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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356 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

356 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success Secret #230: Targeting Keywords for meta Elements By placing keywords into a meta element within your documents (a common practice), you enable search engines looking for this information to catalog your keywords quickly. Keywords can help with ranking because you are able to catalog your site based on descriptive words or series of words that define your site as well as reflect the kind of word combinations that users will be inputting into search engines: Unfortunately, this method, while easy to implement (just add as many keywords as you d like, separated by commas, to the meta element), has been misused over time. Instead of sticking to those keywords relevant to their sites, some unscrupulous but imaginative folks decided to add keywords to a site that might have nothing to do with its relevance. For example, say you re working for a site that sells baby clothing and related items, and the person doing the meta keywords adds in words such as sex or porn completely irrelevant and inappropriate for your site. Because sex-related keywords remain extremely popular search words, they often end up where they shouldn t be. Another unscrupulous bit is the addition of multiple instances of important words numerous times so that in a keyword value, the word baby might appear alone (rather than in various reasonable combinations) 100 times. Search engines got savvy to this behavior and put their foot down by creating stricter rules and sometimes blocking any sites that were using poor practices. This action has actually helped many working in Web development to be more aware of exactly the kind of keyword and keyword combinations they want. A good exercise is to sit down at your computer with a text editor at the ready, and just begin to write out words and word combinations that might be things you would search for if looking for the given product or service your Web site represents. You may also wish to have other members of your team add to the list. You can even ask people who useWeb sites but do not necessarily know anything about making them to come up with keywords and keyword combinations. Collect, review, and edit these down to the most descriptive and relevant options for use on your site. tip While repeating a single keyword on its own within the meta element is considered a no-no, using the keyword in various combinations is not. For example, I might use Web design and follow it up with Web development and Web usability. I ve used the word Web three times but in relevant, applicable ways. This helps with ranking and clarifying the types of work you do. Another important means of refining keywords within your site is to match your keywords to actual data reported via the search engine in use on your site (if you

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 355 By getting rid of deeply nested tables for layout, ensuring that style is handled with CSS, and making your sites accessible for the disabled, you open up your site to be quickly and easily catalogued by a search engine. Add to that effective titling of your documents, clear language use, and many other cues related to readability and usability, and the rest of the job is pretty straightforward. A lot of information will try to steer you otherwise toward paying money for additional software or services to help you get ranked. This is only one of the many myths that exist regarding most search engines and how they rank you. Other myths include the following: A competitor can ruin your ranking. A competitor cannot purposely sabotage your ranking or remove you from a search engine under normal circumstances. However, if they have done a better job than you with the design of their site, or they have a very large amount of relevant links to their site, or they have a domain name that is very close to the main concept of the site, they might get a higher ranking (molly.com, for example, will rank higher on most search engines when people search for molly ). You can pay your way to the top of Google. No, you can t. You can buy sponsored links and advertising that will appear alongside or above searches of relevance to your site, but there are numerous factors that get sites to the top. Paid inclusion services are the way to go. No, they re not. With very few exceptions, inclusion services are scams, and finding those exceptions is very difficult (see the next section). No matter what your site spromotion goals, in the immortal words of rapper Chuck D, Don t believe the hype. Avoid Unscrupulous Marketing Techniques Here s a fact: No one can promise you top rankings on all major engines by doing anything to your site. I take that back! They can promise, and they do promise, but they don t deliver. In the past few years, a rash of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies has emerged to help us optimize the code on our site and fix problems related to search engine rankings. Many SEOs are straight-out frauds, doing nothing for their clients or doing very little and calling it a day. Of course, some of these companies aren t fraudulent, but the proliferation of the bad guys is such that you as a consumer must be hyper-vigilant if you decide to use any of their services. note Google has an excellent overview of SEOs that provides guidance in how to choose one, and how to report complaints about any SEO in the United States or abroad. See www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html. Thankfully, the techniques in this chapter, along with your well-designed and structured Web site will alleviate all of those woes. In fact, in just a few short pages, you ll learn enough to open your own SEO should you desire a little time on the guerrilla-marketing front.

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354 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

354 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success What if you created a Web site and nobody came? You don t want your sites to end up obscure and unused. No doubt you veread about meta tags and how they can help your sites get ranked better; and just about everyone using the Web is aware of the annoyances related to Web advertising. But these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Read any Web site dedicated to Web promotions and you ll see all kinds of topics, often controversial ones. This chapter lets you in on the insider s view of why so many Web marketing methods are problematic, and shows you the right way to use common techniques such as keyword and description tagging, how to expand and extend keywords within your content, how to get submitted to search engines in a timely fashion, how to get the word out to interested parties, and how to increase interest via sponsored links and offline promotional opportunities. I will not teach you how to spam, use annoying ads, or compromise the integrity of the products and services you represent. Just apply a balance between great Web site design and customer service and you will never have to rely on gimmicks. About Web Site Marketing There s a book that sits on my shelf, copyright 1995. In it, a couple of marketers decided to take their guerrilla marketing tactics to the Internet, persuading a lot of newcomers that aggressive marketing would make them profitable. In 1995 the Web itself was very young, and we were all trying to sort out the best way to do things. Some of these guerrilla ideas caught on in a big way, but almost always in detriment to the comfort and prosperity of all. Guerrilla marketing tactics encouraged (and still encourage) e-mail spam, browser hijacking, overuse of ads (especially popups), and a range of adware that sbecome a scourge to the good users of the Web. From a management and team perspective, marketing is often considered the most difficult aspect of a successfulWeb site team, as they tend to have conflicting goals. Marketing goals often conflict with technology goals, and there also tends to be a different focus in marketing. Their job is the sale, and while designers and developers seek to support that, sometimes the two conflict in their goals. On the Web, no practice can work without the technology necessary to make it work. Technology and how well we use it makes up a significant portion of a site s success. Of course, marketing and promotional methods are not all bad, and certainly many methods, such as regular specials or Web-specific coupons, can end up being extremely useful in successfully promoting your site. The best of marketing and promotion savvy, in my opinion, are those that relate to successful business strategy, great management, and workflow all topics found elsewhere in this book. Now Focus Is on Structure and Content While you will see how to use long-existing techniques such as meta keyword and description in this chapter, the real focus for today sWeb sites is to ensure that they are structured and written so that search engine computers can successfully rank them.

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Improving Site 1Cha4pter Ranking and Managing Promotions

Improving Site 1Cha4pter Ranking and Managing Promotions Secrets in This Chapter #230: Targeting Keywords for meta Elements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356 #231: Writing Effective meta Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357 #232: Using Targeted Words in Headers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358 #233: Using Keywords in Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359 #234: Keeping URLs Short and Relevant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360 #235: Solicit Reciprocal Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361 #236: Consider Affiliate Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361 #237: Use Opt-In E-mail Newsletters to Drive Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363 #238: Run Regular and Seasonal Promotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 364 #239: Learn More About Web Ads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365 #240: Add Sponsored Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 366 #241: Search Engine Submission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 367 #242: Don t Forget Offline Promotions! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 368

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