Sunday, September 23, 2007

SEO: 5 Things To Hate About Web Design (and how to fix them)

What do you hate most about websites? If you browse websites as much as we do, then there is a lot to hate. Because there are so many terribly designed, user non-friendly websites on the Internet today, we have put together this short but detailed list of things to hate about web design. In addition to compiling this list, we’ve also provided a solution for each of the problems.

When creating a web design, there are a number of things that a web designer should take into consideration if their goal is to produce a high quality, user friendly website.

1. Vomit Inducing Color Schemes

There is nothing worse than visiting a website and seeing a borderline-gruesome, mismatched, out of control color scheme. As basic as it is, some people have a terrible time choosing successful color schemes. Though there are millions of colors to choose from, it doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Whether you want to pay for a piece of software that will significantly simplify the color scheme selection process or use one of the free color scheme tools available on the Internet, you will be implementing attractive and successful color schemes in no time.

To Pay

If you want to pay for a color scheme application that will do all of the work for you, then your best solution is the Color Schemer Studio. Located at and available in both Mac OS X and Windows flavors, this tool not only builds you an entire color scheme based on a single color, but it also generates monochromatic, complement, split complement, triad, tetrad, and analogous harmonies based off of that same single color that you choose. It is absolutely remarkable. There are a lot of other neat and extremely useful features built into this application, too.

Not to Pay

If you would rather not pay the $49.99 for the Color Schemer Studio (even though it is worth every penny), then there are free alternatives available. Navigate to and you will find a Flash based color scheme tool called the Color Wizard. Although not quite as user friendly as the Color Schemer Studio, the Color Wizard has a lot of features built into it. You can either enter a hex color code or move the sliders back and forth to find the color that you’re looking for. The Color Wizard also gives you multiple harmonies based off of the single color that you choose. The Color Wizard is a solid (and free) color schemer product. The only downside to the Color Wizard is that it is available only to be used on the Internet. In comparison, the Color Schemer Studio does not require an Internet connection since it located on your computer’s hard drive.

Continue reading.. SEO: 5 Things To Hate About Web Design (and how to fix them)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Alexa Ranking A Web Site Monetization Strategy?

The main goal that almost all companies have today when dealing with online marketing is to improve their conversion rate. Everybody knows that there are various ways of attracting targeted traffic. Some go for a good place in the Search engine result page, others would be more satisfied with heavier traffic. Either way, everybody sets his goal usually in earning more money.

But, while having a high position in Google may seem to some companies the only way to make themselves known and thus reaching their goal, there are others that think that a good place in the Alexa ranking system might result quite beneficial in the end.

What is Alexa Ranking?

This is a ranking system provided by controlled by that basically evaluates and shows the number of visits on various Web sites. The algorithm according to which Alexa traffic ranking is calculated, is simple. It is based on the amount of traffic recorded from users that have the Alexa toolbar installed over a period of three months.

Continue reading ..Alexa Ranking A Web Site Monetization Strategy?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Art of Website Maintenance By Erin Ferree (c) 2007

Now that you've designed and launched your website, you have a powerful marketing tool for your business. But, your website is only as useful as the content is current. The process of keeping the content on your site current is called website maintenance, and it's important to keep both visitors and search engines supplied with new information. Just like regular maintenance on your car, you have to make changes on your website every few months to make sure that things run smoothly.

If you update the content on your website on a regular basis, potential clients will be drawn back to your site to find out "what's new". The search engines pay visits to websites in their queue regularly. The catch is that you'll stay in the queue only if you update your site regularly. If the search engines visit your site several times in a row, and don't find anything new, they may decide not to come back-which can be a blow to your search engine rankings.

So, when is it appropriate to update your website? You don't want to waste time and monëy nitpicking at your site if you don't have updates of real value to add. You should update your site if you've:

- Grown your skills. Have you gotten a new accreditation? New licensing? Improved your skills? Any change in your skill set is a great reason to update your website - and your potential clients - with your new capabilities.

- Expanded your products or services. Do you have a new offering? Add it to your website and start making new sales in that area.

- Completed a successful project. If you've just finished a project, include it on your website. Create an online portfolio, add a case study - build a section on your website to use as a place to show the world your success.

- Gotten more testimonials, or added to your client list. Including more feedback on your offering helps to build your credibility. Be sure to get a testimonial from each of your successful client projects. Updating your testimonials regularly will also show clients who have visited your site a few times that your offerings are "up to snuff".

- Written an article. Writing articles is a great way to keep your website up-to-date and to put more content on your site. Search engines love content-rich sites, and visitors will love to see the new information. So, if you write articles to educate your clients and promote your business, be sure to place them on your website as well. They're likely to be full of keywords related to your area of specialty, which will help your ranking in the search engines.

- Issued Press releases. You should post all press releases and other information you publish about your company to your website. You nevër know who may be visiting, and you may get written up for your accomplishments.

- Made changes in your business. Have you hired someone? Changed your business structure, and you're now required to notify the public of that? If so, you should probably review your website and evaluate how you can add that information.

- Made Yearly checkups. You should do a basic review of your site at least once a year, to make sure that the content is current. Some things to look for include:

  • Your copyright statements should be updated yearly

  • Test and validate your links, to ensure that they still work

  • Your time references should be changed. If your "About" page says how many years you've been in business, this is the time to change that!

  • Your pricing and offerings - do you have new products or services? Have your prices increased over the past year?

Spotlight any major updates on your home page as well, so that people will learn of those updates as soon as they enter your site. The search engines will also discover the new update as soon as they enter your home page if you leave a bit of information, with a link to the full story, on the home page. That will act as a breadcrumb for the engine to follow - the engines will follow your link to learn more about it.

Any of these reasons, and dozens of others, are great reasons to make changes to your site. If you make keeping your website current a priority, it will pay off with better search engine rankings and increased sales and leads through your website.

Once you've decided to make your changes, the next choice is how to go about doing that. There are two steps involved in maintaining your site:

1. First, decide whether you prefer to edit your content on paper or online. This can be done in a couple of ways. You can start by printing the pages that have outdated information and then updating that information on paper first. Or, you can copy and paste the outdated content from your website into a word processing program such as Microsoft Word and then edit that file on your computer.

2. After you have updated your text content you can choose either to make the changes yourself or to hire a web designer to make the changes. There are several tools that you can use to make changes to your site yourself. We recommend an easy-to-use tool called Macromedia Contribute. It's fairly inexpensive, its simple to set up and learn, and it allows you to back up to older versions of your site if you make mistakes.

We suggest that you use this tool to make only simple text changes. More complicated changes - for example, to the overall design or navigation - are more difficult to make, and having a professional make those changes will save you energy and frustration.

If you are comfortable with a more complicated software program, then we recommend a professional-grade tool such as Dreamweaver. With a better software package, you'll be able to make some of the more complicated changes yourself.

By building more and more current information into your website, you will also begin to build trust with your potential clients, since they will have a snapshot of what's currently happening in your business available to them. Your website can go a long way towards making sure that your online prospects know, like, and trust you - which can lead to more sales from your website.

About The Author
Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. Her workbook, "Design a Website That Works", will walk you through all of the questíons that you need to answer in order to create the best possible website. Elf-Design Web Workbook

Monday, September 17, 2007

Effective Email Marketing Subjects

Email marketing has exploded in growth over the past few years, as marketers have continued to see the benefits and outstanding ROI this marketing medium can bring. However, despite the great results being attained, many marketers still overlook a very important component of their email marketing campaigns: The Subject.

Just about everyone who uses email knows about the subject line. It's the little bit of information that is displayed along with the 'sender name' when an email lands in someone's inbox. Some email programs show the sender name, subject and a preview of the message, while other email programs only display the sender name and subject. In these latter scenarios, the subject is an even more vital part of your email marketing campaigns because that may be the single biggest factor in determining whether or not someone will open your email marketing campaign.

Far too many email marketers spend a long time perfecting their message content (which is a good thing!) and then they simply gloss over the subject. An there's the mistake. You may have the world's greatest content, but if your subject line isn't compelling enough to make your readers open the message, all that great content will just go to waste. With that in mind, here are a few tips for crafting your subject line:

1. Short & Simple: A Few Words Can Go A Long Way

A good subject line is short and to the point. Many email programs restrict the amount of characters that are displayed in the subject. What this means is that your subject may get cut short. Worse yet, you don't really know where it will get cut off, which would lead to some highly unexpected results. Imagine sending out an email campaign to business professionals with the subject line: "Learn to Diversify Your Sales Strategy." Now imagine if that subject gets cuts short by your readers' email programs, and all they see is "Learn to Dive". Chances are, your business-focused readers won't care to open that message. On the other hand, if your subject is just a few words, and is direct and to the point, then it will be displayed fully and you will know with the utmost confidence what each recipient is getting the context of your email marketing campaign, regardless of their email software.

2. Pique Your Readers Interest Everyday

People receive a lot of email messages, so you want to make sure your email marketing campaign cuts through the clutter. For your email marketing campaign to succeed, you need to pique people's interest. After all, it is their choice as to whether or not they open your email. And if the subject doesn't elicit some interest or curiosity, then it can easily be skimmed over. The best way to come up with a captivating and interesting subject line is to put yourself in your readers' shoes. Don't tell them what you think they want to hear; tell them what they actually want to hear! This can be tough because you need to keep it short (as per point 1), but a few words is more than enough to get a reader's mouth wet and make him or her want to know more. Remember, if your subject is dull, boring, or completely uninteresting, your reader will go looking for the delete button, and no email marketer wants that.

3. Cheesy or Overly Exaggerated Subjects Doesn't Fool Anyone

If you send out an email and in the subject you promise that "all of your dreams will come true", today's consumer will likely delete your email marketing campaign prior to even reading another word. If your subject guarantees your readers will be rich beyond their wildest dreams, then it will almost always get trashed (not to mention classified as spam). Today's consumer is very savvy and these cheesy, out-dated gimmicks simply don't work. Before writing your subject, assume that each one of your recipients is very well aware that your product or service is not the miracle of all miracles. The moment you send out an email with an overly gimmicky subject, you are really shooting yourself in the foot. This is not to say the content of your message is not special, but with limited reading time for emails, people quickly dismiss anything that sounds "too good to be true". Make sure your email marketing campaigns don't get filed into this notorious group!

4. Be Honest: Describe Your Content

Your email marketing subject should not be conjured up in isolation of your actual email content. They should go hand-in-hand, where the subject nicely describes what the reader can expect in the body of your email marketing campaign. Far too many times in the quest for the perfect subject (and while following the points above) an email marketer will stray so far away from their content that the subject ends up having nothing to do with the message. This is a catastrophic mistake because in addition to the subject acting as a determining factor for opening your email, it also sets up the reader's mentality for what they can expect to see in your email marketing campaign. If they open your message expecting to see tips for effective email marketing, but instead you give them tips for dieting, they will swiftly close your message. While a goal of the subject is to get the reader to open he message, you also want to set it up so that the reader keeps reading. And you can only do that when your subject is honest. After all, if you're trying to fool your readers into opening your message, then you can't expect them to be that attached to what you eventually want to say.

A good email marketing subject can go a long way towards boosting your results and helping you achieve your goals. This important part of every email marketing campaign should be given some serious thought and, when combined with the points above, will help more people open your email and read your content.

Robert Burko is the President of, the leading email marketing program, serving thousands of businesses across the globe. The email marketing service is part of the family.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

50 Common Web Design Mistakes

This started out as a “Top Ten Newbie Web Mistakes” for my beginning web design students but it quickly became obvious that I couldn’t limit it to only ten. I was finally able to edit it down to 50. But I suspect, as soon as the comments start, it will begin growing again.And, yes, I’ve made them all at one time or another.

Page Titles
1. Untitled documents: “Untitled Document” is the default title for pages created in Dreamweaver and other web design programs. Too many people forget to change it.
2. Same title for all pages: The title is important. Help the world know which of your pages they want to see.
3. Non-descriptive titles: The page title is the headline for your link in search results (not to mention an important factor in determining those results). Instead of “Jim’s Page” try something like “Cartoons and Illustrations by Jim” or better yet “Political Cartoons.”
Meta Tags
4. Duplicate meta information on all pages: The keywords and description meta tags in the head of your page help search engines categorize your page. If you duplicate the tags across all pages of your site, they will look alike to searchers. Customize the keywords and descriptions for each page or don’t use them at all.
Site Structure
5. No index.html (or equivalent) in the root directory: By default the index.html (or an equivalent such as index.htm, index.php, default.htm, etc.) is displayed when you visit If you don’t include it, visitors will get an error message or be required to type out the full URI including the file name.
6. Disorganized file structure: How you organize your site files won’t affect what the site looks like but lack of organization can make your life hell down the road when you’re trying to update or redesign the site. Use directories (folders) to help organize your pages and images.
7. Uploading non-web files: Accidentally uploading a few native Photoshop files can eat up your disk space quickly (not to mention take forever). Store your resource files (Photoshop images, Word files, etc.) in a separate folder outside your local web folder.
8. “Under Construction” pages: If a page isn’t ready to post, don’t post it. If you can’t help yourself, remember “Under Construction” is supposed to be a temporary condition and, after a month or, so it starts to seem permanent.
9. Frames: There are good reasons why you might want to use frames but there are no good reasons to actually use them.
10. Horizontal scrolling: The least common denominator for monitor width is currently 800 pixels. You also need to leave space for scroll bars, page margins etc. so 760 pixels is a good standard width for your web pages. Wider may be acceptable depending upon your target audience but be careful!
11. Worthless content: If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say it.
12. Out-of date content: If your content is no longer timely, delete it and, if you’re going to include a copyright notice, update it each January.
13. Overly long pages: Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with long web pages (that’s what the scroll bar is for) if the content warrants it. But, if it can be done logically, it’s usually a good idea to have several shorter pages than one very long one. If you do have very long pages, provide additional navigation to make it easy for readers to move within or off the page (such as a simplified menu of text links at the bottom of the page).
14. Unnecessarily short pages: In an effort to make the content “fit” the design, designers often resort to a series of short pages when one long one would be more user-friendly.
15. “Orphan” pages: Pages you forget to provide links to don’t exist as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
16. “Alien” pages: Pages that completely ignore the look and feel of the rest of your website leave users feeling like they’ve been suddenly transported to a website far, far away.
Navigation, navigation, who’s got the navigation?
17. Pages without navigation: If you don’t offer them an option, visitors are more likely to close your page than to hit the browser’s “Back” button.
18. Broken links: ‘Nuff said!
19. “Hidden” links: Make links easily identifiable by using a contrasting color, underlining them, using “button” images or altering the rollover state.
20. “False” links: Underlined text and rollover images scream link. Use them cautiously.
21. Menus that move: Establish consistent “navigation zones” and stick with them.
22. Inconsistent navigation: Once the user learns how to use your site’s navigation, don’t change it on him.
23. Restyling text instead of using heading tags:

is not the same as big paragraph text.
24. Using heading tags for design: Headings are structural elements and should be used to define the purpose of the text they enclose. Don’t use them just because you want big bold text.
Body Text
25. Using images for text: Text in images can’t be read by search engines or screen readers.
26. Justified type: It’s hard enough to make justified text look presentable on a static printed page. On a dynamic web page it’s nearly impossible.
27. Using

instead of
: It will make formatting difficult.
28. Using
to control line breaks within paragraphs: Let the browser determine where your lines break within paragraphs. If you force the issue you may get strange results as not all browsers size type exactly the same.
29. Typos and grammatical errors: use your spell checker and check out 10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid.
30. Type too small: Really, 9 point type on a printed page isn’t comfortable for most people. On screen it’s unreadable for anyone over 30. Except for the “small type” you’re trying to make unreadable 12 points (or even 14) should be your minimum.
31. Too little contrast between text and background: It’s really hard to read!
32. Using non-breaking spaces to align type: For tabular data use tables. To position type as a design element use CSS styles.
33. “Ransom” note styling: Using too many fonts, too many styles, too many weights, too many sizes and too many colors is simply too much.
34. Images without the alt attribute: Search engines, screen readers, and that little text box that sometimes pops up when your mouse is over an image all use the alt attribute. You should too.
35. Jigsaw puzzle graphics: Don’t slice images more than necessary. Each slice requires an extra call to the server.
36. Resizing images in the browser: Size your images in your image editing program before placing them on your pages. Images that are blown up in the browser lose quality and images that are reduced in the browser increase the loading time of a page. For example, a 1 inch by 1 inch image loads 4 times quicker than a 2 inch by 2 inch image, even if they are displayed at the same size.
37. Improper image format: JPEGs are best for photos and continuous tone images. GIFs are best for images with large areas of flat color. Also, transparent GIFs are prone to “ghosting” if used incorrectly.
38. Use of transparent PNGs without Explorer fix: PNGs offer true transparency but it doesn’t work properly in Explorer 6 without a javascript fix.
39. Gratuitous Flash: No matter how fantastic your Flash splash page is, nobody really wants to watch it more than once. If you must “Flash” yourself, at least provide a “skip animation” link.
40. Non-stop animations: Let your animation cycle a few times and then stop it before it gets overly annoying.
41. Too many animations: More than one animation on a page is just annoying.
42. Use of the tag: Thankfully some browsers ignore it.
43 “Sheet of paper” pages: Your screen is not eight-and-a-half inches wide, things don’t necessarily stay where you put them and, when you get to the bottom, you can scroll. Take advantage of the design possibilities those attributes and others offer.
44 Confusing content and design: HTML tags (p, h1, h2, etc.) are structural elements and, by themselves, say nothing about how your page should look (see for example…). Organize your content using HTML and create the design of your pages with CSS (and maybe a table if absolutely necessary).
45. No contact information: The purpose of a website is communication. Right? Make sure people have a way to contact you if they’re interested in your work, product or service.
46. Reliance on email links: E-mail links only work if the user has an email program available and correctly configured. And they don’t work with G-mail and similar services. So people in libraries or school labs can’t use them. Most ISPs offer a form processing script that can convert the contents of a form to an email and send it to you. Use it.
47. Failure to respond to contacts: Sure you can ignore spam but, when a legitimate visitor takes the time to contact you, a prompt reply is just good manners.
48. Auto-play sounds: Unexpected sounds are annoying especially in an office or classroom.
49. Opening too many windows: Cluttering up someone’s screen with a new window every time they click on a link is just bad manners.
50. Failure to check for cross-browser inconsistencies: Your site should work on Macs and Windows, in Explorer, Firefox and Safari. If it doesn’t you’ll drive visitors away.

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