Category Archives: web development

SEO What they don’t tell you.

An optimized website

What they say: Even if you don’t actually sell products online, a website gives potential customers and investors the opportunity to find out more about you and your company. For a website to be effective and bring new customers and investors to your doors it needs to be seen. Search engine optimization can help position your website on the first few pages of the search engines which means it’s much more likely to receive visitors.

As well as ensuring the copywriting on your website is optimized with keywords, you need to make sure your web developers or designers have created an SEO friendly website.

With 65,000 new websites coming online every day, not including new pages and blog added to existing websites daily the chances of you ever seeing high traffic and rankings without a BIG cost is near on impossible. Nobody ever mentions the cost do they.

Fact: Investment for marketing the website from approx. $1500 – $20,000 per month depending on size and your competition.

Active social media channels

What they say: Having a profile set up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (plus the numerous other social media networks) isn’t enough. For your social media campaign to be a success you need to continually interact with your network.

And to be honest who gives a crap what bus stop or pizza shop you’re at or what you have just eaten, Your top score on a farm game or flirting teens pretending while the parents are out. Get a life. Limited for business unless very local.

Fact: A full-time job to do it properly along with a full-time salary approx. $30,000 – $50,000 per annum.

An up to date blog

What they say: Blogging is one of the quickest and easiest ways to forge an identity for yourself online. Blogs allow you to share your expertise with your visitors and it encourages them to see you as a leading authority in your industry sector. As you build up your blog with opinion pieces, news stories and reviews you will create an online resource for your blog visitors.

Fact: Takes your time and money, time is money or employ someone to do it, another salary.

While there is a lot of information and help out there to get you started, do not be taken in by all the BS that people and company’s shovel out. Sure Google also has SEO guidelines which cover what you should and should not be doing in order to create a well optimized website. Check it out  Rand at SEOMoz have a multitude of free blogs, videos and podcasts on their website to help people understand the basic (and more advanced) SEO techniques too, but the cold hard facts are it takes time, money and knowledge to be a real player. As I have said many times, pay peanuts and you will get monkey’s.

As a small business if you don’t have at least $20k a year to throw at marketing your online presence, forget it, you will never even scratch the surface, if some company gives you bullshit about the must have Facebook, twitter and rest accounts, run for the hills, these usually are the wannabe online marketers, with sharp tongues (usually forked) and snappy suits. You can get business from social, but it’s limited, search is and has been #1 from the start and will continue for a very long time.

Ask yourself what you do when you want something, whether on your phone, laptop or desktop, you search first.

Opinions are those of the writer.

Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

It’s a new year and it’s time to make a choice. Do you make the leap and move forward in search by making a strong push into the mobile marketing? Now before you run off and invest a great deal of time into a mobile version of your website, a short discussion first.

The number of mobile subscribers with a smart phone has passed the 100 million mark in the US alone, and smartphones are impacting how people access and use the web. Some estimates peg the number at around 80% current smartphone users shop on their phones, and that this number is going to rise by another 73%, that’s a huge amount of commecial activity to be capitalized on. Google mobile query volume is up 400%, by digging into those queries you can begin to determine how smartphone and tablet users may search for your brand. Take a close look at the information you have coming through your stats, should you have access, and be aware that as mobile search continues to increase, the mobile search results will be moved from the organic results.

Then it’s time to take a look at your site as a mobile entity. Most smartphones now have a typical browser that you would find on a computer, but they display content differently. Their processing power is less than that of your desktop machine, so you need to bear that in mind. If your site has a lot of flash, animations or scripts running to make it flashy, you’ll want to eliminate their use in a mobile site. The quicker, cleaner, and more to the point you can make your mobile site the more likely you are to retain visitors. Once you have a proper mobile site created, you can begin to tune the content towards mobile search terms and phrases.

Now that your mobile site is built and full of relevant mobile search terms, you might start to be thinking about having an app to deliver important information and features to customers. It’s not a bad idea, reasonably affordable and it can help streamline passing information to those interested in your brand. A difficulty to bear and mind and hopefully avoid however, is where you make your app available for download. The Apple App store and Google Market are a great repository for you to make your app widely and almost immediately trusted, but it’s a terrible pain to search through the thousands upon thousands of apps. An easy route for you to adapt, create your app and upload to the app stores. Once you’ve been given the all clear, create a link directly on your websites which points your visitor directly at your app.

This is just a short discussion of some of the topics you should keep in the forefront of your mind as 2012 gets rolling. With the amount of smartphone and tablet users growing each day, this may be a year we begin to see the mobile industry take over desktop use.

Is virtual real estate the new frontier

What is a domain name worth? well the average price of a .COM domain name is $2,595, according to a study released last week that analyzed 10,608 domain sales during the first quarter of 2011.

Domains from www.delavegamedia.com
Buy your Domain Today

This could be pretty useful information for digital marketers out there to work into their budgets, but more importantly, they should look at the overall value that a domain provides because the return on investment can be fairly substantial.

Domain names are a pretty basic tool in the digital marketer’s arsenal and should be a main component of any campaign, brand management strategy, product marketing strategy, or even an SEO strategy. However, their importance is often overlooked and can sometimes be cast aside due to the sticker shock of how much the right name costs.

Domains have been sold for $13 and for $13 million, but if you consider the average price, it’s a reasonable investment in the grand scheme of a marketing budget.  To put it in a brick-and-mortar perspective that most anyone can understand, $2,600 is roughly the cost of a vinyl sign or display booth, making it a very reasonable investment for most companies.

Another thing to remember is that a domain is an investment, The money you spend upfront on a domain will pay dividends in the traffic it helps generate, but it’s also an asset that will appreciate in value over time.  According to the same market study that benchmarks domain transactions, the average price of a .COM increased 9 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011.

We often take domains for granted because they’ve become a part of every day life, but they’re a valuable tool for driving traffic, and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.  Short and memorable domains can make your site easier to find for new and returning customers; keyword domains can improve SEO and reduce the money you spend on SEM; domains that define a category can capture natural type-in traffic.  With the right strategy, domains prove their value many times over.

You only get one domain name, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Securing your business or personal domain name should be one of the first things you do online for Branding, Marketing & Sales.

If you require help securing a domain name for your business or to check out our stable of branded domains, call us today 1.866.259.2483 or drop us a line, we would be happy to help.

 

 

Managing and Maintaining Your Website

When you’ve decided you need to give your website a facelift, whether it’s dated images or content or perhaps to remove flash or java elements, you may find that you’re in a pool of options much deeper than you bargained for. Joomla, Drupal, PHP, ASP, there are easily a hundred different types of content management systems you can make use of. Personally as an SEO I prefer working with HTML and CSS as it’s elegant in it’s simplicity.

Why a content management system? Because it’s easier for the end user after the site is completely built. It allows the owner of the site to be able to login to the site, to make any changes or additions that they may deem necessary, it allows the designer to create a site to your specs and leave it with you to manage in the end. This is a great idea from a designers view as maintenance and upkeep are out of their hands. As a user however, if you’re not mindful of the content you add and change, you could accidentally find yourself kicked out of the SERPs. The safest way to ensure that all of the rules and guidelines are being followed is to be in league with a search engine optimization expert. Someone who you can contact and who can direct your online efforts to better position yourself on the organic search listings.

What type of website you have built, also determines the level of difficulty your SEO will be confronted with online. There are nuances and intricacies which exist in code which can go so far as having as simple a mistake as an extra space in the page completely takes your site down. It’s of importance when you’re contracting someone to perform your SEO, that they know your CMS and are comfortable in using it.

There needs to be some distiction made about those who are truly search engine optimization experts and web designers. Web designers selling themselves as SEO experts aren’t going to do you the services you may need or require to get the results you desire. Purely SEO companies will most likely not be able to design and build you the website look you desire for your brand. Just like you wouldn’t hire a plumber to build your house, you don’t hire a web designer to perform your SEO.

Beginners Guide to Websites

Just to set a few points straight, I’m going to talk about the very basic steps to getting your web presence up and running. Because as it stands, there’s always a schiester out there, who likes to sell themselves as an expert in website design, optimization and who knows what else.

Since we’re working with the premise that you already own a business, you need to see if the domain name you’re interested in is available for purchase. So for example, your business sells personalized bath towels and robes. Now when you’re trying to decide what your domain name should be, using personalizedbathaccessories.com isn’t necessarily the best idea. Sure it has your most relevant keyword as your url, but that really doesn’t make as major a difference as some would make you believe. Just in the interest of relative ease, we’ll use the domain name of bathwear.ca for the example, url is not the holy grail of search. Step 1 is in control, congratulations!

Step 2, you need to decide on a host for your website. Things can get really crazy in this aspect, bandwidth usage, email usage, users allowed on the site, so on and so forth. When it comes to your host, you’re most interested in server uptime. It doesn’t matter if it only cost you $5 a month to host your site if it’s offline for 30% of the time. That’s 30% less time you have to be making sales online! You get what you pay for, so if your hosting plan for 99.99% uptime is $45 a month, bite the bullet and go with quality. You definitely get what you pay for, and if you’re curious about the reliability of a host, a quick perusal of their support boards is a good gauge of their quality of service.

Step 3 is where the magic begins, you’ll begin to build your website! There are dozens of different programming languages out there, but the tried and true HTML coding with some CSS magic for aesthetics can do an amazing job of a website. Additionally, it’s exceptionally easy to find even free templates with which to work from. If you visit a developer and they tell you it’s going to cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars to develop your basic website for your business, then it’s in your best interest to ask for some examples of their work. Another point to consider, how did you find the developers website to navigate? It’s often a reflection of their devotion and competance in their field of work.

Once you’ve gotten your website built, uploaded it to your host and assigned your DNS properly, you’re good to start spreading the word that you have yourself a website. There’s always the path of using existing media, television, radio and newspaper, or you could opt for a much more results oriented and trackable search engine marketing and search engine optimization. As a new website, just making it’s way online if you’re looking for fast “rankings” AdWords is the way to go. It can help draw attention to your fledgling site as you begin the much more intensive organic listings work with SEO. If you haven’t been caught by the snake oil salesmen yet, this is your last hurdle in their maze. SEO and SEM, while time consuming are both extremely measurable metrics tied to their investment. If you have an SEO for example tell you they’ll work for only $200 a month, you might think that’s a great savings, but that would be like going to the school carwash to detail your new Porsche. You absolutely positively get what you pay for when it comes to a search engine optimization company, and the number one way to find the big fish in the pond?

Search for them.

There we go, not so hard is it?

J.C. Penney and Google – An example in the making

Since it’s all over the news and has been talked about since word broke, here ‘s just another take on the J.C. Penney search gaff. The NYTimes did a piece titled “The dirty little secrets of search” and in it was outlined how J.C. Penney gamed Google into listing them for all sorts of terms, applicable to their stores, but always listing at the top irregardless of the search.

The chief way this occurred was through the value of backlinks coming into a site. When your search engine optimization expert does their work properly, the value of the backlinks coming into your site will be categorically relative to your site. J.C. Penney however had links for all sorts of things on what seemed like any kind of website. When it comes to broad analysis of buying links to link back to your site, Google frowns heavily on the practice and often the links are devalued, or even negatively valued, and your site can be negatively effected in such cases. Matt Cutts was questioned on the occurrence and admitted that although JCP.com was already dealt with three times previous, the most recent and wide reaching offence hadn’t been noted.

Some have said it’s because JCP spends so much money on AdWords, others have said it’s sloppy policing on Googles part. One thing that the NYTimes piece did however, was contact a black hat SEO marketer directly and asked their opinion on the matter, and I believe they hit it on the head the best. Think of search not as a one type tool (search) but as a dual purpose technology; informational and commercial. And while the black hat lauded the strength of Googles informational capabilities, he readily admitted that commercially the results were lack luster, a cess pool was the term used. The Google team has admitted fully that there’s a relevance problem as of late, which has become more pronounced with the advent of both Caffeine and Instant technologies into the Google search algorithm. It also needs to be noted however, that spammers didn’t all of a sudden triple their output, the right set of adjustments just haven’t been found yet to exclude them from the relevant results. Additionally since no one has thought to bring it up, the same (gamed) results would have shown up in Bing or Yahoo as well as they did in Google.

JCP is about to go through some growing pains, and will most likely learn a valuable lesson in search; always make a point to be aware of your hired SEOs track record . You may find yourself on the receiving end of a swat on the nose from the Google team.

In a bit of a change of pace, just a reminder that there are a few key points which need to be considered when working online whether as a new website owner just getting into the search marketing side of business. Or a long trusted brand both on and offline, that’s looking to stake a claim, or reinforce a position online.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) – Keep your website simple in appearance, construction and use. That doesn’t mean like a printed sheet of paper, but flashy ads, a video clogged front page or fancy fly away graphical menus don’t help your position in the search world. All of the above technologies, without a lot of back work, can actually hurt your online marketing performance.

Relevant Content – Keep your copy relevant and consistent to what you want to be known for. If you’re a plumber, write about plumbing trends, technologies and concerns. If you’re a tailor, writing about style trends, materials and new patterns is helpful. As a carpenter you wouldn’t want to write about small engine repair or microwave ovens, it’s simply not pertinent to your business or your website.

Budget – Ahh money, the one aspect of the business that always seems to surprise people. The thing about advertising, is that advertising in earnest, with the idea to make contact with your customers or clients to earn a living, will cost you money. In North America, Canada especially, online marketing budgets are significantly below what they need to be to see the real rewards capable from high quality, skilled search optimization. It still makes no business sense how a company can have no problem throwing away thousands of dollars per month on a marketing metric which is untrackable (newspapers/radio), versus a significantly lower cost for a completely trackable one (SEO).

A Call to Action – Often the missed point of a newer website owner, a call to action for your visitors is a required point of your website. A qualified and capable search engine optimization expert can bring you traffic, but if your website doesn’t direct your visitors what to do, they will leave until they find a site that does. If the point of your website is to sell, ensure you have a way to sell to your visitors with a Buy Now button, or a catalogue to order. If your desire is to attract people to sign up for your newsletter, make sure it’s prominently displayed as such.

Time – One of the most important requirements for SEO is time. Time for your website to be crawled and indexed, time for Google, Bing and Yahoo to place you within their index and the time it takes to balance your website versus the millions upon millions of pages also within your sector. It all takes time in the end, and if you try to circumvent the time component and go quick and dirty like J.C. Penney did? You’ll get caught, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you’ll be caught.

Searching in the Future – The Web Squared

With the rapid advancement of the web, the technologies that control it and the methods that people interact with it, it makes me wonder sometimes what’s going to happen by 2020.

*cue time warp*

Your morning might be something like while getting ready for work, you’re receiving all of your local newsfeeds directly to your 3D/Holo television already sorted and delivered relevant to your interests. News snippets, weather announcements followed by sports results all fully controllable should you desire more information. The commute to work, in a hands free car navigating itself to your meetings. No one works in offices anymore, the instant web and cloud offices makes physical locations a throwback to the previous centuries way of doing business.

With cloud computing being fully integrated into mainstream business, social and common use, communication has never been simpler, or faster. Terabit internet in the sprawling cities ensures that there’s always enough bandwidth. And for those with pockets full of money, neural interactivity direct to a focusing lens you wear like glasses; providing a vast, interactive surface with which to work and play.

Online search, commerce and social activities will most likely be completely merged; think of a mega company the likes of a Google and Facebook merger. We’ll call it GoogleBook. A complete portal, with news, social feeds from friends and family, shopping via search and instant messaging for friends, family and clients. Micro-blogging sites like Twitter, would be absorbed and added to the already potent offerings provided by such a massive company. The idea of privacy online has matured and changed with the baby boomer generation gone offline to relax in peace, and the tech savvy information generation coming into it’s prime as the dominant work force population.

The web will be faster, cleaner and more relevant to each individual as the Google algorithm, Facebook social algorithm, and the Amazon shopping algorithm all become written together into a do it all super algorithm. With signing in online, it will deliver the content you’re interested in, show you what your friends have been doing the last few days and find the local best deals for the new television you were thinking of buying.

*end time warp*

It’s going to be an exciting time to be online, even in the next few years let alone in the next 10. The web and it’s technologies are growing at an exponential rate, what we’ve learned and discovered over the last 25 years online, will be doubled in the next 3-4 years; and then that time will be cut again and again. Until discoveries are coming at such a rate, that it’ll be expected to have new tech every week, instead of every couple of months.

You could also subscibe to the theory that it’s game over in December 2012 as well. No one knos what’s to come in the next few days, let alone years. Here’s hoping the web continues to grow, mature and evolve as quickly as it has been.

Home Sweet Google?

On the web, there’s a fairly basic rule of survival; adapt, or disappear. It would stand to reason then, that one of the biggest names on the net, Google, could be viewed as the kings of change, as well as search. And, well.. they’re doing it again.

With more feathers in their cap than most birds have on them, Google is adding a few more tricks up it’s sleeve. Some of the bigger ideas being brought forward are their contributions and innovations into web video and television. The business model idea which Google uses, provide the a paid service, for free, has fed them well since their birth. It stands to reason that their new toys would allow the same.

The jewel making the most buzz during their conference, would have to be their own offering of a video playing software, as an alternative to the sometimes sketchy performance of Flash. The Google variant, dubbed VP8, is being provided as an open source alternative, with royalty free use, all rolled up with an open source audio platform to boot. Currently, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera support the format, but IE and Safari, do not. Flash however, can still play the content generated, a new WebM standard, so the browsers aren’t totally in the dark. Only iPhone and iPad users who won’t have the option of having Flash on their devices, will be left in the lurch.

And just because you don’t think of them enough, there’s Google TV in the works. A new set top type box from Sony HDTV’s and Blu-ray players, and Logitech set top boxes, will let you search cable, internet or satellite than a normal program guide can. It uses the Chrome web browser (Flash enabled), so it can play pretty much all video content currently available on the web, Hulu included; provided Hulu doesn’t block out the browser. Tie into that it’s powered by the Android software, and you can incorporate the apps, current and future, into your use. Is this the Google way to shake things up in the television market like they did webmail? Time will tell.

Google video, Google TV, Google cell phones, Google Google Google.. Interesting thought; Google plus WalMart teaming up to provide consumer goods..

Designing with SEO in mind

It seems to be a consistent trend when a new client meets with us, telling us about their incredible website which they’ve paid (sometimes) thousands of dollars to have it built for them, only for us to turn around and tell them plainly “I’m sorry, but this is terrible to work with”.

Having a flair for style is a great thing when it comes to being a designer, but there are some key points which designers should always bear in mind when constructing a new website, whether for themselves, or for a client. It’s time, I think, to cover just the bear minimum of basics for all of you web designers out there.

1. Title and Meta tags

Important to your site, as a note, don’t try and wedge all of your keywords into these places, it can just get you a mark for trying to be overly spammy. Too many marks, and your website can actually start working against you.

2. Avoid frames, keep flash and java to a minimum

Frames are a no-no code wise for a great long time now, it’s sloppy, looks terribly unprofessional, and best to be avoided completetly.

Flash and Java, while they can add some neat tricks or interesting effects to your site, don’t make a lick of sense to Google.

3. Alt attributes

It’s simple, as with Flash and (some) Java : spiders can’t see pictures. the “alt” tag is there for you tell the spiders what it’s looking at.

4. Use clean, valid mark up.

Make your HTML clean and simple – don’t use tables or use lots of unnecessary DIVs. This will improve your load time which is great for visitors and also make it easier for search engines to crawl and find your page’s content.

5. Make use of header tags

Think of header tags like chapter titles within a book, makes it easy to navigate the index of pages contained within.

6. Try descriptive link text

Linking your website together just makes the navigation better, period, for both bots/spiders and a user experience. Try to avoid things like “click here” and the like.

7. Help bots crawl your site

Bots/spiders are pretty good at navigating your site, but just like having an index or table of contents to a book, it’s helpful to have the same in place for your website. A well formed footer, or sitemap only helps our job as SEO’s when you come to us to assist your rankings online.

All of the above tips, are very basic tips that all web designers should already know and bear in mind when constructing a website. But it is always a good idea to brush up on the fundamentals. Because often times, designers can’t see a forest for the trees.

Avoiding Common Web Design Mistakes

When I started to design for the web I already had some basic coding experience, so I figured, how hard could it be to get serious about it? Take your images, headings and body copy. Link it all up and no problem! So little I knew then…

Major problems..

What I learned; the basic experience I had didn’t translate well as I worked. I had images everywhere, text flowing over and around them. Different fonts on every page. Differing background gradients and transparencies. And I had yet to account for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, etc, both the Windows and Mac versions. My ideas were great, but they were a nightmare to code.

Being that it was my first real foray into the design and construction of a website, I hadn’t used a stylesheet to layout and control my flow and design. But, if you follow the guidelines below, you’ll avoid some of the most common web design mistakes and save yourself a lot of frustration.

1) Reuse design elements
Using different fonts and design accents on every page in web design is a no-no. The more elaborate the design, the harder it is to code. Visitors expect every page of a website to have a consistent look and feel. Keep your font sizes consistent from page to page and reuse graphics and icons where you can. If you carry your design elements throughout your website(fonts, icons, bullets, and graphic accents, for instance), your CSS will be much simpler to write and visitors will appreciate the unity of the finished site.

2) Make your designs web compliant
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve finished coding a website, opened it on another computer, and been shocked by how different the fonts and colors were from the finished code. You can avoid a lot of problems if you make your designs web compliant. Stick with compliant fonts for easy declarations in your CSS, and work around compliant color codes where possible. If you decide to step outside the safety zone, test your designs early, often, and on different computers with different monitors.

3) Expect your site dimensions to change
There’s no such thing as “perfect” in web design. Even a minor update to a website can wreak havoc on a weak layout. So, make sure any element that has constantly changing content can accommodate changes to width and height. Use extra space as padding and test headings and sidebar links to see how they look when wrapped over two or even three lines. When content spills out of a container or causes your layout to come apart when you or a client updates the site, it comes across as sloppy and unprofessional.

4) Using a similar CSS layout for every website
If you change the stylesheet for every design, you have to start your from scratch. If you stick with a fixed container width for your designs, on the other hand, after a few websites you should work out a custom CSS framework you can drop into any layout to help expedite the coding process.

5) Design with your content in mind
The websites I designed in the past were dominated by pictures for the most part. But content is king on the internet. It takes keyword rich content to attract search engine spiders and drive traffic. So a website has to be more than just a great looking design. You should plan for a decent amount of text on each page. 350 to 500 words is a great figure to aim for with relevant content in mind.

-Nathan