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"Do It Yourself" Web Site Builders
This month, I would like to talk about your
company's online image.
There are literally thousands of sources that offer online "Build
Your Own Web Site" packages. Do they have their place? Absolutely.
Are they right for your business? Probably not, depending on what you want
to achieve with your Web site.
They all basically work the same way. You sign up with a provider, who
issues you an username and password to administer your Web site. Using
your Web browser, you then log in to access the site builder menu. From
here, you can use several ready-made Web page templates to quickly pull
together your Web site, with the ability to add your own graphics, text,
and even META tags. Using one of these tools, you can have a site online
in a matter of a few hours.
Does it sound appealing? Sure it does... it is quick, you can design
your site yourself, and it is all available for a monthly fee.
However, I would not recommend using one of these services if you are
looking to grow your business online. Why? There are several reasons:
site is the first impression potential customers will have of
your company. Many of the online "Web site builder"
programs offer little control over the appearance of your site.
If your competition is utilizing professional Web site and
graphic designers for their sites, your site may look
"homemade" and unprofessional in comparison. I
know that I would not have a very good initial impression of a
company if I saw, at the bottom of their home page, a graphic
stating "This site was designed using EZ-Site
Builder". This is about as professional as handing out
business cards with the imprint on the back "Get your FREE
business cards from FreeBusinessCards.com".
In many cases, you will not have
an effective domain name. If you own Bob's Hardware, instead of
having a recognizable domain name like "www.bobshardware.com",
you will probably be saddled with a domain name like "www.easysitebuilder.com/users/bobshardware".
Try fitting that on your business card! Again, it looks very
unprofessional. The biggest problem small business face is being
taken seriously... and this is one way to guarantee that you are
Referring back to #2, you may
also lose the ability to have an e-mail address that is readily
recognizable and meshes with your Web site address. If I see
that I can send mail to "firstname.lastname@example.org", the
image I envision of your company is much more favorable than if
I see your contact information as "email@example.com",
or, almost as unfavorable, "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Save your ISP e-mail account for your personal business - don't
use it as your company point of contact.
You may not be able to
successfully market your business using search engines. If you
are fortunate enough to be able to control your META tags for
each page, it will probably still not be enough to secure an
effective search engine placement. While META tags are very
important, they are only a small part of search engine
placement. Just as important is the proper formatting and
relevance of text, which is very difficult to achieve without
having complete control over the content of your Web site.
You may not be able to
coordinate the look and feel of your Web site with your other
marketing materials. If you want to market your business
effectively, this is another important part of your company's
image. You don't want your business card to be green and
white and your Web site pink and purple.
Before you consider using one of these online tools to build a Web
site, ask yourself: "Will the site I build give me the image my
company needs to succeed? Or, will I look like I was watching my
As we have said many times... for your potential customers, your Web
site is the first impression of your business. Make sure it is a good
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Online Store Infringing On A Patent?
You have a thriving business
selling your products on the Web. You have developed your site, set up your
merchant account, stocked your products, and filled out all the necessary
paperwork to ensure that your online business will follow all the rules in
regards to commerce and tax issues. Now, just when you thought it was safe
to start making money instead of spending it... along comes another expense
you hadn't counted on. Is it legitimate?
PanIP, a company based in
San Diego, California, is suing several small businesses who operate
e-commerce sites on the Web, contending that these sites violate PanIP's
patents on e-commerce functionality. PanIP LLC has sued more than 50
companies in the last seven months, claiming that their E-commerce Web sites
infringe its two U.S. patents. The patents, No. 5,576,951 and No. 6,289,319,
cover, respectively, an "automated sales and services system," and
an "automatic business and financial
Western Wear Inc., whose Web site promises "Fair Prices & Honest
Values" on its line of clothes and its horse feed, was served recently. Mike Hodges, president of the Salem, Ore., company, says PanIP has
offered to license use of its patents for a one-time fee of $5,000. With
extensions, he has until Dec. 1 to respond to the lawsuit.
Back in April, when PanIP
sued its first 11 defendants-all in separate suits-the cost to license the
patents was at least $30,000, according to people involved in the
litigation. PanIP has continued to sue other businesses, individually, in
groups of 10 at a time: a group at the end of August, two groups in
September, and the most recent group earlier this month. The change in
licensing fee "was an internal decision," says Kathleen Walker, a
private attorney representing PanIP. Walker says there's no commonality
among the defendants PanIP is targeting for these lawsuits other than that
"all of them are infringing the patent[s], and that's all we need to
bring a lawsuit."
What does this mean to you,
as a small e-commerce business? Well, there are several schools of thought
as to the validity of these patents, as well as PanIP's strategy in the
filing of the lawsuits. Several informed sources feel that by going after
the smaller companies and settling out of court, they are (a) attempting to
series of legal precedents, and (b) building up a "war chest" to
take on the big online retailers like Amazon.com. Will it work? Are their
patents legitimate? Only time will tell.
For more information on
this situation, please visit this Web site dedicated to the battle against
The .com domain name I
want to use is already taken. Can I use one of the new domain name
extensions like .info?
yes you can use the .info, .net, .org, .biz, any of the approved extensions.
However, there are a few things to consider before registering similar
domain names. They include legal issues, business ethics,
marketing issues, and confusion to the customer.
- First and foremost you should consult your attorney. Your
attorney should be one of the first people you turn to for advice.
It will save you money and frustration in the end. That being said,
if the name is trademarked in any way, you should stay away from it.
People spend a lot of time and money trade marking their name and they are
very protective of it and they will find you.
If the name is not
trademarked then legally you can register the name. You may want to
trademark the name to protect your investment.
Business Ethics - You may find a
domain name that is not trademarked and you decide to use it.
However, if another company offers the same type of products or services
that you do and caterers to the same clientele, you could have still have legal
issues. It may appear that you are trying to feed off of their
reputation and marketing. If they have a good reputation this may
work in your favor. But what if they decide to go out of business or
start to cheat their clients? Do you really think people will
understand you are a different company? I doubt it.
you have a domain name and Web site, you will begin to spend time and money
marketing it. Consumers as a whole do not listen or read... they
assume they know all they need to know. So, let's say your company's
Web site is www.giftbaskets.net and you advertise that domain name.
However, another company in your market area has the domain name
www.giftbaskets.com. A shopper hears your ad on the radio but only
remembers www.giftbaskets so they assume it was .com. You paid for
the ad, but who benefited?
Consumers assume that all
domain names end in .com. Just as consumers know that an 800 number
is toll free, asking "What is your 800 number?" 888 and 877 are also toll free numbers, but consumers
need to be told that. Whenever possible stick with .com.