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AbiliTech Web Design & Marketing - Brining Small Business To The Internet

 

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Marketing your business on the Internet!


Are you looking for information on marketing yourself on the Internet but can't find the answers you need here? Then please click on the Contact Us menu item in the left navigation bar to reach us, and depending on the complexity of your question, we will be happy to respond within 1 or 2 days.

Please feel free to browse my Internet Marketing information below, or click on any of the following menu items to go directly to points of interest to you:

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Introduction
 

"There were more people on the Internet in its first 5 years
than there were on the telephone in its first 30 years!"

"A population the size of the UK joins the World Wide Web
every 6 months!"

"Internet traffic doubles every 100 days!"

This is a commercial that plays on TV advertising Cisco Network equipment. These are staggering statistics indeed. The UK has a population of 58,556,000, so you can see the potential of the Internet. In Fact research shows that E-Commerce was a $2.8 Million industry in 1996. Experts forecast that the will balloon to $1.3 Billion by the year 2003, and some feel that this is a conservative figure!

All of the "net gurus" tell you that you need to promote yourself on the Internet. Others say "there is NO reason for not having an e-mail." I tried saying that at one of my first presentations to a business group and was quickly brought down to a more common level. A nice lady asked, mostly to herself, "what if you don't have a computer?" When I regained consciousness, I scrambled to understand the meaning in her words. Did she mean her children owned the computer? Did she mean her computer was damaged? Or did she actually mean that she didn't have a computer at all? The answer was simple but not as obvious as one would think. I go into the solution below.

In your dealings with other business people or potential clients, I'm sure you've gotten challenged, as I have, with the question of: "I'd love to talk to you more, what's your e-mail address?" or "I don't have time to see your presentation, but I'd love the find out more. What's your web address?" Part of AbiliTech's mission is to help you promote your business to your clients at home and around the world!

Please read on, but if you click on the menu box below, you can go directly to the section that interests you most.

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What is the Internet?

"The Information Superhighway, or the Internet, is composed of networks, computer systems and electronic information."

I found the preceding description in a book from 1994 called "The Information Superhighway Illustrated - The Full Color Guide To How It All works" by Que Publishing. In effect this is an accurate description. But the Internet has become so much more to users around the world. It has provided us with information, helped us research our preferred subjects, taught us courses we may not have had access to previously, and kept us in touch with our colleagues, partners, and loved ones. "The Information Superhighway" is such a cold and fast moving name.

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How do I get on the Internet?

URL

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

The first thing that needs to be done is to choose an ISP. This service provider will give you a method to link up with the Internet, whether it be via telephone line, television cable, or microwave antenna. Once you have access to their Internet Server, you will have access to the Internet.

There are many ISP in the world. Some have been around for a long time, others keep joining the list of providers daily. The services offered and charges for these vary greatly, but some of the things you want to look for are: Local Access Number - that is, can you call into their web server with a local call? You don't want to pay long distance toll charges to access the Internet if you can avoid it.

E-Mail Addresses - How many? What type? The two main types are POP3 (Post Office Protocol) and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). You'll need to know this so you can configure your e-mail viewer.

Personal Webspace - How much webspace will be available for your webpage? Will you have access to the CGI directory? This will give you much more control over the content of your webpages, in that you will be able to run some of the more useful forms on your pages, and gather more information from your visitors.

Bandwidth - This is how much traffic your website will generate. Typically this will be on the order of 2 Gigabytes. That is to say if you webpage is 1 Megabyte in size (for argument's sake) you can have 2,000 visitors look at your page before you start incurring extra charges. A more realistic size for a webpage is around 50 Kilobytes, so that translates to 40,000 visitors to your site before incurring more charges. After that the ISPs start to charge by the Megabyte.

What would you e-mail address be, and what about your webpage address? - ISPs charge you for their services, and the advertise their services by giving you an e-mail or website address that reflects the fact that they are your service provider. Your e-mail could be something like [removed] . Your website address could be http://members.someprovider.com/ontario/~AD7584937 . Some are much nicer, but others are much worse, and with the recent changes to the name length rules for website addresses, from 27 to 67 characters long, it could be even longer and harder to type into your browser!

Finally, will they Host your Domain Name for you? - That is, will they support your registered website address as http://www.yourcompany.com ? Not everyone will do that, but there are ways to get around that if you find an ISP you would rather do business with. I'll discuss that below.

There is no standard to look for, you must shop around and do your due diligence before making a final decision. A good place to start is http://www.tophost.com .

E-Mail

Even if you have to go through the library or cyber café way of accessing the Internet, you don't have to worry about not having your own personal connection to the Internet. There are many options to having your website hosted, or your own e-mail that you can promote yourself or your business with wherever you go. One such service that I use is available at http://www.hotmail.com from Microsoft. All you need is a browser, your unique ID and your password, and you can access your e-mail from anywhere in the world! The limitations there are 2 Megabytes of mail space, and you get to look at their advertisements whenever you log into your account. They also run a portal, or a news page with advertisements when you log out of your account.

Other similar services include http://www.yahoo.com, http://www.netscape.com. http://www.tripod.com, well if you look up "free email" on any of the search engines you'll get a good listing of the services that are available.

Media

Now, how you connect to the Internet is just as important as who your service provider is, as a matter of fact, they are sometimes integrated services, such as in the case of Cable Modem.

Cable

Cable modem is usually offered by your TV Cable provider. I'm not a big cable TV guy, so we've never gotten that service, so I thought I was unable to get the Internet access provided by the cable provider, and that saddened me greatly because of my need for speed! But there came a time when they were able to provide me this service even though I was not a cable customer. I am a happy camper!

The Cable Internet service is one of the fastest services available to the residential market. It is especially becoming important when one considers how many people now work from home, and how reliant we are on the Internet to perform our daily duties. Ask your local cable company if they can provide you with this service.

ADSL

ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), which gives you a method to connect to your ISP via your phone line, but without tying up your phone is one of the most innovative methods of connecting to the Internet yet.

The Modem they give you is similar to a regular modem, but the difference here is that you not only get a modem at your PC, but you get a modem at the local switching station as well. It is at this point that you will connect to the Internet. This configuration increases the quality of transmission significantly because of the dedicated line from your computer to the phone company's direct link to the Internet, and it doesn't tie up your phone line, since it only piggybacks it's signal on the phone line, you can still receive calls and use the phone as you normally would.

This service is not available to everyone, because you need to be within a certain distance of your phone company's switching office, and you have to have a more recent local service line than most of us have.

Phone Line

The oldest and usual method for a computer to connect to the Internet is to go through a phone line. That is, you connect you modem to your phone line and dial your ISP's web server through your computer. All of your "surfing" happens through that connection. This is the cheapest way to connect because most people already have the phone line installed in your home, or it can be installed relatively cheaply. One of the biggest challenges to this method is the fact that you can't use your phone or receive calls once you are on the Internet.

With the availability of fiber optics, one can predict that the quality of the signal being sent through the phone line will get better and better, but the main reason that the fastest modem you can get for your phone line is 56 Kilobytes, is because of the physical limitations of the copper wiring from your house to the switching station.

Look Internet

Look Internet is relatively new to the Internet service provider market, but they are making waves all the same. These are the people who provide line-of-site digital television to people in major centres. They do this with microwave antennas and set-top boxes on your TV.

They also have an Internet function to their service and have recently partnered with IDirect, one of the largest ISPs in North America! Their charges are reasonable, and you can get your Internet connection with or without the Digital TV connection. They boast speeds of up to 1.5 Megabytes. One of their disadvantages however, and I hear this will be changing soon, is that they must use your phone line for the upload portion of your Internet communication. That is, when you send a request for information, it goes through your phone line at 56 Kilobytes / second, but you get the information at up to 1.5 Megabytes/second! And that's not bad!!

Whatever you choose, keep a close eye on the new technology. It keeps coming fast and furious!

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What do I need to get on the Internet?

As mentioned above, the Internet is a collection of connected computers. As a result, I must say that in order to get on the Internet, you need a Computer. (We'll leave the digital PCS phones and palm devices aside for now.)

Now during one of my presentations to a business group, I said those infamous words "In this day and age, there is no reason for you not to have an e-mail address on the Internet." This nice lady asked under her breath, "What if you don't have a computer?" I heard that.

One of the obvious options to not having a computer is to go to a friend who does. But that may not be the best answer because of the inconvenience to your friend, and maybe she doesn't like to have others use her computer. There is another option. Go to your local library.

Your local library will usually have computers for use that are connected to the Internet. These are usually free to use, and the only thing you'll need is to bring your own diskette. If you need to print your findings out on paper, they usually have a printer nearby that will print directly from the computer for a reasonable fee.

Another option is to go to one of those "Cyber Cafés" which are more popular in the larger centres. They don't normally have a printer on site for their patrons to print on, but they usually will let you use their equipment for a nominal fee, or simply for the purchase of one of their specialty coffees and a muffin. These also make great meeting places for you and your clients, where you can show them your wares being promoted on your website.

The point here is that there is more than one option for those who have not yet decided to get a computer.

A standard computer these days is very user friendly and extremely affordable! The computer of the day has a 300 Megahertz processor (Intel II or III, AMD K62, or Intel Celeron), a 17" monitor, a 10 Gigabyte hard drive, a 22X CD ROM (minimum), a 3.5 inch floppy drive, 32 Megabytes of RAM (minimum), a 56KB modem, a sound card, a good video card, a 101 key keyboard, a mouse, and speakers. This computer could cost as low as $1200, but can go much higher depending on the name brand or the extra features you have installed.

I have reluctantly conceded that the best thing for owners of a 486 computer to do is to either make due with what they have, or purchase a new complete system. The days of upgrading your PC are all but gone, what with the price of whole systems being cheaper than individual parts. You can save some money by using your previous video monitor, but if it's less than a 15" screen size, you will most likely want to upgrade that as well.

Modem

One piece of hardware the computer you use must have is a modem. The term modem comes from two words: MOdulator and DEModulator. That is this device will modulate, or encode, and demodulate, or decode, digital information so that it can be transferred through your phone line to another device with a similar modem. Those are the 'beeps, scratches, and whistles' you hear on a phone line when a computer, or fax, is communicating.

We don't need to go too far into this part of the technology, but it is useful to know something of the speeds available.

You'll sometimes hear people talking about "56KB", "28.8KB", "128KB ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)", and "Baud Rate." These usually refer to the speed at which the data is being transferred through the modem to you phone lines which is the "Baud Rate."

The speeds use to be only 300 bits per second, and as late as 7 years ago 2400 bit per second rates were still popular. Now we've got 56,000 bits per second on a normal home computer, and even higher if one is connected through a Cable Modem, or an ADSL service, where speeds of higher than 128,000 bits per second can be attained. These service providers control the communication lines on which you are sending your information, and therefore can give you much faster rates of speed.

We'll be discussing the different services available later on.

Browsers

All of the information on the Internet used to be in a text only format, that is, the information you would get only comprised of words. No pictures, no banners, no sounds, simply textual data or information.

I remember when I downloaded a story in 1994 with the most unlikely title of "Start Trek vs. Star Wars vs. BattleStar Gallactica," and it took 5 minutes for an 80 page story. It was all text. I had to put the text into a word processor so that I could break it up into chapters and then into paragraphs, so it would be easier to read.

Now the information on the Internet is coded so that it is easy to read and attractive to the viewer no matter what computer they are using. The coding used for this is referred to as HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language), which reads the code and formats the text so you can read it. This also allows you to click on certain elements in the document you are viewing to bring you to other places in that document, to another document, or to another document residing anywhere in the world.

With the advent of multi-media, the Internet has changed for the better. Multi-media generally refers to information that can be presented as sound and vision. It also means interactivity in this case. It is responsible for interactive sites such as Amazon.com, Quixtar.com, and many personal home pages with pictures, videos, and music, which are a part of their presentation.

Most of the more recent browsers can handle viewing multi-media, but as technology gets better and better, it sometimes gets ahead of the browsers and the multi-media providers must give the browsers a method to view their offerings on the web. These are called "Plug-ins," and the multi-media files usually have instructions for you browser to let you know where to find the required plug-ins on the Internet.

Unfortunately the more multi-media elements there are in a webpage, the more time it takes to download the information you're looking for. This must be remembered when you are selecting the information you want to present to your viewers. Many a potential customer has moved on because it took too long to view a page on the Internet.

The more popular browsers are:

Netscape Navigator

- it can be downloaded for free from http://www.netscape.com Netscape is the most popular browser at this time. It has many features and is supported by all of the content providers, and is considered a basis for web development. That is, the Internet webpage developers make sure that Netscape can view their webpages. The latest version is 4.7.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

it can be downloaded for free from http://www.microsoft.com Internet Explorer 5.0 is Microsoft's latest browser, and it is the second most popular browser next to Netscape. It also has become a standard tool for webpage developers to verify their browser friendliness.

Note: Unfortunately, Internet Explorer and Netscape don't always agree on how things should look, so extra effort and coding must be put in place on every webpage so that it can be seen on both of the most popular browsers.

Opera

it can be downloaded from http://www.opera.com for a nominal fee of $35 (US) Opera is a feature rich browser, but because the company charges for this software, it may not be as strong a player as the other two. One of its claims to fame is the fact that it adheres strictly to a generic version of webpage coding language (HTML 3.2), and so if you can see it in Opera, then you can see it in the other two browsers. I'm not so sure the opposite is true however.

Whatever browser you have, you can rest assured that there will always be pages you can't view as planned, but the good web developers will try their best to make sure you can see their pages in all browsers.

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How do I market myself or my business on the Internet?

Webpages

You've no doubt heard some of the statistics about e-commerce. You've heard that in 1996, e-commerce was a $2.8 million dollar industry. You've heard that industry experts expect that this industry will climb to the $1.3 Trillion dollar mark by the year 2003. Some even think this number somewhat conservative.

Now these numbers reflect the business-to-business industry, as opposed to the retail, sell it over the Internet, industry. So these numbers don't reflect the advertising value of the webpages being used to promote a certain business or service.

I personally get calls from all kinds of people and I often simply ask them for their website for more information. The main reason for this is that they often come up to me at the most inappropriate time, such as supper, or during a recreational activity. If they are serious about wanting to give me information, then they should be prepared to offer it on my time.

You'd be surprised at the success rate of these people who can give me their information on a website.

The other method of selling on the Internet is e-mail. This is the preferred method of communication for businesses. When you think of credibility of a business, you think of being able to reach the person who is selling you their services. That means they can send you more orders and/or refer you to their friends and acquaintances, and let you sell your services instead of trying to know your business enough to convince someone else that they need to buy from you.

Links To Other Pages

In telling people about your services you invariably come across someone who requires other services. A friend or acquaintance may offer these services and you would be happy to share that with your potential client. You know…networking.

Well this still works on the Internet. It is after all a 'networking' environment.

This is how it works. You place a piece of code (link) inviting visitors to your website an opportunity to visit their site, and they reciprocate by placing a link on their website inviting their visitors to pay you a visit. This has the effect of getting visitors you may never have considered looking at your services on your site. If they are interested they can contact you in whichever method you have detailed on your 'Contact Us' page.

Hosting

In order for your website address to mean anything, you have to store your you webpages somewhere. This is where your web hosting service comes in. This service provides space on its Internet server, and makes it available to visitors who enter your Domain Name in their browsers.

This Internet server actually has an IP (Internet Protocol) address similar to '125.354.235.9' and that is how it is known on the Internet to all the other servers and entities on the Internet looking for it. It's job is to act as a repository for the webpages it hosts, and to 'serve them up' when they are called for by your visitor's browser.

TopHost.com
MyInternet.com
VJungle.com

What I Should Have On My Webpage

There are several elements that every website should have. These may be spread out amongst several webpages, or all contained in one. Your target market should dictate how you communicate with them.

The basic components of a webpage are very similar to a letter. It should contain a method to contact you (i.e. phone, e-mail, postal address…), a greeting for your visitors, an opening statement (reason for your website), content (your services and or products), a summary (a call to action in the case of a business website), and a closing statement (an invitation for them to provide feedback and return periodically for more information). And don't forget a date for when the last update to your page was done. This will inform your visitors that you update your site often (a good idea,) and that they should check back periodically for more current content.

There are millions of websites on the Internet. There are many that are simple (a.k.a. boring), and many that are so complex that most people will not wait for the information to download. Our goal is to find a happy medium.

Some new terms I'd like to introduce include: Size - the actual disk space taken by your website; Weight - how resource intensive the content of your webpage is; Speed - how long it takes your webpage to load onto a visitor's browser.

Size

A good rule of thumb for fast loading webpages is to keep the total page size under 70KB. There was a time when the recommendation was 30KB, then 50KB, but as technology increases in speed, and your target market gets more advanced equipment, you will see the standard webpage sizes grow accordingly. You can say that if it takes more than 30 seconds to load your page, you may want to think about revising it.

Weight

This relates to a graphic intensive site, or one with multimedia elements loaded in it. The more complicated the elements, that is the more you rely on your visitor's browser to load plug-ins, the longer it will take to download your page.

Speed

Size plus Weight inversely affects Speed. That is, the higher the size and/or the speed of your webpages, the longer it will take your visitors to download your message. There are many tricks and tips available on the Internet that can show you how to speed up your webpage. Some of these include the use of appropriate graphic types. The best for the Internet include the JPG and PNG formats.

A good webpage should include one to three graphic elements, and less than 500 words. Background colours and text fonts are freebies in that they do not have to be downloaded with your webpage; they are generated at your visitor's browser. Repeating graphics are also quick loads because they have already been loaded once, and therefore your visitor's browser will simply copy what it has already loaded.

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A Checklist For Getting Started

Here are some steps that will help guide you through the process of getting a presence on the Internet.

  1. Decide who will do what.

  2. E-mail potential hosts, outlining the services you need and asking them for specific pricing.

  3. Make a list of possible domain names. Use the WhoisPlus service at http://www.whoisplus.com, then you can register your domain name at http://www.abilitech.net.

  4. Decide on a virtual host who offers the services you need.

  5. Sign up for your site. Tell them the domain name you want and what mailbox names you would like to start with. Ask them how long it will take to get you set up. Discuss any special needs you have (CGI, access logs, mail autoresponders). Ask them to setup FTP access and contact you once they know the location of your directories on the server.

  6. Sketch out a simple site diagram and story board

  7. Gather all the software you may need (HTML helpers, graphics, FTP, and so on).

  8. Write your copy in a text editor.

  9. Develop you HTML template, or have this done for you.

  10. Cut and paste your copy into your templates.

  11. Put everything in one directory to save time.

  12. Create or convert your graphics.

  13. Create any image maps you need.

  14. Test your site on your own system.

  15. Upload your files to your server.

  16. Test your site.

  17. Market your site off the Internet.

  18. Market your site online. Registering with Search engines.

  19. Update your website as events warrant.

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    Contact Us For Other Documents We Are Working On...
     
     
    Domain Names
    How to Choose?
    Whoisplus.com
    27 vs. 67 Character Domain Names
    .COM, .NET, .ORG, .CA, What's The Difference?
    Search Engines
    Meta Tags
    Description
    Title
    Keywords
    Creator
    Author
    Placing High On The Lists
    Submitting
    Paid Submissions
    E-Mail
    Etiquette
    SPAM
    E-Mail Readers
    Free E-Mail
    Banners
    Advertising or Money Generator?
    Why Have One?
    Why Put One On Your Page?
    LinkExchange
    Opt-In Newsletters
    How Do They Work?
    Newsgroups

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    Would You Like To Reach Us?

    Contact André Dupuis at:
    AbiliTech Web Design & Marketing
    Phone: (905) 764-7848 or
    E-mail:
       
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