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Free Animated Gifs

This one creates those ‘loading’ animated gifs you see when you are waiting for things to load on a web page… they don’t really do anything, but they give your visitors something to look at while the page is loading … You can create your own animated gif’s or you can use one that is already created by other users. http://www.ajaxload.info/

MySpace joins Google’s OpenSocial

Google announced today that MySpace has joined OpenSocial.  MySpace is in good company, other social networking sites currently in OpenSocial include Linked in, orkut, Slide & Ning.  The question still remains as to whether or not Facebook will join. OpenSocial is a set or API's (application programming interface) and is targeted towards developers.  OpenSocial's set of APIs handle three different kinds of user data: profiles (you), social graph (your friends) and activities (your virtual life). The language APIs use is standard HTML and Javascript. Any application written for OpenSocial will work on any partner social network - any OpenSocial “container”.   That means developers need only write an application once, and it can get used on any of the networks involved, like Orkut and LinkedIn.   This gives developers exposure to some 200 Million users.  What does this mean for the end user? Users will have more choices across more web sites.   This will make using the social networks more interesting and give the end user will have more to "play with".  If Facebook is any example, for every outstanding application used on the network, there are 50 useless ones.   Over the coarse of time, however, this could mean quite a lot, particularly for business.  Image having your favorite movies saved in Flickr and your favorite music saved elsewhere.  An application can be developed that will target your entertainment preferences, which can end up as a market tool for an entertainment business.   You will only see ads that pertain to your individual taste.   Currently MySpace, Facebook and the like are "closed" networks.  As a user, your information is only shared with people you trust (your friends) who are on that particular network.  In an "open network" environment, [...]

Think Before You Build

Originally Published in Success Magazine, Sept 2007 by Melissa Ward, Managing Partner NewWard Development, LLC Prior to a pixel being drawn on the screen, before laying out the navigation of your Web site, before discussion of colors or layout or graphics takes place, you need to think about who you are going to be talking to. The first thing you need to consider is who you are trying to attract and design the site for – your ideal client. Write down the qualities and characteristics of your perfect customer. For example, I have a client who owns a cleaning service. Her ideal clients are female, employed full time, make over $50,000 a year, have children and reside within a forty mile radius of Saratoga.  Assignment 1 Write a list of 20 characteristics that describe your ideal client. Do you have your 30-second elevator speech down? If so, use this as your business definition. If you do not have your 30-second commercial, create that first, and then continue working on your Web site plan. Your goal is to be able to define who you are and clearly state what you do in a concise manner. Assignment 2 Create your 30-second business commercial. Think about your own web browsing habits. When you are surfing the web you are looking for something that will answer a question you have, solve a problem for you, or provide you with something you want? You stop at sites that provide you with instant gratification. You are not going to waste your time pouring through 20 pages of a Web site if you are not sure it has what you need. Do you care that it is the biggest mouse trap around [...]

Free Page Strength Analysis

SEOMoz.org has developed a fantastic tool that calculates something they call “Page Strength” which can be used in to gauge the importance and visibility of any Website or Webpage.  Page Strength score is probably a much more accurate reflection of a Websites importance than Alexa Rank or Google PageRank alone. Page Strength is based on a number of factors: Links pointing to the URL & domain Position in Google for the first four words of the title tag Age of the Domain Links from .edu and .gov domains Age of the Domain Name Links from Wikipedia, del.icio.us, DMOZ.org Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, and more Give Page Strength a try on your own Website.  http://www.seomoz.org/page-strength

Email Marketing: Newsletters and Promotions

If you have a small marketing budget, or are looking for an effective yet low cost way or marking your web site, products or services, email marketing is the way to go!  Effective utilization of email marketing can be a boon to your online business.  Email marketing has been proven to have a response rate of up to 20% vs.. Direct Mail marketing's response rate of only .5 - 2%.  In addition, with Direct Mail, response rates can vary from several weeks to several months.  Thus, knowing the effectiveness of your campaign is "iffy" at best.  In Email Marketing, you will receive 85% of your responses inside of 48 hours.  This allows you to measure the effectiveness of your ad or newsletter quickly and make any needed changes for your next campaign.  When soliciting email addresses, remember to make your visitors comfortable.  Make sure your privacy policy is clearly posted and ask only for the information that you need.  Most of us treat our email box as "sacred space".  Do not allow your newsletter to look like spam, or it will be deleted and the member will withdraw from your list.   Avoid those "fantastic opportunity" type phrases and anything that is considered hype.  Online Newsletters allow you to keep in touch with your clients on a regular basis and share your knowledge and skills with a large array of people.  Site Visitors will join your newsletter in an effort to get to know you, see what you have to offer and are typically testing your knowledge before "buying" into your services.  Newsletters are usually 3 - 4 paragraphs long and focus on one or two pertinent ideas.  When writing content for your newsletter remember these key points:  Content, Clarity, Concise.  Your content should be something of [...]

“If You Build it They Will Come”

Originally Published in Capital Region Home Builders Magazaine, 6/2003 "Builders' Bytes" by Melissa Ward, NewWard Development, LLC “If you build it, they will come.”  This phrase made popular in the late ‘80’s only holds true if they know about you!  You can build the most spectacular homes and still remain a virtual unknown if your marketing is not as good as your development.  Part of today’s marketing scenario includes a web site.  Web Sites are as necessary as an ad in the yellow pages in today’s competitive market. A web site allows people to look over what you can accomplish in an unthreatening, anonymous manner.  There is no real estate agents to deal with and no sales calls to fear.  The visitor to the site will make the first move if your presentation of your building skills and company meets with their needs.   Therefore your web site must not only be visually appealing and reflect your best works, but also easy to navigate and show off your company’s true image.  I akin web sites to the face you put on your business for the world to see.  It is a visual 2 dimensional representation of who you are, who your company is and how well you perform. People will view not only the houses you build but also how well you present yourself to a prospective customer.  Writing for the Internet and Designing effective sites has become an art.  Even harder is properly promoting the site to meet your marketing needs.  Many companies are reluctant to enter the world of online advertising because they are not aware of the advantages a good web site.  Even if you are not looking to “sell” on a global level, [...]

What’s in it for me? Features vs. Benefits

Ultimately, your web site has to fill a need in your visitors.  It’s not enough to state that your widget is the smallest, the fastest or that you are the best, but you need to express how that additional speed, size or ability is going to serve your visitors.  If you tell your visitors that your mousetrap is the fastest, they’ll yawn, but if you tell them that they will catch more mice with it, well then you have something! That is the difference between a feature and a benefit.  A feature is a description of your product or service, while a benefit answers, “what can it do for me”.  The first step in describing your benefits is to recognize a “problem” your visitor might have when they came to your site.  For example, most people will visit my site if they are looking for web development or Internet marketing advice.  The first thing they see is a list of services immediately followed by how it can increase their businesses exposure and thus their bottom line.  I recognize that this is a broad statement, but it makes the point.  The visitor’s need is to get online or improve their existing site either cosmetically or in search engine placement, otherwise they would not be on my site.  The benefit of doing business with Ward Design Solutions is, I can increase their business.  The fact that I include a free hour consultation is a bonus to the visitor and a non-threatening way to generate interest. Several of my clients are in the services industry, which is more complicated in terms of nailing down benefits vs. features of their services.   I recommend that they position themselves as an [...]