How holding to cloud hosting and data management myths could cost you

Ryan Niddel, CEO, QuickLaunch Solutions

Ryan Niddel, CEO, QuickLaunch Solutions

Cloud computing is a broad term that can include hosting a website and data management. Unfortunately, small businesses are picking up many misconceptions in the marketplace about what the cloud is and what it means to be in the cloud.

“It’s not always the right solution for every business,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. “It takes research and consultation from someone with knowledge to really understand how it can work for your business.”

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about cloud computing and its applications for small businesses.

What is the cloud?

There are two main aspects to cloud computing. There’s the data management side, which is primarily utilized to back up files — think Dropbox or iCloud. This allows anyone, anytime, anywhere to store and access files on servers that exist all over the world.

The other aspect to cloud computing is hosting services, which provides the infrastructure that allows a company to host its website entirely in the cloud. Anything from an entry-level blog to something of enterprise value could be hosted in the cloud. There’s no need for redundancy between the cloud and a dedicated server because the cloud gives you myriad hosting options in its architecture. Even if you’re on a dedicated server now, that data can be easily migrated to the cloud.

Is cloud hosting cost prohibitive?

Cloud hosting for small businesses is really the entry-level for commoditization of a website, and there are pay-as-you-go options that suit each company’s needs. While many hosting services take a one-size-fits-all approach, the pay-as-you-go model is more fluid, offering a billing program similar to those offered by utility companies where you pay for what you use. Using this model, business owners can spend 20 percent less than those using a dedicated server.

There are also deeper cost savings. For example, research has shown that cloud computing reduces IT labor by more than 50 percent. Because the cloud is extremely stable, it’s unnecessary to pay for IT support staff to ensure infrastructure stays operational. Cloud hosting saves money on maintenance, hardware, licensing and support, and is all around more efficient than using a dedicated server.

Is cloud hosting secure and reliable?

Cloud infrastructure is at least as secure and possibly more secure than the dedicated servers many companies are currently using. The hardware virtualization architecture used in cloud hosting keeps systems working through redundancy, which means utilizing multiple servers to back up clients’ data. And the transition from one environment to another happens with no perceived interruption in service. There’s no easier way to have that kind of redundancy. It’s a very fluid, secure and dynamic environment that seamlessly adapts to the needs of the client.

Is cloud computing a fad?

Amazon, Google and Apple have adopted the cloud as the new wave of Internet technology, and this new commoditization, pay-as-you-go model is being widely used. More companies are shifting to the cloud from dedicated servers, and much of the new infrastructure being developed by startup companies is in the cloud, so it’s here to stay. It’s where data management and hosting are going.

What sort of savings might a company realize by utilizing the cloud?

On average, companies can expect to realize an 80 percent reduction in their hosting bill if they can optimize their cloud correctly. Once in the cloud, a company can have its bandwidth utilization monitored to establish benchmarks that show usage during high- and low-traffic periods. Bandwidth will be monitored during a three-month settling period to determine the right services for that company’s needs and ensure it’s only paying for what it uses.

Hosting in the cloud is the wave of future. It allows companies to operate more efficiently and effectively, and keeps the bottom line healthy. It’s also the logical progression in the evolution of data management. And with a good partner in the endeavor, it can be a painless and seamless transition.

Ryan Niddel is CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or [email protected]

Insights Internet is brought to you by QuickLaunch Solutions

 

 

How to generate more traffic, revenue from your website

Ryan Niddel, CEO, QuickLaunch Solutions

Ryan Niddel, CEO, QuickLaunch Solutions

Customer engagement is key to generating website traffic that translates into more revenue. The good news is that to generate that engagement, businesses don’t need to scrap existing websites to see significant improvements.

“Every Web development shop says you need a completely redesigned website; that’s why customers aren’t becoming engaged. On a case-by-case basis that might be true, but most of the time it’s a matter of optimizing what’s already there,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions.

“It’s about mining data from your customers and getting the most out of the visitors to your site; getting them engaged in your brand by taking them through a proven funnel. Capture their information, get them engaged through a follow-up sequence and get them involved in your social media, so when they need your product or service, you’re at the tip of their tongue,” says Niddel.

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about strategies companies can implement that help them grab the attention of existing and potential customers — a circular marketing campaign unifying their overall Web presence.

Where does the process of building engagement start?

It begins with a few simple changes in the website design; nothing more than a giveaway, something related to your business. A business that paints houses might feature a free e-book on how to care for your house’s paint or the simplest way to scrape it off. When someone provides an email address, he or she is added to a database and gets to download the material for free.

From there, it’s a series of email, text and mail promotions that all circle back to the end goal of getting them involved in your brand. Someone doing research and shopping for a painter might take 30 days to make a decision. You’re staying in front of him or her without being intrusive, giving him or her good information on a regular basis while also providing him or her with a way to connect to you. The best frequency is between once every 10 days and once every 25 days; that’s not intrusive at all.

You can also set up a blog that links to your website to allow customers to provide real-time feedback. If someone’s unhappy, that gives you the chance to apologize to the world, and show how the problem was fixed and what you do for your customers.

Does that strategy work regardless of the type of business?

It’s more congruent with someone not selling a product, but it will work for e-commerce as well. We worked with a company that sells various pumps and gaskets for industrial use, which is a niche market so it’s not a high visibility website or search term. But it was able to get people engaged with its site and that has increased its customer acquisition 8 percent in 30 days.

How do you get customers to connect with your business via social media?

Offer a simple giveaway, a free quote or a 5 percent discount coupon if they follow you on Twitter or ‘like’ you on Facebook. Make sure every online aspect, whether it’s your website, blog, Facebook or Twitter, interconnects and have links to each other.

If you’re doing a good job and providing helpful information, engagement rates will be about 10 percent. That 10 percent will actively stay involved in the brand and provide vital feedback.

People visiting websites usually don’t take immediate action; it’s too easy to conduct research and shop around. Getting customer engagement sets you aside from every other company prospective clients search. Not every business will become a Nike or an Apple, but Joe’s Painting has people who like and trust Joe, and will tell their friends about Joe. That becomes easier when you stay in touch with them.

Ryan Niddel is the CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or [email protected]

Insights Internet is brought to you by QuickLaunch Solutions

 

Why your business needs a website

Ryan Niddel, CEO, Brain Host

Ryan Niddel, CEO, Brain Host

The Internet is the first place most people go to look for a business, yet 72 percent of small businesses in Ohio do not have their own website, says Ryan Niddel, CEO of Brain Host.

“It’s surprising because having a website seems so commonplace,” says Niddel. “But if you find businesses in the Yellow Pages or the state business registry and try to pull up their domains, you see they don’t have a Web presence.”

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about the reasons businesses need websites and the costs and options of building and maintaining an online presence.

Why do so many businesses not have websites?

People think it’s more difficult, expensive or time consuming than it is. Small businesses don’t understand that someone can operate the site for them and it’s not going to cost thousands of dollars.

Businesses can get a website for free as part of a Web hosting contract costing as little as $15 a month. That way they can test the marketplace and see if their ROI increases and they’re making more money before expanding the site or getting involved in a social media marketing program.

Is a website a necessary tool for every business, no matter the product or service?

Yes, based on the number of people who search for businesses from a smartphone, tablet or computer. People look for restaurants and small businesses online before becoming customers. They want to see a website that shows products and services offered, price points and testimonials.

E-commerce stores, businesses that actually sell products online, are a small piece of the marketplace. Most websites are informational; it’s giving a consumer peace of mind about what they’re getting into before doing business with a company. Websites can benefit service industries, nonprofits, specialty shops and everything in between.

What is the advantage of a website compared to a free Facebook page?

Websites give additional validity to businesses because everyone knows Facebook is complimentary. When someone sees you’re willing to invest in your brand, it gives an additional level of comfort. Also, Facebook is a couple of pictures and quotes about your company, whereas a website can be much more in-depth.

What is essential to having a good website?

A good website not only provides insights into your business, but also enables you to capture and consistently follow up with visitors. You should leave any visitor with a hook that allows you to stay in touch periodically and keep them engaged with your brand. A company selling golf equipment — and that golf equipment doesn’t have to be sold online — might have a free download or brochure about how to take five strokes off of your game. Potential customers give an email address, and you send them specials or information about clinics or new locations.

Circle back with Twitter and Facebook accounts by sending an email that offers a 5 percent discount coupon if they ‘like’ your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. Then, potential customers get an automatic update every time you post something to Facebook or Twitter; you’re getting an entire marketing package at no cost.

Websites have been referred to as a modern equivalent of an ad in a telephone directory. Is that accurate?

That’s correct. Catalog-size paper telephone directories are a thing of the past. About 95 percent of consumers will do some sort of online research before setting foot in your establishment. If they do an Internet search on a small business and all they see are sites with reviews or contact information, that doesn’t make them very comfortable about the business.

If you have a competitor nearby that has an Internet presence and they come up right away on a Web search, consumers are twice as likely to go to that storefront because they will not feel as engaged with your brand.

In today’s market of Internet savvy consumers, it’s imperative for small businesses to maintain a solid web presence or risk becoming obsolete.

Ryan Niddel is the CEO of Brain Host. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 [email protected]

Insights Internet is brought to you by Brain Host

 

‘Amazon tax’ payoff starts to arrive in some U.S. states

PALO ALTO, Calif., Wed Feb 20, 2013 — Sales tax from Internet commerce, a prize pursued for years by U.S. state governments, is starting to arrive in California and a few other states, providing millions of dollars in new revenue, though not as much as a benchmark study once forecast.

After fighting hard to get e-tailers such as Amazon.com Inc. to start charging sales tax, and eventually passing a law requiring collection, the California Board of Equalization reported last week it took in $96.4 million in September-December 2012, its first full quarter of collections.

Coinciding with the holiday shopping season, that result put the state well on its way to meeting its forecast budget of $107 million in new e-taxes for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2012, as set by the California Department of Finance.

But that revenue falls far short of ambitious expectations set in 2009 by a University of Tennessee study that greatly influenced the online sales tax debate nationwide.

The study estimated that California, if it did not act to collect more online sales tax, would miss out on as much as $1.9 billion in 2012 revenue. Nationwide, it estimated, states would fail to collect $11.4 billion in 2012.

How to choose the best web hosting option for your company’s needs

Ryan Niddel, CEO, Brain Host

It’s tempting to always want the latest technology for your business, but it’s more important to determine what you actually need in a Web hosting service before rushing after the flavor of the moment.

“Cloud service is the way the market is going because it’s efficient and effective. But it doesn’t make sense to push everyone to the cloud. A local pizza shop that has only 1,000 visitors to its site each month could go with a $4 per month hosting package on a shared server that will fit their needs very well and they’ll be very happy with it,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of Brain Host.

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about what to consider when selecting a Web hosting service.

What’s the first step a business should take when shopping for a Web hosting service?

The first step is to research the type of hosting services available, and then evaluate your needs. Hosting services are predicated on a few key performance indicators from your site’s traffic: the number of visitors, the bandwidth necessary to accommodate the amount of traffic on the site and your anticipated growth plans for the site. Choose a hosting solution that reflects your company’s goals.

What hosting options are available, and how do you know which is right for your business?

The focus is on need, but your budget is always a consideration. To host a small business site for a mom-and-pop pizza store, you could comfortably utilize a shared hosting environment for $4 to $15 a month.

From there, you jump up to a virtual private server (VPS) solution, which is having a piece of a server configured only for you and your business. It’s as if you’re the sole owner of a quarter of a box and you can do whatever you want with it — you own all the bandwidth and all the metrics.

Then you can upgrade to a dedicated server — basically the entire box. It’s ideal for larger, traffic-heavy sites or for someone who wants to segment out their own box and resell pieces of it.

Finally, there’s the environment where much of the world is headed, which is the cloud. It’s fully scalable and accessible in real-time, so the amount of bandwidth you need can actually be adjusted at any given point throughout the day, week or month. You pay only for what you use — no more and no less.

In a VPS situation, if you’re using more service than you purchased, it can take several days or even several weeks to increase the amount of traffic you can send to your site. Cloud hosting allows you to simply turn a virtual knob on a screen, and all of a sudden, you have all the bandwidth you need.

How do you know which Web hosting service is going to have less downtime?

Everyone providing a Web hosting service is going to promise you the world and it’s going to be tough to for them to deliver it. The best way to know for sure is to ask where their servers are located and what contingency plan is in place when problems arise.

You want someone with a clear plan and a cascading effect. If the main servers on the Eastern Seaboard go down, the hosting company should be able to recognize that and then quickly  switch to an alternate server. Or in the event that there is a power outage, the minute that power goes out, a backup generator or another server should instantly kick back on in another part of the world, leaving you with only a few seconds of interrupted service. It should be an automated process, rather than one that requires people to monitor the servers and physically flip switches behind the scenes.

The red flag for a Web host is lack of transparency. If they refuse tell you what they do and how they do it, then it will difficult to believe that they will be able to deliver on all that they are promising.

Ryan Niddel is the CEO of Brain Host. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or [email protected]

Insights Internet is brought to you by Brain Host

Amazon soars 15 percent as digital sales boost margins

SEATTLE, Fri Apr 27, 2012 – Amazon.com Inc.’s stellar quarterly results are helping convince skeptics on Wall Street that a bout of intense spending is beginning to pay off for an Internet retailer trying to transform itself into a technology company.

Shares in Amazon leapt 15 percent on Friday after it reported first-quarter earnings and margins well above investors’ most bullish expectations, tacking on some $10 billion in market value and marking its biggest single-day gain since October 2009.

CEO Jeff Bezos has tried to convince investors to stick with the company for the long term as it flirted with losses in recent quarters. He is trying to transform Amazon from an online version of a big-box retailer like Wal-Mart into a provider of technology services.

Some investors argue that its valuation of over 70 times forward earnings – dwarfing companies like Apple Inc. and Google Inc. that produce record profits – is justified because Amazon is on track for enormous margin expansion as it expands into more-profitable services from hosting websites in the cloud to providing an online marketplace connecting buyers and sellers.

“These services will become an increasingly important part of Amazon’s overall business and will be a driving force of profitability going forward,” Bernstein Research analyst Carlos Kirjner wrote.

Amazon is trying to be “not a bookseller or a retailer, but a company that uses technology and (now) its scale to transform whole value chains” from retail to publishing and video distribution.

Making “above and beyond” the norm

Ken Moss, Director of Data Operations, Call One

Call One is one of the nation’s largest providers of voice, data, and Internet services and systems.

Smart Business spoke to Ken Moss, Director of Data Operations at Call One, about how the organization has overcome challenges to become an innovative leader in its region and industry.

Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

The biggest challenge that Call One Data Operations has faced is the growing trend of enterprise organizations choosing inexpensive small-office/home-office (SOHO) IP solutions for their business. In years past, telecom providers enjoyed success selling premium services such as internet DS1 lines to businesses, thus reaping the benefits of larger revenues. Not only have wholesale bandwidth prices fallen, but emerging products such as DSL and cable modems that are economically price positioned have shifted the landscape to be ultra-competitive.

Call One has and continues to overcome this challenge through providing value added services that the SOHO IP products cannot offer. Free bandwidth metrics, reporting, and evaluations gathered though SNMP traps that DS1 can provide. Complimentary proactive notifications on service outages — where we contact the end user notifying that they are down before they even notice. Increasing that “white glove” type of approach based on what the technology can provide. We’re constantly looking for new ways to increase the value add.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

The great thing about Call One is that we’re not limited in how we can approach management issues. I personally like to tackle things with an analytical mindset — I’m a big metrics guy. But if something is not working for me or my teams, we jettison it and identify new and better ways. We’re not saddled with the “this is how things have been done for 10 years” mindset.

We’re firm believers in testing and being hands-on while at the same time employing an open door, customer centric approach — I call it the client/technology partnership. Being a technology company, we find all sorts of interesting challenges that present themselves — advanced routing issues, local area network issues, etc. Because we strive for that client/technology partnership, let’s solve issues together with our clients. Innovation through flexibility in both internal and external customer facing operations is what drives a lot of what we do. This has long been a critical component to our success.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned and how have you applied it?

The lesson of always being positive. It sounds cliché, I know. But over my career I’ve found that successful negotiation of most issues boil down to attitude and approach. Maintaining a positive attitude and approach in our dealings does make a difference. Letting negativity bleed unto oneself brings bunches of problems in a hurry. Positivity — that “can do” attitude and approach to not only operational issues, but relationships as well. I strive to ensure that my teams maintain that positive attitude, and they know that’s a pet peeve of mine. You could be the best and brightest engineer out there — but within my teams we won’t tolerate negativity.

How does your organization make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

Call One has had an internal Give Back Committee for years now that has coordinated fundraising efforts for various charities and community not-for-profit organizations. This year, for instance, our targeted fundraising organization is Aunt Martha’s Youth Service and Health Center. We consistently hold raffles, contests, bake sales, etc. with the proceeds going to Aunt Martha’s. We set fundraising goals and achieve them. It certainly makes us all feel good knowing that we’re helping contribute to those in need locally.

The effect we have on the regional economy is a little different — Call One is first and foremost a Chicagoland telecom company.  We have a wide range of different local affinity groups — including municipalities, school districts, and auto dealers, amongst many others. We can provide incentives for these groups to give them a competitive advantage in their marketplaces. Call One wants to see other Chicagoland businesses succeed. Through our affinity group program, I believe we are helping do just that.

How have you added “value” to the products and services you provide to customers and clients?

Funny — I would encourage everyone to go to www.callone.com and read a blog article that I authored and posted on August of 2011 titled “Discover Your Hidden Value Proposition.” In a nutshell, it always boils down to providing that premium customer experience that cannot be matched by your competitors. Know your client, stay ahead of the game, and ease their pains. Telecommunications is a commodity. Anything commoditized must be differentiated with value — this is a big one for me.

What is your philosophy on going “above and beyond” for customer service?

My philosophy about “above and beyond” is that it’s unfortunate that it’s still referred to as “above and beyond.” Going the extra mile is what provides that value proposition, that foundation for success to ensure longevity and sustained growth. It’s not “above and beyond” — it should be the “norm.”

Ken Moss, Director of Data Operations at Call One, has worked for Call One in Chicago, Illlinois, since 2002. He holds an MBA from Benedictine University and is a member of Sigma Beta Delta Business Honors Society. Reach him at [email protected] Also, feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Make your website launch “Easy”: how to launch your website to successfully achieve its mission

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The preflight check list prepares all kinds of flights, from gliders to spaceships, for a successful mission. The completion of this checklist is a complex work involving numerous specialized resources and accurate inputs.  “If you truly understand that your Web presence is strategic to your business, then preparing it for a successful site launch and ongoing performance requires the completion of a similar pre-launch exercise,” advises Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.  “Strategically addressing these points up front, can often make the difference between a businesses’ online return on investment reaching the stars, or blowing up on the launchpad.”

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about the mission critical points to cover in order to have a best performing business website.

What is the formula for a successful website?

The mission of a website is to reach its target audience(s), resonate with them and catalyze them to take the action that you desire (usually converting to a lead or customer). Prerequisite to all of this is knowing your target audience, how to connect with them and how to communicate with them in order to motivate the desired response.  When this complete, then you are ready to get started designing and building your website.

Building a website combines a variety of technical specialties.  Often the ideal approach for one specialty, say programming code-efficiency, is a less than ideal tact for another, like allowances for visitor experience or customization for best SEO.  There is a very real synergy and sweet-spot among aesthetics, functionality, programming complexity, interface and usability that every website needs to attune to so it is primed for maximum success.  This balance is unique to each business’s combination of target audience, product or service, and business model.

As you are designing, developing and preparing to deploy your website, putting it through what I call the ”Easy” checklist will help ensure that the correct and comprehensive preparations are taken for its successful business launch.  But be warned! As with most things that look ‘easy, there is a lot of disciplined hard work that brings together the final polished result; in this case a fine-tuned, high performance business website.

What is the ‘Easy’ Checklist?

The essence of the ‘Easy’ checklist is to be able to affirmatively answer that your website is clean, efficient and easy to interact with at all check-points.  Is it…

  • Easy to Navigate: Is the navigation clear and consistent? Can your visitor find any piece of information they want in the least amount of clicks?
  • Easy to Experience: Are you using language, visual content and design aesthetics that resonate with and motivate your visitors? In less than 5 seconds will they understand: who you are, how you can help them, and how they can take the next step or contact you? Do you have a mobile website customized for your mobile audience and their specific needs? Don’t waste your great, compelling content by making it not ‘easy’ to experience!
  • Easy for Search Engines to Read: Have you properly researched and identified your keywords?  Are your correct meta data and search engine verification tags in place to promote them?  Do you have HTML and XML Sitemaps, and are they linked in your site’s footer?  Also, use Flash sparingly because search engines don’t read or interact well with it.  When you do use it, make sure you incorporate underlying content that is search-engine friendly.
  • Easy to Transition: When launching a site that replaces an old one, are all your 301 redirects accurate and  deployed to prevent visitors from finding themselves in a black hole instead of the page they thought they were hyperlinking to?
  • Easy to Monitor & Review: Do you have analytics correctly attached to your site and all tracking and goals set up appropriately to help you make ongoing improvements and web marketing decisions?
  • Easy to Edit: Do you have a good Content Management System (CMS) administrative interface to your website? Do you know how to effectively use your CMS so non-programmers (i.e.: you and/or your marketing staff) can instantly make the edits and updates needed to keep your website current?)
  • Easy to Convert: Are your calls to action clear and bold enough to take your visitor on your desired directed path (to becoming a lead or customer)?  Are the forms you require them to complete made as easy as possible by only asking what you really need to know to convert the visitor or process their request?  When forms are barriers, are they only set up where absolutely necessary? When they are lead or purchase gateways, can the visitor find them in one (or even zero) clicks?
  • Easy to Integrate: Is your website integrated with your client relationship management (CRM) system, email manager, and internal business process workflow and communications.  Doing so will facilitate ongoing relationships, nurturing and service levels to your clients and prospects that are smooth, accurate and complete.
  • Easy to Find: Do you have your SEO website basics in place, and more importantly, do you have a search marketing strategy and ongoing plan to keep and build your website’s best performance?
  • Easy to Connect and Engage with: Is your website cohesively aligned and connected to your social media properties, local search profiles and other online presences?  Again, do you have an ongoing strategy to maintain and make the most of this marketing channel?

As new pre- and even post-launch items arise in your web presence, a great way to address them is by analyzing them in this light and then doing the needed work to make them “Easy.”   When these check points are addressed such that the interaction with your site is ‘easy’, your website has a strategic “Go for Launch” for a successful mission of bringing you leads, sales and measurable results.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Make your website launch “Easy”: how to launch your website to successfully achieve its mission

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The preflight check list prepares all kinds of flights, from gliders to spaceships, for a successful mission. The completion of the checklist is complex work, involving many specialized resources and accurate inputs.

“If you truly understand that your Web presence is strategic to your business, then preparing it for a successful site launch and ongoing performance requires the completion of a similar pre-launch exercise,” advises Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Strategically addressing these points up front can often make the difference between a business’s online return on investment reaching the stars, or blowing up on the launchpad.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about the mission-critical points to cover in order to have a best performing business website.

What is the formula for a successful website?

The mission of a website is to reach its target audience(s), resonate with them and catalyze them to take action (usually converting to a lead or customer). A prerequisite to all of this is knowing your target audience and how to connect and communicate with them in order to motivate the desired response. When this is complete, then you are ready to start designing and building your website.

Building a website combines a variety of technical specialties. Often the ideal approach for one specialty, say programming code efficiency, is a less than ideal tact for another, like allowances for visitor experience or customization for best SEO. There is a very real synergy and sweet spot among aesthetics, functionality, programming complexity, interface and usability that every website needs to attune to so it is primed for maximum success. This balance is unique to each business’s combination of target audience, product or service, and business model.

As you are designing, developing and preparing to deploy your website, putting it through what I call the ‘Easy’ checklist will help ensure that the correct and comprehensive preparations are taken for its successful business launch. But be warned: as with most things that look ‘easy,’ there is a lot of disciplined hard work that brings together the final polished result; in this case a fine-tuned, high performance business website.

What is the ‘Easy’ checklist?

The essence of the ‘Easy’ checklist is to be able to affirmatively answer that your website is clean, efficient and easy to interact with at all check-points. It must be:

  • Easy to navigate: Is the navigation clear and consistent? Can your visitors find any piece of information they want in the least amount of clicks?
  • Easy to experience: Are you using language, visual content and design aesthetics that resonate with and motivate your visitors? In less than five seconds will they understand: who you are, how you can help them and how they can take the next step or contact you? Do you have a mobile website customized for your mobile audience and their specific needs? Don’t waste your great, compelling content by making it not ‘easy’ to experience!
  • Easy for search engines to read: Have you properly researched and identified your keywords? Are your correct meta data and search engine verification tags in place to promote them? Do you have HTML and XML Sitemaps, and are they linked in your site’s footer? Also, use Flash sparingly because search engines don’t read or interact well with it. When you do use it, make sure you incorporate underlying content that is search-engine friendly.
  • Easy to transition: When launching a site that replaces an old one, are all your 301 redirects accurate and deployed to prevent visitors from finding themselves in a black hole instead of the page they thought they were hyperlinking to?
  • Easy to monitor and review: Do you have analytics correctly attached to your site and all tracking and goals set up appropriately to help you make ongoing improvements and Web marketing decisions?
  • Easy to edit: Do you have a good Content Management System (CMS) administrative interface to your website? Do you know how to effectively use your CMS so non-programmers (i.e. you and/or your marketing staff) can instantly make the edits and updates needed to keep your website current?
  • Easy to convert: Are your calls to action clear and bold enough to take your visitor on your desired directed path (to becoming a lead or customer)? Are the forms you require them to complete made as easy as possible by only asking what you really need to know to convert the visitor or process their request? When forms are barriers, are they only set up where absolutely necessary? When they are lead or purchase gateways, can the visitor find them in one (or even zero) clicks?
  • Easy to integrate: Is your website integrated with your Client Relationship Management (CRM) system, e-mail manager, and internal business process workflow and communications? Doing so will facilitate ongoing relationships, nurturing and service levels to your clients and prospects that are smooth, accurate and complete.
  • Easy to find: Do you have your SEO website basics in place, and, more importantly, do you have a search marketing strategy and ongoing plan to keep and build your website’s best performance?
  • Easy to connect and engage with: Is your website cohesively aligned and connected to your social media properties, local search profiles and other online presences? Again, do you have an ongoing strategy to maintain and make the most of this marketing channel?

As new pre- and even post-launch items arise in your Web presence, a great way to address them is by analyzing them in this light and then doing the needed work to make them ‘Easy.’ When these check points are addressed so that the interaction with your site is ‘easy,’ your website has a strategic ‘Go for Launch’ for a successful mission of bringing you leads, sales and measurable results.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.