Business Details: The Devil known as Domain Names

William Feather – an American author – once cautioned,

Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.

As a business owner, the hardest part of owning and running your own business is paying attention to all the tens of thousands “loose threads” which make up your business.

For the past few years, I’ve been helping business owners set up self hosted WordPress blogs to power their online marketing message.  We walk through all the hundreds of tiny details which have to be addressed in order to create a powerful online communication tool for their business.

Why would you want to invest the time and money in launching YOUR OWN business blog instead of a starting with a FREE business blog?

Launching a new business blog is a LOT like launching the space shuttle.   When NASA launches the space shuttle -the 1,200,000 lbs of thrust generated by the main engines isn’t enough to break Earth’s gravitational pull.   NASA needs additional rockets to generate the additional 6,000,000 lbs of thrust.  However, once the shuttle has broken free of the Earth’s gravitational pull – those additional rockets are jettisoned having performed their job.

When you launch your business blog – there’s a lot of work that is done “up front”.  Just like launching the space shuttle – it takes a lot more effort to start a business blog than it does to maintain one. (By the way, this up front work has to start anew when you decide to “switch” to your free blog to your own self hosted business blog.)

The good news is that once that initial work is done (pick ujp a copy of the 8 Week Power Blog Launch to learn how to shorten that launch period to 8 weeks or less.)  – your business blog can easily “glide” with minimal effort on your part.

A few of my clients have actually “ignored” their business blogs for periods of 12-15 months at a time.  In several cases, this period of inattention has actually been a good thing. One client was pleased to discover that after a prolonged absence from business blogging -that her blog was enjoying quite a bit of success with long tail searches for her services.  Her blog was getting 100 unique visitors a day via search and when she returned she discovered that more than a dozen of those visitors had left comments requesting more information about her services.

Ok- it wasn’t “good news” from the visitor’s point of view.  Visitors left comments – asked for information – and got deafening silence.   However, the silver lining was when this business blog owner returned to see those comments, it ignited a renewed passion to begin really using her business blog as a marketing tool for her business.

Fortunately she had subscribed to the Cyber Angel hosting services which automatically updates WordPress and essential plugins – so when she did turn her attention back to her business blog she didn’t return to a blog which had been ruthlessly hacked or hijacked by someone who wanted to capitalize upon her tightly targeted niche position.

This is a happy tale of how one business owner “lost track” of one of the many details of her business and it ended well.  Because she had carefully crafted her business blog’s foundation – even a 13 month absence didn’t “destroy” her business blog.  As a matter of fact, she returned to a blog stronger than it was when she last logged in – a blog with an additional 13 months of “credibility” with the search engines.

Then there’s the other side the coin – when an inattention to detail has disastrous results.  It begins with an innocent email that reads, “Help!  My business blog is down and I don’t know why.” What follows is an “on your way to the top you might fall down” types of experience.

I’ve received various forms of this email over the past few weeks and in every case, the reason the blog is “down” is because the domain name registration expired.  When a domain name registration expires – everything associated with the domain name comes to a screeching halt.

When you register a domain name for your business blog – you’re only “renting” the name – you do not “own” it.   Because you’re renting it – you have to “renew” it on a yearly basis.

You might also be surprised how many business owners are not the registered owners of the domain name for their business.  Instead, they’ve chosen to register their domain name for “free” as part of their hosting set up.  When you choose that option, the hosting company – NOT YOU – is listed as the administrative contact for the domain name.   That means the hosting company is in control of www.yourcompanyname.com.  (Yes- domain names are considered “real” property and if your hosting company refuses to transfer www.yourcompanyname.com to your business, you CAN choose to pursue legal remedies.  However,  have you priced a lawyer’s services lately?  That “free” domain name is going to get really expensive once lawyers are involved. I J S)

This year alone I’ve had several business owners contact me – anxious to begin the adventure of business blogging – only to discover that their web developer or their hosting company “controls” (a.k.a. “owns”) the domain name that they thought “belonged” to their business.

Why is “registration” of a domain name critical?

Think of your domain name as the “address marker” for your business blog.  The real “address” is a series of numbers known as an IP address .  Your domain name is simply the “human friendly” way of finding where websites and blogs “live” on the web.

In addition to serving as an address market – domain name information is used extensively by the search engines.  Keywords contained within a particular domain name can bring hundreds of visitors a day via search to a blog.  (Just ask my client who “checked out” for 13 months to return to a blog full of comments from potential clients awaiting moderation.)  However, the search engine look at a lot more than just the phrases and word contained within the domain name – they also look at the HISTORY of a domain name.

It’s commonly accepted “web wisdom” that older content – and older domain names – get more search engine “luv” than new content and newly registered domain names.

Domain names and great original web content get better with age.

Which is why – it’s so heartbreaking for me to get an email from a client who has invested the time and effort building a brand new blog under a brand new domain name into a blossoming business blog which is climbing the SERP charts only to have the rug pulled out from beneath their feet by an expired domain name.  It’s even more frustrating because it is so easily avoided.

As I write this blog post, I am reminded of an earlier email from a client who is currently experiencing this heartbreak.  She had hired a new virtual assistant and needed her blog log in information so her VA could handle the many web based details which were overwhelming her.    Obviously this “detail” of renewing her domain name had slipped by unnoticed by this cut rate VA.  (Read “Avoid Hiring the VA from Hell” for more tales of VA horror.)

Meanwhile, her product is almost ready for beta testing – and the firmly established web position she had staked out is now gone.

My client’s VA dropped the ball  and now she’s got to choose whether she will invest more time and money into launching this business.

Personally – I hope she fires her virtual assistant and continues her journey to launching a product which targets an emerging online trend.  I hope this doesn’t derail her vision or cool her passion for creating her product.  I hope the fact that her domain name was snapped up so quickly serves as evidence of the potential that lies ahead.

But in the end – it’s up to her whether she decides to get up or stay down.  What would you do?

First Impressions Mean Everything

It turns out the first impression your business makes on consumers may be the only impression you ever get a chance to make.

Studies have shown that first impressions are actually more powerful than previously thought.  It’s possible our brains are actually wired so that the first impression made upon us by others actually become self-fulfilling prophecies.

One such study was done by psychologist Nalini Ambady.  During her time at Havard, she performed an experiment to examine the effect of first impressions on perception.  In this study, she divided students enrolled in a college class  into two groups.  She showed each group video clip of the professor “in action”.  One group saw clips which depicted the professor as cold and uncaring.  The other group saw clips which portrayed the professor as warm and caring.  Each student was asked to write an evaluation of the professor after viewing the clip.  Of course, their first impressions of the professor were carefully crafted – and students who were shown one set of clips had a distinctly different first impression that the group shown the second set of clips.  The students in both groups then took the class with the professor in question.

I wanted to believe that once the students EXPERIENCED the professor’s teaching firsthand that they would then be able to form an “accurate” opinion.  I wanted to believe that Instead of the carefully crafted first hand impression they had formed based on watching a few brief video clips, the students would end the class seeing the professor for who and what he really was.

However, that’s not what happened in the study.  Instead of the students revising their original first impressions based on first hand experience, they instead fiercely clung to their carefully orchestrated first impression.

At the end of the semester – the students who saw the videos depicting the professors as warm and caring still described him as warm and caring.  Those who began the semester thinking the professor was cold and uncaring ended by describing the professor as cold and uncaring.

This study – and several others that followed – seem to illustrate this disturbing fact:

The first impressions actually become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This study shows why it’s essential that your business make a good first impressions on consumers.  That’s one of the reasons business blogging is becoming such a powerful force for businesses big and small.

When you begin blogging for your business – it gives your business an opportunity to “speak” in a warm and caring manner.  You can influence consumers by “speaking” in a warm, caring voice via your blog.  You can write to address their problems and provide answers.  You can carefully craft the first impression your business makes on consumers.

So often, small businesses craft their web site trying to appear “cold and uncaring”…. a.k.a. “professional”.   I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a static web presence that has a professional appearance – but the real question is –

Is that what consumers want when they visit your web site?

Your professional static web site may offer basic information consumers need – but chances are they need more.  They need a carefully crafted first impression maker which casts your business as the problem solver they need.

That’s the type of first impression your business blog can make.

Your business blog can do more than your static web site because it can tell daily, weekly or monthly stories of how others have used your products/services to conquer evil and save the world.

Maybe your stories won’t be Star Wars epic and grand – but you get the picture.

Your business blog can share real life customer testimonials – via the written word, via audio or even via video.  As you create those stories and share those testimonials – you’ll find that your business blog begins to almost magically begin attracting visitors who were searching for “keywords” contained within those stories.

That’s a “warm and caring” first impression every business owner should be striving to make.

On your way to the top – you might fall down

I’d like to introduce you to Janet Simpson.  She is a nutrition coach and registered dietitian.  However, she’s also  an entrepreneur, a professor, a mentor, a grandmother and tri-athlete.  She could have cut time from her first triathlon if she hadn’t stopped to hug and kiss her grandchildren who were there to cheer her on.

In other words, Janet is “Wonder Woman” in the flesh.

Janet had previously shared with me that she was planning to run in a 5 mile “fun run”.  If running five miles doesn’t sound like “fun” to you – you ain’t heard nothing yet.  When she finished with her fun run, she planned on helping race organizers tend to the needs of those running the 100 mile course.  That’s not a typo – in addition to the “mini” 5 mile run, there were half and full marathons in addition to the  one hundred mile competition!!!

Eighty people signed up to run the 100 mile course, and Janet later told me that the winner finished in a mere 18 hours.  She reported that he looked as fresh and energized as if he’d just completed a jog around the block.  Of the 80 who signed up for the 100 mile run – 60 completed the course in well under the 30 hour time limit.  Of those who didn’t finish – all completed at least 60 of the 100 mile run – before succumbing to such injuries as their toenails falling off.  One competitor ran the entire 100 miles barefoot.  Did I mention the race was held in October in Michigan?  BRRRR!!!!

If you think running 100 miles in the course of a single day barefoot in the cold sounds like an entry in the DSM-IV for some form of mental illness – you’re not alone.

While the runner who won the 100 mile run finished the race looking and feeling great – the same couldn’t be said for Janet. The course she ran followed a trail which lead through a forest.   The leaves from the trees  had  fallen, covering the exposed roots and other hidden dangers.  As Janet began her descent down a steep hill, she found herself flying through the air.  She had inadvertently hooked her toe under an exposed  tree root- hidden from view by the leaves.  She landed face down with enough force to not only scrape her face, hands and knees but also to knock the wind out of her and  crack a rib or two in the process.

Here’s the amazing part – the part that anyone who aspires to build a business of any size needs to know –

Janet still finished the race.

Even though she was battered and bruised, she sill  finished running the race -and came in 2nd in her age category to boot.   Initially she justified finishing the race by saying that she fell at the 2.5 mile mark and it only made sense to keep moving forward.  However, she later admitted that she could have chosen to ride to the finish line – but she was determined to finish the race under her own power.

What this story has to do with building your business

Building a business is hard.  I’ve worked with literally hundreds of new business owners and few are prepared for how difficult the process can be.  It’s taxing physically, mentally and emotionally.  As a general rule, everything will cost more than you think it will and take longer to complete than you think it should.  It’s just how business launches go.

New business owners are rarely prepared for the many obstacles they will have to overcome as they launch their new business.  While some hazards are common enough to be experienced by almost all business owners, others are like the tree roots in the forest through which Janet ran which laid hidden beneath the leaves.

According to Patricia Schaefer at Business Know How, one of the key attributes needed to start a business is the ability to recover after encountering such hidden obstacles.  She writes:

You learn from your mistakes, and use these lessons to succeed the next time around. Brian Head, Economist with the SBA Office of Advocacy, noted that studies of successful business owners showed they attributed much of their success to “building on earlier failures;” on using failures as a “learning process”.

Some hazards you’ll encounter as you launch your business are predictable.  That’s why you choose carefully the team members you’ll use to support you as you build your business.  A good accountant, attorney or business consultant can help a new business owner see many potential hazards which lie ahead.  Their advice is often worth it’s weight in gold – but if you’ve never tripped on a hidden root and broken a rib – you might not realize how valuable your trusted adviser’s advice is.

No matter how good your counsel – chances are that as you build your business – you’re going to have to navigate a steep path covered with newly fallen leaves.  You too may stumble upon a hidden exposed tree root and you may find yourself lying face down on the ground, battered and bruised with the wind knocked out of you.

At that moment – you’ll  have a decision to make.  Will you use the fall as your excuse to leave the race?  Will you climb upon the courtesy cart and be ferried back to the finish line?  Or – will you pick yourself up and start running again – heading towards the finish line?

The answer ultimately determines whether or not you’ll succeed in your business – because it’s not a question of WHETHER you’ll fall.  You will fall.  It’s just a matter of when, where and why.

No- the question is whether you decide to get up and try, try again after the fall. Will you view your fall as a learning experience – or will you view it as the end of the race?

Blogging for Your Business

When I say “blogs” – many business owners start seeing horrible visions in their mind’s eye.   Some see self-obsessed, narcissistic egomaniacs for whom the ultimate goal is fame – or infamy – either one, as long as people remember their name.  Others see blogging as a six inch thick chain, locking them to their computer – forced to compose dozens of blog posts daily without the benefit of spell or grammar check.

However, when I talk about blogging for your business, I don”t see the distorted visions most business owners see.  What I see when I talk about business blogging is a cost effective, powerful and affordable business building tool.

Most of today’s popular blogging software programs began as CMS – Content Management Software.  Their express purpose was to make publishing information to the web quick and easy for those who didn’t want to learn the intricacies of HTML, CSS, FTP and a dozen other alphabet soup web terms which were needed to get your marketing message published to the web not so very long ago.

So when I’m talking about blogging for your business – I’m talking about using software to make it easy to get your marketing message onto the web.    When you see an egomaniac who is using the software for shameless self promotion – your thought as a business owner should be, “If that idiot can operate a blog to get his/her message onto the web – I can use a blog to do something useful – like educate my customers via the web.”

While wild visions of colorful – and sometimes offensive characters – may fill your mind’s eye when it comes to business blogging – in reality business blogging is actually best suited for those with an eye to the future.  Business blogs do a great job of building authority and authority (authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.) takes a lot longer to create than a fleeting case of infamy.

Creating a business blog post today takes a certain amount of time – which causes many business owners to join in the battle cry of  I don’t have time to blog.  However, while your blog posts do take some time to create – they continue to live on your blog for as long as your blog is in existence – and sometimes beyond as  it seems the internet never forgets.

Imagine if the radio ad you ran last week could continue to be aired indefinitely – and it only aired when a radio listener announced to the radio that he/she was interested in the products and services your business provides.  That’s exactly the way your business blog posts can work to promote your business.

So when you hear the term “blogging for your business” try to erase from your mind visions of reminiscent of an episode of Jerry Springer – and instead view business blogging through a new lens.  Business blogging is a way for your business to quickly and easily communicate with prospective customers via the web.  The informative blog post you create today will live on to continue working with other blog posts – bringing real customers to your business.  That’s the real beauty of business blogging.

Overcome Business Fear of Sharing

It’s not uncommon for people who sell their knowledge and expertise to  fear that if they give too much information away – that they’ll eliminate their potential client’s need for their services.

When it comes to sharing your knowledge and expertise – the more you give, the more you get.  The more you share knowledge and expertise – the more recognition and authority you accumulate.

Many knowledge professionals are engaged in making what Neil Rackham defines as “The Major Sale“.  Major sales require a large investment of either time, energy or money.   Major sales are more than simple transactions – they’re full blown relationships and relationships are the foundation of social media.

Relationships begin by building a foundation of trust.  Build enough trust with your audience and you’ll eventually find you’re creating authority.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

Building authority does not happen overnight. It happens gradually – as you reveal and share your expertise via the many opportunities made possible thanks to social media.

I don’t have much time these days to bake- but over the years I have learned the hard way how important a tiny ingredient like baking powder can be in a recipe.  It’s such a tiny amount of a seemingly inert powder that surely it won’t be missed if the box in the pantry is empty- right?  WRONG!  That tiny bit of baking powder makes a HUGE difference in any recipe.  Without going into the science behind it – baking powder causes the bubbles in the batter to expand.  This “fizz” helps to make baked goods tasty treats which when combined with long periods of inactivity – cause one’s ass to grow to a mind blowing size.  Thus my retirement from baking as a hobby.

Dietary issues aside, when it comes to marketing your business – your knowledge and expertise are the “fizz” that makes your business rise and grow.  Sure, people can get a plethora of information “for free” on the internet – but there comes a time when general free advice isn’t enough.  It’s at the time when the rubber meets the road and prospective clients NEED your wisdom and hard won insight into solving their most pressing problems.

For example, if you think the self serve legal document service Legal Zoom replaces the need for a good attorney – then you’ve obviously never NEEDED a good attorney.  A good attorney has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either avoid trouble ahead or get you out of trouble.

If you think one of the $25 tax preparation software programs replaces the need for a good CPA – then you’ve never worked with a good CPA.  A good CPA has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either help you avoid tax problems in the future or can keep you out of tax trouble.

If you think an electronic back massage pad is an effective substitute for a good chiropractor – then you’ve never experienced a good chiropractor.  A good chiropractor has the education, the experience and the diagnostic skills to treat current back problems and can help you avoid back problems in the future.

If you think a self help book replaces the need for your services as a therapist or a coach – then you’ve never worked with a good therapist or coach…. yada, yada, yada.

You get the idea.

Which is why – if you’re good – you shouldn’t fear sharing too much of the WHY people should work with you.  There’s no way to give too many reasons WHY someone should want to work with you.  There’s no such thing as sharing”too much” information when it comes to making the major sale which is why blogs ROCK as marketing tools for anyone in the business of selling their expertise.