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Homepage Sweet Homepage

The Internet has been around a few years, so naturally, everyone should know how to create an effective Web site by now, right? Of course not! The storefront has been around for centuries, yet not every business is successful. How can this be?

The consumer is a finicky breed. It is impossible to please everyone who happens by your Web site, but there are some standard components you must present. Just as every retail outlet isn’t going to sell the same product; it will understand the consumer’s general expectations of it. Each will probably express the product it offers prominently, provide examples of its product for consumers to see, display its contact information, and have someone on site who can attend to customers. The same formula applies to creating an effective Web site.

Here are some Web site MUST haves:
• A welcoming home page that contains key words to attract search engines;
• An “about us” page that demonstrates your credibility;
• Success stories and testimonials from satisfied customers or members;
• A “call to action” or pricing page that clearly expresses your product or service’s terms;
• A prominent “contact us” page; and
• An online press kit that provides the media with all the tools it needs to write or report on your business or organization, as well as links or copies of media coverage you’ve already enjoyed (check for reprint permissions before offering copies of printed material).

Here are some details on each of these Web site components.

The Home Page: Do I belong here?
The very word “home” evokes comfort for most people. Home is warm, inviting, and comfortable, and so should your Web site’s home page. You have seconds to impress upon a Web visitor to stay in your site – don’t scare people off with flashy graphics that take forever to load, or require them to give you any personal information whatsoever simply to enter your site.

Imagine having someone dance around in your storefront’s doorway, blocking customers from getting in – or requiring them to hand over their name and phone number before opening the door. No customer will tolerate that kind of treatment.

The instant someone reaches your Web site, they will ask themselves “do I belong here?” They may not realize they’re asking that, but they are. A person seeking pet supplies who visits dogstuff.com is going to expect to find dog stuff – not the personal Web site of someone whose nickname is “Dogstuff.” Make sure your product or service is featured prominently on your home page. People need to know if they are in the right place as quickly as possible.

Opinions vary in terms of content on the home page, but all Web designers agree that if your home page is going to feature any words, make sure they are words related to site’s business or organization. This is how search engines find Web sites – through keywords used on the home page. If Dogstuff.com actually sells pet supplies, then words like “pet supplies,” “dog food,” “dog collars,” and “flea medication,” would be effective key words. “Dogstuff.com: the place to find dog stuff” would not be.

Also, if you offer any sort of subscription, such as an eNewsletter, you must hit visitors over the head with it immediately.

Section Two: Do I trust these people?
People are pretty cautious when it comes to purchasing products or services online. Your Web site must provide evidence of your business or organization’s credibility. Who are you? What are you all about? Use testimonials and refer to high-profile clients.

If your business or organization is relatively new, don’t mention it. The only time you should probably throw around “years in business” is when you hit ten. If you have been covered in the media, mention it here. Better yet, provide them a link to your online press kit in this area. People generally tend to trust businesses and organizations more if they’ve been covered by the media.

Section Three: What’s in it for me?
If your Web visitor has moved past your home page and finds you to be legit, he or she will now want to know if you can really give them what they want. What is unique about your business or organization compared to your competitors? This is where you differentiate yourself. Are you budget-friendly? Do you guarantee your work? Are there any special deals available? Even though they’ve ventured beyond your site’s front door, you still need to convince your visitors that they are in the right place. Reinforce this by providing examples.

Section Four: How much?
The reason most people use Web sites to learn about a business, organization, or product is because they aren’t ready to pick up the phone and talk to someone. They want to explore things on their own and make their decisions without dealing with any kind of sales pressure. They may not even be ready to subscribe, sign up or buy and are simply in search of tangible information. When you refuse to display the costs of your products or services on your Web site, it hampers the visitor’s experience.

Be up front about pricing and terms. If the cost of something depends on the customer’s particular needs, explain that. For instance, a wall paper outlet may not be able to give a customer an exact cost of wallpapering a certain room without that room’s dimensions. In most cases, the customer will understand that. Simply saying “call for prices,” is a turn off.

Section Five: How can I contact you?
Believe it or not, your Web site is not going to answer every customer’s question. The general expectation of most Web visitors is to find the “Contact Us” link in the main menu or along the footer. If possible, try to offer your e-mail address as opposed to automatically opening the visitor’s e-mail program. Not everyone uses the e-mail program on their computer as their sole method of communication. It’s usually best to set aside a page of your Web site that contains your physical address, phone and fax numbers and e-mail address.

If certain questions should go to certain people, provide that information as well. People like to think they are getting to the right person when they complete a “contact us” form, or e-mail a question.

Other General Rules
Web site design does not begin and end with these five sections. Providing additional resources and links to customers, eNewsletters, and message boards are also ways to keep people coming back to your site. In general, you should be sure that your site is easy to navigate and kept up to date. Have friends or colleagues test it out as you’re designing or having it designed. Remember, your Web site is your virtual store front. Take the steps to attract and keep customers the first time you build, because there’s nothing more frustrating (or costly) than having to shut down for repairs.

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Web accessibility for screen magnifier users

The needs of screen magnifier users are overlooked when implementing web accessibility on to a website. Screen magnifiers are used by partially sighted web users to increase the size of on-screen elements. Some users will magnify the screen so that only three to four words are able to appear on the screen at any one time. You can try using a screen magnifier yourself by downloading the Zoomtext screen magnifier from http://www.aisquared.com/Products/ZoomText8_mag/FreeTrial/Z8FreeTrial.htm for a free 30 day trial.

The good news is that some of the basic principles for improving accessibility and usability for screen magnifiers users, also increase usability for everyone. To help, we’ve listed six ways to improve accessibility and usability for screen magnifier users:

1. Don’t embed text within images

Text embedded within images can become blurry and pixelated when viewed in screen magnifiers, and therefore completely illegible. This is especially true when the image text is rather poor quality, so if you absolutely have to embed text within images then make sure the image is of high quality. Many screen magnifier users can find it quite difficult to read text at the best of times, so when it appears fuzzy to them it can become difficult to impossible to read.

It’s not usually necessary to embed text within images anymore, as most presentational effects can now be achieved with CSS. By embedding text within images the download time of each page can become significantly greater due to the weight of these images – for users on dial-up modems it can be a real pain waiting for these images to download and render.

If you’re not sure if a piece of text on the page is embedded within an image or not, try highlighting the text. If you can highlight each letter individually then the text is real text and isn’t embedded within an image.

2. Clearly separate sections of the page

Different sections of each web page should be clearly separated through the use of borders and different background colours. Screen magnifiers users can only see one tiny section of a web page at any one time so it can sometimes be hard for these users to orientate themselves within the page.

By using a blue background colour for the navigation, for example, screen magnifier users can quickly move through the page and when they see a blue background they instantly know that the content are has finished and the navigation area begun.

Likewise, by separating different sections of the page with borders, when a screen magnifier user moves over that border they know they’re moving into a different section. One especially common form of this, is using a vertical bar to separate horizontal navigation items.

Separating different sections of the page with background colours and borders doesn’t only increase usability for screen magnifier users – it increases usability for everyone. When regularly sighted users scan through a web page, if the content, footer and navigation are all effectively differentiated it’s very easy to quickly gain an understanding of the on-page layout.

3. Use clear and descriptive headings often

When screen magnifier users move their magnifier across the screen one of the items that stand out to them is headings. By ensuring heading text is large, and perhaps by differentiating it through the use of colour, it will stand out to these users.

Screen magnifier users usually have to stop the movement of the magnifier when they want to read a piece of text, so when they see a heading, they can stop and read it. Because headings (in theory at least!) describe the content contained beneath them, screen magnifier users can read a heading, gain an understanding of the content beneath it, and decide whether they want to read that content or not. If not, they can simply move the magnifier down the screen and stop at the next heading.

Headings are incredibly useful for fully sighted users too for essentially the same reason. When you scan through a web page, headings are one of the items that stand out to you. Again, you can read the heading (or listen to it for a screen reader user), and provided its descriptive, instantly gain an understanding of the content beneath it. You can then keep reading or skip on to the next heading down the page.

4. Ensure link text is descriptive of its destination

Link text such as ‘click here’ and ‘more’ should be avoided and replaced with link text that adequately describes the link destination. Link text, along with headings, is one of the items that stands out to screen magnifier users (and all users for that matter) when browsing a web page. If ‘click here’ is used then these users (and in fact all users) will have to search through the text before and after the link in order to work out its destination.

5. Avoid scrolling or flashing text

Scrolling or flashing text is generally known for offering poor usability, as it means that users can’t read the text in their own time. This is doubly true for screen magnifier users who read web pages at a slower rate – chances are that they won’t have time to read the text at all before it disappears.

6. Front-load paragraph content

By front-loading paragraph content, screen magnifier users can access the main point of each paragraph immediately. Front-loading means placing the conclusion first, followed by the what, why, when, where and how. By placing the conclusion first, screen magnifier users can read the conclusion of the paragraph straightaway and then decide whether they are interested in reading the rest of the paragraph or not.

If screen magnifier users aren’t interested in the content of a paragraph, they can move the magnifier down the screen and when they see white space they know that the paragraph has ended and the next paragraph begun.

This rule about front-loading paragraph content actually benefits absolutely everyone. By putting the conclusion at the start of the paragraph, all users can instantly gain an understanding of the point of the paragraph and decide whether they want to keep reading it (or skip to the next paragraph).

Conclusion

All-in-all, there are quite a few things that can be done to improve usability and accessibility for screen magnifier users. The good news though is that all of them improve usability for absolutely everyone.

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Color Theory – Choosing Your Website Colors

Is the choice of colors for your website and print materials more than just a matter of personal preference? Does it really matter what color choices you make? Will your audience really feel differently because of the color combinations? The answer to all these questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes!

Color is considered emotional, because variations evoke different emotions in people. We all know that green is the color of money, but did you also know that green can symbolize greed, envy, and jealousy? The colors you choose will have a direct effect on how the public perceives your company or product. This can be complicated by the fact that our use of color on the web is now limitless: technology allows us to create millions of color combinations. So how do you choose? This brief article will make it simple to understand the basics of choosing colors.

It’s important to understand that every color has a positive and negative set of emotions associated with it, what I call the “color meaning”. It’s this meaning that will affect your customer’s emotional response to your company, brand or product. So when choosing color schemes for your website, or any other media type, you need to make sure you’re presenting your company or product with a color that will most likely entice the audience to choose your company or product.

Take a quick break, and go look in your lunch room, refrigerator, or kitchen cabinets at the products we purchase from the grocery store. What color do you see the most of? Chances are, you’re seeing red, and lots of it. Just glimpsing into my cabinets, now that I know I’m looking for it, I seem to be thrown in to a world of red products. Chef Boyardee, Kellogg’s, Lipton, Carnation, Ragu, Aunt Jemima, Nestle, Betty Crocker, Orville Redenbacher’s, Heinz, Pam, all of these brands are jumping out at me with red in their labels. Why? Red is a very “hot” color, and very emotional as well. In studies, red actually has a physical effect on people, increasing their heart rate and causing blood pressure to rise. Red grabs our attention, stirs us to action, and thus is a very powerful color for product packaging.

All colors fit into three categories; cool, warm and neutral. While you can select all of your colors from the same category, it is often possible to achieve a more powerful effect by introducing a color from one of the other groups. Let’s take a look now at how colors work together, and what each color may mean to the viewer.

Cool Colors
Blue, green, purple, turquoise and silver are cool colors. Cool colors tend to have a calming effect on the viewer. Used alone however, these colors can have a cold or impersonal feel, so when choosing cool colors, it may be wise to add a color from another group to avoid this.

Blue Color Meaning.
Positive: tranquility, love, loyalty, security, trust, intelligence
Negative: coldness, fear, masculinity

Green Color Meaning.
Positive: money, growth, fertility, freshness, healing
Negative: envy, jealousy, guilt, disorder

Purple Color Meaning. (purple is a combination of blue and red, so it is found in both the warm and cool categories)
Positive: royalty, nobility, spirituality, luxury, ambition
Negative: mystery, moodiness

Turquoise Color Meaning.
Positive: spiritual, healing, protection, sophisticated
Negative: envy, femininity

Silver Color Meaning.
Positive: glamorous, high tech, graceful, sleek
Negative: dreamer, insincere

Warm Colors
Red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, and gold are warm colors. Warm colors tend to have an exciting effect on the viewer. However when these colors are used alone they can over-stimulate, generating emotions of anger and violence. When choosing warm tones, adding colors from another group will help to balance this.

Red Color Meaning.
Positive: love, energy, power, strength, passion, heat
Negative: anger, danger, warning, impatience

Pink Color Meaning.
Positive: healthy, happy, feminine, compassion, sweet, playful
Negative: weakness, femininity, immaturity

Yellow Color Meaning.
Positive: bright, energy, sun, creativity, intellect, happy
Negative: coward, irresponsible, unstable

Orange Color Meaning.
Positive: courage, confidence, warmth, friendliness, success
Negative: ignorance, sluggishness, superiority

Purple Color Meaning. (purple is found in both warm and cool colors)
Positive: royalty, nobility, spirituality, luxury, ambition
Negative: mystery, moodiness

Gold Color Meaning.
Positive: wealth, prosperity, valuable, traditional
Negative: greed, dreamer

Neutral Colors
Brown, tan, ivory, gray, black and white are neutral colors. Neutral colors are a great selection to mix with a cool or warm palette. They are good for backgrounds in a design, and also tend to tone down the use of other more overpowering colors. Black is added to create a darker “shade” of a primary color, while white is added to create a lighter “tint”.

Black Color Meaning.
Positive: protection, dramatic, serious, classy, formality
Negative: secrecy, death, evil, mystery
Gray Color Meaning.
Positive: security, reliability, intelligence, solid, conservative
Negative: gloomy, sad, conservative

Brown Color Meaning.
Positive: friendly, earth, outdoors, longevity, conservative
Negative: dogmatic, conservative

Tan (beige) Color Meaning.
Positive: dependable, flexible, crisp, conservative
Negative: dull, boring, conservative

Ivory Color Meaning.
Positive: quiet, pleasantness, pureness, warmness
Negative: weak, unstable

White Color Meaning.
Positive: goodness, innocence, purity, fresh, easy, clean
Negative: winter, cold, distant

You may be asking, “What is the right color combination for my business website?” While there is no absolute “right” color for your website, you need to understand your target audience, and consider their response to colors, not your own. If your end goal is for them to choose your company or product, then your color palette must appeal to them. There are overall factors that indicate what your audience may or may not like.

The basic target audience factors to consider are age differences, class differences, gender differences and overall color trends.

Age difference is a key factor that should not be ignored. If children and adolescents are your target audience, then they prefer bright, primary colors like red, blue, green and yellow. However, if your target is older adults, they would prefer more muted or darker colors, along with colors from the neutral color group.

Class difference is another key factor in choosing colors. United States research has shown those in the working class prefer colors they can name like blue, red, green, etc. Those that are more educated tend to prefer more obscure colors like taupe, azure, celadon, salmon, etc.

Gender preference is an obvious factor in choosing your colors. Men tend to prefer cool tones like blues and greens, where women prefer warmer tones, reds and oranges. If you have an audience of both men and women, consider mixing some colors from the warm and cool palettes that would appeal to both men and women.

Last but not least are color trends. By definition, a trend means “current style”. Choosing currently popular colors may work well for some types of websites and products, but if you want to present longevity and stability, then popular colors may not be the best direction for you. Instead, you may want to consider more traditional colors that stand up over time.

Choosing color is more than just picking what feels good to you, it is about creating a response from the viewer. By knowing your target audience and the effect that different colors can have, you gain a greater ability to determine what colors will work best for your audience.

One final note on color. Viewers on the web can use different monitors, different browsers, and different operating systems. It is nearly impossible to ensure that your colors come across the same on every computer as well as in print. Don’t be overly concerned with the differences on varying computers, but do try to be consistent. Whether you’re creating a color palette for your company, a brand identity, or product colors, consistency is key. Use the same colors throughout all your marketing efforts to create familiarity with your company or product. Consistency will help instill trust with your viewer.

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8 Things You Must Know To Build A Great Website

Last week we talked about how a bad website can do your business more harm than good. That column brought several emails asking what is the key to building an effective business website. I replied with the same answer I always give: building an effective business website is a simple matter of definition.

Before the first graphic is drawn or the first line of code is written, you must define the website’s budget, purpose, target audience, design, navigation, and content. And when that’s all said and done you must define the marketing that will bring visitors to your site.

It sounds easy, but you’d be amazed at how many really bad business websites there are out there. Yours might even be one of them. If so, listen up. For nearly ten years now my company has been building and rebuilding websites for every kind of business you can imagine: from mom-and-pops to multinationals. We’ve designed (or redesigned) a couple hundred websites and along the way I have come to the conclusion that most business websites do a pitiful job of working for their owners.

What’s that, you didn’t know your business website should work for you? You think it should just sit on a server somewhere taking up digital space and collecting digital dust?

Wrong. Every website, business or otherwise, must serve a purpose, and that’s usually where most websites falls short. They serve no purpose because the website owner never gave much thought to it. It’s not the website’s fault. A website is inanimate. It is only what you make it. The only life a website has is the one given to it by its designer and owner. If the human element doesn’t do a good job of defining the building blocks, the website will serve no purpose and eventually die a digital death.

Building an effective business website isn’t brain surgery, thank goodness, since that’s how I make a nice percentage of my living. Building an effective, well-designed website that works for its owner, that actually serves a purpose, is all about definition.

Define the Budget
Every website, no matter how large or small, must have a realistic budget, with “realistic” being the key word. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with a potential client as they listed off the eight million cool things they wanted their website to do, only to find out that their budget was just a few hundred dollars. I always feel like saying, “Well you just wasted three hundred dollars of my time, so here’s your bill…”

Define the Purpose
Every website must have a purpose. Purpose drives everything: the audience, the design, the navigation, the content, and the marketing. I could do an entire column on purpose, but suffice it to say that there are five categories of purpose under which most websites fall: the purpose to inform, to educate, to entertain, to generate leads, to sell, or a combination thereof. If you fail to define the purpose of the website, all else is just wasted effort.

Define the Target Audience
Your target audience refers to that segment of the public that you hope to attract to the site. For example if you sell shoes, your target audience would be anyone with feet. Taking it a step further, if you only sold women’s shoes, your target audience would be women (with feet) Why is defining your target audience so important? If you have no idea who your audience is, how can you expect to design a website that will appeal to them? Your target audience could be customers, investors, job seekers, info seekers, etc. Define your target audience, then figure out how to serve them.

Define the Design
Website design theory has changed over the last couple of years, primarily because the search engines now ignore graphic heavy websites and give preference to those that take a minimalistic approach to design. If you look at some of the big boy websites like GE, Oracle, Raytheon, HP, and others you will see that in many cases the only graphic on the homepage is the company’s logo. Search engines now give higher preference to websites that offer keyword-rich text over flashy graphics. Don’t fight the design trend. You will lose.

Define the Navigation
Bad navigation is the number one reason website visitors abandon a website. Navigation refers to the chain of links the visitor uses to get around your site. If your site has an illogical navigational hierarchy or too few or too many links or is simply impossible to get around, you’ve got problems. We live in a microwave society. We stand in front of the microwave tapping our foot and glaring at our watch wondering why it takes so damn long for a bag of popcorn to pop. Why can’t a three-minute egg be done in thirty seconds? If it takes a visitor more than 3 clicks to get to any page on your site, your navigation needs improvement.

Define the Content
Content refers to the information on your website, be it graphics, text, downloadable items, etc. Since the top search engines no longer use HTML Meta tag data to index websites, it is vital that your website content be text heavy, succinct and well-written to appeal to the search engine spiders.

Define the Build Method
Next, who will build the website for you? Will you do it yourself using one of the point and click website builders or will you hire the kid next door? Will you hire a freelance designer or a professional firm? Budget usually dictates the build method, but be warned, when it comes to website development, you get what you pay for. Sure, the kid next door will throw up a site for you if you buy them a pizza or make your daughter go to the prom with them, but you will end up a with a website that looks like and performs like it was designed by the kid next door.

Define the Marketing
If you build it, will they come? Not on your life, at least not without a good marketing campaign. Your website should become a part of all your marketing efforts, online and off.

Put the website address on your business cards, brochures, letterhead, and all collaterals. Include the address in your ads; print, TV and radio. If you prefer to do online marketing, figure out where your target audience surfs and advertise there.

If marketing is foreign to you, do yourself a favor and call in an expert. Many businesses fail because they simply do not know how to market their products and services effectively. This is also the downfall of most business websites.

Here’s to your success!

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SEO Fundamentals

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to view my SEO hints and tips e-book on the often forgotten aspects of SEO. This book was written from the collective knowledge and information gathered by Chris Diprose, owner and manager of Kanga Internet. Kanga Internet are located in Melbourne, Australia and they focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Web Development for the Joomla Content Management System (CMS).

With Search Engine Optimization there are lots of unknowns, educated guesses and knowledge gained from personal and associative experience. Google, Yahoo and MSN keep their cards close to their chest when it comes to revealing how their ranking systems actually work. They tell the community trickles of information on what things can affect search engine results, how they can be improved and what to do in certain situations, but mostly knowing what to do to achieve good results is achieved by studying and hard work. Much alike other SEO consultants I have gathered information from various sources and worked constantly on improving results for customers. I am always looking for new intelligent ways to improve search engine results. I believe in “White Hat” (or more appropriately, “Grey Hat”) principles.

Edition 1 of this e-book is intended for people looking to improve their websites from the ground up. I address SEO design fundamentals; the things you need to consider before embarking on any text and keyword analysis. I hope you find these hints and tips useful.

Enjoy the readings herein.
– Chris Diprose

The Website Revelation – What owning a website actually means.
As a Web Developer and SEO consultant I deal with many existing website owners who are looking to modify or improve their website. I also deal with many people who are looking to start their web presence with a new website. Through both of these interactions there is often a common theme; a misunderstanding or an attitude. I call this a misconception of reality, as often the reality of what the Internet can actually do for the persons business and what they think it can do differ massively.

Often it is presumed that by simply owning a domain and having a website built and published on the Internet, thousands of people will magically find the website, visit it and buy their products. “If you build it, they will come” should be removed from the vocabulary as soon as possible if you are to adjust attitudes to the underlying search technology. As a businessman in the real World, it is obvious that it would not happen outside of the Internet ether, so what is so different online? Maybe it was the Technology boom 10 years ago that caused a rift in understanding or maybe the buzz that caused the meteoric rise in the stock prices of Tech Companies, I can hear the thoughts of the small businessman, “surely this can be replicated for my business” – in answer I would say, “well, it is unlikely, but you should be able to achieve some results over time”.

It is most important when taking on a project like Search Engine Optimization for a website, to know that it is important to be committed for the long haul. It is no small task and sufficient funds need to be allocated to the project. Delivery deadlines need to be correctly scoped against required changes, in order to meet client expectations. The key points of responsibility to the SEO project are in knowing that there are big changes near the start and during setup but the changes do not stop after setup, there are a continuous ongoing refinements to the design and system over time. In this regard I find it important to manage expectations and set realistic long term goals on what a website can be expected to achieve and in what time frames those goals hope to be met.

So what should your goal be when you are delving into SEO for your website? Well, everyone’s goal is exactly the same; improve page rankings, improve page visits and hits and finally gain more sales through the website.

When it comes to SEO and achieving these goals you have to have principles and my main principle is, “Good websites get good ratings and bad websites get bad ratings or none at all.” As time goes on with the improvement of search engine technology and the refinement of search engine results this statement becomes truer and truer. I believe in results through “white hat”(reads; “Grey Hat”) principles and methodologies.

What are “white hat” principles? I guess I would compare it to doing things the honest way and the right way without risk. So develop a good site, promote good linking, have good informative content and keep working on it and then you are on the road to good rankings through “White Hat” principles.

So, why should you do things the “white hat” way? Well, search engines do have some kind of understanding, an artificial intelligence. They soon catch on to websites spamming or linking to websites with no relevance and bad cross linking. It’s about being smart, in for the long term and wanting your business to grow organically, naturally.

So how do I go about improving my site and making it optimized for search engines naturally? Well, that’s why you’re here! So let’s run through few of the things you should be doing in your websites from a fundamental level.

Domain names:
When choosing a domain name, choose one that is relevant to the product or service you are going to provide and that is as simple as possible. There are considerations of branding and product/service provided that should go into this choice. Involvement of marketing personal and product understanding is required but also consultation with your SEO professional is advantageous. In this step I would say, take some time and choose wisely. Keep it simple and easy to remember, often saying it out loud will make it clear whether it can be understood by a simple man.

It is a strongly held belief by many SEO professionals that buying a domain which is older, and that has been around for a while, means it will not be sand boxed by Google. What’s the sandbox effect? Well, it refers to what Google does to a website or domain that is new or is relatively unknown by Google. In many instances Google’s Sandbox effect relegates the new domain to sub-optimal inclusion in search results. Regardless of the sites optimization it lowers the websites relevance and ranking to the term searched upon. If you can use your old business domain name, then consider this very important.

If, however, you are buying a new domain name then keep it relevant to the product or service being sold or offered on the website. Keep it close, relevant and simple. Relevance is primary.

Location specific domain or international domain ( .com or com.au)? Personally I think dot com’s are better, mainly because they appeal Internationally but if you want to you can keep it location specific and to your region then consider purchasing all similar higher level domains, yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com.au, if you can.

Choosing a Host:
Fast, reliable and gives you all you that you need and want. Preferably gives a unique IP. Again some SEO professionals believe this can also have a detrimental affect in Google rankings but from my experience it sometimes does and it sometimes doesn’t. I have had some sites come in with high PR rankings on shared IP’s and others when I shifted to a new IP the PR of the site jumped, so this is still a bit of a mystery when it comes to Google rankings. I guess a consideration

Traffic considerations: When choosing your host ensure the plan you are on can be expanded so that any new increases in traffic can be accommodated accordingly.

Site Design:
There are several fundamental things to consider when you are modifying or designing a website.

Flash:
Flash is has been popular for a few years now and I truly believe it has its place. It is a great way of showing many products or services in a small area, has great visual impact if done properly and can set a good friendly tone to the website visitor. Having said that, I also hate flash; it can be an absolute nightmare when it comes to search engine optimization.

What you should know about flash; it cannot be read by a search engine as the search engine cannot read the text or the images contained within it nor can it interpret what is in the pictures being shown.

When it comes to flash I would suggest, not making your whole website flash. If you are designing a new website and you want to use flash then use it in high impact areas to capture the attention of your intended audience but use it sparingly. It is important to ensure that as much text content(to a maximum discussed in my next book, generally 300-500 characters) is available on the webpage and in simple HTML.

Frames:
Many older websites were designed with frames. Frames are where the main home page is actually a frameset page that includes several other pages into it. This makes the page hard to index in search engines and should be avoided. While Google do now index framed sites, it is important to note that most of the other top search engines still cannot follow frame links. They only see the frameset page and ignore the rest of the inner frames. This presents an SEO problem to us because it is highly likely those inner pages contain our content keywords.

Nowadays this is not really a huge issue as it is so uncommon for a designer to actually use frames but the easiest way to resolve the issue would be to enforce a no use policy on frames.

Page Layout:
According to research the Googlebot trawls web pages from left to right and top to bottom. So given this little tidbit of information it is clear that you should be putting our most valuable keywords and information on the left and near the top. Of course this is a blanket statement and does not take into account design principles and beautification. Just keep it in mind during design of page layout. Position your move relevant keywords to the left of the page and near the top.

Good HTML Coding:
A lot of HTML generator programs out there bloat HTML to the point it is 3-4 times larger than what it would be if you hand coded it. Keep it simple, use a text editor, edit your HTML the old school way; until there is a HTML generator tool worthy of use. If you can’t code HTML then do a search on the Internet and find a decent, free, e-book and learn how to do it.

Javascript:
This is very popular among many web development professionals for menu’s, popups, scollers etc etc. It would be my suggestion to use simple plain HTML menu’s or as little Javascript as possible in web pages. There are many small JavaScript menu’s out there that are slim on JavaScript code to reduce this issue and make it almost negligible. Don’t over clutter your site with JavaScript as it increases page size, page load times and the search engines won’t understand it.

Image Sizes:
Keep them small and use only what you need to. This is essential for decreasing page loading times and getting information onto the users screen as soon as possible.

Overall page size and loading:
The overall page size is an important factor. It should load quickly and be easily trawled. If you have followed the HTML hand coding, used minimal javascript, used simple table layouts and good image sizing then you should be fine. There is much evidence that supports the fact that Google and probably the other search engines also, do not like to scan huge files, so keeping your overall HTML page size below 25k is my suggestion.

Dynamic URL’s & page/file names:
Dynamic pages are roadblocks to high search engine positioning. Especially those that end in “?” or “&”. In a dynamic site, variables are passed to the URL and the page is generated dynamically, often from information stored in a database as is the case with many e-commerce sites. Normal .html pages are static – they are hard-coded, their information does not change, and there are no “?” or “&” characters in the URL.

Pages with dynamic URLs are present in several engines, notably Google and AltaVista, even though publicly AltaVista claims their spider does not crawl dynamic URLs. To a spider a “?” represents a sea of endless possibilities – some pages can automatically generate a potentially massive number of URLs, trapping the spider in a virtually infinite loop.

As a general rule, search engines will not properly index documents that:
• contain a “?” or “&”
• End in the following document types: .cfm, .asp, .shtml, .php, .stm, .jsp, .cgi, .pl
• Could potentially generate a large number of URLs.
To avoid complications, consider creating static pages whenever possible, perhaps using the database to update the pages, not to generate them on the fly.

Slightly Off Topic Thoughts:
The topics covered here are not considered completely SEO topics but in terms of overall objective – increasing sales, this section is very important. Take these things on board, consider them, consult with your designer and marketing team. Make educated and informed choices on these topics when considering your audience and what your website objectives are.

Screen Size:
Over 65% of all screens in the World are set to run at the 1024×768 resolution. Of the remaining percentage, 13% are running at 800×600, 20% running at larger sizes and 2% are unknown. So this affects the way you design. It would be my suggestion to always design for the smallest user to visit your site, but often I find 800×600 restrictive so I tend to design for slightly larger. Not large enough to make an 800×600 user angry but large enough to make it look good on larger screens also. I weigh up my target users, my intended amount of content and find some happy medium. I generally design for 1000×620 as this is the perfect amount of real estate for a 1024×768 user when they have the browser top bar and status bar and Windows taskbar.

colors and themes:
One important aspect of marketing – selling – is the use of color. Meanings are attached to colors in the same way meanings are attached to words.

• Gold is the color of wealth and prosperity.
• White is the color of pure innocence and cleanliness.
• Pink is the color of femininity and softness.
• Green is the color of natural things and freshness.
• Red is the color of danger and stress.
• Blue is the color the calmness, intelligence. The majority of the World selects blue as a favorite color. It often represents “trust”

Use of color to establish an image or a brand is common in the marketing community, yet when you visit the websites of many search engine optimization professional’s, it’s obvious that color significance plays no part in their own web optimization. Some of the colors I found on SEO websites:
• Baby Blue, a color which implies weakness.
• Red, a color which implies risk, or danger.
• Orange a color which implies a cheerful “levity”. Orange is one of Americans’ least favorite colors.

Although color selection is off topic for SEO I would consider it a very important factor in what SEO is trying to achieve, in the end, for your website – selling more product, creating loyalty to your brand and customer impact. color research is something you should seriously consider. In summary of color choices I would suggest studying and learning more about your customers, researching color choices and their relevance to your underlying products and making informed choices on these in collaboration. If in doubt then I suggest sticking to safe and trusted colors within safe eye pleasing designs.

Gifs for logos & jpgs for pictures:
Ensure you are using gifs for logos and background placements and jpgs for photos on your website. This helps reduce size and improve clarity of the web site overall.

Browser:
It is vitally important to ensure your web page works in both IE, Firefox and Opera. Testing other browsers is also an advantage but these are the main three in use nowadays (2007). I think quoting stats on the browser breakdown are irrelevant as you need it work in all browsers. W3C cross browser compliance is great for this.

So, this brings us to the end of Volume 1: Fundamentals of SEO Web Design. There are many things to consider when designing a website or modifying a web site to make it more SEO friendly. Clearly I have a few more volumes left in SEO for websites.

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40 Simple Ways to Build Trust in Your Website Visitors

It is absolutely necessary that your website must create the environment of trust otherwise, most of your efforts will be wasted. Have you ever thought – how to create the environment of trust for a website? Don’t be panic, its very easy to build trust for your online visitors.

If you want to know how your site ranks (in terms of building trust online), then visit: http://www.infotrex.com/siterank and know by yourself, where your site is ranking.

As you already know that – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Building trust for your online visitors cannot be achieved by just a single action. Trust is achieved by many little actions you do throughout your website and when its taken together, give users a sense of stability, honesty and legitimacy for your business and services you provide.

If you want to know how your site ranks (in terms of building trust online), then visit: http://www.infotrex.com/siterank and know by yourself, where your site is ranking.

Another good or bad news is that only few website owners focus on building trust in the minds of their visitors. So, if you do it well, it can become a real and sustainable competitive advantage for your business and you can keep your competitors away.

Here are 40 simple actions you can take to get started.

1. Your website design is the first impression. Make sure it is professional and relevant to the subject matter.

2. Navigation must be intuitive. If visitors can’t find what they are looking for easily, they will question your competence in providing what they want.

3. Make the website personal by giving it its own tone and voice. People buy people.

4. Follow the HEART rule of creating online content. (Reminder: HEART stands for Honest, Exclusive, Accurate, Relevant and Timely.)

5. Use language that is appropriate to the audience. It will build empathy.

6. Regularly add new content to your site. It shows that the business is alive and kicking.

7. Review all links. Doubts will quickly form in your visitors’ minds if links don’t work or, worse still, take them to error pages.

8. Good grammar and spelling matter. Errors give the impression of sloppiness and carelessness.

9. Don’t make outrageous and unbelievable claims, like “Read this blog and you’ll be a millionaire by the end of the week.” People are used to scams, get-rich-quick schemes and rip-offs.

10. Publish REAL testimonials and third-party endorsements. Try to always use real names and link to websites where possible. Some sites show images of letters sent by happy customers.

If you want to know how your site ranks (in terms of building trust online), then visit: http://www.infotrex.com/siterank and know by yourself, where your site is ranking.

11. Publish case studies about customers you have helped, who use your product, etc.

12. Don’t put down, curse or insult competitors. It’s unprofessional. It is better to offer an objective comparison of competitive services or products.

13. Focus on building your long-term reputation, not on making quick sales.

14. Write articles for humans, not search engines.

15. Make your ‘About Us’ page personal and comprehensive. It plays an important part in making visitors feel comfortable that real people are behind the site.

16. Publish your photo or the photos of the key people involved with the site. Again, this reinforces the fact that there are real people behind the screenshots.

17. Clearly identify who is behind the site. Nothing creates more suspicion than a site that tries to hide the identity of its publishers.

18. On the ‘Contact Us’ page, provide an email form, telephone number, fax and address of the company. In Europe, it is a legal requirement for sites taking funds, but even sites driven by advertising will benefit from openness.

19. Provide a telephone number that people can call and talk to a person.

20. Provide Web addresses linked to the website domain, not addresses from free webmail services such as Hotmail and Gmail.

If you want to know how your site ranks (in terms of building trust online), then visit: http://www.infotrex.com/siterank and know by yourself, where your site is ranking.

21. Think carefully about reciprocal links. If your site is about organic food and you have links to Party Poker, people are going to question your integrity.

22. Think carefully about the adverts you display on your site. Ensure that they are relevant to your subject and audience.

23. Write and publish your privacy policy. Be clear about what you will and will not do with any personal data you collect. State that you adhere to all data protection laws. Make it easy to read and don’t use legal gobbledygook.

24. Write and publish a security policy. State what measures you take to ensure that all transactions are secure as well as how well you handle customers data.

25. Ensure that you have a security and privacy policy which is linked from the footer on every page. Make the link more prominent on all the order pages.

26. Clearly publish your guarantee. I would recommend making it a 100% money-back guarantee if possible.

27. Clearly state your refund and returns policy.

28. If you use PayPal, put the PayPal logo on your site. If you have a merchant services account with a major bank like Citibank or HSBC, put its logo on your site.

29. Use Google search on your site for two reasons. First, it is a great search solution which will help your visitors find what they are looking for. Second, having the Google name on your site instills trust.

30 If there are well-known industry associations for your subject, join up and put their logos on your site.

If you want to know how your site ranks (in terms of building trust online), then visit: http://www.infotrex.com/siterank and know by yourself, where your site is ranking.

31. Have a forum on your site and respond quickly to questions. Have the attitude that you are happy to help others without receiving immediate reward. As the old saying goes, ‘Givers always gain.’

32. Allow people to comment on articles. Interactivity and an exchange of views build community and a sense of involvement.

33. If people provide constructive criticism or comments in the forum, don’t delete them, but respond with your point of view.

34. Use the words ‘secure website’ whenever you try to get any information from visitors, including newsletter sign-ups, forum input and payment.

35. On every page, state, “We take your privacy and security very seriously.” Link the statement to the security and privacy policy.

36. If you are selling a subscription, offer a low-cost, entry-level option. This could be a one-day taster, ‘a week before billing starts’ or a monthly trial.

37. Only ask for information from customers that you really need. For example, for an email newsletter sign-up, the only information you REALLY need is an email address, so that is all you should ask for.

38. If you have pricing on your website, make it transparent. I recently went to buy a book which was advertised for $10. When I checked out, they added tax, post and packaging, and the final bill was $19.50. I didn’t buy it as I felt they had deliberately tried to mislead me.

39. Start a small newsletter of your company/services & circulate it among your clients/employees. Also, publish it on your website regularly.

40. Allow people to “unsubscribe” from your mailing list. This may sound very obvious, but I have found that many websites still don’t follow it.

To ensure that you are continually improving your trustworthiness, every time you go to a website, ask yourself whether you trust it or not. Then ask yourself why you have formed the opinion you have.

If you want to know how your site ranks (in terms of building trust online), then visit: http://www.billingsseo.net and know by yourself, where your site is ranking.

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How To Take Pictures In The Dark

Have you ever taken a picture of a cherished moment only later to discover it did not develop well because of the lighting? This will never happen again.

Advancements in sensor technology are transforming the quality of digital cameras. Sensors will enable the camera to be two to four times as sensitive to light compared to what is currently available. Photographers will produce higher quality pictures in low lighting situations.

The current status

Flashes are currently used to add more light to a scene, but they may not always be effective or appropriate. For instance, photos are prohibited in some indoor venues because the flash may take away from the participants of the event. Due to the progression of light sensors, taking a picture indoors will produce better results and may promote the usage of cameras in more venues.

Out with the old

The new technology builds upon old technology, which works as follows: Red, green, and blue pixels work in conjunction with an image sensor to collect more light to produce a quality picture. Half of pixels gather green light, while the remaining pixels collect red and blue light. The inner software then reconstructs a full-color signal for each pixel.

In with the new

The sensor innovation introduces a fourth pixel. It is sensitive to all colors, so all wavelengths of light go through and are detected by the pixel. The pixels are highly sensitive because they do not filter out any light. The panchromatic pixels are used to harness the amount of light and the color pixels are used to procure the final image.

Conclusion

This sensor technology will revolutionize how we take pictures. It enhances the quality of the picture and grants more opportunities to take great pictures at times when it has previously been less than optimal to do so.

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Setting Up A Home Office

When you want to work from home or when you need to bring work home with you, setting up a home office will offer you a quiet place to relax and concentrate on your work. You do not need too much to create a home office. In fact, if you do not have a spare room, you can always set up your computer and equipment in a corner or in the hallway. Equipment including a computer or notebook PCs, monitors, scanners, calculators, and a printer are all you will need to set up a home business.

In addition to these items, you should buy paper, pens, pencils, and other items that you will need for sending correspondence and for storage purposes. Buying a filing cabinet or a few plastic drawers may be all you will need when storing information that you may need later on. A home office should be a place where you can pay bills, conduct research, and complete work related tasks. Many people who have home offices also earn a living running internet or other types of home businesses. Having the right equipment and software helps a business run more smoothly during the day.

When looking for desktop computers, you should decide what you will be using the computer for and what you will need in terms of memory, graphics, and speed. Some computers are better than others. Hewlett Packard computers are a trusted name in computer equipment and you will be able to create your own computer by deciding what you will need it to do. A HP can be found in many stores and online. To go with your new HP Pavilion laptop, you will also need a printer. Printers come in many different sizes and capabilities. HP printers can be bought in combination with a fax, scanner, and copy machines. These printers are very useful when running your own business.

Once you have your home office set up, you may want to buy a digital camera. Digital cameras can be expensive, but you will be able to take quality pictures and download them onto your computer. Sending pictures of your family to others is a great way to stay in touch with others. You may also want to buy HP laptops, televisions, handhelds, and projectors. Once you own a Pavilion, you will want to try more HP products. A HP home and home office store is the perfect place to find additional equipment for your home office. You will be able to see the latest models and also see how different machines work together to make your business run better. Having a home office means updating it every so often. Visiting the HP store will give you new ideas that will make your business grow.