Monthly Archives: January 2013

Keywords and URLS

The First Thing We See: Get the Most Out Of URLs

If you’re building a site, giving it a renovation, or just adding content, you want to make sure that it’s accessible to both the visitors who come by and the web-crawling search engines.  One of the most important ways that you can do that is by choosing a descriptive URL. Ideally, your URL will act as the first indicator of what to expect on a particular page in the way of content.  So let’s check out four of the most important things to remember about choosing your URL.

Short and Simple

Simple URLs are often most effective—just use the URL to say what will be on the page.  There’s no need to try to get too flashy or imaginative, especially when sales might be on the line.  Use words and avoid using numbers or symbols that might confuse both potential visitors and the search engines. And while you’re trying to keep your URL straightforward, distill it some as well.  A short, direct, accessible URL will stay memorable.  Try to describe exactly the content that people will find in four syllables or less.

Keyword Spike

Your URL is the main gate of your entire website operation.  It is a featured part of every page and it’s one of the first things a visitor or web crawler sees.  This is literally the best time to integrate a keyword into anything on your site.  Expect the keyword you use to spearhead the rest of your SEO measures, but don’t think that a keyword in a URL will carry the site. Also, on the other side of the coin, don’t misuse a keyword or mislabel your site.  If a keyword in your URL actually represents the opposite of what your site is about, you will be penalized by search engines.

Case Sensitivity and Preferred Punctuation

Did you know that URLs are case sensitive?  Most often, your browsers will convert upper case characters in a URL to lowercase characters.  And usually it’s best to just use lower-case in your URL so you don’t hit any snags. If you do use uppercase letters in your URL for some reason, make sure you have a good webmaster who can setup 301 redirects.  A 301 redirect functionally helps to stop some of the confusion that might be caused by upper-case usage, and it definitely helps to curb some of the web crawler errors that might also come up. Another thing to keep note of is that underscores (the ‘_’ symbol) aren’t a good option for separating words.  If you do want to separate words for some reason, use a hyphen.  Ultimately, this switch-out is for the benefit of potential visitors—it makes the URLs easy to read and distinguish.

Override Your CMS

Some content management systems (CMS) generate URLs for your different pages that have crazy things like special characters and weird scripting.  This stuff has literally nothing to do with any of the content on your page—and that’s unacceptable.  It won’t help you bring in visitors or interact with web crawlers, and these bizarre hieroglyphs are almost impossible to type into an address bar.  Hope you didn’t want to go straight to the page!  Change that URL to something people can read.

How you handle your URL is really important to how your site interacts with people, as well as search engines.  Do you have any questions about how to handle a URL centered situation?  Leave a reply or set up a free consultation with an Online Marketing professional.

Sitemap for Websites

Lost On the Trail? 4 Reasons Why You Really Need a Sitemap

 

You’ve heard of a sitemap—that list of links that looks like an outline for essays like you used to do in college.  There’s no good reason to use a sitemap, is there?  It’s all redundant anyway, right?  Well, you might be surprised.  Here are four ways that a sitemap can help you out.

1.     In-House Organization

This page gives you a complete, meta-perception of what your site looks like.  You may browse through for opportunities or search with a purpose.  For example, if you have a services page that you want to split into descriptions about each separate service, you’ll have the tools to be able to think about what that will look like.

Do you want to just split the pages equilaterally?  Is one page best communicated as a subset of another page?  Should you build separate top-level sections for different offers?  The opportunities go on from there, and it would be much harder to make a decision if you didn’t have a sitemap at your disposal.

 

2.     Help People Navigate the Site

It’s probably no surprise that something called a “sitemap” can be a navigation tool.  But if you make it available for people who drop by your site, you offer them another (and often exceedingly easy) way to navigate between pages and subpages.  What they want to get to is not always obvious, and laying your cards on the table is going to be best for you and your visitor.

If you have tens of pages on you site (or even a bigger number, into the thousands), lost visitors have the option to pull open the sitemap and find out where they may have gone wrong.  That’s a very useful option for them to navigate to the content they want most.  And since these visitors are self-selecting to try to get to that page, they’re more likely to perform whatever next action you might want from them—buying, giving contact information, etc.

 

3.     Demonstrate a Theme

Looking over the links included on a sitemap gives your visitors an idea about how you want to communicate with them.  You show which subjects you consider to be most important in a visual food chain, as well your methods of categorization.  The visitor gets an idea of what you’re about, which means they’re better equipped to recommend you or purchase from you.

 

4.     Search Engine Optimization

With this single page, a web crawler has access to your entire site, its hierarchy, and a lot of the most important tags.  Using this information, it will follow the links that you provide on the sitemap and then index them all.

This easy access to information will put your site in a better position to come in searches that relate to you.  Pages can pop up from the title they’re given, the name of the link, or other tags or content found on the site.

For this reason, it’s really important to have a link to your sitemap on the front page of your site.

Does your site have a map included?  How has it helped you to make tactical edits?  Has it been useful for your visitors?  Did you notice any changes in search traffic after you published?  Or, are you still unsure on what a site map is all about?  Leave a Reply or set up a consultation with an Internet Marketing Professional in Bothell, Washington.

Image of guy avoid mistakes with website

3 Mistakes to Avoid With Your Next Website

One big mistake that a lot of small businesses make—especially those who are just starting to dip a toe into using the web for marketing—is to forget about what the end goal is: to make a sale.  Web crawlers that place your site in search engine results don’t make a sale, and neither do decision makers who demand that their site appeal to their own design preferences.
Designing your site so your visitors want to interact with you is the top priority.  Here are three things that you should keep in mind when you’re having your site built or redesigned.

1.     Know Your Buyer

Seems obvious, right?  You’d be surprised how many business owners and managers can’t pinpoint their target audience.

Instead of committing to tight, targetable descriptions, these people start piling one audience on top of another until they’ve got a hodge-podge of people coming to their site who really don’t want to be talked to the same way.  Another pitfall is the self-concerned owner or manager, who would rather design a site that appeals to his or her own sensibilities than their customers’.

If you don’t already know why people want to buy from you, ask your current or past customers why they chose you instead of your competitors.  And here’s a hint: most customer segments are more interested in hearing about what your offerings will do to make their lives easier, and not the minutiae of details you can give them.  That doesn’t mean you should hide those details, just lead with the most compelling messages and images.

2.     Choose Business over Beauty

Get it out of your head that websites need to be pretty.  All they need to do is be useful, engaging, and above all persuasive for your audience.  That doesn’t mean that your site shouldn’t be attractive, but keep your eye on the ball and make sure it appeals to the target audience.  If you’re trying to get the attention of new moms in from 25-35 years old, for example, your site should have an entirely different aesthetic than if you wanted to sell to a business where the decision maker is a 55 year old man.

There is one thing you should keep in mind on that note—beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and so should your website.  If your site isn’t responsive (that is, changes its format based on which device the visitor is using), then you’re at a disadvantage against your competitors whose sites are responsive.  With so many people browsing on their phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs, you need to be ready to accommodate your visitor no matter where they’re coming from.

3.     You Have Access to Data—Use It!

So many people seem to think that their website is static, like a billboard or a brochure.  In reality, it’s a living, breathing tool that you can change to suit your needs.  But to find out what those needs are, you’ll have to let it tell you.

Use data measurement tools like Google Analytics to find out where visitors going on your site.  There are a few other factors you’ll want to keep your eye on outside of your site, like where its listing comes up in search engine rankings, but making connections between those exterior factors and how many people are actually buying from you or contacting you is really the core of the exercise.

If you’re not getting the results that you expect to, take a look at where people start dropping off or bottle-necking.  Use that information to make discreet revisions, changing some specific aspect of one page instead of redoing the whole site.  Making small tweaks based on informed decisions, you can get incremental wins, or jump ahead by leaps and bounds.

Are you getting ready to build or rebuild your website?  Set up a free consultation with Allshouse Designs an Online Marketing Agency in Bothell, Washington