Class: 2014 Winter Accelerator
ProVizual enables business professionals to quickly and easily craft stunning presentations, with great visuals, impressive animations, and rich representations of data.
Search Engine Optimization
Websites are critical for business these days. Whether you are targeting a global market, or local people in your town, your website is where your customers can learn about you and your offerings, and decide whether or not to do business with you. A perfect website, though, is useless if no one visits it. Think about how you find content online. You probably use a search engine, like Google or Bing. If these tools don’t serve up your page to potential customers, you are losing business.
One of the first questions website owners ask is, do I need to do something different for each of the search engines? The answer is no. Google is the leader. If you optimize your website for Google, then it will also perform well in the other engines.
Why does Google decide to serve up certain pages and not others?
The answer is pretty simple. It’s how they do it that is complex. It’s very important to Google to serve the most relevant content. Otherwise, people would go use a different search engine. Early on, Google stumbled upon something that seems obvious now, but didn’t back then. They realized that if other pages link to your page, then the authors of those pages must consider your page relevant or helpful. Google can use this information to put an importance rating on your page. They call it Page Rank. Of course, it’s not as simple as counting the number of inbound links. The Page Rank of the pages that link to you is taken into account as well. So Google builds a graph of all of the web pages on The Internet and recursively calculates the ranking. Its complex, but you don’t need to worry about exactly how they do it. In fact, they won’t tell anyone all of the sordid details. That’s their competitive advantage. The take away is that getting other credible websites to link to yours is very important.
Page Rank Distribution
If a page links to another, you can think of it like some of the ranking is being passed over to the other page. It’s good to link to meaningful content. However, loading your webpage with too many links can be detrimental.
Each of your Pages has Rank
Whether your website has 5 pages or 5 million, every single one of them has a separate URL and Google calculates a ranking for them. You should put thought into which pages link to which others. Your home page probably has the most inbound links, and often the highest page rank. If you want other pages to appear high in search results, its good practice to statically link to them right from the home page. However, since too many links might negatively impact your ranking, choose wisely.
Don’t Forget the Content
Of course, it’s not just about links. If your page isn’t helpful to people, Google doesn’t want to waste its search results space listing your page. Remember their goal: serve relevant content. They know whether people click the link to your page or not, which they probably use to determine whether to serve up your page next time. If your page isn’t valuable to visitors, measured by going and staying there, then your page doesn’t align with Google’s goal.
Black Hat Tactics
There are people that think they can outsmart Google. Sometimes they can for a while. However, Google has quite a lot of experience in this space, and a ton of data. If you try to trick Google by doing unscrupulous things, it will most likely backfire and hurt your rankings. That can mean lost revenue.
What are black hat tactics? There are lots of them. I’ve seen people put white text on a white background to embed content for search engines that users don’t see, or hide text such as behind an image. Maybe they’ll check the user agent and serve up different content to search engines than to users. Other bad tactics are to put links to your web page in places that don’t make sense. You’ve probably seen people paste links to sites in comment fields on unrelated web pages. The bottom line is, if you feel like you’re being sneaky about something, it’s probably considered black hat and could hurt your ranking.
Don’t think of your pages as web addresses (URLs). Think of them as the individual pages of content. Never serve the same page content with different URLs. Google will probably detect this and it will probably dilute your page ranking. For instance, these three URLs might serve the same page content.
- http:// mysite.com/gallery.html
This is bad. Sometimes it is hard to avoid, though. The canonical link element is a way developers can avoid this issue. Be sure that your web application or developers are familiar with this and don’t inadvertently hurt your ranking.
Keywords in the URLs are important. Google uses them to help determine the relevance in searches. Which of the following would you think is better?
Of course, the latter.
Also, be careful when changing providers. Since the ranking is associated with the URLs, if you change them, you will lose all your ranking and will be starting from scratch! If you hire somebody to change your website, they should know this. Hint around it and see if they offer it up. If they don't know this, and how to properly use HTTP status codes, you should consider working with someone else to avoid negatively impacting your site's performance.
One of the most important parts of your web page is its title. The title is not shown in the body, unless it is also explicitly added to it as text. The title is usually shown in the browser, such as the text on a tab. Search engines often show the title as the link text in search results. So, the content of the link is very relevant to the search text. Search text that exactly matches your title text is much more likely to pull your page. Put a lot of thought into your title tags.
Keyword and Description tags
These are also important, but less so than the title. Put unique, meaningful content for each page. Don’t repeat keywords. Think: black hat. Don’t put too many keywords or you'll dilute the effectiveness. Put the keywords that people might search for if you want to increase the chances that your page will be served.
No one wants to wait for a slow web page. Search engine bots are no different. If your pages are not snappy, then your ranking might be affected. Pages can be slow for a variety of reasons. For example, if you use cheap hosting, your website might be sharing space on one computer with hundreds of others. If you use a content management system, like Wordpress, or something else that is backed by a database, there might be technical configuration issues. It might be just that your page is too resource heavy. E.g. large images, scripts, fonts, etc. and you need a developer to configure it to load things asynchronously.
Google Analytics is a free service from Google. You add a little bit of script to each of your pages, or configure your CMS to do it, and Google will record a ton of metrics about your site. If you have good content, and people stay on your site for a while, it’s good to let Google know it. It might help your SEO. Of course, it’s very valuable for you to know this information, too.
Sitemap.xml is a text file that lists all of your pages that you would like included in the search indexes. You don't necessarily need this file because search engine spiders (bots) will usually find most if not all of your pages by drilling into all of the links. However, this file lets you explicitly list all of your pages to ensure they are found. You can communicate add page-specific metadata, such as relative importance and last-update date with this file. Some CMS packages automatically maintain this file for you.
Robots.txt is a text file that gives instructions to search engine spiders (bots). Among other things, it can be used to tell the bots to explicitly ignore (exclude) certain pages and content. It is also where you can point them to custom sitemap files if not in the default location. (/sitemap.xml)
The Equity Equation
An investor wants to give you money for a certain percentage of your startup. Should you take it? You're about to hire your first employee. How much stock should you give him? These are some of the hardest questions founders face. And yet both have the same answer: 1/(1 - n)
On Tuesday, Lester Sydney and Greg Page gave a presentation on cold calling. Cold calling is something that most people dread doing, but it is an important skill for many small businesses.
Warm and Cold Touches
A cold touch is when you reach out to someone indirectly, such as sending an email or leaving a voice mail. A warm touch is a direct interaction, such as a conversation on the phone, in person, and email thread, and so on. Cold touches are not effective. You can send out thousands of emails and might get no response. You need warm touches to be successful.
Script and Practice
You only have a short time to capture them. To make that impact, you need to know what you are going to say and have it down. Write out a script, and practice, practice, practice. Get feedback from others.
Say your scripted lead-in and then let them respond. Don’t just throw a bunch of information at them or you will lose them.
Goals for your first call:
- Find out as much as you can
- Build a personal relationship
- Introduce the product (high level only)
- Setup a demonstration
- Exude confidence
- Take advantage of the opportunity. You may not every get the chance to speak to them again.
- Get their contact information.
It is important to give just enough information to grab attention and not bury them with too many details.
Radical Change Formula
S x C x T = RC
- S: Small, smart choices
- C: Consistency
- T: Time
- RC: Radical Change
No means no today, but does not necessarily mean no forever. If you hear no, ask why. Use it as a learning experience. Build the relationship because there might be an opportunity for a sale in the future.
If you get a very negative reaction, don’t sweat it. It happens. FIDO: “F” it. Drive On.
We broke into small groups and practiced cold calling. Afterward, we did a postmortem and captured the following.
- Scripts are very important
- Remember the goal of the call
- Ask open-ended questions
- Get your prospect to talk
- Don’t cut them off
- Use their name
- Confidence reigns supreme
- Don’t go overboard with product details
- Avoid overselling
Customer Market Segment - New
Professional engineers and technologists have complex ideas, complex processes, and complex data, which they want to document and communicate. However, most don’t have the time nor inclination, and perhaps not the artistic skills, to create effective, interactive visuals. Many of these self-proclaimed geeks have told me that they dread having to create diagrams. They just want to point something at their data and have it make something that looks good. They want to spend minutes on it, not hours, so they can get back to crunching their numbers, writing their whitepaper, building their widgets, or whatever else they are working on.
There are more than 20 million professional engineers and technologists in the world. There’s many more if you count the aspiring technologists, the geeks at heart. You know, these are the people that would rather hand-type HTML to make a web page than use a graphical user interface.
Pro Diagrams will solve this problem by providing web-based tools at FreeDiagrams.com and ProDiagrams.com. Selecting from a range of working interactive diagrams as starting points, users can select one, paste in their data, tweak a few things like labels and colors, and then embed the result right into their websites or web based applications, documentation, and presentations.
- Assumption: Engineers and technologists are looking for rapid ways to create snazzy, interactive, web-based visuals and are not happy with the current options because they take too long to make, are not web based, not interactive, and boring.
- Assumption: Engineers and technologists don't need a fancy graphical user interface. GUIs are for wimps.
- Assumption: Engineers and technologists would readily use and incorporate free functionality at FreeDiagrams and some of them would pay for Professional features.
Customer Market Segment - Before
I joined the sandbox accelerator program believing I would initially target customers in the Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) space. The assumptions were:
- Assumption: They need to diagram complex process flows, capturing risks and controls, so that auditors, executives, and others can quickly understand the big picture.
- Assumption: Creation of these process flow diagrams is very difficult and time consuming, using tools like Visio. They are sometimes not created at all due to the time needed, costs, and skills needed.
- Assumption: The customers would change to a better tool and pay for it. That might mean changing culture and habit, and budget holders would pay.
My research has found that, yes, there is pain that could be solved, but it require a lot of manual work for each sale, reaching into companies, finding the correct people, and convincing them to change.
I've heard that
- People don't like the current tools, but people in these roles are not necessarily likely to change
- Visio is not very expensive (hundreds of dollars per seat) for these types of companiesvso there isn't a cost savings pitch
- There aren't many features needed in flowcharting software for this customer beyond what other general flowcharting software provides
- A great quote from an executive: "If I were you, I wouldn't focus where the companies have to but don't want to spend money (compliance) and instead I would focus on the revenue side with (something else)'
There is pain, but it is looking increasingly difficult to get into this space. Plus, Finance is not my background. One of my mentors made a comment a few weeks ago that has really resonated with me. She said, "you need to get back to your roots." I am a software engineer by training and have decades of experience there. So, I'm pivoting.