Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Lucky Thirteen: the critical SEO checklist

Whether you built your own website or not this is good information for all online business owners to know.

When it comes to SEO not all of us have the time to be experts. At some point the real "gurus" of SEO and other topics are the people with a whole lot of time on their hands. This list, put together with the everyday webmaster in mind, drives home some absolutely crucial points that you should keep in mind when optimizing your pages for valuable search rankings.

1. Check Search Engine Crawl Error Pages

It's important to monitor search engine crawl errors reports to keep on top of how your site and its pages are performing. Monitoring error reports can help you determine when and where Googlebot or another crawler is having trouble indexing your content - which can help you find a solution to the problem.

2. Create/update robots.txt and sitemap files

These files are supported by major search engines and are incredibly useful tools for ensuring that crawlers index your important site content while avoiding those sections/files that you deem to be either unimportant or cause problems in the crawl process. In many cases we've seen the proper use of these files make all the difference between a total crawl failure for a site and a full index of content pages which makes them crucial from an SEO standpoint.

3. Check Googlebot activity reports

These reports allow you to monitor how long it's taking Googlebot to access your pages. This information can be very important if you are worried that you may be on a slow network or experiencing web server problems. If it is taking search engine crawlers a long time to index your pages it may be the case that there are times when they "time out" and stop trying. Additionally, if the crawlers are unable to call your pages up quickly there is a good chance users are experiencing the same lag in load times, and we all know how impatient internet users can be.

4. Check how your site looks to browsers without image and JavaScript support

One of the best ways to determine just what your site looks like to a search engine crawler is to view your pages in a browser with image and JavaScript support disabled. Mozilla's Firefox browser has a plug-in available called the "Web Developer Toolbar" that adds this functionality and a lot more to the popular standards-compliant browser. If after turning off image and JavaScript support you aren't able to make sense of your pages at all it is a good sign that your site is not well-optimized for search. While images and JavaScript can add a lot to the user experience they should always be viewed as a "luxury" - or simply an improvement upon an already-solid textual content base.

5. Ensure that all navigation is in HTML, not images

One of the most common mistakes in web design is to use images for site navigation. While for some companies and webmasters SEO is not a concern and therefore they can get away with this for anyone worried about having well-optimized pages this should be the first thing to go. Not only will it render your site navigation basically valueless for search engine crawlers, but within reason very similar effects can usually be achieved with CSS roll-overs that maintain the aesthetic impact while still providing valuable and relevant link text to search engines.

6. Check that all images include ALT text

Failing to include descriptive ALT text with images is to miss out on another place to optimize your pages. Not only is this important for accessibility for vision-impaired users, but search engines simply can't "take a look" at your images and decipher the content there. They can only see your ALT text, if you've provided it, and the associates they'll make with the image and your relevant content will be based exclusively on this attribute.

7. Use Flash content sparingly

Several years ago Flash hit the scene and spread like wild fire. It was neat looking, quick to download and brought interactivity and animation on the web to a new height. However, from an SEO standpoint Flash files might as well be spacer GIFs - they're empty. Search engines are not able to index text/content within a Flash file. For this reason, while Flash can do a lot for presentation, from an accessibility and SEO standpoint it should be used very sparingly and only on non-crucial content.

8. Ensure that each page has a unique < title > and meta description tag

Optimization of < title > tags is one of the most important on-page SEO points. Many webmasters are apparently unaware and use either duplicate < title > tags for multiple pages or do not target search traffic at all within this valuable tag. Run a search on a competitive keyword of your choice on Google - click on the first few links that show up and see what text appears in the title bar for the window. You should see right away that this is a key place to include target keywords for your pages.

9. Make sure that important page elements are HTML

The simple fact to keep in mind when optimizing a page is that the crawlers are basically only looking at your source code. Anything you've put together in a Flash movie, an image or any other multimedia component is likely to be invisible to search engines. With that in mind it should be clear that the most important elements of your page, where the heart of your content will lie, should be presented in clean, standards-compliant and optimized HTML source code.

10. Be sure to target keywords in your page content

Some webmasters publish their pages in hopes that they will rank well for competitive keywords within their topic or niche. However, this will simply never happen unless you include your target keywords in the page content. This means creating well-optimized content that mentions these keywords frequently without triggering spam filters. Any way you cut it you're going to need to do some writing - if you don't like doing it yourself it's a good idea to hire a professional copy writer. Simply put: without relevant content that mentions your target keywords you will not rank well.

11. Don't use frames

There is still some debate as to whether frames are absolutely horrible for SEO or whether they are simply just not the best choice. Is there really a difference? Either way, you probably don't want to use frames. Crawlers can have trouble getting through to your content and effectively indexing individual pages, for one thing. For another, most functionalities that the use of frames allows is easily duplicated using proper CSS coding. There is still some use for a frames-based layout, but it is still better to avoid it if at all possible.

12. Make sure that your server is returning a 404 error code for unfound pages

We've all seen it. We're browsing around at a new or familiar site, clicking links and reading content, when we get the infamous blank screen that reads "404 page not found" error. While broken links that point to these pages should definitely be avoided you also don't want to create a "custom error page" to replace this page. Why? Well, it's simple: if you generate a custom error page crawlers can spend time following broken links that they won't know are broken. A 404 error page is easily recognizable, and search engine crawlers are programmed to stop following links that generate this page. If crawlers end up in a section of your site that is down through an old link that you missed they might not spend the time to index the rest of your site.

13. Ensure that crawlers will not fall into infinite loops

Many webmasters see fit to include scripting languages, such as PERL, PHP and ASP to add interactive functionality to their web pages. Whether for a calendar system, a forum, eCommerce functionality for an online store, etc. scripting is used quite frequently on the internet. However, what some webmasters don't realize is that unless they use robots.txt files or take other preventative measures search engine crawlers can fall into what are called "infinite loops" in their pages.

Imagine, if you will, a script that allows a webmaster to add a calendar to one of his pages. Now, any programmer worth his salt would base this script on calculations - it would auto-generate each page based on the previous month and a formula to determine how the days and dates would fall. That script, depending on sophistication, could plausibly extend infinitely into the past or future. Now think of the way a crawler works - it follows links, indexes what it finds, and follows more links. What's to stop a crawler from clicking "next month" in a calendar script an infinite number of times? Nothing - well, almost nothing. Crawlers are well-built programs that need to run efficiently. As such they are built to recognize when they've run into an "infinite loop" situation like this, and they will simply stop indexing pages at a site that is flagged for this error.

About the Author: Mike Tekula handles SEO, SEM, usability and standards-compliance for NewSunGraphics, a Long Island, New York firm offering Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, W3C-Compliant web design using full CSS layouts and all things web design/development.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Free HTML Tutorial

I stumbled across a free HTML tutorial on the web that is fabulous.
Check it out:
Writing HTML

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Monday, November 17, 2008

8 Tips to Increase Response in Email

Email marketing is a great thing to do when you own any kind of business. Here’s an article I found about increasing your response rate, by Paul Easton.

Opt in email marketing is no different than normal direct marketing in that small simple changes will increase your response and success. These tips will help with both plain text and html email:

1. Personalize - "A persons name is still the sweetest sound" Having first name in both the subject of the email, and the body of the message will help your email get read and not just deleted or being mistaken for junk mail.

2. Free - Offer something free: It's an over used word on the Internet, but it still works. It must 100% free, not an item you have to pay postage and packaging for. Otherwise your user who checks out your offer will feel cheated.

3. Tracking - Always track any promotion, which means using tools that will allow you to track responses and conversion of visitors to sales. A good service to use is adminder: http://www.adminder.com Tracking also allows you to find out what information is most important to your readers.

4. Talk - When you write your email copy, write as if you are having a one-to-one conversation with the recipient. This makes your customer feel like a real person and not a number.

5. Short but informative - Provide the information in a short and clear method showing the main information using short paragraphs of 3-4 lines making it easy to read or skim over. Using bullet points and line space between paragraphs to highlight important points.

6. Benefits not features - Show what the item or service can do for your customer, not what its features are.

7. Call to Action - Use a sense of urgency with ease of contact.

8. Easy to contact - Use a clickable link such as http://site.com or mailto:you@yoursite.com
This format will create a click on link in most email programs. If you are marketing internationally you will need a format suitable for American On Line -- The biggest US ISP. Something like this: [ AOL Users Click Here ]

Always test and target to your market, response rates can be up to 20% with the right message. Trial and error will prove you right or wrong. The power of the promotion to an in-house list is something very over looked. The list must have agreed to receive information (opt-in) from you or you just become junk email.

About the Author:
Paul Easton is a self confessed Internet Marketing Nut and Editor of "Power Promotion Plus" -- An ezine dedicated to web site promotion tools that work with 3 free gifts for subscribing Check it out here: http://www.Digitalawol.com/?source=Article

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Friday, November 14, 2008

New Inspirational Dream T-shirts and Gifts

I’ve been adding lots of new designs to my online store. I especially like my dream designs that I’ve put in my Inspirational T-shirts and Gifts section.

They fit the positive theme of my entire store: nothing is impossible if you want it badly enough! Set your mind to it and go after your dream! givitup's inspirational tees and gifts will help keep you motivated.

Inspirational T-shirts and Gifts


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Monday, November 03, 2008

My Flip Mino Press Release

I wrote and sent out a bunch of press releases about adding Flip Minos to my online store. Here’s the release:

Hickory, NC, November 3, 2008 – Online store, givitup, is pleased to announce the addition of custom designed Flip Minos

givitup, is part of CafePress, who recently announced a branded partnership with Pure Digital Technologies, makers of the wildly popular Flip Mino Camcorders. By teaming up together, video lovers can now take their movie-making creativity one step further by customizing their Flip Mino camcorders.

Nancy Geiger, owner of givitup, says, “It’s a perfect partnership. The amazing growth of CafePress shows how much consumers enjoy designing their own T-shirts, mugs, posters and books. CafePress shopowners are on the cutting edge of new trends and Flip Minos are very hip.”

"We're a destination for self-expression," says Amy Maniatis, vice president of marketing at CafePress, calling CafePress a "me-tailer." The company has seen its sales increase 40% year to year.

"Skins were fun and a trend for the last few years, but they can get messy and peel off," Maniatis says. "We're printing directly on the camera. It's a high-gloss print, more strong and durable."

Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of Pure Digital, says, "This generation wants to be famous, tell their story and be heard, change the color of their hair, wear tattoos and express themselves. It goes beyond the clothes and watch you wear and extends to the cellphone or camera you hold."

The ultra-thin & pocket-sized Flip Video Mino camcorder has a handy USB arm that flips out and hooks up to your PC or Mac. This charges the battery, plus lets you use its built-in software to easily view, edit, and upload video and photos to favorite sharing sites. It records 60 minutes of VGA-quality video.

givitup opened almost three years ago focusing on giving up negativity. “We believe there are too many negative and vulgar t-shirts out there. givitup is all about fresh starts, positive attitudes and becoming a better person. We believe people can alter their lives by altering their attitudes. And by wearing positive and inspiring thoughts people are reminded of good things all day.

Besides the Flip Minos, givitup has over 9300 items with its own designs: t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, buttons, magnets, stickers, aprons, journals, greeting cards, postcards, teddy bears, mugs and more. Customers may also send in their own designs or text for any of givitup’s products.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

32 Most Important SEO Tips

I found a good article by Edwin Reyes that will help you with SEO on your website:

1. Make sure your site is not under construction or incomplete with little or no unique content.

2. When your site is ready, submit it to Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK.com. Consider also submitting to other search engines but most of them are powered by these four leading search engines. Also submít your site to reputable high PR web directories, open directories, yellow pages and social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us, furl, etc.

3. Submit your sitemap to Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK.com (sitemap for search engines usually in XML format)

4. Offer a sitemap to your site visitors for easy page navigation. (sitemap for visitors in HTML format)

5. Create unique and rich content sites. Avoid duplicate content. Do not create multiple pages, sub-domains, domains, mirror sites or sites with different domain names but the same content.

6. Check your keywords and make sure they are relevant and actually are contained in your site. Avoid keyword stuffing.

7. Use text instead of images in your content, links and important subjects.
8. Make your TITLE and ALT tags descriptive, simple and keyword rich. Avoid irrelevant and repeated keywords.

9. Your Title tag should be 60-80 characters maximum length.

10. Your Meta tag description should be 160-180 characters, including spaces. (about 25-30 words)

11. The keywords Meta Tag must be 15-20 words maximum.

12. Optimize pages with Headings (H1, H2, H3..) containing your site's primary keywords.

13. Validate your CSS and HTML. Check for errors and broken links.

14. If your site contains dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a "?" character), make sure you use SEO friendly URLs. Search engine spiders have difficulty indexing dynamic pages.

15. Maximum links per page must be fewer than 100. Avoid the risk of being flagged as a link farm by search engines.

16. Use lynx.isc.org as text browser to check your site.

17. Allow search bots (good ones) to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site.

18. Check your web server/host if it supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. It tells search engines whether your content has changed since your site was last crawled. It will save you bandwidth, resources and avoid server overload.

19. Use a Robots.txt file to manage and control search engine spiders that index your site. You can allow and disallow spiders and choose directories you want to be crawled and indexed. With bad bots or spam bots you need to modify your HTACCESS file to properly and effectively manage bots or spiders.

20. Do not attempt to present different content to search engines than what you show to your site visitors.

21. Avoid dirty tricks and exploiting loop holes to improve search engine ranking.

22. Avoid links to bad neighborhoods such as web spammer, link farm, phishing, hacker, crack, gambling, pörn and scam sites. Linking to them will greatly affect your search engine rankings.

23. Do not attempt to join in link schemes, excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging and link exchange web rings.

24. Do not use unauthorized programs or online tools to submit your site, check page rankings or perform other automated queries. Avoid the risk of being flagged as a spammer.

25. Do not use hidden text and links. Show the search engines what you show to your vistors. It will greatly affect your site's reputation.

26. Do not attempt to create pages that contain phishing, scam, virus, trojan, backdoor, spyware, adware or other malicious programs.

27. Make your site useful and informative.

28. Improve your link building. Link to high PR websites. Quality of relevant links is far more important than quantity. Links will greatly improve your site's visibility, popularity and ranking. Search engines consider links as votes to your site.

29. Check your page link structure. Every page should be reachable by a single static text link.

30. Be extra careful in purchasing SEO services. Some use illegal and questionable methods to improve rankings.

31. Do not buy or sell links.

32. Do not create sites that contain purely affiliate links and no valuable content that is useful to users.

I hope these tips will add more popularity and visibility to your site. Enjoy!

About The Author
Edwin Reyes is a Web Developer and the Webmaster of Findmesoftware.com, a Philippine based website that provides free software downloads, tools, reviews, online tips, blogging resources, tutorials and Free SEO Tools and Software Download.

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