Youth of UAE embraces the world of social media

Facebook recently reached the momentous landmark of having 500 million users. When you consider there are close to 7 billion on planet earth this means that 7% of the world’s population is on Facebook.

In certain countries such as the United States, the UK much of Europe and Japan almost everyone between the age of 15 and 29 has a Facebook account. However in these countries the internet has existed for a several years and young people are now growing up with the technology.

But this does not show the full Facebook picture. There are lots of countries where the internet is a much more recent phenomenon and it is changing the way young people in particular interact and share information.

For example the UAE perhaps does not have the world’s fastest most reliable internet service but the Facebook penetration is very high. It could be argued that because the population is much smaller in comparison to the US and the UK it is not a fair statistic.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the high Facebook penetration shows just how much of an influence the social networking site has. If people have access to the internet, depending on their age and other demographics, they will almost certainly have a Facebook account.

The UAE has become an important region of financial investment and infrastructure growth. It is now home to the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa. Dubai is a city which has emerged from the desert as a leading centre for a wide variety of businesses and industries.

facebook marketingIn Europe and America nearly all businesses now have websites and the standard is always climbing. Businesses are now putting a lot of effort and money into web marketing and SEO because they understand that in such competitive markets and advantage or opportunities must be exploited to the fullest.

The car manufacturing giant, Ford revolutionised personal travel by implementing mass manufacturing to produce the Model T which really opened up the car market to a much wider group of people.

In 2010 Ford again revolutionised the industry by launching its new Explorer model only on Facebook. More and more businesses are looking to social media for marketing opportunities as it offers businesses the chance to interact with customers and to gain valuable insight into products and services.

Middle East Netizens are on the Rise

Web design UAEOver the last couple of decades the Internet has become a huge worldwide phenomenon.  Latest global figures show that the number of internet users (also known as ‘Netizens’) now stands on the verge of exceeding 2 billion!

Of that total a whopping 64 million of them are in the Middle East, accounting for a staggering growth rate of 1825% over the past decade.  Amazingly this growth rate is 15x that of what was seen in North America over the same period.

As more and more people are gaining access to the Internet, it is the perfect opportunity for companies to move their business to the Web.

At the start of the Internet age Europeans and North Americans were by far the largest users. However, this is gradually changing as other continents embrace the World Wide Web. In recent years there has been a big increase in Internet users in regions such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Since 2000, the number of users in Africa and the Middle East has increased by around 1,800%. Meanwhile, Asia has gathered 704 million users – over 300 million more than any other region, encompassing about 42% of worldwide users. This can be attributed to large population in Asia; a staggering 3.8 billion of the 6.7 billion people on earth (that is 56%) live in Asia.

Another change is that Europe has overtaken North America as the second biggest user of the Internet. In terms of percentage of their population Asia is still quite far behind, with North America having the highest figure. Only 18.5% of Asians use the Internet, while half of Europeans do and three quarters of North Americans do. In the Middle East, 30% of people use the Internet today, however, this reach is rapidly increasing and as it does the importance of businesses being well presented online becomes ever more apparent.

Computers and the Internet are modern inventions which therefore effortlessly fit into modern life of Europeans and North Americans. Many Africans and Middle Easterners have very different lifestyles and this is reflected in the figures. Asia is a mixture of old and new, but modernising all the time, thus the increase in Internet users. As developing nations like Asia, Africa, and the Middle become more technologically advanced this trend is likely to continue.

Businesses and organizations in the Middle East that want to capitalize on everything the Internet has to offer should look no further than the web design and development firm, MintTwist. Originally based out of London, MintTwist has successfully created websites and marketing strategies for a wide variety of companies over the past eleven years. They are now entering into the foreign marketplace with the opening of Mint Twist Dubai. The growth of business and Internet seen within Dubai and the Middle East could not be better supported and facilitated than by the experts at Mint Twist.

The browser war continues

For those working in the web design industry, browser choice is often a topic filled with debate. For anyone who surfs the net browser choicer can also be a very personal matter and recent data suggests that browser choice is increasingly diversified.

In the beginning there was Netscape Navigator. However by 2002 the browser had all but disappeared. This was primarily down to the growth in Internet Explorer, and the dwindling development efforts by the Netscape Corporation.

Internet explorer is a bit like Ghenkis Khan and the Mongol Empire. Perhaps not the most obvious comparison, but give me a chance. So, Internet Explorer was launched in 1995 and by 2003 had a market share of close to 95%. Between the year 1206 and 1280 the Mongol Empire grew to stretch from Korea to Moscow.

The rapid expansion of the Mongol Empire is much like Internet Explorers rapid growth in popularity. The development of Internet Explorer was also fairly rapid and progressive. The Mongols were also progressive and introduced new technology and new thinking into a medieval Eurasia.

However like all Empires, over time cracks begin to appear. For the Mongols, their days of power were numbered and to make matters worse the epic trade routes that were built up now helped spread the Black Death which decimated both Mongol and other populations.

browser warsIn 2010 Internet Explorer had a market share of 60% which is a long way of its 2003 peak of 95%. This begs the question, what happened? The answer is quite straightforward. Mozilla happened.

Mozilla created the web browser Firefox and it really came into its own with its 3.5 and 3.6 versions and now their latest version, Firefox 4 is available to download. The browser is currently competing with Internet Explorer for top spot, but right now it has a market share of about 30%.

Internet explorer was never going to maintain a market share of 95%. Competition from Mozilla, Google’s Chrome and Safari ensured this. In my own experience having started with Internet Explorer, then on to Google Chrome, I am now using Firefox 4 and have found it to be an excellent web browser.

In my field of SEO and web marketing I believe Firefox offers me the best web browsing experience. It is well designed, easy to use and highly customable. The amount and variety Firefox Add-ons available is exceptional and definitely provides me with very important data and information.

Greg Jacobs

Content Manager
MintTwist

Online shopping continues to flourish in the UAE

Web marketing DubaiIt was recently announced by MasterCard that online shopping is a growing trend in Dubai. According to the company, the percentage of people who use the internet to carry out their shopping grew from 29 per cent in 2009 to 42 per cent in 2010.

The MasterCard study showed that the most influential group are those between the age of 25 and 44 and within that group, those between 35 and 44 will use online shopping more frequently. There are a number of explanations for this but perhaps the most obvious and logical is that those aged 35 and above will have more disposable income.

Furthermore, the study also showed that online shopping is becoming increasingly popular for women in Dubai and the wider UAE. The data suggests that 7 per cent more women are using the internet for shopping compared to last year.

The market research carried out by MasterCard involved 8,500 consumers in the region. This has provided rich data which has generated some useful information. For example it showed that the leading categories in the UAE in 2010 included airline tickets, hotel bookings, home appliances and electronic products, clothing, restaurants and home food delivery.

As the online market continues to flourish in the UAE, the key to maximising its effectiveness is to ensure that there is strong internet penetration. After a slightly slow start the UAE now has approximately 75% of its population online which is a very healthy figure.

So what does this mean for web design in Dubai and other parts of the UAE? It suggests that as the internet becomes even more popular in the region the more demand there will be for web design, web marketing and SEO from business community.

As a relatively young online market, the UAE provides excellent opportunities for businesses as the level of competition is still quite young and relatively small. If for example you want to dominate a keyword in Google.ae it is important to invest in SEO and web marketing now rather than wait a couple of years only to find that a competitor has pulled out a massive lead.

Dubai economy grows by 2.2%

The UAE has become an important financial location in recent years having attracted billions in investment from businesses around the world. Dubai is a key location within the UAE and projects such as the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa along with a host of other modern architecture projects are synonymous of the city and its ambition.

Sadly though this does not mean that Dubai is free from global economic forces and so in 2009 the GDP contracted by 2.4 per cent. This was due to a plunge in the property and construction market which was, and still is, crucial to this Arab emirate.

However property and construction is not all that Dubai has to offer. International trade and tourism play a big part in Dubai’s economy. It is thanks to this that the Dubai Statistics Centre can state that they expect GDP for the whole year to increase by about 2.2 per cent, having increased by 2.4 per cent so far.

Dubai metro

The other key economic sector for Dubai is tourism. In fact with limited oil reserves it could be argued that tourism is the future for the country and therefore the priority. Judging by some of the construction projects you would assume that Dubai’s leadership is acutely aware of this.

What does this mean for web design in Dubai? Well, web design Dubai is in fact a young part of the economy but as the number of businesses and organisations increase so will the demand for top quality and professional web design. Be it internet projects or intranet projects, big business or small business, all will require web solutions.

The infrastructure in the UAE region has improved significantly and will continue to improve. Projects such as the Dubai Metro have had an excellent response from commuters. Other digital projects such as Dubai’s e-government site are an example of the kind of integration between government, businesses, public services and people which will all contribute to the continued success of Dubai.

UAE competes in the World Summit Award

World Summit AwardSince the internet was developed digital content has come a long way. If you look at web pages of the mid to late 1990’s you will find that they are much more simplistic, both in terms of appearance and functionality.

Fast forward to 2011 and the internet, some might argue, has become the eighth wonder of the world. The difference between the internet in 1996 and 2011 is integration. Today the internet forms an integral part of our lives and even forms part of our identity.

For half a billion people at least, there is a site which allows you to share with the world your life and everything about it. Yes the Facebook generation is here, they are here to stay and content is king. The Facebook generation has grown up with the modern glossy internet which has evolved to become incredibly technical and capable with lots of potential.

However, content is not universal. Different people in different countries will interpret content differently. Different languages are spoken in different countries and the way people will read will be vary across regions and countries. Therefore the design of a website and the content within are the two most important factors for success.

Showcasing digital content gives web designers and developers from around the world the opportunity to raise their profile. Events such as the World Summit Awards allow web design Dubai to compete and showcase its work amongst the best.

The WSA competition sets out to determine the world’s best and most innovative e-content and ICT technology. Winning this competition gives tremendous international recognition which is why web designers and developers from around the world are so keen to win this prestigious prize.

Web design UAE is pushing hard to meet the deadline of March 17th.After last year’s competition there was a lot of interest following the success of the ‘Hesabi –My Math’ project. It was judged to be a great product for children because it makes learning more enjoyable and more like a game which maintains children’s attention levels.

Innovations and success such as this has paved the way for technology in the region. The web design and development market along with web marketing and SEO is progressing at a rapid pace in the UAE as is the demand for such services.

My Technology hero – Tommy Flowers – The father of the digital age

Tommy FlowersThe name Tommy Flowers probably means very little to just about everyone which is a shame because without Tommy Flowers it is more than likely I would not be here writing this blog.

The genius of Tommy Flowers was obvious from a young age and he eventually earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of London. The very concept of electrical engineering was relatively novel in the 1920’s but Tommy Flowers knew it was the future.

Tommy later gained experience working on telephone exchanges and by 1939 became convinced that a completely electronic system was possible. At the very same time, Europe was descending into the chaos of war which would soon drag the rest of the world and Tommy Flowers into it.

Alan Turing, another technological hero, was working for the British government breaking German codes. He developed the world’s first algorithms and was literally years ahead of the competition. Eventually Turing heard about Tommy Flowers and asked him for help.

The reason he asked him for help was because the latest code breaking methods being used at the time required large amounts of data input which by hand would be completely impractical. However if an electronic machine could be made which could break codes by inputting large quantities of data then any German code could be broken.

The key for Flowers was valves, lots of them. To put things into context, at the time the most complicated electronic device used about 150 valves. Flowers proposed that his machine which he names ‘Colossus’ would use 1800 valves. Sadly the British government and the Ministry of Defence were yet to be convinced and rather than offering their help told him to make do on his own.

Colossus

Undeterred Tommy poured every ounce of energy, every second of concentration and every penny he had into his ‘Colossus’.  After eleven months, Flowers and his devoted team built ‘Colossus’. The world’s first computer was born and immediately set about breaking German codes. Later the ‘Colossus Mark 2’ was built which used 2400 valves.

German intelligence became British intelligence immediately. The Allies now had a massive advantage over the Germans and with their new intelligence were able to dominate the war at sea, the war at air and the war on ground. The D-day landings, which marked the beginning of the end for Hitler, used vital information gathered by ‘Colossus’.

The Supreme Commander of the Allied forces, Dwight D Eisenhower went for a meeting at Bletchley Park, the home of ‘Colossus’ and the code breakers, on the 1st of June 1944. There he was handed a decryption made by ‘Colossus’ which showed that Hitler did not want additional troops to be sent to Normandy. Eisenhower turned to his staff and said “We go tomorrow.”

Without the work carried out by Tommy Smith and the code breakers at Bletchley Park it is quite possible that the outcome of World War 2 would have been different. Tommy Flowers is my technological hero because he built the first computer which broke the German codes which won us the war and brought freedom to Europe and the world.

The Next Big Search Engine?

Bing is a rising contender in online searchFor a long time Google has been the undisputed heavyweight in search.  Ever since it was first launched more than ten years ago, it has won over fans with its simple interface and focus of returning the most relevant results in the quickest time.  Google has definitely helped the Internet’s association with the fast, almost instant, availability of information.

When Google first launched, there were a number of competitors vying for the lion’s share of online search – Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Ask, Alta Vista, Lycos and many more.  Google seemed to arrive and blow everyone else out of the water and show no signs of slowing.  It’s now almost impossible to imagine using the Internet without Google – it ranks as the number one website for many countries according to Alexa.  Its market share of search is as much as 85% globally and it continues to provide new services such as Maps, Places, Gmail and Docs.  Google has now even become immortalised in the English language with the verb ‘to google’.

What happened to the other search engines then?  Yahoo continues to be a key player in the US especially.  However, its usage seems to be slowly losing ground to competitors.  Microsoft’s newly re-launched search service, Bing, is expected to leapfrog Yahoo in the next 12 months to be the second largest search engine.  Check below to see a table showing the top search engines in the US for December 2010 (according to comScore):

Search Engine Statistics for America

As you can see, Google totally dominates the US search market. But what about globally? Based on Net Market Share data for 2010, we can see that Google performs even better worldwide than in the US:

Global Search Engine Statistics

Google has an unprecedented market share – no other search engine even comes close! Interestingly, you can see that Chinese search engine Baidu ranks at number three. This is an amazing achievement considering the narrow demographic it caters to (bearing in mind Baidu is largely only used in China whilst Google is global).

What next for the online search industry? Well, it is hard to imagine any other search engine being able to dislodge Google’s strong hold but let’s look at some hypothetical contenders:

1. Bing

Yes, Bing! Although probably not going to beat Google, many people forecast it to become the second most used search engine soon. Coupled with the merger with Yahoo and it is easy to see how Bing will become more of a competitor for Google.

2. Baidu

Baidu is arguably the most significant contender to Google. Whilst it may only reign supreme in China, China’s population is expected to grow and its economy recently dislodged Japan as the world’s second largest – arguably whoever can crack the Chinese Internet market is in for a good future. What will be key though is if Baidu can branch out to other geographies. Interestingly, its ranking in other neighbouring areas is less significant. According to Alexa it is the 7th most popular in Hong Kong whilst only being 9th in South Korea and 15th in Taiwan. Baidu’s growth overseas will be the most important factor in determining whether it will be a genuine competitor to Google or not.

3. YouTube

Yes, I know it is not technically a search engine but you do search on it! Interestingly, YouTube recently become the second largest search engine in terms of monthly searches performed. This represents a huge shift in the way people are searching for information. As broadband becomes the norm and advertisers continue to embrace online media, media-rich content is becoming standard. YouTube (which Google owns) highlights two things about the Internet. Firstly, Internet users enjoy communicating and secondly, text is no longer enough. Neither is animated gifs. For SEOs, web marketers and anyone associated with the web world – ignoring the power of YouTube and multi-media search may prove to be a mistake.

4. Facebook

Last but not least, a small website you might not have heard of yet. Facebook’s growth has been unparalleled – adding hundreds of thousands of users daily. At the moment, Facebook is still very much centred around users and people. You can’t search for information in the same way but more and more information is getting uploaded to Facebook pages for people to ‘like’. Additionally, Facebook gives companies and individuals the ability to speak directly to visitors in a way that is not often afforded to them on websites and traditional media.

So there we have it! Google is probably going to continue to be the undisputed search behemoth but there are numerous contenders vying for second place. What will be most interesting is to see how traditional search engine alternatives develop. As Facebook gears up to launch its new communication platform (including emails), does this signify Facebook’s intent to become the new Google? We will have to wait and see! What are your predictions for the online search industry?

-

MintTwist are a leading agency for web design in London. We are also a leading company for SEO and web marketing in London. Colin is part of the web marketing team and you can contact him here: colin@minttwist.com.

Why your website content shouldn’t be an elephant

You’ve spent months planning and talking about your new website.   Agencies have been interviewed and briefed, you’ve looked at designs and waited patiently for the build to finish…but one thing is missing.   Content.

Content is often the last thought but it should be one of your first. Writing what goes into your website at the beginning:

  • Helps you focus on the structure and aims of the site.   By thinking through what will go on the site, you are more likely to drop redundant sections and develop better ones.
  • Assists web designers in producing better more accurate designs.   What you have written informs and inspires them about your company.
  • Minimises development time – you will receive a test site that is 95% complete, leaving you free to concentrate on fixing bugs and making final tweaks, rather than feeling the pressure to produce hundreds of words.
  • Gives you a head start with SEO.   With your content written, you can start planning your SEO strategy and give your site the best possible launch.

Creating content can quickly become an elephant – weeks away from launch it is a small speck in the distance. Suddenly it’s large and looming. One of the biggest reasons people put it off is that they are unsure how to write engaging copy, and copy that will work for SEO. Good copy can reap big returns so it is worth taking the time to research how to do it properly. Check out our Top Ten Tips for Web Copy and the Short Guide to SEO from MintTwist and kick start your content today.

Short Guide to SEO from MintTwist

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be an integral part of the planning, designing and development process for all new websites.  Similarly, if you have a website and it hasn’t been SEOed then you should think about starting.

Search engine traffic should be the number one driver of traffic to your website.  The percentage of new visits from search engine traffic is higher than direct traffic and should be considered more valuable – new visits mean potential new customers!  Being found in search engines isn’t the be all and end all though – being number 1 in search results should be your main goal.  Being number one means you will get the lion’s share of search engine traffic for that search.

The first thing you need to do is identify the keywords you want to rank well for, the level of traffic for those keywords and how hard it will be to rank well for that keyword.  These two factors shouldn’t be ignored.  It’s all well and good trying to rank for ‘cars’ but the likelihood off your website ranking first is nigh on impossible.  Instead, focus on the long tail – keywords which are more defined.  They’ll be less relative traffic but you’ll have a better chance of ranking for them.  Potential keywords should be analysed for both search volumes and opportunity.

SEO Tips from MintTwist

Once you have identified the best keywords to target (and this can be a large piece of work), the next step is to do some on page SEO.  Optimising your website and web pages will greatly benefit your SEO campaign.  On page SEO has many different elements.  The most important are:

1. Content

Having good, keyword relevant content on your web pages will greatly help them to get indexed by search engines for keywords.  Broadly speaking, you should aim for at least 300 words of content.  Not only is content beneficial for user experience but it is by far the most natural way of increasing your visitor numbers.  However it is possibly also the element which takes the longest time to see results.  It is important to make sure your content is keyword rich but not keyword saturated.  Search engines use highly intelligent mathematical equations and algorithms to determine what your page is about, how good it is and what search terms it should rank it for.  But, they are only algorithms – they are not human monitored.  You need to help the search engines understand what your page is about.  Writing about cupcakes, televisions and the United Kingdom will only confuse the search engine.  They like to pigeonhole pages and sites into neat little categories.  Make sure you can do that with your pages.

2. Meta data

The role of Meta data has become controversial in the world of SEO but it is still important.  Meta data is behind the scenes information that search engines and other websites use to gather information about your site.  The two most important Meta data elements for SEO are keywords and the description.

The description, as you can imagine, is a description of your site.  This is the paragraph that gets shown under your website title in search results.  It is important to note that Google doesn’t use these to judge the quality or relevancy of your website.  Instead you should utilise these as prime advertising spots.  Sell your company or business here!

Here are examples of bad and good Meta descriptions:

Bad Meta Description:

Bad Meta Description

Good Meta Description:

Good Meta Description

It’s also important to note that you only have 150 characters to write your Meta description.  If you write too many then they won’t get shown.  Make sure you utilise this search engine real estate well.

Additionally you have the meta tag for keywords.  Here you should add your selected keywords for your web pages.  However, it’s also important that each page has a unique set of keywords for their meta tag to get the most benefit from them.

3. Title

The title of your pages is something that search engines take into consideration.  Having a keyword driven title will definitely help your SEO efforts.  The most important thing to consider is search engines rate the relevancy of your title and links based on their syntax – going left to right.  That is to say, keywords in your title found at the beginning (to the left) will be given more weight than those at the end (towards the end).

Using MintTwist as an example, here are two titles:

- ‘MintTwist – Web Design London’

- ‘Web Design London – MintTwist’

In the first title, ‘MintTwist’ will be the most important keyword, whereas in the second title ‘Web Design London’ will be more important.  It is up to you whether you want to put more focus on your brand name or your services although from a search traffic perspective, targeting services and associated keywords will be more beneficial.

4. URLs

Lastly, something that is very important to consider is URLs and URL structure.  All URLs need to be friendly – that is to say, reflective of the content.  Having a URL like http://www.minttwist.com/web-design-london is much better than http://www.minttwist.com/services/web/service-area:12a/service-type:1.  Search engines will markdown the second URL but like the first URL – hopefully for obvious reasons!

One important thing to stress is that everything should be relevant and related.  For any individual page, URLs, titles, headers, on page content and keywords all need to be the same.  Having a URL that ends in ‘web-design-london’ but keywords that are about ‘web marketing in Spain’ will get you marked down for irrelevancy in search engine algorithms.  More specifically, they won’t understand what your page is about and are more likely to not rank it for anything.

Once your website has been fully optimised, the next step is to build links.  You can do this in numerous ways and it will hopefully happen naturally over time as people link to your website for X number of reasons.  However you can also build links manually.  Ways to do this include article writing, guest blogging and social media networking.  However, this takes up the most amount of time and you may want to outsource it to a web marketing agency.

MintTwist is one of London’s leading web design and web marketing agencies.  Please contact us if you would like a quote on any SEO campaigns and we would be happy to answer any questions.

Other links:

What to expect from web design in 2011

2010 was a difficult year for many people in many different industries. After the difficulties of 2008 and 2009, 2010 was never going to be a boom year. Many economic analysts had forecast 2011 as a year of recovery and maybe a bit of growth in the economy. However, with widespread government spending cuts due, 2011 might be slightly premature.

Web design is quite a fast moving industry. Web design companies are constantly striving to improve their abilities and their knowledge in an effort to get ahead of the competition. This requires a web design company to pay close attention to what the likes of Google are doing.

Search engine optimisationThe pace of life today is incredible. Google has obviously picked up on this because loading speed is now part of the Google algorithm. Some websites contain huge amounts of data and others not very much, and both present challenges. For new websites your web design company should be aware of the latest Google algorithm and ensure the site is developed with it in mind.

Images are everywhere on websites and they are prime example of loading items which could hamper your site. It is imperative that the image file size is kept to a minimum and that they are ideally formatted in JPEG and GIF.

Another challenge for web designers and developers is to make sure the site being built is suitable for the various screen resolutions available today. The can range from 640 x 480 to 1024 x 768 and as technology improves resolutions are only going to get bigger and better.

There is also growing demand for websites to work with mobile devices such as the Apple iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet. Web designers are quite used to having to perform cross browser testing. Cross platform testing is certainly a growing aspect of web design and represents significant opportunities for various businesses.

The style of websites has changed so much in recent years. At first the web was all about bright flashy bold colours and fonts to grab the eye. Now, the best sites are those which use neutral colours and fonts which are easy on the eye and easy to use. Take Google, the world’s most successful site, notice anything?

Top five tips for choosing the right web design company in the UAE

Web design UAEIf your business is located in the UAE finding the right web design company is not a straight forward exercise as there is a big choice of web design agencies in the UAE. It is important to take certain precautions before selecting an Abu-Dhabi or Dubai web design company to design, build and test your website.

The first thing you can do is cut down the number of firms to choose from. If you were to include every single web design company it would take a very long time. Companies with experience, a solid track record and a good portfolio should be top of the list. It is also good to try and work with a web design company that has done work for other businesses in your business sector because the designers and developers will have an even better understanding.

The portfolio of a web design company is their signature. It is a demonstration of what the company is capable of and also gives you the opportunity to contact them and find out what their opinion of the web design company is. Ideally a web design company will have page for testimonials with glowing references, but this is not always the case.

It is also important to have an understanding of the technology. Building websites is a technical operation which requires the work of highly skilled individuals. The portfolio of the web design company will give an indication of how advanced they are. If the web designer’s website looks like it was built in 1995 it is probably best to avoid them.

Budget is always a concern for businesses. Keeping within budget is absolutely critical to businesses, particularly new ones. If you feel you are being well and truly overcharged, meet with a competitor and see if they prices changes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate because often web design companies will be somewhat flexible.

Finally, if you want to have a website which continues to exist and function for several years, it is important to stick with the same web design firm as the company who builds your site will have the best knowledge of your business and over time their knowledge of your business and how you work will improve allowing them to provide a better service into the future.

How to maximise the SEO juice from your Twitter page

Did you know that your Twitter tweets are ripe with search engine juice that you can put to use to get more marketing exposure? Of course, links you post on Twitter, including links in your bio, are automatically no-follow, meaning the search engines will follow them, but “link juice” (like Google PageRank) isn’t carried over.

That doesn’t mean the party’s over for optimising your Twitter page though. Search engines do index Twitter tweets (through “statuses” – which look like this). So how can you help ratchet your tweets up into search engine results as well as increase your number of followers?

By including relevant keywords within your title on your status pages.

Twitter creates the title for your status pages by taking up a slew of characters for itself. You can’t change that part (such as Twitter/MintTwist) but you CAN change what comes after it. There are only about 27 characters available for you to use (and you thought fitting something into 140 was tough!), but every little bit counts.

In addition to showing up in search engines, when you include keywords in the titles of your status pages, you also become more visible through Twitter’s own search interface, as well as the many search sites out there that comb through Twitter posts and tweets for certain keywords – like this:

seo-twitter

If I were looking for twitter tips, and these tweets came up in the results, would I want to follow these people to see what else they had to share? Absolutely!

And if you click on “View Tweet” for any of these results, you’ll be taken to – surprise!  The status page! Status pages are static – which means they will stay there forever unless you delete them or Twitter disappears from the face of the Earth (not likely!) – so use them to your marketing advantage and start including a few keywords in your titles and tweets.

Now that you know how to better leverage your titles and statuses, get to work and start optimising those pages with every link you post!

Web Design London by MintTwist // Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/minttwist

Google To Display Tweets in Search Results

Google has signed a deal with Twitter and will begin displaying tweets in Google search results. The announcement is generating mixes reactions among SEO professionals and site owners.

Google made the very brief announcement in their official blog about the Twitter Deal as part of their goal to “create the most comprehensive, relevant and fast search in the world.” While it will be interesting to see what they do with Twitter tweets, I seriously doubt if this will bring them closer to reaching their goal.

For those not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging site that might be better described as a micro-messaging site. It is based on a cell phone text messaging model and limits the length of a message to 140 characters. Messages are called “tweets.” Links can be included to tweets, but the length of the URL is part of the 140 character limit. Online URL shortening tools are commonly used to add very brief URLs that are then redirected to the final destination page. In order to receive someone’s tweets, the user must sign up for a Twitter account and then voluntarily sign up to “follow” another Twitter user’s tweets.

Twitter can be effectively used to drive traffic to a web site if enough targeted users can be persuaded to sign up as followers. The main problem with Twitter is that the overwhelming majority of tweets are useless dribble. While it is an ideal medium for celebrities and politicians to get their message out, do we really need to know that one of them is eating a ham sandwich or about to leave to go grocery shopping?

At this point, we do not know how Google will display tweets in their search results. They may cluster them together like they currently tend to do with YouTube videos. The problem is that they may just clutter up search results and push web site pages further down in rank positions.

Do not expect to be able to use Twitter to build links to your site. All outbound links from the major social media sites are blocked in one fashion or another so that they do not pass any link value. In the case of Twitter, all links are nullified with a “nofollow” attribute. That effectively eliminates any link value that might otherwise be passed. It may be safe to assume that Google will do something similar with tweets that show up in their search results.

The real question is, “How will Google determine which tweets make it into their search results?” This could be based upon some Twitter internal ranking criteria, similar to the way that YouTube videos are ranked. It could be based upon the number of followers that forward a particular tweet to their followers. The most logical assumption is that keyword phrases in the tweets will be part of the ranking algorithm.

Advice: Start including targeted keywords and links to destination pages in your tweets.

Until we can determine how Google will select a few choice tweets from the millions of useless tweets generated each day, it would be wise to make sure that each tweet that you send includes targeted keywords and a link to the appropriate page in your web site. It might also be a good idea to make sure that your most important targeted keyword phrases are included in the description in your Twitter account.

Microsoft announced similar deals with both Twitter and FaceBook for Microsoft’s Bing search engine, so it appears that a trend may be emerging.

Bing Offers Link Building Tips

MSN’’s Bing search engine team published a list of issues related to obtaining inbound links that could either help or hurt your web site’s rankings. As most serious web site owners know, building good, industry-related inbound links is important to help a web site rank well in organic search results.

There aren’t any new revelations in the article entitled, Link Building for Smart Webmasters, but the article does do a good job of reinforcing good and bad link building techniques. Bing did reveal that they do have a team of people who actually look at a web site when their spiders report suspicious inbound link building methods.

Bing makes it clear that they are “less concerned about the link building techniques used than about the intentions behind the effort.” That basically means that if you are doing link building to assist users with finding relevant information, they look upon this favorably. However, if you are building links merely to raise search engine rankings, you may find your web site headed in the wrong direction in Bing’s search results.

The following summarizes Bing’s tips, along with our interpretation of how to best utilize these techniques.

What Bing Says You Should Be Doing To Build Links

  • Provide high quality content to attract links from related sites. If you focus on writing the best informational content on the web, others will link to your web pages. Become an expert voice for your industry.
  • Develop your business brand and be consistent about that brand in your content. A site should focus on a specific theme and be consistent with the information that is publish on the site site. Stick to a topic and do not become a generalist.
  • Publish expert articles to online article directories. The publishing of articles to article directories such as eZineArticles.com, GoArticles.com and others has been a long-standing method to build links. The idea is to publish a unique article to these free article directories. The article becomes freely syndicated. Other sites will pick up and publish these articles and are supposed to provide a link back to your web site. Keep the articles focused on the the same theme as your web site. Do not simply publish existing articles from your web site, because that is asking for trouble with duplicate content.
  • Participate in relevant blogs and forums and refer back to your site’s content when applicable. That is basically an encouragement to refer to your articles often in industry-related blogs and forums. A technique that works well is to look for a problem presented in a blog or forum that needs to be solved. Publish the solutions on your site and then link to it from the blog or forum.
  • Launch a blog or a forum on your site. This may work well with some sites, but interactive blogs and forums can be time-consuming and require dedicated attention.
  • Use social media networks to link to your site. While this can drive traffic, most social media networks block link inheritance factors by using the “nofollow” attribute on all outbound links. Bing focuses on building the industry connections that may stimulate others to link to your web site from their sites.

What Bing Says You Should Not Be Doing To Build Links

  • Do not build too many links too quickly. That could trigger a review from Bing’s staff. This means that it is not a good idea to purchase thousands of links from web directories.
  • Do not build too many inbound links from unrelated sites. This follows Google’s preference for natural linking and emphasizes that the old SEO cliche, “a link is a link”, no longer holds true. There is a quality factor with links that plays an important role in determining the inherited value of a link. Focus on building links from industry-related web sites.
  • Do not use hidden links on your pages. Hidden links and hidden content have both created penalty situations for many years.
  • Do not link out to known spam sites. Inheritance is a two-way street. When you link to a site that has been banned or heavily penalized by the search engines, your site can be penalized, as well. Google has long preached the same issue. Be careful who you link to.

The Bing article is worth reading and may provide you with one of two good ideas for improving your link building.

Review of Caphyon Web Ranking System for SEO

Advanced Web Ranking is a search engine ranking software application that helps check the position of a website in search engines rankings. The web ranking systems allows users to pick region specific search engines making managing international sites easier than ever before.  To begin users need to enter a list of keywords or phrases they  wish to track.  Caphyon offers various built in keyword research tools to help users with keyword choices.  Entering keywords proved to be an easy task, from there users enter the URLs of the sites that you wish to track.  After keywords and the URLs are entered for a specific project all that is left is to run the report.  Every time a keyword report is run Caphyon will compare the new page rank with the results from previous page ranks.  MintTwist found the “top sites’ and “overview” tabs especially useful due to the fact that they are useful when tracking a large amounts of keywords and for measuring overall success of a project.  Reports are easily exported to different formats including HTML, PDF, EXCEL and CSV complete with logos, headers and footers.  Users can schedule project updates to run whenever they want as many times as they want.  MintTwist is able to manage multiple large international projects with ease using advanced web ranking software.  Advanced web ranking system provides accurate ranking even when there is a large amount of keywords in the project.  Advanced web ranking system is able to run on multiple platforms which has made it easy for MintTwist to access the ranking system interface when meeting with customers outside of our home office.  Another useful tool offered by Caphyon web ranking system was the local search ability.  It allows users to make their own search engine in a way to find results in your interface using google maps and Yahoo local search.

When first using Caphyon’s ranking system users must be patient because the possibilities of the software can be overwhelming at times.  MintTwist users had to take some time to read the user manual and play around with the software for while in order to gain a full understanding of the possibilities.

The one complaint that we had with the software was it was not entirely easy to figure out how to effectively see how our competition was doing, but after some time spent reading the user’s manual we figured out the process.

The Link manager is also a very useful tool for anyone looking to build link campaigns.  Link Manger does exactly what it suggest in that it enables users of all abilities to efficiently and effectively organize their link campaigns to their specific needs.  Features of Link Manger include, but are not limited to: Finds links relative to the users site, keeps track of link partners, finds broken links that can negatively affect your page rank, monitor competitors, track your back links, and produce highly customized reports.  Link manager automatically eliminates manual searches to reduce the bandwidth burdens of other programs.

Overall Caphyon’s web ranking system has been an essential to MintTwist’s success and we highly recommend Caphyon over all other web ranking systems.  The level of competence and possibilities make it a dream to work with.

4 Key SEO Tips For Website Redesigning!

by Kabir Bedi

The world wide web is constantly changing and to make sure your business keeps pace, it is important to be up to date with the latest trends and technologies. And this is why companies decide to redesign their website. Of course, there are other reasons too like re-branding the business, updating the website to reflect the present status of the company in the market, deleting old pages and uploading new information, better marketing fluff and so on.

However, search engine considerations are the most forgotten part in the website redesigning process. Website owners are so involved with creating a new look and feel for the website that they often fail to evaluate the SEO implications of their actions. They realize it only when the website is done and ready and there are fluctuations in the rankings of the website. But that is only when precious revenue is lost in terms of traffic, leads and sales.

Here are 4 SEO tips that you should adhere to while redesigning your website.

Strengthen the Information Architecture

Usability should be the key concern while designing the information architecture of the website. However, you should also consider including some SEO objectives for the usability process. Search engine optimization should not come after the website has been launched. Rather, it should be a key consideration throughout the design and development of the project.

Draft a set of relevant keywords that encompasses the essence of your company and business. Then make sure your website has pages that are devoted to those keywords so that search engine have relevant content when their crawlers come to index your website.

Make sure you add new pages to your website, especially if you are deleting certain pages. This is because you don’t want the search engines to think that your website is shrinking. Rather you should tell them that its growing. The deleted pages would obviously take with them their search engine credibility so you would need something to compensate the loss.

Don’t Change the URLs

When you change the URLs of your web pages, the new URLs would be treated as completely new pages by the search engines. All the search engine credibility of the previous pages would be lost along with the URLs.

Therefore, focus on creating search engine friendly web pages with search engine friendly URLs and light code with WordPress and other such CMS platforms. Make sure all the pages of your website are able to rank well in the search results and not just your homepage.

Update the Website Content

Search engine crawlers are always on the look out for new and fresh content. And there is no better opportunity than the redesigning process to upload new content on your website. Unlike blogs, it is not possible to change the contents of the website, especially on the homepage etc. on regular basis. So, make sure you upload useful and updated content on such pages. Ideally, focus on constructing more content on the homepage of the website followed by lesser supporting content on the internal pages.

Launch the website Carefully

don’t forget to run down the last minute check list before launching the new redesigned website. The search engine ranking of your website depends on a variety of factors including the website structure, the design and layout and the content. It is not just about the number of links pointing to your website that decides the ranking but how popular the website actually is among the users.

MintTwist Web Design understands the importance of  SEO in web marketing, MintTwist work with clients to significantly increase the number of targeted sales leads achieved by clients.

SEO – Linking Strategies

Links to your site from other sites drive additional traffic. But since Google and other major search engines consider the number of incoming links to your website (“link popularity”) as an important indicator of relevance, more links will help you rank higher in the search engines. Google has a measure called PageRank that reflects the quantity and quality of incoming links. All links aren’t all equal. Links from trusted, popular sites help your site rank higher than links from lower traffic sites.

Submit Your Site to Key Directories, since a link from a directory will help your ranking — and get you traffic. A directory is not a search engine. Rather, it is a hierarchical listing of sites sorted according to category and subcategory. Be sure to list your site in the free Open Directory Project, overseen by overworked volunteer editors. But if you don’t get listed right away, don’t be impatient and resubmit, or you’ll go to the end of the queue. A link in this directory will help you a lot.

Yahoo! Directory is another important directory. Real humans read submission, so be careful to follow the instruction given. Hint: Use somewhat less than the maximum number of characters allowable, so you don’t have wordy text that will tempt the Yahoo! editor to begin chopping. Yahoo! Directory Submit requires a $299 annual recurring fee to have your site considered for inclusion within seven business days. Other paid business directories that might help are About.com and Business.com.

Submit Your Site to Trade Organization Sites and Specialized Directories. Some directories focused on particular industries, such as education or finance. You probably belong to various trade associations that feature member directories. Ask for a link. Even if you have to pay something for a link from the organization, it may help boost your PageRank.

Marginal directories, however, come and go very quickly, making it hard to keep up, so don’t try to be exhaustive here. Beware of directories that solicit you for “upgraded listings.” Unless a directory is widely used in your field, a premium ad is a waste of money — but the (free) link itself will help boost your PageRank and hence your search engine ranking.

SubmitWolf is a directory submission tool I’ve used with good success . You complete a listing form in the software interface. Then they submit your listing to all the appropriate directories they know of, plus links to sites that require manual submission. It’s a timesaver and works well. Just be careful to submit only to actual directories, not “linking sites.”

Request Reciprocal Links. Find websites in your general niche and request a reciprocal link to your site. Develop an out-of-the way page where you put links to other sites — so you don’t send people out the back door as fast as you bring them in the front door. Your best results will be from sites that generate a similar amount of traffic as your own site. High-traffic site webmasters are too busy to answer your requests for a link and don’t have anything to gain. Look for smaller sites that may have linking pages.

Check out Ken Evoy’s free SiteSell Value Exchange. It (1) registers your site as willing to exchange links with other sites that have a similar theme/topic content and (2) searches for sites with similar topical content. Additionally, two automated link building software programs stand out — Zeus and IBP Link Builder. Both of these search the web for complementary sites, help you maintain a link directory, and manage reciprocal links. However, use these programs to identify the complementary sites, not to send impersonal automated e-mail spam to site owners.

When you locate sites, send a personal e-mail using the contact e-mail on the site or to the administrative contact listed in a Whois Directory. If e-mail doesn’t get a response, try a phone call. Warning: Only link to complementary sites, no matter how often you are bombarded with requests to exchange links with a mortgage site that has nothing to do with your teddy bear store. One way Google determines what your site is about is who you link to and who links to you. It’s not just links, but quality links you seek. Reciprocal linking as hard, tedious work, but it doesn’t cost you a dime out of pocket! Keep working at this continuously, a little bit at a time. Patience and persistence will get you some good links, so keep at it.

Write Articles for Others to Use in Websites and Newsletters. You can dramatically increase your visibility when you write articles in your area of expertise and distribute them to editors as free content for their e-mail newsletters or their websites. Just ask that a link to your website and a one-line description of what you offer be included with the article. This is an effective “viral” approach that can produce hundreds of links to your site over time. You’ll find lots of information on how to do this from the most popular article marketing site, EzineArticles.com. When you create a free membership account, they begin sending you instructions and ideas each week.

Issue News Releases. Find newsworthy events and send news releases to print and Web periodicals in your industry. The links to your site in online news databases may remain for several months and will temporarily improve traffic to your site and increase link popularity. Use a online news release service such as PR Web. Placing your website URL in online copies of your press release may increase link popularity temporarily.

MintTwist help businesses to increase revenues and increase sales leads every day. With a Managed Web Marketing service, MintTwist make sure their clients have all the right things in place before commencing an all-encompassing web marketing stratgey that dramatically increases sales leads, visibility and improves the reputation of our client’s business. Contact Elliott King for more

SEO – Harness Traditional Strategies

Just because “old media” strategies aren’t on the Internet doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. A mixed media approach can be very effective.

Include Your URL on Stationery, Cards, and Literature. Make sure that all business cards, stationery, brochures, and literature contain your company’s URL and see that your printer gets the URL syntax correct! In print, I recommend leaving off the http:// part and including only the http://www.yourwebsite.com portion.

Promote using traditional media. Don’t discontinue print advertising that you’ve found effective but always be sure to include your URL in any display or classified ads you purchase in trade journals, newspapers, yellow pages etc.  Use a two-step approach: (1) capture readers’ attention with the ad, (2) then refer them to a URL where they can obtain more information and perhaps place an order. Look carefully at small display or classified ads in the back of narrowly-targeted magazines or trade periodicals. Sometimes these ads are more targeted, more effective, and less expensive than online advertising. Consider other traditional media to drive people to your site, such as direct mail, classifieds, post cards, etc. TV can be used to promote websites, especially in a local market.

Develop a Free Service. It’s boring to invite people, “Come to our site and learn about our business.” It’s quite another to say “Use the free kitchen remodeling calculator available exclusively on our site.” Make no mistake, it’s expensive in time and energy to develop free resources but it is very rewarding in increased traffic to your site — and a motivation to link to the site!  Make sure that your free service is closely related to what you are selling so the visitors you attract will be good prospects for your business. Give visitors multiple opportunities and links to cross over to the sales portion of your site.

URL Rewriting – Worth doing or not?

Dynamic websites are becoming more and more common as companies and individuals are realising that the internet is the best way to do business these days, and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is becoming more of a widely used term by people who have joined the internet revolution are looking for ways to get the correct type of visitors to their site.

SEO is a vital part of any website these days, and with expressions like “Having your website on the front page of Google is like having a store on Oxford Street” everyone is trying to get a piece of the action. And one big cloudy issue that seems to keep swinging from side to side is URL rewriting, and many web developers are getting confused with what Google says about dynamic URLs vs. Static URLs.

With Google’s most recent blog article about this issue they have mentioned that they have changed their policy when it comes to dynamic URLs, before Google would not index anything past the question mark of a dynamic URL, but now they do accept it and are saying that with a dynamic URL it is possible for them to get more information from a web page; this is where most web developers get confused as this blog post is directed at the less wavy web masters in order to protect them from harming their websites stats, but Google failed to mention this is the post and has left most people in search of whether or not to go ahead with URL rewriting.

But before you make a decision about doing URL rewriting to switch from dynamic URLs to static ones, you need to be sure that the benefits outweigh the costs and that you make sure you keep the entire website consistent.

The Pro’s and Con’s

You have to consider the pro’s and con’s of rewriting your websites URLs and make sure that the pros outweigh the cons, below are some of the pros and cons of dynamic URLs and static URLs that have been rewritten from dynamic ones.

Dynamic URLs Pros & Cons

  1. Con: Having dynamic URLs exposes the underlying technology such as article.php?id=34 shows that this page is built in PHP.
  2. Con: Dynamic links do not give users any idea of what the page contains.
  3. Con: Dynamic links are harder to remember than static links.

Static URLs Pros & Cons

  1. Pro: In a rewritten static URL you can add keywords pertaining to what your article or page is about helping in your Google ranking for a particular keyword or phrase.
  2. Pro: A static URL looks much nicer than a dynamic URL and can be made much cleaner article.php?id=23 can turn into article/article-name.
  3. Con: If done incorrectly will be messy and be bad for rankings.
  4. Pro: Static URLs are easier to remember than dynamic ones.
  5. Pro: Rewriting a dynamic URL to a static one hides underlying technology such as PHP or ASPX giving added security to a website.

The bottom line is that URL rewriting is not essential as Google indexes pages with dynamic URLs as long as they are not generating duplicate content, but although Google prefers static URLs to dynamic ones they recommend that you do not do it unless you are comfortable doing it and will do it properly. Otherwise, it can hurt your rankings if done incorrectly. For those who do it properly, URL rewriting can make your site more SEO-friendly and also make your URLs more user-friendly.

Basic SEO Strategies

Perhaps the most important — and inexpensive — strategy is to rank high for your preferred keywords on the main search engines in “organic” or “natural” searches (as opposed to paid ads). Search engines send robot “spiders” to index the content of your webpage, so let’s begin with steps to prepare your web pages for optimal indexing.  The idea here is not to trick the search engines, but to leave them abundant clues as to what your webpage is about. This approach is called “Search Engine Pptimisation,” abbreviated as SEO.

Write a Keyword-Rich Page Title.
Write a descriptive title for each page — rich in keywords you want people to find you with — using 5 to 8 words. Remove as many “filler” words from the title (such as “the,” “and,” etc.) as possible, while still making it readable. This page title will appear hyperlinked on the search engines when your page is found. Entice searchers to click on the title by making it a bit provocative.  Place this at the top of the webpage between the <HEAD></HEAD> tags, in this format: <TITLE>MintTwist Web Marketing Checklist -- Top Tips to Promote Your Website</TITLE>. (It also shows on the blue bar at the top of your web browser.)

Write a Keyword-Rich Page Title.
Plan to use some descriptive keywords along with your business name on your home page. If you specialize in silver bullets and that’s what people will be searching for, don’t just use your company name “Acme Services  Ltd” use “Shipping Overseas with Acme Services Ltd”.   The words people are most likely to search on should appear first in the title (called “keyword prominence”).  Remember, this title is your identity on the search engines. The more people see that interests them in the blue hyper linked words on the search engine, the more likely they are to click on the link.

Write a Description META Tag.
Some search engines include this description below your hyperlinked title in the search results. The description should be a sentence or two describing the content of the webpage, using the main keywords and key phrases on this page. Don’t include keywords that don’t appear on the webpage. Place the Description META Tag at the top of the webpage, between the <HEAD></HEAD> tags, in this format:

<META CONTENT="Increase visitor hits, attract traffic through submitting URLs, META tags, news releases, banner ads, and reciprocal links.">

The maximum number of characters should be about 255;  just be aware that only the first 60 or so are visible on Google, though more may be indexed.

When I prepare a webpage, I write the article first, then develop a keyword-rich title (#1 above). Then I write a description of the content in that article in a sentence or two, using each of the important keywords and keyphrases included in the article.  This goes into the description META tag.

Next, strip out the common words, leaving just the meaty keywords and phrases and insert those into the keywords META tag. It’s no longer used much for ranking, but I’m leaving it in anyway. I think it may have some minor value. So to summarise so far, every webpage in your site should have a distinct title and META description tag.  If you implement these two points, you’re well on your way to better search engine ranking.  But there’s more that will help your ranking….

Include Your Keywords in Headers (H1, H2, H3).
Search engines consider keywords that appear in the page headline and sub heads to be important to the page, so make sure your desired keywords and phrases appear in one or two header tags.   Don’t expect the search engine to parse your Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) to figure out which are the headlines — it won’t. Instead, use keywords in the H1, H2, and H3 tags to provide clues to the search engine.   N.B. Some designers no longer use the H1, H2 tags. That’s a big mistake. Make sure your designer defines these tags in the CSS rather than creating headline tags with other names.

Position Your Keywords in the First Paragraph of Your Body Text.
Search engines expect that your first paragraph will contain the important keywords for the document — where most people write an introduction to the content of the page.  You don’t want to just artificially stuff keywords here, however.  More is not better. Google might expect a keyword density in the entire body text area of maybe 1.5% to 2% for a word that should rank high, so don’t overdo it.

Include Descriptive Keywords in the ALT Attribute of Image Tags.
This helps your site be more accessible to site-impaired visitors (see here) and gives additional clues to the search engines.  The ALT attributes do help get your images ranked higher for image search.

Use Keywords in Hyperlinks.
Search engines are looking for clues to the focus of your webpage.  When they see words hyperlinked in your body text, they consider these potentially important, so hyperlink your important keywords and key phrases.  To emphasise it even more, the webpage you are linking to could have a page name with the keyword or key phrase, such as blue-widget.htm — another clue for the search engine.

Make Your Navigation System Search Engine Friendly.
You want search engine robots to find all the pages in your site. JavaScript and Flash navigation menus that appear when you hover are great for humans, but search engines don’t read JavaScript and Flash very well. Therefore, supplement JavaScript and Flash menus with regular HTML links at the bottom of the page, ensuring that a chain of hyperlinks exists that take a search engine spider from your home page to every page in your site. Don’t set up your navigation system using HTML frames (an old, out-dated approach); they can cause severe indexing problems.

Some content management systems and e-commerce catalogues produce dynamic, made-on-the-fly web pages, often recognisable by question marks in the URLs followed by long strings of numbers or letters. Overworked search engines sometimes have trouble parsing long URLs and may stop at the question mark, refusing to go farther. If you find the search engines aren’t indexing your interior pages, you might consider URL rewriting, a site map, or commercial solutions.

Create a Site Map.
A site map page with links to all your pages can help search engines (and visitors) find all your pages, particularly if you have a larger site. You can use a free tools, XML-Sitemaps.com to create XML sitemaps that are used by the major search engines to index your web pages accurately. Upload your sitemap to your website. Then submit your XML sitemap to Google, Yahoo!, and Bing (formerly MSN), following instructions on their sites. By the way,  Google Webmaster Central has lots of tools to help you get ranked higher. Be sure to set up a free account and explore what they have to offer.

Develop Web pages Focused on Each Your Target Keywords.
SEO specialists no longer recommend using external doorway or gateway pages, since nearly duplicate web pages might get you penalized. Rather, develop several web pages on your site, each of which is focused on a target keyword or key phrase for which you would like a high ranking. Let’s say you sell teddy bears. Use Google Insights for Search or the free keyword suggestion tool on Wordtracker to find the related keywords people search on. In this case: write a separate webpage featuring the keyword “teddy bear,” “teddy bears,” “london teddy bears,” ” london bears,” “the teddy bears,” teddy bears picnic,” “teddy bears pictures,” etc. You’ll write a completely different article on each topic. You can’t fully optimize all the web pages in your site, but for each of these focused-content web pages, spend lots of time tweaking to improve its ranking, as described in point #10.

Fine-tune with Careful Search Engine Optimisation.
Now fine-tune your focused-content pages and perhaps your home page, by making a series of minor adjustments to help them rank higher.  Software such as Rank Tracker or Advanced Web Rankings allows you to check your current ranking and compare your webpages against your top keyword competitors. I use them both regularly. Advanced Web Rankings also has a Keyword Analyser tool that gives you pointers on increasing the ranking of your page.

Frankly, this kind of SEO fine-tuning is time-consuming, painstaking work that takes a lot of specialized knowledge. For this reason, many small and large businesses outsource search engine optimisation.  Please contact Elliott King at elliott@minttwist.com if you would like to discuss outsourcing your SEO to us.

Promote Your Local Business on the Internet.
These days many people search for local businesses on the Internet. To make sure they find you, include on every page of your website your postal address, phone number and the five or 10 other local community place names your business serves. If you can, include place names in the title tag, too. When you seek links to your site, you should request links from local businesses with place names in the communities you serve and complementary businesses in your industry nationwide.

Also create a free listing for your local business on Google Maps Local Business Centre and Yahoo! Local. That way your business can show up on a map when people do a local search.

Promote Your Video, Images, and Audio Content.
Google’s “universal search” displays not only webpage content, but also often displays near the top of the page relevant listings for images, videos, local businesses, and audio clips.  Therefore, consider creating such content appropriate to your business and then optimizing it so it can be ranked high enough to help you. For example, if you were to get a top-ranking, informative video on YouTube that mentions your site, it could drive a lot of traffic to your site. For more information, search on “optimising images” or “optimising videos.”

Making your website work for you

Times have changed. The information age is fully upon us.  Customers now have the ability to instantly compare prices, services, and products, and shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year. Not to mention the ability carry around a high-speed wireless connection to the entire world in their pocket or purse!

Although the computer revolution that started thirty years ago is still not mature, the novelty has worn off. The Internet is a part of everyday life for nearly everyone, from tiny children to grey-haired grannies. The dust from the upheaval of the last thirty years is settling and everyone can see the competitive landscape more clearly.

Regardless of what the techies or web gurus say, as a small business your website probably isn’t going to bring you vast hoards of customers from around the world, let you compete with the “big boys” in your industry, or make you rich.

It’s just not true.

What your website can and should do, however, is be a powerful tool to attract your hottest local prospects and activate your existing customers.

More and more customers are going to go on-line to get your telephone number, see if you’re open on Sunday, find out if you carry a brand of products they are looking for, see what’s new at the store this month, or get directions to your store.

Many of your hottest prospects are comparison shopping on-line before they decide which store to visit in person. They are “checking you out” and if what they find on-line doesn’t match up to your competitor’s you could be out of the running.

For example, let’s say I wanted to buy a new mountain bike. One of the things I’d probably do is search on-line for local for bike shops. I’d browse around on their sites (just like I might if I was actually in their stores) to see what bikes they had to offer, check out how knowledgeable they were, how professional they seemed, what kind of post-sale service they provided.

Just based on that web experience alone I might make a decision about where I was going to buy my bike. At the minimum, I would rule out any places that looked like they couldn’t give me a good buying experience.

This scenario takes place thousands, maybe millions, of times a day in your selling area for a huge variety of goods and services. That’s why every single store should have website with a minimum of 3-7 pages about their business and possibly many more.

This type of website is basically an e-brochure. It’s the high-tech version of the print brochure you give to promote your business to customers. It’s also becoming the high-tech version of your yellow pages ad.

So is it worth the cost of a website just to have an electronic brochure? Absolutely. How much would you pay for a magical print brochure that just showed up whenever your customer was wondering about your store or thinking about buying what you sell? Remember, websites don’t have to be expensive to be good.

SEO – Research is key.

When it comes to SEO (search engine optimisation), we can all feel overwhelmed with the amount of information out there on how to go aout it correctly.  Whichever way suits you when building your web pages, getting your research right should be at the forefront of your quest to stay, and remain, on top of Google (Google still has 85% of all internet searches).

Our personal research preference is to use our Google adwords account to research the popular phrases that are being searched on as well as the volume of individual searches each month.  This is in preference to using independent SEO keyword research tools.

Once we know who is searching for what and how they are searching ,we then need to see how much competition we have to fight against in order to reach a top rank in Google (bearing in mind the phrases  chosen must make sense when inserted into the main body of text).

Just this alone accounts for 25% of the overall process for SEO but I can’t stress enough -  get this right from the outset and it will save you much time and money in the future. For example we have had clients adamant on the key phrases they which to be found on through search engines as “costumers are always right” we wait for the phone call when the complaints come in on their rankings.  We then have to reopen closed projects and start a new SEO quest which not only takes up time and money it also loses the clients potential business.

So once again research is key to success in the world of SEO.  These are just the first steps on the road to high ranking success.  The whole SEO process lasts far longer and once the site has been built and gone live the trick is to make the site work hard for your business.  I hope this helps you in your quest for Google success.

Content is King

Having a fantastic looking website is just the beginning of running a successful website. Now you need to get found by the people searching for your product or service in search engines such as Google. This begs the question, how do search engines rank websites?

The answer is quite simple: Those who have superior content rule. The phrase “content is king” was born about 4 years ago, and it still holds true today. If you want your site to be relevant, and therefore found, for specific keywords, then you need superior or at least highly competitive content. With that said if you want to rank highly for a number of different keyword phrases, then you will require a number of different pages with individually targeted content. On average, you can expect to target between 3-5 similar keyword phrases per page.

Choosing the correct keywords for your individual pages is the trick and there are several tools available to help you do this. Keywords which have a high KEI (Keyword Effectivness Index) and KOI (Keyword Opportunity Index) are the ones to go for – but that is for another post…