Archive for the ‘Website Visibility’ Category

Spring Cleaning Website Work: Local Searches

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Many of us small business types create services for a local community.  We do not need to be found by someone several states away.  To answer this need Yahoo, Google, Yelp, Best of the Web, hot frog, and Bing have local search directories.  Because of the types of details that you can include in these listings, they can be an important part of your online marketing strategy.

As your business changes, your listings in these local search services should also change.  However, because they are not directly part of your website, it is easy to forget that these listings exist.  In some cases, the listings exist without you creating them.

So along with your other spring cleaning chores, consider looking at your local listings.  Maybe you have new or different

  • product offerings,
  • hours of operations
  • locations
  • accreditations
  • brands
  • payment options
  • pictures or videos of your services

These listings can be quite powerful if you keep them up-to-date with the right information.

Improve Website Download Speeds and Improve Online Marketing

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Why?

Search engines are the business of figuring out how to deliver to you links the content you want to go to.  On the basic level, the site needs to have the information you need or want.  However, another consideration is how easy is it for you to get to that information.  If a site loads slowly, you may get frustrated and move (and blame the search engine.)  If you do a search on “SEO” and “Load Times,” you will find a number of articles pointing to this very idea.

Mobile devices typically load pages slower than a broadband connection.  As mobile devices become more prevalent, download speeds will be much more important.

What to Do?

Eliminate Flash as much as possible.  Flash sites are very pretty, but Steve Jobs (Apple) among others consider the program a memory hog that slows down sites and causes other problems.

Reduce the use of images or make your images simpler

Make sure your code is compliant.  (http://validator.w3.org/).

Using streaming video instead of video that has to be completely downloaded before it shows.

Ask you developer to use CSS (Div tags) rather than tables

Keep your pages simple

2 Design Techniques that Look Good on PC’s, but not Mobile Phones

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Having a website that displays well on a mobile device and your PC is becoming increasingly more important.  According to http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com by 2013, more visitors will be using mobile devices to access websites than will be using PC’s.

The big difference is both simple and profound.  A typical desktop and larger laptop can easily hold a design that is 1024 pixels (14 inches) wide.  A large cell phone has a maximum screen width of about 6 inches.   When a mobile phone displays a website design it has two choices, make the display smaller or smash the design.

When the design uses fixed widths, as was common a few years ago and is common in many free templates, the phone has to make the text smaller to fit on the screen.  If the reading are of the site is too wide, then the user may have zoom in to read the site.  Then they have to use the scroll bars constantly to read the page.

A better design divides the content into floating sections labeled as “div tags.”  These content areas can change their width according to the screen width.  However, if the design uses many color transition effects that are designed to be a set height or specific background images, the graphic design can get distorted on a smaller screen.

The best website designs of the future will focus on one of two choices.

  • Use a very simple and clean look that can flexibly change sizes
  • Develop a different design for mobile devices.  (The site would be programmed to automatically choose the right site based on the browser coming to the site.)

To Search Engines, not All Identical Keywords Are Equal

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

In our previous post we talked about how to identify the right keywords to use to be attractive to a search engine.

The next step is to determine where to put those keywords.  Not all places on a website are treated equally.

The most important places for a word (roughly in order) are the

  1. Domain name
  2. The page name
  3. The page title (which may or may not appear in the actual content) and possibly the page description (which will not appear in the actual content)
  4. Headings on the page
  5. Regular content
  6. As alternate text for video files and pictures.

If at this point you are thinking it would be wise to use a word or phrase as often as possible, then you would be partially correct.  If the search engines believe you are duplicating content for the purpose of beefing up your relevancy scores, they will subtract points from their relevancy rankings for your page(s).  You can also be dinged for the same web content appear on more than one website, or repeating content too often.

So the point is to use the words, just don’t go overboard.

Some of these items, such as the heading and regular content are readily accessible for you to change.  If you use a content management system, make sure that your provider either makes these details available to you or is willing to make the appropriate changes for you.  This area is one where good programming makes all the difference in the world.

Keywords, Choose Them Wisely to Drive Website Traffic

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

People come to your site 3 ways:

  1. They find a link to it (because someone liked the content on your site.)
  2. They type it in (because you told them about it, such as on your business card or an advertisement)
  3. They searched for something, and the search results point to your page (because you did a good job of convincing the search engines that your site is worthy.)

So how do the search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) determine whether a site is worthy?  They start quite literally, by cataloging the number of times each word or phrase shows up on each of your web pages as well throughout your website.  (Yes, it is a very large database.)  They then take a number of factors into consideration and give your web pages a relative importance rank for each of the words they have catalogued.  These factors include the use of social media, the number of links coming into the page, the number of visits to the page, and others.

When someone types in a search phrase, the search engine looks into its magical database and asks what sites are the most relevant.

The takeaway point is this:  if your site does not include the terms used by people doing searches, they will never find your site because it will not be in their master database.

So how do you find out what people actually search on? You do some tedious research.  http://www.seobook.com has a lot of good information for free.  Another source is www.wordtracker.com, and www.keywordiscovery.com.  The pay-per-click advertising programs such as http://adwords.google.com, Bing, and Yahoo also have key word search tools.

To use these tools you will type in a search term and the tool will tell you how many searches used that term or phrase.  Good tools will also provide you a list of similar phrases and the number of searches tied to those terms and phrases.   Remember that different search engines and processes attract different people, so the exact statistics will vary from tool to tool.  If you do this yourself, you will likely need to create a spreadsheet of key words and how many times they appear before you can make a good decision.

Once you determine what the most important keywords are, use them in all of your campaigns and materials.

If you need help determining the keywords for your business, please give us a call at 615-479-7518.

An Intro to Search Engine Optimization

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Welcome to the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a sometimes frustrating experience of getting on the elusive first page of a search engine’s listings. Many of us want to know the “secret,” but if the secret became wide known, then a lot of people with bad intentions would scam the system and get ranked higher than people honestly trying to do business. Nevertheless there are several factors that influence how well your page ranks. There are some additional factors that a good search engine optimization expert and your website develop should delve into on your behalf, but the following list should give an average person some idea of the process for getting ranked well in search engines.

  1. How old is your site? Some systems like to see that you have content that has been around for a while. Others do not care. (As of this writing Yahoo rated this aspect less important that Google. Which means Yahoo was giving better rankings to new sites than Google.)
  2. What search terms are testing against and did you use those terms in your site text? After you hear this concept it seems obvious, but it may not be at first. You have to figure out what terms people will use to find your site. Then you have to use those terms REASONABLY in your site. If think people will search for “Nashville web services” and you never use the word Nashville in your site language, then you should not expect great results. However, be aware that the search engines also attempt to determine if you are throwing in words to get them on the page. Therefore, be reasonable in your use of different words and do not try to game the system too much. Essentially this concept requires most of us to write our content and then re-write it to include the search terms we want the search engines to find us. (And you thought writing the content once was hard enough.)
  3. Do other people like you? (In other words, to some extent it is a popularity contest.) Do other organizations have links to your site. (Are those organizations well ranked also.) How much site traffic do you generate. (Yes, this is just like the problem of looking for a job fresh out of school when all of the employers want you to have experience.)
  4. Do you have new content? The search engines want to believe that if they send someone to your site that you will the most up-to-date information. That means they want to see new content on a regular basis. (Yes, this is more difficult in an industry where things do not change much and it has been done the same way for the last 100 years.) Blogs and other social media tools create a sense that there is new content, which is part of their appeal.
  5. Do you have an information rich site? To some extent the people that could easily write 500 extra words on that English paper in school have an advantage here. The search engines have to count and catalog words, which is an easy process. To some extent this extra information may not really be helpful to the client but I am not aware of there being any great “fluff detectors” out there as the process would be very difficult. However, you can focus your energy to creating pages that look at your client’s problem’s from every possible angle. Consider news and information related to current events, industry trends, core offerings and more.
  6. Do you have external links? This topic is very tricky. Anytime someone leaves your site, they may not come back. However, a link to a great site with lots of information shows the search engines that you are willing to “spread the wealth” and gives you credibility.
  7. Do you have a good site name? If you name includes good search terms the search engines will rank you higher, especially if you the other attributes in place.
  8. Has your developer included the appropriate search terms in the page “special codes?” Every page has a variety of “meta tags” and “alt tags” that can be used to describe the page or specific page items for the web browsers as well as for people with access impairments such as blindness. Proper coding of these terms can help immensely. A good developer also knows how to construct the page so that it uses a minimum amount of html to produce the right results so as not to bog down the search engines. (Some sites are built like interstates and others like a muddy wagon road.)

What Is an RSS Feed and How do People Subscribe?

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

What Is an RSS Feed

An RSS feed is a way for anyone to automatically distribute information without having to send email and risk it being filtered out as spam. The information is broken down into topics with titles and possibly some other additional information. Having an appropriate RSS feed will increase traffic to your site and help you market yourself because a variety of services will pay attention to you that will otherwise ignore you.

For the technician, an RSS feed is information displayed in a special programing language called XML. The programmer who creates the RSS feed will read information from a database, file system, or other file, and will cause the server to display the information in a format with specific XML “commands.”

Anyone with a good blogging software like WordPress or Blogger or Typepad, etc, is already making use of RSS Feeds (unless they found a way to turn it off or make it completely private.) A blog shows up on your website as a regular page, but it also creates this RSS feed thingy for you. (You can see mine here: http://asitethatworks.com/feed/)

One of the cool things is that you can create an RSS feed on any topic or groups of information from pictures, to recent projects, to blogs etc. (You do not have to “blog.”)

How Does an RSS Feed Help You

The really cool part is that several organizations and companies that help make the internet work in the first place, actively look for pages with this special coding. They keep lists of them and they check them very, very frequently for new content. They then pass this information on to their users in a variety of ways, not necessary as the original RSS Feed. The Google and Yahoo search engines are one such place.  However, to really get noticed, you should notify certain services, such as Ping-0-Matic, Feedburner, or Technorati, that you have updated your content. You can make these submittals by hand, or you can have a programmer do it for you so that it happens automatically.  (That is one way we can help you.)  However, if your RSS feed is for a private group, there is no need.

Another cool thing is that when you know the link for your feed you can provide this link to other places such as ning social networking sites, linked in, twitter, etc. It is just like providing someone your website address, just a little longer and more complicated. It might be better to copy and paste or send via email or link, rather than say over the telephone. (Ning is a free online service for creating and sharing your own social networks, such as a church group, civic organization, sports team, etc.)

As I mentioned above, RSS feeds can also be used to get people information without you having to send them an email. The “catch” is (yeah, you knew there had to be a catch) that to reach this objective people have to subscribe to your RSS feed. Unfortunately, you cannot make them subscribe; and this is also where the process is currently breaking down for many folks. As of mid 2009, most humans (the real targets of what are doing) are not getting their information via RSS feeds. However, the ones that use RSS feeds are more likely to be loyal to you for having an RSS feed because you are helping make their life simpler. If they like you enough to subscribe to your RSS, they really like you. Remember too, that organizations such as Google and Yahoo love RSS feeds; so they are still very important, even if they do not have wide and direct human appeal.

Subscribing

Nevertheless, subscribing to an RSS feed is very easy, even if the process is not commonly understood or used by regular humans.

In the Flock Browser, when you go to a page that is an RSS feed that flock has not recorded as a feed you subscribe to, you will get a big message with a subscribe button on top. click the subscribe button and flock will automatically add it to your list of RSS fees that you can access from a handly list in Flock itself. Firefox and Internet Explorer (7 and above) have similar options.

Here are the instructions directly from the Outlook 2007 help file. (These are actually fairly straightforward.)

  1. On the Tools menu, click Account Settings.
  2. On the RSS Feeds tab, click New.
  3. In the New RSS Feed dialog box, type or press CTRL+V to paste the URL of the RSS Feed. For example, http://www.asitehatworks.com/feed/
  4. Click Add.
  5. Click OK.

If you subscribe to an RSS Feed Service such as Gator , the process is probably very similar. (I don’t use one of those services, so I am not a reliable source on that topic.)

If you have a need for a custom RSS feed for information you want to present to people let us know. We will be glad to help you. Feel free to include a link to this information for clients and prospects if they need help figuring out how to subscribe to an RSS feed.


Looking into More Web 2.0 Stuff

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

A client of mine wanted to know how to efficiently blog and do social networking.  As I look for tools, I can certainly see how all of this can be confusing. 

This post is an experiment using a new browser called flock.  After setting up my personal blog to accept “desktop publishing,”  I am using Flock to write this post.  The picture below was dropped in using flock’s “web clipboard,” which means I could have gotten it from anywhere.   However, it appears that it needs to be on the web somewher, not the local file system.  However, if you use a picture from a website, if they change the location or remove the picture in the original website, you would lose your picture.

Anyway it is a cool experiment.

Tips on Creating Great Content–To Make the Funnel Work

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Here are some tips to help you create better content.

Know Exactly Who Is Likely to Buy Your Services

No, it is never, ever “everybody.”  Everyone may do taxes or need a plumber, etc, but not everyone you meet is going to pay to have someone do their taxes or want you to be their plumber.  What is their income? Where do they live? How old are they?  Do they have a family?  What ages are the family members?

Define Exactly What types of Audiences Are Likely to Visit Your Site

For example the Billboard Company that wants to sell to end advertisers like the local resteraunt and the billboard company that wants to sell to advertising agencies.
The property management company that talks with Investors versus the property management company that wants to manage your PUD and wants to interact with PUD residents via the website

What is your intended audience looking for when they get to your site?

For example a person doing closings may make more money off of the Title Insurance, but the buyers and sellers are just looking for a reliable place to handle the paperwork.  (Title Insurance—oh that’s required, Ok slap it on there.)
Is a person looking for vending supplies looking for low cost vending or are they looking to enhance company moral with excellent choices in the break room that taste great and happen the same way each time.

How much of the sales process can you accomplish on your website

Are you making a complete sale, providing general company information, creating a sense that you are knowledgeable, providing important details about the services you offer.

Define what actions you want them to take

Call for a proposal, call for information, buy a subscription, buy a product?

Get some Testimonials

What are your good clients saying about you!

What Is More Important–Content or Visibility?

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

That is actually a trick question.

Content without Visibility Does not Create Many Leads

That is, if no one finds you, then no one can respond to the great calls to action that you have created.  However, good content improves your rankings in the search engines, so that people can find you easier.

Visibility without Content is Costly

Many of the things that you can do to drive traffic to your website costs you time or money.  It costs a lot of money to optimize a page for search engines.  Link campaigns to improve your search engine rankings are also costly.  Pay per click campaigns usually start at around $400/month.  (Google AdWords is an example of a Pay Per Click campaign.  These are advertisements that get displayed whenever someone does a search.)

Every time someone comes to your site because of a program you paid for to get them their has a cost.  Every person that leaves your site without taking the action you want drives the cost of converting that traffic into sales up.

Example 1:  You spend $100 to get 10 visitors and 9 of them “bounce” and you get one sales call.  Then you have spent $100 per sales call from your website.

Example 2: You spend $100 to get 10 visitors and only 5 of them bounce and 5 of them call you.  Then you you have spent only $20 per sales call.

What Do We Recommend?

We suggest you work on your content first, then on your visibility.  It is the more cost effective solution.  Good content will get ranked well in Google and Yahoo eventually.  So it does a better job of accomplishing both objectives if you are short on money.

Our Next Post will have some suggestions to improve your content.

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