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Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Pretty Face is Not Enough (When it Comes to Your Website)

By Ivana Katz (c) 2009

Imagine meeting someone new ... they have a beautiful face, lovely hair, stunning smile, drop dead gorgeous body and are dressed in designer clothes. Naturally you are attracted to their striking appearance, so you start talking to them. After a few minutes you realize this person has no personality, only talks about himself/herself and has no interest in finding out about you. Any attempt on your part to speak gets shut down and if you do manage to ask a question their answer is usually "Yes, but ... let's get back to me".

How long do you think you would stay and chat to this person? Do you think you would want to become friends? Probably not.

And the same goes for your website!

You can create the most stunning website, with flash animations, video or audio features, rotating logos etc but the truth is, if your website doesn't have any depth, no amount of "pretty" will get visitors to come back, let alone purchase anything!

Just as Dr Phil warns against spending your entire time planning a wedding (and spending thousands of dollars on it), instead of preparing for a lifelong marriage, many first time entrepreneurs become absorbed by the visual aspects of their website. They spend hours agonizing over colour schemes and designs (and then spend thousands of dollars having special effects added), but sadly don't give any priority or time to the content of their website. True.

Every month millions of new websites are being added to the internet and you are competing against all of them! Even if they are not in the same line of business as you are, they are competing with you for visitor attention.

And even if you do manage to get a visitor to your website, but fail to provide the necessary information, your potential customer will click away in seconds, not to be seen again!

As a new or prospective website owner, you are faced with three major issues, when it comes to having a successful website:

1. Driving traffic to your website
2. Converting visitors into paying customers
3. Getting customers to come back and purchase more

1. Driving traffic to your website

This is a broad subject and has been covered by an earlier article, entitled "30 ways to promote your business & website on a shoestring budget".

2. Converting visitors into paying customers

This is one of the areas in which most business owners fail. The main reasons are that they:

(a) Don't provide information that their customers are looking for. For example, if you are selling furniture and your website only features a "general" category of products being sold, but not specific items, their prices and measurements, the customer will go somewhere else. If someone is looking on the internet for a sofa, they need to know whether it will fít into their home, whether it is within their budget and how it will look. The customer wants to know the information there and then. They are not going to wait until they can speak to someone on the phone or even drive to the store to find out. They will find another supplier (even an overseas one) who does provide the information. So when creating your website, PLEASE PLEASE ensure that you supply as much information as possible about each product and service, including its price (or price ranges).

(b) Don't make it easy for their customers to find the information. It is important that your website is easy to navigate. This means placing your navigation bar at the top or left hand-side, as this is the first place majority of people look for. Contact details should be displayed not only on "Contact Us" page, but also at the bottom of each page.

(c) Don't prove their credibility. Sure many companies speak about themselves and how great their products are and why you should buy from them, but the reality is no-one really believes them. International Marketer & Author Darrell Berg-Smith (www.darrellberg-smith.com) says that you should "Forget selling; prove your expertise. Start to position yourself as the expert on your product or service. You don't do this by claiming to be the expert, or displaying your impressive CV. You do it instead by sharing your knowledge and giving your customers helpful, relevant information, without a sales gimmick and for free."

Another way to prove your credibility is by simply placing testimonials from happy customers on your website. If you don't have any, GET THEM NOW!

3. Getting visitors to come back and purchase more

In order for your customers to come back to your website, your first transaction with them must prove flawless. Your products/services need to be delivered exactly as stated on the website and be delivered on time (or sooner). In reality, you should under-promise and over-deliver. Provide your customer with bonuses, such as free information. If for example, you sell baby products, you can send your customers tips on how to settle their baby, a líst of child-friendly services in their area, advise on baby skin care etc. (fantastic advice)!

You should also include as much information as possible on your website - free resources, articles, reports, ebooks relating to your industry, service and products. You can easily source free information on the internet. This will ensure that your customers will keep coming back to your website, even if it is just to get information. The more they visit, the more you will stick in their mind as an expert and the next time they are ready to order your products/services, you will be their first choice.

Another way of staying in touch with your customers is by sending them a regular newsletter. This can be done, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. You can do it manually if you don't initially have many subscribers, but as your subscriptions grow, you should consider using inexpensive mailing software such as GetResponse (www.getresponse.com), which will not only handle your mailing líst, but also allow you to easily send out newsletters.

Remember once you've created your website, the work doesn't stop there. You need to keep updating the content to keep your customers and search engines happy. Your marketing also needs to continue. There is no point in spending thousands of dollars on creating a beautiful looking website if no-one is going to visit it or worse still, refuse to buy products/services.

About The Author

Ivana Katz of Websites 4 Small Business makes it easy for you to get your business on the Net. If you're looking for a professional and affordable website designer, visit www.web4business.com.au and download a free plan for your website.

From Ivana: Hi Robert Thank you for your kind words. Of course you are welcome to publish my article. There are other articles I've written at: http://www.web4business.com.au/Articles.htm



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Friday, January 23, 2009

5 Steps to Newsletter Mastery

This is the best advice I have read on designing effective newsletters. This fantastic advice came from Entireweb.

What is good email design? And how can you hone it to heighten the payoff of your email marketing investment over time?

Like any ambitious endeavor, success favors preparation. In this article is best practices for optimal email newsletter design and how, with careful cultivation, you can plant the seeds that will yield a bounty later. As you will discover, launching successful newsletters is not difficult--it simply involves a hearty combination of knowing your goals, drafting a plan and executing with precision. Staying committed to each is essential.

Mastery Step #1: Define Your Purpose

Your email marketing program--and each newsletter within it--deserves a well-thought-out plan. It's essential to determine what goals you want to accomplish and how they align with your department's or your company's overall communications strategy. The idea is to send emails that convey context, reinforce company "voice," and build your brand by creating a positive user experience. Draft a rock-solid email messaging plan, listing yours goals and the content and design features that will support them. Ensure every element--imagery, copy, palette, tone--supports your brand and communicates consistency across campaigns.

Mastery Step #2: Know Your Audience

Always remember: Your audience is in cahoots with their own interests. That means, no matter what your plans are, if your newsletter doesn't speak to, reach, or intrigue your audience, then you're not going to see the response you want. Since you're also marketing to current or potential customers, it's imperative to understand what they want to see and how they want to see it.

Take into account the following demographic considerations and plan accordingly:

- Is your list comprised of B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer)?

- Does your list skew to teens, middle-aged or elderly individuals?

- Is it predominantly female or male? Age, generation and gender are big influencers in design. Vary font size, message relevancy, tone of voice, and color themes based on whose reading and why.

- How well do recipients know you and your company? If you're emailing to prospects, delineate clear and relevant benefits in the subject line to deter spam alerts. If your list already knows you, personalize the message by including your name in the "from" line and put the recipient's name in the body.

A few quick tips on keeping the audience front and center:

- Execute "precision marketing:" create newsletter campaigns based on demographic information (age, sex, income, geography, buying habits)

- Place the content most relevant to your target demographic above the fold.

- Speak to your audience on the level they prefer, talk up not down to young adults, be respectful yet upbeat and friendly to seniors.

- Create visual and content templates unique to each demographic group.

Mastery Step #3: Crystallize Your Message

To win the hearts of customers, you need a meaningful message--well told and well presented. To get there in a newsletter, it's essential to define your content's purpose. Do you mean to build customer loyalty, start a conversation, sell a product, offer a discount, or ask for opinions?

Perhaps "all of the above" sounds good, but be warned: like any message, a newsletter saturated by multiple themes and intentions loses steam fast. Spare your readers the burden of too many links, options, and themes. If you don't, they'll likely abandon the search and leave. If your goal is to sell more, try saying less. Be precise. Showcase your products, offer incentives, and present obvious and enticing links. Save the rest for another round.

Map out your newsletter with clear goals in mind--and don't overwhelm readers with too many or unrelated messages.

Remember these quick tips:

- One objective is best for all emails.

- If you have multiple objectives, break it up into manageable sections or send several emails over time.

For example, of the following objectives, choose two or three per campaign:

- Build customer interaction/brand awareness

- Drive customers to your Web site

- Sell your products or services

- Promote events or news

- Recruit brand champions to spread your message

- Communicate your unique selling position and cultivate customer interest

- Build or introduce new brand attributes: color, logos, messaging and tone

- Create hype and fuel social networking

Email marketing is essentially a speed game, word economy is a must. Don't take time getting to the point: say it now, fast, and clearly. Remember that your newsletter is about prompting readers to click to your site. Communicate enough benefit, briefly coined, so readers will want learn more.

Make calls-to-action stand out with unique symbols, arrows, or font and color choices. Pick a style and stick with it--if you use a red triangle to denote section links, then always use them. This consistent effect trains your audience to quickly identify and to respond to links within the message.

Mastery Step #4: Carefully Chunk Content

Structure, design, nuance and message blend to create the force--powerful or weak--behind any communication. How these aspects coalesce in your newsletter content can affect your brand image, sales goals, customer relationships, and future business demand.

As many big-name e-marketers know, achieving email newsletter success requires shapely, succinct, engaging and easy-to-follow content. Once you master the form of these design strategies, over time your newsletter's effectiveness will rise to the occasion.

For starters, a carefully chunked page--that is, a page broken into bite-sized pieces served under clear, informative headings--creates a palatable design tempting to even the pickiest reader. Content chunking is cousin to several essential design tactics. For example, avoid the formidable "wall of text;" present brief, quick-read paragraphs that prompt a "click" rather than teach a lesson; and buffer sections with plenty of white space and complimentary, appropriate imagery.

Akin to content chunks is the "6-second rule." Keeping this in mind will shape everything you do in your newsletter design and campaign, from subject line, to byline to calls to action. The gist is this: if your reader doesn't get it in six seconds or less, then they're gone. Do not collect $200. Do not pass go. They couldn't care less. That's because the way to your readers' hearts is through direct, clear, scannable content that piques their interest and offers quick benefits. How you convey that in the speed game of email marketing is with carefully and concisely structured pages.

Here are a few tips to assist you with 6-second rule mastery:

- Use headings to communicate the essential messages on the page.

- Segment content to make the page "scannable".

- Offer obvious and enticing links to your site or promotional page.

- Restrict paragraphs to three lines or less.

- Break key points into bullets rather than paragraphs.

- Include title, byline, and call-to-action in each paragraph and bulleted list area.

- If you have multiple objectives, chunk each one into bite size nuggets.

Mastery Step #5: Send Multi-Message Campaigns

We've covered the importance of limiting each newsletter to just one or two clear objectives. Now, what about big, complicated messages that still need to get out?

Once you outline your campaign's successive messaging goals, list the topics for each email. Then you can run it as an ongoing conversation with your audience on a theme you make familiar by stretching it across days, weeks, or months. *** Always remember, the ultimate goal is to get them to your site.

Here are a few tips for multi-message success:

- Stay nimble and allow your Web site to do heavy lifting.

- In each successive email, sprinkle intrigue elements--ask question, offer tidbits, lay breadcrumbs--to get them to your site.

- Use teasers in each email about what's coming next week, month, etc.

- Create reflective content on your site to pair with each message.

- Maintain a consistent theme throughout the entire campaign, in your newsletter and on your Web site.

- Suggest a timely, limited offer to create extra incentive to buy, click or return.

- Plan multi-message campaigns to coincide with larger, yearly marketing strategies.

Everyone needs to sign up for Entireweb's Newsletter. Save newsletter@entireweb.com to your address book and visit http://www.Entireweb.com to register. (We are not affiliated with Entireweb, just fans).


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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Video Search Engine Optimisation (VSEO) - tips and strategies

(VSEO) - Video Search Engine Optimisation

by Caroline Rodgers

The use of video’s to promote your online content is becoming more and more important, and prevalent, in the expanding world of search engine optimisation.

We should be seeing a big boost in VSEO (Video Search Engine Optimisation) in 2009.

With the growth of video portals such as You Tube (www.youtube.com) and multi-submission sites such as Tube Mogul (www.tubemogul.com), it has never been easier to get your videos on the web. So why should you try and go down the root of selling VSEO to your customers? What is its selling power? Is there more to it that popping your video up on You Tube and hoping for the best? Or do you need to provide your customer with a full blown media centre?

Why use Video SEO?

1. Video on independent websites seem to be quickly and heavily indexed and ranked by the major search engines.

2. Including videos adds additional ways to optimise for your keywords and phrases. By adding content relevant to your keywords and phrases, combined with the related videos, will add weight to your site and its content.

3. The video content can be duplicated on 3rd party website such as you tube without any duplicate content penalties.

4. Allows for more text and pages to optimise your keywords and phrases around. Be sure to surround videos with relevant on-page content.

5. Embedding videos in your site pages is a great way to increase the stickiness factor of your pages, which can increase both traffic and search rankings for a specific page. Google and most search engines use a variety of factors to determine the ranking importance a specific page online, one of which is average visitor session length on a page.

* Visitor length on a page can be increased by embedding a video. These longer site visits may be interpreted by Google that the page has increased value and in turn may be given a bump that translates into higher search engine rankings.

6. Choosing a video that is themed to your content and informative can help with the stickiness factor – you need to give the search engines something to crawl. Adding an irrelevant video for the sake of adding a video will just confuse your visitors.

7. Videos help in adding new, fresh and dynamic content to the site.

8. It is important get your video content found by the search engines. This can be achieved through the use of sitemaps, RSS and MRSS (Media RSS) feeds.

Google has introduced Video Sitemaps that will index the video content. If video files are named correctly this is valuable to the search engines. Click here to see Google tips on creating and adding a video sitemap: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/topic.py?topic=10079

9. Videos are now listed in the search engine results pages adding valuable links and alternative sources to your brand name and web site.

Tips for implementing Video SEO

A) File Names - Give the video file a catchy and relevant name that is related to your keyword or phrase. Once you have uploaded your video sitemap there is added opportunity for these keywords and phrases to be found and indexed by the search engines.

B) Meta Data - Add meta data to your video files. Again, use relevant meta data, like you would when you are carrying out other Search engine optimisation campaigns.

C) Transcripts - Transcripts of the video will add credible content to the page and give the spiders relevant information to crawl. The transcript should make reference to keywords, relevant content and your brand.

D) Outbound Linking - If you add video content to other sites such as You Tube, make sure that you avail of their ability to link back to your own site.

E) Video Length - Add shorter videos to keep your audience interested. If your video is quite lengthy, consider breaking it down into smaller chunks. This will also give more quality video content to optimise.

F) Branding – Have your branding displayed in your video to enhance your brand awareness.

G) Inbound Linking – link your videos to important keywords throughout your site to enhance their value.

H) Rating – allow users / visitors to rate your video

What can you provide to your customer to boost your sales and in turn boost their rankings?

The first step is getting your client to see the value in undertaking Video Search Engine Optimisation.

Using the information supplied in this document you should be able to present a fairly strong case to your client.

You will also need to provide them with a viable strategy that will get their rankings up. For a simple solution, you can offer to add content to video sites, implementing the tips outlined above.

Another option is to provide them with a video library on their site that will have separate pages for the individual videos. This will allow you to add valuable content and meta data, plus the ability to link to these pages from within your site.

An excellent article by Caroline Rodgers,Biznet IIS. Caroline Rodgers, SEO Executive, Biznet IIS.


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Friday, January 2, 2009

8 Ways To Increase How Long A Visitor Stays On Your Site

by Jeff Schuman

How long do people stay on your site when they get there? In this article let’s talk about 8 ways to increase how long a visitor stays on your site so you can achieve more positive responses!

Getting traffic to your website is only half of the battle. The other half is getting them to stay long enough to complete a positive action. The more positive responses you get from your website visitors the better your Internet business will do.

Do you use any type of site statistic tracking on your site? Google Analytics is very good and can tell you how long a website visitor is staying on your site.

Before we get to ways to increase how long a visitor stays on your site lets talk about what positive response is. Since we know that everyone who comes to your website is going to leave you want to get them to do something positive before they do.

Examples of a positive response would be subscribing to your newsletter, clicking on a pay per click ad, filling out a lead form, bookmarking your site, subscribing to your RSS feed if you have a blog, going to another page on your site, buying something, contacting you by email for more information, and so on.

These are all things that someone could do while they’re on your site that would be considered a positive response. This also increases the amount of time that they spend on your site.

8 ways to increase how long they stay:

1. Offer only fresh content. If your content is unique and interesting a person will spend more time reading it. Using private label right content is generally not the best way to do this because your visitors may already be familiar with it having seen it on someone else’s site.

2. Make your site interesting by adding video, audio, graphics, and so on to liven it up a little bit. Understanding how social media works is a very good way to come up with ideas to make your site more interesting.

3. Remind your visitors they can print out content on your website. While it’s printing it gives them an opportunity to look at other things on your site.

4. Encourage visitors to participate in a survey in exchange for a free gift. Once they complete the survey send them to another page on your site where they can access the freebie.

5. As opposed to sending your visitors to affiliate webpages, create a file with a redirect name to another page of your own. You will get credit for another page view and the time a person spends on your site will increase.

6. Pay attention to how fast your site loads. Today people are in a hurry and they do not have a lot of time to wait for webpages that load slow. If your pages are not loading fast consider what is slowing them down and change it.

7. Make sure your website is professional in every way. This includes the text that you are using on your pages. It should be easy to read and the pages themselves should be easy to navigate around them.

8. Brand yourself in every way so that as a visitor goes from one page to the next they always feel like they are still on your site. This includes having the same background color for every page including your blog. Your header should be the same on every page, and any logos should be consistent as well.

These are 8 ways increase how long a visitor stays on your site. By keeping your visitors around longer you increase the odds of having a positive response from more of them.

Jeff Schuman invites you to visit his make money online website for JV With Jeff free training, blogging blueprint, and Hands Off Article Marketing. Visit http://www.Team-Schuman.com


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