Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to Create a Bad Website and Frustrate Your Visitors

If you want to have a terrible website that looks bad, works horribly and breaks fundamental marketing rules, read on.
One way to look at any website is to break it up into three equally important segments; design, technical and marketing. In other words, every site on the Web contains these three components.
They all have a design or look and feel (design), they all have to be on a server and coded properly to be live on the Internet (technical) and they all have ways in which they attract visitors and make sales (marketing).

In this month's newsletter, we will examine the design portion of your site.
The following is a list, defining exactly what NOT to do.

Top 10 Web Design Mistakes:

1. Not using Web conventions, instead use crazy and wacky formats that no one's ever seen and no one can understand.

2. Writing trite, predictable, boring or copied content only and not updating your site.

3. Creating totally different and unique navigation for every page so that your visitors need to waste time re-learning your navigation every time they go to a new page. Also creating totally different look & feels for every page so that your visitors don't know if they're on the same site or clicked away.

4. Using confusing, obfuscated and mysterious labels for all your links and buttons so that no one ever has any idea where they're going if they click. The more confusing, the better.

5. Making it impossible to search the site. Offering no search box, no site map and basically no possible way to find anything on your website.

6. Including content that only talks about you. Not mentioning anything about your visitors or how you can help them, just talk about you and your history and all your achievements. Including a big picture of you and your office building right on the home page.

7. Including only poorly-written copy with lots of grammar mistakes, and ubiquitous, curious and horrendous spelling and punctuation mistakes throughout your site.

8. Not including any text. Making every page on your site one big picture. So for instance, on your home page have one giant picture of you and your office building and have no text so search engines can't see your site at all.

9. Using buttons for your navigation only, or use complicated JavaScript drop down menus that complicate your site's navigation. Either way, if you do this and include no text links, the search engines won't be able to spider (navigate and record) your website.

10. Making your site as difficult to read as possible. Use teeny, tiny fonts that are hard to read against some funky-colored background. For instance, use blue fonts on a black background.

Follow this list perfectly and you'll be well on your way to having a bad and useless website and frustrating and angering everyone who visits.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Spring Clean Your Website

How to Spring Clean Your Website

Spring is a wonderful time of year but it might not be so wonderful for our online business. The weather is getting nicer and people are spending more time outside, away from their computers. One way to get more people to come to your website is to do some spring cleaning and I don't mean your house! Our websites can get stale and outdated if we do not clean them up periodically.

There are lots of things you can do to freshen up your site and bring new life and new customers to your online business.

1. Add a new section filled with resources, information and maybe even some special deals for your customers. Use relevant keywords to improve your ranking. For example: if you own a home decor business, offer decorating tips and advice. Show people how to decorate on a budget or how to redecorate with things they already own. By providing information and resources along with your products, you are giving people a reason to keep coming back. This is how you build trust with your visitors and get more sales.

2. Remove all dead links, outdated information and products. Nothing is worse than going to a site and finding links that don't work or information and/or products that are no longer useable or helpful. Go through all the links on your site and freshen up the content to offer up to date information!

3. Give your homepage a facelift by adding new graphics, text, etc. Redo your banner and give it some new life. Take out the old graphics and add some fresh new images. Research your keywords and revamp your text with some effective keywords. Write a new introduction to your site detailing all your new additions.

4. If you haven't yet tried blogging, read up on blogging and zap some life into your site. Some free blogging sites are Blogger and WordPress. Blogging is a great way to improve your search engine ranking while expanding your network.

5. Update your product line. Add some fresh new products and offer the old products at clearance prices. Have a Spring Sale and liven up your sales! Keep those customers coming back for more!

6. Add a What's New page so you can let everyone know about all your updates now and in the future. This feature could get more people to return to your site to see What's New?

7. Research the colors used on your site. You may find changing the colors of your site can bring a whole new life to your business.

8. Put a small survey on your site. Ask your visitors what they would like to see and what type of products they are looking for. Getting the information straight from the horse's mouth could do your business a lot of good. Offer your visitors a small gift for answering the questions on the survey.

9. Renew your goals! Make new goals and write out a new business plan. Learn from your experiences, good and bad, and improve your plan for success.

Spring is a time of renewal, revitalization and reenergizing! Our online businesses are no exception!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

5 Ways to Entice Visitors to Keep Coming Back

# 0109

1) You could consider starting a forum, chat room or shout box.

Providing a forum, chat room or shout box, allows your visitors to have a voice where they can share their opinions and interact with their peers -- all of them visitors of your site.

Over time this develops into a sense of community and conversions will follow and your visitors will look forward to coming back to your site each and every day.

2) This probably goes without saying, but starting a blog can be a fantastic source for both new and recurring traffic.

Having your own blog is like keeping an online journal, and human beings are curious and thirsty for information. You need to keep your blog frequently updated with your latest news, both business and personal.

You will find that over time more and more people will come back to read your posts and with it you will develop credibility as an authority figure in your niche.

3) How about carrying out polls or surveys?

You will note that so far all the suggestions made have had some form of visitor interaction and conducting polls and surveys is no different. This is one that you should definitely consider adding to your site.

They are a quick way for visitors to voice their opinions and to get involved in your website. It is important that you publish the results of any polls or surveys so that you keep the interest of your visitors to come back and see the results.

4) This is a little bit more innovative, but have you considered the use of puzzles, games and quizzes.

This will provide a yardstick as to how many people are willing to return to your site if you are maintaining their interest through entertainment.

You can also hold competitions to award the high score winner to keep people trying continuously to earn the prize.

5) This may appear just plain common sense, but you need to update your site frequently with fresh content if you wish to attract multiple visits.

Although this may appear to be the most likely of strategies it is also the most overlooked with some sites seemingly looking the same for years.

If you want returning visitors to the same message, over time that message needs a refreshing, different approach or angle!

Maintaining the same approach continually will have the effect of changing nothing, so don't be lazy and add new fresh bites of information from time to time to increase your visitor's interest.

As alway, best of luck!! ~Tom

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Five mistakes you’re probably making with your MySpace page

# 1208

I don’t need to tell you to get a MySpace page. You already have one of those. MySpace may not have the best user interface in the world, it may be dreadfully coded and poorly laid out — but you still have to have one.

After all: you’re in the entertainment biz, and that’s where all the people seem to be. Since you’re there, you might as well use it to your best advantage.

Judging by what I’ve seen from so many comics and bands, here are some mistakes you’re probably making on MySpace.

1) Using MySpace as your website
This is the worst mistake of all, so I’ve put it at the top of the list. If MySpace is your online presence, you don’t have an online presence. MySpace is for social networking. It is not where you do your business. Have you set up your office at the pub? Use MySpace to interact socially with people, and encourage them to visit your own site where you have control over things like design, content and functionality.

2) Using MySpace as your email
One of the great things about MySpace is that you can send private messages to people and they can reply. This is not a replacement for email — and if conversations go beyond more than one reply, you need to take it to real email as soon as possible. The messaging thing is about establishing contact. Once you have a real contact, then treat them like a real human being — not a MySpace arms-length ‘friend’.

3) Having an impressive background image
If you have a lovely photo as the background to your MySpace page, one of two things is true. Either: a) I can’t read large sections of your text because it’s the same color as parts of your lovely photo; or b) I can’t see it properly because it’s behind large sections of your text boxes. It’s nice that you have nice photos. Put them on Flicker. Leave your MySpace background plain so I can focus on who you are and what you have to say to me.

4) Embedding lots of media
Your MySpace page is not one of the TV channels. I know how to use YouTube. I have not come here to watch videos. I want to know who you are and what you do, so that I will know whether to (and how to) interact with you. If you must put a video on your MySpace page (Really? Are you sure?) then whatever you do, make sure it doesn’t autoplay the moment I load your page. It’s bad enough I get music playing the second I open your page. Nothing scares the casual visitor away like simultaneous multiple sound sources.

5) Writing lots of text
Remember - this is a place to meet people and interact with them. Starting off with a 3,000 word essay’s not the greatest ice-breaker in the world. Be brief. Be engaging. They’re after a quick synopsis — not a complete history. Again, direct them to your website if you feel it’s appropriate to make your entire autobiography known.

Remember: MySpace is a tool. It’s one of many. It’s not your only shot at engaging with your audience or prospective market. It’s an important one though, and it’s one that it’s very easy to make mistakes with. Use it well.

As always, best of luck!! - Tom

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Begin Keyword Research...What is a keyword?

# 1108

It's anything people type into a search engine. It could be made up of one word or several keyword phrases joined together. Every person uses their own method of searching, and that makes anticipating those keywords that will connect their websites with the right visitors very difficult. Keyword research starts with the understanding that finding lots of related keywords that deliver targeted traffic is the ultimate goal of any keyword research.

Sending thousands of visitors to a site who have no interest in your product, let alone in buying it, is just wasted effort and doesn't do any good for your business. If possible, we want to find the customer who has a clear knowledge of what they want and is close to buying something soon.

We would ideally want a few visitors who are seriously looking to buy in the near future. In order to achieve this, we want to find the least competitive keywords with the highest number of searches that are the most relevant to our website.

If you are just starting out, it definitely would be to your advantage to target lower competition terms. Having success with low competition terms will lead to increased confidence to target more competitive terms with higher search volumes.

Thinking like your customers

Thinking like your customers is easier said than done.

All merchants are guilty of thinking in terms of features and specs of the products and not thinking in terms of benefits it can provide to the customers.

You know your business and market too well. The industry jargons and slang are in your every day language. No wonder when you start your keyword research you have a very narrow keyword focus. You become your own worst enemy in exploring other ideas.

Here is an example: what is the most popular search term, "cheap flights," "cheap seats," "low fares" or "discount fares"?

As you can see it's not that simple to pick the best keywords, is it?

The hardest part of keyword research is to keep an open mind about all possible search methods people might use to look for the same thing. Keyword research is part science, part intuition, and imagination. Since we can't get into the heads of every possible potential visitor to your site who may be interested in your products or services, we have to rely on keyword research tools to tell us what people actually search for and how often.

There are a handful of very powerful keyword research tools that are worth using, but the amount of information you can mine from them is mind boggling.

Another great resource for proven keywords is to look at your competitor's website. We are talking about finding the highest ranking competitors on the search engines using your target keywords. Once you find the top 5-10 competitor sites, perform a quick review of their keywords on the web pages.
Keyword research is like a job interview process

In order to find the right candidate you may need to interview hundreds of applicants to find the perfect fit for the job. Well, the keyword research process is very similar; you have to cast a wide net first to capture all the possible combinations of keywords known to man. Even then, it's almost guaranteed you will discover new keywords you have missed in the original research only a few weeks earlier. What this tells us is the keyword selection and refinement process never ends, or at least it should not end until you are happy with the number of visitors you are receiving to your site.

Where and how to look for keywords

In order to find the best keywords for our website we need to gather information from a variety of resources. Some of these resources may include:

Brainstorming: Getting your brain to go on a magic carpet ride is one of the best ways to find relevant keywords for your website. Don't just settle for asking the obvious question, what does my website sell? Ask questions such as: "What is this product made up of?" or "Who is using my services?" or "What problems do my products solve?"

Finding the main and secondary keyword phrases should take less than a month for even 2 or 3 websites. This does not mean your keyword research has ended forever, but finding the 4-5 word long secondary key phrases can be done with the free keyword research tools if your budget is tight.

Free keyword research tools: You can gain access to the powerful and free Google external keyword tool to expand your keyword list. Unfortunately the Google external keyword tool only gives a search volume indicator instead of the actual search numbers. Another very valuable feature in Google external keyword tool is the "Site-Related Keywords" finder. By simply entering the website URL of your competitors, you can find out in seconds which keywords they target on their web pages.

Related search terms suggestion tools: One of the fastest ways you can find hundreds of related keywords is to use online lexical or thesaurus tools.

Creating a large initial keyword list that includes a large number of synonyms and acronyms is essential to effective keyword research. Discovering related phrases that are not simply stemming from the original keyword term is a cornerstone of semantic latent indexing . Semantic indexing can be described as the grouping of related documents based on not only direct relationship between words, but the meaning of the words as well.

Some of the search engines provide a related search command list in their search results. Try Clusty by entering a search command and take a look at the "clusters" side bar. You can get dozens of ideas from the keyword clusters by playing with different combination of keywords. You can also visit Technorati a well known blog aggregator and social media tagging site to help unlocked your brain and generate new keywords. Enter a search term and observe the "Related tags" section directly under the search results.

Visitor statistic reports: These can be generated from web server log files or from script based visitor statistic programs. This can help you uncover new keywords for your website by discovering what the visitors are typing into the search engines to find your websites. In some cases, you'll find keywords you didn't expect to come up for in the search results. You should further research those keywords and uncover new keyword niches.

Site search engines: This can be a great source of new keywords and a potential data mining source. As well as further analysis of the average number of keywords, keyword length and other important keyword metrics.

Top ranking competitors: These websites are already well optimized and contain keyword rich web pages. Why not leverage their efforts and harvest the best keywords for your own website? With the help of the SEO Studio keyword analyzer you can extract hundreds of keywords from their META keywords and HTML page content in seconds.

A few examples of good keyword selection practices

Selecting the best keyword takes experience and a little know how, but it's always helpful to see how the pros do it, so here are a few basic steps for keyword selection.

Using your favorite keyword research tool Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery or the Keywords Analyzer, type in the main keyword phrase. Start with the broadest possible search terms, this way there is less chance of missing keywords that might otherwise be overlooked.

Look for 2-4 word key phrases that have at least a daily search volume of 200 or more. Since the top 3 sites will receive 60 of all searches, it follows you can expect at least 120 or more unique visitors for those keywords phrases. In some cases, you may want to lower the minimum search volume threshold to as low as 50 if the search term is well targeted for your business.

At this point you should have at least 20-30 really good secondary keywords in your basket.

Hopefully most of the keywords you have selected will have little competition. Some of the keyword tools we have recommended will also tell you the amount of competition for each keyword, but you can also verify these numbers manually by typing the search terms into the search engines with quotes.

It's very important that you use quotes around the keywords to let the engines know you are looking for an exact match. The rule of thumb we use to assess keyword competitiveness is around "100,000" websites. Anything above a hundred thousand results is fairly competitive and requires a fair amount of optimization and link building.

As always, best of luck!! - Tom

Friday, October 17, 2008

Make the Best of Bad Video

# 1008

There are four things that can happen when you videotape a performance.

1. Great performance, great recording
2. Bad performance, great recording
3. Great performance, great video, bad audio
4. Great performance, bad video, great audio

Let's talk about #3 & #4. There is something good that can come from these two huge blunders. If you have a great performance but the video is really dark, out of focus or just plain bad, rewind the tape and listen to it again with your eyes closed. Can you hear the jokes? The laughs? Is there a good mix between you and the audience? If the answer is yes, then you may have a great .mp3 audio clip to add to your website.

Maybe you have a tape with great looking video but either there is too much background noise or you just can't understand a word you're saying for a variety of reasons. Good news. Why not take a few screen captures during your performance and you now have some great looking photos of you actually performing. Depending on how good the video is, you may end up with some amazing photos.

As always, best of luck! - Tom

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PayPal...It's Easier Than You Think

# 0908

If you have a product or service to sell, you might consider offering PayPal to your customers as an alternative way to pay. If you already have a business merchant account and take credit cards, stop reading now.

PayPal is hassle free and all you need to get started is a bank account. Oh yeah...and something to sell. If you're a comic, musician or other entertainer you may already have CDs, DVDs or t-shirts that you sell at your shows. These are all great items to sell on your website using PayPal.

A PayPal account can be set up in minutes. After you sign up with PayPal, they will make two very small deposits in the bank account you specified within a day or so. All you need to do is verify the amounts (this is to make sure you are the account holder) and you're ready to go. Oh'll need a spot on your site to display your wares. We can do that for you.

Basically, here's what happens when someone makes a purchase using PayPal.

- You will receive a notification email that a payment has been received.
- Click on the link and it will take you to the PayPal page where you can transfer the money to your account. The fee PayPal takes per transaction is listed below. For example, on a $15 t-shirt, PayPal will take 2.9% or 0.44, plus an additional 0.30 per transaction. You are left with $14.26. That will almost pay for your web hosting for a month! The fees are taken out before you transfer the money to your account. It takes about 3 business days for it to show up in your account. You can also add shipping charges and a host of other services, depending on what you're selling.

I have no affiliation with PayPal other than being a satisfied customer. Many of our clients are using PayPal with great results. Here is one of the first PayPal accounts we set up which has been very successful.

As always, best of luck! Tom