SEO Myths

I think you may be surprised by some of the SEO myths reported by our Guest Blogger, Laura Wheeler of Firelight Business Enterprises. REID ON for more from Laura. . .

1. Pages can “leak” pagerank. A misinterpretation of a statement by Google lead to this myth. It was really only perpetuated by people who thought that writing an SEO book was the key to getting rich quick (unfortunately they rarely knew enough about it to get it right!). There were enough of those though, that this myth is regularly ressurected, even though pagerank isn’t that valuable a marker anymore.

2. More content is better. Wrong. More content is just more content. More GOOD content IS better. If it ain’t good, it is just debris.

3. Articles help you promote better. Not unless they are GOOD articles. There are so many bad ones out there that even mediocre articles are a waste of time. They’ve gotta be original, and they’ve gotta be good.

4. Keyword tags matter. Not anymore. Don’t bother with these they’ll just waste your time and risk doing more harm than good.

5. Start with keyword research. Start with COMMON SENSE. That will get you further, with less effort, than any amount of research will. Research is only good AFTER you’ve done everything you can with common sense.

6. You have to be on the first page of Google to get any traffic. Absolutely NOT true! This is so badly misunderstood that even fairly popular SEO “gurus” think it is true, or like to say so because it gets them more money. Fact is, you don’t even have to be on the first 10 pages for your top keywords to get found, and to make a boodle. There are plenty of backdoor tactics that get you traffic without first page placement. This is so important, we’ll explain it all in our next issue.

7. Bold the keywords on your page. No, don’t. Bold the words you want people to pay attention to, and bold the thoughts that are most important. That is how you are SUPPOSED to use bolding.

8. Keyword density matters. No, content matters. Good, understandable text that explains what you are trying to say, and explains it well. Keywords happen naturally from that, without even trying. And the keyword patterns look so natural to a search engine that you never have to calculate the percentages.

9. Search engines don’t read words in domain names unless they are separated by a dash. We’ve proven that in fact, they do! Search engines will interpret words in the domain name, based on the words in the copy. If there are similar words in the domain name, they’ll pick them up and rank you for them whether or not there are dashes to separate them. This isn’t theory, we’ve proven it.

10. Search engines can now read Flash. No, they can’t. Google recently acquired the technology from Adobe to read it, but it has not yet been fully implemented. Further, when they CAN read Flash, they will only be able to read text that was entered into the animation as text, not text that is part of an image. So the ability to read Flash will depend on how the animation is constructed, and the value will vary from site to site. There has also been no word on whether or not they’ll delay reading it to reduce the load on the bots – reading Flash is VERY time intensive for the bots.

11. Search engines index plain HTML sites better than they index dynamic sites. NOT true. As a rule, search engines are just as capable of crawling and indexing a content management or shopping cart system. Years ago there was a difference, but this has not been an issue for many years. This is only an issue with badly coded sites, or with excessive use of Flash.

12. SEO is hard/easy. It isn’t really either. It is more a matter of understanding what really matters. Once you understand that, it takes work to create what matters. But it isn’t really hard to understand what matters – it is people! Help people understand what you have, in a way that appeals to them, and in a way that search engines can read. Everything else is just implementation.

Laura Wheeler and her husband Kevin own Firelight Web Enterprises in Wyoming. We like to feature articles from Laura periodically as we consider her one of the experts that can be trusted.

Is Your PDF File Optimized for the Search Engines?

A very effective way of producing an online catalog that your customers can print out is to add it to your website as a pdf file.  Search engines read and catalog a pdf file just like they do web pages.   I discussed an easy and free way to create a pdf file in a previous post.  But once you have created it, do you know how to optimize it so that the search engines can find it?

If not, here are some tips:

  • Don’t scan your document as an image file and then save it as a PDF.  When you do this the PDF is an image and there is no text for the search engines to read.
  • Save it as a text file
  • Optimize the text in the PDF just as if you were optimizing a web page, including important keywords and phrase in the title, tags, and within the body of the text.
  • Include keywords in the title of your file.  Different programs have different ways that you can modify a document’s title.  If you are using Acrobat,you can usually modify the Document’s title by choosing “File” in the toolbar, then choosing “Properties”, and modify’s the “Title” on the Description Tab.
  • Use the title of the PDF file as your link from wherever you are linking to it within your website.
  • Put the most important text near the beginning of your PDF
  • Include an “active” link to your website url within the PDF file
  • To create the smallest possible PDFs for the Web minimize the number of fonts and bitmapped images.  If you have the capability, use vector images.
  • Use common fonts.  Every font you add can increase the file size by up to 40 KB

Is Internet Progress Overrated?

computer-userHas progress on the internet taken us to a better place?  Has it helped us grow our business?  Are all the new-fangled opportunities for “social networking”, videos, and streaming javascript worth the time and effort involved in using them?

I’d say “yes” and “no”.  The internet has provided us the opportunity to operate a business model that can compete with the big corporate giants that are able to outspend and outemploy more than we ever could.  The internet allows us to expand outside our local market and sell to people all over the country–or even around the world, if that is our goal.  Yes, the internet has definitely helped us grow our businesses.

Social networking and all the other new-fangled ideas, such as blinking pictures, videos, podcasts, flash pages, streaming javascript (which allows us to have constantly changing photos or text on our site) are another story however.  They’re cool! They’re neat!  They’re fun! But do they really increase traffic and sales conversions?

My answer is a resounding NO!  That is why, even though we have the knowledge and capability to do so, we don’t incorporate most of these new techniques in the websites that we own and seriously want to convert.  And the reason is simple.  These are gimmicks that are intended to make a website look “professional”, “up-to-date” and “cool” .  But, in reality, except for the “under 30 age crowd” (which are only a very small minority of my customers), most customers dislike them.  And, unless they are incorporated very carefully by someone who understands search engine spiders very well, most search engines dislike them even more.

Many users of the web are technically-challenged.  That’s true of even many of our gift basket company owners.  They don’t understand all this new-fangled stuff and prefer to avoid it.  But it’s all too easy for a webmaster, who enjoys adding this type of glitz to a shopping website, to convince you that it’s the thing to have if you want to be “up-to-date”.  But what is much more important is how does it help you convert visitors to buyers?  Does it make more money for you?

If used correctly and you have the time to spend on it, social media  has its place and can help to a degree.  Social media doesn’t yet come close to competing with search or email in terms of effectiveness. But marketers are still asking themselves whether that is because social media is ineffective or simply because, despite the hype, a huge percentage of people online aren’t actively or regularly engaged with social media sites and channels. 

By social media, I’m referring to Facebook, My Space, Linked In, Twitter and the many others out there.  These social networking sites can be used to promote your business.  I use them for that purpose.  But they are just a tool and are not nearly as effective as other means of driving traffic to your website.  There are ways to automatically post your blog posts on your Facebook wall and as a Twitter.  But you have to understand how they work and how best to use them.  And learning that takes more of those precious minutes.

Forums and Blogging are two other forms of social networking that can be very effective.

How much time do you have to spend on all these sites?  When I asked the members of my Gift Basket Network what their biggest problem was, the most frequent answer was “Not enough time in the day to do everything that needed to be done for their business”.  Add to “not enough time” such activities as posting “I’m going to my son’s ballgame tonight” on your wall on Facebook or “Today is a beautiful day.  Just don’t have time to enjoy it” as a Twitter post and what do you have?  Not more traffic to your website, that’s for sure.  You’ve just deducted precious minutes from those hours that were already filled with your “have to do” list. 

Blogging, posting on related blogs, and posting in forums can help build your business…once again, only if used correctly.  A blog, that is built specifically to drive traffic and is properly optimized, is a fast, effective, and efficient way to communicate with your customers and prospects  — just as I am communicating with you.  It can make you “real” to those customers and help them to get to know you as a person.  It can also be used to sell products if done right.  But you need to know the techniques necessary to do it.  Posting on blogs, that are related to your website and have good search engine visibility, can help your own website’s seach engine optimization by providing valuable links to your site.  And you don’t have to have any technical savvy to do that.

Forums that are related to your industry can’t be beat for effective communication with others in the industry.  In the gift basket industry, there are a number of them that you can participate in.  You need to be selective and use those that are used by others who have information to share.  But, as with anything, you must give in order to receive.  Just signing into a forum, reading what others have shared, and signing out is not enough.  You need to contribute as well if you hope to receive that info you must have when the time comes and you’re desperate for an anwer to a question.

Post Foods ran a Shredded Wheat ad recently that asked this very question about progress and answered the question with:
 
” Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress?  We’re up to our necks in landfill, down to the wire on resources, and climate change is out to get us — or at best leave us with a nsasty sunburn.  Historically, civilizations are destroyed by progress.  Just ask the Pharaohs…”

And, just as the ad went on to say, “That’s why at Post Shredded Wheat, we put the “no” in innovation”, we, as owners of Gift Basket Network have also said “no”.

I created Gift Basket Network about six years ago.  One person (me).  One ingredient (professional gift basket company owners that wanted more traffic to their websites).  One website.  It was simple to navigate.  No add-ons or plug-ins.  Heck, it was even built in basic html and optimized following the severe requirements of the search engines.  We didn’t give it a fancy name or a lot of glitz.   Our market was not the gift basket company owner.  Our market, at that time and still is, the potential customer who is ready and willing to buy a gift or gift basket and is just looking for a place to do it.

We market to the gift basket company owners in other ways.  One of these was in the form of Gift Retailers Network after we had clearly established Gift Basket Network  one of the top gift basket directories on the web.  This blog that you are reading right now is another way that we market to you.  It is our way of demonstrating to you that combining the tried-and-true methods of internet marketing with a few carefully selected “social networking” methods is using progress to build your business. 

Does it work? History has proven it to be true so far.  But time will tell.

Staying in Business Takes Patience

Businesses go out of business for many reasons.  But one of the major reasons is just not sticking it out long enough.

Starting a business is easy.  It’s sticking it out and growing your business that is hard.  All of us have had days, weeks, or even months when we’ve wondered if it is worth it.  No matter what we did, few people seemed to be interested and even fewer were buying.  Money is tight.  Inventory is sitting on the shelves with expiration dates ticking down to the wire.  During that period of our business, it’s all to easy to just throw up our hands and say, “Enough is enough!  I quit!”

But if you are truly a “Creative Entrepreneur”, you know that even if you quit, you’ll be back sometime, some day.  And that is exactly the reason you shouldn’t give up.  It’s much harder to restart your business later than it is to change from a growth mode to a maintenance one and patiently do whatever it takes to stay in business.

A Personal Example

I operate my business with no full-time employees.  I made that decision early in the game and created ways to grow the business and profits without depending on employees.  That’s great as long as I’m around and am healthy.  But a few years ago, the flu turned into pneumonia that wouldn’t react to antibiotics and I ended up in the hospital for two weeks.  Recovery at home was slow and operating my business was tiring.  It would have been all to easy to just pull back into my shell, like a turtle does when disaster strikes, and give up on the business.

But I knew that once I was feeling better, I would regret it.  I would want to be back in business.  And, I also knew that if I gave up at that moment in time, restarting would be difficult.   Of course, for several months I was too exhausted to  maintain the pace I previously had.  But Instead of closing my doors, I simply shifted down and went at a slower speed.  Friends and family helped me fill the essential orders.  My grandson took over the creation of my apartment gifts and discovered that he loved doing it.  Explanations were made to loyal customers who were willing to wait.  And, I discovered that if disaster strikes an Internet business, a message of explanation can easily be placed on the website.  Of course, I’m sure I lost a few customers but I also saw how loyal many of my existing ones were.

Disaster can strike at any time.  A husband becoming very ill.  Death in the immediate family.  Hurricanes.  Tornados. Earthquakes.  They can all slow you down.  These will be times when you feel that you’ve reached the end of your rope and simply want to give up.

But unless you’ve made the decision to go out of business permanently and know that you won’t want to start it up again later, do what you can to slow down the pace, put as much as possible on automatic pilot.  Patiently do as much as you can, without stressing yourself out, to maintain what you have created.  Call on others to help you–or if you’re discouraged–find someone to mentor you and help keep your spirits up.  You’ll be amazed at how much others are willing to help and how understanding most (but unfortunately not all) customers can be.  And, then when the disaster ends, you can switch to the growth mode once again without having to start all over.

Have you ever been tempted to close your business during a down time or a disaster, but had the patience to stick it out?  Do you credit that to the existence of your business today?  I’d love to hear your experiences as well.

If you’re receiving this post as an email, you can click on the title and you’ll be whisked to the blog where you can share your experiences in the comments area.

 

25 Easy Tips for Creating Happy Website Visitors

Is your website attracting traffic but no sales?  Do you wonder what you can do to make those potential customers stay at your site instead of clicking on to the next one? 

As the owner of giftbasketnetwork.com, my directory can send you potential customers that are ready and willing to buy.  But it’s up to you and your website to convince those customers that you’re the company they want to buy from.  Here are 25 easy tips for creating happy website visitors.

  1. Make sure your site loads quickly.  Use your photo program to reduce the pixels in all your photos and graphics.  Photoshop Elements will do this automatically for you if you click “save for web”.  Other photo programs should have the same capability.
  2. Provide easy-to-find contact information on every page of your site.  People need to know that you are real and can be reached in case there is a question or a problem. 
  3. Send an e-mail to customers to confirm that you received their order and then a follow-up one with tracking information when the order ships.
  4. Answer all emails from your customers quickly.  If you have an online business, you need to check emails at least two to three times daily.
  5. E-mail your customers around two weeks after they receive their product and thank them once again for ordering from you and ask if you can do anything else for them.  This is a good time to send a discount offer for their next order. 
  6. Don’t make them log in before they can checkout. Customers, including me, hate that.  This is one of the most frequent reasons for abandoning an order that has been placed in a shopping cart. 
  7. Use a type size that is no smaller than 10 points.  Some of us are getting to be old geezers and can’t see as well.  Others sit slouched in their chair several feet away from the monitor.
  8. Make sure your photos are ones that will sell your product.  I find all too many gift basket photos on the web that look like someone just stuck some stuff in an empty basket.  Or that have a huge piece of cello wrapped around the gift and tied with a pull bow.  Pull bows are not the enemy.  I use them on low-cost gifts.  It’s the total presentation that makes the difference.  Also gifts wrapped in cello usually do not photograph well.
  9. Make your products easy to find.  Navigation that is clear and direct as well as categories that make sense are important.  Home pages that have the product link simply say “catalog” or “products” or “gift baskets” invite the customer to click to another site.
  10. Write clear accurate descriptions.  Don’t keep the customer guessing.  Many of us don’t use specific brands, using a more generic term such as gourmet cookies instead, because our product inventory changes and varies throughout the year.  Most customers seem to accept that but if you are using the exact same product all the time, specify what it is.  If you have chocolates listed as part of the gift and you substitute something else in the summer, say so.
  11. Tell people who you are on your website.  An About Us page is ideal for this.  Customers trust people they know and the only way they can get to know you is if you don’t hide who you are.  All too many “Who We Are” pages are so generic that you may as well not even include it.  For an example of an about us page, see “Who Is Behind Gift Basket Owners” on this site.
  12. Give your customers all the pricing information up-front. Don’t hide the shipping cost until the end of the process. Let the customer see the shipping cost as early as possible in the checkout process. 
  13. Use dark text on a light background on your website.  Those dark backgrounds may make you look creative but they’re hard to read.
  14. Make sure your shopping cart is secure.   Your customers won’t thank you for security. But they’ll  hate you if you let someone make off with their credit card info.
  15. Keep your website  simple.  Flashing pictures, slide shows, music, and flash entry pages (those pages that say click here to enter the site) are real turnoffs.  Think of your customer and your budget.  Customers look for gifts while sitting at their desk at work.  They will click away as fast as possible if they hear music when they open your site.
  16. Words are powerful.  Be careful of what you say and how you say it on the website as well as in your emails. You’ll win more business.
  17. Offer ways to stay connected. Let folks sign up for an e-mail newsletter or subscribe to a latest news feed (or a special deals feed).  You’d be surprised how many folks appreciate that sort of thing.
  18. Don’t be sneaky. See that ‘Register for our newsletter’ checkbox in your information request form? Is it checked by default? Change it to unchecked. That’s not a decision your customers want made for them.
  19. Make them feel special. Give past customers a special deal just for being a customer. Too often we work like mad trying to create new business while ignoring our old customers.
  20. Don’t stereotype and never assume that your target audience is a niche demographic.  That golf bag gift that you are offering just for men may be the perfect gift for a woman golfer.  And women can be junk food junkies as much as men are.
  21. Be descriptive in your page’s title tag and headline.  This is what most search engines show and will determine whether they click to your site or go down to the next one.
  22. Write content that can be easily scanned.   Write for your customers — not for the search engines.  Use bullets and short paragraphs to  break up the page. Have no more than 14 words on a line.  Many gift basket websites have long paragraphs at the bottom of the page filled with links.  These are obviously written in order to increase links within the site and to increase keyword density.  Or how about the “We deliver to” with a list of every state in the Union and even some major cities thrown in for emphasis. Seach engine spiders are aware of these “cutesy” ploys and mark you down for it.
  23. Make sure that your site looks good, not only in the latest version of Internet Explorer, but also in Firefox which is becoming a popular browser.  Others that are used by many people are Opera and Safari.  Different browers show your site differently in many cases.
  24. Check for errors and fix them. Your server logs every kind of error thrown by your site: Review the list periodically.
  25. Always think like the customer.  Think about what makes you abandon a website when you are ordering online.  Put your own ego aside and create your site so that it intrigues rather than turns off that potential customer.