How is a web page hit counter like a fanny pack?

hit counterHINT: Both were popular in the mid-1990s. One was popular in the 1980s … if you know which is which, then you’re an astute historian.

And both fanny packs and hit counters have been made a lot of fun of in the years since. (more…)

Web clients, beware!

skull and bonesI make nice web sites.

Yet, once a web site is complete, and a web site owner has not opted for further search engine optimization (SEO), I have found a few of my web sites completely revamped. Either by the owner, who thinks he/she knows best, or by a “friend.” The web sites retain the original look, but are tricked out with all kinds of useless and even damaging changes. (more…)

Does Apple care about social media anymore?

Apple logo

Apple logo

Every now and then I like to run my company’s URL through Marketing Grader, a service of HubSpot. More than just kicking the tires, this free analysis can tell you some of the strong (and weak) points of your web site and social media efforts.

And it’s pretty cool that you can also check the marketing chops of any company you like. A company like Apple. (more…)

The 12 commandments of building your own web site

The ten commandmentsA lot of you want to build your own web site using tools available in a variety of places on the Internet. I get that.

I hope when you’re ready for a professional web site, you call someone like me (Susan, Basecamp Productions, 410.404.5559), who can put the right things in place to:

  • make your web site attractive
  • bring customers to your front door
  • help customers easily find what they came to find
  • MAKE YOU MONEY

In the meantime, a few suggestions — I call them the 12 commandments of building your own web site.

  1. Use copy sparingly. You’re not writing the bible of your business — you’re writing just enough to make your phone or your cash register ring.
  2. Use photographs and other images at the proper size. A picture tells a thousand stories, right? So don’t use too many — take advantage of large-format slide shows. And please use photos that people can see. If you must use small photos, make sure there’s a way that your customers can enlarge them.
  3. Put your address and telephone number on every page. Not only will this help your search engine optimization, it will make it easy for your customers to get in touch.
  4. Include a sign-up form. Whether you want your customers to ask questions or subscribe to your newsletter, sign-up forms are the best way to increase your email list. You are using database management, right?
  5. Do NOT include a link to an actual email address, such as “dave@business.com”. I’m always surprised at how even professionals do this. There was a time when we expected all of our customers to have email clients (software, for the uninitiated) on their computers. These days, many people I know, of all ages, don’t have an email client (such as Apple Mail, Entourage, or, God forbid, Internet Explorer). To receive their mail, many people go directly to gmail, verizon.net, cox.net, and other service providers. If you use an email link as opposed to a form, your guests may click and then receive a message box that tells them to configure their email client (which they won’t understand) or they won’t get any message at all. They’ll think something is broken, and they’ll go elsewhere.
  6. Enter different meta information for each page and post on your web site. If you’re using WordPress (and possibly other content management systems), you’ll need to download a plug-in to help you do this. Do NOT enter the same information for each page. If every page of your web site is telling search engines the same exact thing, you’re missing an opportunity to bring your guests to the right page. Plus, search engines such as Google don’t like it A LOT. You might even be penalized by Google et al., meaning that they’ll take you down a few notches for duplicating your meta information.
  7. Do not create duplicate web sites with the same (exact) information. I have a client who has a business web site, yet she also consults with a variety of other businesses offering some of the same services. She did not want to compete with the other businesses in certain areas. So she asked whether she might duplicate her web site under another URL to further her consulting business and remove any pages that competed with those of her clients. ABSOLUTELY NOT. When Google (and possibly other search engines) discover duplicative content, they can penalize one or both of the offending web sites. The idea behind this is a noble one … Google et al. don’t want to let web pirates (folks who make money stealing your content) gain the upper hand. But … how does Google know which site to penalize? They don’t, always. If you offer duplicative content on two sites, you could show up at the bottom of the search heap OR be banned from search engine results pages (SERPS) (in other words, your content won’t show up at all when users enter your key words).
  8. When creating a link, don’t use the words “click here.” Since when have you ever searched on the words “click here”? Google places a high value on the words used in a link (both internal and external to your web site). You’ll do better if you enter key words, such as “download free report about teen bullies.”
  9. Use key words in titles. For instance, instead of writing “Welcome,” write something like “How can I live without back pain?” By doing so, you’re attempting to gain hits from people searching for some or all of these key words.
  10. Write sexy titles (especially if you’ve set up your web site to republish to Facebook and Twitter). Instead of sending a post named “Our newest product,” try something like “How can you learn Portuguese in 10 days?” or “Do you know how to fix a bike tire the right way?” or “What are the 12 commandments of skin care?” Even the most experienced of skin care aficionados will wonder whether they know every single step of the twelve. The question format is a plus. People love to check their knowledge, and that’s an opportunity for you to teach them something new.
  11. Use a copy protector. I call these copy condoms. For many content management systems, you can find an app or a plug-in to help you protect your content. Once in place, these protectors are a deterrent to copy theft. In short, they will not let anyone copy your content to paste elsewhere. I say “deterrent” because, well, there are pirates out there who will “scrape” anything from a web site and you can’t do anything about it. By using a copy condom, you’re making theft more difficult. 97% effective, as always.
  12. Keep your menu items to a minimum. I don’t mean your number of pages. Organize your content! Don’t let your menu items bleed onto two lines. Make sure you think of what your guests (potential customers) need and not your need to tell your potential customers what you want them to know. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes … if you were visiting a dentist’s web site, wouldn’t you want that site to be calming as well as informative? Don’t you want potential customers to call you? What does that take?

Please tell me YOUR thoughts about what you want an ideal web site to contain or not contain. I’d really like to know what you think.

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What is bounce rate and why is it important?

The Sexy Metric:  Bounce Rate

The Sexy Metric: Bounce Rate (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

Bounce rate is the percentage of people who come to your web site (on any page) and leave without exploring a single other page.

I have known companies with huge bounce rates (not good) and low (excellent!).

You might have terrific content on your web site and still … your bounce rate is high.

You’re lying awake at night wondering … what’s going on? I’m doing everything possible to drive traffic to my web site! Where is everyone?

Honestly, there is a clear answer.

I know a company like this, Company A. Fabulous content. Plenty of blogging and tweeting and Facebook action. Also, mad marketing skills, including writing, newsletters, and social media marketing. Still? This company has a bounce rate of over 80%. Only one in five visitors choose to explore more than one page on Company A’s web site.

I often read search engine optimization (SEO) experts’ blogs, and they say, among other things, developing content is the most important thing. Develop the content, they say, and people will come. Well, yes and no.

For instance, what about my friend, Company A? Company A has fantastic content!

My answer is this. You have three goals to reach on any web site.

  • Your site has to be great looking. Not amateurish. Not on GoDaddy’s “Web Site Tonight.”
  • Your site has to be well SEO’d (search engine optimized) … meaning that you’re bringing in well-qualified visitors.
  • Your site has to help visitors reach what they’re really looking for. THIS IS THE DIFFICULT ONE.

Company A succeeds at #1 and #2.

What’s the problem?

In a word, usability.

Company A has made the mistake of not engaging its customers (#3).

Look, if people have gone to all the trouble of actually reaching your site, and you’re turning them away, something is wrong.

It’s as if you run a hardware store and people reach the parking lot and are disappointed before they even enter. They move on. They don’t like your look. Perhaps they go get an ice cream or a Cuban dinner, and then go to a hardware chain. Or not. Whatever. They’re not buying from you, even though they had every intention to when they first showed up.

The solution?

  • Make your web site about your customers. What are they looking for (not what you’re selling)?
  • Make sure your navigation (tabs) reflect what customers are looking for
  • Make sure every page offers a way to get in touch, buy, or sign up for something special (an ebook, for example)

In short, solve your customers’ problems, and they’ll solve yours. Answer their questions.

Now, your ideal bounce rate might be 1 or 2%. I have two clients with this bounce rate. In other words, 99 people out of a hundred, after reaching their businesses, are engaged enough to leave the parking lot and walk through the front door. In other words, visitors are so excited that they click where you want them to click. And, I hope, get to the information that matters to them most.

I think, for most businesses, a bounce rate of 10 to 20% is a great goal. It may take you a while to attain it, but that’s what help is for. I can help you get there.

I’m fond of saying that a web site is like an employee. If that employee isn’t bringing in money (e.g., earning his or her keep), you need to fire that worker and hire a new one.

Web sites aren’t designed to just sit around. They should work for you.

Again, solve your customers’ problems, and you’ll solve yours.

If you want better results from your web site (and you deserve them), contact Basecamp Productions at 410.404.5559.

SEO 101: On-page SEO

On-page SEOOn-page search engine optimization (SEO) is about words. To wit, the words you use on your web pages. If you choose the right ones for your web site, you can do a lot to reach the top of your customers’ search results.

Even though it may sound complicated, SEO is refreshingly logical (mostly), democratic (available to anyone willing to put in the time), and can be absolutely FREE. And you will almost certainly see results if you work at it.

One of the aspects of SEO I really enjoy is that it’s “pull” marketing. You’re no doubt familiar with “push” marketing, which inserts unrequested ads and e-mails into inboxes and onto results pages (I really dislike the blinking ones). Pull marketing simply helps people find what they’re already looking for.

What on-page search engine optimization is

So one key to helping people is to make sure you’re speaking their language. Quite literally. This means you need to think about what people type into a Google search box when they’re looking for your products or services. These are called key words.

The important thing is that when someone enters key words into a search box, the results will be prioritized by how close they were to the original searched words. Simply put, if someone enters, “How can I find the best personal coach in Baltimore?” theoretically, your link will appear in the search results first if you’re the only one to have those words in that particular order.

So you first need to determine key words that work for your business. And after you’ve made a list (quite possibly by studying the web sites of your competitors), begin putting the key words into question form as well, because it turns out that a lot of people write questions to Google, not just words and phrases.

Once you have a keyword list, you do just about everything possible to use these key words liberally (but not obnoxiously) on your pages.

Notice that I said “just about” everything. Google is not stupid (and yes, Google really is the primary search engine you need to concern yourself with, but not the only one). In fact, millions of dollars every year go into Google’s frequently updated “search algorithm” so that it’s not fooled by shysters. Some people (mostly in the past) have actually stuffed their pages with “invisible” key words (making them the same color as the background so the words are unnoticeable in a browser window). Web pages with this kind of “trick” will be penalized by Google and possibly other search engines. Such techniques are called “black hat” techniques. Honest, hard-working SEO is called “white hat.”

Google rewards you for honest attempts to help your audience find information. Keywords in page titles are weighted more heavily, for instance, than in metatags that are buried in the html of your pages.

What on-page search engine optimization is not

There are other SEO strategies you’ll want to look at:

  • inbound links
  • outbound links
  • local SEO (which literally puts you on your local map)

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