Category Archives: Marketing

Spotlite Radio Scam?

Several weeks ago my phone rang and it was a representative of Spotlite Radio. Apparently they had found my website and wanted to interview me about my business on their radio station. It would be for 8 minutes, a producer would call me ahead of time to go over the questions. It sounded like it might be a good experience, and it was free, so I said yes.

heather-on-phoneI am not good at public speaking, or at articulating on the fly. I was a little bit worried because I knew that my radio spot was likely to be filled with long pauses and too many UMMS. Sure enough, when the time arrived, and the announcer started asking questions,
it. was. horrible.
There were gaping silences, unfocused responses and it was, over all, very very awkward. It was with great relief that I hung up the phone 8 minutes later and decided to drive to the post office to clear my head before getting back to work.

It hadn’t been five minutes when my cell phone rang. It was a “producer” from Spot lite radio, (although there was a quiet hum of other voices talking into phones in the background, similar to those calls we get soliciting donations to support the local police or sherif’s office). I am going to paraphrase what he said to me, after insisting that I pull over to listen to him and take notes.

“Do you have a background in radio? You were fantastic. Usually our speakers have rankings (between 1 and 10),  averaging around 3.1, 3.2 – however, your rankings were around 6.7. It was an amazing response from our listeners. People are calling in and asking “Why didn’t we give her more time”. They want to hear more. We have dozens of calls already asking for your contact information. The response has been so great that we want to offer you three 1/2 hour feature slots”… and he lists everything that they do to promote the featured interviews, the great exposure etc.. for only $1,500.

Now, I appreciate more than most people the importance of exposing your business over multiple platforms. I think doing a radio spot, having a YouTube video made of it, getting a press release in major publications is a very good thing, and I might have considered it if he hadn’t been so obviously lying to me. He was so over the top in his praise of the interview that, I knew, had completely bombed, that it made everything he was promising me suspect, and he kept pushing me to agree to a package before I hung up the phone. He had gone down to one half hour slot for $400 when I convinced him that I wasn’t going to decide right that minute, sitting in Reliable Market’s parking lot in my car.

I felt a little bit let down that the whole thing had been a scam. They hadn’t seen me as a leader in my field, being in business doing website design and programming for 17 years. They saw me as a gullible small business owner who may be desperate to do anything to drive more traffic to my website. The next day I went to their website to see if my interview had been posted. I listened to about 2 minutes of the awkward gaps between my responses and the interviewer’s questions, to my stilted and unfocused answers and had to click the pause button. It was truly as bad as I remembered. There was no way that anyone would want to listen to 1/2 hour of that.

The thing is, if someone had called me after the interview and said, “how did you feel about that? It was a little rough around the edges but with coaching, it could be a great tool for promoting your business, here is how..” I might have listened and actually considered it. However, to tell me I was a star performer in order to sell me $1500 worth of advertising when I knew that the interview was a disaster, put the legitimacy of their whole business in question.

The interview was a good experience. The next time I sign up for one, I am going to definitely get the real list of questions before hand and I’m going to practice. I want my answers to be useful information and interesting to listeners, and, if the radio spot costs money, I am going to thoroughly research the station before hand and make sure it is one that people and most especially my clients, are actually listening to.

So, I guess what I want to communicate is that if someone approaches you with a sales pitch riddled with what they think you want to hear instead of the truth, be careful. And if you are in sales and pitching a radio spot to me, don’t lie.  I wouldn’t be successful in my business if I wasn’t able to look at my work with constructive criticism in order to improve it, and the same goes for my public speaking.

Link to my interview here: spotlightradio

 

Looking at popular web building platforms with an eye to SEO

Alison Shaw and Sue Dawson asked Kathleen Forsythe and me to give a presentation at one of the weekend retreats offered by their mentorship program. Kathleen designed their site, alisonshaw.com and I programmed it with a custom content management system, so they immediately thought of us when looking for speakers who could address the subject of website design.

Sue asked me specifically to address some of the popular web building platforms with an eye to how friendly they are to the search engines. After my presentation, Kathleen spoke from a graphic designer’s perspective on custom website design.

For my research, I looked at different websites built on squarespace, weebly, wix, smugmug and foliolink with seo-browser.com to see how they appear to the search engines. On the left of each slide is a screen shot of the page, and on the right is what a search engine bot would see.

What concerns me is whether each page has a unique title tag and description and whether alt tags can be added to the images on a page. This would indicate if their content management system actually allows you to optimize for the search engines or not.

Below are the slides from my presentation. Please click on the images for a larger view.

I program custom content management systems and also create WordPress sites for my clients. I have not had the opportunity to use weebly, wix, squarespace, foliolink or smugmug, so my research is entirely extrapolated from what I could view with seo-browser.com.

Creating a short, easy to remember URL for your facebook business page

Having a facebook business page for your business has become an integral part of having a great web presence.

I have just discovered how to create a short and direct link to my facebook business page. Instead of sending people to facebook.com/pages/name-of-my-page/some-long-number, I can send them to facebook.com/username, and I chose what username to use. So, to visit my facebook business page now, just go to http://facebook.com/goffgrafix.

CREATING A USERNAME FOR YOUR FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE

It takes about five minutes to do, and it will make your advertising and marketing so much easier. The graphic designer laying out your business card or print ad for the local paper will thank you, profusely. There will be less chance of a typo linking to your business page from your online marketing. It is all around a very good change to make.

You must be an administrator of the facebook page to make this change.

Log in to facebook and go to your business page.

Click on the EDIT PAGE link in the top right of the page.

Then, click on the Basic Info link in the left navigation options.

Once there, you will see a line of text at the top that says: Create a username for this page?

Click on that link, and type the username that you want below the page name, and then click on the blue Check Availability button.

If the username is available, it will ask you to confirm that you want that username for your business page.

If you like the username that you’ve created, click the confirm button.

It is that easy.

 

 

Some simple guidelines to make your blog look designed, without hiring a designer.

WHY should you care?

Blogs are all about content. We use a blog platform to deliver good content to our audience, and thus promote our businesses or our brand.

How your content is presented, however, can either improve your message, or hinder your message.

Your audience, before they even read your content, is looking at how it is designed, how it looks visually on the page. If the presentation isn’t appealing, they might not read it, or they might read it, but discount it.

If I own a store, I know that in order to get my audience to walk through the door, the store front needs to be clean, the windows organized and the walkway swept. Once people enter my store, my merchandise needs to be polished and presented in such a way that highlights it and that makes it easy for customers to find what they are looking for.

If I own a salvage yard and sell bits and pieces of salvaged items and my customers expect to dig through piles of dusty stuff to find hidden treasure at a bargain price, then I might not worry about how organized or clean my warehouse is. However, if I DO sell treasures and I expect to sell them for what they are worth, I am going to be very aware of how I design my store’s interior and exterior and how my content is presented.

A blog should follow the same principles. If you want people to be able to read your content easily and to value your content, there should be some design consistency in how it is structured.

Step one is KEEP IT CONSISTENT.

The key to good design is consistency. Less is more on well designed websites. The designer chooses a select few fonts, colors and font sizes and these are used in moderation for emphasis. The more you have a variety of shapes, fonts, font sizes and colors on your site, the more cluttered and hard to read it will be.

On your blog, make sure you use consistent capitalization. This is the easiest change you can make to have your site look more professional.

Look at the image below that shows all different treatments of capitalization. It looks like a mess.

Compare it with the image below:

It is much easier to read what the words are saying, if they follow a consistent system of capitalization.

Fortunately, you can fix your blog capitalization with just a few lines of code in your blog theme style sheet. You don’t have to go back in and retype every single blog post title, tag and category name. Using CSS you can transform text to be capitalized, uppercase or lower case.

With these few lines of code in my style sheet, I was able to make all of my blog titles, category names and tags capitalized.

.sidebar_list a {text-transform:capitalize; }
.entry-title { text-transform:capitalize; }
.headline_area { text-transform:capitalize; }

Decide what capitalization you are going to use and contact your blog programmer to make the changes for you, or if you are comfortable doing so, go in and edit your themes style sheet yourself.

On websites that are designed well, things line up.

Keep the WIDTHS OF YOUR IMAGES consistent within a blog post, and even from one post to another.

In good design, things line up visually. Often, a blog will show multiple posts on one page. The width of all the images on all these posts are going to visually relate to one another. If you are using varied sizes  and proportions of images, then it it will start to look disorganized.

The easiest way to avoid this pit fall is to  choose a consistent width for ALL of your blog images.

Under your settings, in the Media section, you can set the widths of how large you want your large, medium and thumbnail images to be on the site.

(These dimensions will depend upon the blog theme that you are using and how wide your post area is.)

I recommend  filling in these settings and then sticking to them when you upload images to your blog posts.

When you click to upload an image, once you’ve selected it, at the bottom of the window you can indicate what size it is and how to align it. If you’ve filled in these values in your media setting, it is a simple step to ensure that all your images are given consistent widths.

If all of the images have a consistent width, then your blog will start to look organized, and the content will be easier to read.

If you want to re-size your images before you upload them to your blog to make sure they are all the same widths, a great free online tool for re-sizing and editing images is http://resize.it.

Step two is KEEP IT SIMPLE.

The blog text editor is not conducive to complicated design layouts. Unless you have a custom theme created with custom fields for displaying specific data, it is best if you stick to the most simple formatting. Put your content in short paragraphs. Use ordered and unordered lists. Upload images and video. But avoid any fancy formatting.

The most successful blogs visually follow a simple pattern for their blog posts. They might start with an image at the top of the page. Then put in a paragraph or two. Then another image or video, and then more text as needed.

They find a pattern that works for the type of content they are going to be blogging about, and they consistently use that pattern on all of their blog posts.

Think about how long your blog posts are typically going to be, figure out a simple  structure that would work for the majority of your blog posts, and stick with that.

This is particularly important if you have side bars in your blog. Side bar content can often be busy and varied. If your blog post content is simple and restful to the eye, the audiences’ attention will settle on it naturally. If the blog content is displayed in a disorganized and cluttered manner, it will blend with the clutter in the side bar, and the content will be harder to read.

THINK TWICE ABOUT ALIGNING IMAGES LEFT AND RIGHT

Be very careful when having the text wrap to the right and left of images. It is tricky to get images that are aligned left and/or right with text wrapping around them to look like balanced design elements in your blog post.

Your blog post is going to be viewed on all different computers, platforms and browsers and what looks great on your computer, might not look the same on another.

The illustration below shows how left and right aligned images can be problematic.

In example 1, the images have different widths, and it looks sloppy.

In example 2, 3 and 4, the images have the same width and are inserted above the paragraph, so they look much better than example 1.

However they illustrate how the same text and images can appear on different browsers depending upon browser settings. You think your blog post is aligned beautifully, but someone else might see the images in an entirely different configuration depending upon how their browser treats font sizes and line height.

Also, beware of inserting an image in the middle of a word or sentence by accident. It might look fine when you preview your blog post. Because the text is wrapping to the right or left of the image, where it is placed in the word or sentence is not noticeable. But the appearance of your blog post when translated into other platforms, like rss feeds and emails, will degrade.

The code that your blog editor adds to the image to tell the image to go right or left on your blog’s website page is not recognized by email clients (gmail, mac mail, outlook etc..), so if your blog posts are being sent to subscribers via email, for them, any image that is aligned left or right on your blog will be stuck right in the middle of the text where you inserted it.

This image below illustrates an email that I received from a blog subscription. The blog post, although it looked fine on the blog, did not look good as an email.

For this reason, I recommend inserting images in between paragraphs and not aligning them left or right..

Think about how long your blog posts are going to be generally, figure out a simple  structure that would work for the majority of your blog posts, and follow that structure on all of your posts.

In Summary

  • Keep the formatting simple.
  • Follow a consistent pattern for the formatting of blog posts throughout the blog.
  • Stick to the same capitalization rules throughout the blog.
  • Choose three image widths for large, medium and thumbnail images and make sure all of your images throughout your blog, stick to these widths.

If your content is well designed, it will be easier to read, and the audience will value it more.

Photo credit 1 –  Photo credit 2

SEO Keyword Research – where to start

This is a quick tutorial on how to start gathering keywords to use in optimizing your website for the search engines.

The first step is to brainstorm and jot down a list of what you think the phrases are that people are using who might want what your website offers. What are the phrases that people are typing into the search engine search boxes?  Keywords are a form of advertising. Make sure you only use keywords that match what your site offers. The search engines want to match people’s searches with websites that truly match those searches, so if you are selling affordable housing, don’t use the keyword phrase “ocean front villas”.  It is important to be honest.

If your website offers multiple things – homes for sale and vacation rentals, for example, put together a list for each facet of what you offer, so you would come up with one list for your home sales, and one list for your vacation rentals.

Keep in mind, also, that people might not be aware of your product name to search for it – so if you have a product with an obscure name that cures headaches – make sure your keywords include “headache cure”, “getting rid of headaches”, as opposed to the product name. Sometimes you need to optimize for the symptoms rather than the solution.

Then, go to the google keyword tool website: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

When you arrive there – click on the “Previous Interface” link in the top right of the page. (see image below)

Then, paste your list of keyword phrases into the field “Enter one keyword or phrase per line:” make sure that “Use synonyms” is checked, and then click on the button, “Get Keyword Ideas”. (see image below)

This will give you  your list of keyword phrases with how many times people use them to search.

To make the data easier to read, go to the show/hide columns drop down menu and HIDE the local search volume AND the advertiser competition. (see image below)

Make sure to select “Exact” from “match type” (see image below)

Then export your list to csv (for excel). Export a copy of the “Additional keywords to consider” as well that google lists under your list. (see image below)

Consolidate both excel files into one and then go through the keyphrases and eliminate any phrase that is not relevant to your website. Make sure that you only keep the keywords that are truly what your website is about.

The next step is to find out how competitive those keywords are. We do this by doing a google search for the keyword specifying that you want to see only websites that have that keyword in their title tag. If a website has the keyword in their title tag, then they are most likely your competition. You do this by typing

allintitle: “keyword”

make sure to put the keyword in quotes.

When you hit the Google Search button, the number of results will appear underneath the search bar. (see image below)

Add that result number next to your global monthly search volume in your excel sheet. In the image below I’ve named the allintitle results “competitors”. (see image below)

The keywords that are going to bring your site the most targeted traffic are the ones that have a low competitor number compared to the search volume number. You can certainly include some of the keywords that are not in the least competitive, if they are truly what your website is about, but also make sure to include the competitive search phrases. Also, make sure to include your business name in your keywords.

Where to put the keywords?

  • Put them in the content of your pages – the text
  • Put them in the content headings
  • Put them in the meta tags
  • Put them in alt tags of images and title tags of links

The more often the keyword is found on your site – or within links to your site – the better you will place in the search results for that keyword.

It is important to have the keyword not just in the metatags and not just in the page text, but in both places.

Include your keywords in  your page headings and in bold font – and also in internal text links that bring people from one page of your website to another.

META TAGS

Many of my content management systems give my clients an interface for adding and updating the meta tags on their website pages. The most important meta tag is the title tag. Make sure to include your best keyword phrases at the beginning of your title tag. Include your company name in the title tag as well – for your home page, about your company page and contact page.

Google will only show 60 – 70 characters of your title tag, but you can certainly make it longer.

The title tag of a page should include only keyword phrases that have to do with that specific page.

You should try to include 3 keyword phrases in your title tag:

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword 1, Secondary Keyword 2

Put your keywords in your keywords meta tag. List the keyword phrases that have to do with the specific page, the most important first, and separate them by commas. The keywords meta tag is the least important meta tag. According to google webmaster central, google at this time disregards it completely for its search results. However, other search engines do look at it, and since you have the keywords handy in your excel sheet, go ahead and copy and paste them into this meta tag – it can’t hurt.

Put the keywords in your description meta tag. The description tag is often what search engines will show under your page listing in their results, so make sure it describes what the page is about and is phrased in a way that will make people want to click to the page. Read what google webmaster central has to say about the meta description tag.

This is a start to researching and adding keywords to your website.

Make sure to optimize each page of your site specifically for the content on that page. Make sure your keywords are a good match to what you really offer.

If you have separate areas of your site, create separate lists of competitive keywords for each section.




Distraction is not all bad

Sometimes, as a free lance web designer, I have so much on my punch list that I put on blinders, put my nose to the grindstone and don’t feel I can look up from my computer. People are counting on me to get their work done, and it would be irresponsible to let myself be distracted by twitter posts, or emails from friends, right?

I have found, though, that often, the time I take being sidetracked to an interesting website, or looking at something fun that a friend or colleague has sent me, has a great benefit to my productivity and work. Why? Because creativity, like fire, needs oxygen from the surrounding environment. The stimulation and things that we discover by looking up and around can add to the quality of our work.

Here is an example: I just reprogrammed an artist’s website, Beldan K. Radcliffe (beldankradcliffe.com). We were keeping the graphic design pretty much the same as her original site, but programming it with SEO friendly code, and adding a shopping cart and tile section. The last thing on my “to do” list for Beldan was to figure out how to create a page where shoppers could “play” with her tiles and arrange them to figure out which ones they want to purchase. She sells a set of four tiles at a discounted rate, and she commented that at her artisan shows, people spend hours picking out tiles and arranging them together to decide which they want to purchase. I had absolutely no idea how I would program that for her. So this final task stuck in the back of my brain as something I needed to get done, but wasn’t sure how to tackle.

One day soon after I was busy working on numerous things, and my friend and colleague, Kathleen Forsythe, shot me an email with a link to a website that she thought was inspired.  The subject of the email was “how cool is this..” and the link was to this page: http://www.curiousgenerationgroup.com/

I went to the link, and finding it inspiring, I looked at the source code to see if I could figure out how it was created. I noticed that one of the scripts that they use was located in a folder named scriptaculous, and doing a google search on that, I found this site: http://wiki.github.com/madrobby/scriptaculous/. The site explains that  script.aculo.us is a set of JavaScript libraries to enhance the user interface of web sites. (TRANSLATION:  free javascript code that, once installed on your server, lets you do all sorts of cool things)  AND one of those very cool functions was the ability to drag and drop items on a page. Suddenly I had a solution to my tile task for Beldan, and with the scriptaculous files, was able to get her new page up in under 1/2 hour.

I was rewarded for my exploration. Exploring is a way to self educate, to stimulate our creativity.

Not all distraction is bad. If I hadn’t taken 10 minutes to open that email, click on the link and look at the source code, I would still be stumped on how to create a page where customers can re-arrange items, and that unfinished task would still be rattling in the back of my brain.

Have you had similar experiences? Let me know by commenting below.