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Are You Relevant to Google?

posted by webmaster 12:25 PM
Monday, April 5, 2010

Google lists results of all searches in order of relevance to the search words. How do you become relevant? It’s no use being number nine hundred in order of relevance if people searching Google only look at the first ten or twenty listed. It’s no use having the best looking website if nobody sees it.

Never mind, you say, I can pay to be at the top of Google. Yes you can pay a lot to be a sponsored or pay per click website. Google makes a fortune from just that. However Google itself admits that its surveys show 72% of searchers ignore the paid listings and click on the natural listings, the listings that earn their position by being relevant.

Okay, you say, I’ll pay an SEO expert a lot of money to get me to the top. Yes, you can pay a Search Engine Optimization company, but the only guarantee is that you will pay a lot of money.

Let’s cut through all the spin. Search Engine Optimization is not a science. Websites really need to be designed for relevance to search engines using some common sense.

How do you define Relevance?

In a bookstore, how do you select a book about e.g. motorbike maintenance? You check:

  • Titles,
  • Front covers,
  • Descriptions on the back covers,
  • Size of each book,
  • Tables of chapters,
  • Samples of paragraphs, and
  • Which of the books are more popular.

If the title of the book does not include the words “motorbike maintenance” there is every chance that you won’t find a lot of information about motorbike maintenance in the book.

There is usually a description of the book on the back cover. If that doesn’t mention “motorbike maintenance” either, you are looking at the wrong book.

But of the books with “motorbike maintenance” in their titles, some are larger than others. Some have more chapters and pages than others. You expect that the larger ones will have more information than the smaller ones. You also question the bookstore on which of the books are selling more. That is how you decide which book has the most information and is most relevant to your search. Is that science or common sense?

How does Google define Relevance?

On the internet, if you search for “motorbike maintenance” Google will list ten million results in the order of relevance to your search. To sort websites in order of relevance to a search, Google has used its secret algorithm to weigh up:

  • Domain names,
  • Titles of the websites (meta-titles),
  • Descriptions,
  • Page headings and sub headings,
  • Menu and navigation bar (links to inside pages),
  • Quantity of information, and
  • Popularity of each website based on the number of other relevant websites that link to it (same as in popularity of books).

We know those factors which are similar to those you used to find a book. We only guess the weighting Google gives to each factor.

The factors

You want a website for your business or activity to be easily found by the audience that your website is targeting. So take into account the same factors that you use in selecting a book on that subject.

Domain name

If your URL (web address) includes some part of the expression “motorbike maintenance”, e.g. motorbikemaintenance.com, Google will rank it ahead of those names that don’t, (if everything else is equal).

Title tag

The website title meta-tag, that shows at very top left of the browser, is a very important item to Google, just as the book title is to you when selecting a book to buy. Amazingly, some web masters have simply put the words “Home page” into the title tag. That makes a web page very relevant to people searching the internet for a “home” but, not relevant to search for “motorbike maintenance”.

Also include other words that people might search for, e.g. “motorcycle repairs”. If you are targeting a particular region, e.g. Australia, that word is needed in the title meta-tag to capture searchers who qualify their search for the subject in Australia only.

Description

The description meta-tag is also an aid to relevance, just as the description of a book is there to tell you what the book is about. However the words in the title meta-tag and description meta-tag should also show on the web page itself, otherwise they might be ignored.

Headings

The headings of each web page take the same importance as the chapter names in a book. Page headings are more effective if they are succinct, leaving out words like “and” “the” “of” and “a”.

Hyperlinks

The navigation bar can be text with hyperlinks to the inside pages. The text can look like buttons or tabs with the help of CSS. Google ignores images and javascript navigation bars. In the body text of the home page more points can be gained for keywords if they are hyperlinks to inside pages. Points are also there for those who place a keyword in their email address, e.g. bikes@ instead of info@.

Size of Website

The volume of information counts towards the relevance of the website to a search, just the same as the size of a book. We are amazed at people who put up a one-page website and expect Google to rank it high for relevancy in front of a 50-page website. Look at page one of Google for any search. Are any one-page websites listed there?

Popularity

Google believes that if other relevant websites link to yours, then your website must be more relevant than those that don’t have such incoming links. However the test is relevance. A link from a motorbike club is relevant for a motorbike maintenance website. A link from a casino is not relevant.

Are You Relevant?

To be relevant to a search for any words, your web page needs to contain those words in its title, heading, hyperlinks and body text. Links from other relevant websites add to your relevance. Search engines use the same process that you use if you search a bookstore for a book on motorbike maintenance.

This article was not written to discourage readers from paying for SEO. However, it’s hoped that readers now understand more about what’s behind SEO. It’s not magic or science, but really common sense.

By Ken McKay

By Merle

posted by webmaster 12:19 PM
Sunday, March 28, 2010

If one or all of the following applies to you, please raise your hand – “I want to sell something on the Net”, “I have no technical or coding skills”, or “I don’t want to be bothered with a merchant account”.

Do I have your attention now? How about if I told you that there’s a quick and easy solution to your online selling problems? Well, thanks to Google, your prayers have been answered. Google Labs is a testing ground for new services thought up by the geniuses who work there. One of their latest concoctions is called “Google Checkout Store Gadget”. Its basic function allows you to copy and paste some code onto any webpage or blog, and become an instant merchant selling your own products.

Let’s take a look at the “man behind the curtain” to see how it all works. The very first step is to open a Google Checkout Merchant account, which is easy to do by going to http://checkout.google.com/signupFill out all of the required information, and you’ll also need to input a bank account where your hard earned sales funds will be sent to. Google Checkout will process all incoming orders for you. The orders will appear under the “orders tab”. On another note, make sure to uncheck the box that says, “my company will only post digitally signed carts”, then hit the save button. Also, make sure to write down your “Merchant ID” number as you’ll need it later on.

The next step is done using a Google Docs Spreadsheet which will track all your inventory. Google provides a template that can be copied which can be found here, http://tinyurl.com/yhebl4y . Take out the “dummy” product information and replace it with your own. There are separate columns for each item, even for shipping information. Each product can have its own separate shipping charge if need be. Keep in mind when filling it out that it can be viewed by the general public, so don’t include any private information in it.

After you’ve entered all your items, hit “share” in the upper right hand corner, and publish as a “web page”. Also, check the box that says “Automatically Re-Publish when changes are made.”

Google makes it easy to set up your online store by using http://storegadget.googlelabs.com . It takes you through the process step-by-step, and when finished you click on “start publishing” and select where you’d like to embed the code, for example your website, Blogger, etc. Copy the code and paste it where you want the gadget to appear. There are no coding skills necessary, and anyone can do it. Really, it’s that simple.

If adding to a Blogger Blog, go under “edit layout”, add a “gadget”, then click “add your own”, and paste the gadget code. Now you’re selling items from your Blog that quickly.

So what’s all of this going to cost? There is a small transaction fee charged by Google Checkout for any monthly sales as follows:

  • Under 3,000.00 2.9% plus .30 per transaction
  • 3,000.00 to 9,999.99 2.5% plus .30 per transaction
  • 10,000 to 99,999.99 2.2% plus .30 per transaction

If you’ve been putting off getting up a store front because you thought it was too difficult or technically complicated, Google really has simplified the process. With “store gadgets” even a child can sell online.

By Merle

7 ecommerce strategies for standing out in a digital world

posted by webmaster 8:21 AM
Monday, March 22, 2010

Even in a dismal economy internet sales are growing. As people become more confident with ecommerce transactions and savvy with search, selling online just makes good business sense. The drawback is that more and more businesses are vying for a piece of the pie.  As your customer reach expands so does the level of competition. The internet is gigantic and your customers are an impatient bunch.

Be unique or go home

That is why it is so important for web marketplaces and ecommerce stores to differentiate themselves from the crowd. It’s no longer sufficient to declare you have the best prices or selection, because the fact is, your visitors can compare these statements faster than you can spell them out on the page. The good news it that technology and creativity now make it easier than ever for small web stores to offer a shopping experience second to none.

Here are 7 ecommerce strategies for standing out in a digital world.

1. Use expanded descriptions, multiple product views to convey the real value of your products. You wouldn’t nail down shirts in a clothing store so why would you only offer one view of your products? This doesn’t have to use elaborate or expensive technology, multiple views, close-ups and live use photos can provide a lot of information other stores don’t bother to share.

2. Invite customer opinion with customer product reviews and real life testimonials. Consider adding customer comments as audio clips. Adding customers audio testimonials can be a simple as taping a phone conversation. (With permission of course) Using audio clips is simple, inexpensive and does not require technical expertise or expensive online tools. By itself an audio testimonial may not make the sale but it is a very effective tipping tool, helping to nudge reticent buyers over their hesitation and into a sale.

3. Offer relevant information that doesn’t sell. You heard me right, give people information for free without trying to sell them anything.  Remember that the main reason people are online is to get information -period. That is the primary goal especially before they buy. Statistics show that the longer people stay on your website the more likely they are to buy from your store (even if they decide to buy at a brick and mortar store) Use an irresistible giveaway to capture emails of people not yet ready to buy and use your content to keep them engaged until they are ready.

You can write articles, give teleclasses, offer whitepapers, provide downloads, share interviews, recipes or helpful hints.  Make sure the information is informative, entertaining and relevant to your customers rather than a veiled attempt to sell.  People can smell hype a mile away and this is the kiss of death online. Always remember your competitors are only a click away.

4. Get into video. A brief welcome message that shares your value proposition can give s a call to action can engage visitors and move them down the buying path. Use videos to educate your visitors on product uses or assembly. Create a short comparing product features or demonstrate the product in use.  Keep your videos short (under 3 minutes) and clear.  Host your videos on public sites like Viddler or Youtube and post them on your website.  Here are a few examples talking about connecting with your website visitors.

It might seem that video clips within product descriptions are a luxury but I foresee video product descriptions as being the norm within 5 years.  According to Internet tracking firm comScore’s Video Metrix, Americans watched about 14.8 billion videos in January 2009, or roughly 101 videos per U.S. Internet user. Todays online shoppers are using alternate avenues like YouTube to research product. Get a jump on the competition by giving your online shoppers a bigger experience, not by lowering your prices.

5. Put a face on your store – people buy form people not computers. Yes they use the computer to do it but they want to know there are real people who will back up their purchases, especially with higher ticket items, or products they are not sure they need. This will become increasingly important in a slow economy because buyers are not as willing to risk a purchase if they feel their concerns will get lost in cyberspace.

Consider adding human pictures to your about us page. Include staff picks or reviews and encourage your employees to write on the blog, social media sites and to contribute articles. After all these are the people your virtual customers will interact with. Don’t hide behind a virtual storefront – don’t be afraid to let your customers get to know the people they are buying from.

6. Make sure your online store has a clear value proposition that speaks to your target market. This value statement must answer the question that is on your best  customers mind; “Why should I buy form you over the other guys?” If your website cannot convey this critical piece of information then your visitors will definitely miss it.  Your ideal customer should immediately recognize that they are in the perfect place when they land on your ecommerce site.

Many online stores resist crafting a clear value proposition that targets a particular type of customer for fear of alienating other visitors. Look at your statistics and you might see that you make most of your money from a niche group or groups. A clear value proposition targets these customers and tells them exactly why you are the best solution to their problem.

7. Use social media to establish relationships and get feedback. Believe it or not your customers are hanging out in communities online. No, you may not visit Facebook or Linked in but social media sites are doubling every year. They aren’t just for teenagers anymore.  The purpose of social media sites is to share opinions and interests. Connect with target market through blogs, twitter, linked in, Facebook, Stumbleupon or any of the dozens of niche social media sites.

Your customers are having conversations with or without you so schedule in an hour a week to schmooze online. This is a way to make connections, not sales – keep it authentic , informative and reap the benefits of worldwide word of mouth referrals.

The way people buy has changed forever with internet ecommerce. The world is literally your marketplace and customers can live just about anywhere. Using just one of these suggestions could immediately increase your ecommerce store profits. Now imagine what implementing all 7 could do!

These simple ecommerce strategies can help your online store stand out in a digital world.

By Jan Riley

How to Use Facebook as a Branding Strategy for Your Business

posted by webmaster 6:58 AM
Monday, March 15, 2010

If you aren’t already connected to the social media revolution, it is time to get your head out of the sand and harness the power of the digital network. If you want to get out ahead of your competition and make consumers excited about interacting with your brand, social media is the way to go. It isn’t an overnight marketing fix, it takes time to build a following, but if done correctly you can use social media to drive people to your website and ultimately to your front door. Are you ready?

After building your incredible website and blog, it is time to build a Facebook fan page. Before you run away at the thought of building your own page, let me assure you that it is easy to get started, and I am going to walk you through it. But, of course, if you get stuck or need additional help with the more complicated aspects, we’re always here to help. (But I promise; set up is easy.)

The first thing you need in order to create a Facebook fan page is a personal profile. What? You don’t have one yet? Time to get one! I am not going to waste time walking you through profile set up because the steps are pretty self explanatory. Just go to Facebook, fill out the information to get started and let the steps guide you. You can probably set up a basic profile in about 15 minutes. After setting up your personal profile, spend some time poking around Facebook and getting to know the site – have fun. Check out some of your favorite companies’ fan pages and connect with friends.

Now to set up a fan page.

Once you are logged into Facebook, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Advertising,” and then click “Pages.” There is some great information here about fan pages, so take a moment to read through the information and when you are ready click “Create Page.” As you go through the set-up process, remember that in any branding and marketing it is important to categorize your company in the right area to help people find you. So choose carefully.

One of the great things about Facebook is the ease of set up navigation. From here, setting up a fan page is really about following the prompts. Rather than point out each step, let’s look at the important ones to get your personal branding going.

  1. Photo – Before you do anything else, make sure you have the perfect photo for your page. Maybe your logo is the best photo for your page, but maybe not. Think about other branding materials you have, maybe something seasonal. Obviously, you want your fans to see your photo and recognize your brand – that’s the goal. But if you have a creative image that is also recognizable, it might help your fan page attract fans with an element of fun.
  2. Write something about your company – See the little box under your picture that says “Write something about your company”. This is very important because this is one of the items that is visible on every tab of your fan page. This is your elevator statement in 250 characters or less. Be sure to include a link to your website here, and in order to make your link clickable, don’t forget the http://
    before the www. (Note – this statement can be changed at any time, so it is a great place to highlight a promotion or other important happening for your company.)
  3. Wall Settings – Another important tool in the set up of your page are the wall settings. You have to decide if you want visitors to be able to post messages for everyone to see or if you only want your own messages shown. Unless you have a super controversial company, I recommend starting with allowing everything. It will help you build your wall faster because people like to post messages. If the posts become out of control or unflattering, you can always delete individual posts or change the setting later. (You will find “Wall settings” under “Edit page.”)

Once you fill in all of the basic information, you have successfully created a fan page. Don’t forget, it is easy to change, so don’t sweat it.

Now you are ready to take your page live. It is important for you to let people know about your page. This is where having an already active personal profile comes in handy because if you already have a lot of “friends” who are interested in your company, you can “suggest” your new page to them.

Alright you have a page. You have suggested to all of your friends – now what? Now you start the real work. Marketing and branding takes time and attentiveness. You can’t just set up this page and hope people find you. If there is nothing on your page that interests people, no one will become a fan. Social media is fun – your fan page should be too. Post interesting things about your company, but don’t
be afraid to post something fun too. Try posting open-ended questions (to entice responses from your fans) such as “What is your favorite XYZ?” “What do you plan to do for the XYZ holiday?”

Posting links and/or photos are also a great way to get people interested, plus they are more visually appealing so people are more apt to pay attention. Posting links to your website has the added benefit of pushing people to your site to find out more. Try posting on your fan page every time you update your blog – “Check this out” and attach a link to your blog.

Remember, the most important reason you have a Facebook fan page is to use it as a branding strategy to promote your personal brand. So, if your company is very “green” conscious, share tidbits about being green. If your company is all about marketing and branding (like us), you might post pictures of events, links to blog posts and information about the companies you help brand.

Those are the basic features of a Facebook fan page, but once you get going you will realize that there are many more things you can add to your fan page such as customizable apps, connecting the page to your Twitter feed, and much more. But you can’t do any of the fancy things until you get started with the basics, so for now create your page and start building your fans. Oh, and don’t forget to include a new link on your website to let people know they can become a fan on Facebook.

And that is how you can use Facebook as a branding strategy for your business.

Your Business, Google and Social Media ROI

posted by webmaster 6:56 AM
Thursday, March 11, 2010

There’s a lot of confusion around the issue of social media and getting a return on one’s time and social investment, to the point that some people think social media for business is ineffective.

If you’ve been thinking that lately, think about how happy you’d be if social media helped you get into your target market’s path through Google.

According to a recent announcement by Google, social media may now be able to help you in ways you hadn’t ever dared to dream. The ROI, or return on investment, from your social media efforts can be measurable and meaningful in a new way.

If you’re already using social media, you’re likely aware of how it can help you get traffic to your site. For example, popular entries often get more exposure, and the links they often generate. Now, social media may be able to help you get more exposure through the networks of the people you interact with the most.

In October 2009, Google started an experiment called Google Social Search, which you could opt in to, in order to see information from what Google is calling your social circle, in your search results. On the day of the iPad launch, they quietly rolled out Google Social Search Results to anyone who is logged into a Google account when they search.

What could that mean to you?

Well, if you’ve been cultivating a social presence in Twitter, for example, and become connected to 1000 people, if they have Google accounts they and their connections, will be added to your social circle, from which Google will pull extra search listings to be integrated into the current set when a user is logged in.

Of course, when you start to think that even though Google has a dominant market share, even if a full 25% of them have a Google account and are logged in, you might think that doesn’t give you much of a boost.

That’s not necessarily true. You have to look at three factors: first, are you the only person in your niche that the person searching is connected to?

If you’ve been building your social network for quality from potential clients and customers rather than only quantity, where you just follow peers, auto-follow friends and existing friends so they’ll follow you back, the answer is, probably.

Second, personal suggestions are stronger than what any search engine says. Being found in search helps dramatically. But when it comes down to the tie-breaker, folks buy from folks they know.

Third, it’s not just the people you’re connected to, it’s the people THEY are connected to as well. If you look at the video below, it says towards the end that the people your friends are connected to are included in your extended social circle.

Well, that means you’re included in the friends of your friends as well. So not only will you get them in your search results, you’ll be in theirs.

That could end up being a lot of people.

Add in the recent changes to Google Reader, the move to Google Caffeine, the debut of Google Buzz in Gmail. Gmail alone has a reported 220 million accounts in use.

Of course, this can be blown out of proportion – social media is important, as is search, to traffic generation. But they are each one tool in a well rounded strategy. It’s folly to lean on any singular method to get traffic to a site to the exclusion of all others, because if your strategy fails or its effectiveness changes over time, you’re putting your entire business at risk.

So keep in mind as you strategize that you still have regular search engine optimization to contend with – your primary Google traffic focus ought to be the people who are not logged into Google, as they are the majority.

Remember also though that even they have live updates from social sites like Twitter, are now streamed into results. So, like it or not, ignoring social media or denying its influence is to do so at the peril of your own business. And hyper-targeted traffic to a smaller audience is still more money in your pocket at the end of the day. Keep it all in perspective is my only warning.

If you’re not already seeing a return on your investment in social media through better links, higher traffic, and viral spread of your messages, now is the time to fix whatever is wrong with your social media traffic strategy.

A sound social media strategy is already critical for you to gain or keep your edge over your competition. From local coffeeshops broadcasting specials to Mayors on Foursquare to becoming a favorite place in Google Maps, social commerce is the way of the day. Now it’s factoring into search strategy more than ever before. Search is now social.

Are you ready?

By Tinu AbayomiPaul

Recent case law confirms once again: if online agreements are presented properly to end-users, they’re legally enforceable.

This continuing trend is good news for websites that contract with registered users though SaaS Agreements, Membership Agreements, Subscription Agreements, Terms of Sale, Content License Agreements, and the like.

Why? Among other things, this means that important legal disclaimers and limitations of liability are legally enforceable.

But what about liability exposure arising out of customer contracts entered into by your resellers? Are you liable for actions of your resellers?

The Direct Revenue Case

In the case of People v. Direct Revenue, the New York Attorney General in 2008 attempted to nail Direct Revenue for its distribution of software that served pop-up advertising software on consumers’ computers.

Direct Revenue is in the advertising business. It’s software client serves pop-up advertisements to consumer’s computer screens through the Internet. Direct Revenue does not charge fees to consumers. Instead, it charges fees to the companies whose products it advertises.

It’s interesting to note that one line of attack by the New York Attorney General focused on Direct Revenue’s “click-wrapped” (where the user clicks on “I ACCEPT”) end user license agreement (EULA) and Direct Revenue’s alleged deceptive and illegal practices. The court granted Direct Revenue’s motion to dismiss the claims noting that sufficient disclosure was given in the EULA, and the required elements for an enforceable agreement were followed.

Having failed with its first line of attack, New York’s additional line of attack focused on the customer agreements of Direct Revenue’s resellers in an attempt to hold Direct Revenue liable. The result was the same as with the EULA — Direct Revenue was held not liable.

New York conceded that Direct Revenue’s resellers were independent contractors rather than agents. Generally, a principal is not liable for acts of an independent contractor due to the lack of control over how the contractor’s work is performed. In addition, the court noted that Direct Revenue’s software distribution agreement required its distributors to obtain consent of consumers consistent with the EULA and prohibited distributors from holding themselves out as agents of Direct Revenue.

New York argued that Direct Revenue should be liable because it’s servers interacted with the consumers’ computers in the software installation process. The court pointed out that participation in installation was not enough for liability in the absence of participation in deceptive conduct that induced the installation.

Finally, New York argued that Direct Revenue should be held liable for the actions of its resellers on the ground that Direct Revenue ratified the conduct of its resellers. The court ruled that mere knowledge of consumer complaints was insufficient to impose liability on Direct Revenue, especially in light of the fact that when Direct Revenue had actual knowledge of a reseller misconduct, it took steps to remedy the problem.

3 Tips To Avoid Liability For Actions of Resellers

Potential liability for acts of online resellers is a major concern of ecommerce businesses which use reseller networks.

The Direct Revenue case teaches us that ecommerce sites may not be held liable for actions of their resellers if these 3 tips are followed:

  1. if you transfer anything to a user’s computer, require your resellers to obtain consent of end-users consistent with your EULA – this means consent in clear and easy-to-understand (not deceptive) terms,
  2. prohibit your resellers from holding themselves out as your agents, and
  3. if a reseller does engage in misconduct, take affirmative steps to deal with the situation, including termination, if warranted (particularly if the reseller’s actions tend to indicate an agency relationship).

These 3 tips won’t guarantee that you have no exposure, but they’ll go a long way to protecting you from liability for actions of your resellers.

By Chip Cooper

How to Increase Google Page Rank

posted by webmaster 6:52 AM
Monday, March 1, 2010

Visit any internet marketing forum and you are bound to find at least a few discussions on Google page rank. But what exactly is Google Page Rank and what do you need to do to increase it?

First of all Page Rank is a value that Google assigns to a web page based on the importance of the page. It is determined by the number of incoming links to that web page and few other factors including the page rank of the page giving the link to you.

There has been discussion recently asked to the importance of page rank. However one thing to consider is this, if Google thinks page rank is important than page rank is important.

Remember Google gets over 65% of all the search traffic on the Internet every day. If you were to take 10 websites that were all optimized for the same keywords, typically you would find that the page with the highest page rank would rank higher in the search engine results than the other pages.

So what are the best ways to increase your Google Page Rank?

  1. One of the first things you should do is aim to increase the numnber of backlinks that you have pointing to your website. This fact alone can increase your link popularity and ultimately increase your page rank. Combined with that is the fact that the more back links you have pointing back your website for more potential traffic you will get from it.
  2. As well as increasing the quantity of links to your website you should also try to get your links on high quality web pages. This means getting your link on pages that are ranked as high or higher than yours. When you do this some of their page rank can be transferred to you which ultimately helps increase the page rank of your site.

There are lots of ways to increase your page rank, but the most common methods are posting in discussion forums that have a high page rank, article marketing, submitting your site to directories, commenting on blogs and distributing press releases.

You should also try to get some deep links in addition to the links to your home page. Deep linking means linking to internal pages on your website as opposed to always linking to your homepage.

There are many other methods that you can use to improve your page rank, but any time you spend on getting links is well spent!

It is worth noting that the page rank displayed on the Google toolbar is not up to date. Although Google is always internally updating the page rank of web pages, the toolbar page rank is only updated every few months.

You should also be aware that just because a web page has a low page rank it doesn’t mean that getting a link on that page isn’t worthwhile. The page rank could increase on the next toolbar update.

Finally, it is worth remembering that a good Google Page Rank on its own is not necessarily going to mean lots of traffic. You also want to ensure that you have chosen good keyword phrases and have optimized your website.

By Suzanne Morrison

7 Ways to Encourage More Blog Commenting

posted by webmaster 6:47 AM
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interactive blogs are the most successful and plenty of quality comments is a good indication that your blog is healthy and that it will be successful. There are many reasons why people may not make comments on your blog posts and we will cover a number of ways to make it easier or more attractive for people to leave comments on your blog. Of course this is assuming that you do have a steady flow of traffic to your blog and perhaps even a following of people that appreciate the valuable content that you share. Let’s get started on the 7 ways to get people to leave comments on your blog.

1. Ask for blog comments – Sounds too easy but a lot of bloggers don’t ask for comments and people are not sure they should comment, no one wants to be the first to comment or there is no value in commenting. We will talk more about making commenting valuable for people more in the following points. The end of your post include text or a blog comment icon to stimulate blog commenting or something else that will indicate the desire for leaving comments.

2. Attract numerous people with request – The way you request people to leave a comment will encourage or discourage people from leaving a comment. For example, people love to be a pro and let people know they have something to share because of their ego. Give them the opportunity, ask them to share and let them know when they do share that you appreciate their comments. You can try to leave text like, “What do you think?”, “Do you agree?” or “Are you for or against?” can encourage people to leave comments.

3. Dofollow blog comments – Not all links on the Internet are equal. There are “nofollow” and “dofollow” links. Dofollow links have more value to webmasters because dofollow links are backlinks that search engines will count as popularity to your site and will increase your page rank. On your blog you can change the code so that the links in the comments box are set to “dofollow”. This will attract people to leave comments to get the backlink. This will also attract spammers but if you have something like Askimet or other spam blocker you should not have any problems. The blog software will also allow you to set the criteria on comments so they will only be approved by keywords or other criteria.

4. Get the ball rolling – If you have a friend that follows your posts you can ask them to “get the ball rolling” by making the first comment on your blog post. Once people see the blog post comments they are more likely to leave more comments. Many people don’t want to be the first to leave comments on blogs.

5. Incomplete post - If you are so thorough to cover everything with your post then there really is nothing to share except to say, “Good job” or “Thanks for the post”. Leave something for someone to fill in. Develop the desire to share information and experience. Consider your post subjects as well. Some topics are not the kind that people have opinions about. Choose some hot potatoes in your niche to write about to get people commenting.

6. Blog comments hidden – Is your comments box obvious or do you have to hunt to find it. The layout of some blogs is counter-productive in this aspect and should be corrected.

7. Register to leave comments - If you force registration in order for people to leave a comment you may not get comments. People like to be free to comment and not comment to a registration. With so much spamming online people are hesitant to comment if they have to register.

Implement some or all of these ideas to increase commenting on your blog. Visitors really like to socialize and interact with each other and this will help. I wish you success.

By Bill Wynne

2010 Resolution — Give Your Website a Legal Check-Up

posted by webmaster 8:28 AM
Saturday, February 20, 2010

We all make New Year’s resolutions – some are personal, some are business or professional in nature. Even if we don’t actually make New Year’s resolutions, we engage in formal and informal “planning” as we look ahead to the new year.

If you operate a website, you’re probably aware that your website operations are now highly regulated. And the pace of legal regulations continues to accelerate.

Which means that you face an increasing risk of legal liability.

So, it’s a good idea to give your website a legal check-up and to update your site before it’s too late.

General Issue Checklist

The general checklist below covers issues that are not new issues which arose in 2009. These issues have been around for a while, but some may be new to you, particularly if your website or marketing activities changed recently.

  • Copyright Notice. These are the basic elements of a copyright notice: the word “copyright” or copyright symbol (c in a circle) followed by the year of first publication followed by the name of the copyright owner followed by “All rights reserved worldwide.” Here’s an example taken from my digicontracts.com website: Copyright 1996-2010 Digital Contracts, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • Blogs. If you’ve recently added a blog to your site, or if your site is a blog site, it’s possible that a visitor could post infringing materials (e.g. text, video links, images). Under the strict principles of copyright law, you’d be a copyright infringer even if you were unaware of the posting. Your liability could be significant. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides a “safe harbor” from liability provided you publish a DMCA notice and register with the Copyright Office.
  • Collection, Use and Sharing of Personal Information. Your marketing activities determine the categories of personal information you collect, how you use it, and how you share it. As you evolve your marketing practices over time, it’s easy to forget that your Privacy Policy should reflect your actual practices regarding personal information. This is one area in which most online marketers are the most vulnerable to legal liability. So, review carefully your present and anticipated future marketing activities that include personal information and update your Privacy Policy accordingly.
  • Data Security. Technology and security practices are in a continual state of evolution. You’re required to implement and maintain “reasonable and appropriate” data security measures, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If your site does not actually implement up-to-date measures, you should update them immediately.
  • Service Providers. Do your outsourced service providers – hosting, SEO, website development, etc. – have access to the internals of your website server and your databases that archive personal information? If so, according to the FTC, you need to enter into simple confidentiality agreements with these service providers.
  • Human Intervention in Online Contracting. Two 2008 cases highlighted the fact that human intervention in online contracting may be a recipe for creating unenforceable agreements. The recipe for enforceable online agreements is well settled, but if you add intervention by your employees into the acceptance process, your online agreement may end up becoming unenforceable.

Emerging Issue Checklist

The emerging issue checklist below covers issues that were new in 2009 or experienced relatively significant new developments in 2009.

  • Keyword-Triggered Ads. The issue is familiar: Whether pay-per-click advertisers should be permitted to use keywords that are also competitor’s trademarks for purposes of triggering the advertisers’ ads on a search results page. This issue continued to be hotly litigated in 2009 without ultimate resolution due to a split among various Circuit Courts of Appeals. However, a 2nd Circuit ruling in 2009 narrowed the split in favor of trademark owners. Congress may resolve the split with specific legislation in 2010.
  • Behavioral Ads. Behavioral ads are highly relevant to consumers because they are based on consumers’ online behavior, including data tracked regarding sites visited, length of visits, content read, and searches made. In February 2009, the FTC issued a staff report entitled “Self-Regulatory Principles For Online Behavioral Advertising”. This report set out certain principles for purposes of protecting consumer privacy. Later, Google issued a notice that “interest-based” advertising utilized in its AdSense program required a modification to the Privacy Policies of all participants in the AdSense program. Look for congressional action on behavioral advertising in 2010.
  • Red Flag Identity Theft Policy. 2009 saw deadlines for establishing a Red Flag Identity Theft Policy come and go. Extensions of the deadline were ordered by the FTC due to confusion over the scope of the regulations and who is covered. The current deadline is June 1, 2010. In simple terms, if your registered users make periodic payments payable as monthly or quarterly installments, or if you extend credit so that payment is made after receipt of the product or service, you’re covered by the regulations, and you should implement a policy.
  • False Advertising. In July 2009, the Attorney General for New York reached a settlement with a cosmetic surgery company over the company’s fake positive consumer reviews on the Web. The company ordered its employees to pose as customers and to write flattering reviews. The Company agreed to pay $300,000 in penalties.
  • FTC Guides. Concerned over false advertising on the Web (including the type of behavior discussed in the False Advertising point above), the FTC issued new Guides explaining how they will interpret existing law regarding endorsements and testimonials used in online advertising. if you recruit affiliates, resellers, or bloggers to promote your offering, you’d be classified as an “Advertiser” under the Guides, and if you’re recruited as an affiliate, reseller, or blogger to pitch the products of others, you’d be classified as an “Endorser” under the Guides. In simple terms, Advertisers are required to provide guidance and training to their Endorsers regarding the Guides or face liability. Endorsers are required to disclose material connections with their sponsoring Advertisers including receipt of compensation of any kind. Drafting and posting a Disclosure Policy is the key to compliance for Endorsers in order to avoid a fine of up to $11,000.

What to do if You’re Developing a New Website

If you’re developing a new website (or heaven forbid, if you have an existing website that has yet to incorporate website compliance documents), your website should incorporate some combination of the following documents:

  • FTC Guides Disclosure Policy
  • Legal Page
  • Terms of Use
  • DMCA Registration Form
  • Privacy Policy
  • Service Provider Privacy-Security Agreement
  • Customer Agreement (click-wrapped SaaS, Membership, Subscription, Account Agreement)
  • Red Flag Identity Theft Policy

Conclusion

The checklists in this article are not exhaustive; however, they should be a good start to a comprehensive legal check-up for your website as you move into 2010.

It’s not the “wild, wild west” atmosphere on the Web anymore. Legal compliance is essential if you want to avoid liability in a highly regulated environment.

This article is provided for educational and informative purposes only. This information does not constitute legal advice, and should not be construed as such.

By Chip Cooper

10 Ways to Get Banned by the Search Engines

posted by webmaster 8:27 AM
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When you build your website, you, of course, want to get high rankings in the search engines.  There are lots of ways to do this and lots of ways to NOT do this.  Below are 10 things to avoid if you want to be in good standing with the search engines.

  1. Duplicate Content/Sites – Do not set up multiple sites or site pages using basically the same content with a few different keywords spread around.  This does not fool the search engines.
  2. Cloaking – Cloaking is when a website or webpage is set up to show different content for a search engine spider than the human visitors.   The cloaked page (for the spiders) is stuffed with keywords in an attempt to get higher rankings.  What it can get you is banned!
  3. Linking to Bad Neighborhoods – Be careful who you link to because you can be found guilty by association.   Do not link to adult sites, gambling sites or link farms.  Also be careful not to link to sites that use any of the SEO methods mentioned here.
  4. Title Stacking – This is simply trying to give each page more than one title tag so you can use more keywords to get higher rankings.   The search engines consider this a dirty little trick.
  5. Doorway Pages – Doorway or gateway pages are pages that are set-up for one keyword topic but then they take you to different content.   These pages usually have little value in the way of content and have little to do with the rest of the site.  They are used solely to try to get a higher rank in the search engines.
  6. Redirect Pages – Redirect pages are set up to rank high in the search engines but when you click on the page, it will take you to another page which is usually a sales page for a product or service.  So, what you see isn’t what you get!
  7. Automated Submission Services – Do not use automated submission services.  They are against Google’s TOS and can get you banned.
  8. Hidden Links – This is when a link is added to a page in such a small size that it cannot be seen by human visitors but can be picked up by the search engine spiders.   This might work for a time but when the search engines discover it, you will be penalized!
  9. Keyword Stuffing – Keyword stuffing or spamming is simply being too repetitive with your keywords as to the extent of your content not being sensible.  For example if your keywords are cat food and your text reads something like this:  When your cat gets hungry be sure to feed them this cat food because your cat will like this cat food.  This cat food comes in an easy to open cat food can and contains fish, chicken and healthy ingredients that all cat food should have.  So, when your cat is hungry for cat food, give them this cat food because this cat food is the best cat food for your cat!You can easily see why this kind of keyword stuffing should not be used.
  10. Invisible Text – This is when you hide text by using the same color text and background.   The invisible text is meant for the search engines only and not for visitors.  This is done so you can stuff a lot more keywords on your page without wrecking your content.  The search engines will discover this and they will penalize you!

Be careful not to use these Black Hat SEO methods because it could cause you a lot of trouble with the search engines.  Be careful as well, who you hire to work on your site because some of these things can be done without your knowledge and cause your site to get banned or penalized.

A few things you should do to get higher rankings are:

  1. Research keywords and use relevant keywords on your web pages and in your page title.
  2. Add new content to your site regularly
  3. Link with relevant, quality sites
  4. Use a site map
  5. Don’t use a lot of javascript or flash.  The search engines do not read these.

Following all of the above can keep you from getting banned and improve your rankings!

By Terri Seymour

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