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Tag Archives: Search Engine Optimization

5 Ways to Lose Visitors

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We all have a mental list of things that bother us about websites; things that send us scrambling to another site.  The web is huge, competition is fierce and the best thing a webmaster webmaster hard at work can do is to adhere to the KISS principle. (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID). Users of the Intuit-Homestead SiteBuilder program to design sites need an awareness of what does and doesn’t work on the web. Read the rest of this entry

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Website Maintenance – Keep It In Good Shape

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Spring is here! It’s a good time to get your Homestead-Intuit website in tip-top condition.

Keep your Homestead-Intuit website in good shape

When was the last time you took a good close look at your website? We make quick changes now and then, but don’t usually pay attention to the big picture. A website can always use a bit of maintenance because errors tend to happen. A website that is error free is not only important for visitor retention, but is part of good search engine optimization as well.

Common Errors:

  • Spelling errors – spell check is great but won’t pick up homonyms (two words pronounced the same, with different meanings); weather/whether, break/brake for example.
  • Alignment errors – a misaligned list can make a site look sloppy and unprofessional
  • Overlaps – the border and bullet elements in SiteBuilder add padding and can throw off the placement of elements. Finding these requires checking the site in different browsers as each browser handles coding a bit differently.
  • Grammatical errors – Poor grammar can reflect negatively on your service or product.
  • Outdated information or events that have passed scream site neglect.
  • Broken links – they happen to the most diligent of webmasters.
  • The dreaded red X – this happens too. An image name is changed or it’s moved from the original location breaking the link to the image/graphic.
  • Stray element boxes should be eliminated. It’s easy to create a text box, get distracted and forget you made one. Using the Select All option will show all the elements on a page – including ones that shouldn’t be there.
  • Check the spelling in your Meta Tags. Page titles, descriptions, and key words often contain errors. Copy and paste them either to Notepad or directly onto the page to check them.

We tend to see what we know/think should be there rather than what actually IS there. If you have a really good friend, willing family member or co-worker who has time on their hands, enlist them to help proof your site. A fresh pair of eyes can help pick out those errors that you might be overlooking. If you don’t have someone who can assist then look at your website in a different way when you proof it.

Proofing Your Site:

  • Start at the back (last page) and work forward.
  • Read from bottom to top.
  • Copy the page content and paste it into notepad or Word and increase the font size.

Keeping your website in good shape will show visitors and the Search Engines that there is webmaster activity on the site making it more credible to both.

Download the free Website Design Guide to refresh your memory on the do’s and don’ts for websites and incorporate necessary changes when you are tuning up your site.

Lots of Website Visitors – Few Results

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surfing the webThis is something we hear often. I get all these visitors to my site, but they don’t buy or they don’t fill out a form or they don’t do whatever it is that I am hoping they will do when they visit my site. These webmasters have well-optimized sites, all the t’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, they show up well in searches, but still the number of visitors far outweighs the resulting purchases or form filing or whatever action is hoped for.

Granted there can be mechanical or design flaws that might be preventing a visitor from becoming a customer/client, but that would be very obvious when some sales turned to no sales.

So how can it be that so many visit and only a few give us the results we had hoped for? Converting visitors to clients…

Search Engines Gone Astray

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Simply having a website  does not guarantee that the world will beat a path to your door (I’m sure I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating!). There are hundreds of millions (billions perhaps) of websites, so competition is fierce to try and place prominently in search engine results. Face it, if you aren’t on at least page 2 of the SERPS chances are good you just aren’t going to get much traffic.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a must if a site is ever going to improve in positioning. There are  many basic components involved in optimizing a site – it can become a full time job and even then you can’t be assured of reaching the top of the heap. And the  Search Engines make it harder all the time. In my opinion, they’ve gone over the edge of what truly constitutes  a  top site.

Things started going downhill when the SE’s began putting importance on the number of  backlinks a site had. Supposedly it meant that the more backlinks a site had, the more visitors found it worthwhile which meant that it was a top notch site. Seriously? Is that really going to determine a quality site? You can buy backlinks so how does that prove the value of a site? And, really? how many webmasters are going to link to 100’s or 1000’s of other sites when it’s  incoming links to their own site that are more valuable and particularly one-way links (non-reciprocal links – meaning they link to you, you don’t link to them) There’s something wrong with this picture.

It proceeded to get more convoluted with the advent of blogs. All of a sudden Blogs were the be all, end all. Everyone needed one and the SE’s began to put blogs on the list of how to improve link juice to your site. As a side note here I have a couple of clients who belong to a blog for a particular profession.  They have begun allowing members to re-post other member’s previous posts.  Why? Well with thousands of people posting about a specific profession I believe they’ve run out of original things to post about so they’re recycling!  Go Green I say. Many blogs have really evolved into semi-websites. There are some awesome blogs out there, but for the most part they are just posts with little value and are merely taking up space – kinda like this one!  🙂

The advent of social media sites was one things really tanked.  Once again the Search Engines went off the mark and began putting emphasis on the nutworking sites as I call them.  Again I can only say SERIOUSLY? Anyone running a business has their hands full already – the last thing they need is to have to belong to a dozen social sites where they have to tweet, or write on a wall or dig something EVERY DAY in order for it to do any good. And guess what happens? The information highway becomes more and more diluted and ridiculous. Tweet this! Many of these  sites have their value for people who have nothing else to do than be social butterflies, some are a great way for families who want to stay in touch, but for the most part they are valueless. Get rid of them? No, because they do serve a purpose for some people. Make them part of SEO juice? NO!

Essentially there are four kinds of websites:

  • Informational sites – sites that provide information about a specific topic or topics. Authority sites, government sites, library sites and so on
  • Sites that offer a  limited variety of products or a service they are selling such as real estate sites, pet sites, etc., but also provide information about the service or the target for their products.
  • E-Commerce sites – These are internet stores that sell products and offer little or no information other than product descriptions
  • Personal and Organization sites – Sites about  family reunions, sports team sites, organizations, and the like

This is where the true value of the internet lies, not in twitting or facebooking or digging or stumbling. While those types of sites may hold interest or entertainment for some, I don’t feel that the Search Engines should be placing any value on whether or not a website is tied to one of these social networking sites.

Webmasters keep your focus and continue to make those websites strong, with good content and useful information. Add pages, update, add the site to directories and keep giving your visitors what they are really searching for.

Be sure you get listed in that Directory

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As many of you know we offer a free directory to users of the Homestead – Intuit web site program. The Homestead Connection Directory was developed to give Site Builder and Store Front users a way to add a non-reciprocal, inbound link to their sites as well as giving them web exposure. We’ve gained some insight into how many people, who submit to more stringent directories, probably aren’t getting in or if they are, their listings probably aren’t doing them much good.

Using the Homestead Connection Directory (HCD) as an example, there is a link to the Guidelines as well as a FAQ page in the navigation menu. When you submit to any directory you’ll find a similar page(s) that list the requirements. That page isn’t there to just take up space … it lists the rules, requirements, limitations and so forth that the directory requires in order for your site to be accepted. READ THE TERMS AND COMPLY or you will most likely not find your site listed in that directory.

Again using the HCD as an example, one of the terms is that the Description not be any longer than 200 characters, including spaces. This is repeated on the form used to submit the site. Yet time and again we receive submissions that are in the 400-500 range.  We’ve been lenient and allowed a bit of overage and sometimes we even re-do the listing in order to meet the requirement. 9.5 out of 10 directories will simply toss the submission.

The flip side of this is the listing that comprises only a few words.  Ex: Dog Breeders or Houses remodeled. It’s a big world out there and there are many dozens of dog breeders and home remodel companies. Make that description work for you and make the visitor want to click on your link. List the area you are in. The search engines pick up on localities so this is especially important for those who serve a limited area.

Your Description should include your main keyword/phrase and it should make sense to the human reader. Many directories specify not to use exclamation points, sales hype, all capital letters, etc. Be sure you comply if you are serious about getting your site listed.

There is usually a character limitation for the Title as well specific criteria for the content of the Title.  This is usually the domain name of the site ( not the URL).  Sometimes you’re allowed to use the actual page name if you are submitting to an internal page.

Contact information is another area that often lacks enough information. Utilize the maximum amount of information allowed. Show that you are a legitimate business by including a phone number, city and state, contact person’s name (even just a first name is better than nothing), if your business is a brick and mortar store include the physical address and an email address.

Sample listing for directory

Sample Listing

Remember that directory listings can play an important part in your overall SEO. Make sure to read and follow the instructions for each directory you submit to in order to get listed and be sure that you give viewers enough information to make them want to visit your site.

So you think you’re a website designer …

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You have the Homestead or Intuit software and have decided that it’s so easy to use that you’ll go into the website design business.

Do yourself, or better yet any potential clients, a HUGE favor.  Do something else until you learn the right way to design sites.  Otherwise you are doing the client a disservice and contributing to the bad name that website designers have gotten because of the amateurish attempts of many.

You are not a website designer if:

1. You aren’t aware of page weight, what it is, how to reduce it or even how to check it.
2. Alt text isn’t in your vocabulary.
3. Templates are your mainstay design tool.
4. You use the non-professional elements that just scream ‘Amateur’ or Non-Professional site.
5. You don’t realize that sites render differently in different browsers.
6. You haven’t taken the time to learn SEO (and even worse don’t know what SEO stands for).
7. You kidnap the site and ‘piggyback’ it off your own site. Thus the client doesn’t have access to the stats or the ability to go in and run the site themselves.
8. The link structure is poorly thought out and/or incomplete.
9. Usability also isn’t in your vocabulary.
10. The site isn’t consistent from page to page.
11. You think blinking, scrolling, flashing, jumping things are consistent with good web design.
12. You use “Black Hat” techniques.
13. You don’t understand the difference between java-script and plain text. And worse yet, don’t realize that java-script can have a negative impact on the site.
14. You still aren’t sure exactly what Meta tags are.
15. Page Titles show up as Home, About, etc. in the browser bar.

We are seeing more and more “website designers” asking for a site review on the Forum.  Upon reviewing these sites it becomes instantly clear that they have a long way to go before they should be turned loose on the unsuspecting public as website designers.  Having the ability to easily make sites with Intuit – Homestead software is great and does afford the opportunity to become a designer.  But PLEASE do your homework before you venture out and ruin a client’s potential to have a successful site due to your inability to design a site that offers usability, visitor friendliness and search engine optimization.

We have written two books that can help you successfully start your own web site design business. The first deals with starting a home based design business and the keys to good design. The second is a guide to search engine optimization that is an invaluable resource for anyone, whether a would-be designer or someone who is just building their own site.  Of course we’re interested in selling our product, but the bottom line is that we are more interested in seeing people succeed in their ventures by creating sites that do the job they are intended to do.

Homestead Website Design – The Building Blocks to a Successful Home Based Business

SEO Building Blocks – Search Engine Optimization for the Homestead Website

Books can be purchased separately or as a bundle.  Visit The Learning Center for more information.

Google – Too much Caffeine?

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Surprise Google did it again! The newest algorithm change Caffeine is here – more or less.

For many this change may be as bad as the infamous Florida update from several years ago. The usual tactic is to put these major changes out in parts and pieces and then do tweaking. This causes flux and chaos for many webmasters and could be what has caused the problems many of us have seen over the past month or two. One day you find yourself on the top of the SERPS and the next day you are no where to be found. If you are one of the lucky people your site may reappear and if not you might start looking for potential problems. Avoid making dramatic changes for awhile as things are not stable and the big G continues to tinker with things.

For more information visit:  http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/08/help-test-some-next-generation.html Spend some time reading the feedback as it might provide insight to what others feel and see.

If your website does not have major problems and has good content that does not remain static, no problems with indexing and has been well optimized you probably have most of the potential issues taken care of.  Some things to look at if you aren’t sure:

  • Most of us do not spend enough time getting inbound links that are and will continue be very important especially to Google.  If you haven’t been adding them start now and keep it up. Do your research and add a couple of new inbound links every month because Google expects links to grow continuously if a site is good.
  • Use anchor text that fits your site (the words that make up the actual link) in your link submissions. Vary the text you submit so that it isn’t identical in every link. This is one of indicators to the Search Engines that the links could be spammy. If you take the time to do link building then do it right and get credit for your effort.
  • Check your site against that of the competition to see where you might improve your Meta tags (title, description, keywords) as well as the page copy itself.

10 Factors that can determine how a site will place in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP):

  1. How well the Meta title, description, and keywords have been optimized.
  2. Be sure you have unique and relevant page copy to adequately define what your site is about to the Search Engines as well as visitors.
  3. Placement of the key words and key points within the content.
  4. The keyword density of the page.
  5. Age of the site.
  6. How much competition there is for the chosen keywords.
  7. The number and quality of inbound links.
  8. Relevancy of content throughout the site.
  9. Internal Links – Links from one page within the site to another page. Or one section of a page to another section on the page.
  10. Updating the site can influence how often the SEs visit.

For more in-depth information on how to optimize your site for the Search Engines we recommend  SEO Building Blocks.