How To Refine Your Google Search by Nelson Tan

  1. Use the addition (+) sign to make sure you get all the terms in your search results. So: ‘+internet +marketing +strategies’ will get you results containing all those words, leaving out web pages that only contain ‘internet’.

  2. Use the subtraction (-) sign to exclude references that you are not interested in. For example, if you are not interested in web pages that talk about viral marketing, enter: ‘internet marketing strategies -viral’.

  3. Sometimes, your search terms may be far off from one another ona web page. To ensure your terms appear together in a phrase, put them in double quotations, like this: “internet marketing strategies”. This is also useful when you want to look for specific topics, such as “how to remove spyware“, rather than having the terms scattered all over.

  4. If you are looking for a word definition, Google has a tool for you. Just type: ‘define: widget’ to get a definition of the word from online dictionaries and glossaries.

  5. Google even performs calculations. For example, enter ’1+2+3′ and click ‘search’ to get the result. It can also perform unit conversions such as from miles to kilometers. Enter ’10 miles to kilometers’ and you’ll get 16.09344 kilometers.

Nelson Tan is the webmaster behind Internet Mastery Center. Download $347 worth of FREE Internet Marketing gifts at http://www.internetmasterycenter.com/

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Test Your Site Usabilty

The Million Dollar Homepage.
Image via Wikipedia

Anyone can sit at a computer and push buttons on a program to make a web site. Its not hard. If you have used Word, you can make a website. But like so many brick and mortar businesses out there, just because you build it doesn’t mean the will come. The next company comes along and guarantees you traffic, which you get, but are they completing the task on the site? Ease of use, also called usability is king on the web these days. Content and how easy is it to achieve the reason I came to your site. Thats what the customer is thinking. I’ve put together a small checklist below of simple yet game killer principals to follow. How does your site compare?

  • Does your site load in a reasonable amount of time? bounce rate is the percentage of people that leave your site without leaving the landing page. How high is your bounce rate? You want to do your best to keep your landing pages under 100k, preferably closer to 60k.
  • Is you landing page cluttered or well organized? You want to have close to an equal ratio of text and blank space to not overwhelm the reader.
  • Site navigation: How well is your site laid out through navigation links? the goal is that no item is more than 3 clicks away from your home page. Once on the page 3 clicks to a sale as well.
  • Are your links and navigation well marked? As in do you have a lot of icons with no descriptions? Are the most important buttons for the customer readily accessible?
  • Its a proven fact that 73% of internet users do not scroll; If they don’t see it in the top 780 pixels, they may never see it. Is your most important information above the fold?
  • Do you use fonts that are big enough and readable?
  • Are you color schemes attractive, consistent and do they aid in readability?
  • If you have ads and pop-ups, are they unobtrusive?
  • Are your page titles, headings and subheading self explanatory? You would be surprised how many times i have come across page titles and headings that read more like riddles than titles.
  • Is you main copy clear and concise?
  • Are you store policies and return policy easily available, especially during the sales process? Are your policies clear and concise?
  • Is there a clear About Us page that actually lists verifiable information?
  • Is there a clear Contact Us page that lists emails AND phone numbers for prompt contact as well as hours of availability?
  • Do your forms support the task? Are they easy to use and clear?
Have I missed anything? You tell me and I will add it to the list!
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Are We Approaching A True Democracy? Is this Athens?

Texting on a keyboard phone
Image via Wikipedia

This has been an exciting and revealing week on the web.   Several things are coming to the surface and what are the implications?   The world became a much smaller place with the acceptance and widespread use of the internet.   Now you can talk to someone real time on the other side of the world as though they are in the next room.   News is instantly broadcast worldwide   Way back when, it took days if not longer for news to travel.   Wars have gone on for months before all of the troops were made aware that an end had been reached and the fighting stopped.   Now, within minutes of something happening in Afghanistan, it is broadcast worldwide.  It has been reported that Osama bin Laden himself watched the unfolding terror of the 911 attacks on CNN.   Never has instant information played the role in government than this past Presidential election in the US.   The choice of Joe Biden as the running mate for VP was going to be released via text message to the world, but a reporter trumped the move.

Obama was quoted as saying “We are the people that we have been waiting for” in government.   He pledged to open the government to give you and I “The People” a greater choice.   This is supposed to be a “Government for the people, by the people”.   In reality it has turned into a government for the people ruled by a select few that we put there to truthfully watch out for our best interests.  Boy, did we ever screw up.   The Obama administration set up a forum to hear peoples’ opinions about how things can be done better in government and the item that got the most responses was legalizing marijuana.   How apathetic are we as a country?   Are we that ignorant to the current state of the world and our future that it hasn’t hit home yet?   Everyone knows of someone that the economy has hurt very badly if not themselves.   I never served in the Military, however, looking back now, I feel everyone should have to serve their country for several years in one form or another.   The military is just one option.   Whether or not you support the conflicts we are involved in around the world is your choice, but not supporting the troops that are there fighting for America is Unamerican.

Now more than ever, we are all connected to the internet and mass communication in some form or another.   My 6th grader feels he needs to be able to check his email on his phone!   Within a few years, television as we know it may change to being provided solely by dish and available over the internet.   Look at www.blip.tv, online since 2005.  Several countries around the world have made voting via text messaging possible.   Will we get to the point voting on Presidential mandates and/or ideas overnight on our phones for the administration to gauge the American response?   How is that going to affect all of the aging seniors when the younger generations can affect the majority vote in such numbers?  I think it leaves more questions unanswered then it answers.

Where does that leave us?   The world has changed as we know it over the last few weeks.   Sears announced it is going online with the Sears Marketplace in a direct response to Amazons’ Marketplace domination.   Walmart announced the same thing several weeks back.   Amazons’ domination of online sales may have just been truly challenged.   Both Sears and Walmart will be offering  3rd parties the opportunity to sell on their marketplaces further widening their offerings in those categories.   Sears will be open to any 3rd party seller, Walmart is only open to their chosen few partners.   We the consumer will have more choices of online marketplaces as a result.  We are already not limited to Amazon because of other places like Buy.com and Ebay.com, but neither of them have the retail punch of Sears or Walmart.  Will this change our shopping patterns?  Only time will tell, but going into a holiday season, it does offer us more reputable choices to be able to shop from home.

Thanks to Scott Wingo and his blog at Channel Advisors, the best multi-channel ecommerce platform available.

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Does Your Company Create Raving Fans Out Of Customers? What About Your Employees Are They Raving Fans?

What do you do as an owner, manager or front line team member to create ‘Raving Fans’ out of your customers?   Do you as an owner or manager create ‘Raving Fans’ out of your employees?

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart

Those of us old enough to have been privileged to attend College in the late ’80′s and after surely remember motivational management expert Ken Blanchard and his award winning book “The One Minute Manager“.   This is one of his great books, but it over shadows what I think is an even greater book, “Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service“, released in 1993.   What exactly are ‘Raving Fans”?   They are people that are so impressed with your company and products that they go out and tell everyone they know.    The flip side of that coin is reducing the ‘Raving Foes, those that go out and tell everyone know about their terrible experience. Define what kind of experience you expect your customer to have when they interact with the company at any level. Set Expectations that your customer will experience and set expectations for what will happen during the interaction.

Involve all levels of your company in this, they will take ownership of ensuring that the expectations are met on their end. Then tell them, tell anyone and everyone what you expect them to experience each and every time they come back.    Go back to those customers and potential customers and give them your promise.    The bottom line of creating Raving fans out of your customers is to go back to the basics, fine tune everything.   Add value wherever possible.   the bigger companies that you compete against have this working against them.   they cannot initiate attitude changes company wide like can be done in a small business   When they have retail and ecommerce working together, your talking about a huge investment and culture change to accomplish what can be done in a small business in less than a week.

Think about it for a minute, in this day and age, where one financial institutions’ bad decisions cascaded into the collapse of the entire financial market, however fragile and mis-directed it was.    Several days of mob mentality and bad press can wipe out an entire brand, company and the millions and even billions of dollars behind building the brand and company in the first pace.   One company that exemplifies this most of all was Sizzler Steakhouse.   A little bit of bad press for a prescription drug and days later it is off the market, jobs are gone, companies are in ruins and everyone who ever took even 1 pill or think they may have is hunting for a good lawyer.   Now more than ever is the time to focus constantly and refocus often on the most important objective of them all, creating raving fans throughout the business model.

In his easy to read, straight flowing style, Blanchard takes the reader on a pathway to understanding of who the customer is and how this applies to all levels of the business.   First, who is the customer? We have both internal and external customers.  As the owner of a company, my internal customers are my employees,  I have to give them a quality product, brought to them using quality delivery systems with thorough product training to enable them to rave about the products to my and their external customers, our clients.   as the Ecommerce Manager my internal customers are my sales and customer service departments and we all share the same external customers.   To my vendors, their external customer is me, my staff and my customers, their internal customer is their sales staff and delivery system staff etc….   My ‘Raving Fans’, my staff go out everyday and turn our customers into our ‘Raving Fans’   In the extended portion of this concept, my employees friends see how much they love their jobs and enjoy it and my staff bring in the best ones to grow our culture.   I’ve seen this happen personally and it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

To me, avoiding ‘Raving Foes’ is the easiest part of the picture.   We all make mistakes.  If your not making a mistake every now and then, your not trying hard enough.   As long as we learn, grow and don’t repeat it then no problem.   No one can please 100% of the people 100% of the time, that is just how it is, there will always be someone.   If the mistake is our fault, apologize, admit it, resolve it quickly without passing the ball and make the customer happy.   No matter how mad someone might get at us, no matter how upset someone may be because I will not refund shipping charges both ways on something they purchased incorrectly, I wan t them to walk away saying to themselves, “they sure did upset me, but they exceeded expectations trying to ensure that I understand why and making me want to purchase from them in the future if for no other reason, their integrity.”   Exceeding expectations is something you will see quite often in my postings so get used to it.

Creating ‘Raving Fans’ is fairly straight forward and does work when the concept is grown within the company with full cooperation.   First and most importantly, talk to your employees, talk to your customers, talk to your potential customers.   Listen to what they retail you about their experiences.

Be consistent!  Once everyone is behind you in your company, this is the new standard, and must be held up at all costs   This is your niche.   It may not be price, but it will definitely be value.   You must hold staff members, vendors… everyone, accountable to upholding the commitments that you have made to one of your most important assets, your customers.    Customer compliments and letters must be held up and touted to everyone as though they just hit a grand slam in the world series.

To wrap this all up let me say this:   In this world we have created for ourselves and the current air of the uncertainty that is pervasive in all areas of our future.   What is any companies most important assets?  The employees and the customers.   as ‘Raving Fans’ they ensure growth and success, even today!   Most companies best customers, the ones that are truly their ‘Raving Fans’, start out as a ‘Raving Foe’, with some sort of problem or issue that someone in your organization decided to go above and beyond to take care of.   The perfect example that shows how possible this really is.

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SEO Begins With Baby Steps

MooCards customer service
Image by krystianmajewski via Flickr

Have you ever watched a baby trying to navigate their first real footsteps across the room? The are so excited to do what mommy and daddy do as well as the whole impact of the new environment/new territory that they never take those first steps immediately. Instead the forward momentum of their body and and excitement of mommy sitting 5 feet away saying “come here, come on you can do it” propels them in an awkward almost slow motion gallop forward. Yes they traveled 4 feet, but they barely took one uneasy step. The rest of the movement was flying forward and falling on the tile floor with a loud SLAP. Then there is the other Mom who stands over jr holding his little hands helping him take his first few steps in a nice leisurely yet secure pace. Jr will walk first, probably be less of a klutz in life and more secure about his ability to do things.   It all starts with that first simple step. You cannot run jr until you have mastered walking.

Personally I have never been a huge Internet shopper, or any kind of shopper for that fact.   When I go shopping, I generally know where I am going, what I am getting and I try get in and out, no muss, no fuss. Don’t bother me with surveys at the mall, or lines wrapped around the building.   If you have the entire tribe with you, stay to the right so us impatient shoppers can pass easily on the left.   The same goes for shopping on the net.   If I go online to play games, then the bells and whistles, 2 minute flash intro, excessive talk about the sites abilities or accomplishments are all fine and to be expected.   If I am going shopping online I want to know just a couple of simple things,

  1. How much is it?  
  2. What I am expecting?  
  3. Does it have enough information to clearly explain what it is used for?
  4. Is it easy to order(less than 5 clicks)? Do they accept easy forms of payment?  
  5.  Are they confident enough in their products quality to make return policies easy to find?
  6. Most important to me ….can I get all of that without waiting for a useless 2 minutes flash intro, have to search 3 times to find the product because its hidden and hard to find, search through my payment methods to find one that is compatible with theirs and get a live chat option that is only live less than 20% of the time?
High expectations? I don’t think so, but it still surprises me how few companies deliver on these simple basics that go back to the start of ecommerce on the web.

Times have changes, the company names have changed, but companies large and small are still making these simple yet gigantic errors is User Experience

  • Loud, slow, heavy flash intros.
  • Navigational categories that obviously follow the manufacturers structure but not the real world, making finding things very difficult.
  • Search functionality that takes you to dead pages or does not return simple clear, concise results.
  • Link buttons to accounts, policies, customer service and my personal favorite…. the super duper top secret company phone number are hidden 3 pages back behind 2 planters and a box.
  • The inability to organize listings to indicate multiple variations and/or sizes
  • Avoidance of customer feedback and testimonials out of fear of making an error and admitting to it.
  • Customer Service policies, return policies being more of a riddle than a clear statement and not being surfaced in the right places when the questions arise such as during order processing.
  • Value added offers such as free shipping or coupons being a closely held secret that only the selected “chosen” have access to.
  • Failure at the kindergarten classic, “show and tell”, looks great but with no description or specifications, or great pictures with no explanation of what all the very visible buttons and settings are for.
  • The overuse of icons and symbols which assumes we all know what the rss square means or what perky little icons indicate.
Clearly not rocket science, but they mind as well put the huge table on your desk full of 2 day old donuts they are discounting also to cloud your view. The User Experience, as in many many industries is key. Keep it simple stupid! So easily said yet so hard to accomplish. My general rule of thumb for any design structure is to idiot proof everything because I may be the idiot that happens to use it. I work very hard all week long. Don’t complicate my life further by giving me too many choices too much thinking or not having the most important parts of a sale readily available. You work here, you are the product professionals, you should be able to tell me what i should buy based on several simple discovery questions you might casually ask as I approach.

When I go into my favorite sushi bar with my kids, which incidentally I return to maybe 4 times a year, they recognize us before we are seated and start my kids favorite beverages and the edamame before even saying hello. Then when they do say hello, they have the kids drinks in hand, ask me if I’d like my favorite beer and ask if I would like to start off with a few different kinds of rolls while we consider other options. Think about it for a minute, I walked into a restaurant, was recognized, served beverages and the starter food and how much decision making/thinking did I have to do?? I answered yes twice and that is it. That is what superior customer service should be. They are blatantly saying I know my product, I know my customer and I am comfortable enough with my brand to make suggestions that the majority of people agree with. This is how the shopping experience should flow on the net. Big brother already tracks our purchases, browsing preferences and history using cookies. At some point the system will also be able to put in front of you your favorite colors and preferences based on past choices. We will never get to that point however until we can walk first and complete the sale without the hassle and inconveniences of business misconception.

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