As an IT pro, I'm often approached for guidance on purchasing a new computer. Over time, I've pulled that guidance together into a Computer Shopping Workbook, and this year, I'm sharing it with you on my blog. Whether it's end of year holiday sales, or time for you to retire that old Windows XP or 7 machine, or that old Mac Mountain Lion unit, or just time to purchase something with a little more muscle to do the things you're doing now, you'll want to make an informed decision - and that's the purpose of this article.
There are lots of options on computers, and comparing them online or in a store can be time consuming and frustrating. It’s always best to know essentially what you want before shopping. This article will help you think through what you want in a new computer, understand what work you’ll have when you do buy a new computer, and how best to comparison shop for one. It also includes a link to a workbook that you can fill out to help you define your needs, for better comparison shopping.
Questions to Help You Define What You’re Shopping For
Here are the considerations you’ll want to answer before you start down the Shopping road. Defining your Wants and Needs will help you more narrowly define your choices.
A General Note about Programs & Files
When you purchase a new computer, you’ll want your existing data and files on your new computer. This can be easily done, but know that you can only move files you have created – like documents, pdfs, spreadsheets, photos, videos, music, and so on. You can not move Applications that are installed on your current computer’s hard drive (like Photoshop, MS Office, Quicken, etc).
To get Programs or Applications from your old computer to your new one, you will need to re-install them (perhaps not an option on a new computer without a CD/DVD tray). Most Programs can be downloaded from their websites, and if it’s something you’ve purchased, you probably have a “security key”, license, or number printed on your installation CD or receipt. You should be able to Download those programs, and confirm your security number.
In other words: you can move any CONTENT (docs, images, info) you have created; typically you cannot move the APPLICATIONS that you may have used to create that information.
A General Note about Price
Here’s what you might expect to find while shopping for Desktops and Laptops, VERY generally:
Make a Wish List of Options
Once you’ve defined some specifics and some options for your next computer, make a wish list of those items. It will make your shopping easier, whether online or in person. You don't have to have a preference defined for each component - keep in mind flexibility provides you with greater options. With that in mind, I recommend something like this (the workbook tool will help you make your own):
Often when computer shopping you’ll see specs to choose from, and this can be more confusing than useful for general home consumers. Let's start with an example - you saw a great sale ad for this computer, but it may as well be partially written in Greek. Sample Computer Sale Ad: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series: i7, 3.2Ghz, 8GB, 1T HDD, HDMI, DVD, Win10, Black. Knowledge is Power! So let’s break down that sample description one underlined term at a time:
Compare Your Choices
After defining your preferences and understanding the kind of language you're going to see if you start shopping for a new computer online you're ready to start Comparison Shopping. Use this Computer Shopping Workbook to help compare and contrast your shopping choices for smarter decision-making. The link will download an Excel workbook, usable also in Open Office or Google Sheets.
NOTE: This blog post and related Computer Shopping Workbook are based on my experience, and are intended as information and tools for general consumer level use only. Neither this blog post nor the sample Computer Shopping Workbook attachment imply any specific product or component endorsements or recommendations. Information tweaked in March 2019 and validated.
Do you have any Eureka Moments for computer shopping?
Please share them or any questions in the Comments section below!
After you build my website, can you list it on the Home Page of Google?
I sometimes hear this when creating a first-time website for typically more mature entities who have been resistant to new technology. Much to their credit, they've determined that having a website for your business or service today is what having a listing in the Yellow Pages meant a generation ago. This is how you get found.
Reminds me of an old joke:
Where do you hide a dead body that you don't want found?
On page 2 of a Google Search Result.
The answer to being the first Google Result?
"How much money do you have?"
Just kidding, sort-of. The good news is you have some options and control for driving your website's search rankings.
Before we cover the basics, let's take a look at the anatomy of a Google Search Results Page.
Anatomy of a Google Search Result for the term "laptop computer":
The first things we naturally notice are the top results. If you look at the indicator on the website line for each result, you'll see that these are Ads. Ads from companies in the Computer industry who have a big reputation and therefore a lot of buying power - Intel, Microsoft, Staples, Office Depot.
Just under those, Best Buy and Walmart are at the top of what I call the organic section of the list. This portion is driven by site maturity, volume /number of users, activity and active content, and keywords and items related to "laptop computer". This makes sense because these are two of the biggest "laptop computer" sellers in the country.
Finally, the right panel of the pages displays shopping results. Essentially, if you are doing a google search for what might obviously be a Product, you'll see items in this Shopping grid. These are are also effectively paid ads; they happen to be product specific.
DOUBLE-EDGED PRO TIP:
Did you know that you can opt out of this shopping section altogether, if you don't like seeing it as a user? Click on the Information "i" of the sponsored shopping results to see your options.
But you don't want potential customers opting out, if you're sponsoring a shopping item result!
Back to getting your website to the top of a Google Search Result.
You can Pay....
The quickest and easiest way to get on page 1 of Google for a particular keyword is to advertise. Sign up with Google, choose the keywords you would like to target, define how much you would like to pay every time your ad is clicked. This is "pay-per-click bidding". The higher you bid -per click- the higher your ad will appear in search results related to your keywords.
You can also set a daily budget so when your budget is met, Google will not show your ad any more that day. It won't be clicked on and you won't be charged, and the whole cycle repeats the next day. This is an economical approach to advertise and land on Google's first page.
Or you can work your way to it.
The other way to get on page 1 of Google and other search engines is the organic, or natural, method. From the Google search result image above, examples of these are Best Buy and Walmart. These results cannot be achieved by paying money to Google - they are achieved with careful and longterm evolution of many factors that Google uses when ranking relevancy. Just as with sports or school - if you work hard, keep things current, and provide useful information - your website's reputation will rise in the mysterious rankings of the Google Algorithm Genies.
These are the top general factors that helps grade your website's relevancy to search keywords - and as a result, where your website would rank on a Google Search Result page for those keywords:
Keep in mind also, just because you rank well for one keyword or key phrase does not mean you will rank well for a similar keyword or phrase. Google is constantly updating their algorithms, so today's rankings may vary from those of tomorrow. Your website will move up and down in the rankings naturally.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
This information is pretty generalized, but should give you an idea of the factors responsible for your website's appearance in Search Engine Results. As your business changes, so does the need for your keywords and other website metadata to be updated.
Of course if this is more maintenance than you plan to devote to your website, there are a number of SEO or Website Developer consultants who can arrange a routine SEO management effort to keep your site's background data current!
Need a little more help with your TCT West email migration before year-end? We have a few additional resources for you
We are having a "Road Tour" of live, hands-on classroom events. Bring your laptops, phones, tablets, and perform the step-by-step instructions live on the classroom Wi-Fi. Have a large desktop unit at home, but you don't want to unplug 12 million cables? No problem - the classes will also provide handouts illustrating the same exact steps that we'll be doing live, so that you can repeat them at home on larger computers.
I'd like to thank TCT West for partnering up with Paintrock Consulting to offer a community education and support forum as part of their email changes.
The Pew Research organization estimates that this year, 2015, will see Millennials overtaking Baby Boomers in the workforce. We also know that Millennials are more prone to digital communication -at least as a first point of contact – when engaging with a new company, brand, service, provider, etc.
Virtually every website that you visit will have some sort of Contact feature – perhaps a separate page with multiple contact options: a fill-in form, email addresses, phone numbers, snail mail addresses, live chat, or multiple social media paths: Twitter handles, Facebook page links, Instagram feeds, and so on.
If you are a small business, keep this in mind: be sure to have Contact information, but you must also endeavor to monitor those incoming communications. It’s fine if you have a channel on every social media platform out there – but if you do, you’ll need to monitor those for engagement, at a minimum. Bonus if you devote the time to provide content to engage your existing and potential audiences.
The same applies to the most basic online contact – a fill-in form or email contact. Do you know where that information goes after a visitor to your website sends it? If not, you should do an immediate ‘health check’ on your website. Full disclosure, I’m not a millennial – more of a Gen Xer – but my communication style is all millennial. Millennials, and many others, are often behind keyboards or smart phones for most of the day. It is far easier for them, and me, to keep my fingers on the keyboard to reach out to your company – as opposed to stopping my productivity to pick up a phone and call you. If they reach out to a company, it’s usually digitally – texting, via social media, email, or submitting a fill-in contact form via your website.
When those inquiries are not handled, not only have you potentially lost a customer, but that person is likely going to share that frustration among other social media channels about your business. Case in point: over the last two weeks, I’ve submitted either emails or fill-in contact forms to the following entities, because I’ve just bought a home and would like various projects done: a home repair business, a co-op, a furniture store, a waste management company, an attorney, an insurance company, a car dealership, and probably some others that I can’t recall. How many of these entities contacted me back? Zero. None. In some cases I’ve reverted to phoning them, because they were the only providers in my area. But if there were more competition where I live, these businesses would not have been given a second chance to obtain my consumer dollars.
Don’t let your website disappoint a potential customer before they even have the chance to do business with you. Make sure all of your Contact lines of communication are active and addressed to prevent this problem.