Easy Steps to Search Engine Success

search magnifying glassWe all want our websites to get more traffic. And the best way to do that is to be near the top of the page in search results. But how do you get Google’s attention or Bing’s blessing? It’s all done via the mysterious process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Here are 7 easy steps to increasing your SEO score and get more visitors coming to your website.

1. Start at the top — use your page title.

The title bar is at the very top of your browser is the first thing a search engine spider sees, so make it count. The limit is 60 characters, so be sure to include your site name, location and a few words telling more about the site.

2. Write hardworking headlines.

Extra! Extra! Headlines tell us what to expect! They also create curiosity about the topic. Headlines are also the first piece of content the search spider sees on the page and are very important for SEO. Use your headline to announce the page topic.

3. Provide navigation to the destination.

Nav links are the road signs of the web and search spiders look at them closely. They should be concise, descriptive and informative. For extra SEO points, nav links or web buttons should have a title with additional information about what will be found at the destination page. These show up as as a tooltip when you hover over the link.

4. Make your links logical.

Links inform visitors and search bots what to expect when action is taken, and are very valuable. Don’t miss this easy technique to enhance your SEO. Simply tell the visitor where the link leads using keywords. “Click here” is a wasted opportunity because it gives no information where it leads. More about using “Click Here”>>

5. Make connections.

Incoming links from other sites are the holy grail of search engine marketers. So are links to and from the other pages on your site. Cross-linking page on your site provides a way for the web visitor to get additional information easily. Link between pages wherever possible.

6. Always use alt tags.

Alt tags are short descriptions of photos found on website to provide information for non-sighted web users using screen readers. We often don’t notice them, but they are seen by search engine spiders and can add a lot of value to your SEO score. Be kind to the blind and make Google happy by using your alt tags.

7. Find the magic keywords and use them wisely.

Make a list of words you and your colleagues use when discussing your topic, then make a list of the words people really use when chatting or asking questions about it. If you have site stats, check to see what keywords people used to find your site. Use these to provide a base for your keyword list.

Don’t search for help — give Sirius a call.

These 7 simple steps will go a long way to improving your search engine placement and will bring more web traffic to your site. Each website crafted by Sirius Media has SEO built right in, with custom keyword research part of our small business website package. Ready to take your website to the next level? Just give us a call.

10 Things You Should Know About Pinterest

Fellene<br />
s Pinterest BoardPinterest is growing by leaps and bounds and is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media sites around. Here are ten things every business owner should know about Pinterest.

  1. If Facebook is like passing notes to friends in class, and Twitter is like sending text to the universe. Pinterest is like a bulletin board where you post pieces of visual content sorted into categories. Consider it a scrapbook of your favorite things.
  2. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media sites around. From July 2011 to July 2012 it grew by 5124%, quickly overtaking Google+ and gaining ground on Linked In.
  3. What is it good for?
    Visual content — photos, infographics, maps, and websites. Recipes are very popular on it, as are Decorating, Crafts, Shopping, How to and DIY
  4. What about the copyright issues?
    1. There is some potential, but Pinterest is being proactive in trying to address it and I could not find any instances of  ongoing issues.
    2. My advice is to pin content you know you have rights to or are from a reliable source. Pinning graphics from websites is a good bet. Pinning someone else’s facebook content that has been shared  and seen repeatedly is not a good bet.
  5. How can a service sided business use Pinterest?
    1. Share pins of products you love or that coordinate with, enhance, or complement your service.
    2. Pin websites that feature handy tips in your field of expertise.
    3. Use pins to share and show the lifestyle of your target market, cool products, design ideas, places to go.
    4. Get ideas for other services and products from pins.
    5. Designers — it’s a great way for your clients to share their design likes and dislikes with you. Thanks for teaching me that, Computer Diva!
  6. Give your company personality by sharing company culture.

    1. Pin photos of the team at work and play. When a staff page is a part of a corporate website, its always one of the most popular pages.
      Share Employee Profiles, featuring volunteer work, hobbies and personality.
    2. Pin photos of company events, showing your firm as friendly and fun to work with.
  7. You don’t need an invite any more. Pinterest has opened subscriptions to anyone who wants one. Simply sign up.
  8. Use the Pinterest goodies to make pinning easy.

    1. The bookmarklet lets you add websites to your collections quickly and easily right from your browser nav bar.
    2. Get the smartphone app to save photos to your account by phone.
  9. Get Pinterest buttons for your websiteto encourage pinning and following!
    1. Put a follow me on Pinterest button on your website to link your accounts.
    2. Add a pin it button on your webpages to encourage pinning of your content. This allows you to determine which image is shown on Pinterest, even if its not one on the page.
  10. Bloggers take note — always include an image that can be easily found and copied when pinned on Pinterest. I’m sure you’ll always be using only legal imagery, so there should be no problem there. Be on the lookout for visual content and take photos that illustrate ideas or concepts to create a visual library for blogging.

For future reference, I will be adding new links to both my bookmark list and my Pinterest for Business Board. Check back now and then to see what else I’ve discovered!

  • Follow my Pinterest List on Sirius Media’s social media page for my latest discoveries about Pinterest. I’ll be adding new finds to this list as it occurs and want to share them with you.
  • Check out my Pinterest for Business board on Pinterest.

Watch What Others Are Doing with Pinterest.

The growth of Pinterest is yet another way we share our passions with others online. I expect it to become a significant player in the social media marketplace. Smart businesses will take note and incoporate it into their marketing matrix to get the full advantage of it’s strong market growth.




15 Ways to Build Web Traffic Without SEO

Distance from PortlandWhen business owners think about ways to increase website traffic, they generally know that search engine optimization and strong keywords strategies are essential.

Search rank is important and very competitive.  But it can be very expensive to optimize or advertiser your way to top placement on the search page.

But Google, Bing, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook  aren’t the only ways people find our websites. It is easy to overlook some of the more traditional non-SEO approaches that are very powerful strategies in building site traffic. And when your site traffic goes up, so does your search ranking because sites with more traffic get higher SEO scores. So why not get busy and try a few of these each month to keep the attention on yourwebsite.com.

All of these techniques can be boiled down to one key strategy: advertising — you need to market your website just like you’d market a product. Even with great SEO, you can’t just put a website up and expect it to rise like cream to the top of the search page.

If you don’t tell people that you have a website and why they should visit it, they won’t know.
Here are some ways to do it.

  1. Be your own website evangelist. Tell people about it every chance you get. If you refer to your website often, others will learn to do so to. Be proud of your website and it’s content. If you aren’t, then build  a website you can be proud of.
  2. Use your domain name in your email. Every time you give out your email address, you’re telling others ‘where you live’ on the web. It’s a marketing opportunity too good to pass up. Use a forwarding email if you really don’t want to give up that aol, hotmail or gmail address, but always use yourname@yourwebsite.com
  3. Take out a print ad: magazines, newspapers, yellow pages, theater programs, school or neighborhood newsletters that features your website address prominently. Advertise new content, new sections, or promotions on the website.
  4. Print colorful postcards to leave in coffee shops. Include QR to your website with a promotional offer.
  5. Send email newsletters using an email vendor. Include short pieces of teaser or promo info then link back to the website for the full story. The best way to increase site traffic is to send regular useful email newsletters that link back to your website. Make a publishing plan in advance to keep your schedule regular.
  6. Post signs in your bricks and mortar shop with a QR code for an offer on the website.
  7. Get mentioned in the media — interviews, guest articles, photos or video clips on the news are golden. Always mention or include your web url when you’re being interviewed.
  8. Sponsor an event or benefit where you can distribute promotional materials. Look for ways to provide inkind sponsorship by providing services, prizes or supplies.
  9. Buy radio ads. Build brand recognition through ads or sponsorship of public radio.
  10. Post your job openings. If you have jobs, people will want to know and be checking back often. Jobs are one of the content areas that is a very strong draw.
    Mention the web url in any help wanted ads.
  11. Get fun stickers or rubber stamps with your web url and put them on shopping bags.
  12. Put your url on promotional items and pass them out  — bookmarks, tshirts, coasters, emery boards.
  13. Print marketing materials — brochures, letterhead, biz cards, rack cards, flyers.
  14. Blog or comment on other sites and include a link to your website.
  15. Send a custom greeting card via mail with a QR link in it. See SendoutCards to see some creative options!

Effective Email Marketing

When faced with the high cost of advertising, printing, and postage it can be difficult to know where to put your marketing dollars. No matter how great your mailing list or brochure distribution, it can be hard to know if you actually reached your target audience. If you’re tired of the cost of print media, maybe it’s time to try an email marketing campaign.

1. How much does it cost?

Beginning an email marketing campaign does not need a large investment. Sending a broadcast to a list of emails can cost just a few cents each, making it the most affordable form of marketing available to your business. You can easily reach a large list for a hundred dollars or less..

For that small investment you get statistics on how many people read your email, how many opened the links in the email and how many sent it to their friends. You can know immediately if the campaign worked or not.

2. Why not send it from your own email account?

Many web hosts and email servers have a limit on how many emails you can send at a time, which means that sending a message to a large list can take hours. Email service providers have been known to set limits as low as 50 emails an hour. If you have 500 on your list, you will need 10 hours to send to the full list.

Sending multiple emails at a time from a non-commercial server can easily trigger spam alerts on the receiving end and even result in your domain being put on an email blackslist. Sending with an official email service vendor protects your domain email address being listed as a spammer.

3. Build your email list

You can’t just take all the emails you have in your Outlook address book and dump them into the list. By law, the contacts you use for your email newsletter must have a prior business relationship with you or have opted in to receive your email newsletter.

It is best to send an initial email to everyone you’d like to include on your list and ask them to sign up for your new newsletter. Emails must always contain an unsubcribe link or info about how to be removed from the mailing list.

4. Craft the message

Don’t give it all way. Build on your reader’s curiosity. Create a tease about the topic, then lead them to your website for more information. Once they are on your website, they can learn more about how your business can help them meet a need or solve a problem. Longwinded emails aren’t read and just end up ignored.

5. Stay out of spam traps

Most email vendors offer filters to evaluate aspects of your emails that will get your emails labeled as spam. Avoid any of these techniques to assure your emails will be deliverable.

  1. Avoid using ALL CAPS in the copy.
  2. Avoid mentioning money, drugs, weight loss or sexual organs.
  3. Be sure there are enough words to go with the photos.
  4. Avoid using the word “Free”
  5. Do not use scripts or try to include any active coding.

6. Link for more, lead them home

The whole point of having an email newsletter is to get people to visit your website, buy your product, give you a call, or make an appointment. So be sure to provide many links back to your website from every area of the email.

7. Offer tasty tidbits

A classic marketing technique is to provide a free sample of the product or service you provide. Use your email newsletter to provide a free sample of your expertise, whether as an enticing discount or a valuable piece of advice.

But keep it short. A paragraph or two is enough for an email newsletter with a link back to the website for more details, so they can explore and learn more details about your business.

8. Call to action!

Be direct. Tell readers what to do on your newletter, either by a call, a purchase at your bricks and mortar store or a visit your website. Be sure to include directions such as “Call now to make an appointment” “Visit the website to learn more” “Register for this workshop” or Bring this coupon in by Feb. 1″ are all great calls to action.

9. Follow up

Be consistent. Only email as frequently as you promised. Provide the content promised on the website or in the headline. Unsubscribe requests as soon as they come in. If you add someone who didn’t want to be on the list, apologize. And be sure to reply immediately to anyone who calls, stops by or emails to learn more about your business.

Ready to start your email marketing campaign? Then it’s time to get Sirius!

What to Do When a Page is Broken

One of the challenges of both creating and owning a website is that sometimes it can stop working. This can happen to a page or the entire site for any one of a number of reasons.

Often your first reaction is one of panic and then the second is to call your web developer to let them know. That’s good — it’s what we’re here for. Every web designer I know is understanding and eager to help you fix issues with your site. We love to play detective and  solve problems.

Remember to breathe. It’s not the end of the world. There’s always something we can do to get the site back to normal.

Submit a Bug Report. Debugging is a part of the programming process and requires collection of data we’ll need to know before we can address the issues on your website. Please answer at least the top 4 questions. It really helps if you answer all of them.

  1. What is the nature of the problem? Are images missing, does the page not load? Are you seeing error messages? Error messages contain useful clues, so be sure to pass them along.
  2. Send a screenshot if you can. On a PC, use Alt+PrintScr to save a screenshot. On a Mac, use Command+Shift+3. Then paste it into an email and send.
  3. What browser are you using and what version? Were you using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera or another browser? Version information is usually found under the Help menu under About.
  4. What type of computer and operating system are you running? To replicate the error, your developer may need to mimic the environment it came from.
  5. What page where you on? Send the link if you can.
  6. What link did you click on the page, if any, when the error happened?
  7. Do you have problems accessing the internet or using any other sites? Be sure other sites are working for you as well.
  8. Has anything changed on your computer since the last time you used the site successfully? Has any new software or hardware been installed?

It can be daunting to have to come up with some many details, but to fix the issue, the first task is to determine where the problem is.

Problems can be caused on your internet host’s server, your internet provider’s connection, a browser quirk, missing files or pages on the site, compliance or scripting issues, security software settings, or browser settings.

Most site errors are due to browser variations. Despite progress made in the last decade with internet standards there is still some variation between browsers.

I generally test for the top 90% of browsers used on a given site shown by site analytics when available. This does not include old versions of Explorer, mobile devices or tablet computers. IE6 is rapidly being phased out now that IE9 has launched, so Sirius Media no longer supports that browser. Currently none of our client sites are showing iPads or iPhones in the top 90% of site visitors, so we don’t test for them, either (unless this was a development requirement).

Coding is a delicate and difficult business. An extra space, single quote instead of a double quote or rogue period out of place is all it takes to break a page. This is made even trickier by the fact that some browsers may forgive an error while others won’t even load the page. Your average email would not pass the browser’s muster due to tiny errors we all ignore.

Essentially, web developers are trying to master a game that changes daily while we’re doing it. Don’t let that freak you out, though. We web coders just love to solve problems — that’s why we do what we do. So relax, give us the info we need to help you out and let us fix your page for you.

What Happens Next?

First, we try to duplicate the problem and see what conditions caused it. This is the easiest scenario. If I can’t, I may need to come see the bug in action on your system.

Second, I may need to contact the site host and see if there are issues going on there.

Third, if there seems to be a pervasive internet issue, such as email access, then following up with your internet provider may be necessary.

Fourth, enlisting the help of others to test the page will further identify any ongoing issues and ensure that the issue is solved.

A Dozen Ways Facebook Can Build Your Business

  1. Set up a FB Business Page. Although you must have a personal page to create a business page, do keep them separate. This allows you to create marketing content that is separate from your personal life and build your business brand with consistent messaging.
  2. Tell the World Who You Are. Be sure to complete the entire profile, including business category, description, location, hours on the info page.
  3. Show Your Stuff. Customize the page with your company logo. Add photos of recent work, products and happy customers whenever you can. Viewing photos is the #1 activity on Facebook.
  4. Share Successes. Go ahead — toot your own horn. This is the place to let the world know how good you are. Just remember that some clients would prefer anonymity and be discreet when needed. Post updates at least several times a week for best results.
  5. Start Discussions. Use Discussions to share ideas, brainstorm, discover unmet needs your clients may have, provide helpful tips for troubleshooting, and get feedback.
  6. Ask Questions This new short polling feature allows you to get input fast. These polls are quick and informal, so go ahead, be a little lighthearted. If the poll is fun, people are more likely to participate and share it with their friends.
  7. Like Other Businesses. Find other business pages, friend’s businesses and like them from your business page as well as from your personal page. If you’ve done business with them, write an online review of their work.
  8. Get a Vanity Url. As soon as you have 25 followers for your business page, get your custom name at http://www.facebook.com/username/. This helps build your brand and make the site easier to find and link to.
  9. Create a Custom Page. Make a page that is styled the way you want it. Under Edit > Apps search for Static Frame IFRAME. Install the app and then link to a customized html page somewhere on your real website. There are other iframe apps, but they don’t work on a secure https connection.
  10. Laser Targeted Ads. With the new ad features you can target very small market segments to see your advertising by age, income or area.
  11. Get a Badge. Add social media sharing buttons, or a Facebook badge or a Like button to your website to build followers and be sure your communications avenues intersect.
  12. Post Regularly. Most importantly, be sure to keep the content fresh. Post several times a week. Share tips in your field, links you find useful, or humor to build followers. Let people know you’re out there.

Who Else Wants to Write Better Email Copy?

VerticalResponse Email Marketing Blog for Small Business: Who Else Wants to Write Better Email Copy?.

A great set of tips for writing marketing emails, including.

  • Use Bucket Brigade Words: Bucket brigade words help you move your copy forward. They include remember, and, but, consider, however, for example..and more!
  • Vary Sentence Length: It is important to vary your sentence length to hold your reader’s attention. And don’t be afraid to use sentence fragments – this isn’t your college English class!
  • Differentiate Between Features vs. Benefits: Features are what the product has. Benefits are what it will provide the customers. The customer will always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Be sure you tell them.

Ten More Steps to Becoming the Designer You Want to Be – design mind on GOOD – GOOD

1. Never stop learning

While I use most of my projects as learning vehicles, I find that this isn’t enough. You should never stop learning. What would you learn and how would your view change if you went to 1,000 meet ups? As designers, our minds need to be as flexible as possible. Learning something new helps us see more and more possibilities and make connections that previously weren’t there.

via Ten More Steps to Becoming the Designer You Want to Be – design mind on GOOD – GOOD.

A great list of reminders on what it takes to become a great designer.

10 Things I Learned at SearchFest

1. 2010 is the Year of Semantics.
It’s time to go beyond the search and think about user’s intent.  This involves looking at search history, real-time content possibilities, location, and the user experience. We have a firehose of information streaming at us now. It’s time to think about what to do with it.

2. Written content is still king/queen.
There needs to be enough written content on the home page to attract searches. Photos, and white space are elegant as all get out, and flash is sure fun, but they are empty space to your local search engine. Content should always on meeting web visitors’ needs, not pushing your message.

3. If it’s bad and it’s about you – ignore it.
Reputation Management is best achieved by ignoring bad reviews. If you get a bad review, don’t post comments to counteract it. That will only keep the bad review on top of the search results. Publish good information elsewhere and push that up in results. Use offense, not defense. Be proactive about providing new information to replace the old.

4. Keyword scores don’t count.
Don’t worry about keyword density scores. Focus on answering the user’s eternal question “What’s In It For Me?” Write for visual scannability with meaningful subheads and bold highlights to move the eye along.

5. If Facebook were a country, it’d be the 3rd largest on the planet.
If you or your business is not on Facebook yet, it’s time to join in and stake your claim.

6. Blog at breakfast.
Write when your thoughts are fresh, early in the day. Keep it light and on a topic your readers can understand. Use humor, quizzes, recipes, patterns, crafts, odd topics, frank opinions, share resources and other useful information.

7. Expand your search footprint to raise rankings.
Use subdomains (blog.sirius-media.com) rather than subdirectories (sirius-media.com/blog) to create a larger footprint for your site on search engines and increase ranking.

8. Establish search goals to measure effectiveness.
You need to establish search goals to be able to use search analytics effectively. What are you trying to accomplish on each page of your website? Include calls to action and measure the responses.

9. Take advantage of local business search listings.
Google’s local business listings are very powerful and free, but requires a business signup, not just a website.

10. Embed easy to use information with rich snippets.
Rich snippets are a way to include map information, business card, and calendar files on your website.


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