May 142012
 

iStockphoto is one of my favorite sites for finding just the right image for a new Web page or Blog.  I have used iStockphoto for my clients as well as my own Web site.  iStockphoto has millions of images that can be purchased at a very reasonable price.  Their easy to use search feature makes the task of finding just the right photo simple and painless.

Now, iStockphoto (iStockphoto.com) is making it even easier to find and use the right photo.  They have just introduced the iStock Adobe Plug-in.  This plug-in works with Adobe Creative Suite 5 or higher.  Now you can browse, download and edit images directly from Adobe Photoshop®, InDesign® and Illustrator®.  To get the full functionality from this convenient plug-in you will need to setup a free account at iStockphoto.

You can find out more about the plug-in file and instructions on how to install it here.  This plug-in is sure to be a great time saver for those of us using Adobe Creative Suite.  And best of all, it’s free!

Jan 302011
 

Looking for a quick way to boost the traffic to your business Web site?

Increase your Web Traffic

Increase your Web Traffic

It may have been a while since you added your business to Google Places.  Google Places is where you can manage your business listing displayed on Google Maps.  Perhaps you didn’t even know you could get a free ad listing for your business on Google Maps.

Well, if you build it, they will come.  People love Google Maps for getting directions and finding places of interest.  For instance, if you are looking for a Web Designer in Lebanon, Ohio (shameless plug coming) then you can go to maps.google.com and type in “Web Designer near Lebanon, Ohio” and find our listing (ranked 2nd as of this blog post).

Here is what you get with your free listing:

  • Basic information including business name, address, phone number, email & Web address
  • 200 character description and up to 5 business categories
  • Service areas served
  • Hours of operation and payment options
  • Up to 10 photos and up to 5 videos
  • Any additional details you want to include such as discounts and free estimates

Once created you will have a nice display on Google Maps.

Web Street USA on Google Maps

Here’s how to get your ad:

  1. Go to Google Places (places.google.com/business)
  2. Create a Google Account if you haven’t done it already.
  3. Login to your Google Account.
  4. Click the “List your business” button.
  5. Select Country and Phone number then click the “Find business information” button.
  6. If your business is found then you can click the “Edit” button.
  7. If your entering a new business then click the “Add a new listing” button.
  8. Enter your basic business information such as Company name, address, email and Web address.
  9. Be sure to add a good description of your business using lots of keywords that people might use to find you.
  10. Select a business category.  Do this by starting to type into the category field and Google will make suggestions for you that can be selected.  You don’t have to use the ones they suggest.
  11. Enter additional business categories.  You get up to 5 categories so I would suggest using all of them as these categories can contain keywords that will help draw traffic.
  12. Next enter the service areas and locations if this is applicable to your type of business.
  13. Enter the hours of operation (this is optional).
  14. Select payment options.
  15. Add some photos of your business.  The first photo will be used on your map listing (see sample to right).  Up to 10 photos are available so you use this to show just about anything related to your business.
  16. You can also add videos to be displayed with your listing.  If you have videos you would like to use then make sure you upload them to YouTube and then enter in the complete Web address for that particular video.  Use the YouTube link here (youtube.com) to find out more information about this free video service.
  17. Next enter any additional details about your business.  This is where you can enter a detail category followed by the associated details.  For instance, on my listing, I display how long I have been in business, veteran discounts and free estimates.

For future editing be sure to log into your Google account.  From most Google pages you will be able to click on the “Settings” link and go to the Google account settings.  Go to Google Places to see and edit your ad plus see how many people viewed your ad and clicked on the listing.  This is all great stuff and it really is free.  It shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to setup a basic business listing.  I hope you found this information useful!

Sep 082010
 

SearchToday, Google announced the implementation of their new search enhancement called “Google Instant”. Google Instant shows results as you are typing and tries to predict the keywords as you type.  Type a single letter and you will get a drop-down box that changes as you enter more letters.  If you were online yesterday and noticed Google’s logo made up of moving balls you might have wondered what was up.  They would only say that it would be a good week.  Now we know why.

The predictive nature of this search feature works very quickly.  Type in one single letter and you get a list of keywords and phrases in a drop-down box below the cursor starting with that letter.  It is supposed to be tied to the user’s search habits but I haven’t noticed a difference whether I am logged in or not.  Perhaps the search preferences are tied to a cookie on my machine that does not matter whether you are logged in.  More research will be needed to see if that is true.

I did notice that the search results appear to be tied somewhat to your location.  Here are the single letter suggestions that I discovered for the alphabet.  A = “Amazon”,  B = “Best Buy” and so on… Craigslist; Duke Energy; Ebay; Facebook; Gmail; Hotmail; Ikea; Jungle Jims; Kings Island; Lowes; Mapquest; Netflix; Ohio BMV; Pandora; Quotes; Reds; Sears; Target; USPS; Verizon Wireless; Weather; Xavier University; Youtube;  Zoomtown.  You may be able to tell that I live near Cincinnati as some of the these suggestions are not national search terms.  Jungle Jim’s is a very unique local supermarket and Kings Island is our local amusement park (great coasters, by the way).

Google Instant isn’t available everywhere just yet.  Google is starting its roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia who use the following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8. Users on domains other than Google.com can only access Google Instant if they are signed in to a Google Account. Google will add new domains and languages over the next several months.

The benefit to Internet searchers will be that the people who hunt and peck as they type will be able to skip a lot of typing and click the phrase they want.  Google believes this will raise the bar by providing searches more quickly.  I believe the real benefit will come when Google Instant is available on a mobile platform where typing can be unbelievably slow and predictive search terms would be a tremendous benefit.

For Google AdWords customers, your ads will be displayed when a user stops typing for 3 seconds, the user clicks the search button or by simply moving the mouse onto the page outside the search form.  This may lead to an increase in the number of impressions you receive for your ads.  It is hard to predict what this new way of searching will do to the popularity of certain keywords.  I think Amazon and Best Buy should be pretty happy judging from my test run above.  It will be interesting to see the impact of this change as marketers begin to study the impact of this innovative new search feature.

Jan 262010
 

Headlines are Critical 

Headlines are critical to the effectiveness of your Web site, especially on your home page. 

The headline is like an ad for the words that will follow.   It is important to the reader (human) and to the search engines (computer).

It needs to stress benefits and help answer the key question, WIIFM? 
(What’s in it for me?)

The You-Focused Opener

An opening headline like “Welcome to XYZ” isn’t going to cut it.  The home page must focus on the visitor and why they might benefit from your Web site.  The home page should emphasize the top benefit and motivate them to read on and take an action.  You must never forget that a Web site is there to please your visitors.  Put yourself in their shoes.

Strong Motivation is Needed – Pain or Gain!

The headline should introduce a cure for the target audience’s pain or fear of loss.

Or, the headline can hit on your most important benefit and how your target audience can gain by reading further.

Targetted Headlines are Best

The headline should be very important to your target visitor.  The more targeted the better.  And it needs to be a short, sharp and benefit-laden punch line.

What Professional Copywriters Say… 

Do:

  1. Write several headlines before choosing your perfect one.
  2. Address the needs of your target audience and dramatize the benefits.
  3. Stir emotion by getting the reader excited, fearful or protective.
  4. Use the present tense or better yet, the imperative tense. The use of “you” often works well.
  5. Use strong and essential action verbs.
  6. Use short words that create an image in the mind of the reader.
  7. Eliminate most adverbs and adjectives.
  8. Write headlines that stand on their own.
  9.  Write headlines that foreshadow the message that follows it.

 Don’t:

  1. Don’t write about you… write about them.
  2. Don’t write headlines that create curiosity without stressing benefits.
  3. Don’t be “catchy” or “cute” unless your target audience appreciates that type of headline.
  4. Don’t worry about losing visitors that aren’t in your target audience.  That is to be expected.
  5. Don’t use jargon unless you are certain that everyone in target audience will understand it.

 Other Suggestions:

  1. Use words and phrases that evoke emotion…
              You, Now, At Last, Free, Finally, Profit, New, Secret,Ultimate, Fantastic,
              Guarantee, Today, First, Amazing, Discover, Yes, Best, Instant, Powerful
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Make your promises credible.
  4. Put your headline in quotes for extra credibility.
  5. Challenge the reader. (ex. “Only for Businesses Who Want to Increase Profits”)
  6. Test your headlines to see which one works best with your target audience.
  7. Test some more. 
    (Check back soon for an article on Web analytics).
Dec 302009
 

This is the time of year that everyone’s calendar is full.  Between work, family and all the organizations that everyone belongs to it is hard to keep things organized.  If you aren’t familiar with Google Calendar then you should check out this great tool.  It helps you to keep and share your calendar with work, family and friends.

About Google Calendar

Google Calendar can also be integrated with your Web site.  One of my clients, Lee McCready with Kart19.com, uses Google Calendar to share his Kart Racing team schedule with his family and friends.  People can sign up to get calendar event reminders in their email.  This is a great way to promote any event that your company, club or organization is planning to have.  And this calendar is free!

Dec 022009
 

After years of recommending to others that they should start a business blog, I finally found the time and inclination to create one of my own.  I have gone so far as creating a number of test blogs on Blogger.com and GoDaddy’s Quick Blogcast, and developing a soccer team Web site using Geeklog.  I decided to go with WordPress which I think they should rename “ImPress” because of the impressive feature set, theme choices and myriad of developers contributing to this Open Source success story.  I have helped others tweak their WordPress sites in the past but the latest version is incredibly powerful and has gotten a lot easier to use.

Dare I say it, “Static Web sites are going the way of the dinosaur”.  I have seen the writing on the wall and traditional Web design is on its way out.  Starting in 2010 I will be shifting focus completely away from static site development.  Dynamic sites are far more powerful and more interesting for me as a designer.  People will always need help setting things up, creating unique designs and developing solutions that fit a particular business.  People are far less likely to need me to type in the content of their pages and posts.  I can’t say I’ll miss that aspect of Web design since it reminds me of the old typing pools of 60′s and 70′s.  For you youngins, rent an old movie like “9 to 5″ starring Dolly Parton and you’ll get an inkling of what a typing pool is.

Getting back to why I started a blog… it just makes too much sense.  Blogs are cheap; you can host it for free or get a low cost hosting account and garner complete control.  Blogs let you express yourself and demonstrate your knowledge to your peers, clients and hopefully, future clients.  Search engines love blogs due to all the fresh content and keyword rich posts and comments.  Blogs fit together nicely with all your other online activities such as social networking, email, business Web sites, SEO, Paid Search advertising, analytics, etc.  Blogs are easy to use.

Just because it makes a lot of sense doesn’t mean I’ll be the next Matt Drudge.  That’s not my goal.  My goal is to reach out to my Web design clients, social network contacts and others in order to share what I know and in turn learn from the responses I receive.  If it helps business, great.  If not, perhaps I can learn something and improve my writing skills :-)