Internet Marketing and Branding for Small Businesses

Following is a blog and a list of articles that I wrote when running Nuts & Bolts Interactive, Inc., an integrated marketing, design, and web development company for small businesses.

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  • Marketing Book Review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin
    10/08/2009 12:47PM

    I recently finished reading Seth Godin's Purple Cow, Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable and would strongly suggest that any business owner, manager, C-Level executive, or marketer read it.

    His main thesis is that the marketing paradigm has changed and that instead of trying to market to a broad audience with traditional methods you must position, or change, your brand or company so that it highlights something that is remarkable and targets a very specific niche of early adopters.? And that it is the early adopters (people who are open to your message and interested in what you have to say), that will spread the word (or sneeze) about your product.

    Godin explains why conventional marketing strategies no longer work.? That nobody listens to conventional advertising because they don't trust it, and they don't have time to listen to and evaluate messages for products or services that they most likely already have, or are using.? His ideas build on those from Crossing the Chasm, The Tipping Point, Unleashing the Ideavirus, and Permission Marketing, and he argues that the only people that are open to new products or services are the Innovators and Early Adopters.? And that ideaviruses are the most effective way to spread your message.? It is by being phenomenal, and remarkable in some counter-intuitive way that you gain the attention of the Innovators and Early Adopters and that they will be the ones to sneeze your idea virus to the rest of the marketplace.

    He includes a wide variety of case-studies and examples and the book is written in a very straightforward and approachable manner.

    One aspect of the book that I found amusing was how he weaved his own teachings into it; encouraging people who wanted to be different (the early adopters) to give his methods a try and to share (sneeze) his book with others.? Brilliant.

    So, does your business have a Purple Cow?? And if so, who are your Interested Sneezers?

  • How to Acquire an Expiring/Expired Domain
    09/16/2009 10:31PM
  • How to Pick a Domain Name
    09/03/2009 3:33PM

    A domain name is an alphanumeric string of characters that identifies individual websites and e-mail addresses on the Internet.? It must be less than 63 characters in length, not including the characters in the TLD (Top Level Domain) suffix (.com, .net, etc.).? A TLD suffix is a part of all domain names and indicates the type of organization for a given domain.? Following is a list of common TLDs:

    • com: commercial businesses
    • net: organizations involved with Internet infrastructure (ISPs and hosting companies)
    • org: non-profit or not-for-profit organizations
    • edu: educational institutions
    • gov: United States government agencies
    • biz: commercial organizations and/or personal sites
    • info: can be used for commercial and/or personal sites

    Country specific domains:

    • ca: Canada
    • uk: United Kingdom
    • de: Germany
    • jp: Japan
    • etc.

    Choosing a domain name is arguably one of the most important decisions that need to be made when developing a website.? Not only will it enable you to easily let people know how to get to your website via word-of-mouth, but the keywords in your domain will help determine how well your site ranks in search engines.? Moreover, the domain name will help brand your product or service and can aid in developing buzz for your new site.

    At this point there are so many different domain names already registered that it is unlikely that your first choice will be available.? As a result it will require a little creativity as well as following a few guidelines to help you get the best domain for you and your organization.

    1. Have Your Domain Say Something About Your Business:? When your domain name says something about what you do for whom this helps to build your brand, tell people about your products or services, and inform visitors about the type of information that they might find on your website.? Good examples are MotorcycleTrader.com, WebMD.com, and TropicalIceCreamCafe.com.? Some poor examples are eBay.com and zillow.com.
    2. (Almost) Always .com:? In general my suggestion is to always register the .com domain.? Even though there are additional top level domains (.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, etc.) getting the .com ensures that you have the best of the possible permutations for that domain name.? People are so conditioned to think and type ".com" that even if they read or hear "Go to www.mydomain.net", they are likely to remember and enter mydomain.com and will likely end up at a competitors web site.? In the case where you are running a local business in a country other than the USA and want to target a local market you may want to have sushibar.co.jp instead of sushibar.com which might indicate that you are a company in the USA or an international business.? If you do end up going with a non .com domain you'll need to make sure to promote it heavily and make sure that the non .com domain is prominent in all of your marketing materials.
    3. Keywords:? A number of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) gurus suggest including one or more of the keywords that you hope to rank well with in your domain.? Try to pick keywords that you believe prospects who are looking for your products or services will be entering in search engines and weave them into your domain name so that it flows well.
    4. Spelling:? Depending on your domain and how it is spelled you will want to think about the possible, common misspelling possibilities.? For example, we used to run a Domain E-mail business called FieldPost.? It is not uncommon for people to transpose "ie" spelled words and as a result we also secured the feildpost.com spelling variation.? Take a look at your domain and think about the most likely spelling errors that might occur when typing in your domain and see if you can also secure those domains.? Do not use the number "2" for the word "to" or "4" for "for".? Also, avoid using text messaging abbreviations or other creative spelling as seen on vanity license plates.? It will simply make it more difficult for people to type in and share your domain.
    5. Hyphens: Avoid hyphens.? When people see that mydomain.com is taken but that my-domain.com is available, they might register the hyphenated version thinking that it is a good compromise.? My suggestion is to avoid hyphens.? The problem is similar to the "always use the .com" item described above; you will most likely send traffic to your competitor and make it difficult to tell people your domain both in-person and over the phone.? The one caveat to this is that search engines can distinguish your keywords better when hyphenated but I suggest only doing so when you are setting up a special site specifically for search engine traffic.
    6. Double and Triple Consonants: Certain word combinations, when put together without spaces result in double or triple consonant combinations that are troubling to read and type.? For example, the two words "business" and "specialists" are just fine when separated by a space but "businessspecialist.com" will just look funny and will likely cause people to stop and re-read what they have typed in more than once to make sure that it is spelled right.? In general, I recommend trying to avoid stringing together words that result in double or triple consonant strings that just? "don't look right".
    7. Singular and Plural:? Never register a domain that is the plural or singular of an existing domain/website.? Additionally, if you are going to use a domain name such as powerfulwebsite.com, make sure to secure powerfulwebsites.com as well.
    8. Length:? In general the shorter domain names are better.? However, it is becoming more and more difficult to find relevant, short domain names that are not yet taken.? Always try a short option, but if you can't find one that is short, try to find one that meets the aforementioned criteria.

    Taking these guidelines into consideration should help you find a domain name that both fits with your business or organization and helps drive relevant traffic to your site.

    Remember, if you register multiple domains make sure to Redirect 301 each of them to your primary domain.

    If you have any questions or need some ideas for your specific business situation, feel free to give me a call at 301-956-5400, post your question to the NBI Forum, or send me an e-mail.

    -- Ryan Chapin
    ?? President, Nuts & Bolts Interactive, Inc.

  • formVista 0.8.9.0 is Now Available for Download
    08/18/2009 11:53PM

    DTLink Software announces the open-source release of formVista(tm), the business website management system that NBI uses to deploy websites for it's clients, and the system on which all of NBI's sites run.

    NBI has collaborated with DTLink on the formVista project since it's initial conception in 2001 and continues to do so.? Version 0.8.9.0 is now available for immediate download from: http://www.formvista.com/downloads.html.

    formVista requires Linux, Apache, Mysql, PHP.

  • Drive Relevant Traffic to Your Site By Participating in Other Forums
    08/07/2009 10:24AM

    Our clients and prospects always ask us how they can drive more traffic to their website.? There are a number of ways to do so, including pay-per-click advertising, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and e-mail newsletters, to name a few.

    Another great method that has had great success with all types of websites is participating in other website forums.? Doing so helps to drive relevant and more qualified traffic to your site.

    Forums have become a great source of information for just about every conceivable topic.??? In the forum, people will ask topic specific questions and the forum members will all chime in and provide advice, information, and links to pages that provide the answer.

    Forums get traffic from not only their existing members but also from search engines.? Many times I will do a search on a problem that I am trying to solve and will find that my question has already been posted to and answered in a forum.

    So, what we recommend is that you find a popular forum that is relevant to your industry, register, and begin answering questions and participating in discussions.? Weave this activity into your weekly or daily routine, and consider a part of your sales and marketing efforts.

    By doing so you will:

    • Build your credibility
    • Establish trust
    • Demonstrate expertise in your field

    . . . among a demographic that is already interested in what it is you are doing.

    Make sure that you add your company tagline and a link to your website in your signature and it is likely that the people who are searching for information about what you do and the products or services that you provide will click on the link to your website.? And because they are already interested in what it is that you do, they are much more likely to sign-up for your newsletter, contact you directly with a question, or purchase your products or services.

    Moreover, having links to your site in a popular forum will help your search engine ranking.

    If you have any questions or need some ideas for your specific business situation, feel free to give me a call at 301-956-5400, post your question to the NBI Forum, or send me an e-mail.

    -- Ryan Chapin
    ?? President, Nuts & Bolts Interactive, Inc.

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