Google Featured Snippets

Google Featured Snippet

What Are Featured Snippets?

Google Featured Snippets - we noticed ours for the first time today and obviously, we're delighted. The image above shows our snippet, the result of a Google search for 'Business websites Sydney', which is what we've optimized our website for. But what is a Google Featured Snippet and how did we get it?

"Featured snippets are selected search results that are featured on top of Google's organic results below the ads in a box.
Featured snippets aim at answering the user's question right away (hence their other well-known name, "answer boxes"). Being featured means getting additional brand exposure in search results." - quoted from MOZ

Do Featured Snippets Help Business?

Yes. Featured pages have a far higher click-through rate than unfeatured pages. According to research by Search Engine Land, featured snippets get 8% of all clicks for the search term in question - and that can be a lot of business.

How do I get  Featured Snippets for my Business Website?

  1. Have some results in Google's top 10 i.e. page one.  This seems to be the first filter.
  2. Make sure you website is free of penalties, has unique, high quality content and is properly structured for SEO internally. This means consistent and correct use of meta data - meta descriptions, titles, headings, and alt text, titles and captions on images. Be Meticulous!
  3. If appropriate, use question and answer formats on your target pages. 

The whole purpose of Google Featured Snippets is to provide searchers with fast, simplified and clear answers to queries - so make sure your target page is fast, to the point, properly structured and ranking somewhere on page 1.

How Does Google Read The Data for the Featured Snippet?

I must admit that this surprised us a bit! The data you see in our Google Featured Snippet is from two three separate sources on the landing page of our website:

  1. The page meta description (snippet)
  2. The new slider we'd placed on the page just a  few days ago (our slides of business websites we have completed)
  3. A Bordered block of text and images below the slider (the photo of me)

This is one of those cases that a slider really benefited us in more ways than one!

Wishing you well in the online wars for business!

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What Does a Small Business Need Most – Business Development or Just Plain Selling?

business development

What Does a Small Business Need Most – Business Development or Just Plain Selling?

During my years in the corporate world, I witnessed significant misuse of the term ‘business development’ and of the people who carried the title associated with this activity – business development manager.  I really thought I knew my way around such corporate-speak terms and to an extent, I suppose I did, but when I entered the world of small business on my own, my understanding changed quite radically.

The lessons I have leaned these past few years have had a profound effect of my understanding of business and business processes. In this post I’m going to focus on Business Development vs Sales.

Starting a Business and Needing Leads

Unless you are positioned to receive leads from your previous employer’s, then no matter how needed and how good your offering is, no matter how well you have differentiated your products and services, the most critical task you face is acquiring  customers. Once you have an established customer base, opportunities multiply, but until then, you NEED SALES ABOVE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT.

Many of you may disagree with me, but I speak now as the owner operator of a small business, where gaining a sale this month means paying the rent this month! All start-ups and young business go through this phase unless they are prepared to experiment and use up the founders’ savings (which we know all about!).

Sales is not synonymous with Business Development

When we started our business, we did appreciate this, but we made mistakes anyway. Our plan was to pay for leads and win work to cover current costs while we were busy with business development by spreading the good news about our products and services online. And here’s the problem:

Paying for leads in some businesses is the fast road to hell!

Here’s why:

1. Paying for leads to survive becomes a major preoccupation because you write a quotation for every lead which takes a lot of time. So, business development comes to a grinding halt.

2. On websites where you pay for leads, many, if not most the leads come from people with little intent of buying (from anyone) – they are tyre-kickers.

3. On websites where you pay for leads, almost all of the customers are looking for the lowest prices and so even when you spend a great deal of time analyzing their business needs and presenting a professional quotation, they go straight to the bottom line and your effort is wasted. There are strategies for dealing with this, such as including options that only add to the visible cost when ticked, but for generally low value clients, this is simply a waste of time.

We did acquire one very valuable long-term industrial customer over 12 months during which we paid for approximately 100 leads. We also acquired a few more companies and charities who we love working with and who have provided some referrals. But as an overall exercise, the whole period can be written off as a 95% waste. Which brings me to my next point:

It all Depends on what type of Business You Are

At Sydney Business Web, our products and services are for the long term and require close cooperation with our customer. For instance, when we provide SEO services (just one of our offerings) we do an analysis of the competition that our customer’s business faces, how strong or weak its on-site SEO is and where the company needs to grow.

This is complex, but we are well equipped to deal with it both by experience and academic qualification. We don’t sell these solutions to companies that require a $250 miracle’ – and that pretty well describes many of the customers we’ve encountered on paid leads site.  But that doesn’t mean that paid leads are useless for every business or that evrything should stop whie you pursue your business development program.

Companies That Can and Should Use Paid Leads

There are many businesses that are needed by customers in a hurry. For example:

  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Glaziers
  • Locksmiths
  • Gas fitters

These businesses have common factors:

  • To be found on the web at all, they need to rank very high for their category, or they need continuous expensive advertising online.
  • Once they are found, they must be extremely fast and easy to contact
  • The work is short term and often there is no repeat business unless the business manages itself online extremely well and stays in touch with customers throughout the year,
  • To some extent, urgency can overcome price sensitivity
  • The intent to purchase for most searches on the web is very high – often, people don’t search for a domestic electrician unless they need one now.
  • The work is generally B2C rather than B2B.

This is quite different for an architect or a web designer, as should be apparent because these companies simply cannot rely on price-driven short term leads - their business development program and networking should not be delayed for short-term gain. 

What Paid Leads Offer – and what they really do

The company we contracted with presented us with leads that we were promised only went out to five companies.  In practice, we were told by several persons that as soon as they pressed the ‘Go button’, their phone rang and rang and rang! We leave you to draw your own conclusions!

The next problem was that every single lead that popped up on or phone for work in Sydney was simply gone before we could press the response on our phone. This caused endless frustration. When we complained about this, we were offered ‘auto-submit’ on some quotes but then found that the quotes submitted for us were generally for jobs that no one else wanted.

Shortly after that, we abandoned ship and terminated the service – almost a year after we should have done. Mea culpa! Now we are undertaking a focused business wevelopment programn in the manner we should have from the beginning – building relationships and providing value continuously to our customers and contacts. This was an expensive lesson for us. As an aside, here are some notes on the services we have used We won’t name them, but if anyone needs to know confidentially, we will assist – just call or email us.

Paid Listing Services – what they offer and what they really do

When a company is not ranking on Google and needs orders fast, a listing site can fill the gap for a while. Thus, when someone types in ‘builder Caringbah’ it’s possible for your company to rank on a listing site that is highly ranked.

The trouble is that most listing sites, even the best-known ones are just not trusted, and people skip over them. These sites tend to be general purpose listing sites that accommodate everything from architects to zoologists. We’ve broken that pattern with this and set up a new geo-referenced site for the building and  trades industry only.

We did this because we found that despite a professionally designed placement and high ranking on Google, we did not gain even one inquiry in six months from our listing.

Part of the problem for local business is that when somebody searches for a ‘plumber near me’ – they want a result now – not the privilege of reading a list of local providers (to an extent).

Other Solutions to the Ranking Problem

We have analyzed a good deal of data and found that local businesses with related activities are missing out greatly through lack of interconnection. For instance, if a customer needs a plumber, finds a plumber’s website and also needs a local electrician, why can these two businesses not cooperate and make each other visible on each other’s sites? Why can local builders not have a contact forum where they can speak with local architects where they can exchange project information? The answer is – they can – and we have made that possible.

Conclusions on Business Development vs Paid Leads

1. If your business needs business development because your products and services are designed for long-term relationships then paid leads will mainly waste your time.

2. If your business is for urgently needed services, and you are not ranked on Google, then test a paid lead service for a month. If the return is not worthwhile, dump it. Even if the cash ROI is positive, ask yourself how much time you are spending on quotes for ‘tyre kickers.’

3. In our experience, paid listings on general purpose listing sites do not work, at least for businesses such as ours. Others may differ and I am extremely interested to hear your experiences and opinions.

4. Ranking high on search engines, and particularly on google must be a business priority – control your own fate.

5. Don’t sacrifice business development for lead-chasing. Business development will bring you a sale pipeline that is at least partly self-filling, whereas paid leads will eat your time and slow down the growth of your business.

Warning:  This article describes our experience and opinions honestly and openly. Nevertheless, other equally honest and experienced people will doubtless disagree with us in some ways.  So don't take this article as advice - Please consult a range of opinions before acting on any of our statements and do the best job you can of deciding which solutions are best for your business. If you would like to ask us questions, please start the discussion on Linkedin or Facebook. We welcome all your inputs.

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Professional Listing Website for the Building Industry

Building industry lists

Buildingleads.sydney - A Listing Site for the Australian Building Industry and Trades

What is  the Purpose of a Business Listing Website?

Most small business owners have seen business listing websites, but even those who have used them and listed their businesses have often done so 'just in case' - they don't understand the very real benefits. Many businesses have simply not listed at all.

The Benefits of Listing your Small Business on a Business Listing Website

There are three ways to be found on a search engine:

  1. Organic search results - requires SEO and high ranking
  2. Advertising (continuous)
  3. Business Listings

Ads and search terms can be targeted geographically and with generic keywords,  such as "plumber near me", or "electrician Caringbah" or "Business Websites Sydney" and so on. But even your ad position will depend on your advertising spend (some appear on the bottom of the page) and for top search ranking you need either seriously good SEO or very narrow search terms such as "ladies' hairdresser specializing in hairpieces in Sydney".

Business listings are different because the carry the weight of having links to high-value, highly authporitative sites. Although this doesn't provide 'link juice', it tells the search engines that 'this site is connected to sites we rank and trust'.  Also, over time, listing sites tend to earn valuable backlinks which benefits every listing on the site.

Google Likes Reputable Listing Sites

When it comes to selling online, there is nothing, but nothing that helps like good reviews, and reviews left on listing sites can rank very highly indeed. And when people look for reviews - which a lot of consumers do before buying, they go to listing sites. Here we searched for 'Reviews Sydney Business Web". See how the top six results are listing sites. 

reviews search

Does Listing My Site in a Business Listing Website Help My Business' SEO?

Not much. Of course, there is a link back to your business website, but that's only a very small boost if any. However, it does have value as it is part of a much larger number of low value links that you should have to give your site a widespread presence which helps the whole link building process and gradual increase  your website's authority as you undertake serious SEO exercises. 

Cross Pollination on Business Listing Sites

When a person goes looking for a local company such as an electrician, they might also need a plumber - and if you are not listed then that customer will simply not find you. This alone is a compelling reason to be listed. But, as the TV Adverts we all groan at say so clearly, 'but wait, there's more!' Once a customer has found a company on a lsiting site and had a good experience, guess where they will go to look for their next needs - a plumber, or a builder?

Building Leads Sydney - A New Type of Listing Site for the Building Industry and Tradesmen

Building Leads Sydney  is a listing site for all Australian builders and trades companies.  In all, we have created categories for the following:

  • Architects
  • Builders
  • Building Supplies
  • Carpenters
  • Cleaning Companies
  • Demolition
  • Electricians
  • Flooring
  • Insurance
  • Interior Designers
  • Landscapers
  • Plumbers
  • Real Estate
  • Roofing
  • Surveyors
  • Tree Felling

If we missed the sector you're in, please tell us and we'll add it immediately. The site is free to join.

The Unique New Features of Building Leads Sydney

Building Leads Sydney is much more that a listing site, impressive though that is. The following features are also available and free to use for the building industry in Australia:

  • Industry chat and disussion boards - public or private
  • Project notification boards
  • Private messaging facilities
  • Jobs forum

The purpose of these facilities is to create local pools of information so that local players can find out about locally available work and projects as quickly as possible - giving local companies an information edge. This is also free to use.

Our Building Industry Interconnection Project

This project takes local interconnection one step further and allows local companies to directly interconnect with each other so that for instance a customer visiting a plumber can also see a partner electrician.  If you are interested in gaining a local advantage, please read more about it here: BUILDING INDUSTRY INTERCONNECTION PROJECT


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Creating New Opportunities for all Companies in the Building and Trades Industries

Building industry opportunities

Huge Opportunities in The Not – So Connected Building Industry

Companies in the building industry are not exploiting the vast potential of audience sharing and intelligence exchange. This represents a huge opportunity for local companies across Australia in the building, support and renovations arena. Whether you are a builder, electrician, plumber or carpenter, a landscaper, interior designer, insurer or any other part of the building industry, this opportunity is for you.

Building Projects: Become the Next Link in the Chain of Business

One example of what we mean: When a builder finds a new project, that’s just a link in the chain. Within the project, there may be a need for project electricians; when electricians are hired, there may still be a need for plumbers – and have landscapers even been approached yet? Every small and medium company misses out on work through not being interconnected and visible to other industry companies – being the next link in the chain.  By the time they find out about these opportunities - if they ever find out - they have already been taken. Being connected is of the essence today.

This is true of larger projects, but it is also acutely true of micro-projects, where customers land on a supplier’s website and still need other suppliers.  For instance, a customer who finds a plumber’s website might need an electrician – and visa versa. A customer who finds a builder’s website might need an interior decorator. The opportunity for local businesses to help each other is vast.

Interconnections in the Building Industry

Exploiting Online Opportunity in the Building Industry 

A) Building Industry Grapevine Interconnections

What we need to do, as a start, is to connect industry players directly for discussion, and information exchange on an ‘industry dedicated grapevine’ platform.  We have created that platform already. As the platform grows, we will add additional functions and facilities using your feedback.

That platform is Building Leads Sydney and it is free to join and list your company. It offers the following:

  • Unique and exclusive to the Australian building industry – all involved companies and entities
  • Comprehensive company listing
  • Discussion forums private and public
  • Discussions on a topic by topic basis
  • Job and project postings
  • Amplifies your online presence with an attractive, searchable B2C platform
  • Connects you to companies right across the industry
  • Acts as an effective industry grapevine

That's one form of industry interconnection, and we hope you use it and win work through it. But the next method we advocate and provide for will usually give faster results for smaller companies - that's our Banner Exchange Project.

B) The Building Industry and Trades Banner Exchange Project

Our Banner Exchange Program facilitates direct interconnection between ‘partner companies’, bringing you leads from other companies in the building industry that are not in competition with your company.  Sydney Business Web is adding companies to its database for this project.

Building industry trades interconnections

Every building industry company on our database will have access to a range of local companies they can ‘partner’ with directly and gain access to each other’s web traffic through our Website Banner Exchange. We will negotiate with whichever company you want to partner with, and strictly limit the mutual partnerships so that you always benefit from uniqueness. This of course means that every single partnership possibility is unique, valuable, and exclusive.

So when a customer finds an electrcian, they can also find a plumber and a landscaper - without going back to the search engine. This is a very powerfulway for compamies in the building industry to leverage their web presence and win more business. 

This is what we offer your company:

  • Negotiate your banner space on your chosen partner company website
  • Design your banner around your company logo
  • Negotiate your partner company’s banner space on your website
  • Add the banners to each website as agreed with links to each other’s site.

FAQ

1. What if my business doesn’t have a website?

Talk to us – our website division are specialists in designing high conversion websites – Sydney Business Web

2. Can you place banners on all types of website?

We work with almost all website types. We’ll consider every site on its own merits. If you are not sure, contact our website division admin@sydneybusinessweb.com.au and we’ll get right back to you.

What does the Listing on Building Leads cost?

The listing is free.

What will the Building Industry Banner Exchange Program cost?

  • Banner design $75 up-front
  • Negotiation and agreement with partner company: $75 one-off. This fee is paid once only so if your preferred company does not want to exchange banners with you, there will be no further fee for further negotiation with other companies you like.
  • Banner placement on your chosen partner site: $120 one-off. The banner is linked to your website.

What else can you help my company with?

We offer:

  • Targeted, organic traffic generation with SEO
  • Logo design by an award-winning artist
  • Conversion optimized professional websites and eCommerce websites
  • Social media strategies.
  • Website traffic analysis

We're all about winning business oin the building industry and trades. We work on customer flow from acquisition through to conversion – on and off site. Whether you need to connect to your industry and/or to end users/customers, which is what this article is about, or you are connected but people are not acting on your website – we can help professionally, starting with a free assessment.


About the Author

Keith Rowley, the joint owner of Sydney Business Web and Building Leads Sydney,  is a business manager and systems engineer. He holds advanced degrees in business and engineering from Bond Australia and the UCL in the UK respectively. He has 30 years managerial and executive experience and started Sydney Business Web to help local companies succeed online.


Download a hardcopy of this article (pdf)

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Original Art for Your Website and Business Adds Value and Style

Art for Websites and Business Premises

Original Art: Google Search results for "Artist Hettie Rowley"

Are You Serious About Your Company's Identity? Do You Need Original Art?

Whether or not your company and website will benefit from original art is a matter of identity.  if you are a drop-shipper selling cheap knick-knacks, then this will not help you. 

But what if you are a furniture seller, an interior designer, a proud company with a board room visited by senior clients and consultants? That's a different story - original art can make a real difference.

What if you are a family firm, proud of your history and your founders, and the ethos with which you do business? That's also a different story.

What if you are a restaurant that aspires to creating genuine and unique ambiance? That's a another different story.

Get the idea?

If you Want Your Business to Have a Unique Identity, Use Original Art

When you enter a restaurant, or a boardroom or a website or a hotel, or a car showroom or any other business, you look around! What you see around you makes an immediate and indelible impression and with original art, than can be an impression that captures customers.

  • Cheap artwork looks cheap and makes you look cheap
  • Computer artwork looks synthetic - cheap plastic goods
  • Stock images make you look like a used car salesman of the worst type
  • Real artwork stands out and gives your company the imprimatur of integrity and success - especially if it's by a bona- fide award winning artist,

It's Not Just About Original Art and Snobbery - It's About Identity

it's very common these days to hear such things as "yes, I can get something like that from China" or "I want the cheapest". That might be fine for buying a plastic cutlery set, but it really won't do your business any good! 

Art can be a significant contributor to creating a solid company identity. You can use it on your website to great effect, on your printed materiel and brochures, on your videos and social media

Beautiful Original Art in the workplace benefits your staff and business 

"...reduce stress at the office, increase creativity and productivity, enhance employee morale, broaden appreciation of diversity, and encourage open dialogue? Art in the workplace promotes all these fundamental needs -- and even more -- for any successful business." Bizjournals

The Role of Your logo in Corporate Identity

Your business' logo design is also a piece of original art on which you should not skimp. You don't need to spend thousands, but you do need an original art logo that says to the website visitor - 'This is us and we're unique. Your  logo should be congruous with your corporate color scheme and create an indelible impression. Original artwork will complement this, overall creating your brand identity. For that, you need a real artist.

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How to start an online business

how to start an online business

HOW TO START AN ONLINE BUSINESS

A Friend asked me how to start an online business

A friend of mine called me up today with questions on how to start an online business as a living - at the seller end, not the developer end. He wants to sell products that do not compete with those offered by his current employer into the same industry, technical products that he understands and has a source for.

The last thing I wanted to do was to bury him in tech-speak, even though he's a highly competent technical guy in his own right - but not in website development, or SEO or online traffic generation and business models generally.

As I thought of the best guidelines I could provide, I realized just how confused  most people must get when starting out. I've been at this for years, and it would require a volume to document all of the knowledge and hard experience gained in that time, and by the time I did, it would long be out of date - online life moves fast!

So I did my very best to distill that experience on how to start an online business down to a few key points for a man in a well paid job who's nervous as hell about making such a move. Here's what I said - and I'd appreciate feedback from all of my readers on this - please add your experience to the mix - just don't try to sell anything:

Lesson 1: How to Start an Online Business - Don't give up your job Yet!

Don't leave your well paid job right now - just don't - no matter what anyone advises. You need to be up and running with your first revenue stream before you do that - and it's still risky, although the rewards are higher. So chill - your online business can be started part time. It will take longer but it won't take years off your life with the stress you'll suffer from resigning and having all of your 'eggs in one basket'. Use your income to finance your road to freedom!

Lesson 2: How to Start an Online Business - Don't start a price war that you can never win!

Don't let low price be your key selling factor (my friend's products generally sell for under $1000 into a range of industries such as construction. There is a constant demand so price is a factor but so is technical performance and there's no point in fighting a price war with large retailers!). Focus on leveraging your professional expertise (see below)

Lesson 3: If you want to sell physical products, Drop-Shipping is unbeatable

Far and away the best option for selling physical products for you is to drop-ship from your supplier, not from stock. This means getting paid before you order the product. We have for years been selling products in the US sourced from China (and the US when we can) and we are based in Australia. A good drop-shipping store works like clockwork. We have some more information below for beginners. At all costs, avoid paying for stock that might never sell except in a desperate fire-sale as you try to recoup a little cash. 

Lesson 4: Sell products that people trust

I said this to my friend because he is selling into a professional market and the products are not an 'impulse buy'.  you can sell impulse buyers products with which they are not familiar because the products tend to be low cost and they need to trust you and your website rather than the product. As long as you sell them good quality products they will come back and tell their friends.

Professional products are different.  For professional markets you should sell a trusted brand if possible - if you are selling products for use by technically competent people, performance will usually dominate price as a selling factor. If your brand is not that well known, put up a technical comparison chart and leverage the name of a well known product (legally!).

Lesson 5: How to Start an Online Business - Sell Yourself and your expertise

First and foremost sell yourself and your expertise - that is your USP, not the product. If you have a prominent profile as a respected industry professional, then you will have a strong influence over the sale of your product to other professionals - even if the product is not well known. Obviously, this is not a factor for products purchased on impulse.

Lesson 6: Re-read point 5 - it's critical

Lesson 7: Howe to start an Online Business - Use your industry contacts

Leverage your customer industry contacts at the buyer and user levels. Starting off by going for organic traffic is truly tough unless you can leverage powerful long-tailed product descriptions on your eCommerce - business website. After you have set up your sales channel and website, introduce your product(s) to people who know and trust you. DON'T start by selling to them - it's  a HUGE turnoff. If you need to know more about the art of ethical selling try a sales course in ethical selling from ISR - they are simply fantastic. 

Lesson 8: Start with One product - or Just a Few Products

If you need to start with organic traffic very soon, start with one product - just one. Get a competent SEO practitioner and designer to do you a simple, trustworthy site and focus on specific geographical regions with long-tailed keywords.

You can rank fast this way and gain some sales traction. An example might be (and this is not researched keyword, so don't go looking!)- "Reliable survey laser for road building in New South Wales". Such keywords need to be thoroughly investigated to see the search volume and you will need several of them to make the traffic volumes you need; but they will rank!

Lesson 9: Get a fast, simple and attractive website shop

Get a one three or four page website with testimonials for the product, fast loading, one-page checkout, downloadable data sheet, trust symbols (PayPal etc), psychologically good colors for selling (there is solid science behind this), and a picture of yourself on the landing page with click-through to your biography.

The other pages should be used for photos of the product at work and reinforcement that you are a true professional they can depend on. Use a supplier you know that you can trust and who will be up-front about all costs. Here are the questions you must ask a designer. (You can download these questions as a document).

Lesson 10: Have a parallel traffic growth strategy for organic traffic

Grow organic traffic in parallel with adding new products over time.  This requires that you should add expert blog articles with properly researched keywords and authority links, external as well as internal SEO and new products on a regular basis. 

Lesson 11: Alternative strategies to start an Online Business

The alternative ways to build an online business are as follows: 

1. Build a store with many products and advertise for traffic

Ads on Google and Facebook  are expensive so make sure you budget and target accurately. We just tested Linkedin Ads and they were simply outrageous! Count on the expense of needing a few trials to get this right. Your products are not impulse-buys so you need to investigate the customer buying process and see how you can improve it significantly. Your ads should be Geo-targeted at areas with suitable projects that use your product.

2. Sell on Amazon (not recommended).

You don't need a website to do this, as the Amazon closed environment has everything you could need, BUT: You need high margin products to do this, preferably unique products. Apart from the high Amazon commission, you also need to pay for Ads on the Amazon platform and if your product is commonplace, the competition is extreme. And of course, you need to ship your products to the Amazon warehouses. Their online support system for this is excellent, but you need to have your import sorted out (if needed).

3. Build a store with many products and grow traffic organically

Build organic traffic with a monthly investment in SEO (onsite and offsite). If you have reputable products, money to invest and a competent SEO supplier, this can work well. This can be done in parallel with paid traffic/ads  and as your organic traffic grows, your ad-spend can be reduced incrementally. But be prepared to wait months for steady results from organic growth.

Starting an Online Business: Summary and Conclusions

That's the long and short of it, and I did not even enter the area of building a decent business starter website. My friend's business can definitely work, but he needs to start up quietly (and ethically vis-a-vis his current employer), and grow revenue to a steady stream before leaving his job. He needs to go through the ups and downs, the trials, tribulation and yes, the expense of finding his way around the online world. 

Conclusion 1: You must  understand the online business basics

You can't succeed in any business if you don't understand how your shop must look, how to attract the right visitors, what your USP is, what your advertising and logistics costs are and so on. Every aspect of offline trading has its online equivalent and you need to know what they are even if you are not doing all the work yourself.

Conclusion 2: You need a trustworthy online partner 

Maybe most of all you needs a trustworthy online partner to build his site, and constantly advise him in SEO progress against goals, online market segmentation and advertising, and the use of social media. if you are serious about your business, then that's what you need to focus on - not running your website.

Conclusion 3: Online Business is not a 'Get Rich Quick Scheme'

Starting a business online of any sort is not a 'get rich quick scheme'. It requires the application of expertise, sustained effort and focus. It also requires the judicious and effective application of your limited resources. Money can only be spent once; time used can never be recovered. So spend time on your strategy, talk to experts who will help you whether you buy from them or not - honest people. 

Conclusion 4: Don't Suffer from Shiny object Syndrome
shiny object warning

"At its core, shiny object syndrome (SOS) is a disease of distraction, and it affects entrepreneurs specifically because of the qualities that make them unique. ... It's called shiny object syndrome because it's the entrepreneurial equivalent of a small child chasing after shiny objects." 

- Entrepreneur Magazine  - 

One of our key lessons learned in how to start an online business is "stay away from shiny objects".  

Shiny object syndrome will kill your project. It will drive you into the hands of one phony guru after another and leave you with nothing but less money, less time and deep cynicism not just about 'gurus' but even about your project.

You can get into despair in this way, thinking that you'll never make it. But here's the thing - you can make it for sure if you persist, using the solid guidelines given by people who know what they are doing.

People Who Can Help You to Start a Business Online

Almost all of the knowledge you glean from 'good' online courses is available free online. What the 'gurus' do is package it up as 'systems'. For instance, combining Facebook Ads with Drop-shipping. We've spent money on this nonsense ourselves in our greener days!

But if you want to learn all you need to learn about drop-shipping success, try Wholesale Ted's absolutely free videos on YouTube! The lady giving away this magic is a genuinely successful drop-shipper who makes a ton of cash from Print-On-Demand, drop-shipping and more. Here's her YouTube Channel

Finally (of course!) you can call us! We help businesses of all sizes including start-ups.

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Online Strategies for the Building Industry and Contractors in the era of Covid-19

Online Strategies for the Building Industry

Online Strategies for the Building Industry

Who is this article intended for?

This article is for the Building Industry including (but not restricted to):

  • Building and construction companies
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Architects
  • Landscapers
  • Interior designers
  • Building insurers
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Demolitions Companies
  • Building Materials Suppliers
  • Carpenters
  • Painters and Decorators
  • Every one of these companies  needs online strategies for the building industry. But where to begin? We'll start by having a look at some of the problems the industry faces.

    Overview of the Australian Building Industry in 2020 amid the Covid Outbreak

    In 2019, almost 1.2 million people were employed in the construction and building industry – which is a massive contribution of almost ten percent of jobs in our country.  Prior to the Covid problem, a further 120,000 jobs were anticipated by May 2023. This means we were predicting a 10% rise in employment in construction.

    The majority of workers in this industry cannot work from home (stating the obvious!), but the suspension of work will lead to a significant backlog and many projects will all start up at once, hungry for skilled workers and materials.  Prices will doubtless rise in response to the shortages which could render many projects uneconomic unless they are renegotiated.

    When the Covid-19 crisis passes us by as it surely will, these problems will return with a vengeance. Will your company be prepared? Will you have used this time to prepare yourself for the modified behaviors that your suppliers, customers and staff will display?

    The economic contribution of the Australian building industry

    Construction annually generates over A$360 billion dollars in revenue and generates almost ten percent of Australia’s GDP. It is the third biggest economic contributor to Australia, surpassed only by medical care and retail.

    Problems the industry experienced before the Covid outbreak

    Before the Covid outbreak and the decision to stop Australia(!), the construction industry already faced significant problems, some of which arose from the industry’s growth trajectory – the ‘nice to have’ problems for any company! These problems included:

    • Skilled labour shortages
    • An aging workforce- as long ago as 2018 Australia, eight out of nine skills in the industry were in short supply.
    • Cash flow
    • Small profit margins
    • On site theft and vandalism
    • Communication
    • Insurance costs
    • Unreliable subcontractors
    • Early exposure to new technologies – and adoption of those technologies
    • Lack of unique brand and capability awareness.

    These numbers and lists come from industry sources, and they he one HUGE GAP.

    The Problem of Information Flow

    As the current pandemic has shown, things change fast. But not only with Black Swan events like this, but day to day demand for skilled people, materials and can suddenly undergo significant change.

    One trusted and dynamic way to gain a continuous competitive advantage in speed of response to change is to know what’s going on – by plugging in to the builders’ grapevine. The industry needs an online space dedicated to the building industry; a place where builders, electricians and all the other players in the industry can place their business profiles and talk to each other – privately or publicly.

    Using such a platform, networks can be built that will develop professional relationships, collaboration and fast response.

    And that’s why we built buildingleads.sydney

    Addressing problems in your company with online strategies for the building industry

    The communications channel we are talking about to address these issues is informal rather than formal, offering industry participants a place to spread their latest news about projects, to tell people your company is available to bid and to build a network of industry wide friends, collaborators and partners.

    A place to talk and to be found

    Achieving this means having a place to do two things:

    • List you company
    • Talk publicly
    • Talk privately

    It also means being placed where the public can find you, even though that’s a secondary benefit.

    Building Leads Sydney  – What we provide - free

    Online Strategies for the Building Industry

    A LISTING ON SYDNEY BUSINESS WEB 

    Let me say first that Building leads Sydney is currently free and for those who sign up in 2020 it will remain free. After that, we will probably start charging a listing fee.   This is what you get simply by signing up:

    • A Superb, professional business listing into which you can post your company images, address, reviews and more.
    • Your own chat forum where you can network with other members of your industry privately or publicly
    • A public forum where you can start and participate in the key issues facing your industry

    To start with, we have provided the following forums:

    • CARPENTRY PROJECTS
    • ELECTRICAL PROJECTS
    • PLUMBING PROJECTS
    • LANDSCAPING PROJECTS
    • INTERIOR DESIGN PROJECTS
    • DEMOLITION PROJECTS
    • BUILDING PROJECTS

    But that's just a beginning and you can add your own projects and threads.

    Why we are involve din online strategies for the building industry?

    We are doing this simply because we want to become the number 1 supplier of web technology to the building industry in Australia - simple as that.  To get something - you have to give something and this is our gift to you as a way of introducing pour company. 

    Of course - you never have to do business with us and you are perfectly welcome to list your business and participate in our forums forever - at no charge,

    Online Strategies for the Building Industry: End Statement

    We hope you get real value from Buildingleads.sydney and that it helps to grow your networks and your revenue. And if you ever need help with you company's online presence - websites, SEO, Social Media and apps - we're here for you.

    Note: This is the second article we've written on the building industry. If you are interested i our article on connecting builders to architects, you can it out  here

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    eCommerce Solution – Developing a Online Shop for Weigh-More of Smeaton Grange Sydney NSW

    eCommerce Solution - Online Shop Development - for Sydney Company Weigh-More

    ecommerce solution website 4

    eCommerce Solution - A SINGLE PRODUCT PAGE from WEIGH-MORE

    eCommerce Solution - eCommerce Website Development - a Live Case Study at Sydney Business Web

    This article is a case study on development of an eCommerce Solution - Online Shop for an established and successful company, Weigh-More Solutions. The article  illustrates some of the engineering methods I have learned over the course of my engineering and and business careers. This is how we develop eCommerce Solutions  at Sydney Business Web.

    The Essence of an eCommerce Solution - Developing an Online Shop for a Technology Products Supplier

    We were very excited when we won the business to build a new eCommerce solution / website for Sydney company Weigh-More which is a highly respected seller and developer of weighing products. Having spent much of my life as a design engineer, it was great being back in touch with electronic technology and processes - Weigh-More are true professionals.

    Benefits of Doing the Systems Work Up Front

    Negotiating a business website development contract requires mature judgement because the market has been muddied by low price operators with cookie-cutter designs and very little business or technology experience. This always results in missing functions  and / or cost escalation for the unfortunate buyer.

    Thus, a truly professional approach to an eCommerce Solution requires a systems approach - because an eCommerce website is a system for generating revenue when all is said and done. We break this down into steps as shown below.

    The Top-Down Design Process for an eCommerce Website

    Defining products is part of a Systems Engineering process.  This is what we did for the Weigh-More Systems account:

    1. Consult with Weigh-More management about what the business needs online - what is the vision for the website and what functions must it fulfill?
    2. Write a User Requirements Specification for the eCommerce Solution based on the discussion.
    3. Turn that user User Requirement into a Technical Specification. This is where we decide which website technologies to use, how to best host the website, determine security, payment gateways, membership systems etc.
    4. Write an (developer)  test document for the eCommerce website
    5. Develop the eCommerce website 
    6. Test the eCommerce website and fix any problems
    7. Hand the eCommerce website over to the customer and on acceptance, start the 90 day warranty against defect.
    eCommerce Website Solution Development Flow

    eCommerce Website Solution Development Flow

    Everything Starts with the Customer Requirement and the Business Requirement

    The Business Requirement for the Weigh-More eCommerce Website 

    The business requirement we define as "designing around who the business needs to reach and address" and it has a significant impact on the design of our websites.

    We work on the business requirement up-front as an element of customer requirement - it is an integral part of the Customer Requirement, but needs to be stated clearly as a component because its impact can be heavy  due to the different requirements of SEO structure  for reaching various audiences. 

    For instance, a purely local business needs to appear in search engines in a way specifically designed to take advantage of Google's process in local mobile and desktop searches. An eCommerce solution trying to reach a national or international audience requires a different design and different content. 

    Weigh-More needs both of these options and the managers responsible knew exactly what was needed.

    The B2C Weigh-More eCommerce Website Requirement

    Weigh-More needs to reach  householders and individual buyers  in the retail, medical, veterinary practice, restaurant businesses and many more,. This is a national and local requirement and requires Weigh-More to appear in specified regions of Australia as a local company. 

    The B2B Weigh-More eCommerce Website Requirement

    Weigh-More needs to reach the B2B transport sector where advanced weighbridges and weighbridge software and technology are in demand to support trade and transport infrastructure. This is also a national and local requirement and requires Weigh-More to appear as experts in their subject matter on the search engine - which s quite different to the local SEO needs of a small business. 

    Two SEO Strategies are Needed Running Side by Side

    To achieve the required reach and appearance in the search engines, we recognize that these are separate audiences and sub-audiences, each requiring its own website-SEO and off-site SEO Strategy

    Up until this time, weigh-More had invested in some content, which we recovered to maintain its SEO value  and to preserve stability in the search engines' assessment of the company's website. We added decent images and installed a on-site SEO optimizer so that we can optimize all the meta data when we have completed SEO analysis. 

    The blog page matrix  below is part of the effort needed for Weigh-More's national reach as experts in the domain of weight - measurement.

    For National reach: The Weigh-More 'Experts Blog'

    eCommerce Website Blog Page

    eCOMMERCE WEBSITE  - THE WEIGH MORE BLOGS FOR SEO

    National reach is achieved in two ways:

    1) Establishment of web pages for each specific region. This is what we have done for own website.

    2) Establishment of a 'center of expertise' area on the website with blog posts rich in keywords for the business' area of expertise. Over time, such articles can bring buyers to your business website globally regardless of your location.

    As an example, several years ago, we were promoting the sale of Essential oils in the United States. We published a post called 'Essential Oils for Autoimmune disease' and pushed it to the top of Google. It brought in many sales that we could not have made without a large ad-spend. Even today, that article appears on page 1 of Google in the US - 4 years and more later!

    For Local Reach: General eCommerce Website Structure

    We have written about this in some detail here but here are the key points for this article:

    1. When a local customer searches for something you sell, your website (if it appears at the top of the search), must allow instant click-through for telephone, email and location. This is critical for local companies such as electricians and restaurants, but less so for  a company like Weigh-More whose buyers are far less likely to make instant decisions.
    2. A local business website should have a Google Map for easy navigation to its premises (if you are a 'bricks' operation)
    3. Every local business in the B2C space should have prominent testimonials on its landing page and/or product reviews. In the B2B marketplace, a technical specification is more important. Thus, almost all the Weigh-More products have downloadable specification sheets. 
    4. Many local business websites such as restaurants should preferably have a voice-search facility. Saying 'hamburgers' into a website search on a  phone and going straight to the product page is a huge advantage that not many businesses yet take advantage of.  We have illustrated the very effective text search we installed 

    Local searches are made primarily on mobile devices, and customers often need something in a  hurry, be it a plumber, an electrician or a sandwich. You get one chance to impress in about one second - and then it's over one way or the other. Whilst we have kept Weigh-More's phone contact at the top of the page on mobile, we are less concerned than we would be for a small vendor such as a plumber or doctor.

    Key points from the Weigh-More eCommerce website user Requirement

    We sat with Weigh-More management and discussed the possibilities for their new eCommerce website. In this case, our customer was very well informed and knew exactly what they wanted,

    1. 1
       Smooth user experience flow from product selection to payment
    2. 2
      Optimized loading speed on mobile and desktop
    3. 3
      Easy to select and pay for products and add-ons and  accessories
    4. 4
      Easy upload of new products
    5. 5
      SEO optimized blogs using existing content
    6. 6
      Preservation of existing SEO value for national reach
    7. 7
      Credit card and PayPal payment facilities
    8. 8
      A Dealers membership facility with a range or products and prices for dealers only.
    9. 9
      Personal  customer accounts online
    10. 10
      Email notifications to the business and to customers for each purchase
    11. 11
      Product shipping calculator and interface to freight companies 
    12. 12
      Option for site visitors to download product specification documents for any product
    13. 13
      Products divided into categories
    14. 14
      Website color scheme to be concordant with the Weigh-More logo and corporate identity
    15. 15
      Website hosting in Australia and 24x7 hosting support
    16. 16
      Support contract availability
    17. 17
      Social media interface (Facebook)
    18. 18
      Clickable phone and email links
    19. 19
      Mobile adapted and the facility to switch off some elements on mobile for speed and appearance.
    20. 20
      Daily backup
    21. 21
      Secure website with security features and scanning / anti malware protection
    22. 22
      Customer review features for products
    23. 23
      Contact forms at specified places

    Notice that the above requirements state 'WHAT' the customer wants - not 'how' It is the job of the systems engineer or systems designer to turn that 'what' into the 'how' by writing a eCommerce Solution Functional Requirement.

    Deriving the eCommerce Solution Functional Specification from the Customer Requirement

    The eCommerce Solution Functional Specification is the next step after writing the Customer Requirement Specification.  The Customer Requirement specifies 'what we want it to do, how we want it to look, whereas the functional requirement formalizes this into 'we will accept payments with (technology), we will install a membership system for the dealer functions, we will have a one-click payment system,  and so on.

    It's usually the case that customers looking for a business website,  do know what they want, but sometimes they do not to know what's possible within their budget and sometimes,t they do not know how to ask for it. This is actually  totally unnecessary situation. A good eCommerce website developer should always be able to converse in straightforward non-technical language and turn that discussion into a eCommerce website requirements document that both customer and developer are comfortable with as the basis of a development contract.

    In military development where I worked for many years , all specifications were very complex and expensive to develop. We never use the full process in commercial products because it would cause a huge price escalation. But a user requirements specification, no matter how simplified is absolutely  essential to the development of an eCommerce Website as a technical specification to translate what the user wants into a technical specification.

    Writing the Technical Specification for an eCommerce Website

     In this specification we have to decide, on the basis of the customer requirement, how   the website will be implemented. In this article, we cannot discuss the implementation for WEIGH-MORE because that is confidential, but we can describe the process. 

    Step 1: Define Maximim Loading Speed

    Decide on maximum loading speed for every website page. This will determine many aspects of site implementation such a whether videos can be included, hosting quality, number of images, which CMS etc. (We don't ever recommend writing in basic HTML, JS, CSS as development time would be too long and the expense of design and support would be prohibitive).

    We build most websites with WordPress, but if we could see that we could not meet a customer's needs with this CMS then we would either use another technology or refer the customer to a  suitable supplier. 

    Please see our extensive note below on website speed as approached for Weigh-More Solutions.

    Define Every Contributing Technology and Plugin

    This is quite a task. For instance, what is the best technology /software / plugin to provide shipping calculation, dealer-only prices, product upload, payment gateway and so on. These solutions have to be matched for compatibility with all the other technologies on the site. We go through every user function and allocate it to a software module or plugin.

    Define the Maintainability of the Website

    eCommerce websites require regular updating with products, prices and content. This always means that a Content Management System must be used - updating and adding code is really not an option because it requires technical skills, it's slow and it's expensive. 

    When Weigh-More specified that the site must be easily maintainable, this was a determining factor in the selection of a Content Management Sydtem for their new eCommerce website.

    Define the Visitor Search and Buy Flow of the Website (Ui and Ux)

    When a visitor finds Weigh-More. we need to make the journey from finding the right product through to purchase pleasurable, quick and interesting. 

    We achieved this by:

    1. Using the product and category topology given to us by Weigh-More
    2. Using a search facility. We did not deem a voice-search to be an advantage on this website but it was considered.  Instead we used a superbly clear and easy to use text search:
    Search facility on Weigh-More
    search screenshot on eCommerce Website

    Search screenshot on Weigh-More eCommerce Website with visitor query


    Search Result on Weigh-More
    search result on eCommerce Website Weigh-More

    search result on eCommerce Website Weigh-More

    3. We allocate the 'Buy' Buttons for the fastest possible customer journey.

    4. We place 'confidence' symbols strategically  to reassure the buyer (see below)

    5. We design-in good website speed (see guidelines below)

    Define Website Security According to Best Practice and Customer Requirements

    An eCommerce website must have security or it simply will not be permitted to operate interfaces to payment channels - that's why our websites have an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. But we needed more than that for Weigh-More, so in addition, included additional protection against hacking, brute force attacks and malicious log-ins. In addition, we added daily malware scans at the host as well as daily backups. 

    An eCommerce solution, professionally implemented, creates a revenue stream for business and any down-time is simply unacceptable because it costs money. 

    Note on Confidentiality

    As a matter of course, in the interests of our clients in a competitive environment, we have started using measure to hide the technical data underlying the design from 'snoop tools'.   In addition to confidentiality, this also provides some protection against hackers. Nothing is ever foolproof in software, but every designer should take protective measures. For Weigh-More,  we adopted security measures on the server as well as on the website.

    Define Pages and Content and Products  for Your Online Business Website and build!

    Once all of the technology issues were defined and settled, we began to build the new website, using the old website in place until we were finished.

    Test and Handover the Website to the Customer

    A Website is like any other piece of software and must be tested thoroughly before it is released. Bugs and minor irritations are inevitable, but a solid test regime will sort most of them out. A test document is important - it is based on the user requirement and so not too onerous to write but still very important. And finally - turn the key and handover to your customer and start the warranty clock.

    If he/she wants to do his/her own maintenance and updates then a training session will be needed. It's far preferable for all concerned though for them to have a support contract in place. this allows the customer to focus on his/her business and the developer to have a reasonable revenue stream for long-term support - everyone's happy.

    Notes: Critical Website Performance Parameters

    Note 1: Page Loading Speed

    We won't write a screed on this (you can find more details here) - everyone knows that website speed is very important, indeed critical. There are several factors contributing to acceptable website speed. the key ones are:

    • Images - how big they are, how many there are and how well optimized they are
    • The total size of page content
    • The speed and capacity of the hosting server 
    • The use of compression on the eCommerce website
    • The use of a cache on the eCommerce  website
    • The use of a Content Data network (sometimes)
    • Minimizing the appearance of unused code on a page 
    • Minimizing the number of calls a browser must make to your website server.
    • Compression and combination of code blocks on the eCommerce website

    Website Loading Speed is Nor Always What it Seems

    A good deal of caution is needed when discussing website speed. Why? Because owners of small and medium businesses must operate on the basis of 'what's good enough?' For large scale operators, a tenth of a second may be a lot because there are thousands of people making purchasing decisions at any given moment. For a smaller company, spending $20,000 on saving half a second will probably not reap a worthwhile return.

    Our experience shows us that as long as a website page is viewable inside 2s - 4s, that's good enough for the vast majority of visitors. There may still be scripts to load and external resources to fetch, but usually, this will not matter to the visitor because as far as he/she is concerned, the page has loaded already.

    Finally - even the big websites often do not load so fast! See the real-world measurements below.

    Website Speed Measurements

    Below, you can see two page speed measurements for a single product. the first is a scale on Weigh-More's website and the second is a scale on Amazon.com. 

    *Technical note: The Weigh More measurement was made using a Sydney server and the Amazon measurement was made using a US server, so that the measurement is fair. Both measurements were made twice.

    Weigh-More product Page loading vs Amazon

    Weigh-More Product Loads in 3.1s
    single page product speed ecommerce website

    eCommerce website

    Amazon product loads in 13.3s
    amazon eCommerce page speed measurement

    eCommerce website

    As far as the visitor is concerned, both websites look a lot faster than the numbers show, because these measurements give final load times that are based on complete loading and 'ready for action'.

    In fact, if we strip away the geek-speak, what we want is an eCommerce Solution  page that visibly loads within 2s and is ready for action within around 6s - because that's really around the shortest time for most people to want to press a 'buy' button. There are technical terms for the various phases of page-loading - but who cares? Open your browser and check it out.

    As a general rule, we make our product pages fully visible inside 2s and fully loaded, ready to rock inside 6s.  Amazon don't seem to suffer from being a lot slower!

    eBay Speed Performance

    eBay is a fascinating study in speed eCommerce Solution performance that supports our viewpoint. The site loads visually very, very quickly, but scripts are still being loaded once the page looks visually great - but the speed performance measurement is superficially very poor.  

    eBay ecommerce website speed

    eCommerce Website Speed - eBay page - Loads visually fast but measurement says poor

    Note 2: eCommerce Solutions - Gaining Trust on the Weigh-More Website

    Weigh-More is a highly reputable company with an exemplary record of fair and ethical dealing. Like every business though, it has to gain confidence online  before people will type in their credit card details. The best way to do this is to use trusted payment methods and to make the customer very aware of the security employed on the website.

    We did this by:

    • Installing a Secure Socket Layer Certificate on the site.
    • Installing PayPal which is universally trusted
    • Installing images of the credit cards accepted

    The website NEVER HOLDS CREDIT CARD DETAILS.  and NEVER has access to them. All of the financial data entered by a customer is encrypted and transmitted to the financial institutions concerned. 

    Communicating with Customers / Buyers

    Customers who have paid for a product on an eCommerce Website require immediate notification of their purchase and the vendor also requires notification automatically. We installed an eCommerce Solution that achieves this.  There is potential for further augmentation of this facility as may be required.

    Note 3: Confidential Dealer pricing in an eCommerce Solution Business Website

    Many B2B businesses who also serve the B2C markets need to keep their product dealer prices confidential. We achieved this for Weigh-More with a eCommerce Website membership system that allows them to vet all applications for membership and then grant login rights.

     The membership area for dealers records their purchases and account details. Having a membership list also allows Weigh-More to keep their dealers and customers aware of the latest developments and products in the highly technological area of weight measurement. 

    Note 4: Downloading Product Data Sheets on an eCommerce Website

    For technical products, this is a must-have feature. Most of the Weigh-More products have once-click downloadable PDF sheets to help customers. This could also be made subject to a membership login should that be required.

    Thank you for visiting us - we hope you found our article useful.

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    Sixteen Questions to Ask A Website Designer – Before You Buy

    16 Questions to ask a website developer

    Most people don’t know what questions to ask a website designer before they commit to an expensive purchase. This article will definitely help you.

    Here at Sydney Business Web, even though we have our own technology supplier, we get inundated with offers for website building, SEO and so much more.

    We like to keep our eyes open for new developments and trends, so occasionally we ask to see samples of work - and that's where the fun begins. We can see clearly why so many small businesses and individuals end up with unusable websites.

    Slow Websites Kill Business

    Recently, we were contacted by a company who claimed great things in the field of website building and who sent us examples. They shall remain nameless! We quickly ran one of their websites through GTMetrix to get a speed measurement for desktop. The result over two tests was 10s to load - which is dreadful.

    Most people will simply move on after waiting more than 4s. So then we thought, maybe that was a bad example, and we tested another of their sites. This time it took 20s to load on desktop with a broadband network.

    Questions to ask a website designer - how fast will my website be?

    Questions to Ask Your Website Designer - How Fast Will it Be? - This one is awful!

    Bad website designers blame the customer

    We told this company about our results, and this is what they said: 

    "...just so you know, there are many factors affecting web speed like server, scripts, site features. We always try to optimize the speed, but clients who don't have enough knowledge about web speed will upload images/videos that are not optimized before on the site. So, it can make the site slower ... and some of our clients even didn't require us to optimize the speed so that they can save some money..." - COMPANY REP

    So there you have it. They build websites that do not perform and blame the customer. If you think the point about customer uploads is valid, it's not. A properly built website will optimize images when they are uploaded. Videos are almost never hosted on a website - they are hosted somewhere like YouTube and played on the site through a special technique.  And as for paying more money to speed up your website - that's a truly appalling statement. 

    So when you choose a website supplier, make sure you know what you are getting. Make sure you know which questions to ask a website developer before you buy.

    Questions to ask a website designer

    Question 1:  How fast will the website load on desktop with a broadband network?

    Although around half of website queries are now on mobile, the desktop is still hugely important. The speed measurement is much less demanding than it is on a mobile, so if it’s slow on a desktop, it’s going to be unusable on a mobile. We specify a broadband network to be fair – website speed is after all limited by network speed and broadband is widely available.

    How fast should a website load on a desktop computer?  To be fair, we don’t specify the completely loaded figure but the time it takes for a visitor to get a full picture of the page.

    Desktop Computer Website Speed:  We usually aim for the ‘OnLoad’ time – which means that the processing of the page is complete and all the resources on the page (images, CSS, etc.) have finished downloading.  Our experience shows that around 3s is acceptable for this performance figure. You can make your own measurements at GTMetrix here

    Note  On Website Speed Measurement:  The measurements will vary a little and you should make three measurements to have confidence.

    Question 2:  How fast will the website load on a mobile?

    Our experience shows around 2.5s to be acceptable to reach the ‘First meaningful paint’ – the primary page content is visible, hooking the visitor but not fully loaded ‘behind the scenes’. You can make mobile measurements on Google’s PageSpeed tool here.

    questions to ask a web developer
    Question 3: Will images be optimized on the site?

    We recently encountered a website brought to us by a customer who had gone the ‘cheap route’ before he came to us. The landing page was 15Mbyte and took 60s to load (minimum). The long load time was due to a combination of factors, but the image size was a significant factor. We optimized the images and reduced the page size from 15Mbyte to 1.8Mbyte!!!

    Unfortunately, the website was still not salvageable despite our best efforts and we had to refer the person concerned to another designer because we were overloaded at the time.

    Question 4:  Will the website be SEO optimized? if so, around which keywords and do you show Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) where they will show up on mobile at the top of the display?

    Before your website can be found on the web, it requires at least on-site SEO.  For instance, if you are a website designer in Port Hacking Sydney, your website must make that very clear in a way that is seen prominently on mobile and desktop. Some businesses such as electricians and other service providers need their NAP to appear right at the top of their landing page with clickable phone links.

    In addition., if you are an expert, your website needs to identify you as such and any articles and posts you have must be optimized around keywords that will bring in business. Your website designer should be a part of this effort right at the start!

    Question 5:  Are phone numbers and email links clickable?

    Your visitors can become very irritated when they make a decision – ‘yes! – I’ll contact them!’ - only to find that there are no links on the phone numbers and emails. This can lose business for you.

    Questions to ask website designers - phone links
    Clickable phone number

    Question 6:  Are you installing cache software? (for speed)

    Asking this question will show the designer that you have done your research and know what’s – what! A cache is essential to optimizing website speed and should always be a standard installation at no extra charge.

    Question 7:  Are you enabling browser cache? (for speed)

    Browser cache is enabled with a server tool called ‘GZIP and is also essential for optimizing website speed. It must be a standard installation at no extra charge.

    Question 8:  Are you installing SSL (Secure Socket Layer) 

    An eCommerce website will not work without this, but even without eCommerce, it’s essential - - without an SSL certificate, Google will flag your website as unsafe)

    Question 9) When I upload images, will they be optimized on the site automatically?

    All websites require updating from time to time with new articles and images. A properly built website will process new images as they are installed so that your website speed is not degraded.

    Question 10:  Do you give a warranty for technical defect after acceptance of the website?

    Some faults may only show up under specific circumstances and a warranty is essential. A warranty should be for at least 30 days and we prefer 90 – at no extra charge.  Don’t be caught with charges for extra work because a website was not built properly. Be fair to the designer though and bear in mind that a warranty is for remedy of defect and not for design changes.

    Question 11:  Do you provide maintenance plans after the warranty has expired? 

    All websites need maintenance. With WordPress it's pretty easy and with a little training you can do it yourself. If a company does it for you, then for a fee of no more than $20-40 / month for a  small, or modestly sized website, you should have a useful support package. For small websites we include this service free when you host your website with us.

    Question 12: Do you provide training on website maintenance (if you want to do it yourself)

    Maintaining a WordPress website is fairly easy, and you can be trained in the basics in an hour or two. However, if/when things go wrong e.g. your website crashes or performance drops badly, then you will usually need support. Also, you may not even wish to upload new content yourself, so make sure your developer can help you as needed at a reasonable price.

    Question 13:  Do you transfer ownership of the domain to me? (If you buy a domain from your supplier)

    One of our recent customers experienced great difficulty because she could no longer contact the developer of her website and that developer had purchased the domain for her. Retrieving a domain under these circumstances is time-consuming and exceedingly difficult.  Make sure that you at least have access to the domain you have paid for at the registrar.Enter your text here...

    Question 14:  Will I get full access to the WordPress back-end? 

    This is Essential for website maintenance and also for adding new facilities and moving the website to a new host if you so wish. Make sure you have access as an administrator.

    Question 15:  Will I get full access to cPanel?

    This is the back end of the website at the host and gives you access to every file on the website, server settings and so on. If you need to change your website support company at some time in the future, you will need this. This is where you go when your website hangs up, but some competence is needed. Often, you end up conversing with very technical people at the hosting company and for that, a support contract is advisable. 

    Questions to ask a website designer - typical c-panel

    Questions to ask a Website Designer - Typical C-Panel

    Question 16:  Will you install security software?

    This software should protect your website against hackers. Installation and configuration should be standard – i.e. no extra charge.

    Note on website speed

    With question 1 and 2 , it's possible an incompetent or careless designer will blame the hosting company for slow website speed, so make sure that you cannot be bamboozled - choose a good hosting company - we'll write another article on choosing a host as soon as we can.

    I hope this helps you to choose a website supplier for your business.  NEVER be shy to ask deep questions before you choose a website designer. You can print out the pdf copy of  'Questions to ask a Website Designer' below and keep it with you as a reference. Take your time - it will be worth it.

    Download this article for your own use

    To download this article,  click on the link below to visit our download page. The download link is at the bottom of the document page.

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    SEO – Seven Insights on Search Engine Optimization and Online Advertising with Google

    SEO - Seven Insights on Search Engine Optimization and Online Advertising with Google

    SEO and Online marketing in general  are still a black-magic box for many businesses. Money is committed and nothing comes back. Excuses are made, companies are hired and fired, and the market is crowded with ‘experts’ who have less business experience than the average mountain-dwelling goatherd.

    This has a huge negative effect on small and medium businesses, whose owners and managers are befuddled by vendors’  techno-geek-speak, constant claims of  ‘I will get you to Google page one for ten dollars, sir!’ and a lack of internal resource to ‘get the job done’.

    These business owners and managers know that they are leaving a lot of money on the table by not having effective online marketing, but they are often intimidated by:

    1. Not knowing enough to spot scammers
    2. Not having the time to acquire the knowledge needed to move forward with confidence
    3. Wanting to concentrate on running their business – not running websites (which can take huge slabs of time).

    After 30 years in the corporate and technology world, I set Sydney Business Web up specifically to help other companies through difficulties of this sort. So, here are some key insights into SEO and online marketing as they are today – and I guarantee a no technobabble approach.

    Here are seven gentle and simple pointers to success in SEO and online advertising. We’ll start with SEO (Search Engine Optimization – getting ranked in the search engines – but mainly Google) and then we’ll move on to online advertising.

    Insight 1: Successful SEO needs a safe, solid base

    Every building that endures has a solid foundation – and the same is true for your business website. Here are the key points for building that foundation:

    1. Posts, Pages and Products:  Make sure that your blog posts and pages are long enough (1500 words minimum), of high quality and original content, and set up with the right meta data (this is mainly just the post/page/product title and text snippet Google sees and is a very important SEO factor) so that Google can recognize what your business is about. This does not give a site any ranking, but it does lay a foundation and builds trust with the search engine over time. To ensure all of your meta data is correct, use a plugin like Yoast SEO and always set up the meta data as you are writing posts and loading products. Of course, to do this you must have posts/products in place – of high quality, good length, and originality.

    2. Pillow Your Website:  Before you begin serious work on SEO link-building, build a layer of low powered links with business directories, online press releases and blogs. These will have twofold effects: a) they will start building a small amount of link power that will lift your website from rock-bottom and even raise you above sites with poor SEO practices and b) they will act as a ‘pillow’ for more aggressive tactics later and provide some protection against a Google penalty when you are adding powerful links. This exercise should take around 2 to 3 months for a new site.Enter your text here...

    3. Medium term Results: Accept that when starting a business, SEO is a medium to long term effort and that you will have to rely on advertising and paid-for-leads to jump-start your business. Therefore, you should understand that your initial investment on SEO will only show results over a period of months. As SEO begins to show a return, you can reduce advertising expenditure (but that’s only one option). Note: YOU MUST TRACK YOUR SEO RESULTS AT LEAST MONTHLY!

    Insight 2:  Know your numbers thoroughly

    Every competent business manager will require a positive return on all expenditure – and that includes SEO and online advertising.

    Typically, a small business spends between $1,500 to $3,000 per month on SEO and/or advertising. Is it worth it?

    This is where the numbers become extremely important.  To get an estimate of what we can or should be spending on SEO we need to consider what the alternative costs are: advertising on Google.

    Using Google Ads as a Baseline Comparison to SEO

    Assuming you are a small business, a click on your Google ad costs (typically) between 90c to $20. The actual costs depend on two key factors:

    The competition for the keyword. A keyword such as ’car insurance’ can cost upwards of $50 because it is a profitable business and competition is intense. A lawyer can pay north of $100 per click!  Thus, in Google’s automated auction system where you are bidding for the word, it is expensive and driven by competition.

    It’s at this point that you start ‘crunching the numbers to understand what advertising will cost you. Here’s the basic approach:

    Cost Per Click: $2  (What you pay every time someone clicks on your ad. This depends on what you are advertising. This is just an example.)

    The following numbers are based on real numbers in a Google Ads account.

    Daily Budget

    Impressions (just for your info – number of times your ad appears)

    Clicks

    Average CPC (Cost per click)

    CTR (click through ratio)

    Total cost (over 22 days)

    $4.62

    2200

    52

    3.20

    2.4%

    $170

    Can you afford the Google Ads advertising cost or should you use SEO?

    Let’s take that number of clicks above and work on it:

    52 clicks have cost you $170 in around 22 days.

    Let’s say you have a good website and offer, and you convert 3% of visitors to purchase.  This means that your $170 is buying you 1.5 customers (jokes permitted!).  If you are winning contracts worth say $150/month at 25% margins, then this might be worth it – you are making $450/annum for a cost of $170.  However, this assumes your business is scalable and many small businesses are not. The advertising cost might not leave you enough profit to survive. Numbers are important! Tracking ad performance is important!

    Insight 3: Breaking Even on Ad Spend – Guidelines

    For most businesses, a ratio of 5:1 revenue to cost is acceptable, depending of course on product margins.

    Thus, in the above case, for an ad cost of $170, we need to bring in $850 in business. Is the guideline good? Over a year, probably not, but keep one customer for two years and it most definitely is.  The obvious way to improve the performance is to have a great website that loads fast and presents a great offer – getting people to your website is only half the battle!

    Insight 4: SEO By Comparison to Google Online Advertising

    We have, in very simple terms stated how online ads can make or lose money. By this time, you should have a particularly good idea of how easy it is to lose money – indeed to hemorrhage money with online ads unless you track performance, investigate the keywords, measure competition, and adjust with performance.

    The key differences with SEO are that:

    1. Returns are not immediate – SEO takes time – and that depends on your budget. Ads perform well or badly immediately.

    2. Once you have a high rank for some search terms using SEO, your web traffic will keep coming as long as you are ranking, and this costs a lot less than advertising over the long term.

    3. Google changes its algorithms frequently and a website that ranks well one day can tank the next day – especially if the SEO has been done badly. So, ads are always a valuable backup and you should always have a strategy available and up to date. Plan your online business as though your company depended on it – because one day this may well be the case.

    4. SEO requires more diverse strategies than advertising. Whereas a Google ad can show anywhere you choose and be equally effective anywhere, SEO requires tailoring for local, national and international cases.

    5. Online ads are almost completely product focused. By comparison, Some SEO practices are knowledge focused and can put your company in amongst the decision makers of your target market by dominating the search engines as a credible source of expertise.

    Insight 5: Be an Online Authority in Your Field 

    Overall, the best way to rank in Google now is to become an authority in your niche using powerful SEO methods. When you do this, Google will "unlock the floodgates" of traffic to you.” This means having really high-quality articles of at least 1500 words in your area of expertise. Why? – to attract links and followers.  If links are the biggest ranking factor (and they are!), it's going to be hard to have success without quality content, because NO ONE wants to link to your product pages. It's going to be difficult to get link equity to your site if you don't have anything credible to link to.

    Insight 6: Does My Business Need SEO?

    “With 91.5% of total search engine traffic going to websites on the first page of Google and over 40% of website traffic arriving through organic channels, it’s clear that SEO is a viable option no matter what industry you’re in.”  - So yes – no matter what your business may be, it does need SEO."

    Insight 7: How Much Does SEO Cost?

    How fast do you want to get the traffic your business needs? What is safe? What isn’t? What is your budget? All these questions illustrate again just how critical it is to know your numbers and have a plan before you make an investment in SEO.

    Before we make budgetary recommendations, we must set goals. Not to avoid the issue, we would not recommend any SEO exercise at less than A$2,000/month for a medium sized, established business. For a startup we would suggest a starting budget of A$1,000/month.

    For larger companies who understand the benefits and have the confidence, I strongly recommend SEO packages that cost around A$5000/month. 

    Buying cheap SEO will generally result in poor results, no results or at worst, crashing a website in the rankings.

    Image by WordStream.com

    Infographic by WordStream

    Conclusion: A Seasoned View of Online SEO  Investment

    I’ve been in business a long time as engineer, manager, and business manager responsible for global regions. I have had marketing departments I’ve damned as tourism bureaus and salesman who couldn’t close – they all had excuses and it’s been sometimes difficult to pin them down. Many companies put themselves in the same unfortunate position with online marketing and SEO, and that’s not necessary.

    Online marketing, Google ads  and SEO are different to conventional marketing in one key aspect – you can set goals whose success or failure can be directly attributed to your online efforts and spend.  If your ads swallow cash and don’t produce sales, you can adjust in real time and move on. If your SEO is not reaping results, you have data you can analyze and improve. Everyone involved can be held accountable with numbers.

    In traditional marketing, marketing and sales have been separated and the attribution of responsibility for outcomes becomes confused. In the online world, just follow the data! That’s why we love online marketing!

    Wishing you all a most profitable journey in your online business.

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