While some may see time spent on social networks a waste, it really can be a productive endeavour. The name recognition, branding reinforcement, and personal connections you can make can prove valuable in tangible and intrinsic ways down the line. Tending your social garden in as important to business today as the trade show was 15 years ago.
As of today, 25 days since we launched the ALL new (v3) website, our 300th user just registered. The velocity of user sign-ups is increasing . I think it took over 15 days to get the first 100. While of course we are aiming for 100k users in the next few months, we’ll take the first 300 and be dang happy about it.
Build it and they will come.. Um, No.
Ponder this: How are people going to find your new website? When they get there, is there enough to keep them around? Will they tell their friends about it? Are you offering the user enough as a trade for their time investment in registering and providing contact/user information? How deep are your pockets for marketing and promotion? Are people talking about your new product or service. Is it buzzworthy?
These are just a few of the many questions you should have answers for when contemplating a new website/community. We addressed many of these prior to launching the website. We already had great search engine rankings (learn about our search engine optimization services) for the v2 site which carried over and are improving. We have worked diligently to give the user some great tools and resources to make it worth their time to register. Sally did some interviews to get the word out, and we have leveraged other social networks (BPE on: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, UstreamTV, Squidoo) to bring people into the fold. And finally we gave users of bestpartyever.com this simple option of inviting their friends.
As an example I spoke with a potential client the other day about building them a new social utility, the $50k estimate for development I gave them did not seem to phase them, but the $50k in marketing/promotional budget I suggested for the first 6 months was met with silence on the other end of the phone. Wake up, this is what it takes folks. While the idea of bootstrapping a company from nothing to Internet stardom is valid, and has been done more than once, in practice the odds are not stacked in your favor.
In the future we are planning more seamless integration into other websites and services to make it even easier for our users to interact and share. Your website is not (and should not be) an island. In todays marketplace: it MUST be connected.
It has been a long few weeks with the launch and the frenetic pace of development. Sally and I are heading to Mexico for a few days, You are invited.
Playing in the website design space is fun, but not always. If you are not a web designer than you probably know little about the work that goes into making a website “look” great. There are at least 5 major web browsers that the majority of people use. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (6 and 7/Win) being the most common, Firefox (Win/Mac), and then finally Safari (Mac).
Each one the browsers on each platform render a given website in different ways. What looks great in Safari may look terrible in IE 7. Rather then go into all the details of why and how, I am going to skip right to the point of this post. Web Designers spend hours, lots of additional hours working on websites that look great in all browsers, but look terrible in Internet Explorer 6. Unfortunately IE6 still commands a very large % of browser usage and therefore designers are forced to “hack” the code that looks great and renders “to standard” in other browsers. These hacks take time, and are necessary due to IE6’s non support of these official standards.
Okay now really to the point. Microsoft, Pay up. It’s time to reimburse us for all the hours spent hacking flawless markup to make it work in your browser. Here is the invoice for time spent by our staff over the last 5 years “fixing” compliant markup to render correctly in IE6. We appreciate your prompt payment. Thank you.
Will the real obu please stand up, part 2.
Google Analytics is a pretty slick package offered by the big G that is free to use. It gives you tombs of website visitor and traffic data to poor over. The obvious benefit is to track visits and visitor behavior on your website. But deep into a long session of analyzing data I stumbled upon an additional easter egg not advertised in the brochure.
Look at the highlighted regions of this next image. On the surface you say big deal. Wait for it…
These highlighted pages DO NOT EXIST on our website. So this then begs the question, why is our Google Analytics report showing pageviews of pages that are not present on the website.
It seems that in the act of stealing our website, a few wiseguys neglected to remove the tracking code.
Examples. (these are ripoffs of our old layout pre May,1,2007 see below)
This UofA student is probably upset with us because he was pulling our CSS file which we moved.. so all his layout went bye bye.
I don’t make a habit of pointing things like this out. But It really really bugs me when someone steals our stuff and passes it off as thier own. And do it poorly at that. Another good tool to use to find content thieves is http://copyscape.com
So finally here is one more way to spot interesting visits in your Google Analytics. Click Content > Content by Title, if you see any page titles that do not look like yours, grab them and then do this search in Google: allintitle:<page title> and the first or second result it probably the culprit.
Here is the real question, Does this hurt our website? We know that Google tracks all this stuff for their own reasons. They give Analytics away so they get behind the scenes access to your website, and mine that data for all sorts of Google projects. So if they are tracking data on obuweb.com that does not match the REAL obuweb.com, are we getting slammed?
Good question right? I have been asked that quite a few times over the last year or so since we re-branded obu. Why does this website have rotating images of flowers and fast cars. Well here is/are the answer(s).
- They are reflection of me, the designer. I am a bit of an amateur road racer, and so my interest in the sport bleeds over into many aspects of my life. (Ask my wife who has to listen to me). I like cars; fast cars, and admire the lines and symmetry of car design. And flowers, well I cannot say I have a flowery disposition but I cannot ignore the natural beauty of the world around me.
- Together they are a perfect analogy of web design. As a web design company we are tasked with crafting a visual message using technology. The flowers are the desire to create a visually pleasing and memorable design, the cars are the use of modern technology as the medium of that message. Or said another way: We make pretty pictures with computers.
- The web itself is organic and mechanical. The (ready for this archaic term) world wide web is a living, breathing ecosystem that is expanding every second. The energy powering this expansion is both organic (human’s creating content) and mechanical (the power lines, server clusters, switches, etc). Without the mechanical you have limited access to information, without the organic you have a very boring and static repository of information
- It’s all about sensory perception. Drive a Honda Civic, then drive a BMW 535i. Inhale the aroma of a fresh picked flower from the garden, and then take a wiff of warm cabbage. We are trying to invoke a positive mental state in the viewer. If you have driven a BMW, Audi, or a Koenigsegg, or ever wanted to: the imagery creates feelings of desire, happiness, exhilaration, etc. We want you to think that way about our company. And who doesn’t like flowers?
- They provide visual balance. Light and dark, text and pictures, color and the absence of color (black).
- It’s a chance to open a dialog. Use the comment’s section and share your thoughts.
What does this really have to do with anything? Well I was taught in my college studies that you cannot have graphic elements just for the sake of having them. If the element does not serve a purpose, it should not be there. After being asked so much why I chose the imagery I did, it really made me think about it and I came up with better reasons than “it just feels right”.
Preface: Increasing exposure of an existing online asset is tough, almost as tough as getting that first market push for a new business underway.
For much of the last 10 years Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was loosely defined as: optimizing your website content (verbiage, Meta data, naming conventions) for maximum keyword relevancy, and the procurement of relevant incoming links.
English: Make sure your website content is relevant to the topic, and get people to link to you. If you packed in enough keywords, and built enough links (quantity) regardless of quality, rankings came easy.
Fast forward to today. SEO is about TRUST, and Trust shall set you free.
It is still very important to optimize your content and ensure that you are utilizing on page factors for building relevancy. But now SEO is really a game of trust. For a website to rank well, it needs to be deemed trustworthy. TrustRank as it is sometimes called is a way of assigning value to a website, the higher the value, the higher it will rank.
â€œPageRank is to The Bubble Up Theory as TrustRank is the Trickle Down Theory. Google chooses [x] number of sites it trusts as a seed, and let’s the TrustRank flow down through other sites via on page references (links)” says Chris Hooley, a leading name in the SEO field.
Links are the primary method of passing trust, and gaining trusted inbound links is the primary way of building top search engine rankings. Chris makes a further economics analogy:
â€œThink of links as cash. Link Equity. Now think of them in light of those two ways economists look at the flow of cash. You need to accumulate lots of links to PUSH your market position up, and you need to collect big, fat, trustworthy, important links to PULL your market position up. Links can be viewed as currency, and link marketing is no different than brand marketing. It’s just the way we measure the effectiveness that differs. Gaining market share, or gaining link share.â€?
So according to Chris, building trust is the golden chalice of top search engine rankings. So how does one go about getting these links from trusted sites? Enter stage left: Linkbaiting. Odd word but very important concept. Iâ€™ll let link guru Todd Malicoat define it.
â€œLinkbaiting is all about the bait. In the same way that you canâ€™t catch a giant tuna with a bag of Doritos – youâ€™re not going to get the attention of important bloggers, journalists, or other folks with some garbage content or news.â€?
What Todd is saying is simple: write/publish something worth linking to. He goes on to describe â€œLinkbait Hooksâ€? or methods to present information that can be used to attract the attention of a link happy audience.
To summarize then. Todayâ€™s SEO game is not about stuffing your website full of keywords. To build solid rankings you need to create content that is worthy of being linked too by other websites that are already deemed to have Trust. They pass this trust on to your website, and little by little your website climbs the charts like the latest Justin Timberlake Album
So how does this all work for the average small business in Middle America in need of website traffic? Stay tuned for Part Deux for the answer.
Author: Joshua Strebel – President Obu Web Technologies a leading web design agency.
My staff and I spend entirely too much time looking at site analytics. It is not a odd form of self punishment, it is actually a crystal ball into the minds of our audience and a report card of our marketing efforts. Take for example our top 5 sources of referral (links from other websites) traffic for August.
The list tells me a few things: as expected most our our traffic originates from the search engines (google, yahoo, msn) due to our extensive search engine optimization, but interestingly cssdrive.com and cssreboot.com are web design galleries in which we are listed. Neither of these two sites are likely to provide any customer leads as the traffic is mostly other artists, yet there are intangible benefits here as you can imagine in having hundreds of your industry peers seeing your work.
To the list of referrals tells me where my marketing is working. #16 on that list is a local organization called Arizona Chain Reaction which is a “shop local” listing of companies. This is traffic I would like to increase as it is most likely potential prospects.
Another interesting metric that detailed site analytics provide, tells you which keyword phrases people use to find your website on the internet. The list of our top 5 keyword phrases below tells me which search terms drive the most traffic.
- professional web design
- web design
- professional web design company
- web site design
This is very useful to determine which terms we should give additional focus on to increase traffic. This list also breaks down further to tell me which search engine in sending the traffic for each term. 45% of search traffic for “web design” came from Yahoo where we had top 10 rankings for a few months.
These are just some raw numbers and examples of traffic analytics. A decent analytics program will monitor over 50 or areas of your website, from raw traffic, to duration of visit, and everywhere in between. It is recommended to have analytics in place, and to monitor them often to gauge how effective your marketing and website are working.
The Shift to Search
Well by now most business owners know that in some form or fashion, the internet plays a role in their success. The internet has become the preferred method of consumers to research prior to making a buying decision. If a general consumer is seeking to purchase a digital camera, there are sites specifically dedicated to rating cameras. But what if the consumer did not know that site existed. They would use a search engine to seek out that information.
They would use Google, Yahoo, or MSN, and simply type in a few words like “digital cameras” or “best digital cameras”. Up would come the list of relevant sites, and away they go viewing the results until finding what they want. You do this yourself. We all do. So much in fact that “Search” is becoming the primary way to navigate the internet. Remembering URL’s is so 90’s, www.domain.com has been replaced with AOL keywords, and 3-4 word descriptors used as search queries.
Pontiac Knows Search
No where is this shift to Search better demonstrated then a recent Pontiac commercial. At the end of the commercial, the announcer does not speak aloud the domain, “pontiac.com“, nor does it appear on the screen. The commercial briefly shows a screenshot of the Google home page with the word “pontiac” in the search bar. A subtle image telling the viewer to simply search for the word, and you will find them. [View commercial] This is a powerful message as more and more internet users have forgotten or never knew that an address bar was the place to type in an exact destination. Essentially (to a growing number of consumers) you do not exist, unless you appear in search results.
Search Engine Optimization
So if consumers are searching for your business type, i.e. “pool remodeling in arizona” rather than your company by name “abcpools.com” it is important that your website appears when searched for. As an example, our prospects have no clue what our name is, yet they know what they want in a web design company. Hence we have tried to assist them in finding us, by optimizing (SEO) our website for top rankings for terms our desired prospects would search for.
This ranking, and many like it, bring a constant flow of warm prospects seeking our services. Many times our prospect has no idea that we exist until they see us listed at the top of a list they requested. Consumers are searching for you, but are you being found?
The investment in SEO is nearly mandatory now, as the niche’s are quickly being filled and the sheer numbers of competition provide a barrier of entry to any site hoping to get lucky. Consider SEO as a integral part of a website plan. No matter how nice it looks and how well in functions, you do not exist unless you appear in search results.
Everyone who owns a business does what they do for different reasons and motives. You may sell cars, build houses or provide professional services. Whatever you’re doing, there’s this common belief that your business must compete in a pre-defined space and that others in this same space have to be beaten. You’re supposed to out-smart, out-sell, out-position or otherwise destroy others who share your same market.
I beg to differ and will use my own company as an example. We provide professional level web design, development and search engine optimization services and what do you know? There are thousands of other companies claiming to do just the same. Are they my competition? I say “no”. This company has no competition.
- Is directed by a singular purpose: service. We serve; we donâ€™t sell.
- Focuses on market creation, not market share.
- Never takes no for an answer.
- Considers its greatest investment the minds of the employees.
- Sets and achieves daily goals for success.
- Adapts to be relevant to both client needs and technological advances.
- Operates from a psychology of excellence.
Does this sound like a company that has competitors? These are my statements and thoughts of how I perceive this company. This perception does not allow room for comparison.
Do you think that if you thought of your company this way as well, whether you sell cars or build pools, that in your mind a comparison could ever be made between your company and another? Of course not. I suggest you stop worrying about your â€œcompetitionâ€? as they only exist in your own mind. There are always going to be people doing the same work as you and even doing it better in some aspect. Only you decide if you are going to fear, envy, or compete against them. Donâ€™t try to be like them; create your own vision and be the one and only company like it.
This company does not have competition and neither does yours. The perceived notion of competition is that you are just like them, or in fact worse – because they are doing it better than you. Are they better than you? Who says: them or you?
By Joshua Strebel | www.obuweb.com
Search Engine Optimization is really about doing one thing, building relevancy for your website. Sites that have top rankings, are deemed to be the most relevant for that search term. The search engines look a few things when determining relevancy, here is a quick list to get the beginner SEO started.
1. Choose 2 or 3 “keyword phrases” describing your product
or service. Think of a phrase someone would use to search for
a website like yours. “Phoenix Web Design or “Metal Buildings“. Try to strike
a balance between being too broad, or too specific. Too broad and
you will be buried among the competition, Too focused you limit
2. Use relevant keyword phrases and use them throughout
your web site Title, Description, Keywords, Links, and Copy. This
is called “Keyword
Density“. Be mindful not to overdo it, write for the human first.
3. Use the H1-H6, P tags to organize content into logical sections. Open a section with a keyword title in a H2 tag, and discuss that topic within a P tag below.
4. Obtain quality inbound links (IBL) with keyword rich anchor
text to your site. Search Engines love links,
your web site is given “points” by the quality of links
to your site. Anchor Text is the linked text that is actually
highlighted. So Professional Web Design is
the Anchor text of a link pointing to http://obuweb.com. You
may approach other sites to offer a “link exchange”, or buy links on other sites. Relevancy
counts, so try to avoid Viagra links unless you deal in pharmacy/medical
products. High profile IBL’s also greatly enhance your
search engine positioning. A link from Amazon.com to your
site is tops, while a link from joestrouthaus.com is not
given as much wieght.
5. Participate in online forums, or discussion boards, and BLOG. This will help you
get your name/website out there, say something useful and add to the community. By participating on a positive level you will build incoming links and audience.