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High Rankings Advisor: Usability and SEO - Issue No. 049

April 2, 2003
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   All Sorts of Interesting Stuff

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   How To Spend Initial SEM (Small) Budget

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   TestWEB Monitor
---->   KEYSTER(TM)

*Guest Article:
---->   Being Tops with Your Users and the Search Engines (Part 1)

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Revised and Updated Copywriting Course

*Other SEO News:
---->   Jill's Atlanta SEO Basics Seminar on May 16
---->   London SES Conference

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   How Many Words Do  You Need for High Rankings?

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   I-Sales Consortium
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  I've got another full issue for you today.  All sorts
of interesting stuff, including the first in a series of articles
about usability testing written by my friend and head-honcho at the
Cre8asite Forums, Kim Krause.

Let's get straight to the good stuff! - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++How to Spend Initial SEM (Small) Budget++

Hi Jill---

I heard about you through your articles on www.searchengineguide.com.
You provide some great info in those articles. Thanks. I am new to all
of this. In fact, my site just went live last week.

If I could afford to use your services at this point, I certainly
would. I will definitely keep your name handy so that when the time
comes, I will remember it.

My question at this point is: I have an initial budget of about
$300-$500 I can spend on advertising and promotion. Where would you
recommend I invest it? It looks like I should avoid LookSmart, but the
$300 that Yahoo costs would use most of my advertising budget. I am
also looking to use a Google AdWords campaign. What would be your
suggestions?

P.S. I was laid off in November and am currently unemployed, so I
would love to get off to a good start with the web site. I hadn't even
used FrontPage until mid-December and think I have done a fair job of
creating a good web site.

---Stan

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Stan,

If I were you, I would start by reading all the free stuff that I
provide at my site, such as the articles
<http://www.higrankings.com/articles.htm> and the past newsletters
</archives.htm>, so that you can make sure
to optimize your site to be the best it can be.  That won't cost you
anything.  You may also want to purchase a copy of Shari Thurow's
Search Engine Visibility book.  You can get it at any bookstore or
through my Amazon link here:
</searchenginevisibility>.  It's geared
towards those just starting out, and will help you make sure that
you've created your site in a way that's search-engine-friendly.

Currently, the beauty of optimizing your site for high rankings
yourself is that it's still pretty much free! Of course, you have to
have the time to learn how to do it correctly, and you need to sort
out the good information from the bad.  If you stick with the info on
my site and Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Watch site you won't have
to worry about getting too confused.  Danny's free stuff is here:
<http://www.searchenginewatch.com>, but you can also sign up for a
paid membership to Search Engine Watch you want some more in-depth
knowledge: </sew>.

If you don't have the time or inclination to figure out how to achieve
high rankings in the free listings, Google AdWords may be your best
bet.  To be sure you're getting the most bang for your AdWords buck, I
would highly recommend that you first spend a little time reading
Andrew Goodman's "21 Ways to Maximize Your Google AdWords Campaign"
</pagezero>.  The cost is $49, which you'll
get back very quickly once you implement his ideas.  Generally, you
should be able to tell in the first month or two whether you can make
a good return on your AdWords investment.  If so, keep at it; if not,
keep tweaking it or simply end the campaign.

You may also want to invest in a day's subscription of WordTracker:
</wordtracker>.  This will help you for
both your regular optimization work and in choosing good phrases for
your Google AdWords campaign. A day's subscription should be all you
need, and it only costs about $6.

If you decide to rewrite your pages to focus on the keyword phrases
that people are actually searching for (as laid out by WordTracker and
AdWords), you may eventually want to purchase my "Nitty-gritty of
Writing for the Search Engines" special report
</issue043.htm#stuff>.  It will help show
you how you can get your keyword phrases into your copy without making
it sound stupid.

That's all I can think of right now!

Good luck.

Jill

P.S. In the interest of proper disclosure, many of the above links are
my affiliate links.  All sales help in my efforts to give you all the
best SEO information I can possibly give -- for free!



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______________________________________________


~~~Guest Article~~~

++Being Tops with Your Users and the Search Engines++

Many of us old-time SEO dudes and dudettes have come to the
realization over the years that a site designed with usability in mind
is a whole lot easier to optimize for the search engines than one that
isn't.  Not only that, it will generally do a better job at converting
visitors to buyers.

With this in mind, today I have the first in a series of articles by
usability expert Kimberly Krause.  I've been keeping Kim busy doing
usability reports for all of my SEO site analysis clients, and I can
attest to the fact that she knows this stuff inside out.  You may
recall the other articles I've published of Kim's; however, those only
scratched the surface of this fascinating topic.  This time around
Kim's gonna get down and dirty with the specifics on how to test your
site for usability.

As a small business owner herself, Kim understands that most websites
are built by people who have no access to defect-tracking software,
let alone even know what it is!  The goal for this series of articles
is to provide information that anyone can implement on their own
without breaking their budget.  If you've ever looked into having this
type of usability testing done on your site, you'll find that there
are some very high levels of it being done, which of course costs tons
of money.  What Kim does (and what she's gonna show all of us), is
take the essence of what the big boys do, and boil it down to stuff we
can do ourselves.  (Keep in mind that if after reading all this you
realize that you simply don't have the time, Kim offers this service
at a very reasonable cost!)

So without further ado, let's give Kim a warm Advisor welcome!

Guest Article
Being Tops With Your Users and the Search Engines
Part 1 - Compiling Your Specifications
By Kimberly Kopp Krause

Compiling Your Specifications

The simplest form of site testing is done by cognitive walkthrough and
heuristic sessions.  Armed with a list of website heuristics (a brief
checklist of user interface specifications -- see
<http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/> for more info), you "walk
through" a site, check off items that are included and make note of
those that aren't.  A cognitive walkthrough approach (see
<http://www.usabilityfirst.com/methods/cogwalk.txl>) allows you to see
the behavior patterns of your visitors, how they move about the site,
what links they choose, where they make errors or where they perform
steps you never planned for.

Why Am I Here on This Website?

Every website has special objectives to meet.  Is it intended to
provide services or sell products?  If you want to make money from
your site, is it set up to easily do this online?  Are you getting
your message across?  If you run an information website, how organized
is the content? Furthermore, how might you make it better organized?

Before asking your visitors about your website, ask yourself some
questions first.  In software testing we can't test (or develop) an
application until we know exactly -- down to the smallest detail --
what it's expected to do.  The same thing applies to websites.

This is where the fun of user testing comes in.  Using a variety of
methods (which I'll discuss later in this series), you'll be able to
learn many things about your website.  You can see if your site
visitors found what they were looking for, and you can test whether
your objectives are met.  You can also troubleshoot low sales, keyword
search issues or website abandonment (e.g., perhaps they easily found
your site, but then quickly left).

Copy the Sales Clerk

Quite often I'll make a purchase in a store and the sales clerk will
ask, "Did you find what you were looking for?"  At first it seems like
a dumb question, especially when I'm writing a check for $127 worth of
merchandise; however, when you think about it, the question offers a
chance for the store to receive feedback.  It opens the door for
questions or complaints.

How many websites ask this?  In Part Three of this series, I'll talk
more about how to copy the sales clerk and use this technique for your
website.

Fairy-Dust Technique

Two Christmases ago I learned that buying from small and home-based
businesses was the way to go if I wanted to sense a human being at the
other end of my online transaction.  I purchased practical gifts that
were designed artistically and uniquely by a woman who ran her
business from her kitchen.  When I received my order, she had included
a small token gift for me, as well as tiny feathers and shiny
sprinkle-things that fluttered with joy when I opened up the package.
She also wrote me a handwritten thank-you note!  I raved about her
website for weeks afterward, sending her traffic whenever I saw the
opportunity to do so.

Large ecommerce sites can learn from the kitchen-run businesses.
Although I might take some of these websites to task for user
interface issues (Web design), there's no denying that they know a lot
about customer satisfaction.  Usability is part user interface, part
user, part functional, part business objective, and part being found
in search engines.  The user part is vital; while you want to make
sure the user is happy while they're on your website, they'll return
to your site because you made them happy long after they were gone.
In part 4 of this series I'll dig deeper into visitor-pleasing tactics
and how to put user feedback to good use.

That Happy Ending

So what REALLY makes your visitors love your website?  What makes it
"usable"?  Frankly, nearly all websites are usable; usability is a
word worn out from overuse by website reviewers like me who test
sites!  But you'll find that certain things will confuse many
visitors.  Sometimes they can't contact you because your form didn't
allow a field for their country or province.  Or perhaps you
completely forgot that special-needs users might like to visit your
website, but you didn't design it with this in mind.  In the final
section of this series I'll show you how to turn your website upside
down and shake out the disconnected parts.  Taking a little time to
inspect underneath the hood of your site can go a long way towards
meeting your goals.

Laying the Groundwork for Long-Term Success

Whether you have a website or are thinking of building one, you'll
need to start with two pieces of paper. Write "Business Requirements"
at the top of one, and "Functional Requirements" on the other.

For business requirements, you can simply write things like "I want to
sell shoes." Or "to sell high-end designer shoes at a bargain price."
You can have several goals related to your business requirements, such
as "This website will sell 30 pairs a week," and "Information on
designer shoes will contain links to designer sites."  Don't forget to
write down your plans to include a shopping cart, a newsletter,
images, optimizing for search engines, researching your target
market/audience or whatever other goals you may have.

For functional requirements, you want to write down *how* you will
sell those shoes by detailing everything from how the shopping cart
will work to how the website search function will work, and where it
will be placed on the website. If you plan to optimize for the search
engines, don't forget about your need for keyword research and how you
will focus on keywords within your page copy. Functional requirements
can be lengthy, but that's what you want. Will your pictures show
detail?  What font face will you use?  Later, during testing, you will
need to prove that each business and functional specification was met.
If something fails, you may risk losing a sale or a return visitor.

When writing down your functional specifications, remember to trace
each one back to the business specification it applies to.  If a
function isn't going to help manifest a goal or objective, it doesn't
belong on your website. You'll find this exercise is a nice precursor
to storyboard drawings of your pages, and helps you analyze your
website needs.

But wait! You're not done yet.  Remember the heuristic evaluations I
mentioned?  You (and your design staff if you have one) will also need
to create a 10-item heuristic checklist of basic website guidelines
based on the functional specs you just outlined.  These can cover
fonts and spacing, added scripts, ads, printable pages, navigation
styles or even the placing of elements on a page.  Since every website
is different, it's important to make this checklist your own, not
simply a clone of Jakob Nielsen's.

Next week: Part 2 - A Website Review Checklist

Kimberly Kopp Krause
Cre8pc: http://www.cre8pc.com
Cre8asite Forums: http://www.cre8asiteforums.com


_______________________________________________Adv.

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_______________________________________________


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Revised and Updated Copywriting Course++

Unless this is your first time reading this newsletter, you've surely
heard me sing the praises of Karon Thackston's Step-By-Step
Copywriting Course.  Well, I've got great news for you!  Karon's just
come out with the latest revision, making it even more useful to
anyone who wants to learn Karon's easy, step-by-step method of
copywriting.

This is a huge, major, brand-new revision for the course.  We're not
just talking a few tweaks here and there.  There are five new chapters
including the following:

* The differences between how men and women buy...and how you can use
'em to your advantage.
* How to write powerful copy even if your target audience includes
everybody!
* The steps EVERY person goes through when deciding what to buy...and
how to sway that decision.
* Special considerations to make PPC ads, postcards and other short
copy pull big results.
* How to determine if your copy has lost its punch and needs updating.

Plus, there are five updated chapters with expanded sections about:

* Writing for search engines
* Creating powerful headlines
* Defining and effectively communicating with your target audience
* Choosing the best copy type to fit your specific customers, and
* Writing to fit your brand.

There are over 50 new pages, more examples and more links than the old
version.

Like most good things (except for this newsletter!) there is a price
for all new and expanded info, and it is more than the old version.
But I've taken a look at it, and it's most definitely worth the extra
bucks for what you get.

To learn more about this course, please read my original review here:
</issue009.htm#stuff>.  I really can't
stress enough how important your copy is to the overall usefulness and
search-engine-friendliness of your site.  If you can't afford a
professional copywriter, then you really and truly *need* to buy this
course!

By the way, I know that many of you have already purchased the old
version and are probably sitting there wondering if you're simply out
of luck with regards to getting the upgraded info.  You don't really
think that Karon would leave you out in the cold now, do you?  If
you've already purchased the previous edition, please visit the
following page to see how to get your free or discounted upgrade
(depending on your date of purchase):
<http://www.copywritingcourse.com/2003edition.html>.


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Jill's Atlanta SEO Basics Seminar on May 16++

Now that April is here (we can't tell this by the weather in Mass.,
but I just checked my calendar, and it is indeed April!), it's time to
reserve your place for my Atlanta SEO Basics seminar on May 16, 2003.
You've only got until April 16 to save $50 with the early-bird price
of $249.  After that, the regular price of $299 kicks in.  So stop
procrastinating and get your butt over to the registration form
</seminar>!

There are still some spots open for the exclusive Luncheon With the
Expert (me), but I'm not sure how much longer they'll last.  So if you
were planning on attending that part (and I highly suggest you do as
it's a great networking opportunity), then please don't delay any
further.  I know it's hard to think about what you'll be doing in May,
when it's only just turned April.  Believe me, I know!  I just don't
want you to miss out, and of course I'd like to start getting an
accurate headcount for the event.

We still have some rooms left at the Sheraton for that great $89 rate.
So if you're planning to stay over the night before, make sure to call
them ASAP.  The information about the hotel is also at the seminar
page: </seminar>.

I'm also looking for some additional sponsors for the event.  I've got
ad space available in the seminar handbook, all the way up to
in-person exhibiting sponsorships.  Email me at
mailto:seminar-sponsor@highrankings.com if you'd like more info.


++London SES Conference++

For those of you on the other side of the pond who can't come all the
way to the US for my seminar, how about if we meet up in London at the
Search Engine Strategies conference?  It's scheduled for June 3rd and
4th at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel and Conference Centre in
London.  You can learn more and register here:
<http://www.jupiterevents.com/sew/london03/index.html>.

I'll be presenting my "Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines"
information, and hope to see you then!  Oh yeah, I almost
forgot...I've got a free conference pass available for one lucky
subscriber! If you're absolutely positively sure you can attend this
event, send me an email to mailto:freepass@highrankings.com and I'll
put you in the running.  You'll be responsible for your transportation
and lodging, so keep that in mind when deciding if you can afford to
go.


~~~This Week's Sound Advice~~~

++How Many Words Do You Need for High Rankings?++
<http://www.whatsworking.biz/gfx/audio/sa-search.asx>


~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's it for today's issue.  I hope you got some useful info out of
it!  Did I tell you guys that I am now a member of the I-Sales
Consortium?  If you're not familiar with I-Sales, you might want to
check out the archives here:
<http://list.adventive.com/archives/i-sales.html>.  It's a true
treasure trove of information to help any Internet-related business.
In fact, I-Sales was the first email discussion list that I ever
subscribed to many, many moons ago!  John Audette, who's the owner of
the parent company, Adventive, was the moderator up until this past
year.  Unbeknownst to John, he was secretly my mentor for how to be a
newsletter moderator, and much of the style I project here was learned
from reading his stuff.

John had a great motto: "give -- then take," which are words to live
by on the Internet.  I learned so much from I-Sales back in the old
days, and in fact, my numerous posts there scored me my first real
clients, and I've always been grateful for that.  So when the I-Sales
Consortium was being formed as a last-ditch effort to keep the
newsletter alive, I was only too happy to throw my monetary support
(and whatever other support I can throw) their way.  It's still too
early to say whether the Consortium is gonna work in the long run, but
there are enough people who feel the same way as I do who are working
hard to keep it alive as long as possible!

Right now the Consortium is looking for some discussion-list ad
sponsors, so if you're looking for some highly targeted ads for your
business, you should check it out.  (The rates are very reasonable at
the moment.)  You can learn more about their sponsorship opportunities
here: <http://www.design4results.com/clients/isid/>.  There's info
about sponsoring the I-Design discussion list there too, which is a
Consortium discussion list targeted to Webmasters and designers.

Catch you next week! - Jill
 
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