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Optimize your site to help draw eyes online

July 11, 2007|Karen E. Klein | Special to The Times

Dear Karen: I'd like to expand onto the Internet to add a new revenue stream, but colleagues tell me that it is difficult to stand out amid all the competition. How does a small company get noticed online?

Answer: There are many methods and technologies available to help you market your website, but it makes no sense to pursue any of those tactics until you've "optimized" your site, said Caroline Melberg, business consultant and chief executive of Small Business Mavericks.

Optimizing your site makes it visible to search engines such as Google and Yahoo. By optimizing, you'll rank higher in search-engine results when potential customers look for the kinds of products or services you sell.

Search-engine optimization has become a big business for computer consultants, but you can get started yourself.

First, if your site is hosted using shared hosting, ask your host for a dedicated Internet protocol address. This is the numeric address of a computer connected online.

"The cost for this is usually nominal, and the search-engine benefits are great," Melberg said.

Second, use a descriptive title for your site as well as "keyword tags" that allow search engines and visitors know what they will find on your website.

Make sure you place keywords that appear in your keyword tags within the text of your Web pages as well. Your keywords should be intuitive terms that you think customers would use when searching online for your products or services.

Finally, make sure every image on your website has an "alt tag" -- search engines cannot see images, but they can read the "alternative text" associated with your images. So make sure to use your keywords in your alt tags.

Melberg has a series of articles explaining optimization in depth at her website: www.smallbusinessmavericks.com/web-design-seo.htm.

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How to conduct exit interviews

Dear Karen: A couple of my longtime employees recently announced that they were quitting. I'd like to do exit interviews with them, but I'm not sure what to ask.

Answer: Exit interviews can provide a tremendous amount of information you can use to reduce future turnover and grow your business.

Staff members who are leaving can provide information you might not get from current employees. Because there are no potential repercussions for them, they can also make you aware of problem supervisors and clue you in to how other employees perceive your company and your leadership.

Approach the exit interview by making your departing employee comfortable and letting him or her know you harbor no hard feelings.

"Explain that their opinion is important to you and that it will help improve the company," said David Weiman, a Philadelphia-based management psychologist.

Weiman advises that you develop a standard set of questions for exit interviews and give them to the person you're interviewing in advance.

"That will demystify the process and give them more time to give you a well-thought-out response," he said.

Ask when they started looking for a new job and why. Ask how their experiences at your firm matched their expectations. Ask what management change would have improved their experience at your firm, and what they believe was their most positive contribution to the company.

"After the interview, ask permission to stay in touch," Weiman said. "That will establish goodwill, help you learn how they're doing in future jobs and encourage them to let you know if they want to return."

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E-mail questions to karen.e.klein@latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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