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Froogle to promote your ecommerce shop

February 28th, 2010

It amazes me that Froogle is still as small as it is in the UK. I know that it is probably growning exponentially but it still seems like no-one uses it.
Imagine a service that is FREE. A service that allows anyone selling pretty much anything online to advertise every single one of their products with a photograph. A service that brings potential customers to your website every day. A service that allows comparison shopping to bring the customer the best deal.
Well you don’t have to imagine. It is here and it is Froogle.
The thing is, I talk to web store owners regularly who have never even heard of Froogle, and at the very mention of setting up a feed for them they run a mile (and that’s before I mention that I would charge a fee if they wanted me to set it up!). It’s free, it’s busy, it increases your profile and it brings you new customers. Why don’t more people use it?

Pay for Performance SEO

February 24th, 2010

I was approached this week by someone who wanted an SEO company to take on a contract based on pay for performance. Now that in itself isn’t always a bad thing. The company involved knows they are not throwing money away and only pay when they get results. The terms of the offer were the thing that unsettled me.

Payment would be made if the SEO company got the client to results 1-10 in Google UK for a popular 1 word search. Let’s say it was “dvd”. (it wasn’t but it was an equally popular search). No other results mattered.

So the SEO company who takes on this pay for performance deal will slog their guts out building and suggesting content on the site, building links, building more links, building more content, then building some more links. With all the effort in the world they are maybe going to get to page 2 or 3 in Google for “dvd” but not into that elusive top 10 position. The sites populating those top positions are older, way older. They’ve got thousands of pages listed. They’ve got 10’s of thousands of inbound links. The potential client’s site just can’t catch up for that one word search.

As a spin off however, all the work that the SEO company does means that the site is coming up in the top 10 for thousands of other search terms like “motorbike dvd”, “uk dvd free delivery” or “comedy dvd”. The site will be raking in orders by the thousand but the SEO company won’t see a penny because the site is not coming top 10 for “dvd”.

Another difficulty is that because the client isn’t paying any money up front, they don’t always take the seo proposals too seriously. The SEO company will tell them they need another 500 words of content on the main pages, they need at least another 50 pages of content in the site, they need to change the page titles on every page etc but the client never actions it. This might be down to budget, laziness or just a feeling of “why should I change my site, I’ll maybe do it if I see some results”. Whatever the reason it is crippling for the SEO company who end up trying to promote a website with poor content.

I can understand companies who want to try pay for performance, but from the SEO company’s point of view it is not always the best way to undertake a contract. It’s too easy to get stung.

Sites that don’t work in Firefox

February 18th, 2010

Don’t you just love that some web designers are too lazy to check that their site works in Firefox.
WAKE UP!
Depending on your target market, up to 30% of visitors to your site might be using Firefox. I found another site exhibiting this spectacular lack of insight this afternoon www.carphonewarehouse.co.uk - a huge UK business, but I can’t see any of their site in Firefox. Ah well, it’s their loss, I’m sure phones4u will be happy to take my business using Firefox.

SEO Lies and meta-tags

February 9th, 2010

Todd at Stuntdubl has a funny post about the top 10 Ad Agency SEO lies. It’s a good post and I agree with it all, but maybe have a bit of an issue with suggesting you don’t need meta-tags (well, meta-description anyway).

From an SEO point of view, a meta-tag is not going to make a blind bit of difference to the way a page is ranked, but once a page is ranked and showing up the results, the meta-description tag can affect how the link to your site is displayed.
If your site shows up in Google for “cheap tents” and you don’t use the meta-description tag, the displayed link will have your title and then snippets from the page where the words “cheap tents” have been used. These snippets are never complete enough to really work out what a page is about.

If you do include the meta-description tag and the words “cheap tents” are there in the tag, Google will often show the page title then the meta-description. This makes the meta-description a marketing tool rather than an SEO tool, but write it well and it will drive more traffic to your site because it will stand out in the SERPS.

In addition to this, people who quietly set up a link to you from their own site without letting you know will often use your title and meta-description to describe your site, rather than making up their own text. It seems like a pretty minor thing, but that person might just have a busy site and a well worded link could drive extra traffic to your site.

The meta-description tag may be dead in terms of SEO, but in terms of online marketing it is still very much alive and kicking.

Dumping big companies for bad SEO techniques

February 7th, 2010

I had to laugh the other day when I heard that Google had deleted bwm.de from it’s index for cloaking pages. For years car manufacturers have been building graphically complex, content-crap websites and I’ve always dreaded one coming to me for SEO advice. Looks like BMW might have gone to the wrong place. Their SEO guys must have suggested creating these magic pages that search engines see but users don’t. It’s called cloaking and it’s been a black hat seo technique for years.
I’d like to thank Google for kicking them out. It’s hard enough for honest SEO’s to get decent listings with honest sites. Constantly fighting against black hat seo guys who use dodgy techniques is not fun. Maybe they’ll stop doing it now that their number’s up. Doubt it though. They can walk into a company, give the talk, create the crappy site and then disappear with the money. Several months later it gets spotted and the company loses it’s listings, and it’s credibility.
It’s a wake up call to check up on what your SEO company is doing. If they can’t explain it, or if they are a bit shifty about what they are doing, maybe it’s time to ask for a second opinion.

Brilliant FREE SEO tools

February 3rd, 2010

It looks to me like the days of paying big money to do keyword research at Wordtracker are over. Aaron Wall at SEOBook has a stack of brilliant free SEO tools, but the big daddy amongst them has to be the Yahoo! and Google Keyword Suggestion Tool. If this set of tools were packed into a package and sold by subscription, people would pay a good couple of hundred a year to use them. Brilliant resource and one to bring up if an SEO ever tells you they are charging you soooo much money because of all the software & seo tools they have to subscribe to.
Jim wrote about these seo tools a couple of weeks ago and I have to thank him - I didn’t know SEOBook had a tools section, but I suspect I’ll be visiting every day now. Thanks Jim, and big thanks Aaron.

Links from directories with PR

February 2nd, 2010

Shoemoney - the superstar of Adsense and regular submitter to DigitalPoint forums has a great list of free directories with pagerank. Now it’s ok to submit your site to just about any directory out there, but by finding free directories that have pagerank means that spiders are more likely to spot and follow the link to your site, possibly passing on pagrank in the process. While not all the directories are a top bet, it can’t hurt to visit every one of them and see if it suits your site. Free directories, just what we want. Thanks Shoe.

Increasing conversion rates on your website

February 1st, 2010

Todd at Stuntdubl has 21 tips for improved website credibility. Of course, they all sound like common sense to someone involved in internet marketing, but do we actually carry them all out on every site we consult on? My guess is no, I know I certainly don’t. Surely as consultants it’s not just our job to help get traffic to a website. With a few (or maybe 21) good tips we can help that website owner convert a lot more traffic and increase their credibility and ours.
Too many people in SEO think that the ball leaves their court when the users clicks through that Google link to the client site. That has got to be just the start of it. Just driving traffic to a site might be enough to keep your business relationship with that client sweet because they are making a few more sales, but what if you could then take those sales and triple them by helping the client gain more credibility with their website - then I think they might just be offering you share options in their burgeoning company!
If SEO stops when the potential customer clicks on the link, I believe we are doing our clients a dis-service. They’re not going to go and hire another consultant to fill the gap between where the SEO has stopped and the sale should have happened. They’re just going to think - this SEO stuff sucks, it’s overpriced and doesn’t deliver. However, if we go that step further and hold the client’s hand just a little more, we could all be wearing halos and sporting a list of very happy clients.

del.icio.us good for inbound links ?

January 30th, 2010

I’ve recently renewed my interest in del.icio.us - it seems so has everyone involved in the web. It’s a great idea, one which I may have dismissed in the past as something that would never work. In fact I remember telling everyone that no-one would ever want to share their bookmarks online but I have been proven wrong and I hold my hand up. Appears everyone wants to share their bookmarks online to tell everyone else what their favourite sites are.
The question is, but bookmarking all my favourite sites in del.icio.us, am I improving their rankings in other search engines? The whole question of inbound links from a popular site? It is possible. Say you are on the front page of del.icio.us at exactly the same time as the googlebot indexes it - does that mean your pagerank is going to shoot through the roof? Maybe not, but it must get noticed. Similarly, although I can’t see a simple way to navigate to every site that’s bookmarked in del.icio.us it is possible that by following rss feeds, or through their extreme ability to spot every navigational path in a site, search engines may just spot that link hiding deep within del.icio.us. If so, great - I’m off to bookmark every one of the sites I run, as i suspect, every other SEO guy in the world is doing.

OSCommerce SEO

January 26th, 2010

I have been trying to get my head round a site I built not too long ago in OSCommerce. How do I include standard SEO tags on each page? You’d think that any package would allow you to add a title of your own on each page, but not OSCommerce. And forget about meta-description or meta-keywords.
Luckily though someone has written a contribution, plugin or whatever they call it at OSCommerce. This OSCommerce SEO script allows every page, product, category etc to have it’s own title, meta-description and meta-keywords and if you leave any out it inserts the default set.
I’m off to try it on my site now.

Migrating from Mambo to Joomla

January 25th, 2010

Using a content management system isn’t everybody’s idea of a fun way to build a website, but I’m starting to really enjoy it. You do have to work within the limits of the system but the advantages it gives are fantastic. Instant site-wide changes, automatic navigation updates, auto-generated RSS feeds, loads of easy to setup plugins and modules etc. In effect, it takes the web design out of the system and allows you to spend your time actually creating content.
This site - www.designbydave.co.uk runs on a basic version of a content management system - blog software called Wordpress.
I have one site though - www.love-edinburgh.co.uk where I’m using a content management system called Mambo. Mambo really is quite powerful but the back-end is confusing with sections and categories always tripping me up. A friend was talking to me on the phone and told me that the new version of Mambo is called Joomla. According to my friend Joomla is going to be the powerful CMS driving force and Mambo will be left behind.
So it looks like I’m going to have to get my Edinburgh site onto Joomla if I don’t want to be left behind. Luckily the clever fellows have made the upgrade pretty simple, and although the software is called something completely different, the installation should work right over the top of Mambo. After I’ve backed up the site I’ll try it and see how we get on. Here’s the details on migrating Mambo to Joomla.

Franking Machines

January 20th, 2010

It’s a crazy world. Despite being on the telephone preference service list to receive no sales calls, I regularly get calls badgering me to take some product or other. You know right from the start of the call that there is no way you’re going to buy the product, but you let them go on with their sales speel anyway.
The one I like best “Can I talk to the person who deals with your franking machine?” - er, yes, that would be me, except that I don’t have and I’m unlikely to ever need a franking machine. I’m a one-man business, of course it’s me. Honestly, at most I send out a few invoices each month. They continue undaunted by my lack of enthusiasm for becoming the owner of a post franking machine. Here’s the reasons I don’t need a franking machine:

- I only send a few letters each month. I’m an internet service supplier, I do as much by email as possible.
- Franking machines take up valuable surface space
- A book of stamps takes up no valuable surface space
- I work on my own. Going to the post office to buy stamps gets me out of the house and I actually get to talk to a real live human being to carry out the transaction - social contact, wow!
- I simply have no desire to own or rent a franking machine

So next time, if you’re looking at my website and decide to call me about a franking machine, you’ve now got a pretty good idea of how the call will end up.

The year of Adsense

January 14th, 2010

New year resolutions come and go, and I try never to make one after a few glasses of wine on hogmanay. Of course there are the usual ones like gotta lose a few pounds, gonna exercise more, gonna tidy my office and get rid of all the CD’s and manuals for software that only runs on windows 3.1.
Now that we’re two weeks into the year, I feel safe enough to proclaim that 2010 will be the year I really try to make a serious income from publishing online. Up to now I’ve dabbled with it and it’s brought a nice little bonus cheque each month. This year though I want to turn that into a large bonus every month. It’s possible too. I already have around 10 websites showing adsense. They are built and ticking over nicely. Some of the sites I run are blogs, some are standard information sites. All bring in a little income every month.
So how am I going to do this? Well according to those people who are making hundreds of dollars every day from adsense, the key is to build lots of content. Every page you write has the potential to bring in more visitors from search engines. More visitors mean more clicks, means more income. It’s that simple. Content brings visitors brings clicks. My aim for now is to add 10 pages per (working) day across my sites. That’s 200 new pages every month. It doesn’t sound hard, but if I do manage to keep it up, it should double my adsense income in just 6 months (based on the number of pages I have published across all my sites at present). If I manage to keep the pace up and stick to my 10 page/day goal, I will post my success here. If I don’t I’ll never mention it again, until next new year that is!

SEO events in the UK

January 5th, 2010

Somehow I never manage to hear about any SEO events in the UK. As an SEO guy, I work at my office in England whilst my colleagues are in London, and I don’t get much of a chance to get together with other SEO’s. Just been looking at Jim Boykin’s blog and see that there’s another SEO event coming up in the US soon. Now I wish I had the time and money to jet over the pond every month for the SEO piss-ups that get held in America, but I don’t. So how about some UK SEO gatherings? If anyone knows of any and I’m just being dense, please do let me know.

Blogging for a living

December 22nd, 2009

The number of stories you hear about people turning to blogging for a living is always on the up. First there was Jason Calacanis, then Darren Rowse - one of my favourite bloggers at problogger.net and today I was reading about Duncan Riley at Blog Herald going solo. In Duncan’s case it sounds like it was more through circumstances outside his control, but none-the-less, declaring your independence and becoming a problogger is a very brave and admirable thing.
I’d love to be able to go all out and site writing on my blogs all day long but I’m not quite there in my head yet. It’s a massive commitment, akin to publishing your own magazine every month, one magazine for each blog you keep. You have to do your own reasearch, your own customer service keeping advertisers happy, your own promotion, sales and reader liaison through your comments. On top of that you don’t even have an editor to tell you to get a grip if you’re writing crap that no-one wants to read.
No, it’s not for me just yet, but one day I hope…
So to all you probloggers out there, I salute you - and I hope you have a very successful 2010.

Christmas Holidays ?

December 20th, 2009

This time of year is one of the times I can get more work done than any other. The phone stops ringing and you can really get your head into planning and sorting out some of the jobs you’ve been wanting to do all year. Last Christmas I had just heard about Google Adsense and thought it was a great idea. Even went so far as coming up with a new site and building an associated shopping directory that now makes a few bucks with adsense. Of course that theme has been developed all year and now I consider myself to know a thing or two about that particular way of making money online. Not many things, just one or two.
I’m also hoping to go over my main internet consultancy website and update anything that has changed over the past year. Will probably do the same thing for my SEO friends at SEO Correct too. That’ll be a nice surprise for them in the new year, things have been getting a bit out of date on both sites recently.
I know that ideally I should be taking the entire time off and spending it with the family, but I do want to get some of these jobs out of the way because starting a new year with a clean slate is a refreshing thing too.
So what’s the big thing going to be for 2010?
In my opinion, personnal publishing is going to be massive. Obviously it already is with enthusiasts and others, but this year is going to be the year that businesses really start to take notice and get to grips with the power and simplicity of it. How will it help me ? Well, as a consultant, I can setup blogs, design blog interfaces, match blog interfaces to existing sites, integrate blogs with existing sites and promote blogs through submissions. I love blogs, I love the open nature of them, the simplicity of how they work and the freedom they give anyone who wants to publish information online. I want to position myself as someone who can help companies get into blogging and be successful with it. It maybe sounds like a tight niche, but it’s one I like.
2010 - the year of the blog…
Hopefully.

Outsourced SEO and Web Design requests

December 19th, 2009

Honestly, I take one of these calls per week.
“Mr Christie, have you considered outsourcing your web design/seo work to India.”
“No, I don’t outsource any work”
“Ah, would you consider it, it’ll make your projects really cheap”
“No, my clients are hiring my SEO skills, based on my record, not yours”
“Ah, OK bye.”
It’s the same every time. Plus you get time delay on the line, usually a crackly headset at the India end, and sometimes I can barely make out what the caller is saying because their English needs a little more practice. It doesn’t inspire confidence, so no, I DON’T OUTSOURCE SEO/DESIGN WORK TO INDIA.
The only caller I have any time for is Eddy at Flexiresources. He’s ultra polite, speaks fantastic English and always invites me to take a holiday in India. He’s also incredibly persistant. A gentleman and a scholar. However, despite all that, I STILL DON’T OUTSOURCE.
I wonder if Eddy will call again soon.

Google Christmas Pressies

December 15th, 2009

It would appear Google have been sending out Christmas Pressies to their Adsense publishers again this year. I really hope they send me one. I know it’s completely geeky but I want some Google branded stuff on my desk. I wonder if I should send them a clock with my name on it. Perhaps just a Christmas card will suffice.

Linking akin to social networks

December 14th, 2009

Read an article this morning called Filthy Linking Rich by Mike Grehan in which he explores search engines’ reliance on link popularity for determining search results. Comparisons are draw with social networks and others to explain why things are the way they are. It’s slightly pessimistic suggesting that things are the way they are - popular pages get more links while less popular pages get none, and the gap between the top listings and the page xx listings is growing.
In my experience, unlike social networking where it takes a certain degree of luck to bridge the divide between outrageously famous and backstreet unknown, online link popularity can be influenced by hard work and determination. If you start with a great product that makes it easier to attain links to, then all the better, but it can be done, and it’s the job of your search engine specialist to point you in the right direction and give you all the best advice on how to bridge that divide.
SEO’s have been telling clients for years to get links from sites with content in some way related to yours. It still holds true. If you sell outdoors equipment, it only takes a few links from outdoors enthusiasts sites before more outdoorsy people notice your site and link to it. Once you build that network of close links, then more people will notice you and the influence of your site will grow and links from sites with content more removed from yours will grow. Meanwhile if you ignored the enthusiasts sites and spent all your time trying to get links on popular entertainment sites, you would expend a huge amount of time and energy and not really get anywhere.
The link divide is there, but with the right approach it is not so difficult to bridge it.

Is blogging better than Dreamweaver?

December 13th, 2009

This is something that has been praying on my mind recently - is blogging better than using Dreamweaver to set up a website?
There are pro’s and con’s to both I guess:
Dreamweaver:
Easy, rapid development of sites, templates, navigation.
Adding new info requires the content to be added then the relevant links to be added by hand before republishing the entire site.
A Dreamweaver license is costly
Takes a while to learn to use Dreamweaver

Blog Software:
Quick to set up
Slightly more tricky to alter templates than dreamweaver
Navigation to new items is added automatically
Everything is done remotely so you need to be connected to the internet for posting
Slightly tricker to backup
Often Free

All in all, I think blog software has the edge IF you are creating a site that works like a blog. As soon as you are creating a custom site with all the inherent design and functionality issues, I’d have to come down on the side of Dreamweaver. Me, I’ll continue to use both.