Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: online presence

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to building your online presence.

The Biggest Business Website Fails and How to Fix Them

This post by Susan Johnston Taylor was originally published on the Freshbooks Blog on July 19, 2016

The Biggest Business Website Fails and How to Fix ThemNowadays customers expect small businesses—everything from solo practitioners to mom and pop contracting companies—to have an online presence. With free and inexpensive tools available online, you don’t need to be a website wizard to set one up.

Despite the relative ease of setting up a website, there are several potential pitfalls that could turn away customers rather than draw them in—by “draw them in,” we mean drive business conversions from your mere online presence. Here’s a look at several business website faux pas, along with tips on how to fix them.

It’s Jargon-Heavy

Some businesses use very technical language or industry jargon to describe themselves and what they do. Avoid this temptation and keep the language as simple and digestible as possible. Instead of saying “We leverage industry-leading, best-in-class pest-mitigation techniques,” choose simpler language like “We’ll rid your home of ants, cockroaches and other pests.” The latter also focuses on the benefits the customer will enjoy: a pest-free home!

It has the Wrong Focus

Your website shouldn’t just trumpet your accomplishments and certifications; it should demonstrate how you can help your potential customers. Rather than focusing on your extensive list of credentials, focus on the people-aspect of your business.

What are their pain points? What unique benefits can you offer that will make their lives easier or better? How can you speak their language and show that you understand their needs?

It’s Missing a Call-to-Action

Don’t make site visitors guess what they should do next; give them clear instructions with an obvious call to action button or hyperlinked text. For instance, encourage them to download your free ebook, book a free consultation or contact you for more information. Without these prompts, your potential customers won’t be prompted to move forward with your services, and you won’t get the business conversions you’re looking for.

It’s Not Mobile-Friendly

The number of global mobile users now surpasses the number of desktop users, according to comScore. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on potential business. If you have animation, large images that contain text or a site navigation that isn’t responsive on mobile phones and tablets, that can frustrate potential customers. Particularly in today’s mobile-driven world, you should have a mobile-first approach when building your website.

It has a Confusing User-Experience

Your site’s navigation should make it easy for users to find what they need, whether it’s a list of services, business hours, staff bios or contact pages—all within a few intuitive clicks. If it’s too hard to contact you, they’ll be apt to look elsewhere and you can lose their business.

Consider including a contact page as part of your site’s primary navigation and posting your phone number in a prominent place on every single page (the footer of the web page is typically where your traffic will look to for site navigation). If you provide useful and accessible information, it can also reduce the number of phone calls asking for basics like business hours or whether you provide a certain service.

It has Looping Background Music

Websites that start playing music automatically (and non-stop) as soon as you load the page can annoy your customers. They may be browsing your site at work or another place where loud, unexpected music is disruptive. In addition, added features—like music—can lead to slower loading times throughout your website. So instead of using music to set the mood, visually capture your audience instead. Choose images, fonts and colors to illustrate your desired brand and vibe.

It has Poor Image Quality

Blurry or pixelated images scream amateur hour. Smartphone cameras have come a long way, but if you still can’t get high enough resolution images, consider investing the money in professional photography or at least locating some royalty-free stock images for your site. And if you decide to take your own photography, images taken on a smartphone are typically suitable enough for website quality.

It has a Hard-to-Read Typeface

You want your site’s text to be readable on desktop or mobile so visitors can easily gather the information they need. Dark text on a light background is generally easiest to read, while light text on a dark background can prove trickier. Colors can display differently on varying devices depending on their screen settings, so aim for contrast. Different shades of the same color (for instance, a light pink background with darker pink text) may not read as well. If your traffic is distracted by your font style and color from the get-go, they may not even give your services a chance.

It’s Visually Cluttered

Big blocks of text and lots of images can overwhelm website visitors and detract them from your content. Use subheadings and bullet points as appropriate to make your text more readable and easy-to-follow. Also, include white space to give your text and images room to breathe. White space around your call-to-actions can also help them stand out. Here are instructions on finding your site’s text/HTML ratio.

It has an Outdated Template

Make sure you update your website on a regular basis. If customers come to your site in April and you still have a banner ad for a holiday sale, it doesn’t leave the best first impression. Make a more positive impression by regularly updating your website and removing any time-sensitive promotions as appropriate.

Also, keep an eye out for broken links. If you link to a vendor who goes out of business or you change the navigation on your own site, ensure you remove old links so that visitors won’t be redirected to a 404 page.

By keeping your target customers’ needs in mind and providing a good online user experience, your website will make a strong impression for your business and will allow customers to look up your information anytime, anywhere.

About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter@UrbanMuseWriter.

Managing Your Job Search Footprint

Managing Your Job Search FootprintIf you’re like many job seekers, you don’t stick to just one source when hunting for new contract opportunities. Instead, you start with a few of your favourites, contact some people in your network directly, and follow a few links to different sites. In the end, you’ve done a great job at submitting your name across the industry. What about all of those profiles you just created? Are you remembering to return to each one of them and make sure they’re still relevant? Here are a few simple tips to consider when managing your job search footprint.

Keep a Diary

The first step is to track every website and source you’re using to apply. It can be a notebook, a Word document, or a more sophisticated spreadsheet to track notes on the company, the roles to which you applied, the date you applied, and any other notes around the position. You can then use your diary to schedule when to follow-up with certain people. For future planning, you’ll know which sites to start at when searching for a new contract. You may even choose to update your notes based on results of each source so you can determine which are most valuable in your job search.

Bookmarks

Take advantage of your web browser’s bookmarks and keep them well organized. This way, even when your diary isn’t available, you can still easily visit your favourite sites whenever you have a moment. Google Chrome makes this especially simple because it saves your bookmarks with your Google profile. Regardless of which computer or mobile device you’re using, as long as you’re logged into Google, you can access your favourite places.

Password Managers

Believe it or not, “123456” and “password” are still used far too often.  Don’t be fooled thinking that a hacker can’t do much harm inside your job board profile. They may be able to get a small piece of information that will help them answer security questions or crack a password on your other sites. Instead of easy-to-remember passwords, consider creating something more complex.

There are dozens of great password manager apps available and many will allow you to securely sync data between your cell phone and desktop. You can use them to secure not just job search profiles, but your entire life. It may cost a few bucks, but the investment is very well it. To start, have a look at MSecure, LastPass or SplashID.

Update It or Close It

Our final piece of advice for managing your job search footprint is to literally manage it! Too often at Eagle, we see profiles that get created and then forgotten. The result is a stale resume with out-of-date skills. A large majority of the places that accept your application are going to keep your resume on file to review it for future opportunities. Make a habit of regularly revisiting all of the sites where you have a profile and ensure it’s up-to-date. If you decide the site wasn’t for you, close your profile. This provides security benefits, as well as ensures you don’t get phone calls from people you aren’t interested in hearing from.

In the end, managing your job search footprint all comes down to being organized. There are unlimited tools available across the Internet to help you organize yourself and effectively manage your job search footprint, so the question is, which ones will you take advantage of? Do you have any favourites you’d like to share? Leave them below!

Build Your Reputation by Commenting Online

This post by Mark Swartz was originally featured on Monster’s Career Advice blog

Build Your Reputation by Commenting OnlineYou have knowledge to share and want to build your professional reputation. Except writing lengthy online posts isn’t your strong suit. So creating a blog probably isn’t right for you.

How then to share your insights and opinions in short bursts? Easy. By commenting on other people’s posts. It’s a dependable way to get your name out there.

Commenting could become an integral part of your career social media strategy. Find the right outlets and watch as your profile rises.

Reasons To Share Your Knowledge And Opinions Online

You may already have a social media routine for building your personal brand. Or you might just be getting started. Either way you should consider being a commenter.

By making brief, perceptive remarks, then attaching your name to all your posts, a variety of readers will come to associate you with interesting content. Your entries may be locatable by search engines. Plus along the way you’ll meet new online networking contacts.

Comments Should Be Concise

As a commenter, you’ll be responding to other people’s posts by adding your own take. Each entry you create could expand on the poster’s content or give your opinion on the subject.

Comments are usually short. Anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph is the norm. If you go longer than that on a regular basis, edit down (or maybe start a blog of your own).

Categories of Outlets For Commenting

There are two primary categories of outlets for posting comments. One is on blogs by other people, groups or organizations related to your field of specialty. The other is on similarly related discussion forums and message boards.

Blogs are periodical. Entries are published either every day, every couple of days, or less frequently. Normally they might attract several replies if any. The more popular blogs can get dozens of responses to new posts.

Discussion forums and message boards work another way. They allow people to create “discussion threads” based on particular topics. Sometimes no one contributes to a new thread. Or over 100 replies and a dozen sub-threads could get posted.

Where To Find Commenting Outlets

For blogs and forums/boards in your profession or industry, start with your industry or trade association. They usually provide space for commenting. However you often need to be a paid-up member of the organization to participate.

Don’t fret if you aren’t. Professional forums can be found on the big social media sites. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, host “Groups” oriented to all kinds of professionals. Google and Yahoo host varied Groups as well. Joining is free. A group may be open to the public, or require joining first.

In addition there are search engines that track blogs and online discussions. Among the more popular ones are boardreader.com and omgili.com. Use them to locate outlets that have pertinent topics.

Some Do’s And Don’ts Of Commenting

Always keep in mind that what you write reflects on your personal brand. Also ask yourself this: do you hinder of help your company’s brand? Employers may see your comments and judge you accordingly.

Don’t rush in and post before you’ve surveyed the landscape. What style are other commenters adopting? How many words are they using when they reply?

Your Insights And Opinions Matter

You needn’t be a noted thought leader to comment. What readers look for is stimulating feedback. As long as you refrain from unnecessary controversy, and are adept at using Spellcheck, you can begin.

Commenting can help you get known as a Subject Matter Expert (SME). Why should this matter to you? Because when it comes to online job networking, employers consistently seek out SME’s!

Creating a Custom LinkedIn Profile Link

A custom LinkedIn URL makes your online profile easier to share with others, looks better on your resume, and overall helps you come across as more professional. Anybody can set one up and it’s completely free. If you haven’t done so yet and you’d like to get started (we highly recommend you do), just follow the quick steps in this video from Outsmart Your Technology. It only takes a few minutes.

Getting Hired in a Digital World (Infographic)

If you still search for jobs with the same mentality you did in the 90s, or even early 2000s, you may seriously be hurting your chances of finding a contract and building out your network. It’s safe to assume that most people have moved their job search online (especially if you’re reading this), but it’s important to fully embrace the new digital world that recruiters have already been taking advantage of for years.

Not sure what that means? Take a look at the infographic below from the Brighton School of Business and Management. It shows how recruiters are using the internet to recruit, how you can clean up your online profile, as well as some other great job seeking tips for anyone looking to increase their use of the Internet in their job search.

Getting Hired in a Digital World (Infographic)

 

4 Things to Help You Build Your Personal Website

In a recent article on Inc.com, Meredith Fineman, founder of FinePoint, explained her views on personal websites and why she believes every professional, regardless of their career level, should invest into building one.  We’ve touched on professional websites before on the Talent Development Centre, and couldn’t agree more with Meredith.   Here are four fantastic tips and tricks she provides:

Control

There is only so much you can control online, particularly when it comes to your name and profile. There are things you can barely control (like a person whose name is close to yours who happens to have great SEO), and some you can, like LinkedIn. However, with platforms like LinkedIn, you’re still limited to their layout, their buttons, their prompts. You can’t edit the code on your Facebook page, and so, by having your own website, you are in 100 percent control of the conversation surrounding you. And that’s nearly the only time that happens.

Not only are you in control but you are able to show your personality, character, color, Contractor building a websiteanimation, video, audio–not to mention accolades–and they’re all displayed, in a way that is unique to you. Think about your professional goals–and then about what you can put on your page to highlight why and how you can get there.

Personal websites get people jobs. I hired someone flat out because of her website (it was a play on Beyonce’s, so I just had to).

The technicalities

There are a ton of easy-to-use platforms–such as Wix, Weebly, or WordPress–for creating a personal site. All of these services are free (at least at the basic level), and make producing your website a lot easier than it looks. This is the biggest reason, clients tell me, that they don’t have their own websites–fear of the technical aspects. But it’s just not that hard. You can also hire great designers, but for the first version you can always play with looks and layouts on your own with one of these programs.

Ten years ago I interviewed for an internship at a PR firm, and I remember the CEO saying, “If you don’t remember anything else, at least buy the domain of your name.” (I guess I didn’t remember much else, but I did remember that.) Buy every iteration–.co, .org, .me. You never know what will happen: Someone with a name similar to yours could become famous (for good or bad), or someone could potentially harm your online reputation by using your name in a URL.

Keeping track

Having a personal website means you can also use it for your own purposes, not just to show others who you are. A personal website can house and track interesting projects you’re working on and media mentions of you or your company, or it can keep all of your writing in one place. I use my site as a database for everything I’ve written in the past nine years, as well as everything that has been written about me. This is easy for business development emails, but it also allows you to really take a look over the work that you’ve done. All in one spot. Whenever I write something new, I immediately put it on the site. By making that a common practice, I don’t have to try to remember pieces I wrote five years ago.

Show, don’t tell

You can talk yourself blue in the face about a work experience, but nothing proves in an interview or meeting that you know how to produce a great video like one you created that someone can link to, send around, or watch to see what your skillset is like. A personal website isn’t restricted to pieces written and accolades, but can also display your side interests, hobbies, photos, and more.

It’s all about creating the conversation, versus having to control and change the discussion. A personal website is the easiest way to assert who you are, and to display it.

Improving Your Online Presence: Creating Your Online Resume

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

If you’ve managed your Eagle profile recently, you probably noticed the field titled “Link to Public Profile”.  The question is, are you taking advantage of it?

What is your public profile

The link to your public profile can lead to anywhere you keep your experience up-to-date.  Rather than providing a resume, you just provide us a link.  When a Recruiter wants your updated experience, they simply follow the link.  If other companies have this option, you can use the same link for them.  This means that you no longer need to make sure everybody has your most recent resume, you simply need to keep this one profile up to date.

Your LinkedIn Profile

You’re probably already on LinkedIn.  If not, we recently published some posts that will LinkedInhelp you get started. If you’ve keep your profile up-to-date, it will act as a perfect resume.  Your LinkedIn profile includes experience, project details, education, and references.   To view another person’s profile, generally you need to be connected with them.  But did you know your LinkedIn profile also has a public link you can share so anybody can see your experience?

To find the link, log into your LinkedIn account and go to your profile.  Below your profile picture and above the “Background” field, you’ll find your link.  If you’re in Canada, it probably starts with ca.linkedin.com/pub/your-name.  Note: if you start giving away this link, you may find more recruiters want to connect with you on LinkedIn!

Your Website

A recent post talked about how independent contractors can create a public website for their business, including experience, profiles and a blog.  Again, as long as you’re keeping this up-to-date, it’s a great resume.  It may even be better than a resume because it gives more insight into you, your technical abilities, and your creativity.  Be careful, though, if your website gets too personal, it may deter potential clients.

Shared Folders on the Cloud

There are many free services across the Internet where you can save files on a cloud server to keep them safe and secure.  For example, Dropbox and Google Drive are easy to set-up and come with a generous amount of storage at no charge.  From there, it’s easy to save files so you can work on them in another location or share them with other people.

When you save a file in Dropbox or Google Drive, you can set security settings and decide who can see your files.  One of those settings is to allow anybody to see the file as long as they have a link.  That means you can write your resume, save it to the cloud, and send that link off to Recruiters.  If you keep that file up-to-date and as long as they have that link, they’ll always have access to your up-to-date resume!

Online resumes and public profiles just may be the future of job searching and recruiting.  If you adopt early not only will you save time in resume management, you’ll also be perceived as an innovator in your field.  Would you agree?  Are there any other innovative ways you can share your resume with recruiters?  We’d love to hear them!

Improving Your Online Presence: Creating a Professional Website

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

If you’re looking to build an online presence and feel your social media profiles aren’t doing you justice, the next step for you may be a website and/or blog.  It can seem like a daunting (or expensive) task, though, especially if you’re already juggling multiple clients.  Here are a few tips to help you get your website started:

Map Out Your Idea

Before you start building or designing anything, brainstorm everything – big or small – that you want to put onto your website.  Once you have it all figured out, start organizing it into a proper site map. Here are some elements independent contractors may want to include on their website:

  • Experience: This could be a page that looks like your resume, or it may even be a link to download your resume.  This is also a great spot to include references, testimonials and samples of past work you’ve done.
  • Blog: Blogs are a great way to build a reputation as a thought-leader.  A blog entry doesn’t always need to be thought-provoking, but can be as simple as your opinions and reviews of new products and best practices in your industry.  If you do create a blog, remember to update it regularly.
  • Online Store: Some independent contractors have developed programs or published books.  You can use apps and services like PayPal to easily create and manage an online store.
  • Personal Side: You probably don’t want to publish pictures of what you did last weekend, but nothing says you can’t be human.  Have a page that shows your personal side so clients, recruiters and colleagues can get to know you better. 

Generate Content

Great, you know what your pages will be!  What’s going to go on them?  This is probably at symbolthe most difficult part of creating a website. When you write each page, remember the focus on that page and stick to it. In other words, avoid going all over the map with your content.  Focusing on specific topics also forces you to use the right keywords, which is crucial for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Create the Website

If you’re a web developer or you are already familiar with basic HTML, CSS and CMSs, then you already know what to do here.  If you’re not as familiar, or if you simply don’t have time, there are great services such as Weebly, Google Sites and WordPress that help you create websites for free and provide great templates to get you started.  These sites will also help you pick out a domain and host it, if that’s what you want to do.

Maintain Your Website

Now that your site is up and running, you’ve told people about it and the address is all over your applications and resumes, make sure you keep it up-to-date.  You’ve probably been to a stale website before – one that clearly hasn’t been updated in 3 years.  When a client visits this site, they immediately get a bad impression of you.  This includes your blog, if you decide to have one.

Websites aren’t just for large organizations but can be great for independent contractors who want more than a resume to give to prospective clients. They create a professional image and shows that you’re serious about your business.  Do you have a website?  Do you think you need one? Would you like more information on this topic?  Let us know in the comments below.

Improving Your Online Presence: Getting Started with LinkedIn

Dan Gasser By Dan Gasser,
Marketing Specialist at Eagle

Social media has exploded over the past 10 years and has grown enormously around the world.  Today, it’s a key tool in business and an online presence is a must-have for independent contractors in all industries.  Not only is it a great way to expand and maintain your professional network, ultimately helping you find more opportunities, but many companies are reviewing the profiles of potential contractors online to gauge their experience and seek out references.Building an online network starting with LinkedIn

If you’re among the many independent contractors who fell behind when social media exploded, you may feel that catching up is close to impossible. This train of thought is causing a major disadvantage for your business. The truth is, getting started on social media and improving your online presence isn’t such a daunting task.  There is a slight time investment up front, but once you have momentum, maintaining and growing that presence will easily fit into your regular schedule.

There are literally thousands of social media platforms across the internet, so a common question is “Where do I get started?” Avoid starting everywhere.  It’s better to have one fantastic profile than 5 badly maintained profiles.  For independent contractors that first profile should be on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is an online network where professionals connect with and communicate with colleagues, business partners, and even friends.  Unlike some social networks like Facebook where people share details of their personal lives, LinkedIn is a place to share your professional knowledge and experiences.  This is a great spot to find new opportunities, share knowledge with experts around the world, and even find potential contracting partners.  Here are a few simple steps to get started:

  1. Create an account

Visit www.linkedin.com and fill in the form on the home page – registration is free and LinkedIntakes less than 2 minutes.  Use the full name you would use professionally – if your friends call you Bob, but you print Robert on your business card, use Robert on LinkedIn.  Ensure the email address you provide is permanent.

  1. Go through the basic set-up steps

Once you hit the Next button, LinkedIn will ask you a few simple questions to finish setting up your profile, including your company name and title, and ask you to confirm your email address. (Note:  When you confirm your email address, LinkedIn will ask your permission to access certain contacts.  You are required to say “Yes” to continue but don’t worry – it will not actually do anything with your contacts unless you ask it to in the next steps).

Now that LinkedIn has access to your address book, it will help you connect with your contacts.  You can decide if you’d like to do it now, or simply hit the “Skip this Step” button and do it later.  (We recommend you do this later, after you have your profile set-up exactly how you want it). You will also be asked if you would like to upgrade to the paid version – hold off on this until you have a better grasp on the network to determine if you really need it.

  1. Edit Your Profile

Many independent contractors treat their LinkedIn profile like their resume.  It may even help to have your resume beside you as you set this up.  LinkedIn will help you by asking questions about specific experience, education, and skills.  You will also create a profile summary about yourself, add a picture, and include any extracurricular activities.  As you go through, be as detailed as possible, but don’t stress too much.  You can always go back and edit this as necessary.  Your priorities for now should be a profile summary, your current work, and a profile photo. (Note: Keep the photo professional.  Potential clients don’t want to see you and your friends in a Las Vegas casino)

  1. Start making connections and grow your network

If you didn’t do it while you set-up your account, now’s the time.   Go to the “Connections” link in the top menu, and click “Add Connections”.  Here, LinkedIn will ask to scan through some of your email contacts to find people already on LinkedIn.   You can also click the “Find Alumni” button to seek people who went to the same school as you, use the “People You May Know” link to get suggestions from LinkedIn, or simply use the search menu at the top of your screen to seek specific individuals.  Once you’ve started, it will be easy to connect with more people.  You can search specific companies and look at their employees or you can search your contacts’ connections to find mutual acquaintances.

  1. Join Groups

LinkedIn Groups are a place where people with a common interest gather to share knowledge with each other.  This can be extremely valuable whether you’re looking for new opportunities, or working on a project and need some input.  There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn for virtually any topic.  Search for and join a few that are for you.  It could be a group about a specific technology, an industry association, a region where you work, or an alumni for a company or institution.

  1. Browse your news feed

Now that you have connections and you’re a part of groups, you will have a valuable newsfeed.  Click the “Home” button at the top and you’ll find it.  As you scroll through, you’ll see updates from your connections and your groups.  These may include statuses, links to articles, details of their activity (new connections, comments they’ve made), and some questions they may be asking their own network.

  1. Engage

This is where the value of social networking begins!  As you scroll through your newsfeed, engage with your network.  Click the “Like” button on content you agree with, add a comment to give your own insight, and share posts with your own network.

You can also start adding your own content.  When you come across an article you like, share it by putting the link into the “Share an Update” bar at the top of your newsfeed.  You should also add your own comment to make it more personal.

Engage in groups as well.  Share relevant articles with your group, join conversations to answer questions, or ask your own questions.

These 7 simple steps will get you on your way.  Once you’re more familiar with the platform, you can start taking on other tasks like job searching, giving and receiving recommendations, and becoming a LinkedIn influencer. Remember that order to benefit from any social network you need to have an active presence and contribute.

What challenges have you faced in getting your social media presence going?  Please share your comments below.