Maximising the value of the Web for you and your business - Part 2

 

The last blog took a quick look at how the Web is revolutionising the way we engage with the world around us - the way we buy things, the way we promote things, even the way the latest President of America was elected.

I believe that what we are seeing now is just the start of an amazing change in how we live our lives and interact with each other.  The reason for this is that a number of technologies are now converging in ways we could only have imagined just a few years ago.

The main factors include:

Cellular network speeds are now acceptable for browsing the web and are getting faster still, as we move to HSDPA and (around 2012) LTE starts to emerge, offering speeds of 100Mbs or possibly even more!  This gives connectivity to both mobile phones and laptops for “always-on” availability.

Mobile devices are getting much, much better in terms of both form factor (i.e. shape and design) and capabilities, which both make them more usable than the phones we’re used to – the iPhone, the new Google phones and Blackberrys, etc.

Web 2.0 capabilities – websites themselves are getting better and better, as are Social Networks, Wikis and blog sites.  Emerging technologies such as the semantic web and search engines that focus on specific vertical or horizontal sectors and even offer the ability to search for attributes within images are now emerging and will continue to evolve towards.

Before we look at the upside, a quick note of caution:

If you have mobile devices that contain large amounts of valuable information you need to back them up regularly, secure the data with encryption and be careful!!  I had a laptop stolen about 3 years ago – the most upsetting thing was all the family photos stored on it that weren’t backed up!  If you have corporate data on it, the implications are potentially much more serious.

Until Software as a Service “SaaS” takes off and your data is accessed securely from remote locations, we’ll never truly escape this problem (more on this in a future blog!)

Furthermore, you need to think carefully about what data you make available and to whom.  Open professional sites, like LinkedIn are pretty straight-forward.  However, you need to be much more careful what you post to Facebook even if your profile is quite securely locked down – think twice before you post personal details or potentially embarrassing comments, photos or other content.... you never know who might see it and it’s cost people their jobs in the past!!

Now for the positive stuff......... but let me start with a warning:

It’s going to take you a while to build a credible reputation in the marketplace in terms of being listed by the search engines, building a network of advocates and getting your messages right.  So the longer you leave it the harder it’s going to be and we’re talking exponentially harder!!  So start now, even if you don’t think you’re ready!!

Here’s how:

BUY your domain name before someone else does.  Have a look at 123-reg.co.uk – even if someone’s already bought the perfect domain name, fear not!!  Try hyphenating the words, for instance http://www.social-networking-expert.com, which brings you back to this site.  Hyphens are good if you have a complex name or want to break the words up – this site should have thought about it.... http://www.penisland.net/...... Yep, they sell writing instruments, not male appendages!  Whoops!  You might also be able to put “The” in front of the perfect URL, as in www.the xyz expert.com.

Build your profile on a few appropriate Social Networking sites and network actively to build a network of advocates around you.  Try a few of the popular ones and see which ones suit you – you can’t be on too many because they will all help build your online profile even if you stop using them, or visit them rarely, they still appear in the search rankings.  Ones I would recommend include:

–     Ecademy – One of the few successful paid membership sites because it’s an excellent site for building a network of professional contacts.  It has excellent Search Engine Optimisation “SEO” and allows you to post adverts and write blogs.

–     Business Scene – Similar to Ecademy but very business focused.  Well run and highly functional with good SEO.  Their events are excellent!!

–     Naymz – A free site (although there is a paid premium level) that also has excellent SEO.

–     LinkedIn – The basic membership is free and highly functional.  It allows you to build a very powerful personal profile to promote yourself and your company.  The “Groups” and “Answers” functionality are also excellent.

–     Plaxo – This site had a bad name a while back, but now offers some great services which includes keeping the details of all your contacts (who are also members of Plaxo) up to date.

Blog a lot!  If you have a business to promote and you want to be found by the search engines, then you need to be blogging a lot.  This way, the search engines will find you and your products/services – so make sure that what you blog is of high quality and spell-checked because if you fill the web with rubbish then your current and future clients will find it and it could destroy your reputation instead of building it!!

This is even more important if you’re in a highly competitive market, you’re a new entrant to the market or you have a common name and need to climb the rankings FAST, or maintain a high ranking. 

You have to remember that on the web, you compete with everyone who shares information similar to yours – if they share your name, your company’s name, your location, your industry, in fact anything by which you would want to be found then you’re going to have to work harder to reach the top of the searches, so people choose you from page one of the search results.  I compete for “Rory Murray” with an actor, a business woman from New York and a whole raft of Irish and Scots sportsmen.  Even “Return on Relationships” is pretty competitive!

The bottom line is that when you combine these activities things happen, you start to get recognition, you get found, you move up the search rankings, your network grows, your reputation grows and, over time, your success will also grow, but it takes time and it takes effort. Consistency over time is important, so be aware that this will take effort on your part to achieve!!

The important thing to remember is that if you leave it, procrastinate, put it off, then others (including your industry competitors and your identity competitors) will have done it already and you’ll find it much, much harder to get the results you need to succeed.

More people are doing more searches more often – people don’t use Yellow Pages anymore, they use the Internet and if you’re not there then you won’t be found unless it’s by word-of-mouth and that can’t happen if you haven’t built up a reputation in your marketplace.