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Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Comparing Linux and Windows Web Development

February 6th, 2009

I happen to read Guide to Key Comparisons of Linux vs. Windows Servers over at work.com and thought it was worth pointing out to those who might not be that familiar with the fundamental differences between Windows and Linux Web server environments.

Because this it’s such a common misconception I should mention first that running Windows or Linux on your Web server has no relationship to the operating systems you and your site users are running on their personal system.  Individual computers running Windows or Mac OS Xand and using common Web browsers don’t care what operating system the Web server is running on.

Here highlights I took from the article:

  • Both Windows and Linux are about equal when it comes to market share, reliability, performance and security.
  • Because Windows is proprietary commercial software and Linux is open source software, if your business decides to own and operate your own Web servers, Windows can be more costly. However, this base cost is nominal if you choose to outsource your Web server hosting and management.
  • Linux offers the inherit advantages of open source . . . in terms of flexibility and customization. The author states:

Linux distributors, using an open-source application with more flexibility, can implement “extensible” packages with greater customizability. In normal situations, the performance of the two is comparable, but if system functionality is most important to you, this may have an impact on your final decision.

Another critical consideration that wasn’t mentioned in this article is total cost of ownership. Linux is generally regarded as the leader in this category, but not necessarily, it all depends on each organization’s goals and required applications. Researching total cost of ownership can be confusing . . . since many of the most popular studies are drawing data mostly from very large IT enterprises and in very large enterprises TCO tends to level out between Windows and Linux.

As a general rule the smaller the organization, the more clear-cut are the TCO benefits of Linux over Windows. This does not imply that Linux will not be the best choice for the largest enterprise environments (examples of Linux enterprises include the city of Los Angeles, NASA, Amazon, American Fidelity Assurance Company and Overstock.com), but what it does mean is that any business should spend the time to evaluate the options in light of their specific needs to get the right answer.

Web Design Perfection

January 20th, 2009

media-templeTo my recollection, I’ve never made mention on this blog of a specific Website as an example of being truly great. While no one has elected me as the design judge of the Internet, nor will any great people likely take notice of this post, I am compelled to call out a Website that I’ve been captivated by for some time and that serves as a great example of the principles that we here at RisingLine advocate every day.

No, it’s not RisingLine.com (although I have to admit I think quite highly of that design), and before I continue I should disclose that I have absolutely no ulterior motive in praising the site I’m about to mention . . . no referral fees, or kickbacks of any kind.

So enough with the rambling, MediaTemple.net is the site to which I am directing my compliments. The first thing a visitor to their site will notice is that graphic design is extremely powerful but not overpowering. . . minimalist, detail oriented, clean, modern, just plain classy. It does what a graphic design is supposed to—provide a professional backdrop to the content of the site which beams credibility without distracting from the message.

I have to assume by the continued proliferation of shabbily designed sites on the Web that many don’t realize just how important design is. As we like mention, over and over, research has shown that a shockingly high percentage of people make a judgment call about the credibility of a company within seconds of visiting a Website based primarily on the graphic design (see the Stanford Web Credibility Research site for more insight on this topic). While my high school history teacher did not find it amusing when I offered to turn in a picture instead of the assigned 1,000 word essay, it really is true that a picture (or for our purposes a design) is worth a 1,000 words of credibility, and all that communicated in the blink of an eye.

A very common misconception is that an effective design is one that has a lot of swirls, colors, moving things and flashy graphics. While those types of sites might be appropriate in some instances (although I can’t think of any of the top of my head) professional Websites have a demanding purpose to concisely communicate value propositions and persuade their prospects to buy. Much Web design we see out there does more to distract from those goals than reach them. Media Temple offers us a great example of a well refined goal-oriented design that delivers their message with just a touch of panache.

Even the best graphic design is of no real use without concise messaging, clear communication flow and easy to understand navigation. These disciplines are collectively known as usability and are achieved exceptionally well by Media Temple. What’s even more impressive in this accomplishment is that the unique value of Media Temple’s hosting solutions are considerably more challenging to communicate than their competitors because they really are unique. Media Temple provides virtualized hosting accounts that are spread across a grid of resources as compared to the typical shared hosting company that sticks customers on a server in their farm to fight with the other squatters for finite resources. Based on my experience using their product, Media Temple’s solutions live up to the grand impression they make on their Website.

While I’m not going to get into the details, the usability of their client-side administration panel and knowledge base impresses me even more than their front end. I recently spent some time in Media Temple’s Grid-Service environment testing the CMS platform we develop on (coincidentally their hosting platform provided the most consistent high performance of any of the many shared hosting environments we’ve tested in) and I had a hard time tearing myself away from their administration panel when our project was complete.

Hats off to Media Temple for their great achievement and many kudos for providing us all a great example of what the Web should look like.

Strategies to Increase Your Website Traffic

January 12th, 2009

I read recently that there are over 800 billion documents on the Internet. Now there was no documentation to this statement, definition of what an internet document is, and the number seems high to me given the Wikipedia stats for Google….who knows the real answer. Regardless of the exact number, no one is going to argue that there are a lot of pages on the Internet and a lot more being added, so many that the probability of any certain page being visited by an individual diminishes daily. This fact brings up a good question for each of us who are stakeholders in a website to ask ourselves—with all the choices out there why would anyone visit our site?

Well funny you should ask, because the answer to that question has occupied me in the past on this blog:

For my grand finale of SEO posts (is that applause that I hear?) I’m going to share some secret insight…well, it’s not really secret but it’s the type of insight that I’m always tempted not to share because I want to keep the real good stuff for myself. So, being in this altruistic moment, here are the top 7 strategies from the gurus on how to bring attention to your site. I’ve hand picked the single strategies that I thought were the absolute best, but each one of these links takes you to a whole article or site that is golden with advice.

  1. This is the most important tip. Build your web site around a blog that you keep active and updated with relevant and valuable information. Why you might ask? Because such blogs get noticed much more than the same content updated on a static web site. See Why Blogs Rank High In Search Engines by Fredrik Wacka. This tip is really is a prerequisite for the rest.
  2. Write about stuff that people (your target audience to be exact) will want to read and share. As I highlighted on this past SEO post, SEO is really all about maintaining quality content. See How to get traffic for your blog by Seth Godin
  3. Establish your site as a trusted authority for your target audience. And market your content. See
    Search Engine Success Through Article Marketing
    at the flyte blog.
  4. Understand the fundamentals of SEO and hone the technical details of your site to accommodate. See
    SEOmoz | Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
    by Rand Fishkin
  5. Attract people who will link to your site and concentrate on creating interest. See Generating
    Buzz with Link Baiting and Viral Campaigns
    by David Wallace
  6. Embrace the Social Media . . . create a site that is more relevant, more easily linked to, and openly shared within your social web communities. See 5 rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO) by Rohit Bhargava.
  7. Make your web site a platform for launching viral marketing. What is viral marketing? It’s any method that encourages others to pass on your marketing method to others. See The Six Simple
    Principles of Viral Marketing
    by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

So there you go, you just read the document that turned the Internet count to 800 billion and one. It’s not too late to start the transformation of your site from that old-school stale brochure to a vibrant broadcasting and interactive
blog based site that will keep you site in the thin quality segment as the internet continues to explode. As always, I encourage you to comment or share other fundamental strategies that should be included in ones short list.

Great Customers Buy From Those They Know and Trust

December 12th, 2008

Do you want to grow your business without relying on expensive advertising? Would you like to utilize an easy strategy to turn your best customers into your best salespeople? Are you tired of attracting poorly qualified prospects that waste your valuable time?

OK, enough of these silly rhetorical questions….any business manager who just read these questions has just gone through a brief period of euphoric fantasy followed by a sick feeling in their gut…knowing that it’s just too good to be true. I’m here to tell you though that they can be true and furthermore they can build businesses of much higher value.

Here’s some reality therapy about Advertising:

  • People don’t believe advertising.
  • Advertising is exceptionally expensive (you knew this already)
  • The customers your advertising brings are often not high-value life time clients. Do you really want your business built on customers who were attracted by a gimmick or low price? Unless you can build loyalty fast they will leave the first time they see a better gimmick or lower price.

We’re all bombarded by thousands of advertising messages each day. How many do you remember from yesterday? A more important question: Of those you remember for how many will you become a customer? For example take Geico insurance, sure their hackneyed ads are embedded in our brains, but how many of us actually buy from them? Not many. About 7 out of every 100 auto insurance buyers. Don’t get me wrong, Geico has a solid business model but is it plausible for your business?  Can you afford to spend $500+ million a year to generate demand through advertising?

In my 15+ year sales career I’ve learned that one principle is by far the powerful: people buy from those they know and trust. Like many of the most profound concepts in life, this truth is simple and intuitive yet ignored by a vast majority of sales and marketing “experts”.

I was told once at a sales training seminar, “If you can’t be a good actor then you can’t be a good salesperson.” No wonder sales people have such a bad reputation! Do I really want to be sold something from someone who is acting (i.e. lying)…why should I expect that my customers want to get an acting job when they read my marketing collateral or meet my salespeople?

Traditional advertising and sales are almost always based on acting. It’s so established that advertiser embellish the truth on a regular basis that we’ve invented the special legal word“puffing”. It doesn’t sound as bad as “lying” but means the same thing. Take a look around at the advertising or packages closest to you this moment and notice how we’ve become desensitized to the “puffing” of advertising…do you really believe that spaghetti on the shelf is “America’s Favorite Pasta“? No you don’t. That’s why you will typically buy it on price or otherwise only when you have credible insight into it having superior quality.

So it’s really no wonder that most people instinctively don’t believe either salespeople or advertising. Valuable life-time clients buy from the exact opposite of the angle presented in most advertising and sales…they buy from sources that they know and trust.

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