Archive for January, 2011

Test your webpage in different browsers

While most people use Internet Explorer, a sizable portion of your users will use other browsers such as Firefox or Safari. Therefore it’s prudent to check your web design on different browsers to ensure all users view the webpage as it’s intended.

:: Browsershots is the most comprehensive service, offering multiple versions of browsers for various operating systems.
:: BrowserCamp focuses on Mac browsers.
:: BrowserCam offers a 24 hour free trial period.
:: Litmus cover Windows browsers.

Microsoft Looks To Improve Windows Mobile Music

Microsoft plans to concentrate on improving music in its next version of Windows Mobile software for mobile phones.

The company’s mobile communications division provides operating systems for mobile devices based on the Windows Mobile platform. Microsoft’s partners include Samsung Electronics, Motorola, High Tech Computer and Asustek Computer.

“One thing that Apple has leveraged on is the music scenario, and I think that that is something the operators and ourselves are partnering on, just to make sure that consumers can use live music in the best way,” Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business told Reuters.

Microsoft rivals include Apple’s iPhone, Research in Motion’s Blackberry, Palm and Nokia.

Lees said music in mobiles was a big business opportunity with people buying 10 times as many music-enabled mobile phones as iPods.

Windows Mobile users manage their music through the Windows Media Player program on their mobiles, similar to the one that operates on their desktops.

In the first quarter of this year, Microsoft shipped 4.3 million units of its Windows Mobile software, an increase of 1.9 million units from the same quarter a year-ago. Apple sold a total of 1.7 million iPhones in the same period, according to research firm IDC.

IDC estimates sales of Windows Mobile smartphones will double that of the iPhone over the next four years. Microsoft says global unit sales of its Windows Mobile software will grow at least 50 percent annually in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

Common Web Design Mistakes, You Should Avoid

There are several lists of web design mistakes around the Internet. Most of them, however, are the “Most common” or “Top 10” mistakes. Every time I crossed one of those lists I would think to myself: “Come on, there must be more than 10 mistakes…”. Then I decided to write down all the web design mistakes that would come into my head; within half an hour I had over thirty of them listed. Afterwards I did some research around the web and the list grew to 43 points.

The next step was to write a short description for each one, and the result is the collection of mistakes that you will find below. Some of the points are common sense, others are quite polemic. Most of them apply to any website though, whether we talk about a business entity or a blog. Enjoy!

Allow user to know what the site is about in seconds:
Attention is one the most valuable currencies on the Internet. If a visitor can not figure what your site is about in a couple of seconds, he will probably just go somewhere else. Your site must communicate why I should spend my time there, and FAST!

Make the content scannable:
This is the Internet, not a book, so forget large blocks of text. Probably I will be visiting your site while I work on other stuff so make sure that I can scan through the entire content. Bullet points, headers, subheaders, lists. Anything that will help the reader filter what he is looking for.

Do not use fancy fonts that are unreadable:

Sure there are some fonts that will give a sophisticated look to your website. But are they readable? If your main objective is to deliver a message and get the visitors reading your stuff, then you should make the process comfortable for them.

Do not use tiny fonts:
The previous point applies here, you want to make sure that readers are comfortable reading your content. My Firefox does have a zooming feature, but if I need to use on your website it will probably be the last time I visit it.
Do not open new browser windows:
I used to do that on my first websites. The logic was simple, if I open new browser windows for external links the user will never leave my site. WRONG! Let the user control where he wants the links to open. There is a reason why browsers have a huge “Back” button. Do not worry about sending the visitor to another website, he will get back if he wants to (even porn sites are starting to get conscious regarding this point lately…).

Do not resize the user’s browser windows:
the user should be in control of his browser. If you resize it you will risk to mess things up on his side, and what is worse you might lose your credibility in front of him.

Do not require a registration unless it is necessary:
Lets put this straight, when I browse around the Internet I want to get information, not the other way around. Do not force me to register up and leave my email address and other details unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. unless what you offer is so good that I will bear with the registration).

Never subscribe the visitor for something without his consent:
do not automatically subscribe a visitor to newsletters when he registers up on your site. Sending unsolicited emails around is not the best way to make friends.

Do not overuse Flash:
apart from increasing the load time of your website, excessive usage of Flash might also annoy the visitors. Use it only if you must offer features that are not supported by static pages.

Do not play music:
on the early years of the Internet web developers always tried to successfully integrate music into websites. Guess what, they failed miserably. Do not use music, period.

If you MUST play an audio file let the user start it:
some situations might require an audio file. You might need to deliver a speech to the user or your guided tour might have an audio component. That is fine. Just make sure that the user is in control, let him push the “Play” button as opposed to jamming the music on his face right after he enters the website.

Do not clutter your website with badges:
first of all, badges of networks and communities make a site look very unprofessional. Even if we are talking about awards and recognition badges you should place them on the “About Us” page.

Do not use a homepage that just launches the “real” website:
the smaller the number of steps required for the user to access your content, the better.

Make sure to include contact details:
there is nothing worse than a website that has no contact details. This is not bad only for the visitors, but also for yourself. You might lose important feedback along the way.

Do not break the “Back” button:
this is a very basic principle of usability. Do not break the “Back” button under any circumstance. Opening new browser windows will break it, for instance, and some Javascript links might also break them.

Do not use blinking text:
unless your visitors are coming straight from 1996, that is.

Avoid complex URL structures:
a simple, keyword-based URL structure will not only improve your search engine rankings, but it will also make it easier for the reader to identify the content of your pages before visiting them.

Use CSS over HTML tables:
HTML tables were used to create page layouts. With the advent of CSS, however, there is no reason to stick to them. CSS is faster, more reliable and it offers many more features.

Make sure users can search the whole website:
there is a reason why search engines revolutionized the Internet. You probably guessed it, because they make it very easy to find the information we are looking for. Do not neglect this on your site.

Avoid “drop down” menus:
the user should be able to see all the navigation options straight way. Using “drop down” menus might confuse things and hide the information the reader was actually looking for.

Use text navigation:
text navigation is not only faster but it is also more reliable. Some users, for instance, browse the Internet with images turned off.

If you are linking to PDF files disclose it:
ever clicked on a link only to see your browser freezing while Acrobat Reader launches to open that (unrequested) PDF file? That is pretty annoying so make sure to explicit links pointing to PDF files so that users can handle them properly.

Do not confuse the visitor with many versions:
avoid confusing the visitor with too many versions of your website. What bandwidth do I prefer? 56Kbps? 128Kbps? Flash or HTML? Man, just give me the content!

Do not blend advertising inside the content:
blending advertising like Adsense units inside your content might increase your click-through rate on the short term. Over the long run, however, this will reduce your readership base. An annoyed visitor is a lost visitor.

Use a simple navigation structure:
sometimes less is more. This rule usually applies to people and choices. Make sure that your website has a single, clear navigation structure. The last thing you want is to confuse the reader regarding where he should go to find the information he is looking for.

Avoid “intros”:
do not force the user to watch or read something before he can access to the real content. This is plain annoying, and he will stay only if what you have to offer is really unique.

Do not use FrontPage:
this point extends to other cheap HTML editors. While they appear to make web design easier, the output will be a poorly crafted code, incompatible with different browsers and with several bugs.

Make sure your website is cross-browser compatible:
not all browsers are created equal, and not all of them interpret CSS and other languages on the same way. Like it or not, you will need to make your website compatible with the most used browsers on the market, else you will lose readers over the long term.

Make sure to include anchor text on links:
I confess I used to do that mistake until some time ago. It is easier to tell people to “click here”. But this is not efficient. Make sure to include a relevant anchor text on your links. It will ensure that the reader knows where he is going to if he clicks the link, and it will also create SEO benefits for the external site where the link is pointing.

Do not cloak links:
apart from having a clear anchor text, the user must also be able to see where the link is pointing on the status bar of his browser. If you cloak your links (either because they are affiliate ones or due to other reasons) your site will lose credibility.

Make links visible:
the visitor should be able to recognize what is clickable and what is not, easily. Make sure that your links have a contrasting color (the standard blue color is the optimal most of the times). Possibly also make them underlined.

Do not underline or color normal text:
do not underline normal text unless absolutely necessary. Just as users need to recognize links easily, they should not get the idea that something is clickable when in reality it is not.

Make clicked links change color:
this point is very important for the usability of your website. Clicked links that change color help the user to locate himself more easily around your site, making sure that he will not end up visiting the same pages unintentionally.

Do not use animated GIFs:
unless you have advertising banners that require animation, avoid animated GIFs. They make a site look unprofessional and detract the attention from the content.

Make sure to use the ALT and TITLE attributes for images:
apart from having SEO benefits the ALT and TITLE attributes for images will play an important role for blind users.

Do not use harsh colors:
if the user is getting a headache after visiting your site for 10 consecutive minutes, you probably should pick a better color scheme. Design the color palette around your objectives (i.e. deliver a mood, let the user focus on the content, etc.).

Do not use pop ups:
this point refers to pop ups of any kind. Even user requested pop ups are a bad idea given the increasing amount of pop blockers out there.

Avoid Javascript links:
those links execute a small Javascript when the user clicks on them. Stay away from them since they often create problems for the user.

Include functional links on your footer:
people are used to scrolling down to the footer of a website if they are not finding a specific information. At the very least you want to include a link to the Homepage and possibly a link to the “Contact Us” page.

Avoid long pages:
guess what, if the user needs to scroll down forever in order to read your content he will probably just skip it altogether. If that is the case with your website make it shorter and improve the navigation structure.

No horizontal scrolling:
while some vertical scrolling is tolerable, the same can not be said about horizontal scrolling. The most used screen resolution nowadays is 1024 x 768 pixels, so make sure that your website fits inside it.

No spelling or grammatical mistakes:
this is not a web design mistake, but it is one of the most important factors affecting the overall quality of a website. Make sure that your links and texts do not contain spelling or grammatical mistakes.

If you use CAPTCHA make sure the letters are readable:
several sites use CAPTCHA filters as a method of reducing spam on comments or on registration forms. There is just one problem with it, most of the times the user needs to call his whole family to decipher the letters.

Targeting SEO Keywords

There is a saying we throw around the office, target the root and devour

There are more keywords under the surface than their are keywords revealed. Leave it to most businesses to always want to go bigger, better and over the top in an attempt to conquer the most powerful or most searched keywords in a niche or take on the major players for vanity plate keywords.

Not to say that the competitive nature in most of us doesn’t get the best of us, who doesn’t want to rank higher in Google, Yahoo, MSN or Ask? The key is asking yourself about time to market, topical continuity, relevance and conversion and if you would rather keep your eggs in one basket or spread around the risk to offset the odds.

Does a visitor care how many competing page there are for the query they execute (such as 1 of 10 of 100,000 results or 1 of 10 of 100,000,000?), hardly, but does an SEO or a business targeting that keyword, you bet they do, since they have to climb that mountain to reach the top 10.

Going back to behavior, is the need to necessitate a keyword victory over a competitor really matter if the keyword performs poorly? I can assure you, not every keyword is laced in gold. The idea that as soon as you get that one magic phrase, your business is in the clear is a reality that can change.

The premise of search behavior shifting can leave a 6 month exodus of trying to achieve one specific keyword or phrase flat if people simply stop searching for that exact phrase, which leads to my conclusion.

Don’t Assume, You Either Know or You Don’t Know:

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…. -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….. -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.


-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. Therefore, it’s become increasingly important to have the first 250 words of your copy be keyword rich.

Sometimes, 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.
The assumption in the heading suggests:

1) You never know exactly how search engine algorithms are going to slice and dice your pages or how many or few keywords each page can rank for. We can speculate, but organic SEO can really deliver traffic.

This means that relevance for a query can align from a keyword from the title, another keyword from the URL string, another keyword gets latched on from a description tag and yet another portion of the keyword in the body copy of the document. Even though the snippets returned in the search result is what is above the surface, you never know how deep a search query can go into your site, one page or all of your pages to assess relevance.

The point being, unless you have a crystal ball or write the algorithm (which I doubt) then such things are constantly being tweaked and adjusted to return more relevant results. So, the more narrow your keyword focus, the more of the market you potentially miss.

2) If site architecture, content and linking are implemented properly (optimized) then each page can rank specifically for numerous “exact match” and “broad match” (general) keywords and phrases with the same effort of just a few keywords. The key is each page owns a focus or range or phrases it targets, then you coordinate the pages to work as a collective masterpiece.

The takeaway is, the web is a work in progress so don’t obsess and just target 10 phrases, with a bit more energy and effort you can target 100 long-tail phrases that may collectively deliver 10 times the traffic daily than a vanity plate (common sense keyword) based on (partial) keyword research.

The way you find gems like that are (1) check your bounce rates and look for semantic similarities to base your next batch of posts or articles (if you have a blog). The search algorithm sees your pages differently than you do, however the idea is to work with it, not against it.

Keyword tools can only call it as they see it, but since the majority of searches are based on the subjective mindset and search behavior of millions of unique minds, the common threads are not as common as we surmise.

For every common sense keyword or root phrase based on captured data, there are 100 more long-tail equivalents you could rank for as well with a few slight tweaks to titles, links and layout.

A Successful Website Owner

So what’s it really like to own a website which both generates profits for your business and helps (forces) it to grow?

Here’s a breakdown of a typical day of a successful website owner…

1. You Check Your Emails

  • You wake up in the morning and switch on your laptop (or PC), open your email account and check how your website has produced overnight.
  • If you sell direct online, how many sales were made?
  • If the aim is to generate sales leads, how many new leads have you received?

2. You Check Your Stats

  • You login to your Google Analytics account.
  • How much traffic did you receive yesterday?
  • Is it increasing or decreasing?
  • Where did the traffic come from?
  • Are there any areas of opportunity that small effort can result in big payoff?
  • You implement.

3. You Check Your PPC Performance

  • You login to Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing.
  • How many conversions did you receive?
  • What is the CPA?
  • Are you still profitable at this rate?
  • How are your text-ad split tests going?
  • You optimize.

4. You Check Your Rankings

  • You either run your ranking software or you manually type in your top keyword phrases.
  • Are you still in the top 5 positions for your major keyword phrases?
  • How are your competitors doing?
  • Who has just broken into the top 5?
  • What are they doing?
  • You check their linking strategy.
  • You review your strategy.

5. You Check Your SEO Strategy

  • You’re in the top position in Google, but you know that it is fiercely competitive.
  • How many articles have you syndicated this week?
  • Are you releasing a new press release this week?
  • Are you social bookmarking your valuable content?
  • Are you contacting other site owners to exchange links?
  • What are you doing to maintain your rankings?

6. You Check Your Website’s Performance

  • You login to Google Website Optimizer.
  • How is your website performing?
  • What is your conversion rate?
  • How is the latest split-testing going?
  • Is it time to test a new version of your PPC landing page?
  • Is it time to test a new version of your ‘money’ page on your main website?
  • You setup new split tests.

7. You Check Your Content Strategy

  • You know that continually providing valuable content will give you the competitive advantage you need.
  • What new content are you adding to your website?
  • What new tools are you adding to your website?
  • What can you do to build value to your prospects so that they trust you more?

8. You Check Your Emails Throughout the Day

  • You’ve setup your email account to automatically check for emails every 5 minutes. Expectations have now been set.
  • You expect a new sale or a new sales lead every 30 minutes.
  • If you haven’t received a new sale or a new lead in a couple of hours, you check that everything is okay.
  • Is your website still up?
  • Are your forms working?
  • You audit.

9. You Review Your Email Strategy

  • You login to your email management system.
  • How many new people have joined your email list today?
  • What emails will they be receiving?
  • How many people are now on your email list?
  • What value-add can you send to them?
  • How can you build the relationship with them?
  • You write a new email.

10. You Look For New Sources of Traffic

  • Your sales process is refined. A new sale or lead comes through and it automatically goes into the sales funnel.
  • How can you drive more prospects into the sales funnel?
  • You research additional keyword phrases you can add to your PPC campaigns.
  • You research additional keyword phrases you could be optimising for.
  • You design new banner ads and place them on new sites.
  • You track everything for ROI.

11. You Manage Your Business’ Growth

  • You continually try to balance the cost of growing your company vs the profit you are currently making. As your sales increase you need more staff and better systems to handle the growth.
  • What are you doing to support this growth?
  • What new systems are you putting in place?
  • Are they scalable?
  • What happens if your business doubles overnight (again)?
  • Who do you need to hire?
  • What do you need to outsource?

12. You Read Online Marketing News

  • You have a folder setup in your Firefox bookmarks toolbar with all of the online industry publications you follow. You right click and ‘open in all tabs’. You read all of the blog entries and find out what new developments are happening with SEO and PPC, especially Google.
  • What new developments could affect your SEO rankings?
  • What new developments could affect your PPC results?
  • You review your strategy.

13. You Review Your Marketing And Education Strategy

  • Online marketing moves at an incredible pace. Staying ahead of your competitors requires strategic thinking and continual education. Your SEO rankings are supporting 5 to 10 full time staff.
  • What if you lose those rankings?
  • What backup strategies have you got in place?
  • What are you doing to stay ahead of the curve?
  • What do you need to learn to be successful tomorrow?
  • Where is the online market going?
  • How can you learn what you need to learn in the most efficient and effective manner possible?

So there you have it. The life in the day of a successful website owner.

It’s not easy, but it is fun.

Of course, if you use an online marketing agency to manage your strategy, you only have to check your emails and bank balance each day, the agency does the rest.

A successful website is one of the most exciting and profitable assets your business can own, because it generates profits and helps your business grow 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.

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