10 Secrets of Successful Web Sites

category: How Tos
by Peter Mitchell, Comments Off

Successful Web Sites have a Good Name

A domain name is your home on the web. It is the part of your web address that comes after the www.Your domain name will also be used after the “@” symbol in your email addresses. Therefore it is important to register a name the closely reflects your business name and is easy for people to remember and type. Registering a domain name is the first step in any online enterprise.

Your domain name should…

  1. Reflect your actual business name. An ABN is required to register a .com.au domain name. Today however, you can register variations of your business name.
  2. Be short, so it can be remembered easily if seen on a TV ad, the side of a bus or a web site that wasn’t bookmarked. Also, the shorter your domain name, the less likely it is to be mis-keyed in the browser address field.
  3. Your domain name shouldn’t have any weird characters like the ~ (tilde) or / (forward slash) as newer Internet users cannot find these easily on their keyboard.

Some people believe that registering a domain name with their main keywords in it will shoot them to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). While having keywords in your domain name will advantage you, this advantage should not be overstated.

It may give your site a little lift in the SERPs, but this will be just one lift out of many you could give your site in addition to thinking carefully about your content, your keywords and page/site structures (SEO stuff in other words).

Successful Web Sites have Compelling Content

If your web site has good information on it, and this information is revised, updated and added to regularly, your site will be rewarded by search engines.

Think about for a second… if you were a search engine company, who would you give prominence to; the site that has 12 pages that haven’t changed for 24 months or the site that has 20 pages that change from time to time and link to new pages that are continually being added.

So, what do your customers really want or need to know? Write it down now, send it to your web developer or add it to your blog.

Successful Web Sites Choose their Products Wisely

Products that work well on the web…

Products that work poorly….

Well, obviously the reverse of the above. Products with small margins, that can be bought anywhere, are heavy or bulky or that have uncertain lines of supply should probably be avoided.

Successful Web Sites have Quality Inbound Links

Links are critical. But have to be handled in a very specific way to benefit your site. Some general rules are listed below.

  1. Try to get a minimum of 60 in-bound links from sites with relevant content to your user group.
  2. Try to develop a theme with your inbound links so a search engine is in no doubt what industry group you belong to.
  3. The more relevant inbound links the better. Try to get the search engines to see your site as a hub: a website at the centre of some important topic, what Google thinks of as “expert pages”.
  4. Use your keywords in your inbound link labels i.e. the text that the link is under on the referring site.
  5. Link out to important and busy resources, try to think of what outbound links will add value to your visitor’s experience of the web.
  6. Avoid FFA (“free for all”) link directories as you may be penalised (i.e. sent backwards in the SERPs) for listing on some of them.
  7. Don’t spam guestbooks or comments boxes on blogs (a technique that dynamically inserts links on web pages with a comments section or guestbook).
  8. Use keywords in your link labels, not “click here”.
  9. Only buy links if the selling web site can demonstrate traffic from their site to yours.

More detail here: Link Your Web Site

Successful Web Sites Exclude…

  1. Frames - frames sites do not work – avoid frames, or bury them in the 2nd level of your site
  2. Flash - flash sites do not work. Macromedia has a tool from converting a flash animation/presentation to a an HTML document… not sure exactly what you would do with it after that…
  3. Tricks - tricks like bogus links pages, text the same colour as the background, doorway pages… if you get caught, you get kicked off
  4. Cloaking – cloaking is serving one page to the Search Engine and another to the user. Not so prevalent these days
  5. Java navigation - e.g. rollover buttons are difficult for search engines to index and links may not be followed.
  6. Pictures that replace text – sometimes web sites put text content in jpegs or gifs because it looks better e.g. the font is aliased. Search engine indexable content (text) cannot be forsaken for design (pictures).

Successful Web Sites are Made By Web Developers

Friends, family members and students make poor web sites. They are well intentioned and cheap and may even look ok in a browser but they do not perform on search engines and you should kindly decline these offers. Also, students move on, as do younger family members leaving you without a upgrade path, access to your domain name or even a copy of your web site.

Successful Web Site are Marketed Offline

Successful web sites are marketed offline as well as online. In fact, from the time of writing a brief for your web site, provision should be made to integrate your web site with your other marketing activities.

Here are some common mistakes web site owners make:

What about caps, pens, business cards and letterhead. Do they carry your web address?

Success Web Sites have the Involvement of the Web Site Owner

Having a web site is a commitment. It is not like other forms of marketing where people pay their money, their material runs for a defined period of time and that is that – they either got customers from it or they didn’t.

Web sites have to grow and evolve. If search engines can see someone is tending and watering the garden, they will reward that web site with greater prominence. In other works, if the web site content is current, expanding and changes frequently, it will perfrom better on search engines.

Successful Web Sites ask for What they Want

Too often web sites lack a call to action. The author of the web site knows all about the product and service, but how well is this communicated to the reader and what response is required?

Call this number“, “Complete this brief survey“, “Click here and we will call you back” are all calls to action. If there is no call to action, or no means of response, what does this make the site? In the industry we call this “brochureware”.

Successful Web Sites Have Quality Photography

It is a cliche, but it is true for the web… a picture tells a 1000 words. Good photography will be essential in selling products and services on the web. Without photography people will be unsure exactly what they are getting and this will create doubt and inertia at checkout.

The web is a visual media, more akin to a magazine than a manual. People tend to read less on screens and respond more to images. Next time you are browsing a web site, think about what is attracting and keeping your attention, is it the text or the photography?

Summary

Successful web sites are rare. A number of technical, practical and design ingredients are drawn together to create a killer web site. However, web sites can start small and build the above success strategies as they go.

© Dynamic Web Solutions Pty Ltd


Work Smarter, Not Harder

category: How Tos,Keywords
by Peter Mitchell, Comments Off

Programs to help you work faster and spend less time in front of a screen…. or get more done when you are.

We are all spending more and more time in front of our computers. The computer is now the centre of our work, finance, communication and entertainment worlds. It’s almost impossible to be a productive worker these days without computer skills and we spend an increasing amount of time at our computers. But how can we reduce those hours? How can we work smarter and not harder in front of our computers? Here is a list of four programs that will save you many hours each week.

1. NaturallySpeaking ($150 and up)
This program has been around for many years and to be frank it has only recently began to live up to its promise. Naturally Speaking is the ears of your computer. It listens and outputs type on your screen. They could be in your e-mail program, word processor or in fact any program that accepts text. So if you are a slow type like this author, you can save many hours by simply talking to your computer. A quiet and solitary location is preferred for this program as talking aloud may disturb other workers. This program is ideal for people with RSI as no keyboard use is required.

2.Text Aloud (free)
This program was originally designed for sight impaired people. Text Aloud is the voice of your computer. It allows you to select text from any source and have the computer read it out to you. This makes reading large e-mails, blogs or tutorial sites much faster. Note that the default voice that comes with the program is rather robotic and can be replaced by any number of others that are easier to listen to. These other voices are paid for.

3. CardScan ($325 with hardware)
Do you have a pile of business cards you have collected from various sources? If so, do you ever look at them or get any value out of them? If not you need CardScan. CardScan is a little software program that comes with a special business card sized scanner. The scanner that allows you to scan business cards in bulk. The software then performs OCR on each card and captures the address, phone number, e-mail and web addresses. You can then create customised categories and assign a contact to a category. Later you can select records based on these categories. Your database of contacts can be used for e-mail and direct marketing as receiving a business card from someone is implied consent to e-mail them.

4.Roboform ($35)
This little program is a genius. It runs in your Windows system tray (bottom right, beside the time) and stores web addresses with their associated logins. It can be run from a USB stick or installed on the desktop. There are no limits to the number of logins you can store in the program. Passwords are saved in encrypted form behind a master password (make it long). The Roboform program will save you endless hours and frustration by storing and managing your logins. The above programs will take away some of the drudge of using a computer and allow you to be more focused and productive… or spend less time in front of a computer.

5. Dropbox (free for the first 2GB)
Dropbox is a backup, file sharing and storage system. You can create and share online folders with your workmates meaning you may be able to do away with your small business server (and its Microsoft license fee and tech support costs). It means you have files backed up to “the cloud” and not on an external hard drive in your office which is prone to theft, fire and failure. Businesses using cloud storage are not prone to file loss as in the Christchurch earthquake or Brisbane Floods.

6. Evernote (free)
Evernote is a note taking tool that sychronises with the web. This means you can take notes anywhere, on any device (desktop, laptop, phone and iPad) and have those notes synched across all devices. Great for saving travel itineraries, things to do lists, wine notes… whatever.


I Have Made My Website, What Is Next?

category: How Tos,Optimisation,Search Engines
by Peter Mitchell, Comments Off

During the construction of your website we have been focusing on design, layout and technical issues and not focusing on web marketing. It won’t take you long to realise that web marketing is as bigger job, if not bigger, than actually making a website.  It is also an area in which a lot of money is changing hands at present, and probably this trend will continue into the future. So what is next?

1. Links, Links, Links

You need to immediately find inbound links to your site. The first place to start is with directory websites such as the Yellow Pages or Finda. Do not delay in this task.

Getting inbound links from other websites greatly advantages you in two ways: firstly you start getting traffic from the link as soon as it is live, secondly search engines will have more conduits into your site and therefore will find your site easily and index it more quickly.

More importantly though each inbound link into your website will be viewed as a vote of confidence by Google and the other major search engines. The more votes of confidence that Google collects on your site the higher it will move you up the search results pages.

It’s worth mentioning two Google resources at this point: the Google Toolbar and the Google website for Webmasters. The Google Toolbar has an important tool on it that measures the current page’s Page Rank. Page Rank it is a patented Google technology that ranks pages according to Google’s own special algorithm. The Toolbar will show you the rank of any page from one to 10, 10 being the best. Even large websites that have good traffic find it difficult to get a high page rank. If your site has a page rank of five, that would be very good. The Google website for Webmasters is an interesting place to find out what Google recommends in terms of linking and optimisation. It’s a good place to start and offers an excellent orientation to the world of search.

2. On Page Optimisation

You should be careful not to remove critical keywords or keyword phrases from your website. Your homepage in particular should repeat your most important keywords a number of times. The WordPress content management system has special, page by page title, description and keywords fields for you to complete. You will find these fields underneath the WYSIWYG editor. The three that start with “Meta” are the ones to focus on.  Meta means “information about information”. these three fields gives you the opportunity to feed information to search engines directly.

Periodic Table of SEO ranking factors

Periodic Table of SEO ranking factors. Click to enlarge.

3. Build E-mail Lists

E-mail marketing is cheap and fast. You will need to study up on issues of compliance regarding the Spam act, but if you can satisfy these requirements, e-mail can add real value to your bottom line. There is no need to hesitate, you can simply start collecting e-mail addresses and sorting them into groups immediately in your desktop mail client.

Once you get over a couple of hundred e-mail addresses you will need a more robust e-mail marketing solution (than sending e-mail from your desktop) as most ISPs control large volumes of outbound e-mail.  This could include a third-party websites such as icontact.com.

4. Accelerate with Google Ads

You may wish to consider a Google Adwords campaign. It is going to take some time to get the search engine position that you want – more than 9 months and probably more than 12 months. If you are not working on linking as described above that your website will never really perform very well on search engines. If you need immediate traffic to your site from Google then you may consider running a Google ad campaign for the first 3 to 6 months after your website goes live.

5. Social Networking

There is still a lot to understand about social networking and how it can be used to market websites. Although there are some spectacular examples of social networking creating massive traffic to a website, in most cases there is an enormous amount of time invested in building an audience before networking would produce any money. Many businesses for example have a Facebook page and use it to interact with their customers but converting this  interaction into sales is tricky and can even contravene the user policies of the social networking site. So while it might be good to start to understand more about Facebook and Twitter there is a lot more water to go under the bridge before they become everyday marketing tools.


The Top Ten On-line Trends for Experts in 2010

category: Offline Marketing,Other Authors
by Peter Mitchell, Comments Off

by Gihan Perera

It’s been a dynamic year – in both positive and negative ways – for many businesses. Not only have we faced a turbulent economy, we’ve also faced the most turbulent year ever in Internet technology. Many of these changes will affect your business – whether you like it or not.

To give you an idea of where we’re heading with on-line technology, here’s my list of Top Ten on-line trends for 2010, especially as they relate to a training or consulting business.

1. Internet access on mobile devices
More people – including your clients and audiences – will be looking at your Web site using an iPhone, Blackberry, Android phone or other mobile device. How does your Web site stack up? Does it load quickly? Does it even display at all? (For example, if it’s a Flash Web site, they won’t even be able to see it on an iPhone)

2. Twitter
If you’ve been resisting Twitter, get over yourself! It’s soon going to be as important to have a Twitter address as an e-mail address.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend all day on Twitter. But at least get an account, follow other people who send interesting stuff, and send regular tweets of articles and blog posts that you read (and write).

3. Blogging
It’s true that 140-character tweets have been insanely popular over the last 18 months, but despite this – or perhaps because of it – blogging is making a comeback. People do want the tweets, Facebook status updates, and LinkedIn connections; but they also want you to provide more in-depth insights and ideas.

Blogging is the easiest way to prove your expertise on-line. Even if you’re publishing articles in an e-mail newsletter or on your Web site, post them to your blog as well.

4. Video
On-line video is hot right now (YouTube is the fourth-most popular site on the Internet). Clients, bureaus and meeting planners expect to see you in action on your Web site, so you need high-quality video production in any demo videos on your Web site.

And audiences value seeing your content on video (and other video-like tools, like SlideShare.net for your PowerPoint presentations). They’ll look you up before your presentation, and follow up later after you’re done.

5. Freemiums and other low-cost business models
What you teach is no longer valuable purely because it’s rare or unique. Somebody else somewhere else is teaching the same thing, for a lower fee and possibly even doing it better than you.

You’re not going to win by hoarding, protecting or tightly holding on to your intellectual property. Next year, give away more than you’ve ever given away before. Make money from the experiences you provide – experiences that can’t be duplicated or found on Google.

6. New delivery models
Your clients and audiences learn at their desks (using webinars), at the gym (listening to podcasts on their iPods and iPhones) and cafes (working on laptops). Are you catering for these new learning environments, or are you still stuck in the old mindset that you can only deliver your stuff in a training room or conference hotel?

7. New presentation technology
What’s more, even the traditional learning environments are changing. Your audiences aren’t going to just sit still and listen, or engage only with others in the room. They’re tweeting about your presentation, Googling the statistics you’re quoting, and even engaging in other stuff unrelated to your presentation. How are you coping? Or, even better, what are you doing to take advantage of this?

8. Presentations as processes, not events
A one-off presentation is rarely enough to truly make a difference. In the old days, you could get away with that, because it was cost-prohibitive to do anything else.

We used to talk about “take-home value”, but taking it home is no longer enough for your audiences and clients. How are you using Internet technology to prepare them for your presentation before you arrive; and what are you doing to support them after you leave?

9. Workshifting
More people are living a blended lifestyle, with a blurry line between home and work. The people who waste time checking Facebook during business hours might be the same people who check their work e-mail after hours.

How are you managing this “always on” lifestyle? People who live this lifestyle expect you to do the same. That doesn’t mean you have to; just be aware that other people might be expecting it. So use technology to create systems to make this easier for you.

For example, if a client wants a high-quality photo of you for their conference brochure, and they call you while you’re on holiday, are you able to take the call on your Blackberry and e-mail the photo immediately? Even better, have you anticipated and prevented this problem by having the photo available on your Web site?

10. Strong and weak connections
Until recently, you could survive in business by nurturing only the “strong” connections in your network: Your clients, key suppliers, joint venture partners and close colleagues.

That’s no longer good enough in a highly-connected world. Now, “weaker” connections matter as well – such as the Twitter follower who re-tweets your message to her network, the blog reader who posts a comment on your blog post, the listener who posts a positive review of your podcast on iTunes, the friend of a friend who sees you in a photo on Facebook, or the Flickr user who shares your passion for deep-sea diving.


Web Marketing: Best Practice

category: How Tos,Search Engines
by Peter Mitchell, Comments Off

I am being asked more and more often about where and how to spend money on Internet advertising. People rightly perceive that traditional display advertising, such as magazines and newspapers are offering less and less value. The paper telephone directories, which have been the cornerstone of many small businesses marketing efforts, have also lost their teeth.

In this context, small business people are exploring what Google Adwords and SEO operators have to offer.

The web used to be a far more democratic place: if I wrote valid HTML, focused on and reused carefully selected keywords, I could get a small B&B site up beside a major chain hotel in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Those days are long gone. Google Adwords put them behind use (so much for “do no evil”).

So we are no longer on a level playing field, and to mix metaphors, what is the game now?

What follows is a discussion of the most widespread means of web marketing… as it is today – it is a moving target and will change probably in less than 12 months. This isn’t a shopping list. Don’t cherry pick from it: do it all.

  1. Search engine submission. This is simply telling search engines that you have published a site and what the address is, and in some cases offers the search engines some meta information about your site. It doesn’t guarantee that your site will be indexed (visited), or in a time frame that suits you or that you will come up on the SERPs pages where you want. There is some discussion surrounding the value of search engine submission, but on balance I believe it has a place, certainly in the first year of a web site going live. Another trend to note is that CMS packages (WordPress, Joomla and Drupal) upon which increasing numbers of web sites are based, have a built in update service that alerts search engines to changes in a page, article or blog area of a site. See item 9. here >>
  2. Google Adwords campaign. Google Adwords are all over the web. You don’t have to go far to see them (they are even on this page!). You use Goolge Adwords to place an ad with your web address close to search results related to your chosen keywords. Obviously, if you are already in the free results, you needn’t pay for an ad. But if you are out on page 3, 4 or 5 of the SERPs or worse, you may consider Adwords. More about Google Adwords on this site >>
    Adwords however do not come cheaply. Allow up to $275-$300 per month. The final cost is determined by the amount of competition for the keyword phrase(s) you are chasing. You have to bid for these in an auction environment. The good news is you can cap your monthly budget. Once your spend is exhausted, you ad is removed from rotation.
  3. Inbound, unreciprocated links. The objective here is to create “link popularity” for your site. Allow $7.50 US per link. You need up to 150 links or more than your nearest competitor to head toward that number one spot in the SERPs. There are other articles on this blog that discuss how you can find out who is presently linking to you so you can determine the size of the task ahead. You can do some of this work yourself at no cost. Start with directory sites. More about links on this site >>
  4. Social Networking. Activity on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook (in that order) is fast becoming the next big trend in web marketing. Books and blog articles are emerging explaining how these media can be harnessed for marketing and sales purposes… even though that may run contrary to the use policies of the sites. The objective is to create an audience interested in your product i.e. be “followed” on Twitter, have “friends” on Facebook, build a network on Linkedin. There is time involved in social networking, but no dollars. Be careful. You need to read the terms of use policies to avoid having your account closed for misuse. More about social networking on this site >>
  5. Newsletter. Like Google Adwords, there are newsletter subscription boxes on every second web site. The ones that work offer a real incentive to hand over your email address, say a pdf of an ebook, or exclusive information only available via newsletter. Only do this if you have something NEW you want to tell or offer people weekly or monthly. Just telling who you are and what you do wont lead to many more sales.
  6. Blogging.  Blogging (or writing articles) has also become widespread on the web – the so called “self-publishing” phenomena. If you write well, this may be a web markleting option for you. Blogging demonstrates the breadth of your knowledge and builds credibility with your readers. From a search engine perspective, it shows you are investing in content – watering the garden so to speak. Search engines love to see new or changed, keyword rich content. If your site has more information on it that a competitor site, search engines will reward you with higher rankings. Blogging is time expensive, but no cash is required. It is possible to employ writers, but this becomes costly. You can download articles from free article libaries, but these are sometime poorly written and not always precisely on topic.

Having said all the above, I must stress, there is no substitute for compelling content, and content that is update and refreshed. Content is king. What is the point of link popularity, if when people arrive at your site it isn’t saying much and offers little value to the visitor. Ditto a Goolge ads.


What is “Social Networking” anyway?

category: How Tos
by Peter Mitchell, Comments Off

We hear this term frequently in the media, but what does it actually mean and refer to? Social networking is an umbrella term. Sometimes it is used to describe sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter. More accurately though it is a term used to denote a trend toward people connecting and interacting online. Blogging was just the forerunner to this trend.

Much is now being written on how these sites and trends can be used to promote commercial interests on the web, focusing mostly on adding value through blogs and newsletters.

In some ways the social networking phenomenon is not that new. Very earlier services on the Internet such as bulletin boards and newsgroups created similar communities.

But it is not all good. There have been concerns about privacy and the ownership of images and materials uploaded to these sites. Facebook particularly coming in for close criticism and a vitriol. Bottom line is common sense (as it is in the offline world)… if you do not want some corporation to claim copyright on your photo, don’t upload it. Don’t make anyone a “friend” who simply isn’t.

One thing is certain, we are going to be doing more social networking as people’s physical location becomes less relevant and work practices more flexible. Wikipedia’s outline on social networking is here >>




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