Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Affiliate Managers: Your Top 5 Affiliate Program Mistakes

1. Competing With Your Affiliates

This is by far the worst mistake made by companies that offer affiliate programs. I often see companies for products I am trying to promote compete with me in the search engine rankings and pay per click advertising programs.
Why companies invest money and resources in competing with their affiliates is beyond me. By competing with me, you're trying to put me out of business. Have marketing directors ever thought of it in that way? Because if you succeed, you will no longer have an affiliate network to speak of.
The money would be better spent on supporting your affiliate network by creating a better product, providing more referral statistics, higher commission payouts, faster support, and more, fresh promotional creative.
So if you're an affiliate manager reading this article, tell your affiliate director at your next meeting to STOP competing with your affiliates, and support them instead!

2. Not Providing Your Affiliates With Useful, Real-Time Statistics

All marketers rely on statistics to measure the effectiveness of any marketing campaign. Yet most affiliate programs only provide their affiliates with basic statistics such as number of visitors sent, number of sales, and commission earned. These statistics aren't much help to affiliates who want to measure the effectiveness of a particular pay per click campaign.
Affiliate managers - please consider providing these useful statistics so that I can market your products effectively:
  • Archive of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly statistics and by date range.
  • Commission earned, broken down by product or service, and how the customer was referred to the site.
  • Daily email update of all affiliate statistics.
  • Instant email notification of a new affiliate.
  • Instant email notification of a new free trial sign up.
  • Instant email notification of a new sale and all relevant statistics. I love getting new sales notification emails!
  • Number of free trial downloads or subscriptions.
  • Number of returns and all relevant statistics.
  • Affiliate links with trackable IDs, so that affiliates can tell exactly which site, or ad campaign is sending the referrals and sales.
  • Unique clicks - which refers to the unique number of visitors referred - in addition to raw clicks - which refers to the total number of click throughs.
  • A list of top performing affiliate statistics, so that affiliates can compare how they're doing and which areas they can improve on.
  • Include the most important statistics at the top of the email and subject line. There's nothing worse than having to scroll down to see what the referral purchased or how much commission I have made.
The following only apply if the affiliate program offers more than one level of commissions.
  • Commission earned as a result of referrals sent by 2nd-tier affiliates.
  • Commission earned, broken down by commission level.
  • Number of 2nd-tier affiliates referred.
3. Not Compensating Your Affiliates Fairly For Their Hard Work

The #1 incentive for any affiliate is cold hard cash. So tell your marketing director to fire the search engine optimization firm and advertising department, and redirect the resources to paying your affiliates a higher commission rate.

4. Not Providing Enough Fresh Promotional Creative.

Most affiliate managers seem to give their promotional creative little thought. All they offer is a handful of 468x60 banners, buttons and text links. What happens is that affiliates end up using the same ads on hundreds, even thousands of web sites.
Affiliate managers - what about these promotional creatives?
  • Articles and tips with embedded affiliate links
  • Classified ads
  • Customer testimonials
  • Direct email ads
  • Email signatures
  • Newsletter ads
  • pay per click ads
  • Pop-up/under ads
  • Product photographs
  • Product reviews
  • Product screenshots
  • Rich-media ads
  • Skyscrapers
  • Staff interviews
Different ads perform better on different sites. And ads generally have a life span of a carton of milk. So offer your affiliates a greater variety of ads, more often.

5. Not Providing Fast, Quality Support For Your Affiliates.

Don't make your affiliates wait longer for an email reply than it takes to send a letter by snail-mail post.
Don't outsource your affiliate support work. If you have to, then at least train your support staff so that they understand the ins and outs of your products and affiliate program. I'm often dumbfounded by affiliate support staff who can't give me answers to simple questions.

3 Ways To Be Listed In Google Search Results

For most Web sites, Google refers more traffic than any other search engine. So it's imperative that your site is indexed in Google.

There are three simple methods to getting listed in Google.

1. Submit Direct To Google

The first method is to submit your web site via Google's free submit your site form. Just submit your home page and Google's crawler, Googlebot, will crawl the rest.

However, Google does not add all submitted URLs to their index, and there is no guarantee as to when, or if, your site will be indexed.

2. Get Linked From A Site That Google Crawls

The second method is to get a site that Google already crawls to link to your site. So when Google recrawls the web site, it will find the link to your site and crawl and index it as well.

This is Google's preferred method of finding sites to index.

To get another site to link to yours, simply look for a site that links to your competitors and ask them to link to yours. You may have to offer a link back to their site in exchange.

3. Submit Your Site To The Yahoo! Directory & The Open Directory Project Index

The third method is to submit your web site to the Yahoo! Directory and/or Open Directory Project index, which is owned by Netscape.

As far as I know, this is the only guaranteed method of getting into the Google index.

Google has agreements with Yahoo! and Netscape to include the sites indexed in their directories in the Google index. So submit your site to either, or both (recommended), of these directories.

For more information, visit Yahoo!'s How to Suggest Your Site page and the Open Directory Project's How to add a site to the Open Directory page.

Once your site is included in either of these directories, it will appear in the Google index in about 4 to 8 weeks.

Top 2 Ranking Factors for Google

The top two Google ranking factors are:
  1. PageRank
  2. Incoming Text Link Keywords
I'll explain each in more detail and what you MUST do to maximize the effectiveness of each element.
1. PageRank
PageRank is determined by the number and quality of links to a page. Both the quantity and quality of text links are important. Always try to get links from web pages with a PageRank rating of at least four.
Concentrate on getting as many different quality sites as possible to link to one page on your site, usually your home page. Do not spread the links to different pages. This will maximize the PageRank of your main page, plus those of the subpages.
2. Incoming Text Link Keywords
ALWAYS provide text links for linking to your site. Avoid image links.
Google does index image links, but without any text for it to index, it won't help your link popularity rating for your important keywords.
In addition:
  1. Include the most important keyword phrase in the text link, using the EXACT spelling.
  2. Do not pluralize the keyword phrase, if people usually search the singular version of the phrase. And vice versa.
  3. Avoid excess words, where possible.
  4. The linked to page MUST have the text link keywords in the body of the page, otherwise Google will discount the page.
  5. Include the text link keywords within the title tag of the linked to page. It is possible for a page without the text link keywords in the title tag to get top rankings. But I have discovered that around 80% of top 10 rankings have the text link keywords in the title tag, so always include it.
Well, there you have it. Those are what I consider the two most important ranking factors used by Google. Other factors are considered by Google, but their importance pales in comparison to the two I have discussed in this article.
Follow these tips whenever you optimize your web pages and they will quickly shoot up the Google rankings.

Is Navigation Useful?

For almost seven years, my studies have shown the same user behavior: users look straight at the content and ignore the navigation areas when they scan a new page. (Remember, users almost always scan -  they rarely read carefully online.)
The big picture of user behavior has held constant as the dominant browser has cycled through Mosaic; Netscape 1, 2, and 3; and IE 4 and 5. It is clearly a fundamental phenomenon. Seven years of user studies; six browsers; three software vendors; one user behavior.
Recently, my findings have been confirmed in independent studies by several others. This is truly a general phenomenon that characterizes user behavior across sites and studies. User studies typically find:
  • users comment on the content first; if the content is not relevant, then they don't care about any other aspect of the design
  • when they arrive on a page, users ignore navigation bars and other global design elements: instead they look only at the content area of the page
  • users don't understand where they are in a website's information architecture
  • users are extremely goal-driven and look only for the one thing they have in mind - they don't spend much time on promotions for anything else
  • in pursuit of their goal, users often rely on search as their main hunting strategy
  • users rarely look at logos, mission statements, slogans, or any other elements they consider fluff (in particular, they ignore advertising and anything that looks like an ad)
  • if a page does not appear relevant to the user's current goals, then the user will ruthlessly click the Back button after two to three seconds
  • if users don't understand a certain design element, they don't spend time learning it - instead, they ignore it and continue the hunt for their own goal
Some analysts conclude that navigation is useless and that navigation elements should be removed from Web pages. Don't try teaching users the site structure, don't try showing them where they are, don't try telling them where else they can go. Instead, just show people content. I don't fully agree with this analysis.Navigation is overdone on many sites. In particular, the so-called spoke design where every page is linked to every other page leads to reduced usability. Similarly, many sites have overblown footers that link to too many meta-features (say, "about the company" or a privacy statement).

Generic Links

There is no reason to mention all features of the site on all pages. Instead, select a very small number of highly useful features and limit pervasive linking to maybe five or six things like search: users turn to search when they are lost, and you cannot predict when that may happen. Less is more: having a small number of standard links on every page makes it more likely that users will notice those links they do need. In contrast, a link like "how to contact us" can safely be relegated to the home page, which is where users will go when they need it. (Exception: Contact info also needs to be on order confirmation pages.)Similarly, a news site does not need to list all the headlines in the margin of every news article. Nor is it necessary to link to all the other sections. Restrict linking to basic features (say, search, copyright, and a few more), the home page, and the main page for the current section. Then use the available space to add useful links to related articles and to the author's biography.

Structural Navigation

Do not link to all sections of the site from all pages. What is the probability that a user will go from looking at hairdryers to looking at grunge music? More to the point: what is the probability that the user will need the link on the one day in human history when he or she wants to make this transition. Why not just go back to the home page (one click to a page that is already cached and thus displays in half a second if coded correctly).Instead, provide links to all levels of the hierarchy above the current location. Breadcrumb trails serve two purposes:
  • the context of the current page (how it is nested) allows users to interpret the page better (you don't just know that you are looking at product 354, you also know that it belongs to the widget product family)
  • the links allow users to go directly to a higher level of the site in case the current page is not what they wanted, but they do want something similar
True, users will often ignore the structural links, but sometimes they will notice them, especially when they are interested in understanding a page better. Without structural links, pages become orphans that are not contextualized. And since users often arrive at pages through search or other means that bypass the higher-level navigation pages, it is necessary to provide a path back to these higher levels. In particular, it is useful to link to a page that provides an overview of the current subsite or region.

Local Navigation

Local links to related content are also very useful. Users rarely land directly at the desired page, especially when using a search engine. But they often get close. Close, but no cigar, as far as most sites are concerned, since it is rare to find links to similar or related pages.Link to:
  • similar products that are a little cheaper or a little more expensive than the current product (if you only try to upsell, you will lose trust)
  • related products that go well with the current one (but only cross-sell relevant products; not whatever happens to be overstocked in your warehouse - specials are for another part of the site)
  • products that differ from the current product in some important dimension (for example, link to a color printer if the user is looking at a black-and-white printer)
  • different versions of the current product (for example, the same blouse in yellow) - note that such links may be considered attribute manipulation and not true hypertext navigation
  • earlier or later versions of the topic discussed on the page
  • background information
  • author biographies and lists of other articles by the same author
  • a message board or other discussion about the current topic
  • news about the current topic (but not all news)

Structure Can Help

Hypertext research from the 1980s showed that structure does help users navigate. Structure has been under-valued on the Web for four reasons:
  • Most sites have miserable information architectures that mirror the way the company internally thinks about the content and not the way users think about the content. Predictably, users ignore such unhelpful structure.
  • Most page designs have hidden the important structural information among a flood of irrelevant information (say, links to all possible other options), preventing users from identifying the structure.
  • All Web browsers have neglected the need to visualize structural information. Pre-Web hypertext systems often did this, and the research showed that good structural visualizations (not whizzy 3D views) helped substantially.
  • Users are so impatient on the Web that they don't take time to learn about any individual website and its structure - instead, they proceed to the next site.
Only the last of these four reasons is fundamental. Websites can be designed better. And I predict that Internet Explorer version 8.0 will be the first good Web browser that actually helps users navigate.
Even user impatience can be overcome. True, most users will treat most sites superficially. But some users will take the time to learn some sites, once those sites become worth learning. In the future, it will become an important competitive parameter to treat loyal users so well that they will want to learn more about the site and to make it possible for them to do so. (While maintaining a design that is approachable by the larger number of users who just want to visit briefly.)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Search engines keep the game challenging by frequently changing the “rules” by which they play

Fortunately for us there are some constants we could follow: 
  • Exceeding the maximum allowed characters for html tags may result in either rejection for spamming or an engine acknowledging the tags only up to the acceptable character limit meaning they won’t even read the tags that go beyond the limit. General rules of thumb: 60 characters for the title, 150 for the description and 874 for the keywords. When counting the characters you must include spaces and commas.
  • Excessive repetition of tag words is considered spamming and may result in spamming penalties or engine rejection.
  • Excessive submission of your Web site to an engine can
    result in permanent banning from the engine.

    What is considered “excessive” varies by engine.
    Some allow only one submission ever
    (be careful with the dmoz search engine), some one per
    day; some allow three or more submissions per day – so you can submit site URLs other than the home page.
  • Many people make the mistake of only submitting the home page URL. This is very important; much of your traffic arrives through “side doors” instead of through the home page.
  • Keywords should be “grouped” in categories within the
    Meta tags and on the page text content.

Turning Hits into Conversions

Commonly we hear that a one or two percent CR (Conversion Ratio) is good. By this is meant that one or two visitors take the desired action in accordance with the site purpose. Perhaps they make a purchase, request further information, or download a file.

Such numbers mean different things to different people. Many sites would be dismayed by a CR of less than ten percent. Still others, particularly those selling high ticket items, may be quite content with a CR of 0.1%. What the CR for your site ought to be, depends upon the site purpose. For example, it's easier to generate leads than to sell product. Thus you would expect a better CR in lead generation than in selling.

CR And Newcomers

If you're new to the Web or have only recently opened a site, you may not have enough visitors or sales to figure what your CR is or ought to be. The bottom line is that hits are hard to get, and the task is far more difficult for a new or relatively new site.

So What Should Your CR Be?

As suggested, it is a function of the site purpose. As an example, assume you have opened a site and are selling an ebook at $20 per copy. Further assume it's a dandy book with great content of interest to many. And one that over-delivers big time.

In theory, you should be able to generate one to two sales per 100 visitors (1% - 2% CR). In practice, it may be an unrealistic goal. The inconsistencies between groups of only 100 can mislead.

The Makings Of A Great Site

Let's assume you have taken a practical view toward your site. And that it is all working well. You have great content that even now is beginning to draw traffic. And you have other products, perhaps an affiliate program or two, besides the ebook.

Given this model, hits on the site do not relate directly to the CR for your ebook. You need to look at the hits on the page which contains the sales presentation of the book. Then consider sales relative to this count.

To put this another way, it may require 1000 hits on your site to generate 100 hits on your sales presentation. If these hits bring two sales, your CR is 2%. However, relative to your site which received 1000 hits, ebook sales amount to only 0.2% on total hits.

1000 Hits? That's A Lot!

You bet it is. And if you're new to the Web, you may not yet have received this many in total. Growing targeted traffic is the most difficult task there is in doing business online. It takes time, a lot of learning, and above all, patience.

So What Can You Do Meanwhile?

Continuously examine all aspects of your site, with the goal of directing more visitors down paths to sales.

*   Does your content at least indirectly point to a path which leads to a sale?

*   Can the sales presentations be improved?

*   Is there a product that can be dropped that would increase sales on others by bringing a sharper focus?

While the above are clear cut, it's very difficult to measure the effectiveness of any change. That is, given a change, 100 hits on a sales presentation may yield 3 sales rather than 2, but you still must do a lot of guessing. In fact, a good improvement in the presentation may result in a drop to only 1 sale in the next 100 hits. With so few hits, results are not conclusive. If you are convinced your new page is better, you may decide to keep it, and worry about the CR over time.

How Many Hits Can You Expect?

When a new site is opened, the only hits come from the webmaster and friends. While building content, submitting to search engines, improving the sales presentations and all else that is required to grow a site, you will be busy. Hit counts will climb, but slowly. Sales even more slowly.

While there are those who have the experience to generate massive hit counts in very short order, even the most determined newbie may need to be content with something between 2000 and 4000 total hits in the first year. Translate this to only a few sales of a $20 ebook, and it's easy to see why people so often do not hold on even for a year.

The good news for the persistent types is that a growth rate of ten percent per month is not out of reach. And this brings a doubling in 7.5 months. The secret? Hang in and make it happen!

It Takes A Lot Of Hits

Until you are generating two to three hundred hits a day, testing is not likely to "prove" the effectiveness (or failure) of changes. In fact, even at 1000 hits per day, there will always be a need to evaluate results. In some cases, you must ignore what the numbers appear to say.

To put this another way, suppose you are up to 1000 hits per day. If you put up a new sales presentation and your CR jumps from 2% to 4%, and stays there, there's really no choice. Hold to the new version. However, you may decide to do so even if the CR drops a tad. Why? Because results from even 1000 hits day can be circumstantial, a function of the traffic that happened by. The new page may be determined good, so long as there is not a significant drop. In taking this choice, the hope is in gains over time.

Where Does That Leave You?

In the end, it is always a matter of judgment. With few hits, this is really all there is to go by. Given lots of hits, you will have better numbers to help you make such judgments. But you will also have greater experience. So now, as at some future date, you may need to act upon your sense of things, rather than numbers.

27 Tips To Top Search Engine Rankings

  1. Increase your site's link popularity by increasing your internal and incoming links.

    • Internal links - Cross link all your sites and important pages within each site. This will maximize the PageRank of all your pages within each web site.
    • Incoming links that you control - Create several small web sites related to your main site. Each site should only consist of a few pages. Then cross link them all together using the most important keywords. Don't forget to include links back to the main site.
    • Incoming links that you don't control:
      • Ask sites that link to your competitors to link to your site. To find out which sites are linking to your competitors, visit a search engine and enter, "link:" followed by the competitors' domain name.

        For example:
      • Exchange links with sites listed in the same category as yours in the major web directories, such as the Yahoo! Directory and the Open Directory.
      • Find sites that accept site submissions. Visit your favorite search engine and search for:
        "add url" "your keywords"
        Also try searching for the actual submission page using its page name.

        For example:
        addurl.html, addsite.html, addlink.html, etc.
  2. Include a TITLE tag as the first META tag, directly after the HEAD tag.

    For example:
    <TITLE>Mike's Marketing Software Tools Reviews</TITLE>
  3. Try to avoid stop words in your TITLE tag. Stop words (a, an, and, but, he, her, his, i, in, it, of, on, or, she, the, etc.) are common words and characters ignored by some search engines to enhance the speed and relevancy of their search results.

  4. Include a META DESCRIPTION tag, directly after the TITLE tag. Include the most important keyword phrase for the web page as close to the beginning of the description as possible.

    For example:
    <TITLE>Mike's Marketing Software Tools Reviews</TITLE>
    <META NAME="description" CONTENT="Mike's Marketing Tools is the leading review site for the very best internet marketing tools for web marketers and webmasters.">
  5. If you use a META REFRESH tag, make sure it is set to refresh after 30 seconds.
    <META HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="30; URL=http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com">
    Some search engines consider pages that refreshes under 30 seconds as spam. I recommend using a JavaScript redirect tag, if you require a quicker page refresh.

    For example:

    Step 1 - Paste this code into the HEAD section of your HTML document. Change the 3000 to whatever number you like. 1000 represents 1 (one) second.
    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript"><!--
    function redirect () {setTimeout("change()",3000);}
    function change () {window.location.href="http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com";}
    Step 2 - Insert the onLoad event handler into your BODY tag, so that the JavaScript code is executed when the page loads.
    <BODY onLoad="redirect()">
  6. Remove all other meta tags (author, date, etc.), unless you're sure they are absolutely necessary.
  7. Include a site map with links to all your pages. This will help search engines find and index all your pages.
    • Limit the number of links on a web page to 50.
    • If you have more than 50 links, limit your links to your most important pages.
    • Include text on the page as some search engines, such as AltaVista, have been known to kick out links only pages.
  8. Use one or more header tags in your main page body and include your most important keyword phrase/s.
    • Use large header tags, such as <H1>; and <H2>.
    • Use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to alter the appearance of the header tags to fit the look and feel of your site.
  9. Check the first couple of lines of the first paragraph to see if it's appropriate to be used as a description of your page. Many search engines utilize the first couple of sentences of the body text as the search results description, instead of the contents of the META DESCRIPTION tag.
  10. Try to achieve an overall keyword density of 1-2%.
  11. Try to achieve a minimum word count of 300 and a maximum of 750 words on each page.
  12. Register a domain name with the exact keyword phrase you wish to target, using hyphens to separate the keywords.

    For example, if the keyword phrase is "search engine rankings," then register:
    If the domain you want is unavailable, either try a different extension, such as .NET, .INFO, or .US, or add a keyword to the end (preferential) or beginning of the domain.
  13. Name directories after your keyword phrases, using hyphens or underscores to separate the keywords.

    For example, if an important keyword phrases is, "search engine rankings," name your directory:
    www.yoursite.com/search-engine-rankings/ or...
  14. Name web pages after your most important keyword phrase. Separate the keywords using hyphens or underscores.

    For example, if the keyword phrase is "search engine rankings," then name the page:
    search-engine-rankings.html or...
  15. Name your graphic files after keyword phrases. Again, separate the keywords using hyphens or underscores.

    For example:
    <IMG SRC="search-engines-rankings.gif">
  16. Include an ALT (alternative text) atrribute in image tags. Include the most important keyword phrases.

    For example:
    <IMG SRC="search-engines-rankings.gif" ALT="search engine rankings.">
  17. If you use an image map, include HTML links, as some search engines do not follow image map links. Plus image maps do not offer search engines any link text to index. So, try to avoid the use of image maps as they do not help with your search engine optimization efforts.

  18. Use the longer or plural version of a keyword, where possible. Word stemming is a concept used by some search engines to return search results that include keywords that extend beyond what you searched for.

    For example, a search with the keyword "engine" might return results for, "engines," "engineers," and "engineering." If someone searches for the longer version of a word and your page only uses the short version, then your page will be excluded from the list of possible results.
  19. Sprinkle a few uncommon keywords and synonyms in your main body text. Less popular keywords have less competition in the search engines. So your web page is has a greater chance of being listed amongst the top results.
  20. Do not repeat keywords or keyword phrases over and over again on a web page, as this would be considered as spam by search engines.
  21. Keep your pages as close to the root domain as possible. Do not set up more than 3 directory levels.

    For example:
    www.yoursite.com/index.html (1st level - excellent)
    www.yoursite.com/html/index.html (2nd level - Good)
    www.yoursite.com/html/marketing/index.html (3rd level - OK)
    www.yoursite.com/html/marketing/search/index.html (Too many levels down - search engines will find it difficult to find and index pages this far down)
  22. If you have a persistent (on most or all of your pages) navigation bar at the side of each page, your table is almost certainly set up in such a way that it pushes your page's body text down the HTML document. Search engines give prominence to keywords nearer the beginning of a HTML document. So, design your HTML table so that the navigation bar is placed after your main body text.
  23. Move Javascript code to a separate file, or the end of the HTML document after your closing BODY or HTML tag. Yes, this technique actually works!

    Follow these instructions to move the JavaScript code to a separate file and link to the file from the HTML document. Then place the following code in between the HEAD section:
    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript" SRC="file-name.js"></SCRIPT>
    This procedure also reduces your file size, and therefore your download time. In addition, it allows you to reuse the code on other pages by simply link to the JavaScript file. Both of these techniques will move your important body text nearer to the top of the HTML document.
  24. Although not always practical, you may like to try naming your cascading style sheet tags after keywords.

    For example:
    .search {
    color: #ff0000;
  25. Use Robots.txt files instead of Robots meta tags, as some search engine robots do not recognize the tag.
  26. Do not use font size one (1) text as the default text size. Many search engines consider tiny text to be spam. It's OK to use some font size one text.
  27. Do not participate in link farms or link exchange programs. Search engines consider link farms and link exchange programs as spam, as they have only one purpose - to artificially inflate a site's link popularity, by exchanging links with other participants.

    Do not confuse link farms and link exchange programs with reciprocal linking. Reciprocal linking is the exchange of links with individual sites, and is certainly an accepted technique for improving your site's link popularity.

10 Tips to Create a Usable Website

1) Make it Client-centered

In order to have a successful website you need to focus on your client's needs.
Your site must be rewarding for the visitor to get them to come back.
Navigation should be easy and intuitive, and the most valuable information readily available at their fingertips.

People on the web today are being swamped with information, give it to them without causing pain and they will be back.

2) Start now and grow

It's never to soon to get your site on the web.
Get your site out there as soon as you can, even if it means a Coming Soon page to announce your new  site.
You need to place your most important information on the web as soon as you could so that search engines start indexing your pages.

A good web site is never finished anyway.

3) Preview regularly scheduled updates

It's a good idea to preview upcoming topics, or if you are selling products to discuss upcoming deals that you will have as well as the ones at the moment.
This is a trick from other media franchises like Theatre, TV, and magazines so why not use it.
If a visitor doesn't see what they want right away, your updates may entice them to something else to come back to.

4) Cross-link with other sites

Get your website link on as many other pages as possible by linking your site with related sites.
Links to other sites make your site more valuable because your visitors will know that you are a source for fresh, valuable, related sites from all over the Web.

5) Submit it to indexers and directories

Contact every Web indexer and make sure they've got your URL.
If you want your site to receive maximum exposure, use the title and the first 100 words for keywords and a description that will be picked up by Web search engines.
Don't waste your valuable title space on something generic like, "Welcome to our Home Page," be specific.

6) Use professional programmers and designers

Investing in a professional website developer may be some of the best money you ever invest.
Don't clutter up your home screen with a wall of text about your business's philosophy.
There is a place for that later on in the site.
What really brings interest to your site is links, links and more links that deliver valuable information.

7) Testing the site

Test the site for use with all types of browsers and computers.
Check it out using different settings (toolbars and directory buttons on and off); try it at different hours; use different modems (try slow and fast); different browsers (Netscape for Windows, Microsoft Explorer and Macintosh, for example); and different screen resolutions.
Your site may look very different on an older, slower PC compared to a new top-of-the-line one.
Periodically, try clicking on the links you have on your web site to make sure they are still connected to working sites.

8) Include multiple contact links

What a waste of your time and resources if a visitor decides to contact you directly and can't locate the necessary information.
People want direct, personal contact and cyberspace hasn't changed that.
In fact, a personal touch on your site may heighten people's interest.
Your site should contain frequent and obvious links that point visitors to business contact information within your organization—e­mail, fax, snail mail address and phone numbers, if appropriate.
If yours is a family web site, however, personal information is not recommended, except for your e­mail address.

9) Go easy on the graphics

Thousands of web sites truly are works of art by master graphic artists.
However, during peak business hours, bandwidth limitations might make it impossible for some people to access your site.
Keeping the size of the graphics down is important.
The use of too many graphics can slow load time and send frustrated readers out of your site.
It is important to create a balance of text to graphic information.
Make sure that your graphics provide a message and make navigation easier.
If the graphic isn't there to convey a message, then it usually doesn't belong on your web site.

10) Help visitors stay oriented

Every page on your site should includes links that return to your home page, the previous page or to another page. If visitors get side-tracked while browsing your site, you want them to quickly be able to return to something familiar or move forward to something that will bring them value.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Search Engine Submission Tips

Use these tips to try and get your web site listed as high as possible in search engine results.

Page Title

Make sure each page on your web site has a title in the head of the document. Many search engines use the title of the web page as the link to your site, so it is important that your title be as relevant and descriptive as possible.

It is best to use the title for your page that describes the content of your page as much as possible in the most descriptive way. For example, if you were looking for a page that sells Crystal Wine Glasses and the search engine title for the page said Glasses it could mean the page contained anything from Sunglasses to Beer Glasses.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are one of the most important parts of a web page when it is indexed by a search engine.

Meta tags are used by almost all search engines to index your page and contain items such as page description and keywords.

The description meta tag is very often used by a search engine to display a sort description of what your web page contains. Some search engines look at the keywords entered into the keywords meta tag and will use this to display your page in the search results if it is one of the words used in the search criteria.

Page Content

A number of search engines will index the first few lines of your web page, so try to make a the first few lines as descriptive as possible.


Try to place as many descriptive text links in your homepage to other relevant pages in your site as possible as search engines will use these links to index the other pages on your site.


Most sites these days contain images, so it is important that you use the alt tag on any images to try and describe as much as possible what the image is of. Not only will this help index your site better but it will also help those visitors to your site who are visually impaired.

Where possible try not to use images that contain text as what maybe easily visible to you won't be able to be indexed by a search engine.

Links to Your Site

Many search engines, including Google, will return your web site higher in search results by the amount of web sites that link to your site, also the higher the profile of the site that links to yours, the higher your listing is in search results again.

With this in mind it is worth searching the Internet for other web sites on the same topic as your own. Many of these sites will have link pages and even if they don't its worth asking the web site owner if they could link to your web site.

The more links to your site the more visitors you will receive.

Sites Using Frames

Frames tend to cause search engine spiders allot of problems when indexing your site as many won't recognize the document that opens up your frames and so wont index your pages.

To help over come this problem place your main homepage into the noframes part of the document that opens all your frames. The noframes part of the page is for those browsers that can't handle frames, but as most nowadays do your web site visitors will never see what is in this part of the document.

To help index other pages on your site it is also worth placing links in the noframes part of the document as this will allow the search engine spider to find other pages on your site and index them.

Ways To Increase Link Density

In today's race to the top of the Google SERP's (Search Engine Result Pages), there are a number of factors that can help you achieve those coveted spots. While certain techniques may weigh better than others based on your industry and level of competition, there is no questioning the power of links.
There are several methods, some common and some yet to be discovered, you can try out to help boost your link density and search rankings. While it would be near impossible to go into great detail on all methods (that would require a book) below I have outlined some of the more common techniques a web site owner can use to improve their site's popularity.

1. Reciprocal Links
Reciprocal links used to be a huge asset and played a significant role. Today, fewer sites are employing this technique as it is thought by many to have no role in the eyes of Google. This is simply not true. While the overall value of reciprocal links has declined over the years, they can and will still help your rankings if done correctly.

The key with reciprocal links is very simple - relevance. If you trade links only with highly relevant sites, you will get value from this. There are some things to watch out for: ensure that the links returning to you are spider friendly, that they reside on pages with as few links as possible, and are contextualized, meaning the content on the page, and preferably the site as a whole, is related to the content of your link and site.

If you contact a relevant site to request a link exchange, keep the email personal to help grab the attention of the webmaster. Most link exchange emails are spammy automated submissions and are deleted without being read. Write the subject and entire email in such a way as to entice the user to read on, but keep it short. Offer to put their link up first, or even better yet, put it up before you contact them.

2. Purchasing Links
Google has been devaluing links, and in extreme cases, even penalizing sites for selling links, but there is no denying that this technique still works as many sites have skyrocketed to the top of the SERP's through the art of buying links.

Many high profile sites such as major and local newspaper publications sell text links, yet nobody seems to be penalized for it as the publications rank well with high PR and the site they link to ranks well as a result.

If you choose to take the gamble and purchase links back to your site, check out how they are linking back, how relevant they are, and try to get a sense of how their site is treated by Google. If you see other sites that appear to have purchased links from them, check their back links and see if the linking site appears (although it may not be displayed as Google displays very little of this information to the public these days).

It is thought that if penalties will arise from the sale of links, that only the selling site will be penalized. Even if this is the case, Google's policy could change at any moment, so be warned that this could potentially come back to bite you.

3. Industry Contacts
Get in touch with your industry contacts and ask them if they will link to your site. You just don't know, and the worst they can say is no. This is usually best requested in person or by phone if it is someone you have a good relationship with. It may include manufacturers or retailers of your products, or various business partners and companies you have a relationship with.

4. Good Old Fashion Content
Believe it or not it works. If your site is loaded with original, valuable content, you will get some people linking to your site on their own. While you can not base your entire linking strategy around this concept, as it could take forever to get enough links, rest assured knowing that if you build it, some will link.

5. Build a Blog
Everyone and their dog seem to have a blog these days, and for good reason - they work. Blogs help you create a neverending stream of content, and if updated regularly, written well, and interesting, you will find people will link to it. Not only that, others may pick up your blog through your RSS feed - this can result in a jump in both links and site traffic. Be sure to utilize your Digg and other social media accounts within your blog to help gain a little extra attention.

6. Social Media
Promote your site and your blog using various social media tools. When someone "Diggs" or "Stumbles" your article you can not only get a link back to your site from the media platform, but you can also see traffic generated by this. The more people that flag your article, the more traffíc you can get, and the higher the value of the link.

Creating company profile pages on platforms such as Squidoo, Facebook, MySpace, and even uploading photos and videos to Flickr and YouTube, can all count as back links to your site, so be sure to utilize these platforms to the fullest extent. Do not use these networks to spam them full of links, but rather to inform. Build unique relevant content and become a member of the community, and you will find your links will work much harder for you.

7. Article Syndication
When you write worthwhile articles, submit them to any known article aggregation websites in your industry or great general portals such as ezinearticles.com. When submitted to the right places you can drive traffic and increase your links. Again, be sure to include a link or two within your article that links back to your site when possible.

8. Press Releases
Press releases are still doing wonders. When your business hits a milestone, releases a new product, or has anything worthy of a press release, issue one through the services of PRWeb. You will get a link back to your site, and you may also get some targeted traffíc from those interested when reading your release.

If your press release is of significant news, you may also find bloggers and other writers referencing it and linking to it from their articles, providing even more value. Ensure that with any press release you include deep links back into your site. Links from within the bio are helpful, but those integrated into paragraphs of the release are worth much more.

I know I am going to get a hard time for this one, but if used wisely, it can help. When reading relevant blog posts, if you have something useful, constructive, and worthwhile to say, leave a comment and include your link if they provide the option. A comment like: "nice post" is inappropriate, but if you have something to add or contribute that others will find of interest then go for it. These links can add up, and they do add some value. Don't stuff your comment or name with keywords, keep it natural, and use your real name.

10. Form Posts and Signatures
This is an area where you may be able to grab a few links, but it is also one you need to be careful about as it can backfire. I do NOT recommend going out and wildly posting in random forums and including your link.

Where this area can be useful is if you establish yourself as a solid contributor to a particular forum directly related to your industry. Once you are established, and people know and trust your name, and understand that you are not there as a spammer, then you can consider adding your link to your signature file, and including the odd link in your forum posts when it is fully in context. This will allow you to get the odd relevant, inbound link. Check with the terms of the specific forum though before you start. Some do not allow links of any kind.

11. Testimonials
You see them on many sites offering products or services, and quite often they include a link back to the submitter's website. If you have used a product or service, don't be afraid to write a testimonial for the company. In many cases online businesses will post your testimonial along with a link. The testimonial helps that business instill confidence in their customers, and you get the valuable link back.

12. Directory Submissions
Yes, do still submít your site to the major directories. While DMOZ can be very difficult to get into, once you are there, it is like gold and will play a part in your top rankings. Yahoo directory has a high price $299US, but can also provide you with a valuable inbound link. Consider submitting to the major directories, as well as any industry specific directories. These links add up and will contribute to your site's well being.

13. Link Bait
We have heard this phrase thrown around for a while now, but the technique has worked long before the phrase "link bait" was coined. Why all the hype? Because it works.

Take a look at your web site, your business and your industry. See if you can think of some way to attract people to link to your site. Perhaps sponsor a contest, add an elaborate and unique tool, write a controversial article, provide something useful for free - whatever you do, do it well, and promote the heck out of it, and people will naturally link to you.

A Few General Rules:
Before you actively seek out a link from a specific site do some investigating to ensure that the site is not spamming or using any black hat techniques. If they are, run.

If the link you are seeking is merely for you to try and boost your link density, then also check out how they are linking to other third party sites.

Does the site use the rel=nofollow attribute? Are the pages your link would reside on blocked by the search engines, or do they use the robots Meta nofollow? Are they using other techniques that would not allow a spider to follow them (such as JavaScript, Flash, or frames)? If so, you may want to move on.

And a note on Google PR (Page Rank) - the PR you see on your toolbar is outdated. While it can give you some insight, just because it says 0, doesn't mean it is. Also what has a 0 or 1 today, could be a 4 or 5 tomorrow. Don't use PR as your sole means of deciding if you should obtain a link or not.

Using any or all of these linking methods will help you to improve your link density. There is power in diversification. Use variations on anchor text and descriptions, use inline text links within articles, and gain links in as many different venues as possible. By being diverse your site will stand the best chance of being around well into the future.

Today, blogs are huge and can be a strong asset, but what would happen if tomorrow Google decided to ban blogs? Highly unlikely, but it could happen, and if it did, would your site survive? By being diverse, your site has the best chance to survive change.

The Business of Affiliate Programs

How many times have you heard someone say that affiliate programs just don't work?
Well, if you take these steps into consideration Affiliate Programs just may bring in a lot of money
for you with a little a patience.

I can tell you that there are normally two reasons that MOST people have negative experiences.
They have not been properly trained, or they are not implementing what they've learned.
Let me show you how to change your approach and stop wasting time and money.

The first misconception about affiliates is that affiliate programs are "give me's".
Most people think they can sign up, post a banner or link on their site and the money will come rolling in.
Their perception and approach are both backwards.

Affiliate programs are businesses. Like any other business, you must do several things: advertise, connect with your employees and stay in touch with your customers.

Somewhere in the Internet world affiliates got a reputation for being "easy money".
If that's what you're looking for then it would be best if you looked elsewhere.

Think of it this way: you open a bakery, don't advertise, never talk to your employees (not a single word) and don't acknowledge your customers. How long do you think your bakery will stay in business? About a week! It simply isn't possible to make money in any business without including these 3 very basic items in your plan. An affiliate business is no different.

Here's three simple facts every affiliate program member must acknowledge to be successful:

FACT #1: It's a business not a free ride.

Be prepared to work at building your affiliate business and down line. You'll need to advertise. Be sure to place your ads where people that are interested in the product or service will see them; otherwise they ARE a waste of money. Send out emails to let your friends and associates know about the product or service you're offering. Add a signature file to your emails including a brief description of your program.

FACT #2: Make friends with those in your down line.

People support what they help create. That's a fact of life.
The more you show interest in the success of your down line they will naturally respond by producing more sales. Encourage them. Offer ways to improve their sales.

Hold monthly or quarterly meetings to find out about their successes and failures.
Since you get a percentage of what your down line sells, it only makes sense to support them.
When they succeed... you succeed!

FACT #3: Stay in touch with your customers.

Let's pretend you own a gift shop. You have several "good" customers who give you repeat business. When you receive a new shipment full of exciting products you will normally contact your customers and invite them to visit you for a preview. The same principle applies to affiliate sales.

If the statistics provided by your affiliate company give you email addresses, be sure to contact your customers and let them know when new services, products or updates are available. It is much easier and less costly to sell to an existing customer than to a new one.

By implementing some basic business principles, you can avoid the wrong approach to affiliate sales thus saving yourself a lot of time and money. You can increase your direct sales and the sales of your down line. If your program is not producing the way you would like for it to, consider changing your approach and watch your bottom line improve!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization" and involves creating web pages in a way that is diplomatic to search engines. These diplomacies include, but are not limited to:

ALT Tags: These are HTML tags that provide "alternative" text when images cannot be displayed. Search engines can't see what an image is, or represents, so they need to look at the ALT tags. ALT tags help to create a general theme for your website in relation to search engines and what they're looking for, and search engines take them into account.

Hyperlink Title Tags: I am not talking about the Page Title tag, I am talking about a Hyperlink Title tag. If you create a text hyperlink with the word "click here" you might like to make sure that people can hover over the link and a small description is displayed, just as an ALT tag would. Hyperlink Title Tags are also taken into account by search engines.
Heading Tags: The Heading tags are used to display page headings. I have noticed that Google looks for this tag on your web pages and will usually create the description that it uses for the pages search engine listing, from the very next viewable text after the heading tags. Heading tags are very important for attracting search engine traffic, because search engines regard them highly. There are 6 heading tag sizes.

These are three very important things to make sure you have in your web pages. However, to obtain greater search engine rankings you should try to make sure that the same general keywords and phrases are used within them all, in one way or another, so that search engines can obtain a theme from your web pages.

Bold tags and Italic tags: These tags should be wrapped around any keyword or key phrases within your actual content. Do not use the underline tag, because people will mistake it for a link! However, you should also try to add hyperlinks to other pages within your site content, and use Hyperlink Title tags in them as well.

Page Title tag and the Meta tags such as the Keywords meta tag and the Description meta tag. You'll notice that I didn't list Meta Tags first. That's because they are not really relevant anymore. Many search engines don't even look at them anymore. You can get #1 search rankings without them, but I still include them anyway. Why not?

However, THE most important tag to use on your site is the PAGE TITLE TAG! Search engines favor this the most out of anything on your page. Search engines also compare the Title tag with any heading tags, along with your Hyperlink Title tags and ALT tags. If you have used the same theme of keywords and phrases in all of these tags, you'll be on your way to attracting some pretty good search engine rankings.

You need to make sure that your website has a sitemap, using all the tags that I have outlined above. The sitemap should contain links to all of your web pages. This is usually a good page to submit to search engines. The sitemap helps both search engines and human visitors to find their way around your site (but mainly search engines). Also, if you label your links properly, with a theme, search engines will gain a better understanding of what your website is about and ranking you accordingly.

You should also have a mini sitemap in your footer, which links to the main sitemap. The mini sitemap should have Hyperlink Title tags or ALT tag, This also helps search engines to work out what the theme of your site is, and also to spider/crawl your site.

Also, to attract top search engine rankings to your website, you need to make sure that there are as many links to your website, from other websites as possible. It is important that the links 'to' your website contain keywords that you would like to be found for on search engines. If your website is about "Web Design Tutorials", then you should create a 'Link us' page with related sites.

Taking all of the above into account, here is what a search engine will think:

Hmm, I found this website from a hyperlink on ANOTHER website, that was titled "Web Design Tutorials". When I got there, the index page was titled "Web Design Tutorials". I found the key phrase "Web Design Tutorials" 65 times on the website, and it was in many of the heading tags. Yep - I think I will place this website on the first page of listings for "Web Design Tutorials"

Also, other things to take into account are:

Page loading speed: You should make sure that your pages load fast, because search engines watch visitors now (through their toolbars), and if they see that a visitor spent all of one second at your site, they'll put it in search listing page 10 billion! The pages need to load some time this week, so that people will stay, so that search engines can SEE that they are staying.

Cross Browser Compatibility: Your website needs to be cross browser compatible for the above reasons. If someone goes to your website and sees the footer floating up past the header, they'll leave real fast. You don't want search engines to see this.

Hint: It is important to keep people at your site for as LONG as possible. That's why Forums, Shoutboxes and Chats, etc.. are really good for search rankings

Tables: Try not to use tables. CSS is now good enough to make an entire site from. If you don't know how to make a website from DIV's and CSS, but would like to attract good search engine rankings, then I would highly recommend learning. Tables take much longer to be rendered by a browser than DIV's and CSS.

Which brings me to my next point. For search engine friendly pages you should keep all CSS and JavaScript OFF the HTML pages, and put them in documents of their own.

Text to Code ratio: Search engines will weigh (so to speak) your viewable text (all text that is viewable from your web page, once it has loaded) with the code. If your page is 99% code and has 3 words on it, you can forget good rankings. However, if your page has 95% text and 5% code (and loads this week), you'll be kept in the running for search engine rankings!

Statistics Explained - Hits Unique Visitors

Unique Visitors - These are the total number of visits by a unique IP address. This can be a bit misleading because dial-up visitors get a new IP each time they log on so you can have the same person visit different times and give a unique hit.

Number of Visits – The number of visits are the total number of visits by all visitors over a given period of time. If I visit your site and then come back 4 more time you should see one Unique visit and 5 visits from me.

Pages – This is the total number of pages viewed by visitors. This does not include images, java script or CSS and the like. Just HTML and CGI type files.

Hits - This is every file requested by the visitor. This includes pages and images together. If you have a page with 2 images calling a java script file the page will generate a total of 4 hits. The most common referenced stat used and one that is virtually meaningless (and useless). The more appropriate numbers to consider are both 'number of visitors' and 'unique visitors' (see above).

Bandwidth – The total number of bytes downloaded. If you have a page that has 50 KB of text, 2 images at 24 and 32 KB then each visitor to that page will take 106 KB of your bandwidth.

Five Key Marketing Strategies for Web Business Growth

If you expect to achieve sustained growth for your eCommerce business then you will need an Internet marketing plan to get there. Growing a profitable Web Business is a strategic process that requires long range commitment, careful planning, and on-going execution and patience.  It's vital that you know exactly what you want to accomplish and that you have done your research to understand what it will take to get there.

Of course you need to have a website that is optimized and tested to convert traffic, and then you need to devote time to developing and executing short-term and long-term promotional strategies. These strategies must stand on their own as well as work together to get you the best results.

Here are five key strategies you can use to advance your business and improve your profit margin:

1. Always Look For Opportunities to Increase Sales

Let's face it, sales drive business and sales come from customers; therefore, the hunt for new customers should be phase one of an ongoing three-phase marketing approach that every online business owner should embrace.

Phase two is to follow up with these new customers from time to time, and introduce them to additional offers. The objective of this second phase is to get them to buy from you more often.

The final phase of this three-pronged strategy is to offer expensive items, or bundle multiple items into higher-priced packages. This will give your customers more opportunities to make larger purchases.

2. Find the Best Use for Your Marketing Budget

After you have identified your market demographic, fixed your goals and decided on a promotional strategy for reaching potential customers, the next step is to figure out how to maximize your budget and get the job done without over spending. Even though the exact process will vary from business to business, the principle remains the same.

You want to expose your product or service, as often as possible, to consumers who will derive the most benefit from it. Studies show that the average consumer will see a promotion about five to seven times before taking action on the offer.

So instead of blowing your budget on a single opportunity to reach your select group, it is much wiser to get everyone's attention with repeated promotions. Use as many different forms of advertising as you can afford and squeeze the most out of your marketing dollars.

* Use Earth Traffic Website Analytics to track your website visitors and search engine traffic and sales in real-time.  Watch each visitor as they arrive at your website and navigate your site and learn ways to improve your online business.  Using both your general website statistics and Earth Traffic will be the key to understanding how your online business works and ways you can increase traffic.

3. Invest in a Virtual Assistant

This is an opportunity to outsource various redundant tasks to someone who is capable, reliable and trustworthy. The big advantage to you is you'll have more time to devote to activities that generate income and help you grow your business.

A virtual assistant works from his or her office as an independent contractor and is responsible for whatever administrative or operational responsibilities you assign. Compensation can be agreed upon at an hourly rate, per assignment or by retainer.

If you are not yet at the stage where you can afford to pay a virtual assistant, you can consider a suitable barter arrangement with a subscriber or a customer. You can also ask a family member or a friend for help. You can't do it all yourself and you shouldn't even consider that option for the long-term.

* Earth Skater provides expert service to off load your work burden.  Whether it's updating website products and content, managing and/or providing your marketing and advertising campaigns, or just providing consultation to your business; Earth Skater provides service second to none in both expertise and affordability.

4. Use the Power of Email to Convert Visitors Into Customers

Email marketing is one of the most economical and reliable ways to build a relationship with visitors and eventually convert them into buyers. It is an effective tool for staying in touch and developing the level of comfort and trust that is necessary before they will agree to do business with you.

You can use email to convince your subscribers of your expertise in your niche. The more they come to accept you as an authority, the greater your credibility will become and the easier it will be for you to make sales.

Plus, email is a very handy tool for keeping customers abreast of new products, special promotions and the latest announcements about your business.

* Earth Skater recommends iContact, read more about Earth Skater Email newsletter marketing here.

5. Develop a System for Everything You Do

Make sure to design methods and procedures that simplify and expedite important aspects of your business operation. Very often these systems will evolve from trial and error, but when they have been perfected they should become standard procedure.

The most efficient systems are those that get you to your objective as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible and with the least possible effort.

* Earth Skater eCommerce is just the system to manage your eBusiness and track your online marketing.