Google Places

Google Places Intro ScreenGoogle Places for Business

Google Places for business is FREE, at least the basic information entry is free.  You can give them money for additional services associated with Google Places  but the basic listing is free and it is a must for any small business.

Google Organic Rankings

You want your business to come up in a Google search.  That’s obvious.  everyone does.  But it takes time, content, consistency to get there.  A great tool to be you listed quickly is Google Places.  You can fill in up to 5 categories under which you want your business to be listed.  (those are keywords and the searches you want to appear on, choose wisely)

If you really want to get a good handle on this head over here to the documentation on setting up your listing in Google Places.

Verification of your Listing

One step you don’t want to ignore is verification of your listing.  Verifying your listing mean Google will send a post card to your place of business with a verification code.  Enter it when it comes to verify you own the business for Google Places Listing.  (After all you wouldn’t want a competitor being able to “claim” your place of business)  It can be easy to forget about this verification postcard, it is even easier to throw it away thinking it is junk mail when it arrives.  Once you verify your listing you will begin to appear in the organic searches.  Google has recently been adding the map search results to the organic searches and a little map with the red pinpoints for those businesses listed.

Below is an example showing a search for Tucson Painters.

Google Places Example

Click to view larger image

Once setup you will get email notifications from Google Places on the number of impressions and clicks for your listing. (You can check this anytime by logging into your Google Places dashboard. (Yes you get a dashboard to manage your Google Places content)

Your Google Places listing provides you with a very good one way back-link (for those looking for SEO back-links)

You can further enhance your listing with Photos, Video and much more.

You want this kind of exposure.

How Many Domain Names Do I Need ?

I wish a lot of clients would ask this question first. Too often they go out and buy half a dozen domain names (or more).  Many bought into the GoDaddy “UPSELLING” that goes on and bought the .com .net .org .CanISellYouAnotherDot

Then they contact us and most of the time we find a much better keyword rich domain name that is available.

How Many Domain Names Do You Need?

It depends on why you are buying them.  Sometimes I buy a domain name because I don’t want anybody else to have it.  Sometimes I decided to expand a mini vertical market and I’ll pick up a domain name for it.  (Ex.  New luxury Subdivision, New Mall, etc.)  But you don’t need to go out and buy 40 or 50 domain names.

The old ways of sitting at your computer and blindly typing in domain names has long passed.  With search engines we now search for keywords and almost never on a domain name itself.

When you are ready to put your business online, get help early.  Having a good to great keyword rich domain name is a big plus.  Knowing what domain name to pick is more science than you might think.  And no you don’t need it to be YOUR NAME.COM

Don’t Be A Slave to Your Domain Name

Set Your Mind Free and Your Site Title While You’re At It

I’m going to set you free in this post.  It seems there is an unspoken belief that the Domain Name and the Site Name are somehow mystically joined.

WAKE UP, THEY AREN’T

Still in a fog?  Let me clear the air and the mind for new possibilities.

In the old days of web surfing people would sit at the computer for hours and hours typing in random domain names to see what they could find.  There were no such things as “Search Engines”  and engines they are.  Today, we never just type in a domain name in an address bar unless we know exactly where we are going.  (Usually to our own site)  But we still tie our site title to the domain name like it is some kind of rule.

It is time to clear the fog and set your site free.

Domain Names should have Keywords

Yes, we want our domain names to have keywords.  It is good SEO to do so.  But we DO NOT have to use those words in our site title.

Is this sinking in yet?  Let me guess, you aren’t getting much traffic to your site.  You don’t rank high for the keywords you want to rank for, yet you persist in using the domain name in your site title even though it isn’t what you want to rank for.

Does this make any sense?  NO,

The biggest gun in our SEO arsenal is the Site Title.  The big H1 Tag.  The brightest light in your on line marketing galaxy.  And what do you do with this big gun and bright light.  Almost NOTHING.  You put a AAA battery in as a power source that can handle galaxy reaching laser light.  You put a firecracker in the BIG GUN that will handle one TON shells and wonder why you never see a shell leave the end of the barrel.  Just a little smoke and maybe a pop.

Is the light starting to come on?

Some real world examples.

Domain Name:  www.painttucson.com
Site Title:  Tucson Professional Painting

Domain Name: www.tucsonazrealestateblog.com
Site Title: Tucson Real Estate – Tucson AZ Real Estate ( No Blog in the title)  Just the keywords

Domain Name:  www.kristalsellsdenver.com
Site Title:  Denver Real Estate – Denver Homes for sale – CO Relocation Homes

Is the Light Coming On?

Every site we build or rebuild we power the BIG GUN and the  BRIGHT LIGHT in your on-line Marketing Galaxy.

Set your site title free, set your own thinking free, don’t be a slave to your Domain Name.

Balancing Design and Function for SEO

Eye Candy vs. Search Engine Placement

I was having an interesting conversation this morning with a client.  She is a talented author and designer.  Which puts her in the “Creative” category of personalities.

I love creative and imaginative people.  They add color and texture to our world.  In the world of online marketing there needs to be a balance between form and function.  It is what I call:  The Eye Candy vs. SEO conundrum.

Often the artsy look is at the expense of solid code and navigation practices.  The guiding principle for a developer in creating this balance has to be:

If it can’t be found it doesn’t matter how pretty it is.

The search engines have to be able to navigate the site and add your content to their index. It is that simple. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a small business owner say to me “I’m not getting any traffic to my site”. I have found a couple of instances where the site had plenty of content, but there was only one page in the google index. Why? because of the way the site code provided navigation.

Putting the site navigation in a flash module or javascript drop down menu means the search engines can’t crawl your site and find all the content.

Using images with words in the image is another way to make a site “pretty” but the search engines can’t read words in a graphic.  This is the one worst issue in the balance between eye candy and SEO.  Making it pretty to the eye by putting fancy fonts and colors in a graphic and then slicing those graphic into the code so it looks pretty to the eye.

Creating Balance Between Form and Function

There are new tools available to designers that are currently being tested and included in the new browser standards.  HTML5, CSS3  and @Font-Face are tools making it possible to do things in design that are functional and encoded in a way that search engines can crawl (read) the site.

CSS3 Drop Shadows, Rounded Corners, Gradient Fills

All of these functions that once had to be done with graphic which take time to load can now be done in style sheets.  Why is this important.  Because graphics take time to load.  Style sheets render the effect in the viewers browser.  The difference, SPEED.  Rendering in the browser means a site loads much faster.

@Font-Face  Fancy Fonts

Designers love Fancy Fonts.  They like all those pretty curves and long descenders.  Up to now we had to put those fonts in graphics to display them.  Why, because in the past in order for a browser to display a font it had to be loaded on the views computer.  Most people don’t have a lot of fonts on their computer so designers put those fancy fonts in graphics so they would display on all computers, in all browsers.  But has we stated earlier, Search Engines can’t read the text in those graphics.

Now with @font-face technology designer can load a font onto the site server and call that font from there.  This means that if a viewer doesn’t have the font face on their computer the browser will load it from the site.  Everyone can now see those fancy fonts and search engines can read them.  @font-face creates a Win/Win for everyone.

Your site has to be more than pretty.  It has to be functional.  When picking a developer you should ask about how they will develop the site.  Do they incorporate CSS3 and @Font-face fonts in their design?

You want and need a designer that will balance form and function.  Design and SEO.  Yes, you can have both, don’t settle for eye candy.  Remember the guiding principle:

If it can’t be found it doesn’t matter how pretty it is.

What Domain Name Should I Use ?

It doesn’t have to be either/or  Both/and works fine

This past week I’ve talked with two small business men who have made the same mistake I encounter all the time.

They owned multiple domain names and chose the wrong one as their main domain to promote.

Check your ego at the door this is business

There was a time when everyone in business was being told to buy the domain of their name.  Back then the feeling was it was all about you.  Many built their online presence based on their name.  Back then there were no search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing, MSN didn’t exist as search engines.  You typed in domain names to see what would pop up.  That was “surfing the net”

Today, is very different.  Most of the time I don’t even know a domain name, including my own.  I search on the topic I’m interesting in and click on the one with the best except in the search results.

Another issue with making your online marketing based on your name.  What if your business is geographic in nature?  What if you move?  You can’t ever sell the content on a domain that is based on your name.

Keyword Rich Domain Names

Keyword rich domain trumps all others including the name of your company.

Exception to this rule. If you are already a nationally recognized brand. Most of us are not.

Getting a good keyword rich domain for your business is a plus, a big plus.  Picking the right one can do a lot for your placement in the search engines.

Let Us Help Pick a Name to Purchase

If you are just getting started online with your business let us help you find a good domain name with the keywords you want.

A good keyword rich domain name is a huge benefit to organic placement in the search engine results.

Talking Avatars The Latest Rage

I met with a small business owner a couple weeks ago to layout a new site for his business.

His current site is all “Flash” which means it looks pretty, but Google can’t crawl the site so he ends up with one page in the Google index.

That’s not good.  We are in the process of creating a new site for him.  He will be up and running soon and hopefully pulling in enough organic search traffic he won’t need to be running print ads or offering coupons for much longer.

Talking Avatars

He mentioned that he had been to a business seminar recently where they were telling everyone the current fad is to have a walking on screen talking avatar.  He wasn’t sure and wanted my take on the whole idea.

I smiled and said,   “Were the guys presenting this selling those avatars?  Were either of them in high pressure sales, ex. auto sales?”  The answer to both questions was “Yes”.  He was kind of amazed.  “Yeah, one guy is selling them and the other guy is doing kind of ‘in your face’ sale.  How did you know?”

talking avatar

Wonder what she is selling?

Talking Avatars will do your business a lot more harm than good. You don’t want them on your site.  When a potential client opens your website they don’t want to be greeted by a walking talking avatar.  They are there to seek out information, not to BE SOLD!

They don’t like being startled by the sudden sound of a voice coming out of their speakers.  Don’t turn off your potential customers and clients with pushy in your face sales tactics on your business site.

Provide a clean easy to navigate website where the visitor can find the information they seek.  Make sure you have “Buttons” or Navigation clearly marked on how they can “Contact Me“, “Get a Quote” or “Ask a Question“.  When they are ready they will contact you.  But don’t assault them with a talking avatar.  There is no reason to spend money on something that will drive potential clients away.

Talking Avatars might be the latest “Rage” but there is no reason to put your site visitors into one.  (I silenced this talking ad for a talking avatar)

Domain Names are Rented Not Purchased

Did you know you can’t actually ” buy” a domain name?  It is true.  You can rent one and keep renting it, but you never “own” it.  Stop paying the rent and someone else can have it.

How Long a Lease

The longer the lease the better.  We suggest if you are buying a good keyword rich domain name you pay for 5 years registration minimum;  ten years is even better.  The longer the rent the more credit the search engines give you for the name.

What does that mean?  It means if you have an expiration date going out 10 years you don’t plan on getting rid of that domain anytime soon.

Why does this matter?  Because spammers are famous for purchasing 1 yr registration, spamming the net and moving on.  Yep, spammers have ruined a lot of things for internet users and this is one of them.  Purchase for one year and you don’t get as much credit in the placement calculation as a domain with a 10 year expiration.

When you find a good domain name, don’t register it every year.  Purchase a 5 or 10 year registration up front.  It will be a good investment.  This is one place you don’t want to cut corners to save money.

Content without Access

Content without access is the same as no content at all

I recently did a site review for a local artist.  The site was a static HTML site and it had good content.  There we about 200 pages of content on site.  But only 9 pages were indexed by the search engines.  Those 9 pages had the same title tag on every page.  The Artist’s name and the web address.  The only way to find the site was to search for the artist’s name.

The artist had spent thousands of dollars in web development.  Not a single lead, client or customer had come from her website.  She was frustrated and that is why I was doing the review.

Poor site design can kill you

There was talk of a redesign of the site.  The question that lingered; “If I have so much content on my site why are there only 9 pages indexed by Google?”  The answer was mostly due to navigation.  There was a lot of content placed in pop-up windows with no navigation out of the page.  View, close, view another, close, etc.  The content was 4 or 5 layers deep on the site with much of it only visible from another pop-up window.  I demonstrated how this worked and used the illustration of building a lot of rooms on a house with no doors or windows.  The only way in was to transport into the room and there was no way out.  No easy way in, no way out.

The call came in a few days later.  “My web developer says there is nothing wrong with the site.  I need to have him add more content to get the site.”  More work for the web developer, more money spent by the artist, more content added to pop-up windows with not navigation.  Will it help?  Not really, but I run into it all the time.

No one wants to believe they have spent thousands of dollars on their website in vane. So they invest even more money doing the same thing that has produced nothing for them.

Widget Areas For Flexibility

WordPress Widgetized

Early in the history WordPress development added support for Widget areas.  Typically that meant the sidebar.  Instead of hard coding the content of the sidebar it would be made “widget ready”.  Anyone could quickly add and arrange the content of the sidebar.  Adding, moving, removing content became easy.  A few clicks of a mouse and major content changed can be made to sidebar navigation.

Widget Area Evolution

It didn’t take long before theme developers realized they could add widget areas to any area of a theme.  Soon widget support was added to headers, footer, and content areas of a theme.  But not all themes provide this kind of support.  The ones that do define those widget areas and size.  Flexible to a point, but you have to make sure your content fits in those areas.

Custom Widget Area Support

You don’t want generic?  You want to have your site to be built for YOU.  Well, with a little code addition and some tweaking of the theme additional widget areas can be added to almost any WordPress theme.  (Some themes, don’t want it to be easy, Thesis comes to mind) But for the most part adding a widget area so you can add and change content when you want to make a change is possible.

Theme Changes coming in WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 is going to see some major changes to design and functionality.  Along with this move will be the need/desire to stop supporting some legacy features of older versions of WordPress.

This is nothing new.  Just recently support for UTF (Ultimate Tag Warrior) Tag import was dropped. Most have long ago imported their UTF tags into the core of their site.  Removing this support was of little consequence.

But a bigger changes in coming for sites using older themes based on the default theme.

WordPress Updates Default Theme for Twenty Ten

The new default theme for WordPress in version 3.0 is called “Twenty Ten”  It is slick.  I’ve played with it and I love the code and styling of the new default theme.

But the arrival of this new theme means support for some functionality based on the old default theme is going away.  It means you could find your site not working like “right” after you upgrade to 3.0 if you are using one of these older coded themes.

Here is a link to a post going into detail about the changed being made and what will need to be done to make older themes based on the default theme function under the changes.

Themes and WordPress 3.0 some important changes