Archives for September 2008

How To Add Audio To Your Site

Adding audio to your site will make your site more personable to your visitors. It is an interactive experience that will allow your visitors to see you as a real person. This can build trust; once trust is established your visitors are more likely to become customers.

Subscribing to Audio Acrobat (www.audioacrobat.com) is a very easy way to add audio to your site. For about $20 per month, you can create audios and videos, and allow your visitors to listen to them live over the internet or download them to listen to at their convenience.

Audio Acrobat will provide you with a special number that you can dial with your phone. You can create a recording of just yourself, or you can record a phone call if you are interviewing someone. Another option is to hook a microphone up to your computer and speak directly into it.

When you are finished with your recording, the service will generate a piece of HTML code that you can publish to your site. This will allow your visitors to listen to the audio or download the Mp3.

If you want to increase the traffic that comes to your site, you may want to try your hand at podcasting. Podcasting is a new phenomenon, and is somewhat similar to blogging. Rather than reading a blog, your listeners will listen to your voice via your podcast.

Your listeners do not need to have an iPod; podcasts can be downloaded to any Mp3 player, and your listeners can listen online, too.

You can set up an RSS feed, so your listeners will always have access to your latest podcast. Audio Acrobat even includes iTunes integration, allowing your listeners to automatically download your podcasts into their iTunes.

You can allow your visitors to listen to your audios for free or you may charge for them. If you are allowing people to listen to them for free, you may want to monetize them by having paid sponsors. This acts in much the same way your local radio stations present commercials. You can simply announce that the podcast is being sponsored by and read the ad that you and the sponsor agree upon.

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Tools of The Trade – A Special Report

It seems that if you don’t have a website presence these days, you are behind the times. The Internet is a useful tool to grow an online enterprise or two and to draw attention to your brick and mortar business. Along those same lines is the variety of tools available for creating that website presence.

It is hard to know which tool to use especially if the person has no technical knowledge to speak of. Understanding website and coding jargon requires a semester long course for most of us to get our heads around the concepts. With that in mind, many of these technical people have made it easy for the rest of us to enjoy existence in cyberspace. They take care of the technical side and offer us the chance to set up websites the easy way.

One such tool is WordPress. WordPress has gained a huge following since its inception. It is a popular blogging tool that offers open-space software for anyone who wants to begin a blog.

The software is free to install and use. Many businesses use WordPress as a platform for a blog to accompany their website. It is easy to integrate because it has only a few requirements to get started. These requirements are met by most web hosting sites anyway.

Besides its popular use as a blogging platform, users have discovered that WordPress can be used as website design software as well. With a variety of free themes to fit almost any need, this software can create a simple or quite complex website. It’s your choice.

In this report, we will discuss the WordPress design tool. It is popular, but what is behind the hype? Can it really help? Read on to find out information on:

  • WordPress.com versus WordPress.org
  • Business and personal ventures that will benefit from a website designed using WordPress
  • Reasons why so many people love WordPress
  • Advantages for bloggers using WordPress
  • Advantages for website owners using WordPress
  • Other design ideas that can be accomplished using WordPress

WORDPRESS AS A WEBSITE DESIGN TOOL

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

Many may not realize that there is a difference. Sometimes we type in the wrong extension for a URL and get misdirected to the wrong site. Typing in dot com versus dot org still brings you to a WordPress site. The problem is that each has a different purpose.

WordPress.com is a website that hosts a variety of blogs for free. Users can sign up here and create their own blog. They will have the extension, @wordpress.com in their blog name because the site is owned by WordPress.

WordPress.com is actually a use of the WordPress multi-user platform. With this platform, several blogs can be run off of one installed application of WordPress. Universities, magazines, and newspapers can operate on this type of system. There is one host, but others can feature a blog under the umbrella. It is a great way to bring people together within your organization or offer it as a business perk for using your service.

With a blog at WordPress.com, someone who is not technically minded can create a web presence for themselves and have very little knowledge of the more technical side. Sure, you’ll want to learn about HTML, php, coding, pinging, and other blogging terms but to get started, that type of background is not needed on WordPress.com.

Lots of things go into blogging and running a website for that matter. For instance, files need to be backed up in case they are ever lost, upgrades to the software need to be downloaded, and security needs to be monitored. With a blog on WordPress.com all of those things are handled by the server owner. Even the software is automatically downloaded when you sign up for a blog.

A great influx of web traffic won’t bother your blog. The servers can support it and won’t crash or go down for any reason. The site is secure so you can log into your blog without worries about security issues.

There are drawbacks to this design, however. Because everyone is operating under one server, themes and other design options are at a minimum. Plug-ins to customize the blog are not offered here. This is not a worry for many who are new to blogging and want a simple blog where they can post interesting content and learn the ins and outs of blogging. WordPress.com is a good start.

WordPress.org is altogether different. Even the software installed on your computer is not exactly the same. The software needed to run a WordPress blog or website is free to install on any computer. What is required is a website or blogging host that can support the WordPress software.

To use the software, WordPress requires a web host to be able to:

  • Support PHP scripts (a programmable language used in WordPress)
  • Provide MySQL database access
  • Apache web server (not required but better to run the software)

WordPress.org is used by businesses to start a blog for their website. The blog can be used for customer feedback or whatever else that they have in mind. It is not required by WordPress that a blogger have their own domain name but if the blog is associated with a business website, it is best to identify it with that domain name. A unique domain name that doesn’t have the web host’s name attached will work better for you.

With WordPress.org, a person downloads the software onto their computer. Downloading the zip file of the software will give you access to all of the files needed to set up a blog that has access to a SQL database and an ASCII editor. Doing this requires a little more knowledge. Utilizing WordPress tutorials will help you get through it.

Most web hosts will support WordPress, but there are some that are ranked better than others at providing the most for your money.

Hosting will run about seven dollars a month and they offer free domain names. It is better to pay to own a name of your own design that doesn’t require the host’s extension.

WordPress is web-based software that needs a server to operate. These five web hosting services offer an auto installation of WordPress. With your web host, the software has the added option of uploading plug-ins, new themes, and the ability to tweak the code used by WordPress to customize the blog or website to your specifications.

For people who want to work with a wider variety of options WordPress.org provides what they need. Folks with the technical expertise to upgrade, change, and work with code, WordPress is a way to get what you need with ease. There exists a community of techies just waiting to chat with other WordPress users. If you need technical help, this friendly community of experts is the ones to consult.

The major drawbacks to WordPress.org come in the form of manual labor. Users must upgrade the software themselves when a new version is available. They are also responsible for blocking SPAM and backing up files. While you do get more in the way of design control, the knowledge is needed to operate it.

Sites that can Use WordPress

What we want to know is who can use WordPress for their website design. Users of the WordPress.org software have found that the features enable them to expand beyond just blogging. Those that know about codes are able to work behind the scenes with the code. It is easy to manipulate with very few problems. So many options exist for free plug-ins and themes that people find WordPress an excellent option for building websites.

If you aren’t design savvy, hiring a designer is not a bad idea. Tell them that you want to use WordPress as the software for the site. They will work within this software application to provide the services you want your website to perform.

Be sure that the designer explains how to change themes, upload files, pictures, and video, and how to use the content management system as a whole. Once trained, any website owner will see how uncomplicated the software will be when changing and adding to the look and content on the site.

Churches

A church is an organization that has major influence in the lives of a community. Besides opening its doors on Sunday and for various activities through the week, a church can continue to reach parishioners and others twenty-four hours a day with a website. This website keeps people connected to God and their congregation no matter where in the world they find themselves at that moment.

Items like the weekly bulletin can be updated and posted on the website. The church can post the weekly sermons in video and/or transcript form for others to view and read. This way they can create a running archive of all of the pastor’s sermons, special events speakers, and other topics of interest. Each item can have its own page. Post Sunday school lessons so they can be studied ahead of time.

Magazines

Web magazines have a unique opportunity with WordPress. Use it to create category pages. Each department of the magazine or newspaper will have a page where they post relevant news stories. The front page will be left for headline stories.

With WordPress, these pages can be managed and organized to suit any need that the magazine has. With a print magazine, stories that cannot be used in the paper copy can be rolled into the appropriate category and showcased in the online version. Pictures and video are easily paired with news stories to give a more professional look that doesn’t resemble a blog at all.

Brick and Mortar Businesses

It doesn’t matter if you operate a real estate business, a tourism business, a crafting business, or what have you. WordPress has a theme and a plug-in that will enhance your product. With WordPress.org, it is okay to sell merchandise on your website. Feel free to set up a page with items for sale and upload thumbnail pictures and create descriptions.

A business that is looking to grow can offer polls of their customers to gauge what they find satisfying or dissatisfying about their service. Set up a web chat on the site to provide useful advice to customers and other visitors. For a real estate company, the chat could consist of offering advice about t real estate investing and criteria to look for when buying a home.

Answer questions that come from feedback given in the store. Customers who mail back comment cards can get acknowledgement of their suggestions and solutions for their problems. Use administrative tools to collect statistics on everything from unique visitors to poll answers.

Reviews

If it’s one thing that people value it is the opinion of others with experience. Use WordPress to create a review site. The reviews could be about movies, the latest household products, computer software and gadgetry, books, food, and the like. Set up a category for each type of review you intend to publish on the site.

Keep content fresh and up-to-date so viewers will stay interested. Include pictures of the items, videos of items being used, and video clips if you plan to review movies. Adding more plug-in features and changing the theme every once in a while enhances the feel of the site. New movies come out each week and people use reviews to decide which movie is worth the seven dollars or more to see on the big screen or not.

Photo Ops

Let’s say that you want to get into stock photography. Use WordPress to create a gallery of your best photos for sale. Divide the pictures by theme for easier viewing by potential customers. Include posts or articles on how-to’s for photography buffs, tourism stories about photo destinations, and how to use your website.

It is up to you how many pictures are arranged per page and what size. Before letting the updated page go live, review its contents to see that the code worked.

ADVANTAGES OF WORDPRESS

Creating a blog or website offers distinct advantages to businesses. Whether you are just starting out or looking for new solutions to grow the business, WordPress is there to meet the need.

People are looking for information and solutions. Blogs, blog-like websites, and RSS feeds speed up the obtaining of this information. With each, content needs to be kept new and fresh to keep the attention of the customer and other viewers. A stagnant blog or website is dead and wasting your time.

With WordPress, it is easy to make updates to content, change themes, and manage the entire thing with little effort. Changing a theme doesn’t mean configuring the entire site. As often as you need a fresh look, go for it and see instant results.

Blog User Benefits

WordPress was originally designed as a tool for bloggers. It was one of a long line of free blog hosting services, but it offered more to the average blogger than other sites. Bloggers here could use their own domain name and weren’t required to use the name of the webhost if they did not want to.

The site, WordPress.com and WordPress.org became popular because of the benefits it offered to bloggers that exceeded that of other sites. Also, WordPress designers continued to better the application, iron out bugs, and compete with other blogging sites to offer a top notch blog.

A blogger using either site will be pleased with the offerings. There are custom themes and plug-ins for any type of tweaking you want to do. A blog can be basic, like those offered on WordPress.com or more complex like WordPress.org.

A blogger under the WordPress.com umbrella gets automatic software updates, security monitoring, pinging, spell check, and file backup. These services are offered for free. Anyone needing it can go through a tutorial to learn about creating posts, categories, and uploading to the blog.

More advanced bloggers can gain access to more advanced features with WordPress.org. Some bloggers use their blog as an e-commerce site. They can upload a payment option; create a page for viewing items for sale, and other features to enhance that part of their business.

Website Designer Benefits

Someone with the design know-how can create a website from this blogging tool. With all of the plug-ins and available themes, the site can look any way that the owner wants it to. Creative individuals have more gadgets to play with when they install WordPress software.

A site can be used as a functional tool for virtual businesses. Let’s say that you own a writing business. WordPress software can be used to organize a site where writers communicate about current and future projects. This would also work for a magazine that assigns stories to writers.

WordPress can be configured so that content is displayed in a more website friendly format and not the traditional “post” format of a blog. Visitors can still comment on articles if you choose that option. Other users can be granted access to the website and given privileges to do a number of things.  For instance, a magazine has one editor but many department heads. Each can access the category page that pertains to them. Posting feedback privately to article authors is also possible.

OTHER DESIGN IDEAS

Widgets

What are widgets anyway? Widgets are those applications that work within the sidebars on a page. They allow the user to customize links that their viewers can follow to find specific information.

These are most useful for blog users. The newest WordPress themes are widget-ready so it is a matter of clicking and dragging the features into the toolbar. They can add boxes that describe their online status for instant messaging programs, blogrolls, Meta tags, article archives, a listing of categories, and so forth.

Those using WordPress as a website and content management system can utilize widgets also. An article archive is helpful for new people who want to know what it has to offer them. Widgets can be used to highlight most popular product searches, most popular article searches, latest searches, and more. Choose the widget options that will help your business.

Social Networking Site

WordPress as a blogging tool can be used to bring more people to your business. With its popularity it could quickly become another social networking phenomenon. Using blogging software to run a website has distinct advantages. Visitors can comment on your articles and posts. You can respond and begin a conversation.

With pings, trackbacks, and links to your profiles on other networking sites, people will find your WordPress blog or business website. With a unique look and a variety of plug-ins at your disposal, any WordPress user can create a following that others will want to know about.

Multi User Platform

Schools like Harvard are using the multi user platform. This can take off as a way to form small communities of bloggers. One entity owns the website and allows others to use the bandwidth to create their own blog. It could be a small business, a community group that wants to attract members, or a high school class who wants to keep in touch.

Someone with an enterprising new idea can use the WordPress multi user platform in conjunction with other blogging tools to set up their own social networks. It can stay small or have the potential to grow enormously. The ease of use of WordPress software makes this a viable design idea for entrepreneurial users.

CONCLUSION

Do you currently use WordPress? Maybe you have been thinking about it but haven’t yet been convinced to try. For people who want to take a chance without a lot of risk, go to WordPress.com and set up a blog. Use themes and templates to get the look you want and learn what you can about how WordPress works. While you’re at it, increase the traffic to your blog site with SEO content, trackbacks, and pings.

Those who are ready to take the next step can find a web host and step up to WordPress.org. If you have a bit of technical knowledge and the vision to grow, let WordPress help you to do it effortlessly. Get connected to all the major search engines and have your content ranked high to be easily found by others.

WordPress has proven that it can deliver what people need and still be user-friendly.

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How To Use LinkedIn to Your Advantage

LinkedIn is a social media website.  Unlike other social sites, LinkedIn caters to the professional crowd.  It is designed to help you build a professional network to benefit you and your growing business.

Here’s how to use LinkedIn to your Advantage.

Register with LinkedIn and connect with past and present colleagues.  As a professional and a business owner, you likely have a rolodex full of people you know or have known.  Perhaps they were customers, perhaps they were colleagues or associates or perhaps they were providers, LinkedIn enables you to connect with all of them.

Why is this helpful?  Having an online resource directory helps you build awareness of your business.  Once  you link up with say Joe the Plumber, Joe the Plumber now shows you as a professional on his list.  Now your business is exposed to all of the people who have or will work with Joe and who are on his list. So right off, LinkedIn helps you boost exposure.

LinkedIn also helps you build powerful, and profitable, business opportunities.  Linking up with people broadens your awareness of what other people in and out of your industry are doing.  Those same people are on the lookout for opportunities and now you become part of their network, which means you’re exposed to new possibilities.  Using Joe the plumber, maybe he has a brother who works in a complimentary industry. Joe’s brother sees your business on his brother’s links and realizes the two of you could boost each other’s business with a partnership.  LinkedIn broadens the possibilities.

LinkedIn also makes it possible for you to provide value.  They offer a question and answer section where you can pose a question or offer an answer to an existing question.  This feature enables you to learn and to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in your industry.  And you know that demonstrating your knowledge gives you and your business more credibility and authority, making you someone people will turn to when they need your product or service.

Finally, LinkedIn enables  you to refer other professionals and to have them refer you.  This boosts credibility and authority in your industry.  People are much more inclined to do business with someone they know and someone who has been referred than a total stranger.

According to the people at LinkedIn, they have:
*  Over 43 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world.
*  A new member join them approximately every second, and about half of their members are outside the U.S.
* Executives from all Fortune 500 companies

That’s no small potatoes!  When building your professional network, LinkedIn is the premier social media site available. Use it to grow your business and your connections around the world.

How To Raise Start-Up Capital

One of the first steps when starting a business, beyond researching and creating your business idea, is to find the money to launch it.  This process can feel overwhelming however, the key is a little preparation and a bit of out of the box thinking.  Here are three ways to raise start-up-capital.

1. Friends and family
can be a great way to raise start-up capital however before you pick up the phone, it’s important to approach them in a highly professional manner.  That means creating a comprehensive business plan.  Depending on how much start up capital you need, you can approach friends and family in two ways, either as an investor or as a loan.  An investor means they’ll receive a percentage of your profits, it you’re asking for a loan then you’ll pay them back the capital perhaps with interest.

The terms are up to you to decide with your friends and family however you have a better chance of receiving money if you draft a proposal in advance and present them with a well thought out business plan so they can see that you’re serious about your business and poised to succeed.

2. Sell your stuff.
Having a massive garage sale, eBay auction page, or taking your belongings to the local consignment store is a great way to raise capital.  You’d probably be surprised how much you have laying around that you don’t need or use which someone else would be happy to pay for.  A bookshelf of books collecting dust can bring anywhere from $5/$10 per book, exercise equipment in the basement can bring in hundreds of dollars and those clothing items you just don’t wear anymore may be perfect for someone else.

A garage sale is the most profitable because you don’t have to pay eBay fees or consignment fees however, you may be able to demand more money with eBay and consignment stores.  Do a quick inventory of your belongings and see if there’s any money to be made.  You may be sitting on your start up capital and not even know it!

3. Finally,
if you have good credit you can consider getting a personal loan from your bank or depending on your idea you can approach venture capitalists for funding.  Venture capitalists tend to invest in technology related businesses.  If you’re approaching your bank for a personal loan, you’ll want to create a plan to pay the money back before you apply for the loan.

If you’re approaching a venture capitalist, you’ll want to prepare a comprehensive business plan and be willing to share a portion of the profits in exchange for the capital.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.  If you don’t have the start-up capital in your pocket, there are many ways to raise it, from taking out a loan to selling your stuff.  Believe in yourself and your idea and nothing can stop you.

How To Organize Your Home Office

Your home office is your productivity center.  An organized home office means everything is easily accessible, in order and you’re at your most productive.  A disorganized home office can cost you lost time, which often means lost money, and the clutter can drain your energy making you feel less productive, overwhelmed and frustrated.  Therefore, it pays, literally, to have an organized home office.  Here are ten tips to organize your home office, and keep it organized!

How to organize your home office – 10 tips to get the job done!

1. Create zones. Zone 1 is anything you need on a daily basis.  For example, pens, your laptop, purchase orders, your phone, printer and so on.  These items should be within easy reach.  Zone 2 are items you may use on a weekly or monthly basis, for example your banking account information, your sales reports and so on.  These should be in storage that is easy to access but not necessarily within arm’s reach.

Finally, Zone 3 are the items you access infrequently.  These items will be things like your tax records, manuals, contracts and so on.  Store these items in an organized manner, so they’re easy to access but they don’t have to be easily accessible – the top of the closet would be fine.

2. Label specifically. Files can easily become overwhelming.  Imagine if you have a file labeled “Taxes”.  Well everything from your tax statements to your receipts from the past five years could end up in there, making for a really big mess.  Each file should be extremely specific.  For example, 2009 tax statements, June 2009 business receipts, June 2009 medical claims and so on.

3. Create a purge and file system.  Once every quarter, go through your files and clean them out.  For example, if you have a business receipts file, sort through it quarterly to make sure all receipts are valid.  If you have an electronic system of also recording receipts then cross-reference and get rid of any duplicates.

4. Store electronically. Digital storage, in the form of a backup drive or online system is a great way to eliminate clutter.  Scan documents and store them in two digital locations, on your hard drive and via an online data storage system for example.

5. Create three zones on your task list.
For many, the “to-do” pile on their desk is the biggest pile.  Instead of one heaping pile, organize your tasks into three piles by priority.  For example, to do today, to do this month, to do this quarter.

6. Have a place for everything. #5 recommends creating three tasking zones.  Make sure each zone is in a labeled desk organizer and not just a pile on your desk.

7. Find one system to organize yourself and stick to it. Do you prefer a PDA, paper calendar, or a software program like Outlook?  Find a system that works for you and stick to it.  This will keep you on track and eliminate redundancy from using several systems.

8. Create an open/close system. Each day, when you leave your office, prepare it for the next day.  Set out items, which will need your immediate attention the next day.  Create a prioritized task list.  The next morning, tackle your must dos immediately and work your way through your task list. It’ll keep you organized and on track.

9. At the end of each day, put everything back in its place!
Leaving your office clean and ready to go for the next day, starts the day off right.

10. Sort mail. Mail typically falls into three categories, open immediately, open eventually and trash.  Sort mail into three piles each day and tend to the immediate ones, throw the junk mail away/recycle and place your intermediate mail in an appropriate location, for example your to do this week bin.

Having an organized home office is more about creating systems than anything.  The key is to create systems that work for you.  If you’re a visual person and need to see your agenda then a large wall calendar with your tasks and an open filing system might work best.  If you’re an auditory person, consider leaving yourself a voicemail or dictation of what you need to accomplish each day.  Find a system that works for you, create appropriate zones, put everything in its place and enjoy your organized and efficient home office!

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