Beware of malware scams – SiteLock, HostGator, and the tale of the angry web girl

Hell hath no fury like an angry webmaster who hasn’t yet had her coffee.

A beloved client forwarded this to me this morning.  It’s an email she received from the “security” firm SiteLock, a partner company of the popular website host HostGator.com.

Notice the wording:  One or more of the domains you own has malware on it.
Fairly clear, right?  One of her sites is infected with malware…it says so right in black and white.  Bad news, but I’ve never been one to hit the panic button before it’s time.

I calmly go to HostGator’s tech support “Live Chat” to ask them about this.  I paste the email into the box so the technical support rep can see what I’m contacting them about.  I ask: Is this legitimate? What happens next?

Over the course of the conversation, I learn from the tech dude that SiteLock is their partner company. And I learn, in fact, there’s no evidence of malware. The site MIGHT be infected, he says, but no one really knows for sure.  In order to truly find out, my client would need to purchase an expensive malware prevention package from SiteLock, so they can peek inside and see if there’s malware there.  If there is, they’ll charge another fee to get rid of it.

I take a deep breath and count to ten:  So…the email is a sales pitch, designed to frighten my client into purchasing a product?  And the email makes a statement that’s patently untrue?  I point it out to him again: One or more of the domains you own has malware on it.  Why would they say such a thing if it weren’t true?

Hemming and hawing ensue.

I’ll spare you the gory details of my response, which nearly set the curtains ablaze. I want you to think I’m much more patient and kind than I happened to be this morning.

My little dog came to sit next to me and put his head on my knee. You okay? You smell mad. Maybe a walk?

Why am I bothering to tell you this?

Well…aside from being angry about a concerted effort to drum up business by sending good people into a panic about their website?  Good people who might not be terribly techie, or who may be busy…..gosh I don’t know….building their business?  So instead of helping depressed people, doing reiki healing, selling their art, finishing their book, booking new coaching clients, they have to spend their life energy dealing with service provider scams—from the very people they are already paying every month to keep their website running.  Infuriating.

Oops, there I go again. Sorry.

In short:  Anyone whose website is hosted with the company HostGator.com is likely to receive one of these emails soon, if you haven’t already.  I wanted you all to know what this particular game was, so you can watch for it.

Please feel free to drop me an email or a PM if you receive one of these emails. I can be of help deciphering the scare-mongering. I promise to be calm, cool and collected again by then.

 

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10 reasons to consider writing a blog, even if the thought of it makes you cringe

I was a late-onset blog writer. Early on, my resistance to it was a force of nature. I held a firm belief that blogging was a self-indulgent thing reserved for those who either a) were blindingly brilliant and thus had a lot to say, b) had a lot of time on their hands, or c) loved the sound of their own voices. Years ago, early blogs seemed to fall into a couple of types for me: Long, rambling tomes by scholarly types, or short, newsy updates on “what I ate between dawn and dusk today.”

I think it was the writer Seth Godin that eventually changed my mind. He’s been blogging for a long time, and it was through him I discovered the concept of the bite-sized blog that is still thoughtful and useful. Checking out his blog – just a topline view of it – will show you the variety of shapes, sizes and textures blogging can take (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/).

Although I don’t blog anywhere near as often as I’d like (a situation I’m trying to remedy) I’ve not just become a convert, I also recommend blogging to anyone who has a business website. Here are some reasons why:

  1. First, you don’t have to call it a blog.
    To many in my tribe, even the word “blog” is uncomfortable and geeky. But the idea of being able to regularly share a bit of writing with faraway people and benefit from that connection? Not geeky. For those who just bristle at the word itself, I’ll just eliminate the word “blog” from the rest of this article and stay in the mindset of “sharing useful stuff online with people I want to help.” ‘Kay?
  2. It’s neither hard nor expensive to set up – in fact most of our clients are on WordPress, which makes it a several-minute (not several-hour) task.
    For those of you who use WordPress or many DIY website builders, the capacity to write on your website, in the form of “Posts”, is already built in. You just, er, start writing. If you want your writings to also be reachable through a click on your site’s menu, adding it there is easy-peasy.
  3. You don’t have to write War and Peace.
    Seriously, I think this was the hardest barrier for me to overcome. I thought that every time I sat down to add a post, I had to have a Big Idea, one that no living human had ever shared before. I had to lay in a thermos of coffee and a stack of Kind® bars because it was going to take hours to get my elaborate point across. But although some long postings can be great (helpful for search engine rankings for example), a mix of long and short keeps both you AND your readers interested. I’ve stopped reading more than one writer’s online work because I simply didn’t have time to read 5000 words today, thankyouverymuch.
  4. It isn’t just you talking about yourself, or creating elaborate research papers, or being a genius all the time.
    It can also be any or all of the following, super-short or comfortably long, your choice:—Popping out to share a short piece of news you just found that’s relevant to your unique audience
    —A new tool or technique that you just discovered helps your productivity or peace of mind
    —Something you just read that angered/inspired you
    —A success story from one of your clients or partners
    —An event that just happened that changed how you think about something
    —A new idea you’ve just started to hatch
    —A photo of where you do your work
    —A little video or audio or TED talk you found (or made, or were in)
    —An upcoming class, workshop, webinar, book reading, anything experiential and interesting to “your people”…and so much more. If you need a stack of ideas, let me know
  5. You get a chance to show you’re good at what you do, and show how approachable you can be, so people are more comfortable connecting with you.
    Making regular additions to your website by writing and sharing is a way your clients, prospects, customers, and donors can get to know you as a human being: what you know, who you are inside, what’s important to you, what you notice. This is one way new people can determine that you’re worth the risk of contacting you or giving your product/service/cause a second look.
  6. It will make web search engines love you more.
    People are looking for you on the web, even if most of your work happens to come via word-of-mouth. Writing something substantial even semi-regularly (once every couple of weeks) can please the Google gods in several ways. There’s a lot of goopy science behind this, so I’ll just share a topline:Search engines detest abandoned/neglected websites cluttering up the data landscape, and will ding you (meaning: no one will find you) if yours is rarely updated. Publishing something regularly is a relatively painless and free way to keep your website out of that trap.The engines also prefer sites that are substantial, with lots of pages bearing the key words used in your business. Posts you create are basically more and more pages…and that’s good.

    They like to see people come to your website and stay a while, versus quickly ducking in and leaving. Giving them something juicy to read helps keep them interested and staying put.

    If you write things that people share with others, and/or link to from their OWN websites, that gives you even more brownie points.

  7. It will help bring you new website visitors, clients, fans, and supporters.
    When you write and publish something on your website, you can easily share that same material on social media (often it’s just a matter of using certain little tools installed on your site, which will auto-publish what you’ve written to multiple outlets.) More pages, more exposure on the web, more of your words showing up on social media with links back to you…it all adds up to more people being exposed to you and to your work, and coming to you to learn more.
  8. It will give you a space to have a conversation with your Your People.
    When you look at your website, does it have any place where people can converse with you? If you provide great resources for your intended readers, for example, is there a place where they can say Thank You, or suggest even more resources, or ask a question, or even tell you that the link you provided isn’t working any longer? Posting new writings on your website gives you the ability to accept comments (which you would pre-screen via email). These comments can form a conversation, something that everyone can learn from. Suddenly your website is a gathering place for people you’re hoping to get to know and work with.
  9. Every day you come across things that, as they pass through your consciousness, make you think “I’d love to share that with My People—they’d get so much out of it.”
    And then…it’s gone. Replaced in your short-term memory by something more pressing. Or stuffed in a computer file and buried. Or torn out and filed in a folder, where it stays for months or years, until it’s no longer relevant. A space for writing on your website becomes a repository for all of those helpful, meaningful things, which you can quickly share with the world. (You can even publish them to your website via email.)
  10. It will help you to continue to craft what you offer the world, by helping you discover (and share) what matters most to you, and to the people you’re trying to help.
    In terms of cultivating good ideas for new ways to help my audience, nothing has helped me more than writing regularly. The poet Mark Doty said, when asked why he writes, that “…it is the way I know what I think and feel.”   I write. I think. I gather information. I get feedback. I leap to different possibilities. I find new ideas sprouting. It’s like a muscle, one that I exercise because it helps me be strong enough to help the people I’m in this to help.

Blogging will certainly not make or break your business, but it has so many benefits that it seems a shame not to at least give it a try. You may be very surprised at what you find.

Let me know if you need help getting started.

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The world we live in: How small businesses (like yours) are going to save us all

You know what I love about you guys?

You’re the helpers.

What’s that, you say?

Remember what Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) told us about his mom’s advice?

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”

We live in a world where people find themselves sick, sad, stressed, and angry – and often they don’t even know why. Gee, let me think: Shrill media, addictive technologies, partisan politics, weather disasters courtesy of a changing climate, toxins in our air/water/food, escalating violence and divisiveness, religious extremism…I wonder why we’re sick?

It is a tough row to hoe some days.

Yet this morning, when I looked across the list of people I’ll work with in the coming week, I saw this (you know who you are – and thank you):

  • A coach who helps people navigate, survive, and thrive through the stress of life’s transitions
  • A counselor who helps people find the key to a healthy, vibrant, empowered life
  • An investment fund focused on economic justice, helping those most injured or abandoned by our current system to find dignity and stability
  • An accountant and tax specialist who works with small, family-owned businesses to translate the benefits, risks, and rules of our largely indecipherable tax system
  • A nonprofit whose mission statement is, “No one should have to face cancer alone.”
  • A magnificent, loving healer who helps smooth out the stresses of the world that have settled in our bodies and our energy
  • You, perhaps. Helping in your own way, through imparting wisdom, beauty, comfort, clarity, and support.

Whenever someone approaches me who hopes to work with us, I set up a consultation by video or phone to ask a gentle series of questions. To the untrained ear, it may sound like I’m asking about the nut and bolts of their business, about clients, about services. But from the thousand-foot view, a pattern emerges:

I want to know if they are a helper.

I want to know whether their motivation for doing what they do is something larger than “get rich quick.”

I want to know if their hearts are in the right place.

Do you know what I’ve found, in 99% of the cases? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. It’s surprising, because it’s absolutely not what we read on the news or see on television. Even a cursory glance at characters littering our TV channels over the course of an evening would have us think that homo sapiens are essentially self-centered, materialistic, unfaithful, conniving buffoons (there’s a reason the “spiritual epiphany” story is so popular in modern films and books). Ground into our minds is the anti-mantra, we’re in this alone, and we’d better look out for number one, because no one else is going to save us.

And yet here’s me: Mid-fifties, survivor of violence, no stranger to addictions or to dire financial straits, having not lived a charmed life—and yet crowding all around me is so much good. So many people who are trying to make something better in the world.

That’s why I love you guys.

You are living proof that the media has people all wrong. You make your living by doing good. Bad things happen, but they are dwarfed by the sheer goodness of millions of daily—and largely unnoticed—individual actions. You’re part of a community of helpers, proof positive of the basic goodness in humanity. You create good news. You are the good news.

Thanks.  Keep it comin’.  And if you need a cheerleader, a coach, or a sherpa to help you reach more people, help more people, you know where to find me. Drop me a note and let me know how I can help.

 

 

 

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Ditching the pitch, part deux

About a year ago, I published the blog post below.  It was a post I was afraid to write, but to my delight it generated a tremendous number of emails from people saying, essential, “I know, RIGHT?  Oh my gosh, is that the only way I can get my message across??” It stimulated lots of delicious conversations about how to create marketing materials with integrity and with kindness.

I was reminded of it the other day when this happened:

I was online, shopping for a window blind to replace the one that had just given up the ghost. At a particular site I sifted through a few options, was pondering a purchase, and suddenly a popup window completely obscured my view of the page.  It said, almost verbatim, “Join the xxxx mailing list and be the first to learn about our daily deals and special offers!”  So far so good, right?  Not being interested at the moment (hello, I’m shopping) I searched in vain for the little “X” to close the popup.  I learned that the only way to close the subscribe window was with a teensy, barely visible textual link that said, “No thanks, I hate saving money.”

Deep breath.  Count to ten.

Who would actually pay money for the privilege of being talked down to, belittled? Apparently someone is, because they’re still in business. Needless to say, they’ve lost my dollars. (And yes, I wrote to them and told them why.)

If you missed this the first time around, I’d love to know what you think.  Take care.

 


“Can we just stop with The Secret you Need to get XYZThe Successful Women Upleveling Strategies; and The 7 Steps to Having it All? Seriously. Let’s stop that. You’re implying that you know what I need; you have it and I don’t; I’m less-than without it; and only you can open the door.”
http://www.jacmcneil.com/2016/08/30/an-open-letter-to-anyone-running-virtual-summits/

Okay. Picture this:

You’ve just received two emails, each promoting an upcoming workshop. Both sound super-useful. You believe that either one might truly help you ratchet your business or organization up to a better place. You’re thrilled you have the time to attend, but there’s a catch: you can only afford one of them.

One of the workshop promoters ends her email with,

“You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to invest in yourself and your amazing business! We won’t offer this again until 2022! We’ll see you there on March 7th!”

The other promoter says,

“We’d love to help you craft a business that supports you and your clients. Does this workshop sound like something you’ve been looking for? If so, we hope you’ll sign up for our next session on March 7th.”

Which do you respond to – which makes you feel like hitting the signup button? Which feels better in your gut?

This isn’t a trick question, and there’s no correct answer. But how my differing clients have responded has provided some food for thought for me this week.

The integrity thing.

I’m into integrity. It’s been one of my favorite words since I was an impressionable kid, and heard it on TV. (Yes, I was that geeky kid who had her own dictionary at 6.)

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;
    synonyms: honesty, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, e.g. “no one doubted her integrity”
  1. the state of being whole and undivided;
    synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity, e.g. “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
  1. the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.
    synonyms: soundness, strength, sturdiness, solidity, durability, stability, stoutness, toughness, e.g. “the structural integrity of the aircraft”

Honest. Whole and undivided. Sturdy and strong.

Was that a groovy word to fall in love with, or what?

Fast forward to 1997, when I started daydreaming about a business of my own. I wasn’t sure about the details yet, but I knew I wanted to make something that was breathtakingly honorable, that let me be in tight solidarity with clients, and that was sturdy and stable enough to support me financially.

So here’s what that idealism evolved into: I get to know other businesspeople. I’m honest, whole-hearted, and strong with them and for them. I’m a careful observer of what they need in order to be happy, or happier. I have products and services that might help many of them. I try to articulate those clearly, and then provide paths for the right people to work with me. It’s good, meaningful work that makes me feel good about myself.

Yet increasingly, all around me, I see marketers taking a different tack. And not just taking it themselves, but recommending it to thousands of people as the golden ticket to success.

Is this the only way to succeed?

In a recent newsletter from author John Parkin, he pondered statements like the marketingspeak I began this post with. “We’ll see you there,” “Thank you for your patience,” and “Thanks in advance for signing up” are everyday examples. He saw this use of language as manipulation, and wondered why people couldn’t simply speak more honestly and directly.

I nodded all the way through that newsletter. True, there are folks making a bajillion dollars on products and services with this sort of manipulation. You’ll know them from the 72-point headers shouting at you about what you can’t afford to miss out on. They kindly offer reminders that there won’t be another chance to (insert action), and won’t you be sorry? They sneak in subtle or not-so-subtle rebukes of those who won’t “invest in themselves.”

We all know this type. They’re everywhere. Because it works.

It works because there are human beings out there who see nothing wrong with being spoken to in this way. We are so inured to media manipulation that it may not even register as such. It’s just business, right?

But for me, and for most people in my circles, it’s not.

Ten times out of ten, I prefer consuming goods and services from people who see me as an individual, a unique person worthy of respect, capable of making my own decisions. And pushy salespeople—no matter how famous they are, how many books sold, how many followers, how many “Likes”—are, for me, the face of disrespect.

How many of us have been badgered to sign up for a marketer’s mailing list, only to have them flood our email box with aggressive, loud, bouncy sales pitches daily . . . even several times daily. It’s as though you’re trapped in email hell with a Chatty Cathy saleperson who loves the sound of her own voice, or are stuck standing next to a carnival barker. Let me tell you about this amazing thing!  Can you believe some people would pass this by?  You know you need it/want it/deserve it!  

In the most insidious cases marketers even use their mailing list manager’s tools to track your opens, responses and clicks, so they can—automatically—get up in your grill with nag emails: “We noticed you haven’t signed up for X yet and we’re curious why not…”

For me, it doesn’t get much more obnoxious than that.

Even a marketer’s repeated use of quasi-friendly statements like “Can’t wait to see you there!” (um, no, you might not), “Don’t wait—sign up now!” (can I finish my lunch first?), and “Thanks in advance for joining us!” (seriously?) can push me away from a perfectly good offering.

Why? Because I know these folks don’t see me. They see a prospect, with a pulse and a wallet. They see their almighty List growing by one. They see their PayPal account saying cha-ching as many times as possible in a day, starting with me. They’re on the third jab and they’re looking to land the right hook.

It doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit. But it also doesn’t get my money. It’s business, yes. It’s just one of the faces of business that I don’t feel obliged to support.

Food for thought

  • When you’re out there seeking supporters, buyers, clients, and customers for your business, do you use scarcity or manipulation to “seal the deal?”
  • Do you believe in a vigorously persuasive approach, using language to herd audience members into your solution rather than a competitor’s?
  • Are you tempted to point out the repercussions if they don’t choose to purchase?
  • Is the local online marketing guru trying to convince you that the hard sell is the ONLY way to “not leave money on the table”?

Here’s my two cents: I would offer that marketing yourself with complete integrity—and without manipulation—is a standout skillset that’s beneficial across the board, from attracting the kinds of clients you love working with, to seeing a healthy bottom line.

Your potential clients are intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, sometimes stressed-out individuals. The carnival barkers are everywhere, so in this noisy world it can be integrity that stands out as courageous, comforting, and convincing.

In an upcoming post, I’ll give some examples of marketers that operate 100% from a place of compassion, interest, and honesty, and who are wildly successful doing it.

Thanks for listening, and remember to be “honest, whole-hearted, and sturdy.”

 

 

We love to help our clients and friends “do well by doing good.”  For more ideas and support (always without the icky sales pitch, pinky swear) leave us a comment below, drop us an email, or join our newsletter list here: http://bit.ly/2vHEELy

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Permission to take time to create

This week a Facebook friend shared something that surprised and delighted me.

But not at first.

You see, it was a link to a podcast about creativity, and the episode title was “The Silent Episode.”

Huh?  Is that some kind of joke?  So at first I was skeptical.  I scanned the comments for snarky comments, but there were none. Was it like the emperor’s new clothes—everybody knows that podcasts aren’t silent, but no one wanted to say anything?

As it turns out, it was no joke, and it made my day.

On that day I was happily preparing for a day full of creativity.  I’d set my alarm and gotten up (and caffeinated) early. I lined up sharpened pencils, a couple of pens that actually had ink in them, a big journal, a little journal, a charged laptop, and lots of time and space.

Crickets.

I just didn’t have any ideas. Not a single one.  Picture a closeup of a sharpened #2 tap-tap-tapping on a blank sheet of paper. Tap-tap-tap.  Drawing a frowny face. Scratching it out. Tap-tap-tap.  Oh, I should go check the mailbox.  Or do the dishes.  Or….

Enter the Ideamedic, my hero(ine) du jour, with this podcast.  It may sound strange, but it turns out there’s a world of difference between a self-help guru proclaiming you should “Give yourself permission to be creative whenever and wherever and as much as you like!”  and a simple podcast that say, simply and quietly, “Hey, here’s ten minutes. Play.”

Enjoy:

With my thanks to the fabulous Tara Roskell, the Ideamedic!

 

 

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For our nonprofit friends…and THEIR friends

Search engine specialist Charlotte Davies shared this with her audience on Facebook (of which I’m a happy member), and I’m passing it along to all of you because there are quite a few nonprofit organizations in our tribe, as well as a lot of folks who support nonprofits.

Google Ad Grants is a program that provides free Google AdWords advertising—up to $10,000 USD per month—on Google search result pages, to eligible nonprofit organizations. The program is designed to help organizations extend their public service messages to a global audience to make a greater impact on the world…in the form of more visibility, more volunteers, more donations.

Visit their page at https://www.google.com/grants/ for more details and to learn if your organization—or an organization close to your heart—is eligible.

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Are you working on a book, or wanting to publish? BookBub’s got your back.

A friend is working on publishing a book this year, and we’ve been chatting about how to promote it on the web.

She shared the link below with me, which takes you to the ebook “The Ultimate Collection of Book Marketing Examples” at BookBub’s website.  For those of you who might be working on a book, branching out into writing/publishing, or just like looking at pretty things, you might find it a nifty reference. You do have to subscribe to their blog to get it (free) but their posts are chock full of book marketing tips, which might be worth assessing to see if they’re valuable to you.

If you see things that pique your interest, and you’d like to know how to incorporate them into your own web presence or social media, let me know.

Just click the graphic to be taken there:

 

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It’s about you: On being fiercely yourself on your website

According to the oracle that is Google Analytics, one of the most popular places on my professional website is my About page. GA tells me how many people visit that page in a given month, and how many minutes they spend there, and whether they then leave the site, or move on to somewhere else.

I recently wrote about the importance of this page, and how its job is to give people the information they need to decide, “Yesss. That’s the right person for me.”

What Analytics reminded me, and what I neglected to mention in that post, was the importance of the opposite side of the equation, as in, “Nope. That’s not the person for me.” In many ways, “No” is even more important than “Yes.” Confused?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Yes. But the flip side of the coin is this: No saves me time, energy, and other scarce resources. I don’t have minutes or passion to spare to start a conversation with people who—for a variety of reasons—are intrinsically a bad fit for me, and I for them. In other words, it doesn’t bother me that some people get to my About page, spend a couple of minutes, then leave the site.  I trust that they know what’s best for them, and that they’ll move on and find their perfect partner.

Very early in my work with Websites for Good, I took on projects that my intuition told me were going to make me deeply unhappy. In an effort to keep my newborn business afloat, I turned a blind eye to the fact that they were doing work that I didn’t respect (like a business coach whose tactics included verbal abuse), or had values that curled my toenails (like the agent for nightclub entertainers who boasted about paying them as little as possible), or, most common of all, who had no respect whatsoever for my time or the need to be compensated for my work.

I wish I could say that one day the sun rose particularly bright, leading me to march into the office and kick all such comers to the curb. But truthfully, I was a slow learner, a chronic people-pleaser, and more than a little afraid of having to say, “Ummm, I don’t want to work with you.”

Almost by accident, I stumbled over a tool that, over time, has largely eliminated the need to say that: My About page.

In that space, I am (as my lovely coach teaches all in her flock) unashamedly myself, and no one else.
I give my background.
I state how I came to this work and who I love working with, and why.
I show people beyond a shadow of a doubt what sort of person I am.
I speak exactly the way I speak in real life.
I don’t hide the fact that I have feelings and opinions. They need to know me in order to make their best decision.

Alongside each of those risky areas, there may as well be big glowing Exit signs that allow people to “opt-out” before ever contacting me.  They might think,

Jeez, she sounds like some kind of idealistic hippie.
She’s a dreamer. She’ll never make money just working with those kinds of snowflakes.
She seems like one of those granola-crunching outdoorsy types. Ick.
She seems irritatingly happy. That would drive me batty.

A person like this wouldn’t like working with me. They know it, and I know it. If I chose to be more timid about showing the world just who & what I am, such people would be forced to waste time (theirs and mine) figuring that out the long way round, after a half-dozen emails, a marathon phone consultation, or even a face-to-face meeting.

But of course there are also people who read my About page and resonate with me—with my mission/vision, my energy, the fact that I have a garden and a dog, or that I’m frugal or have a slightly quirky sense of humor.  Whatever makes a connection.  More than enough of them finish reading and then contact me, a pre-filtered population of folks with whom I “click,” and thus feel like I can do my best work and stay mentally focused and healthy.  (For a great explanation of this, see Sarah Swanton’s swell blog post ‘Why Having A Niche Is Good For Your Mental Health‘)

Are you being You on your website? Or are you being the persona you think will cast the biggest net and catch the most prospects? Do you find yourself having the throw a lot of them back in the water?  Or maybe you don’t say “no” to them, and some have turned out to really not be good for your business or your peace of mind.

I’m happy to help you craft your About page and other aspects of your website so it feels like you AND attracts the people you really want in your working life…that allow you to be your best, grow your work, and love waking up in the morning.

Drop me a line through my Contact page and let me know if I can be of help.

 

 

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What does your website’s About page say about you?

I stumbled over the most swell website “About” page the other day (don’t ask me how) and I knew I wanted to share it with you. I’ve done that below, but before that, I wanted to pour a cup of coffee and have a little chat with you about your About page.

I’ve learned from our product The 90-Minute Website that there’s one page that seems to take the longest for participants to complete, because it never quite feels right, and it gets revised and revised and revised.  You guessed it: The About page.

Most of my clients agonize over their About page, some to the extent they don’t put one up at all.  They worry over what to say.  How personal to be.  Whether it should be first-person or third-person (or second person…wouldn’t THAT be interesting…)  Should I include a photo?  Should it be a studio headshot or a relaxed, approachable view of me?  Does anybody read those things?

Because I don’t believe this much pain and suffering is required, I wanted to show you a couple of examples of About pages that work, tell you why they work, and then give you a little formula that might help you feel good about yours. Would that help?  I hope so.

First, a small company.

From http://mariecatribs.com/about/

I’m so toughened against marketing that there isn’t much that catches my fancy for more than a few seconds at a time these days (sad, huh?)  Restaurant websites are not something that usually keep my attention.  But I literally read through this entire page, flipped through every one of the 20-odd photos in the slideshow, smiled all the way through, and wished I lived in Grand Rapids.

Why does it work?

  1. We get to see Marie (of Marie Catrib’s restaurant) doing her thing and obviously just delighted to be doing it
  2. The page title pulls you right in – it’s a universal truth that intrigues you from the first glance. What does that have to do with a restaurant?  Inquiring minds need to know.
  3. It shows that she has been lovingly crafting the whole experience of her restaurant in her head since she was little. That’s the kind of place you want to eat.
  4. It explains why she does this work, why it matters to her.
  5. It gives you a crystal-clear idea of the owner’s values, warmth, creativity, and caring.

In short, it humanizes the restaurant, and makes it the kind of place—and person—you want to support.

Now, a big company

https://mailchimp.com/about/

What sets this one apart from the standard, boring corporate About page?

  • Another grabby and fun photo, like Marie’s montage. This one plays off their current humorous ad campaign that centers on the fact that people (apparently) regularly mispronounce the MailChimp name or get it wrong
  • What the company does, and where it came from
  • Their leadership team and their people, displayed in a fun, informal and engaging way
  • Their corporate culture and their work in the community, described in an unstuffy, approachable way  (“MailChimp serves the people and organizations in Atlanta that help make our city better, weirder, and more human.”)

I have a lot of choices when it comes to email marketing services, and most of them are to me (as my friend & mentor Judith Morgan would put it)  “Much of a muchness,” offering very similar services.

I want to work with the one that’s creative, human, approachable, and fun — AND good at what they do. This About page seals the deal for me.

Having trouble with yours?

Here are a handful of tips for making your About page a super-useful page in your site:

  1. Have one.  And call it “About”.  That’s what most peoples’ eyes are looking for when they want to learn more about you.  
  2. Tell people your name, and what you do.  Don’t worry about redundancy. Always remember that, through the mystical world of Google search, they may land here FIRST when they visit your site.  Reiterate, in a very short blurb, who you are and what great thing(s) you offer.
  3. Tell your story, but don’t make it a novella.  Keep it focused, keep it tight.  This might not be a comfortable topic, but it has to be said:  If your About page is a thousand-word tome that rambles through your life journey and work history and trials and tribulations, the intuitive takeaway to potential clients is that a working relationship with you will be similarly unfocused and one-sided.  Instead….
  4. …Start with them.  And end with them.  Wait, you thought the About page was about you?  Well, that’s partly true.  But what you’re really doing out there is connecting with the human being who clicked “About” in your site’s menu. Tell them why you’re good at the thing they came to the site to learn about.  Tell them how your unique history prepared you to help them. Tell them—show them—how passionate about your work you are.  This kind of energy establishes a bond between you and your audience. They know you, like you, trust you
  5. Show yourself.  Yes, the dreaded photo.  Sorry.  But seriously:  If I am online checking you out, with the intent of recommending you to someone important to me, or taking the next step into a business relationship with you, I need to get a sense of you first. I need to see you, hear you, and decide whether I like you.  The best choice for a photo isn’t always a formal headshot. Showing yourself doing the work you love, or in the environment where you do it, can make a stronger connection than just donning the spiffiest suit in your closet.
  6. Don’t use jargon.  Oh, don’t get me wrong. You can use the language of your industry, but steer clear of trying to prove how much you know on your About page by packing it full of niche terminology. By limiting yourself to business-speak and obvious self-promotion, you end up sounding just like everyone else. The idea is to set yourself apart, not prove you’re just as good as the other players in the room.
  7. Write it in your own voice.  Read it out loud to yourself or to a colleague/friend.  Rank it on the stuffy meter, wherever it falls from super-formal to ouch-maybe-too-much-information.  Lean it a smidge more toward the latter than the former.
  8. Answer the question:  Who are you, how can you help me, and what passions/tools/background prepare you to do so?  No more.  No less.

Still have questions?   As always, feel free to drop me a line. Your About page is the second-most important page in the site, after your home page—it’s worth the effort to really make it great.

 

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There, That’s It! Finding the Typefaces that Serve You Best

When I begin building a website with a client, there can be a lot of elements that fall into the category of “Gosh. I’ve never really had to think about that before.”

In addition to the obvious decisions like how many pages you want and whether you need a PayPal account or an email opt-in list, there are more fundamental elements like the right colors, the right photos, and the stickiest wicket of all, the right fonts.

The fonts you use in your site DO matter. Granted, no one is going to say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly buy my jewelry from someone who uses sans-serif headings.” (And if they do, that’s probably a client you really don’t want.) But fonts can really differ in terms of their readability, their effectiveness, and the different impressions they can make on web readers. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test.

Put yourself in the shoes of a physician who is starting up a new housecall practice. The hurdles in his new business include establishing his credibility, instilling trust in potential new clients, and convincing people that a housecall physician is just as capable and professional as a hospital physician. Here are three typefaces that he’s considering using prominently in his website:

 

The first font says, “I’m professional, smart, and trustworthy.”

The second font says, “I spent too many years in a M*A*S*H unit and have the bedside manner of a drill instructor.

The third font says, “I’m going to show up at your house with a red ball on my nose.” (now if you WANT a doctor to make your kids laugh while they get their immunizations, that’s a good thing.)

Granted, this an extreme example.   More often than not, we just need to be sure our headings and our main text look harmonious together, and are easily readable even in long blocks of text (p.s. – the web isn’t the place for long blocks of text.)  And the most important of all?  You have to like how your site looks. It has to feel right to you. It has to feel like you.

Many people on the web have created visual cheatsheets that show you some great font pairings that work well with each other. As a visual person, this is really the only way I can imagine how certain things will look.

These three are my favorites … the first is just plain beautiful to use.  The second one gives you the ability to type in your own headlines and text so you can really get a sense of how it will look on your site. The third one … well, I’ll let you play with that. So many choices, but powerful.

Have fun!

http://100daysoffonts.com/

http://fontpair.co

http://andreasweis.com/webfontblender/

 

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