will stop coming back. It is these returning visitors who are most likely to become your customers, not only do they like what you have to say, but they are interested enough to keep in touch. If you are updating your content frequently you will increase web traffic as your web site becomes in essence a networking tool to business contacts you may never actually have talked to. This allows you to keep in touch with thousands of valuable contacts with very little work on your part.
  3. Others sites may not link to you: You probably know that getting links from other web sites is a great way of getting visitors to your site, but you may not know that this can also drastically improve your search engine ranking. Getting quality sites to link to you can be a very difficult task, a good webmaster does not link to every site that comes along and asks for a link, only those that will offer some valuable information. If you have a rather static, brochure web site, you will no doubt be able to get some links, but you can get more and better quality links if your site is fresh and ever changing.
  4. Google likes fresh content: Google will give an advantage to fresher content, so you can increase web traffic through Google considerably just by adding new content every so often. As your old content ages it may begin to slip in ranking so mix it up, add new pages, blog posts or just update your content in those old pages, it will make a difference.

Your web site will get more visitors and more return visits if you keep it updated regularly. This is really not hard, just determine to sit down once a month and write a little bit about what your business has been doing and some suggestions on how your customers can use your products or services. By updating your web content at least once a month you will be helping to keep your site moving forward in web time and will be helping to increase web traffic.

10 Ideas for a Smarter Business Website

a successful business website takes work

The web offers infinite possibilities for expanding and marketing your business, yet a business website is often viewed as having two possibilities, e-commerce and as a brochure, probably because these are the most common, but they are not even scratching the surface of what is possible.

Let’s face it, there are probably millions of sites out there offering the same or similar services as your business, how will you stand out from the crowd? The successful web site need not be extravagant, you just need to spend some time thinking about what your clients needs are, and how you can meet those needs online. Often the failure to provide useful web services is caused by a poor understanding of the potential of the web and what others are doing with it.

To help you in planning your website, and the services it can provide, we offer the following 10 ideas for a smarter website.

  1. Maps to your locations: A very simple yet useful feature sometimes forgotten. The visitor to your website often doesn’t know where you’re located and may need to call for directions before coming by, head off that question by providing a map, because you and your employees have better things to do than answer the phone. For multiple locations you may want to provide a different map for each, or have a dynamic map that pinpoints that location when the location is selected from a list.
  2. Online order tracking: This is a common feature of e-commerce websites but even if you don’t sell products online your customers will appreciate this type of feature. Whether the product is ordered over the phone, through email or even by coming to your location, if there is any shipping, processing or manufacturing involved it is convenient to your customers to be able to look up their order status on your website.
  3. Email newsletter: A powerful marketing and networking tool for you to keep in touch with your existing customers and make new ones. To mail out a traditional newsletter can cost quite a bit in printing, postage and handling, on the other hand an email newsletter’s cost is virtually nothing once the website is developed. Advise about upcoming sales, remind about services offered, provide tips and suggestions on how your products or services can be used, your email newsletter will be the cheapest, most cost-effective advertisement you can have.
  4. Customer poll: Put your finger on the pulse of your customers by adding an online poll to your website. It’s easy and inexpensive to implement and provides direct feedback from people interested in your services, what’s more it comes with a simple administrative page where you can see the results tabulated and change the question.
  5. Employee contact directory: If you have a number of employees or departments that clients may want to contact, you can help direct those calls to the right place by implementing an employee contact directory. This can result in more satisfied clients when they are able to call or email the appropriate department instead of having to go through a receptionist or phone menu.
  6. Online catalog: You may not want to deal with the complexities of an e-commerce application or spend the money required to set one up, but, an online catalog could be the next best thing. With your products displayed online and a phone number to order by, you could be selling to people all over the country or even the world. This can be a good way to see if e-commerce would work for you since a catalog is much less expensive to implement.
  7. Live news feed: There are millions of RSS news feeds available online for inclusion in your website, from the news websites to feeds about specific interests and industries. By including a news feed on your site you encourage visitors to check in often to read the news and give your website an aura of authority.
  8. Your company news: New and interesting things happen at your business all the time, new products developed, new services offered or maybe a large project completed, brag about it to your customers by adding a company news feed. This could be a simple a list of blurbs and respective dates about goings on or they can be linked to more detailed news articles or press releases.
  9. Online community: One of the most effective ways of getting repeat visitors to your site, depending on your business, may be to build an online community by including a message board or forum on your website.
  10. Business blog: A blog is most commonly personal in nature, but many businesses are finding great success in blogging. A blog can bring new visitors to your site, give visitors a reason to return to your site, establish you as an authority in your field and improve your page rank in Google.

You need an edge to stand out from the crowd online and this doesn’t necessarily mean throwing more money at your website, it means working smarter, not harder, anticipating your client’s needs. If you spend some time planning your website and thinking about the above suggestions you should have no problem making a web site that customers return to again and again.