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Website Office Just another WordPress weblog 2010-10-20T00:47:25Z WordPress http://www.websiteoffice.com/feed/atom/ admin <![CDATA[How Testing Can Boost Your Revenue]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=109 2010-10-20T00:47:25Z 2010-10-18T17:26:36Z Testing is one of the key components of finding the right mixture for your website. If you are not testing the features on your site and not testing what is making the best improvements to your site, you may end up losing a substantial part of your business or failing when you thought you had found the next best way to improve your site. There are numerous factors to consider when you are making changes to your website but whatever you end up changing, you always need to make sure that it is going to be effective before you throw all of your weight behind it. This is where multivariate testing comes into play. This testing will allow you to compare results of different practices to find what works the best for you without losing a substantial portion of your business. The only thing you need is time but it is definitely worth it.

Multivariate testing allows you to run multiple tests on essentially the same thing with slight differences. You can do something completely different but by using smaller differences, you can see what parts are making the greatest differences. Before you start testing, however, you should consider several things first.

First, you should consider the page quality of what you plan to test. Using pages that have higher quality content will definitely help you get better results. This is particularly important for your landing pages because you need to have as much information as possible to convince your visitor to stay intrigued. The better the quality, the more you can see results and what makes the biggest differences in your results.

Next, you should make sure that your page has a clear call to action. If you have multiple options for your customers, such as a free trial and an option to buy now, make sure that both of these are clearly available. If you are giving someone the option to try your product and it is worth it, you have a good chance of getting them to purchase it later. There is also a good chance that someone who is not completely sold on your product will have a chance to learn to like it and use it and choose to buy it when the trial is over.

Finally, you need to make sure that you have solid, clear goals for your campaign as well as a good way to track what is happening with your test. You don’t need to have extremely attractive things to track in your campaign but you do need to define what you want to improve so that you can find the best way to do it.

At another time, I will consider the actual testing but these things should be enough to get you started and prepared to test your sites. Preparation and time are your two biggest expenditures here but if you want solid results, they are definitely worth it.

If you are uncomfortable in optimizing your company’s website yourself, there are several good online marketing firms like HigherVisibility who have experience.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Semantic Search Engines and SEO]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=108 2010-10-17T17:25:02Z 2010-10-17T16:30:22Z Many questions are asked when you start talking about semantic searching. Ask.com used semantic search and now there are several other search engines that are starting to make use of this “new” technique. Of course, there are refinements that have been made but the idea remains the same: semantic search has users use real language, such as a full question, and uses this as its query while sorting through pages to find sites that are the most relevant to the query. I like to think of the Internet as an encyclopedia and semantic search being able to flip through all of the pages related to my question and find the entry that has the best answer.

Doesn’t this seem a little late though? Search now allows users to put in the basic idea of their query and get pages that make the most sense based on those words. That has made SEO very particular and allowed people to find the best way to convey their site to people. Semantic search would change all of this because the algorithms would be completely different and more focused on problem solving than on related terms.

Here are a few questions that you should consider about semantic search in relation to your SEO:

1. How do you get to be the best answer for this kind of functionality?
2. Will traffic actually make its way to your site?
3. What is the best way to optimize a site for both keyword searches and natural language searches?

If Natural language does become an integral part of the search industry rather than the niche that it is now, what are you going to do to insure that your site continually gets the rankings, traffic, and conversions that you are used to getting? You need to think now about the best way to optimize your site for all scenarios related to search engines. This does not mean that it is easy, just a fact that you have to consider and deal with before it becomes a problem.

Finally, considering how semantic search engines seek to find answers. Your site will need to consider this so that your content is optimized to answer the questions that might be asked about your product. This moves search engines from simply directing people to information to finding the information that they are really looking to find. Beyond knowing terminology, you will need to find the best way to communicate ideas behind you products.

Though I do not think that semantic search will take the place of what search has become, I do think that it will become a part of it and something that you will need to consider when you are designing and optimizing your page. The content and quality of your site gain even more significance and importance using this type of search.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Connecting with Your Customers Through Design]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=106 2008-08-18T03:41:31Z 2008-09-11T15:35:58Z Whenever you are designing a website, there are several key components that you need to examine and consider before you even begin. One of these key components is how you want to appear to your customers. One of the biggest parts of this is the voice you use to communicate with them. When I say voice, I do not mean simply the tone or style of the writing on the page. The biggest thing you need to consider is how your site is perceived, not how much you think it looks good. When you know your target audience, you can determine what the best voice is to use in communicating with them.

Your voice should identify who you are. Since your visitors are reading your material and not actually listening to your voice, you need to make sure that you keep things consistent on the page so that everything is understandable. Yes, this may seem like you are going back to school and going through your papers to make sure that everything flows, but there is a reason that we are taught those kind of things in school: they are an important part of communication.

How do you want your business to sound? Do you want to be more personable, less personable, more professional, or more laid back? All of these questions lead you in the direction of finding your site’s voice. Also, you need to determine what person you are going to use for you site. Are you going to use first person? Singular or Plural? Third person? Singular or Plural? While this may seem a little bit odd, make sure that your site’s person reflects you, the owner. Are their multiple people that own the business? In that case, try to make use of the plural throughout the site. If you want your customers to be more comfortable with you as a person, use the first person to give them a sense of familiarity. There is a place for the third person, but keep in mind that it is much less conversational and can detract from what you have to offer.

If you are operating a small business, something perennially associated with family, using a more personal tone can definitely attract people to your site. If, of course, you are looking to have a slightly more separated tone, perhaps something in the legal profession, using the third person is your better option.

There are a number of other things that you need to consider when determining your site’s voice, but these questions and suggestions should put you on the right track to finding what works best for you. Above all, make sure to be consistent throughout your site to ensure coherency.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Improving Your Local Search Results]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=105 2008-08-18T03:34:24Z 2008-09-08T15:26:56Z Knowing the importance of Local Search is one thing. It is another to make sure that your site is optimized for the best results. While you can add your business to local search listings, making sure that your site is found is another thing. There are several things that you can do to help with this, many of them simple, and all of them worth it.

First, make sure that your site is crawlable. While you already understand the importance of having your site indexed, you may not realize the importance of this o local search in particular. Aside from indexing your page and improving your rankings, making your site easily crawlable can allow the spiders to find your business address. In order for this to happen of course, you need to make sure that your address is not in an image file. Having the address in text allows the words to be indexed and can help return your site for a local search.

To ensure the best results from the crawlers, make sure to put your information in an H1 header. This information should include your business name, address, and your key words. You should also make sure to include your business address twice on the page, rather than just once. The second would probably be best in a footer and you should make sure to spell out your state in one of the addresses since some abbreviations are shared with other things, such as CO for Colorado and Company, as well as the scientific abbreviation for cobalt.

Make sure to have your customers rate your business on the local search engines. If possible, try to get them to use your keywords, but don’t be too pushy about it. Getting your customers to spread the word for you is a very effective tool.

Make sure that your business is listed in local directories. Also, try to get local agencies to link to your business, such as your local Chamber of Commerce. Not only can this link be more authoritative, it does actually give you more exposure.

Check up on your competitors by doing a search for your keywords. When you find out who they are, make sure to find what links they have and try to get the same links to your site. Also, check on those who link to you and make sure that all of their information is correct and up to date.

If you have businesses in several states or cities, try to make a location specific site. While this is not the best idea for a larger business, for a smaller business it can definitely help with local traffic.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, there are always things that you can do to improve, making use of these tips can help you on your way to more successful local search results.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[The Power of Social News Sites]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=96 2008-08-18T03:43:08Z 2008-09-05T15:04:13Z On social news sites, stories are generally given value by the comments that accompany them. A story on one of these sites that has no comments is like a website without links, it doesn’t look lie it has gotten much attention. The flipside to this, however, is that too many comments, particularly short, trite comments, also has a negative connotation. Just like your website needs to have quality content, both things you contribute to social news sites as well as the comments on it should have quality input. You should also be aware of this when leaving your own comments: people trust thoughtful responses and are turned off by comments that don’t contribute anything of value. The key to generating thoughtful responses is having good content.

If you do plan to contribute something to one of these social news sites, and you plan to have people comment on your story to get better rankings, make sure that they are going to be thoughtful. This process will also help you make sure you are providing quality content because no one wants to put something out that they know is going to be seen as negative. Having commenters for your submissions is a good thing but only when they do more than praise your submission. Make sure that they contribute to the dialogue or perhaps even start something useful of their own.

Social news sites have the potential to give you more credibility and draw more visitors to your site. Making sure that you build a good reputation through your submissions and your comments only augments your ability to draw people to you and your site.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Yes, There Is Such a Thing as Too Much]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=103 2008-08-18T03:12:11Z 2008-09-03T15:05:16Z You may be wondering what, exactly, I mean by this. While this adage holds true in many fields, it may not seem like it applies to your site. This, however, is where you would be wrong. I am going to look at your code, and let you know if, and how, it is negatively affecting your site and what you should do to fix it. Why you should fix it should be obvious, it is hurting you.

Numerous things can mess up your code. While most of these are overlooked by search engines and browsers alike, some things are unforgivable. Some errors in your code can prevent your site from being indexed, others can be seen negatively, such as a high code to content ratio or bad placement of content within code, and others can make your site so heavy that it takes way too long to download your content.

The obvious problem if your code prevents indexing is that your site is not returned, at least not as highly, in searches. If your HTML code is not 100% validated, the search engines may run into a portion of your site that prevents it from continuing indexing your page. A good example would be not closing you tag and causing the bot to overlook your body of text.

If your code to content ratio is too high, it may prevent an entire page from being indexed. The bots have a limited amount that can be downloaded and the more code that is on your page, the less your content is actually indexed. This can be an especially big problem if your content falls at the end of a page, after many lines of code, and the bots never reach it because they get their fill going through your code. Eliminating excessive code can also help your more important elements stick out on your page more.

The placement of your content within a code can effect how your site is indexed as well. Since the algorithms used to develop the index engines are designed to work as humanly as possible, certain elements of your page are weighted more than others. By placing your content in certain parts of your code, it can be weighted more heavily and give you an important advantage.

Finally, the length of time that it takes to download your page’s content, the more problems it can cause. Search engines are essentially doing the same thing a visitor is doing and searching your site. The longer it takes for your page to load, and this can be due to an excessive amount of code, the lower your site will be ranked.

Search engines are evaluating your site in much the same way that a consumer does so it is important to make sure that your site is accommodating. Using clean code is an important part of setting up your page to be as useful and easily navigable as possible.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Growing Your Presence in Local Search]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=102 2008-08-18T03:26:10Z 2008-09-01T15:45:08Z While there is no sure fire way to ensure that you can get top results in Google’s local search, or any other local search for that matter, there are several things that you can do to make sure that you are maximizing your potential on these services. It is really quite simple, but some things can be easily overlooked and can prevent you from getting all you can from the search engines.

First, you need to make sure that you have a Google and/or Yahoo account. With this, you can sign into the services and add your own business information. The more information that you can provide concerning your business, the better. The more a customer finds useful from your listing in the local search, the more confident they are in what you claim to provide and the more likely they are to use you. While conversions mainly come from the customer’s choosing you, the more you can do to make them like you, the more likely you are to get that conversion.

In addition to adding your business information, you also need to add some graphics. Adding your company logo to your business listing can gain you more support if you have good brand information. Also, if it is something you might have on a large sign that someone looking to come to you store might see from the road, the more familiar with your business they are, the better for you.

There are also places for customer reviews. This may make you a little timid and afraid to put your business out there. Don’t be afraid of this, embrace it. Consumers are able to distinguish legitimate bad reviews from malicious ones and will not automatically balk if they see a review from someone who wasn’t completely satisfied. The potential for good press is definitely worth the possibility of a couple of bad reviews. By allowing your company to be put under scrutiny, people trust you more. That being said, make sure you do not abuse their trust by putting up false reviews. While it may seem like a good idea to pad your reputation, it is potentially detrimental to your business and will more than likely turn around and bite you. Let organic reviews do your work for you.

Finally, keep your information in Internet Yellow Pages and other directories current. Keeping these listings current with all of your information can make sure that your job is easier when dealing with the search engines because they often work in tandem and share information.

There are many things you need to consider when working with local searches, but these things should give you a brief overview and should get you started with your local search.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Get Rid of That Shopping Cart with the Squeaky Wheel]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=101 2008-08-17T23:31:48Z 2008-08-29T15:22:43Z While you may be considering all of the things that you need to be doing to landing pages, home pages, tweaks you need to make to your navigation, and making sure that all of your content is new and continually updated, you may be overlooking a key component of your website: the shopping cart. Even though this component is on the back end of your website and seems to be something that isn’t that important, making sure that your shopping cart works without a hitch really is that important.

You may think that if a customer has gotten as far as the shopping cart, you have already won the battle. Unfortunately for you, however, this is not true. All too often, customers will add items to their shopping cart, only to choose not to buy them in the end. While this is inevitable to some degree, many people just add items to the cart to see the total price or so that they have a convenient place to keep all of the items they have found and liked so they can go back to them later, there are still those that just get frustrated or confused and give up.

Hopefully, you don’t have too many of the latter group. If you do, however, and you would like to minimize this number, here are a few tips for optimizing your site’s shopping cart.

Make sure that your check out link is clearly visible. Use both a text link and an image link, maybe one of a shopping cart, crazy, I know, to clearly indicate to your customer’s that this is the way they need to go.

Make it easy and clear for your customers to update their shopping cart. If they want to delete an item, make it easy to do so and make the resulting total clear and easily updatable. The last thing a customer wants to do is to have to start all over again and find those items, they may just give up on you.

Minimize the advertising on the checkout pages. People have already chosen to buy from you, don’t push it too much. Your best bet, if you want to entice someone to purchase a similar product or spend a specific amount, is to pitch this to them when they add something to the cart, not when they are preparing to leave your site.

Make your safety, security, and shipping information clear and understandable. Provide links to the security pages, explanations of your shipping methods, and other information readily available to keep your customer’s satisfied and feeling safe. Also, make sure you do not store personal information unless you allow the customer to ask you to do this. A simple box to check is enough, but let them ask for it, don’t push it on them.

Finally, make sure that you keep your customer updated on how far they are in the process. If you have a long checkout process, letting people know where they are will encourage them to stick with it rather than give up right before the final step.

Making sure that your site is easy to use is vital to your success. Attention should be paid to the entire customer experience, from beginning to end. Don’t neglect the steps that seem inconsequential, all too often, they are the ones that your customers will find most important.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[Choosing Alternate Domain Names]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=100 2008-08-17T23:16:46Z 2008-08-27T15:09:43Z You may be wondering what I could possibly be hoping to achieve by writing about this. You have worked hard to establish your site and domain and you can’t possibly think of why you should have another one. The answer is simple: by having alternate domain names, you can combat competition and ensure that you are getting all of the traffic that is trying to find you.

We have all experienced typing in a domain name, only to find that it doesn’t exist or doesn’t take us where we wanted to go. This can be a very frustrating experience for a consumer and can turn them away. If they are unable to find what they are looking for, even if they do continue looking, their mindset is not as amiable towards what they find later. You know how it goes, you are driving around town, following directions and assuming you know where you are going, and when you finally get there, you find that you went to the wrong place or that your destination is not where you thought it was.

In the physical world, businesses can’t predict these kinds of problems and set up a transporter for their customers to magically arrive at the right place. Likewise, competitors can’t exploit a consumer’s mistake and put a business where a consumer might look for their competition. Both of these, however, are possible on the Internet. For your customer’s you can set up a system that brings your customer’s right to your doorstep, even if they take a little misstep along the way. Your competitors can also do this, only instead of taking them to you, they take them for themselves.

The solution to this is to buy up alternate domains and make sure that your customers come to you rather than go somewhere else or give up all together. To find domains that you should consider buying, think along the following lines:
Alternative spelling
Misspelling
Phonetically Similar words
.net, .org, etc
Plurals

By having these domains, along with your actual domain, you can set everything so that even if a consumer doesn’t know exactly where to find you, they will still end up in the right place. Like I said, this also helps with the competition and makes sure they aren’t stealing some of the traffic that is meant for you. The stronger your brand gets, the more important something like this can be because you have more competition. If you have something of little consequence, there probably isn’t going to be a big fight over your domain, it is when you have something of value that you really need to consider things like this.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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admin <![CDATA[How a Business Can Go Wrong with Social Media]]> http://www.websiteoffice.com/?p=99 2008-08-17T23:04:00Z 2008-08-25T15:44:33Z The first thing you need to know before you examine what you might be doing wrong, is a definition of what social media actually is. A very basic simple definition of social media is “a group of tools and sites that let you easily create and share content online.” The key word in this definition is share. Too often, businesses will focus on publishing or distributing something new, and miss the whole point of social media, causing everything to go wrong.

People use social media sites to share useful content. If you, as a business, go into social media hoping to roll out something new, something that isn’t useful and interesting to people using the site, you are not tapping into what social media was created to do.

Publishing and distributing involve one-way channels. You, as a business, are seeking to get things out to potential consumers. Social media was not designed to push things out to its users, but to make it easier for them to communicate and share things. Whenever you use social media for something it was not intended to do, you not only miss the boat, you also take the chance of “angering the natives.” People do not like when they feel pushed into something, and that is exactly what you are doing when you start trying to push something using social media.

The best way to use social media is to give more than you receive. While this may seem a little counterintuitive, you are, in fact looking to make money and expand, it is the best way to make money and use social media effectively. If you provide something that is both useful and informative to a social media site, those who use it will praise it. This is how you make friends in social media. When they find something they like, they share it with others. The more they share the useful thing that you have provided, the more people that you bring to your site. While you may not be getting money or conversions from the content you post on a social media site, you are drawing more people into you site and all of these people are your potential customers. Don’t forget all of the potential links you can also draw from something like this. There is no sure fire way to ensure that you get a substantial reward from your activities, but this is an effective way to make sure that you are putting yourself out there with a good possibility of a good return.

Written By: James Blackburn, Website Office Staff Writer

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