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7 Steps to Clarifying Your Website Needs

calrify-valuesIt’s difficult to develop a website to promote your practice without clarity. Clarity in vision. Clarity in message. Clarity in audience. Clarity in need.

So often I talk to people who are fuzzy about having a website. They know they need one. But their lack of clarity stops them from moving forward. Often weeks, and then months, go by with little or no action. Many give up. Some end up taking yet another marketing course thinking that will help – and it can.

Yet, nothing is more effective then simply getting started. The process of preparing a website (design, features, content) helps you find greater clarity. In many cases, much greater clarity. And it’s easier than you might think.

Here’s seven steps you can use to clarify your website, your offer and your business online:

  1. Your audience: Simply put, they are people looking to solve problems. Speak directly to the problems they’re facing. This will help you connect to your audience.
  2. Promote solutions: They’re not looking for your services, so don’t sell them. Instead promote the solutions to their problems.
  3. Use your words: Forget all the fancy marketing techniques. Instead let your content be a conversation with prospective clients sharing with them the same way you might sitting in a coffee shop.
  4. Forget perfection: Website content doesn’t have to be perfect – ever. So don’t get stuck thinking it needs to be. Write content that feels like a conversation. And know that you can edit your content easily whenever you want.
  5. Website design: Stop thinking ‘work of art.’ Instead, think simple, elegant layout that your visitors can easily find what they want. You want your website to be a professional-looking backdrop for you content.
  6. Call-to-action: What are the one or two things you want people to absolutely ‘do’ on your website (e.g. email signup, contact, etc)? Make them easy to find and do.
  7. Techie, schmechie: Don’t do the technical parts of your website yourself. Get help. Even DIY programs will leave you wasting gobs of time unnecessarily. The cost of having someone do the techie parts will pay off ten-fold.

Even with these simple seven steps I know it can still be daunting. I want to invite you to resist the overwhelm. A little guided focus, a bit of effort and a little trust in yourself and you’ll have what you need to launch your new website and start finding new clients.

The key is to get started. After 16 years I’ve seen over and over that thinking about and processing what you need isn’t enough. You need a context for clarity. Working on a website provides the perfect context.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. You can get the help you need to get unstuck, find clarity and overcome the overwhelm of having a website that works. I’m here to help you.

Let’s talk…

Can Your Website Do This?

I think most of you who are reading my blog have heard of WordPress. Many know it as blogware (blog software) and some – especially my clients – know it as a full content management solution (meaning you can easily edit your content using it).

But I know there are some people who read my blog regularly who don’t have any experience with WordPress. Perhaps they’ve heard of it and have no idea what it is. Maybe they’ve even used it but haven’t really understood how powerful it can. And yet I know there are others who haven’t heard of WordPress at all.

So I’m going to share a few short screencasts I’ve made over the past year to introduce some of the most powerful user features in WordPress and show you why you want to consider using it for your next website.

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It's Really This Easy To Add A Link To Your Comment

How often have you seen this in the comment box?

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I see it in my comment box and on other blogs enough that it’s in my consciousness. Here, I often just quickly edit the comment to add a live link because it’s quick and easy.

But it’s also quick and easy to show you how to create your own live link that you can use in the comment box on almost any blog. It’s easy to learn and only takes an extra moment to write. And what you get is a real, live link to wherever you’re referencing in your comment.

But one note before we go on. Just because you’re about to find out how to leave links in comments, please only due so when your comment truly warrants it. Don’t add your affiliate links in the comment box. And don’t pepper every comment with 3 self-promoting links back to your blog. Both of these are prime ways to turn off the blogger you’re leaving comments with. Likely, you’ll not end up in the comment box, but in the spam filter. You may even mean well, just remember that spam is in the eye of the blog owner.

That said, let’s get on to it.

All you need to know to create a live link in the comment box is a very small bit of HTML. So, are you ready? Here’s how you create a live text link with HTML:

<a href=”http://dmiracle.com”>link to Dawud’s blog</a>

And here’s what it will look like in the comment box:

link to Dawud’s blog

That’s all there is to it. Really. It’s that easy.

Just be sure of a few things and you’ll be fine:

  1. Be sure to open your your HTML tag correctly. Put <a href=”your-url“> just before the first letter of the word or phrase you want to make into a link. All the syntax as displayed is important – the placement of the < >, the = and the quotes around your-url.
  2. Be sure you’ve typed a (space) href correctly as show above. I’ve been writing HTML for more than 10 years and I often mistype href or don’t add the space between a & href.
  3. Your linked text. What will display, as you see above, is the text just after your > and before the </a>. What you place in that position is the text that will carry the link.
  4. Be sure to close your HTML tag correctly. Close your tag means after the last letter of the word or phrase you’re linking, be sure to add </a> exactly as it’s typed – the slash is important. If you don’t close the tag, all text after will be a link. Probably not something you want to do.

So just to review, the syntax for creating a link looks like this:

<a href=”your-full-url“>displayed text link</a>

That’s it. Now you should be able to add links to your comments whenever you like, easily, quickly and without trouble. Just be sure the syntax is correct before you submit your comment. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Also, one further note. Some blogware will not let you add HTML to your comments. So try it and if you get a message that HTML is not accepted, you’ll know. Trying it won’t hurt anything.

Have fun…

All I Want To Do Is Leave A Comment

mouth.jpgHow many times have your read a great blog post and have wanted to add a comment, only to get to the bottom of the page and find that you have to login?

I don’t login. Which means, I don’t leave a comment. Which means, no conversation and little chance at building a relationship with that blogger.

I think this is a bad idea. So do others. Forcing people to login to your blog just so they can leave a comment is ridiculous.

Think about it for a moment… If you write a blog post, you want people to read it, right? Otherwise, why write it? And if you offer comments at all, you’re probably interested in getting some sort of feedback, right? Otherwise you’d be like Seth Godin and not do comments at all.

So why would you make it difficult for me to leave a comment on your blog? Why would you force me to register and login? All that does is setup a number of barriers between you and I; your post and my commentary. Your making me take extra time just so I can share my thoughts on something you wrote on your site. Where’s the benefit for me?

If you have a business blog, think about the message you’re sending. If you’re making it difficult for me to interact with you on your blog, how else might you make our interaction difficult? How important will I really be to you as a client if I’m not that important as a blog commenter?

As you can tell, I think it’s poor judgment to make commenters register and login. There’s really no benefit for the commenter. It’s bad enough they have to fill-in a form each time they leave a comment on my blog. But at least they have the freedom to include what they like.

I’ve ranted on about this, what do you think? Do you comment on sites that force you to register? Do you force your commenters to register? I’d love to know why. Maybe there’s a reason beyond what I’m looking at. Or maybe it’s just a bad idea. Let’s talk about it…

Should I Date My Blog?

datingblog.jpgI love my blog.

Whenever I have something on my mind, it listens. If I need to explore a business idea, it patiently let’s me fumble around until I get it. If I’m down, it picks me up. And if I’m feeling inflated, I know it will bring me back to earth.

I love my blog. It’s a life-long friend I can really trust. But should I date my blog? Won’t that mess everything up?

Some, like Rory Sullivan, Kevin Mulldoon, George Manty and Google’s Matt Cutts think dating your blog is a necessity. Rory’s opinion is that dating:

“…makes the material seem timeless.The problem is with the word “seem”. Removing the time stamp is a trick, a gimmick.”

Yet, there are some, like Steve Pavlina, Dan & Jennifer, and the folks at Freelance Switch, that feel it’s unnecessary to date your blog. Daniel Scocco quotes Darren Rowse, who recently stopped dating his Digital Photography School blog, as saying:

“If the content is timeless and not ‘newsy' in nature I think that removing the timestamp from a blog is a very worthwhile thing to do.”

And Maki, of DoshDosh fame, has also removed in the same post is quoted as saying:

“I don't really have a concrete reason why I removed the time stamp, except that it doesn't make the blog posts look dated. Going without dates also affects your marketing potential. For instance, it might make it easier to promote material on social voting/bookmarking websites.”

If you take a look at DoshDosh you’ll see that Maki had decided to date his posts on his homepage only. He doesn’t date his individual posts, however.

Personally, I like Maki’s approach. I just wonder – is it fair to my blog to only date it on the homepage?

What do you think?

Am I The Only One Being Inundated With Comment Spam?

This has been a crazy spam week for me.

For the past few months I’ve been using Akismet with the Math Comment Spam Protection plugin. The usual number of comment spam I would get was between 25-50 daily, with almost no comments ending up in spam.

Then Lorelle suggested that I remove the Math Comment Spam Protection and install Spam Karma2 and Bad Behavior. It made sense. And since I deeply trust Lorelle’s judgment on anything WordPress, I did it.

But since changing, I’ve been bombed with spam comments. Just yesterday I got 1,400 spam comments caught by Akismet – and that doesn’t include the 800 that Bad Behavior says it caught.

What gives? Why am I all of sudden being bombarded with spam?

Lorelle told me, and I ultimately believe her, that the Math Comment Spam Protection didn’t work. So no fault of hers.

Yet this tidal wave of spam hit me when I took down Math Comment Spam Protection and installed Spam Karma2 and Bad Behavior?

Coincidence?

Have I set something wrong with Bad Behavior and/or Spam Karma2? Or did the Math Comment Spam Protection plugin really work for me?

What are your thoughts?

Have you seen a huge increase in comment spam this week?

Any great resources for Bad Behavior or Spam Karma2 setup?

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