My Competitor is Winning. My Competitor is Me.

In the late 1990s, I setup the ResourcesForLife.com website as a place for all my interests and business endeavors. The idea was to create a destination with many attractions, similar to a shopping mall or vacation destination. People would arrive at the site for tech support, but also learn about tiny houses, and see some of my photography or listen to my music.

That approach has generally worked over the years, and the site has seen about 4 million visitors. However, those looking for tech support in Iowa City will not be searching Google or Bing on the words “resources for life” but instead they will be searching for something like “Iowa City tech support” or “Iowa City Computer Support.”

About ten years ago, I decided to setup two additional websites. One site is IowaCityTechnologyServices.com and the other is IowaCityComputerSupport.com.

I put most of my effort into developing the Iowa City Technology Services website, given that the term technology services would seem more inclusive of laptop computers, mobile technology, and support for other electronic devices. The idea of Computer Support seemed antiquated to me and unlikely to generate much interest, but I thought it would help to have it out there.

Today, if you search Google for “Iowa City tech support” my two websites are in the top 5 non paid organic listings of 47 million results. Among the Google business listings, Iowa City Computer Support shows up first in the results.

Ultimately, in this competition between me and myself, running two identical businesses, with the same services, and the same tech person, with the same rates, one of them has significantly pulled out into the lead. The only difference is the website name. It is the Computer Support website that has succeeded greatest. This taught me that one can never fully predict or determine the outcome regardless of how much effort we put in.

why You Need Three Websites

When I’m helping someone get started online with a web presence, I always say that a person needs at least three websites:

  1. Your Name. In the word of mouth and ‘word of mouse’ manner that business awareness spreads, people may sometimes search directly for your business by your name and not the business name. They will search for “Iowa City Greg Johnson computer support” or just search for “Greg Johnson Iowa City.” Many people I work with don’t know the name of my business. They tell their friends, “You should call Greg Johnson.” So, there is always a need for people to have a website under their own name to make it easy to be found. That personal website need not be complicated. It can have just a few buttons for destinations of interest. It’s a way to be found.
  2. Your Business Name. It’s nice to have a catchy and fun business name. Many businesses have names that consist of words previously not found in a dictionary. Others have names that make it impossible to know what the business is really about unless you already know what the business does. We all imagine that we will take our ‘baby’ as a business and brand to the level of public awareness that one day everyone will recognized Droxler Industries as a household name synonymous with whatever it is the business does. “Google did it. So can I!” is the thinking. Having a catching business name is just part of the success puzzle, but not all of it.
  3. What You Do. Perhaps more important than having your name or your business name as a dot com website will be to have a brief description of what you do as a dot com website (or two). You want to ensure that when people do a search on your service, that you have a website named as what they searched on dot com. That would hopefully get you higher in the search results.

Three Rules of Success

Having a few websites is just the start. Here are three aspects of fostering success.

  1. Content Matters. Having a genuine website with genuine unique written content and photos makes a big difference.
  2. The Dot Com Difference. The most recognizable website extension is .com and it’s the one people may ‘remember’ when they are typing in a website address. So, if you have a .biz or .info or .us extension on your website, a person looking for the site may by habit type in the .com extension instead. It is similar to toll free numbers beginning in 1-800. That’s the prefix we remember for toll free numbers even though 877 and other prefixes have been used in recent years. So, I always advise people to have a .com version of the website name they want whenever possible.
  3. Connecting. The real-world meaningful connections we make, and the successes we have in helping others, that’s the soil that our business grows in. The websites and online presence is just an ornament or decorative gift wrapping paper to the core of who we are and what we do.

Conclusion

What I offer above are not answers, but questions that will point you to your own answers. My experience of establishing two seemingly identical businesses and seeing one succeed was a reminder to me about the unpredictable nature of business success. The experience reinforced my desire to have diversity in my business, and to have multiple businesses.

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[Photo Credit: The photo at the top of this page is one I took on 28 Mar 2020. I colorized it slightly.]

Realization: Few things were actually essential

Like others during this global pandemic and the national emergency in America, I’ve been cutting back on non-essential activities and purchases.

In the process, I’ve started to realize that it’s all been kind of non-essential. So much that we’ve been spending our time and money and energy on, even much of the work and business activity has been non-essential.

Now we’re left with staying home reading books, painting, cooking, baking, gardening, composing music, and going for solitary walks in the park. Families are staying home and spending time together; playing board games, sharing meals, laughing. For those continuing to work, they are working from home.

We’re less ‘hurried’ and not so busy. Whatever it was we were doing that we thought was so important suddenly isn’t so important. Stress is relieved.

We’re acting like Scandinavians in our cleaning, scrubbing surfaces, and getting more tidy at home. There’s a city to the north of us that has instituted free public transit. Stores are dedicating special shopping times to focus on serving the elderly. Everyone is home schooling. No longer wasteful, at home people are becoming frugal and conserving on everything to make supplies last.

Somehow, overnight, America has become another country.

Is this how the world will be going forward?

For now, I’m heading out for my daily trail hike to take a few nature photos and reflect on this new world we live in.

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Below, the short film Happiness portrays the world we’ve left behind.

A Magical Mystery Tour in Iowa – March 2001

According to my sister, the “pearl of great price” for our week-long
adventure was to be found in a little Iowa town which will remain nameless
in this story. I must say, a vacation to a sleepy town in Iowa seemed like a
mistake, however, I don’t remember my big sister ever making any mistakes
and I couldn’t imagine that she would begin now. So, with complete faith, I
agreed to go on this mystical journey.

As we pulled into town, we saw what appeared to be a welcome sign in
someone’s yard. How delightful! Yet, upon closer inspection, we discovered
the sign looked more like a tomb stone. It read, “Here lies the last dog
that pooped on my lawn.” We continued driving.

As we drove around town, we concluded that this was a typical small Iowa
community.

However, as we checked into our room at the small town motel I knew
something was a little different when I saw a Mezuzah on every doorframe of
the motel. Placing Mezuzah on doorframes is a Biblical tradition that is
based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:18-21. I was reminded of the Hotels in
Israel that have Mezuzah on the entryway to every room.

Well, from this point on, there were so many stark contrasts from moment to
moment that it is difficult to provide much in the way of a transitional
story line, so I’ll just describe various “snapshots” from our week-long
excursion.

As we entered the antique shop, it was as if we had gone “back in time” some
120 years. The date was 1877, and I was listening to the words of Reverend
Bernard O’Reilly from his book “The Mirror of True Womanhood – a book of
instruction for women in the world.” My sister was reading aloud, with
astonishment, about how women should conduct themselves, how women were
supposed to run their homes, and what was considered appropriate and
inappropriate reading for women. Before us were many books that dated back
about 100 years. There was a box camera from the early 1900s. On the floor
was a cobbler’s working stand for making and repairing shoes. Even the shop
owner dated back to the early 1900s.

Later, we found ourselves in an authentic Mexican shop / restaurant. People
were speaking Spanish with a Mexican accent. I could understand most of what
they were saying. My Sister and I browsed the shelves. We discovered
clothes, music, magazines, candles, groceries, and religious products. Most
of the labels were in Spanish. We decided to eat lunch there. The authentic
Mexican food was wonderful.

We were browsing a small but impressive Jewish grocery store and restaurant
when an orthodox Lubavitcher Rabbi approached me. “You are from Cedar
Rapids,” he exclaimed, reaching his hand out to greet me. I had never seen
the man before in my life. I shook his hand and politely said hello. Then he
immediately asked if my Jewish friend was with me, mentioning my friend by
name. How did he know my Jewish friend’s name? He told me that he had spoken
with my Jewish friend, and this friend of mine would be arriving at any
moment. This was very confusing. The only explanation I could think of was
that by some amazing coincidence, my friend had actually planned to be in
the same small Iowa town, in the same shop, on the same day my sister and I
were visiting and that my friend perhaps knew this Rabbi. In any event, it
was an interesting exchange. When I looked up and saw 32 clocks on the wall
(one from just about every time zone), I realized it was time to go. I felt
a little like Alice in Wonderland.

Later in the same shop, I met a young Israeli man. We shared our love for
the land of Israel and visited about various places we had been. “Shalom” we
said as we departed. My sister and I sat down to eat. From our table we had
a stunning “view of the Western Wall” through an archway. This view was so
authentic! It was hard to believe it was a hand painted mural. As much as
possible, I explained the various details of the Western Wall to my sister
as we ate authentic Israeli falafels and sampled from about 10 other
authentic Israeli salads, meals, and foods that stretched the length of our
table. As I examined the Western Wall, I realized it looked different than I
remembered it from my visit to Jerusalem. I knew this was Jerusalem, but
when? Was it from the past? I asked the chef, who explained that the mural
was created by an artist who took some creative liberties in painting it. I
decided that the mural showed Jerusalem of the future. There were pine trees
growing on the top of the wall and only a few stones remained of the “Dome
on the Rock.” The division between men and women had been removed in the
plaza. There were many people in the plaza, all in prayer facing the wall.

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* The above article was written in 2001 after a trip to visit Postville, Iowa. The photo above is from 2017.