Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Plan Your Internet Success – Part 10: Write a Press Release and Distribute


10. Write a Press Release and Distribute

As a matter of principle, I believe that you simply cannot launch a business or Web site– let alone both — without broadcasting it as loud as possible. One of the best ways to do this is via press releases.

A press release packs tremendous power in the age of super-fast communication and the Internet, since it crosses the boundaries of traditional and new media very “naturally.”  Press release teasers and story clips are the umbilical cord of many news organizations that are understaffed and depend upon information from the outside world.

However, the sheer number of press releases and teasers that are distributed daily makes it imperative to have something that stands out and catches the readers’ attention.  After all, this job is given to junior members or trainees who are asked to scan hundreds of submissions and have a limited time to do this.

As a result, when writing (or contracting for the writing of) a press release, you must keep in mind that you have very little time to capture your reader’s imagination.  I estimate that you have the attention of the reader for the length of the subject line, and if you have a great subject line, one or two sentences past that.

No matter what, you must write one or more press releases about your site, as well as what I call teasers, or short announcements that highlight everything that is great about your site, your product, and your business, in a very concise way. The press release itself will be longer with more details, a few quotes, etc. My approach is to send the teaser first and then send the press release. This is a trick of the trade that I learned in testing some different approaches, and it works well if done properly and within the right time frame.

Regardless, a press release should have detailed information on your product, any aspects of your business and anything that could be interesting to a reader.  Above all, the writing should be sharp and entertaining.

Finally, make sure that you have a link to your Web site on the press release. It should mention the name of your business, and also include your URL and a link to your home page.

Press releases are submitted via organizations such as PRWeb but, more importantly, they should be distributed to the media (newspaper, magazines, radio, TV, Internet, etc.) directly. This is, after all, the objective of press release beyond “silly” reasons, such as SEO.

Finally, post your press release on your Web site and link it to your index page or prominent page via a “press” or “in the news” button.

Resources:

http://www.prweb.com

http://www.clickpress.com

http://www.webwire.com/

http://www.emediawire.com

http://www.businesswire.com

http://www.prwebdirect.com

http://www.theopenpress.com

http://www.free-press-release.com

http://www.pressbox.co.uk

http://www.i-newswire.com/

http://www.pr9.net

http://www.pr-inside.com

http://www.newswire.ca/

http://www.pressreleasenetwork.com

http://www.marketwire.com

http://www.urlwire.com/

http://www.prurgent.com

http://www.prleap.com

http://www.prnewswire.com

http://www.prfree.com/

http://www.openpress.com/

http://www.softpressrelease.com

If there is only one thing that you do after launching a Web site, it sould be the publishing of a press release across the Internet and directly to newspapers and magazines that specialize in your space.

While there are no guarantees that it will pay off, this is by far the most effective and inexpensive way to get noticed.

As usual if you are impatient and want to download the full manuscript you can do that at jtouboul.com

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Newsletter – Headlights on The Net


This is the first installment of my new monthly newsletter.  I call it “Headlights on the Net” and, as you may have guessed, it incorporates news, facts, stats and events that I believe are worth noting on the Net.

Here are some highlights:

comScore Reports Global Search Market Growth of 46 Percent in 2009
Social media is finally about the media
How video can dominate advertising
Buy.com offers a web template to affiliates
Abercrombie & Fitch unveils transactional mobile site and sexy new app
Bargain-Hunting Consumers Choose Print Ads over Online
Email Makeover: 7 Email Optimization Tactics to Boost Revenue
Video Discovery Is Important! Optimize Video Description Tags A Must Process!
Behavioral Targeting and A/B Testing

Check it out on my site at jtouboul.com

Plan Your Internet Success – Part 9 – Optimize your Web Site


9. Optimize your Web site

A statement that I once read somewhere applies nicely here… “Congratulations on your brand new Web site. Nice design, great content, nice links… Great! Now What?

The only thing I would change in this statement is “So What” or “So What – Who Cares?”

The reality is that having a great Web site on the Internet does not in itself achieve anything. It’s like opening a great looking store in the desert. No matter how great it looks, no one is likely to come.  And if you are not convinced, consider these stats:

  • Number of Web sites worldwide: 190 million
  • Number of Web site created every year: 25 million

Those are staggering numbers and even if a tiny percentage is competing for the same space as you are, your competition is tremendous.

However, if done right, this is also the “fun” part of working on the Internet and promoting your own property. In my opinion, there is nothing more exhilarating than promoting your own Web site (especially if you put it in the middle of the desert) and take it to a point when you can look back and say “I did this.”

Tip: This is also an area of the business where gurus will charge you a fortune for telling you what is readily available for free on the Net. It is also where people who are not ready, but are impatient take the SEM (Search Engine Marketing – pay per click route to get customers). I can only tell you that those folks at Google AdWords are waiting for you with a big smile (and I mean a “really big smile”).

Before you do anything and spend your money unnecessarily, there are a few things that you should do on your own to make sure that your Web site is optimized and that it will be “seen” and indexed as it should be by spiders and search engines.

I’d like to make a very short pause here to explain what I mean by “seen.”  In case you do not know this, search engines index Web sites by sending a spider or crawler that “reads” the code on your index page and other Web pages that are linked to it. This information is collected and used along with other criteria to index your site in a category and rank it based on the keywords, links, content, etc. Each search engine and directory has an algorithm that enables this process to be automated and put your Web site in a location within the hundreds of thousands of Web sites indexed. Some of the algorithms are very simple, while others are quite complex and change from time to time.

Assuming now that you found keywords that best represent your business and came up with your one paragraph pitch, as discussed in Part 2, the idea in optimizing your Web site is to use these elements and some basic code that is inserted in pages of your site. This will ensure that a crawler can categorize your business as it should be and that you’ll be indexed accordingly.

A number of things are important for a crawler to properly “read” your pages, but two are absolutely critical in my view and they include the meta tags and the HTML validation.

Meta Tags

These are a set of information about your Web site that is created to give crawlers information about your site, including title, description, keywords as well as language, etc.

A great deal of information goes into the meta tags to tell crawlers on what your Web site is about, and below is what you will typically see for meta tags (note that the “meta name” may already be inserted at the very top of your Web page). In red, you will find instruction as far as the information that you will need to add.

(complete meta tags are on the next page)

<meta content=”HTML Tidy for Linux (vers 6 November 2007), see http://www.w3.org”&gt;
<title>REPLACE WITH YOUR TITLE HERE INCLUDING ONE OR TWO OF YOUR TOP KEYWORDS </title>
<meta content=”DESCRIBE WHAT YOUR WEB SITE DOES AND USE 3 OR 4  OF YOUR TOP KEYWORDS INCLUDING THE ONE IN THE TITLE. KEEP IT SHORT“>
<meta content=”14-15 KEYWORDS AND KEY TERMS MAX, SEPARATED BY COMAS“>
<meta content=”document”>
<meta content=”Meta Tag Maker”>
<meta http-equiv=”pragma” content=”no-cache”>
<meta content=”20 days”>
<meta content=”ALL”>
<meta content=”Global”>
<meta content=”General”>
<meta content=”INSERT YOUR WEB SITE NAME HERE“>
<meta content=”INSERT YOUR WEB SITE NAME HERE “>
<meta http-equiv=”reply-to” content=”CREATE AND USE A YAHOO OR GMAIL EMAIL ADDRESS AND INSERT HERE“>
<meta content=”English”>
<meta content=”Web Page”>
<meta content=”Living Document”>
<meta content=”Public”>
<meta content=”Internet Services”>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″>

These Meta Tags are typically placed right after the start of the header <head> but before the end of the header </head>

These can be created in notepad, and then transferred on your Web page as a block and the procedure should be very easy to handle for anyone, especially if you are using software like Dreamweaver.

I invite you to use the meta tags sample and replace the information in red with your own.

HTML Validation

Once this is done, then you must run the HTML validation to ensure that your Web site satisfies W3C specification for your type of Web site. Ideally you want to get a perfect score but it is sometimes hard to do and the idea is to eliminate the most obvious errors. The validation tool allows you to get a corrected version of the code and if you do I suggest that you first test it by saving it as index1.html or .php or whatever.

Other Important Optimization Considerations

Other optimization steps that you will need to do include:

Alternate name for images on every page of your Web site.

If you pay close attention to the code for all images on your Web site, you will see that there is something that reads as follows “alt=”” .”  This option is given to each image in case the image does not display. It is meant as an alternate to the image (hence “alt”) and is what you would see should an image is missing. For SEO purposes, this offers a great opportunity to insert keywords in the alternate name.  My rule is to be as true as possible to the purpose of this image. To illustrate this, the “alt text” for an image of a button that leads to a specific product page would be alt=”product_name button” for example.  As you can see, I have inserted what may be a great keyword into the alternate text.

Here is another example: <img src=”images/sample.gif” alt=”sample image” class=”right” /> where “sample image” should be replaced by something that describe your image and hopefully contains a keyword.

Replacing or adding a description that includes a keyword to the “alt=” text for images is critical from an optimization point of view, since crawlers read this information and take it into consideration. However, you must be aware that exaggerating keywords in “alt=” text could work to your detriment and you should be careful not to repeat the same two or three keywords in all the Alt text.

However, the number of keywords and their repetition is something that you will be able to measure with tools that assess your keyword density and correct if need be (more on that later in this manuscript).

In case you are not familiar with code (and I strongly suggest that you do familiarize yourself), tools such as Dreamweaver will allow you to select an image (any image on your site) and see its values at the bottom of the screen. One of the values that you will see is the alternate name (alt=).

However, assuming your content is relevant and focused on the quality of the writing, and contains your top keywords and key terms there are still many other important factors that will play a role in your indexing.

And just to give you an idea of the places where keywords and what I call “content tags” can play a role, I copied a relevant part of a list from a tool that analyzes keyword density below.

  1. Keyword use in document title
  2. Keyword use in body text
  3. Keyword use in H1 headline texts
  4. Keyword use in domain name
  5. Keyword use in page URL
  6. Keyword use in H2-H6 headline texts
  7. Keyword use in IMG ALT attributes
  8. Keyword use in bold body text
  9. Keyword use in same domain link texts
  10. Keyword use in outbound link texts
  11. Keyword use in same domain link URLs
  12. Keyword use in outbound link URLs
  13. Keyword use in meta description
  14. Keyword use in meta keywords
  15. Keyword use in the first sentence of the body text
  16. Keyword use in HTML comments

As you can see, there are many places where keywords can play a critical role.  However, while it is important to be aware of this it does not make sense to spend a huge amount of time or money worrying about this issue at this juncture (unless your Web site has been “live” for quite some time).

Finally, one other task that I highly recommend you do is to create a site map that will list all the pages on your site. This site map should be contained on a simple page directly linked to your home page. Depending on the complexity of your site, you may want to simply create one yourself or use site map tools.

Resources: Meta Tags Generators and Web Page Analyzer

http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

http://www.searchengineforums.com/

Resources: HTML Validation (W3C Validation)

http://validator.w3.org/

There are other things that you could do, such as checking the keyword density or simulating a crawler from Google or one from Yahoo!, etc. and optimize for best results, but I would suggest that you optimize for Google to begin with. You will always have the opportunity to tweak later on.

Here are some resources if you want to check it out:

http://www.seobench.com/keyword-density-analyzer/ This is a keyword density analyzer that will check your keyword count. (Make sure that your keywords appear on top of the list. It does not have to be perfect.)

http://www.dead-links.com/ This is a link crawler and link checker that will list all your pages and let you know if you have broken links.
http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/site-link-analyzer/ Same as dead-links.com, but check out the other tools that they have. You may find something that may be good for you.

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ This will help you create a site map and even allow you to download an almost ready-to-go HTML page.

And here are more resources for information on various aspects of optimization for your Web site and SEO in general:

http://www.blackhatworld.com/blackhat-seo/

http://www.seochat.com/

http://www.searchengineforums.com/

http://www.bluehatseo.com/

http://www.webmasterworld.com/

http://searchenginewatch.com/

http://www.seroundtable.com/

http://www.seochat.com/

http://seoblackhat.com/

http://www.seo-scoop.com/

http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/

http://www.highrankings.com/forum/

http://www.jimworld.com/

http://www.jimworld.com/apps/wp.forums/action::thread/thread::50/forum::marketing-101/

http://www.searchengine-news.com/

http://www.searchenginewatch.com/

http://www.wowdirectory.com/resources.php

http://www.seochat.com/

http://dmoz.org/erz/index.html

As you will see, if you explore some of the links that I’ve listed, there are a number of options available and action that can be taken to improve positioning and SEO in general.  For example, creating a “robot text,” assigning a Google validation number, etc. But you can drive yourself mad trying to do it all,  so I suggest you wait and focus on the most important tasks first and then go back and fine tune.  In other words, if you have your meta tags in place and have a good keyword density between code and content, you are almost there. You may not be on page one or even 50 of Google, but if you’ve been categorized properly, you’re well on your way to gravitate toward page one.

Once you have gotten the basics down, it is time to submit to the main search engines, including Google, Yahoo!, MSN, as well as many others (here is a link to a list – http://www.execfocus.net/enhance_submission_list.htm).  Note that some software can help you do this quite easily, particularly when using a program such as IBP (link below).

Be very careful to do all of this correctly or have the right people do it for you. Do not be tempted by the cheap guarantees out there that promise optimization and submission to thousands of search engines. Not only is it a waste of time in most instances, it may be harmful to your campaign and overall success. And once the damage is done, it takes months to correct.

For the “do-it-yourself” crowd, I suggest the IBP software that does all of the above and more. Check it out at http://www.ibusinesspromoter.com/!

“Plan Your Internet Success is also available on my web site at jtouboul.com

Plan Your Internet Success Part 8 – Select an ISP


8. Select an ISP

There are literally thousands of Internet Solution Providers (ISP) today, and all offer similar things (more or less) presented in different packages and under different names.

However, there are three main options for users like you and me, and they include:

a) Shared Hosting – You, along with hundreds of others are hosted on the same machine(s), same hard drive and the applications that you can use are limited to what is available on that machine.

b) VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting – This is much more flexible than the shared hosting, since you have your own “virtual” drive within a server. This option gives you access to much more as far as applications, adding domains, IP addresses, etc. Furthermore, with some ISP, you get basic admin support.

c) Dedicated Server – A server (machine) is dedicated to you and only you, and the admin support is a bit more advanced. In this instance, you may upload any application you want and do pretty much whatever you want with your server.

The obvious difference between the three is cost, since a shared hosting can cost as little as $5 monthly, while you would be hard-pressed to find a dedicated server at less than $100 monthly.

The deciding factor here is what type of Web site you are planning to have. If your Web site consists of a few pages with some content and a few links to an advertiser or an advertising network then the first option is more than enough for you.

Alternatively, if you are going to run a database and need to install some apps, such as a shopping cart, to run your business, then the VPS solution or a dedicated server is for you. The big difference between the two is bandwidth and maintenance, and this is when you need to make a decision between VPS or dedicated machine.

I recommend that if you need a shopping cart and database capability, start with a VPS and take it from there. Some VPS servers allow you tremendous capacity and have pretty much all the apps that you would want to run your business, so it is my preferred choice.  Additionally, assuming that you outgrow the VPS, there are ways to transition to a dedicated server that enable you to do this very smoothly.

Resources: ISPs that I like and use

http://www.jumpline.com

http://www.hostgator.com/

http://www.serverintellect.com/

http://www.hypermart.net/

Regardless of where you decide to host your site, I would suggest that you make sure that you can upload your files via FTP (File Transfer protocol) or SSH (secure transfer) and get a FTP solution and always backup your Web site’s files. This will allow you to switch to another ISP provider if you are not happy with the one you first selected*

Finally, if you do not have the budget for a VPS and decide to go to a shared hosting, but worry about your shopping cart or the lack of it, there are solutions.  You can look for payment solutions that offer external links to shopping carts like PayPal, for example. The integration is relatively simple and while this is not the most elegant or inexpensive way to deal with purchases, it works well and is secure. Furthermore, PayPal is well established and that is something that may offer an added level of comfort for buyers who are conscious of security on the Internet.

* This is another reason why I personally register my domain with a registration provider that is independent of my ISP.

You can download a complete copy of this manuscript “Plan Your Internet Success” on my website at jtouboul.com

Plan Your Internet Success – Part 7 – Create Content for Your Web Site


7. Create Content for your Web site

This is probably the most extensive and most interesting subject of all as far as I am concerned.

Many people think that they are great at writing content. With this false sense of confidence in mind, they go on to write long missives about their Web sites and businesses; thereby, losing the point, let alone the attention of the visitor.

Others read a few SEO articles about content and learn that the key is to include as many keywords as possible. So they load their text with so much stuff that it becomes a weird concoction of words that barely make any sense.

Yet, others who may have tried both approaches and failed hire a Web copy writer to do all of the above. Or worse, they pay for some automated text generation via a distribution system or publisher.

In my opinion, the secret of great content for a Web site starts with something that has been around for centuries and that is very common in all newspapers, TV shows, etc. It’s a simple headline… if you have a great headline that grabs the visitor’s attention, you already have done half the job.

How does it work for a Web site? Simple: capture the description of your Web site in a few words. In other words, whatever made you decide to start this business in Step 1 should now be explained in a few words in your headline.

For example, if you are selling used technical manuals online because no one else does, your headline may read: “The Only Place on the Internet for Used Tech Manuals”

No matter what your business is, you must encapsulate what you do in a very short statement. This statement should be in a prominent place on your index page (I suggest doing similar things with the other pages).

You may find some excellent examples of headlines in Web sites that specialize in publishing articles and writing.

Here are some resources:

http://www.articlehub.com/

http://www.articlecity.com/

http://www.articlehub.com/Marketing/

http://rdf.dmoz.org/

http://www.moreover.com/

http://www.advertisingknowhow.com/members/articles.php

http://www.magnet4web.com/content/affiliate-marketing/what-is-affiliate-marketing-and-how-do-i-get-started.php

Once you have your headline, it’s time to write some content. The content should explain your product or service, what you offer, detail any relevant case studies, white papers, etc.

In all instances, I suggest that you write or have someone write articles that are easy to read, not too long and that include calls for action, such as signing up for a newsletter, clicking on something to get more information, etc.

What I also recommend is to limit your index page to teasers that will tell viewers about an article and give the outline of what is in it, but requests that the visitor clicks on “read more” or “read full article” to see the rest. This has many advantages and that includes putting more items on your index page, expanding the size of your Web site to many pages, allowing you to show various aspects of your services or products on each page.

Tip — In the event that you need content in a hurry, as a temporary solution, Wikipedia allows you to use its content as long as it is recognized as originating from and credited to Wikipedia.

Finally, while this is not directly related to content, don’t forget to check the option to add a search capability to your Web site. This can only add value, especially when a Web site has many pages, products, etc.  Here are some free and paid search solutions that you can use.

Additional Resources:

http://www.freefind.com/

http://www.fusionbot.com/

http://www.spiderline.com/

http://www.phpdig.net/

http://www.atomz.com/

You can download a complete copy of this manuscript “Plan Your Internet Success” on my website at jtouboul.com