Saturday, December 16, 2006

Giving Your Online Business Powerful Domain Presence

What's the one make-it-or-break-it item that your online business needs to stand out from the crowd and become a huge success?

The right domain name!

The domain name is what people type in when they want to get to your site the part that comes after the http:// or the www. It's your virtual real estate address. Having something they can remember without looking it up each time or keeping it in their bookmarks to be lost among the others is the best thing you can do to get repeat visitors and word-of-mouth free traffic.

People say that all the good names are gone, but that's about as far from the truth as you can get. Here are some simple guidelines that will make your domain name -- and your business -- popular and memorable web destinations.

1. Choose a Dot-Com

The number one rule is, go for the dot-com ending, which is typed as .com. This is the Main St. of the virtual real estate world, and the one that most people will type in regardless of what your domain extension actually is. While .net and .org were popular for awhile, and then .us, .biz and .name took the stage, people always revert back to .com -- no matter how many fancy country code top level domains are launched into the mainstream, like .cc, .ws, .to, .cn and others.

2. Choose something memorable

You want your business name to be your domain name too, if possible. So if your flower shop is called Suzette's Flowers, you want to get suzettesflowers.com, assuming it's available. If not, try adding a dash, like suzettes-flowers.com or a secondary descriptive word like suzettesflowersonline.com or prettysuzettesflowers.com. If you're creative, you'll definitely be able to come up with something that works with your business name and is memorable for your customer.

Keep in mind that if you use a dash in your domain name, which some Search Engine Optimization experts say attracts more free traffic to your site, you have to say the dashes if you use your domain name in an audio product or commercial; so it would be "suzettes dash flowers dot com".

Most people typing in your domain name later will not type the dashes.

3. Get another variation

If you're lucky enough to grab a great domain name without the dashes, then you might want to get the same name with dashes between the words as well. You can put both of them up on your server as mirror sites to get the benefits of SEO as well as the ease of typing without the dashes.

You may also want to consider getting the .net or .org or even another extension to use as a sister site for your main dot com site... perhaps you put your forum on the .net, or use your .com for your main product and .net for your business background information site.

Even if you're looking for a domain name that you don't really think will be available, using your creativity and trying a variety of combinations should allow you to lock down a memorable domain name that will attract people to your website.

Monday, November 27, 2006

5 Important Rules in Website Design

When it comes to your website, extra attention should be paid to every minute detail to make sure it performs optimally to serve its purpose. Here are five important rules of thumb to observe to make sure your website performs well.

1) Do not use splash pages

A Splash page is placed as the first thing you see when you arrive at some websites. They normally have a very beautiful image with words like "welcome" or "click here to enter". In fact, they are just that - pretty vases with no real purpose. Do not let your visitors have a reason to click on the "back" button! Give them the value of your site up front without the splash page.

2) Do not use excessive banner advertisements

Even the least net savvy people have trained themselves to ignore banner advertisements so you will be wasting valuable website real estate. Instead, provide more valuable content and weave relevant affiliate links into your content, and let your visitors feel that they want to buy instead of being pushed to buy.

3) Have a simple and clear navigation system

You have to provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors don’t know how to navigate, they will leave your site.

4) Have a clear indication of where the user is

When visitors are deeply engrossed in browsing your site, you will want to make sure they know which part of the site they are in at that moment. That way, they will be able to browse relevant information or navigate to any section of the site easily. Don't confuse your visitors because confusion means "abandon ship"!

5) Avoid using audio on your site

If your visitor is going to stay a long time at your site reading your content, you will want to make sure they're not annoyed by some audio looping on and on your website. If you insist on adding audio, make sure they have some control over it. Volume or muting controls would work fine.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Advertising on Craigslist

Advertising on Craigslist is worthwhile for just about any business offering products or services. Whether these products are offered through ecommerce websites or physical stores, the business owners can see financial gains through advertising on Craigslist. Unlike other advertising opportunities there is very little risk involved in posting on Craigslist. With the exception of job postings and housing postings in specific markets, advertising is free on Craigslist. Users are asked to agree to the terms of service of the community and are expected to follow specific guidelines when posting advertisements but there are no financial obligations to those placing advertisements on Craigslist. This means those who post advertisements do not have to be concerned with whether or not the advertisement they place will meet their expectations in terms of sales generated.

Reaching Potential Customers on Craigslist

Another reason why posting advertisements for products or services on Craigslist is so worthwhile is the likelihood of reaching a large audience of potential customers. A review of the Craigslist fact sheet reveals pertinent information regarding the amount of traffic the website receives. According to this information Craigslist receives approximately four billion page views each month with ten million people using Craigslist each month. From these statistics it is clear that advertisements placed on Craiglist are likely to receive at least some attention from potential clients.

With so many visitors using Craigslist each month the advertising possibilities are limitless, however, there are no guarantee any of these visitors will be interested in your products or services. Like any marketing campaign, your advertisements on Craigslist must be intriguing, informative and in a location where you will reach your target audience.

Finding Your Target Audience on Craigslist

We've already discussed the number of visitors using Craigslist each month but the key to taking advantage of these numbers is to target your advertising in a way aimed at reaching your target audience as opposed to a wide audience of individuals who have no specific interest in your products or services. It is much more worthwhile to reach a small audience of those with a keen interest in your products or services than to reach a much larger audience of those who are not interested. Those who have an interest in your products or services are your target audience.

The key to reaching your target audience on Craigslist is placing your advertisement in the most appropriate locations. Craigslist has a specific section for businesses to advertise their services. This section is broken down into a number of categories. Those who are in the business of computer repair would be wise to place their advertisement in the computer section as opposed to the automotive section because individuals looking for computer help will naturally migrate to the computer section. It may sometimes be appropriate to place an advertisement in more than one section. This is acceptable as long as it does not cross the line to spamming the section.

If there is not a specific section for the products or services offered by your business there are a couple of options. Business owners can place an advertisement in the section for small business advertisements where it might be found by those doing a search in this section. Alternately the business owner can contact Craigslist to suggest the addition of a new category. They might be willing to oblige if they believe this category warrants an addition.

The Difference between Advertising and Spamming

Advertising on Craigslist is one thing but spamming is quite another. Placing an advertisement in an appropriate section of Craigslist is acceptable; however, placing the same advertisement in nearly every section of Craigslist websites for a number of different geographical regions is considered spam. Spam is ineffective for a number of reasons. First of all potential customers who see a particular advertisement in a number of different locations are likely to recognize the spamming techniques and be less inclined to patronize this business. Also, if Craigslist detects the practice of spamming they may delete all of the postings and could potentially ban advertisements from the individual in the future.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Accepting Credit Cards on your Website

If you are building an online shop, you will need to address the question of taking payments for orders. You can, of course, request that a check payment be sent to you in the mail. Most shopping basket software allows you to select this option when you are setting it up. If you already have an offline, bricks and mortar business, you may simply wish to accept credit card payments over the phone.

However, there are some basic problems with these solutions and it all comes down to the way people shop on the Internet. Customers expect to be able to add items to their basket and proceed to the checkout to pay. If they then find they must telephone you or print out and send their order, they may simply abandon their order and hop over to another website. Shopping online is all about convenience and if you are unable to provide this, you may be losing customers without even being aware of it.

So, what are your options and what is it all going to cost? Well, the good news is you can do it all very simply and cheaply. Paypal does not have a set-up charge and is a large and trusted online payment processor servicing 78 million accounts worldwide in 56 countries. Your only cost is a small percentage on each sale, a transaction charge. Payments from your website go straight into your Paypal account from where you can transfer amounts to your bank account with the click of a button.

Once you sign up with a payment processor, you can either link to their secure server from your shopping basket facility or build 'add to basket' buttons via a simple web query form. The html generated is then pasted next to items on your web page and your customers will be transferred to a secure server when they go to checkout.

Traditional merchant accounts are normally set up through your own bank and will become integral to your business account. Having your own merchant account gives you the choice of many different online payment gateways. Most, however, do charge a set-up fee, monthly fee and a transaction charge. Just as you would offline, do make sure you research any company you sign up with on the Internet. Print out and read their terms and conditions. Take particular notice of where they are operating from, their fees, when and how you will receive your money into your account.

Another point to consider is the question of chargebacks. This happens when a buyer requests a refund of an amount already paid to you. Reasons include not receiving goods ordered or items arriving faulty, damaged or not as described. Sometimes requests are made if the buyer's card was used fraudulently.

If the chargeback request is successful, your merchant payment processor will charge you a processing fee. However, some companies will now provide you with insurance against chargebacks inclusive in your monthly fee. It's certainly worth shopping around for the right solution for you but knowing you have done your research will give you some peace of mind.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Discover the Fast, Easy, Fool-Proof Way to Generate Huge Cash Profits Using Google AdSense Templates?

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Blogs: An Easy Alternative to a Website

These days, it is much easier to create a website than it used to be. In general, website-creation programs are much simpler to use - and you also have the option of signing up with an online web host with easy-to-use page creation tools.

But the biggest change has to be the advent of the blog.

"Blog" is short for 'web log'. Blogs started off as a way for people to create an online diary. Bloggers would simply log on, tap out a paragraph or two giving their thoughts on life and the universe (and everything in between); click 'publish' and that was that. His or her words were live on the Internet for anyone to see. The big appeal of a blog was that it was interactive: readers were welcome to add a comment on any post, with a link back to their own blog or website.

Gradually, bloggers started to want more. They wanted easy ways to upload photos, and extra pages on the site - just like a 'real' website. They wanted a range of themes, to better express their personality or business.

Programmers everywhere came to the party, particularly with WordPress, a well-known open source blog creation software. Now, if you want a website/blog, it's possible to:

  • Sign up with a web host with CPanel for a low monthly fee.

  • Install WordPress with just a few clicks of the mouse, using Fantastico on your website's CPanel.

  • Either use one of the pre-installed themes, or browse the various themes available at WordPress (and on many other sites) to choose one that suits your personality or business.

  • Upload the theme you want to the wp_content folder, using a simple FTP program (such as WS_FTP or Cute FTP).

  • Start posting your articles or comments.

  • Add extra pages to your site (if you want to).


Now that you can add separate pages to blogs - just as you can with a standard website - many people are turning to them as their preferred way of building a website. By using various plugins, it's possible to do pretty well anything you want.

=== What Are "Plugins"? ===

Plugins are extra features available for your blog to make your life easier. You can get plugins, for example, that will:

  • Help you to block spam.

  • Make it easy to upload and sort your photos.

  • Ping the search engines so they know when you've added new content.

  • Insert Adsense blocks so you can earn money from your blog.


There are quite a number of plugins available now - take some time to find out what they will do.

=== Help With Using Wordpress ===

While Wordpress is not the only blog software available, it is an excellent choice because:

  1. it's free;

  2. it's relatively easy to use

  3. it's open-source, and therefore has a lot of people working on it constantly to make it better, and

  4. there are quite a few 'how to' sites on the Internet showing you how to make the most of your Wordpress blog.


One of them is Guido Stiehle ("The Jungle Marketer") who offers an excellent free tutorial (with video tutorials) that will show you, step by step, how to set up and use your blog. You can find other providers by simply typing 'how to use Wordpress' into a search engine.

Spend an hour or two browsing, and you'll see why a blog is a very viable option for establishing your presence on the Internet.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Who is Behind that Website? Ask Whois!

Who, exactly, stands behind that website on your screen? Does that web page really belong to the company it claims to represent?

A handy little applet, known as a "Whois", can tell you who is behind a web page before you make that final click or download that free offer.

What is a Whois?

A Whois is a software utility, or applet, that looks up information about individual websites. A Whois will reveal whatever information is currently available for any website.

A Whois will find the Domain Name and the IP Address so you will at least know the identity of the registered owner of the domain (website).

The exception is when an owner of a website lists it as "private". In that case, the only information available is whether the website really exists.

How much, or how little, information available for a Whois query depends on what the owner of the Domain Name decides to make public. Thankfully, most serious businesses provide ample information.

Companies usually want to make it easy for customers to get in touch; they list every possible way to reach them. They list telephone and fax numbers, physical (street) and postal addresses, and of course email contacts, in order to attract prospective customers.

A personal website owner, though, might be wiser to list only the minimum required data, or even register as "private". That way, she could avoid attracting unwanted sales pitches, spammers, or perhaps even worse.

Someone with a day job would not be at home during office hours, anyway. As well, who needs strangers from distant time zones phoning in the middle of the night? So he may not list his phone number.

How does a Whois work?

Not all Whois applications search ALL domains. Each Domain Registrar is responsible for maintaining a Whois over those domains (websites) registered with him. When the internet was in its infancy, each Whois was designated to search only one type of domain; there was one Whois for ".COM", another for ".ORG", and so on.

Even today, many Whois utilities are still dedicated to one domain type or to one Registrar (the agency where you have registered your Domain Name). To facilitate searching, we now have publicly accessible Whois software that can search all Domain Registrars plus all Hosting Servers for any type of domain.

We will consider two categories of Whois software:
a) Free Whois software
b) Affordable, commercial Whois software that you pay to use

Which type Whois is best for me?

Naturally, that depends on how you are going to use a Whois, something you will only know after having tried a few different Whois services.

While learning how to use a Whois, the free ones are easy on your pocketbook and deliver results that are just as accurate as any other model. They all search the same data bases, after all!

When using a free, no-frills, Whois you may have to Cut-and-Paste the URL (web address) from your browser address bar to the Whois search box manually.

The free Whois will then probably present the information in a more primitive format -- that is, in a long text-based list of line after line of data. This requires more work, as it is more difficult to glean the information that you need.

For infrequent use, a free Whois will do. It makes sense to start with free software until you know enough to decide whether to spend money on an easier program. It is quite likely that you may never need to buy a Whois program at all.

If you decide to buy faster, easier commercial Whois software, it can be had for $25 or so.

Any commercial program should install an icon in your browser toolbar so all you need do is click on the icon. Then the application reads the URL of the website currently in your browser window and looks it up automatically. No Cut-and-Paste contortions.

Finally, it should open a new, graphical "results" window where it displays the information in a neat, perceptible manner. You get all the data without the clutter of a text-based display.

What can a Whois tell you about a website?

Suppose you are searching the internet and you find an appealing site: "HONEST-SITE.COM". First, you want to see who they really are. A Whois search usually tells you:

i) The true Domain Name, hopefully, HONEST-SITE.COM in this instance.

ii) The IP Address of the website, e.g., 123.45.0.234 (four groups of numbers from 0-255, separated from one another by periods (dots). Try typing those numbers into your browser address bar -- it should bring up the same website again.

iii) Any other contact information available.
As well, you can expect to find information about who hosts the website (supplies the Web Server):

iv) The name of the Hosting Company (Domain Name Server or Web Server), e.g., "WORLDSBESTDOMAINSHOP.COM"

v) The IP Address of that Web Server, including contact email addresses and phone numbers

vi) The email addresses for their Administrator (ADMIN) and Webmaster (TECH).

A Whois reveals whatever information is available for any website, so you can see who stands behind it. And yes, as you have guessed by now, a Whois is a quick and ideal way to unmask faked (phishing) websites.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tips to Improve Your Website Design

It doesn't matter if your web site is a small personal site or a huge corporate web site with hundreds of pages, having a good design is very important. Good site design can make the difference between a web surfer leaving the site or bookmarking it. Here are several tips to help improve your site's design:

1. Pages should load fast. Most people will leave your site if it's not done loading in ten or 15 seconds. And even if you have a fast internet connection, not everyone does. Stay away from large photos or graphics.

2. Text should be easy to read. The text size should be big enough, and the background should not obscure your text. If you want to be safe, use black text on a white background. If you want more color, choose very carefully to make sure it's still easy to read.

3. Your website should be easy to navigate. Each link should be clearly identified as such and graphic navigation elements like buttons and tabs should be easy to read and use. You do not want people leaving because they could not figure out how your Flash menu works. Always provide a text based menu on every page and make sure your website includes a site map with text links to every page.

4. Your layout and design should be consistent. If you switch between styles too much, you will confuse your visitors. If the design is too different, people will believe that they are now on a different web site since the layout changed.

5. Avoid music and sounds. Very few people like to have music forced on them while they navigate, especially if they are already listening to music or surfing at their job! If you really cannot do without music, turn it off by default and ask visitors to start it themselves.

6. Design for browser compatibility. Even though Internet Explorer comes with Windows many people prefer not to use it. Make sure your site is at least viewable in Mozilla Firefox and Opera (if possible, you could even try testing on a Mac). Sites that target markets like technology should be more careful, since readers are more likely to use the newest browsers and gadgets like PDAs.

7. Design for all screen resolutions. You may like to surf in 1240x1080 with your new flat screen monitor, but some people still use 800x600! A site that looks perfect in high resolution may turn out to be impossible to view correctly in 800x600. This site allows you to view your web page in other resolutions http://www.anybrowser.com/ScreenSizeTest.html.

And, if you have a doubt, test, test and test! You can also ask your family and friends for help. Being less familiar with the website, they can help find a lot of things you overlooked.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Getting Started with Photoshop, A Beginners Guide

Adobe™ Photoshop is arguably the finest image management software available anywhere, and the price reflects its value. When you begin using Photoshop, you will doubtless find the many options overwhelming in their number and scope. You may be tempted to 'x' right out of the program and go grab a frosty beverage, but wait. There's a lot of fun and power at your fingertips, and you'll want to go through each option and tool one at a time, to learn exactly how you can manage, modify and create images you'd never have believed possible.

This introduction will acquaint you with the BASIC functions of the application, and there will be many more articles in this series, so collect them all, and when you're finished, you'll have a complete guide you can refer to often until it all becomes second nature. We'll use Photoshop v5.5 as the reference release, because many of the current users are using Photoshop CS which does so much of the fun stuff automatically, this hardly has any value in that release.

Well, let's begin by opening the application. Once you have Photoshop open and running, you'll notice that on the left is a tall, skinny toolbox with many icons which represent graphically the function(s) they perform. That's right; many of the tools have multiple functions (just to make things more interesting.)

On the Right hand side of the window you'll see a 'stack' of palettes which allow you to control the characteristics of the TOOL you've selected in the Toolbox.

Click on 'FILE' and select 'NEW' from the drop down menu. When you do, another option box appears with the word 'NEW' in the title bar. Below that, you'll find option boxes where you can enter the parameters that define your new image workspace.

Place your mouse cursor in the NAME space and create a filename of your choice. "TESTPIC" might be a good choice, but that's up to you.

Next, TAB into the WIDTH option box and type 5, tab to the width UNITS option and click the "DOWN" arrow. A drop-down option box appears with several unit options available. Select 'INCHES'.

Tab to the HEIGHT option box and type 7, tab over and be sure 'INCHES' is selected there as well.

Accept the default RESOLUTION (which should read 72 pixels per inch), and leave the MODE and CONTENTS defaults at RGB and WHITE (background).

Click on OK and an empty, WHITE rectangle will appear in the workspace. It represents a 5x7 inch picture. So let's create a basic picture in the space. At the same time, you'll see that a horizontal panel has opened up in each of TWO of the palettes at the RIGHT side of your screen. One is the HISTORY TAB. It has a small rectangle with the title you gave your work.

Below that is a BLUE bar with the word NEW. The HISTORY palette records EVERYTHING you do to your picture. Really handy if you want to change something immediately or dump a whole BUNCH of changes all at once.

We're going to make a new LAYER to do our work on. What we've created so far is just a White rectangle which is the background for our picture. The LAYER is where we're going to do our work, and incidentally the LAYERS in Photoshop are the things that really give your Photoshop images their flexibility and power.

It's best to start out by de-mystifying the idea of LAYERS right up front, so here's the straight information. Imagine each LAYER as a clear piece of acetate that you can draw on and a collection of LAYERS as a stack of acetate sheets each with a different part of the picture drawn on it.

Beneath the HISTORY palette is the LAYERS/CHANNELS/PATHS palette. The LAYERS palette has a blue horizontal rectangle titled 'BACKGROUND'. That's your empty picture frame.

At the bottom of the palette are three symbols. A square with a circle in it, a page like icon with the bottom left corner folded up, and a TRASH can icon. (You can guess what it's for). The page like icon is the 'NEW LAYER' icon. Allow the mouse pointer to hover over the icon and its function will 'pop up' in a little information window. Click the icon and a NEW layer called 'LAYER 1' appears above the 'Background' layer. It is BLUE because it is the ACTIVE layer. The one you'll be working on. There's a checkerboard pattern in the page area because nothing is on that new layer yet.

The BRUSH symbol means that the layer is ready to receive data, and the eyeball symbol simply means that the layer is VISIBLE.

That's right. You can have invisible layers. Why? You'll see in just a few minutes, but you've probably already guessed.

You're ready to start using TOOLS.

In the TOOL palette (at the left side of the workspace) there are 2 columns of 10 icons, a pair of overlapping squares which represent the foreground and background colors, two screen mode icons, of which the left one is 'depressed' or 'selected' by default, three 'screen mode' selection buttons and at the very bottom is a 'jump to external application' button, which you'll only use infrequently, if at all.

Select the TOP LEFT TOOL with your mouse. Left Click and HOLD the button down. A 'FLYOUT' menu appears which offers several options. That particular tool is called the 'SELECTION TOOL' and it has several modes. Let's use the RECTANGULAR selection mode first. Click the tool, be sure the rectangular dotted line icon is visible on the button after you release the mouse button, and then click and DRAG from the upper left to the lower right in your picture area, starting about 1 inch from the top and 1 inch from the left side, ending up about 1 inch from the bottom and 1 inch from the right side.

NOW. Click the little black and white squares below the backqround/foreground colors palette (near the bottom of the tool box) and you'll see the two squares change color. The top left square is BLACK and the bottom right square is WHITE. These are the DEFAULT colors for the foreground (top left square since it's on top) and background (bottom right square, since it's on the bottom).

Right above the color display is a hand icon, and just above THAT is a PAINTBUCKET icon.

Click the paint bucket icon to select it. It's also called the FILL TOOL.

Move your mouse cursor into the area bounded by the rectangular selection you made a minute ago. Click the mouse anywhere inside the selected area. It immediately fills with the foreground color (in this case, BLACK).

Now you will learn why layers can become invisible. Click the little 'eyeball' icon beside the image of your picture in the 'LAYER' palette.

Your black rectangle disappears (becomes invisible) revealing the contents of the layer beneath it (in this case, the original white background).

This is a lot of information to absorb in one sitting. It's a lot easier to do if you do it with someone else reading the instructions to you, but you CAN learn Photoshop one tool at a time, by reading one STEP at a time and learning the principles in related groups of operations.

That's what this series of articles will assist you in doing. There will be another article ready to release soon, so check back often, as the steps build on one another, and you don't want to miss anything. Keep Photoshop warm. It's a great application and you'll enjoy it immensely.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Using Keywords and Keyword Phrases Effectively

For best search engine optimization, you must use your keywords and keyword phrases effectively.

For optimal effectiveness, use different keywords and/or keyword phrases on each page of your website. Optimize each page for those keywords and/or keyword phrases that are relevant to the content of that particular page.

Title Tag

-Use keywords and/or keyword phrases as a descriptive title for each page.
-Use your most relevant keywords and/or keyword phrases in your home page title.
-To be the most effective, title tags should contain only keywords and/or keyword phrases.
-Repeat the keywords and/or keyword phrases 2-3 times but make sure that the title makes sense. An example for this page would be: Keyword Usage, Using Keywords and Keyword Phrases Effectively.

Meta Tag Keywords

-Place all relevant keywords and keyword phrases in your meta tag....< META name="keywords" content="______">
-If possible, avoid using single keywords as they may be too competitive. Use keyword phrases instead.
-Don't repeat your keywords more than 2-3 times to avoid offending some search engines.
-Separate keywords and keyword phrases with commas or spaces, not both. Example: keyword,keyword phrase,keyword or keyword keyword phrase keyword.
-Use common misspellings or miss keyings. Ex: keywrod or keywird.
-Use different forms of keywords whenever possible. Ex: web site and website.
-Use singular and plural versions of keywords. Ex: website and websites.
-Use upper and lower case. Ex: Website and website

Meta Tag description

-Use your keywords and keyword phrases in your meta tag description....< META name="description" content="______">.
-Repeat your most important keywords and/or keyword phrases a minimum of 2-3 times.
-The total length of your description tag should be no more than 20-25 words.
-Your description should make sense as this is what often shows up in the search engine results page. This is your opportunity to persuade users to click through to your site so be sure your description is enticing and contains keywords and/or keyword phrases that will attract visitors.

Content

-Many search engines concentrate on the first 250 words of your text when looking for keyword relevancy and density so concentrate your keywords and/or keyword phrases there.
-Strive for 5-7% keyword density (5-7 keywords and/or keyword phrases per 100 words of text). If your keyword density is much higher than this, your copy may not make sense AND the search engines may consider it keyword spamming.
-Use your most important keywords and/or keyword phrases throughout your copy but without sounding repetitious.
-Use your most important keywords and/or keyword phrases in your H1 tag. To give more weight to your H1 tag, use only one H1 tag in your copy. (Your H1 tag should contain your most important statement so you shouldn't need to use more than one H1 tag.)
-Use keywords and/or keyword phrases in your image ALT tags. For example your logo ALT tag should say something such as: ALT="keyword logo image".

META tags are not as important as they once were as most search engines are now searching your copy when looking for keywords and/or keyword phrases. Some search engines use the first sentence of your content as your site's description. Therefore, it's become increasingly important to have the first 250 words of your copy be keyword rich.

It may be better to write your content first, then choose your keywords and/or keyword phrases from the content. Rewrite your content as needed, adding keywords and/or keyword phrases that pertain to the theme of the content. In this way, you've chosen keywords and/or keyword phrases that are relevant to your content, instead of trying to write content to fit your keywords and/or keyword phrases.

Monday, May 08, 2006

So What's This Google Adsense Anyway?

Most of the Internet marketing community is at least somewhat familiar with Google's Adsense program at this point. Google Adsense can be a very lucrative venture for some, so a closer look at just what Adsense is is in order.

Google Adsense are small contextual ads that are published on web sites with the consent of the web site's owner. The ads are created by publishers that are selling products and/or creating brand awareness. The ads that are created are called Adwords and they are also a Google sponsored program.

Google Adwords and Adsense run hand in hand. Every time someone does a search on Google or one of their partner networks and clicks on one of the sponsored ads, then the person who created that ad will pay Google a predetermined price. This is where the term "pay per click" comes from.

Now the beauty of Adsense is that the person who owns or hosts the web site that the Adwords ads appear on will split the amount of money that Google receives from the creator or publisher of the ad. It is a well guarded secret what the percentage of the split is, and it does vary, but for our purposes let's say it's 50%.

If a publisher is willing to pay .40 per click for his Adwords ad, then the host of the website that welcomes Adsense ads can expect to see roughly .20 every time someone clicks on the ad that appears on their site. The other .20 is kept by Google. So basically it is a partnership of sorts between Google and web site owners.

Adsense is shown in the most relevant way possible. What does this mean? Well, probably the best way to illustrate this would be through an example. Let's say Mary had a website featuring women's clothing. If Mary wanted to monetize her web site with Google Adsense the ads that would be shown would all be related to clothing, and more precisely, women's clothing. If a page of her site was dedicated to shoes, then the Adsense ads appearing on that page would be for women's shoes.

So how is the price per click determined? This is where the Adwords side of the equation kicks in. Adwords publishers bid on keywords. The more lucrative or sought after a keyword is, the more the publisher will be willing to pay for each click. Keywords range anywhere from a few cents to in excess of $50 per click.

It is not very hard to see how someone with a web site that generates a decent amount of traffic can make some nice money by putting Google Adsense on their site. Many Internet marketers will create web sites with specific content for the sole purpose of attracting high paying Adsense ads with top Internet marketers earning in excess of $10,000 a month on Adsense.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What is a Content Management System?

One of the most innovative benefits of dynamic web programming is content management systems that make the life of internet content editors easy and their work visually attractive.

Imagine that you are the editor of an online newspaper or magazine. You are creative in your writings and very knowledgeable about the content you write about; however, these skills alone are not good enough to be able to work in an online "news" source. You must have at least the very basic knowledge on the functions and the tags of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). You must be able to create codes for the presentations of your articles. This process of writing web articles can be very frustrating (and exhausting) if you have never heard about Content Management Systems.

A CMS (Content Management System) is almost like a personal automated web page author. You write your articles, surveys, and rating systems as if you are using a word processor or a visual editing program. Driven by the data you put in, the CMS stores all of these in a database and then translates them into HTML. The CMS basically acts like a translator between you and the browsers by creating very user friendly graphical interfaces.

A CMS generally has a front-end and a back-end. The front-end obviously refers to the face of the site that each visitor sees. The back-end is the user-friendly graphical interface where you can edit your content or the template with the help of the many wizards that are supplied by these systems. Let's say you needed to write a code for a user-upload function in the site, or a survey system that would enable users to vote on your articles; you don't even need to touch Dreamweaver, Frontpage, or any kind of HTML editor; there are already hundreds of modules that are written for different CMS's. You just download the module to your server and install it.

There are loads of Content Management Systems online that are presented as Freeware or Open Source. Below are some suggestions:

Typo3: If you think yourself a professional and think that you can deal with some PHP coding, this robust and very flexible system is just for you. http://www.typo3.com

Mambo: If you say "No, thanks. I don't want to deal with PHP coding, I am doing this as a hobby", then Mambo should be your choice since it does not require the user to change much and is already supported by many ready-to-install modules and templates. http://www.mamboserver.com

PHP-Nuke: This CMS does not require any coding knowledge and has many downloadable modules, blocks and themes online. http://www.phpnuke.org

In summary, the CMS makes our life much easier than before and our sites much more attractive. They are the "operating systems", personal coders and free translators of the web.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Designing a Good Navigation System for Your Website

While designing your website to be aesthetically pleasing is important, beautiful graphics and clever little details are no substitute for a good navigation system. No matter how great your website looks, it will be useless if your visitors can't find their way around your site.

Traditionally the navigation menu is placed just below the header area or on the left hand side of the web page. Usability studies have shown that web site visitors will instinctively look in these areas first.

Wherever you decide to place your navigation system, remember that consistency is important. The most important thing is to place your navigation menu in the same spot on every one of your web pages. If you use an image to represent a navigational button, use the same image and the same color for that image on each page of your website. For example, if you use an image of a green house in the left hand corner of your web page as your "Home" navigational link, use the same green house image in the left hand corner of every one of your web pages to designate the "Home" link.

Your visitors should be able to find what they are looking for within 3 clicks of your home page. This is usually not a problem for smaller sites. However, if you have a large site with many pages, you will need to design a navigation menu that provides access to all areas of your website without getting your visitor lost or confused.

You may want to use a "bread crumb" trail type of navigation system for large sites (Homepage > Category > Subcategory > Content). Another option is to use a dynamic menu that changes according to the page your visitor is on, but be aware that search engines may not be able to spider sites using dynamic menus.

Usability studies have shown that a navigation menu should contain no more than 8 links. The more choices a user is given, the more difficult it will be for them to make a decision. Also, if you have many links, your visitor may get the impression that your site is complicated and difficult to navigate.

If you have only a few links, you can use mouse rollovers to visually enhance your website. You will need to add some Javascript that pre-loads the rollover images and then add "onMouseover" events to your image links. Alternatively, you can use CSS for text rollovers that change the link color when the mouse cursor hovers over a link. There are many websites with javascripts and css examples that you can download and use in your own pages. Just search for "javascript rollovers" and you will find a ton of sites. I would recommend using the CSS method since search engines can not recognize images.

Navigational links should be considered the most important part of your website for two reasons:

1) They are used by your visitors to find content on your site.

2) They are used by search engines to spider your site.

The reason users visit your site is to get information. If visitors can't find the information they are searching for, they will click away, perhaps never to return again.

While different search engines have different rules on how they spider and rank a site, basically a "bot" or "spider" will visit a site, search for a "HREF" link and follow the links to other pages, indexing the pages as it goes along. If the "bot" or "spider" doesn't find a "HREF" tag on a page, it is blocked from going any deeper into the site. As you can see, you need to design your navigational system so that a search engine can spider all pages of your website.

The best way to ensure that all of your pages get spidered is to add a menu of text links at the bottom of all of your pages. Also, make a sitemap and include a link to it on your home page.

When designing your website, take the extra time to design a good navigational system. It will be vital to the success of your website!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Strategies to Slow the Flow of Spam

Do you look forward to opening your e-mail inbox only to find it full of junk mail? Here are some tips and information that will help reduce the amount of spam (unwanted junk e-mail) arriving in your inbox.

What is spam?

Spam is UCE - unsolicited commercial e-mail. Or any e-mail sent to your e-mail address that you did not request, from somebody that you did not have a prior association with. They do not have your permission to send you advertising by e-mail, and you did not ask to be added to their mailing list. Spam is usually sent to thousands of people at once. According to Sero-Group.com, the first report of spamming occurred on 1 May 1978 by a computer sales representative in the US, but the term spam was not used until April 1994 when two US lawyers tried to promote an illegal lottery.

Why is it called spam?

The name spam was derived from a Monty Python comedy show which depicted a restaurant serving Spam (the canned ham variety) as a side dish to every item on the menu. This indicated that you would be receiving something whether you wanted it or not. Hence the term spam applying to unwanted junk e-mails.

How do spammers get your e-mail address?

Typically spammers use software programs that scan web pages and newsgroups for any word or piece of text that contains an '@' symbol. This is commonly referred to as harvesting. The software collects these email addresses and stores them in databases on the spammer's computer, which the spammer then loads into a bulk-mailing program used to send out the spam messages.

Open an extra e-mail account

Use a free e-mail account for signing up for newsletters, free offers, downloads, etc. Some sites that provide this type of service are Hotmail.com, Yahoo.com and GMail.com. There are hundreds of others so be sure to compare their features and select the one that will suit your needs. If the amount of spam starts to get out of control you can start a new free account and cancel the over-spammed one. Only give your personal e-mail address, the one supplied by your ISP, to friends and relatives.

Disguise your email address

One method is to insert blank spaces before and after the '@' symbol in your e-mail address. Place a small note under it instructing visitors to copy and paste the address into a new message and remove the blank spaces before sending their message to you. This won't allow the e-mail address to be clicked like a normal e-mail link, but the principle is easy enough for anyone to follow.

Another method is to use a special html code to replace the '@' symbol. Use this code &#064; in your email address. example: name&#064;yourdomain.com

Do not respond

Never reply to or buy anything offered in a spam message. You don't want the spammer to know that you have received their message as this will only encourage them to continue sending spam, and it will also keep your e-mail address as 'current and deliverable' on their mailing list. Do not click any unsubscribe links in a spam message. Most of these links are false or will again confirm to the spammer that a live person owns that e-mail address.

Set up real mailboxes

If you have your own web site and domain name never use a catch-all e-mail configuration. A catch-all setup will effectively catch-all e-mails that are sent to that domain, even if they are not addressed correctly, for example joohn@yourdomain.com, and will forward all e-mail to a nominated e-mail address, usually your ISP account. Spammers will simply make up different e-mail addresses at your domain and see if they are deliverable. If so, they will add these addresses to their mailing lists (many of which are sold to other spammers).

Be careful with spam filters

If you or your ISP uses a spam filter make sure you add all wanted e-mail addresses to your white list (a list of acceptable senders). The spam filter will then allow e-mails from these addresses to reach your inbox. IMediaConnection.com states that approximately 38% of all wanted e-mail is currently getting blocked by spam filters.

Use extra caution

Your bank or financial institution will never ask for your Internet banking password or credit card details in an e-mail message. Neither will they ask you to update these details through a link to a web page. Messages like these will always be spam and should be reported to your bank. Never reply or click any links in these types of messages.

SIDEBAR

In 2004 spam accounted for more than 45% of all e-mail sent, with the daily average number of spam sent to be approximately 15 billion.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

11 Practical Uses for RSS in Business

Are you wondering what you can use RSS for right now? Here are some practical examples of RSS at work.

Use Your Own Content

Almost ANY web based content can be transformed into an RSS feed. The only real requirement is that the information changes regularly.

1 News Headlines

Typically, the main use of RSS is to present headlines and a short introduction to "newsy" stories. Create an RSS feed on your site featuring your company press releases, site updates, etc.

2 Upcoming Events

RSS is a great way to let people know of events and activities that may be happening soon. It's easy to turn an "events" page into an RSS feed.

3 Thoughts/Commentary

You've probably heard of the term "blog" or "weblog". It's a page that displays (in chronological order) a series of writings on whatever the author wants to write about. While a normal blog also allows others to add their comments to yours, you don't have to offer that functionality.

Set up a page where you regularly add your thoughts on all sorts of issues - or just one issue - with the most recent post at the top of the page. Include these items in an RSS feed, and you've got a whole new audience for your pearls of wisdom.

4 Articles

Share your knowledge. This is a more "formal" type of writing, where you write a series of articles on a specific topic. Add a new article on that topic every week or so. Set up several topics and you've got several new RSS feeds to attract even more interest in what you know.

Don't forget to include a resource box in the article which allows others to reproduce your article on their site, with an obvious link back to you.

5 New Products

Got an online store with new inventory added regularly? Add details about your newly added items to an RSS feed to let people know what's just come in.

6 Weekly/Monthly Specials

Do you regularly make special offers on different products in your inventory? Again, RSS is a great way to tell people what's on special this week... or this month.

7 Newsletters

If you regularly produce an email newsletter, then consider converting it to RSS format as well as continuing to email it. After all, your newsletters ARE also shown on your web site... aren't they?

8 New Links

If you have a links directory, considering creating an RSS feed of the new links added to your directory in the last week or so. If you have a category structure within that directory, with links added often, you can create a feed for each category.

9 New Members

Do you run a public membership site? Recently joined members could be listed in an RSS feed with links direct to their profiles. What a great way to welcome new members!

10 Ticker RSS Feeds

Do you have timely information, e.g. important stock figures, to communicate to your customers? Automate the process with software and RSS can feed new critical information on an hourly basis (or more frequently if needed).

Note: Aim to have up to 15-20 items in each feed if possible. You can have more items if you want. Just remember that most feed reading software will NOT display all the items. Many may only show the first 5 or 10.

Once you've got your feed going... remember to submit your feed URLs to the various RSS Feed Directories.

11 Using Content From OTHER Web Sites

If a site offers an RSS feed for people to subscribe to, you can possibly use that feed on your site. Just check the terms and conditions on the site FIRST to see if you can reproduce the feed. If in doubt - send an email or phone them to ask permission.

What you are aiming for is to build many extra pages of useful content on topics of value to your visitors. Don't worry that the links in the feed take people off site (make that happen in a new window). The content is what is needed for search engines and people to devour!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dynamic Web Sites Necessary to Stay Competitive

It was not that long ago that becoming a web page authoring wizard required little more than an understanding of a few dozen Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) tags, and perhaps modest experience with a scanner and a graphics program to generate a corporate logo image file.

The stakes are much higher now. The hobby phase is over. The Internet is a big business. Competition for visitor “hits” is enormous, as it becomes more and more difficult to get your site noticed, much less bookmarked. Sensing that the authoring world wanted more out of HTML then a poor imitation of the printed page, the web browser makers and Internet standards bodies have been expending the capabilities of web pages at a feverish pace. These changes are allowing us to make our pages more “dynamic” – pages that can “think and do” on their own, without much help from the server once they have been loaded in the browser.

In websites, the most important thing that a user, editor or author looks for is the robustness and the maintainability of the site. In static approach for web page authoring, you simply write a different page for all the content in your site and connect these pages with hyperlinks or most probably by using a navigation bar in the main page. It seems like a simple and manageable idea. However, when it comes to add new content or change the general layout of the site, it is almost impossible for you to go through each and every page and edit the code. In the dynamic approach, you use a database as the foundation of your web site. What you put in this database totally depends on what you need to have for your pages; usernames and associated passwords, articles that you are going to use as your content, pictures, files, basically anything that you can think of. This database can be thought as your storage for the elements to build this site. However, it is not you who is building the pages, it is the PHP, ASP, PERL code that you have written or purchased. The only thing that is left for you is to draw a “plan” for the data driven code so that it knows where to put the building elements that are stored in your database. This plan is called the template for the site which is generally created using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Dynamic HTML (DHTML). Once the site is loaded into the browser, dynamic pages in a way “interacts” with the user and generates the HTML pages rather than taking the user from page to page with the help of the hyperlinks.

As one can see very easily, Dynamic Websites seem like the future of the Internet. It saves a lot of time and effort for the authors and also the user from frustration of waiting for the pages to load while visiting a simple site with an interesting article with a lot of pages.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Strengthen Your Website Content with Online Database Access

Website content, as articles, has taken center stage as web publishers scramble to differentiate their online offers. As both the quantity and quality of articles have accelerated, so too have online directories. These directories often resemble mere lists, but they can be powerful content additions that serve to deepen the value of the overall selling proposition by helping users in locating critical, related resources that for the visitor is otherwise much too time consuming.

On today's websites, it is not uncommon to find online databases designed to provide the data-hungry website visitor with more comprehensive database management functions which are far superior to list-style directories. At a minimum, we find web-driven data pages that include search and display functions which facilitate quick and easy manipulation of back-end SQL databases. Many sites also include options to add, edit, delete, print, and even download data directly from the database to the desktop, all enabled with multiple levels of login/password security. While this is not revolutionary, the technical expertise required to build database-driven web pages has been the domain of more sophisticated online publishers who not only owned the back end database outright, but possessed the required expertise to build and maintain such access for their loyal constituents.

But that has all changed. A flurry of new, low-cost desktop tools have entered the scene, leveling the playing field for the budget-strapped internet marketer who, until recently, was limited to throwing in a basic "telephone book" style directory in an attempt to bolster his value proposition.

Three such tool categories warrant a closer look:

Web data extraction tools costing less than $400 enable web content, as "repeating data", to be easily extracted to MS Excel, MS Access, or virtually any SQL database in high volume. This data serves to build, or at least augment the publisher's's new online database. (Ideally, one should first obtain permission from the website owner before scraping large volumes of data).

The next challenge is to manipulate the collected data now resident in multiple files, and often in disparate data formats. Though list processing applications have long been available, lower cost tools now offer powerful merge/purge capabilities without the need to import and export files in the process. Some simple routines and the data is ready to upload to the database on the host web server.

Finally, the publisher builds the web pages which access the database. Perhaps most exciting is the arrival of a wide variety of desktop code generators, many which are open source, that allow a non-programmer to build customized web pages that rival the database search, display, add, edit,delete and download capabilities previously reserved for the more technical publisher. No longer is the web publisher required to know a single SQL command to accomplish this feat. Amazingly, most of these tools generate pure PHP or PERL code. All that remains is to upload the generated code to the host database and the project is complete. The website now houses a "living, breathing" database, to the extent that the publisher desires to maintain fresh data.

One of the more common, and simple applications of database-driven web pages is to build versatile Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages. Questions and answers can be queried by category (e.g. pricing, product) or keyword (e.g. sporting goods), while enriching the users support experience.

How can such newfound capabilities be monetized? The possibilities are plenty. Limited datasets can be made freely searchable and viewable for casual visitors, though it's usually wise to request that the user register even if membership is free. The idea is to prime the pump, getting casual users to thirst for more comprehensive database access. Extended and full database access can be reserved only for paid members.

Never has a publisher had such power to build data-rich content that can serve to immediately strengthen his unique selling sales proposition. In the old paradigm, he who owned the data held all the power. Today, data is everywhere for the internet entrepreneur. By applying the latest database tools, any website publisher can now cement the most loyal of customer relationships by ensuring that his customer has a reason to keep coming back.

Web visitors have a difficult enough time sorting out the perceived sameness of online offerings. For the content builder, there are few better methods to establish and lock in immediate credibility with customers than to implement an easily accessible database that underscores the site's overall content theme.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

10 Costly Search Engine Mistakes to Avoid

If you have a website then you already know the importance of traffic. Traffic is to Internet marketing as location is to real estate. It's the only thing that really matters. If you cannot generate targeted visitors to your site, you will not make any sales.

Usually the owner or designer of the website is the person designated to drive traffic to the site. The chief ingredient in generating traffic is the search engine. Of coarse, you can use advertising, but it's going to cost you. Using the search engines to generate targeted (interested in your product) traffic is the least expensive method known.

Unfortunately, many website owners do not understand the importance of search engine visibility, which leads to traffic. They place more importance on producing a "pretty" website. Not that this is bad, but it is really secondary to search engine placement. Hopefully, the following list of common mistakes, made by many website owners, will help you generate more targeted traffic to your site...after all, isn't that what you want.

1. Not using keywords effectively.
This is probably one of the most critical area of site design. Choose the right keywords and potential customers will find your site. Use the wrong ones and your site will see little, if any, traffic.

2. Repeating the same keywords.
When you use the same keywords over and over again (called keyword stacking) the search engines may downgrade (or skip) the page or site.

3. Robbing pages from other websites.
How many times have you heard or read that "this is the Internet and it's ok" to steal icons and text from websites to use on your site. Don't do it. Its one thing to learn from others who have been there and another to outright copy their work. The search engines are very smart and usually detect page duplication. They may even prevent you from ever being listed by them.

4. Using keywords that are not related to your website.
Many unethical website owners try to gain search engine visibility by using keywords that have nothing at all to do with their website. They place unrelated keywords in a page (such as "sex", the name of a known celebrity, the hot search topic of the day, etc.) inside a meta tag for a page. The keyword doesn't have anything to do with the page topic. However, since the keyword is popular, they think this will boost their visibility. This technique is considered spam by the search engines and may cause the page (or sometimes the whole site) to be removed from the search engine listing.

5. Keyword stuffing.
Somewhat like keyword stacking listed above, this means to assign multiple keywords to the description of a graphic or layer that appears on your website by using the "alt=" HTML parameter. If the search engines find that this text does not really describe the graphic or layer it will be considered spam.

6. Relying on hidden text.
You might be inclined to think that if you cannot see it, it doesn't hurt. Wrong.... Do not try to hide your keywords or keyword phrases by making them invisible. For example, some unethical designers my set the keywords to the same color as the background of the web page; thereby, making it invisible.

7. Relying on tiny text.
This is another version of the item above (relying on hidden text). Do not try to hide your keywords or keyword phrases by making them tiny. Setting the text size of the keywords so small that it can barely be seen does this.

8. Assuming all search engines are the same.
Many people assume that each search engine plays by the same rules. This is not so. Each has their own rule base and is subject to change anytime they so desire. Make it a point to learn what each major search engine requires for high visibility.

9. Using free web hosting.
Do not use free web hosting if you are really serious about increasing site traffic via search engine visibility. Many times the search engines will eliminate content from these free hosts.

10. Forgetting to check for missing web page elements.
Make sure to check every page in your website for completeness, like missing links, graphics, etc. There are sites on the web that will do this for free.

This is just a few of the methods and techniques that you should avoid. Do not give in to the temptation that these methods will work for you. They will do more harm than good for your website.

Not only will you spend weeks of wasted effort, you may have your site banned from the search engines forever. Invest a little time to learn the proper techniques for increasing search engine visibility and your net traffic will increase.