366 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

366 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success Reporting. If you re buying ads, you re going to want regular, comprehensive reports to see how the advertising is working. Similarly, if you are hosting ads, you may want to track which ads seem to be influencing your site visitors behavior. Most companies offering advertising also offer extensive reporting. Cost. Web ads can vary greatly in cost and type. Research to decide which advertising type is best for you. Along with ad hosting services, you can also consider running your own ad server software. note There are a large number of advertising services. The oldest and most well known is DoubleClick (www.doubleclick.com/), whose site offers a lot of helpful information covering a wide range of promotion and marketing for Web sites. For a good article on running your own ad server software, see Evaluating Ad Management Software by Bruce Morris, at www. webdevelopersjournal.com/articles/ad-management.html. Secret #240: Add Sponsored Links Sponsored linking is a phenomenon that staken off like crazy and seems to be one of the few new ideas to hit Web advertising. A sponsored link is a text link that can appear in the form of an ad or a simple link. You pay for the sponsorship, and the link is then extremely well targeted to appear on search engines or Web sites based on relevance. That relevancy seems to be a key component of sponsored link popularity. An excellent example of a sponsored link program is Google AdWords. Do any search on Google and you ll wind up seeing several links on the top and to the right side of the search results page. These are sponsored links, and if you compare the topic of your search to the resulting links, you ll see that the relevancy is pretty exacting. I put in the search term dog breeds and the sponsored links that appeared were both for breeder directories. You can purchase AdWords to run on Google (pricing structure is very sensible and guided by your budget needs), or use Google sAdSense, which allows you to build revenue by running others ads on your site all targeted by relevance (see the example in Figure 14-5). note To learn more about Google AdWords, see https://adwords.google .com/select/. To read more about AdSense, see www.google .com/adsense/. For bloggers or other sites where a wide range of topics might be freely discussed, this approach has been found to be controversial, largely due to Google policy. If you d like to read about the controversy, see www.kottke .org/03/10/google-adsense-sucks. The issues described pertain specifically to personal blogs rather than professional sites, but it s always good to be informed.

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 365 Site Type Promotional Possibilities Dating site Romantic getaway contests, seasonal promotions for Valentine s day, grand prizes for successful matches who meet and marry Weather Web site Weather trivia polls, seasonal promotions, such as Sensational Spring or Sizzling Summer promotions with contests and prizes such as weather trivia and vacation getaways The key is to match your promotions to your audience and product or service. This is one part of promotions I really happen to like, because it can be great fun and extremely creative to sit down with friends or team members and come up with great ideas. Even if you re limited in budget, there s usually some way to provide innovative, interactive contests and promotions that engage your clients. Secret #239: Learn More About Web Ads The controversy around Web ads rages on, and there remains very little real evidence as to their success. Sometimes they are effective, sometimes not. The key is to determine for your own site whether buying ads to promote your site or hosting Web-based advertising as a means of enhancing revenue for your site is a reasonable choice. Some issues to consider include the following: Ad placement. This issue refers to both cases of hosting ads, and buying them. If you are hosting, you want to make clear which areas of your site have ads, and how they will be managed. Similarly, research your placement options if you are buying placement elsewhere. Provision. Numerous vendors manage Web ads. Find one with a good track record and good customer support. Ad types. Whether buying or hosting ads, find out what kinds of ads are considered conventional in terms of dimension, weight, location, and file type (animated GIFs, rich media advertising via Flash). Integration into design. If you are going to be placing ads on your site, you ll want to successfully integrate them. Ads can be an eyesore but they need to be placed so that your visitors can see them, or they re not going to be worth much. You must find a balance. Fortunately, there are some helpful conventions you can use, but knowing that you want to support ads going into a design is a lot easier than trying to retrofit a design around advertising. Ads are best managed earlier on in the site design process or during a site redesign (see Chapter 15, Dealing with Growth and Redesign ). How to manage ad code. If you are hosting ads on your site, the ad management software or host that you choose is going to be sending you the ad markup. Usually, this markup is filled with problem code, and as you try to clean up your code, the frustration level can get a little out of hand. Plan to test or research the actual code so you know what you re getting into.

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364 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

364 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success to those readers as a means of rewarding their ongoing loyalty and interest in my work. Figure 14-4 shows a significant spike in site visits after a newsletter campaign. Figure 14-4: A spike in site visits occurred after a newsletter campaign. Secret #238: Run Regular and Seasonal Promotions To create interest in your site and brand or build personal relationships, regular promotions can really help. People like getting a break, or even better, free stuff. Depending upon what you re promoting and to whom, the type of promotions you want to run will vary. Table 14-2 describes several scenarios and suggestions for regular and seasonal promotions. Table 14-2: Regular and Seasonal Promotion Ideas Site Type Promotional Possibilities DJ Web site CD giveaways, trivia contests with prizes, show ticket giveaways, yearly concern promotion event. Heart disease information Web site Health-related book giveaways, monthly promotions for heart health, healthy cooking recipe contests, exercise equipment promotions, discount vouchers for healthy heart testing

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 363 Secret #237: Use Opt-In E-mail Newsletters to Drive Traffic Despite the scourge of spam and viruses that have hit e-mail users in the past years, e-mail remains the killer application. E-mail newsletters are undeniably powerful tools to build audience and encourage real relationships between you and your site visitors and customers. The key to avoiding guerrilla tactics in e-mail advertising is to make all e-mail newsletters optional. You will have people opt in mostly via your Web site, which means they have to get to your Web site in the first place. Once visitors do opt in, you can begin building a personal mailing list, which in turn encourages return visits to your site. tip There are numerous directories to which you can post announcements about new e-mail lists. These directories can be helpful because they provide a means of getting interested readers and promoters together. Some of the important factors to consider when initiating opt-in e-mail newsletters are as follows: What are the specific results you want from the e-mail? (Sales? More eyes on your site?) Do you want to offer HTML e-mail? Many e-mail experts say that HTML e-mail is the only way to go, but HTML e-mail may be problematic or undesirable for certain audiences. What kind of content are you going to offer (such as articles, reviews of products, tips and tricks, interviews, and polls)? How long will your newsletter be? Most e-mail experts say that keeping content short and to the point wins the day. How often will you send the newsletter out to subscribers? note Most e-mail newsletter services offer reasonably priced assistance for managing HTML versus text e-mail, tracking e-mail responses, statistics, demographics, and additional helpful tools that you can use to increase your awareness of how well your e-mail campaign is working. Experts do suggest that you spend time creating a plan to start e-mail newsletters, and also build in a way to assess how effective your plan is working. This way, you can adjust to the needs of your audience as time goes on. tip Generally speaking, you should send your e-mails during the week. Some studies suggest that most people open newsletters between Tuesday and Thursday. While weekends are often considered bad times to send newsletters, it really will depend upon your audience. If you are selling sports products, movies, or other recreational products, the weekend might be the perfect time to grab some attention. I have an opt-in newsletter on my site, and I have several thousand people on that list. One of the things I do regularly is to focus special promotions and giveaways

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362 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

362 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success The better you manage to drive people to purchase products via your affiliate program, the more money you can make. For example, for computer book authors, affiliate programs can make a lot of sense. All books I ve written can be linked from my site to an affiliate such as Amazon. Therefore, not only do I get the royalties I mdue from each sale, but I also make a percentage, boosting my earnings a little bit. There are pros and cons to affiliate programs, just as with anything. I used to manage an affiliate program on my Web site, but eventually took it off because I was getting far too many queries personally. Amazon is better equipped to provide wide-scale customer service and keep information up-to-date than I am without a concentrated effort. For me, the cons outweighed the pros. Table 14-1 shows some of the pros and cons to consider before jumping into an affiliate program. Table 14-1: The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Programs Pros Cons You have very little overhead in day-to-day management of business logistics and inventory No hands-on control over product quality, shipping and delivery, and other logistics, yet you may be held accountable by your clients anyway You can focus on one thing marketing your product via your Web site Affiliates do not provide any marketing assistance for the most part. You have to sell the goods. So, unless you are a born salesperson or have a good one on your team, an affiliate program might not be in your best interest You ll learn a lot about selling products online! This makes affiliate programs a good way for many folks to get started in e-commerce You may become so locked in to the learning curve involved with managing your program and Web site that you neglect other important aspects of Web site and product promotion You make money You could make more money in some instances by not relying on an affiliate, who may take as much of 50 percent of your gross sales You have autonomy to design and develop your site and display your products as you see fit. If you do this very well, you may end up with great leverage against your competitors You are relying on another company to pay you. Payments can take time, rates can change, and you don t have much recourse except to stop the affiliate program The most important issue is to be sure the affiliate program with which you are working is on the up-and-up. Check with other people who have used the service, and you can even find out where the company resides, whether it is licensed, and so on. note You may be able to check with the local consumer office or chamber of commerce to see if any complaints have been lodged against the company.

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 361 Secret #235: Solicit Reciprocal Links The more people link to your site, the more important that Web address will appear to many search engines, with the site ranking improving based on its popularity. This is called reciprocal linking. One scam you should be aware of is that some SOEs and marketing firms will try to convince you that you need to populate entry pages pages that link to your Web site on other Web servers to increase links to you, thereby boosting your rank by tricking search engines into thinking that relevant Web pages have links to your site. The best way to increase linking to you is to solicit it especially from relevant and related Web sites. For example, the more Web sites related to Web development, Web design, and computer book topics that I have linked to molly.com, the better my ranking is going to be. You can increase linking a number of ways beyond frank solicitation. Today s Weblog software can be applied to businesses too, adding features with rolling blogrolls links to related sites. For topically related sites, there are often Webrings groups of related sites with links from one to the next and these can be a great way to drive traffic to your sites. I ve added my Web site to a number of rings in the past few years and have been astonished at the resulting increase in visitors to my site.Webrings are grouped by like interest (or geography, such as Tucson Web sites ), so the people who come to your site as a result are likely going to have a pre-existing interest or need that your site can accommodate. tip Do a search for on any search engine and you ll probably find an assortment of Webrings related to your topic, too. If for some reason you do decide, or are told, that you need to research SOEs or other groups that can assist you with linking strategies, be as careful as you can to check out who you are working with. Who knows, you might be surprised and actually find someone who will help you with resources and actually contribute to your goals, but again, the likelihood of that is very low. Secret #236: Consider Affiliate Programs If it s appropriate for your site, you may wish to consider affiliate programs. Amazon. com offers the most famous of these programs. Here s how affiliate programs work. You create coded links on your own site of recommended products, sign up for the affiliate program to get the various coded links you llneed, and then you will receive a percentage of money from any affiliate sales.

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360 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

360 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success Tucson golf course properties retirement retirement neighborhoods. Naturally, all these keywords and terms should be included in your keyword meta element, too. Secret #234: Keeping URLs Short and Relevant This is a topic that spopped up throughout the book, and for good reason. Whether you re approaching it from the perspective of information architecture, usability, or ranking and promotions, the shorter and more logical your Web site address is, the easier it s going to be to promote and to catalog. For example, www.molly.com/books/ is going to be a fairly easy URL to promote, whereas www.readallofmollysbooks.com/ is going to have numerous pitfalls. So, keep URLs as short and sweet as you possibly can. tip It s also highly recommended that when you have a www within your domain name that a visitor is able to resolve your site with or without the initiating www www.molly.com and molly.com resolve to the same location. Another problem with URLs and promotion is dynamically created URLs or those that display a session ID. Consider the following URL, a real URL to an article of mine: http://www.informit.com/content/index.asp?product_id={F41929EF- 0DCC-444C-AE9C-EA20A98C3853}&session_id={6C98C46C-F571-4647-890DAB05E18223DD} Anyone who takes this URL and copies it into their browser window may encounter problems when the browser tries to resolve to the correct page. The reason is due to the session ID being added to the URL. That ID is specific to my session, not yours, and will cause problems when another person tries to resolve the URL. ExperiencedWeb developers and programmers will know that they should remove the session ID, but these issues can and should be dealt with on the server-side. URLs of this nature go against most usability guidelines and cause serious problems when it comes to trying to promote specific pages within Web sites. note Did you catch the other problem with the extended URL? If you drop it as is into an XHTML document, it will not validate unless you escape the ampersand within the URL.

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 359 Bad example:

Welcome!

Good example:

Welcome to Tucson Homes, Tucson’s Luxury Real Estate Site

tip Sprinkling keywords liberally throughout all headers is helpful. Just be sure you aren t going overboard to the point of losing the real meaning in your headings. Secret #233: Using Keywords in Text After looking at headings, many search engines will begin grabbing your text for descriptions. For sites that aren t built structurally and use tables for content, you re really playing Russian roulette trying to assume which content the engine will grab. However, if you are following well-structured markup practices, the first place most engines will look after headings is text formatted as being a paragraph. So, when you are preparing your content for the Web, be sure that there are plenty of keywords worked into your content, again following a balanced approach where you are enhancing the keyword count but not diminishing the content s importance. Here s a welcome paragraph on a client sWeb site: I specialize in luxury homes in the Tucson foothills and University of Arizona area. I am also very knowledgeable about Tucson golf course properties and retirement neighborhoods. My business has been built by personal referrals, so I’m looking forward to getting to work with you. Note some of the powerful keywords and combinations in use: luxury luxury homes homes Tucson Tucson foothills foothills University University of Arizona Arizona Tucson golf Tucson golf course golf golf course golf course properties

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358 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

358 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success Now look at Figure 14-2, which is an exact reproduction of the search results found on such search engines as Excite, MSN, and AltaVista. Figure 14-2: An example of how a wide number of major search engines implement the meta description. As you can see, the search engine has catalogued my description. Without an effective description in place, you may end up with other components falling into the ranking first, as shown in Figure 14-3. Figure 14-3: Without a meta description in place, the navigation appears before any discernable content. Follow these general guidelines when creating descriptions: Include a call to action that encourages users to select your site. This will vary depending on the product and services you want. My description might be more effective if I used this approach, which might read Visit Molly E. Holzschlag and learn the most current topics and techniques in Web design. Be brief. Stick to 25 words or less. Be clear and meaningful. Beautiful Web sites doesn t mean much, really. Follow that link and you might find a site designer, or someone s personal list of favorite sites. tip Including top-level meaningful keywords in your description is a helpful way of improving your document s keyword optimization. Secret #232: Using Targeted Words in Headers Not too long ago, many major search engines began looking at content either right away, or after grabbing a meta description (should one exist). H1 level headers get a lot of attention from many engines, because from a structural standpoint they are meant to describe the most important topic on the page. Once again, in the frenzy to increase ranking, suddenly pages were appearing with multiple H1 headers packed with keywords. This practice is not only considered bad form and just plain rude, but it doesn t sit too well with those search engines using it as a legitimate means of addressing descriptions. But the proper use of H1 elements can still help. That means one H1 element per page, tops. Add your keywords in an appropriate and clear manner, and you re helping everyone, not just the site s potential rank.

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 357 have a search engine, that is). Many search applications provide reporting services so you can see your top requested searches and add terms to your meta element as necessary. Figure 14-1 shows a listing of search entries on Molly.Com. I can see that there are several instances of suitable terms to add to my meta element, such as php and css. Figure 14-1: Local searches assist me in matching common searches on my site to meta keywords for major search engine listings. Secret #231: Writing Effective meta Descriptions The next most common meta element to define is the site description. This is typically a short description of about 25 words that describes your site simply and effectively. Numerous search engines look to this data for help with categorizing a site. Consider the meta description that appears on my site:

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