Friday, January 29, 2010


Website_Map by Veribatim.

It’s What A Web Site Is All About

Accessibility, when discussing web sites, includes a number of factors: easy navigation, understandable site text, no dead ends requiring a browser back click to escape (lots of users don’t even know browsers HAVE a back click).

Let’s start with the bottom line- yours: the easier it is for a site visitor to perform the most desired action (MDA), the more times that MDA will be performed.

Let’s Start With Navigation
Whether you go with a navigation bar at the top of the screen or a menu list in the first column far left, your navigation must be:

  • simple
  • unambiguous
  • truthful
  • always available
  • always in the same location

Avoid numerous tabs, drop-down or flyout menus. Keep it simple. If visitors are faced with too many choices too soon on arriving at the site, chances are they’ll bounce.

Keep the navigation unambiguous. It’s routine to have a "Contact Us” page on a web site. If you label the contact link “Company Authority,” visitors are going to be totally confused. And again, bounce.

Truthful is just what it says. If the link says “Product Descriptions,” don’t make the visitor read through another landing page of sell copy. Deliver what the link says and go directly to the products.

Always available is an aspect of keeping visitors on site longer, and the longer they stick around, the more likely they are to perform the MDA. So, the navigation bar or menu should be available from every page so the visitor can surf at will, unencumbered by what YOU think the visitor wants to know.

Finally, keep the nav tabs in the same place. Don’t move them from bar to menu and back to bar. The last thing you want is a visitor trying to figure out how to return to the contact page to make contact.

Keep it simple. The fewer clicks required to get the visitor to perform the MDA, the better. So, go through the process and eliminate every unnecessary side road, dead end and yet another landing page.

Accessible Content
If your client site is for a professional medical dispenser, you can assume that the visitors have some knowledge of the subject, i.e. you don’t have to start from square one. But you still have to stay on target pointing out the benefits of buying the client’s medical products.

On the other hand, if you’re writing text for a hearing aid retail outlet, accessible text is understandable by the reader. So first, toss the thesaurus. Find the simplest, shortest way to say what needs to be said about products and services.

Be helpful and supportive to the new visitor. Make things simple to find, simple to learn and simple to bookmark. Returning visitors are gold. Eventually they buy something so earning a bookmark is a very good thing.

Skip the hype. Educate the visitor using simple terms, no jargon and listing benefits rather than features. This is the stuff site visitors want to know.

Finally, lay out the text so it can be scanned rather than read. No big, long paragraphs. Visitors scan from upper left to lower right so put your most important info upper left on the screen.

The easier it is to buy something, opt-in for a newsletter, or to complete a form, the more often those MDAs are performed. So make it as simple as possible (why do you think Amazon offers a one-click checkout? How easy can it be?).

Accessibility benefits both site owner and site visitor – a win-win. Also a no brainer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Main St. Diagram by Si1very.

Submit Your Site to Directories:
Watch Site Traffic Increase

There are directories for everything and anything – hobby sites, personal interest sites, political sites, commercial sites (by product) – you name it and someone has created a directory for it. And knowledgeable web users employ these directories much like search engines, but while search engines deliver quantity and not necessarily quality, directories are looking for the best of the best.

A search engine will spider a site, assess its content, inbound links and such, but it remains totally blind to the quality of the information and writing of the text that’s spidered. Not so with directories.

Directory submissions are reviewed by human beings, often volunteer editors with experience in specific areas. So, search engines delivery quantity – everything on a topic with 2-3 million possible links. Directories are more selective because their entries have to pass at least a minimum editorial review.

The Rules of Directory Submission
The biggest mistake new site owners make when submitting to directories is jumping the gun and submitting a site for review before the site is even completed and beta tested. When the editor sees a bunch of “Under Construction” pages, or worse, her laptop locks up every time she logs on to your site (a big bug) you aren’t going to be listed in that directory of quality sites.

So, Rule one: Do NOT submit your site to a directory until its completed, tested and working perfectly. Even better, wait until it appears on Google and Yahoo.

Rule number two: Don’t submit your entire, 200 page site for editorial review by the directory decision makers. Unlike search engines that index web pages (the more the better), directories index sites – good sites. So a directory editor doesn’t have to plow thorough 200 pages of product description. All s/he needs is the home page. And it should be a good one that describes the purpose of the site.

Which Directories Actually Work?
The biggest directory is the Open Directory Project ( DMOZ also happens to be the default directory for Google so, if you can get your site listed with the Open Directory Project (bookmarked on millions of computers), as a bonus, your site also appears in the Google Directory. Good deal.

The next mega-directory in which you want a listing is Yahoo’s behemoth. Like most directories, Yahoo’s provides various categories to assist users in finding facts fast.  Examples? Yahoo offers Education, Entertainment, Reference, Regional (sites), Science and so on.

If your site is really, really good, you might get picked up by one of Yahoo’s editors and listed in the directory. But, man, your site better be the best of the best. The alternative is to submit your site to the Yahoo Directory Submit Program and get listed for a fee – currently $299 annually.

Potential Problems with Any Directory
Because your site is reviewed by a human, human bias comes into play, unlike search engines that are mindless bots gobbling up letter strings. So, you might want your electronics site to appear in the computer section but the editor who reviews the site might feel it’s more appropriate in the audio gear site.

Most sites will listen to you and consider an appeal if you feel the editor is totally off the mark. But, it’s tough to pick your own category – especially if it in, any way, misrepresents the function or topic of your site. Forget it. It’s going to indexed the way the editor sees it.

Yahoo allows one appeal if you feel your site is misplaced in the directory. It must be received within 30 days of the acceptance/rejection notice. In your appeal, explain why you feel your site belongs in the directory by pointing out unique features, fresh, reliable content, good navigation and all of the other factors that go into a good web site.

Bad news coming up: You get one appeal with Yahoo. If you still don’t make it into the directory, or you’re mis-indexed, you’re out of luck and stuck for the next 12 months in a category that doesn’t adequately describe your site, unless you make costly, drastic site revisions. (An aside: even if you have a Yahoo store, you still pay the $299 bucks for a listing in the directory. Only you can determine if it’s worth the money.)

Industry and Association Indices
Do a web search for associations and you’ll discover thousands of opportunities to join an association related to your business. Most of these are free. They’re also great at delivering pre-qualified buyers who know something about your industry or products. Why? Because they accessed you through a directory rather than a search engine.

The Submission Process
It changes from directory to directory but most directories are going to ask for much of the same information:

a site title (not the URL but a descriptive title of what the site offers)

a brief (2-3 line) description of the topicality and scope of the site

a contact person with complete contact information

All of this information will be incorporated into a submission form that you complete so you don’t have to attach your business plan or a screen capture of your checkout.

Depending on the directory, you may be indexed in just a few hours or, in the case of Yahoo and DMOZ, it could take weeks. And here’s the tough part. In most cases, you’ll be notified if your site is accepted. You WON’T be notified if you don’t make the cut. So the only way to see how your site is doing to is to keep checking the directory and the categories where you requested your site appear.

It’s about as cheap as you can get when it comes to site promotion. All it takes is some of your time. But the return on your time (ROI) can be huge – especially if you’re picked up by other directories that like what they see.

So, go to it. Start with the Open Directory Project ( and Yahoo. Then, move on to directories related to your products or business activity. Again, the visitors who reach your site through directories know something about your industry so they’re more motivated to make a purchase. Always a good thing.

Directories are ideal for start-ups, NFPs and any site that’s undercapitalized, working with a non-existent marketing budget. All it takes is a few listings in a few key directories to turn your business around and start showing that profit you had in mind from the start.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Will Your Website Take Off Like a Rocket?

The Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Site Launch

 Ares I-X Rocket: A Beautiful Launch (NASA, 10/28/09) by nasa1fan/MSFC.

You’ve selected your template, your palette of colors and written your site text so it’s irresistible to any visitor who happens on your site. Good for you. Unfortunately, if you don’t prepare for a successful site launch, not too many visitors will happen upon your site. They won’t even know it’s there.

So how are visitors, potential buyers or clients, going to find you among the millions of other web sites covering the cyber terrain? Well, the answer, at least in part, is SEO – search engine optimization – making your site more easily recognizable to search engine spiders.

It can take weeks, months and even years to have a site indexed by Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines – unless you go proactive and make your site spider friendly. It also helps if you invite these crawlers to stop by for a look. So, here are some dos and don’ts to ensure your site launch doesn’t go unnoticed.

Avoid These Common SEO Black Holes

Search engine spiders aren’t smart. They don’t think and they have to be led from place to place within a site. They’re unable to “read” certain kinds of information and they don’t make connections between that body of text and the image associated with it.

Black Hole #1
Spiders can not read text in graphics – any kind of graphics. So, if you’ve loaded up your site with Flash animations or graphics frames to appeal to human eyeballs, these images won’t appeal to spiders. They won’t even be noticed.

Black Hole #2
Spiders don’t bounce around a site randomly (thank goodness), they track links from page to page. Links can be embedded in site text to direct spiders to each page of your site to ensure that it’s completely and accurately indexed. No links, or too few links, and you won’t get the recognition you need for long-term site success.

Black Hole #3
Keywords still count, though not as much as they once did. Spiders crawl text strings looking for repeating words and phrases. They count up the number of keywords per block of text to determine keyword density. You’ll need keyword dense text that also appeals to human readers.

Don’t select keywords willy-nilly. Search engines employ a taxonomy – a system of classification – to place your newly-launched site into one category or another. Select keywords that spiders don’t understand, within the context of the entire site, and you’re sure to have search engine problems.

So, remember, no critical text in graphics, add some embedded links and select keywords with care to avoid being sucked into an SEO black hole.

Take These Positive SEO Steps

There are lots of low- and no-cost steps you can take to gain the attention of search engine spiders – even if your marketing budget is the change you find in the sofa.

Link Up
One thing search engines like to see is links from other sites – especially from sites with page ranks (PR) higher than your site. Page rank is measured on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the highest. So, Yahoo – the most visited site on the W3 – has a page rank of 10. The Open Source Directory has a PR of 9.

By submitting your site to various directories and portals like these, you gain prestige in the “eyes” of SE spiders. Now, some directories, like the Open Source Directory at are free – a good thing. Google’s directory is free as well, but it costs you $300 to get listed in Yahoo’s directory of “selected” sites. It’s a great way to get some respect right from the start. Link up with directories. To find a listing of free and paid directories visit

Spread the Word
The world wide web requires a ton of new content everyday. Think about it – there are a lot of site pages to fill each day, so many sites are looking for free content. And you can give it to them.

Press releases, keyword optimized without sounding like gibberish, will get you noticed as more sites post your release with links to your site – a wonderful thing in the eyes of a spider. There are on-line companies that distribute press releases. Some do it for free, others charge for the service. Some companies to look at are:, and There are lots of others.

Another way to spread the word is through article syndication. Are you an authority on the products or services you market on-line? If so, you can write 10 or 20 articles on various aspects of your expertise and put them out for syndication. These articles will be picked up by sites and displayed with a link back to your site. You get to establish your creds as an authority first, then provide a link back to your site. It works.

Link Exchanges

Good, but time-consuming and a bit humiliating. Links exchanges are simply asking sites related to yours to exchange links. “I link to you; you link to me.” This creates various pathways for web users to find what they’re looking for. However, do note that if you’re linked up to any old site, sites unrelated to your own, SEs will lower your marks because these aren’t links helpful to visitors. So, stay within your field with links exchanges and always try to link with a site that has a higher PR than yours.

Blogs and Forums
A lot of sites have blogs today – places where visitors can post articles and other useful information, or respond to articles that have been posted by the site owners.

Contribute to these info outlets if you can string words together into sentences. It doesn’t have to be great art (though well-written and without mistakes is nice), it just has to be relevant, useful to readers and written with authority. The one problem with blogs is that they’re updated regularly on big sites so your insightful analysis of long-chain polymer molecules might disappear quickly into the blog’s archives.  On the other hand, because blogs and forums are updated frequently, they always need new content, some of which could be yours.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
You know those sponsored links you see on search engine results pages – Ads by Goooooooogle? Well, somebody paid money to have that ad and link placed there. Google’s Adwords program allows advertisers to bid on different keywords. The highest bidder for a given keyword receives the most prominent placement on the SERPs. You can bid as low as five cents for some keywords (not the best of them) and many bucks for really good keywords in hot market segments.

Of course, this requires some marketing capital. If you can afford programs like Adwords or Yahoo’s Search Marketing, you can give your site a running start with PPC marketing. The good thing is you only get charged when a web user clicks on your paid link. The bad thing is you pay every time a user clicks on the link whether s/he buys something or not.

Google Sitemap
Log on to Google, click on Business Solutions and follow the path to the Google Sitemap service. Here, you can upload your own sitemap, basically “telling” Google to come take a look at you.

Spiders love site maps because that’s where the links are and they can find a lot of information quickly all in one spot. By uploading your site map to the largest, most popular search engine within the known solar system, you’ll get noticed faster. And just as importantly, your site will be completely and accurately indexed from the start.

It takes much more than a good looking website to find success on the web. It’s a lot of hard work and it won’t happen overnight. But, by following some of these steps your site will start showing up in SERPs, generating “organic” visitors – the best kind to have.

So, even if you’re working with a non-existent promotion budget, there are plenty of free steps you can take to move your recently launched site closer to profitability.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


identity-theftwatchmen by planent. 


Simple Security:
Defend Against Analog Data Theft

Article in local newspaper: Connecticut’s state Department of Revenue Services (the taxman) “has allowed former employees, even those who have been fired, to retain their access to critical state computer systems.”

The front page news continues: “The Auditors of Public Accounts…said the DRS is failing to follow its own procedures – and those ordered in recent years by Gov. M. Jodi Rell – to secure sensitive data.”

Most of us recognize the value of personal information – names, addresses Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and, as web site owners and keepers of this sensitive customer information, we take prudent steps to protect this data from hacker attacks.

We have server-side security provided by any good web host and we have a fire wall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and other software or services to protect this data. After all, it’s the responsibility of any commercial site owner to protect this information from hackers, crackers, war drivers, script kiddies and other black hats out to steal this info for illegal purchases and identity frauds of every stripe and hue.

But based on the above article about the Connecticut tax department, along with the theft of numerous laptops containing sensitive government and private sector personal data, the biggest threat of data theft isn’t from some nameless, faceless stranger in a strange land. The most likely culprit to steal your key data, or inadvertently allow this information to fall into the wrong hands, is someone you know – know right now.

Just Plain Stealing
In his book, Securing Your Information in an Insecure World, Fortune 500 security expert Hassan Osman, makes the distinction between digital and analog computer attacks.

“If someone broke into your home, what is he most likely to steal? Most likely it'll be that expensive laptop sitting on your home office desk…not only have you lost a valuable piece of hardware, you've also lost all of the data you had stored on that computer - some of which may be very interesting to the clever thief, who now has access to bank accounts, investment accounts and your on-line e-tail accounts.

In an office setting, theft is all-too-common. All it takes is a con man, dressed in work overalls and pushing a trash bin, to start dumping one laptop after another into the bin and wheeling them out the front door. Who would know?

Fortunately for users, [this kind of] theft is an 'analog' rather than 'digital' attack, so the counter measures are very easy to implement.”

Analog Data Theft
It could be the proverbial disgruntled employee, a business partner, an irate spouse or your college roommate – you don’t know who’s going to walk off with your laptop loaded with client or customer information. In Connecticut, it could be some angry nut job from the Department of Revenue Services who’s been fired but still has the security code to your SS# and other good stuff.

No matter how many firewalls you install, if you leave your laptop in the back of a cab or even on your desk in the office, you’ve created a security breach that could be (will be) fatal to your online business. It’s happened to huge world conglomerates, mortgage lenders, academic institutions, untold numbers of businesses – and yes, analog data theft can happen to you.

So what can you do to protect both the hardware and the information it contains? As Mr. Osman stated, because the “theft is an analog rather than digital attack…the countermeasures are very easy to implement. So here’s what you do.

Lock It Up
This is so simple, yet most of us don’t even think to do it. Lock up your laptop or your desktop. 

Put your laptop in a locked drawer, a file cabinet or even your desk drawer – and lock it. Simple. Also, purchase a computer lock that’ll prevent someone from walking off with your laptop and your business. One of the best ways to keep your laptop on your desk is with a laptop or desktop computer lock. There are lots of choices but one of the best is AnchorPad Security. Just Google computer locks for other choices. It’s such a simple step, you have to wonder why more commercial site owners don’t lock down desktops and laptops that are loaded with critical data. 

Do You Know Where Your Laptop Is?

There’s an old saying, “Living in New York City is always knowing where your pocketbook is.” (Sorry, NYC.) But it’s true. Stick your purse under the table of a fancy restaurant (anywhere, not just the Big Apple) and it could be gone in a flash. There are actually gangs who work together – one distracts, the other grabs. It’s so common, most police departments don’t have the resources to follow-up. There’s also not much to go on.

Same with the custodial engineer who just walked off with your laptop. Or an ex-partner who still has the keys to the office. Being an online business owner means always knowing where your computer is – and that it’s in a safe place. It could be as simple as locking the home office door to keep out the kids or the babysitter.

Don’t Advertise Your Laptop
A lot of site owners do business on the fly, carrying their laptops in those cool-looking laptop carry-alls. You might just as well hang a sign around your neck: Carrying Laptop Here.” The bad guys (oh, they’re out there) look for this kind of luggage. It’s the “steal me” sign.

So, instead of going with the laptop carrying bag, put your laptop in a plain old briefcase or even a ratty-looking backpack – anything but a laptop bag. Or, stick the hardware under your bulky coat, but don’t leave it in the cab or at the local hot spot. In fact, using your business system in public is asking for trouble. Keep your valuables hidden – and, as an e-biz owner, nothing is more valuable than the customer data on your business system.

Put Your Passwords on Steroids
Another helpful tip – well, at least it is after your computer has been stolen – is to beef up your passwords and change them often. This is especially true after a dispute with your ex-partner, spouse or someone else who knows your passwords.

Don’t use obvious passwords – birthdays, street addresses, pet names, etc. Someone who knows you won’t have much trouble figuring out that “bunny507” will get them access to the inner sanctum. Instead, use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols to foil once-trusted, now-would-be-data-thieves with a password like K18%##UTR. Some systems limit the number of characters you can use for a password. Use the max, mix them up and change them often.

It’s disheartening to think that after spending a fortune to protect sensitive data from hackers around the world, some kid down the block can rip off your business system and obtain the valuable data therein. It’s also disheartening to read that state and federal agencies are routinely hacked, that laptops are stolen or lost and that analog data theft does much more damage than digital hackers can do – ever.

So, take the simple steps. Lock up your laptop when you leave the office. Lock it down when you take a coffee break. Hide it when you travel and add some oomph to your passwords in case your system does fall into the wrong (but knowing) hands.

Finally, one last point. Save and save often. Back-up all sensitive data, preferably in a remote location. If you work in an office, back up critical information at home. If you work at home, back up to an outboard hard drive and then hide the hard drive.

Firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware may protect you from outside, digital attacks, but they won’t do a thing if your business system comes under an analog data theft – just plain stealing. Keep it in mind all of the time and always know where your laptop is.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Technogal by docsplatter.

On-Demand Site Communication

Today, site designers offer a variety of tools and features to help visitors navigate a website. Flash demos greet visitors and sell the products. Flyouts and dropdowns provide directions within the context of the entire site. There are all kinds of bells and whistles including avatars, icons and other forms of visual and text communication.

And though these goodies sing and dance, they can’t be customized by the user who must sit passively, listening to the cartoonish, computer-generated “human” make the same sales pitch each time the user returns to the home page.

But things are changing rapidly thanks to increased multimedia opportunities and the explosive expansion of broadband. In the future, sites will become unique broadcasting platforms tailored to the needs of each visitor. This variation on broadcasting has been called narrowcasting or tightcasting – and it’s time to get on-board and turn your web site into a truly customizable, multi-media experience.

The Multiple Problems of Multi-Media

The reasons we aren’t seeing tightcasting across the world wide web have to do with both costs and technology.


To provide a more humanized appearance to its website, a non-profit organization paid a design firm to create a human avatar to answer common visitor questions so when you arrive at the home page, you’re greeted by a cartoon rendition of a women who blinks, looks around and even follows visitor cursor movements.

Visitors type in common questions and the on-screen “personality” does her cyborg best to provide the right answer to the visitor’s questions. Problems arose when questions were entered using different nouns and verbs – too many variations to deliver accurate results. So, often visitors received answers to questions that weren’t asked. Or, they received the “I didn’t understand you. Please re-enter your question” message which got pretty tired after a few go-rounds. Finally, the mouth movements of the avatar never synched up to the audio words that were being played so most of the time the avatar looked like she was chewing celery.

The cost for this abomination? $5,000. And that was just for the answering avatar. The rest of the site cost a whole lot more. And while this site is still active today (talking cartoon lady and all) the site owner figures she spent the $5k so why not use the feature – even it doesn’t work!

Multimedia – Flash animation, videos, music and other multi-media experiences are coming, but we’re still in the early stages of development here and how you spend your site development dollars may not require a talking, cartoon head to maintain interest. A simple PowerPoint presentation can accomplish the same thing (even better) for a lot less money so shop around for affordable multi-media solution.

Technology Incompatibilities

Not every application seamless syncs up with HTML coding to produce an attractive, interactive site, leading to the use of “work-arounds” – fixes that get the job done but not in the most efficient fashion. If a multi-media feature is a round peg pounded into a square hole, it may work – but how well? What’s the failure rate? And will the multi-media features run equally well on AOL’s browser (the worst) to Google to Firefox? (FYI, Firefox is well ahead of the curve on usable multimedia applications. And you can download it for free. Very cool. Very simple.)

Search Engine Limitations

Search engine algorithms – the formulae used to assess, index and rank a site – are pretty primitive even after 12 years in development. SE spiders are confused by Flash and they think avatars are alien life forces that have infiltrated the site.

The fact is that current search engine technology is limited in what it can read and can’t read. First, any text in a graphics format (gif, jpeg or other formats) is invisible to the spiders crawling a site. So you could have a really expensive, screaming-mimi homepage filled with avatars, Flash animations and cool videos of products in use…and search engines won’t pick it up – at least for the time being.

Recognizing the trend toward multi-media sites, search engine designers are working to correct this problem, and though the much-touted Orion algorithm,  purchased by Google from a grad student in Australia, attempts to address some of these technical limitations, expectations have been adjusted downward as Orion is being refined and ready to launch in 2007.

With the popularity of (recently purchased by Google for $1.6 billion after less than two years on line), and other social and personalized sites, the trend toward more user-defined content and site application is just around the corner.

Now, we just have to wait for SE technology to catch up with the demand for more interactive multimedia to customize each user’s onsite experience.

The Future Won’t Wait

With customizable, on-line user experiences, niche sites or larger sites with niche products will be able to highlight these products to motivated buyers. Instead of getting lots and lots of “just-looking” traffic, sites can be customized dynamically based on the user’s keywords.

This allows for demonstrations of products, easy assembly instructions for the technology-impaired, narrowcasts targeted at a very narrow demographic saving bandwidth and visitors’ time.

Tightcasting isn’t broadcasting (obviously). Broadcasting via traditional media, i.e. radio, TV newspapers, etc. must appeal to the broadest demographic (and, all too often, to the lowest common denominator). With tightcasting, the message, the product, the information can be targeted with laser specificity, meeting all of the needs of the reader.

Even more beneficial is the way information (product descriptions of otherwise) is delivered and assimilated by site visitors. Today, we read site text. The average American reads at an eighth-grade level which severely limits the words and terms used in site text. Ask the average guy on the street what an avatar is and he’ll guess it’s Toyota’s latest SUV or Taco Bell’s newest offering.

People learn best when they receive information in both visual and auditory forms. Readers can read at their own paces, turn off the sound, or turn up the sound and skip the reading altogether. The delivery of information is best accomplished through multi-media, fully-interactive means. And that’s what tightcasting is all about. And that’s where we’re all headed as site owners and webmasters.

Tomorrow’s Tightcast Platform

It’ll look better and sound different from the websites today. Think of your website as a little TV station. You can narrowcast everything from crocheting to swapping out an engine in a 302 Mustang – while you’re selling the products to do those very things (though probably not on the same website).

You’ll be able to offer viewing options to visitors that haven’t even been invented yet, though they’re coming on fast.

Traditional websites, with sections on products, the company, spec sheets and other standard fare will soon give way to a more personalized tour of the site, directing visitors with verbal and visual cues, providing additional information at the request of the visitor, delivering how-to videos and product demonstrations.

Why not televised testimonials from happy customers? (Nothing sells like a happy customer.) Video documentaries form numerous for-pay and open access sources. It won’t be too long before the television and the world wide web will become one, with TV watchers actually able to buy products seen in a show. It’s coming and fast.

So, look to the future and prepare yourself for the multi-media, fully interactive web site of tomorrow. In fact, you can get a running start by adding some features like Flash and video easily. Download course lessons, take a test drive from home, try it on-line before you buy it.

Oh it’s coming, all right. The question is, will your site be ready for the next generation of interactivity. If not, you won’t be able to take advantage of all of the different media that visitors will expect when they stop by your site. Ultimately, you’ll be the black & white, 12-in screen TV in the age of 64-in, hi-def, flat screen TVs.

And, no doubt, it’s going to hurt your bottom line.


Sunday, January 10, 2010


Think before you speak. by bathroomgirl.

Make Your Clients Stakeholders

As a web writer you’ll quickly discover that some clients are easy to work with while others are a royal pain. The way I look at it, if you don’t have final text after one revision, your client isn’t giving you good input. And the last thing you want to do is get in to a “trial-and-error” situation where each draft is a roll of the dice.

So how do you tame these time-wasters? Make them stakeholders in the project.

The Discovery Phase
This is, perhaps, the most important part of the project. This is the time you determine what the client wants and what his or her expectations are.

Who is the text targeted at? What is the purpose of the text and what’s the most desired action or MDA? Get the client to commit to these basics in writing. You can do that by preparing a statement of work (SOW) or by asking the client to spec the job for you. This is even better. A client who puts it in writing is already a stakeholder, though you’re far from a smooth-sailing assignment. Even with specs in writing, some clients are more than happy to change the project parameters, aka, project creep.

This usually takes the form of “just one more little thing” or “would you mind re-writing the second half of the book in a more technical style?” You’ve got a problem.

Get Approvals
I always prepare a “reaction piece” – a short body of text designed for all stakeholders to tear to shreds. Wrong tone. (Or right tone!!! Yay!!), scope is too broad or narrow, too much tech talk, etc.

It’s a good idea to ask the client to track changes on the approval piece and to insert comments where appropriate and changes as required. This forces the client to think about changes. Further, by making recommendations for change, you’ve created a stakeholder. That client isn’t going to ask for changes to his or her own idea or concept.

Again, get it in writing. The ideal? A marked up red-line of the reaction piece with lots of notes. This is your road map to a short and sweet project and a happy client who’s put his nose on your baby.

Get More Approvals
If the project involves a lot of text – an e-book for example – submit your work chapter by chapter. This way, the client can be calling for revisions on previously-written chapters without slowing you up.

Be aware that some clients don’t know what they want until they see it or read it. That’s why it’s essential to keep the client involved throughout the content creation process. This prevents extensive re-writes at the precise time the project should be finished.

A time-wasting client is costing you money. Time is money and if you’re rewriting text over and over, you’re losing money. It’s as simple as that.

If you find yourself working with a client who is totally clueless, time for a chat. Don’t accuse. Don’t be angry or annoyed. Simply explain that you have a schedule and that the project must be finished in order for you to move on and get to work on the next assignment.

Most professionals will understand your dilemma and do their best to wrap things up quickly. However, you run in to the occasional prima donna who thinks his $300 bought you for life. It’s important to keep clients happy but you don’t owe them 20 revisions for $300.

Know when to draw the line. Know when to walk away. If you can’t make the client commit, if you can’t make the client a stakeholder, you’re better off walking away from the job.

This is NOT the kind of client you want to add to your regular client base.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Doorways of Auckland by rob511.

Adding Doorways to Your Site

Doesn’t it just make sense that the more ways visitors can access your site, the more visitors you’ll see? So, how many doorways into your site? Is the only way in through the front door – the home page, or are there side doors as well?

Google any topic and somewhere on the first SERP will be a link to Amazon – specifically to a page deep in Amazon’s catalog of offerings. And by clicking on that link, I don’t go through the front door. I land on the page that has the book described on the search engine’s results page one.

How does Amazon do this? Through the use of HTML descriptors called title tags – tags crawled by spiders and entered into the search engine index as separate entries. Type in Moby Dick and you can link to the Moby Dick page on Amazon because that whale page has a title tag telling spiders that Melville’s classic is on this page.

Use Title Tags To Create Doorways
Add title tags to unique pages. If the tag describes a specific product, be sure to add the make and model number since some buyers purchase by product number alone.

However, avoid creating duplicate title tags – tag after tag describing content, for example. Use title tags when page content changes and each tag will be picked up as a separate Google link.

Add Keywords To Headers
This elevates the importance of keywords to spiders. Keywords in headers and subheads are bolded on the SERPs – an extra, added bonus.

However, one more caveat. The SEO community is debating the percentage of keywords that can appear in a headline, header or sub-head. The point is, headline stuffing can become as much of a problem as keyword tag stuffing, which has dropped significantly in Google’s ranking  factors.

Rule of thumb: no more than 50% keywords in all headers. And if you want to play it say, drop it to 40% to avoid getting slammed for keyword header stuffing. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010


                                                     BusinessWeek's Clickfraud Cover by Si1very.
Click Fraud:
Is Your Pocket Being Picked?

Click fraud involves a complex chain of fraud scams that can drain your marketing budget before you even know it. It’s been going on since paid links programs became popular and, even though Google and Yahoo – the two biggest search engines – depend on this steady stream of promotional revenue, these two giants actually have little incentive to investigate click fraud. They get paid whether the click is legit or a fraud.

Do You Know Where Your Ad Is?
When you sign on with a PPC program you expect your linked ad to appear on sites that have some relationship to your site’s topicality. If you’re selling bedding for infants you’d expect your link to appear on family sites, pregnancy and wellness sites and, of course, parenting sites. But how do you know?

A report in BussinessWeek states that PPC participants have no complaints when their ads appear on actual Google or Yahoo pages within the context of site topicality. That’s the way PPC is supposed to work. However, according to this report Google and Yahoo “boost their profits by recycling ads to millions of other sites, ranging from the familiar, such as, to dummy web addresses like, which displays lists of ads and little, if anything else.”

The article went on to explain that, “When somebody clicks on these recycled ads, marketers such as MostChoice get billed, sometimes even if the clicks come from Mongolia. Google or Yahoo then share the revenue with a daisy chain of Web site hosts and operators. A penny or so even trickles down to the clicker.” Hey, it’s a living.

But what about your living. If you can’t trust Google and Yahoo – your marketing partners – to protect you from click fraud, who can you trust?

The Search Engines Respond
“We think click fraud is a serious but manageable issue,” stated John Slade, Senior Director for Global Product Management over at Yahoo. According to the spokespeople at Google and Yahoo, when click fraud is detected the client (you) aren’t charged for the click or you’ll receive a credit on your next billing statement. However, despite the search engines’ vigorous defense of its click fraud detection programs, the practice continues because, in plain English, there’s no reason for Google or Yahoo to pursue these fraudulent activities. They’re still making money.

The Loss of Trust
With print journalism, an advertiser receives audited reports on circulation. You see these reports printed annually in your favorite magazine. But it’s also true that not all figures in these circulation reports are accurate. For example, many newspapers give away daily copies of their publication just to keep circulation figures inflated.

So, an advertiser sees that s/he is paying for 160,000 readers in the region but, in fact, only 120,000 of those daily newspapers are being delivered to homes where people will actually read the paper and see the ad. The other 40K copies are delivered free to every halfway house, nursing home, professional office – you name it. If they’ll take a paper, they can have it free – just to keep circulation numbers up. And, the advertiser is cheated.

Same thing with click fraud. The big selling point of PPC advertising is that you only get charged when the link is clicked. Sounds economical, right? But, if you’re a small site owner working with a limited PPC ad budget, you want every click to count.

The BusinessWeek article referenced earlier states that “there is a thriving, click-fraud underground populated by swarms of small-time players, making detection difficult. ‘Paid to read’ rings are everywhere with hundreds of thousands of members each, all of them pressing PC mice over and over in their living rooms…in some cases, ‘clickbot’ software generates hits automatically and anonymously. Participants…speak of making from $25 to several thousand dollars a month apiece, cash they wouldn’t receive if Google and Yahoo were as successful at blocking fraud as they claim.”

The Most Common Scams
There are endless varieties of PPC fraud scams but most fall into one of three categories.

Network click fraud occurs when the owner of the site where your ad appears clicks your ad to increase revenues. S/he also has his or her friends click on it, too. And each time they do, you lose money.

Competitive click fraud takes place when one of your competitors clicks on one of your links endlessly until you end up with a bill for $10k from Google. Now what?

Impression fraud is also common. In this case, the ad appears on site but the link is disconnected. The competition’s click through rate is lowered (keeping more business on the unscrupulous owner’s site) while raising your ad ranking.

How to stop it
If you’re the site owner and marketing director, PPC fraud may be all but impossible to stop, but fairly easy to detect. Services such as Who’sClickingWho will track your PPC accounts using fraud detection software. They charge by the click (another expense) but if you use PPC as a main promotional tool, it may well be worth the price. A one month subscription with 5,000 clicks will cost you $29.95. As click volume increases, the per click monitoring price decreases.

Because many click frauds involve networks of individuals stealing a penny at time from the till, or bots that click but don’t leave a trail, you may also want to consider hiring an agency to place and monitor your PPC dollars. These monitoring services do have a vested interest in detecting fraudulent PPC. That’s how they build customers and keep them, unlike Google and Yahoo where the incentive to stop click fraud is…um, slightly less fervent.

You can also look for obvious signs of click fraud. For example, if you’re getting 5,000 clicks a month and that suddenly spikes to 500,000 in a single month, chances are you’ve been victimized. In fact, it’s almost a certainty.

Another tip-off is the source of the clicks. Click fraud is actually a business in places like China so, if you’re getting a lot of click-throughs from Ulan Bator, report it to your PPC placement service and demand a credit.

Finally, check out click fraud software. It doesn’t cost as much as monitoring services (that’s good for start-ups where every dollar counts) and these software packs are pretty good at detecting repetitious clicks from the same computer – an obvious sign of fraud.

Helpful Resources

Finally, if you suspect that you’ve been the victim of click fraud, call the placement service but be sure to have some evidence to back up your claim. Reports showing an unusual number of clicks from a single region, 1,000 clicks from your lead competitor’s computer or a major spike in PPC costs are all pretty good indicators that you’ve had your pocket picked.

Track your PPC like you would your sales – very closely. And, at the first sign of suspicious activity, close your account or call Google and/or Yahoo.

Trying to fight click fraud all by yourself is like punching air. It doesn’t do much good. And, you get tired. So get some help and save some $$$.

You getting what you pay for?

Friday, January 1, 2010


Is Your Blog Bookmark-Worthy?
Getting the Most from Your Post

Computers Behind Blogs II by Igor Clark.

If you don’t have a blog, build one. It’s easy using blog modules that plug in to your existing site. Then start posting content. Then get listed in blog directories. Then keep it fresh. Oh man, that’s a lot of work – especially when this is your second job!

Blogs build traffic and keep it coming back. However, too many site owners either don’t maintain a blog or don’t promote it for maximum benefit. So, here are some tips from your web host provider on maximizing the usefulness of a blog.

Post Your Thoughts on Topic-Related Sites
One way to get noticed, especially by those in the know, is to make posts on other topic-related blogs. You can provide your URL so that readers who find your astute insight are able to follow the trail back to your blog archives.

Blog Archives
And speaking of blog archives, keep a good one. Sort each blog post by date and general subject, i.e. conversion optimization. Unless you’re a great writer with plenty of time on your hands, good content is expensive to develop. Think of blog content as a commodity. An asset for you and others interested in what you have to say.

Stay Focused
And speaking of what you have to say, stay on topic. If your readership (whether 10 or 10,000) turns to you for certain information, meet expectations. If you occasionally go off on a tangent expressing your political views, for example, you’ll lose readership.

Keep It Unique
A change in the Google algorithm will be the topic of the week, and virtually every webmaster blog and forum will be crammed full of erudite opinions on the affect this change will have. In other words, they’ll be so much written on a major topic, you can afford to cover something else. And get noticed.

Make it Attractive
It’s human nature to become bored easily on the dynamic web where things change faster than you can say “keyword stuffing.” So, paragraph after paragraph of text is going to bore even the most dedicated reader or subscriber.

Add some relevant images. Charts and graphs. Eye candy to maintain the reader’s interest. Skip the endless pages of “just” text.

Perform Regular Blog Analysis
Good tracking software will tell you which posts are popular with visitors and which get passed over for whatever reason. Use these metrics to more specifically target the wants and needs of your readers.

The things you want to measure regularly are: number of page views, time spent on site and the source (link) and destination of the reader after leaving your site (do they go to the site or bounce off to another site?). Regular metrics analysis will provide concrete data to demonstrate whether your site blog is performing to expectations.

Write Like You Talk
This is the best advice any blogger or writer will ever receive. Something happens to people when they sit down at the keyboard to write the next blog entry. They become walking thesauruses. They use big, impressive words and long, run-on sentences. Don’t. That kind of writing is great for a master’s dissertation but it does nothing for the readers (except bore them).

Blogs as Linkbait
Some posts are better than others. Market your best posts only. Posts can be tagged and show up on human-based search engines like and – sites where readers determine how good you are. Don’t oversell every blog entry you write. You’ll start to pickup negative user feedback when readers have seen your post everywhere, or it’s a so-so post.

Blogs make great linkbait (a reason for another site to link to your site) but your efforts to “sell” your content to expand your presence may blow up and backfire with readers and search engines alike.

Use High Traffic Days to Build Your Reputation
When one of your posts is front page news on or, you’re going to see a lot more blog traffic that day sniffing out this high quality linkbait. Use these days, when your traffic jumps 100%, to build on a good thing. Immediately follow up with top-of-the-line posts – as good as the one tagged by enough readers to make it to the top of user-driven search engines. This will establish you as an authority, and your site one worth visiting for the latest.

Don’t Hide Your Blog
Your blog is designed to create stickiness and/or to provide something to subscribers. So, make it easy for users to access your blog. All tags, of course, link to the blog. But, do you have a big, well-labeled blog link on your home page? Is there a BLOG button on the navigation bar? If not, there should be. Make it easy to find your blog and more visitors will find (and read and return because of) it.

Don’t Host Your Blog on a Separate Domain
Some site owners do this to keep things simple. Business side. Blog side. But they’re missing a critical benefit of maintaining a blog (in a subfolder) as a sub-section of their primary domain. Blogs attract all kinds of good stuff. Links, improved PR, “buzz,” new readers and customers (showing up as more traffic in SERPs) offers to contribute to other blogs and so on. Maintain your blog as a section of your main domain to get all of the benefits that come with maintaining a blog.

Start the Conversation
Blogs should generate discussion among readers. They should provoke readers to add a comment – good, bad or indifferent. But what if your posts don’t elicit any response? What should you do?

Shill. Fake it. Salt your posts with a comment or two. Many readers are shy about leaving the first post but will happily jump in once they see what other posters have said. There’s nothing deceitful in starting a conversation – one that grows your site’s popularity.

An up-to-date blog – one that contains useful information for a particular market segment – is a great way to build site traffic and to maintain customer or subscriber interest. But, there are certainly things that every blogger can do to increase readership and squeeze out a few other benefits from blog building. After all, it’s time consuming. You might as well get all you can out of the time you invest.