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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Top 10 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Tips

Second only to having a quality website in the first place, being found in the major search engines can be vital to the success of your online presence.

As you can imagine, with many hundreds of millions of searches performed through search engines every day and billions of web pages to choose from, having your site appear in the top few results in any search engine can be a hard ask.

Search engines, these days, work on the principle of "relevance". In other words: How relevant is a web page to a person looking for a certain thing ?

Despite the outrageous claims made by some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) "experts" (sales guys, mostly), there really is no way to absolutely guarantee an organic top ranking in any search engine (appearing at the top of a search result page without paying for advertising placement).

There are many things that SEO professionals like ourselves do to analyse the deficiencies of a website and actions we can take to achieve fast, positive results. But, there are also a few things you can do yourself to get the ball rolling.

Here are our Top 10 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Tips

  1. Content is King .... Make sure that the contents of your website is concisely written and relevant to someone who visits your site.

  2. Update your content regularly to keep increasing your relevance.

  3. Include regularly updated non-sales content such as Tips, Helpful Information, and General News.

  4. Be aware of your customers' requirements ... if you know what a searcher is likely to type into a search engine, make sure you have plenty of relevant content that covers that subject.

  5. Meta data (keywords and descriptions etc, hidden from the viewing public) is rarely used by search engines these days, but it certainly can't hurt to have ... make sure you describe the content and purpose of each page accurately and succinctly.

  6. Inbound links (links to your site from other sites) are seen by search engines as a recommendation of your site and hence your site's relevance to a user can increase. DO NOT arrange links from irrelevant sites or "link farms" as many search engines will now penalise you for irrelevant links.

  7. Don't use Flash for your entire website ... As fun and exciting as Flash can be, most search engines cannot view content within a Flash file, so using Flash for significant content (or even the navigation) of your website is a sure-fire way to never be found.

  8. Structure your website in a logical, clear way (this also makes it easier for a user to find their way around).

  9. Submit your business and website to local listings, including Google Local Business Centre. This will help search engines to know where your business is located relative to a searcher's location.

  10. Consider Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This is paid advertising using, for example, Google Adwords to be placed on search results pages within the advertising space (i.e. not part of the organic results).

The number one thing to remember is that, just as Rome wasn't built in a day, your search engine rankings won't increase dramatically overnight without some professional SEO intervention. It can take weeks for search engines to re-visit and consolidate your content, comparing your site to the millions of others they visit each day.

Of course, if you would like to talk about how we can help to fast-track massive improvements in your search engine rankings, we would be delighted to sit down with you to chat about our Search Engine Optimisation service and what it can do for your business.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Easy Way To Accept Credit Cards on Your Website

Accepting Credit Cards on your website can make life easier for your existing customers, and may even bring you more customers you didn't already have ...

One of the simplest ways of converting potential customers to ACTUAL customers can be to offer several methods of payment for your products and services.

For instance, some customers may prefer to pay by cash or cheque on receipt of an invoice whilst others (especially small businesses) may prefer to smooth out their cashflow by paying for your product or service with their corporate or personal credit card.

If your venture is based online or if you usually accept credit cards payments in your shop using an EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) system (the Australian term for a card-swipe machine connected to your bank), then you may prefer establishing an Online Credit Card Merchant account with your bank in conjunction with a Payment Gateway (which is either provided by your bank or a third-party supplier). Costs can be quite reasonable even for small volume sales (usually $100-$500 per month PLUS a percentage and/or flag-fall charge per transaction).

If you are a more "traditional" business, like ourselves, who usually invoice for your services and just want to add an extra method of payment for those customers who are looking to smooth out their cashflow by paying for invoices with their credit card, you can opt for a simple solution that involves no monthly costs at all.

Paypal, for example, can be set up to accept a credit card payment without the need to set up a merchant facility with a bank. The only charges for you, as the merchant, is a per-transaction fee (around $0.30 AUD) and a small percentage of the overall transaction amount (1.1% to 2.4%, dependent on your monthly sales). Note that these charges may vary as they are set by Paypal.

Other options include accepting credit card details via email or stored in a database (from an online form the customer fills in), and then processing the payment using your credit card terminal in your shop. It should be noted, however that this method is fraught with danger and only the most foolhardy web developer will offer you such a solution (please note that we won't build such a system for you, even if you ask us nicely!).

Whichever way you choose to go with accepting credit card payments online, remember that there are some quite strict rules involved with transmitting and storing credit card details (see PCI DSS) - so choosing a professions, secure option is always preferable. Massive fines and bans may apply for transmitting and storing credit card details in ways that are not secure.

Of course, you can also add a shopping cart or other functionality to your payment system to create a full online sales opportunity. Click here for a little more information.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can I Use Twitter in My Business ?

So, you have a business (and hopefully even a website for that business). You have heard about the social networking Wunderkind called "Twitter", and that it's reaching hundreds of millions of people every day - currently sending out more than 50 million tweets per day.

But, how can you use Twitter to help your business ?

As with most things, the meteoric rise and media coverage that Twitter has received in the last couple of years does not automatically mean that putting your message out via Twitter ("Tweeting" it) will make you a huge success.
On the contrary, the immense number of messages rolling through Twitter - like the Internet itself in many ways - can mean that your message gets lost among the noise of all the other chatter.

One way, however, that Twitter can help a local business such as yours in a very real way is by helping you create stronger relationships with your potential and existing customers. You may not always be able to find new cus
tomers via Twitter and other social networking media (it's possible, just not "automatic") ... but consider this:

You run a retail clothing shop, let's call it "MyShop Rocks!", which attracts regular foot traffic and a loyal following of (probably younger) customers who would jump at the chance to grab a bargain. You can encourage those customers to "follow" you on Twitter on your "MyShop Rocks! Specials" feed (Feeds can look a little like this).

Every few days or weeks you can post specials to your Twitter feed. Your most loyal followers (customers) may get notified where
ver they are (via their mobile, browser, or whichever device they use) that you have a special offer available THIS AFTERNOON ONLY.

The secret, as it is with most marketing, is to create a call-to-action that compels your customer to act immediately. Making your special available THIS AFTERNOON ONLY is a great way to do that.

The other secret, as you probably guessed from earlier, is that you can't rely on Twitter to bring customers to you. It can, but it's
much more likely that you will have to bring your own loyal following along for the ride.

And, of course, one way to do that is to promote your website and Twitter feed in-store (and on your business cards, flyers, etc). You might also consider having your Twitter feed displayed prominently on your website to prompt users to "follow" you.

As an example, we have our own Twitter feed on our Creative Intersection homepage.

Creative Intersection provides consultancy and other services to help design and build your website and other online "bits" as well as branding (logos etc), marketing materials design, and even video production. ... and we would love the opportunity to work with you!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Google Maps Becoming More Important to Businesses

This story shows quite a trend in the importance of your local business being listed in directories and on the Google Maps Business Listings ... and it also shows you that integrity in business is important both online and offline.

A New Zealand (ex-) florist has hijacked her competitors' Google Maps listings in an effort to bring more business to her own door. No-one seems able or willing to quantify her success or otherwise - but she got caught so didn't work very well for her in the long run.

Read the full story here.