12 Simple Steps to Explode Your Site Traffic Using Online Social Media

By Dave Foster (c) 2007

Last year saw the arrival of online social media. If you operate a website or blog, you would be well advised to realign your site to exploit the popular social media sites for increased traffic.

You should also introduce social media components to your site because web users are experiencing these new forms of interaction on more and more sites and they will have an expectation of the same from your site too.

If you want to attract repeat visitors and want them to stay longer, your focus for the next few months should be on the social aspects of your site.

Social media uses technologies like RSS, blogging, podcasting, tagging, etc. and offers social networking (MySpace, Facebook), social video and picture sharing (YouTube, Flickr), and community-based content ranking (Digg, MiniClip) features.

The central theme of these sites is user generated content used for sharing amongst other users. The social aspects of these sites allow users to setup social communities, invite friends and share common interests.

You don’t have to change your site immediately to take advantage of these new technologies. Introduce small changes incrementally and you will be well on your way to measure up to your visitors’ new expectations.

Step 1. Declare who you are to the online community. People should be able to relate to you. Unless they know more about you, you will be just an unknown identity and most people don’t like to deal with people they don’t know. Create an About Me page to líst your achievements, skills and aspirations.

Step 2. Create a MySpace page and link your biography in the Profile of your MySpace page. Also provide a link back from the MySpace page to your website. Spend an hour every week to develop your online social network in MySpace. Invite a few of your new friends to write blog articles at your site about your products or services.

Step 3. Install a free blog and start publishing at least one article in your blog every week. Provide an easy bookmarking feature to social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us. This is done by providing an action button for each article in your site. The action button takes users to the submission page of the bookmarking site.

Step 4. Provide an action button for direct posting of blog articles to Digg. Digg is a popular news ranking site. A well dugg article will bring thousands of visitors to you.

Step 5. Provide a forum at your site for users to discuss your products and services. Don’t delete negative comments because they provide insights into the improvements needed to serve your visitors better. However, censor hate speeches and meaningless bantering. Register your forum at BoardTracker. BoardTracker is a forum search engine.

Step 6. If you are offering products, allow users to review and rate your products. This will help you in inventory management because you may want to discontinue low rated products.

Step 7. Provide RSS feeds for your new products, blogs, forum postings, etc. An RSS feed provides teasers of your content. Users will use RSS readers to scan your teasers and visit your site for more information if the teasers interest them.

Step 8. Publish all your feeds at Feedburner. Feedburner provides media distribution and audience engagement services for RSS feeds. They also provide an advertising network for your feeds. If you have quality content, you will be able to monetize your content using their services.

Step 9. Create short how-to or new product videos and post these videos in social video sharing sites like YouTube and Google video. Provide a few start and end frames in these videos to introduce your site with your site URL. Post these videos using catchy titles, teaser descriptions, and appropriate tags to make them easy to discover.

Step 10. Provide embedded links to your remotely hosted videos on your site. This will save your bandwidth and storage space because the videos reside on the video sharing sites rather than on your site’s server.

Step 11. As well as videos, use social photo sharing sites like Flickr and SmugMug to share pictures related to content on your site. Use the same title, description and tag techniques discussed earlier for social video sites.

Step 12. Provide a “Send to Fríend” feature for all the products and services you provide. This feature is a link that sends the article, product description, etc. to a recipient via e-mail.

Social media is not a fad. It is here to stay and brings a profound change to web surfers’ experiences. Now is the right time to implement features that will make your site Social-Media-Friendly. Also, using marketing techniques that utilize popular social media sites, you will see a massive íncrease in traffíc to your site.

About The Author
Dave Foster owns and operates the “Solo Profíts” blog and podcast, guiding individual entrepreneurs and home-based business owners to online success using audio, video and multimedia techniques. Dave also explores the virgin territory of multimedia psychology and how to present your message effectively through these new communications channels. Want to discover more? Go To ==> SoloProfits.com

Big Update at Google Analytics

This article taken from SEO Speedwagon – December 14, 2007 – Erik Dafforn

Late yesterday, the Google Analytics team announced a major update to its free analytics package.

Taking full advantage of the upgrade requires something that I’m sure that the GA team wishes didn’t have to happen — the modification of the tracking codes on every page of your site. Basically, you’ll need to change the small snippet of code that used to refer to urchin.js so that it now will reference ga.js — Google’s new JavaScript tracking file.

But not to worry. The team has assembled a 22-page Tracking Code Migration Guide (PDF) designed to, um, walk you through the process.

Beyond a simply explaining how to update your code (which shouldn’t be a problem if you input the original code in the first place), the guide explains the benefits of the new system by showing additional features, such as:

* Tracking virtual page views
* Tracking downloaded files
* Tracking a page in multiple accounts
* Tracking subdomains
* Track a visitor across domains using a link
* Track a visitor across domains using a form
* E-commerce transactions
* Adding organic sources
* Segmenting visitor types
* Restrict cookie data to a subdirectory
* Control data collection settings
* Control session timeout
* Control campaign conversion timeout
* Custom campaign fields
* Using the anchor (#) with campaign data
* Setting keyword ignore preferences
* Control the data sampling rate

Some of these features already exist in one form or the other. For example, you can track file downloads by defining one of your conversions as such. But the new iteration promises more simplicity, which is never a bad thing.

Remember, as always, this is a beta release. (But you knew that, didn’t you?) I haven’t updated the code on our sites yet, so I can’t vouch for any particular improvements. But I am eager to get into it and will certainly post any interesting tidbits right here.

This article taken from SEO Speedwagon – December 14, 2007 – Erik Dafforn

Key Marketing Methods For 2008

Isn’t online marketíng by definition, expensive? Not necessarily. Online businesses are coming to the realization that in an organic environment like the Internet, organic marketing is required; paying for traditional or static marketing only gets you so far before it becomes ineffective. The consumer now controls your marketing.

What is Wrong With the Old Methods?

Old marketing methods are failing because users are beginning to wise up (Rise Up) against the old brute force advertising that tries to win users over through sheer volume, using abrasive web-page banners, unrelated Adwords displayed on the page, or repeated newsletters (most being restricted by anti-spam laws).

The old methods no longer work effectively for two key reasons. One is the fact that they are a “flash in the pan”, directing users to websites only so long as you continue to pay for the campaign, the second reason is consumers are now at the stage where they either ignore them or go out of their way to block them (with plug-in based browser or email filtering).

Let’s quickly run through some of the “traditional” ways to market on the web, and their failings.

Paid Campaigns - (These only work while active) Paid campaigns may lure people to your site, but they are regularly not your target market and after arriving they promptly leave (High “bounce” rate).

Banner Ads – People hate banner ads. Most of the ads on the Internet are loathed because they aren’t relevant. Seeing a banner for a better ínsurance rate when on a gaming site is a massive disconnect for the audience and a significant portion of banner ads are plain abrasive to users. Filling one third of your page with banner ads will not íncrease the likelihood anyone will care.

Adwords – Adwords (PPC, Pay Per Click) have the same problem as banner ads, though to a lesser extent. Adwords work by displaying “sponsored results,” in search engine results. Adword results are separated from normal search results so not many people select them and the unknown quality in the user’s eye causes distrust (how do I know that a sponsored result is better than an organic result). Competition is fierce, with prices spiraling upwards, and returns staying constant. For more information see our article about Google marketing pitfalls.

Newsletters – One word: Spam. Because of the spam epidemic, users are becoming ever more wary signing up to receive mail from any online source. Legislation and the ever increasing ability of spam filters mean a continually shrinking audience (Restricting the ability to send newsletters, and filtering them before they reach your audience).

The “Old World” marketing relied on one or two large marketing sources to drive traffic with big budgets and marketing firms. You have to get people to create the “news” then you pay other people to distribute the “news”, so you are pulling people into your “store” to show them what you have (whether they want it or not).

New Methods for Marketing

These days having others create and distribute your content for you is in vogue, this can mean syndicating your articles for other users to repost, paying users to review or rate your services, guiding users directly on forums or having users sign up to receive exclusive information. In every case, the handiwork of distribution is left to others.

Lets quickly run through some of the new “Web 2.0″ ways to market on the web, and the reason you should try them:

Blogs - Blogs are a goldmine to both the reader and the writer. Blogging is less time consuming and considerably cheaper than traditional marketing. Blogs give you the ability to convey your personal thoughts on happenings in your industry and your personal and corporate life, letting you really connect with your audience. Another positive is the viral marketing component where you are referenced through various social media websites, search engines and other blogs, increasing both your credibility and searchability, making it easier for consumers to find and trust you.

Forums – Forums give you an insight into what people are talking about, letting you get directly into the heads of potential customers. An easy way to find an appropriate forum is by asking existing customers what forums they frequent. Join in conversations, threads, contribute to the community and become a trusted member, then you can give your professional advice and mention what you do for a living. You should approach this as a way to get insight into what people are talking about, with the side-effect of possibly generating leads. If you approach this as direct marketíng, the community will quickly tell and either ban you, or develop a healthy disdain of you.

Articles – Articles are a great way to show you are connected to the issues in your industry and the wider world around you. You can either submit your articles through a syndication service, or post it on your blog; even better is a combination of the two: Choose a topic you enjoy talking about and write an article (like this one!) with your personal opinion or some helpful advice. If it is well-written and educates readers, you will already have an edge on your competition.

The theme of the new marketing methods is tailoring your content to the audience. The intent is to create something readers want to read. Marketing is not about trickery or insincerity, it’s about communicating your ideas with honesty and authenticity. If it is worthwhile to your users, then they will happily talk about the content and spread it around. You have to communicate authentically with your customers and it simply doesn’t happen using “traditional” onlíne marketing.

A word of caution: if you try any of the above methods but approach them traditionally (as a direct marketíng channel) then not only will you annoy a great number of users, you will also damage your company image. Again I stress the above point, make the content something people want to read, not just marketing material.

Old Marketing Methods That are now Approached Differently

Benjamin Franklin said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This is increasingly true for some of the more traditional forms of onlíne marketing. It’s not so much what people are doing, but more a case of how they are being done.

Let’s take a look at how we should be approaching some of the old marketing methods today.

Press Releases – Before we start, I’m sorry to tell you, but unless you are in the 5% of the market that people pay attention to, no-one reads your press releases – at least no potential customers do. A high percentage of companies marketing on the web use traditional methods of delivery, either in print or on a section of their website. Consider changing your press release to positively present your company then send it through a syndication service for papers and online news sources to pick up and republish.

Search Engines – Previously you had to specifically tailor your site to search engine specifications to ensure you had a high pagerank and were located at the top of search results. To put it simply, the important factor was how your site was presented to the user. These days although page display has an impact, it is far more important to have the right content on the site. Search engines now care more about content. Structure your pages logically and efficiently with appropriate content for each page, and be sure to link to those pages wherever possible, especially if you are engaging in blog or forum marketing.

Mailing Lists and Newsletters - With new anti-spam laws coming into effect, coupled with users increasingly annoyed at anything email based, mailing lists and newsletters are becoming far less effective. Ensure all the users on your mailing lists and newsletters have agreed to receive them. You don’t need to re-ask permission from your existing líst, but be sure to let users op-out, and put an optional op-in form link in your communications.

Old-world communication can still be effective, but you need to ensure it is not your only approach.

The Conclusion?

Reevaluation is the key to a healthy online presence. You need to be constantly measuring and reevaluating your marketing methods to ensure you are not wasting money, and can take advantage of effective new methods.

About The Author
Sam Law and Julian Stone – Project, Task & Time Management specialists for: ProWorkFlow, ProActiveSoftware & Julian101.com

What Do You Think About Paid Links?

Paid links and PR drops were a hot topic at Pubcon Las Vegas last week. We talked to Matt Cutts about it in a video interview, and he explained it quite rationally.

What’s interesting to me though is the reaction we see from our readers. Some are vehemently opposed to what they consider Google strong arm tactics and then there are those of you who think Google is performing a service to the internet community by cracking down on paid links.

As such, I wanted to post some of the more interesting comments we’ve received to the issue so far and basically ask for some more feedback from WebProNews readers on the subject. Are paid links a necessary evil? Are they necessary at all? Is Google taking a proper stance when they say ‘NO’, or should they maybe try to find some middle ground? Keep in mind, Google has created the ‘link economy’ with it’s algorithmic emphasis on links=quality… so is Google really serving the ‘greater good’ or just looking out for number one here?

» Natural Products Says:

Great interview. Seems like big brother is putting the hammer down on paid links. Thanks for the video.

» Submitted by Bill Inman

Google decided to become a dictator a long time ago. Trying to control every aspect of our web sites, where we now spend more time worrying about what Google is going to do with our web site, than we do trying to design a site that will best serve the needs of our potential customers.

Google created the whole issue of “links” which has resulted in all the silly link pages everyone created, and now thew paid links.

My advice to Google is to get out of the role, and the opinion, that the world should revolve around them, and controling everything about our web sites.

Google is a good idea gone mad!

» Submitted by Dave Robinson

I think Google’s stance on the whole link debate is fair and honest. The reason for linking being seen as a measure of a sites importance has it’s roots in academia where peer reviewed papers would reference other works of note. Google wasn’t playing some game, it created a system that rewarded hard work. Now this has been circumvented it’s only right that Google tries to address this.

IMHO

» Submitted by SEO book Uk

There us a way to get even with google just pull adsense from your sites if 1 Million website pulled adsense for just a day google would notice a drop in revenue and will think twice before make webmaster angry again

» Submitted by David Jenkins

I’m all for the demise of paid links having spent over seven years building an information site that has never paid for a link and never will.

I am delighted that Google is taking this stance and would be glad to see “content is God” dominating the search results again.

» Submitted by Nicole

As a small business web-site owner, AND as an in-house SEO writer for a large company, I frankly am happy that Google is downgrading paid-link sites that pass on link juice. When wearing my small biz hat, I can’t afford to buy paid links and it gives bigger companies an advantage I can’t yet afford. I think Google is indeed living up to their ‘do no evil’ company motto by doing this.

» Submitted by Kevin Hillman

People that support Google in any way just further the scam. Every link on any Google site is there because Google was paid to place the link there. They just like to make every site conform to their heavy handed rules. They want to own the entire internet and will crush any website they don’t agree with.

Do you agree or disagree with the above comments? Are paid links just part of business, or are they something evil when they influence search results?

About the Author:
Mike is a manager at iEntry. He has been with iEntry since 2000.

Cutts On Paid Links, PageRank, Subdomains

The wild debate about Google’s increasingly hardline stance against paid links looks like Wimbledon, with Matt Cutts taking on Rich Skrenta, while Danny Sullivan volleys against Michael Gray.

Internet Drama, in the form of the ongoing paid links debate, received a couple of new entries to fan the flames. Webmasters see paid links as a way to boost their search engine presence against the competition. Google perceives paid links as a mechanism that devalues their core organic search results.

Rich Skrenta posted his stream-of-consciousness thoughts about the paid link debate. He said “PageRank wrecked the web,” a reference to part of Google’s model of weighting search results based on inbound links.

“Links used to be for human navigation,” said Skrenta. “Google made them count for money and they’re ruined now. Nofollow isn’t going to put it back the way it was.”

Cutts answered from the comments, defending Google’s position:

I truly believe any successful system (be it eBay, Amazon, Usenet, Wikipedia, DMOZ, or government spending) will attract people who try to optimize for that system or even game it. When Google came onto the scene with its new way of ranking search results in 1999/2000, it was inevitable that people would try to optimize for Google and link-based reputation.

Tools like rel=nofollow give site owners a method to decide whether to flow PageRank at a link-level of granularity.

Over on Graywolf’s blog, Gray called Google crybabies over the paid links issue.

“The problem is you figured a way to make money off of a link based analysis, and now you’re upset and ridding the waaaaaaaaambulance when other people move in on your cash cow,” said Gray. “You feel like you have some god given right to be the only one who makes money off of it.”

Sullivan answered back in the comments:

If we’re talking crybabies, then include the website owners that have tapped into the PageRank economy and now are upset with the Federal Reserve Of Google has decided to cut interest rates.

Hey, newsflash – Google’s an independent company that at least in the United States has a court-backed decision that says the First Amendment gives it a constitutionally protected right to do whatever the hell it wants with the PageRank meter.

So you built your business around selling ads linked to PageRank, and now you’re upset when Google pulls the plug? Suck it up – the writing’s been on the wall that this WILL happen (not could) since 2003, and all Google has really done is finally made it more visible that many sites selling PageRank weren’t actually passing along credit at all.

The point about Google being an independent company summarizes the whole paid link issue, though we understand it will continue to be a sore spot for many. It’s Google’s game, and they can change the rules. Betting that they would continue to favor outsiders as much as Google favors itself looks like it was a poor wager.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

When It Is Time To Re-evaluate Your Business?

Let the past and its bad habits be done with.
–Unknown

We are all creatures of habit. Most of us get up at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time every night. We tend to do the same things the same way we did them before.

As a business owner you’ve developed processes to deal with situations that occur frequently. How do you know when the processes in place aren’t working or could be improved? Do you have a process in place to reassess the way you do things?

The topic or re-evaluation is on my mind at the moment as I’m currently taking stock of the past year. I’m looking at things I’ve done well and things done not so well in an effort to improve my business in the coming year. My recent decision to change This Week In SEO to This Month In SEO is a first step along those lines.

When is it a good time to reassess how you do things?

•At specific intervals - You might decide to take stock every six months of every year

•After a successful or failed project – The end of a project can be a good time to evaluate not only that specific project, but business in general

•When you feel like you need to – Not necessarily the best method, but the one that usually chooses me

The most common approach is to re-evaluate where you are on a consistent basis at a set time. Year end might be a good time and likely how New Year’s resolutions came to be. When you decide to assess things is less important than making sure you do assess where you are from time to time.

Chances are there is some aspect of your business you’re taking for granted and a period of reflection can help identify what it might be. A look inside can also help when it comes to taking your business in a new direction should it need a new direction.

Can Taking a Step Back be the Best Way To Move Forward?

Sometimes the shortest distance between two points isn’t a straight line.

Imagine you’re working for a company and making $20/hr. It’s not a bad salary, but you want more. Unfortunately there’s really no place to move up in your company and at best you’ll gain the occasional cost of living increase while waiting and hoping for the possibility that some opportunity will find it’s way to you.

What if instead you left that job for another that paid $15/hr, but had a much greater upside? Less money today so you could earn significantly more tomorrow.

While guest posting last week, Pat brought up the idea of stepping outside your comfort zone. The habits we all have are our comfort zone. Our habits are safe, because we did them yesterday and know what to expect from them today. Safe maintains the status quo. Safe is not remarkable.

Giving up your comfort zone to take a chance on the unknown can feel like a step back. It can also be exhilarating. Is it you? Depends on where you are and how happy you are to be there.

I plan on spending some time this month as the year winds down evaluating where I’ve been, thinking about where I want to go, and deciding if what I’ve been doing will get me there.

When was the last time you took a long look at the way you do business? Is everything running smoothly or could it stand a little improvement. When was the last time you re-evaluated how you do things?

The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn’t like to do.
–Thomas Edison

About the Author:
Steven Bradley is a web designer and search engine optimization specialist. Known to many in the webmaster/seo community by the username vangogh, he is the author of TheVanBlog, which focuses on how to build and optimize websites and market them online.

Exmouth Bed & Pine Online Shop Launched

WNW Design are pleased to announce that due to the success of their website, Exmouth Bed & Pine have recently expanded into eCommerce. Taking advantage of our bespoke online shop system, Exmouth Bed & Pine are now offering pine and oak furniture and beds, along with metal bedsteads and a wide range of crafted items online. Their new shop allows visitors to buy securely on the internet, and offers extended information on all the products they have to offer.

We are pleased to been a part of Exmouth Bed & Pine’s web success, and we hope to work on their website as it expands its product range and brings in new customers that a physical shopfront cannot reach. To see Exmouth Bed & Pine’s range of oak and pine funiture, metal bedsteads and all items available for online ordering, visit their new online shop here: www.exmouthbedandpine.co.uk

Web Usability and Accessibility Are As Important As Search Engine Prominence

So you’ve optimised your website, done the keyword research, got the backlinks and everything is ethical. You’re sitting proudly on the first page of the search results. Or you’ve set up a pay per click campaign, bid on your keywords, created some ads and performance tracking is in place. Again, you’re at the top of the pile. Either way, you’re visible and people are visiting your website. But visitors aren’t converting into leads, prospects or customers. What’s going wrong? Well your website may be visible, but is it connecting?

Having attracted visitors to your website through prominent search engine placements, it is vital not to lose them by failing to connect. Different visitors will have different priorities and levels of satisfaction. In order to reach and retain as many as possible and to maximise the chances of conversion, you should consider your site’s usability and accessibility.

Web usability

Usability is all about providing your visitors with an effective, efficient and satisfying experience. It’s common knowledge that visitors tend to glance at, and scan, pages rather than study them in any great detail. If the message and options are not clear, they may leave. If they don’t leave, the chances are that they will click on the first link that seems to be most relevant – it may not be the right one. Repeat the process a few times and soon a visitor can be lost, confused and frustrated. Either way the result is the same – missed opportunity and little likelihood of a return visit.

The more self-evident your pages are, the greater the chance of converting the visitor into a prospect or customer.

12 simple tips for a more usable website

1. On the home page make it clear what the site is all about.
2. Make the purpose of each page obvious.
3. User hierarchical headings to give clear structure to the copy.
4. Make the navigation and links obvious.
5. Use clear unambiguous wording.
6. Make the options and next steps obvious.
7. Remove any wording or imagery that is unnecessary, confusing or distracting.
8. Use consistent conventions throughout.
9. Include site search and a site map.
10. Make information such as contact details, pricing and delivery charges clearly accessible.
11. Make the pages printable by including a cascading style sheet for printing.
12. Don’t allow careless errors to make your site look unprofessional.

Browsers create their own set of problems

One more tip – just because your website works fine in your browser of choice, do not assume that it will work equally well in all browsers. In fact it is not even safe to assume that it will work equally well in different versions of the same browser. Web designers who have had to cope with the incompatibilities of IE5, IE6 and now IE7 will no doubt testify to this point. It is vital to be sure that your website works on all the popular browsers. As well as IE and Firefox, don’t forget Netscape and Opera on Windows and Safari on the Mac. And just to muddy the waters a bit further, Apple have recently announced Safari for Windows.

So now your website is usable, but is it usable by everybody? For some, usability is just a small obstacle when compared to the barrier of accessibility.

Web accessibility

All businesses in virtually all countries have a legal obligation to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities, otherwise they are discriminating. Given that something like 15% of the population have some sort of disability, that’s a sizeable market proportion. If you’re not reaching them, your competitors probably are.

One of the many myths surrounding web accessibility is that blind people are the only ones who need to be catered for. Whilst blind people and their use of assistive technologies to read web pages are an obvious and important example, consider also people with other visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological impairments.

How does a colour-blind person cope with page colours?

How does someone with a mobility impairment manage without being able to use a mouse?

How does a deaf person gain access to auditory content?

How does someone with attention deficit disorder make sense of the pages?

Web pages should be accessible to all of them. And it’s not just disabled people who will benefit. Older people, people with low literacy levels, people who are not fluent in the website language, people with low bandwidth connections, people using older technologies and people with short-term injuries and illnesses will also benefit.

9 tips for a more accessible website

1. Provide all images with an alternative text description. If the image does not convey any information, provide null (blank) text rather than no alternative text at all.

2. Provide transcripts of audio content.

3. Ensure that the contrast between text foreground and background colours is sufficiently strong.

4. Do not use colour alone to convey information. There should also be some other form of visual indicator such as additional characters, images or font changes.

5. Place column headings in the first row of a table and place row headings in the first column. If headings are ambiguous, use the HTML scope attribute to clarify.

6. Never use the HTML blink and marquee elements. For animated GIFs or other moving objects, the flicker frequency must be less than 2 Hz or greater than 55 Hz. But better to have no moving content at all.

7. Link text should clearly state the purpose and destination of the link. Phrases like Click Here may mean nothing to someone listening to a screen reader.

8. Provide an option to skip navigation on all pages. This will save screen reader users from having to repetitiously listen to the same navigation, and keyboard users from having to repetitiously tab through every item. Use hierarchical headers to provide the same benefit and to enable navigation through copy.

9. On forms, always associate prompts with controls so that each control is adequately described. Use the HTML fieldset and legend tags to give structure to complex forms.

The importance of web standards

Usable, accessible web pages can only be achieved through strict compliance with the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium. They provide a platform for consistency, compatibility, stability, flexibility and extensibility. Implementing standards throughout a website’s design will address many usability and accessibility issues by default.

Last and certainly not least

Usability and accessibility alone will not suddenly convert all your visitors into customers. Content is vital to a website’s delivery capability. But at least those visitors may now stick around long enough to look at the content.

——————————————————————————–

About the Author: Eugene Mulligan is a search engine marketing consultant based in Somerset, UK. Operating through his company, Egn Webcraft (http://www.egnwebcraft.co.uk), he provides search engine optimisation, pay per click management and web development services to organisations seeking to improve their website’s visibility and capability.

WNW Design Launches Spa Motors

WNW Design is proud to launch Spa Motors’ new website, with information on their vehicle servicing MOT, and equipment supplies. Based in Leamington Spa, Spa Motors provide a friendly and high quality service, and you can find services listed on their website.

For more information on Spa Motors’ vehicle accessories and servicing, see their new website here: www.spamotors.co.uk

The Top 10 Dumbest Web Site Decisions

[NOTE: This article has been reproduced from other sources (see bottom of article) and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WNW Design or it's employees]

Having worked with web sites for the past eleven years, I’ve seen a LOT of errors, poor judgment and embarrassing gaffs on the web. Sometimes they are the fault of the client, the web designer, the IT Manager, or the SEO, but human error is always to blame. The saddest thing is that the problems are usually preventable.

Here is a líst of what I consider to be the Top 10 dumbest web site decisions ever, in reverse order, David Letterman style :

10) Misspelling a Domain

Back in the glory days of the late 1990′s when I was working for a large Internet agency, the web designers had responsibility for the registration of domain names on behalf of clients. One particular designer had a face to face meeting with a major client, during which the client asked him to register CarTuneCentral.com (or so he thought!). The staffer did a check and was delighted to see the domain available. He made the purchase and proudly emailed the client.

An hour later his boss called him in to his office to say that he’d had a call from a very frustrated client who *actually* wanted him to register CartoonCentral.com. Needless to say the desired domain wasn’t available and the whole office dined on his mistake for months.

9) Letting the Domain Name Expire

Now what type of company would allow their domain to expire a month after site launch? A very large one, that’s who. I’ll save the company some embarrassment and won’t reveal their name but the site was offline for a total of 2 days while they scrambled to pay their registrar, sort out DNS propagation and cover their tails.

8) Flashing your Cyber Underpants

One of the most common web site management platforms provided by hosting companies used to store the site statistics in a common folder called /statistics/. You could password protect this folder, but the default was to leave it open to the public and so many unwary webmasters unwittingly published full traffic data for their site on the Internet, open to any person who knew where to look.

I learned this the hard way in a public forum from a member who said he had just reviewed my traffic for the previous month and was very impressed. Publishing site statistics for all the world to see is what I call flashing your cyber underpants and I haven’t let it happen again!

7) Publishing Sensitive Company Information

Quite a few companies have been guilty of doing this, including AOL, who published a search data report in 2006 that contained the private details of thousands of AOL customers. Although the report was taken offline within a few days, it had already been mirrored and distributed across the Internet. The fallout eventually led to the resignation of AOL’s Chief Technical Officer.

Although not quite as serious, an ex-client of mine once published a page that had notes on it from the Sales Manager about the best way to strong-arm a customer into purchasing a higher-ticket item. Apparently the web designer didn’t realize the hand-written post-it notes were not part of the web page copy. Duh!

6) Using an Insulting 404 Error Page

I clash with the web design team of one of my clients on a regular basis. Earlier this year, my client completely re-designed their web site and so I recommended they ask their web design team to design a custom 404 error page in case visitors navigated to a page on the old site that no longer existed.

Their web design team put up a message that read:

“404 Error. You’ve obviously typed in the wrong URL. Either that or the page you are looking for no longer exists.”

That was it! No apology for the missing page, no recommendatíon to use the navigation to find what they were looking for, just an insulting message that accuses the visitor of being an idiot. Persons viewing that page would be clicking the “back” button as fast as they could.

5) Taking a Site Offline for Maintenance

I find it fascinating that very large sites run by intelligent people still get taken offline for maintenance on a regular basis. Search engines don’t understand the “Back in 15 minutes” sign and the longer the site is down, the bigger the risk.

If search bots try and index a site while it is down, they will most likely assume the previously indexed pages have expired and drop them from the search index. This means that all your hard-earned rankings could be flushed down the toilet until search engines can successfully re-index your site. Surely a mirror site for maintenance periods isn’t that difficult to set up?

4) Buying a Dot Bíz When the Dot Com Was Available

Ok, I’m putting up my hand on this one. I’m not going to reveal the domain but yes, I registered a dot bíz domain back in 2000 when the dot com was actually available. The dot com version of my domain was bought by Yahoo a short time later and turned into a product site. Ack! My excuse is that, at the time, dot bíz sites were rumored to be the next big thing and all companies were being urged to choose them over dot coms. Ok, I was wrong!

3) Allowing a Customer Complaint to Remain on a Site for 12 Months

When I was working as a public relations consultant, I was given the responsibility of re-writing the web copy of a large real estate client. One of the areas I was asked to re-write was the welcome paragraph on the Customer Feedback page where existing customers of the estate agent chain could login and leave comments about their experience.

While writing the copy, I scanned some of the customer feedback and came across an aggressive message left 12 months earlier by an obviously unhappy customer. She had used some of the most colorful language I’ve ever seen (and some that I hadn’t) and very detailed descriptions of how she was going to take her revenge on the company for allegedly allowing a tenant to destroy her house. Nobody in charge of the web site had even noticed the comment and I still wonder how many potential customers would have been put off from using the estate agent after reading it.

2) Switching a Web Site Off for a 3 Week Christmas Vacatíon

Yes, many moons ago, an ex-client of mine decided to take her entire web site offline (without telling me!) while she was on a 3 week vacatíon over Christmas. Only a month earlier, she had paid me $5,000 to optimize it for search engines.

It had just achieved some impressive top 10 results and all the carefully optimized pages were attracting good traffic when she shut it down and replaced the entire site with a 1 page sign that said “closed until after Christmas”. I noticed the traffic and search ranking declines in her stats and was completely flabbergasted when I found the site gone. Her response when I confronted her? “Why didn’t you TELL ME this could happen?”

And the dumbest web site decision I’ve ever witnessed?

1) Promoting a Domain Name You Don’t Own:

My Alma Mater, the University of Newcastle, have spent thousands of dollars on television advertising here in Australia, marketing their new site for online post-graduate coursework: GradSchool Dot Com. There’s only one problem. The domain for this site is actually Gradschool.com.au. They don’t even own Gradschool.com!

Sadly, this glaring marketing error seems to have totally escaped them and they are happily referring to their brand as Gradschool.com on all their marketing material and throughout their .com.au domain. It’s tragic to think of all the potential students typing in Gradschool.com expecting to find the University program. I see that whoever purchased Gradschool.com has slapped up some AdSense code on it so at least somebody will reap the benefits of those thousands of advertising dollars wasted by the University.

Don’t let any of these web site tragedies happen to you. Make sure that your site decisions aren’t in the hands of dummies!

About The Author
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.