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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor - Usability and Search Engine Optimization - Issue No. 027

September 18, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Guests up My Sleeve

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Usability and Search Engine Optimization

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   Overture's Ambassador Program

*Notes from Search Engine Strategies Conference:
---->   Converting Visitors Into Buyers

*Other SEO News:
---->   Jill's Search Engine Marketing Seminar

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   The Step-by-Step Guide To Creating and Promoting Your Ezine

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   Speaking of Guinea Pigs
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  I've got a few guests up my sleeve for you today, plus
a review of a new step-by-step guide.  And don't miss my announcement
of the seminar I'll be holding in the Boston area on November 18th.

So let's get right to the good stuff! - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

From: Ron Crawford

Hi Jill,

I'm enjoying the writings and advice in your newsletters.  I
appreciate your personal recommendation to focus on valuable content,
rather than the appearance of valuable content.

Our site (Help-U-Plan <www.helpuplan.com>) provides a service on-line
(creation and modification of a Gantt Chart in support of project
management).  We feel about ready for customers, after a year of Beta
testing and subsequent development.  Much of your (and other) SEO
advice seems directed toward a different type of site than ours:
businesses that are selling a product, and therefore have pages that
describe the products.

A site like ours, providing an interactive service, contains a great
deal more code (VBscript & JavaScript) than description.  It seems one
of our primary tasks is to be concerned about usability.  The
resulting pages may be inconsistent with SEO needs for easily parsed
HTML.

Do you see the marketing/SEO task as substantially different for us?

Do you have recommendations for readings directed specifically toward
marketing of a service?  I am currently reading Search Engine
Positioning, by Fredrick Marckini.  It is excellent.

Thanks,

Ron Crawford
Help-U-Plan
www.helpuplan.com

~~~Jill's Reply~~~

Hi Ron,

These are some really good questions.  Since I'm only a beginner when
it comes to usability issues, I forwarded your questions to my friend
Kim Krause from the Cre8asite Usability and SEO forums I mentioned
last week <http://webworkshop.net/cre8asite/>.  Her answer is below.
Kim's a project manager who has experience with project management
software, so this is right up her alley. She's also an Internet
application QA Engineer, UI/Usability Consultant, and SEO Marketer.
If anyone can answer your questions, she can.  - Jill

~~~Kim's Reply~~~

Hi Ron,

You don't need to compromise search engine optimization requirements
for usability with your Internet application, but there will be places
where your development team may need to put in some extra effort.
Fortunately these design "tricks" usually satisfy both your SEO and
usability needs, or at least give them a positive boost.

Here's a mini-checklist that I hope will help:

1. Title tags - Every page needs one, but don't copy and paste the
same one onto every page. Make the title descriptive so that the
engine, directory and user know what the page is about. In the case of
your user, they may bookmark certain pages of your app, such as the
Help page, FAQ or Tutorial pages. Your Title tag describes the page
for them. If the Title tag contains the top one or two keywords for
that page, or includes the name of the application itself, all the
better for SEO.

2. Text links - Your team wasn't afraid of .asp pages or .asp
hyperlinks. This is good. They'll make maintenance easier and won't be
a problem with engines because they don't contain the "?"  symbol.  If
you do need dynamic URLs there are workarounds for how to make them
search-engine-friendly, which Jill or I can refer you to.  [See
"Optimizing Dynamic Content"
</issue022.htm#guest> - Jill]

For users and engines, text links should go at the top of the page.
For users, the order of the navigation should never change. Another
tip on navigation is to avoid the use of more than two navigation
schemes throughout the application.

3. Meta Description/Keywords tags - On the application pages
themselves these are a moot point because there's not enough content
to back them up. But you can add them to a FAQ page, or Help pages if
you'd like. For SEO, anytime you beef up an inside page for users with
topic-specific content it's an opportunity to create a natural
"doorway" into the rest of the site. Make sure those pages have links
to the homepage and any other top-level pages. You can submit these
content-driven pages to engines and let them lead users to the actual
application.

4. Articles/white papers - You asked about marketing a service. Here
is one of my favorite promotion ideas. Write articles or white papers
with highly informative content targeted to a specific market that
introduces ideas, promotes services, shares knowledge, or discusses
research data. These drive traffic to your site and are easily crawled
by search engines. In addition, you can submit them to directories
under specific categories. In your case, project management is both a
job title and a process. By writing about project management you can
attract interest in your application. This also helps establish
credibility for users who may not know your company and are comparing
your application with what's already on the market.

Tip: Make these articles plain vanilla HTML pages and also convert
them to PDF files. You can make both versions available on your Web
site for users. White papers look more professional in PDF form. Your
users will appreciate the information and crawlers will find them if
you provide a link to them.

5. The fastest way to make your application both engine- and
user-friendly is to pretend that nobody can see it.  Huh? You may have
heard of Section 508, which is a law that essentially says any Web
site of the US Government must be accessible to special-needs users.
The best part of this is that the extra measures Webmasters take to
make their pages more accessible, also make them more
search-engine-friendly. For example, cleaner code, alt tags, more
descriptive text and much, much more. A few resources loaded with
information on this are: <http://diveintoaccessibility.org/>,
<http://www.jessett.com/web_sites/usability/index.shtml> and
<http://www.w3.org/WAI/>. To find more, run a search on "Section 508"
in one of the major search engines.

Don't forget the little things:

* Clean code (redundant is bad, code clogged with spacer gifs and
endless font calls is also bad).

*Watch out for small fonts. If users need a magnifying glass to read
the instructions -- you've lost them.

*Even old techniques such as using H1 tags can increase usability
along with being a benefit in some search engine algorithms.

*Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are helpful. When you put all the font
and color information, as well as other design specs into a CSS file
and call it from the page header, you've removed lots of junk search
engine crawlers must muddle through, plus you speed up load time for
your users.

And finally, be aware of the terms you are using. These four
("Glossary," "FAQ," "Help" and "Information") are closely related. You
might try combining them into a "hub" that leads to the others (like
the way "Information" is structured already on your site.)  By calling
the link "About Help-U-Plan" you've just fed in another keyword -- the
name of the application itself.

Good luck with your new Internet application!

Kimberly K. Krause
SEO/UI/Usability Consultant
http://www.cre8pc.com
Cre8asite Forum: http://webworkshop.net/cre8asite/

[Thanks, Kim!  Ron also asked about books he could read, and right
now, there's not a lot out there.  Shari Thurow is coming out with a
book in a few months that will be very helpful to people like Ron.
Once it's published, I'll be writing a review here. In the meantime,
if you're into the techie details about how search engines work (which
of course can help you in your optimization endeavors) you might want
to try Mike Grehan's "Search Engine Optimization Report."  You can
read my full review of it here:
</issue018.htm#stuff>. - Jill]


__________________________________________________adv.

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__________________________________________________


~~~Notes from Search Engine Strategies Conference~~~

++Converting Visitors Into Buyers++

Today's guest conference session reporter is Grant Crowell.  Grant is
the founder and CEO of Grantastic Designs,
Inc.<http://www.grantasticdesigns.com>.  He has many years of
professional experience in the fields of web design, copywriting and
marketing.  I've spoken with Grant at many conferences and just
recently found out that he is originally from Hawaii!  Interestingly
enough, his wife, Shari Thurow, prefers the Chicago area to "paradise"
so that's where they reside.  A lot of my family live in Hawaii and
really love it, but I can understand why one may not want to live
there permanently.  Great place to visit though!

Here's Grant's complete report on the "Converting Visitors Into
Buyers" session from the San Jose Search Engine Strategies conference.

Guest Article
Converting Visitors Into Buyers
Grant Crowell

Achieving search engine visibility is only the beginning of the
marketing and sales process.  To fully realize your goals, you need to
understand how to organize your search listings to bring in the right
type of visitors, and then construct your Web site to best meet their
needs and turn them from passive visitors into active customers. This
was the core topic at the Search Engine Strategies seminar,
"Converting Visitors Into Buyers," held recently in San Jose,
California.

Michael Sack, SVP and Chief Product Officer for Inceptor, Inc.
<http://www.inceptor.com/> explained how measuring conversions is
crucial for any site. "Search engines can bring highly qualified,
relevant traffic, but they can also bring irrelevant traffic. And
today, we're paying more and more for it. It's expensive to
participate in paid-inclusion and placement programs, and there are no
guarantees that they will automatically bring any return on investment
(ROI)."

The challenge, Sack says, is to deliver the right people to your site
and drive them to the actions you want them to take. "For that, you
have to have a methodology...a scientific method."

A conversion methodology for a Web site, as shared by the panelists,
should revolve around several key components: site architecture
familiarity, proper application of content, tracking, and testing.

Site Architecture Familiarity

"Every time people go to a page on your site, they have an expectation
of what they're going to see and/or do," says Nick Usborne, usability
consultant and author of the critically acclaimed book "Net Words -
Creating High-Impact Online Copy" <http://www.nickusborne.com/>.  "Be
very careful of who your regular visitors are...users crave
familiarity. Don't give them the unexpected."

Usborne stressed the need to view the site from the perspective of a
first-time user, as what's familiar to the site owner or developer may
not be familiar to the target audience. "You can't assume that people
know who you are. Don't make them work to figure out who you
are...give just enough to let first-time visitors know what you're
about. Make it simple and quick."

Home Page Blues

One of the more common focus problems Usborne and Sack agreed on were
sites that have too many links on their home page. "People want
direction," says Nick. "Tell them what they should do now."

Sack went even further, stating, "Home pages are one of the worst
ideas in the history of ideas. We're trying to take everything we do
and cram it in a display that's only so big. Imagine walking into a
supermarket and finding all of the products gathered on one giant
shelf blocking your entrance to the store... It's just like that, and
it's very confusing...too many choices don't help the browser get the
best possible experience."

Does that mean home pages are bad in themselves? Not at all, according
to Sack -- just the most misused. "It's important to think about the
purpose of our home pages," he said, citing some good examples: "Dell
and Babycenter have very targeted calls to action on their home pages.
Babycenter has it right there that they want you to subscribe to their
e-mail list. They don't want you to click on 50 different links."

People need to think of every page on the site as a 'home page' --
there need to be consistent elements on every deep page to make it
feel as if the browser has reached a true destination online for what
they are seeking.

The Character of Our Content

"Quality writing is highly underrated," says Usborne. "The way you can
truly make yourself unique online, both with Web sites and follow-up
e-mail campaigns, is with the character of your words. The words you
choose have a key impact on conversions, the sales you make, and
gaining repeat customers."

Usborne shared these content tips on how to stand out from the clutter
and connect with your audience:

* Give personalized information relevant to your visitors' needs.
* Develop a distinct, unique voice that separates you from your
competitors.
* Connect with your audience on a human level. (Avoid
corporate-speak.)

What you have to say doesn't just provide information, Usborne says --
it also builds trust. "Trust doesn't flow from being like everyone
else." Good content provides a comforting, reassuring sense for the
visitor, saying to them, "This guy really knows his stuff... he's an
expert."

"A unique character of voice that shows you care. You know the guy,
you trust the guy, and you like the guy."

Testing and Tracking

So how can you tell if you're tracking the right people on your site?
"Pay attention to where that traffic is going," answers Sack. "Start
to figure out the best paths through your site, or 'web aisles.' That
way, you can develop a scientific method pinpointed to where a person
is coming from."

"Are you taking them directly to the page that matches their keyword
searches? Are you doing everything in your power to get people to go
from just looking to actually shopping? Are you doing everything
possible to get them to buy? And are you getting them to do it again?
It's expensive to get customers, but it's more expensive to lose them.
You should be doing everything you can to keep them."

Control where traffic arrives on your site and test different messages
and promotions. Next, track away. What are the net results? Conversion
rates? Which pages/products are performing at the highest ROI if
they're a part of a paid-management program?

And be sure to track the right things: click-stream behavior of
visitors, and conversions. "Hits and sessions really don't matter."
says Sack. "You can have low traffic and high conversions from that
traffic."

And the best part? You don't have to use intrusive personal
information to do it.

Grant Crowell
Grantastic Designs, Inc.
http://www.grantasticdesigns.com


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Jill's Search Engine Marketing Seminar++

If you're interested in hearing me share my SEO secrets and tips for
obtaining high search engine rankings live and in person, keep Monday,
November 18, 2002 open.  You've heard me threaten to hold a search
engine marketing seminar for years now, and it's finally gonna happen!

I'll be teaching a half-day seminar somewhere outside of Boston, which
will be determined over the next week or so.  It'll be easily
accessible from Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or any other part
of New England.  (Plus of course, you're certainly welcome to fly in
from anywhere, as it will surely be worth the trip!)

I plan to teach you the exact methods I use to obtain high search
engine rankings for my clients so that you can put them to work for
your own sites.  If you're a site designer, business owner, budding
SEO professional, or employee in the Marketing/IT department of a
corporation, this is the seminar for you!

Let's face it, there's no sense having a Web site if it can't be found
in the search engines.  Obviously, you know this or you wouldn't be
subscribing to this newsletter.  It's true that everything you need to
know can be found right here and on my Rank Write site.  However, this
half-day in-depth seminar will substantially lessen your learning
curve.  There will be plenty of time for questions & answers and
picking my brain.

I'll have more details over the next few weeks.  In the meantime, if
you think you might be interested (no commitment), please email me at
mailto:jill@highrankings.com.  The price will be somewhere in the
$250 - $299 range for the half-day including a continental breakfast.
I'd like to gauge subscriber interest in order to properly plan
everything, so drop me a quick email when you can!  Eventually, I'll
have a sign-up form online where you can register.  For now, just keep
the date open and let me know if you think you might attend.


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++The Step-by-Step Guide To Creating and Promoting Your Ezine++

So what's promoting your ezine got to do with SEO?  Nothing!  BUT...if
you're interested in marketing your Web site in the search engines,
you should also be thinking of other ways to market your site.  That's
where ezines (or newsletters) come in.  I can tell you from my own
experience with this newsletter that it can be an awesome marketing
tool.  Once yours is established, you can reap many rewards from it --
if you know what you're doing.  (I had to learn it all the hard way!)

So just how does one begin to create a newsletter?  Where do you find
subscribers?  Should you use HTML or straight text?  How often should
you put yours out, and what exactly should you include?   Thankfully,
my good buddy Karon Thackston has answered all these questions and
more in her latest step-by-step guide.  (You may remember Karon from
her Step-by-Step Copywriting Course, which I reviewed here:
</issue009.htm#stuff>.)

This one's a bit different from her copywriting book in that it's not
really a course.  It's more of a tutorial from one friend to another.
Karon used her friend Butch (who wanted to start a newsletter) as a
guinea pig.  In some ways, it reads almost like a long email that went
back and forth between them.  You'll find Karon's questions to Butch
to determine exactly what sort of newsletter he should have, and
Butch's thought-out answers.  Obviously, you'll want to answer the
questions yourself to suit your own newsletter needs, but this format
will give you much food for thought.

The entire guide is a fairly quick read and should take only a few
hours of your time.  Let me warn you in advance that if you're not up
to reading some friendly banter between Karon and Butch, then you
might want to pass on this one.  However, you will definitely miss out
on some great info if you do!  Near the end, there's even a list of
over 70 places where you can promote your eventual ezine/newsletter
for free.  I know that I'll be looking back over that section in my
spare time to find a few additional places to submit the Advisor to!

You can learn more about "The Step-by-Step Guide To Creating and
Promoting Your Ezine" or purchase it through my affiliate link
</ezine> for only $29.77.  Oh...duh! I
forgot to tell you that there's a whole bunch of bonuses that come
with it.  I haven't had a chance to check them out yet, but one of
them is an exclusive article I wrote for Karon regarding how to gain
and keep your subscribers' trust.  (Since I know you all trust me to
the max, who better to write such an article? <grin>) I may eventually
make the article available to the general public, but for now, the
only way you can read it is by purchasing the guide.  See you on the
newsletter circuit!


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

Speaking of guinea pigs, on Monday I brought the gang (my 3 kids plus
2 of their friends) down to the local Petco so that my daughter Jamie
could get one!  The kids have wanted a new pet since the cat died
about 6 months ago, and Jamie's teachers told me last year that having
a pet would be good to help teach her responsibility.  I personally
wasn't interested in having any more pets, as they can be a lot of
trouble.  However, when we were visiting Plymouth this past weekend,
Jamie really wanted to buy one of the hermit crabs we saw at the gift
shop.  Although I'm sure a hermit crab would have made an easy pet,
when all was said and done, we decided to wait until we got home and
get a guinea pig instead.  Go figure!

Anyway...he's brown and white, and his name is Chip.  The kids spent
hours picking out a name (Fuzzle) before we went to the pet store, but
as soon as they saw him they decided he looked like a chipmunk, so
Chip he became!  As long as I don't find any poop on anything, I'm
okay with him.  So far, so good.  Talk to me in a week when the
novelty has worn off!

Catch ya next time! - Jill
 
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