How to Promote a Small Business Using Free Online Tools

Promoting a small business on the Internet seems straightforward, but many small business owners and marketing managers overlook important online tools that can transform a simple web presence into a powerful Internet traffic generating instrument. The most useful online tools available for promoting small businesses are easy-to-use and completely free, with the exception of the time invested. Save your advertising dollars to use on printed publications and real-world trade shows and discover surprising opportunities that are just a few mouse-clicks away.

Register for a free Google account by visiting the Google home page and providing the necessary personal information. Provided with the free Google account are several key items that will be useful for promoting your business. Gmail is a free web-based email service that may be accessed from anywhere an Internet connection is available and it has a great anti-spam filter. Google Documents is an important application because it includes a word processor which may be used to create and save documents online. For the best results using Google Documents, try the free Google Chrome web browser, which may also be downloaded from Google's home page.

Write simple, but informative articles about your small business using Google Documents. Articles may be about products, services and any interesting news or updates that are taking place within the company. Save each article as its own document. These articles are very important and will be used to provide content for other websites. Because the articles were created and saved online, each will be easily accessible when needed. Write several articles every day in order to build a collection of information, and have someone proofread each one for spelling and grammar errors.

Take pictures in and around the company using a digital camera. Photograph products, employees (with permission) and services as they are being provided by the company. Upload the photos from the digital camera to Picasa, which is also accessible through a link in your free Google account. These pictures may be used in conjunction with the articles to present a powerful representation of your small business and what it can do for the customer. Content is crucial to attracting visitors; it will be useful to have this collection of articles and pictures to draw upon as you build an online presence for the company.

Register a free Facebook account for your business. Sign up for a business page using the link toward the bottom of the page, which says "Create a page for a celebrity, band or business." Be creative and personalize the Facebook profile page for the business using your collection of pictures and articles. Refer new and existing customers to the company's Facebook page both over the phone and through links in email messages so that you will slowly build a following of loyal friends and customers. Designate time each week to update the company's profile page in order to keep the content fresh and relevant.

Create a personalized blog using a free blogging website. The same Google account login information may be used to access Blogger, which is owned and operated by Google. Tailor the topic and content of the blog to closely match the message that you feel will convince visitors to contact your company. If you already have a company website, use links from the blog to direct visitors to that site; otherwise direct them to the company's Facebook page, which should present all of the necessary contact information.

Promote both the Facebook profile page and the company blog using other free online resources such as Reddit, Twitter and Squidoo. Regardless of how many online accounts are created for the company, the most important component is always the content provided. Without premium content, your company's online presence is just another obstacle in the customer's way to finding the information they seek.

Do not create empty profile pages and on-line persona that leave visitors with too little information. Consumers search for products on the Internet because they want to learn more about them. If you can satisfy a visitor's need for information, your company stands a better chance of converting that visitor into a paying customer.

How to Automate a Haunted House Using Sensors

You've built a creepy haunted house and it's the scariest one around. How do you take it to the next level? Automate it using non-contact infrared photoelectric sensors to control electronic scare devices.

Haunted houses are designed to be very creepy and with enough volunteers, they may be loaded with frights around every corner. What if there are not enough volunteers available to haunt the house? Infrared photoelectric sensors are the perfect device to detect guests and to trigger electronic gadgets, such as noise makers or motorized animatronic characters, giving visitors a scare they won't soon forget.

Sensors are used every day in various industries ranging from food processing to automotive assembly lines. Some of the top commercial haunted houses in the country are now using the very same sensors to automate their haunted attractions, providing a far creepier presentation. Industrial sensors are available to the general public for less money than you might expect, giving the average Joe an opportunity to built a haunted house that rivals even the ones presented by major theme parks.

The easiest type of photoelectric sensor to use in a haunted house attraction is one that uses a mechanical relay switch. This type of sensor is as easy to wire and operate as a light switch. Also be sure that the photoelectric sensors use infrared light and do not display a visible light which would draw attention to them. Arrange the photoelectric sensors across from each other in a hallway or door jamb, or anywhere that a guest will pass between them. The guest will break the infrared beam of light, causing the mechanical relay switch in the photoelectric controller to close, which will provide power to a noise maker or animatronic device. Each time a guest passes the sensors, the same action will occur repeatedly without operator intervention. This allows volunteers in the haunted house to spend time mingling with the guests and not hiding behind walls, just making noise.

Related articles
How to Host a Spooky Halloween Karaoke Party
How to Make Trick-or-Treaters Feel Welcome


Telecommuting: Bringing the Work Back Home

The Industrial Revolution brought people out of cottage industries and into the public workplace. Years of long commutes back and forth to work and the stresses of dealing with heavy traffic and with strange office politics have left much of the workforce in search of a well-deserved break. Many people have discovered a path back to their cottages. They are the telecommuters.

In recent history, technology has opened a door of opportunity to employees that allows them to work from home. These employees are evolving into telecommuters. Modern communications technology and a drastic improvement in computer capabilities now allow workers to perform their jobs from home instead of requiring them to commute to and from the workplace.  In years past, if someone wasn't working from home, it meant that they didn't have a home and they were typically labeled a nomad. As time went by and people began congregating in centralized locations to perform their work duties, the idea of working from home became synonymous with being a nomad. It was even rumored that a person working from their home would likely wander from job to job. In present times, it seems that history is repeating itself and workers are making their way back home. (Whitford, 44)

A telecommuter, or "distance worker", as they are often called, is an employee who opens a channel between their place of work and their home to conduct business away from the office. (Wiscombe, 18) This channel may be a telephone line with a modem, a cable line with a broadband modem, or even a T1 line. Using this channel, an employee gains access to files on their computer and other company resources including, but not limited to, internal company servers and mainframes. Some businesses even offer a connection to their servers through a secure website on the Internet. There are many other contributors to the increase in telecommuting. Rick Howell, the vice president of human resources for The Heathman Group, a Portland Oregon based chain of hotels and restaurants, says, "The Internet has certainly helped speed things along, but there are many other forces driving the trend toward telecommuting. Email is a big factor and cell phones, laptops, fax machines, and wide area networks play a big part, too." (Whitford, 44)


Making Your Car Safe for Children

Your children are precious and you go to great lengths to make your home safe for them. Don't forget about making your car safe too.
Inspect your car, both inside and out on a weekly basis. Follow all routine maintenance schedules for your car as advised by the manufacturer, including oil changes, and tire rotations. Keep your state vehicle inspection up-to-date. Check the tread on your tires and also check the tire pressure regularly. Look for puddles under the car that may be indicators of serious problems. A puddle of water from the A/C is normal, but a puddle of oil or transmission fluid is not. While you are spending some quality time with your car, go ahead and wash it and clean all of the windows to provide maximum visibility.
Remove or secure loose objects in the car. In the event of a wreck or roll-over, loose objects will become projectiles and can seriously injure you and your children. This includes toys, tools, mp3 players, and anything that would hurt if thrown at your face with force. All of these things can either be stored in the glove box or in the trunk.
Have your car checked immediately if it begins to handle differently or make any strange noises. Extreme heat and cold are hazardous conditions for young children. Always crank your car several minutes prior to letting your children get in and let the temperature adjust to a comfortable level. Check all metal belt buckles and wait until they are cool to the touch before allowing your children to come in contact with them. Do not, under any circumstances, leave your child unattended in the car for any length of time!

Buy a new car seat or booster seat from a retail store. It's perfectly acceptable to buy second-hand clothes and toys for your child from a consignment sale, but car seats are constantly being recalled for safety issues. You don't have to buy the most expensive seat available, but if you buy a used one, you have no information about the history of the seat or whether it has been involved in a crash. Read the instructions for the new seat and install it to the best of your ability. Then, before placing your child in the seat, drive to the nearest fire station and ask if one of their "car seat certified installers" will give your seat a proper inspection. Keep all instruction manuals that came with the seat and check periodically for recall notices from the manufacturer. Many manufacturers will now let you register the seat and they will send an email alert to you if a recall is issued.

Talk to your children about being safe while riding in and exiting the car. Don’t allow fighting or yelling or anything that is distracting to the driver of the vehicle. Buckle your children’s safety belts or harnesses the moment they get into the car and do not let them unbuckle themselves until they are exiting the car. This may sound extreme, but there is a possibility that another car could impact your car, even while you are parked, and if your children are not buckled, they could sustain bad injuries. If you parallel park your car, tell your children to stay in the car and then let them exit on the side opposite the street. Do not allow children to run around in parking lots or parking garages!

Practice safe driving habits and make good choices. Always drive at or under the speed limit and constantly check your mirrors. If you identify a bad driver approaching you, do everything that you can to allow them to pass you and go on their way. Avoid causing or participating in road rage. Don’t speed up to try and make it through yellow traffic lights. Always leave early enough to make it to your destination on-time without driving fast. If you are going to be late, then just be late. If you cause an accident and hurt your children because you were in too much of a hurry, you will look back and wish you had just taken your time, so always think proactively in order to avoid all of that. If you will be driving with your children in the car at any point in a given evening, don’t drink alcohol at all!

Evaluate the cars of anyone else who will transport your child. Give them a safety checklist and see that they follow it. As a parent, it is your responsibility to keep your children safe, regardless of other people’s opinions or bad habits. If someone else’s vehicle or driving habits are unsafe for your children, do not let them ride with that person, regardless of what they say or whether it hurts their feelings. If this person loves and respects your children, they will make the effort to keep them safe too.

Related articles
Always Remember to Remove Your Baby from the Car
How to Back Up a Trailer


How to Equip Amusement Rides with the Right Sensors

The best types of sensors in an amusement park are the ones you don’t think about until maintenance time. Find the most reliable products and they will save you money and headaches all year long.

Evaluate each amusement ride individually. What type of sensing solution is currently in place? How well does it work? If it is possible to replace contact switches, otherwise known as limit switches, with a non-contact solution, it will greatly improve the uptime for that ride. Contact switches with moving parts wear out quickly, whereas non-contact sensors only need to be replaced in the event that they are destroyed by collision, Mother Nature, or extremely rough handling. Consult with a manufacturer or distributor of industrial sensors and ask them for assistance with your application. Any sensor company who is interested in doing business with you should be able to support the products and answer your questions.

If a new sensor is what you desire, the next decision is which type of sensing technology to implement. There are many sensors to choose from, but in the amusement industry, the top picks are infrared photoelectric sensors and inductive proximity sensors. A transmitter photo eye projects an infrared beam of light, which is invisible to the naked human eye. A receiver photo eye reports when it sees the beam and when it doesn’t and will pass a signal to the appropriate controller. Rides that require objects to be detected from a distance or in harsh conditions, like log flume rides, river rapids, and dark, smoky theme rides are great places for photoelectric sensors.

Try an inductive proximity sensor in areas where metal objects must be detected at close range. These sensors will only detect metal and their sensing distance is limited, but they are extremely tough and can take a beating. Rides like roller coasters, where the sensor may be mounted on the track and detect the metal in the train are good applications for inductive proximity sensors. Inductive proximity sensors are excellent replacements for limit switches.

Develop a routine maintenance schedule and replace all sensors in the amusement park at least once a year. This will ensure proper function and will keep the rides operating at their peak performance. Visitors will appreciate the ride availability and you will notice improved uptime and fewer replacements throughout the year.

Supplier of Industrial Photoelectric Sensors

Related articles
How to Detect Boats in a Log Flume Ride
How to Troubleshoot Photoelectric Sensors

How to Secure Your Home While Away on Summer Vacation

Summer is the perfect time to go away for a relaxing vacation. An unguarded home, however, is a perfect target for thieves. Take a few precautions before you leave for vacation to provide you peace of mind and true relaxation.

Secure your important information. Purchase a removable or external hard disk drive for your computer. Save all important files and financial records on this hard disk drive only and not on your primary hard drive. This portable drive should be removed from your home when you are away for extended periods and may be stored in a safe deposit box. All important hard copies of deeds, licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, unused credit cards, etc. should be kept secure in an off-site safe deposit box as well.

Secure the perimeter of your home. If you have a sliding glass door, place a broom handle or stick in the track of the door to prevent it from being opened. The latch on a sliding glass door is very easy to bypass. Drill holes in the upper right or left corner of all lower panes of your wooden windows and insert a long nail, which will make opening the window difficult from outside the home.

Ask a friend or trusted neighbor to collect your mail each day while you are away. Ask them to also walk around your home and look for anything strange. If possible, leave at least one car parked in your driveway and leave a few lights on inside the home. Purchase several timers and set them to turn on at dusk and turn off around the time you would normally go to bed. If a thief is watching your house, this may fool them into believing that someone is home.

Perform a walkthrough of your entire home and film everything using a video camera. Store the tape along with all other important items in your safe deposit box. This evidence will be useful to provide to the police and your insurance company if someone does manage to break in and steal or damage items in your home.

Inspect both the inside and outside of your home one last time before you leave. Unplug any dangerous or energy inefficient appliances and raise the temperature slightly on the thermostat. Check that your oven is turned off. Close all blinds or curtains, making it difficult to see into the home from outside. Make sure all exterior doors are locked and place padlocks on all gates, storage buildings, and crawlspace doors.

Related articles
How to Protect Your Family from Home Invaders
How to Prepare Your Home for Overnight Visitors


How to Fix the Center Console Armrest Cover in a Ford Explorer

When the center console armrest cover in your second generation (1995-2001) Ford Explorer has become cracked and ugly from years of sun damage, don't spend a lot of money replacing it. With a little effort, you can restore it and make it look brand new for under ten dollars.

Cut or tear off a piece of the damaged armrest cover. Visit a piece goods store and find the upholstery section. Show them the old material and ask them if they have anything similar in texture and color. For my repair, I purchased a yard of marine grade vinyl, which is used to recover boat seats, for under $8.00. In retrospect, a third of a yard should be plenty of material unless you are prone to accidents.

Lift the armrest cover to expose the inside of the console storage compartment. On the hinge in the back, you will see three Phillips head screws. Remove all three and place them in a cup holder. You won't need these screws again until you re-install the armrest cover.

Place the armrest cover with the bottom side facing up on a hard, flat surface. Around the perimeter of the cover, you will see nine Phillips head screws. Carefully remove each of these and place them in a safe location. Remove the plastic panel to expose the interior of the armrest cover. You should see a series of small staples that hold the vinyl material firmly in each of the corners.

Very carefully pry these staples out of the plastic armrest base. If the plastic base is old, it may have become brittle and you don't want to crack it. When all staples are removed, throw them away and remove the outer vinyl cover. Inspect the underlying foam material. If it looks OK, don't worry about replacing it.
Spread out the new vinyl material faced down on the flat surface and place the old vinyl material on top of it. Stretch it out as much as you can and trace the outline onto the new material using a pencil or pen. As long as you can recreate the basic shape of the original material, it should work. Don't worry if your new design is not as perfect as the original. It would actually benefit you to add up to an inch along the longer sides. Try to make the front and back of the new material match the original as closely as possible, though. Don't worry about cutting holes for the screws. They will punch through the material when you screw them back in. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut out the shape that you traced.

Cut two inch-long pieces of double stick tape and apply them to the plastic base, just inside the rear section. Lay the plastic base upside down on the new material and stretch the piece that corresponds to the back of the armrest so that it sticks to the tape. Now, place two small pieces of tape inside the front of the base. Lift the entire base and stretch the material towards the front. When the material is as tight as you can get it, fold it firmly onto the tape.

Flip the armrest right-side up and inspect your work so far. Does it feel tight? Are there any wrinkles? If there is anything that doesn't pass your inspection, remove the material and adjust it. After the next step, it will be harder and more aggravating to fix earlier mistakes.

Place the armrest upside-down again and apply pieces of tape just inside each corner. Stretch and fold the corners of the material so that they overlap and contour the corner very tightly. Fold each one so that they stick firmly to the tape. When the corners are done, apply tape to the sides and repeat the procedure.

Inspect the armrest cover once last time from above. The material should be stretched tightly around the entire perimeter of the armrest. The front corners should look round. Make sure there isn't any material sticking out that could interfere with the cover's opening and closing. If everything looks good, place the plastic panel back onto the underside of the cover and replace each Phillips screw.

Take the newly-covered armrest back to the Explorer and replace the three Phillips screws that you left in the cup holder back into the hinge. Open and close the armrest cover to make sure it has clearance on both sides.

Related articles
How to Find the Door Security Code for a Ford Explorer


How to Install an Electric Iron and Ironing Board Holder

A hot iron sitting on an ironing board is an accident waiting to happen when there are small children running around your home. Install a device that may be used to store the iron and board safely away and also free up needed space.

Choose the best place for the iron and board to be stored. This may be in a closet or bathroom area, but it should be a room with a door that can be closed in order to prevent access to it by small children. It is also a good idea to store the iron and board in a low-traffic area that is not frequently accessed by guests.
Using an electronic stud finder, locate the left and right edges of a wooden stud inside your wall. Mark the edges lightly with a pencil so that you will know where the middle of the stud is. These marks should be made in close proximity to the position on the wall where you will mount the holder.

Position the plastic holder on the wall in the area where you would like it to be permanently mounted. Firmly hold the plastic holder with one hand and with your other hand, hang the ironing board on the holder to be sure the holder is positioned high enough for the board to clear the floor. If there is a door nearby, check it for clearance too. Remove the board from the holder and align the holder so that that center mounting holes are between the pencil lines that you made to mark the wooden stud. Mark these holes using your pencil. It is a good idea to also check the sides of the holder using a level. If the holder is level, the board will hang level when the installation is complete.

Remove the holder from the wall and drill small pilot holes for each mounting hole. The pilot holes should be just smaller than the screw that will occupy the hole. If any of the screws do not match up with the wooden stud, insert a wall anchor to provide extra support. Place the plastic holder back onto the wall and apply screws to each one using your Phillips screwdriver. Do not over tighten the screws!

Insert the iron and wrap the cord so that it fits underneath. Insert the board and inspect the installation from all sides. Pull on the board and make sure the holder doesn't budge.

Related articles
How to Install Automatic Foundation Vents on Your Home
How to Magnetize and Demagnetize a Screwdriver


How to Confirm that Your Daughter is Dating a Good Guy

There are a number of things that a concerned parent can do to evaluate the character and intentions of their daughter's new boyfriend.

Plan an evening to meet your daughter's new boyfriend soon after you discover his existence. Make the event very casual and insist that the entire family is present. A nice dinner followed by an exciting board game or two will serve your purpose nicely. Whatever activity you choose, be sure it is one with lots of interaction between your family and the new guy. Note the appearance of the boyfriend when he shows up for dinner. Evaluate how he dresses and whether he shows signs of proper hygiene. Make him wait awhile before seeing your daughter to see if he grows impatient. Remember when you are talking to him, that you are dealing with someone from a different generation, so his interests may not be the same as your own. There are certain things that should transcend the generation gap, though, like good manners, good common sense, and respect for elders. Watch carefully for these things. This is his first test.

Ask plenty of questions throughout the evening and watch his body language closely. Does he seem comfortable with your daughter? Are they overly affectionate in front of the family? Watch how he interacts with everyone and whether he makes eye contact when you speak to him. These things are all important because if he does become a part of the family for an extended period of time, it will be nice to know that he is someone you can trust and who you will want to have around your family.
Keep a notebook and pen hidden in a separate room. Excuse yourself from time to time and write down your observations about the boyfriend's appearance and behavior. Also try to collect information like his name, where he lives, where he works, and how long he's lived in your area, but don't let it seem like you're interrogating him. At some point in the evening, discretely take a few "group" photos that include the new boyfriend so that you will have a permanent record of what he looks like, just in case. Tell him that you want photos to remember the evening and to post in your blog.

Use the resources available to you after he leaves to do a thorough background check. There are many websites available that you can use to search for criminal records and to find registered sex offenders. Don't assume that you can tell whether someone is decent or not by their outward appearance. Find out for sure. Have a serious discussion with your daughter about sex and about your dating rules if you have not already done so. Express to her the seriousness of the rules and be very clear of the consequences for breaking those rules.

Plan another evening with the new boyfriend out in public at a nice restaurant. Watch for signs of chivalry from the young man. Does he hold the door for your daughter and for other people? Is he polite to waiters and waitresses? Whether he ends up paying for his meal or not, does he offer? Try to spend some time alone with him, away from your daughter, and see if he tries to make conversation with you. Always be nice, but throw a few curve balls at him and see how he responds.

Keep very open communication with your daughter about her social life and be familiar with her friends, their interests, and where they like to hang out. Encourage her to always talk to you when she has a problem or when she needs advice. If you decide that her new boyfriend is not right for her, tell her your reasons, but let her make her own decisions. She may not take your advice, but if you demand that she no longer sees him, you can rest assured that you will quickly push her towards him. On the other hand, if you discover good things about the new boyfriend, tell your daughter and commend her on choosing a good guy. Whether she acknowledges it or not, she does value your opinions and by communicating both good and bad information with her without interjecting strong emotions, you encourage her to confide in you no matter what. Above all, enforce the rules established about dating with her whether you like the new boyfriend or not so that your daughter does not lose respect for your authority.

Related articles
Diffusing a Family Argument
Handling People Who are Rude to Your Family