The Cape Town Files

The Cape Town Files

The Cape Town Files

I work in an industry where there is much competition. But, competition is always good for business, it sorts out the good from the mediocre. The big problem is the mediocre tend to tempt my potential clients away by making promises and offering cheap solutions. All they do is end up delivering something that is inadequate and by doing so, damage the industry professionals reputation.

In order to consistently producing a Professional Solution, I spend time reading about new industry trends and look at different ways producing Websites.

The Cape Town Files is one such learning experience. I created a Website as the base using a Solution that whilst it still works will soon be outdated . This can be seen here.

The next step is to reproduce the same Website using different ways of producing a Web Site. The content will remain the same, as will the navigation but the page layouts will be adapted to the Frame or CMS (content management system used). This way I can compare and judge which solutions is best for different types of Websites.

But of course, the end result is that I gain experience and that means that I provide you with an even better product.

 

The main elements of a Web Site: Domain Name

A Website, like a car, is made from  different elements that when put together, create a Website. These parts are;

Domain Name or URL (Universal Record Locator)

The Domain Name is your address on the Internet. We all know of Yahoo.com – Yahoo stands for the name of the Company and Com stands for Commercial. Most Web Site in the USA use the Com suffix, often incorrectly, but it can be used by anyone anywhere in the world. In South Africa, you would most likely use CO ZA.

A problem that becoming more and more obvious, is that it is more difficult to register the Domain name you want. You may own a company called Acme Plumbing, but when trying to register your Domain discover the the Dot Com and Dot Co Za are taken. You could try Dot Biz or Dot Net or you could look elsewhere.

Recently the Dot Me (Montenegro)  and Co (Columbia) have made their way onto the International market as countries that do not have that many Domain Name registered open these Domains.

And, just to confuse you when making a choice, new Generic Top Level Domains, such as Dot bike or Dot plumbing and even Dot sexy.

 

Plan to succeed, not fail.

As obvious as this may seem, not everybody will succeed in business. When a new business opens, with it’s shiny new furniture and the shelves and stockrooms bulging at the seams  with new products. Or maybe it is a office with smart newly employed staff.

Then six months down the line, the premises are closed, the business gone and a notice from the Sheriff of the Court demanding payment.

Yet the owner will tell you he had a business plan, a fifty page document that his bank manager had approved of enough to give him the money to start his business. he had experts draw it up for him.

And this is the point at which I say – “You stupid fool!” I doubt he even knew what was contained in the plan. He did not know where his market was and what they needed. His product or service may simply not have been right for the area.

When starting any business, you need a road map, a simple one, maybe two page plan, that you will come back to often and change as circumstances change. And yes, change is constant and if you do not pay attention, you will be left behind.

What do you need to have in your plan?

  • What is your product or service?
  • Who needs it?
  • Where will you find them?
  • What makes your product or service different?

Before you exclaim that this much too simple and would not get the bank to loan you the money you need to get started, you are right. But this plan is for you, even before you open your doors. If you are unable to provide something that is needed, where it is needed, why waste your time and money.

You also need to plan how your administration will be done and and how to control your finances. Once you have made these plans for yourself, it is time to start on the plan for your Bank Manager.

The same plan you have made for yourself can be tweaked and presented in a more formal way to your bank manager. It will need more information. You will find a Template on your bank’s Small Business Web Site.

If you pay someone to do the plan for you, they do not know your business, they do not have your passion. But if you write your own Plan, you will not only discover more about your business, you will also know what is in the plan, making it easier to answer questions.

And here is a hint, buy the repossessed furniture of the business that went out of business and save money!

The Professional option versus the DIY one.

Let’s face it, creating a Web Site is not all difficult. There are many Websites that will let you create a good looking site, often free. But everyone of these sites comes with it’s own particular form of baggage and limits how much control you have over your Website.

Several years ago it was easy to create a Website with GeoCities which was owned by Yahoo. GeoCities Websites were very popular  and just about every subject under the sun could be found a GeoCities site. Many businesses used then when starting out using them for their Websites. Then suddenly, with six months warning given, Yahoo shut them down. Yes, you were given adequate, but you still had to look for somewhere to move your Web Site and set it up again.

Staying on the same topic, none of my clients are aware that my hosting partner recently gave me 2 months notice that they closing. I set up a new host and seamlessly moved their Website with minimal downtime (and it did not cost them anything.) 

Free is actually not free – someone has to pay. Your free Website will be subsidised by the companies paying customers. This means that to make sure that the paying customers are getting better value that you, the free customer, you will get a limited benefits. This will often include; 

Sometimes these are available at a fee. eMail is not that much of a problem, you can get a Gmail account with little effort, but an email like you@yourbusinessname.co.za is more professional.

Another way to subsidise free site is to have advertising which is not very professional.

Not all free options that are available are so limiting. you need to compare them and search out users coments to find the best one.

But even if you have the knowledge and skill to set up your own Website, do you have the time to do it and still run your business? Remember, that creating and launching a Website is only the beginning.

 

What is Internet Presence and why do you need it?

Just a few years ago, Facebook was the preserve of the young. Then one day, their parents discovered that it was a great way to find old friends and to connect with family. Soon business saw that their target market was available in one place and Fan Pages took off.

The same has happened with Twitter, from being used to tell people what you are doing, it has become a way to announce new products and services.

If you use any form of Social Media or publish a regular Blog, even if you do not have a Web Site, you are present on the Internet i.e you have Web Presence

When you take these different Internet Tools together and see what purpose they serve, you will see that they are different but compliment each other.

Facebook allows you to announce Products and Services and start a conversation going. It is an easy place for people to compliment you or complain.

Twitter only allows you to use up to 140 characters, so you would use like to get out a quick message similar to a text message from your mobile phone. It is possible to send or receive direct messages. Again it is possible to chat or get a conversation going with Twitter. Twitter’s great for teasing your audience and sending them to a Blog Post or Product Landing Page.

A Blog is a good way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. By writing clearly in language that your audience understands, you show them that you know your field and can help them, should they need the services you provide.

The purpose of these tools is to drive traffic to your Web Site, where you can promote your business and services.

So why do you need Web Presence? What would happen to your business is you were not on the Internet at all? Possibly nothing now, but what about about the future.

Using the Internet you can book and pay for Air Tickets, you can buy your groceries, book your car in for service and do just about everything you you would do in the local shopping mall.

Go to the local mall and take note of the number of bookshops that have closed in the last few years. You can order and pay for books online and have them delivered and, if you do not to wait, you can download them as eBooks.

If you want a restaurant that you have never been to, you can look up their menu on their Website, look up how to get there and and make a table booking. You can look at review sites and see what others are saying about it. You might not like what you read and go somewhere else. Remember you can even do this in your car using your phone outside the restaurant.

What happens when you are locked out of your house – you look up the local locksmiths phone number using your phone.

It is obvious from the above that a Website is fast becoming a necessity.

A 1000 likes on Facebook are worth exactly nothing.

You have a Business and you have a Facebook Page, why?

When you look at Social Media, such as Facebook, in a business context, you have be a little old school in your thinking. Not that long ago, eMail was the most cutting edge thing about the Internet. There was no Facebook and there was no Twitter. Public Relations or PR was handled either by the boss or by someone appointed to handle it. You would phone in your complaints or send them in using eMail or even snail mail.

Today, the Internet allows us to handle Public Relations differently, you can still use the above methods (and some still do) or, you can use Social Media. And one Social Media tool, in particular, stands out – Facebook. Facebook is perfect for Public Relations.

You can use facebook to announce a new product or service, you can provide your customers with tips on how to to get the best out of their purchases. Your clients and followers can post compliments and they can post complaints. The very nature of Facebook allows you to get a conversation going, though when it comes to complaints you may want to take the conversation elsewhere.

Facebook Page updates get posted to your followers timelines and to follow your Facebook page they first have to like it.

But you knew all that, did you not? So where am I going with this? Simple, I will only like 3 types of pages, one that will inform or entertain me, a product or service I am interested in and those of my clients.

So when I receive a request to like a page for something that I will never use in my lifetime, so please do not angry when I not like your page. You will never get business from me, ever. Rather spend time finding the sector of the market who want your product.

Of course if you do not know where to find your market, drop me a line and ask how I can help you to solve the problem.

 

What is a Website and what is its Purpose?

The Internet has evolved into a complex entity that  makes defining what a Website is rather difficult. The Internet is not just to for you to research information, you can watch a movie, chat to friends, you can buy a book and read it immediately. You can order Pizza, find a plumber and even store your important documents.

If the Internet continues to become more complex, how can we try to define a Website in simple terms. Rather we should look at what it means to you and your business.

Ask yourself, “Why do I need a Website? What purpose will it serve and what are my goals?”

A plumber in search of local business will answer differently to someone who bakes birthday cakes.

Joe Bloggs the Plumber tries to source business in the suburb where he operates or closeby. He used to advertise in the local newspaper and the Yellow Pages. But with mobile phones becoming cheaper to use, less people use landlines anymore, so fewer people use the yellow Pages. News is freely available on the Internet, so less people bother with newspapers, even the free ones.

So Joe sets up a Business Card Website on the Internet. It is a simple page that gives his business name, contact details and a brief list of his services. He also gets his own email – joe@joeblogsplumber.co.za – and also advertises for free in on line business directories. And because Search Engines are more intuitive, his Website should come up when someone searches for a plumber in his area. And should there be more than one plumber in the area and if Joe has taken the time to do some SEO (which we come to later in this article/series) he will be the first or second result when someone searches for a plumber in his area.

Jenny and her husband have recently retired and to keep occupied and bring some extra income, they bake Birthday cakes, which they will deliver. They have decided to target target anywhere they can drive to in one hour making their target market larger than if they just served the suburb where they stay.

They need a brochure with with pictures of their cakes and prices as well as their contact details. Printing brochures and then distributing them, is expensive so they opt for a Website.

Their Website is quite simple, it has a Homepage with Information about the service they provide, the five content pages act as a catalogue with pictures the cakes and prices. They also include a page with recommendations from existing clients. They have a contact page with a contact form as well as their email address and phone number.

Two simple Websites that are quite different. So in reality a Website is what you need it to be. It can be a Business Card or it could be a Online Shop. It can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be.

 

To Blog or not to Blog – Part Four: Inspiration

You have just published your first Blog post, so what is next? Obviously, your next post. Many Blogs that start off well, simply fall by the Web Site because the author loses interest or cannot find the inspiration needed to produce good content.

So how do you remain inspired and regularly produce good content. Writers block is common, but there are many ways to combat this.

Firstly learns ideas happen at the most inconvenient times. You may be travelling on the bus or drinking coffee when an idea comes to you. Now, you know how easy it is to forget something, so always carry a pen and notebook with you, and write it down.

Remember: Think it – Ink it

Okay, so what are you writing about? Write down all the words associated with the subject with it, eg:

Cape Town
Table Mountain, Waterfront, South Easter, Kaapse Klopse, Snoek, Crayfish, Tavern of the Seas, Mother City,

These are just some of the words that came mind straight away. Just looking at it, I could write how when I was a young boy, fishermen would push a cart with their catch and blow through a piece of kelp, also known as a Snoek Horn,  to get your attention.

Inspiration is all around you, something catches your eye and reminds you of something. Keeping with the Cape Town topic, I post about the Cow I saw on a balcony in the CBD, with a picture as proof.

The Cow in the City

The Cow in the City

The Internet is also a great place to find inspiration. You might read something that is incorrect and write your own article correcting this. In the same way, Blogs, Tweets and Facebook are a great place to find inspiration as is the News. Inspiration is all around us, you don’t even have to work to hard to find, just be receptive when it find you.

Another way is to allow 1 or 2 days every month and just write blog posts, you will find once you get started, your writing starts to gather momentum and the articles will flow.

Keep the articles coming and you will soon discover that your blog will become the place to go for someone search for your subject.

To Blog or Not to Blog:- Part Three

Once you have written your Blog Post and then published it, you need to make sure that your intended audience read it. So ask yourself, who is my audience and where can they be found?

Let us say you are writing about Advanced Quantum Physics, your audience is very specialised and will not be found (easily) on Facebook. You know that you will find your audience at Universities but you to look for other places they can be found, like discussion forums and blogs. This will take time but is worth it on the line run.

But you want to promote your Blog post, now – time for some magic; Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Actually it not so much magic as common sense.

When writing your post use keywords that your audience will use when searching for information that your post contains. This will help to get found but you need something more, Google Juice. Let’s be fair, there is no such thing as Google Juice, but Google is very important because it serves up more that 75% (estimated) of all search traffic. Incoming links from Web Sites that Google consider to be experts will help increase your position in the search results.

Incoming links are good, but Google will penalise you if the link is not relevant. So, a Knitting Blog linking to your post about Advanced Quantum Physics is a no-no.

In the same way that good incoming links aid your search results, so do recommendations.  And the best way to do this is to add Share Buttons to your Blog and ask people to share the post.  Sharing and the incoming traffic generated will give you even more Google Juice.

So what are the Web Sites that have the Correct Type of Google Juice to help promote your Blog Post?

 Social Media:

  • Create a Facebook Page and search out Facebook Pages with the same subject
  • Create a Google + profile as well as a Business Page
  • Twitter a good way to keep your followers informed of new posts
  • Pinterest, create an Infrograhic

 Google

 Social Bookmarking

To Blog or not to Blog, Part Two

Once you have written your Blog Post, you need to publish it.

If you have a Blog set up as part of your Web Site, you are halfway there. You simply upload the post, check it for grammar and spelling, add the relevant  tags and hit publish.

But what happens if you do not have a Blog or a even a Web Site. Here are three options I recommend:

1. WordPress

This is the option that I most recommend, because WordPress comes in two flavours;

  • A free version hosted by WordPress.com
  • An free open source version from WordPress.org that you can host on your own server.

The great thing about the free version is that it is very similar to the version you host yourself that allows you to prepare for the time you need to move to your own hosted version.

Both versions can be set up as just a Blog or as Web Site and a Blog, which the other two options do not have.

The free version does not give the option of a custom Domain Name, which you would have with version hosted on your server, unless you are prepared to pay for it. The Web Site address (URL) will be yourusername@wordpress.com.

The further advantage of the free version is that when you move to your own server, you can link back to your free version, so when you publish a new Blog Post, it is automatically promoted to the WordPress community.

2. Blogger

Whilst Blogger does not have the option for a Web Site, it is still a very popular option with Bloggers. Part of the Google stable, it makes a good choice if you only want to publish a Blog or even as a second Blog. (avoid publishing duplicate content) Linking it to your Google + profile also makes sense as it will help you to promote your Blog.

Like WordPress, you can change the appearance and tart it up to suit your choice. As soon as you publish your post, it is available to the Blogger Community to view.

3. Tumblr

Tumblr, belonging to Yahoo, is a cross between a Blog and Facebook. In fact a large part of the Tumblr community treat in much the same manner as Facebook, with regular short posts and following Tumblrs that take their interest.

So where does this fit in with Blogging. There is just a large community using Tumblr for Blogging. When you publish, it is promoted to a large community.

When choosing a Blogging you need to look at what you need it to do for you, but at the end of the day, it is going to come down to personal choice. Each one of the above options are easy enough to fit into your Internet Presence and you should choose carefully.

These are not the only options for Blogging available, but they are the most common ones and in my opinion, the best available.