No Reason To Fear Transparency

July 17, 2008

I’m currently in the wilds of New York state on business. I ran into an unexpected road block yesterday — and no, construction limiting traffic to one lane isn’t what I’m talking about. (Although the wait was excruciating!)

I met with the manager of a mall to pitch her on upgrading their web site. What I thought was a glaring omission on the mall’s current site — namely, lack of a diagram of the mall detailing shops, kiosks and restaurants — was actually by design.

The mall’s web site was deficient in so many other ways. But ultimately, the manager rejected the need for a revamped web site, and if I read between the lines correctly, it was because the mall didn’t want to advertise its current state.

Let’s face it, signs of economic downturn are everywhere. In much of New York outside of the City, that’s been true for many years now. Mall management (and ownership) seem to think that not publishing an interactive map of the mall — which might show some vacancies — is an easy way to hide the current state of the place.

Wrong. The people who frequent the mall know this all too well. Yes, the half-finished Steve and Barry’s superstore that will never open is a tell-tale sign of something amiss. Locals can’t be fooled. So why hide the obvious?

Instead, do the right thing by merchants who still call the mall home. Play them up in every way possible. That means an interactive web site. Who knows, you might even bring in new traffic or lure a new tennant?

Blog originally posted at LI

‘My Son Built Our Web Site’

June 28, 2008

Talking to several small business owners in recent months, I get the occasional cringeworthy line thrown my way: “Oh, we’ve got a web site. My son built our web site.”

Well, excuse me for being a pessimist. As handy as your son might be with html code and Photoshop, if he doesn’t run his own web design business, then your web site likely is missing several key features to help it stand out in the crowd.

For starters, search engines regularly crawl sites. And if yours doesn’t have all the alt and meta tags in place, then you are in danger of being marginalized. Choosing the right key words to put in the tags is just as important as the tags themselves.

And then there is SEO. Few people properly understand search engine optimization. You son almost certainly doesn’t. If your site is stuck on Page 8 of Google rankings, no wonder! Pay a professional to optimize your site and you should see real results.

The bottom line is you get what you pay for. Little Joey might be able to whip together a functional family genealogy page. But when it comes to your business, why leave something as important as a web site to an amateur?

Blog originally posted at LI

Small Biz And The Net

June 25, 2008

Whenever I meet a small business owner, more often than not they are resistent to the Internet. It’s a dirty word; a foreign world. There’s no way any of their potential customers troll around the net looking for them. That’s where many proprietors are making a serious mistake.

It’s no longer enough to hang out a shingle and place an ad in the phone book. If that’s all you do, you are living in a bygone era. And your business might follow.

Search is what has turned Google into a powerhouse and why Microsoft is scrambling for a piece of the action. Anyone under the age of 30 goes to the net first to look up products and services. Any local merchant with a stand-alone web site has an instant edge.

In other words, a web presence is essential.It’s like trying to run a cleaners without hangers or a deli minus a cash register. Consider it infrastructure. And believe it or not, a personalized web site doesn’t need to be a costly investment. If your web site brings in just one new regular customer that just might offset the cost. And in the bottom-line world of small business, that’s a rationalization owners need to be willing to make.

Blog originally posted at LI