Milwaukee SEO: Any Site Can Benefit from SEO

by demtron on Friday, March 06, 2009 04:35 PM

Based on our research, at least 95% of all business web sites have had minimal to no search engine optimization.  We're not talking rocket-science style SEO here.  We see simple things like duplicate title tags, no title tags, missing title tags, poor natural text and even broken links.

Businesses are arranged in a phone book by industry or type of business and have the relevant keywords in the section heading.  People searching in a phone book will look for the relevant business category first, then look a a business that's nearby them.

Take a look a your own website and look at what's in the title bar of the browser.  Having your company name is fine, but unless you have strong brand recognition, nobody will search for you based on your company name.  Particularly for small professional services businesses, local search can be crucial for getting traffic.  If you're an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, doesn't it make sense for your site to have Milwaukee Attorney somewhere in the title where it can be found by search engines?

Surprisingly, sometimes this is all it takes for a search engine to find and rank a page highly.  If your keyword phrases don't involve significant competition, this can launch a site right to the first page of Google search results.  On a recent site, we optimized the site for South Milwaukee Physical Therapy.  Guess what?  With that little bit of work, that site now ranks #1 for that search terms and enjoys a good amount of local traffic for that phrase.  This site now provides that business with an additional way to be found and for new customers to contact them.

If your site needs help with SEO, contact our Milwaukee SEO experts today for a free evaluation and recommendations for your site.


5 Things Every Web Site Owner Must Know

by demtron on Friday, November 21, 2008 03:06 PM

Your web designer has just completed your site and it’s live and available to see on the Web.  You’ve thanked your designer for a job well done and you’re excited about the prospects of new customers and increased awareness of your business.  What do you know about the setup, configuration and ongoing charges for your site?

When I work with new clients, I always give them the “run over by the truck” story.  If I’m run over by a truck and can’t help them with their Web sites, have I given them enough information to give another designer so he can quickly get up-to-speed and continue maintaining their sites?  When I take over site maintenance, I always ask for this information, and I am amazed and little data my clients sometimes have about their sites.  If a designer leaves, falls ill, or is otherwise unable to continue work on a site, a site owner may be left with now knowledge to transfer for a new designer.

Before you pay your designer, make sure you have this key information about your site.

Is your domain name registered under your name?  You NEED to make sure of this.  If your designer or someone else registered your domain, you may not own your domain name.  This can be DISASTROUS if you lose contact with that person and need to renew the registration or make change to your Web site.  If there is one thing I stress to all clients, it’s to take control of domain name registration.

Do you know all the passwords for your site?  Be sure to ask for passwords for the hosting control panel, FTP site, database, e-mail accounts, and any information pertaining to the security of your site.  If your designer does not pass these along to you, you may not be able to update your site content, e-mail accounts, or other site aspects in the future.

How is your site configured?  Some sites require special configuration because of features that you’ve requested.  Examples of configuration details include whether it uses an SSL certificate, a database, and payment processing.  Depending on the complexity of your site, your designer may have needed to alter the default site settings.  Make sure you get documentation from your designer detailing any special considerations from the site that may not be readily accessible or understandable by a new designer.

Who is responsible for what aspects of your site?  Hosting, email, domain registration, SSL certificate registration and payment processing may each be handled by a separate entity.  Be sure to get the company name, phone number and Web site address for the billing and technical support contacts from these services.

How has billing been arranged?  Hosting plans, SSL certificates, and other parts of your site or domain registration may be billed to you monthly, quarterly, yearly or in some other interval.  Are these set up to automatically bill your credit card?  If not, how will you be notified of a payment and how do you arrange payment?

Your Web site can be a vital part of your business, and it’s imperative that you have control of all its major aspects.  For some of my clients, previous designers did not pass along this vital information, which left them vulnerable to a variety of maintenance, security, and other problems.  Ask your designer to take an hour or so to document these Web site aspects for you.  You’ll be glad you did!


IT Consultants and 5 Things They Won’t Tell Clients

by demtron on Friday, November 14, 2008 11:02 AM

Over the years, I've heard a number of stories from clients about their challenges with their IT consultants.  The stories range from the mundane, such as checking stock prices online dozens of times a day, to involving legal liabilities, such as operating a personal auction site on the company's Web server.  Most issues fall somewhere between but have the potential to cause problems for business owners if they're not rooted out.

As I am working with a client to pick of the pieces from another consultant's departure, I began thinking about what consultants don't tell their clients about their expertise, accounting for their time on the job, and how they structure the results of their work.  Here are a few that came to mind right away.

Knowledge Inflation: Some of the worst problems I've seen come from consultants who take on a project that's beyond their area of knowledge hoping to "wing it" and look like a rock star.  This can be very dangerous for a client on a number of levels.

Underestimation of Effort: Many tasks in IT, especially those surrounding programming or data analysis, look easy on the surface but quickly become very involved as the details are uncovered.  A consultant eager to please the client may give a low estimate on the work involved only to find that the task is taking days or weeks instead of hours to complete.

Technology is a Distraction: Social networking, text messaging, on-line gaming, and mindless Web surfing are a part of practically all IT workers lives, especially those under 40 years old.  In moderation, these activities can be useful for stress relief and may keep them in touch with family and friends when working varying shifts.  However, there's a fine line between utility and draining productivity.

Something Isn't Working Right: It's hard for anyone for admit mistakes or problems, but it's especially hard when IT systems have underlying problems due to an oversight, lack of knowledge, or lack of testing.  These problems are often swept under the rug because the clients don't have access to the reports, administrative tools and logging systems that would otherwise uncover the problems.

I Am Not a Coding Machine: Programmers are especially prone to this one.  Some of the best coding, useful business ideas and best practices come out of spending time to reflect a problem and using "down time" to solve problems.  Poor consultants will crank out code or check off tasks to create the appearance of productivity at the expense of considering efficiency and developing better approaches to their work.

After reading these, one may think that IT consultants should be viewed with suspicion.  It's important to note that these concerns exist in all professions and with employees and consultants alike.  Unlike most workers, IT consultants are less likely to be discovered for a number or reasons, such as:


  • The IT consultant might control the logging, auditing, and reporting of issues and reports
  • The client doesn't have a clear sense of reasonable expectations from its consultants
  • IT worker activities seem cryptic and foreign to clients, so it's better to just leave well enough alone

Whether hiring a new consultant, reviewing the work of an existing consultant or auditing the costs and efforts put into a project, it's important to keep these issues in mind and be aware of the many issues that surround a realistic evaluation of a consultant's work, abilities and habits.


Should Your Small Business Work with a Moonlighting IT Consultant?

by demtron on Monday, November 10, 2008 02:38 PM
Small businesses depend on numerous facets of technology to improve productivity, facilitate communication with clients and vendors, and promote their products.  For many business owners, hiring an outside consultant to handle web site design, web marketing, networking, software setup and telephone systems are a must.  Small businesses, in particular, often use moonlighting consultants to help them with their IT needs but may not consider the numerous pitfalls to such an arrangement.  How can one determine whether hiring a moonlighter is the right fit?

One of the greatest appeals is the consultant’s fees.  Many times, the consultant is employed elsewhere at a full-time job.  Since he doesn’t depend on the income from the sideline work, he can charge a lower rate than a full-time independent consultant.  Small businesses may find that a moonlighter charges fees of at least 30% less than full-timers – certainly worth considering, especially for a business with a tight budget or a long-term project.

What about the downsides?  Depending on the nature of the work and its time sensitivity, there could be a lot at stake.  Here are some of the questions that must be answered to make an informed decision.

On-site or off-site consulting?

Any work that can be done off-site is a better fit for a moonlighter.  Web design and custom programming are good fits for off-site work.  Remote connectivity tools such as Terminal Services, PC Anywhere, and VNC can allow a consultant to access resources while off-site.  Also, the consultant may prefer to use his own tools and equipment and may be more productive if working in his own environment.

Networking, computer setup and maintenance of other office equipment usually requires on-site work.  If the consultant has a full-time job during regular working hours, he may need access to the office environment after-hours.  Are you willing to give him keys and access codes to allow him to work alone?  If not, are you willing to stay at the office after-hours for as long as he’s there and during the times that he’s available?

How Long Can You Wait for Help?

A part-time moonlighter will likely be available when his time permits.  IT professionals are often required to work 45 to 50 hours per week or more, be available on-call during evenings and weekends, and handle maintenance tasks during late hours.  Juggling these demands with a family and personal schedule can be a big chore, especially for staff that supports mission-critical applications and services.

One of the biggest concerns I hear working out in field is moonlighters who can’t help their clients in a timely manner.  Problems don’t just happen after hours – from my experience, they tend to happen at the worst times right in the middle of a big project with a looming deadline.  Depending on the nature of the consultant’s full-time job, he may not be available to help you when you need it, even by phone.  If his day job is as a consultant for a consulting company, he may risk his job by helping you while he’s providing billable services to his employer’s client.  For that reason, it’s important to know what you can expect for his availability and responsiveness.

What If Big Problems Occur?

There’s peace-of-mind in knowing that your business has a knowledgeable resource available to fix big problems.  Sometimes, these problems take several hours or days to fix.  If your computer network fails at 4:45 PM and your moonlighter works a full-time day job in IT, he might be able to come over after work to help out.  What happens if the problem requires a 5-hour backup, reinstallation, and testing process?  Will your consultant be agreeable to work until midnight to help you get back up and running the next morning?  If not, would you be willing to go without your network for a whole day until he can come back the next night.

Collaboration among Multiple Consultants

As a business grows, it will likely need more than one consultant to handle different disciplines.  For micro-sized businesses in the range of 1 to 10 employees, one consultant may be able to handle networking, computer setup, office machine repair, basic programming and applications support.  This will change as soon as you introduce new specialized technologies to support your expanding business.  For my clients that have 10-100 employees, they use 5 or more consultants to cover their needs.

There’s often a need for one consultant to discuss configuration, processes and system architecture questions with the other in order to complete a given project.  A moonlighter who’s not available for this interaction on a project may delay its completion and force another consultant to make on-the-fly decisions as a critical juncture that create unforeseen consequences later on.  At minimum, each consultant should know the availability and areas of expertise of the others to help them plan their efforts and minimize complications for you.

What If Your Moonlighter Leaves?

When a reputable consultant decides to leave the marketplace, he’ll often create an exit strategy to turn over his clients to another consultant or help them find another consultant.  It’s a decision that’s been considered over a period of time and there are likely numerous other consultants that able and willing to step in.

With a moonlighter, it may not be so simple.  In my experience, the onset of apathy and disinterest is a common situation.  The consultant may slowly become less responsive, acquire additional responsibilities at his full-time employment and discover that he has decreasing time to devote to his after-hours clients.  If you’re not in constant contact with your consulting resource, his decreased availability may not be apparent until you have an urgent need, which is probably the worst time to find out.

So, you decide to seek out another moonlighter.  Can you assess the skill set that’s needed to fill the role?  Will another consultant be willing to work at the same rate or pay?  Are you able to keep your business systems running for weeks or months without a reliable resource?  For some of my clients, this was not an easy transition.

Conclusion

Choosing a moonlighting IT consultant can be a great fit that’s easy on the pocketbook.  Before jumping in and hiring one, be sure to honestly discuss these questions with your candidates.  Balancing your needs with your consultant’s availability is crucial to forging a relationship that works.

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