Looking for Something?
Browsing Category

Tools & Tech

Benefits of a Mobile-Compatible Website

Author:

Odds are, when someone looks at your website, they’re doing so from an iPhone or other mobile device. A 2010 Pew Research Center report showed that 6 out of every 10 Americans use the mobile Web, and that number is likely even higher today. Yet despite this fact, many businesses and blogs still design their sites only for traditional desktops or laptops. Is this true of you? How does your website look on mobile devices? Do you even know?

 

Why Build a Mobile Website

Designing a mobile-compatible website means recognizing how many potential readers are on their phones. When you build a site to suit them, here are some of the benefits you get in return:

  • Improved User Experience: Mobile sites are made to look and perform better on mobile devices than on traditional desktops or laptops, which makes for an improved user experience.
  • Longer Visits: The most common reaction visitors have to sites that don’t load properly? They leave. By designing your site to be mobile-friendly, you encourage visitors to stick around, clicking through more pages of content.
  • Faster Page Loads: Because they are designed specifically for the dimensions and standards of mobile browsers, mobile sites load faster for users.
  • Improved SEO: A mobile website does better on mobile-friendly search engines, bringing in new traffic and visitors who are searching on their phones.
  • Professional Image/Better Branding: With a slick, high-quality mobile website, you communicate a sense of professionalism to your audience. What’s more, you enjoy one more opportunity to increase brand awareness.
  • Competitive Advantage: With a mobile website, you have an extra way to differentiate yourself from the competition. When mobile clients scroll through your site and your competitors’, yours will be the one from which they pull information.

Mobile Website vs. Mobile App

You know you need a way to connect with mobile users, but does that mean a mobile website, or could it mean an app? The truth is, both options are excellent ways to reach your readers.

  • Option 1: Create a Separate Mobile Site: Desktops and laptops are not the same as smartphones. They are not the same size. They do not offer the same browsing experience. They are not used in the same ways (desktop/laptop users are at a computer; mobile users may be anywhere). So why would you assume a made-for-desktop website is adequate for mobile visitors? Build a separate, mobile version of your site to reach these readers.
  • Option 2: Create a Separate Mobile App: Another option is to create a custom mobile app. While building an app is typically more expensive than creating a mobile website, research shows it works—mobile apps traditionally have higher success rates than websites. If you choose to go this route to make your online content mobile-friendly, make your app is feature-rich and legitimately valuable to your audience.

Tips and Ideas for a Mobile Website

OK. You understand a mobile-friendly website makes sense, so now what? Before you build your mobile site, what should you keep in mind? What’s good to know? Here are some important tips:

  • Redirect Automatically: Ideally, your mobile website automatically comes up for users on mobile devices. Your designer/webmaster can control this functionality for you.
  • Think Simple: The homepage of your traditional website may have header navigation, a sidebar, multiple columns, and so on. The homepage of your mobile website needs to be simpler. Rather than attempting to duplicate your entire website, focus instead on the most relevant information.
  • Link to Traditional Site: For readers who want more details, provide a link to the desktop version of your site. This way, more information is still available for anyone who wants it.
  • Be Fast: Load times are vital on mobile devices, so make sure your site loads in a few seconds. Minimize image sizes, pare down the JavaScript and CSS files, and do whatever you can to make your site run quickly.
  • Think Touch: Thanks to smartphones, touch is the new way to surf a site. With that in mind, design your site with dropdown menus and pre-populated fields when possible.

 

 

Free Gift: WordPress Training from Bob Dunn [12 Days of Giveaways]

Author:

A free gift from NMX Speaker Bob Dunn: WordPress Training Videos

Here at NMX, planning for our January event is in full swing…but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time for the holidays! That’s why, every day from now through December 25, we’re featuring a brand new giveaway for the entire NMX community!

Bob Dunn is one of the best WordPress teachers I know, so today I’m excited to tell you about his new giveaway: A complete WordPress 101 video series! If you’re new to WordPress, these videos are for you…and even if you’re an experienced user, you might learn a few new tricks. With this series, you’ll learn about:
  • WordPress Settings and Features: What can you do with WordPress and what settings should you change?
  • Post and Page Creation: Bob walks you through the main ways to add content to your blog.
  • Post and Page Settings: Find out what the differences are and learn about the settings involved with each.
  • Categories and Tags: What are they and how can you create/use them?
  • Images: Learn how to upload and use images on your blog.

Like all of our 12 Days of Giveaways gifts, Bob’s video series is completely free for members of our brand new community, NMX University. (Don’t worry – membership there is also free!) You can access the complete video series for a limited time!

Find out more about this video series and register for NMXU here, of if you are already a member, simply log in to NMXU here to access these videos today!

Three Design Trends to Watch for in 2013

Author:

As we close out 2012, I can safely say that it has been a milestone year for designers.  New technologies are popping up every day that make our lives easier and allow us to stretch our talents further.  Over the course of the year, a few recurring trends have popped up among some of the major site redesigns.  The good news: most of these can be implemented by blog and website owners with very little effort or code knowledge.  Here are a few of my favorite trends to watch out for in the coming year:

By the way: this is in no means an exhaustive list, but merely meant to be a snapshot of things to come.

1. Dynamic Typography

Gone are the days when Helvetica, Arial, Times, and Georgia ruled the roost when it comes to fonts.  While not necessarily unique to 2012, the use of non-standard web fonts (fonts that are not included with an operating system) has increased dramatically as new and innovative ways of serving them have been created.  Here are a few of my favorite web-font sources:

Google Fonts

With a massive library of fonts, and a price tag that can’t be beat (free!), Google has become a go-to resource for web designers.  Their web font directory is completely searchable by style, weight, and thickness; you’re guaranteed to find a font that will suit your needs.  Implementation is even easier: simply drop a piece of JavaScript into your <head> section.  Once that’s done, call the font family in your stylesheet, and you’re done!

FontSquirrel

FontSquirrel has a great selection of off-beat fonts, separated for ease-of-discovery by grouping (grunge, retro, etc).  While the selection is good, the delivery method is a bit more complex: instead of hosting the font files on their server, you have to download them, store them on your server via FTP, and then link to where they are on the server.  Once that’s done, the rest is the same: call your font family in the stylesheet and you’re done.

TypeKit

Typekit was purchased by Adobe not too long ago, so one would argue that they’re the best.  They have a wide selection of professional font families available that other services don’t; classics like Gotham, for example.  They have a limited selection available for free, but to get to the majority of the collection you have to pay a fee.  Once you’ve selected your fonts, however, two lines of JavaScript will fix everything for you – you don’t have to call them manually from your stylesheet, call them inside of TypeKit instead.

My Favorite Fonts

I’ve chosen a few fonts from each service to showcase as some of my favorites:

Serif Fonts

Museo (TypeKit)

Vollkorn (Google Fonts)

Josefin Slab (Google Fonts)

Sans-Serif Fonts

Open Sans (FontSquirrel)

Proxima Nova (TypeKit)

Ubuntu (Google Fonts)

Display / Script Fonts

Girl Next Door (Google Fonts)

Pacifico (Google Fonts)

Special Elite (Google Fonts)

2. Large Photo Backgrounds

As internet connections get better, photos are becoming more and more prevalent – not just as accents to content, but as part of the design itself.  Couple that with the semi-new CSS3 standards, and designers are taking photography to a whole new level.  It’s not uncommon to see designs and blogs with photos spanning the width of the site itself.

How to Set a Large Photo Background

This is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of thinking.  Specifically, you have to make sure that the background is high enough resolution to accomplish what you need, but not so large that even high-bandwidth devices take too long to download it.  I recommend no more than 500k-700k for your file size – any more will be too large, and any less will be too compressed (and will look terrible).

Upload your photo, and use this code in your stylesheet:

body{background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;}

This sets the background image, tells it to not repeat (or tile), and aligns it at the top-center of your site. If you want to scale the image, you can add the “background-size” attribute:

body{
background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;
background-size: 100% auto;
}

This will cause the background image to always be 100% wide (and the height will scale accordingly) – great for responsive designs (which we’ll talk about momentarily).

Examples of Photo Background Sites

Here are a few sites I’ve designed or seen online that utilize a large photo background:

 

thirdoptionmen.org

mellowmushroom.com

bentlyreserve.com

3. Responsive Design

I want to go on record saying that responsive design is the most important thing to happen to web design in the recent years.  So important, in fact, that the W3C has recommended that all sites strive to be “one web” accessible by all devices – something in which responsive design excels.

Responsive (or adaptive design, as it’s sometimes called) means that a design will adjust itself depending on the size of your browser or the device you are viewing it on.  Meaning, instead of having a mobile website, you have one website that adapts itself and responds to the “viewport” (the size of your viewing device from edge to edge).  Responsive design is made possible through the use of @media queries.

What are @media Queries

A @media query is nothing new to web designers; we’ve been using them to attach stylesheets for years.  However, recently, designers have been utilizing its parameters (specifically, “max-width” and “min-width”) to allow different styles for different screen sizes.

A media query looks like this:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
@media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}

This tells the browser to apply styles to only devices 959px wide and below.  Anything above that will ignore any styles put here.

Using @media Queries

This is a bit more complex than some of the other things we’ve talked about, since you have to have knowledge of CSS to implement, but here are the basics.  First, we include this in the <head> section of our site:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1″>

This code tells our site to scale according to the width of the device – it’s an important step in making sure things are appropriately sized.  Next, we include the media queries we want to use.  This is my favorite set – you can set them however you want, but I’ve included common breakpoints in device sizes:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* Tablet Portrait size to standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* All Mobile Sizes (devices and browser) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Landscape Size to Tablet Portrait (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 480px) and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Portrait Size to Mobile Landscape Size (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 479px) {}

This includes breakpoints for all mobile devices (under 959px – great for people who utilize a 960px grid system), tablets, all phones, landscape phones, and portrait phones.  Now, the hard part – apply the styles you want to get the site to look how you wish.

If it looks intimidating, that’s fine: there are a lot of pre-built themes and templates that have responsive elements built in.

Examples of Responsive Design

Here are a few examples of sites utilizing a responsive design

mickieandme.com

www.boogey.com

thirdoptionmen.org

Summary

2012 has been a fantastic year for web designers, by far.  And if these trends are anything to judge by, 2013 will be even better. These are but three of the emerging trends and resources we have at our disposal, and many of them can be implemented easily by site owners.  Between large photo backgrounds, dynamic typography, and responsive designs, we can create sites that function well and look amazing.

What other design trends do you see coming in your favorite websites and blogs?

 

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about design from Mitch? Check out his session at NMX in January, entitled “Advanced Blog Design: The Latest Tools, Trends & Best Practices You Can Implement Today!

How to Use Live Streaming to Create the Ultimate Community Experience

Author:
Nikki in Stitches Live Online Craft Classes

Nikki McGonigal leads a live, interactive online craft class.

Ever since I first clicked on a link to a live-streamed show, I’ve been bullish on live.  This was back in April of 2007 just a few weeks after the first live-streaming platforms launched. As an actor turned producer I had awakened to the realization that in the 21st century artists no longer had to wait for other people to make their dreams come true – finally we had the tools to green light our own work, so by 2007 I was already deeply enmeshed in the online video world and active in social media, shooting podcasts, writing blog posts, Facebooking and Twittering away.  And then came that live-streamed show.  Just 15 minutes into it my heart began to beat a little faster, I began to envision all the possibilities…it was crystal clear to me that live streaming video has as much potential as podcasting, blogging, Facebooking and Twittering combined.

Why Live?

First of all, live is exciting! The knowledge that you are seeing something unfold, in real time right before your eyes is magnetic. Secondly, with live-streaming you get two for the price of one, both a live, interactive show and an on-demand video you can edit and upload to any site you wish. Thirdly, live-streaming manages to be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Anyone is free to watch the show and join in the chat room, and anyone can watch the recorded show at a later date,  but only those people who are actually there live get to feel as if they have personal ownership of the content that was created. Lastly, and most significantly, live-streaming is inherently about community.I have long felt that online video soars when it stays true to the interactive platform it is built for, rather than the story telling models we are so used to watching on television. Community – the ability to interact with other people from all over the world, in real time, has been the  greatest differentiator and power of the online world since it’s earliest days. Live-streaming is all about that community.

People come to a live-streamed show from all over the world, not just to see the show, but to see the other people in the chat rooms. Then they come back, episode after episode, partly to see all their chat room friends. So while appointment viewing may seem counterintuitive in a YouTube world, passionate members of your live-streamed show’s community will make a point of putting your show on their calendar. Your live-streamed show? It has now been transformed into an event, and the more your show embraces that community, the more passionate and devoted that community becomes – it’s like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube rolled up into one.

Nervous about live-streaming?

Don’t be! There are so many options and so many of them require nothing more than a computer and an internet connection,and a free account on Ustream or Livestream  or SpreeCast or Justin.tv.  The platform and methods you use depend on what you are trying to achieve…

  • Are you a social media blogger, a political blogger, an inspirational blogger?  Is your main goal to develop deeper ties with a community you have carefully cultivated? You can probably keep it pretty simple –  just a webcam, a live-streaming site, and off you go.
  • Are you a craft blogger or a food blogger and you want to invite your community to create along with you? Spreecast is a simple way to invite up to three viewers right into the video with you – you can all create together and chat with the rest of the audience as you go.
You can of course, get much more complicated as well. My company, VirtualArtsTV works in the performing arts, specializing in translating live theater, dance and music into a live-streaming event tailored specifically to the online video experience.  In order to make sure our audience is always engaged, excited and leaning forward we utilize multiple cameras in every one one of our shoots, we shoot with a small video screen in mind and keep the action and the cuts moving as quickly as possible. While a lot of sites will facilitate switching multiple cameras right in their software, we go one step further and use Newtek’s marvelous Tricaster – which is simply described as a TV studio in a box.  The demands of translating live performance  into a live streamed event require a much higher level of technology than perhaps a talk-show might, but that is the point. There are so many ways to make live streaming work for you, from a simple one webcam experience to a high definition 8 camera event.
[youtube width=”425″ height=”239″]http://youtu.be/MRO1KOj8MCM[/youtube]
Live-streaming enabled us to engage a world-wide community in the performing arts

A few pointers as you begin to experiment with live streaming

  • Embed, embed, embed!  Not all platforms facilitate embeds, but if yours does place your video on your site, on your blog, on Facebook – let your readers embed it on their blogs.  The further your show travels the larger your reach.
  • Create a strong connection!  You can’t control your audience’s bandwidth size, but you can control the quality of the file you upload.  Turn off the wi-fi and use an ethernet connection to ensure you are sending the highest quality video possible to your live-streaming platform.
  • Make it social. Always utilize the Facebook and Twitter options in the chat rooms to further spread the word and grow your community.
  • Shoot with the end goal in mind. If you want your show to be as effective on-demand as it is live, then create it as if you were shooting a regular video.  Search for similar shows on YouTube and play close attention to their camera angles, their editing, their graphics and their speed.
  • And lastly, Embrace your community. Chat with them, call out their names, invite them onto the show with you.
If you haven’t experimented yet with the possibilities of live, now is the time. It is the ultimate, community building, lean forward experience and one of the most exciting, malleable and promising tools of our wired twenty-first century. And if you have experimented with live, what was it like?  What would you do differently next time? And what advice would you give to a live-streaming newbie?

From No Tech Knowledge to a Growing “Tech Tester” Population

Author:

Ten years ago, I was the President of a boutique marketing agency located in the New York Metro area. Although I’m no longer with the company, the lessons learned during my tenure live on. We were an integrated communications firm with clear roles assigned. The PR professionals developed the business stories, the marketing folks creating the sizzle and pushed the creative envelope and the multimedia people developed the powerful interactive applications. We had our share of internal struggles, but none of us argued over the technology that fueled our clients’ programs. Companywide, we knew it was the responsibility of the in-house Web development team.

One day, sitting around the boardroom table, I remember saying to my executive team, “Why can’t the PR people update the online newsrooms themselves? Why do we have to wait on a lengthy production schedule to post a news release? Our job is timely disclosure. We have to move quickly with our news and information.” I’ll never forget the look on their faces. They were surprised (borderline confused) that I wanted the PR people to be much more hands on with technology. Shortly thereafter, my communications department became more actively involved in technology.

Moving forward, our clients’ websites were built with backend content management systems and the PR team was trained to upload images and news releases. They also learned how to update copy on website pages and to maintain the newsroom. This new, hands-on process bypassed the long wait on the Web production schedule, when a client’s news was pressing. Clients were thrilled and PR people rolled up their sleeves and got involved in technology.

Technology has become a Natural Part of the Connection Process

Today, no one would bat an eye to hear that a PR professional or any other professional (sales, marketing, customer service, etc.) were savvier with technology. Social media has created a culture of citizen journalists who create their own media. We see companies taking the time to train different departments, giving employees the right tools and also the policies to guide “proper” participation. The baffled looks I received at the boardroom table 10 years ago would be looks of approval today. This isn’t exclusive to PR, but to those outside of communications as well.

A natural part of adopting social media includes Tech Testing, no matter what your area of responsibility. It’s important to continually research and test technology to make better connections and build relationships. In my book, Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional, Practice #3 is the role of the Tech Tester. However, Tech Testing has extended into additional areas of the company, especially as social media is used companywide. From sales and marketing to HR and product development, chances are most people in your company are using social media personally or professionally and experimenting with the resources and applications that go along with it.

How does Tech Testing Work? In some cases it becomes a natural part of the workday and for others, it might be taking the time and interest after hours to experiment. Companies that support the role of the Tech Tester provide social media training classes and toolkits with informational articles or guides. However, you may also be Tech Testing on your own time.

Regardless of when you Tech Test, here are 5 important areas of tech evaluation, which deserve attention. Experimenting in these areas will help you to create better engagement opportunities through social media, with the people who matter to you and/or to your company.

1. Social Media Monitoring & Measurement Tools

By now, you’re probably not a stranger to the term “Listening,” with respect to social media conversations. There are excellent monitoring tools and platforms that aggregate the conversations and offer data regarding daily volume (buzz), share of voice, blogger influence, real-time news and sentiment. Understanding how to listen to conversations and track keywords is a lesson in understanding how your audience wants you to interact with you. If you’re a Tech Tester, then there is no shortage of helpful free resources including Google Alerts, Social Mention, SocialPointer, HootSuite, and Addictomatic, to name a few. When you select the keywords related to your company, brand, industry and competitors (or your personal passion), you will uncover an enormous amount data that you can analyze to gain insights on how to participate more effectively and to build better relationships for the long term.

2. Social Media Influence Tools

When it comes to influence tools, one question is always asked, “Is it influence or is it popularity?” It’s a little bit of both. We all know that popularity will get us large numbers of friends and followers, but influence will have your community members sparking into action, based on what you say or share. Various tools have different algorithms, which are used to calculate influence from Klout, which evaluates about 400 different online and offline measures to gauge influence to other popular tools including Traackr, PeerIndex and Twitalyzer. Building relationships with the right influencers will certainly help to amplify your voice to an audience of audiences.

3. Website Analytics and Measurement

It’s not only the Web and digital interactive professionals who should be paying attention to Website analytics. Where social media analytics end, the website analytics begin. From click to conversion, you’re able to see what content resonates with stakeholders, what drives them to your website and how they behave when they arrive. Analytics including page views, referring keywords, recent visitor locations and user profile data will guide you on better ways to share content and how to contribute as a valuable resource to your social media communities.

4. Design and Visualization Tools

Did you ever imagine taking design into your own hands? Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll never hire another designer for a project or campaign. However, when budgets are tight, the Tech Tester knows how to find the tools and to gather the scarce resources to build attractive and well-designed content, including infographics with Easel.ly. As a Tech Tester, you also learn to identify and leverage key community relationships through visualization tools including MentionMapp and Facebook TouchGraph. Visualization helps in your research because you can identify the stronger relationships and capitalize on them. At the same time you can also see where other connections in your network are weak and require further relationship-building strategies.

5. Blog and CMS Platforms

Understanding and building a blog or CMS platform doesn’t mean you have to study web development. Whether you choose WordPress or Blogger, knowing the blogging basics is a must for anyone who wants to share content and have a voice “in an instance” rather than a voice that misses the real-time dialog. Social media conversations don’t wait and it’s imperative to know how to initiate and join the conversation at the right time. Of course, there will be times that you will need to rely on the programmers for coding, but the opportunity to drive the conversation in a timely manner makes you a more valuable resource to your community.

Researching and testing different platforms, tools and applications definitely help to facilitate deeper connections. Although it’s the strategies and the people who make the communication “go,” it’s the technology that makes it possible to have more creative and often deeper interactions. Using technology the right way will definitely enhance a connection. Being a Tech Tester doesn’t mean you should run out and join Codecademy (whether you’re in communications or not). However, there is a feeling of liberation by being able to create and drive communications the right way through social media, because you understand both the people and the technology.

Where Do Your YouTube Viewers Bail?

Author:

I don’t need to tell you that video is an important component of any content production effort nowadays. The stats demonstrate that: every 60 seconds there are 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube alone. This means that there’s no way to stay caught up, but it also means that there are a ton of people consuming video. Do a Google or Bing search and it’s quite common to see videos appearing as top search results too.

You can easily see how many people watched your video on YouTube and even see if people liked it or not, or left comments, but if you’re posting five minute videos that you’re convinced are super interesting, does your audience agree? Remember, the “viewers” stat refers to the number of people who began watching the video. If ten seconds in they say “Yikes!” and bail, it counts the same as someone who watches the entire video and visits your site for more information when they’re done.

That’s why YouTube has some pretty slick analytics available to anyone who uploads video. What surprises me is how few people know about it, even people who are enthusiastically uploading video on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s denial since it can be such a stark reminder that what you find compelling someone else might find boring and unengaging? Let’s hope not!

I produce a lot of videos myself and I know that there’s a pretty consistent drop-off in user-produced video viewership. I imagine that an episode of Big Bang Theory or the ten scariest minutes of a new horror film have very different viewership patterns, but for us small players, having people watch a few seconds, or a minute, or get half way and then lose interest is to be expected. What I look for are points during the video where the retention graph changes, either suddenly going flat, meaning that spot is extra engaging, or suddenly dropping, meaning that there’s something about that point in the video that causes lots of people to bail.

To find these analytics for your own videos on YouTube — you can’t see it for other people’s video — go to your own video, then click on “Analytics” on the top right toolbar. Then click on “Audience retention” on the left menu of analytic report options. This is the sort of thing you’ll see:

You can see what I mean now. In general, the further into the video, the more likely a viewer is to bail out and stop watching. In fact, the video is just over two minutes long and the average viewer sees about half, bailing at 1:12. I think that’s pretty good, actually, in our highly ADHD world when they’re on YouTube, a click away from millions of other videos.

Look closely at the graph, though, and you’ll notice something curious happens around 0:34 where retention improves for about seven seconds before resuming its usual slope. Conclusion: Whatever happens in the video at that point is good and creates more viewer engagement, sufficiently so that everyone who gets to the beginning of that passage sticks around for the next ten seconds or so.

As a feedback mechanism, that’s obviously something to study and duplicate in other videos! And those closing titles we like to add as video producers? Notice the last few seconds of the graph: when people know they’re at the end, they leave, they don’t wait to read the credits. You see this in a movie theater too, when we get that last fade to black, people are up and out.

There’s a lot you can learn from studying your YouTube analytics. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And video production? Well, you do know that I am offering a session called “Quick and Dirty Video Production Workshop for Your First YouTube Video” at New Media Expo next month, right? You won’t want to miss it!

Technical SEO Considerations For Websites

Author:

seo There is a fine balance in SEO between focusing on user experience at the same time as search engines. Once a sweet spot is found, the balancing act has to be ongoing because both are interdependent of each other. Users understand that a great deal goes on behind the scenes of a website to make it amazing, but a certain amount of respect must be earned before they are willing to engage with it. Broken links, malware, slow loading pages and unresponsive designs are just a fraction of issues that can badly affect the usability and reputation of a website. The same can also be said for brick and mortar stores. If a store is untidy and hazardous or the staff are rude and ignorant there is very little chance that a customer will buy anything or go back to that place. One of Google’s own philosophies is to “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” For webmasters they advise a similar ethos by favoring websites that provide engaging, as opposed to thin, content.

Here is a hypothetical scenario. With everything above in mind, a web developer goes away and comes up with the most innovative, jaw dropping, responsive website that has ever existed. It attracts heaps of links, social shares and citations across the web and has even won awards for being so stupidly great. The website owners search for themselves in Google and are shocked to see that they don’t even rank for their own URL. After a closer inspection it is found that search engine bots are being blocked from crawling the website, there 40 products, it takes 15 seconds to load and it’s hosted in North Korea. For the sake of this example, that is actually possible. It is unbelievable that such simple issues can completely hold back a website. Without a basic understanding of SEO there is no way that a person would know what is wrong.

The problems above can be diagnosed and fixed in the following ways:

Firstly, install Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster. This is very important unless you have the time and patience to trawl through access logs. Although using Splunk to view access logs makes life easier.

Check robots.txt

Search for the following www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt to see what is blocking search engines from crawling your website. The most common mistake webmasters make is this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

This will stop all robots from crawling your website, although Google will list your website in the search results, it won’t show any content. To fix this problem change the robots.txt or add a new one like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow:

Check Meta NoIndex

Unlike blocking with robots.txt the html meta tag, noindex stops your site from being indexed completely. This can be useful when applied to certain pages that you don’t want to be indexed at all. It usually appears at in the header of a page and looks like this:

<META NAME=”robots” CONTENT=”noindex, nofollow”>

If the website title is not even showing in the search results then this could be why.

Check for sitewide rel=canonical

In 2009 Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft acknowledged the use of rel=canonical. This tag gives webmasters the option to remedy duplicate content issues by stating which version of a page is the most important. This in turn signals to a search engine that it should disregard the lower priority page in favor of the most important one. However if the tag is inserted into a global header it can cause a major problem. All of the pages on a website will be regarded as duplicates of whatever page is in the tag. This is how it looks in the of a source code:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/about/” />

Google only takes the preference into account and should not be substituted for permanent redirects. 301 redirects affect both the search engine bot and user experience in that a URL automatically switches to a new one, specified by the webmaster. They also pass some strength from one page to another which is another reason why they should be a first option. Problems arise when these redirects become chained. This occurs when a page goes from A to B to C to D to E at once. For the user this could go from A to E without any indication of the URLs in between. However this could cause search engine bots to give up crawling which stops your content from being indexed. For more information about duplicate content and canonicalisation take a look at this post.

Check for faceted navigation problems

A common issue that arises a lot with larger websites has to do with faceted navigation. This is where users are able to filter content based on facets such as color, size, price, language. It mostly occurs in eCommerce websites but can also affect other sites where each of these parameters can be changed to serve different content to a user. In some cases this can waste a search engine bot’s time and will cause it to leave your website. Every search engine bot has a budget for each website and it crawls them based on factors related to the underlying strength of that site. Once that budget is depleted it finishes and moves onto another website. If bots are being sent on wild goose chases because of hundreds of irrelevant variations of one item or product then the other, more important pages, are missing out. For example, if a page can be ordered alphabetically there is no need to index it twice because it is the same content in reverse.

This can be fixed in the Configuration > URL Parameters section of Google Webmaster Tools and Index > URL Normalization in Bing Webmaster. Here you can find a video of how to configure them for Google.

Check page load time

PageSpeed Insights by Google is an extension that allows you to test the speed of a website. It gives you a score out of 100 and pointers on how to improve your score. In 2010, Google incorporated page load time into its ranking signals which helps both usability and visibility in Google.

Check the current hosting provider

Another reason why a website is running slow could be due to the hosting provider. Search for the domain name in Netcraft to see where in the world it is hosted and which other websites on or the server. Hosting providers with full servers can slow a website down by making it queue up to serve content to a user. Servers that go down a lot also have a serious impact on rankings and usability. Signing up an account with Pingdom allows you to set up regular checks which notify you about the health of a server as an when an event occurs. If you run a busy blog website it would be important to know if it goes down. Pingdom can alert you by SMS if something does happen.

With these bare bones laid out, you can be search engine friendly and focus on creating great content for your users.

3 Ways Google Remarketing Increases Sales and Online Interaction

Author:

Every website exists for the purpose of being seen. Whether you are a small business offering products or services, or a blogger looking to gain readers and wider web influence; you want prospective clients to see what you have to offer. However, achieving those site visits is only half the battle.

What you really want is interaction:

– Visitors making a purchase or hiring you for your services
– Readers linking to your blog
– Fellow bloggers talking about your blog through comments and re-posts
– Expansion of social media influence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Google Remarketing is the way to take your site to the next level! It gives you the opportunity to increase interaction, not just traffic.

What is Google Remarketing?

Google Remarketing is an online follow-up tool that allows you to continue to present your ads to prospects, even after they leave your website. You see, not every person who visits your site is ready to jump in. It takes constant exposure to your offers to influence your prospects to make some kind of interaction on your site, be it sales or a blog interaction. Google Remarketing gives you the ability to put tailor-made ads in front of your prospects wherever they go on Google’s extensive Display Network.

Here are 3 ways to use Google Remarketing to increase sales and online interaction:

1. Create More Action with Targeted Ads

With Google Remarketing, you choose what you want your visitors to do. Maybe you want them to buy a certain product, hire a particular service, or make a connection through social media. Google Remarketing gives you a programming code that can tell whether or not your visitor has taken that action step. If they leave your site without taking action, Google will know and that’s when Remarketing begins. After leaving your site, your prospect will be shown custom designed ads promoting your desired action step on every website they visit within the Google Display Network. This is an invaluable tool! Remarketing offers automatic follow-up for your website until your prospect takes the action step you want.

You control:

  • Desired action step (attending your webinar, purchasing an e-book, “Liking” your Facebook page, following your Blog or Twitter account, etc.)
  • Desired demographic. Remarketing allows you to create specific ads for certain target groups. In other words, you can show different ads to a stay-at-home mother versus a young entrepreneur.
  • Site-relevant ads for your products or services. For example, if you offer a landscaping service, an ad specific to that service will appear when prospects visit a relevant site (ie. HGTV.com).

2. Reach a Larger Audience

Google claims on their site that Google Remarketing “reaches 83% of unique Internet users around the world,” so the Google Display Network is an invaluable asset for those looking to achieve maximum exposure for their products, services or content. Every time your prospect visits one of these thousands of sites, they will see your customized ad specifically targeting them. Additionally, because the network is so large and includes so many big-name websites, you gain more than just exposure. You also gain the impression of “being everywhere” and being associated with big-name brands.

Sites within the Google Display Network include:

3. Get the Most Bang for Your Marketing Buck

The best part about Google Remarketing is it can actually get you a lot of free exposure. Google tracks your prospects, promotes your site, and compels those prospects to take the action steps you want them to take, and you don’t pay anything for this promotion unless your prospect clicks on the ad. This means that if your prospect doesn’t click on the advertisement directly, you are still exposing them to your brand and building the credibility of your site. This will make any future advertisements all the more effective. Building your brand and establishing credibility is paramount to turning site visits into interactions. Google Remarketing offers this service to your site with absolutely no risk.

Are you ready to begin building your brand and extending your web influence?

Google Remarketing is an incredible tool that turns website visits into site interactions. More sales. More readers and followers. More clients. You can also improve your local search rankings.

What do you think of Google Remarketing? Please enter your comments below!

10 Ways to Double Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising

Author:

Your nonprofit organization is finally gaining traction. Your friends and family come to your events, your website redesign has all the bells and whistles it needs to be taken seriously, and you’ve even been interviewed by a local reporter. But there’s one important thing missing: donations. After you’ve earned 501(c)(3) status, the onus is on you to raise money to keep your organization afloat. Fear not, noble citizen; social media is once again here to save the day and double your donation dollars.

Here are 10 sites to help you in your fundraising efforts:

1. Causecast

Tech entrepreneur Ryan Scott developed Causecast to help organizations through increased volunteer and fundraising engagement around social change. He and his team believe global change must be achieved through collaboration along with individual action. The site helps secure donations as well as volunteer hours from local businesses that are looking to make an impact in their community. The site also provides nonprofits with customizable tools that encourage new and old supporters to donate on your website, blog, and on Facebook. These services are free to your organization so you can spend the extra money on that iPad you’ve been meaning to buy for “business purposes.” Causecast boasts nearly 3,000 nonprofit members on its homepage, which includes some of the top organizations in the country.

2. PostRelease

If your organization hasn’t gotten in the habit of content marketing, you’re missing out on big businesses looking to place sponsored content on your website. Serial entrepreneur Justin Choi created PostRelease to minimize those pesky banner ads and facilitate a much more organic web experience. With a simple plugin, you automatically integrate relevant sponsored content into your blogs, forums, and content-rich sites. It serves as an automated revenue stream and/or you can use it to sell advertiser-sponsored content on your site(s). If you’re not already drooling, you’ll salivate at the ease in which the platform’s dashboard allows you to monitor and manage the sponsored content.

3. Google Grants

You’ve heard of Google, right? Up until now you may not have had much use for their main moneymaker, AdWords, but the search engine behemoth wants to give your organization $10,000 worth of free advertising on their homepage. All this coveted real estate requires is an application to their Google for Nonprofits site. Once approved, you can begin leveraging online advertising to reach donors, tracking online donations and promoting your organization’s website to ultimately grow your fundraising dollars.

4. Youtube for Nonprofits

The third largest search engine, YouTube, falls right in line with Google’s other product offerings for nonprofits. Have you ever watched a YouTube video so moving, so wrenching, so powerful that you wanted to donate right away? YouTube for Nonprofits provides that solution by allowing organizations to monetize video content with one click. Approved nonprofits can easily add a Google Checkout “Donate now” button to their YouTube page so every view can turn into a few bucks. Equally impressive, you can customize your channel with your organization’s logo as well as drive viewers to action by placing a “Call to Action” overlay on your videos.

5. Fundly

Fundly is a super social way to raise money for nonprofit initiatives with its plethora of social features. The site claims to increase donations by over 20%, while helping increase campaign visibility online by 424% on average. Percentages aside, your supporters are directed to a Fundly Cause custom page, where visitors learn more about your cause and can easily donate. They then can tell friends and family about their donation through Facebook, Twitter, and more. Some might call this bragging, I call it your new best friend. In a perfect world, social media aficionado Ashton Kutcher will make a donation to your campaign through the Fundly platform and his post of that contribution will go viral.

6. GoodSearch

GoodSearch takes web browsing to an altruistic level by allowing supporters to raise money for their favorite charities through search. The website donates money to your organization when your supporters search the Internet, shop online or dine out at local restaurants. Everyone you know does these things as often as they brush their teeth! Your fresh-breath supporters will have no qualms about a percentage of every eCommerce purchase they make or percentage of their restaurant bill at participating locations being donated to your charity. I urge you to get started sometime in the next millisecond and easily spread the word with the site’s email, social media, newsletter, and video resources.

7. HelpAttack!

Don’t you wish you could raise money through Facebook statuses, blog posts and even tweets? I’m sure your mother would actually join Twitter just to support your charity. Along with your mother, HelpAttack! lets supporters simply update one of their social sites to help you reach new levels in funding. Their donations are handled securely by a donation processor so can feel confident their good deeds are being funneled properly. The giving platform adds further incentive by rewarding donors with Coins that access new features, and gets others to join your noble cause.

8. Groupon Grassroots

Whether you love or hate Groupon, the daily deal site helps local nonprofits meet and exceed their fundraising goals through local participation. Dubbed Groupon Grassroots, the giving initiative evolved out of Groupon’s collective action platform to discover and support local causes. Each campaign connects like-minded individuals with a nonprofit to help realize a specific monetary threshold. Once that threshold is reached, Groupon sends 100% of the donations to the organization and you get to bask in those warm and fuzzy feelings. Known for their quippish content, a team of writers specific to Grassroots graciously crafts your campaign deals to maximize your “cool factor.”

9. eBayGivingWorks

eCommerce giant eBay enacted eBay GivingWorks to help nonprofits gain exposure and create a new revenue stream. With a simple sign up on www.missionfish.org, organizations gain access to eBay’s billion dollar marketplace. Your supporters can use eBay GivingWorks to donate 10% to 100% of their item’s final sale price to your charity. For every listing that benefits your organization, buyers will see a banner with your information, as well as a link to your eBay GivingWorks page. You can also encourage members, volunteers, donors, and affiliates to look for your organization to make purchases on your eBay GivingWorks page.

10. Crowdrise

Film star Edward Norton has been making major contributions to nonprofit sector for years but you won’t catch him patting himself on the back for it. Instead he helps run a trailblazing crowdfunding site with components of social networking and virtual competitions. Nonprofits and their supporters are encouraged to create a profile to raise money through contests, donations, and even purchasing actor Will Ferrell’s Super Sexy Hot Tan Sunscreen. Each project is complemented with a compelling story, vibrant pictures, and a real-time scroll of who’s donating.

Now that you have these awesome tools to reach your fundraising goals, stop making excuses and start making your donorship grow! Once you’ve found your groove with which sites work best for your organization, double down on those and build an avid community around your efforts. Remember, these social sites shouldn’t be used as gimmicks, but rather long-standing or reoccurring campaigns that create sustainable fundraising solutions.

Who Swiped Photos from Your Blog? If You Care, These Tools Can Help

Author:

You’re a savvy blogger who knows that it’s important to share not only words on your site, but photos as well. Visitors will be more likely to engage with an article that catches their eye with a great photograph, infographic, or drawing than they will with a wall of text.

Lady Against RedA wise blogger knows that you can’t just use any random photo you find online, so perhaps you’ve purchased some stock images or used Creative Commons photos on your blog.

But what about the opposite scenario? What if you’ve posted your own photos and you have this gut feeling that folks might be taking them or using them elsewhere?

Should You Care?

Before diving into how to police your images, it’s worth considering if you want to spend time doing this. Most interesting images that end up on the internet stand a good chance of being repurposed, reblogged, swiped for a personal blog post, or stolen for some other purpose. Technically most of these uses constitute copyright infringement and in theory the offender is liable for damages, but it’s also worth consideration if policing the web for unauthorized image use is the most productive use of your time. There’s no right answer to this question, but consider what you feel is the harm caused by a potential infringement versus the other work for your business that you could do in the time needed to monitor the usage.

Okay, Let’s Go Photo-Hunting

If you’ve decided it might be interesting to track some of your more interesting photos, there are a couple sites/services that I can recommend.

The leading service in this field is TinEye, which allows you to search for an image on the web from a variety of sources. In the example here, we’re curious about your photo that you originally posted to your website or photo sharing service. You can either upload the image to TinEye, or give it the source URL for your photo as a starting point. TinEye performs some analysis on the photo and then returns a list of results where it thinks it has found that same photo being used elsewhere on the internet. You can browse through the results and see which uses are legit and which might be the result of someone “borrowing” your work. In addition to ad hoc queries, TinEye offers commercial services if you’ll want to search for large amounts of your work on an ongoing basis.

Another good option for the occasional search is Google’s Search by Image feature, which allows for searching the web with the power of Google, except instead of starting with a text query, you start with an image. Much like TinEye, you can start with the image URL, a direct upload, or even use a browser extension to enable easier searching. Google then presents a Google search results page including other copies of the photo with contextual information about where it is being used.

Once you’ve found an offender, you can contact the blogger, webmaster, or even the web host and request either that the image be taken down, linked and credited, or licensed.

Do you police for your content elsewhere on the web? Do you consider the occasional image theft a cost of doing business? Do you use another service that folks should know about? Please share in a comment below.

Learn About NMX

NEW TWITTER HASHTAG: #NMX

Recent Comments

Categories

Archives