Google to Penalize Slow Loading Websites

Website Speed Counts!Something that has been hinted upon for a couple years, was finally announced – Big G is working a penalty for slow load time into their algorithm.   According to Google’s Webmaster Central blog,  the penalty at this time is a minor one, and only affects:

  • less than 1% of search queries
  • only queries in English made through Google.com

As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.

It goes on to say that the penalty doesn’t count as much as “Relevancy of the page” – but what else does?

You can check your website’s load time at Pingdom.

Some tips to speed up web page load times:

  1. Reduce HTTP requests
    • Combine all javascript files into one
    • Combine all CSS files into one
    • Use CSS Sprites to reduce number of background images needed
  2. Reduce the number of images on a page
  3. Optimize images to reduce their file size
  4. Use  an Expires or a Cache-Control Header
  5. Minify CSS and Javascript
  6. Use HTML and CSS over images where ever possible.

50% Off for Green Companies

We’re offering a 50% discount on all web projects for green businesses from now until Earth Day

That’s right, until April 22, 2010 we’re slashing all web design, SEO, and social media marketing projects in half.  As a web design & marketing firm, we’re limited in how much we can recycle, eliminate waste, and cut our carbon foot prints…. so we’ve decided to put our money where our mouth is and try to give eco-friendly businesses a leg up.

Contact us to get started, or tell us what you think of the program…

How it will work:

We’ll run the same free cost estimates at half our hourly rates for qualifying businesses that commission their project by days end April 22nd, 2010.  By qualifying businesses, we mean businesses that make a substantial portion of their revenues by marketing, selling, or producing green products and services.  “Substantial” will be at our sole discretion, but we mean to help as many green businesses as we can in hopes that we can make this planet a little cleaner and greener for us and our children.

Why we’re doing it:

While chatting last week, it came up that we’re in little position to green our business aside from offering green hosting, operating a paperless office, and telecommuting – the last two we already do!  So we figured that if we can help a few green companies be a little more competitive, or offer their employees a little something extra – then it’s well worth tightening our belts for a couple months to do the right thing.

Limitations:

  • The program is limited to the first $20,000 in discounted services, if we reach it we’ll be happy to reach out to other firms in order to accommodate as many green companies as we can.
  • Rainmaker Web Design will make the sole decision of who qualifies, feel free to contact us to discuss.
  • All discounted projects must be contracted by midnight April 22nd, 2010

SEO Friendly CSS Galleries

We’re compiling a list of SEO Friendly CSS galleries for designers who are interested in getting a little link love while showcasing their work.  To be considered, the galleries must either have a direct, do-follow link from the actual gallery or a direct do-follow link from a sub-page featuring the work.

We’ll update this page regularly, and hopefully provide an Excel download once the list grows a little bit – so feel free to comment with anybody we missed.

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Google Local Search: An In Depth Look

Google Local SearchThe introduction of Google’s Local Search into it’s regular results (Universal Search) has been a real game changer as more, and more categories and locations are offered up near the top of organic searches.  We’re going to cover the bases on what to do to improve your business’s rankings in the local search results & a few pot holes to steer away from.  Please note, it’s no substitute or an organic search engine strategy, but can compliment one very well since many of the same content and inbound linking principals still apply.

  1. Your Site’s Contact Page

    • First of all – have a contact page!  Title it “Contact” as is the convention around the web, and name it something like “contact.html” or “contact-my-company.php.”
    • Include a full address including city, state, and zip code within the locale that you’re targeting.
    • Include a local phone number, i.e. – make sure the area code matches the the targeted location’s.
    • Have multiple locations?  If you run a multi-national corporation, why not hire an SEO company to rank your locations because it gets a little tricky and is outside the scope of this post.
  2. Title Tags, Meta Tags, and Your URL

    • Use a hCard in your website’s head section.  Learn here, create here. Simply use it as the markup/HTML for that part of your contact page.
    • City/State in Contact Page Title Tag
    • City/State in Index Page Title Tag
    • Location in URL (Ex. – AthensGAWebDesigners.com)
  3. Your Local Business Profile

    • 1st, go to Google’s Local Business, and claim your business’s profile if you haven’t yet.
    • Profile using local phone number (area code matching the target location)
    • Location in Profile Title
    • Service/Product in Business Category Fields
  4. Customer/Client Reviews

    • Customer Reviews are Important!
    • And it’s not just the reviews on Google Maps itself -
    • Google feeds it’s listings with dozens if not hundreds other third party review sites.  For example: Kudzu.com, Yelp, InsiderPages, and many industry specific review services.
  5. Pitfalls & What not to do

    • Don’t List a 1-800 number on your profile or on your contact page, I know it makes no sense.  Have one, get your web guys to use an image to display it.
    • Negative Reviews – I know they’re hard to stop, but if you can contact the reviewer & ask them to remove it – do it.
    • Don’t use multiple Business Profiles with:
      1. The same business name
      2. The same phone number
      3. The same address (this one is particularly detrimental)

The Worst SEO Mistake You Can Make

My hats off Brandt Dainow for a great primer on SEO Step 1 for any business. The guy has been doing search engine marketing for over 12 years, which is a lifetime in this business.

First, why SEO over other marketing such as PPC?

Pay-per-click advertising is all very well, but it means you have to pay for every visitor. SEO is about getting free traffic from the search engines. Over the course of two years or more, nothing has a better return on investment than SEO. Thus, if you plan on having a website that runs for more than two years, search engine optimization should be a key part of your online marketing strategy.

So what is the worst SEO mistake that a company can make?

The most common mistake that organizations make with regard to SEO is bringing their SEO consultants into the process too late. Many companies fail to give SEO its due consideration during a website’s design phase.

So there you have it, from one of the godfathers of search engine marketing.

Brandt goes on to list several key aspects to a successful SEO campaign that need attention during the design process, or what we like to call “On Page SEO.” Some crucial SEO techniques your design might forget are:

  • Search Engine Friendly URLS
    www.abc.com/your-keyword.html vs. www.abc.com/page1.html
  • Text Based Navigation Links
  • Use of CSS instead of Javascript or Flash

For more in depth info. on the why a SEO consultant should be contacted during a website’s design phase, check out the whole article or give us a call for an informative chat.

Google Learns Flash

I love Flash, I really do.

But as primarily a SEO firm, we’ve been steering clients away from flash based websites for years due to the fact that Google, Yahoo!, and MSN couldn’t index their content. By content, I mean written text, images, and of course links among other website elements.

Googe Plus Flash

It appears the Game is Changing Once Again

Google announced that it has made vast improvements in crawling and indexing flash based content from menus to entire sites:

“In the past, web designers faced challenges if they chose to develop a site in Flash because the content they included was not indexable by search engines. They needed to make extra effort to ensure that their content was also presented in another way that search engines could find.”

– From the Official Google Blog

At present, Google is only able to index textual content in flash designs, but this is a vast improvement. More information on Google’s new functionality can be found at Google’s Webmaster Central.

Great, now I can have a beautiful flash based and rank it well too, right?

Not so fast. Hopefully this dream is not too distant in the future, but at present little is known about how effective conventional SEO strategies mesh with the new update to Google’s algorithm. Besides, without Yahoo! and MSN Live making similar announcements, website owners could be losing out as much as 30-40% of their search traffic.

Blog Or Relegate Your Internet Business To Slow Death

If you have an internet business, or some form of online home business which doesn’t currently support a blog then you are losing a lot of ground to your competitors and quietly signing the death warrant of your online money making ventures.

Blogging Is The Future Of Online Activity

Actually to be honest blogging isn’t the future of online activity Blogging Is The Now of Online Activity and has been for some time. Everything and everybody is leaning towards web 2.0 based sites such as blogs and when I mean everyone and everybody I’m talking about the people who count and search engines. That’s right search engines…remember those pesky not-so-trivial online dictators that we just can’t seem to do without but fervently wish we could?

SURE…a lot of savvy internet marketers are harping on how the golden era of the search engine has been one-upped by social media sites and is for all intent and purposes over; truth be told that’s a pile of steaming hogwash. Why? Well let’s look at some figures…you can’t go wrong with figures and stats; just as long as they are right I guess:

Search Stats End of 2007

* Google: 63.98% (The bigboy has muscled up)

* Yahoo: 22.87% (Retained the same balanced diet)

* MSN: 7.98% (Looks like Microsoft’s search is on a slimfast diet)

* Ask.com: 3.49% (The toddler of the pack…must be doing good because it won a PC World Nomination for 25 Most Innovative Products of The Year)

Fine And Dandy But What Has Mainstream Search Got To Do With Web 2.0?

Hmmm,wasn’t the whole point of social media websites and the explosion of new refined niche-category search engines supposed to circumvent bigboy online mainstream search? After all Google is no longer the darling of the people it once was and doesn’t seem to abide by its “Do No Evil” motto anymore. Be that as it may Google ain’t going anywhere anytime soon no matter how loud disillusioned acolytes may chant. Google is making sure of that by strengthening its grip on search and its influence in the social media theater…that’s why it bought Youtube for $1.65 billion dollars despite having its own Google Video platform which however, in comparison, performed dismally.

What was the real driving force behind the Google buy up of Youtube? How about the fact that Youtube has over 100 million videos viewed a day and well over 72 million unique visitors each and every month!

But this is happenstance digression, time to get back to the point!

Mainstream Search Engine Web Traffic vs. Social Media Traffic

If you think of mainstream search as enormous relatively unrefined web traffic and that of social media websites as more niche-oriented or refined web traffic you wouldn’t be far wrong. But that is not the complete story because conversely search-engine based web traffic is more valuable to you as an internet marketer or if you have an online home business. Catch is, it ain’t easy to get to the top of the search engines where it really matters! Luckily this is where social media sites and web 2.0 truly shine.

It is a lot easier to get a good flow of web traffic from web 2.0 and social media sites than it is from the search engines, most especially if your website/blog is spankin’ brand new! However getting internet traffic from social media sites also requires a level of input from you (Yup! What one-time big-hair advocate and internationally recognized hairstylist Vidal Sassoon quipped stands ever strong today as the day he uttered it: “The Only Place Where Success Comes Before Work Is In The Dictionary”).

Social Media And Web 2.0 Is All About Community

Much as we like to think of ourselves as unique creatures and largely independent-minded the truth is we humans are little more than herd animals. We tend to appreciate and hangout with like-minded individuals, people who mirror our thoughts and ideas. In other words people gravitate towards people who share the same interests. True there is some time-whipped saying which states that opposites attract but that’s best left to the field of love not the frenzied amphitheater of social media.

Social Medialites are all about the community and friends!

If you wish to capitalize and make any headway using social media sites you need to become part of the community; a task that involves active participation and not merely flagrant self-promotion! Blatant self-promotion without community service is the quickest and most assured way to get banned from a social media site (oh did I mention that most social media sites loathe internet marketers with a venom that Cleopatra’s Asp would’ve envied, though there are a few good ones solely devoted to internet marketing and online business).

Participation in this context means:

* voting for posts

* reading posts (and not just wanton voting)

* making comments

* joining and inviting friends to lists

* writing your own posts

If you’re new to this whole social media thing a good point to begin is read the TOS (Terms Of Service and conduct of behavior) then start making friends by voting for articles or posts you actually like (leaving a comment tends to warm even the coldest of hearts…assuming the comment is positive; social media afficionados tend to favor positive affirmation, much like what goes on in the real world) which will in turn make it easier to get votes for your own posts. The whole point of votes is that that the more of them you have the greater the exposure of your post which translates into more web traffic.

Mainstream Search And Social Media Sites Feed Off One Another

Undoubtedly building up a quantifiable list of friends and fellow voters can take time but when all is said and done that time spent on amassing friends is time well spent indeed! A well-written, intriguing, controversy-juiced post (otherwise commonly known as a linkbait piece) could send anywhere from 1000s to 100,000s of visitors to your site in next to no time.

Web traffic to your blog or website translates into greater love from the search engines which means better positioning in the SERPs (search engine index pages). The bottom line is your social media and web 2.0 efforts will draw web traffic far quicker to your fledgling website than the bigboy search engines, plus that web traffic will push your website further up the search engines.

A good linkbait post helps your seo efforts not only through the links garnered from your amazing penmanship (post) but also for the fact that the search engines these days ascribe greater rank and influence to such links that are heavily and often trafficked! Many heavy-weight links of yesterday that largely exist today as shadowy relics of their former selves (one-time high PR links that now boast little to no movement across their borders) are being consistently and all too frequently downgraded with each passing Google update.

If Content Is Still King; Fresh Content Is His Queen

No denying it, original content is still, as ever, the engine that powers the internet as well as being the enviable darlingest of darlings of the search engines. And you don’t have to be a genius here to figure out that in this respect static sites just cannot compete with mobile platforms such as blogs. King Content’s queen (HRH Fresh Content) is the driving force behind your site being crawled by the search engine bots on a regular basis. With a blog any new content automatically gets inserted on the homepage and pings (notifies) the search engines almost instantaneously. This means even a short post is going to bring the search engines sniffing to your site within hours (sometimes minutes) like a panting beast hot with lust. Just try and get that response with a static website even with a totally original, lengthy article in play!

Make Money
Ba Kiwanuka is the webmaster of http://www.internetbusinessmart.com

Forum Posting: Clients, Links, and Search Engines

Gone are the days when online forums were “geek-only” territory. Now, not only is there a deluge of forum posters for every possible subject, but even more people are finding & reading forum posts – and they may be your customers.

Building Business through Forum Posts

Knowledgeable posts and interesting discussions on forums and message boards can benefit your business in four ways:

  1. It helps establish you as an authority. Think about someone searching for family trust or tax issue that you answered back in 2006. You had it answered, think they may want to give you a call if estate planning is on their mind?
  2. Direct Web Traffic. And it’s targeted too. Let’s say you answered the question “What’s the best time of year to fly fish for tarpon in the Florida Keys?” Potential clients can follow the link in your signature to check you out your charter operation.
  3. Search Engines Love Them. Posting on boards that allow you to include a link to your website is a cheap and non-technical way to increase your search engines by building relevant, in-bound links to your website or blog.
  4. It keeps working for you. Although message boards normally list current topics first, your post content still shows up in the message board’s search function as well as search engines proper. The post is still their linking to your website, so the in-bound link isn’t going anywhere. Lastly, on many forums, when a visitor comments on an old post – it jumps right back up to the top for it’s category!

Pick Your Forum Wisely

Nearly all forums and message boards are free, with few exceptions, skip any that have membership fees. There are three criteria you should evaluate before joining a forum and posting on it regularly.

Subject Matter

Sounds like a no-brainer, huh? Well, back up for a minute and think about where your customers or clients might lurk. Are they going to be in a national fishing forum discussing redfish and marlin, or are they more likely to be zeroed in on a Florida fishing forum before they book their next outing? Every business niche will have a different posture on this, but take a look at who’s posting around the message board and ask yourself is the subject matter relevant to your customers?

Popularity

Nobody likes talking to themselves, and web forums are no different. Look for vibrant, active communities to join, it will help you more in search engine rankings and human trafficNobody likes talking to themselves, and web forums are no different. Look for vibrant, active communities to join, it will help you more in search engine rankings and human traffic.

Signature & Linking Policies

Last, but most important. Make sure to read the message board’s terms/rules/guidelines and find out if you are allowed to add link(s) to website in your signature. Without links, it may be fun and/or informative, but it’s not doing anything for your business. Even if you can put your company name in a signature, will the interested parties “Google” it? If they do, will they find you? Speaking of Google, and all major search engines for that matter…. The web is a democracy, and think of links as votes. The more votes, the better the rankings. If you write an excellent post or tutorial on tying salt water flies, they won’t know who wrote it if your link isn’t in the signature.

How do I find them?

A simple search on your favorite search engine should suffice. Just enter your trade or industry name, along with geographic keywords if appropriate, and take a look at the top results.

What is a signature? What’s the best setup?

A signature, in forums speak, is text, links, and even images that are automatically inserted underneath your forum post as shown below:

Forum Signature Links for SEO

Each forum may be different, but somewhere under “Profile” or “User Control Panel” or the like, will be an option to set up your signature. While adding your name, company name, an image, or anything else is up for debate – you certainly want a link (or more if allowed) to your website. If possible, you want to include keywords into the actual text of the link (called anchor text), because it tells search engines what your site is about. Links will most likely be inserted in one of three ways:

  1. Bulletin Board Code. Just copy this code, making the necessary changes of course: [URL=http://yourwebsiteaddress.com]Your Website OR Keywords[/URL]
  2. HTML. Again, copy this code making the necessary changes: <a href=”http://yourwebsiteaddress” mce_href=”http://yourwebsiteaddress”>Your Website OR Keywords</a>
  3. Code Editor. There are many variations on this, but anything that pops up and asks you the name/text and address for a link that you wish to insert. Just enter your website’s name or keywords in the name/text box, with your website’s URL in the link box.

Tips on Posting

  • Don’t be a spammer! Nobody likes spammers, and quickly posting “Have boat, can fish, call me” will annoy board members, potential clients, and possibly get you banned from the forum.
  • Do make worthwhile contributions. You don’t have to give up the farm, or for example, list GPS waypoints of your favorite fishing hole. But lending your knowledge or perspective on an issue can demonstrate your command of the subject matter, and build a solid foundation for building personal relationships and sales.
  • Strong, concise titles. A great title is half the battle in getting readers to check out your post. It should be as concise and descriptive as possible, and never post generic titles such as “Fishing?”
  • Provocative posts are actually good. Controversial posts are often replied to more, and also linked to more often from external websites. This keeps your post up at the top for longer, and increases the value of that signature link in the eyes of search engines.

Every Business Needs To Blog

Business BloggingBlogging is a weblog or online journal where people write their daily (or at least frequent) adventures, sentiments, or whatever other ideas they want to express online. What started out as more of a personal commentary about one’s own life events and beliefs, has taken the internet by storm and is now used for both personal and business agendas alike.

With the steady progression of online businesses, blogs have become an inexpensive, yet very effective method of advertising. Business blogs are basically created to advertise the services or products of a certain web site or online business in order to increase online sales. Here are 5 reasons why blogging should be included in your arsenal of internet marketing tools.

* Blogging is pretty straightforward and non-technical. It’s like having a virtual piece of paper where you can make it known to the world (or at least to your readers) your ideas, experiences, products and services. With no particular writing format to follow, bloggers have the freedom to express themselves creatively and use what ever individualistic writing style they feel comfortable with. This opens the door for just about anyone who has access to a computer to tap out a few words and exploit a blog for all its benefits.

* Blogging is authentic and personal. Real people share their real-life experiences, unscathed by paid advertising. Reading blogs about products or services has a much more personal appeal. Reading a blog can be like talking to person first hand about their experiences.

* Blogging is free. Blogging sites offer free services with minimal restrictions. Within 10 minutes after registering for an account, you can easily be up and blogging. Any opportunity for free web time is definitely a bonus, especially for businesses that are just starting up. Paid blog sites are not bound by the same restrictions and have the potential to generate more income for your seriously growing business.

* Blogging builds credibility. Consistently posting quality content will gain you notoriety as an expert and can position you and your company as a leader in the field. Readers who benefit from what you post will not only continue to return, but can increase your readership by providing links to your blog.

* Blogging builds relationships. As a forum where your main objective is not to sell, you can establish a more personal relationship between you and your customers. Blogs give your readers an option to leave comments and a way for you to measure the value of what you are offering. Feedback can be used to determnine the needs and wants of your customers.

A major difference between a blog and a conventional website is that a website needs to be promoted in order for it to bee seen. Blogs on the other hand, have a unique quality which allows them to announce themselves and can keep doing so with every posted update. These are just a few of the many benefits blogging can bring to your business. Give your business a boost by effectively using blogging as an internet marketing tool.

Andrea Chin surrounds herself with like minded people and learns from the best. Get the Truth about this business and partner yourself with a Team that is already achieving the success you desire.

DIY SEO: Improve your rankings without spending a penny.

I’m often asked, what’s the secret to getting search engine traffic? Well the basic formula is this:

Strategy

+ Relevant Content

+ Inbound Links

+ “On Page” SEO

_______________

= Search Engine Results

Don’t worry, we’re not going to get into the geek-speak, this category will be us (ok, you) non-nerds out there. In this first installment of DIY SEO, we’re going to take a brief look at what these three components mean, and following posts will deal with the intricacies involved with each.

Strategy

Fail to plan, plan to fail. Same here. You want to get to know your customer, potential client, or audience. Knowing what search terms are used most often while searching for a business like yours can ensure you’re not chasing your shadow. Next, you’re going to want set up what ever content management system you will be using, we’ll recommend a few that are free (or very cheap) and very easy to use if you can handle Microsoft Word or check your bank balance online. Lastly, you should set up a tracking utility to keep track of your traffic and your progress.

Relevant Content

First, if the search engines can’t read it – it’s like it was never there. Search engines, especially Google, love the written word. Lots of them. Get ready to write, but as an expert in your field you should have plenty to share right? Hey, I said “free” SEO – not “easy.” If you’re looking for the easy way, some dude from India just called me offering #1 top ranking in google for just $99 a month. I’ll be happy to give him your number.

Inbound Links

These are the web links that point towards your website. The more the better. We’ll cover how build an army of inbound links, maximize their impact, and also explain some common (and costly) pitfalls about getting inbound links from disreputable sources.

On Page SEO

It sounds scary I know. In the DIY SEO section, we’ll leave the esoteric alone and focus on the fundamentals. What a title tag is, and why it’s so important, as well as some easy modifications you can make to own site to improve it’s search engine performance.