Archive for the 'Website Planning' Category

Should You Write Your Own Ezine Articles?

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A recent discussion on a message board got my attention. The discussion was about writing your own articles for your ezine, versus using one of the free ones by another author which you can find on the articles banks.

When I work with small business clients, whether they’re marketing locally or nationally, I often encourage them to either write their own content or have it ghost-written by a professional writer. They are trying to create a public image as an expert is some field, and having your own by-line on articles in your ezine helps build that reputation (as does public speaking and teaching). Having someone else’s by-line on articles in your ezine can never build your own personal reputation, no matter the content of the article. And, worse, might possibly distract the reader to visit the guest author’s website instead of your own.

At the very least, I encourage my clients to include one of their own articles PLUS an article written by someone else who is complementary to their business. For instance, a chiropractor might include one of her own articles, plus an article written by a massage therapist or nutrionist.

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Category: Marketing, Website Planning

Getting Your Website Seen on Search Engines

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When people search for you on Google, does your site show up on page 1 — or on page 20 — of the search engine results?

Since 84% of internet traffic goes through search engines, being ranked highly by search engines will send you a huge number of prospective customers.

Are search engines sending you enough traffic to build your business?

For instance, for the phrase “mastermind group” (which I rank #1), Google sends me 34,000 visitors per year. For the phrase “small business coaching” (which I also rank #1), Google sends me over 10,000 visitors per year. Just those two search phrases alone send 44,000 NEW visitors to my site each year. Well worth the work of SEO!

What if you could do the same for the keywords you want to target?

Optimizing your site to get it ranked highly on the search engines can be a complicated subject.  To simplify things, it’s helpful to first understand how search engines add sites to their database. Then we’ll cover some tips that you can put on your own website that will help you to get listed on search engines and get a higher ranking.

The Major Search Players

Let’s start off with the major search engines, the ones that most people use.  Google is the most widely used search engine, getting between 55-65% of all searches.  Yahoo Search and Microsoft Bing lag far behind with a total of 10-15% each. Bing just recently outranked Yahoo and became the #2 search engine after Google.

While there are thousands of search engines, it’s always a good idea to start with submitting your website to the three largest.  Why? Because 95% of all searches go through either Google, Yahoo or Bing.

And now that Yahoo is using Bing’s search engine for their results, there are really only two major players: Google and the combo Yahoo/Bing. As of April 2012, Google processes 66% of all searches, followed by Bing at 15% and Yahoo at 13%.

How Search Engines Read Your Site

Search engines send out crawlers to index your site’s contents. Crawlers follow the links found on your site and enter your site into their search database based on text they find on your pages.  This text is either found on your public pages, or the text keywords found in behind-the-scenes meta tags.

The amount of your keywords found on your page, the more weight it has with the search engines and the higher your ranking.  But in case you think you can load your page with keywords in order to fool the search engine, think again.  Search engines are smart and you can be penalized for keyword stuffing on your website.

How Search Engines Index and Rank Your Site

Search engines use several techniques to determine which category your site belongs in and which keywords people will use to find your site when using the search engine. Google says they use over 200 parameters (“signals” they call them) to categorize and rank a website.

When submitting your site to search engines, they will ask you for your URL (website address). Then they will crawl your site, checking to see which keywords and ideas are most important from your site.  And remember, you will be penalized for spamming your keywords and rank LOWER because of it.  Also it’s important to note that search engines can not read the text in graphics, so if you are using a graphic-based navigation or have your keywords on a graphic next to your logo, the search engine will not notice it unless you use ALT meta tags.

Some search engines will rank your site based on your title, description and keywords that are supplied behind-the-scenes in special coding called “meta tags.”  While not every search engine will read meta tags, it certainly can’t hurt to use them.  Again, there are rules: your Title meta tag can’t be more than 100 characters, and your Description meta tag can’t be more than 250 characters. Google only reads the first 60 characters of your Title meta tag, and the first 160 of your Description meta tag. Google says that they don’t read Keyword meta tags at all. Google’s Matt Cutts says that Google definitely reads your Description tag as well. (Matt Cutts also says that Google does NOT use the keyword meta tag to help determine rank in the same video above.)

Submitting Your Site to Search Engines

Once your site is primed and ready for the search engines, then you have to submit it to them.

For Google, you can submit it here:

http://www.google.com/submityourcontent/#

For Bing, you can submit it here:

https://ssl.bing.com/webmaster/legacy/submitsitepage.aspx

Because Yahoo uses Bing’s search engine, you don’t need to submit it separately to Yahoo.

Use Google’s Webmaster Tools and Bing’s Webmaster Tools to see the status of your submission, any errors the search engines found when crawling your site, and some great statistics about the speed of your site.

Preparing your site for submission to search engines can feel like a daunting task.  With these tips in mind, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration when it comes time to submitting your site and rank higher in search results.

See you on the Internet!

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Website Planning
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Websites and Supermarkets: How We Hunt for What We Want

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Imagine that you enter an unfamiliar supermarket or hardware store. Typically you’re not going in these types of stores to browse around for fun: you know what you want before you walk in the door. How do you tackle the task of finding the specific item you want?

For most people, they’ll do one of two things: they’ll grab the first employee they see and ask, “Where do I find the hot dog rolls?” or they’ll walk past the end of each aisle, glancing at the aisle signs that tell them the aisle contents looking for a fairly good match, then walk down that aisle to see if their item is in that aisle.

Visitors to your website have the same “hunting” mentality. They come to your website looking for a specific answer to a question they have in their head. They scan your home page, looking for a clue about what’s in each section of your website, and grab the first “closest” link that seems to match their question. Or, they’ll go right to your Site Map or Search Box to get some help. Only when they reach the page that really answer their question will they begin to read in any great depth.

If you keep in mind that people are in hunting mode (not reading mode) when they arrive at your website, you’ll save yourself and your visitors a lot of hassle. Here are some tips:

  1. List all the questions that a typical visitor might have when they arrive at your site. What are they looking for when they come to your site? Create your home page to lead them to these answers.
  2. Create navigation and in-paragraph hyper links that include the text that visitors are looking for. Use text labels that are intuitive and the type of phrasing a typical visitor might use.
  3. Keep paragraph text to a minimum until they reach a page that will convert them from “hunter” mode to “information gatherer” mode.
  4. Make it easy for them to get back to the home page. If their initial “hunt” doesn’t unearth the answers they seek, they may be willing to try again, but only if you make it easy for them.

Planning your website is one of the most important things you can do. If your site is difficult to use or doesn’t reflect the real way that visitors use websites, your revenues will suffer. If you’re not getting the results you need from your website, maybe now is the time to consider a website re-design.

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Category: Website Planning
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Are Thieves Stealing Your Website Text?

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Last week, I promised you a story about a  thief.

There are some extraordinarily lazy people out there who would rather steal the carefully-crafted text from your site and put it on their own, rather than do the work on describing their own services and products.

Think it doesn’t happen or won’t happen to you? Think again.

Back in 2004, I wrote an article about how to create and run a mastermind group. The first sentence goes like this:

“There is synergy of energy, commitment, and excitement that participants bring to a Mastermind Group.”

When I type that phrase into Google today, there are 7,330 OTHER websites with that phrase on it. Wow! Is it possible that 7,330 other people all had a collective zeitgeist-intuitive moment where we all read each others’ minds and wrote the same phrase?

Now, truthfully, some of these sites are people who asked permission to reprint my article and who attributed the article to me (38 of them).

The rest took (STOLE!) the text from my article, in part or in whole, and simply put it on their site to describe their own mastermind group.

Here’s a quick test you can try:

  1. Pick a phrase from your website that you feel is uniquely you.
  2. Copy and paste that phrase into Google in quotation marks. The quotation marks tell Google that you’re looking for the exact phrase, all the words in the same order right next to each other.
  3. Note the number of pages with exact phrase on it from the Google results.
  4. To find the websites that also have your name on them (after all, if someone is copying your text, shouldn’t they say who wrote it?), type the phrase again in quotations, and AFTER the last quotation mark, type a plus sign (+) and your full name in quotations. It looks something like this in the Google Search box:

“There is synergy of energy, commitment, and excitement that participants bring to a Mastermind Group”  + “Karyn Greenstreet”

So What To Do Next?

The longer your text has been on the internet, the more likely someone will copy it. You have two choices:

  1. Ignore it, knowing that that Google frowns on duplicate content, so their sites will be penalized for having the same content as your own site, giving them poor SEO results.
  2. Go after the most egregious thieves, especially those who are direct competitors.  Here’s what to do once you discover your text has been stolen.

Whichever you decide to do, always, always remember to copyright your website with the Federal Copyright office. In the USA, you can find out how to copyright your website at www.copyright.gov. It’s only $45, and the best investment you can make.

If you put a lot of work into the quality of the text on your website, consider creating a Google Alert to notify you when that exact text shows up on someone else’s website. Then you can make a decision what to do about the results. You can also use Copyscape.com to find marauders.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Website Planning
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Want to Turn Off Website Visitors? Don’t Include Your Prices

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According to Jakob Nielson, a website usability expert, one of the most important things that prospective customers are looking for on your website is pricing. Yet so many service businesses do not include their pricing on their site. This is understandable if your service is customized for each client and there’s a proposal process to bid on a client’s project, but if you have “packages” that you offer at a fixed rate, why not include them?

Nielson says, “The most user-hostile element of most B2B sites is a complete lack of pricing information. And yet, when we asked users to prioritize which of twenty-eight types of B2B site information mattered most to them, prices scored the highest by far (29% higher than product availability, which ranked second).”

I’ve heard many people say that their prices are flexible. I interpret that to mean: if I’m really hungry, I’ll lower my price for you. I believe in fair pricing: everyone is charged the same price for the same service. I also believe in pro bono (free) work if you really want to help out those who can’t afford your services.

Nielson goes on to say, “Sites have many excuses for not wanting to display prices, but they are just that: excuses. Users expect to get a basic understanding of products and services during their initial research, and they can’t do that without some idea of what it’s going to cost. Even if your company can’t list exact prices, there are several ways to indicate price level, which is really all people need initially.”

If you think that your prospective clients are going to call you to get your prices, think again. Not having prices on your website makes people feel uncomfortable and intimidated, and they’ll find another website where they know what things cost. Either give prospective customers the information they’re looking for, or they’ll go to your competitors site where they can get their questions answered. (Do you really want to come across as saying, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford me?”)

Read his survey results here; while this particular survey is testing business-to-business (B2B) websites, the same holds true to business-to-consumer (B2C) website usability:

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/b2b.html

And, yes, I list my prices for coaching and consulting on the Passion For Business website. Five years ago, I had a hard time finding other coaches and mentors who listed their prices. Recently I see more of them sharing their program and package pricing, which helps their prospects get a sense of what their costs will be. But here’s the correlation: I’m also seeing coaches and mentors get much better at describing their services and outcomes on their websites, which helps the prospect justify the fees in their own mind. When you can show your customer what they’re getting for their investment, you respect their ability to make decisions based on their wants and needs.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Website Planning

Website Startup: What Do I Need For My New Website?

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In this episode of Ask Karyn Anything, Tom asks what he needs to get started with his own website.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbqYCEue8bk

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Category: Website Planning

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