There is nothing that screams amateur like a website with a mishmash of fonts and styles. Sometimes people copy and paste posts from a document they’ve already created in Word. Unfortunately that can also copy the Word styles and fonts into the WordPress document. In order to keep your styles and fonts consistent in your WordPress posts, click the “paste as plain text” icon in the toolbar. It will delete all the Word code and paste nice clean text into your post that will use the styles in your WordPress theme and keep your blog looking well-designed and professional.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail Father’s Day reminder from a store where I’ve bought gifts from online before. Since I typically put off holiday gift buying to the last minute and end up paying extra for shipping, I was grateful for the reminder.
Lesson one to online merchants: EMAIL MARKETING WORKS!
With over a week before Father’s day I thought the ample lead time would save me some cash on shipping. I clicked through to the website and browsed to find some sweet treats for dad. I quickly found a nice gift of sweet snacks at a reasonable price and clicked through to the checkout page. Where I stopped. The shipping charges nearly doubled the price of the goodies. Call me cheap, but if there’s one thing I learned from my dad growing up on his farm in Minnesota it’s the value of the dollar.
That reasonably priced gift now seemed tremendously overpriced. If I was going to spend that kind of money – it had to be a better gift. So I abandoned my shopping cart and Googled “Free Shipping Father’s Day gifts”. Multiple stores came up and I quickly found a gift. It was much nicer than the original gift. I did end up spending the same as the other gift would have cost with it’s shipping charges, but I now felt like the gift I was sending was worth the money I was spending.
Lesson two to online merchants – FREE SHIPPING WORKS! Consider the value of your product. If shipping costs make your item seem extraordinarily overpriced you will lose sales.
Lesson three to online merchants. CLOSE THE SALE! If your e-mail marketing campaign is driving traffic to your site but you’re not seeing corresponding sales, make sure you look at the value you’re offering to your customers. It’s a shame when something like high shipping costs causes them abandon their shopping cart when you’ve successfully drawn them to your store with your e-mail marketing campaign.
With merchant account providers raising processing rates and charging annual fees for security (PCI DSS compliance) it makes sense for small business website owners to review merchant account providers carefully before choosing or changing a provider for online credit card processing.
I’ve had an account with the same merchant account provider for several years, but recently the rates have been creeping up, in many cases to over 4% per transaction. Add the monthly fees and the new annual PCI DSS compliance fees together and the account is costing about $500 a year before a sale is even made. That’s alot for a small business to pay in account fees. Combine the increasingly high rates with the surly customer service and it has become clear to me that it’s time to review other choices.
The criteria for my business may differ than other small businesses, but here is what I looked for when reviewing my options:
- Monthly fees
- Transaction fees (percentage and flat fee per transaction)
- Contract commitment – avoid early termination fees
- Compatibility with existing website and accounting systems
- What are the company’s procedures for compliance with PCI DSS? What are the costs and the procedures?
- What online method of payment is most desired by your website customers?
There are many merchant account providers to choose from, among the choices, Paypal and Google Checkout are becoming increasingly attractive to small business websites. They are PCI DSS compliant, their monthly costs are minimal or free and their transaction fees are competitive for small business transactions. A contract is usually not required and they are easily integrated into most shopping carts and websites.
I’ve set up many sites with Paypal but I had not tried Google checkout yet, so in the spirit of testing the product, I removed the encrypted client payment form that I used with my old merchant account on my website and replaced it with Google checkout. Set-up and installation was simple. Client approval is yet to be determined.
My perception of Google checkout vs. Paypal is that it’s a newer product and fewer people are familiar with it. Therefore, people may be less receptive to it or more receptive depending on their experiences with Paypal and with the Google brand. I’ve used it a few times when making purchases on websites and I found the purchasing process to be simple and user-friendly.
But that’s just my perception. I’m currently running a poll on LinkedIn to find out what other people prefer. Please take a minute to take the poll.
In addition to testing Google Checkout, I’m also testing the Intuit merchant services. Their rates were lower than my old account and their interface with QuickBooks makes processing transactions and accounting for them a breeze. I’m currently just using this account for offline payments as I haven’t set up a payment form on my website yet for use with this provider. But I expect if I’m happy with their product I will set up a payment form on my site to use with this account.
I’m interested in hearing about your experiences with merchant account providers — from a merchant point of view and customer point of view.
5 quick style tips for website managers and blog newbies:
- Use bold only to accent selected words or phrases
- Use italics for publication titles, quotes and other phrases as determined but be consistent
- Stick to left justification in most cases – avoid overuse of center, right or full justified text
- Don’t be afraid of white space – it’s beautiful and makes reading easy on the eyes
- Resize photos appropriately for screen viewing and make sure they’re not stretched or fuzzy. It’s good practice to size images in a photo editing program before uploading to your site.
“Do you know where your children are?” Do you remember that PSA that used to run in the evenings? As a web developer whose seen some unfortunate clients lose their domains or get scammed out of some cash, I’ll ask “Do you know where your domain is registered?”
It’s important to know where your domain is registered and to monitor the contact information on the domain to ensure that you retain control. In many cases your domain name is closely tied to your brand so you should be very protective of maintaining that domain. I’ve seen customer’s lose domain names because they changed their e-mail address and didn’t receive the renewal information. And I’ve seen domains transferred to different regsitries in response to unscrupulous sales techniques.
Most domain registries handle renewals with automatic credit card billing and e-mail notices. If your credit card expires and the e-mail on account with the domain registry is no longer in effect the domain will expire and you may lose your domain permanently if the problem is not caught in time. Make sure you keep your contact information current and do not ignore renewal notices from your domain registrar.
There are a few unscrupulous domain registry companies out there whose practice is to send transfer solicitations that look like domain renewal invoices to domain owners. Domain owners sometimes miss the text that says that by sending a check it authorizes them to transfer the domain to their company. And since the domain owner doesn’t remember who is their domain registrar, they assume the invoice is legitimate and they pay the bill. The company doesn’t transfer ownership–you’ll still own the domain–but why change your domain registration company and pay a higher rate in the process?
In closing, if you don’t know where your domain is registered, find out now, before it’s too late.
Is your Web site an effective marketing tool?
The New Year is a perfect time to evaluate the effectiveness of your Web content. Use this checklist to review your written content on these ten important points:
- Does the content clearly and honestly describe your product or service?
- Have you presented your core message concisely and effectively?
- Do you use meaningful page titles, sub-headings, and other techniques that help visitors find what they’re looking for as they scan the page?
- Are your Web pages viewable in a couple of screen views, without too much scrolling down?
- Does each page have a strong call to action?
- Are there key words and phrases that help potential customers find you through a search engine?
- Do you review your site statistics to see what page visitors enter on, what page they leave from, and whether or not they take any action?
- Does the content match the design in terms of tone and personality?
- Is the type in a size, style, and color that make it accessible to the widest possible audience?
- Is your content free of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors?
If you’re not sure whether your current Web content is clear, easily “scannable” by the visitor’s eye, and truly descriptive of your product and services, take advantage of our evaluation and consultation services.
Can your potential customers find you when they do an Internet search? In other words, is your web site optimized for search engine indexing? Use this checklist to evaluate your web site for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
- Have you developed a key word list that contains words and phrases that describe your product or service?
- Does each page on your web site have a keyword-rich page title that accurately describes the content on that page?
- Does each page on your web site have a meta description tag that clearly describes the content on that page in one or two sentences?
- Do you use keywords within the content on your pages?
- Do you use keyword-rich alt tags for each image on every page?
- Do you use keywords in text links on your site?
- Do you update your site on a regular basis?
- Do you take advantage of industry- or regional-specific on-line directories to list your business, with a link to your web site?
- Do you use on-line PR services to submit articles related to your business that link to your web site?
- Do you have a blog, or participate in forums, blogs or on-line business networking services like Linked In, Facebook or Plaxo?
Establishing trust with clients who make contact via your web site is vital to its viability as an important component of your business. Make sure your web site provides the information people need to feel comfortable doing business with you. Remember, in the virtual web world, people don’t have the cues they might use in a brick and mortar business to decide whether they should risk doing business with you; so it’s extremely important to provide information that will assure customers that it’s safe to do business with your company on-line.
Take advantage of this checklist to evaluate your web site’s trust factor and determine if you need to make any changes or upgrades.
- Is it easy for people to find the information they need? Is the site organized and is navigation clear and easy to use?
- Does your web site look polished, clean, current and professional?
- Is the web site free of technical errors?
- Are images used effectively to present your message? Are they sized properly with the correct screen resolution (do they load fast and appear crisp and clear)?
- Does your web site’s design reflect your company’s personality and appeal to your target market?
- Are your business policies—including return, privacy and shipping policies—clearly stated and easy to find on your web site?
- Do you make it easy for people to know how to contact your company via email, phone or mail?
- Are you effectively using video or on-line sales presentations to demonstrate your product or service?
- Do you provide support information on-line such as customer forums, live chat, product manuals or service tips so people are assured they’ll have support once they’ve made a purchase?
- Is your e-commerce checkout process secure and easy to use? Do you offer payment options—credit cards, PayPal, Google checkout or other payment terms?
With the goal of making search engine results more relevant to users, Google continues to work on new methods to provide personalized results. Users will have the opportunity to rank their own results and add comments when logged into their Google account.
What does this mean for SEO? Strategies should focus less on attaining top rank but should focus on enticing the consumer to the site. Once there, the website should clearly present the material the user will need to take the action the site owner desires. Focus needs to be on:
- Writing good page titles, accurate yet enticing
- Write a good meta description
- Clear, action oriented content that clearly presents your message and invites users to take action.
One easy way to use keywords in your website is to use them in your links. Too often I see content concluded with “click here for more information”. That’s just a wasted opportunity where a keyword phrase should be used.
So, if you find yourself writing “click here” … STOP! Use a keyword instead.