Expanding a business brochure site into something that will really help your business

To illustrate advertising and informational pa...
These days, brochures aren’t enough to make your business findable. (Image via Wikipedia)

If you’re a semi-retired professional who wants to build a consulting business, and you’re not an internet whiz, what kind of web site will really help clients find you? And how can you easily build and maintain a useful professional network?

My dad, Jack Gahran, is a semi-retired management consultant who knows many other semi-retired professionals. Today he asked me to look over the brand-new web site of a colleague of his, to offer some advice as to how it might be improved in ways that will build this person’s business.

The site is a pretty standard brochure site — a few static pages of basic information. It had a nice but simple design, and the content seemed to use keywords appropriately — both of which help search engines like Google index the site well. However, Google generally isn’t very interested in small brochure sites that are infrequently updated and don’t attract many inbound links.

I offered my dad’s colleague four basic tips for improving his site in ways that will make it much more visible in search engines, and thus more likely to attract inbound links from other sites (another thing Google rewards).

I get asked for this kind of advice a lot, so I figured I’d make a blog post out of it, so everyone can benefit.

Here’s what I told him…
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Safari iPhone bookmarklets: Clunky setup, but very useful

The new Apple iPhone
iPhone apps are cool, but sometimes bookmarklets are helpful, too. (Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr)

As an avid iPhone user, I love my apps! I use several of them daily, including Omnifocus, GroceryZen, Twittelator Pro, Google Mobile, iBART, and Google Maps.

Apps are not enough, however. First of all, some online services I use (like Gruvr or My511, nudge nudge) don’t yet offer iPhone apps. (This is especially annoying if they also don’t default to mobile-friendly site layout upon mobile access, grumble…)

But also, several very cool and useful online services are meant to play nice with the rest of the web.

For instance, I get value from my preferred social bookmarking service Delicious because I can use it to bookmark, tag, and comment on any page I happen to be browsing. And on Twitter I often tweet links to pages I find online. For these services, I want their functionality integrated with my iPhone’s Safari browser (since you can’t run two apps at once on the iPhone, and since the iPhone also doesn’t yet allow cut and past, grumble…)

That’s when Javascript-based iPhone Safari bookmarklets can come in handy…

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Transit sites: Go mobile, please!

If ANY web site should have a mobile-friendly layout that automatically loads when accessed by a mobile device, it’s public transit sites.

Seriously — people want to use transit sites on the go! That’s kind of the whole point of transit.

My local transit agency is RTD Denver. Go check out that site. It’s hard enough to navigate on a computer with a big display and a real keyboard. Just try it on your phone! Torture!

And if they offer a mobile version, they sure don’t make that obvious.

Got some especially good examples of mobile-friendly public transit sites? Give your examples in the comments.

My cool red laptop case

Lately, nearly everywhere I go people remark on my transparent red plastic laptop case. It does look pretty cool, I think. It’s just two clear pieces of plastic that snap on easily, with cutouts for ports. (However, if you want to pull out your battery, you’ll need to pop off the case.)

Amy's cool laptop case

The anodized aluminum of the Macbook Pro is notoriously easy to scratch, and difficult to clean off sticker gunk from. I like laptop stickers, and change them from time to time. (Oh, if you’re looking for cool stickers, go to Sticker Giant.)

My hardcase is by Speck Products, which makes it for several Mac laptop models (including the Air) in several colors. For a 15″ Macbook Pro, cost is $49.95 plus shipping You can buy it directly from Speck or through Amazon.com and other online vendors.

Today I see they’ve just released a purple model. That’s the color I wanted in the first place. But the red has kind of grown on me, I think I’ll stick with it.