Publish your new website the right way

Publishing or installing a website is for many webmaster a routine job and smaller sites are often online within minutes. That’s the theory, but there are a lot of mistakes you can do. Sure many of them are harmless and most of you would name them “unimportant”. Sure a website will not break if the meta description is missing, but how is this for your (possible) visitor and Google? Like this “stupid” mistake there are many more, here is my checklist, you should check for all your new sites and also existing websites where bigger updates are done. Contine reading

Google Panda Update Targets More than Bad Content

panda updateGoogle’s Panda update rolled out in the US in early February and globally in April. There has been some major shifts in the search engine’s rankings and virtually every website has been impacted by the new algorithm. However, based upon a bit of sleuthing, it seems that there might be more to this algorithm change than we’ve been told. Site construction and SEO may have also contributed to the outcome of the Panda update. Let’s talk about content first and site construction a bit later.

Syndicated Content

Article directories, syndicators and other content farms appear to be hardest hit by Panda – leading to the nickname of ‘Farmer Update.’ I think many of these sites were targeted for poor content and their promotion of the use of duplicate content.

eCommerce Sites

Panda seems to have also hit eCommerce sites hard. By their very nature, they have shallow content. Worse yet, that content often comes from the manufacturer and appears on numerous sites. As a result, many micro-niche sites, often with very low quality content, are now outranking quality eCommerce sites. Contine reading

Facebook tips for more efficiency and fun

Since there are more than 500 million users at Facebook, that social network is the place to be meet most your friends. The last years the whole Internet is becoming more social and most new or existing services are providing social features which connect them to social sites like Facebook or Twitter. This article is about how-to use Facebook more efficient together with some other services. We don’t show how-to abuse Facebook. Instead of showing how-to get lots of traffic we are using some tools which let you create more interesting content for your Facebook friends.

Social features provided by Google

Right these days there is an active discussion on how the Facebook “Like” function is able to manipulate the social rankings in Google. We think social media and Google Search are both important. Sure there are good social media features provided by Google, but they are not widely used. In this article we will explain how Google Reader, Google Sidewiki and YouTube can be used together with Facebook.

Your (Facebook) friends

Social media is based on having friends, without friends it’s not possible to interact and without interaction there is no fun. If you don’t like this, social media is not for you!

While Facebook is a network for all your friends (you know), it should be the place where you meet people with similar interests. Invite people (you didn’t know in person) based on their interests. For example if most of your discussions on Facebook are about Internet marketing, invite people which are interested in similar subjects. Why? If you share marketing related stuff people which are not interested in, they getting bored and will discontinue your friendship. Most of us having friends on other networks as well and many of them should be your friend on Facebook as well. So if your friends are interested in your voice on Facebook, they might be interested what you’re saying on other networks as well (and visa verca).

Collect interesting content and share it to your friends

Collecting content for your Facebook profile is easy, you can share interesting blogs from RSS feeds, websites you have discovered and YouTube videos you like. You can share every link from your browser using the Facebook “Share” tool (you can install a bookmarklet on your browser’s toolbar), but even if you’re logged in on Facebook you need to pass a CAPTCHA verification before your comment is posted.

Share the best RSS feed items using the Google Reader

Google Reader is a great tool to manage all your RSS subscriptions and for reading your feeds anywhere. This Google service is widely used by bloggers and you can subscribe to any RSS feed or just follow other Google Reader users if you like what they share. The tool provides a simple share button which will add your shared items on your own RSS feed/list. In the web version it’s also a great idea to pass a comment by your shared items. The feature is available in the mobile version too, but there it’s a buggy function (at least on a windows mobile phone). There is a very good Facebook application called RSS Graffiti, using this application, you can publish your Shared Items on Facebook just by importing the XML atom feed from Google Reader. The application has a lot of options for the way how you import your feeds (frequency, delay, filter, format, etc.).

Share your comments on YouTube on Facebook

YouTube is the Video website on the net, Facebook can host videos too, but there is no search or discover functionality. Make sure you have a YouTube account and create also a YouTube channel where you met friends too. There is a great social feature available in Youtube that makes it possible to share all videos and comments on Facebook as well. Here are the settings (My Account -> Activity Sharing):

On this screen you can choose which (YouTube) activities you like to share with your friends.

Comment and share websites using Google Sidewiki

Well the Google Sidewiki is not one of the famous service provided by Google, but there are some good points. All Google Sidewiki comments are published to your Google profile and this page has also an RSS feed. You can use the RSS feed together with the RSS Graffiti application to share your website comments with your friends.

While using these Google services you’re able to share links, comments and videos with both friend groups and you will save time as well. I read the most of my RSS feeds on my mobile phone and using Google Reader I’m able to “post” items to my Facebook profile. If needed I can read those article next I’m behind my notebook and my friends on Facebook can read them too.

Facebook for your blog or website

Adding the Facebook “Share” button to your website is very easy, but people need to identity first (to block SPAM). With all the discussions about the Facebook “Like” function these days, it seems like that Facebook doesn’t “like” the share tool very much. Using the ”Like” button, a Facebook user is able to share the link and is able to post a comment without leaving the page (check the “Like” feature on this page). To get this for 100% working you need to use XFBML version of this feature. We used the following instructions to get it working:

First create a new application on Facebook, access this page and enter the site name and URL. After this step is finished you should get a screen like this one:

Integrate the Like-Gadget in your WordPress theme

With the following information you’re able to prepare your website, we’re using WordPress for our example. Open your header.php template and replace your HTML opening tag with:

Now we need to add some meta information; The Facebook user ID is from your Facebook account. You can find that ID if you click your picture on your Facebook profile page. Copy/paste the application ID from the page where you created the application before. The image URL; You can use one standard image (logo) for all posts or use the thumbnails you’ve created for your blog posts (if you have done this). This is is how the image value should work, at the moment that this article is written it works random (Facebook is choosing an image from the page).

The snippet above prepares the template to use a “Like” button on single post page. Now we need to open the footer.php template file and next add the code before the BODY closing tag:

Don’t forget to add your application ID here as well. Now we are ready to add the “Like” button to your single.php template file.

I placed that code above the part where the WordPress function the_content() is used.

Conclusion

In this article we talked about how-to discover and share content to your friends, but don’t forget that too much content might be recognized by your friends as SPAM. Find the right balance, if you keep adding friends and you friend-count doesn’t go up, maybe the frequency for posting external content (links) is too high. The social media user like to interact, give your friends content they can talk about and don’t forget to talk back!
Adding Facebook gadgets to your website or blog can give your content new exposure and friends (fans). Just use them and if you think that they doesn’t work for you, it might be possible that your visitors are not on Facebook.

404 Error Page: Report, Monetize and Analyse

After your websites getting more pages and links, the chance that a visitor will follow a broken link to your site exists. If a visitor is trying to access a page on your site, your 404 error page should provide the visitor a “Not found” error. The response is by default some unfriendly page with spare information about the error which let most visitors stop visiting your website. By using these 404 errors the right way, it’s possible to collect important information like:

  • Of course the broken link or URL
  • The HTTP_REFERER information where the dead link is available
  • How often people try to access the bad URL

Using the right tools you’re able to turn 404 error page into a powerful resource:

  • Provide a site search feature and let people search what they are looking
  • Add advertisements to your error page and start earning money
  • Learn about what people like to see on your site

In this tutorial we will show you how-to:

  • Create a dynamic error page using the Google Site search and Google Adsense content ads
  • Setup Google Analytics to track 404 errors using a filter
  • Set the site search feature with Google Analytics to collect the search queries from your visitor

Error reporting page

With the Apache webserver it’s possible to use custom directives for your error script, place this code into your .htaccess file (place the file into the site root):

ErrorDocument 400 /error.php?err=400
ErrorDocument 401 /error.php?err=401
ErrorDocument 403 /error.php?err=403
ErrorDocument 404 /error.php?err=404
ErrorDocument 500 /error.php?err=500

We use for the custom error script the most common HTTP errors.
Next we need to create a PHP script called error.php which can handle the different errors:

This script will show the different errors and also some advertisement if you add the ad code. Don’t forget to add the GA code snippet.

Track broken links in Google Analytics

In case of a 404 error the page title on this custom 404 error page will be “Not Found”. We use the page title as a filter in Google Analytics to track the page views. Create a new profile for the site you’re working on and add this filter:

404 Error Page

Adding Google Site Search to your 404 error page

If you haven’t done yet, create a Google site search for your website. Add only your own website to the list of searched sites and don’t search the entire web. Add your Google Adsense ID (section “Make Money”) and head to the section “Look and feel” and select the option Iframe. Choose a style for the search form / result and maybe you like to customize the style. Push now the button “Get code” (or enter the section “Get code” from the sidebar) and enter there the URL from your error page.
Copy / paste the code for the search form and the results into the body section from your error page. Your completed 404 error page will look like:

We placed the add code also into some IF clause, because there should not be another Google Adsense advertisement beside the Google ads from the result page.

Enable site search tracking in Google Analytics

The code for the 404 error page is complete and we move to the last step: Tracking the site search queries from the error page. To do this we need to go in Google Analytics to the profile we created for the error page and click Edit (twice), check the setting Do Track Site Search, enter a “q” as the “Query Parameter” and click Safe Changes.

This 404 error page is very basic and you need to integrate your sites web template to make it complete. If you like this tutorial and you have used the code on your own site please share the URL to your new or updated error page. Even if you don’t like to use the code from this page, we advice to track the errors and also the site search queries from your visitors. If you have questions or comments please post them below.

Create surveys with Google Forms

These days I needed an online tool to create a customer survey. Google Docs has a form feature which I tried this time and I was very surprised how easy and powerful this function is. Using Google forms, you don’t need any knowledge about how a web based form works. In this article we will show-case the following functionality:

  • Create a form with the WYSIWYG form editor
  • How your customers getting access to the survey
  • Analyze and and work on the results
  • Optional: How-to insert your survey form in your website using a lightbox

About Google Forms and Google Docs

Google Forms is part of Google Docs or better some kind of extension for Google Spreadsheets a web based spreadsheet program. To create a form using Google Docs, you need to have a Google account or a Google Apps account. Both account types are free available. Google offers also premium services for Google applications.

Creating web based forms without being a webmaster

If you start using Google Docs the first time, you get the idea that you’re using a similar application from the Microsoft Office suite. The menu and a lot of functions are very similar. Creating a form is very easy, you don’t need to write any code, just click some buttons and enter your text information:

Using Google Docs, you can build forms with all form elements you need: text fields, text areas, check boxes, radio buttons, select lists. Create forms with multiple pages and describe each page and/or form element with the information you like. There are also basic validations for required fields.
Every element has clear and easy to use dialogs. Based on the language you’re using in Google Docs, you can create forms in most common languages. If your form is ready, you can choose from many fancy themes or if you don’t like them use plain theme type.

How-to send the survey to your customers?

Each Google Form is connected to the contact list from your Gmail account, you can use this list or just post the link to your survey using your mailing list hosted by Mailchimp or any other provider you like. If you use the Google contact list you should create a contact group to save time. Google Apps users are able to collect the user name and/or restrict the form only for users having an Google account from the same domain. If you use a regular Google account, these functions are not available. Don’t forget to post the survey to your company’s facebook fan page or your twitter feed if you have one or both of them.

Easy data access and statistics

Every form submission is stored in a spreadsheet at the moment the user has clicked the submit button. All submitted form values are accessible and stored together with the timestamp from the moment that the form was submitted. Beside the spreadsheet there is a data summary using graphics which will give you some quick information about how often the data was submitted.

Optional: Stylish integrations for your website or blog

Since Google Forms are hosted off-site, you need some way to embed the code in your website. Google is offering some code snippet which you can use as an Iframe but you can’t customize the style to match your own site’s design. Because you can’t change the style or code, we need an easy way “make it a part” from your website:

  1. Create your form and use the plain theme
  2. Add the following code to your websites header to include jQuery and the thickbox plugin:

    You need to download upload the files if they don’t exist on your site.

  3. Create a link to the form URL (copy paste from the footer section on the page where you can edit the form)

    Don’t mix the query parameters, any parameter after “TB_iframe” is not recognized on the target page. Change also the values for the width and height to match your forms dimensions. The pseudo class name “thickbox” is used to enable the tickbox feature.

  4. After submission Google will show a confirmation screen, don’t forget to edit this message (from the edit screen: More actions -> Edit confirmation

We created some example forms using multiple pages and most of the form elements.

8 Link building ideas for corporate websites

If you need to promote your corporate website, you will find out that this is not an easy job. Self-promotion via forums or blog comments is often eliminated as SPAM and many website owners doesn’t like to link to your site because you offer a product or service. We all know that inbound links are important to get high-listed in search engines like Google. So what do you need to do to get links to your site? In this article we will suggest things which should work for most of the websites on the Internet. But first we need to change our mind:

To get inbound links you need content which is not just your product information or some sales page. Start creating content which is interesting for your target group AND related to your products.

What do you need?

  • link-building-ideasBeside your corporate website you need a blog. This blog might be a part of your website or if possible hosted on a second domain and IP address.
  • You need to create unique and fresh content, related to your product and services. Hire a content writer if you can’t write the articles by yourself.
  • You need time and maybe some money (more about the costs later)

Okay here are the natural link building ideas:

  1. Write your blogs frequently
    If you have already a blog, I guess most of your articles are about your news, products and services. Keep writing them, but write also information which is “not about you”. For example if your product is Web Hosting, provide valuable information about how-to secure websites or give some other advice related to hosting or websites. If your articles are interesting even for non-customers, those people might write about on their own blog and will link to the source.
  2. Write content for 3rd party websites
    Write articles on blogs, websites or networks like HubPages.com, EzineArticles.com or blogs which allow other authors to write for them. In these articles it’s possible to add also links to your site.
  3. Promote all articles via social networks
    This one important, if you post your article-links to your twitter or facebook profile, more people will know about your blog and the chance is bigger that other people will blog about your article. 
  4. Get links from customers or partners
    Ask your customers and partners for a link from their website. Start with the partners where you buy products and services, they might give some link back because you’re a customer. For your own customers it’s more effective to offer something for free.
  5. Offer freebies
    Provide in some of your own blog posts a free gadget, e-book or service. Freebies are always a welcome subject to write about. Be creative and you will get many free links!
  6. Submit your press releases
    Write press releases about your most important news and submit them to press release submission services. There are many of them (check Google), try also paid services like PRWeb.com, this way you’re able to reach many people which might pick up your news and will write about (incl. link). If you can’t write a press release article by yourself, hire a copy-writer.
  7. Ask for a product review
    Search related websites or blogs and ask the owner to review your product or service in exchange for a free product. Get this way a link and also some publicity (works great if your product is a service).
  8. Create a second blog
    If you’re able to produce enough unique content or articles, start a second website or blog. Host this website on by different web-host and don’t link this site from your other sites. If  you keep this site “product neutral” you can even write about your competitors products and services. Build links from different sections to your site.

We didn’t mention here the reciprocal link exchange and paid links because those are against the Google webmaster guidelines. Exchanging links is not forbidden, but don’t have too much of them.

Do you know some nice link building techniques? Please share them below as a comment, thanks!