Category Archives: Ecommerce

Is Your Marketing Plan Ready for an Update?

This is a time when you reflect on the effectiveness of your business marketing programs. You will be planning to improve performance of some marketing programs, discontinue some, and try others for the first time.

Each Marketing Plan is Unique

For those writing a marketing plan for the first time, it is important to know that there is no “magic formula” to an effective marketing plan. Formats and procedures vary widely, and your marketing plan will be one-of-a-kind.

Your company, customers, competitors, and suppliers interact to create a unique and ever-changing business environment. Because of this, your marketing plan should also be unique and frequently changing. What worked wonderfully for one company may be a dismal failure for you. What worked yesterday for you may not be the thing for you to do today. By thinking of your plan as a unique and perpetual work in progress, you can be better prepared to change direction when the business environment changes.

A Plan Makes a Profitable Difference

Ultimately, your marketing plan is a compass by which you navigate your day-to-day business. As opportunities arise or your business environment changes, the objective and strategies in your marketing plan will point you toward the best action. Without a marketing plan, you are guessing what might be best for your business. And don’t forget to address your Web site in the marketing plan. Without a marketing plan your Web site may be a drain on your finances rather than a business builder.

Also, understand you do not need a marketing degree and a lot of experience to update or create a marketing plan for your business. Once you have a structure to follow, the rest is a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting it done. There is no single approach to developing a marketing plan. There is a wide selection of books, toolkits, and software to help you through the planning process. Some approaches require a great deal of time and others are “quick and dirty.” All can be applied to your business as a whole, an individual product, or your Web site.

So, in all the hustle and bustle of everyday business activities, don’t forget to take the time to update an existing marketing plan or write a new one. Your future profits depend on it!

How Not To Get Web Design Work

I get the occasional web design lead from my website. I wanted to find a company I could pass these onto. So I put an ad on a freelance site. It specified the programming qualifications needed, stated that the successful candidate should have good English, and was for companies only.

The replies I got were enlightening. So much so, I made a list of things applicants did wrong. Here it is.

I should point out I was initially prepared to give everyone a fair go. After the first twenty-odd emails, my attitude changed. I was looking for reasons to delete applicants. I only needed one successful one; with 100 replies it was getting to be a headache, so I decided a brutal approach was needed.

1. Failed to read the spec.

Many applicants couldn’t write properly in the English language. Many were individuals only. Result: instant deletion.

2. Failed to address the spec’s criteria.

Applicants bragged about how great they were. Many copy-and-pasted standard marketing guff about ‘solutions’ and ‘partnerships’ into their emails.

To engage anyone’s interest about a proposal you need to talk less about yourself and more about the benefits to *them* of using you. One of the first things I learnt about applying for jobs is you need to show how you meet the criteria in the job description; see if you can find the employer’s wavelength.

3. Lots of jargon.

You quickly tune this out. Anyone dealing with web companies probably gets a lot of this. Applicants should talk to the client about *the client’s* site and *their* needs, and avoid techno-babble.

Write an application letter. Leave it for a while, then edit it. Brutally. Short punchy sentences, no guff. Talking convincingly about how you can make the client money would be an attention-getter.

4a. ‘Coming soon’ client-listing pages.

You say you’ve done work for lots of clients, then put up a ‘coming soon’ sign on the web page where your client list is supposed to be. Hmmmm.

4b. ‘Under construction’ pages on your company web site.

This looks bad; something you’d see on an amateur’s site. Another reason to bin your application.

4c. Only put up pictures of sites you’ve done, rather than links to the actual sites.

I’d have liked to see some working example sites. Pictures can be faked, and they don’t show background programming.

4e. No mention of your main web site URL.

Let us guess where your own site is (if you have one). It’s more fun! I tried guessing from the email address. After a while I didn’t bother.

4f. No hyperlinks at all.

Just a short email spiel saying “I am great designer, hire me”. Next!

5. Using Yahoo.com or Hotmail.com for your email address.

A pro designer shouldn’t use a freebie email address service. Basic web hosting costs $5 a month these days.

I can conceive that a web designer might use a freebie account for some special purpose, but your own domain name is a basic advert that goes out in each email you send.

6. Bad spelling and grammar.

Western civilization is doomed, if using SMS jargon becomes the standard way to write to people.  🙁 Especially if you’re looking for work where good spelling and grammar are important.

7. Front-loading Flash designs.

I admit it, I don’t like Flash. I especially don’t like it when it loads slowly on my broadband connection. I suppose it might impress an ignorant client, who doesn’t know the economic consequences of having a Flash-heavy site.

8. Don’t phone the employer up.

Unless they say ‘canvassing will disqualify’, ‘phoning the employer is a good idea. Why? Because geeks are famously introverted and tongue-tied, supposedly. So if a web site designer can communicate clearly over the telephone, that, coupled with a good application, puts you streets ahead of the email-only applicant.

No need to jabber. A polite enquiry to establish contact will do. “Just checking you’ve got my CV”, that sort of thing.

9. Keep yourself mysterious.

Emails are impersonal. Anything that can establish you as a human being, a person, a potential ally and friend, is good. It’ll make you more memorable. No need to jump out of a giant cake, ‘though!

However, you have to fulfill all the other criteria as well. However great a guy you are, if you’re a Unix man and they want Windows, forget it.

10. Leaving unclear phone messages.

One chap left a phone message, in which he mentioned his site, twice, but not his ‘phone number. His pronunciation was bad, so I guess I’ll never know how good he was.

11. Too far away.

Most replies were from India, Ukraine, Romania etc. Anyone who was closer to home (the UK) stood out. I mention it simply as a winnowing criterion.

Also, I needed someone who could land contracts from UK residents; good English, written and oral, was important.

12. Give your rates per hour.

Forget that. You’re not a lawyer. Web design jobs can be clearly defined, in terms of time, work and software required. A definite price can be agreed on in advance. It’s called a contract. Otherwise, you leave the client open to escalating bills, and yourself to mission-creep.

13. Delay applying.

The first few applications were more scrutinized. After that, fatigue set in. After one hundred, only an applicant who seems a real prospect would be given more than five seconds’ scrutiny.

XHTML – Kicking And Screaming Into The Future

XHTML, the standard, was first released back in 2000. Roughly five years later we begin to see major websites revised to use this standard. Even the favorite whipping boy of standards-compliance punditry, Microsoft, presents their primary homepages, msn.com and microsoft.com in XHTML. Standards compliant XHTML sites are still the minority. The reason is simple. When the W3C released the new standard, the rest of the web running on HTML did not cease to function. Nor will the rest of the web, written in various flavors of HTML, cease to function any time soon. Without any pressing need to conform to the new standard, designers continue to use old, familiar methods. These methods will perform in any modern browser, so why bother switching?

These sentiments are similar to ones I experienced. A kind of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality sets in. Whether HTML was “broken” or not is a different argument. To the casual Internet user, their standards are fairly direct. If a site displays without noticeable error and functions to their satisfaction, these standards are met. Whatever additional steps the browser took to make such display possible is irrelevant to most users. This kind of mentality is difficult to overcome in designers accustomed to their old methods.

Technical obstacles to adopting XHTML may be quite steep as well, especially as regards large, existing websites with complex scripting. Yet the time may eventually come where yesterday’s “tried and true” HTML is little more than an ancient language, unable to be interpreted by modern electronic devices. Whether one agrees with the direction the W3C takes in the development of HTML is irrelevant, you are just along for the ride. With some perseverance, getting the hang of XHTML is possible. In form, it is not as different from HTML as Japanese is from English. Knowing HTML grants a basic knowledge of the language, it simply becomes a matter of learning a particular dialect. Even an original nay-sayer such as myself managed to do it.

Benefits of XHTML
There are 2 primary benefits to using XHTML. First is the strict nature of valid XHTML documents. “Valid” documents contain no errors. Documents with no errors can be parsed more easily by a browser. Though the time saved is, admittedly, negligible from the human user’s point of view, there is a greater efficiency to the browser’s performance. Most modern browsers will function well in what’s usually referred to as “quirks” mode, where, in the absence of any on-page information about the kind of HTML they are reading, present a “best guess” rendering of a page. The quirks mode will also forgive many errors in the HTML. Modern browsers installed on your home computer have the luxury of size and power to deal with these errors. When browser technology makes the leap to other appliances it may not have the size and power to be so forgiving. This is where the strict, valid documents demanded by the XHTML standard become important.

The second benefit is in the code itself, which is cleaner and more compact than common, “table” based layout in HTML. Though XHTML retains table functionality, the standard makes clear tables are not to be used for page layout or anything other than displaying data in a tabular format. This is generally the primary obstacle most designers have with moving to XHTML. The manner in which many designers have come to rely on to layout and organize their pages is now taboo. Simple visual inspection of XHTML code reveals how light and efficient it is in comparison to a table based HTML layout. XHTML makes use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which, when called externally, remove virtually all styling information from the XHTML document itself. This creates a document focused solely on content.

XHTML makes use of “div” tags to define content areas. How these “divisions” are displayed is controlled by CSS. This is known as CSS-P, or CSS Positioning. Trading in “table” tags for “divs” can be tough. Learning a new way of accomplishing an already familiar task is generally difficult. Like learning to use a different design program or image editor, frustration can be constant. Looking at “divs” as a kind of table cell might be helpful, though they are not entirely equivalent. As required by the XHTML standard, always make sure there is a DOC-TYPE definition at the top of the document. This is not only required by the standard, but it will force Internet Explorer 6, currently the most common browser, to enter its “standards compliance” mode. IE6 and Firefox, both operating in standards compliance mode will display XHTML in much the same way. Not identical, but far better than IE6 operating in quirks mode. Learning how to iron out the final differences between displays is the final obstacle and can require a bit of tweaking in the CSS.

Clean code has multiple benefits. It creates a smaller page size which, over time, can save costs associated with transfer usage. Though the size difference may appear small, for someone running a highly trafficked site, even saving a few kilobytes of size can make a big difference. Further, some believe search engines may look more kindly on standards complaint pages. This is only a theory, though. In a general sense, any page modification that makes the content easier to reach and higher in the code is considered wise. Search engines, so it is believed, prefer to reach content quickly, and give greater weight to the first content they encounter. Using XHTML and “div” layout allows designers to accomplish this task more easily.

Conclusions
XHTML is the current standard set by the W3C. The W3C continues development of XHTML, and XHTML 2.0 will replace the current standard in the future. Learning and using XHTML today will help designers prepare for tomorrow. Valid XHTML produces no errors that might slow down a browser, and the code produced is clean and efficient. This saves in file size and helps designers better accomplish their search engine optimization goals. Learning XHTML is primarily about learning a new way to lay out pages. Though frustrating at first, the long term benefits far outweigh any initial inconvenience.

eCommerce Web Site Building: Where Do I Start?

Building a web site isn’t something that is really cut and dry. There’s a huge variety of products and services that can either help you get your web site where you want it or simply confuse you. It’s also important that you make the right choices upfront so that you don’t end up having to restructure your whole web site because of some problem in your design layout. The level of time investment necessary for mastery in a lot of these software packages can range from little to a VERY significant amount. Because of this I feel it’s important to be lead in the “right” direction to make sure you don’t spend time in the wrong areas, or learning some software that might not be all that useful for you later on (*coughs* Frontpage *coughs*).

Where you should start greatly depends on what you plan on attempting to do, and how deep you’re going to dive in. For a moderately professional, clean looking web site without a lot of automation or intensive animated graphics you can probably get by with some basic knowledge of html, ability with a good WYSIWYG editor, and an image editing program. On the other hand, if you’re someone that’s looking to build something that will really wow your audience then you might consider spending some major time and developing some animation skills with a program like Macro media Flash. I personally always spring for what I believe will bring me the greatest amount of profit with a minimal amount of effort, and because of this I usually end up spending all of my time diving in deeper with ONLY my WYSIWYG HTML editor, and my image editor.

## What is a “WYSIWYG” editor? ##
A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor is what allows you to get by with minimal knowledge of HTML. Yes, that means you don’t have to know EVERYTHING about HTML to have a decent looking website. When you use a WYSIWYG editor it interprets what you’re doing (inserting an image for example) as being a certain series of HTML tags with attributes, and does it for you… Thus, what you see on your screen is what you get. Instead of seeing a bunch of HTML code in text format, you’ll mostly see what will actually show up in your browser once your web site is up WHILE you’re making it. I highly recommend using the latest version of dreamweaver — it is well-known as one of the best HTML editors by general consensus. Dreamweaver’s interface is very friendly, has a built in FTP client, and is specifically built to be flexible enough to suit both the coder and the everyday amatuer webmaster.

## Image editing? What do I need that for? ##
Okay, let’s be realistic here: If you’re going to make a professional *appearing* web site it’s important that you can make some basic, decent looking graphics. There’s a lot of graphics problems that can truly get the job done, but as far as power and flexibility goes I recommend Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop definitely takes some time getting used to, but in the end it’s VERY rewarding. I’ve ended up using my knowledge of Photoshop to make not only graphics for multiple web sites, but also touched up portraits, made business cards, flyers, and other online advertisments such as banners. In fact, I’ve used it for everything except animation… But it also comes with Adobe Image-ready which is very good with animation. This software is amazing, and if you’re going to learn ANY image editing software I recommend you start with Photoshop because of it’s wide range of overall… usefulness!

## Let’s get me some sales! ##
Kick off your new web site you’ve gotten up from your knowledge of web mastering and image editing with a few new sales… Sounds like a plan? Well a great way to do that quickly is with pay-per-click advertising. BUT WAIT! Doesn’t that cost money? Well… Yes. But with the tools brought to us by some of the biggest pay-per-click advertisers out there we should be able to make a good evaluation of how much profit we’re going to make without much investment upfront.

The big question behind pay-per-click advertising is whether or not it’s worth the cash when you can simply get traffic from regular search engine ranking (otherwise known as organic traffic). After all, there are plenty of companies out there that promise to help get you all the traffic you need through optimizing your web site for organic ranking. The answer to this question is quite simple: profit is profit. Through conversion tracking tools such as those offered by Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google Adwords anyone can calculate exactly what their profit is after cost of PPC advertising is taken out. In my opinion, Google Adwords has the most user-friendly interface among the PPC advertisers. Google Adword’s interface makes it very easy to see which keywords are pulling you in the most sales, and which ones aren’t even worth your advertising money.

Let us not forget, however, that in order to make those conversions we’re going to be needing a shopping cart! There’s a lot of diverse software packages out there you can use, but I’ve been using Mal’s E-Commerce Free shopping cart for a number of years with great success. The cart’s server is hosted on their machines so that means you not only get away with not having to pay for the software itself, but you get out of having to buy an SSL security ticket too! Nothing’s a better bargain than free, eh?

## Getting those sales leads you’ve been building up to BUY! ##

Once you’ve scored a few sales it would probably be a good idea to start using some kind of lead management services. I highly recommend the use of auto responders for this purpose. Auto responders are, essentially, a newsletter sign-up that allows you to strategically determine what you want to send each lead after a certain allotted amount of time. For example, let’s say someone visits your web site and you offer them a free newsletter. If you were selling an ebook on some very complicated topic, you might consider sending them only information on the most basic concepts at first to get them interested. Slowly but surely, you can turn those visitors that might have left your web site and never have returned into some serious revenue!

Top 10 Search Engine Positioning Mistakes!

Search Engine Positioning is the art of optimizing your web site so that it gets into a high position on the search engine results page whenever someone searches for keywords that relate to your products and services.

However, some people make basic mistakes while designing their web site and as a result, never make it to the top. Even if they work hard on it! Or may be waste a lot of money on useless tools and services.

Do you make these mistakes too?

1. Designing a Frames-based web site
This one is the biggest loser of them all. Frames may make the job of maintaining a very big and complicated web site easy but search engine absolutely hate them. Most of the search engines cannot find out their way easily through them and end up indexing only the home page.

Now imagine this. One of your internal pages has been reported by the search engines and the user has clicked on it. What a mess! The page looks orphan without the outer frame and the navigation.

Lose your frames right away. You will start getting positive improvements the moment you redesign your site without frames.

2. Having an all-Flash or graphic-only home page

This is another classic mistake. Many designers design web site home pages like brochures. A beautiful cover which has to be opened to read. But on the Internet every click takes away some prospects. Did they click your ENTER button or the Back button?

You see, search engines need content to index. If you don’t have content on the home page but only a Flash movie or a big animated graphic, how will the search engine know what you deal in. And why will it give you a high enough ranking?

3. Not having a good title

What’s your title, Sir?

A good title is an absolute must for getting a good search engine position and the most vital thing — the click-through. With the title, you are always walking a tightrope. You need a title with your most important keyword near the beginning but it should still appeal to the human reading the results.

Don’t, don’t stuff it with the keywords. How does this look to you —

Search engine position, search engine positioning, search engine ranking

If you saw this in the search engine results, will you click on this or you will prefer-

Top 10 Search engine positioning mistakes!

4. Hosting your site with a FREE host

It takes away all your credibility. You want to do business from your web site. Right? And you can’t even afford a decent web hosting package. How do you expect your prospect to trust you?

Most of the search engines do not spider web sites hosted on the free hosts. Even if they do, they rank them quite low. How many geocities web sites have you seen in the top 10?

Also, will you be comfortable buying your merchandise from someone who can’t even afford a small shop? And web site hosting is much cheaper!

Do you want your visitor to look at your message or look at the pop-up that your free web host popped over your site?

Go get a good web hosting package right away.

5. Putting all links on Javascript

Google and many other search engines don’t read and process JavaScript. So if you have all your links on JavaScript only, Google is blind to them.

You must have at least one text-based link to all the pages that you want to link to. And the anchor text (the visible text on the site) should contain your important keywords, not “Click here”.

6. Stuffing lots of keywords in the keywords tag

Do you have a keywords tag that lists all the words related to your product in a big long series? This is a certain recipe to invite negative points.

While many search engines have already started to ignore keywords tag precisely because of this misuse, you should have the keywords tag for the search engines that still use them. It also serves as a reminder of the keywords that you are optimizing for.

However, put only the 2-3 most important keywords in there. Here’s a quick test – don’t put any term in the keywords tag if it does not appear at least once on the body copy.

7. Not having any outgoing links

Do you know why the Internet is called the Web? Because the web sites link to each other. If you are only having incoming links but don’t have any outbound links, it is not appreciated by the search engines as it violates the web-like structure of the Web.

Because some people try to conserve PageRank (a proprietary index used by Google to measure link popularity), they avoid having any outbound links. This is one big myth. You can get very good points if you have some outbound links with keyword-rich anchor text and preferably keyword-rich target URL also.

Of course, you should not turn your web page into a link-farm. There should be a few good links amidst some good content.

8. Insisting on session variables and cookies to show information

Session variables are used extensively by ecommerce-enabled sites. This is to trace the path used by the visitor. Shopping cart and various other applications also benefit by using session variables. However it should be possible to visit the various information related and sales pages without needing to have session variables.

Since you can’t put cookies on the search engine spiders, they can’t index your pages properly if the navigation requires cookies and session variables.

9. Regularly submitting your site to the search engines

“We will submit your site to the top 250,000 search engines every month for only $29.95.” Who has not seen these ads or received Spam with similar messages?

And which are those 250,000 search engines? There are only about 8-10 top search engines worth bothering about. And a handful of directories.

With most of the search engines, you only need to submit once to get spidered and then they will keep your listing fresh by crawling your site at regular intervals. All you need to do is to keep adding fresh content to your site and the search engines will absolutely love you. In fact, Google prefers to locate you through a link and not through the URL submission page.

For some sites like DMOZ, if you resubmit while you are waiting to be indexed, you entry is pushed to the end of the queue. So you can resubmit regularly and never get indexed 🙁

10. Optimizing for more than 2 or 3 search terms

It is virtually impossible to optimize a page for more than 2-3 keywords without diluting everything. Don’t try to work on more than 3 phrases on one page. Split.

Get similar phrases together and work on those in this page. Take 2 or 3 out of the other phrases and develop a new page with entirely new copy. Remember, you cannot just copy the same page and squeeze these new phrases in there. It will look very funny to the visitor.

The Real Secret to Understanding Web Statistics

Understanding what your visitors do on your site is crucial information. If your visitors proceed to purchase a product but then a large majority leaves the site when they get to a specific page in the order process, you need to know about it. It could be that this page is confusing or hard to use. Fixing it could increase your sales by 200%. This is just an example; there are many reasons why you want a detailed analysis of your site visitors.

Most website hosting services offer a stats package that you can study. If you’re not sure where this is, call up your hosting service and ask them. Statistics are a vital part of tracking your marketing progress. If you don’t have access to website statistics get a package that can help you in this area. Do not get a counter that simply shows how many visitors you’ve had. You’ll be missing out on vital information that can help strengthen weaknesses in your site.

A good website hosting service offers traffic logs that provide an invaluable insight into the traffic being referred to a web site from various sources such as search engines, directories and other links.

Unfortunately traffic tracking provided by web hosting services is often in the form of raw traffic log files or other difficult to understand cryptic formats. These log files are basically text files that describe actions on the site. It is literally impossible to use the raw log files to understand what your visitors are doing. If you do not have the patience to go through these huge traffic logs, opting for a traffic-logging package would be a good idea.

Basically, two options are available to you and these are: using a log analysis package or subscribing to a remotely hosted traffic logging service. A remotely hosted traffic logging service may be easy to use and is generally the cheaper option of the two. WebTrends Live and HitsLink are two good, remotely hosted, traffic-monitoring services worth considering. However, WebTrends Live is a more complicated system and is suitable for larger ecommerce websites. “SuperStats” is another recommended traffic logging service.

These services do not use your log files. Typically a small section of code is placed on any page you want to track. When the page is viewed, information is stored on the remote server and available in real time to view in charts and tables form.

Log analysis packages are typically expensive to buy and complex to set up. Apart from commercial packages there are also some free log analysis packages available, such as Analog.

A good traffic logging service would provide statistics pertaining to the following:

” How many people visit your site?
” Where are they from?
” How are visitors finding your site?
” What traffic is coming from search engines, links from other sites, and other sources?
” What keyword search phrases are they using to find your site?
” What pages are frequented the most – what information are visitors most interested in?
” How do visitors navigate within your web site?

Knowing the answers to these and other fundamental questions is essential for making informed decisions that maximize the return on investment (ROI) of your web site investment.

The most important aspect of tracking visitors to your website is analyzing all the statistics you get from your tracking software. The three main statistics that will show your overall progress are hits, visitors and page views. Hits are tracked when any picture or page loads from your server on to a visitor’s browser. Hits, however, can be very misleading. It is quite an irrelevant statistic for your website.

The statistic that is probably the most important for a website is Page Views/Visitors. This gives you a good indication of two things. First, how many people are coming to your site, and secondly how long are they staying on your site. If you have 250 visitors and 300 page views you can figure that most visitors view one page on your site and then leave. Generally, if you’re not getting 2 page views per visitor then you should consider upgrading your site’s content so your visitors will stay around longer.

If you see the number of visitors you have increasing as well as the number of page views per visitor increasing then keep up the good work! Always look for this stat as an overall barometer of how your site design is going and if your marketing campaigns are taking hold.
Also, a good stat to look for is unique visitors. Once a person visits your site they will not be added to the unique visitors’ category if they visit again. This is a good way to track new visitors to your website.

Page views are a good indication of how “sticky” your website is. A good statistic to keep is Page Views divided by the number of Visitors you have. This statistic will give you a good idea if your content is interesting and if your visitors are staying on your site for a long time and surfing.

Some people are intimidated by web traffic statistics (mostly because of the sheer volume of data available), but they shouldn’t be. While there are many highly specialized statistics that can be used for more in-depth web traffic analysis, the above areas alone can provide invaluable information on your visitors and your website performance. Remember- this data is available for a reason. It’s up to you to use it.

7 Steps Of Mega Adsense Earners

The Google AdSense program is like finding money in the street.

Kids in High School are making thousands of dollars a month with Adsense… Housewives, Retiree’s, Mom and Pop’s who’ve never made a dime on the Internet have created full time incomes by simply placing AdSense Ads on their web site or blog.

Then you have the “Super AdSense” earners. We have all heard of them… the Elite few who are on track to make half a million dollars a year or more promoting AdSense sites.

Do not be mistaken though… these people are not building like your Mom and Pop’s do. They have systems in place that create sites for them… people who build sites for them… they have outsourced and automated many of the tedious tasks such as posting to blogs and searching for keywords.

While most people cannot emulate everything these Super AdSense earners do… many of them you can.

Here are 7 Required Steps you can implement today to copy their success.

1) Starting today… treat your AdSense business like it is a REAL business and track what you do.

Begin tracking what you are doing that works… as well as what you are doing that does not work. This will keep you from making the same mistakes over and over, and you can repeat the steps that have worked in the past. As simple as this step seems… most people do not know the reason(s) to their success or failure.

2) Utilize the latest tools and software available.

The Super AdSense earners are not any smarter than your average person. I know many people think they are… but for the most part, they are regular non techie people.

They are smarter in one respect though… they use the latest tools available to them to automate most of the tasks involved with researching and creating sites. They use the latest keyword, site creation and search engine optimization tools available. The tools they use are their secret weapons.

3) Quit chasing the Mega Dollar keywords.

You cannot compete with the search engine experts who create sites for the $80 payout keywords. You may get lucky every now and then… but in the long run, you are better off building sites for the low to mid range payout keywords. The competition is less, and your chance of success is much higher over the long term.

4) Choose broad niches and break it down.

Choose a broad subject as your main theme (lets use computers for an example). From there… break it down into as many sub niches as possible.

Using Computers as the example… you could build sub niches/sites like laptop computers, computer hard drives, computer keyboards, etc, etc. You could literally build hundreds of sites around one major theme and stay totally focused. Once you have exhausted every possible sub niche of that major theme… choose another main theme and repeat the process.

5) KISS

Keep your sites easy to navigate and forget the fancy graphics that distract your visitors attention. Unless you are just building AdSense sites for the fun of it and to impress your friends… the purpose of having the site is to have people click on one of the ads, right? Then keep the site layout simple… dump the scrolling banners, dancing chickens and colored scroll bars… they are distractions.

6) What is the purpose of your web site?

Your web site cannot be everything to everybody. If you have a full fledged ecommerce site, with products for sale… links to other products, it is not a good site for AdSense. If the primary focus of the site is to sell products… let it do that.

Do not distract or confuse your visitor with to many options or choices. The best AdSense sites are AdSense only content sites that sell nothing. They are sites that “Tell”… not “Sell.”

7) Be consistent.

This is not one of those deals where you build one site and you are done. Refer back to Step #4. You must continuously build in order to be successful.

Think of it as planting a crop that you will harvest in a month or two, and the sites you build are seeds. Once the seeds have grown and matured… you will reap the harvest. The more seeds you plant… the larger the harvest.

To sum it up… utilize the tools available to automate as much of the process of building sites – doing research and building keyword lists as you can. This alone will help keep you organized and on track. Be consistent in building… treat it like the business it is and you will reap the rewards of your harvest.

Ecommerce Hosting For Your Online Business

When you plan to start an online business, you will need to find a reliable web host that meets your requirements. Searching for a reliable and cheap web host is not an easy task. But if you know what you are looking for, it makes your task simpler.

You can trust a cheap web host only if it meets your business requirements. The process of verification comprises of some common issues and some other issues specific to your business.

A major concern is the quality of support provided by the host. You could e-mail a cheap web hosting company a few times to get an estimate of the response time they provide.

You should also try to analyze the quality of the answers provided by them. Are the answers really in-depth or do they just cover the basic things? Make enquiry  about the various methods of support. Most web hosting companies offer online support personnel, message boards and help desks.

A web hosting company that provides the correct balance of substance and promptness would be an ideal solution for you.

Some key points to consider before choosing your web host:

1. Storage Space

It is an important parameter to begin your search for a reliable web host. You require at least 100 MB space for even a simple site. Most good web hosts offer a minimum of 1 GB space to their customers.

2. Bandwidth

It is another important part of the verification process. Most good web hosts offer 25 to 50 GB Bandwidth.

3. Support System

As discussed in the beginning of the article, it is the most important point to check.

4. Secure Servers

A secure server is an essential requirement if you are selling products/services online. Try to look for web hosting companies providing SSL encryption since this will guarantee security for all money transactions conducted on your site.

5. Private CGI-BIN

It is a good scheme to have a private CGI-BIN directory for the safety of your files. This is where you store your binary scripts and interactive programs including shopping carts and payment processing.

6. Web Log

This would help you a lot to keep track of various statistics for your business. These statistics aid you to develop new strategies to retain your present customers and attract new customers.

7. Operating System and Program Language Capabilities

All reputed web hosting companies allow front page on either a UNIX or Windows based system. Many web hosts provide both Windows and UNIX based hosting but the rates may differ.

8. Credibility

The web host should be reputed amongst its customer base.

9. Physical Location

Last, but not the least, the physical location of the servers is also an important consideration. Is the location prone to natural calamities or political insecurity?

A very practical and useful method to find a good web host is to discuss with people you know (vendors/business associates/friends) that have web sites. Enquire about their experiences with their current and past web hosting services.

Most of the cheap web hosting companies assure you of free technical support. However, a major concern with many of these companies is that you learn about their incapability when it is too late. The fact is that they simply fail to deliver their promises. Their cheap rates do not allow for the proper staffing needed to deliver the required customer support.

With a high quality and reputed web hosting company, you will pay a little more but the truth is, in business, you get what you pay for. So, if you are really serious about your business and also your time, consider web hosts starting at the top.

Streamline Your Website Pages

Squeezing the most efficient performance from your web pages is important. The benefits are universal, whether the site is personal or large and professional. Reducing page weight can speed up the browsing experience, especially if your visitors are using dial-up internet access. Though broadband access is the future, the present still contains a great deal of dial-up users. Many sites, ecommerce sites especially, cannot afford to ignore this large section of the market. Sites with a large amount of unique traffic may also save on their total monthly traffic by slimming down their web pages. This article will cover the basics of on-page optimization in both text/code and graphics.

Graphics

Graphics are the usual suspect on heavy pages. Either as a result of a highly graphic design, or a few poorly optimized images, graphics can significantly extend the load-time of a web page. The first step in graphics optimization is very basic. Decide if the graphics are absolutely necessary and simply eliminate or move the ones that aren’t. Removing large graphics from the homepage to a separate gallery will likely increase the number of visitors who “hang around” to let the homepage load. Separating larger photos or art to a gallery also provides the opportunity to provide fair warning to users clicking on the gallery that it may take longer to load. In the case of graphical buttons, consider the use of text based, CSS-styled buttons instead. Sites that use a highly graphic design, a common theme in website “templates”, need to optimize their graphics as best as possible.

Graphics optimization first involves selecting the appropriate file type for your image. Though this topic alone is fodder for far more in depth analysis, I will touch on it briefly. Images come in 2 basic varieties, those that are photographic in nature, and those that are graphic in nature. Photographs have a large array of colors all jumbled together in what’s referred to as continuous tone. Graphics, such as business logos, are generally smooth, crisp and have large areas of the same color. Photographs are best compressed into “JPEGs”. The “Joint Photographic Expert Group” format can successfully compress large photos down to very manageable sizes. It is usually applied on a sliding “quality” scale between 1-100, 1 being the most compressed and lowest quality, 100 the least and highest quality. JPEG is a “lossy” compression algorithm, meaning it “destroys” image information when applied, so always keep a copy of the original file. Graphics and logos generally work best in the “GIF”, or more recently, the “PNG” format. These formats are more efficient than JPEGs at reducing the size of images with large areas of similar color, such as logos or graphical text.

A few general notes on other media are appropriate. Other types of media such as Flash or sound files also slow down a page. The first rule is always the same, consider whether they are absolutely necessary. If you are choosing to build the site entirely in Flash, then make sure the individual sections and elements are as well compressed as possible. In the case of music, I will admit to personal bias here and paraphrase a brilliant old saying, “Websites should be seen and not heard.” Simply, music playing in the background will not “enhance” any browsing experience.

Text and Code

The most weight to be trimmed on a page will come from graphical and media elements, but it is possible to shed a few extra bytes by looking at the text and code of a web page. In terms of actual text content, there may not be much to do here. A page’s content is key not only to the user’s understanding but also search engine ranking. Removing or better organizing content is only necessary in extreme situations, where more than page weight is an issue. An example might be a long, text heavy web page requiring a lengthy vertical scrolling to finish. Such a page is common on “infomercial” sites, and violates basic design tenants beyond those related to page weight.

Code is a different story. A website’s code can be made more efficient in a variety of fashions. First, via the use of CSS, all style elements of a web page can now be called via an external file. This same file can be called on all a site’s pages, providing for a uniform look and feel. Not only is this more efficient; it is also the official recommendation from the W3C. The same may be said of XHTML and the abandonment of “table” based layout. Tables, though effective for layout, produce more code than equivalent XHTML layouts using “div” tags. Where a minimum of 3 tags are required to create a “box” with content in a table, only 1 is needed using divisions. Using XHTML and CSS in combination can significantly reduce the amount of “on page” code required by a web page. A final, relatively insignificant trick is the removal of all “white space” from your code. Browsers don’t require it; it is primarily so authors can readily read and interpret the code. The savings are minimal at best, but for sites that receive an extreme amount of traffic, even a few saved bytes will add up over time.

Conclusions

Target images and media files first when seeking to reduce the weight of a page. They are the largest components of overall page weight and simply removing them can significantly reduce total weight. The images that remain should be optimally compressed into a format appropriate for their type, photos or graphics. Avoid huge blocks of text that cause unnecessary vertical scrolling. Organize the site more efficiently to spread the information across multiple pages. Adopt XHTML and CSS to reduce the size of the on-page code, and call the CSS externally. These tips should help reduce the size of your pages and speed their delivery to your viewers.

How To Generate Web Site Traffic For Free?

Traffic is essential for every ecommerce entrepreneur and website owner. The best way of getting traffic is by achieving a top 10 or top 20 position in a famous search engine as Google. There are billions of websites indexed by Google. Only a small fraction of them get a high ranking.

It is not difficult to generate a lot of internet traffic with a high advertising budget. Big companies can afford millions of Dollars for advertising. Some brands only get traffic because of their famous name.

Most of the website owners have to calculate with a few Dollars. How can they succeed in generating traffic?

Some tips how to generate web site traffic for free:

1. Display your URL on everything

The public has to know about your website. The first step is to spread out your websites URL everywhere: on your business cards, on your online and offline letters, on your mailbox, in the telephone directory etc.

2. Submission to search engines and directories

You can submit your URL in most of the cases free of charge to search engines and directories. Important are directories that relate to the topic of your website. If your website deals with golf, submission to golf related directories or golf related pages in general directories might bring some traffic to your website.

3. Free classified ads

Classified ads are free of charge. You can place as many ads as you want. You can get a better exposure through featured ads to moderate costs. If you decide to pay for featured ads, it’s recommendable to give priority to classified ad websites with a high Alexa traffic rank. You find out the Alexa traffic rank of a website by typing in it’s URL at the alexa.com website.
4. Ads in ezines

It is also worthwhile to place ads in ezines that are related to the topic of a website. This can be done with moderate expenses.

5. Expose your website in newsgroups, forums

You may sign up in newsgroups and forums that relate to the topic of your website. You can give your advice to the audience and show solutions by your website. A lot of people surf on this kind of websites in order to find a solution for their problems.

6. Traffic Exchange

You may sign up at the different traffic exchange websites. You earn credits by surfing on these websites. The more you surf, the more credits you earn. Your website receives traffic according to the credits that you achieve. Of course, you cannot sit surfing all the time. This programs offer you the opportunity to refer other surfers to their website. Your website can gain credit from all the surfers in your down-line in this MLM-like system. Traffic to your website could explode, at least theoretically.