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The actual text you use in the title of a page is one of the most important factors in how a search engine may decide to rank your web page. In addition, all major web crawlers will use the text of your title tag as the text they use for the title of your page in your listings. The most common mistake made by small business owners is placing their name exclusively in every title of every page. Since the business is presumably already the domain name, this is both redundant and counter-intuitive to searches. With the exception of the home page, using the business name in the title is probably a waste of valuable keywords and space. Dedicating the first three title words to descriptive keywords (while avoiding stop words like "and" or "at") is crucial to search engine optimization. Your title tag is the single most powerful on-page factor in your SEO toolbox. Use it wisely.
Over the weekend we attended BarCampMilwaukee5 at BucketWorks in Milwaukee. BarCamp is a self-described "unconference," meaning that it is essentially sourced ad-hoc the day of the event by its own participants. Being totally free, there is no barrier to entry, so absolutely anyone was able teach, learn, and share in an open environment. The attitude is equal parts positive and relaxed, and the participants seemed to be shining stars in their fields. It was inspiring and humbling to attend. At the end of the night, while sitting at a table covered in Lego, we listened to the endlessly enthusiastic James Carlson discuss his overarching plans for the community he was bringing together. During this five minute "lightning talk" we saw a glimpse of what the future of learning and collaboration could be like. What we witnessed there drew strong (positive) parallels to the communities depicted in Daniel Suarez's Freedom. It was an absolutely thrilling and inspiring experience when I realized the power of the community we had just become a part of. Thank you, BarCampMilwaukee.
Convincing your prospects to purchase from you is a hard job, but have you ever thought that you're making the process twice as difficult for both parties if your prospects are convinced but don't know how to buy from you? No matter how good you are at convincing your prospects, they won't buy if they find the process cumbersome. For small businesses, there's no easier way to securely and reliably accept credit card payments than with Google Checkout. It increases conversions by allowing customers to make convenient, secure purchases from you simply by entering their Checkout username and password. If you're using Checkout for the first time, you only need to fill out one page of information to complete your purchase. And you can shop with confidence knowing that Google will protect you from unauthorized purchases should they ever occur. There are no monthly, setup, or gateway service fees. You Pay only a competitive per-transaction rate. Additionally, you can boost your prospects' confidence by providing testimonials, a convenient way to contact you, and a money-back guarantee. Remember, you're a total stranger on the internet, you need to earn your customers' trust. There's nothing more frustrating than turning away willing customers. For any e-commerce site, the importance of your shopping cart can not be understated. It's the most important link between you and your customers.
Just like your wardrobe, websites can need "a fresh look" for a number of reasons. They can be out dated, broken, tired, or just plain not fit your organization anymore. Are you considering a redesign just for the sake of it? If so, you may want to reconsider. Being bored of your site isn't a good enough reason to redesign what may be a perfectly good website. If your current site has traffic and a good conversion rate, you should probably not redesign it. Redesigning your website is like performing plastic surgery on it. Your website loses its current identity (for the better or worse) and your regular visitors might not recognize your new design at first glance. You risk losing them just because they thought they landed on the wrong page. Hence, it is very important that your brand identity be maintained throughout the redesign. Logo, colors, and brand message are critical. The best way to know if you should redesign is to ask! Ask your customers, and if they think it is necessary for the website to have a fresh look, give it to them!
The low barrier to entry when joining social media sites makes them very alluring to small business owners looking for low-cost effective advertising. The reality of content strategy and social media management rarely occurs to an entrepreneur as they spend an evening clicking through signup pages on half a dozen web 2.0 sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Flickr. Once signed up for these services, they end up providing little more than profile backlinks for the business. While backlinks are great for SEO, being overwhelmed by social media is not. Our advice to starry-eyed web business owners is that yes, you should engage in social media, but you should only invest your resources in the networks that you're certain your customers are using. Let's first agree that the relevant social media networks to businesses are:
  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. LinkedIn
  4. YouTube
  5. and Blogs (Blogger & WordPress)
To determine which is the most relevant network, search the above networks for your niche keywords, ask your customers what they use, and engage in some common sense. For us, I know that Twitter is the most active, YouTube has had the greatest return on investment, and LinkedIn has resulted in affiliate partnerships.
  1. My first loyalty in any web project is to the users.
  2. I will use the most up-to-date web standards and technologies to guarantee my users a positive experience.
  3. I will do the best I can to support the least capable of my users without compromising the experience of my best ones.
  4. I will always adhere to a separation of content and presentation in my markup.
  5. I will always use sensible and semantic CSS.
  6. I will not use HTML elements purely for presentation.
  7. I will design for the content.
  8. I will enhance my websites using semantic technologies wherever possible.
  9. While I understand and practice good SEO, I do not, and will not ever use black hat SEO techniques.
  10. I will do my best to support and educate my fellow web designers on the importance of web standards.
  11. I will not degrade my work, nor my industry, by working on spec.
  12. I shall not, through action or inaction, allow my company or my clients to use work on spec.
  13. If I meet a professional web designer who uses table layouts, I will punch him or her in the face for degrading our industry.
Source: Sneak-Attack Philosophy by Bernard Yu
Last night I watched the VMAs (in a misguided attempt to support Chelsea Handler.) Lady Gaga cleaned up with eight awards including Best Video. Her tearful acceptance speech thanking her fans, who she refers to as her "little monsters," was amusing and touching. She got me thinking, "What can Lady Gaga teach me?" On design: "When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condom-less sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time." The difference between a good design and a great one is that the great one was made with heart, it conveys emotion. If you're feeling uninspired and robotic, your designs will reflect that. Get inspired about your next project and the result will shine. On branding: "I used to walk down the street like I was a fucking star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be- and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth." The moral is that a designer can only be as big as they appear. Believe in your ability, charge the full amount that your time is worth, and people will see you as the proverbial rock star designer. On marketing: "You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way. I'm just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time." On fashion alone, Lady Gaga is known as a force to be reckoned with. Her collaboration with designers and utter dedication to aggressive fashion has netted millions in free press. When your portfolio is both well executed and emotionally inspired, it will speak for itself. Lastly, love your work and you will succeed: "I am focused on the work. I am constantly creating. I am a busy girl. I live and breathe my work. I love what I do."
With the new Google Instant, results are now streamed live as a user types. If a user is to pause for just three seconds, the ads shown count as an impression. If your Click-Through Rates start to trend downward, it's because Google Instant is skewing your impressions upward. So don't pause that ad just yet. The solution is to use long-tail keywords in order to keep your impressions highly targeted. A long tail keyword is something like "Northwest Suburban Web Design" while a short tail keyword would be just "Web Design." An explanation from the Google AdWords Blog:
Although Google Instant doesn't change the way ads are served, ads and search results will now be shown based on the "predicted search." For example, if someone types "flow" into, our algorithms predict that the user is searching for "flowers" (the predicted search) and therefore display both search results and ads for "flowers". However, if that user then adds the letter "c" to the query, our algorithms may predict that the user is searching for "flowchart" and show the corresponding natural and paid results for flowchart.
Source: Google Instant: A More Innovative Approach to Search
One of our recent clients told us that they had been the victims of fraud twice in a row at the hands of people posing as web designers. The first was a man who asked for a deposit and then disappeared, the second was a man who was unable to complete the work due to a complete lack of technical skill. The following are some red flags that could mean you need to seek out a better designer:
  1. They don't have a website or the website is "under construction."
  2. They are not active in the web development community.
  3. They don't use social media.
  4. They have no address or use a PO Box.
  5. They ask for 55% to 100% of contract fee upfront.
  6. They offer prices that sound too good to be true.
  7. They don't accept credit cards, they demand cash or PayPal.
  8. Check their code. Does it use the <font> tag? if so, they're amateurs.
  9. Ask what program they'll use to code your site. This is a trick question. If the answer is anything other than "by hand," they're a hack.
Since there is no barrier to entry to web design, it's very easy to declare oneself a designer or developer. You need only access to CraigsList to post an ad and begin building awful websites or scamming unsuspecting clients. Don't let bad web design happen to you. Your website is the 24/7 face of your company online.
  1. Between 85% - 96% of all local customers research a business online before contacting or buying from them.
  2. Print Circulation is down 7 million in the last 25 years, while in the last 5 years online news publication is up 30 million.
  3. This year traditional media advertising is down by the following numbers
    1. Newspaper:18.7%
    2. Television:10.1%
    3. Radio:11.7%
    4. Magazine:14.8%
    5. However, online advertising is up by 9.2% and mobile advertising by 18.1%
  4. Bloomberg reports that online advertising spending has surpassed print advertising this year. For the first time Print advertising will only comprise of 30% of advertising budgets, while digital advertising will make up 33%. That means $119.6 Billion will be spent online, vs. $111.5 Billion will be spent on print.
  5. All online advertising is trackable and targeted- you know if it is effective or not. Whereas with offline ads, the advertising generally is broadly targeted, not trackable, and more expensive!
  6. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Myspace,in that order, have been found to be very effective marketing tools by businesses this year. In fact Dell released figures stating that they have made an extra $3 Million since 2007 just from Twitter posts.
  7. According to Outsell's online marketing study, of current marketing tools, websites generate the highest ROI followed by conferences and exhibitions.
  8. Finally, cross-media marketing efforts (e.g. combining offline and online advertising) have been found to be the most effective. 78% of businesses combine two or three marketing methods to maximize effectiveness.