Attention Joomla users: Content Management got ya down?

December 17, 2009

Distant Horizon, Inc is offering free demos and consultations to any businesses using hard to use web site maintenance systems.  We feel that our Proven Structure Dynamic system is one of the best content management systems out there, and we dare you to prove us wrong.  Dozens of our clients are using this latest platform and have given us great feedback so far.

A good content management system should be easy to figure out for ALL users.  We feel we’ve accomplished this with our system.


The Quest for Web Site Leads

June 7, 2009

It amazes me to this day just how many under performing web sites there are out there.  Week after week I meet with a business owner or web site manager that is clueless as to whether or not they’ve gotten new business from the web site that cost them thousands of dollars. 

On the other hand, it also amazes me how many business owners expect the world from a web site with so little substance.  In a perfect world, a business could just throw up a decent looking site with their logo and phone number and watch the leads pour in.  Unfortuantely, that never happens!

As a web design consultant, this is my simple hardest task:  To create enough urgency in a web site client to actually put their best face forward through their website.  Often this face includes:

Content with substance.  Examples include:

-Real client or project case studies (with a picture if possible and appropriate)

-Genuine testimonials from your clients

-A story of the business.  The web site should say everything a prospect or client might possibly want to know about your company.

The biggest obstacle a business owner or web site manager faces when trying to produce this content is TIME.  If you don’t make time to work on your web site, it will not make you a dime!

“But Kevin, what about the search engines?”

The search engine game is barely half the battle.  I have seen sites that get hundreds or thousands of qualified visitors from search engines, but still don’t generate one phone call or relevant inquiry lead.

“How can that be?”

The truth is that those hundreds or thousands of qualified visitors probably found one or two other web sites using the same search engine, and they simply liked what they saw or read on those sites more than yours.  The odds are also good that the web site manager or business owner behind those sites put hours of their valuable time into that web site.

Google Adwords – Are you on board?

April 6, 2009

It’s a crowded place out there on the world wide web.  Almost every legitimate business has a web site up and running.  Some web sites are excellent, many are awful.  What they have in common is that the businesses behind these web sites are all hoping to reach you online.  The majority of these web sites will never reach their intended audience.
How then in 2009, does a business become one of these fortunate few web sites?  There are two ways, primarily.  I recommend both.

1.  Earn it.

2. Pay for it.

Your web site can earn this exposure by being one of the best.

Check List: (good luck, for it’s hard to have all of these)

Best Content

Best Domain

Best Usability

Best Design

Best Company


You can pay your way to the top using advertising.  The cheapest web site advertising available to most businesses is Google Adwords.

It’s simple:
You tell Google you would like to show up on the first page for “milwaukee hair salon” when someone keys it into the search box at  Google will then tell you, “here is how much it’s going to cost you”.  For pretend, let’s say Google tells you it will cost $1.00/click to show up some where on the first page of listings. What Google does not tell you is that you will probably not show up on the first page all the time.  Instead, Google will use a budget your comfortable with and try to show your advertisement as much as possible.  Once your signed up with Google’s program, you can list all of the keywords you would like to show up for in a Campaign (Category) and Ad Group (Sub Category).

Google will display a 3 line advertisement in the very top row or side column of the Google search results page (sponsored links) when someone searches on one of your chosen keywords.

If someone clicks on your advertisement, they will land on your web site.  Google will charge you what you agreed to bid for that click.  Once you’ve reached your daily budget through clicks, your ads will no longer show.

Benefits to Google Adwords over traditional advertising:

1. No contract

2. No minimum spend

3. Extremely targeted (you pay only to advertise to users that are looking for your product or service)

Unless you’re in an extremely niche industry, Google Adwords may be a requirement to see the web site performance you’re hoping for.  No web site will ever show up in the first Google listing  for every desired keyword so paying Google helps fill in the gaps.  That said, if you’re in a niche industry, using Google Adwords can be a very aggressive form of advertising and will probably show huge ROI at any spend level.

What kind of web site do I need?

March 31, 2009

The path you choose for your company or organization’s web site can have serious benefits or consequences.  Below are some qualifications to point you in the right direction…

Question 1:  Informational web site or E-commerce (shopping cart) web site?

This is the first question you should ask yourself when building a new web site.  E-commerce web sites require databases, credit card processing, freight calculations, coupon codes and other functionality that almost never come along side “informational” web site structures & templates.  Frequently, web developers can’t even support E-commerce or Shopping Cart development.  This can be a problem down the road in that you may have to re-do your web site in order to upgrade.

You should make E-commerce part of your web development conversation if:

– You have products that you’re trying to promote, and if things go well you might try to sell them online.

– Your reason for existing is products, even if you don’t think you’re going to sell them online. (ie. manufacturing, wholesale, B2B)*

– Your web site is all about products and it will need to be maintained frequently.

*Having your products in an organized database on your web site has advantages, even if you’re not going to take orders online.  The biggest advantage is good search engine rankings.  This is especially the case if you have a lot of products. (a lot of products in a database means a lot of pages on your site.  It seems the search engines like large sites)

Question 2:  Custom web site or template web site?

In this shaky economy this question is also a good one to ask yourself.  Chances are you have seen some good lookin’ web sites out there.  We all have.  Chances are better that those good lookin’ web sites were expensive.  The best way to present this argument is to think about cars.  Many of us have seen fancy luxury or sport cars zooming around us.  Many of us have realized that owning these cars is not possible or just not practical.  Web sites work the same way.  Developing a fully custom web site is the equivalent of a car manufacturer hand-building or offering a very specialized vehicle.  Like these high-end cars, custom web sites are both expensive to build and expensive to maintain!  The reason web site templates exist is because web developers have found “best practices” in web development that they would recommend to “most” clients.  You can compare template web design to the assembly line of the auto industry.

Benefits to template designs:

-Fast to launch (the web site is practically built already!)

-Less expensive (templates require less of everyone’s time and are always cheaper than custom)

-Easier to change (designers/programmers are familiar with the web site layout and work faster)

-More functionality for your buck (developers can include more goodies because they spend less time on design/programming)

Benefits to custom designs:

– Your web site will look at least a little bit different then every other web site you’ve seen

– Built to order (although it will cost much more, the developer will only include functionality you request)

Web Site Hosting for Dummies

March 25, 2009

So, your friend of a friend or buddy or pal built you a web site, but you don’t know how to get it online.  You need to host it somewhere.  Let’s take a look at your options:

1.  Host it on the cheap with, etc.

2.  Host it on-site with your own company/organization server.

3.  Host it with a professional web design company.


If you had an amateur build your web site, then you should probably host it with GoDaddy or some other cheap service.  There is no reason to put a cheap web site on an expensive server or with a professional development company.  Keep your costs in line with where you’re at in your web site life.

“But Kevin, I can host my own web site!”

Sure you could, and I could also pave my own drive-way.  That does not mean I should.

If you’re looking to outsource your web development to a professional firm, then you might as well host your site with them as well.  Unless your the FBI, a Bank or other organization with very high security, there is absolutely no good reason to host your own web site.  In fact, here are a couple good reasons why you should not!

1.  Servers are expensive

2. People who know how to use/fix/maintain servers are expensive.

3.  Most web developers refuse to touch a web site that is not being hosted on their own hardware.  Even if they will, they won’t take the project seriously or they will charge you inflated rates because it will take twice as long to do everything.

4.  Advanced web sites with E-commerce, content management systems or other extensive databasing require a lot more then just a server to run.

Most web developers have tiered hosting rates depending on the type of web site (informational vs. e-commerce), the size (number of pages & databases) and the amount of bandwidth needed (high traffic vs. low traffic).  Also any good developer will provide their hosting clients with traffic reports, email, etc.  The rates may seem expensive compared to G0Daddy, but if the web site was designed properly by a true professional, then the return should be well worth it.

What’s the deal with Blogs?

March 25, 2009

Blogging is popular.  Why you ask?  It’s because the people want to be heard!

1. Blogging for the individual is really just a public journal.

2. Blogging for an expert is giving advice or information for free.  (like I’m doing here)

3. Blogging as a business is almost a waste of time, unless you can do it day in and day out.

4.  Blogging for search engine optimization is worth it as long as the posts are relevant to the searches you’re looking for.  (ie.  If you’re trying to show up on the first page of Google for “Chicago Plumbing”, you better not be writing about what you did this weekend, or how you feel about the current president)

Beware of the Ad Agency approach to web site design…

February 24, 2009

Ad agencies have a knack for creating new brands and thinking up clever jingles. Unfortunately in our experience, they really stink at building web sites.

Why you ask? It seems that the last thing on the agency’s mind is how people will get to your web site, and instead they assume the people already made it there. In turn, they focus on the interactivity, visuals & presentation a whole lot and think about Search Engine Optimization hardly at all.

In other words, All Show & No Go, or a pretty web site that does not make a dime.

Our recommendation would be to consult an experienced web developer during the process and use their services in conjunction with the Ad Agency’s services. If you don’t have the budget to allocate to a web site that is properly designed for the search engines along side the agency, then we recommend skipping the Ad Agency altogether and starting with the basics.

Why Flash Animation can hurt your web site’s search engine rankings…

January 24, 2009

The best way to explain this concept is to think of your web site as if it’s a show on television. Think of the search engines as being blind TV viewers. If you turn off the volume on a TV show, the blind viewer has no idea what the show is about. Blind viewers rely on their hearing to understand what’s going on around them and on the TV.

Like these blind viewers, the search engines cannot see anything either. They rely on their computer algorithms reading of the words within the programming code to understand what a website is about. Because Flash websites are mostly pictures and no words, they often get ranked worse by the search engines.