/* */

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Mysteries of SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the most important element in building a successful website. Most people online have heard the term SEO and have some idea of what is involved yet it remains a mysterious process to many. One of the reasons SEO is so mysterious is that it can be a complicated endeavor and search engines are constantly changing the way they rank sites and the way the recognize the many tools of SEO.

Click Title to See All...

At the forefront of the SEO check and balance system is the leading search engine Google. They have pretty much set the standard for technology in search engine algorithms that can track the relevancy of a website to its content and SEO efforts. Their ranking system remains one of the most popular methods of determining a web site's quality because of their diligent efforts of weeding out the bad apples that have little to offer a consumer other than skilled manipulation and the ability to 'play the system' to their advantage.

Of course taking advantage of the system makes perfect sense from a business standpoint but from the search engine outlook of wanting to provide the best quality sites on their results for the viewer it can become difficult to differentiate the site that is good quality wise from the site that is good because it has a very manipulative operator at the helm.

Because the rules for SEO evolve and change rapidly the mystique of search engine optimization continues to confuse website owners. Many people build their websites thinking the only SEO tool they need is key word density. While key words are an important aspect in SEO they are not the only means to an end, they are simply a part of the puzzle. There is another tried and true method of SEO that is as relevant today as it was at the start of the concept of web 2.0 marketing and that is back linking. While back linking remains one of the most successful ways to get your site to rank high on the search engines it also has undergone some changes making the types of links important so that search engines do not penalize a site for bad incoming links.

The term "back link" refers to an outside link on another site that points to yours. In the past any link from another site would have a positive impact on your site by the search engines. Because there were so many gimmicks developed in the last few years to garner massive back links to websites such as link farms, and irrelevant reciprocal linking Google began to develop a way to weed out links that were purchased, or had little meaning or relevancy.

Even though back linking is used to manipulate search engine popularity there are many very legitimate reasons for using the system of back linking. Finding web sites that have a common interest to your own who are willing to place your link on their site can get you extra exposure. When their visitors come to their site they will see your link and likely visit your site as well.

The fact that onsite links like that have such a perceived relevance to the visitor makes them a valuable marketing tool, but that perception of quality is also why Google works so hard to be sure they are real quality links. You will get higher ranking on a search engine for a number of truly appropriate back linking partnerships however if the sites linking to you do not share any common information or products Google will penalize you for the link. There are new programs in the works with Google where your site could even be devalued if the site that links to you is determined to be bad quality so it is important who you choose to link to, and also who links to you.

In the past many web site owners would open up multiple websites with the sole purpose of promoting one principle site. They would use the extra websites as a means of placing back links to the main site. Google now watches for sites that are created with the same IP address. Creating a large number of websites on the same IP address and putting back links on them to quickly develop a number of links is known as link bombing. That is not to say that you cannot ever link to your own website from a site you own. If there is a reason to show your visitors some additional information a few well placed back links are fine. It is when there are many links from each site all pointing to a single 'main' site that the search engines look at them suspiciously.

The system Google is working hard to put in place to discount a link from a bad site is why it is very important to know who is linking to you and if their site stacks up to your standards. It is no longer true that all inbound links to your site are good links. There are very good tools available online for free that can show you who is linking to you. If you find a site that is linking to you that you feel is questionable in terms of how they relate to your website either in information or product you should contact the webmaster of the site and demand that they remove the link to your website to avoid being penalized by the search engines.

Probably the best way to obtain a back link to your site is through anchor text. That is when you have another website with content that is relevant to your own (relevancy is ALWAYS important) including your site in the actual content of their site with a hyperlink inside the text. These back links are valued much higher than a simple sidebar link as long as they appear in the text in a way that has a fluid and meaningful association with the content of the article. There are several ways to get such back links.

Providing articles to content sites with your link built into the article is one method. If you write very compelling information on your website is another as someone else with a similar site may wish to point it out on their own. You may not even realize they are doing it unless they tell you about it. This is one of the main reasons it is important to keep an eye on who is back linking to you. While the majority of those types of links are wonderful and you should thank the site owner for their inclusion, if you feel the site that is linking to you does not meet your standards, have similar information, or the content is not relevant to your site you should definitely ask them to remove your link.

Back linking is an extremely important aspect of SEO development and it is something you need to understand well in order to implement and control it properly. There are many secrets and mysteries in the SEO world that diligent study can clear up. Keeping your website in good standing with the search engines and popular with your visitors is the best way to ensure a vital and profitable future for your business online.

Video Search Engine Optimization

Video Search Engine Optimization - Most of us know that a site that's well configured for search engine access is a major part of getting high traffic levels. However, you might not have though about optimizing your video as well as the rest of your site. Since multimedia content is becoming a much more popular way of distributing information, correct video search engine optimization is important.

Click Title to See All...

For instance, on YouTube alone (which accounts for more than ninety-eight percent of the videos viewed via Google), more than eighty-two million people watched over four billion videos last year. That makes YouTube both the top video sharing site and the top video search engine.

YouTube receives as much as thirteen hours of new user-submitted video every minute, and more than fifty percent of the people watching videos online share links with other people. So, getting a good YouTube ranking could be an important way to bring people to your site.

For owners of video content, video search engine optimization is a good way to get exposure, ad income, and free traffic. Being discovered by the viewers has to happen before you can get lots of views. That means making sure that your data is rich in meta information, and that you use quality RSS or MRSS feeds that you update on a regular basis.

Make sure that your meta data is well placed and relevant to the topic. A cleaner can help you remove distracting or irrelevant meta information from the file.

Only after you produce well optimized content should you contact the search engines and submit your video. This places you in the queue of web crawlers, and means you'll be indexed more quickly and more often than if you hadn't bothered to submit. The more regularly your content is crawled, the better your chance of rating well on search results.

Index your site on other engines than Google or YouTube. They can spread your video to other search engines you may not have thought of. For instance, indexing your site on Blinkx will cause it to show up on Ask and MSN, among others.

One important part of your strategy should be a series of related videos. When a viewer sees a video online that he or she likes, there's a good likelihood that this viewer will look for others like them. While a single great video will be popular and welcomed, you'll do even better if it's part of a series.

Use an embedded video player, too. Many viewers will be more inclined to view your submission if it's part of your site or blog than if they had to go to your video hosting service to see it. However, you should avoid players that use only Flash. Don't use pop-up players, which annoy more people than they amuse, and will actually cause you to lose views.

The more views you get, the more likely you are to be picked up by other sites, linked to, and rank well on video searches. You can even customize embedded video players to display playlists related to your company, and adjust the layout, and other information.

Create traffic by placing a video search box on your site. This adds unique content and boosts ad revenue. Make sure that you create a video of the appropriate length for your audience, and that you're looking for the right response.

You can use analytics to find out how long a customer stays on your video page, which will tell you if your video is too long. You can also use analytics to tell you which of your videos get the best response. Once you know this, you'll be able to decide which content should be linked first on your home page.

Remember that no webcrawler has ever bought a product or a service. If you're a local business using video to advertise, clicks are a lot less important than calls. Include a call to action with your contact information as part of your video - thumbnails are an excellent way to do this. You can use YouTube to create thumbnails at the quarter, half, and three-quarter marks. Making sure that you have both a local listing and a video listing on Google's Search Engine Results Page also increases your likelihood of getting visits.

You may also wish to make sure that your videos are high enough quality for and in the right format for television. Google TV is very affordable, and lets you create closely targeted video.

Don't use Active X controls and export all files as swf format. Use Google Video sitemaps to help with navigation, and build a separate page for each video, rather than hosting many videos on the same page. Use a simple text title and description, and optimize that page as you would any other. Then, link to it from the index page.

Descriptions and titles need to be consistent across all your sites, and file names should descriptive and make sense to the viewer. Remember that Different communities require different approaches. Prominent keywords can help on many sites. However, while keyword rich content will help videos hosted on your site be noticed by Blinkx or Truveo, it won't help on YouTube.

You'll need to get the attention of the community in general. Video responses to popular, related videos can help get others to visit your contribution. Your content will appear in close proximity to videos that are already popular. Make sure you include an active URL in the description of your video, and end the video with a mention of the link. Annotations can help you link to other YouTube videos. Be sure to allow comments!

Never tag with irrelevant search terms, no matter how popular they might be. Remember that you need to appeal to real people, rather than just optimizing blindly. While you might turn up early in a search with good optimization, an unappealing video will cause people to pass you by. If you know what kind of content your audience prefers, you'll be able to create the right video marketing plan for your business or organization.

Video search engine optimization is an important part of any video marketing strategy. If you're planning to market your business or organization using multimedia content, creating it correctly and surrounding it with the right keywords and other information can help it be noticed. Before you submit a video, make sure it's optimized.

Successful SEO Begins With Keyword Research and Analytics

Many webmasters / online marketers make a common mistake when they begin doing business online. Often times, people do the processes necessary for their success - backwards. Rather than starting at the beginning and working forwards, they start at the end and work backwards. As a result, they waste more money and resources, often breaking the back of their business, well before they start to see any real success in their business.

Click Title to See All...

In my years of helping online marketers promote their businesses, I have seen business models that seemed to have all of the elements necessary to ensure great success. And unfortunately, I have seen many of these perfect business models fail miserably, because their owners failed to honor their business with a realistic promotional plan.

Putting The Cart Before The Horse

When people begin to promote their new business, this is where most people begin to err.

Just recently, I spoke with an individual who started a business in a pretty competitive field. I don't view heavy competition as being a bad thing. In fact, I find that there are often enough customers in any niche to support the additional competitors, especially when a new competitor answers a need not served by the current players.

The individual to whom I refer made his mistake by focusing 95% of his advertising budget on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), before he even knew what keywords would help him to be profitable in his business! He has so far blown $9,500 of his $10,000 to optimize his website for the search engines, and he still does not know what keywords will drive traffic to his website, leading to sales conversions for his website.

His "backwards" approach has left him with only $500 in his budget, with little hope for his future. He now emails me 4-5 times a week, always in a state of utter panic for the prospect of his future. All I can tell him is to be patient, since he has to learn how to "bootstrap" his way to success, now that he has no budget left to build strong and fast.

Test Your Copy First

Search Engine Optimization should "never" be a business' first step in the promotion process. Although SEO can bring great rewards, it can also be very expensive to implement. Look at it this way. What good is search optimization if you have optimized for the wrong keywords?

The first step in the promotion of any business should be focused on attracting potential customers to one's website.

The marketer needs to put human eyeballs on the website, so that they can test and tweak their sales copy for greater sales conversion.

Until a website has seen several hundred visitors, the sales copy should not be changed or tweaked. Sales copy should always be tested against a large statistical group of visitors, in order to ensure that the copy is given a fair and realistic test.

If the online marketer has a bit more money to start the process, often the best spent money will be to hire a professional copywriter to write the sales copy for the website. Professional copywriters have a skill, and that skill is to create the words that will drive people to buy what you are selling.

Test Traffic Is Important To The Process

Most Internet Marketing newbies are still focused on getting those first few hundred visitors to their websites.

At this point, there are systems like Link Referral and Traffic Swarm that can help the new business owner bring in a bit of traffic to their website. In a test with Link Referral, I am seeing 250 visitors per month. The neat thing about systems like these is that other members will review your website and offer good advice on how to improve your website, if necessary. Membership is free for both systems, with an option for paid upgrades.

The Law Of Attraction

While the traffic exchange systems mentioned above can send some traffic to your website, you are not going to get rich participating in those systems.

Once you have positioned your website to convert visitors to buyers, it is time to start attracting a larger number of visitors (potential customers) to your website.

There are a number of ways to do this, but two of the most effective are: Article Marketing and Pay-Per-Click Advertising.

Article Marketing

Mark Silver recently produced an exceptional home study course about writing articles that will help you be much more successful in your article marketing activities (http://thephantomwriters.com/heartofarticlemarketing).

Just last week, a friend of mine told me that he has not promoted his website in over a year, yet he noticed that his website has a steady stream of traffic to it, from the three-dozen articles that he wrote and distributed in 2006 and 2007. He said that his ebook continues to produce new sales each and every month, and the only thing he can really attribute those continuing sales to is the articles that are available on the Internet that are promoting his website and ebook.

Article marketing, in and of itself, is a promotional tool that will allow a marketer to bring regular visitors to his or her website, and if the website does its job well, then the website will be able to convert those visitors to buyers. This is important, because all businesses need money coming into a website early, to ensure that the business can survive financially, until the long-term "recipe for profit" can be found and duplicated reliably.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is a process where you bid on keywords in the major search engines, through Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing, etc. You tell the search engine companies what words you desire to bid on and how much you are willing to pay for a visitor, and the highest bidders for that keyword phrase will be shown above and to the right of the free results in the search engine results pages.

Keyword research, utilizing systems like Word Tracker, or my favorite, NicheBot will enable you to brainstorm keywords and get a good idea of which keywords might be more profitable for your business.

By utilizing Google Analytics or Yahoo's Panama Full Analytics (traffic analysis), an online marketer can follow a visitor from the search engine to the marketer's sales page. Where this is important is it enables an online marketer to uncover the essential business knowledge of which "keywords" will bring people into a website and help convert those visitors into customers.

Essential SEO Knowledge

What one must keep in mind is that some keywords will deliver visitors who will never buy, while other keywords will deliver visitors who are extremely likely to buy. This one paragraph holds within it the secret to a successful SEO strategy. This is the essential knowledge that a marketer should have, before engaging in any Search Engine Optimization campaign.

Like I said previously in this article, "Although SEO can bring great rewards, it can also be very expensive to implement."

If you are going to spend a lot of money to optimize your website for the search engines, doesn't it make much more sense to target the keywords that will actually help you to earn back your investment?

The Backwards Thinking

The backwards thinking I referred to in the beginning of this article was the idea that many people put SEO in front of their keyword research, keyword tracking and keyword conversion statistics.

An industry I like to pick on is the travel industry. In order to rank well for the solitary keyword "travel" in the search engines will require an astronomical SEO budget. But most people seeking travel information are looking for something just a bit more specific, like: Disney vacations, Hawaii vacations, and European travel.

So long as a keyword has been proven to convert visitors and sales, then it makes sense to optimize for that keyword. But you will never truly know which keywords will convert visitors and sales, until you have invested some of your budget into pay-per-click advertising and traffic analysis.

Once the necessary "keyword" knowledge is in hand, then the marketer can make an investment into search engine optimization for those keywords that can actually make them money, and with good SEO deployment, the marketer can find that they can actually capture a lot of the search engine traffic for specific keywords through the search engines' free listings.

Web Design in a World of Change

When it comes to web design one of the things I really like to see for a more hands-free experience for visitors is self-updating code.

In some cases this information is free. In other instances you may have to pay something to use it or allow the information to be ad supported.

Let's say for instance that you sell replica NASCAR vehicles. You might want the latest NASCAR news on your website. You can search for sources that provide the information either as scrolling text or in a side box.

Click Title to See All...

There are sites that can make customizable content for your website for things like recipes, news, gardening as well as music and entertainment news. You can paste the code they supply into a webpage and watch as that information is updated on a regular basis.

This can be an important element for those who don't want static information on their homepage and can utilize information relevant to the primary business website.

It is likely that if a visitor clicks on a link within the text of this information they will be taken away from your webpage, but if they are used to finding that information with you they will likely come back for more.

It is sometimes difficult for business owners to keep up with every aspect of their industry and this type of updating tool allows comprehensive and current information to flow without intervention from the site owner.

One site that seems to do a good job of listing lots of free content for websites is http://www.freesticky.com/stickyweb/. Categories include cartoons, education, entertainment, sports, news, maps, weather, tips and advice to name a few.

Most online sites look for relevant and changing content. The use of a free article directory can help you locate very specific content for your website, but for news and current events it can be difficult to broker individual agreements to cover the use of current content. That's why finding self-updating source code can be important to your web design.

You can even segment small portions of your website to include things like a quote of the day, this day in history, unusual facts, daily questions and even games.

These elements can add some personality to your website as visitors become used to intriguing content that never seems to stay the same even when other content might.

You should know that not every html code you place on your website will match the look and feel of your website. There may be some adjustment you can make to help this. It is also possible that the code may interfere with your website design and you may need some help from a code expert to either fix the coding issue or find something else that may be more suitable.

Some individuals are also using RSS feeds to accomplish a similar goal. The point is that no matter the method you use to obtain the information the addition of content that remains in a state of flux can help in providing an improved user experience for your regular site visitor.

Internet Marketing, Tracking Your Results

One of the biggest mistakes that newbies make when taking their first steps into Google AdWords is not tracking the results. But this doesn't only happen with Google AdWords but with all new types of marketing. The majority of people and companies do not track their results or do not track properly.

When people start tracking their marketing it is all too common that the wrong results are being monitored. For example if you start a new marketing campaign and notice that your website traffic increases by 50% this must be a positive result... Not quite. Just because your website gets more visitors doesn't mean that you get more money.

Click Title to See All...

When monitoring your marketing it is vital that you monitor your profit, not your turnover or the number of visitors to your website. The only true representation of how successful your marketing has been is how much profit you have made.

There are many ways you can start tracking your marketing, if your customers phone you up to place an order or enquire about your products. You can simply ask them, how did you find us? Which search engine did you use? What search term did you use?

Using this method you can generate good results although you allways get some customers who was handed your info by someone else and some people just don't seem to remember how they found you.

If you are selling your products online using a e-commerce shopping cart or even a service like Paypal you can track every step a visitor makes all the way through to purchase. Google has their own monitoring tool called Google Analytics. This tool allows you to monitor every visitor into your website, you can see what traffic sources provide your visitors, how many pages they visit, which page do the leave on.

Google Analytics has a powerful tool called Conversions, you can define what you class as a conversion for example this maybe the thank you page after someone has purchased one of your products, it may be the thank you page after someone has joined your mailing list or subscribed to your newsletter.

You can then take this a step further and create a sequence of conversions, this is often called a sales funnel. You may for example set up a conversion for when someone enters their name and email into your squeeze page. A second conversion may then exist on the page containing how to buy your product and finally and conversion at the end of a shopping cart.

Using this method you can see how many people get to your squeeze page, who then goes on to find out more and finally the percentage of visitors who go on to purchase one of your products.

When you are successfully tracking your marketing campaigns you will always know which keywords from which traffic sources are generating you the most profit. You can identify what does not work, ignore it and then concentrate on your marketing that gives you the best results.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

3 Steps to Finding A Profitable Market Niche For Free

When I first started my Internet Business I learned a simple rule from a mentor at the time:

1) Find a starving crowd.
2) Find out what they want to eat.
3) Feed it to them

I would add an extra step between 2 and 3:

2.a) Validate it

Easy to say, but what exactly does it mean..?

Let's assume that you've already worked out what industry you're targeting.

Within that industry you need to find a niche that you can dominate. Here are some steps you can follow:

1) Find a starving crowd.

This refers to finding a market niche, and here are some ways to do that.

1.a ) Join Forums:

There are thousands of forums online, covering pretty much any subject you can think of. Go to Google and do a search for forums relating to the industry you've picked.

You'll need to spend some time assessing forums that are worthwhile - there are thousands of forums online, but only a minority of them will be worth your time and effort.

They'll be the ones with a large, active membership, where a reasonable proportion of the posts have a lot of replies, where rules relating to forum behaviour are politely but firmly enforced and where activity is current.

When you've identified and joined the right forum(s) take time to get to know people, and make valuable contributions wherever you can to establish a level of credibility and trust.

1.b) Off-line niche hunting:

As with so many aspects of running an online business - don't limit yourself to online activities and resources. Go off line. And that applies to market research too.

Bookstores are a great way to identify profitable market niches: if there's an offline magazine targeting a niche you're interested in, the likelihood is that it's a potentially profitable niche.

2) Find out what they want to eat:

As you come to know the forum you will begin to see a thread of frequently asked questions emerging. As an example, in one of the forums in which I participate new members are frequently asking for recommendations about the best free autoresponder service.

This was so obviously an area that people new to marketing online were interested in that it prompted me to write a recent blog post on it.

Another way to identify what people are searching for is to check out the most searched-for items on eBay.

eBay is the biggest online marketplace and people who make searches on eBay are people who are actively looking for something - they're ready to buy.

A great starting point for finding out what people are searching for on eBay is this index of eBay searches:


Once you identify something that's being searched for regularly on eBay or from the forums, or from your off-line research, you can then go to the next step:

2.a) Validate it:

Here's a way to validate a niche that looks interesting:

Go to Google and enter a search query for your term. See how many results come back. This is the number of pages that appear to answer the search query you entered - and these are probably going to be your competition.

Next you should check out the number of searches per month that are made for your search term.

There are several applications available that will give you both these answers and give you ratios of searches to results, competitive information, etc.

But you can save yourself the money by checking out the search results in Google and Yahoo, and using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal (free) to get an indication of the number of searches per month.

Yahoo also had a publicly available keyword tool, called the Overture Keyword Selector Tool, but it appears to have been taken offline for the moment.

I understand that Yahoo is upgrading it, so it would be worth checking for it periodically, because the old version had more functionality and enabled you to get more granular results than Adwords - so it was more helpful.

Anyway - you're looking for a high number of searches and a low number of results. This would indicate that there's a lot of interest in the niche (high number of searches) and it's not particularly competitive (low number of results).

But beware: a low number of results could also indicate that the niche is not profitable!

So how to find out if the niche is profitable?

Check the sponsored results on the right hand side of the search results pages.

Too few would indicate that the niche is not profitable and too many would suggest that there's too much competition.

I look for between 1 - 3 pages (11 - 30 ads) of sponsored results. To me this would indicate a niche that's potentially profitable and not too competitive.

You then need to monitor these ads for some time. If the majority of the ads are consistently being displayed after 10 - 20 days this would also indicate the niche is profitable - because these ads would quickly disappear if it was not!

3) Feed it to them

Once you've found out what your starving crowd wants to eat, and validated that it's a potentially profitable niche, you need to feed it to them - which is the easiest step of all.

You can either develop your own product or identify an affiliate product that meets the needs you've identified, and then set up your marketing campaign.

So, to summarise:

1) Find a starving crowd: know what industry you're targeting and join relevant forums, research eBay or research bookstores to get your niche.

2) Find out what they want to eat: become active in the forums and look out for questions that are asked frequently, look for very targeted searches on eBay or magazines focused on a tiny niche within your market.

2.a) Validate your niche: check out the number of searches and results in a month, check out the sponsored ads and see whether there's a regularly published off line magazine focused on your niche.

3) Feed it to them: Develop your product or find an affiliate product and develop your marketing campaign.

7 Steps to Earning Customer Trust Online

Keeping in theme with my recent article about ingredients to surviving in online business, let's talk about earning customer trust. How do you get customers to trust you?

A recent survey found that 81% of consumers don't trust small online businesses.

You cannot survive in online business if your customers do not trust you. If they don't trust you, they will never buy and you will fail. It's that simple.

Unfortunately, earning customer trust online is not an easy task, especially when there are so many bigger brands out there where they can easily purchase most of the items they are looking for. That brings me to the first item.

1. Branding

Branding is more than just marketing. It's a way to establish your business as a familiar face, and familiar faces become trusted more than strange ones. The more branding you are able to accomplish, the more trust you will gain.

2. Make yourself appear larger.

This is really just an extension of branding, but you also have to make sure that brand is conveying as professional an image as possible. This means a good-looking logo, a nice usable site design, and maintaining a solid reputation.

3. Design

Like I just said (and have numerous times in the past), site design is crucial. That is, if you want customers to think of you in a trustworthy and credible light.

Why should a customer take a chance on a small unknown site if it is presented in a sloppy and difficult-to-use manner? They can just as easily find a competitor's site that looks better and spend their money there.

4. Reputation

I have talked about this numerous times too. You have to maintain a positive reputation if you want customers to trust you. People can Google your business and they most likely will if they've never heard of you.

This is why you have to periodically find out what people are saying about you online and do your best to counter any negativity out there. Don't hide from customer reviews.
Of course you also don't want to create a bad reputation on your own. You could do this inadvertently through social media, blog posts etc. Just think about what you're saying before you attach your name (especially the name of your business) to something you're posting online.

5. Security and Privacy

Customers need to feel secure at your site, and you need to take measures to earn their trust in this area as well.

This means privacy policies. We've run a couple videos on this, so check those out.

Customers also like to see SSL certificates. It makes them feel safer on your site. Read this article from Stoney deGeyter to see what other privacy and security concerns customers have.

6. Testimonials

Testimonials are a form of marketing, and can be an effective one. Besides that though, they represent your business as one that has satisfied customers in the past.

If you can get recognizable names to vouch for your business, that's even better. Again, customers find familiar faces more trustworthy than strange ones.

7. Humanize Your Business

Like Wayne Hurlbert says, "People buy from other people they know and trust". This is why it is a good idea to humanize your business.

Don't be shy about including photos and bios of your staff on your site. Maintaining blogs is another good idea, but humanize those too. Don't just fill them with press releases. Make them fun, and reflect the writers' personalities. Show people that your business is run by flesh and blood people and is not just some cold robot entity who's after their money.

Building trust on the Internet is no easy feat, but it's not impossible. The more trust that you earn, the higher your sales will climb, so it is in your best interest to do everything you can to get it.

Do you have any other suggestions for building trust online?

Problem and Solution Marketing

I came across an interesting article at Small Business Branding by Ed Roach, who discusses selling your product by marketing through "pain points".

The concept while certainly not a new one is still an effective strategy. Basically, you're just figuring out who your target market is, and considering what gives them the biggest headaches, and that's your marketing angle. Thoughts on this strategy?

You need to make them understand that they have a problem, and you are the solution.

It kind of ties into the scare-tactics marketing strategy I touched upon here, but perhaps not quite at such an extreme level. I guess that would really depend on what the customers' problem was.

The point is that customers need a reason to buy what you're selling. If you can make them understand why they need your product, you will have a better chance of making the sale.
Customers don't always realize that they have the problem that requires your solution, even though they do in fact have that problem.

For example, pest control company Orkin offers termite inspections. It is possible that if you had not seen their ad about termite inspections, it would have never even occurred to you that you should have one done. All the while, termites may have been destroying your home from the inside out.

They have presented a problem that you have, and right along with it, they are giving you the solution.

Even if you decide to shop around for the best deal on a termite inspection, they have put the idea in your head, and their business is right in front of you, which even if it doesn't land them a sale directly, it has accomplished some degree of branding in your mind.

Do you utilize this type of marketing strategy when it comes to your business? Do you think it is effective?

SES San Jose Gets Fresh With Marketers

SES San Jose has come 'round the calendar again and while the event is now a routine part of the search marketer's year, there are newer focuses in 2008 keeping conversations fresh and progressive. Where previous years had centered on linking, keyword strategies, viral marketing, tagging, and other standard fare, this year adds a surprising shift in flavor toward video SEO, search marketing economics, and even some peripheral subjects.

Video SEO

Ever since YouTube smacked the Web in 2005, followed by the iconic purchase by Google, web video cast a bit of a shadow over social networking. Now that Google is crawling Flash, video is even more front and center. In this textual report, Greg Jarboe explains the importance of video relativity and how sharing increases exposure. But truer to form, we also have videos on the video concept, one from YuMe.com VP Bob Bahramipour, explaining how textual search relates to online video, and another from video search engine Pixsy's Chase Norlin on how RSS feeds are crucial to video SEO.

The Search Economy

Everybody's on a tighter budget these days, including marketers. In this video, LuxuryLink.com's Sean Walsh talks about how the economy is affecting paid search, and repeats his bear market outlook in a summary from the State of the Search Industry session. Budgeting for search, then, becomes more important than ever, a topic continued as marketers ask Where's Money for Search Going?

Twitter, Google Boogie, iADD

One thing many weren't talking about last year was Twitter. In a video interview Michael Gray talks about this "really, really interesting tool." While we had his ear, we also pinged Gray about developing inbound links while staying on Google's good side. Speaking of Google's good side, Andy Beal posts a few photos from the Google Dance, where geeks go to get down; hopefully they're not dancing to the "Rock Band" tunes emitting from a dedicated stage.

Feel like we're jumping topics a lot? Blame the Internet. Lee Siegal thinks the Web is damaging our attention spans. Maybe that will provide another straw for Microsoft to grasp as Satya Nadella, in his keynote, tries to simultaneously get search marketers' attention while convincing them Microsoft is just as good as Google in the search department. Maybe they should enlist Seinfeld for search as well as for the PC.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What Does Your Web Design Do For You

There are so many websites on the internet nowadays, so if you want a great website that stands out from the crowd, you are going to have to have brilliant web design incorporated into it.

A website that is badly designed will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. If you want a website that is remembered for the right reasons, you are going to have to have a design that makes your website unique.

Click Title to See All...

Your web design is the first thing that people notice when they arrive at your website. If you have an untidy website with bad graphics and terrible navigation, you are going to lose your readers and viewers right from the start. That is why web design is important in the process of creating a successful website. Whether it is a personal website or one that you intend to use for business purposes, it needs to be well designed and well maintained.

If you can grab the reader's attention by graphics that are relevant and useful, text that is of a very high quality, colors and layouts that are easy on the eye, then you are half way there! Research has shown that more people buy from websites that are designed professionally and look trustworthy, rather than quickly made and with badly thought out designs.

So, you can see how important your web design really is now. There are many ways to improve your web design, both for free and by hiring someone else to do it for you. Which you choose will depend on your budget and your time frame. A busy web designer may not be able to fit you in for months.

How you layout your website is also very important. You may have lots of great content on your website that people would love to read, but what if they can't find it? If you haven't clearly and easily laid out your website in the web design process, your readers won't be able to find any other pages. This could be disastrous if you are selling some kind of service or product.

All in all the web design aspect is only a small part of getting your website up and running, however, it is very important. When you are designing your website, remember to make it easy to navigate, concise and clear.

If you are not familiar with web design and all the aspects that go into creating a website, it may be worth your while looking for a professional web designer or a pre made template. Web designers come with different price tags all depending on where you get them from and what you need doing.

If you want a relatively simple design you will be looking at a fairly cheap price. If you are looking for a complex website with many features you can expect to pay a fair amount of money for it. A good designer will include you all throughout the process. You will be able to approve the website as many times as required.

Ready-made templates are great if you don't have the budget for a professional designer and don't have the time to learn how to create one from scratch. There are many free ones that you find on the Internet or ones that you can buy for a small amount of money.

Innovative Ways to Market

Marketing is a three-syllable word that seems so simple, yet encompasses so much. Marketing is a multi-faceted approach to promoting a product or service. Both traditional and unconventional marketing methods have a place in the small business world. Marketing helps small businesses focus on building their brand and identity.

Click Title to See All...

There are few limitations to marketing options, and the opportunities listed here are just a few that will generally result in a decent ROI (Return On Investment) for most small businesses. That said, do not be afraid to be creative -- no one knows or understands a small business like its owner, so think outside of the box and don't be afraid to experiment.

Identity Continuity

Create continuity between an online website, logos, letterheads, business cards, and packaging. Create an identity that will make your business stand out from the competition, and leave a good initial impression on potential customers. A professional image associated with your company or product will remind customers of their past brand experiences, and will reinforce your product line.

Trade Publications

Niche publications are journals or magazines that focus on a specific market. If your product or service is appropriate for a specific market, then advertising in their trade publications will allow you to immediately drill down and target that very specific audience.

Promotional Items

Branded giveaways have long been used by marketers to attract potential customers. Products that have a long shelf life will help keep your business in the forefront of a customer's mind. Weeks, months, and even years after a product is purchased or service is performed, promotional items will remind the customer of your brand.


Solicit product reviews from reputable industry sources, magazine reviewers, bloggers, or industry journalists. Product reviews lend credibility to a product or company.

Keyword Advertising

In order to help your website's search engine ranking, use keyword advertising. Focused and targeted keyword advertising will drive web traffic that has a genuine interest in your product or service.

Niche Directories

Use online niche directories to promote products or services. Visitors who frequent topical directories have a strong interest and are more likely to purchase.

Viral Marking

Once known as "word of mouth" marketing, viral marketing has taken on a life of its own. Encourage product buzz, as well as customers referring customers.

Opt-In Email Marketing

Use email as a marketing tool to notify your existing customers about specials, new products or services, or product releases and updates. While some say email marketing is dead, others say that measured results of email marketing tell a very different story. Opt-in, targeted email marketing works, and produces results when done correctly.

Partnerships / Strategic Relationships

We see large companies leveraging their assets every day, and small online businesses should too! Whether it be as a partner, an affiliate, or a strategic relationship, all of these relationships can benefit small businesses. Businesses can use strategic relationships to penetrate niche markets. Affiliates can expand their reach and tap into the customer bases of similar products. Partners can provide additional value to existing products or services. Determine what types of relationships could be beneficial to your small business.

Online Classifieds

Craigslist is likely the best known online classified system. Classified systems increase visibility and are often overlooked by small businesses. Consider posting classifieds that relate to product or services, and monitor the results.

Sponsorship / Contests

Contests not only encourage customers to have fun, but also generate publicity and draw attention to your company and brand. Sponsor industry events, run contests, or donate prizes to industry contests in order to increase visibility and generate goodwill.


Communication is critical to all businesses, and small businesses are no exception. Be sure to establish a communication channel with customers and potential customers. Newsletters are a very popular communication channel for software developers.


RSS is growing in popularity. It is an alternative communication channel that has the benefit of reaching a larger audience through syndication. Supplement and enhance email and newsletter campaigns by providing an RSS channel for their content.

Forums / Newsgroups

Participation in newsgroups and forums will result in building credibility. Business relationships will often result from online dialogue in industry forums and newsgroups. Actively participate and always behave in a professional manner.

Forum / Email Signatures

All forum posts and emails you send should contain a "signature" that advertises your business name, tag line, and URL.


Blogging and posting comments on blogs can result in an increase in web links and traffic. Socialization and engaging others with well thought out comments can establish a business reputation and generate product interest.


YouTube is a boon to business. If you are creative, consider compiling an educational or humorous video. YouTube is a huge distribution channel and can generate product or industry interest.

Press Releases

The avenue to inexpensive press! Write a press release to promote new products or services and reap the benefits with media attention.

Article Syndication

Writing articles can help lend credibility to your product line and improve your business reputation.

Local Newspapers

Contact local newspapers and pitch a unique story to them. Publicity is free and can generate discussions and interest.

Consider exploring alternative channels for advertising and marketing. Keep in mind that advertising need not be costly; creative marketers can often find inexpensive avenues that will result in a great return.

Use Regular Text to Improve your SEO without Pay for Click

What triggers popularity with a search engine has always been elusive. You have to change how you market your website and even build it to make search engines rank it on their top page. For someone new on the scene, it can appear to be a daunting task. Here in this article we will look at the latest in SEO and SEM by starting with the site itself.

Click Title to See All...

First thing is what not to do. Remember back when websites would have massive keyword lists at the bottom or top of the pages? These words were paragraphs long and didn't make any sense at all! The human eye knew that it didn't mean anything, but this text was designed for SEO and to trick the search engines. Sure, it worked for awhile, but now search engines are wise to our tricks. They know these paragraphs are designed only for SEO, which now will get you penalized.

Create Search Engine-Friendly Content

Simply said, make sure you put a good amount of text on your website talking to your audience, not the search engine. Search Engines can now detect if a sentence doesn't make sense. For SEO make sure you write text for your site the same way you would speak. The trick is to make sure your keywords show up in your text about 2% of the time. If you do it too much, the search engine will know what you are up to and begin to penalize you again.

Do not use Flash or text embedded images either. Search engines ignore these things. They are very bad for SEO. For images that you do have on your sites, attaching alt image tags with a brief sentence that describes the image, using some keywords, will go far to get you points. Also use heading tags and do not try to hide keywords by making them the same color as your page. While this used to work for SEO, now it is the fastest way to get sunk to the bottom of the page. Sure, it might work for a week or two, but after that your ranking will begin to decline.

As you write your content you may notice that the longer your text gets, the harder it is to keep your keywords at the optimal amount. Some will be higher and others will be lower. Writing more only seems to lower the keywords that are having trouble!

You will want to make sure that your home page text is informative, but concise. Pick the keywords you want to target on your homepage wisely. If you have other keywords you want to focus on for SEO you may want to consider creating a landing page.

A landing page is in essence like another homepage that funnels traffic into your site. It will provide a fair bit of information with links to your main site. This way if people search for keywords not targeted on your homepage, they can still find you on the major search engines. Creating multiple landing pages for different sets of keywords is very hot right now with SEO, and it works. A good landing page doesn't take long to generate as it should be just one page long and directly link to your site right away.

You will also want to generate a site map.

A site map, in case you're new to this internet thing, is a page from your site that is strictly text links of your site. It is like a table of contents in a book that shows all the links that are presented on your site. Search Engines eat this up, especially the big ones. Each time you make a site map change, you can ping these search engines to re-index. That will keep your rankings fresh.

Speaking of keeping it fresh, that is another thing that is great for SEO. Make sure to update your website once a week. The changes don't have to be big. They could be very small like changing the homepage text or posting comments on your services page. Any change will be considered as keeping your site fresh which search engines love. One of the worst things you can do for SEO is to have a stale website. No one likes outdated information and neither do search engines.

Are Your Marketing Strategies and your Website on the Same Page?

Last week a sales rep from a local printing company walked in to my office to pimp his company's "superior" printing services. I gave him a few minutes and he proceeded to give me his pitch, walk me through his large list of printing capabilities, and show me a smattering of past print jobs that included an impressive mix of brochures, folders and binders with fancy die cuts, foil stamping and intricate embossing.

Click Title to See All...

His sales presentation was actually very good and I imagine that he does a great job of new business development for his company. As I walked him out the door, he handed me his card and some cool branded notepads and I told him that I'd keep him in mind on future print jobs.

Upon sitting back down at my computer, I grabbed his card and typed in their website address. This is where things went down hill.

The Not-So-Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Now let me preface this by saying that I'm a marketing consultant/website developer by trade. So my critical eye for proper website design and usability is a bit more sensitive than the next guy. But wow, this company's website was REALLY bad. Their design looked remedial, severely dated and unorganized. Their logo looked completely different than the logo on their business card and notepads. The content was poorly written. There were very few images of printing samples. And upon scanning their printing capabilities page, several of the services that the sales person had mentioned were nowhere to be found.

I threw his card in the circular file (the trash). I kept the notepads.

This situation serves as a good example of the vital role that a website plays in your company's overall sales and marketing strategies. It is critical that your website convey a consistent brand image, perceived value and sales message for those soft-selling opportunities that happen when you're not present.

A Quick Test for Your Website
1. Can a website visitor get a thorough understanding of your bread-and-butter product/service and reach your contact info page in two clicks or less?
2. Is your website design and content consistent with the quality of your company and its products/services?
3. If you looked at your website and sales materials/brochures side by side, are they conveying a consistent brand image?
4. If your salesperson were to read aloud your website's content word-for-word during a sales call, would they close the sale?
I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. If you answered "NO" to any of the questions above, your website probably needs some work.
A Marketing Strategy Lesson
Back to the printing company with the horrid website. Let's say they've come to their senses and hired me to revamp their website. In our initial meeting, I would do a quick audit to learn about the different strategies and tactics they use to develop new business. Next, I would find that they execute a nice mix of advertising, sales and local tradeshows, and since they are a printer, they have very nice brochures. They even do educational sessions on the latest printing techniques through their local Chamber of Commerce.
When I ask about their website, they say, "It's a low priority and we've always worried about the cost."
With so many opportunities to utilize the online tools to market your business and sell your wares, it's a shame that so many companies view the web as their last priority. And some don't even realize the amount of clients and dollars that are going to their competitors who have made an appropriate investment.
5 Ways to Get Your Website on the Same Page
1. Perceived Value - First impressions are everything. In the first few seconds of a site visit, your website's design quality and content layout is subliminally communicating your company's value to the visitor. If your site's design quality is poor or unorganized, your company will be perceived as poor quality and unorganized, and thus, the visitor bounces.
How to Get On the Same Page: Work with a professional website designer who can help you design your site's look and feel to match (or exceed) the quality of your company, products and services.
2. Brand Consistency - Your company's brand is what people think of you. And whether people notice a magazine ad, see your booth at a tradeshow or find your website, it's vital that you present a clear and consistent sense of who you are at every customer touch point.
How to Get On the Same Page: Everything you put in front of a customer needs to look and sound consistent. This means every ad, every brochure, your website, corporate identity elements, etc. An integrated campaign works wonders when designed professionally by a single designer or agency.

3. Message/Content Quality - I've said it before and I'll say it again…content is king. Keeping your website updated with fresh, high-quality, informative content positions you as an expert in your field. And people want to do business with experts.
How to Get On the Same Page: Hiring a professional content developer/copywriter is a great way to ensure that your message is delivered in a high-quality fashion, and with a consistent voice. Have the copywriter sit down with your salespeople to discuss the most effective messaging to help convert your visitors into buyers.
4. Self Promotion: Be Your Own Cheerleader - If you're not promoting your latest happenings (new product/service offerings, company news, upcoming educational sessions, tradeshows, etc.), no one else is going to. But don't get caught with a site that is difficult or costly to update. Nothing screams "dinosaur" like seeing a news page where the last news item was from two years ago.
How to Get On The Same Page: If your salespeople are out there telling customers about a new product or an upcoming educational session, your website should be doing the same. Frequent site updates tell customers that you are an active company that is on the move, as well as providing new content that serves as food for search engine spiders.
5. Track Your ROI - It baffles me that companies will spend thousands of dollars each year on marketing tactics that make tracking your return very difficult (a.k.a. advertising, direct mail, brochures, etc.), but they won't spend a few thousand dollars to build a decent website with an analytics program that practically gives you a two-way mirror to watch your prospect's browsing behavior.
How to Get On the Same Page: Website analytics, and even e-mail marketing, now offers great, inexpensive tools for customer research and ROI tracking that not only help you calculate ROI, but also help you hone your marketing strategies towards the content/messaging, products and services that bring home the bacon.
The Bottom Line
How many clients has that printing company lost over the years because of their poor, neglected website? Who knows? The bottom line is: they lost my business, and as a marketing consultant, the amount of stuff that my clients print alone could probably pay for a website in a matter of years.

Italics - When you should use them

The purpose of italic typefaces is to aid comprehension by separating off certain words and phrases from their surrounding text. But when exactly should you use italics?

The basic purpose in typesetting a story or article for a book, newspaper or periodical, for print or online, is to enhance understanding of the text and thereby make the reading an easy, pleasant experience.

Roman type is the straightforward, upright type we read everyday in our newspapers, magazines and books, and on our monitors.

Click Title to See All...

Italic is the 'handwriting' equivalent of whatever roman font we are reading. It has a sloping cursive quality that reminds us of the manual writing we learned in primary school.

Bold type is roman or italic font that has been emphasized by thickening and making it darker than the surrounding text.

The question is: when should we use which version of a particular typeface - roman, italic, or bold? The answer must focus on the reader's needs and the reading experience.

It is obvious that for most copy the roman version of the chosen font should be used. This is because, having an upright face, it is the easiest to read and it is what readers expect.

Because the bold version of a font makes text stand out strongly, it is used for highlighting important words, phrases and sections. Thus headlines, decks and subheads set in bold will, along with pull-quotes and other tricks of the typesetter's art, provide the casual scanner with clues as to what your article or story is all about. The judicious use of bold in this way will induce him or her to read the main story.

Bold however is too strong to be used, except very occasionally, within body text. To set off words from surrounding text is the main function of italics.

So when should you use italics exactly? Here's a sort of check-list, a mixture of accepted practice and my personal opinion.

Most of these when-to-use-italics rules apply equally to words in body copy, head-lines and captions, and whether you are typesetting books, articles, stories or web-pages.

[1] The names of ships and aircraft; eg: The Caribbean Cruiser sank yesterday. This is the oldest when-to-use-italics rule. It allows the reader to quickly grasp what is being referred to in the message.

[2] The titles of poems; eg: As You Go Dancing by James Stewart is famous among the literati of the Arabian Gulf. This is another very traditional use of italics that enables quick reader-uptake.

[3] Foreign words; eg: We turned left and found ourselves in a cul de sac. Another very traditional use of italics that makes for quicker reading.

[4] The titles of books, newspapers, articles and stories occurring within a sentence without further explanation; eg: The Saturday edition of the Limerick Leader was always on the streets by Friday afternoon.

However titles that appear within larger works are not italicized but are set off in quotation marks; eg: 'An Irishman's Diary' in the Irish Times is sometimes interesting.

[5] Latin phrases used to classify living things; eg: Many people wonder why mankind is referred to as homo sapiens. Another use of italics that has been around ab aeterno.

[6] Where a word is used as an example rather than for its meaning; eg: The word Kennedy is a proper noun. This is neater than setting the noun within single quotes as in: The word 'Kennedy' is a proper noun.

[7] For introducing new terms; eg: In Freudian psychology reference is made to the ego, the super-ego, and the id. This is a neat solution to highlighting words that will probably be explained later.

[8] For the subjects of definitions; eg: An odd number is any number that cannot be divided by two. This is useful for the reader as, should he or she wish to refer back to the definition later, a word in italics among a sea of roman letters is easy to find.

[9] For mathematical symbols: eg: The standard acceleration of gravity g is 9.81183 metres per second per second. The symbol does not need to be surrounded by commas or single quotes which would be required if it were set in roman type.

[10] For emphasis; eg: Janice wasn't the only girl at the party. The use of italics for emphasis is less intrusive than bold and more subtly suggestive.

[11] To indicate a character's internal reflections in stories; eg: This just does not seem right, Janice thought. However many writers prefer other ways of expressing inner thoughts.

[12] Using a letter or number as a noun; eg: He was vexed because they had left out the d in his name. However many writers would prefer to put a letter or number used in this way between quotes: eg; He was vexed because they had left out the 'd' in his name.

That's about it for the when-to-use italics rules. Except, what should you do if you need to use italics within italics?

If some word or phrase that should be italicised is already within a run of italics, the trick is to switch back to roman type for that word or phrase; eg: I'm in a really weird situation, Janice thought.

This italics-within-italics solution works best when italics are used to highlight internal reflections; eg: Why can't we just look up Wikipedia for the answer? he wondered to himself.

Of course, you don't have to follow these when-to-use-italics rules. However most of them are in current use because they do aid reader comprehension.

Indeed, most of us have an instinct as to when the use of italics is appropriate. Perhaps you can devise better rules of your own. If so, let me know.

Ten SEO Mistakes Made on Database Driven Websites

Search engine friendly websites is one of those often heard phrases, both from web site development companies and from their clients. Everyone knows that this is important to have, and yet it is one of the things that is actually often overlooked.
Click Title to See All...

Search engine optimisation companies actually spend a lot of their time analysing a website and removing barriers to the search engines ranking a site highly. At the web development level, it is possible to build a site that is perfectly search engine friendly. One of the hardest types of sites to get right though are database driven websites. Listed below are ten of the most common issues that are created, often unknowingly, in the development process of a dynamically generated web site.

1. Pages with duplicate content - not enough differential areas within the pages, so that only small areas of the page change from page to page. It is essential that enough of the page text changes for the search engines to see an appreciable difference between one page and the next.

2. Pages with duplicate page titles - the page title is a great indicator to the search engines of the primary content of the page. Whilst this is often unique on sites such as e-commerce websites, it is often overlooked in other sites, particularly where small areas of the site are generated from a database, such as news pages.

3. Pages with duplicate meta descriptions - again, this is easy to overlook and set a global or category level meta description. These give the search engines a reason to penalise your site for not giving them enough information, and again, creating a unique meta description for every page is an essential SEO task.

4. Using auto-generation of pages as a shortcut instead of creating good content. This is linked quite closely to point 1, where it is possible to create pages that have only a tiny percentage difference between them. Databases are fantastic ways of storing information, but you still need to put the work in to fill them with content. Unique information about the subject of the page will immensely help both the long tail and the ability of the search engines to determine that a page is valuable.

5. Creating pages that are hidden behind form submissions or javascript postbacks that cannot be accessed by a search engine crawler. This is far more common that is generally realised. For instance .NET creates postback links by default instead of proper links - potentially making huge sections of a site unreachable. Likewise, it is easy to hide lovely content rich areas of your site behind a drop down selector in a form that means certain areas of the site are not visible.

6. Too many query strings - this is a common bugbear of the professional SEO, where complicated database selections create deep levels of pages, but with seven or eight &id= type strings. Additionally, some bad development methodology can leave pages with null query strings that appear in every URL but don't do anything. The answer to this is generally URL rewrites, creating much more search engine friendly and user-friendly URLs!

7. Putting query strings in different orders when accessed through different places - this can create duplicate content issues, which can cause major penalties.

8. Not using user language to generate automated pages - if you are going to create a database driven website that uses words in the query strings (or better in rewritten URLs) make sure that you use words that will help you with SEO - if you sell widgets, make sure you are using the word widgets somewhere in the URL instead of just product= or id= - keyword research can assist with this.

9. Not allowing the meta data and title to be edited easily after the site build. It is possible to hardcode the generation of meta information into a database that doesn't allow it to be edited later. Creating a mechanism for modifying this information initially helps everyone at a later stage when the information needs changing without shoehorning it into an already developed structure.

10. Creating keyword stuffed pages by using auto-generation. Once upon a time, search engines quite liked pages with high densities of your keywords, but now these are likely to get you marked down rather than up. So be aware when creating pages that long pages with lots of your products on can create too high a density. For instance listing blue widgets, light blue widgets, navy blue widgets, sky blue widgets is going to create a page with a very dense page for the phrase "blue widgets".

These are just 10 of the most common potential optimisation pitfalls when creating dynamic websites. There are many more facets to producing a great database driven site, including user friendliness, speed, performance and security, but they all add together to make the best solution to your needs.

The Effectiveness of an Empty Space

There are so many facets of ad design that get hammered home in article after article. Everyone is telling you how to maximize your headline's impact and how to make your font stand out amid a sea of marketing.

So much time is spent on what should go into your ad that we sometimes neglect one of the most important and eye catching elements, the empty spaces.

This is really one of the simplest, but easiest to mess up, factors of your print design. Have you ever listened to a song like the Who's "Wont Get Fooled Again" or similar songs that build up to a crescendo then suddenly have a break in the music before kicking the guitars back into overdrive? That empty space in the music is powerful.

It can give you goose bumps and it can make a whole room feel electric. When the music starts again and breaks that moment of silence, the notes sound louder and more powerful as a result. This isn't a trick that is reserved only for musicians. The same principle applies to ad design (or any sort of design, for that matter).

What you should be shooting for is to draw attention to the important parts of your ad: the message, the offer or the image. People at times and it is an easy trap to fall into, make the mistake of simply enlarging the item they are trying to bring focus to. Granted, disproportionately large text can stand out, but it also has the effect of making an ad seem lop sided or amateur.

The eye needs to be drawn to your focus, though, and the most effective and most professional looking way to do this is through the use of space. Don't clutter your ad with unnecessary text and images, especially around the main areas, since they can detract from the central focus.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that if there's a big empty space in your ad that you have to fill it with something. Just include the pieces that are necessary to effectively convey your idea or message. If you just have too much information that has to be conveyed about your product, you should save it for a brochure or catalogue instead of jumbling it all together in your advertisement.

There are no hard and fast rules dictating how much or how little space you should have in your ad, but a good rule of thumb is to leave at least one fourth of ad space empty.

The same applies to the images you use in your ad. When taking photos keep it clean and free of distracting clutter. Use a background that will accentuate your product and make it stand out. For example, using an image of your product against the back drop of your office's out of date plaid wallpaper, is going to be distracting.

Space can make your ad design sleek and professional in appearance and that is what will make an impression on consumers. Sometimes, it is not what you do with the space you are given, it is what you do not do that counts.

Search Engine Ranking: How to Improve your Search Engine Position

Your search engine ranking depends on a number of factors: assuming you get listed in the first place. If you have managed to get that listing then you can improve your search engine position by means of links back to your website and also by improving your content.
Significant improvements, however, will likely involve radical restructuring of your website, and would have been better thought out before building your site.
Many so-called SEO experts will attempt to make sure that all your meta tags are in place, even though they have little bearing any more on your search engine rank, be that on Google, Yahoo, MSN or Ask.

They might even have a look at your internal linking, but once you have built your website it is too late for that. Your internal linking strategy should have been formulated prior to constructing your website. There are ways to design a site to be search engine friendly, and I use them all the time.

The very first two websites I tried these techniques on each reached page #1 on Google for their main keyword within less than a month. They were listed within two days due to other techniques I use, but their high listings were due to the site design. I then designed a third, and true to form, it reached page #1.

You want that success as well, and it is not difficult to achieve. However, it involves starting from the bottom up, although there is a lot that you can do with your existing website apart from just playing around with meta tags. I am not suggesting that you shouldn't make sure that you have meta descriptions and a title tag in your html, but they are nothing like as significant as the changes I make to my websites to improve their search engine ranking. Not even close!
There are a number of changes you can make to improve your search engine position, ranging from your internal linking to the way you lead the spiders around your site.

Just ask yourself one simple question: what determines your search engine rank on Google? How does Google calculate your search engine position? That's the first thing you have to learn if you want to improve yours. You have to know your enemy to beat him.

It's not only links, as many would have you believe, or I would never have achieved a Page 1 position so quickly. In fact of my two main websites, one is at ~1 and the other at #2 for their main keyword: the titles of their first page. I achieved that by using a silo structure in my website design, but not only that. Many people use silos without achieving high search engine ranking.

I added a little more, and made sure that the search engine spiders moved from one section of my home page to another, exactly as I wanted them to, before leaving for the next page at exactly the point I wanted it to.

It's not difficult, and you can do it too. In fact anybody can get a top search engine ranking, or improve their search engine position (everybody can't be top!), with just a little thought, and by using a couple of simple rules when designing their web pages.

One of these is by using a silo structure, and the other is by careful use of their html, and of their internal links.

32 Most Important SEO Tips

Following these simple tips will definitely boost your traffic and search engine rankings for free.
1. Make sure your site is not under construction, incomplete, with little or no unique content.
2. When your site is ready, submit it to Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK.com. Consider also submitting to other search engine but most of them are powered by these four leading search engines. Submit also your site to reputable high PR web directories, open directories, yellow pages and social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us, furl, etc.
3. Submit your sitemap to Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK.com (sitemap for search engines usually in XML format)
4. Offer sitemap to your site visitors for easy page navigation. (sitemap for visitors in HTML format)
5. Create unique and rich content sites. Avoid duplicate content. Do not create multiple pages, sub-domains, domains, mirror sites or sites with different domain names but same content.

6. Check your keywords and make sure they are relevant and actually are contained in your site. Avoid keywords stuffing.
7. Use text instead of images in your content, links and important subjects.
8. Make your TITLE and ALT tags descriptive, simple and keyword rich. Avoid irrelevant and repeated keywords.
9. Title tag should be 60-80 characters maximum length.
10. Meta tag description should be 160-180 characters including spaces. (about 25-30 words)
11. Meta Tag keywords must be 15-20 words maximum.
12. Optimize Pages with Headings (H1, H2, H3..) containing your site's primary keywords.
13. Validate your CSS and HTML. Check for errors and broken links.
14. If your site contains dynamic pages(i.e., the URL contains a "?" character), make sure you use SEO friendly URLs. Search engines' spiders having difficulty indexing dynamic pages.
15. Maximum links per page must be fewer than 100. Avoid the risk of being flagged as link farm by search engines.
16. Use Lynx as text browser to check your site. (http://lynx.isc.org/)
17. Allow search bots (good ones) to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site.
18. Check your web server/host if it supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. It tells search engines whether your content has changed since last crawled your site. It will save you bandwidth, resources and avoid server overload.
19. Use Robots.txt file to manage and control search engine spiders in indexing your site. You can allow and disallow spiders and choose directories you want to be crawled and indexed. But with bad bots or spam bots you need to modify your HTACCESS file to properly and effectively manage bots or spiders. Visit http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/faq.html to learn more about Robots.txt file.
20. Do not attempt to present different content to search engines than what you show to your site visitors.
21. Avoid dirty tricks and exploiting loop holes to improve search engines ranking.

22. Avoid links to bad neighborhood such as web spammers, link farms, phishing, hacker, crack, gambling, porn and scam sites. Linking to them will greatly affects your search engine rankings.
23. Do not attempt to join in link schemes, excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging and link exchange web rings.
24. Do not use unauthorized programs or online tools to submit your site, check page rankings and other automated queries. Avoid the risk of being flagged as spam.
25. Do not use hidden text and links. Show to search engines what you show to your vistors. It will greatly affect your site's reputation.
26. Do not attempt to create pages that contains phishing, scam, viruses, trojans, backdoors, spyware, adware and other malicious programs.
27. Make your site useful and informative.
28. Improve your link building. Link to high PR websites. Quality of relevant links are far more important than quantity. Links will greatly improve your site's visibility, popularity and rankings. Search engines consider links as votes to your site.
29. Check your page link structure. Every page should be reachable by a single static text link.
30. Be extra careful in purchasing SEO services. Some uses illegal and questionable ways to improve rankings.
31. Do not buy or sell links.
32. Do not create sites that contains purely affiliate links and no valuable content that are useful to the users.
I hope these tips will add more popularity and visibility to your site. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Big Yahoo Investor Poised To Back Icahn

The survival chances of Yahoo's board could diminish greatly if powerful investor Gordon Crawford decides Carl Icahn's proposed slate of directors looks better than the current Yahoo board.

In the deep waters of high finance, a few really big sharks cruise in search of tasty critters to devour. A few, like Icahn, T. Boone Pickens, and now Crawford have broken the surface with their impressive dorsal fins to shatter the nerves around Yahoo's Amity Island.

Jerry Yang will need a much bigger boat if, as All Things D observed, Capital Research Global Investors’ Crawford opts to throw in his lot with corporate raider Icahn and company. Kara Swisher cited several sources regarding a recent, less than pleasant, chat Crawford and Yang had while their respective posses looked on from the sidelines.
Yang and Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock repaid the executives who recently left the company with sharp jabs in the back, as reward for their previous service. Those departures in the wake of another Yahoo reorganization should not be blamed on the present leadership, so Yang and the board seems to believe.

Crawford evidently isn't having any of it, and may be leaning more toward Icahn's sweeping proposal, one that aims at maximizing shareholder value. As if on cue, Microsoft re-entered the picture and said they're willing to talk deals with Yahoo. Just not this current bunch of Yahoo leaders.

It could be Crawford who ends up influencing a change of leadership at Yahoo, and perhaps a change of ownership as well.

A certain tradition involving Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football began over 50 years ago. Now, as Yahoo has once again claimed it's open to the idea of an acquisition, it's beginning to look like Steve Ballmer and Jerry Yang might set some record of their own.

Lucy was never in danger of getting fired, of course, and since Jerry Yang and Yahoo's board face that threat, that may explain why their latest press release sounds rather bitter. Even though Yahoo kept Microsoft from achieving its goal for a while, the company's running out of options.

The release notes, "Mr. Ballmer and Mr. Icahn have teamed up in an apparent effort to force Yahoo! into selling to Microsoft its Search business at a price to be determined in a future 'negotiation' between Mr. Icahn's directors and Microsoft's management."

As for what Yahoo's doing about this, "[W]e again invite them to make a proposal immediately. And if Mr. Icahn has an actual plan for Yahoo! beyond hoping that Microsoft might actually consummate a deal which they have repeatedly walked away from, we would be very interested in hearing it."

Still, with less than a month to go until Yahoo's annual stockholder meeting, Microsoft doesn't have much of an incentive to trust Yahoo instead of Icahn. We'll see if Steve Ballmer can outthink the famous " round-headed kid."

A Baker's Dozen: Ways to Increase Link Density

In today's race to the top of the Google SERP's (Search Engine Result Pages), there are a number of factors that can help you achieve those coveted spots. While certain techniques may weigh better than others based on your industry and level of competition, there is no questioning the power of links.

There are several methods, some common and some yet to be discovered, you can try out to help boost your link density and search rankings. While it would be near impossible to go into great detail on all methods (that would require a book) below I have outlined some of the more common techniques a web site owner can use to increase their site's popularity.

1. Reciprocal Links
Reciprocal links used to be a huge asset and played a significant role. Today, fewer sites are employing this technique as it is thought by many to have no role in the eyes of Google. This is simply not true. While the overall value of reciprocal links has declined over the years, they can and will still help your rankings if done correctly.

The key with reciprocal links is very simple - relevance. If you trade links only with highly relevant sites, you will get value from this. There are some things to watch out for: ensure that the links returning to you are spider friendly, that they reside on pages with as few links as possible, and are contextualized, meaning the content on the page, and preferably the site as a whole, is related to the content of your link and site.

If you contact a relevant site to request a link exchange, keep the email personal to help grab the attention of the webmaster. Most link exchange emails are spammy automated submissions and are deleted without being read. Write the subject and entire email in such a way as to entice the user to read on, but keep it short. Offer to put their link up first, or even better yet, put it up before you contact them.

2. Purchasing Links
Google has been devaluing links, and in extreme cases, even penalizing sites for selling links, but there is no denying that this technique still works as many sites have skyrocketed to the top of the SERP's through the art of buying links.

Many high profile sites such as major and local newspaper publications sell text links, yet nobody seems to be penalized for it as the publications rank well with high PR and the site they link to ranks well as a result.

If you choose to take the gamble and purchase links back to your site, check out how they are linking back, how relevant they are, and try to get a sense of how their site is treated by Google. If you see other sites that appear to have purchased links from them, check their back links and see if the linking site appears (although it may not be displayed as Google displays very little of this information to the public these days).

It is thought that if penalties will arise from the sale of links, that only the selling site will be penalized. Even if this is the case, Google's policy could change at any moment, so be warned that this could potentially come back to bite you.

3. Industry Contacts
Get in touch with your industry contacts and ask them if they will link to your site. You just never know, and the worst they can say is no. This is usually best requested in person or by phone if it is someone you have a good relationship with. It may include manufacturers or retailers of your products, or various business partners and companies you have a relationship with.

4. Good Old Fashion Content
Believe it or not it works. If your site is loaded with original, valuable content, you will get some people linking to your site on their own. While you can not base your entire linking strategy around this concept, as it could take forever to get enough links, rest assured knowing that if you build it, some will link.

5. Build a Blog
Everyone and their dog seem to have a blog these days, and for good reason - they work. Blogs help you create a never ending stream of content, and if updated regularly, written well, and interesting, you will find people will link to it. Not only that, others may pick up your blog through your RSS feed - this can result in an increase in both links and site traffic. Be sure to utilize your Digg and other social media accounts within your blog to help gain a little extra attention.

6. Social Media
Promote your site and your blog using various social media tools. When someone "Diggs" or "Stumbles" your article you can not only get a link back to your site from the media platform, but you can also see traffic generated by this. The more people that flag your article, the more traffic you can get, and the higher the value of the link.

Creating company profile pages on platforms such as Squidoo, Facebook, MySpace, and even uploading photos and videos to Flickr and YouTube, can all count as back links to your site, so be sure to utilize these platforms to the fullest extent. Do not use these networks to spam them full of links, but rather to inform. Build unique relevant content and become a member of the community, and you will find your links will work much harder for you.

7. Article Syndication
When you write worthwhile articles, submit them to any known article aggregation websites in your industry or great general portals such as ezinearticles.com. When submitted to the right places you can drive traffic and increase your links. Again, be sure to include a link or two within your article that links back to your site when possible.

8. Press Releases
Press releases are still doing wonders. When your business hits a milestone, releases a new product, or has anything worthy of a press release, issue one through the services of PRWeb. You will get a link back to your site, and you may also get some targeted traffic from those interested when reading your release.

If your press release is of significant news, you may also find bloggers and other writers referencing it and linking to it from their articles, providing even more value. Ensure that with any press release you include deep links back into your site. Links from within the bio are helpful, but those integrated into paragraphs of the release are worth much more.

I know I am going to get a hard time for this one, but if used wisely, it can help. When reading relevant blog posts, if you have something useful, constructive, and worthwhile to say, leave a comment and include your link if they provide the option. A comment like: "nice post" is inappropriate, but if you have something to add or contribute that others will find of interest then go for it. These links can add up, and they do add some value. Don't stuff your comment or name with keywords, keep it natural, and use your real name.

10. Form Posts and Signatures
This is an area where you may be able to grab a few links, but it is also one you need to be careful about as it can backfire. I do NOT recommend going out and wildly posting in random forums and including your link.

Where this area can be useful is if you establish yourself as a solid contributor to a particular forum directly related to your industry. Once you are established, and people know and trust your name, and understand that you are not there as a spammer, then you can consider adding your link to your signature file, and including the odd link in your forum posts when it is fully in context. This will allow you to get the odd relevant, inbound link. Check with the terms of the specific forum though before you start. Some do not allow links of any kind.

11. Testimonials
You see them on many sites offering products or services, and quite often they include a link back to the submitter's website. If you have used a product or service, don't be afraid to write a testimonial for the company. In many cases online businesses will post your testimonial along with a link. The testimonial helps that business instill confidence in their customers, and you get the valuable link back.

12. Directory Submissions
Yes, do still submit your site to the major directories. While DMOZ can be very difficult to get into, once you are there, it is like gold and will play a part in your top rankings. Yahoo directory has a high price $299US, but can also provide you with a valuable inbound link. Consider submitting to the major directories, as well as any industry specific directories. These links add up and will contribute to your site's well being.

13. Link Bait
We have heard this phrase thrown around for a while now, but the technique has worked long before the phrase "link bait" was coined. Why all the hype? Because it works.

Take a look at your web site, your business and your industry. See if you can think of some way to attract people to link to your site. Perhaps sponsor a contest, add an elaborate and unique tool, write a controversial article, provide something useful for free - whatever you do, do it well, and promote the heck out of it, and people will naturally link to you.

A Few General Rules:
Before you actively seek out a link from a specific site do some investigating to ensure that the site is not spamming or using any black hat techniques. If they are, run.

If the link you are seeking is merely for you to try and boost your link density, then also check out how they are linking to other third party sites.

Does the site use the rel=nofollow attribute? Are the pages your link would reside on blocked by the search engines, or do they use the robots Meta nofollow? Are they using other techniques that would not allow a spider to follow them (such as JavaScript, Flash, or frames)? If so you may want to move on.

And a note on Google PR (Page Rank) - the PR you see on your toolbar is outdated. While it can give you some insight, just because it says 0, doesn't mean it is. Also what has a 0 or 1 today, could be a 4 or 5 tomorrow. Don't use PR as your sole means of deciding if you should obtain a link or not.

Using any or all of these linking methods will help you to increase your link density. There is power in diversification. Use variations on anchor text and descriptions, use inline text links within articles, and gain links in as many different venues as possible. By being diverse your site will stand the best chance of being around well into the future.

Today, blogs are huge and can be a strong asset, but what would happen if tomorrow Google decided to ban blogs? Highly unlikely, but it could happen, and if it did, would your site survive? By being diverse, your site has the best chance to survive change.