Internet Speed

Drive Business Growth with Business Internet

Increased reliance on Internet-based technologies correlates to an increased need for reliable broadband with greater bandwidth.

As a small/medium business, you’re constantly making choices of how best to spend your dollars to drive success. You might favor residential Internet services such as DSL or cable Internet to maintain low costs, but that may not be the best solution.

If you are like many business owners that chose lower cost residential based services, you probably have considered switching to a business-grade Internet service once you’ve dealt with undependable connections, slow speeds and unresponsive customer support centers staffed with operators lacking technical expertise.

Looking towards the future, as your business grows, so will your needs. According to Nielson’s Law of Internet Bandwidth, bandwidth usage doubles every 12 months. So if 6 Mbps is sufficient for you now, you may end up needing 12 Mbps not so far down the road. As your business depends more heavily on online applications, a dependable Internet service, such as fiber Internet or Fixed wireless, becomes vital for day-to-day operations. Solid reliability and high performance broadband will become crucial to your business operations. In that regard, residential services may not be equipped to meet your company’s needs.

How does business Internet surpass residential Internet?

Residential Internet is a “best effort” service, meaning the ISP (Internet Service Provider) does not provide clear performance specs. The reason being is that the user’s experience varies dramatically depending on the congestion of the network created from other customers. A key example is bandwidth. The bandwidth may sound high (“Get up to 15 Mbps download”), but there is no guarantee how often you will get 15 Mbps. Chances are that the 15 Mbps download will only be achieved during off-peak times, when there are less customers using their network. To keep their prices lower, residential based Internet companies rely on the assumption that residents will not all being using the Internet at the same time.

Conversely, business-grade Internet providers deliver 100% dedicated bandwidth that is guaranteed, and backed by a SLA (Service Level Agreement). When you pay for 20 Mbps, you’re guaranteed to get 20 Mbps.

To be fair, residential and business Internet are inherently used for different purposes and therefore vary in structure and performance. Residential Internet users typically
use the majority of their bandwidth for streaming video (downloads) and very little for uploads. Businesses use more symmetrical bandwidth. File sharing, cloud computing and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) are common business functions that utilize more symmetrical bi-directional bandwidth.

Why are these differences important to the success of your business?

Most of the time, residential Internet is used for surfing the web, checking email, streaming movies and some light work. Although a reliable Internet service may be preferred, it’s not vital, as the bandwidth is used for leisure.

Businesses, on the other hand rely on enterprise applications to keep company operations running smoothly. Generating sales, communicating with customers, fulfilling orders and streamlining internal processes all require dependable and robust bandwidth. Key performance metrics that are important for robust business apps are:

  • 100% Committed Information Rate
  • Guarantees your available bandwidth is 100%
  • =99.99% Uptime
  • Percentage of time your Internet is up and running
  • 99.5% Packet Delivery
  • Percentage of data packets that will successfully transfer

Real time services also require QoS (Quality of Service) to maintain an ideal user experience. QoS enables you to prioritize important network traffic above less important traffic to ensure a good user experience. VoIP and video conferencing are two key applications that require traffic prioritization.

At the end of the day, you will need to decide if your current DSL or cable Internet service is good enough for your company’s needs. Will it help you succeed and grow your business or will it keep you from that goal? Will it help increase productivity or impede it? Has network downtime negatively impacted your brand image or sales? Is your time better spent managing your business or calling your ISP for help? Only you can decide when it’s time to upgrade to a business-grade Internet service.

Business Startup Tips

The 3 Elements that Dramatically Affect the Success of Any Startup

“The essence of profound insight is simplicity”
– Jim Collins: Author of Good to Great.

Jim Collins in his book Good to great did an in-depth study of over 1435 companies over a 40 year period. He and his research team looked at major indicators from revenue to profits, leading CEO’s, External Markets, Stock prices and business strategies. From the research, they were able to determine indisputable characteristics that all the companies shared which over time, moved them from average businesses to great organizations.

Among all the companies examined, their findings resulted in just three common factors. Each company:

  1. Chose what they were passionate about doing.
  2. Stuck to what they were great at producing.
  3. Chose in which area they could make money.

Now the list above is not in the order of importance that Collins put them in, but from my experience after consulting with over 400 startups over the years, I have definitely found that it works well with startups that have embarked on the journey from scratch – starting from idea all the way to monetization.

Lets look at these 3 elements in more detail.

Passion – Here’s Why I Believe in This Particular Order

When you have a service or idea, it is important to first take a self-assessment. It’s important to know why you want to start your business in the first place. In fact, it is probably one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself. Why? Because the truth about starting anything new is that it is hard work. It will require countless hours, commitment, resources and a relentless consistency in effort until the idea gains any traction. From my experience, passion for what you are doing is that secret ingredient needed when it comes to launching your startup. More often than not, it boosts the immunity of the idea that will help you weather the storms that surely come in the initial stages of your startup—the very storms that lead to success.

Skill-Mastery

The second element is skill-mastery. Skill mastery can be defined as “an ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carry out complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills).” – Business Dictionary

The second reason performing a self-assessment is important has to do with a skills stock-take. It is not enough to have a pretty idea or to simply identify a trend in the market that “looks like it’s making money.” Both these factors seem logical, but before you start-up, I would suggest you take stock of what transferable skills you have already mastered.

Your level of skill-mastery dictates your value in today’s market. The higher the skill-level you have in a particular area – the more likely you will produce a high quality product or service in a timely fashion. Conversely, the lower your skill level you own your field, the lower your quality will be for your particular product or service. Your outcome will suffer as will your ability to meet deadlines and produce deliverables in a timely manner.

On the same note, skills mastery has nothing to do with having a qualification. One can hold an MBA from Harvard University (which is nice to have), but that does not mean he or she has the necessary skills to run a successful business. The skill of being an effective entrepreneur comes from deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to produce a great product or service.

By the same token, it is impossible to gain mastery when you spread yourself thin by doing too many things. To achieve anything noteworthy in life, it takes an unwavering ability to focus on one thing, never yielding to distractions or the “latest opportunities.”

If You’re Not Making Money, You Don’t Have a Business

Lastly, it is important to choose a product or service in which you can make money. I believe this should ALWAYS come last in one’s evaluations. Why? Because in 2013 there was a survey conducted by Deloitte Shift Index which indicated that on average, 89 percent of workers were dissatisfied with their jobs. This study revealed that some of these people even earned high incomes. This goes to prove that money, though it is important, is a poor driver for most people to achieve fulfillment.

If you are seriously considering creating a valuable startup around a great lifestyle, then make the first two elements your priority. Passion and skills-mastery will enable you to target a market or niche on which you can focus your efforts—an area where you can pour your heart and soul into producing extra-ordinary products or services that consumers will love to pay you for. This ability to create demand is what I call “profit-ability” or “monetization ability.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the clearer you are about what skills you are great at, the easier it is to zone in on a specific industry—one which will be delighted to pay you to provide solutions to their unique problems.

Google Local Maps Rank

The 5 Keys to Getting Visible in Google Maps

The Maps are prime digital real estate. It’s front page coverage for any local search. Get your business visible here and the phone WILL ring.

This area is actually called Google My Business and it’s essentially Google’s local business directly, much like the online Yellow Pages. There are two ways to get your business listed here. You can go to Google My Business and create your own profile page for your business or you can do nothing and eventually Google will list it within the maps section themselves.

If you have a new business, you should create your own profile page to speed up the process. If you have an existing business, Google will allow you to search its database to find out whether or not your business is already listed. If so, you’ll need to claim it. There’s no need to explain the process here as Google My Business takes you through the easy steps of claiming or setting up a new business profile.

Google My Business

Instead, I want to give you five essential keys to getting your local profile to show as high as possible within search results, hopefully on the first page. I can’t guarantee you’ll get there, but I am very certain that without these steps, you won’t be anywhere near the top. So here they are:

1. Choose Your Categories

When setting up your profile, choose your categories carefully. At first you will only be able to pick one category, but once your business is verified by Google, usually with a letter in the mail that contains a verification code, you will be able to choose up to five categories from Google’s drop down list.

The categories you choose are how Google knows where to show your business to consumers.  For example, if you choose the category Air Conditioning Contractor, Google will show your business to consumers who are looking for air conditioning installation and HVAC contractors. You don’t want Google to show your business to consumers who are looking for plumbers if that’s not what you do.

I can’t underscore how important it is to choose accurate and relevant categories. your categories are the first place Google crawlers look to determine where to place you in search results.

2. Fill Out a Complete Profile

Give Google as much information as possible. This can only help them show you to more consumers. Complete a detailed description of your business (between 100-250 words), add plenty of photos, set hours of operation and provide all your accurate contact information. Be sure to include a local telephone number as your primary business number so Google knows you are a San Diego company.

You will also get a chance to associate your business with a website. Choose your strongest url (usually the home page of your website). This is critical. Here’s why…

Google My Business

3. Have a Well-Optimized Website

Google relies heavily on the strength of the web page you associate with your Google My Business profile. Say you associated your profile with the home page of your website. If your website ranks really well in search, chances are that your local maps profile page will rank well, too. Your website will pass authority to your local Google My business listing. I suggest optimizing your website by using search engine optimization best practices or by hiring a digital marketing consultant.

4. Spread the Word

Google uses other websites and directories to verify your information. By scraping sites like Yelp, Super Pages, Yahoo Local, Angie’s List and others, Google will cross reference your profile details with those in other places across the Web (including your website so make sure it’s accurate).

Business Citation

Therefore, it is crucial that all this information is consistent. If your address is different in the online Yellow Pages from your Google My Business Profile, then Google is going to get confused and not know which one is correct. Having consistent company information in all the major directories is a significant ranking factor so search the Web for your company and make sure your business, name, address and phone number (NAP) is exactly the same across the Web. Here’s a list of the major business directories.

5. Start Getting Reviews

In my testing, we have found a strong correlation between rank and profiles with lots of reviews. It appears businesses that have a lot of consumer reviews in Google tend to rank better. Google doesn’t appear to care if the reviews are good or not, they just want to see real, detailed reviews.

Ask your customers to post very descriptive testimonials of their experience with you. Have them post it in Google Maps, Yelp and any other platforms that are important to your niche.

Reviews can be an entire marketing strategy on their own. I have clients that get more business from review platforms than anywhere else. In fact, consumers may never even visit the website, they’ll just call the business right from the phone number on their profile page. I suggest engaging in a customer review campaign to spread the good word about your business.

There are certainly more ranking factors than the ones I’ve listed, but if you get these first five right, you’re on your way to getting much better visibility for local consumer searches. The more traffic you get from search, the more sales you’ll make and the faster your business will grow.

SBA Recognizes SBDC’s 35th Anniversary and Contributions to the Nation’s Small Businesses

News Release

PRESS OFFICE

 

Release Date:  September 10, 2015 Contact:  Miguel Ayala (202) 205-6420
Release Number: 15-71 Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news

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SBA Recognizes SBDC’s 35th Anniversary and Contributions to the Nation’s Small Businesses

 

WASHINGTON – Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today commended the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program, the largest SBA-supported counseling and training network, on its 35 years of service to the American people.

“Over the last 35 years, millions of entrepreneurs have been able to launch and grow their businesses because of the counseling they’ve received at Small Business Development Centers across the country,” said SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet. “SBA is proud of the partnership we have with the SBDC’s and the role we’ve played in helping to fund and shape the world’s largest and strongest network of advisors. SBDCs give us a competitive advantage in the global economy. They ensure the uncommon ingenuity and hard work of our small business owners is matched by their financial acumen and mastery of business fundamentals.”

The SBDC network counseled more than 1.2 million clients from 2009 through 2014, fueled by $750 million in grants from the SBA. That has resulted in 82,000 new small businesses, access to $24 billion in capital, and $131 billion in small business revenue and sales.

SBDCs provide free counseling, as well as no-cost and low-cost training assistance, to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs through 63 lead SBDCs at more than 900 outreach locations, operating in every state, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  A model of public-private partnership, the SBDCs are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies that work in cooperation with the SBA to provide services to small businesses.  They help entrepreneurs realize their dreams of business ownership and aid existing businesses through consulting and training services.  In fiscal year 2014, the SBDC program counseled and trained nearly 500,000 small business clients.

The America’s SBDC (ASBDC) Network President Charles “Tee” Rowe added, “America’s small businesses are truly the engine of economic growth, and for 35 years, America’s SBDCs have been like spark plugs helping to keep that engine going.  SDBCs are driving small business growth by helping to create a new business every 33 minutes and a new job every seven minutes.”

Since its start, the SBDCs services have adapted to meet the changing needs of entrepreneurs and their expanding global presence.  They continue to help entrepreneurs achieve the American dream of business ownership.

Administrator Contreras-Sweet will deliver the closing keynote at the ASBDC conference in San Francisco this week. To learn more about the SBDC program or to locate the SBDC nearest you, visit www.sba.gov/sbdc.

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GO-Biz Awards $2 Million to 41 Small Business Development Centers

GO-Biz Awards $2 Million to CA SBDC Network for Capital Infusion Assistance

Grant Expands No-Cost, One-on-One Business Advising to Help San Diego and Imperial County Small Businesses to Secure Loans and Venture Capital

SAN DIEGO – Furthering its efforts to provide greater access to capital for small business owners and entrepreneurs in the state of California, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced the awarding of $197,500 to the San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center Network to provide one-on-one, no-cost consulting in attaining loans and venture capital.
The grant is part of a $2 million, a one-year allocation, that will benefit 41 Small Business Development Centers in California by providing crucial matching money needed to draw down a Federal grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The San Diego District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased with the support provided by the state of California to the Small Business Development Centers to help provide needed services to those who are trying to develop new businesses or improve existing ones. “said Ruben Garcia, District Director.” We have much to do and much more to accomplish, state funding will help reach these goals. “He added.

The 2015-16 state budget signed by Governor Brown renewed the Capital Infusion Program, which provides a one-time grant to the California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network. Through the competitive grant program, individual SBDCs were awarded grant funds that are to be used for one-on-one business consulting services to assist small businesses with capital infusion including SBA loans, non-SBA loans, alternative financing and non-owner equity investment.

“San Diego and Imperial SBDC Network provided assistance to more than 1,700 small businesses last year and we helped our clients access $19.45 million in capital to start and grow,” said San Diego and Imperial SBDC Regional Director Marquise Jackson.  “The matching funds that GO-Biz provides are key to our success.  We look forward to another year of helping entrepreneurs make their small business dreams a reality.”

Business owners that are interested in receiving no-cost consulting can locate their closest SBDC by visiting www.sdivsbdc.org

About the San Diego and Imperial SBDC Network Program: The San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program is the leader in providing small business owners and entrepreneurs with the tools and guidance needed to become successful. SBDCs provide comprehensive and expert guidance on issues such as start-up basics, financing, business and marketing plan development, procurement and government contracting.  One-on-one advising is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and local partners and is offered at no cost. Consulting is supplemented by low-cost or free seminars and conferences. These services are delivered throughout San Diego and Imperial counties via a network of 3 Small Business Development Centers. Learn more by visiting: www.sdivsbdc.org

Digital Marketing Workshop in San Diego CA

Workshop: How to Get Found Online by Consumers

Internet Marketing Secrets from the Pros

Discover the secrets the Pros use that get their websites top visibility in Google, Bing and Yahoo in this free Internet Marketing Workshop for Small Businesses by your host, the Small Business Development Center.

The Internet is the great competitive equalizer. More than any other time in history, you have the ability to target the very consumers who are ready to buy from you right now. Discover methods to beat your top competitors, even the ones that have enormous advertising budgets. After this workshop, you’ll know the secrets to becoming the authority in your market.

Workshop Details

The Small Business Development Center
880 National City Blvd., Suite 103
National City, CA 91950
(619) 482-6391

May 7, 2015 2:00pm – 4:00pm
You must pre-register
Instructor: Dino Maiolo
Cost: FREE

Digital Marketing Workshop

What will be covered in this workshop?

Search Marketing
Did you ever wonder why Google chooses to show some companies at the top of search while others seem to get exiled to page six? You’ll learn what it takes to get that top spot as well as tips and tricks to get you there faster – and stay there.

Conversion Marketing
You don’t know what conversion optimization is? You’ll discover why it may be the most important element in your marketing strategy. Learn not only how to get your customers to stay on your website, but to convert them into paying customers. Discover the biggest mistakes you’re making on your site and what to do to clean things up.

Social Media Marketing
Can social media really drive more business? If done correctly it can. Discover ways to use social media to get more customers and the deadly mistakes most business owners make that kill sales.

Customer Reviews
Stop hating Yelp. Discover how to use Yelp to drive loads of traffic – for free. You don’t have to pay Yelp for advertising. Turn a bad review into even more business with a little known tactic. Never fear negative customer reviews again.

The SBDC is a nonprofit resource that offers counseling, workshops and resources at no charge to business owners and entrepreneurs in San Diego. Your instructor for the workshop is Dino Maiolo, Digital Marketing Advisor for the SBDC and owner of DINOMADIC, a web marketing and design agency in San Diego, CA. For more information about this workshop or the SBDC, please call us at (619) 482-6391.

Mobile website optimization

Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly? If Not, Expect to Lose Visibility.

Google has been urging business owners and webmasters for quite some time to make their websites user-friendly on mobile devices. User-friendly means several things, but it essentially boils down to usability. Google believes that websites that do not adjust screen size, font size and image pixelation for mobile devices is a bad user experience.

What is mobile-friendly?

Let’s take a look at a couple examples. Below is an image of several websites with their mobile-friendly version. A really well optimized site will view nicely on all devices; a desktop, tablet and mobile phone.

Look at the two example below (you can click on them to enlarge). The first is my agency website and the second is from one of my cleints in New York City. You can see in both examples that the mobile version is very easy for consumers to get the information they need. How do you accomplish this? It’s a bit technical to explain, but not so difficult to implement. If you want more details, make an appointment with me and I’ll help you with it (by the way, there is no charge to meet with an SBDC advisor and you can meet with me as many times as you want).

You can even provide better user features on mobile than you can on a desktop version. Notice the two buttons at the top of the page for M&D? One is a Click-to-Call button and the other is a Click-to-Text. M&D makes it very easy for consumers to contact them.

mobile site optimization

Now look at the websites below. These examples were pretty easy to find, which tells me there are a lot of sites out there that are going to see their rankings in Google drop (more on that in a moment). Notice how there is no adjustment to help the consumer view the site on a smaller screen. Google considers this a bad user experience. So do I. In both examples, the desktop versions show nicely, but in mobile, the one on the left has overlapping text and doesn’t show the complete page. The one on the right is almost entirely blank. These could be fine companies, but consumers would never know it because they probably hit the back button and moved on to another contractor.

Bad mobile website ooptimization

What kind of penalty can I expect?

So “penalty” may be a bit harsh. Google is not really penalizing websites, but they have said that websites that are not mobile-friendly can expect a drop in rankings. How far? It’s anyone’s guess. It depends on your market and how well most of your competitors are optimized for mobile. It is certain, however, mobile-friendly websites will rank better in mobile search and I wouldn’t be surprised if that ranking carried over to desktop as well. At the moment, search results for both versions are identical. We’ll see if that changes after the 21st.

How do I know if my site is mobile-friendly?

Google has provided a tool to help you determine how well the mobile version of your website is optimized for consumer experience. Go here to enter your website address and Google will tell you if you need to some work to make your website more mobile-friendly.

When can I expect rankings to change?

If your website is not mobile-friendly, expect it to drop in rankings on April, 21st, 2015. That’s what the industry is calling “mobilegeddon.”

How do I keep my website from losing its rank in Google?

Ask your web developer. He or she will need to get to work. If you don’t have a web developer, make an appointment with me at the SBDC as soon as possible and I will help you. We can discuss your website and your internet marketing as well. It’s all a free service to local entrepreneurs and business owners. Our contact info is in the footer of this page, but you can contact the SBDC at (619) 482-6391.

Web Design Mistakes

The Top 5 Mistakes You’re Making on Your Business Website

You are making some huge mistakes on your website. Those mistakes are costing you money. As a web developer and web marketing consultant, I’ve complied the five most common errors I see business owners making when it comes to their website.

Mistake #1: Not Using Your Website as a Marketing Tool

Most business owners do very little with their website. For them, it’s just a place to send customers who want more information. It’s little more than a fancy online brochure, circa 1995 web design. There are many ways you can engage consumers on your website, yet I see so many of them that are static and lifeless.

Today, consumers expect a lot from your online presence. In my company, we’ve tested many different website designs and we’ve found that a site doesn’t have to have all the newest bells and whistles to be effective, but the information does need to be current, relevant and compelling. The design and layout is a reflection of your company and consumers will make a judgement based not only on the information you provide on your website, but on how it looks as well.

Most importantly, your site is a tool to drive business. It should engage the consumer and answer the important questions they have, always leading them to a conversion. A conversion is the goal you have for the site. Is it to make a sale, entice the consumer to call your office, fill out a web form or perhaps sign up for a newsletter? Determine what your conversion is and build your site around achieving that goal.

Most of all, use your website to engage the consumer. Encourage reviews and comments on your blog. You can create contests and fun trivia. Link from your social media platforms such as your Facebook fan page and Google Plus account.

TIP: Your website is not a place for you to try to be different or to express yourself creatively. Everything needs to be where the visitor expects it or they’ll get frustrated and hit the back button. The navigation goes at the top, not on the side or in the middle. Resist the urge all business owners have to make their logo big and bold. Keep it small and in the top left corner of the page. Your main content area is in the middle of the page with a big, compelling headline. Your call-to-action should be a quarter of the way down the page and on the right. Make your website easy to navigate and your visitors will stay longer – perhaps long enough to buy something from you.

Mistake #2: Not Designing for User Experience

When a business owner decides to design or redesign the company website, he or she almost always does it wrong. This happens for several reasons, but often, it’s because the wrong person is in charge of the design project—namely, you.

Controlling business owners want to promote a specific image for their company. This image is usually based on past accomplishments, awards, history, personnel, experience and even unsubstantiated design preferences – all the things most consumers could care less about. This happens because it’s very difficult for business owners to see themselves as anyone, but themselves. It’s even harder for them to understand what it’s like for a consumer to visit the site for the first time, not knowing what the owner already knows.

If the wrong person still insists on designing the site, it’s important to design for consumer experience, not owner preference. Find out from your customers what is most important to them. Don’t assume. Every Time I have clients go through this exercise, they are always surprised from what they find out. Owners who have been in business for twenty years finally learn what motivates their customers to buy, simply by asking them. You have to ask. Then, give them what they want.

You’ve heard that in business, you should always sell benefits to the consumer, not features of your company, right? Same goes for your website. Consumers don’t care how long you’ve been in business, how good your people are or what certifications you have. They care about themselves, not you. They want to know how you are going to solve their problems. They want to know what kind of deal they’re going to get. That message has to be front and center on your home page.

TIP: Deals are great. We’re Americans. We love getting a good deal, but don’t build your business by having the lowest price unless you actually have the word “Discount” in your company name. Price is not a marketing strategy, it’s a cop-out tactic used by the noncompetitive. You sell a good product or service. That’s worth something. You have to convince customers why paying a little more for quality is in their best interest. You can do it.

Mistake #3: Not Making it Easy for Consumers to Buy from You

For heaven sakes, put your phone number in plain site. Plaster it all over your home page so your visitors can find it. Have a strong call-to-action button that tells consumers exactly what to do next. I can’t believe how many websites I visit that leave me scratching my head. Where’s the Buy Now button? How do I purchase this product? How do I get a hold of a sales person?

There is a common rule in web design to never let your visitor think. If they have to think too much, they’re going to bounce off your site and right into the lap of your competitor. Everything on your website should be intuitive. If you want your visitor to go to another page on your site, then make sure you tell them to do it. If you want them to call you for pricing, then make sure your telephone number is big, bold and clearly visible.

Mistake #4: Using Images Incorrectly

Images on your website are important. They help to support the content and they break things up in a nice way. Content is very, very important, but most consumers don’t like to read too much (until they find exactly what they’re looking for). They skim. A good way to help get your point across is to use bullet points and bold titles. Another good tool is images, but most websites have the same, boring stock photos that are meaningless to consumers.

I’ll say it here, “Don’t use stock photos.” Consumers want real images of real people. They want to see happy, smiling employees. If your picture looks like a mug shot or your employees refuse to smile for the camera, don’t use them. You need to be approachable. If you show an image of a customer, it ought to be a real customer. It’s fine if the image isn’t perfect and looks like you took it with your iphone. Consumers appreciate the authenticity.

Don’t use images just for the sake of having an image. Make sure they are relevant and support the topic. Images help make your message stronger and can really drive home certain points.

Finally, there is a lot of debate among web developers about the use of sliders. Sliding images on your home page can help you communicate several important messages in the same space. The problem is that most visitors don’t wait around for the second or third slide. They start scrolling and then the sliding images just become a distraction at that point. Personally, I prefer one static image on my home page. If I want to make several points, I can use animations – text that overlays the image and changes to promote different topics.

If your business is small and your niche narrow, then I would definitely use only one image at the top. Our testing shows that a large image of a face either looking back at the visitor or at a line of text is the most effective. Consumers love big images right now.

For large corporations and organizations with a lot of different focus areas, a slider may be the way to go in order to cover all those areas, but as a general rule, I usually discourage my clients from using a slider on their home page and absolutely never on a landing page. A landing page needs to be narrowly targeted so no sliding images. Go it?

Mistake #5: Not Using Your Analytics for Deep Insights

If you are not measuring user activity on your website, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. Why wouldn’t you measure? You can gain more insights about your customers’ buying behavior than you ever have before and with Google Analytics, it’s all free information. These are insights and data that even the biggest corporations in the world didn’t have access to just ten years ago. Now you do.

Find out what pages your customers stay on and which pages cause them to leave. Find out where they are coming from and how many pages they click on. How many visitors added a product to a cart, but abandoned the check out? Knowing this behavior can be the difference between business success and business failure. If you are not using your data, go to Google Analaytics now and sign up for free. If you can’t do it, then get your web developer to do it for you. He or she will be able to tell what the data means and how to use it to increase sales.

California Governors Office of Business and Economic Development Logo

GO-Biz Awards $2 Million to CA SBDC Network for Capital Infusion Assistance

SACRAMENTO – Building on efforts to support small business owners, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) today announced the awarding of $2 million in matching grants to 34 Small Business Development Centers throughout the state of California to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in obtaining capital.

“Helping business owners secure the capital they need to start and grow their business is a core objective for the CA SBDC,” said Jesse Torres, Chair for the CA SBDC Leadership Council. “We are tremendously grateful to Governor Brown for his leadership in supporting small businesses in our state and to the GO-Biz team for their tenacity in making it possible for our services centers to expand their urgently needed free consulting services to entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the state.”

The 2014-15 state budget signed by Governor Brown authorized one-time grants through the creation of a new program called the Capital Infusion Program (Program). The program offers the California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network grant funding to provide one-on-one business consulting services to assist small businesses with capital infusion including SBA loans, non-SBA loans, non-traditional lending, and non-owner equity investment.

“Small business owners are the engine of the California economy and access to capital is the fuel they require to continue growing and adding jobs,” said GO-Biz Small Business Advocate Barbara Vohryzek. “The funding provided by GO-Biz will help position small business owners to better compete for loans they might not have otherwise received.”

Through the grant program, which will be matched on a one-to-one basis by federal funds, the SBDCs will deploy regional consulting programs in order to increase the number of small business owners and entrepreneurs receiving debt and private capital financing. The program will operate for a year with metrics reported out on a semi-annual basis.

Through its network of centers, California’s SBDC Network provides free consulting and low-cost training to more than 63,000 small business owners every year. The SBDC network is a national program funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration that relies on the support of match funders in order to provide regional services.

For more information on the California SBDC program, or to find a Small Business Development Center near you, go to www.californiasbdc.org.

Wells Fargo Helps Fund Small Business Development Center

NATIONAL CITY – The South San Diego Small Business Development Center will be able to increase services to small business owners, thanks to a $50,000 grant from Wells Fargo Bank.

In a check presentation ceremony Jan. 20, Wells Fargo San Diego Area Bank President Ernesto Arredondo said the grant is part of the bank’s commitment to the betterment of the small business community.

“Wells Fargo is committed to supporting the financial needs of our communities,” Arredondo said. “The grant will provide much needed services to small businesses that are the backbone of our local economy. At Wells Fargo we say, ‘Small is Huge,’ and we are proud to support all of the efforts of the San Diego Small Business Development Center in helping local businesses succeed.”                 

Arredondo presented the check to Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Melinda Nish at the regular Advisory Board meeting for the San Diego – Imperial Valley Regional Small Business Development Network. South San Diego SBDC is one of three centers serving the border counties in California.

“These funds will help us to serve additional businesses in the San Diego region,” said Aleta Wilson, San Diego – Imperial Valley SBDC Regional Director. “At the South San Diego SBDC, we are committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve their goals by starting and growing their businesses. Our team of Business Advisors has a wealth of knowledge and experience to help small business owners in all areas,”

 In addition to Arrendondo, Wells Fargo was represented by Wendell French, VP Community Development Officer; Daniel Stracener, District Manager; and Luis Gonzalez, Assistant VP Regional Corporate Communications.

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