Archives for March 2007

What Type of Visitors Are Best for Your Site: One Time or Return?

For those of us who run websites, it’s no secret that our primary goal is to try and get people to our site.  I mean, what’s the point of taking all of the time to put together these sites if nobody is going to read them?

That being said, what type of traffic should you be targeting?  Should you target the one time traffic – the type of visitor that’s going to quickly scan your page for what they want and then leave – or the repeat traffic – the type of visitor that checks out your page every day or so, reads your new posts and is then on their way?

On the surface, the answer may seem pretty apparent, but in actuality, the best answer may not be so obvious.

For those of us who monetize our sites, whether it’s through Google Adsense, affiliate programs or selling your own products, I believe that it’s the one time visitors that are the best traffic for your site. 

Here’s why – one time visitors usually don’t show up to peruse your content, check out your archives, post comments, all that good stuff.  Nope, they typically show up because they are looking for something specific and they’re hoping that they can find it on your site.

I don’t think that it really matters how these one timers get to your site, whether it’s through a search engine or through a sites like Digg, Netscape, Reddit, Fark, etc.  All that matters is they’re at your site and they’re looking for something.

Because they’re on this mission, one time visitors are probably much more likely to click Adsense or affiliate links or check out the products for sale on your site when compared to repeat traffic.

Now, if you run a site that isn’t monetized or you don’t particularly care about making money and you’re more focused on providing lots of content that will keep your visitors entertained and occupied for hours on end, then I would say your best traffic is going to be repeat visitors.

So what should you do if you run a site like this that’s monetized and is meant for reading lots of articles?  Because you’ve got the best of both worlds, you should try your best to take advantage of both types of traffic! 

Just know that your one time visitors aren’t going to be as numerous, but that they’re probably going to generate most of your revenue and that your repeat visitors are far more likely to comment on articles and read more than one post, but are much less likely to get you into early retirement.

Successful Conversion to Latest WordPress

Looks like it wasn’t WordPress’ or GoDaddy’s fault that I had such a tough time upgrading The New Businesses Blog yesterday.  I don’t know if I should feel good about that or if I should feel like a dunce.

After yesterday’s near miss, I was kind of afraid to update my two bigger blogs, Saving Without A Budget and Daily Fuel Economy Tip– if anything because if I were to have lost either of those two, I would definitely have taken a long walk off a short pier.  Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask) everything went to plan today and both blogs are up and running just fine.

Now that I’ve had a day to tool around with the latest version of WordPress, I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with the changes.  While I certainly wasn’t displeased with the older version of WP, the newer version is much better.  Here’s why:

  • The admin section of WP was completely streamlined and is much more intuitive and less cluttered.
  • I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking, but the load times and general speed of the sites appear to be much quicker.
  • Almost everything that was compatible with the older versions of WP has carried forward to the latest version.  Granted I haven’t had enough time to find small errors, but I’m pretty confident that there aren’t any major site flaws (aside from my spelling, grammar and content!)
  • It came with a built in spell check.  This is probably the best feature of the upgrade.  In order to check my spelling in the previous release, I had to copy and paste my entry into Word, use that spell check and then manually transfer any changes.  Needless to say it was a pain.

So, long story short, the “ordeal” of upgrading is finally over, and despite my near heart attack, I’m glad I made the change.

The Joys of Upgrading WordPress on GoDaddy

Remember how I talked about how it was kind of a pain to switch from a Blogger based site to a WordPress based site, especially if you were using GoDaddy as your hosting service?

Well, I was about five minutes away from going on a suicide watch thanks to the fact my ENTIRE BLOG DISAPEARED after I tried to upgrade from WordPress 2.0.4 to 2.1.2.  Yeah, that wasn’t exactly my idea of fun.

Anyway, I decided to go ahead and attempt the upgrade because I wanted to take advantage of an Amazon Affiliate plugin that only works with the latest version of WordPress.  Because I was stuck in the stone age and still content using an older version, something was going to have to give.

Because I tend to make impulse decisions, I kind of just haphazardly decided to start deleting files off of my server and replace them with the updated 2.1.2 files.  I pretty much followed the directions and made sure to not delete certain files.  I figured this was going to be a snap.

Well, it would have been if I wouldn’t have deleted the WordPress config file, which allows me access to the databases and is essential for running this site.   Of course, I don’t realize this until I try and run the update module and get the blue screen of death, telling me that it can’t find the necessary config file.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a panicky person.  Stuff like this is enough to throw me over the edge; unfortunately because it was a nice evening, I had my windows open, so I think the neighborhood kids were able to pick up on a deadly combination of four letter words.  Should make for an interesting conversation at their dinner table.

At this point, I’m firing off emails to everyone that I know that might have some developing or programming skills.  Of course, everyone asks, “did you back up your files?”  When I have to tell them know, they figure it’s best to just laugh and not come right out and tell me how dumb I am.

But, I’m obviously writing here on The New Business Blog, and all of my other posts magically reappeared, so who, in fact, had the last laugh?

I wish I could say I did, but that would mean that I had some sort of clue as to how I saved this site.  To be honest, I have no idea.  At this point I’m just willing to be grateful and leave it at that.

So, the moral of the story, if you need or want to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, please make sure you read all of the instructions, and please, for heaven’s sake, BACK UP YOUR FILES!

How to Choose the Right Business Banking Account

Aside from getting all of your paperwork filed properly, choosing the best checking account for your small business is probably the most important decision you’ll have to make in the beginning stages of your business.

So where do you start and what should you look for?  I’ve put together a list of items I looked at before I finally settled on my business’ checking account.  While this certainly isn’t a very intensive list, it should be enough to help get you going down the right path.

Features:  I think it goes without saying, but there are a wide range of features for business banking accounts.  Some of them aren’t going to be important to you, but some of them are going to be make or break deals.  Make sure you do a good job looking at a bunch of different accounts from several different banks in order to determine what’s available to you.

For example, after doing a bunch of research, I determined that I wanted a bank account that gave me a Visa debit card, gave me at least 100 free transactions per month, had free online banking and bill pay and would allow me to apply for a small business credit card.  Thankfully, because of all the options available to me, I was able to find my perfect account. 

Initial/Minimum Balance:  For most of us who run small businesses, we tend to do so while keeping our regular 9 to 5 jobs.  Sure we hope that one day our small business will take off and replace our regular income, but in the meantime, things are probably going to be pretty low key.

That also probably means that we don’t want to have to sink a whole lot of money into the business right away, especially if we don’t have a lot of discretionary income to begin with.  That being said, make sure you take the required minimum balance into account when deciding on who you’re going to do your banking with.

When I was researching different banking accounts I saw a wide variety of required minimum balances – ranging from $0 to $5,000 or more.  And on top of that, the there was also a wide range of monthly penalties for dropping below the minimum balance – ranging from $5 to $25 per month.

Convenience:  This should pretty much be a no brainer – you’re going to want to bank somewhere that is easy for you to get to.  That way, if you ever need money or need to talk to one of the account reps, you don’t have to make a special trip that’s out of your way.

And you don’t have to resign yourself to one of those national banks in order to make sure your banking is going to be convenient.  Considering most small businesses aren’t unleashed on a national scale, you can probably get away with using a smaller local bank if it fits your other needs.

Room to Grow:  As I stated earlier, many of us run our small businesses as side projects with the hope that they will grow into something bigger.  Well, what happens if they do?  Will your bank have other accounts available to you that will cover your new needs?

Granted, you can always switch banks, but I think it’s nice to be able to stay with the bank that helped you grow up as a businesses and where you’ve developed banking relationships.

I know that this isn’t the be-all-end-all of business banking check lists, but I think it should be enough to get you started.  As someone who recently opened his very first business checking account, I can tell you that you have to make sure you do plenty of research before you finally settle on an account.

That being said, don’t beat yourself to death over it.  Figure out what you need, what you’d like to have (but might not be deal breakers) and then go from there.

The Steps I Took To Start a Business

First off, please let me make a disclaimer that I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, and the following article is meant as a general guideline for starting a business.  If you are serious about starting your own business (and I hope that you are) I strongly advise you to speak to both an attorney and an accountant that specialize in business before you get too far.

That being said, starting a business really isn’t that painful of a process – or at least it wasn’t for me.  I am currently the proud owner of Carr Online Media, LLC and co-owner of Shirley Online Media, LLC.   While the process of putting together these businesses has been relatively tedious – you’ll notice there’s a lot of paperwork to be filed in order for you to start your own business – I still, to use a cliche, wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  Well… I’m sure I could figure out a price.

Anyway, what I wanted to do in this post was outline the steps that I took in order to get my businesses up and running.  I figured that it would probably be a good starting point for people who have been kicking around the idea of starting their own business, but really have no idea where to begin.

Corporate Structure:

When I put together my businesses, from the beginning I was fairly certain I was going to go with a Limited Liability Company (LLC).  This is because I liked the flexibility of the LLC – the fact that it’s taxed like a sole proprietorship or partnership (meaning no double taxation), you don’t need to have annual shareholder meetings, they’re relatively easy to dissolve – as well as the protection it provides – as long as I stay current with my paperwork and don’t make any heinous mistakes, none of my personal assets will be liable.

Anyway, you can choose from several different structures: sole propreitor, partnership, limited partnership, LLC, and Corporation (C-Corp or S-Corp).  Each has their benefits and disadvantages; it just so happened that an LLC best fit what I wanted my businesses to become.

Filing the Corporation’s Paperwork:

Now that I had selected what my businesses’ structures, I needed to make everything ok with my state.  So, I called the State Corporation Commission in order to check and make sure the two names that I wanted for my businesses – Carr Online Media, LLC and Shirley Online Media, LLC – were both available.  Thankfully they were, so once that was squared away, I was able to go ahead and start filling out my paperwork.

Depending on where you live and the corporate structure you choose, there will be varying amounts of paperwork.  Luckily for me, all I had to do was fill out one simple form for each business, giving the desired business name, my name and address and a $100 check for each business.  Simple enough.

After filling out the forms I went ahead and sent them to the State Corporation Commission and about a week later I received documentation that everything was accepted and I was registered with the state.  I actually have the documents framed and they hang on either side of my college diploma.  How cute.

Federal ID Number:

After getting the OK from the State Corporation Commission, I was free to go ahead and apply for Federal ID Numbers, which is the number I will use when reporting my companies’ tax figures.

There were two things in particular that I liked about getting my Federal ID number- 1) it was probably the only free thing I was able to get when putting together the businesses and 2) I did it online at the IRS’ website.

After I filled out the applicable forms, about a week later I received the official documentation in the mail.  Turns out the IRS actually can work quickly.  Thanks to that little quip I’m probably now on their audit list.

Local Licenses:

Now that I had the two big things out of the way, I was able to go ahead and finalize all of my local paperwork.  This consisted of applying for my local business licenses, applying for a license to conduct business out of my home (which wasn’t an issue because everything I do is online) and, finally, a list of assets owned by the businesses.  This last one was easy because I have yet to buy anything for the businesses.  Wait, I mean, the businesses has yet to buy anything for themselves. 

Gotta make sure you keep personal money separate from business money.

Bank Accounts:

The final step I took when starting my businesses was to go ahead and open business checking accounts.

In most cases, you will need to provide the following items when opening a business banking account: state registration, Federal ID number and your business license(s).

There are literally hundreds of business banking options out there, so depending on the type of business you plan to run, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs.

I ended up going with Free Business Checking from BB&T because it allows me 150 monthly transactions before they charge me fees (I won’t exceed that, at least not initially), there’s no account minimum and I get a Visa Business Check Card.  Those were the three things that were important to me, and they were the one bank that had them.

Like I said in the beginning, this certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all of how to start a business.  I’m sure I left plenty of holes, so make sure you talk to a lawyer and an accountant before you begin the process of starting your own business. 

That being said, if you’ve got the desire to own your own business, don’t let anything hold you back.  It certainly is a very rewarding experience.

What’s the Best Way to Get Traffic: Great Content or Great Titles/Summaries?

We all know that submitting your sites to social news networks – places like Digg, Shoutwire, Reddit, Fark, etc. – can be a great way to get a steady flow of traffic to your site.  And, if you’re lucky enough to make it up onto the homepage of any of these social news networks it’s pretty safe to say that you’re going to get several thousand more hits than a typical day.

Because you know this, you’ve probably spent plenty of time trying to think up great ideas for posts that you could publish on your site that would be able to get you up on a high traffic homepage.  You check out what’s currently hitting the homepages, read some of the articles and figure they’re really not that much better than what you could do.

With all of these things in mind, you go about writing the masterpiece that will get you on the homepage of Digg and bring notoriety to your site or blog.  You take your great idea and write and edit it until it’s perfect.  Everything makes sense, it’s useful to the readers, it flows, doesn’t have any grammatical or spelling errors, etc.

You’ve finally put together the post that’s going to make it up onto Digg’s (or Fark’s, Netscape’s, etc.) homepage.  Now you submit it to the social news site and just sit back and wait for the Diggs or votes to come in.

Only they don’t, which means your great idea was essentially a big waste of time.  So, what happened?

Either you wrote about something that wasn’t useful or interesting (probably not the case), you submitted the article to the incorrect category (sometimes happens) or you were in such a rush to try and get your site submitted that you neglected the title and the summary you submitted along with the link.

Think back to when you originally went to Digg to get ideas for your homepage bound story.  Remember the titles or summaries of the articles?  They were probably the first thing that caught your eye and caused you to click on the link – and more than likely, they were funny, creative and/or thought provoking.

It seems to me that what most people do when they submit their articles to Digg or other social news sites, they will simply submit the title of the article as the title of the submission and use the first paragraph as the article summary.  Granted, this might not be a terrible idea, but at the same time, I don’t think you should ever expect this method to get you up onto the homepage.

Think to your own experiences as a user of sites like Digg.  How many times have you dugg a story before you clicked the link?  I know that there have been many, many occasions that I have dugg a story simply because it was submitted with a great title or summary – and then when I clicked on the story it was a piece of garbage.  I’m sure you’ve probably done the same thing as well.

Your job now is to come up with the best of both worlds; create useful content in your posts and submit the post with a catchy title and summary.

If content truly is the number one way to get people to your site, then having the ability to write catchy titles and interesting summaries has to be an extremely close second.

A Wide-Eyed, Naive Moron

Well, hello old friend.  It has certainly been a while.

I can’t fully explain why several months ago I decided to stop posting on The New Business Blog.  Actually, I know exactly why I decided to stop: because one of my other sites, Daily Fuel Economy Tip, was starting to get a lot of hits and make some money, so I thought it would be best to go ahead and concentrate on that.

Ultimately, it was probably a pretty good decision because, while it Daily Fuel Economy Tip certainly hasn’t set me up for an early retirement, it is helping to provide some extra income.  Unfortunately, because I’m Mr. Responsible, I’ve been using the money to pay down my mortgage quicker, as opposed to going on an exotic vacation or pay for a newer, less “dear God, please don’t break down on me” type of car.

But I digress because all of that is neither here or there.  The fact of the matter is I have made it my goal to revive The New Business Blog and hopefully produce something that’s a heck of a lot better than what I did the first time around.

You see, The New Business Blog was my first attempt at both blogging and running a business, and unfortunately, I sucked at both.  As the title of this post alludes to, I was essentially a wide-eyed, naive moron who had no idea what he was doing.

I look back at a lot of the posts on this site and I just want to go back in time and slap myself around.  My posts weren’t terrible, but they were certainly lacking.  And in looking at how I went about starting a business… I don’t even want to get into that.

Anyway, I’m a year older and a year wiser, so I think that I will be able to turn The New Business Blog in what I really intended it to be – sort of a look into how I have been able to start and run my online businesses, with a hint of humor and a lot of humility.

Here’s to getting reacquainted with an old friend.  Cheers.