Owning a Tourism Business is awesome

7 Dec 2006

Your Webmaster: Tips for a Good Relationship

Your webmaster (or more accurately, your web designer) is an important part of your web team. So it is more than worth your time and effort to build a strong relationship with him or her.

Here are five things you can do to keep the lines of communication open between you and your webmaster.

1.Be specific in your requests. He can't read your mind. If you don't tell him exactly what to do and how you want it to work, you'll be disappointed. The first round of communication is dependent on you.

Specifics include colors you like (either by color code or an example from another site), graphic styles you prefer (based on a graphic you can point to), the way a page functions. Include URLs for the examples and don't be shy about including more than required.

2.Keep an open channel. Use an email address you check frequently. Respond to her questions quickly. She's "into" your project now. If she has to wait 3-4 days to get answers, she'll have to start working on someone else's project in the meantime. Then it takes her longer to get back to your project. The poor workflow slows everyone down.

As an alternative to an email address, consider an Instant Messenger account. Depending on the times of day that you and your web designer are working - and whether you're both awake at the same time - email may be more efficient.

My web designer and I are 12 hours apart, so he's awake when I'm asleep, and vice versa. However, when we're working on a quick turnaround project, I'll stay up later so we can exchange emails about the project more frequently. And when I'm turning in for the night, I always send a message to that effect so he won't be expecting a quick response.

3.Keep an open mind. No one is perfect. Your webmaster should feel free to ask you questions, even if it might appear that he knows less than you thought. That's not generally the case; instead, he's asking for clarification. Or information.

It's not unusual for my webmaster to email me to ask if I know of a resource that does "xyz." Or he'll tell me he's not the person to do that task; that I need to look for someone who can do "abc." That feeling of "you're okay, even if you don't know everything" is very important to open communication.

4.Say thank you. Just a short thank you in response to exceptionally fast turnaround or a great job or a surprisingly wonderful job goes a long way.

And if you're willing to share, refer others to your web designer. She'll appreciate the additional business and will be extra careful to give you continued great service in exchange for more referrals.

5.Pay promptly. When you first work with a web designer, they may ask for payment up front or immediately after finishing the job. Don't wait two weeks to pay them. They need their money now. They should provide you with a link for payment, so use it quickly.

When you follow these guidelines, you'll find that your work gets done faster and with greater efficiency. Because you are saving your web designer time and trouble, your work will be something she looks forward to receiving, rather than dreading.

And you'll both save time - and most importantly, you'll save money as a result!

2 Dec 2006

Advertising your tourism business on Yahoo!

For tourism businesses with a limited online-advertising budget (i.e. most of us!), Yahoo!'s featured directory listings are a great way to reach out to millions of potential customers. Having your company's Web site featured in a directory listing is actually very easy.

First, you'll need to get your site listed in the appropriate Yahoo! directory. Type your company name in to the Yahoo! search box. If your site doesn't appear in the search results, you will need to submit it for consideration. Unfortunately, this process can take a long time. Currently it's taking 2 to 3 months...

Your other option is to use Yahoo!'s Express Service, which provides expedited listing. There is a US$299 annual fee for this service, and there's no guarantee that your site will actually be listed — only that it will be reviewed within seven days. However, if you don't want to wait a long time to be added to Yahoo!'s directory, this may be a great choice.

Once your site has been listed in a directory at Yahoo!, upgrading to featured status is easy. You will need to pay a monthly fee, which is determined by the directory where your site is located. This fee can vary from $5 to $300 per month. All you need to do is provide a credit card and your monthly fee will be automatically deducted along the way.

Featured listings appear before the rest of the businesses in a directory, which means that you won't have to worry about having your company buried far into the listings. This is also a benefit for business owners who are having difficulty optimising their site for Yahoo!'s search engine.

So, what does featured status actually do for your resort's site? It provides targeted advertising, and targeted advertising means the right people will see your listing: people already looking for a vacation or diving in your destination. Once your resort or op is featured in a directory, your listing will be one of the first results when customers perform a search in your area.

With more small businesses jumping on the Internet every day, it's getting harder and harder for companies to retain their current customers and attract new customers. With literally thousands of choices for online shopping, it can be almost impossible to entice customers to visit your site first.

Having a featured listing removes much of this concern, since most users will click on the first match they find. If your site is at the top of the list, there's a much better chance your listing will be clicked on, as opposed to if your listing does not appear until page 20 of a user's search.

For SME tourism businesses worried about advertising costs, Yahoo!'s fixed monthly fee is certainly a benefit. Knowing how much your advertising will cost each month makes it a lot easier to stay within your budget while still reaching out to millions of new potential customers.

Another way to guarantee appearing on Yahoo! is by buying keywords through Overture, a subsidiary of Yahoo. With Overture's pay-per-click products, you purchase keywords related to your business. Then, when Web surfers search for those keywords, your listing will appear in Yahoo!'s Sponsor Results box. Overture's distribution network also includes many of the Web's other top search engines and portal sites, including MSN, Altavista, and CNN.com.

With Yahoo! still the number 2 search engine spot behind Google (albeit a long way behind), your resort should see a dramatic increase of traffic once your site is listed in one of Yahoo!'s directories, and much more should you choose to have your site featured.

Staying on top in Internet business is never easy, but Yahoo! has made it possible for small tourism companies out here in the islands to effectively compete for potential customers, and at a controllable and budget-able cost.

12 Nov 2006

Scuba Diving Top 100 Readers' Choice Awards

For all the Scuba Operators and Resorts out there, there is no excuse for not sending all your past divers to the Scuba Diving Magazine Reader's Ratings page here:


Reader's Ratings all go towards their annual Top 100 Readers' Choice Awards.

Scuba Diving is the magazine divers trust for objective gear reviews, cutting-edge scuba training articles, underwater photography and video tips and unbiased dive travel information. In addition, Scuba Diving features Diver To Diver, our online scuba board and dive forum featuring discussions on topics from Cozumel dive resorts to the latest regulators and dive computers. Whether you are a sport diver, an old pro, or a new diver looking for lessons, Scuba Diving has something for you.

2 Nov 2006

How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner ... and Still Have a Life

I'm an avid reader/researcher and now and entrepreneur so I have read LOTS of books on small business. This is the first book that I really felt "got it!" The writer clearly knows what it is like for a small business and has realistic tips and ideas for growing your business the right way and ending up where you want it to be.

The title initally appealed to me since running your own business can be so draining. This book was approachable, easy to read, and had actionable ideas from the beginning. I also like that it "got" the realities of being a small business owner and didn't take up your time with worthless "exercises" or visions of what your business plan should be like. After reading this book I was so inspired to create my own business plan and start working on business improvements laid out in the plan. The book helped me find the clarity I had really be lacking and it made me feel like it wouldn't be too difficult or onerous to do.

This book is a MUST for every small business owner who wants to see their business grow in a sustainable way!!! I can't recommend it highly enough.




10 Oct 2006

How to get your site reincluded if banned...

All the major search engines have procedures whereby a webmaster who has determined that his site has been censored, has somehow determined which was the offending feature, removed the offending feature, and is suitably repentant, can apply for reinstatement:

Google: You can go to: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reinclusion?hl=en

You will have to sign up for Google's Webmaster's Tools Service first, which if you have been reading any of my blog, then you would have .

Google only solicits reinclusion requests from sites that admit and stipulate that they violated Google's guidelines or inherited a domain name that they suspect violated Google's guidelines.

"By submitting this form, I acknowledge that: I believe this site has violated Google's quality guidelines in the past. This site no longer violates Google's quality guidelines. I have read and agree to abide by Google's quality guidelines."

You can include a note pleading your case, explaining all the corrective actions you have taken, and promising on your genuine Batman ring never to do it again. Google might eventually reinstate your site. There are persistent reports that Google has “punishment periods” that vary depending on the “offense”. If your site has been banned for editorial or competitive reasons you are out of luck.

Google people, looking down on lowly webmasters from their lofty positions as industry leaders and employees of a $100 billion company, tend to be unusually condescending. Google treats webmasters like children with “punishment” and “penalization”:

“Tommy, you’ve been bad. Go to your room.”

“Why Mommy? Why?”

“I’m not going to tell you why. I’m the parent and you’re the child. I don’t have to tell you why.”

“How long do I have to stay in my room Mommy?”

“I’m not going to tell you that either. I’ll let you out when I feel like letting you out.”

Yahoo: You can request a “re-review” at: http://add.yahoo.com/fast/help/us/ysearch/cgi_rereview

In Yahoo parlance, the “original” review was the one they did when they decided to ban your site. Your message should include all the changes you made in order to be in compliance with Yahoo guidelines.

MSN Search: You can go to: http://support.msn.com/eform.aspx?productKey=search&page=support_home_options_form_byemail&ct=eformts and fill out an MSN Search problem report form “Search, Problem, Finding a Web Site” stating that your site has been deleted.

You will get an immediate web reply with a ticket number promising a support person will be in touch. Soon, you will get an email from a support person directing you to help pages, guidelines, etc. You reply to this email with your plea, including that you have indeed confirmed that your site has been intentionally de-listed by MSN Search. You will then eventually get a reply that the support person has forwarded your plea to the MSN Search Product Specialist Team. Eventually, your site might be reinstated.

A very curious note: The reply email from Microsoft Support contains a number of features usually associated with email spam and therefore was tagged as spam by our Spamassassin anti-spam software. The items flagged by the filter included: "HTML obfuscation", "Envelope sender in postmaster.rfc-ignorant.org ", "Message-Id has pattern used in spam", and "Reply-To is empty". Be careful or you might miss the reply message.

Alternately, you can try to follow this note on MSN's site: "We may remove a website from the index if the website was reported as spam. If you suspect that your website was incorrectly identified as spam, please send an e-mail message to webspam@microsoft.com."

Microsoft is a huge company and MSN is a large division but MSN Search is a relatively small group. Although MSN has an extensive, responsive, and well managed support department, it is our impression that the “team” responsible for MSN Search is still very new, relatively small, and feeling its way. Despite all the hype by Microsoft that they are going to “bury” Google, Microsoft does not appear to be expending all that much effort on search. Just about everything about MSN Search is pretty primitive when compared to Google and Yahoo Search. Once your request has been sent to the “MSN Search Product Specialist Team” you may be in for a very long wait before you get any response. The “reinclusion” department at MSN Search may well be essentially non-existent.

Handling reinclusion requests at search engines is not a priority and reinstatement can reportedly take months or even years. Search engines often do not advise sites if they are going to be reinstated so site owners spend a lot of time waiting and wondering.

9 Sep 2006

How to know if your site is banned from SE's

You can find out if a search engine has singled out your site for exclusion by doing a search for “site:www.domainname.com” in any of the them. The SE will report the number of your pages it has indexed. If it says zero or one, your site has been censored. If your site has been de-listed, “link:www.domainname.com” may also report zero even though other search engines report that you have incoming links

Yahoo! Search is using a second link-only banning method in which the site's pages are not indexed by the search engine but links to the site that have been found on other sites are still included and can theoretically be found in a search. The pages have not been indexed so text on the pages cannot be found in a search. The pages are not cached. No descriptive text is provided in the unlikely event that such a listing is included in a search result, so a user is unlikely to be able to determine what the site is about. The title text provided in the search results is the "link text" provided by the site linking to you. These "supplemental results" are essentially useless for search users and are apparently included so Yahoo Search can claim to have a larger index than its competitors. If the site: search reports many pages, check to see if the listings consist entirely of "link-only" entries. Your site is banned if the search engine is not indexing your text. The link-only entries result from indexing other people's sites. Link-only banning adds insult to injury. Yahoo Search is claiming your pages as included in their index while actually refusing to index them!

Another test method is to search for some unique phrase that appears only on your pages. Some webmasters include a phrase such as “Vmxzwh S34pp” on their pages for this purpose. This search will avoid listing “link-only” entries and will also disclose some of the other sites (not banned by the search engine) that have stolen your content, if any.

The “ultimate misfortune” is to find that your site has been banned but that many sites that have stolen your content have not been banned by the same search engine!

We would expect that spiders would stop visiting a censored site. They do visit much less frequently. However, they usually continue to access some pages and to check /robots.txt apparently to monitor that the site still exists. Yahoo’s robot “Slurp” checks /robots.txt up to several hundred times per day. One reason for doing this might be to determine if a domain name is sold to another owner by detecting a substantial "down" period.

21 Aug 2006

Building Quality Links Outside of Link Exchanges

There are more ways to generate links to your pages than just exchanging them. Create quality links by doing the following:

1. Get your site listed on large directories like Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and Yahoo! Directory. Google uses Open Directory Project listings in these directories to formulate its own directory and listings in either or both directories can help boost your "importance" or PageRank on Google.

Listings in the Open Directory Project are free. Just be sensible, honest and careful into which categories you try and get listed. Don;t choose the first one that looks 'likely'...

You will have to pay to be considered for inclusion to Yahoo! It's a whopping US$299 just to be considered with absolutely no guarantee of listing. Given the Yahoo's search results are currently provided by Google, I don't believe it's necessary. If you still want to proceed, click here for tips on getting listed on Yahoo.

You cannot request a listing in Google's Directory. You need to submit your site for free submission at the Open Directory Project.

2. Write a press release about your website. Submit it to online newswires like PRWeb or Click2NewSites.com. You can also submit to newspapers that run their stories on their websites. Click here for tips on writing a press release.

3. Join associations related to your business or field of specialty. Many of these associations will link to their members.

4. Have your articles with your byline published on other websites. Submit your articles to sites that host free content. Consult our list of free content sites to get started.

5. Get links from other big, "important sites". Do you have an eBay About Me Page, a Ryze Page or even a Yahoo Groups page? Did you know these have link popularity? It makes business sense to link to these pages and then have them link back to you.

6. Link the various pages of your website together. Your most important links should be on all your pages for easy navigation and to increase your link popularity. You should also link to relevant information on your other pages when appropriate.

7. Create a few websites with similar themes and create a few links between them. For example, if you sell children's books on one site, you can also make a site on children's literacy and so forth. One is your sales site and the other is purely informational, but be careful of cross-linking to heavily...as this can be penalized by search engines.

8. Purchase ads on various directories that have a relevant theme to yours. If you are a wedding planner, get your site listed in Wedding-related directories.

9. Create an informative and useful site. If your website is good, people will WANT to link to you. You won't need to ask them.

10. Offer testimonials for products and services related to the tourism industry. Many websites will give links in return for testimonials. For example, if you are a dive operator, provide testimonials for various dive equipment and software.

11. If someone asks you for an interview for their website or to contribute to an article, do it. They should (and you should insist they do) give you links back to your site in return.

3 Jul 2006

Is your scuba diving SEO clear and simple?

By Gabriel Machuret

When I started working with SEO I spent a lot of time on the phone with prospects and clients. I was always amazed by misconceptions given to so many people about how to get a top listing in a search engine. Often times, I felt as though dive centers managers and dive professionals, were educating themselves with literature written in the early nineties.

Unfortunately, the penalty for some of these techniques is not just a bad ranking but rather permanent delisting or banning. Nobody wants to be banned! I have organized a list of concepts that people confuse or as I like to call them “Frequently Confused Concepts”.

The most frequently confused concept of search engine optimization is the value of meta tags. Way back before search engines were sophisticated enough to scan and save the content of your diving web site, they would simply review your meta tags. A meta tag gives the title of your diving site, a description of what you do, and a list of five to ten keyword and keyphrases that are relevant to your web site. The problem with relying on these tags is that many people caught on to the unfortunate truth that pornographic keywords would generate more traffic than the terms related to their web site. Now, this is not traffic you want since the person looking for his favorite centerfold does not want what you have to offer. Also, this makes the search engines quality of results very poor for the searching public.

All the major (and most minor) search engines index your entire site and use the meta tag as a minimally valuable map of what your web site has to offer. You content is the most important. If you have “scuba diving, bikini, surfing, free tickets” in your keywords list in your meta tag and your web site pertains to “diving holidays” then you are spamming with your meta tags and they will not be positively received by the search engines robots. At the same time, piling a whole encyclopedia of keywords and keyphrases into your meta tag and not mentioning these words in your general wordage of your site will also not help you. Your meta tags should have descriptive, relevant, descriptions and keywords pertaining to your sites content.

This brings me to the second frequently confused concept of search engine optimization which is keyword lists. You have all of your literature and content in tacked on your web site. Then at the bottom of your web site, you put a long list of keywords such as:
  • Diving
  • Scuba Diving
  • Divers
  • diving Products
  • Dive gear
  • Liveaboard
  • Dive Courses
Since these words are not in anyway (other than a list) part of your wordage, the search engines will disregard this as low quality content. You do NOT want to have low quality content as it is high quality content the search engines are looking for. After all, you will be in much better shape if you are holding hands with Google and Yahoo as apposed to thumb wrestling them. So avoid long lists of keywords and use that time to include your keywords and keyphrases frequently in your wordage. For example:

“Aquatech Diving Centre, Manchester's premier school, was established in 1993 and has grown from strength to strength in that time. The school offers Internationally recognized qualifications from the main SCUBA training organisations BSAC and PADI. We are also a RYA recognised Centre and run the GMDSS radiotelephony course and first aid courses for BSAC, PADI, RYA and more recently the full range of HSE first aid at work qualifications. ”

The above paragraph will be welcomed as quality content whereas a list of unused words will simply look like garbage.

I have had the unfortunate task of waving warning flags at prospects that come to us after working with a black hat search engine optimization specialist or misguided web designer about hidden keywords. This is my next frequent confused concept. Hidden keywords are lists of keywords in the header or footer that are the same color as the background. This makes them only viewable to search engine spiders. Do not do this! This is an offense that is punishable by black listings, banning, and overall delisting of your web site. Once again, use this time to creatively mention your keywords in your wordage.

Now that you have a quality diving web site, you need a few relevant diving web sites to link to you. Not all links are created equal. A much used (and still very popular though useless) technique is submitting to free for all link pages. These are pages that accept links to everyone’s web site.

The search engines hate these as they are just lists of links. Aside from that, these sites are NOT relevant to your web site so the link you wasting your time posting will not benefit you. The best way to add your link to other web sites is by searching for relevant directories and web sites then offering link exchanges. Our friends at XYX diving organization could add their link to dive centers directories, forums, and blogs. Another valuable technique is simply writing informational scuba diving articles and include your link in the footer of the article. Then submit these articles to places like Scubabible.com , scubapedia.com or ScubaHerald.com who will post your article for others to use. They use your article with the understanding that your link and footer stay in their original context.

Last but not least in my list of frequently confused concepts of search engine optimization is “hocus pocus”. Yes, we still get calls from people that believe the key to optimization is by the use of magic tags and invisible mojo. The truth is, search engine optimization is based on the three pillars of Relevant Content, Fresh Content (update your information frequently), and Relevant Link Population. If all of your techniques are centered on ethically doing those three things, you will have a better ranking and sleep better knowing that the search engines will not.

Ready to improve your positioning?

Start adding your website to places like:

www.scubaboard.com - section dive business directory.
www.scuuuba.com - directory
www.divegoogle.com - search engine
www.3routes.com - scuba diving directory
www.topdivecenters.com - dive center map
www.scubabible.com
www.topdivecenters.com

More info? google the term "scuba directory" and start improving your web positioning.

30 Jun 2006

What tools do I need before putting together an Internet marketing plan?

Simple answer is fewer than you think!

If you want to have an online presence, you only need several basic technology tools at your disposal to guarantee that you will be successful with your Internet marketing plan for your tourism product. Without the following in place, it will be difficult to successfully market your business on the Web:

Web site:

You must have a Web site to successfully market your company on the Web. And you need a domain name that reflects your company's identity and brand. Using your company name as a domain name is a good place to start, although keywords and phrases are also another way to also do some SEO along the way.

Check out your competition:

You will find that Web sites have varying degrees of sophistication. Make sure that yours reflects your industry. If you are a Spa, for instance, you cannot get away with a low-tech text-heavy Web site, you'll need a softer feel.

Reliable ISP or Web host:

The inadequacies of your service provider will come across to customers as inadequacies of your company. Make sure you do your homework first and research potential Web hosts. The key factors in choosing a provider are connection speed, site uptime, spam policies and support. In addition, watch for hidden costs.

Also, make sure that certain technologies are available to you should you need them. For example, you may want to run server-side scripts to extract information from your database to include on your site. Many basic Web hosting programs do not include such functionality.

Email:

Customers and guests need to be able to contact you by email. All staff in reservations and sales should have an email address. Train your staff to use email for guest service. And make sure your email address is easy to find on your Web site and your marketing material.

Email newsletter:

An email newsletter can be a key component of successful online marketing. Its success hinges on the number of customer email addresses you successfully collect, so it is helpful to have a strategy and set up your Web site with that in mind.

30 May 2006

Internet Marketing Terms for Beginners

How many hoteliers or dive centre operators have a handle on all these new acronyms and terms used for online marketing?

Answer: very few.

it really can be difficult to work through all of these Internet marketing terms. To help clarify them, here are some definitions of common terms below.

Ad impression: An ad impression, or ad view, occurs when a user pulls up a Web page through a browser and sees an ad that is served on that page. Many Web sites sell advertising space by ad impressions (see CPM, below). Each showing counts as one impression. If someone visits twice, that counts as 2.

Click Through rate (CTR): The percentage of people clicking on a link compared with the total number seeing that same link. Very important ratio to know and follow.

Conversion rate: The percentage of site visitors who respond to the desired goal of an ad campaign compared with the total number of people who see the ad campaign. The goal may be, for example, convincing readers to become subscribers, encouraging customers to buy something, or enticing prospective customers from another site with an ad. This is the prime indicator of success.

Cost per click (CPC): The amount of money an advertiser will pay to a site each time a user clicks on an ad or link.

Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): The amount of money an advertiser will pay for 1,000 ad impressions or views (M refers to the Roman numeral for 1,000).

Keyword: A word or phrase that a user types into a search engine when looking for specific information.

Meta tags: Hidden HTML directions for Web browsers or search engines. They include important information such as the title of each page, relevant keywords describing site content, and the description of the site that shows up when a search engine returns a search. Although they are less important nowadays (Google and Yahoo! don't put much, i f any, weight to them now), they woudl still be foolish to just overlook.

Page view: A common metric for measuring how many times a complete page is visited.

Search engine marketing (SEM): Promoting a Web site through a search engine. This most often refers to targeting prospective customers by buying or optimising for relevant keywords or keyword phrases.

Search engine optimization (SEO): Making a Web site more friendly to search engines, resulting in a higher page rank for specific keyords or keyword phrases.

7 May 2006

How to avoid Click Fraud

Click fraud is a type of internet crime that occurs in pay per click online advertising when a person, automated script, or computer program imitates a legitimate user of a web browser clicking on an ad, for the purpose of generating a charge per click without having actual interest in the target of the ad's link. Click fraud is the subject of some controversy and increasing litigation due to the advertising networks being a key beneficiary of the fraud.

Click fraud occurs in a number of ways:

1. A rival decides to have fun clicking your links in order to drive your costs up

2. a Web site that does context ads for one of the search engines, and who therefore gets paid when a visitor to their site clicks on your ad, generates fake clicks to earn a few bucks extra.

Google and other SE's perform ongoing analysis in order to catch it, and when they find patterns of click fraud, they automatically deduct the wrong charges from your account. In addition, if you think you have found evidence of click fraud in your reports, you can complain and they'll check for you.

Click fraud is an annoyance, but for most tourism advertisers it's a fairly minor one. You can find out more by searching the Web for articles on click fraud, there are thousands. You'll also find numerous vendors ready to sell you services to analyze your log files if you feel you are being victimized by click fraud.

More useful to most beginning advertisers is this warning:

Resist another kind of fraud altogether: people who claim they can "get your site into the top 10!" of search-engine results, or conjure any other dramatic results for you, for a fee. You might get this in the form of phone calls from salespeople. Hang up on them. Nobody can really sell you position on the main search engine results pages.

There is no real short cut!

Keywords Strategy : The Keyword Auction

Most advertising is charged according to rate cards, based on the audience that sees the ads.

Print magazines and newspapers charge from $5 to $100 (USD) per thousand subscribers depending on the readership — general consumer pubs are at the bottom end while specialty pubs that appeal to wealthy and select audiences such as business owners, gourmet food enthusiasts, or Porsche buyers get to charge more.

Radio and television charge a lot less per thousand, but reach a much broader audience — national television programs in the U.S. can cost a dollar or less per thousand viewers — which can add up to a large dollar amount, but your "reach" or the size of the audience seeing your message can be greater than in any other medium: A hugely popular U.S. TV program can attract 20 million viewers at once.

Web sites are like a mirror of the rest of the publishing world: There are specialized sites, such as AllBusiness.com, which are able to charge a high advertising rate per thousand pageviews, while broader sites like the main page of Yahoo!, which charges a lot less for a less targeted but much larger audience.

A lot of negotiation goes on in ad contracts, but they start from a fixed pricing sheet. This has a disadvantage for search engine results pages, which can't be managed the same way as relatively fixed editorial site pages. Google originally tried charging a flat rate for ads on its results pages — they got way too many advertisers trying to get onto certain highly desirable pages, and nobody on millions of other pages.

Then some genius came up with the ad auction that is now the norm in search keyword marketing. Instead of picking from a fixed price list, you bid in competition with everyone else and pay based on demand for that keyword and its value to you.

So some people are paying a nickel a click on a keyword that's not in much demand, while others are willing to pay fifty bucks a click. So almost every keyword has a price — and a value. It's a great way to sell as much of your inventory as possible at the best price. Clever!

How to Create Your First Website

The following is a quick reference for new/soon to be webmasters, the information contained in this article is simply what has worked for me in the past, all webmasters will develop their own unique ways of going about their daily business.

1. Web hosting

This will be your second hardest decision when it comes to launching your website, when first starting out it is ok to settle for free hosting, many free hosts will also give you a free sub domain, more about that in #2 Domain Names.

If you do settle for a free host you must ensure this is only temporary, for the most part free hosts have terrible uptime and are littered with mandatory banners and or pop ups/unders, this is not a good way to develop a recurring customer base, and if there are 9 banners and pop ups on your site you better be getting paid for them.

In order to choose the correct paid host you have to figure out what your site will need to run, is it an ecommerce site? do you need php/mysql? 35 databases etc. You are the only person that will be able to decide the requirements for your site.

If you are unsure as to exactly what your site needs there are many sites out there that have databases full of web hosts and web host packages/prices.

2. Domain Name

In order to run any website you will need a domain name, no one will ever find you without one, chances are at this stage no one will find you anyway.

There are a few different ways we can go about obtaining a domain name, if you know exactly what you want and have some funds to purchase your .com go ahead and take that plunge, but if your not so sure you have found that perfect name, or if you don’t even know what kind of domain you would like, feel free to settle
for a sub domain.

Now in the eyes of a lot of well established webmasters a sub domain from a free host or free domain company is a not a good way to go, I got that a lot when I was starting out, lets face it, with a sub domain no one will ever take you seriously www.widgets.freedomains4life.com is not very professional
or memorable, but it’s a starting point none the less.

Basically what we are trying to do with a sub domain is get your site on the net, that’s all, get it live so you can view it, make changes, fix bugs etc, we don’t want to launch a site that is not user friendly or just plain ugly.

Now after you have your site up at your free sub domain from your free host we have got to start looking at a real .com you will not get anywhere in this business without one. So search around the internet a bit, find a good registrar, at the time of this writing moniker.com, godaddy.com and networksolutions.com all seem to be decent sites, the latter a little pricier than the former but they all have their own pros and cons.

Now, this decision may be the biggest decision of your current project, do you go with a keyword rich domain or take the road less traveled and snatch up a brandable domain? Now you may not know exactly what I’m talking about when I say brandable, if your really new to the game you might not even know keyword rich so I'll try to put it in layman's terms for you.

A keyword rich domain is using the most highly sought after keyword for your site/product etc in your domain name, if I was creating a site on DVD players my domains would possibly be something like this dvdplayers.com, portabledvdplayer.com, hddvdplayer.com etc, a great tool for this is the Overture Keyword Selector found here, google it.

If we want to take our domain the other way and make it brandable much like Google, Yahoo, eBay etc, there really is no “How To” guide, for me caffeine and advil seems help, if you are planning on taking this route I’ve been told using other languages is good, beware the the actual meaning of the term in another language though, the urban legend of the Chevy Nova in Latin America comes to mind, Google brandable domains see what you can find.

3. Web Site Design

If you already know how to code in HTML, PHP etc then you are well on your way and can probably skip this step, if not you have quite a way to go. If you want to create a website it is imperative to learn how to code, you don’t want to pay between $500 and $5000 to create a website on a whim then continue to pay someone every time your site needs updating.

Take a look around the net for some tutorials regarding HTML in order to establish the base of your site, I’m not going to lie, there will be alot of reading and very long nights involved in learning web design, but it will reward you with unlimited possibilities when it comes to creating personal web sites or online communities etc.

Coupled with the design of your site you will at least want to learn the basics of graphic design, the worst thing you can do is buy a brandable domain and throw a generic logo that can be found on 96 other sites on it, this will greatly reduce your ability to stand out from the crowd, after all if you see 96 signs with the same logo but different company names how are you going to remember the 33rd company?

If you absolutely do not want to learn graphic design you can have a logo or layout designed for you at a relatively cheap price, just make sure it is 100% original and you have all .psd files etc before finalizing the transaction.

4. Content is King

Ask any webmaster, they will all agree, content is king, this is the absolute best way to have your site noticed and stand out from the crowd. One well written, keyword rich article pertaining to the content of your site will get you more visitors and a higher search engine ranking then one hundred plain product pages.

Now, I recommend you write your content yourself, whether it is the actual content that brings your site together or an article you've written about your sites topic, it is best to write this yourself. The reason for this is if you don’t actually know everything about your "widget" this is a good way to learn about it, also people will respect the article more and it gives you a feeling of self satisfaction when you finish a nine page article.

If you have trouble writing long articles or putting together a correct sentence you are not left out in the cold, there are many sites out there that have other webmasters as well as freelance writers dying to write an article specifically for your niche, I at one point a few years ago had 6 articles written for me for $7 each, not to bad when you think about the amount of traffic you may get from these articles being on your site. Google
freelance writers or contract writers and you will most likely come up with some decent results.

5. Marketing

I don’t care what your site is about, there comes a time when you will have to promote it, if you are just starting out chances are you have a very limited budget, so some tips on how to get visitors to your site for cheap. Forums are a great way to establish a following online, join some forums that relate to the category of your website, spend some time each day posting and getting to know the other forum members, be sure to keep an updated signature (assuming the forum allows signatures) so that anyone reading your post can also view your current project, but don’t expect results right away it often takes months to actually see the users coming from these forums, but be patient and develop a rapport with them, you never know you may even meet a future business partner.

Another way to start instant traffic is to purchase an ad campaign on a site related to yours, this may be a little difficult, some sites prices are very high, the best way to get the most for your money is to purchase links or banners on an up and coming site, if you attempt to purchase banner space on the top site in the business it could easily cost you $200 a week, by buying from the up and comer you will receive a few less visits, but it will cost alot less too.

If the site you are trying to develop is for a product, for the sake of an example we will say candy apples. Another great way to promote it is in your local area, take a day and visit all the local businesses have samples for the staff, ask the craft stores if they wouldn’t mind handing some business cards out for you, if you’re lucky and you have a decent product they may let you sell from there store front, I have heard of this happening many
times and people just don’t realize how powerful local business' can be.

6. Update, Update, Update

This is exactly how it sounds, no visitor wants to come to a site that has the same article or look on the homepage for six months, they will simply become bored with it and find a different site promoting the same product. In order to survive online you must update your pages.

If you have a content site, write an article a week, its not hard, but it gives you 52 articles a year, that’s a good starting point and will encourage people to link to your site.

If it is an e commerce site, update the home page with specials, have contests, anything to keep the visitor interested and coming back for more, a content (pardon the pun) visitor is a return visitor.

So now you should now what direction you're going online. Just remember, take your time, don’t throw up a sloppy site, and never ever give up, the internet is probably one of the hardest places to make a living, but the feeling of euphoria you get when you know you can, tops any other high you can experience.

4 May 2006

Google Toolbar : PageRank, Linking Strategies & More


So, you've gone and downloaded the toolbar at toolbar.google.com, but now what? This free toolbar that allows you gather useful information about yours and other websites. You just need to know how to use it.

Google Toolbar Basics

1. PageRank: The green bar you see as you visit different web pages shows a website's Google PageRank. To put it simply, PageRank is a bit like link popularity, but there are many factors involved in its calculation ~ which Google won't entirely reveal. You can look at the "official" Google information on PageRank at google.com/technology/ if you are inclined.

2. Page Info: You'll see the letter "i" in a blue circle with the words "Page Info" beside it. There's actually a lot of useful information to be found here.

3. Cached Snapshot of Page: This will show you what the particular page you are looking at looked like when Google last indexed it. * Note - When you do a search on Google, you can always choose to see the cached version of the page. This highlights the keywords you typed in right on the web page. It's a very useful search tool.

4. Similar Pages: I don't quite get this option, but Google says it shows "pages that are related to a particular result" ~ I guess they are sites related to yours. For myself, I find they are usually sites I've exchanged links with, but it's a smaller list than "Backward Links".

5. Backward Links: You may have exchanged links with a zillion sites, but by checking the "Backward Links", you'll see how many and which links Google actually considers to be important. These links help make up your PageRank.

6. Translate into English: If you're visiting a website in another language, you can have Google translate it into English. Of course, you'll have to take any translation with a grain of salt. So What Do You Do with This Google Toolbar Information? Find Link Partners As you can already see, Google does not consider all your backward links to be important. It is generally thought that Google indexes links from pages with a PageRank of 4 or higher ~ but this is not the sole determining factor. This means the precise page you are receiving the link from should have a PageRank of 4 or higher to be counted. If the home page has a PageRank of 4, but the links page only has a rank of 2, it might not be counted.

This does not mean your links will not be considered important by other search engines. We are just talking about Google here. If you want to increase your PageRank, you want links from pages with a PageRank of 4 or higher.

You might want to avoid exchanging links with a site not listed on Google (do a search for the site or put your mouse of the PageRank bar to see if it has been ranked). If they are not listed, they may very well be a new site, but it is possible they are a banned site. You do not want to exchange links with a banned site. You could be guilty by association!

You should also make efforts to exchange links with sites that are targeting similar keywords as you. Do a search for sites using your keywords. Analyze Your Google PageRank Your PageRank can certainly help you with your rankings for certain keywords. Your goal is to increase your PageRank to receive more FREE traffic from Google. Use your toolbar to find out the various PageRanks of the various pages within your site.

You can help increase your PageRank on your own by creating numerous internal links to your various pages. When exchanging links, don't just have links to your home page. Choose a few other important pages to which you would like to generate links. Make Sure Your Pages Are Being Indexed by Google You can check if all your pages are being indexed by Google. Go to the particular page and choosing "Cached Snapshot of Page" ~ if there is no cache, your page is not indexed. If the page is new, then perhaps its a matter of time. If the page is important has not been indexed for a couple of months, analyze your navigation structure. Consider linking to this page from your other important (and high PageRanking) pages and see what happens

30 Apr 2006

Top 10 Branding Mistakes

Branding, a commonly used term throughout the business world, essentially means creating an identifiable entity that makes a promise of value. It means that you have created a consciousness, an image, an awareness of your business. It is your company's personality. Numerous businesses try, but many fail at cre ating a brand. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes.

  1. Not thinking analytically. Too many companies think of branding as marketing or as having a catch phrase or a logo. It is more than simply trying to get attention. Branding is providing something that warrants attention on a consistent basis, something your audience wants and is not getting from your competitors. For example it could be letting people know that you are providing the best customer service in your industry, not just through your tagline or logo, but by actually providing the best customer service in your industry. For more on the definition of a brand, read What Is a Brand?
  2. Not maintaining your brand. Too often, in a shaky economy, businesses are quick to change or alter their identity. Too much of this confuses your steady customers. For guidance, think of big brands — Nike, for instance, has used "Just Do It" as a logo for years. One rule of thumb is that when you have become tired of your logo, tagline, and branding efforts, that's when they are sinking in with customers.
  3. Trying to appease everyone. You will never be able to brand yourself in such a way that everyone will like you. Typically the best you can do is to focus on the niche market for your product.
  4. Not knowing who you really are. If you are not the fastest overnight delivery service in the world, do not profess to be. Too many business owners think they are providing something that they are not. Know your strengths and weaknesses through honest analysis of what you do best.
  5. Not fully committing to branding. Often business owners let the marketing and advertising department handle such things as "branding," while they work on sales and other important parts of the business. But sales and branding are tied together as integral aspects of your business. Many Fortune 500 companies are where they are today because branding made them household names.
  6. Not sharing the joke. If only the people in your office get a joke, it is not going to play to a large audience. The same holds true for branding. If your campaign is created for you and not "them," you will not succeed.
  7. Not having a dedicated marketing plan. Many companies come up with ideas to market themselves and establish a brand identity but have neither the resources nor a plan as to how they will reach their audience. You must have a well-thought out marketing plan in place before your branding strategy will work. For help putting together a marketing plan, see How to Build a Sound Marketing Plan for Your Business.
  8. Using too much jargon. Business-to-business-based companies are most guilty of piling on the jargon. From benchmark to strategic partnering to value added, jargon does not benefit branding. If anything, it muddles your message.
  9. Trying too hard to be different. Being different for the sake of being different is not branding. Yes, you will be noticed, but not necessarily in a way that increases sales.
  10. Not knowing when you have got them. Companies that have succeeded in branding need to know when to stop trying to establish a brand and when to switch to maintaining that which they have established. Monitor the results of your branding campaign. If your small business is a local household word, you can spend less time trying to become a household word and more time trying to maintain the image people have of your business.

18 Apr 2006

What is RSS?

RSS content is also referred to as a feed. Many people say that "RSS" came from "Really Simply Syndication" but the good thing is that you don't have to know what it means to use feeds. A feed is simply a way in which a reader may subscribe to website content, such as a blog or news site. A news site, for example, may list their latest headlines or entire articles in their feed every time a new article is published. A blog would publish this feed as a series of recent posts. Feeds are published by millions of publishers, from small individuals to large organizations like The New York Times.

A feed may also be referred to as an RSS feed, RSS channel, RDF feed, XML feed, or Atom feed. But all are essentially the same thing.

Here are a few examples of how syndicated content may be represented on a website:

Feed icon XML RSS RDF RSS 1.0 Atom feed

17 Apr 2006

WebCEO Search Engine Optomisation


Web CEO was recognized as the world's best SEO software package in 2006 at the prestigious PromotionWorld's Top 10 SEO companies rating.

Web CEO is the most complete SEO software package on the planet; plus, our SEO software offers more for free than any other software package or suite for SEO.

7 Apr 2006

Google AdSense


Discover your site's full revenue potential.

Google AdSense is a fast and easy way for website publishers of all sizes to display relevant Google ads on their website's content pages and earn money. Because the ads are related to what your visitors are looking for on your site — or matched to the characteristics and interests of the visitors your content attracts — you'll finally have a way to both monetise and enhance your content pages.

It's also a way for website publishers to provide Google web and site search to their visitors, and to earn money by displaying Google ads on the search results pages.



Google AdSense

AdWords Pay-Per-Click


Google AdWords

18 Mar 2006

Choosing Keywords with the Google Keyword Sandbox & Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool

Choosing Keywords with the Google Keyword Sandbox & Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool

Keywords are the words and especially phrases used by people when they search for web pages. For example, if I am looking for a vacation in Fiji, I would type something like 'Fiji vacation' into a search engine. Those are keywords.

Maximizing Keywords: 2 Methods

Obviously, you should choose words and phrases that people actually enter into search engines. There are couple of methods you can use...one is free and the other is not (although it has a free trial). Both methods can produce good results, but the paid version is certain to save you a lot of time.

Just remember, when choosing your keywords, pick the ones that will drive the right kind of visitors to your website. You want people who want to actually purchase and buy your product/vacation. Check your website stats to see what keywords are bringing you traffic, but don't choose keywords just for traffic's sake (use Google Analytics for this, see other blog entry).

The 2 methods are:

Free: Using Google Keyword Sandbox & Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool

Paid: WordTracker

2 Jan 2006

First post to get me going

Okay here is the first post just to get started. Saying as this has become my major business of late, ther eis no reason why I shouldn't start writing about it