Ten Website Design Rules For High Search Engine Rankings

While millions of people run some sort of website, only a few - it's estimated at only 1 to 2% - are really successful in accomplishing what they want on the Net.

The main reason for this is the lack of well defined goals and the necessary focus to achieve them. A great plan goes a long way. Part of a good plan is web design.

Successful website design lets your visitors focus on the most important part of your website: the content.

Whatever the content is, sales pages or valuable information, great website design makes your visitors feel comfortable taking notice of your content.

Because it's your content that has to do the job, whether selling, generating leads, picking up subscribers or whatever it is that you want your visitors to do. That is your MWR, your Most Wanted Response!

Therefore, the first and most important factor of website design is to get your content indexed and listed in the search engines. No listings means no free traffic. You can still buy it, but at what cost? Better to use search engine optimized website design.

So, how do you do that? Below are 10 rules for successful website design.

1. Use a search engine optimized template. Using a great template makes your life easier because all your pages will have the same lay-out which makes adding and updating websites a breeze. Templates will save you tons of time maintaining your websites.

2. Use Meta Tags. I know, the keyword meta tag isn't that important any more. But the Title tag IS! In fact, it's the most important meta tag and so many websites don't use it. Search engines use the title tag to see what your page is all about and list it in their result pages.

Also, they use your description tag as added information. It's a great way to entice searchers to click on your webpage when they find it.

3. Use CSS. With CSS, abreviation for Cascading Style Sheets, you can control the style and layout of multiple web pages all at once. In other words, your website layout and style design is defined in one place and one place only. Change your css file and your complete website will be updated.

4. Delete all the crap and focus on your content. Flash and (java)scripts are funny, but very often they don't serve a purpose. Instead, they fill up your visitors' computer memory and make them run slow. Dump it. Using as little code as possible is the best way to guarantee good search engine positioning.

5. Have simple and clear navigation. You have to provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors don't know how to navigate, they will leave your site.

6. Reduce the number of images on your website. Yes, I know a picture can say more than a thousand words, but many pictures don't. They make your site load very slowly and more often than not they are very unnecessary. And, if you have an image that says more than a thousand words, make sure you optimize it to a minimum file size and offer a larger version as an option.

7. Use a sitemap. Site maps are a great way to take search engine robots by the hand and show them all the pages of your site and also help them understand what each page is about, which means it makes your site more search engine friendly and helps get a higher ranking.

8. Write crisp HTML that will validate. When they arrive at your site search engine robots only see a bunch of HTML codes. No fancy images, no colored text, nothing of that kind. So to make search engines understand what your website is about and show them that it deserves to have a high ranking, you need to speak to them in their own language: crisp HTML coding that will validate!

Don't use deprecated HTML coding, make sure your website complies to w3 org web standards and make sure it is cross-browser compatible.

9. Write one page for one keyphrase and use the keyphrase as the page name. Divide your site into major blocks, ordered by themes, and start building new pages and subsections in those blocks. Without doubt you have researched the keywords and keyphrases you want to get listed for. Now, use them as the name of these blocks and individual pages at your website. Use synonyms inside the pages, so the search engines will get a good idea what your website is all about.

10. Keep your content limited to 500 pixels. For optimal reading convenience, a width of 500 pixels is recommended with a font size of 11 or 12 pixels. It's the easiest way for our eyes to read the text. Use dark text on a light background.

About The Author
Article by Case Stevens - CaseStevens.com

How to Use Web Analytics to Grow Your Business

If you own a business, chances are you do. But don't pat yourself on the back too quickly.

By now it's widely-accepted that if you have a business card you should probably have a website. It doesn't matter what your company is selling - a website, however modest, has become a standard.

The real question is: what is your website doing for your business?

As a web marketer I often put this question to the business owners I meet. Not because I'm trying to lead into my sales pitch, but because I'm intrigued to hear the answer.

Most people get a certain "deer in the headlights" look in their eyes when I ask this question. To be fair, it's not a question we're used to hearing. But that's not all that's going on here.

Traditional advertising mediums - print, TV, radio, etc - are notoriously difficult to track. Sure, you'll know how often the phone is ringing or how many people come in with a coupon clipped from the Sunday paper, but what you don't know is how many people saw/heard your ad and whether they were interested, oblivious or, worse, annoyed.

Business owners are used to this. We all know we need to advertise - it's a necessary cost of doing business - so we buy that half-page ad in the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper, we sponsor an event or a little league team, we have a radio commercial written (maybe even with a jingle) and we hope for the best.

This has been a given in marketing since the beginning. But the web, and analytics, changed the game.

So how should you be using your web analytics to grow your audience, and your business, online?

Track Everything

With web analytics on your site you can track:

  • Where your traffic is coming from by
    - The referring website and page
    - The search engine and keyword used
  • Your website visitors by
    - Their location
    - Their operating system, browser and monitor resolution
    - Their network
  • Visitor behavior and actions by
    - Duration of visit (time on site)
    - Pages per visit (number of pages viewed)
    - Bounce rate (percentage of users who viewed only one page before leaving)
    - Conversion rate (percentage of users who completed a preset task)

If you're planning on doing any kind of web marketing, be it through search engines, email or advertising on other websites, information on your past and current traffic is crucial. Not to mention you'll want analytics in place so you can properly track the new traffic your promotions will, hopefully, bring in.

Tie Your Traffic Sources to Your Users' Actions

When looking at your analytics data the behavior and action metrics mean little by themselves. If the bounce rate of your site overall is 75%, what does that tell you? Well, this is a pretty high bounce rate - you should at least be shooting to have a bounce rate lower than 50%. But does this tell you exactly what is wrong?

Likewise, if you have secured advertising or a listing on another website, the number of visits coming in from that site only gives you part of the picture.

Tying your bounce rate to a specific traffic source, on the other hand, can tell you a lot.

If a given traffic source is generating a bounce rate of 85% or more, for example, this indicates that users are not being satisfied. There are a few possibilities as to why:

  • The users may not be well-qualified - or the site where you are listed or advertising might not have the best audience for your content/offer.
  • The listing/ad may promise something that the entry page does not live up to (or, at least, the promise is difficult to locate once the user arrives at your site).
  • Your site is simply not usable, is unattractive or unprofessional, causing users to leave immediately (and most don't come back)
  • Your users are not connecting with your content/offer.

There are other possibilities, but you'll want to find the most likely answer here - and try to fix it. Then, using the same metrics (traffic source + bounce rate), you can see whether things improve moving forward.

Using metrics like these you can also get a sense of which advertisements are bringing you a return on your investment and which aren't. With goal tracking in Google Analytics, for example, a conversion rate is added to just about every traffic metric, including referring websites. If you're finding that a website is sending you plenty of traffic but none of it is converting, re-examine the referring website's audience, how your site is being presented and the user's experience when they click through.

The Point

Your website is more than a brochure. It's an interactive tool for your users. The only true way to find out how they're using it (or not using it) is to get web analytics set up properly on your website (including setting goal points to track conversions).

And the best way to improve your website in the aim of building your business is to use the information your web analytics give you.

The age of blind advertising - of throwing money at the problem and hoping for the best - is dead.

If you aren't tracking everything, taking time on a regular basis to understand what the data reveals about your users and adjusting your efforts based on this information, you're missing an opportunity to optimize your advertising and get a better return on your budget.

In this economy, is that something you can afford?

About The Author
Mike Tekula is the President of Unstuck Digital - a Long Island, NY web marketing company that offers proven solutions and training for growing your business online.

Key Differences Among the Most Commonly Used Keyword Suggestion Tools - Part One

Rigid, unchanging procedures threaten any business activity. With Internet-enabled and -related enterprises, keeping up with technological progress is absolutely essential to survival. As opposed to static (unchanging) websites that are not looking to strengthen or raise their industry share, any dynamic (changing) website will have new copy, even new strategies, on an ongoing basis. Regular, extensive, ongoing keyword research is not a luxury, but a basic survival tactic.

Understanding how people actually use words, and the relationships these words have in the context of an Internet search, is key to threading these words and phrases through the fabric of your site. Because the Internet is so very dynamic, with word relationships changing seemingly by the minute, this is a huge and growing challenge for more and more people and companies. After all, the Internet is growing into the major commercial and communication hub of the world. Accurate and useful keyword suggestion tools - and their intelligent implantation into business and marketing strategy, are a major part of the solution.

There are a plethora of keyword suggestion tools available, from free to cost-based, including NicheBot, Wordtracker, KeywordDiscovery, SEOBook, and the various Google keyword tools. In this two-part article, we will consider these tools and the differences among them. Part one will cover the first three on the líst, while part two will cover the Google tools and SEOBook's Keyword Suggestion Tool.

Most importantly, perhaps, these tools help you estimate the relative (rather than absolute) size of the search referral "market" produced by particular words and phrases. You will develop a better understanding of what terms appear how often in search queries, and what other terms are correlated with them, and how many times they are searched compared to those other terms. The analytics you develop with the tools will also give you a good idea of how their suggestions will fare, and provide a means of understanding "competition levels" for specific words and phrases.

Naturally, there are differences both large and small among these keyword analysis/suggestion tools. Google, of course, compiles its tool data from its own search network of sites and offers tremendous functionality at low or zero cost. The subscription-based services, such as Wordtracker and KeywordDiscovery, take advantage of databases of multiple sites and data that can be assembled, broken down, repurposed and presented in myriad ways.

Specific Tool Functionality

Wordtracker aggregates its keyword data from the leading meta search engines, primarily Dogpile but with input from MetaCrawler and others. In Wordtracker's attempts to mine keyword gold, it will discover how many times a certain term or phrase shows up in its database of over 316 million words. This is quite a trick in itself, as English (according to linguists) has between 600,000 and two million words, depending upon how we define a "word." It is clear that Wordtracker leaves no permutation or word-form uncounted, which is a distinct benefit.

Wordtracker's brain trust asserts that metacrawlers process the queries of the leading search engines with some precision, and that the software robots that continuously check site rankings and such do not interfere with the count. In a different approach, KeywordDiscovery relies on its global "premium database" of some 4.5 billion searches based solely on user data, thus diminishing the distortions inherent in some other strategies.

If you are considering which tool to use, you can still get free trials of most tools, except that you usually need to provide contact information, with phone numbers and e-mail addresses required. There are few ways to use and compare the tools anonymously, so the next best approach is "meta-analysis," in which we look at various published third-party reports on the actual use of these tools.

In a study published last year, one technology writer performed keyword forecasts for "dog food" with KeywordDiscovery, Wordtracker and several other programs. Despite using different original data sets, all of these tools try to supply reliable estimates of the available search referral traffic without "data inflation." There are numerous ways to analyze and present the results.

On average, KeywordDiscovery predicted there would be some 1,088 searches for "dog food" daily, while Wordtracker calculated the probable search referral market for "dog food" to be about double that. KeywordDiscovery does have a unique and quite useful algorithm that considers "seasonality" in its results, letting you review the seasonality of terms historically, as monthly estimates or even as a component of annual trends. Search engine market share is developed, as well.

KeywordDiscovery and Wordtracker results can both be repurposed to estimate just Google referral traffic or that of any other major engine. In the tech columnist's example, the Wordtracker daily estimate for Google's "dog food" search was 1,043, or almost half of all the "Daily Prediction" information. KeywordDiscovery had Google accounting for 67 percent of its "Average Daily" results, thus suggesting that 738 "dog food" searches would be made in Google every day.

Perhaps this does not seem to be much of an absolute difference, but when considered over a 30-day period, the difference scaled up considerably in this particular test. KeywordDiscovery estimated some 22,000+ "dog food" searches that month, but Wordtracker projected over 31,000 "dog food" searches for that same period.

A 'Niche' Player

Nichebot came on the scene with some degree of fanfare. It is a complex program, with a tightly specified methodology that lacks flexibility in some important ways. On the other hand, it gathers data from more sources than Wordtracker - leveraging the results from KeywordDiscovery and Google - and provides a great selection of explanatory videos, instructive screenshots and excellent "Help" functions.

However, Nichebot recommends a five-step system, which can be time-consuming and confusing, even for veterans. There are, of course, some free "quick-dig" tools, including, oddly enough, Wordtracker and its thesaurus. While it is free to search Wordtracker via Nichebot, you get only basic counts, and must pay for a premium search if you wish to see competition data and the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI).

You can dig a bit "deeper" without additional cost by clicking on a term or phrase in the results, which provides a líst of associated phrases. One savvy forum poster declared that the primary purpose for using Nichebot is "to find as many keywords from multiple sources to cover as much territory for the maximum traffic for your website." In practice, he explained, one can start "from a broad search and just keep refining, merging, narrowing in."

The proliferation of "niche" tools and functions would seem to be a sensible development given Nichebot's name, but the added functionality comes at a price. For instance, you can get the addresses of the sites that have the greatest number of backlinks for a particular term, but the learning curve involved with this program makes the more arcane data difficult to develop.

Generally speaking, Nichebot results are excellent, and it allows better organization of projects and searches via its folder hierarchy. Further, the program checks your site for keyword density "red flags" that Google may note (and disapprove of). As premium search charges kick in a bit early compared to others, the question for users has to be: Do the premium charges return enough value to offset the time and money spent to obtain it?

Time and Tide

While meta-analysis of user comments at a random selection of forums discloses that they don't find Nichebot particularly intuitive, it is considered an impressive software achievement.

Even its appearance gives Nichebot the impression that using it takes time and discipline. While KeywordDiscovery and Wordtracker can be used in a stream-of-consciousness manner at times, Nichebot does not lend itself to brainstorming or "fluid" search styles. This is a direct result, of course, of its having the power it does. Despite that power, it does have a number of anomalies that are commonly reported. For one thing, it applies its vaunted "Jackpot" rating to keywords for which it finds no competition, even if that is the case because of error or anomaly.

Finally, a number of users report that advanced searches can get stuck in a "holding pattern" (in a queue) and take from 15-20 minutes to generate results. With the tide of the Internet forever washing new waves onto the shore, time is of the essence. Even though advanced keyword research searches can return valuable data, it is no stretch to say that many marketers might consider 20 minutes per keyword tool inquiry to be a barrier to frequent or consistent use.

Rating the Tools

Wordtracker is easier to use for most people, but the possibilities are certainly expanded with Nichebot. Doing random or unassociated searches "by the seat of your pants" is among Wordtracker's great strengths, but Nichebot works well to focus your work and helps you take a step-by-step, measured approach. It can be said that Nichebot can not only return search terms and numbers, but can actually sub as your defacto keyword research process. As one user commented at a KEI forum, Nichebot "takes a lot of the guesswork out [but] getting there is somewhat painful."

KeywordDiscovery's "9-in-1 tool" approach (check their site, it's even divided up this way) is popular with many users. It goes some 10,000 keywords deep and the more you pay the deeper you can go. Nichebot does provide more information, but it has that steep learning curve and much harder to learn than the more "friendly" Wordtracker and KeywordDiscovery.

What works best for you will most likely be a product of trial and error - and for many will be a combination of the tools. Because you have to give up more and more personal data to get the "free trials," however, you may want to let other people's fingers "do the walking" and continue to do meta-analyses of others' results. There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from multiple opinions, yet there is nothing like running your research your way. Trust the judgment of tech columnists and meta-analysts, or acquiesce to giving up some personal information to find out for yourself.

Remember, because of the many search engines and the multitudes of sources the keyword tools get their numbers from, all of the results are relative. For starters, check out the most important, relevant and highly "trafficked" keywords and terms already associated with your site's content. As we move to Part Two and consider the Google tools and SEOBook's program, don't forget that ongoing study, research and testing are the most fruitful ways to stay abreast of an ever-changing universe of words – and all their relatives, too.

About The Author
AdGooroo is a leader in online competition analysis. With a cutting edge keyword research tool and providing free keyword research, AdGooroo is a must-have for any search marketer or agency.

20 Largest Social Bookmarking Sites | February 2009

1 | digg.com 560,598,000 - Inbound Links | 33,432,650 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 12,200,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 284 - Alexa Ranking.

2 | Yahoo! Buzz
4,231,000 - Inbound Links | NA - Compete Monthly Visitors | 4,000,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | NA - Alexa Ranking.

3 | Technorati.com
250,287,000 - Inbound Links | 2,259,592 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 2,300,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 457 - Alexa Ranking.

4 | StumbleUpon.com
305,000,000 - Inbound Links | 4,209,353 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 978,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 939 - Alexa Ranking.

5 | del.icio.us
606,665,000 - Inbound Links | 1,704,343 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 325,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 2,648 - Alexa Ranking.

6 | kaboodle.com
3,693,000 - Inbound Links | 4,903,654 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 3,400,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 1,422 - Alexa Ranking.

7 | reddit.com
210,685,000 - Inbound Links | 3,807,418 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 1,200,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 4,815 - Alexa Ranking.

8 | mixx.com
17,326,000 - Inbound Links | 961,684 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 2,100,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 673 - Alexa Ranking.

9 | Propeller.com
5,903,000 - Inbound Links | 1,080,258 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 773,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 2,252 - Alexa Ranking.

10 | Fark.com
55,162,723 - Inbound Links | 450,773 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 1,300,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 6,550 - Alexa Ranking.

11 | newsvine.com
90,708,775 - Inbound Links | 744,534 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 768,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 7,106 - Alexa Ranking.

12 | Slashdot.org
62,071,035 - Inbound Links | 881,082 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 461,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 10,512 - Alexa Ranking.

13 | clipmarks.com
765,141 - Inbound Links | 409,530 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 552,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 6,294 - Alexa Ranking.

14 | Furl.net
170,628,144 - Inbound Links | 173,364 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 85,500 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 21,691 - Alexa Ranking.

15 | faves.com
2,067,453 - Inbound Links | 157,420 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 232,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 8,846 - Alexa Ranking.

16 | dzone.com
4,933,009 - Inbound Links | 222,058 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 193,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 46,502 - Alexa Ranking.

17 | blinklist.com
78,582,576 - Inbound Links | 95,238 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 50,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 28,616 - Alexa Ranking.

18 | ma.gnolia.com
60,917,444 - Inbound Links | 89,558 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 18,300 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 79,651 - Alexa Ranking.

19 | simpy.com
37,090,730 - Inbound Links | 55,396 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 42,000 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 65,050 - Alexa Ranking.

20 | BlogMarks.net
31,281,453 - Inbound Links | 36,048 - Compete Monthly Visitors | 9,500 - Quantcast Monthly Visitors | 42,675 - Alexa Ranking.

Original Source: http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-bookmarking

7 Basics of Good Web Design

Whether you are just starting a web design project, looking at revamping an existing site, or just wanting to double check the usability of your current web site you should consider these 7 Basics of Good Web Design.

These basics are aimed at new visitors/customers; your repeat customers will be judging your web site on different values. Just like wearing the appropriate clothes for a job interview, these basics will help you pick out the "look" of your web site so that you make a good first impression.

1. Fast Loading Web Site - Any way you look at it, a fast loading page should be your number 1 concern. The web is all about speed, fast searches, fast purchases, fast information. You can't have any of that with a slow loading page. Ask yourself this question - have you ever been on Google doing a search for something important and a link you clicked on didn't open up immediately? What did you do? Patiently wait for the page to open or move onto the next link on the page? My favorite sites open almost immediately.

So, a few suggestions: Make sure that your images are properly optimized. Don't use very many large images, save those for a different page. Keep any auto-running multimedia to a minimum, provide links to run media instead. Check your code for anything else that could affect your page loading times. Since text loads almost instantly go ahead and use all the text you want, just keep everything else under control.

2. No Meaningless Splash Page - Do you appreciate a fancy animation page that doesn't tell you anything and you have to wait for before the web site will open? Neither do I. The last thing I want once I find an interesting site is to wait through some animation before getting to the first page. This doesn't mean that I don't want multimedia on a site, I do. I just don't want an animation before the first page that forces me to wait for it to finish before getting onto the site. It's like having to wait for a salesperson to finish their memorized speech before you can ask them a question. No thanks! I like animation, just in the right place and at the right time. Plus, if I am a returning customer, I will have already seen that animation and don't need to see it again.

My suggestion is to use a smaller animation contained in your main landing page which also includes your main message and links to the rest of your site. It will make for a faster loading page (smaller file) and your visitors can go ahead with accessing your site without having to wait for the animation to finish.

One final note, don't ever put your logo as the only content on your landing page with a link that says "Enter Site". This just screams Unprofessional and will drive away potential visitors in droves. The last thing I want to do is to click on another link just to get into the site. This is a total waste of my time. I usually will skip a site if I see this.

3. No Annoying Web Gimmicks - Now that you have your visitor on your site quickly the one thing you don't want to do is to drive them away just as quickly. So, don't put anything annoying on that first page. No loud background music that makes them quickly hit the volume control or the back button on their browser. No flashing animations while they are trying to read your content. No popup, flyout, expanding ads that cover your home page. Basically, leave the gimmicks alone until you are sure that your visitor will stay on your site. Most casual visitors will leave your site in just a few seconds, no sense on driving them away more quickly.

Multimedia is great on a web site, just don't bombard your visitor with it first thing. If you want audio, then put in a nice picture with a link, like a picture of yourself with text saying something like "Let me tell you how to make fifty thousand this month!" If they are interested, they will click on the link and listen to your message; if they are not interested in audio, then you should be using a different pitch anyway.

Also, monitor what advertisers are putting on your site if you sell ad space. I am sure you have seen those ads with the animated dancing figure, cute the first time you see it. But after seeing it 10,000 times with every imaginable character I have added the company to a líst I keep of companies I won't do business with. So their animation has gone from "look at me" to "you annoy me" in my mind. Ads like these will impact your visitor's experience. So even if your site is perfectly designed, one misplaced ad can ruin all of your hard work.

4. Have a Clear Message - Too many web sites are a mish-mash of content. This is especially true of blog pages. Certain types of sites lend themselves to stream of consciousness content, but most don't. Make it easy for your viewer to understand what your web site is about, don't make them guess. Have a clear topic headline, followed by clear and concise text. This is also where a picture is worth a thousand words, but only if the picture directly pertains to your message.

You want your visitor to quickly understand what your message is. If they like your message, they will take the time to read the rest of your page and look around your web site. If they don't like your page, then it won't do you any good having them stay on your site anyway. So, don't make your visitors guess, let them know what you are about quickly and cleanly and you will have happy visitors. And when thinking about a sales page, a happy customer is a buying customer.

5. Coordinated Design - This one should be self evident, but it is surprising how many sites change their design for every page. You want your visitor to be comfortable in your site and one way to achieve that is by having a coordinated web design. Having a consistent logo, using a consistent color scheme, keeping your navigation in the same place. All of these help to create a coordinated design. This does not mean that you can't change colors or the "Look" on different segments of your site, but if you do, the changes should not be so drastic that it feels like you have moved on to a different site.

If you select one place for your logo, one place for your navigation, one look for your buttons or other common graphic elements and stick with those then you will be well on your way to a coordinated design. If you change colors for a different section, but keep the same logo location, the same navigation location, the same button shape, then your visitors will not become lost as they move from page to page.

6. Easy Navigation - Once you have grabbed your visitors attention you want them to be able to easily move around the different areas of your web site. This is done with easy to use navigation. There are three standard, accepted locations for navigation elements on a web page: along the top, on the left side, and at the bottom. I will usually put my main navigation either along the top or along the left side. I will then put text based navigation at the bottom of the page, this text based navigation is more for the search engines than anything else, but it also makes it easy for your visitors to move to the next page when they have reached the bottom of the current page.

Most people start reading a page from the top left and then read towards the bottom right. So navigation at the left or top will be seen as soon as someone enters your page. Also navigation at the left or top will not move or change position if the browser window is adjusted in size. The worst thing you can do is to put your main navigation on the right side of the page and have your page set for a large screen size. Let's say that your page is set for 1024 across with the navigation on the right, and someone views your page at 800 across, they will not see your navigation at all. The left side of your page will show perfectly, but the right side will be hidden outside of their viewing area. Of course by using floating or popup menus you can overcome some of these design limitations and keep your navigation visible at all times.

Unless you know that your audience will enjoy it, don't use Mystery Navigation. This is where your navigation is hidden within images, or spaced around the web page in some mysterious random order. This can be fun on gaming sites, or social networking sites, but in most cases the navigation should be easy to see and easy to use. If you do want to use Mystery Navigation, I would recommend keeping the text based navigation at the bottom of the page, just in case.

7. Have a "Complete" web site - And finally, no one wants to go to a web site only to find that the site is "Under Construction" and the content they are looking for is not there. These are words that you shouldn't ever use. If a section of your web site is not ready for prime time yet, then simply don't show it yet. It is better to have your site look complete and professional, then to have it look like a work in progress that should not be up on the web yet.

You can easily tell your visitors that you will be having more content in the future without having your site look like it is unfinished. Just use phrases like "Content Updated Weekly" or "New Products Added Monthly". Both of these will tell your visitors that it would be worth their time to come back and visit later, but neither one will make your site look unfinished. So no matter how small your web site is, give the impression that you have taken the time to complete the site before putting it up on the internet, this makes for a more professional presentation and a better visitor experience.

In Closing - By following these simple 7 Basics of Good Web Design you will be well on your way to having an easy to use and successful web presence. Just keep in mind what you look for when you first land on a web page after doing a web search in Google or Yahoo, or other search engine. If you want fast loading pages, make sure your pages load fast. If you want to be able to find what you are looking for quickly and easily, then make sure you have easy navigation. Just keep your first time visitor in mind, put yourself in their web shoes and make your web site an enjoyable place to visit and success should follow.

About The Author
George Peirson is a successful Entrepreneur and Internet Trainer. He is the author of over 40 multimedia based tutorial training titles covering such topics as Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver. To see his training sets visit www.howtogurus.com . Article copyright 2009 George Peirson

10 Steps to Testing the Viability of Your Online Business Idea That Won't Break the Bank

The economic recession is pushing more and more people to consider self-employment. Starting an online business is a very low-risk way to put your toe in the entrepreneurial pond because the start up costs are minimal, the overhead is low, and the returns can be high. Despite these benefits, however, an online business is just like any other and needs to be thoroughly researched before starting to determine if there's a need in the marketplace and how viable the business idea is.

The Internet is rife with exorbitant claims of how much money can be made as an online entrepreneur and that you can be rolling in the dough by next week. Remember, most "overnight" successes are 1, 2, or more years in the making, and online businesses are no exception to this rule.

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How do you determine if your online business idea will sink or swim? Here are 10 steps you can take to test your idea without breaking the bank:

1. Research. Comprehensive research is always the first step for any business idea. Brainstorm a list of keywords someone might use to find the product/service that you're offering, and then use a keyword tool finder to see how many searches have been done on these keywords. The keyword tool will also make suggestions of related keywords to try. Once you have a list of keywords, conduct searches (use quotation marks around your search term for stronger results) in Google, Yahoo, and MSN to see who else is out there. Evaluate the popularity of the sites you discover by checking out their Google Page Rank and Alexa ranking. Use the same keywords to see if articles have been written about your topic in the major article banks. You'll uncover your competition in this research, as well as potential strategic alliances. Employ a powerful bookmark program to help you track your research results.

2. Monetize the idea. After completing your research, have you discovered enough competitors in the marketplace who are making money from doing something similar? If so, how are they making money -- is it from the sale of info products, consulting services, subscription to their site, advertising, etc? If you don't see much competition, that usually means one of two things:

a. There's not enough demand for the product/idea or

b. You're ahead of the curve in seeing the profit potential.

Unfortunately, in most cases, that result means that there's not enough demand for your idea in the way that it's been presented.

3. The "so what" factor. From your research you should be able to clarify what it is that you're offering and what group of people need what you're offering. In order to be successful, your offering must pass the "so what" factor in light of your competition. To take this test, you must successfully be able to answer the following question after telling someone what you do, "So what? How is that different from what x, y and z are offering?" You can answer these questions best if you review the benefits of what you're offering (the What's In It For Me) rather than just a listing of the features, and if you can speak from the heart about your idea. An online business will take time to manage and develop, so you want to settle on something that you love. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, you quickly become a prisoner in a prison of your making.

4. Industry information. Set up Google Alerts for your industry keywords and track them from info posted on websites, blogs, and newsgroups. Reviewing the alerts you receive over the next few weeks should help you expand your view of the problems/issues with your subject, help you see the "movers and shakers" in the industry, and help you discover other places (blogs, discussion forums, social networks) where your target market hangs out online.

5. Test the waters. The easiest way to test your idea is by creating a blog. Buy a keyword-rich domain name for the blog and map your blog to that domain. Then begin to blog about your insights on your topic, or reprint articles others have written on your subject. The idea here is to begin to establish your online presence and your online brand.

6. Build a list. Once you've got a blog set up, you need to begin to build your marketing list. The easiest way to do this is to create a free giveaway on your site (ebook, video, report, audio recording) and a form for the visitor to input his name and email address to receive your giveaway. Your privacy policy should be readily available to them and outline how you'll use their info and what they can expect to receive from you. You'll also need an emaíl marketing service or shopping cart service to manage your list.

7. Crown yourself the expert. The only way to become an expert in an area is to believe that you are one. By virtue of the research you've already conducted, you know more than a large percentage of your target market. Therefore, don't hesitate to begin to refer to yourself as an expert in your industry.

8. Drive traffic. Once you build your blog, they (visitors) won't come without some encouragement. Create profiles on prominent social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Start writing articles about your topic and submittíng those to article directories. Discover if your target market hangs out on niche-specific social networking sites and start networking there. Interview experts in your industry and release the interviews as a podcast. Create a weekly email newsletter to stay in touch with the prospects on your email list. Create powerful inbound links by getting your blog listed on various blog and website directories.

9. Implementation time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a successful online business. Allow at least three months to give your idea a test run and evaluate it after that time. Have you been able to build a list? Are you getting traffic to your site? Are you attracting the attention of others in your industry? If so, you're ready to move to the next step.

10. Move forward. If you determine that your idea is viable, what's next? Creating info products or a membership site? What are your longer term goals to develop this idea into a business? The best way to harness all the info that you've collected thus far is to create a business plan. It doesn't have to be complicated -- it can be only one page, in fact. What you need to commit to paper is your offer, your target market, your ongoing goals for how to monetize the idea, and an outline of how you plan to grow the business over time.

It's not too late to get your start in an online business. Don't be distracted by the false promises of quick wealth overnight. Success takes time and planning, so invest some planning and research time into your business idea. That's the strongest foundation you can create for yourself to become a successful online entrepreneur.

About The Author
Internet Marketing Strategist and Boomer Biz Coach Donna Gunter helps baby boomers create profitable online retirement businesses that they love by demystifying and simplifying the tools and strategies needed to market and grow their businesses online. To claim your FR*EE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at OnlineBizU.com. Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at AskDonnaGunter.com .

24 Essential Pages to include on Your Website

Wondering what pages to include on your website and why? Here is a list of important information that should be included on your site.

Before you start thinking about what to write, it is important that you create a plan, which outlines what each page will contain. That way you won't repeat yourself or forget vital information. The most common pages on successful websites include:

1. Home Page (First Page)
This is your "sales" page and should provide information about what you can do for your customers. It should also give your visitors a brief overview of what they can find on your site.

2. Products / Services
It is useful to have a separate page for each product/service and write as much detail about each as possible. Start each page with a brief summary of the product/service, then provide whatever information you can. When people are searching for information on the internet, they want to know it NOW. They don't want to wait until tomorrow when they can speak to you on the phone.

3. Contact Us
Place contact details in as many places as possible. Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Create a special "Contact Us" page and include your details in the "About Us" page and also at the bottom of each page. Information to include: business name, physical address, mailing address, telephone, fax, email, emergency number, website address.

4. Pricing
Whenever possible include the price of your products/services. Even if you can't be specific. It is helpful to put at least a range of prices, eg. Carpet cleaning ranges between $40 - $60 per room.

5. Testimonials / Product Reviews / Before & After
Include testimonials from your current customers to show your potential clients that you are trustworthy, reliable and that you provide great service and/or products. Make sure the testimonials are real and if possible provide contact details of the person who supplied you with the testimonial. If you don't have any right now, get them! Simply email your customers and ask for their feedback on your business and service.

You could also include before and after photos. Show the problem picture and beside it show the picture of resolution, with an explanation of your product's benefits.

6. Frequently Asked Questions
This has proven to be a great time saver for many companies. Instead of having to answer the same questions over and over again, place them on your website and keep adding to them. The more information you have on your website, the less time you will need to spend answering questions by email or phone.

Frequently Asked Questions should address your customer's concerns that may otherwise be an obstacle to making a sale.

7. Response form such as "Subscribe" or "Enquiry" form
An absolute must if you want to build a mailing list. Most people don't like giving out too much information, so ask only the basics, such as Name and Email Address. Then keep in touch with your customers on a regular basis by sending out information that may be of interest to them. You may even wish to develop an on-line magazine (ezine). There are many fantastic free or inexpensive programs that can handle this for you.

8. On-line Magazine or Newsletter
This is a great marketing tool. Not only does it help you keep in touch with your customers, but provides your website with fresh content. You can set up your Ezine in 2 different ways:

(a) Email subscribers on a regular basis, or
(b) Publish it on your website.

Or both. Include information about your business, industry or anything that may be of interest to your customers.

9. Resources/Articles
Add value to your business. Provide information that is complementary to what you do. For example, if you sell wedding dresses include information about reception venues, wedding planners, wedding cakes, flowers. By adding extra information you encourage more hits.

10. About Us
This is a very important page as it tells your customer about who you are and why they should buy your products, services and/or trust your organization. It can also feature your business hours (if you have a bricks and mortar store) or when they can speak to someone on the phone. Many companies also include their mission, details of their staff (photos, biographies, qualifications), recently completed projects, ACN or ABN, logo, directions to your store/office. It is also useful to include details of trade associations you belong to, trade and ínsurance certificates and any awards you may have won.

11. Guarantee
Provide a monëy back policy. The longer the policy period, the more effective it will be. It could be 30 days, 60 days, 1 year or lifetime.

12. Survey
Find out what customers think about your website, business or product.

13. Events Calendar
This can relate to your business or industry. If you are an artist, you can feature dates where and when your art will be displayed or if you are a singer, where you will be performing.

14. Search My Website Feature
Some visitors to your site may not know exactly what they want, but if you include a search function on your site, they can look for it very easily. Like search engines, this feature will allow your visitors to type in a word or phrase and then search for it on your site. It's like having a mini search engine, only instead of it searching the world wide web, it just searches your website.

15. Return/Refund Policy
To make your customers feel more comfortable when making a transaction at your website, you should provide them with your return/refund policy. Ensure it is easy to understand and spelled out step by step.

16. Privacy Policy
Privacy continues to be a major issue for customers shopping online. Concerns about how their information is going to be used is a major barrier when making a sale. Internet shopping experience is built on trust and privacy is the number one ingredient in trust.

17. Site Map
A site map shows visitors how the site is laid out and which sections are where.

18. Copyright Information
Your website should carry a copyright notice to protect its intellectual property. It is generally in the form of "Copyright (c) 2004, Your Company Name".

19. Links
Here you can place links to the manufacturers of your products, trade associations or complementary services. When you place links to other businesses, you can request they do the same for you. This will not only bring you more visitors, but may improve your search engine ranking.

20. Media Information
Include any information, articles, photos of your products, staff etc that have appeared in the media - print, TV, radio or internet.

21. News
This can include news about your products/services or about your industry.

22. On-line store
An on-line store allows you sell products directly on the internet 24 hours a day/7 days a week. When building an online store it is important to take in a number of key concepts.

Make sure that when visitors arrive at your store the navigational mechanisms are simple and effective.

The actual process of placing the order must be simple.

Make sure you accept common and convenient methods of payment.

Continually test your store so you understand your customer's shopping experience.

23. Blog
A blog is a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger." Blogs are typically updated daily or weekly using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Blogs are a great tool because they help with:

(a) Communicating with your customers. Blogs provide a way for you to communicate with your customers directly. And it is a two-way communication. You can post a message on your blog and your visitors can easily respond.
(b) Search Engine Marketing Blogs give you an increased presence on search engines, like Yahoo! and Google. If you use Blogger (Google's Blogging Tool), every message you post creates a new page on Google so in a very short time you could have lots of pages pointing to your website.

(c) Stay Ahead of Your Competition Blogs are relatively new and chances are your competition does not yet use them. So you will be seen as an expert in your industry when you post your knowledge and expertise.

(d) Media & Public Relations Blogs are excellent PR tools. You can post your Media Releases and articles and have them picked up by the media.

(e) Free or Low Cost

24. Photo Gallery
Even if you do not wish to sell your products on-line, you may wish to showcase your goods or services in a special photo gallery - show how your products or services are being used by your customers. They say "pictures speak a thousand words" and on your website it is particularly important.

Don't give your customers a reason to visit your competitor's website and provide them with all the information they may possibly need or want.

About The Author
Ivana Katz of Websites 4 Small Business makes it easy for you to get your busíness on the internet. If you're looking for a professional and affordable website designer, visit www.web4business.com.au and download a website plan for free.

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