Your Small Business Web Site

A web site is a crucial ingredient of your marketing strategy because it can widen your target market to include anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. Almost 60% of Canadians had access to the internet at home in 2003, and around 8 million had regular access to the internet from somewhere, either at home, at work or at school.

And that’s just in Canada. Ecommerce sales from Canada were $7.2 billion, and we only captured 4% of the global ecommerce market! So, how can you reach some of those internet surfers, and how can you capture some of that $7.2 billion spent in ecommerce?

First, you build it

The first step is designing your website. If your company already has business cards and letterhead, it’s best to design your website around them. A matching corporate identity and website helps with branding.

I like uncomplicated websites, with a simple layout and easy navigation. A nice, simple layout, with good graphics, balanced look and good color combinations is my #1 goal when designing a small business web site. Remember to use graphics sparingly and to optimize them for your website because internet surfers are impatient. If your page loads too slowly, they’ll leave.

Navigation should be easy to find and to use, and it should be consistent from page to page. I’ve left more than one site frustrated because I couldn’t easily find their navigation.

Small business web sites aren’t static. They evolve. You need to start somewhere, and starting with an introductory web site is probably easiest. All you really need to start is five pages. You can always add pages later. The important thing is to just do it–take the plunge and get it out there.

Your five pages could include an index, or home page, about us, services, contact and a sitemap. The index page is your landing page. Typically its design is a little more detailed than the others, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I like to use CSS (cascading style sheets) for designing because it’s simply easier to build a web site and to edit its layout with CSS rather than just HTML (hypertext markup language) alone. A change on a CSS sheet changes all the pages on your site at once.

Content is king

Once your site is designed, you’ll want to start thinking about content. Design is very important, but it does little good to have a beautiful site without high-quality content.

Your small business home page introduces you and your company–who you are and what you do. The about us page is usually used to give more detail than the home page about who you are, and your services page gives more detail about what you do. You might wonder why you’d “waste” a page on a sitemap since you only have 5 pages, but sitemaps help search engines find all the pages in your site.

As far as content goes, more is better, up to a point. Your pages should be content rich and informative, but they also need to be relevant to your small business. If your visitor can’t figure out what your web site is about in just a few seconds, they may leave.

The internet was at first strictly informational, and that’s how it remains today. Several times people have tried experiments using copywriting similar to direct mail sales letters, but they’ve all failed. It seems as if people surf the internet more for information than anything else. Knowing this will help you write pages people will want to read.

Attracting visitors

You could follow your instinct and just start writing, but wait. There’s research you must do first, or your web site simply won’t be high enough in searches to be found. Search engine optimization is far too big a subject to cover in this short article, but among other things, search engines find your pages based on keywords.

So, pretend for a moment that you’re on the other side of the desk. If you were a customer of your own business, what words or phrases would you use to search for your product or service? Ask friends and neighbors how they’d search for your product or services.

When you’ve come up with a few, check them out on a keyword suggestions tool. You can also use that tool to suggest similar words and phrases. Then find out how many results there would be if you searched for that term. What you want to do next is narrow down your choices to the words or phrases that are searched for the most, but have the fewest results.

Remember that people generally don’t look beyond the first three pages for any search term, so if you’re not in the top three pages, your business is not likely to be found at all. If there are millions of results for your phrase, you might simply need to make it more specific.

For example, let’s say you have a small business consulting company that specializes in communication for small business. Using “communication” as a search term is nearly pointless because there are almost 2 billion results for that word. But, there are only 974 results for “small business communication”.

Much better, but how often is that searched for? According to WordTracker, it’s searched for 10 times a day. Not bad, but I think we can do better. How about “small business consulting”? That’s searched for 261 times a day, and there are 373,000 results. That could be the best primary phrase for a small business communication consulting company.

What you want to do, is write your content around those words and phrases. You don’t want or need very many–three or four are plenty.

Getting them to come back again and again

Getting visitors to come back to your site again and again is relatively simple. Keep your content fresh and lively, make sure it’s informative, and add to it often.

I hope you decide your small business needs a web site. It’s the best way I know how to reach a wider target audience with a relatively small investment.

Understanding Internet Security Threats for Small Businesses

Small business makes up a huge part of the global economy. Based on a new survey of U.S. small businesses sponsored by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance, sixty-seven percent (67%) of small businesses have become more dependent on the Internet last year and sixty-six (66%) are dependent on it for their day-to-day operations.

The Internet is a vast gateway that provides great potential for businesses. More small businesses today use networks and the Internet as vital business tools to find new customers, and serve existing customers more effectively.

Strategic Research Corporation reported that seventy (70%) percent of small firms that experienced a major data loss went out of business within a year. In a related survey by Insight UK, thirty-seven percent (37%) of respondents admitted that they backup their files only once a month. Some, unbelievably, never back up at all. Some of these small online businesses don’t even install anti-virus software and anti-spyware in their computers.

Internet security threats can severely impair business operations, affecting profitability and customer satisfaction. Businesses lost huge amounts of money to cyber criminals and internet scams. Not only is the business compromised, but the safety of the customers as well. Many individuals been victims of identity theft and other Internet crimes. Internet security is a grave issue as danger lurks everywhere on the Internet and anyone online is susceptible.

Cyber criminals, attack tools and methods have evolved and these criminals are coming up with new ways to attack businesses all the time. They are using more sophisticated and dynamic methods of stealing information. “High-tech criminals that steal highly secure information, but even more novice users are capable of making an attack due to the tools available to them. These criminals do not focus on the size of your businesses, rather, the ease of getting past your defenses and stealing your information, which is of great value to them.

Small businesses are attractive to cyber criminals

Cyber criminals already control more than 100 million computers across the globe, and have have shifted their attention to small businesses and individuals. While large firms are ideal targets because of their large assets, small businesses are more vulnerable to attacks. Large firms have set security and contingency measures in place, but small businesses are at risk since cyber criminals know that they are the least protected.

A closer look reveals that most small businesses lack effective protection from attackers and other cyber criminals, sufficient cyber security policies and training. They often lack resources to hire internet security experts or purchase effective security software. Some rely on using cheap Internet security software or making use of freeware, or none at all, and doing so makes them easy targets. This lack of security investment creates an environment that is relatively low risk for criminals.

A firewall coupled with anti-virus software and spyware are not sufficient protection against the web threats and email threats of today. Other factors such as data loss due to hardware failures, proper backup procedures and disaster recovery, are also often overlooked.

In other cases, management views information security as a cost that can be cut during difficult financial times, only to create the potential to suffer significant losses in the long run. Brad Dinerman, founder of the National Information Security Group, states that, “When economic circumstances look dire, it is easy to turn security into a checklist item that keeps being pushed back. However the reality is that, in such situations, security should be a primary issue. The likelihood of threats affecting your organization will probably increase and the impact can be more detrimental.”

Online technology, particularly social media, creates a myriad of challenges and problems for businesses. In small business marketing, promotion through social marketing, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ is becoming a huge trend. Online businesses realize the affordability and ease of use of these channels and are using them as promotional tools.

Unfortunately social networking, as well as other emerging technology such as smartphones and tablets, provide avenues of potential threats and attack. Social networking platforms provide cyber criminals with the ability to reach targets where smart phones and other devices play a large role. Businesses with employees who access corporate data using their smartphones and tablets need to have implemented security policies for these devices to avoid making them prone to social engineering attacks.

Ensuring the security of business networks while utilizing the benefits of social networks and mobile technology becomes a challenge for business owners.

Strengthening Internet Security

Security threats are continually evolving – as threats change, and new threats appear. The continuously increasing level of security threats makes it imperative for small businesses to increase their level of security knowledge and investment.

Fortunately, there are also a variety of ways to protect your business from Internet security threats. Investing in reliable security solutions combined with actual knowledge provides small business owners with a well-rounded approach to protecting their businesses and managing cyber risk.

Developing a security policy that can easily be updated and enforced is important. It is also vital to focus on network security prevention such as educating staff on safe web usage, choosing secure passwords, empowering your staff with the best practices and guidelines, keeping PC and network security up to date, and limiting exposure through content filtering.

Security is not an option for businesses, but a necessity. Information security is not a one-time project. It is an ongoing process that requires continual monitoring and updating.

A Small Business Opportunity – Information Products Offer Great Advantages

Information Products are products that are essentially intellectual property, that you can sell to others. They cover an almost endless variety of topics and can be delivered in a number of ways.

The topics that people choose to sell their products are almost anything and everything that one can think of, basically anything that you may find in a book, report or brochure.

That really opens up the scope for a small business owner to really use your imagination, and passion. Nothing is too wacky or bizarre. Somebody, somewhere is bound to have the same interest and will be interested in the same thing or things that you are. This is your target market.

What methods are available to the small business owner to deliver its information products? Here we have a range of methods of delivery. The internet has proven to be a giant killer in that even the small business can compete and even thrive against the large publishing houses and media companies. One can set up websites to sell material directly to the public, delivering in different formats such as e-book, printed, video, audio or any combination.

Self publishing is another route which allows the small business owner to publish his own material at his own pace without being forced to publish large print runs of books, and incurring huge risks if they are not sold. Self publishing allows the small business owner to publish on demand. When an order is received to purchase the book, he places an order for that one book at the self publishing company, who then prints and ships the book directly to the customer. What a deal! Self publishing companies can be found all over the place. I would bet that can find one that is relatively close to where you live.

That brings me to another big advantage of information products. You can run your information products small business directly from your home. What makes this type of business that little bit special is that you can set up your small business for very little cost. You need a computer, an internet connection and a quiet place to be able to write. You will need some software, but to start none of it is very expensive. Much of what you need is free software, easily obtainable off the internet.

This is an ideal small business opportunity for anyone who can put pen to paper. Also this is the kind of small business that you can start slowly and part time or you can jump right in and do it full time.