Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DOWNTIME IS DEAD TIME ON THE WEB

IF YOUR HOST SERVER IS DOWN,
YOUR BUSINESS IS DEAD.






Downtime:

"Test. Test. Is This Thing On?"

Because the web has become such an important part of our daily lives, we tend to think of this digital phenomenon as stable and pretty functional day in and day out. At least that’s what we like to think.

Sure, we’ve all visited sites in the midst of server or other problems. The slow, blue download line crawls across the box and immediately you know something is wrong. (“Hope it’s not the darnedcomputer, again.”) So you click on a couple of your toolbar favorites and, sure enough, everything is running in tip-top shape. No lag time, each sites loads in a blink – except that one site you really wanted to visit. You go back, click the link again and, sure enough, the download dogs all the way.

As users, we don’t wait around for sites to get themselves back online. We have the attention span of six-year-olds juiced up on Pixie Stix. If it ain;t happening now, I’m gone. Sound familiar.

And when we bounce to another site, we quickly forget the site with the server problems. The impression we get is the web as lock-down stable when it fact the whole contraption is a collection of mish-mashed web sites, routers, cross-platform comprmoises and software that looks great on IE but terrible on Opera. Major color shift. (Fact is, a web site will look different in almost every browser based on the browser being used and the user’s preference settings.

No, if your site sees a lot of traffic 24/7 and traffic falls to zero in the matter of a few minutes, chances are your server is down. Down time is routine in a gerry-rigged compilation of data formats (Flash, HTML, XML), operating systems (Linux, Microsoft, etc.) and platforms (Mac, PC, DOS, VoIP and so on.)

The fact is, when you think about it, it’s amazing the whole W3 doesn’t disintigrate under its own weight. Thanks to the technicians who spend all of that time fixing problems and creating work-arounds, the web huffs and puffs and chuggs along. However, never believe that the W3 is stable, perminant and unassailable. It’s anything but.

Monday, September 28, 2009

LOCALIZED SEARCH: ARE YOU LOOKING FOR BUSINESS FROM MOZAMBIQUE?


YOUR NEXT BUYER IS RIGHT HERE.



YOUR NEXT BUYER


Local Site SEO/SEM:

Think Small. Win BIG.

Of course GE has a huge website and Microsoft’s digital space is the size of a couple of football fields – everything from download patches to sales to rights-free clip art. A web site, for any well-known business, is a must. So is a HUGE web presence. That’s why these global conglomerates have SEO professionals on staff. It’s also why these sites rank so highly on Google. They’re enormous and optimized to the nth degree.

But what about your little boutique on Main Street, Anytown, USA. Or your car dealership out on Route 81? Can you compete with the big guys and if so, how? Here’s a quick primer on SEO for local businesses looking for traffic within a 40 mile radius of the business’ brick-and-mortar storefront or office building.

You don’t need a big budget and you don’t have to be an SEO to rank highly on local searches. But you do have to design your site for local search and optimize the site skin for the highest conversion ratios. So, here’s how to put your little hometown business on the web map – and actually drive traffic.

Google Webmaster

Google Webmaster Central is a treasure trove of Google-based tools designed to provide data and tips on improving your site’s page rank (PR) on Google’s search engine results pages or SERPs.

Google provides tools to improve local site traffic with its Keyword Generator, its Diagnostics that identify problems encountered during the last Googlebot visit – everything from an old home page still on your server to broken links. If bots have a problem, you have a problem.

This site also provides analytics: what does your site look like to a Googlebot (remember bots never see the site skin, just the HTML code under the site), there’s a Site Status Wizard to determine how many pages of your site are actually indexed in Google’s database of over 100 billion web pages. Google Analytics provides a breakdown of visitor traffic – who, what where, when and sometimes even why – all in one place.


Google Gadgets

Free stuff and especially useful for two purposes: (1) site stickiness and (2) local search. These doo-dads and gizmos keep visitors coming back and customers walking through your front doors. So what can you get from the Google Gadget goodie bag? Local weather, calendars and local time, all perfect for local search for local businesses. These Google gadgets enhance the visitor’s perception that you really are local and that’s a very good thing.


Google Gadgets also includes an online to-do list function. Ideal for local search. TO DO: go to dry cleaners – your dry cleaners. You can also pick up complete mapping functions – another must have for site localization. How do people get to your outlet?

Google’s To-Do List

Using Google maps, you can provide written directions and even a printable map. And all of these features are free when you open a Google account – which you should do ASAP.

“Hey, we’re right at the intersection of Maple and Main!”

Local SEO

You don’t want business 400 miles away from your shop. You want people who live in your area to stop by to make a purchase (unless you want to go global and get into drop shipping, which is another topic altogether). Adding gadgets like maps and local weather help convert visitors and lower your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) by delivering highly-qualified local buyers – web users who have located your store or office through a local search.

To improve the likelihood of being found locally, here are some tips to ensure that Googlebots and other crawlers get it right. Oh, and btw, if you don’t think this is critical to the long-term success of your business, check out these stats:

Seven out of 10 web users employ local search, aka 70% of potential prospects!

68% of surfers call the telephone number provided by a local business to ask questions about product availability, directions, questions when “Some assembly required” and so on. People like searching globally but they love buying locally. It’s so much more personal.

One-half of search engine users add a geographic modifier to their query words, aka, certified public account dallas texas. It’s easy to understand why. There are some things (like a tax audit) that you want to deal with face-to-face so you call a local CPA – or at least 50% of web users do.

So, in no particular order of effectiveness (do them all) here are some suggestions for upping local traffic through local search:

  • Add the name of your community to HTML tags – keyword tag, title tag, description tag and other HTML code. Remember, this is what spiders spider – not the site skin – so SEO is all about optimizing your code, NOT the site skin. However, you should also add local contact information on the site itself. This text synchs up with tag content, adding validity to the site’s code. (No funny stuff goin’ on.)

  • Make your URL visible within the local community. If your business advertises in the local newspaper, make sure the site URL is prominently displayed. Think of your web site as an opportunity to tell local buyers why they should by locally and, more germane, why they should buy from you.

  • List your business with Google Maps. When visitors access mapping from Google, Google Earth or MapQuest, your little business shows up as a push-pin online and in a printable format.

  • Develop a list of long-tail keywords that would be used by local search engine users. If you go with the top-used keywords, you’ll get buried in Google’s SERPs. How well will “Bonnie’s Art Supplies” stand out against Dick Blick and the hundreds of other mega-crafts stores that sell art supplies? Bonnie will be lucky if her site ever sees the light of day using the most popular keywords.

  • Instead, create a list of long-tail keywords – keyword phrases that locals would use, e.g., restaurants boothbay harbor maine or tourist information boothbay harbor maine. This narrows the number of search engine users who actually employ these long-tails, but moves your site to page one of the SERPs when a user does employ one of your localized, long-tail keywords. Make sure these keywords are topic-city specific.

  • In your site text (which will be part of the site’s code and, therefore, spidered) use words that describe your service region. Words like “near,” “around,” and “vicinity of” can be used to expand or contract your service area.

  • Some SEO experts claim that people don’t search by zip code. I do. And it doesn’t hurt to have your zip in your body text a bunch of times.

  • When creating long-tail, region-specific keywords, spell out the name of the state and avoid abbreviations, e.g. Boothbay Harbor Maine, not Boothbay Harbor ME.

  • Link to other businesses maintaining websites within your service community. This includes community sites, tourism sites and local business directory sites. Also, privately-owned sites specifically targeted at a local community are popping up like weeds. They provide local news, weather, some local reporting and links to local businesses – hey, like yours!

  • Post informational content on local blogs. Many communities maintain blogs – places where people can sell an old couch or ask for volunteers for the upcoming May Fest. These “local spots” are fast turning into the web log-on page – the place to get the local news and download a coupon for a free pizza when you buy eight. (Good deal.)

  • Don’t fool with Google. You can try multi-listing under different names when you register with Google Maps, but if you get caught employing this gray-hat tactic, your site can be sanctioned – sent to the back of the line – or banned altogether.

Local search is here to stay and more and more web users are employing the local search options now offered by the big search engines. Locals don’t want their eyes tested by someone 3,000 miles away. They want your eyeglass emporium. The want to make an appointment by telephone, print out a map to your specs store, and they want the personalized service they only get locally.

Optimize your site for local search and the local community. Who knows? If you supply enough good, local information, your home page may become the log-on for hundreds, even thousands of local prospects.

And you know that’s going to be good for business.

Localized search delivers powerful results in a short time - and it's growing more popular every day. Drop me a line. Your next customer is right down the street. No, really.

Webwordslinger.com

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SOCIAL BOOK MARKING: ALL OPINIONS ARE NOT EQUAL


Social Book Marking Syndrome:

What’s Wrong With Digg?

Amidst the information onslaught brought about by the web, sorting the good content from the bad isn’t an easy task. In fact, it’s almost impossible unless this information comes with some authority. Any bozo can post his opinion that the world is flat and soon develop a cult following among other flat-Earthers. Still doesn’t make it so.

The authority of much of the content on the web (take it from somebody who consumes web content by the metric ton) is suspect. The problem with web content is good old contestability. I can read it, but I can’t contest it, discuss it, debate it or kick it around with the author.

In fact, most of the time, the author’s name doesn’t appear anywhere attached to the document and, frankly, some of this blather reads like it’s written by 8-year-olds. Too bad, because along with unreliable, biased, inaccurate data, the web provides access to quality content, well written, properly researched and relevant.

The key is to sort through all this web “noise” to find the pearls of wisdom that await. Or better yet, have other web users do it for you. That’s the thinking behind book marking sites. Let the readers decide what’s good quality. In theory, a good idea. In practice, not so much.

Digg It

Digg.com is, perhaps, the best known of the many book marking sites that have sprouted like so many digital mushrooms. Here’s how the company describes its mission in life:

“Digg is a place for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the web. From the biggest online destinations to the most obscure blog, Digg surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users. You won’t find editors at Digg — we’re here to provide a place where people can collectively determine the value of content and we’re changing the way people consume information online.”

Other book marking sites worth a mention are: Technorati, del.icio.us and Yahoo’s My Web.

So break it down: these and other book marking sites enable you and others to assess the quality of what you read and hear, as you read and hear it. Look below this post and you’ll see two rows of links to book marking sites. By clicking on any of those icons and signing up, you can bookmark useful information, helping others find the good stuff.

These are seals of approval from readers who, at least it’s assumed, have some knowledge of the subject pinged. And this is where the system starts to unravel.

Freedom to Choose Does Not Lead to Good Choices

There’s a mistaken belief (at least in the U.S.) that freedom of expression translates into equality of expression – that all opinions are equal. Could anything be further from the truth?

When readers ping a blog post, their expressing their opinions. These opinions, from unknown, unverifiable sources, are then used by others as a determinant of quality.

The Bias of Authority

Using social book marking does, indeed, level the playing field. Your digg is as good as any other reader’s digg. All count equally. However, well-bookmarked sites are given authority by readers – readers with personal agendas, biases and mis- or dis-information.

The original intent of these sites was to point readers in the direction of articles worth a read. Unfortunately, many of the most pinged sites, blog posts and other web content lack real authority. Readers ping content for any number of reasons, not simply because it is reliable content. In fact, in many cases, just the opposite is true.

For example, political sites receive a lot of pings, especially during campaign season, which is now non-ending. Are the articles that get pinged unbiased references? No. Do the people behind the site have an unspoken agenda? Of course.

Unfortunately, book marking has created a “bias of authority” in content that is anything but authoritative.

It doesn’t take much to create this bias of authority, either. Content with as few as 100 diggs makes noise on the site, drawing attention. (Note of caution to novice diggers. Don’t digg your own pings over and over. The book marking site will recognize the repeating IP address and ban you and your diggs.)

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t network with others who share your views and ping certain rhetoric to build its credibility. The problem with social book marking is that it creates a “jump on the bandwagon,” herd mentality, which in turn delivers at least the cachet of authority, interest and/or readability, i.e., content worth putting down the Pop Tart and reading.

The Bias of Book Marking Frequency

Older computer users don’t bookmark as much as younger users who view the web as their own screen-based playground. Younger users are more likely to express their opinions (1) because they know how and (2) because they believe in their opinions enough to take the time to ping a piece of content.

This slants the tabulation of book marking activity to a much narrower demographic. Pingers are younger, computer savvy and fully functional online. The Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and the Millennium Generation grew up with mouse in hand and they intend to use it, even though many of these book markers lack authority, experience, expertise and judgment.

So, we have a narrow web segment of non-authorities to determine “the value of content” according to digg’s mission statement above.

While it’s a noble mission and does further the cause of egalitarianism on the web, social book marking must be taken in context. It does not bestow authority. It does not validate an author’s opinion. It does not represent a broad, universal sampling and there’s no way to ascertain the authority, biases, conceptions and misconceptions pingers bring with them when book marking web content.

The only thing diggs and other bookmarks indicate are that, for some reason unknown to all, an unknown web user thought, for some reason untold, that this content was worth your time.

The value of this information must be defined within the above parameters, which doesn’t leave much value at all.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Make On-Site Links Work For You


Don't let 'em leave. Use on-site links to keep visitors around longer.




Link Your Way to Site Success

No, Not Those Kind of Links, The Other Kind

You can’t swing a comatose web head without running into the stalest advice in all of SEO. Get quality, inbound links to improve site ranking with search engines. Yawn! What else ya got?

Okay, inbound links work in a lot of ways – creating credibility, trust and the chance for designation as an authority site so, yeah, inbound non-reciprocal links help, and there isn’t an SEO pro or newbie who doesn’t know it.

What you don’t hear a lot about is on-page links – links seen on every page of a web site. Links that connect visitors to other site pages.

Redirects and On-Page Links

Redirects are not held in high regard by search engines. The long-held impression that redirects are black hat tactics is still there. And, there are hackers still trying to hi-jack sites using invisible, on-page redirects. As soon as a visitor accesses the hacked site, s/he is redirected to another site page or even web site from the link provided in the SERPs. Redirects, such as a 301 (permanent redirect) or 302 (temporary), are cause for suspicion and can mean instant death for a web site.

There are plenty of legitimate uses for redirects. A blog, for instance, may send out a conformation of post receipt before redirecting the visitor to the blog and post itself. This kind of redirect is beneficial to visitors, providing useful and reassuring conformation and therefore, not all redirects are bad.

Here’s the deal: if the redirect has a valid purpose – one that an SE bot understands – redirects aren’t a problem. In fact, on-page links are nothing more than redirects and your body text should use them to help visitors navigate.

Embed Text Links Deep In The Site

It’s easy to optimize a site page for bots. The SEO industry still contends some search engine weighting factors, but there are many that enjoy almost universal acceptance by SEO pros.

That’s why some site owners optimize a page for bots and bots only. 5% keyword density, perfect title and alt tags, perfectly balanced informational content – the kind of content bots like to see. This page is then buried deep in the site with lots of links to more user-friendly pages within the site.

The deep site page, perfectly optimized for bots, won’t be attractive to humans (necessarily) with keyword dense text, no graphics (bots don’t read graphics files) and with a perfect title tag. This is a high ranking page according to metrics analysis because the content is information, as opposed to sales copy and again, it’s bot-o-mized in the page’s HTML.

Once the visitor reaches this highly optimized page, he or she is automatically redirected to a page that’s designed to appeal to humans rather than bots. These automatic redirects are usually permanent (301) and susceptible to bot interrogation and even page penalty.

Use On-Page Links to Avoid the Appearance of Impropriety

Use links to redirect visitors. Links are, in fact, redirects and they can be used to help visitors find the information, goods or services they need, and help index a site faster and with greater accuracy. If you do it right, you can get all desired pages indexed on the first pass by a Googlebot. For human visitors, it’s all about on-site links placement that strikes a chord or hits a nerve and generates a response to take action.

Example: A fire extinguisher site publishes an informational piece on home safety, providing good, quality advice. Quality, high-ranking content. This page is one of the high-ranking, deeply placed pages that draw visitors in. Now, instead of using automatic redirects, the savvy site designer will use contextual links to trigger a response from the site visitor.

Within the article, of course, is the recommendation to keep a fire extinguisher in the house. (Completely off the subject, you should have a fire extinguisher on hand. It saved my house.)

Anyway, the article provides a link in context to (1) generate a response and (2) compel action to that response. So, to move the visitor off the highly-ranked page, a short paragraph, based on the keywords entered to access the highly-ranked page, is used. For instance:

“Fire danger in the modern home is a reality, putting you and your family at risk every day. A small, properly-charged fire extinguisher can save your home and the lives of your loved ones.”

This deeply-embedded link then takes the reader directly to the products page for home fire extinguishers. The highly-ranked informational content draws attention from bots. The links draw the attention and direct the flow of visitor traffic once the site has been accessed, leading visitors to the precise page they need.

Use On-Page Links at All Site Access Points

A visitor can reach a well-connected site any number of ways – via directory,

Obviously, the more access (doorways) to a site the better. However, how a visitor got there is indicative of what the prospect is searching for. If the prospect reached the site through the Directory of Insurance Brokers, that visitor may or may not land on a home page depending on the query words used in the directory search.

“Low-cost high risk car insurance,” as the query phrase, displays a link with that exact headline. The searcher clicks on the top-ranked link, reads a short “Let us show you how to save $$$ on high-risk pool insureds, and a click takes the visitor to the car insurance zone page where additional links continue to direct the pathway taken by the visitor, i.e.

“High risk insurance will cost more depending on just how complicated your driving history is.” , (especially if you’re a local broker looking for local business).

Directions for Humans, Street Signs for Bots

These on-page links direct visitors to precisely the information they’re looking for. These links also provide pathways for search engine spiders that are trained (programmed) to follow links.

Links direct spiders to the far corners of a site, deep into the corpus. However, it’s just as important to make it clear what pages are off limits to Googlebots and other snippets of spidering programs.

Keeping Spiders Out

Spiders don’t just crawl. They follow the mathematics within the algorithm that directs their movements. They follow commands as well.

You can designate certain pages as to keep spiders out of your private business, or keep bots from indexing pages that are in beta at the moment and not quite optimized for indexing.

Or, if you want to close off large sections of a site to spiders, create a robot.txt file that identifies the pages of a site that are NOT to be indexed or accessed by spiders. The fact is, Googlebots are unleashed on any site visited by a user with a Google toolbar so there’s nothing you can do to keep bots from crashing the party.

A robot.txt file, placed in the site’s root directory, will make it clear to spiders what they can and cannot see. It’s the safest way to keep the relentless, “Terminator”-like Google bot from reforming from liquid into a dangerous cyborg once again. And believe it, bots “…will be back.”

Each page of a site should be analyzed from both the bot and the human perspective. Use embedded links instead of automatic redirects to avoid raising the suspicions of bots who think redirects are “icky.”

And place these on-page, intra-site links for maximum effect – either at the point when user need is identified, at all entrance points to the site, on the order form and the contact page.

On-site links are invaluable for helping visitors and helping bots. And together, that’s very helpful to the success of your site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

LINK BAIT: JUST REEL 'EM IN


Link Bait:

“I Want You to Want ME!”

In-bound links of the non-reciprocal kind continue to fascinate SEO and SEM professionals. Many site owners, newbies and long-timers, have followed the axiomatic tactics for link building – from hosted content to outright begging. (PLEASE link to my site.) “Desperation does not a connection build.” I think Calvin Coolidge said that or maybe I read it on a webmaster blog.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you checked your Alexa data and discovered that a couple of higher ranking sites linked to your site, asking nothing in return? Wouldn’t it be nice to attract inbound links without spending hours of each day tweaking, trying to find that perfect combination of keywords and content density?

It takes a lot for a higher ranked site to link to a lower ranked site. The owner of the higher ranked site may actually slip in search engine rankings, unless search engines recognize the value and quality of your site.

1. Your site can not look home-made. Professional and appropriate to the site topic.

Just like Mom said, “People judge you by your looks.” So, if you have an attractive site with all the latest in site features, Flash movies, transparent mouseover flyouts and an animated banner, all in appropriate colors and fonts, you at least look the part.

Yours will be a reflection on any site linking in so you have to look…at least as good as the quality competition in your market segment.

2. Free content. Come and get it!

Can you write? Even a little, if it’s in your area of expertise?

We’ve mentioned content sydicators often in the Website Source blog and, indeed, these sydicators are extremely useful in building in-bound links. But wait. You can also post articles, newsletters, industry information and other content, free and downloadable for the asking, from your own site.

Site owners need to fill pages and though syndicated content won’t win any friends among traveling Googlebots, it will keep a site fresh for return visitors so other site owners will be glad to post your musings on metaphysics in the metadata age (well, some will).

To take best advantage of these give-aways, embed text links back to your site. Don’t go overboard. A couple over a 600-word piece is about tops. Also include an “About the Author” biography, short – no more than three lines even if you are the most vibrant character you know – with another back link.

Syndicated content is great. But when you syndicate through goarticles or helium, you’re creating site popularity for goarticles and helium, not for your site. If you can post a couple of short 600-word pieces a week on the area of your expertise, you’ll have a library of more than 700 articles and blog posts free for download in your archives.

Vary your topics and include content for all ranges of expertise – from rookies to authorities. Don’t forget to add FREE CONTENT to your HTML keyword and description tags for the bots.

Advertise your content give-away on dmoz.org, SEOmoz.org, your website and through links created through other guerilla channels like Facebook and other sites that survive on user-generated content.

3. Get your free gizmos.

There’s plenty of free stuff online. Counters, trackers, free press release software, data feeds, calculators and other useful programs. You can pick up rights free digital gizmos at freesticky.com. Other sites giving it away are send2press, allheadlinenews and freeware.

These freebies should be relevant to the topic of your site and promoted though blogs and other viral marketing outlets like Facebook. If you give it away, people will hook into your freebie gizmos for use on their own sites, each time creating a link back to your site. Now, site owners come to you. Your links begging days are over. (Whew!)

4. Build authority.

Post on your own blog. Be controversial. Be provocative. Incite a web riot. It’s so cool. Your blog should lead to long threads of pro and con opinions. Topicality should have a long shelf life.

If you post on a blog about a news blip in last night’s broadcast, it’s got a 24-36 hour shelf life, unless it’s about Brittney Spears and then it’s got a shelf life of approximately a millennium (at least so far) so show your authority with posts that’ll still have a readership 36 months down the road. Man, content is dated quickly webwise.

5. Post insightful, authoritative, proprietary content on site.

Sole source. That’s what this content is called because it’s available from a single source – your website.

This content should be informational, authoritative, accurate and 100% reliable. Let’s say you’re an optometrist with a couple of brick and mortar outlets. Great, and congrats.

Use your expertise in eye care to create informative content: Choosing An Eye Care Professional; Time for Another Eye Exam; Don’t Forget Eyesight Health Month. If you develop quality content for download, supplemented by copyrighted content available only on your site, site owners within your area of expertise will appreciate the free content and visitors who reach your site via non-reciprocals will appreciate the sole source content.

Keep it hype free and make it printer friendly.

Think of these steps as viral links building. It works in precisely the same manner as viral or word of web marketing. If your site offers something useful to other webmasters free, you’ve made a webbud who looks upon you with favor. If you also provide great, informational content for consumers and end users, sites will link into yours without any links begging.

Provide benefits to site owners and their visitors and your site becomes a self-propagating links magnet. And connectivity is one of the four pillars of site success describe in a previous post.

Connect up the easy way. Take the high road. The others will follow your lead. The result? A dynamic website with ever-changing content, free give-aways and other useful stuff – printable coupons, printable articles, gizmos and gadgets.

Come and get it.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

My 10 Favorite Desktop Blogging Clients & Why

10 Cool Desktop Blogging Clients:

Do More With Your Blogs

Third-party blog services like Google’s Blogger or Wordpress are used by millions of people with something to say. Unfortunately, these services come with a couple of significant problems.

First, before you start blogging on Wordpress.com, read the Terms of Service (TOS). Carefully. One critical limitation jumps out at you. Wordpress prohibits blogs that “sell” services or products. So, if you’re a lawyer who posts free legal advice to her Wordpress blog, and provides a link to her law firm’s website, that blog will likely be banned.

There are lots of cases in which useful blogs have simply disappeared because Wordpress considered them to be commercial, even if these blogs provided good, solid, useful information.

The second problem with these popular blog services is that they’re limited in what they can do. Oh, you can post a picture or add some pre-constructed widgets, but the fact is that Blogger, Wordpress, TypePad and other third-party blog services are template driven, limiting how your blog looks. In fact, because bloggers choose from a limited selection of templates, blogs on the most popular platforms all look alike.

Desktop blogging clients are more sophisticated than their baby brothers and sisters. Desktop blogging clients function more like a website with an administrator’s desktop console to control the look and feel of the blog.

These desktop blogging apps function across different platforms, a real time-saver for the professional blogger who posts to numerous blogs on a variety of platforms each day. A single, desktop client enables pro bloggers to post to numerous blogs from a single application.

However, each desktop blogging client has unique functionality when it comes to managing blogs on different platforms. However, there are plenty of desktop blogging clients from which to choose. Just do a little digging to find the application that suits your particular blogging needs.

Be sure to check the features offered by any blogging client you consider. For example, some come with strong spell checkers. Others don’t have any spell checker, which means you have to create the post in a word processor, then cut and paste it into the blog. When you’re posting to six or seven blogs a day and getting paid to do it, you want to streamline the posting process as much as possible.

When shopping around for the desktop blogging client that best suits your needs, here are the important considerations:

1. Can you post through any server?

A good blogging client allows you web access via Linux, OS X, Work on Windows and other server-side platforms. This way, you can post to your blog from anywhere.

2. Does the desktop blogging client work with my blog platforms?

Not all do. But, with a little research you’ll find one that works on your blogs, even if they’re hosted on Blogger – the blogging app with the least client support. If the blogging client you’re considering syncs up with Blogger, you’re probably covered.

3. Does the blogging client have a WYSIWYG editor?

Again, if you can create and layout your posts in a WYSIWYG editing window, it saves time and all those extra steps to cut and paste from a word processor, upload pictures or graphics separately, re-position images and other repetitive chores.

A WYSIWYG editor allows you to create a post within the blog platform so no cut and paste is required. No reformatting, either. What you see is what you get. WYSIWYG.

4. Does the desktop blogging client provide content management options?

Specifically, category control. In which categories do you want a post to appear? And when? A good blogging client puts you in control of category management, enabling you to expand or reduce the number of categories you employ.

5. How much does it cost?

Some really good desktop clients are free. Some cost a few Euros each month but not enough to put a dent in the pro blogger’s margins. While cost is always a factor, in the case of desktop blogging clients, the costs are insignificant when weighed against the value these apps deliver. So don’t let cost be the sole, determining factor in your choice.

6. Does the client add tags automatically?

Through the administrator’s console you want to be able to tag your posts to social bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit, technorati, del.icio.us and other tag services – with a single click. Another time saver.

7. Does the client enable advertising?

The desktop blogging client should handle adverts from a variety of sources – pingoat, ping-o-matic, weblogs, Ping Technorati and other ad placement services.

8. Does the desktop blogging client enable custom markup?

If you’re serious about your blogs you want to be able to create and upload your own HTML code snippets across all platforms. Your blogging client should make it easy to add or delete code on the fly and from any location.

There are dozens of desktop blogging clients from which to choose. Here are some of the most popular, and certainly clients to consider before making your final selection. You just might find something better than your current app.

Check out these blogging clients to see which does the best job for you.

ecto screen shot


Ecto Windows/Mac, free trial, $17.95, supports TypePad, Drupal, SquareSpace, Blogger, Blojsom and other popular blog apps

Bleezer Windows/Mac/Linux, free, enables custom markup, WYSIWYG editor

Live Writer Windows XP/Vista (only), free, developed by Microsoft

Flock Windows/Mac/Linux, free, download 2.5 for upgrades

ThingamaBlog Windows/Mac/Linux, free, supports all third-party blogging services

Gnome Linux, WYSIWYG editor, applet or stand-alone app, strong spell checker

Blogjet Windows (only), free trial, supports Wordpress, Blogger, BlogHarbor, etc.

Deepest Sender runs inside Firefox, SeaMoney, free, supports Blogger, meta Weblog

Drivel Journal Editor Linux. Free, supports most third-party blog services

Newz Crawler Windows (only), free trial, easy custom mark ups

There are other options, but these will get you started.

If you’re serious about blogging, if you’re a pro blogger – even if you use one of these desktop blogging clients, check out some of the other cross-platform blogging apps available.

Cut down on your content creation and posting chores with the right desktop blogging client, and get serious about your blogs.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SITE SECURITY??? WHAT, AGAIN???

OH, LOOK. A SCRIPT-KIDDIE RIPPING OFF YOUR DATABASE.

WAVE TO THE NICE HACKER. HE OWNS YOU NOW.




Hacked:

The Basics of Site Security Again

You log on to your site and notice that, from your administrator’s console, things don’t look right. So you search the site access log and discover the worst. You’ve been hacked. You’ve got a bogus IP address listed in the search log and when you try to access the intruder, all you get is a 404 error message – Site Not Found.

Now what do you do? What did the hacker do? Is there a digital ticking time bomb buried in your site’s code? A Trojan horse, perhaps? And what about that sensitive personal data stored on your site’s database? You know that’s been copied, even though a quick check of MySQL reveals the database is still in tact. Even so, that sensitive data has been compromised.

Any site is vulnerable to hackers, crackers, script-kiddies and other black hats regardless of how many layers of security you have in place. Remember, hackers never sleep and they’re always looking for web site vulnerabilities. These guys could have gained entry to your site in lots of different ways. By placing an order or opting in for your newsletter. Once contact is made, security is more easily breached.

You’ve got a problem. So, never let it get this far.

Keeping the Bad Guys at Bay

Once a site has been hacked, getting it scrubbed clean and back online can be an arduous, time-consuming-money-losing proposition. Better to keep those evil-doers out from the start.

Check your host server’s configuration. Ooops, forgot to do that.

Revisit your server configuration. You can buy the best, locked-down-tight site security but if it isn’t properly configured with server side software it may provide a false sense of security, as in you aren’t getting what you paid for.

Synch up for safety.

Keep security software and hardware current.

We all know that the hacker community doesn’t have much else to do except sit around devising new ways to circumvent the latest patches from Microsoft or security software developers like MacAfee. The security software programmers know it all-too-well so 24/7, there’s a battle going on between security programmers and hackers looking for a trophy and web creds from other hackers.

Update in-place security regularly. Log on for patches and fixes.

Keep meticulous records of all software. (Keep the box.)

Maintain a record of all software in use to support your business including edition number, i.e. XYZ 2.0. Also user key codes and other information that’ll come in handy if a hacker does get through. An online security company needs to know as much about your software as the hacker did. Make it easy for that company by providing make, model and serial number.

Review log files.

At least once a day, check your back office logs to make sure no one has dropped by unnoticed.

Good time to bring up permissions. A lot of small companies maintain a network of computers. One in customer service. One in accounting and so on. A network is a must for even small businesses today, small businesses that rely on the office network to access business data and records of activity.

This requires the company owner to develop a permissions log – a directory of which employees have access to what company data. All departments and employees should not have access to all data. Only that information required to do the job.

Limit the number of permissions. Limit access to data. And train employees in safe and secure online practices, i.e., email scans, daily virus scans across the network and so on.

And worth another mention, keep access logs up to date. Close out all ex-employees and others who have no business looking at order tracking data.

Stay current on viral epidemics.

First, always keep site security in mind. Consider it a key part of your job as online business owner. That requires a pro-active approach to security. And that requires a knowledge of the latest in frauds, scams, schemes and viruses.

A new virus, once discovered, is almost instantly identified on webmaster sites, on security software sites and, of course, on the Microsoft download page. That’s good. It prevents a local epidemic from becoming a pandemic. Keep up with the latest in hacker tactics and the cures offered on the web. If you wait, your site is vulnerable to a viral injection.

Bulk up your passwords.

This is a simple step, it doesn’t cost a penny yet many site owners still insist on using their pet’s name as the administrator log on. Anyone who knows the site owner will be able to hack the site in, oh, about 10 minutes.

Limit access and create undefeatable passwords. Dictionary software is easily available on hacker sites. These programs go though millions of letter and number strings a day until they generate the actual password. So, extend your passwords, use letters, numbers and symbols, and change them often.

Change all passwords whenever an employee leaves the company.

Run a check of all content generated by third parties.

You might download a FREE counter and pick up a dose of key-logger software – software that logs every key stroke made by you and other members of the office network.

Evaluate the source of the content. For example, sites that syndicate content via RSS feed should be Googled and checked by you, the web business owner. Any third party content can be booby-trapped so be careful. As mom used to say, “You don’t know where it’s been!”

Check your links. Check their ads.

Links are important to building connectivity within a small market. But a link is also an access point for a black hat so always consider the company you keep. Inbound links can be used to inject malware.

Same with paid advertising. Some “company” may be pay you $50 a month to advertise on your site, build a shell site or mirror site and steal your sales. You might not notice it for a couple of days – and by then, your legitimate business could be out $1,000s in sales and you’re facing a boggy mess of customer complaints that are only going to cost more to repair.

Just because an advertiser “sounds nice on the phone” doesn’t mean that she’s running a legitimate business. Know what’s on your pages. Know who’s on your pages. If it looks funny, or your instincts tell you something’s not right, do you really need that extra $50 a month? Take care with those who reach out to touch you. They may be picking your pocket.

When you grow, hire a pro.

When you’re just starting out with a new site, money is always tight, always a consideration. In this case, go with a reputable web host that maintains high levels of server security, including security against cross-server (X-server) attacks. And if this is all gibberish, call the tech support team at your hosting company.

However, at some point, when that online business has grown from a part-time hobby to your sole source of income, congratulations. Now hire a pro.

Site security is no longer a priority. It’s become the priority once you’ve quit your day job and now rely on web traffic to pay the bills. Have a security pro check your system and, if merited, hire a security service that tracks attacks on your site, providing higher levels of safety for your “hand-built” digital business.

Yep, despite the fact that the web has been gussied up in recent years, it’s still a lawless frontier in which you have to protect yourself. The web police don’t exist so forget the 911 call. It won’t help.

The secret to a secure site is constant vigilance and automated convenience. Buy good security ware. Properly configure with server security. Update regularly and keep track of who comes and goes, whether an employee, a link-in or a paid advertiser.

Keep security front and center. It will keep what’s yours – yours!

Site security is serious business. If you're serious about your web-based biz, drop me line. You can bet that some hacker, cracker or script-kiddie is working on ways to do you wrong.

Webwordslinger.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

On-Line Guerrila Marketing: Use The Resources of Others For Your Benefit.

SAVE YOUR MONEY.

GUERRILLA MARKETING IS FREE.

IT EXPLOITS THE RESOURCES OF OTHERS.

SO RELAX, ALREADY.




Guerilla Marketing:

Forget Viral. Go Guerilla.

If you read through webmaster blogs the big thing is still viral marketing. Yeah, it’s okay. It’s free. But viral, online marketing assumes a passive posture when it comes to long-term promotion. You put it out there (whatever it is that you hope goes viral) and you pray for good timing and a whole lot of luck.

Example: A few weeks back the national TV networks all picked up this YouTube upload of a baby in a high-chair laughing hysterically at daddy’s funny antics. It was a very funny clip, no doubt. But out of curiosity, I went to YouTube, searched “laughing babies” and got about 200 hits using site search. Clicking on just a few of these uploads (you can only take so much of laughing babies even if they are as cute as the dickens) I saw plenty of good stuff. Funny stuff. Every bit as funny as the clip that caught the attention of a news editor at a 24-hour cable news network.

So, why does one clip go viral while those other 200 laughing baby clips didn’t? Lots of luck and good timing. Slow news day, pop onto YouTube, find a clip of funny baby (plenty to choose from), show on evening news. Wait for congratulations. Easy, right?

Well, it is easy to upload a webcast to YouTube, and you might actually get some organic viewers. The operative word, here, is might. Viral marketing is effective. It’s also annoying, sometimes illegal, mis-placed, offensive, off-putting and a bunch of other negatives that won’t drive traffic the way you anticipate. Quite the opposite, in fact.

That’s the problem with viral marketing. It relies much too heavily on luck and timing. That means you launch campaign after campaign of viral promotion with iffy results. Sometimes it pays off. Other times, it actually hurts your search engine ranking and annoys potential site visitors.

So, instead of casting your site’s fate to the wind, employ guerilla marketing tactics. These are pro-active, extremely focused and much more controllable by you, the guerilla marketer.

Viral Versus Guerilla Marketing

Indeed, they are similar, sharing two important characteristics.

Viral marketing is based on to critical premises:

1. It’s free.

2. It employs the resources of others for your gain. Legally!

The characteristics of guerilla marketing:

1. It’s also free (to you).

2. It also employs the resources of others.

3. It puts you in control. It’s pro-active promotion, unlike viral.

Why is this important? Well, let’s say you launch a viral marketing campaign and you post a bunch of your well-written articles on sites that syndicate content to other site owners. Syndication sites include helium.com, ezine.com and a bunch of other free content sites.

Once you’ve uploaded your article, design, program, artwork or other bait, you give up control over where those elements end up. Your scholarly article criticizing the United Nations could end up on a skinhead site. Great, now your name and your ideas are tainted by your “association” with hate groups. Ugh.

Your rights free photos can end up on competitor sites, or a site in a different language that you can’t even read. The fact is, when you employ these viral tactics, you may get the results you anticipated – visitors that have identified your authority and want to learn more about your good or services. Or, you may have a mess on your hands that’ll take a bunch of work to clean up.

Online Guerilla Marketing

Control over your creation. That’s what you want, even if you’re giving it away.

Place Free Content Downloads on Your Site

So, let’s say you have 50 articles uploaded to helium.com. And your pieces are spread all over the web on lots of different sites, each providing a backlink to your site. Okay, but what if you put those 50 articles on your site in an archives format and allowed rights-free use of the content.

Add “free content” to your keyword phrase list. This accomplishes a few things. First, you decide who can use your content and who can’t. Second, it drives traffic to your site, not to helium’s site. And third, using a content management system, you can track where your creations appear.

The content has to be good to be picked up so if you can’t string words together to form cogent sentences, hire a “ghost” at elance.com, guru.com and other outsourcing sites. You can buy words by the pound – and, because it was ghosted, you own it. It’s yours just as though you wrote it.

When you do offer up a free whatever, make the terms clear. You can download this article and display it on your site. In return, you must provide a link back to my site. By the way, it’s a good idea to track whether links are, indeed, provided. Some less-than-scrupulous site owners may claim the text as their own, defeating the whole purpose of guerilla marketing.

Blog Like a Crazy Person

Okay, if your blog posts sound like they were written by someone who howls at the full moon, you’ll probably get yourself banned. However, if you blog other sites everyday, pretty soon you’ll have lots of non-reciprocal back links.

First, find the top blogs within your area of expertise. For example, if you’re a site owner, Google “webmaster blogs” to see what pops up. If you’re an aerospace consultant, Google “aerospace blogs.” You get the idea.

Write your blog post or response in Word so you can check for spelling and other typos. These things still count as testaments to the quality of the writing. Be provocative. Controversy sells. But be sincere, too. It’s pretty easy to spot a blogger who’s more interested in promoting his or her agenda than providing a forum for public discourse.

Blog posts should be longer than 600 words but no longer than 1200 words. Embed text links to your site in each piece. These embedded links rank higher with search engine bots than the link in the “About the Author” block at the end of a piece.

You should set a goal of three or five or 10 posts a week if you can keep up the pace. And spread around that wisdom and experience. Use different blogs but don’t use the same content on different blogs. Spiders don’t value re-used content anywhere near as much as green, original content.

Become a Yahoo Authority

Yahoo Answers enables you to establish creds and get your URL plastered all over Yahoo. Here’s how it works:

You create a Yahoo account. (Have to.) Sign up as an authority. You don’t have to name a specific field. Just create a screen name, start looking for questions to which you have helpful answers and be sure to end each answer with contact information – especially your site’s URL.

You receive two points for each question you answer, working your way up the ladder from a level 1 authority to a level 7 authority, all the time helping others, helping build credibility for yourself and driving traffic using the resources of Yahoo to spread the word.

Yahoo users vote for “best answers” to questions. If your answer is selected best, you receive 10 points and you’ll move up that authority ladder pretty fast.

Try to post at least two good answers to open questions a day. Questions identified as resolved may still be read but they won’t move you up the ladder regardless of how cogent your answer.

Provide HTML Code for Your Webcasts

YouTube does this. If you look at a YouTube upload, you’ll see the HTML string for the video clip. Just copy and paste the code to embed the video on a site. However, don’t follow YouTube’s example.

Remember, the important aspect of guerilla marketing is control. You want to maintain control over where your content appears so let webmasters know that your webcasts can be embedded on other sites. They just have to drop you a line.

Hit and Run. Don’t Stop Ever.

On battlegrounds, guerilla fighters make short, powerful attacks and then disappear into the jungles or mix in with the rest of the population. That’s what you’re after. Short bursts of promotion repeated over and over.

Guerillas don’t face their enemies on the battle field. Strategic placement. The right force for the task. Control, hit, retreat, reload, hit. Over and over.

So take control of your content to insure its best use for your promotional efforts. And remember, guerilla marketing is short and sweet. A 10-part auto-responder is NOT short and sweet and by the time that 10th piece of hype lands in the inbox, most users are apoplexic. Enough already.

But a one page, surgical strike aimed at previous buyers who already know your solid reputation is good, guerilla marketing.

The final key to the success of a guerilla marketing campaign is persistence. It’s the repetition that wins the day. It’s the use of other people’s resources – their blogs and websites – that makes it work. And, the fact that going guerilla doesn’t cost anything but your time, you have to admit it’s cost effective.

Using this hit and run strategy will provide the means to take on much bigger competitors and enable you to stay in the fray and even flourish thanks to the use of free, controllable resources.

Go guerilla.


I know, marketing dollars are tight, but if you don't market your site, how's anyone going to find you? Guerrilla marketing has been around for millenia. It worked 4,000 years ago and it works even better today. I'll show you how.


Webwordslinger.com

Sunday, September 13, 2009

LET GOOGLE TELL YOU WHAT IT WANTS. THEN LISTEN CAREFULLY!

YOU WANT GOOGLE TO LOVE YOUR SITE, AND THEY'RE HAPPY TO TELL YOU HOW TO BUILD A LOVING RELATIONSHIP.

YOU JUST HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE GOOLISTAS.


Google How-Tos:

Listen to the Googlistas

You want Google to love your website. This search engine alone accounts for 46% of all searches so when you consider that there are virtually thousands of search engines (granted, many topic specific), controlling a 46% share of all search engine users makes you “the cat that everybody’s rapping ‘bout.” And they are.

The webmaster community and Google don’t always get along and that’s understandable. For most webmasters, Google is a prime source of site traffic but if there are too many obstacles to Google success, of course there’s going to be feuding between search engine and those professionals who rely on search engines for their livelihoods. Every time Google tweaks an algorithm, some sites gain, some lose ground – and the reasons are rarely clear.

So, Google put together Webmaster Central, a blog for site owners to post gripes, offer suggestions, identify glitches and otherwise interact with the people behind the search engine. (We can only assume there are people behind Google. Verifiable proof is slow in coming. The entire company could be bot-run for all we know.)

The Google Webmaster Blog and You

Google knows it must keep site owners happy and who or whatever is running the company recognizes the need to interact with professional SEOs, SEMs, coders, designers, graphic artists and every new technology that takes a giant leap forward such as remote site syndication (RSS) that changed the way information was distributed over a weekend.

So, this is where you go to ask questions and get answers from other site owners. Google answers. From regular users like you – the owner of a small, once active site that has mysteriously disappeared from Google SERPs overnight. What happened? And how are you going to pay the rent if your e-store has disappeared from Google’s ever-expanding index?

Posting to the Webmaster Central Blog is a good place to go for quick answers from real people. And that usually means you’ll get an answer you can actually understand rather than an earful of techno-babble from some chip head.

This is also the place where Google introduces new features for webmasters. Just a while back. Google let loose improvements to iGoogle Gadgets for Webmaster Tools.

Here’s how the Googlistas explain it: “After our initial release, we saw clear interest in the gadgets, and plenty of suggestions for improvement. So we've spent the past several weeks working on various areas. The biggest improvements are probably for those of you with more than one site: when you add a new tab of gadgets, your gadgets will now default to the site you were viewing when you added them to your iGoogle page. Additionally, gadgets now retain settings as a group, so if you change the site for any gadget in a group, the next time you refresh that page, all the gadgets will show data for that site. And gadgets now resize dynamically, so they take up less room.”

Functionality has also been improved with the addition of Top Search Queries for your site, very helpful in refining a keyword list. “The data from the Top Search Queries allows you to quickly pinpoint what searches your site appears for and which of those searches are resulting in clicks,” according to Google.

Other new features that improve site performance analysis include a smart, geo-targeting function. This enables you to create several site skins for regions around the world if you choose. This geo-targeting gadget also produces a map overlay of where your visitors are coming from – right down to street level if you’re only seeking local business or referrals. Your site may be hot in Australia but bombing in the UK. There’s got to be a reason. This Google gadget helps isolate what’s working where, by region, with incredible specificity.

And if you’d like Google’s opinion of your numbers and your conclusions, click on Analytics Help Center for a ton of Google-centric info. All good in determining what Google likes and dislikes about your site.

Another tool from Google is the URL Remover. You log on to your administrator’s console over coffee and scan through your stats for the overnight, and you discover that your “Content by Title” section – a back office only function – has been inadvertently Googled, indexed and displayed on Google SERPs, giving anyone (including competitors) more than a quick peek at your business. They can read everything because it’s been spidered and indexed.

Using the new URL Removal Tool, you can quickly remove those private pages from Google’s index and tell spiders that this information is off limits as in DO NOT SPIDER.

Google Webmaster Help

This is one very cool tool. One that is certainly bookmark-worthy.

Google Webmaster Help provides tips and suggestions for improving your site in the eyes of what Google calls “benevolent Googlebots.” Hey Boys, those bots ain’t so benevolent if they mis-index my site because of your messed up classification taxonomy. Even so, when you have as much influence over online success as Google does, you get to call your bots “benevolent” even if they are mindless snippets of programs that chew through letter strings.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good, useful information here from the people who make the algos. So, it’s worth a visit just to see what’s new, what’s working and what you should do about your precipitous loss of PR when you changed the home page text. Something Happened. And this is the place to find out what.

The Google Webmaster Help section also has a very robust, informed community able to answer FAQs from other site owners. You don’t have to wait for Google to get back to you. Ask an SEO or other web professional using the Webmaster blog for fast facts fast.

Today, there are 107,738 messages, questions and answers on crawling, indexing and ranking; 14,019 posts on the new Google gadgets listed above, so you see that these help pages see a lot of activity and should be a part of your daily web scan.

Go To the Source

Google sets the rules and no matter how strongly these rules are debated among site designers, SEOs and other web professionals, the rules are the rules. One way to stay current is by joining the regular online discussions that Google offers. You can check the schedule of upcoming discussions and mark them so you don’t forget. It’s a great way to meet the Googlistas and your counterparts who are trying to figure out how to perform better in the search engine sweepstakes.

Visit webmaster blogs like the one you’re reading now, especially targeted at those just venturing into ecommerce. Some webmaster blogs are highly technical (more for coders than site owners, actually) while other webmaster blogs provide information on everything from digital selling to site design tips.

But if you want the skinny – the unvarnished truth – go to the source. Go to Google and become a member of the Google webmaster community. Download the free Google analytics and join in with companion site owners to let Google know when a problem arises.

With Google controlling almost half of all searches, it’s good business practice to learn what Google wants.