Understanding Search Engine Optimization

For those who are thinking of starting their own online business, perhaps creating a blog or selling items as affiliate marketing, then generating traffic to your website is paramount for success. Perhaps the most effective method of drawing in potential customers is called search engine optimization or SEO.

SEO is the primary tool for many online business owners and entrepreneurs to draw in the type of traffic that is best suited for selling their products or services. But what exactly is SEO and how does it work?

What is SEO?

Essentially, SEO is what is known as “passive” marketing. Placing ads or sending out press releases is a form of “active” marketing where you are reaching out to find potential customers for your business. Passive marketing is where you are trying to create conditions on your website that pulls in potential business.

The passive marketing aspect of SEO is built around using popular search engine sites such as Google where most people find businesses selling the types of products and services that they want.

How does SEO Work?

Basically, the content that is carried on your website needs to have keywords or key phrases that people who search on Google use to find what they need. For example, if a person is looking to buy “widgets”, they might type in a query to Google which states, “low cost widgets for sale”. If you have content on your website that duplicates that query, then a link will appear on the search results page.

The link will be ranked on the search results page in terms of how close the keyword resembles the query, the overall quality and freshness of the content and any other factors that match what you have to what potential customers are searching. The higher your link in ranked, the more likely the person doing the search will select your website to see if you have what they are looking for.

Why is SEO So Effective?

There are a number of reasons why SEO is so effective at bringing in potentially new customers.

  • Search Engines are the #1 Method of Finding Products & Services on the Web
  • Good Content that is Updated Periodically will Stay Near the Top of Search Results Pages
  • Those who Visit your Website are the Most Likely to make a Purchase

In essence, you are generating traffic with the keywords in your content to pull in those who are likely customers. However, it must be noted that simply putting keywords into content is not enough.

Why Having Good SEO is not Enough

SEO is the means by which potential customers find your website. However, it does not mean that they will purchase from you as that will depend on what they see. Your website must not only offer products, but offer interesting, informative content that provides value to the potential customer as well.

This is because people that find online businesses through search results pages are going to judge the quality of that business from the look of their website. A poorly designed website with little interesting or informative content will not sell many products or services. However, a well designed website with good, high quality content will do much better.

In the long run, having good, high quality content with the appropriate keywords is the secret to effective SEO.

Top 10 Websites Mentioned in Box Office Movies

There are plenty of box office hits that feature fake websites designed specifically for the movie. These websites typically consist of a web address and sometimes even a redirection to a real website such as in our first example. Website URLs mentioned in box office movies can become quite popular with the fans and draw in large amounts of traffic upon release of the movie. If you’re a movie buff, you will surely enjoy this list of fake websites used in movies.

Flesh of the StarsWebsite: Flesh of the Stars / Mr. Skin
Movie: Knocked Up
Release Date: May 26, 2007
Flesh of the Stars is a website that the characters of the movie Knocked Up are actively working on in the movie. The concept of Flesh of the Stars was to allow visitors to find specific points in the movie where the visitor’s favorite actress can be seen in the nude. In reality, Flesh of the Stars redirects to Mr. Skin which is a real life version of this concept.

Monsters UniversityWebsite: MonstersUniversity.com
Movie: Monsters, Inc.
Release Date: October 28, 2001
MonstersUniversity.com was created to promote the actual movie, Monsters University. The website went live years before Monsters University the movie was released. The website features an authentic university design and fake images of monster students, course info and other various information from the original movie, Monsters, Inc.

Cyber NannyWebsite: CyberNanny.com
Movie: 40 Days and 40 Nights
Release Date: March 1, 2002
CyberNanny.com is the website of the company that the main character in 40 Days and 40 Nights. In the movie, the Cyber Nanny company provides an online service for parents to help block adult websites from being accessed by their children. Cyber Nanny employs its staff to crawl the Internet in search of adult websites which are then added to a moderated list used in parental control features used by parents with curious children.

Dunkin My Tits HinesWebsite: Dunkin-My-Tits-Hynes.com
Movie: Friends with Benefits
Release Date: July 22, 2011
In the movie, Friends with Benefits, the two main characters are having a conversation about how popular a website could quickly become with just an image (or video) of Mila Kunis’ character, Jamie, mixing cake batter with her boobs. Justin Timberlake’s character, Dylan, quickly quips, “That’s been done. Dunkin-My-Tits-Hynes.com.” and so the website was born.

CarrieBradshaw.comWebsite: CarrieBradshaw.com
Movie: Sex and the City: The Movie
Release Date: May 30, 2008
CarrieBradshaw.com is mentioned in the movie Sex and the City: The Movie. It is the home of main character and author, Carrie Bradshaw. Unfortuantely, not much information was given beyond this point and it is assumed that it would contain a bio of Carrie and access to purchase her books online.

Vag-TasticVoyage.com SuperbadWebsite: Vag-TasticVoyage.com
Movie: Superbad
Release Date: August 17, 2007
In the movie Superbad, the website Vag-TasticVoyage.com is mentioned by Jonah Hill’s character, Seth. Seth is with Michael Cera’s character, Evan, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character, Fogell. Seth tells the guys, “Hey, man, I was doing some research for next year and I think I figured out which website I wanna subscribe to. The Vag-Tastic Voyage.” The website is a true testament to real life porn websites as the name fits the industry perfectly.

Buy N LargeWebsite: BuyNLarge.com
Movie: Wall-E
Release Date: June 27, 2008
Good ol’ Buy N Large is the evil corporation in the movie Wall-E responsible for polluting planet Earth for as far as the eye can see. Wall-E is a lonely robot with the sole task of cleaning up junk left over primarily from the Buy N Large corporation. Buy N Large is well known in the movie for selling needless junk to over indulging humans who have left the planet long ago in turn for a lazy and cookie cutter existence on a space ship far from Earth in outer space.

KillWithMe.comWebsite: KillWithMe.com
Movie: Untraceable
Release Date: January 25, 2008
In the movie Untraceable, the website KillWithMe.com is used as a sort of scape goat to kill a human that is currently being filmed and live streamed to millions of website visitors as the target of the website. The concept is that the public is told not to go to the website, and true to the human nature, one must do what they are told not to. The more visitors that click through to the website out of curiosity, the closer the soon to be victim is to being killed. In real life, the website KillWithMe.com is identical to how it is featured in the movie. Creepy.

Lougle.comWebsite: Lougle.com
Movie: Hot Tub Time Machine
Release Date: March 26, 2010
Lougle.com is the result of Rob Corddry’s character, Lou’s imagination to travel back in time and create a website like Google, but before it existed. Lougle is Lou’s search engine website named after himself in a play on Google’s brand name. Lou’s other claim to fame in the movie is being a member of the band Motley Lou.

Bonus: Video from the movie!

Website: MoviePoopShoot.com
Movie: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Release Date: August 24, 2001
MoviePoopShoot.com is mentioned in the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It is mentioned by Ben Affleck’s character, Holden McNeil while he explains to his two friends what the Internet is and what it is used for. Of course, in this case he describes the website as “a site populated by militant movie buffs, sad, pathetic, little bastards living in their parent’s basements, downloading scripts and what they think is inside information about movies and actors they claim to despise, but can’t stop discussing.”

7 Steps to Building a Website for Your Small Business

Over the years, the need for building a website for any small business has become increasingly in demand and increasingly more involved.  Small businesses are now faced with the task of building an attractive website that offers valuable resources to customers and ranks well in search engines. It used to be that long ago small businesses would get customers from such sources as the Yellow Pages, radio, TV and newspaper advertisements.  Now, small businesses are realizing that the Internet is the Yellow Pages equivalent of the modern age.  Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines are now some of the most popular resources when searching for local businesses and organizations anywhere in the world.  In this article I will review the top seven ways to build a successful web site for your small business.

  1. Developing a structured sitemap.  Starting with a plan of action for your new small business web site is an important first step commonly most people will start by creating a site map.  The site map is simply a table of contents of the pages of your website.  The site map can also be similar to a flowchart.  If you plan on building a complex web site, with multiples steps, features and functions, then a flowchart might be a better solution than a standard site map.  Either way a defined site map will allow you to create a well structured web site that is easy to navigate for your visitors.
  2. Research the competition.  Researching the competition is an important second step in developing a new web site for your small business.  Researching the competition can be as simple as searching Google for the keywords and keyword phrases that your average customer will likely search for.  Once you complete your search on Google, take note of the first page of results.  The first page of results is where you will want your website ranked so you should pay particular attention to the web sites shown in these results.  Visit each web site, what is the first thing you notice about each web site?  Take note of such things as: logo placement, color scheme, placement of phone numbers, general text copy, navigation structure, and use of photography.  Once you have the competition down, it’s time to move on to the next day.
  3. Establish a web presence.  Establishing a web presence is the next step in the plan to building your small business web site.  Every web site requires at least two things: a domain name and web hosting.  The domain name is the name that you type in to the address bar of your web browser in order to reach the website.  The most popular domain name extensions are typically .com for commercial companies, .net for networks and .org for nonprofit organizations.  If you run a small business I recommend choosing the .com domain name extension.  Popular places to register a domain name include GoDaddy.com and NetworkSolutions.com.  Each have their advantages and disadvantages, however, I recommend GoDaddy.com.  Next up is web hosting.  Web hosting is what keeps your website live to the public.  You can also obtain web hosting through the company that register your domain name.  Expect to pay a monthly fee or a yearly fee for a reduced rate.
  4. Building a web site.  I should start out by saying that if you don’t already know how to build a web site, this might not be the best time to learn. Building a web site requires education and experience in HTML and CSS, among other things.  Your best bet in this step is to contact a local web designer for web development firm.  Hiring just a graphic designer may not work out to your best interest because graphic designers often times only work with digital graphics.  Working with your web designer should be an easy process.  Your web designers should walk you through the appropriate steps to getting the web site designed.  This will likely include going over your prepared site map and the notes that you took during the research phase.  Your web designer will need to know if you already have branding for your small business such as logo designs, business cards, and any other marketing materials.  Providing these materials to your web site designer will help them in creating a graphical design for your new web site.  Your web site designer will probably also need to know where you registered the domain name and purchased web hosting.  Sometimes web design companies will offer web hosting services for you.
  5. Generating sales and leads.  You’ve made it this far and great job.  By now your website should be online, accessible by typing in your domain name and have an aesthetically pleasing graphical design.  Generating sales and leads from your website might be a bit more difficult than you might expect.  This bar will take time, dedication, to write the motion techniques and a lot of effort on your part.  Your typical web site visitor is probably already used to features found on most web sites such as shopping carts, live chat, quote request forms, and general contact forms.  Using these features in the right way will help you convert more web site visitors into needs and sales.  If you want to collect leads from your website, I recommend using call-to-actions such as highlighted buttons, video spokespersons, and presentation videos.  Trial offers, coupons and/or discounts may also be beneficial to converting visitors into leads and sales.  Make sure to put your call to action buttons above the fold.  Placing a call-to-action button above the fold means placing them on high enough on the page so that your visitor will not have to scroll down to see it.  If you want to make sales from your website, such as from an online store, then you should make the checkout process simple and user friendly.  I do not recommend forcing the customer to register on your website in order to check out.  Oftentimes allowing a guest account access will increase the number of sales completed and decrease the number of abandoned shopping carts.
  6. Promotion.  Promoting your business on the Internet is unique because you can advertise to your target demographic easier using different methods than you would in the real world.  The first and most popular form of Internet Marketing is call Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.  Search engine optimization is the process of developing your website to specifically ranked higher on search engine result pages.  Your website drinking eye on search engine results pages will probably be a very important factor in your promotions.  At a recent study suggested that 87% of search engine users will click on the very first result after completing a search.  If your website is not found on the first page then you may be missing out on potential free, targeted and interested potential customer.  Other ways of promoting your website online include participating in online discussion forums, trading links with relevant web sites and blogs, posting videos on YouTube, creating social media profiles and affiliate programs.  I recommend starting out with creating social media profiles and doing Search Engine Optimization.
  7. Management, updating and maintaining.  Managing your customers and maintaining your website content is just as important as all the work you put into the website from the beginning.  Adding fresh, new content your website is critical in maintaining your search engine rankings and getting customers to revisit your website frequently.  You should consider using a Content Management System, or CMS for short, to help you manage the text copy and photography on your website.  Currently, the most popular content management system is called WordPress.  WordPress allows you to easily manage your website through a user friendly and intuitive web based interface.

In this article you should have learned all of the basic steps to take to build a web site for your small business.  I hope that you found this article helpful and motivating.  If you would like more help with getting your business website online, you should consider looking up your local web design companies.

How to Choose a Graphic Design Professional

Business owners in the market for a graphic design professional face a crowded field. Many claim to be experts, but finding a designer who truly knows the craft is not always easy.  Thoroughly vetting candidates regarding their past work, affiliations, and range of skills can mean the difference between attracting customers and turning them away.

When it comes to graphic design, first impressions count.  If your marketing materials fail to draw in visitors, you may never have a second chance to earn their business.  This includes everything from a business card to a website, brochures to stationery.  At the same time, there are so many graphic designers out there that many business owners don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing a qualified professional.

The following tips will help you sift through candidates and choose a graphic design professional who meets the needs of your business:

First, unless you are willing to give someone the opportunity to learn on the job, look for someone who has versatile experience in the areas you require. These days this should include web, print, and, to a greater or lesser degree, video. Does your potential designer know how to create pages that maintain a consistent look and feel across platforms? What does he or she do in order to stay current with changing technology? Do not hesitate to take the time necessary to interview a number of candidates.

Second, get a feel for the graphic designer’s overall approach by reviewing a number of samples. While many professionals can adapt to fit the tastes of different customers, it is just as common to see a certain style reveal itself in the professional’s overall portfolio.  Make sure to review the samples a few times, as you may notice different things with each successive viewing. For example, do the photographs or other artistic elements appear tasteful or jarring? Does the graphic artist put in too many bells and whistles that interfere with the core message?

Third, don’t let your own prejudices get in the way of a bold choice. Of course a design plan has to represent your company in accordance with the mindset of your target market. However, don’t let yourself get caught in old ways of doing things out of fear of venturing into something new.  Graphic design professionals are often ahead of the curve when it comes to visual expression. If you trust the artist’s overall work, don’t be afraid to give him leeway to create something truly impressive. Creative people enjoy challenges and may surprise you if given the chance to prove themselves in new ways.

Fourth, ask to see credentials, affiliations and references. Many people call themselves graphic design professionals. However, there is often a vast difference between someone who picked up the skill along the way and someone who maintains a commitment to professional development. In addition, if a candidate is a member of a professional organization, you may have recourse should something go wrong. It also means that the candidate intends to play by the rules.