Make Your Website Multinational

This article is contributed by Kay Winders.

The Internet is a great unifier, allowing you to market your brand to people around the world. Anyone anywhere can access your content so long as they have an Internet connection. Continue reading

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Professional Writers Blog

Professional writers blog: that is my short and emphatic answer to the implied question in a guest post by Larry Brooks on the Problogger blog.  His cryptic title, as he described it was, Why Professional Writers Need a Blog. Or Not.  His article raised some interesting questions and on some of these I profoundly disagree with what he said.

What Is A Professional Writer?

To avoid any unnecessary debate over terms, we should clarify what we mean by a professional writer.  In my book it is someone who writes for an audience and enjoys a success in so doing.  Success can be measured in monetary terms or perhaps merely in the number of readers that the writer draws to his writings.  Some successful professional writers are so well known that anything they write will attract a large audience.  For them is the luxury of doing what ever comes naturally and the audience will be there.

Should Professional Writers Blog?

Leaving aside the highly visible and well-known writers, what is the answer to our question for the average professional writer who may be unknown to his first time readers.  Larry Brooks divided such writers into two groups and felt different rules applied.  His groups were

  • Non-Fiction Professional Writers
  • Fiction Writers

If we examine what a blog really does, I think you will see that really the same answer applies to both. 

Blogs Versus Websites

A blog is really one type of website so in fact the comparison here is between blogs and websites which are not blogs.  Non-blog websites contain static web pages and normally little new content is added from one period to another.

A blog on the other hand has continuing new content added on a time sequence basis.  Very often it has an associated news feed, which is a file that automatically alerts aggregators of news that a new item has been added.  This double-up visibility is one of the key reasons why blogs are much more effective in bringing in visitors to the online property.

Blogs Have Heightened Online Visibility

An even bigger leveraging factor on blog visibility is that Google, the dominant search engine, in some ways overvalues blog post web pages relative to static web pages.  Google does not make public why its behavior should be like this, but one element in this is that the Google search engine values recent new web pages above more established and older web pages, at least for a few days.

This means that if someone wishes to have an online presence, a blog is far superior to a regular non-blog website.

Who Should Blog?

Given this heightened visibility for blogs, who then should be blogging?  A better way of opening up this topic is to ask, Who should not be blogging?  If you are aiming to communicate with the world via an online presence, then this online presence should be a blog.  It may be appropriate to add other more static website components such as a forum or a wiki, but their content will be slightly less visible through the search engines.

Some will question whether they have sufficient ongoing content to be able to create new blog posts with some regularity.  The answer to that is perhaps best illustrated by discussing the group that Larry Brooks suggested should have a static website.

Should Fiction Writers Blog?

Larry Brooks had the following advice for fiction writers:

Why doesn’t a blog work to promote a novel?

Because you can only blog about your book for so long.  And blog readers are almost completely intolerant of self-serving, thinly disguised promotional agendas.

You have to earn every single moment of personal mindshare from a prospective buyer through the delivery of content they can put to work in their lives.

Blogging also comes with another type of risk.

Even if you have valid to offer.

Blogging can be addictive and hungry, it can eat up energy, time and mindspace like no other intellectual pursuit you’ve ever been tempted to give in to.

If you dive in, you need to be all in.   And that’s a huge commitment.

Given that line of thinking, Larry Brooks pushed for a static website for each novel.  However he ignores the fact that blogs are several times more visible than static websites in search engine results.  The blog can be very effective during the buildup to the book launch and following the launch. 

Indeed even thereafter, devout readers may be interested in whatever further developments have occurred about the novel and any sequels. Such content may be less hot with human readers but it serves to maintain visibility among those search engines.  The importance of this is such that a blog is always worth the effort even though these blogs will require only limited extra content as time passes.  Nevertheless they create a much larger impression on the search engine radar screen around the static website that is specifically for the novel.  In this way, the visitor traffic to the novel website will be maximized on an ongoing basis.  That should lead to higher book sales, which is after all the key objective.

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Bell Canada Website Problems

Rather surprisingly in a Google search that should have pointed to the Bell Canada website, the following page was at the top of the listings.

Bell Canada website browser detection web page

Who knows why this should rank so well in the Google rankings? It seems somewhat ineffective to allow such a web page to be the top marker. What is more of a worry is the attitude that such a message signals. For up to 1 in 20 of the visitors to the website, it’s the visitor who will have to make the extra effort to enjoy their experience in visiting the Bell Canada website. It seems that the shopping section of the website will work fine, but after logging in you may have problems. Does that signal as usual that customer service may not match the attention you’ll get as they try to sell you something?

Whether by switching browsers such visitors will enjoy their experience more is open to question. Kate Trgovac seems to have had some issues with the usability of the Bell Canada website in trying to solve her telephone problems. Of course big websites do require extra efforts to make them work well. Usability doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It requires a customer-centric attitude and unfortunately the Canadian telecom companies have somewhat shaky customer-service records.

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If I Build It, They Probably Won’t Come

Websites are like mouse traps in a forest.

The title is the answer to a question posed by Sophie Wegat of ThinkProspect. Thinking about websites, she asked “If I build it, will they come?” Unfortunately the answer is most probably not. As she said:

These days having a website is no guarantee of success. It takes blood, sweat and? yep you guess it marketing to make your online venture a success. Unfortunately too many people still think if they put a site online the masses will flock to them. And then wonder why they don?t. It?s also a myth that people like to perpetuate. Put a site online and you?ll be making millions within days.

So many bright-eyed hopefuls feel like that. Six months later it’s a very different tale. As I commented on her blog:

I think that’s the mental attitude we’ve got to spread. The website budget in terms of dollars should be 50/50 website creation versus making it perform. The owner and his/her team should probably split their efforts 10/90 in terms of website creation versus making it perform.

Related: Power Webmastery

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How Usable Is Your Website?

So who might ask, “How Usable Is Your Website?” It’s probably not visitors to your website since most will not know what the word Usable means. They vote with their mouse. They either stay a little while or click they’ve disappeared. Perhaps if you’re a website owner, you’re not even sure what the question means.

Perhaps you might be surprised to hear that on November 3rd this year, the world celebrated the first World Usability Day. Around the world many people were trying to make sure that many more people would know what Usability means. However unfortunately it seems that it was mostly people who know what Usability means talking to other people who already knew what Usability meant. Here in Montreal, it was difficult to find any World Usability Day celebrations since they were all happening in Quebec City at the Intracom2005 conference for IT professionals who likely knew about Usability.

Usability is concerned with how well things work for their users. For websites, it measures the ease with which visitors can achieve what they want to do when they visit your website. It’s a very important subject. The Canadian Marketing Association featured an article on their website within the past month that addresses this subject. It’s called How Usable Is Your Website? Tara O’Doherty of Cossette is the author, and I became aware of it in that fine blog that Mitch Joel writes. It includes a detailed questionnaire of all the elements that a usable website should have. The content is excellent and very complete. The only small addition is that websites should appear correctly in the Mozilla Firefox browser as well since this is used by an increasing proportion of Internet users. The questionnaire is too complex for most website owners, but they certainly should insist that their website designers understand the questionnaire and build websites that score well on all factors.

Unfortunately it is still only a minority of web designers who understand these principles and build websites that are usable. There are so many websites that fail miserably. A very high-profile example of this was showcased on World Usability Day in an Open Letter to the Disney Store UK. This was written by Molly E. Holzschlag of the Web Standards Project (WaSP). The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards that ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all. In other words, websites should work for most visitors. This includes accessibility for those who may need slightly bigger text or some other accommodation to make their website viewing more satisfactory. The UK is farther along this road than North America. However it should be a no-brainer to make sure that as many visitors to a website as possible can enjoy the experience. Who knows they may even buy something when they visit a usable website so it should be a win/win situation.

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