Time for another installment of the wildly popular feature of my blog, “Ask Scott.” Well, it’s probably not as popular as I would like to think, but just play along with me. The questions in today’s post have been posed by readers who have been patiently waiting for a reply. See, I save the good ones for the blog, and the others…. well, I should post some of those for entertainment purposes someday.
Since some of these have been sitting in my inbox for a week or so, it’s high time I get to them before I start getting the “why are you ignoring me?” email. Yeah, you know who you are!
So here they are, brought to you with limited commercial interruption:
Q: I read your entry on link shorteners and wondered if a custom service, using a variation of our domain name, would be something to consider.
A: I’d have to stick with the same thoughts and opinions I had on non-custom link shorteners. For the purpose of social media postings where real estate is precious and you don’t want to laden a post with a long URL, using a short version is fine. But when it comes to links in blogs, directories, articles, etc. I would still stick to using the long version in order to provide some level of confidence with the reader knowing that they’re going to a recognizable domain name rather than something cryptic. Many link shorteners use non-standard domain extensions such as .ly, .tw, etc. To many, those extensions may be scary and chase a potential visitor away. I don’t think it’s worth investing the time and effort into a custom link shortening service.
Q: I know Solid Cactus offers call center services and I haven’t spoken to anyone there yet about it, but I was wondering if you can tell me if this is an expensive proposition. We’re a small store and I do most of the picking and packing myself so the phone often times goes unanswered and was looking to see if this was something that I can afford.
A: Call Center services was a product offering that I created and rolled the dice on despite resistance from execs and managers in the company at the time. I wanted to offer affordable customer service solutions to business just like you – and recoup the half-million bucks we laid out for a new phone system! From the very beginning our prices were very competitive when compared with other US based call center companies. While pricing can’t be compared to off-shore companies – and neither can the service – I still believe we offer a great solution at a price point any small business can afford. Contracts have a low monthly minimum billing, which means you pay X amount whether you use the service or not. Calls are billed a per-minute rate based on volume. If the cost-per-call exceeds the monthly minimum, you don’t get billed the minimum, you get billed the actual call time. I encourage you to speak with one of the call center account managers to go over rates and how they can help. I’m sure you will find it’s affordable and will probably pay for itself by capturing the orders you’re missing now while your phone goes unanswered.
Q: I just signed a contract with [COMANY NAME DELETED] to have my website redesigned. I did get several quotes, including one of yours, and had to go with the lowest priced one due to our finances. I’m being told it’s going to be two to three months to get my site up. I asked around and have been told that’s unacceptable and I shouldn’t have to wait that long. How long should a redesign take?
A: Well, if you would have went with us…. no, just kidding! There are many, many factors that go into determining how long it will take a website to be redesigned. Here are just a few:
- Workload of the company you hired – all developers have work in the pipe that needs to be finished. When a new job comes in, it gets scheduled according to the available hours on designers and programmers schedules. Obviously this is a fluid situation and timeframes can change every day.
- Approval of mockups – this is where I see the biggest delay and it’s often times never related to the design firm! Whatever company you choose to redesign your site expects you to approve mockups and revisions quickly – usually within 24 hours. If you’re sent a mockup on Tuesday to approve and you’re leaving for vacation Wednesday and you didn’t see it…. well, your entire schedule is going to be thrown off until you get back from vacation and approve that mockup. Advice – respect and adhere to the approval times required during your project.
- Features take time to program – believe it or not, they do! The more complex features you’re having built for your website, the more time it’s going to take to build them. The design work may only take 10 hours, but the programming of one complex feature may take 20 – 30 hours. Add that to the time needed to install other features, build the framework and start coding and hours add up quickly.
You want to have a great looking site and great looking sites take time to build. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your new website. Have patience with your developers, turn around approvals quickly, keep in contact with them regularly and ask for timeframe updates once a week to make sure you and them are keeping on schedule.
Now to answer your original question about how long it should take – there’s no good answer. There are far too many variables that can throw the train off the tracks.
Good luck with the new site, and be sure to let me know when it’s live so I can check it out.
Q: I just removed a whole line of products from my store, about 650 of them. The item pages have been deleted, but now I’m getting errors in Google Webmaster Tools that Google can’t find these pages any more. Is this something I should be concerned with?
A: Yes! Google noticed that a whole bunch of pages suddenly disappeared from your site that was in their index. Anytime you do a mass delete of pages from a site, it’s recommended that you do a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect essentially tells the search engines that, “yes a page was here, it’s gone, here’s where you can find its replacement.” Depending on where your site is hosted, you can do 301 redirects from a control panel. You essentially put in the old URL – the page you deleted – and the URL of where the visitor should be redirected to if clicked on. When choosing the redirect URL, you don’t want to just point to your homepage. It’s recommended that you point the old page to a new page with similar content. For example, if you deleted a page that was selling a Swingline Stapler, you want your 301 redirect to go to either another model of stapler or a section page listing multiple staplers. It takes some time to do these, but it’s for the better, and you should get it corrected ASAP.
Q: I’ve been following you from your Ferret Store days. I don’t have a ferret and I don’t have a website, but I’ve read about you and your businesses and want to say congratulations on your success. My question to you is, how did you come up with the name “Solid Cactus?”
A: If that question was part of a drinking game, I’d never be sober! The name “Solid Cactus” has no special meaning at all. I remember the day we came up with the name well. Prior to doing business as Solid Cactus, we were called Y! Store Builders – as in we build Yahoo! Stores. There were several companies using the “Y!” in their name and the folks in purple wanted to protect their trademark and asked us all to politely stop. Joe Palko, Kurt Illian and myself were sitting in my office brainstorming a new name for the company. I had one requirement – it had to look good embroidered! Yeah, call me fickle, but when I throw my company logo on a shirt, I want it to look good and I’ve seen far too many logos that look like elephant dung when stitched on a $39 polo. So first we decided on a shape – we looked at circles, swooshes, squiggly lines and settled on a cactus. From there we said the word “cactus” should be in the name and where “solid” came from is anyone’s guess, but that’s how it came to be. The name and logo served us well over the years, and continues to do so today. One thing I regret is not sponsoring a baseball team and dressing up in a cactus costume and being known as “The Prick.” An employee told me once, that would be very fitting. I have no idea what he meant.
Q: Love seeing pictures of your dog on Facebook. How old is he?
A: Well, thanks. He is actually a she and I love her dearly, as you can probably tell. I used to know Baby’s exact age, but my own age has fogged my memory and I’m not exactly sure how old she really is. If I had to venture a guess, she’s between 12 and 14. She’s getting up in age, had some health issues that she rebounded from and is the last remaining Chihuahua out of my four.