Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Is your website ready for mobile devices?

One of the topics that has created a great deal of buzz is the importance of mobile devices:

  1. How important is this option to my website?
  2. How do I make my website mobile friendly?
  3. What will it cost to do this?
  4. What else do I need to consider?

There is no single answer to any of these questions but there are some guidelines:

1. First know your desired user. If your customers or employees use mobile devices frequently or if they do/ want to use a smart phone or tablet, this topic is really important. In general, the trend is towards using the web more on mobile devices: http://marketingland.com/report-nearly-40-percent-of-internet-time-now-on-mobile-devices-34639. This is especially true for younger age groups, entertainment and sports content and products/services whose marketing relies on social networking.

2. The major challenge to using the web on mobile devices is that the amount of space is smaller on these devices. Desktop monitors are typically 24 inches or larger with screen resolutions that are typically twice that of even newer iPads. There are two main ways to address this: responsive design and mobile menu integration.

A responsive website is designed so that it adjusts to the size of the display. Each element and piece of content is reduced in size to conform to the device used to display it. If your website is built that way AND if your content is not too dense, your website may be well received as is. If your content is too dense, it would be wise to add mobile menus. Mobile menus change how users navigate a site. This reduces the need to magnify the screen or scroll multiple times to see content. The best examples of content dense websites are news organizations. The BBC website is a good example. I reproduced the mobile vs. desktop version below.

Desktop

Desktop

bbc_mobilehomebbc_sectionsmenu                 Mobile menus were used to make the screens less cluttered and still allow users to get to the content. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to read on a small screen?

So for your website, the key is how much information appears on any one page. This is subjective of course. If it does not overload your users, you may not need to create a mobile menu. You still need to use technology that works on mobile devices or else replace it with mobile friendly content. There were plans to integrate Flash into mobile players but that dream never materialized. With the ability to render images in javascript or derivations of it, Flash should be avoided.

3. The question of cost depends on how your website is made currently. If your site was not created as a responsive design and the appearance is poor, we would recommend it be changed. If your site was made in html only, it will need to have code inserted into them to detect the device in use. Then a different display will have to be created for each device. Many content management systems (CMS) have be upgraded to include that code. This includes Joomla, Drupal and WordPress among open source CMS. If your site needs a mobile menu, the steps to create mobile menus are similar. The costs will vary depending. We recommend you discuss the current need, the future and the return on investment with your developer and marketing team and avoid a hasty decision.

4. Mobile phones seem to be standardizing around the Droid and MAC operating systems. Tablets seem to be standardizing around the iPad and Kindle operating systems. The screen sizes on each device and each platform determine the screen size and resolution available. So it is worthwhile to stay informed on these specs periodically. Aside from that, how your site displays on a particular mobile browser depends on the age of the device and how the user has it configured.

911 – “My website is down!”

No one is happy when the day begins with a customer calling to say they get an error message when visiting your website.  A visitor may see a message indicating that the website is not found, the domain is available for purchase, a database cannot be accessed or that the website is offline. Here are the most common reasons websites don’t display and how to avoid it.

  • The hosting or domain fees have not been paid
    If you catch either of these issues quickly, you may be able to remedy them by simply paying the bill.  Many web hosts and domain registrars set you account to renew automatically.  If that is the case, your credit card information may not up to date.
  • The host server is down
    The easy solution is to contact your hosting company or by checking with your IT group for internally hosted sites.  A professionally hosted site should have redundant servers and be able to get your site live quickly.  If you continue to experience downtime and if the downtime is over an hour, look for another hosting solution.  Sometimes shared hosting environment are prone to downtime so consider upgrading your hosting plan to a VPS or dedicated account.  Sometimes a new hosting company is appropriate.  Look at our hosting recommendations  if you need to consider that option.
  • Your visitor is inside a restricted network
    It is not unusual for visitors who are inside a firewall to loose access to your site because the security settings or workstation settings have changes.  Sometimes public wifi networks have similar issues.  So ask your visitor if that may be the case.I attempted to access the internet in talking to a potential client from their office and could not access many public websites because of this.  (Needless to say, I didn’t gain that client.  It is hard to tell a client that their IT is poorly configured.)
  • Something in the basic website code failed
    This may be because of an incorrect edit to these files.  Occasionally files become corrupted because of many unknown reasons.  These reasons include corruption on the host servers and read/write errors from accessing files.  These types of issues are unpredictable.  If your host does not provide a good backup, plan look for another host.  Regardless of your host, you should have a backup process that stores backups apart from the host server.  Akeeba provides a good backup option within Joomla.  Check with your developer to see what options are available for your site.
  • Someone “hacked” or maliciously interrupted your website
    Just as viruses can find their way onto your local computer, websites can be compromised too.  Public and internally websites should be protected in a variety of ways.  If you have a Joomla site, check our recommendation.  Many of the principles also apply to websites overall.

How you recover from a hack or virus depends in part on your host’s security measures.  Some hosts quarantine websites they detect as compromised.  Your first steps are to check the date of your locally stored backup and then seek assistance if you are unsure what to do.

Learn SEO From Your Competitors

SEO can be a confusing and time-intense process, and many of our clients ask over and over where they should focus next. While it would be great if we could implement dozens of SEO tasks, the truth is, it’s much easier to focus on one or two directions at a time. Your search engine competitors can be a wealth of information for honing your SEO strategy.

Find your search engine competitors

Search engine competitors are different than industry competitors. Search engine competitors are the URLs that come up when you search using the keywords you are optimizing for. They may or may not be in your same industry, they are simply the sites that come up based on the search terms entered.

For example, let’s say you provide water damage restoration services. You might search under “water restoration” and see who comes up at the top of Google. The sites who come up on top are your search engine competitors. When I type in this term, I get companies that provide these services, but also an insurance company ranked at #3. So they are your search engine competitor, even though their company does not provide the same services.

If you want to hone in a more localized search, you might put in “water damage Los Angeles” and see who your search engine competitors are for a localized search. It is easier to rank for a localized search, so if you are not well indexed, I would start by analyzing local search engine competitors.

What do I do when I find my competitors?

Choose 2-3 competitors whose sites have good SEO ranking. Once you have made your choice, use the following criteria to analyze the SEO optimization of their website:

1) Content: Where are they using keywords in their content. Use these free keyword density tools to analyze the content and see what the percentage of occurrence is for important keywords. Have they done anything clever with their content in order to weave in keywords. For example, perhaps they show a map with links to city names in order to help get optimized for specific locals.

2) Meta Tags: Right click on the web page and select “view source” in order to see the HTML code for the page. At the very top of the page you will see meta tag information for that specific page. Here you can see if they have input keyword and description meta information to let the search engines know more about the page. SEO rumor has it that this information is no longer important for search engine ranking, but analyze your competitor’s sites to be sure. If they aren’t using it, and they are ranking high, chances are you can skip it too.

3) Title: The title of the page is considered the most important SEO element above all else on the page. The title is at the very top of the browser window, not necessarily the headline shown within the body content of the page. It is important to include keywords in your title. How well have they integrated the keywords into the page title?

4) Heading Tags: Otherwise known as H1, H2 and H3 tags, heading tags on a page are considered more important content than the regular body text. Does your competitor use these heading tags in order to highlight content? If so, have the woven in their keywords? What keywords have they used?

5) Inline links: Inline links refer to links within body text. Joomla web design is an inline link to the Landau Design website using the words “Joomla web design”. Search engines consider inline links to be much more important than non-linked text. Inline links from body content are the most valuable types of in-bound links for your site (if they come from a page that is of relevant content). Does your competitor use inline links to interlink content on their site which would emphasize specific keywords to help with indexing?

6) Content for SEO: Do they have information on their site that boosts their keyword optimization? For example, if they  provide business coaching for entrepreneurs, do they have articles on their site that talk about business growth strategies?  Do they have a blog that is always adding additional content, which would further index them under optimum keywords?

7) Research their in-bound links: We’ve never found a tool that is 100% reliable for this, but it’s worth it to use some of the tools out there to discover your competitor’s in-bound links. Researching inbound links gives you an idea of how many links they have coming into their website. Read Building on Your Competitor’s Links to learn how to find and utilize this information.

Conclusion

Your competitors can teach you a lot about SEO, and give you a clear direction for where to focus your SEO efforts. We would suggest choosing one competitor each week whose site you analyze in order to glean new ideas for your own SEO strategy.

What is Social Media?

You hear about social media all the time in the news, but what exactly does it mean when you are into it? We scoured the web and found some definitions that are interesting as well as informative.

Wikipedia had the most intellectual definition: “Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from online content consumers into online content producers.”

Nicki Laycoax had the funniest definition: “Infectious excitement inducing product/service evangelism leading to the best form of marketing — Word of Mouth… a.k.a. Social Marketing.”

Brian Boland had the simplest definition:Social Media is the identity that’s online enabling people to share, create and drive connections across media.”

Our Simple Web Toolbox definition: “Social media is the interaction of individuals using online tools. This includes community tools to invoke a live conversation, such as Twitter or Skype, or one-on-one tools to distribute information in hopes of a response, such as email or blogs. It is the new way to do online marketing and to strengthen your online presence. It is not a fad, it’s a new way of communicating that is here to stay.”

Internet tools generally considered part of social media:

What is your definition?

We’d love to hear what your definition is and how you use it. In the comments, we’d love to hear your answers to these questions:

  • How you define social media?
  • Are you a player or a watcher?
  • Do you use it to increase your online presence, or is it a focal point of your online marketing campaign?
  • If you aren’t using it, why not?

15 Ways to Promote Your Website on a Tight Budget

It has reached a point where a business without a website lacks a certain legitimacy. Like a business card, it has become an essential part of sharing your information with potential customers. But many small businesses have a tight budget for web development, with little or no extra funds to do an official marketing campaign.

The following resources will help you promote your website without having to spend a dime of your money. It will cost you time though. There really are no short cuts for effective web marketing. The truth is, you need to put in some time and effort to get results. But if you DO put in that time, I PROMISE you will get results.

Most of these suggestions are easy to implement, and I would strongly suggest recruiting individuals within the company who can spend 20-30 minutes per day helping in the online marketing effort. Heck, even your teenager or neighborhood kid could help you in these tasks. If the person can surf the web, they can help you implement most of these free ideas.

Before you start, get something to track traffic

Install a metrics package to monitor the traffic on your site. Google Analytics is a free one that is great at helping you see how many visitors come, where they are coming from and what keywords they use to find you in the search engines. You don’t have to use Google, but use something. You want to measure the changes as you implement your plan.

15 Ways to Promote your Site for Free:

1.Make sure you’re listed in the search engines: Most people don’t realize that not all the search engines are going to pick you up automatically. While Google is the biggest, there are many other smaller search engines that can have an impact on your traffic. Use an SEO tool like Web SEO Analysis to analyze your website, and see which search engines have indexed you.

2. Online Business Directories: This is a biggie for gaining SEO points and putting yourself out on the Internet. Set a weekly goal of inputting your company into online business directories, and be sure to include a link back to your website. You can use GetListed.org to find out if you are already in some of the major directories, and find out how complete your listings are. Some of the most popular free business directories include:

3. Ask clients to give you online recommendations: Once you get listed in business directories, then do some legwork to get your offline clients to share how much they love your services. Research has shown that users are more compelled by testimonials than your sales pitch, so this is an excellent way to bring yourself to the top of the heap in a business directory. An effective strategy is to focus on one directory at a time, gain 10-15 recommendations, then move onto another directory. In this way you will build a solid reputation for each listing.

4. Commenting on other blogs: Most blogs allow you to put a link back to your website or blog. If you comment intelligently, people might just click on that link and visit your site. Even if your comments don’t intrigue anybody, those link backs help your search engine ranking. 15-20 comments per day would be ideal, but most people don’t have time for that. Set a goal of making at least 3 comments per day on blogs, but please follow my cardinal rule: do not spam the blogs! Only offer comments that are legitimate, don’t do it just to gain a link back.

5. Submitting articles to article directories: This is a very effective way to draw traffic to your site and build link backs for SEO. Andrew Rondeau recently wrote an excellent post about how to increase traffic by submitting to article directories. Here are some of the most popular article submission sites:

6. Write press releases and distribute online: This is an often forgotten, very effective online marketing tool. It is not challenging to write a press release. There are many how to write a press release tutorials online. There are also many press release sites that will allow you to submit and distribute your release for free. Here are some of the more popular free press release sites:

7. Submit informational pages to bookmarking sites: People often think of bookmarking sites as only applying to blogs or news. But the truth is, if you have pages on your site that contain quality content that is informational, you should submit those pages to bookmarking sites. People peruse these sites to find out about popular content on the web, and they are an excellent way to draw in quality traffic. Some of the most popular bookmarking sites include:

8. Offer to guest post on other blogs: This is a very effective strategy for bringing in traffic, especially if you don’t have your own blog to share your knowledge. Get to know colleagues of complimentary businesses, and ask them if they ever accept guest posts. Track blogs within your industry, and watch for invitations for guest blogs, or offer to guest blog if it seems appropriate. Many of the bigger blogs these days request guest bloggers because it’s an effective way to keep quality content coming in at a fast pace.

9. Add social bookmarking links on your pages: This is a simple and quick way to get your visitors to help you promote your site. By adding these links, you’re encouraging them to share your information if they find it helpful. You’d be amazed how many people take the 15 seconds required to click on these links. We recently wrote a post about how to add share icons to your website or blog.

10. Create an RSS feed for your content: If your site is built with a content management system such as Joomla or WordPress, you can activate an RSS feed for your content. This allows other websites to pull your content into theirs. Why would you want to share your content? Because it creates a link back to your site, and it spreads the words. In Joomla you can create feeds for specific categories, so you can limit what content is pulled versus which appears only on your website.

11. Use a monthly newsletter to announce changes to your site: There are many services that make a monthly newsletter an easy task. Mailchimp is our favorite, but Constant Contact is one of the most popular. These sites allow you to manage your mailing lists and create newsletters with pre-built templates. Get a format you like, and be consistent about creating and distributing your newsletter. If you are tracking your website visits, you should see a surge in traffic on the days you send out your newsletter.

12. Create a HubSpot or Squidoo page. These websites all you to create a page with information on a specific topic. They generally only allow one page per topic, so the opportunity is fabulous for link backs to your site. Updating your pages with new content helps in keeping it in front of the users of the site, in addition to creating link backs to your website. As with other social media suggestions, be sure you choose a topic that you are genuinely interested in, so your content adds value to the community.

13. Put your URL in the signature of your email: This one seems obvious, but not many people do it. Every time you send an email it’s an opportunity to share your website. If you have a blog, include that too.

14. Create videos and share them through social media video sites: This is a growing trend in publicizing websites. What do you do that you can share via video? Is there anybody in your company that would make a great spokesperson? Or perhaps you can create some how-to videos. Once created, you can share your videos via online video sites. The most popular include:

15. Get involved in an online community: Generating a presence in an online community can be an effective way to share your expertise and create link backs to your website. Choose a community you are genuinely interested in so you will enjoy reading and replying to posts. Choosing a forum within your industry is usually the best choice. Be certain to create a signature that includes a link to your website.

Got any more ideas?

Our clients are always asking, so if you have any other free ways to promote a website, we’d love to hear about it! Please share them to the comments section. Thanks!