Friday, February 29, 2008

Preparing yourself for a new job

"Ah! What an interesting Ad from my dream company! Let me send my resume" Click Click and Zoom!

Stop! Do not Shoot Off Your Ready-Made Resume, the One-for-all types, in response to Today?s Ad in CareerAge. If you are serious about appointment, and not disappointment, then you need to work on each application of yours. The problem of ?Heaping of resumes? is only aggravated in the current job scenario! The reader of responses will not have time for a proper in-depth scrutiny of all the responses he gets. He is looking for only specific stuff. If he always knows what he is looking for! If he does not get a glimpse of what he wants in first 10 to 15 seconds, he moves on to the next resume. Fair or not. Like it or not.

Resume selection process for selection of a resume, out of a whole lots of them, works in the following chain:

1) A resume that attracts attention & interest -> 2) Leads to scrutiny -> 3) If seems to meet requirements, selected for further action.

How do you attract attention? What can you do to catch the eye of the scrutinizer in the 15 seconds that he has for you? In such a situation how does one succeed? What if actually you were the right person, competent and fit for the advertised job; yet your resume gets rejected due to poor screening by the selector(s)? Relax. This article is supposed to tackle exactly these issues. The purpose here is to give out tips that will fetch you better results. To help you define chances of your own success!

To achieve the first of the above objectives, you have to put in efforts. The resume reviewer needs to be helped and guided to select your resume out of the heap. Tone, flavor and focus add value. Credentials are any way a bottom line. Focus helps the reader to select the right resume. You need to consciously bring forth those specific aspects out of your own years of experience, or of your academic and extracurricular achievements, if you are a fresher, that the advertiser is perhaps looking for in a ?probably a suitable candidate? and paste at the top of your resume as a summary in four to six lines. He does not have time to go deeper, nor to read in between lines to find out if you may be the right person for his job. That way he might as well meet most candidates.

Step 1: Get your facts together.

As an applicant you must write the resume giving information about yourself only after you have prepared yourself well. First of all, therefore, it is advisable to keep your existing resume on the side and have a complete re-look at your whole career, afresh. It is useful to gather all information about yourself and jot down the various jobs you have done, the various responsibilities that you held, various achievements that you have achieved. Be it your in your jobs or in college or at school. This is not easy. But have patience. Your future depends on how well you are prepared.

To do the step1, it may be a good idea to sit down with a tape recorder and go back to your first ever job and talk through your career. Talk about learning?s, pitfalls, mistakes, contributions and failures.

Assimilate this information and compartmentalize based on category of experience, skills, period or what ever, even if across jobs. Put it out as a draft. Refine and finalize. Having penned the information, collate those portions of your resume that are relevant to the position being applied for. Estimate the time that you would have spent on such activities and specifically mention.

Put all these details in the cover letter and also in the main resume at the top frame under sub heading: Summary: It is one Para comprising of 4 to 6 lines and is the flavor of the resume. This should remove the need for the ?Objective?. I have seen most objectives are abstract wish statements of candidates that are generally irrelevant to the reviewer at the initial resume-screening stage barring rare critical positions. The summary is a good forum to mention awards and merits. The credibility needs to be established early on. It will help hold interest for the reader to go on.

Be precise and honest. I have seen many resumes that are well bloated and also flavored. ?Flavoring of the resume to requirements? leads to a selection for an interview call. But when it matures in to an interview, the sharp interviewer will eliminate you. If your actual work profile does not suit his requirement he is not going to hire you. Interviewing is a scientific process of information gathering. Many interviewers have mastered the skill of interviewing and a good interviewer will puncture holes in a resume-forte and will be able to see through the bloating however carefully one may have woven. While a resume may sound impressive, result of the interview may turn out to be just other wise. Time and time over again. More number of times you lose, you only add to your own frustration. One is playing a lose-lose game.

By summarizing your experiences carefully, you are helping the reviewer to look at the relevant portion of your work life and if it interests him, he decides to spend more time on you.

Step 2: Present your resume neatly

Formatting your resume is crucial. Format it so that a neat print on A-4 sized sheet can be taken. If you are printing a hard copy yourself, use good quality white bond paper.

There is no need to write ?Resume? or ?Curriculum Vitae? as the ?Header? to your document. Putting your name in bold with font size 16 on top left hand corner should be sufficient. Keep the font size as 12 for the rest of the document. Use Arial or Times New Roman and ?Auto? or ?Black? color. Give your present address contact details, phone, mobile and e-mail. If permanent address is separate, mention it at the end of your document and not on the top.

While you should make all the headings bold using ?title case?, the sub-headings should be normal-italic. Add ?space? after a coma or a full stop and not before. Leave one space, max two spaces, after full stop. Avoid using exclamation marks (!) or question marks (?). Use Tab(s) after colon (:) and standardize one tab position for the whole document to present information neatly.

There should not be any spelling mistakes. These speak poorly of your candidature. Poor spellings and wrong sentences puts off the readers and gives them a reason to reject.

Do not waste efforts in dividing your resume by shaded ?heading text-boxes?. While such formats look neat on your computer screens; the print outs may turn out to be horrible or garbled.

After the Name and contact details, mention your qualifications. It is useful to begin with the highest one first and then go backwards. It is important to mention the course, university / institution and the period of study. Percentage CGPA or any other ranking helps. Take an opportunity to highlight merits in class / college/ university, including scholarships, certifications etc if any.

In case if any course is part time or through correspondence, do mention it now rather than being discovered later.

Experience details

Cover the current job responsibilities first and go back wards. Best is to cover points area wise, major ones first. But cover all aspects that you have handled. Mention in brief only. Who knows that may be that?s what the prospective employer is looking for? Be proud. There is no harm in saying, "I have done it", but state facts.

Skills, technologies computer savvyness needs clear mention

IT professionals should maintain one pattern for all projects through out the length of the resume: Mention duration from-to (specify period in months); give project name / Module; Technologies used: OS / Languages / Tools. It is useful to keep a separate section where you self-assess your competence on various technologies, especially the ones that you have used. For mentioning the Team size it is useful to take maximum size. Also do mention the location of the project.

Do not abbreviate or create your own acronyms. Mention key words in accepted standard form only, lest they get missed in electronic search.

I may like to warn here that Virus can kill your candidature. So make sure your machine is well updated on anti-virus definitions. Do mention your role / reporting relationship and add the specific achievement / contribution that you have made to the project / job. Mention about reviews and quality aspects. Customer appreciations about your work are best credentials. Don?t miss mentioning them.

Don?t do cut and paste job ? responsibility descriptions across the projects/jobs. Treat each one separately. Even if the job is similar, no two are exactly the same. Some things are different. Break monotony in writing and bring out the difference. Shortcuts by you will only encourage the reader also apply the same when he is reading. In the end, do mention your extra curricula achievements, hobbies, and interests, permanent address etc.

A well-selected resume will increase your success rate. For, once the reviewer has understood your candidature, he is calling you with an expectation to select and not to reject. There is a vacancy that he needs to close quickly. Having seen your honest resume, he knows fairly well what kind of work you may have done in your career. You may have the right experience that he may like to leverage upon. And precisely for that he will be ready to shell out more money, some thing that will only benefit you. He now wants to meet you and evaluate you. Your credentials will be verified. He is going to judge by what you say, how you say, what body language you exhibit, your analytical ability and agility. And most of all, attitude, pleasantness, eagerness, warmth and your fitment in to the organization culture guide his assessment of your capability of handling the job that he has pending, awaiting the filling of the vacancy. He questions himself, ?Are you the best person to handle the assignment??

Therefore, please understand that writing a good resume is essential for success. It is an art you can easily master. Seek professional help if you still do not have the skill or the patience with yourself.

Once having had a good detailed resume, self assess yourself against the specified requirements and participate in the recruitment process if you are well convinced that you can handle the advertised job with ease. Keep the Chaff away. Avoid unnecessary repetition. No one is interested in knowing how many students were in your class unless you were a ranker. If you have made his job easier even before joining, he would imagine what you would do if you actually worked for him.

Apply in good time. Do not wait till the last date of application submission. By that date, in a private organization, the recruitment may already be well beyond half way. Remember, the advertiser is keen to close the position the quickest. His business is suffering.

I remember in one interview, I was talking about my role and responsibilities as HR head of my last organization. When I stopped, the interviewer asked me, "What about Recruitment? Have you ever handled recruitment?"

I immediately realized that I missed an obvious thing. "Of course", I recovered and answered back, "I did that almost all the time! Recruitment to an HR person in IT is like food to the human body." I still wonder, how I missed mentioning an obvious thing.

10 Tips for Online Business Success

46 seconds is all you have...

The average time spent by an Internet user on a web page is a mere 46 seconds (Source: Within these 46 seconds an online business needs to attract the customer, make a compelling proposition and close the deal.

The competition in the virtual world is growing day by day. Verisign reported 16% growth in domain name registrations in 2003. The total number of registered domain names now stands at a staggering 60 million, with .com consuming the largest share.
What can YOU do to stand out in the clutter and achieve E-Success?

We think the following 10 tips can substantially increase your chances of online business success:

1. Target the Un-Targeted:

Know your customers thoroughly and target those needs that are unseen by your competitors.

eBay is a bright example. eBay was quick to recognize peoples' desire to earn economic profits by trading second-hand products. eBay realized the need for a platform where such buyers and sellers could meet and trade. ECommerce technologies helped eBay to create the required platform required and the rest is history.

When you are new to online business- Start Small but Start Right.

2. Strong Business Planning:

Have complete knowledge of your revenue source, break-even duration and other important strategic details from the beginning, and decide on the milestones that are to be achieved. You should know the right moment to expand your business and plan for future sources of revenue.

The Internet business has a cruel history of bringing about disastrous changes at phenomenal speed. Be prepared to face such upheavals and have plans in place to manage such turbulent times.

3. Business Friendly ECommerce Software:

Always choose software that is easy to manage and allows you to focus on your core business activities.

Choose an ECommerce solution that fits your business requirements. Analyze ECommerce software in terms of its scalability, security and the amount of customization allowed.

Invest in a solution that not only meets your present requirements, but also is capable of accommodating your future business needs.

4. Create a Web Store with a Difference:

Visual memory is more enduring than textual memory. Correct branding is important for the success of your online business. Increase your brand recall by creating an estore that is in tune with the likes and dislikes of your targeted customers.

Learn more about your customers and create unique branding by using distinct color combinations, site layout and innovative logo. Attractive display of your domain name can also play an important role in branding your online store.

Be different (but not vague) in order to create a positive appeal in the minds of your customers for achieving esuccess.

5. Make your “Hot Sellers” most Visible:

Attract a customer and advertise your USP first.

Create your estore in such a manner that when a visitor leaves your online store, s/he is aware of your specialty even if they do not intend on purchasing those products.

To clarify: Let us assume you are an online flower vendor specializing in selling fresh red roses. Create your online storefront in a way that when a visitor leaves your storefront, s/he is aware about your specialty even though he may not have seen the Red Roses section. So the next time the visitor intends to buy red roses, they will be very likely to recall your storefront.

Highlight your best product/service first in your estore.

6. Do not let your Customers forget you:

Customer Relationship Management is of prime importance, especially when you are small and struggling to build a persistent customer base. Develop innovative ways to inform past customers about new products and the latest updates to the web store. Your chosen ECommerce solution should have provisions for incorporating various CRM campaigns. Adopt Innovative communication for communicating with your customers.

Pamper your customers to generate permanent sales in order ensure the success of your online business.

7. Increase your Web Presence:

Make your presence felt by carrying out intelligent marketing over the Internet. Perform search engine optimization (SEO) for your site, since the majority of buyers visit websites after spotting them come in the first three or four pages of search engine results. You can either hire professional services or carry out Internet marketing by yourself.

Associate yourself with web sites providing complimentary products or services on the Internet. This helps you in increasing your web presence both for search engines and for your customers.

Intelligent marketing alone will get you customers.

8. Build Robust Backend Operations:

Backend operations are the backbone of your online storefront. Spend time in analyzing the backend operations provided by the ECommerce software. Features such as Inventory management processing, credit card processing, reporting systems etc. will shape your first impression.

All your backend operations are expected to be accurate, scalable and provide real time data. Your choice of ECommerce solution would largely determine the strength of your backend operations.

A potential threat to your ECommerce operations is systems failure owning to faulty backend operations. Ensure the existence of a strong backend platform before opening for business.

9. Learn Faster and Better:

To err is human, but failing to cover yourself and allowing your competitors to exploit your loopholes, is suicidal and is a major threat to E-Success.

Always have an unbiased assessment of your online business and be prepared to spot your mistakes. Learn the art of covering your mistakes and rectify them before your competitors come to know about them.

Business is all about speed. Speed is essential in identifying and rectifying mistakes. You need to learn about your loopholes and mistakes faster than your competitors and rectify them effectively.

10. Surprise your Customers:

Surprise your customers with frequent changes in your business offerings. Add incentives by providing surprise offers, price discounts etc.

Your estore can also help to add life to your business enterprise. Perform regular enhancements to look and feel, the display of products etc of your online storefront. Make changes that do not detract from the brand image in the minds of your customers. Make sure, as well, that the changes are not unattractive or are too frequent.

Constantly innovating while remaining focused on your business goals will lead to success in your online business.

Prepare a CV

If you are looking for a job, then it is very important that you understand how to offer yourself in the best way to an employer.

This is done by writing a 'CV' (curriculum vitae - Latin for 'life story'), called in some countries a 'resume'.

Different countries may have different requirements and styles for CV resumes. So you must follow the correct practice for your culture and country. However, we will try to give you important principles and advice.

A CV resume is quite simply an 'advert' to sell yourself to an employer. You should send a CV to an employer when they ask for one in a job advert, or when you are enquiring if any jobs are available. So the purpose of your CV is to make you attractive, interesting, worth considering to the company and so receive a job interview.

An employer may have several hundred enquiries about a single job, he or she will only choose a few people who appear suitable for interview.

Therefore, your CV must be as good as you can make it.

If you are a student, there is probably a career advice office in your place of study. They are there to help. They may have fact-sheets of advice on how to prepare a CV. Make full use of them. However, employers do not want to see CVs which are all written in exactly the same way. Therefore, do not just copy standard CV samples! Your CV should be your own, personal, and a little bit different.

A CV should be constructed on a word-processor (or at least typed), well laid out and printed on a good quality printer. Do use bold and/or underline print for headings. Do not use lots of different font types and sizes. You are not designing a magazine cover! Do use plenty of white space, and a good border round the page. Do use the spell-check on your computer! (Or check that the spelling is correct in some way) Consider using 'bullets' to start sub-sections or lists.

Because you are using a computer or word-processor, you can easily 'customise' your CV if necessary, and change the layout and the way you write your CV for different employers.

Picture yourself to be a busy manager in the employer's office. He (or she) may have to read through 100 CVs in half an hour, and will have two piles - 'possibles' and 'waste-bin'.

So yours must be easy to read, short and attractive.

There are two communication principles to remember:
*'KISS' - 'keep it simple, stupid'.
*'If they didn't hear it, you didn't say it'.

So, when you have written a first attempt at your CV, get someone else to look at it, and tell you how to make it better. Ask your friends, your tutors or teachers, your career office, family friends in business. What you have written may seem simple and obvious to you, but not to an employer! Go through it again and again with a red pen, making it shorter, more readable, more understandable!

Before you start
Sit down with a piece of paper. Look at the job(s) that you are applying for.

Consider how your skills, education, and experience compare with the skills that the job requires. How much information do you have about the job description? Sometimes employers do not give enough information. Ask for more detail if needed. Spend time researching detail about the job(s) that interest you and information about the employer - their structure, products, successes, and approach - from:

Their own publicity, reports and publications
A library (business reports, trade papers)
College career office
Newspaper reports
The Internet


Personal details
Name, home address, college address, phone number, email address, date of birth.
Do you have your own web homepage? Include it (if it's good!). If your name does not obviously show if you are male or female, include this!

Give places of education where you have studied - most recent education first. Include subject options taken in each year of your course. Include any special project, thesis, or dissertation work.

Pre-college courses (high school, etc.) should then be included, including grades. Subjects taken and passed just before college will be of most interest. Earlier courses, taken at say age 15-16, may not need much detail.

Work experience
List your most recent experience first. Give the name of your employer, job title, and very important, what you actually did and achieved in that job. Part-time work should be included.

They will be particularly interested in activities where you have leadership or responsibility, or which involve you in relating to others in a team. A one-person interest, such as stamp-collecting, may be of less interest to them, unless it connects with the work you wish to do. Give only enough detail to explain. (If you were captain of a sports team, they do not want to know the exact date you started, how many games you played, and how many wins you had! They will ask at the interview, if they are interested.) If you have published any articles, jointly or by yourself, give details.

If you have been involved in any type of volunteer work, do give details.

Ability in other languages, computing experience, or possession of a driving licence should be included.

Usually give two names - one from your place of study, and one from any work situation you have had. Or if this does not apply, then an older family friend who has known you for some time. Make sure that referees are willing to give you a reference. Give their day and evening phone numbers if possible.

Maybe all you need to say will fit onto one sheet of A4. But do not crowd it - you will probably need two sheets. Do not normally go longer than this. Put page numbers at the bottom of the pages - a little detail that may impress.

There are two main styles of CV, with variations within them.

Information is included under general headings - education, work experience, etc., with the most recent events first.

Skills based
You think through the necessary skills needed for the job you are applying for. Then you list all your personal details under these skill headings. This is called 'targeting your CV', and is becoming more common, at least in UK. But it is harder to do. So take advice on whether it is OK in your country and culture, and how to do it best.

Optional extras
It can be good to start with a Personal Profile/Objective statement. This is a two or three sentence overview of your skills, qualities, hopes, and plans. It should encourage the employer to read the rest.

You could add a photo of yourself - either scanned in by computer, or stuck on. But make sure it is a good one. Get a friend (or a working photographer) to take a good portrait. The pictures that come out from automatic photo-machines usually make you look ill, like a prisoner, or a little "devil" or all of them!

You may vary the style according to the type of job, and what is accepted in your country and culture. So a big company would normally expect a formal CV on white paper. But, just perhaps, a CV applying for a television production job, or graphic designer, could be less formal - coloured paper, unusual design, etc!

Consider using a two column table to list your educational qualifications and courses taken.

Covering letter
When sending in a CV or job application form, you must include a covering letter. The purpose of the letter is:

To make sure that the CV arrives on the desk of the correct person. Take the trouble to telephone, and find the name of the person who will be dealing with applications or CVs, and address your letter, and envelope, to that person by name. (In a small company, it may be the managing director. In a medium size company, it may be the head of section/department. Only in a large company will there be a Personnel or Human Resource Department.)

To persuade the person to read your CV. So it must be relevant to the company, interesting, and well produced.

To clearly say what job you are interested in. If you are sending in a 'speculative' CV hoping that they may have work for you, explain what sort of work you are interested in. Do not say, 'I would be interested in working for Widgets Ltd', but say 'I believe my skills equip me to work in the product development department/accounts office/whatever'. When sending a speculative CV, you may try telephoning later to push your enquiry further.

To say why you want that particular job with that particular employer
To draw attention to one or two key points in the CV which you feel make you suited to that particular job with that particular employer.

Start your letter with an underline heading giving the job title you are interested in. (If you saw the job advertised, say where you saw it.)

Use the style and pattern of a business letter suited to your culture and country. Ask for advice about this. Try to find sample business letters so that you can follow style and layout.

Your career office may have a sheet about this, or show you a sample. The letter should only be on one side of A4 paper. It must be polite and easy to read.

Also mention when you are available for an interview. Ending your letter with a request for specific extra information may give a positive response.

Application forms
To apply for some jobs, the employer will send you an application form. You should still use a covering letter, and send your CV also unless told not to. Application forms need as much care to write as CVs. Remember the lessons earlier on this page.

Here are some short guidelines:
Plan everything you will say on a separate piece of paper. Or make a photocopy of the form, and practice completing it first.

Only complete the real form when you are exactly sure what is the best thing to say.
It must be very neat and clear, and in black pen so that it can be easily photocopied.

You should 'angle' your answers to the company, in the same way as explained for your CV.

Do not say in answer to any question - 'see my CV'. They do not want to try to read both at the same time.

Take a photocopy to keep, so that you can remember exactly what you said. If you are called to interview, take this copy with you into the interview.

Other points
Keep copies of all letters, applications forms, and CVs sent, and records of telephone calls and names of those you spoke to.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

8 Ways To Get People To Visit Your Web Site Again and Again

Getting visitors to your web site is not one of the easiest things to do especially if you've only just set up your web site. The trick here is to find as many ways as possible to get the visitors, that do visit your site, to come back again and again.
Here are 8 ways you can achieve this:

1. Start a blog
Yes, everyone else, including my grandmother, has a blog. You should start one too. A blog is a great way to get your visitors to return to your web site. Especially if you frequently update it with entries that are relevant to your visitors' needs. And also that occasional odd entry on what's happening in your personal life. A blog can greatly increase the personal touch of your web site. And your visitors are more likely to come back.

2. Start a forum
An active discussion forum may be all that you need to attract repeat visitors to your web site. You'll generally get two types of visitors to your active forum. a) One who seeks help and b) one who provides help. If your forum is active with these two types of visitors, you can almost guarantee repeat (as well as new) visits for many times to come.

3. Provide a free useful tool
Every one loves free stuffs. Try and provide a free online tool, that's hosted on your web site of course. If your tool is very useful to your visitors, they will come again and again to use this tool. Example of tools include a banner creator, web site popularity checker, or html generator etc.

4. Free Stuff
Don't just stop there. People really love to get free stuff. List free stuff on your web site. It could be software, services, sample products, e-books etc. The freebies should be related to your web site topic. Keep the freebies coming and your visitors will return regulary. You could maybe add a monthly freebie to your site.

5. Encourage feedback
Have a section on your web site or open a forum especially for visitor and subscriber feedback. You could write a small line at the bottom of the articles on your page to invite readers to leave feedback about the article. Or get your subscribers to leave feedback on your ezine topic for that month. Make sure you reply to their feedback. Not only will this increase repeat visitors to your site, but you'll also have happy subscribers.

6. Publish an online version of your ezine
Though email ezines are popular and wide spread, you should also publish an online version of your ezine at your web site. There are bound to be some subscribers who would prefer the online version. This would bring them back to your web site.

7. Original Content
This is by far the best way to get your visitors to come back for more. Give your visitors content they can't read anywhere else. I'm not saying all your content has to be 100% original, but a portion of your web site should have original information. People will usually read information they haven't read before.

8. Prize Drawings
Hold an ongoing prize drawing on your web site. The prizes should be something of interest or value to your subscribers. Most people who enter will continually revisit your web site to get the results.

There you go. 8 ways to get your web site visitors coming back for more.

Bina runs the WebSite Workshop, a membership site filled with tips, tools and tutorials for the novice webmaster. Subscribe to her free ezine 'WebBriefcase!' and get your free 7 part course on "How to Build Your Own Web Site in 7 Easy Steps"

Creating Social Shopping Sites In a Snap

By Kenneth Corbin

Call it social media à la carte.

With the release of version 3.0 of its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) (define) suite, KickApps is courting Web publishers looking to build a social dimension into their sites by adding widgets, media players, blogging or other user-generated content.

But you don't need an engineering degree to give your site a Web 2.0 makeover.

The company's SaaS applications range from simple, out-of-the-box deployments that less tech-savvy users can slap on their sites in a few mouse clicks, to a more advanced developer kit offering APIs for a full-blown widgetization.

"Our vision is to eliminate all barriers for publishers looking to deploy a wide range of social media applications at their own Web sites," KickApps CEO Alex Blum said in a statement.

The idea of offering Web publishers a bevy of à la carte services, so customers can cherry-pick the social media applications that best fit their site and skill level, is reminiscent of the approach that IBM has taken with its social networking offerings for enterprises.

Of course, KickApps operates on the consumer side, where it finds itself in competition with companies like Pluck, which powers the social applications on the Web sites of media companies like The Washington Post and Discovery Communications.

KickApps has an impressive list of clients in its own right, including HBO, Cox Television and The New York Knicks, and it is growing quickly. KickApps serves about 14,000 customers already, and Blum told that it is adding new clients at a rate close to 500 a week.

Kick It Up a Notch for Small E-Biz
Many clients simply enlist KickApps to embed a single interactive feature, like a programmable media player or a wiki, into their site. For small companies looking to build from the ground up, KickApps has a team of consultants at the ready.

Interestingly, KickApps also has partnerships with about 100 interactive advertising agencies. Blum describes the flow of traffic between his company and the agencies as a two-way street. When companies need major guidance on getting their interactive strategy going, KickApps can recommend an agency to help them launch; likewise, the partner agencies will often direct clients to KickApps to bake the social elements into their site.

The new version features a revamped affiliate center. This is the command room, where site operators monitor traffic and other engagement metrics. The affiliate center also contains an advertising manager, to help publishers monetize their online communities through link-ups with ad networks.

Like Pluck, KickApps features syndication to popular social networking sites, including Facebook and MySpace.

The widget studio offers default layouts and drag-and-drop authoring kits for beginners, but also offers more sophisticated tools for advanced Flash programmers. The widget studio is available in beta today, with the final version coming out in March.

KickApps promises to socialize any Web site with an SaaS suite that conforms to the scale of the company and the skill level of its staff. With Web 2.0 patrons accustomed to flitting in and out of wikis, blogs and on-demand video players as the whim strikes, KickApps' strategy of serving up social media applications buffet-style seems in step with the times.

This article by Kenneth Corbin originally appeared Jan. 31, 2008 at

Online Branding for eSuccess

Irrespective of product's presence - online or offline, branding plays an integral part behind its success. As in real life scenarios, your brand is your identity on the web and differentiates you from your competitors. Online branding decides the perception of targeted audience towards your ecommerce store.

You can use following branding medium to communicate right message to your target audience:

Ecommerce Storefront:

Visitors remember online stores by their shopping experience. Build unique shopping experience by using innovative web site template with special emphasis on navigation, product display and product description. Since images convey more than words, self-explanatory images can become your major differentiation factor in online branding.

Domain Name:
Your domain name will be the name of your ecommerce store and is many a times used for effective online branding strategy. Choose a name that is unique, easy to remember and, if possible, highlights the type of products sold in your ecommerce store. If you have a selling preposition that out-smarts your competitors, you may add a word or two about it in the domain name.

When we think of windows operating system, we are reminded of its logo before everything else. An appealing logo creates a lasting impression in the mind of your consumers and has a global appeal. A meaningful logo is always helpful in online branding.

Many successful online businesses have used images as their logos to make communication easier since we easily relate with these images and/or logos. Supporting your logo with page specific images can also have an additional effect on visitors. Display your logo at all prominent locations of your site to increase brand recognition.

Tips for Branding on the Web

You can take help from following tips while designing an online branding strategy:
Be Consistent:

Branding on the web would require targeting your visitor through multiple channels. You should be consistent in terms of your approach, your message and your treatment given to a viewer through all these channels.

Appeal to the Target Market:
Entire branding efforts should be focused on a section of a large consumer segment. Communicate your message clearly and precisely. Your message should appeal to your customer and make them realize the benefit of visiting your store.

Be Innovative:
Branding is all about being innovative. Understand the likes and dislikes of your target audience before you begin the work of branding your store on the web.

You brand your store for your consumers. Keep a close eye on the behavior of your visitors. Online Branding is a major factor, which will help you convert your visitors into consumers

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Website Design Guidelines and Tips - Just Common Sense

Author: Mary Magdalene Chia Here are some design guidelines and tips to help you build a user friendly websites.

1. First, figure out what you want to do and make a plan for it. This may involves some brain storming. Then, translate your ideas and plans onto paper by drawing a diagram or a flowchart so that you can visualize it. Then, ACT on it.

2. Keep your design simple, clear, consistent and user friendly.

3. A simple design layout makes it easier for you to build your website. The end result will be a website which your visitors will find easy to navigate and easy get whatever information they want.

4. Your content should be simple, complete and direct to the point. It should make clear the intention of your web pages, cover the subject matter thoroughly and convey the messages direct to your visitors.

5. If your design look complicated - redesign and simplify it. Complicated design layout will not only make it harder for you to build your web pages, it may also confuses your visitors if your site is full of complicated mess of information.

6. Be consistent throughout in your design approach. The background, color usage and text format should be carefully chosen and the screen layout for all your pages visibly consistent.

7. Create a simple logo to identity your website. Have a captivating tag line somewhere with the header, and write an About Us page which describes the uniqueness of your website. These will leave an impression for your visitors to remember your website. Make a copyright statement at the bottom of you web pages.

8. Have a clear color scheme based on the theme of your website. Choose carefully a set of colors you use for your background, text, border, tables and cells etc. The color scheme expresses the characters of your website and makes it unique and attractive.

9. Identify who are your target visitors and how you would make your presentation. Decide the tone of language usage and the approach that will best suit your visitors. Whether your language usage should be casual and simple or formal and technical? Whether you should use pictorial or language oriented approach in your website.

10. For ease of reading, the length of a text lines should not exceed certain width within the computer screen. To limit the length of a line of text, use indent text or use a table with the pre-set width.

11. Long blocks of text passages can be tedious and strenuous to read. Try to use short sentences, short paragraphs and bulleted or numbered list form to break them up.

12. The width of you web pages should preferably not exceed that of the computer screen. People viewing your site usually don't mind scrolling up and down the screen; but will be annoyed when they have to scroll left and right.

13. Font size: use larger size font; Bear in mind that some of your visitors may have poor eyesight; some may have partial impaired vision and some ordinary people who just can't stand reading tiny script on the computer screen.

14. The text color should contrast well with the background color to be easily read. Likewise, Background image or texture chosen should contrast well with the text color, so that it is easy to read on screen.

15. It looks great on the screen and soothing to the eyes. But it is not recommended to use white text on a dark background. When somebody wants to print out your page for reference, it won't print because the background will not be printed; while the white text is printed on white paper, you see nothing.

16. The images you put in a web page are not there just for decoration. They should be relevant and necessary to use as visual to help to convey the message, or serve to break a long and monotonous text messages.

17. Limit the size of an image you insert in a web page. Large image takes longer time to display, and most visitors don’t like to wait too long to view a certain image.

18. Keep the size of a web page small so that it will open up fast - preferably less than 10 seconds. If the page is too long, have too many items to load and slow to display, you should consider breaking it into smaller pages and link them up.

19. Contents such as video, audio, flash animations etc. are huge in size. They will slow down the display of the page. If it takes too long for to load a page, the viewers might give up and leave. They also use up more of your bandwidth.

20. Ensure that the visitors get around navigating your website with ease. They should be able to find what they are looking for in quickly and get there. Use a menu or image map, a site map, arrows, links and buttons to provide direction to your visitors.

21. Make sure the pages are interlinked for easy navigation. Links should be well organized, strategically placed and easy to detect by using appropriate colors. Use anchor links to facilitate navigation on the same page. Always check for any broken links and fix them.

22. Load all the important and essential information in the first page that the visitors see. Give a quick introduction to your website with brief header, bookmarked lists, short summaries, etc. This will quickly let them know whether your page is what they are looking for.

23. Is your website screen layout look neat and tidy? Ask someone to have a look at it and get her feedback. You will be surprised!

24. The contents inside a table should have a little space between the borders. Set a padding around the table or set indent to your content.

25. Don't simply add every neat gimmick and animated images you can find just because you think they are cool. In reality they are distracting and confusing.

26. Decide whether to use or not to use pop-up windows. They are great for catching the attention of the viewers; but can be distracting and annoying as well. Some viewers would dismiss pop-up as ads and close it immediately. Pop-up also will not work if the viewers have installed a pop-up blocker.

27. Encourage visitors to contact you by providing a Contact Us page with your email link. It is even better to have an opt-in box that serves to collect visitors’ contact and data.

28. Study other’s website design and set up. See how they layout and organize their header, links, menu, buttons, images and etc. Then choose, adopt and modify and whichever design to suit your needs.

29. Use website templates if you don't have any designing flair. It's easy and saves you time and effort.

30. Make a back-up copy for all your web pages. It will save you a lot of trouble in the event that you have to rebuild your websites. Well, some website design guidelines and tips - It's all common sense.

About the Author:Mary Magdalene is the author of "How to design and build your own websites". Design and build websites in 8 hours with easy to follow step by step guidelines.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Guide to Domain Names

What's in a name? A guide to selecting domain names

Finding a domain name that isn't taken these days is pretty hard to do. If you have ever tried to get a user ID with a service such as Yahoo, you will understand how frustrating it can be when you think up the perfect name that nobody else could have possibly thought of, only to find that yes, you can have that name if you are happy to have 7865 tacked on to the end of it. King Solomon is reported to have said "There is nothing new under the sun".....or the Internet it would seem.

Don't set your heart on any one name, but make a list of possibilities. It's a good idea to be online at the time and to access a WHOIS application to determine whether a name has been taken. To access a free WHOIS application please click here

Typing an address into your browser will not be an accurate way of ascertaining ownership as approximately 86% of all domain names currently registered are not in use. A WHOIS query is the most accurate way to tell.

Generic, Business names and Trademarks

Most people choose to register their business name as a domain name, but it's well worthwhile considering selecting a generic name, something that is related to your subject area or industry. Not only will it be easier for people to remember, but it will also have greater resale value if you should choose to sell your site in the future.

It is also worthwhile to check whether the name you are registering encroaches on any other trademark. Many people have registered celebrity or company names hoping to make a quick buck by selling them back to their "owners". This usually backfires, as it is an illegal practice called "cybersquatting". It's definitely not worth the court case; even registering a misspelling of a popular brand name can land you in hot water. Generic terms cannot be trademarked to the point of the exclusion of others using the word combinations. Since generic one word domain names are virtually impossible to locate now, try two word combinations that inspire and promote your products or services; e.g.

Keep it short and simple

Ok, so you have found your name and decided that you wish to build a world wide empire. You have chosen ....what's wrong with this? Sure, it's descriptive, it challenges and it's generic. But it's also a mixture of numbers, letters, abbreviations, hyphens and horribly long.

A domain name should be easy to remember, easy to relay to someone over the telephone and where possible, the first letter should be as close to the letter "a" as possible. A number of search engines and indices categorise alphabetically. Domain names should also be as brief as possible. As far as I am aware, all 3 and 4 letter names for .com and .net are taken at this time. Unfortunately, when I began my first major site in the mid-90's I didn't consider some of these issues.

Choosing a domain extension

Many countries now lease out the rights to use their extensions globally. The best example of this is the .tv domain, which actually belongs to Tuvalu. There are now over 250 TLD's globally

A number of new Top Level Domain (TLD) extensions including .biz and .info were also recently released amid a great deal of fanfare. These are usually more expensive to register.

There is the temptation that if your first choice of names isn't available as a .com, to register the name as a .net, .biz or .tv etc. Think carefully before making this decision. Not only might it cost you more, but also these extensions do not have the recognition of .com - which is the "Beverly Hills" of domain extensions. One of my biggest mistakes in selecting my domain name was to wait for too long - the .com version was already taken by the time I had gotten around to domain name registration and I had to settle for the .net version of my site. Many people now go to the wrong address!

Nationalistic pride is great, but remember that the Internet has broken down international barriers. Think of your target audience. If it is only the people within your own country, a country specific domain is fine; but remember that we are still in the growing stages of the real global economy and it's best to go for .com - why limit yourself? Also, some countries such as Australia have very complex requirements for registering a local domain name.

Investing in domain names.

Many people, are involved in domain name speculation. While the great domain rush was happening, investors made huge profits in reselling domain names. This boom has now become a bust, never to recover. I would advise not to spend your hard earned money in this area unless you can afford to lose it. The only names with real value are one-word generic English names.

Beware of the sharks.

To register a domain name, you need to locate a Registrar. Domain name registrars are commonplace on the Internet, but you need to be very careful whom you register your domain through. Bigger is not necessarily better. For example, an very well known International company currently offers domain name registration for US$35 a year. For that price you get lousy customer service, delays and very few "freebies" thrown in. But on the other end of the scale, you can pay as little as $9.95 a year and receive quite the opposite - but anything for under that price, be extremely wary of and read the fine print.

Domain Registration and Hosting - 2 Separate services

Many people are under the impression that registering a domain name also includes space for hosting your web site. While this can be the case with some package deals, it is important to understand that they are two separate services. To learn more about web site hosting, you can read our free guides and tutorials by clicking here.


If all this seems pretty confusing, it may be wise to engage the services of a consultant. It will cost you anything from US$25 upwards for the service, but the fee of a good consultant is money well spent. Your domain name is a very important part of your online business, and there are many traps set for the unwary.

In summary, here are the basic guidelines for choosing a good domain name:

1. As short as possible
2. As generic as possible, but related (resale value, trademarks etc.)
3. No hyphens, numbers or misspellings
4. First letter as close to "a" as possible
5. Easy to remember (would you remember it if you heard it on the radio)
6. Easy to spell (especially for international clients)
7. .com is universally recognised and remembered - the "Beverly Hills" of extensions. The new extensions such as .biz etc will take a few years to be accepted.
8. No doubling up of letters - e.g. developmenttools.

We hope that you have found this guide to be of value, please don't hesitate in contacting us via the contact form on the left hand side of this page if you have any questions - we're happy to assist!

Read our other free web hosting guides and tutorials by clicking here.

Download this series in one free guide in PDF format - Right mouse button click here and select "save target as"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Selecting a great domain name for E-Business success

You have decided to expand or establish a business presence on the internet. Now you are faced with the difficult task of selecting a domain name that will be a business and advertising asset.

Before deciding on a domain name, it is imperative that you consider the legal aspect of domain ownership. Trademark law seriously impacts ownership of domains and should be considered before choosing which domain name to register or buy. Important laws have been passed which protect trademark owners and could result in litigation if the domain name that you choose violates the law or infringes on a company trademark. Before reading further, please review the Consumer Protection - Anti Cybersquatting Act of 1999 at Additionally, the United States Patent and Trademark Office: offers free trademark information and trademark search.

Now that you have taken the time to review the trademark information in the previous paragraph, I'll outline some of the important components of a great domain name.

The first aspect of a great domain name is simplicity. The number of people exploring the internet for the first time is growing at a phenomenal rate. These users represent a substantial potential market for any business. While a more experienced person may find even the most difficult address easy to find; someone who is new to the internet may be at best barely familiar with what a browser is, much less how to negotiate their way to a site with a hyphenated domain name or a domain name that is a challenge to spell correctly. Many of these "newbies" also have never spent much time using a keyboard. A user friendly domain name will help insure that your visitors actually arrive at your site. You will see, as you read further, that simplicity plays a critical role in selecting the right domain name.

Memorability also impacts the value and effectiveness of the domain name that you select. A memorable name is one that is both strong, in terms of the image it conveys in the mind of the user, and simple enough to not be confusing. A hypothetical example of this might be a domain name such as "" This domain clearly conveys the strength and size that any business hopes to be associated with, is memorable and easy to spell. On the other hand, a name such as "" will in all likelihood, not be remembered accurately. The "ez" portion of the name may be spelled as "easy" by some users and the "Xistance" portion will also confuse the public. When you consider the amount of time and money that you may spend to advertise your website, it becomes clear that simplicity and memorability are crucial factors.

Your advertising budget should also play a role in the name you choose. Unless you are an established company with a recognizable name, chances are you will use a name that you will create and register or a name that you will buy on the resale market. Domain names that do not translate well in advertising, such as names that are confusing when heard on the radio, have the potential of being little more than money out the window. This leads us to the "generic" versus "non-generic" domain name issue.

Generic names tend to be words that are often described as "dictionary" words. These words offer the benefit of being "household" words in the minds of the public. Generic names are recognizable and versatile when used in ad campaigns and promotions. Many generic names almost sell themselves on the web. A generic name like "" or "" is simply second nature to nearly every one seeking those products or services. This is why those names command such high prices on the resale market. In many instances, generic names require much less advertising dollars to promote and brand than a non-generic name would require. Often a generic name offers "more bang for the advertising buck."

Another important factor to consider is the length of the domain name that you select. Simply put, the best name is the shortest name that fits all of the important criteria here and whatever additional criteria that you deem relevant. There was a time when a great domain name was simple, memorable and consisted of one word. Unfortunately, one word names are rarely available to register and usually priced highly on the resale market. Two or even three word names that fit all of the above criteria often are great domain names. An example of this is the name "" It is simple, strong, memorable and not overly wordy. It also makes sense and is relevant to the escrow industry.

I recently heard someone say, "If you have to explain the name at all, it isn't a good name." In many instances that is very true. If you have to explain your domain name, who will be there to explain it to your potential customers? You won't be there to tell them that the name starts with the number "1" and not "one", or that they should remember to include the hyphen.

In summary, a great domain name is as short, simple and as memorable as possible and is one that makes sense. If only every other aspect of e-commerce could be so basic and uncomplicated. In this virtual environment, the only thing that resembles a brick structure is your domain name. Choose your domain name wisely. In the mind of your potential customer your domain name is the brick that represents all that your business is on the web. Combine this article with the factors that are important to you and go out and find a domain name worth feeling great about!

*The domain names mentioned here are for demonstrative purposes. At the time of publication (3/18/00), the domain "" was not a registered domain name.

Visit - Quality Domain Names and Domain Name Resources.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How To Research An Idea For Your Internet Business - 7 Simple Steps

So you want to start an internet business but have no idea or only a general idea of what you want to sell.

This article will explain how to research your idea ( or how to find one if you don’t have any idea), how to find if there is a market for your idea that will make money for you, how much money you could potentially make with your idea, and whether there is room for growth in your business.

7 Simple Steps

1) If you have no idea what you want to market, you must generate some ideas. Choose something that you are passionate about.

You want success? Then it is easier to be successful at something that you enjoy and that you will look forward to every day.

Brainstorm all the hobbies/ passions/ anything which interests you. Let's say you have an African macaw ( which is a bird if you didn't know!).

You like looking after him/her and it is a real pleasure for you to do this on a daily basis....So now you have an idea.

2) Since this is a hobby of yours, you must have a general knowledge in the area of African macaws (to continue the analogy above).

If you need more knowledge, that shouldn't be a problem. It's a subject you love.
Now for the second brainstorming session. On a sheet of paper write down everything you can think of about anything related to your area of interest.

You want as many ideas as possible. One of them will lead you to develop a product that you will potentially be selling on your website.

For African macaws, (I will use the abbreviation A.m for African macaw), let's say you come up with a list including the following:

A.m food/diet, handling your A.m, training your A.m, A.m postcards/posters, suppliers of A.m's, breeding your A.m, secrets of long-lived A.m's (yes they can live up to 55 years!), cages/aviarys/perches, social behaviour of A.m, toys/playthings for your A.m, common illnesses of an A.m and what to look out for, different species of macaw.

Now that is a list of only twelve. You should try and come up with more for your own idea.

3) Now you have several target ideas in your area of interest. You want to test your idea now to see if it's something a majority of people are interested in.
You want enough of a demand for your idea so that it will eventually be profitable for you. This is called niche marketing- targeting a particular market and not trying to sell many different products to many people.

Go to several major search engines and type in these words "word popularity search."
You should get a list of websites which offer a free service where you can type in several keywords for your area of interest, in our case, any keywords such as African macaw and diet/toys/illnesses etc.

The website will then return the popularity of those keywords by telling you how many people searched on those terms at their site or on the major search engines. If you can count on your hand the number of people who are looking for your keywords, then there may not be much of a demand for a product centered around your idea.

4) Is your idea totally original? Most likely someone before you will have had that idea and will have created a website about it because there are literally millions of websites out there.

What you want to do now is again go to any of the major search engines and type in several of the keywords relating to your idea. Up will come a list of websites, some of them will be major competitors to you. Pick out a few that rank high on the search engine and write them down.

Now go back to the search engine and type in the words "traffic ranking" and you will get a listing of websites that when you go to them will give you the ranking of those websites you just wrote down.

By ranking I mean the popularity of that websites against all the other websites on the internet. This is by no means 100% accurate but it does give you an indication out of millions how popular the website is that relates to your idea. You can even get details about the number of visitors to the website and the number of page views for the site.

5) So you have come this far and found some websites ranking high in your area.
Most of them will be of two forms: either competitor websites selling products similar to your intended product, or Portal sites.

Portal sites generally don't sell anything. They usually have a bunch of links and advertising on them and sometimes have some good content. The more portal sites in your target area the better, up to a point.

Important points:

When you search for your keywords on a search engine, you don't want it to return a million search results. Your market may be very oversaturated. But having Portal sites is a good sign. You can use these sites later to help build your business.
Similarly, when you do a keyword popularity search as in Step 3) above, you don't want hundreds of thousands of people searching for the same product.

There is too much competition.

6) Now just because a website is popular or ranks high doesn't mean that it is profitable.

How much could you potentially make with your new idea if you converted it into a product and developed a website around it?

Simple. Go to any of your competitor's websites. Check out their products and their prices.

If they have been around a while (this can be verified by doing a "whois" search for their website to find out when their website was registered), then most likely they have established relationships with customers who have bought from them in the past. People have paid money for their products - they will most likely buy from you as well if you sell a similar product of equal or greater perceived and real value.

7) Once you are established in your target market, you may want to expand the target market to include related products.

Going back to my African macaw (can you tell I like them?), if I initially sold the best macaw bird cages, I may wish to grow my business by also selling the best food and parrot mix for macaws or by selling posters of different macaw species.

Growth of your business is essential for long term survival.

This is another aspect to consider when entering a targeted market. You don't want it to be a fad.

There are two excellent ways to find out if there is a market for growing your niche:

a) perform a keyword popularity search (as in step 3 above) for related targeted keywords. If there is a demand for related ideas, you're in luck for future growth. If you're struggling to find related keywords, go through another brainstorming session or perform a internet search for "keyword mapping" for sites that will assist you.

b) look at what other competitors are selling. It's a good bet that if they are ranked high and they have expanded their niche, then there is a demand for what they are "selling."

In summary, you want the following characteristics for an idea which can turn profitable:

- targeted for a specific market
- idea can be turned into a popular product
- intended target market is not oversaturated
- price for potential profit forecasts.
- room for expansion/growth.

All the best for profitable idea hunting.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tickets to Ride into the Millennium

by Jay Conrad Levinson

Heading into one millennium from another is a good time to reexamine the baggage you’ll be bringing along. In the area of marketing, you’ll certainly have to leave behind a lot of old ideas and myths, notions and traditions. But you surely want to take with you at least the five essential tickets to ride into that new millennium with confidence in your success.

Guerrillas will enter the year 2000 with momentum because they’ll have those tickets. They’ll know exactly where they’re heading and they’ll have the right tickets to their destinations. To generate and capitalize upon your own momentum, to travel first-class into the future, it makes sense for you to learn the five destinations of the guerrilla and their five tickets to ride. You can go to the same destinations; you can have the same tickets:

1. The first is your Identity Ticket. It’s the ticket that leads to close relationships. You get it with consistent and never-ending follow-up. You stay in touch with your customers and key prospects so regularly that you become part of their identity, someone they trust, someone they refer to their friends and associates. You convey your own identity in all of your marketing to them so they know clearly who you are and why you’re good.
Because you know that marketers either follow-up forever or fail, follow-up is your middle name. I can read it there on your Identity Ticket.

2. The second is your Humanity Ticket. Whatever new and brilliant technologies you select to energize your company in the marketing arena, you always remember that your customers and prospects are people first, every one of them unique and special. So your marketing messages to them are warm and human, attentive to details of their lives, caring of their progress, helpful and informative, personalized whenever possible. This ticket leads to bonding and loyalty, far in excess of that enjoyed by most small business owners. Customer research questionnaires provide the information guerrillas need to prove their humanity. It’s vital in an increasingly impersonal society.

3. The third is your History Ticket. Lots of new and start-up companies, especially those that will spring up after January 31st, l999, have no histories. You do and your ticket leads to credibility. The more you have, the easier it is to buy from you. Your history ticket is dated from the day you launched your business, includes your marketing strategy, your list of satisfied customers, your past success stories, your past publicity reprints, everything you’ve done to earn the confidence of your market. That History Ticket, probably presented on your web site, in your brochure, in your mailings, in your ads, will bypass the skepticism that faces new businesses and pave the way to future sales with trust.

4. The fourth is your Technology Ticket. Of course, you’ve conquered all traces of technophobia and now use technology to help you serve customers, scout for new prospects, link with fusion marketing partners, research the competition and create a plethora of marketing materials for yourself. This ticket leads to professionalism, but it has side tracks that lead to places you don’t really want to do. Many lead to an over-reliance on what technology can do rather than what it can do for you. Some side tracks lead you to glamour and hype instead of useful information, others to glitz and flash that your web site visitors don’t want to see, still others to fill your TV and print ads with special effects instead of reasons to want what you offer. Guerrillas stay on the right track with their technology, using it as a guide and not as a master.

5. The fifth ticket is your Action Ticket. It leads to accomplishment instead of conversation. That ticket is where you find your roadmap in the form of your marketing calendar. It’s where you can see the specific tasks you must perform so as to keep your marketing in constant action, to keep your name at the forefront of your market’s awareness. The other tickets are worthless unless your Action Ticket is put to full use. Marketing is something that many people discuss and analyze, but guerrillas view it as a time and opportunity to take action, to do something, to capitalize upon the momentum they’ve achieved to go soaring into the new millennium, not missing a beat.

These five tickets are yours if you have the awareness of their importance, the desire to reach their destinations, and the attitude to use them with enthusiasm. With that awareness, desire and attitude, you’re well equipped to enter a new century with exactly what you need for profits, control and certainty.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Common Sense Search Engine Optimization

by Jill Whalen

For years, when people thought about search engine optimization, in all likelihood, gateway pages, doorway pages or informational pages probably came to mind. If you're a search engine optimization specialist, you've probably had clients requesting that you create these types of pages for them.

They may believe the following statements to be true:

• Every search engine has a different algorithm (formula) to determine the ranking of a Web page, and therefore none of their "regular" pages will rank highly in all of the engines.
• Keyword-rich copy that the search engines will like is not text they can visibly put on their site where people can see it, especially not on their front page!
• Our site needs to be on the cutting edge and use Flash animation and/or lots of graphics. Since the search engines can't index these very well, I have to use gateway pages.
• Business sites need to be on the cutting edge and use Flash animation and/or lots of graphics, and they shouldn't have to change this just to please the search engines.

Although there is a grain of truth to each of the above, let's examine each point in more detail so you'll have some ammunition the next time you get this type of request.

Dealing with Differing Algorithms

Yes, it's true, search engine algorithms are varied and do change. There will always be SEOs who spend many hours poring over search engine results and statistics, trying to figure out each search engine's current formula for high rankings. There have been many software programs written over the years to help crack the algorithms and automatically generate high-ranking pages for each engine.

One of the problems with using this method is that as soon as a new algorithm is in place, these carefully crafted gateway pages will often drop out of sight in the rankings. The new algorithm must be cracked again, and new gateway pages must be created. It's truly a never-ending, time-consuming and expensive process that is very much against the best-practice guidelines put forth by the search engines.

The truth is that even though search engines do have slightly different algorithms (and they do change them at times), basically all engines appreciate the same things that real people look for in a Web site:

• A simple, cleanly coded design
• Well-thought-out, intuitive navigation
• Well-written, descriptive copy
• Titles and Meta tags that help identify relevant keyword phrases
• Links that accurately describe what can be found at the site.

It's really just common sense. Web sites with the above features don't need to crack algorithms. These sites have the potential to achieve high rankings for many keyword phrases in all major search engines for many years, regardless of ever-changing algorithms. And more importantly, they will likely be a hit with their site visitors.

Writing Keyword-rich Copy

Clients (and even some SEOs) often justify the use of doorways and gateways by claiming that there's a difference between good copy for search engines and good copy for their site visitors. That is simply not true. Good marketing copy can be written that sounds great, stresses the benefits to the user and also utilizes keyword phrases. There's definitely an art to it, and you have to be a good copywriter to begin with, but it most definitely can be done. The key is to use a professional copywriter, not an SEO, for that aspect of the job.

Use of Flash Animation and Graphics at the Expense of Content

Over and over again we hear from companies that want high rankings and lots of traffic and sales, yet refuse to forfeit their LUGs (large useless graphics) and Flash animation in favor of good content. Unfortunately, these pages don't give the search engines much to go by when trying to determine what the site is all about. This forces the engines to figure things out solely based on the Title tags and the links. That may be enough in some cases, but the best indicator of what a site is about is through the content on its pages. Now, it's true that some search engines have started reading the content of Flash files, but there's generally not much "meat" contained in the ones I've seen!

Never forget that the ultimate goal of most business Web sites is to sell a product or a service. When you see a Flash presentation on a site, does that make you want to purchase their products or use their services? Sure, it might appear cool the first time you view it, but thereafter it only serves as an annoying distraction and/or waste of time. And if you're on a dial-up modem (yes there are still some left!), you probably don't want to wait around to view it. Besides, you can have your cake and eat it too by simply using small amounts of Flash in appropriate places, along with your great content.

When all is said and done, most people would rather be presented with information on the types of products or services offered in clear, concise language, right on the main page of the site they're visiting. Luckily for us, that's exactly what the search engines want to see as well!

Optimize Your Actual Site

You don't need a second (or third or fourth) site for SEO purposes. Those companies that are willing to create useful content within the pages of their Web site can very often own long-term high rankings. Plus, they won't have to rely on link popularity as much as the low/no-content sites have to.

In years past, convincing companies of this fact was one of the most difficult jobs we had to do. Thankfully, as the Web matures, more and more site owners are discovering that their fancy, cutting-edge sites don't convert as well as the competitor's informational site that gets right down to business. It's usually at that point that they become more receptive to doing what it takes to make their site the best it can be for their visitors as well as the search engines.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines

by Jill Whalen

Having a website that gets found in Google, Yahoo, and MSN, etc. isn't hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are my latest and greatest tips to get you started:

1. Do not purchase a new domain unless you have to.
Due to Google's aging delay for all new domains, your best bet is to use your existing domain/website if at all possible. If you're redesigning or starting from scratch and you have to use a brand-new domain for some reason, you can expect to wait a good 9-12 months before your site will show up in Google for any keyword phrases that are important to you.

2. Optimize your site for your target audience, not for the search engines.
This may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. The search engines are looking for pages that best fit the keyword phrase someone types into their little search box. If those "someones" are typing in search words that relate to what your site offers, then they are most likely members of your target audience. You need to optimize your site to meet *their* needs. If you don't know who your target audience is, then you need to find out one way or another. Look for studies online that might provide demographic information, and visit other sites, communities, or forums where your target audience might hang out and listen to what they discuss. This information will be crucial to your resulting website design, keyword research, and copywriting.

3. Research your keyword phrases extensively.
The phrases you think your target market might be searching for may very well be incorrect. To find the optimal phrases to optimize for, use research tools such as KeywordDiscovery, Wordtracker, Google AdWords, and Yahoo Search Marketing data. Compile lists of the most relevant phrases for your site, and choose a few different ones for every page. Never shoot for general keywords such as "travel" or "vacation," as they are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your site is really about.

4. Design and categorize your site architecture and navigation based on your keyword research.
Your research may uncover undiscovered areas of interest or ways of categorizing your products/services that you may wish to add to your site. For instance, let's say your site sells toys. There are numerous ways you could categorize and lay out your site so that people will find the toys they're looking for. Are people looking for toys to fit their child's stage of development? (Look for keyword phrases such as "preschool toys.") Or are they more likely to be seeking specific brands of toys? Most likely, your keyword research will show you that people are looking for toys in many different ways. Your job is to make sure that your site's navigation showcases the various ways of searching. Make sure you have links to specific-brand pages as well as specific age ranges, specific types of toys, etc.

5. Program your site to be "crawler-friendly."
The search engines can't fill out forms, can't search your site, can't read JavaScript links and menus, and can't interpret graphics and Flash. This doesn't mean that you can't use these things on your site; you most certainly can! However, you do need to provide alternate means of navigating your site as necessary. If you have only a drop-down sequence of menus to choose a category or a brand of something, the search engine crawlers will never find those resulting pages. You'll need to make sure that you always have some form of HTML links in the main navigation on every page which link to the top-level pages of your site. From those pages, you'll need to have further HTML links to the individual product/service pages. (Please note that HTML links do NOT have to be text-only links. There's nothing wrong with graphical image navigation that is wrapped in standard tags, as the search engines can follow image links just fine.)

6. Label your internal text links and clickable image alt attributes (aka alt tags) as clearly and descriptively as possible.
Your site visitors and the search engines look at the clickable portion of your links (aka the anchor text) to help them understand what they're going to find once they click through. Don't make them guess what's at the other end with links that say "click here" or other non-descriptive words. Be as descriptive as possible with every text and graphical link on your site. The cool thing about writing your anchor text and alt attributes to be descriptive is that you can almost always describe the page you're pointing to by using its main keyword phrase.

7. Write compelling copy for the key pages of your site based on your chosen keyword phrases and your target market's needs, and make sure it's copy that the search engines can "see."
This is a crucial component to having a successful website. The search engines need to read keyword-rich copy on your pages so they can understand how to classify your site. This copy shouldn't be buried in graphics or hidden in Flash. Write your copy based on your most relevant keyword phrases while also making an emotional connection with your site visitor. (This is where that target audience analysis comes in handy!) Understand that there is no magical number of words per page or number of times to use your phrases in your copy. The important thing is to use your keyword phrases only when and where it makes sense to do so for the real people reading your pages. Simply sticking keyword phrases at the top of the page for no apparent reason isn't going to cut it, and it just looks silly. (Purchase and read our
Copywriting Combo for exact tips on how to implement this correctly.)

8. Incorporate your keyword phrases into each page's unique Title tag.
Title tags are critical because they're given a lot of weight with every search engine. Whatever keyword phrases you've written your copy around should also be used in your Title tag. Remember that the information that you place in this tag is what will show up as the clickable link to your site at the search engines. Make sure that it accurately reflects the content of the page it's on, while also using the keyword phrases people might be using at a search engine to find your stuff.

9. Make sure your site is "link-worthy."
Other sites linking to yours is a critical component of a successful search engine optimization campaign, as all of the major search engines place a good deal of emphasis on your site's overall link popularity. You can go out and request hundreds or thousands of links, but if your site stinks, why would anyone want to link to it? On the other hand, if your site is full of wonderful, useful information, other sites will naturally link to it without your even asking. It's fine to trade links; just make sure you are providing your site visitors with only the highest quality of related sites. When you link to lousy sites, keep in mind what this says to your site visitors as well as to the search engines.

10. Don't be married to any one keyword phrase or worried too much about rankings.
If you've done the above 9 things correctly, you will start to see an increase in targeted search engine visitors to your site fairly quickly. Forget about where you rank for any specific keyword phrase and instead measure your results in increased traffic, sales, and conversions. (You can sign up for a free trial of ClickTracks, which easily tracks and measures those things that truly matter.) It certainly won't hurt to add new content to your site if it will really make your site more useful, but don't simply add a load of fluff just for the sake of adding something. It really is okay to have a business site that is just a business site and not a diatribe on the history of your products. Neither your site visitors nor the engines really give a hoot!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Plant Your Site at the Top of Mt. Search Engine

by Jill Whalen (The Web Whiz)

You can get the page one search engine results you want if you follow a few basic fundamental search engine optimization rules.

My name is Jill Whalen (aka "The Web Whiz"). I've been in Web development and search engine optimization for seven years and am looking forward to sharing some great insights with you on how to obtain and retain high visibility for your sites on the leading search engines and directories.

Top level listings are absolutely critical for the success of your Web business. Why? According to most studies, the average user never goes past the third page of the search results. But there is some good news -- you can get the results you need if you follow a few basic fundamentals.

Understand the Basic Terminology

There are two basic types of search sites: pure search engines and directories. Pure search engines add Web site pages to their databases automatically based on user submissions.

However, these search engines also periodically send their automatic robots or "spiders" out to "crawl" for new and updated Web sites. Individual search engines use complex algorithms based on a site's information and html code to rank sites. Google is an example of a pure search engine.

Directories are the second type of search site. To get listed on a directory, you must actually submit your front page URL on the directory's submission form. Unlike pure search engines, directories don't automatically add sites. Human reviewers check every submission to decide if it's appropriate for the directory. Web sites submitted to directories are usually ranked according to the information provided on the submission form, as opposed to actual information on the Web site, so what goes on the form is critically important. The Open Directory, Yahoo and LookSmart are the main Internet directories in use today.

Most of the major search sites on the Internet today combine search engine and directory functionality. Major search engines like Google, MSN, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos and HotBot all have some form of directory associated with them. The opposite is true of major directories such as Yahoo! and LookSmart. If no results from their human-edited directories match your search query, their search engines then search through a database of spidered sites to give you results.

For example, at Yahoo!, Yahoo! Websites provides directory results, and Yahoo! Web Pages provides spidered results from Google. Many site owners have mistakenly believed their sites were added to Yahoo!'s human-edited directory after seeing their sites appear in the Yahoo! Web Pages results. However, in reality, they're not in Yahoo!'s directory at all, but in Google's database. (You'll always receive e-mail notification when and if your site gets added to Yahoo!'s actual directory.)

Be Realistic About your Keyword Choices

First, be realistic about your keyword choices. Never expect a high ranking for one-word keywords -- there are simply too many sites on the Internet for a one-word search to be effective. In addition, it's practically impossible to create a one-word search that is targeted to your specific Web site.

For example, suppose you sell real estate in Florida. You might assume that using the word "home" as your keyword would produce a lot of targeted traffic. Wrong. Obviously, just because people search for the word "home" doesn't mean they're looking to buy or sell a home in Florida. However, if you choose "moving to Florida" as your keywords, most of your site visitors will be people actually interested in moving to Florida, and therefore probably needing real estate. This is the beauty of choosing the proper keyword phrases: you get an extremely targeted audience!
Once you do have reasonable and relevant keyphrases chosen for your site, you absolutely MUST write good, professional, keyword-rich marketing copy (or hire someone to do so) on every page of your Web site. You almost don't have to do anything else and you will rank high.

Meta Tags Aren't a Panacea

Second, don't put all your eggs in the meta tags basket. Most clients that come to me are under the false impression that they simply need to put some keywords into their meta tags (a hidden bit of code that is read by search engines to help properly index Web sites), and High Rankings® will be the natural result. The meta keyword tag is helpful, but also highly overrated. In almost every case the reason a Web site is not highly ranked is simply a lack of good, professional marketing copy. Period. (See Heather Lloyd-Martin's article entitled, "How to Write a Keyword Rich Homepage" for more information.

Design Your Site with Search Engines in Mind

And third, watch out for site designs that aren't search engine-friendly. I often encounter poor Web design -- incorrect usage of frames, java-enabled mouse over buttons (as opposed to javascript or simple .gifs), or dynamically generated pages that cannot be indexed by many engines. It's no fun telling these site owners they'll never see high search engine rankings unless they go back to square one with their site designs. Many of these people just spent a ton of money on some fancy design and are less than thrilled to hear what I tell them. The smart ones listen and do what it takes; I'm not sure what happens to the other ones. (See Shirley Kaiser's article, "Designing for Search Engines and Stars" for more information on how to design a search engine-friendly site.)

Stay Tuned...

We've just touched the tip of the iceberg in this first column. In other articles we'll drill into the specific things that you can do to boost your rankings such as title tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags, headers, and submission and reporting tools. We'll also explore more general issues such as determining the best keywords for your site and understanding doorway pages.

Contact Jill Whalen by e-mail at

Friday, February 1, 2008

How To Create 2 Super-Profitable Email Publications

Is it really an impossible dream to generate an obscene amount of money online? Is it all hype? Or is it indeed possible to make millions from an email publication or two?

Great American legends like Henry Ford became famous by first dreaming up and then doing something that had never been done before. If you take this article seriously and go on to own an email publishing empire, you will not have done something that has not been before. You will simply be a statistic, yet another successful Internet publisher.

In other words, all you need to do is carefully study what those who came before you did and then simply duplicate the process and your life could change – no hype. Here is one of the most successful publishing models ever. This technique that you are about to take a close look at, has served most Internet publishers well. Many of them have made huge sums of cash online, using it. It involves the launching of two separate email publications. Each will have its’ own different revenue source.

The First Email Publication Will Be The Foundation

The first email publication will be a free ezine. This publication is the key or foundation of the whole strategy or publishing model that we are discussing in this article. While it can be hugely profitable from advertising, the main aim here initially will be to pick up a huge number of email addresses to create a huge opt-in email list as quickly as possible.

The beauty of internet publishing is that even as you begin to gather your email addresses, there are several ways that you can use the material in this free ezine to start generating cash and at the same time marketing your free ezine. For instance, you can create a blog, publish your free ezine there and post Adsense ads (or the new Chikita ads which have proved to be more profitable for some bloggers) and start generating cash from clicks. The same article in your blog can be distributed to high traffic article directories, which will help to generate targeted traffic to your blog. You will therefore be in that super-profitable situation where you start earning money from your email publication even as you are setting it up for the real super profits.

Techniques To Speed Up Your Subscriber List Growth

There are too many free ezines being dangled in front of surfers these days that many have learnt how to ignore the lot. And yet the quicker you grow your list, the better. The way to do this is to dream up promotions and special offers. For instance you can offer some valuable report free to people who sign up. Or you can offer it to your current subscribers who refer their friends to your ezine.

You should constantly be thinking of ways of speeding up recruitment to your subscriber list because the bigger your list grows, the more profits you will be able to generate from it.

There Are Many Ways In Which A Targeted Opt-in Email List Can Earn You Serious Money

Even without considering the critical role your free email publication and opt-in email list will play in making your second email publication profitable, there are numerous ways you can profit from a large opt-in email list. There are many online entrepreneurs who make a very good living from a single opt-in email list of one or two thousand email addresses. An opt-in email list of only 10,000 can earn you a fortune.

Apart from being able to carry valuable ads in your email publication that should be your main source of income, you can advertise your own special products narrowly targeted at your list. You can advertise affiliate products or even simply refer the traffic to your Adsense blogs to earn from clicks on the Adsense ads posted there. There are actually dozens of ways to make serious money from your list, even before you refer them to your paid subscription email publication