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Tips, resources, product reviews and general information relating to web design, web marketing, the latest trends and random thoughts from Keystrokes Design and Marketing.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday Five - Where to Submit Your Site

Everyone wants to be found on the search engines and everyone is looking for that coveted top spot. Once you have your site set up, content written, and meta tags created correctly, you want to let the search engines know you are there. Here are links to the Top 5 places to submit your site:

Remember that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is only one piece of your web marketing puzzle. A good quality site with strong content is the most important thing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Terminology - What is CSS?

Cascading Style Sheets, also known as CSS, are a tool that web designers use to control the look of their web site while maintaining flexibility to change their mind on a whim without creating hours of work in the process.

Basically style sheets are check lists for each element on your site. For example, you can use CSS to make all of your H1 tags 12 pixels, green, and bold. However, if you decide that you just don't like the way that works with your hot pink background, you can quickly change all the H1 tags to dark blue by changing that one element in the style sheet and it automatically applies itself throughout.

One of the coolest examples of CSS at work that I have found is CSS Zen Garden. Select CSS layouts from the menu and watch the page change before your eyes - the text all stays the same, though!

If you are looking to really learn CSS, I highly recommend Cascading Style Sheets, The Definitive Guide, by Eric Meyer.

For more cool tips like this, don't forget to sign up to receive email updates from us (not too often, and we won't share your email address with anyone!).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Web Site Audit - How Easily Can Your Visitors Contact You?

Go to your favorite web site - how fast can you find a way to contact that web site's owner? If it is a business with a physical location, how fast can you find a phone number or location?

Chances are, unless you are running an online store, the one thing you want your web site to do is make a call for action. You want potential clients to contact you about your product or service. How can they give you business if they can't reach you? Try some of these tactics:

  • Place an email link, phone number and/or physical address in the footer of each page of your site.
  • Place your phone number prominently in the header of your site.
  • Place your phone number or location (city, state) in the title meta tag.
  • Create a Contact Us page with your physical address, phone numbers, email information and directions to your business (where applicable).
  • Steer away from using user filled out forms as the only means of contact. Why should visitors give you information when you aren't willing to give them any?
For more cool tips like this, don't forget to sign up to receive email updates from us (not too often, and we won't share your email address with anyone!).

Friday, July 21, 2006

The World of Blogging

Until I started my own blog, I never really realized how blogging is taking on an identity of its own. Blogs put a different spin on the traditional world of the web. Anyone can blog - about anything - for free. You don't even need to know much about HTML. Services like Blogger make it so easy. Some of my favorite blogs are:

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Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tween Techies

If you have a tween, chances are they could teach you a thing or two about technology. I know my kids can. My son navigates new software, video games, and remotes with the greatest of ease. Being the techno mom that I am, I have decided that he needs to learn the basics of web design and that a blog is a perfect way to start. We have made it a summer project.

Our new mother-son blog debuted yesterday and will contain video game reviews, tips, cheats and tricks for tweens by a tween. It will cover computer based games, PS2, GBA, XBox, and other tech toys. Check it out at Video Game Tips for Tweens!

For more cool tips like this, don't forget to sign up to receive email updates from us (not too often, and we won't share your email address with anyone!).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Getting Images for a Song

View My PortfolioAnyone who has designed a web or print piece can tell you that getting the right art can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor, especially if you plan on being legit about it (which we all should be).

I recently discovered two web sites that offer royalty-free, stock images, illustrations and web elements for very reasonable prices. Gone are the days of $199 images for use on the web.

iStockPhoto.com - All images and illustrations run from $1-$10 each. You purchase credits in $1 increments through PayPal. When you download an image, the appropriate number of credits is deducted from your account. So far I have been very impressed by the wide range of graphics available!

Fotolia.com - Fotolia works a lot like iStockPhoto, but the images are $1-$3 each. You can buy or sell images and there is a great selection with powerful search capability.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quick tip - Mail2Web

If you are ever on the road, at a library, internet cafe, etc., and need to pick up your email from another computer, you can!

Mail2Web is a free (we all like free) service that doesn't even require any registration for you to pick up your email! All you need is your email address and password. It is a basic, web-based interface (not difficult) that allows you to read and respond to your email. Try it out!

For more cool tips like this, don't forget to sign up to receive email updates from us (not too often, and we won't share your email address with anyone!).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Google - Are we there yet?

Have you ever wondered if Google has really indexed your site or not? Here is a quick and easy way to find out.

In the Google search bar, type site:yoursite.com inurl:yoursite.com

Insert your domain name in both places that it says yoursite.com. This will tell you if Google has indexed your site yet, and which pages within your site have been indexed.

For more cool tips like this, don't forget to sign up to receive email updates from us (not too often, and we won't share your email address with anyone!).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cool Tool Review - Constant Contact

One effective method for generating return traffic to your websites is through the use of opt-in mailing lists. I have used a few different mailing list management tools over the years and recently started using Constant Contact.

Constant Contact is very easy to set up and comes with a 60-day FREE trial (no credit card required). In other words, you can test it out, take your time getting it up and running, and even begin to see results before you pay. If you like the service, you are charged a low monthly fee based on the number of subscribers in your list.

Constant Contact provides you with cool templates for your mass emails, custom code for creating your subscribe button, code for features like forward to a friend and send this page to a friend, and other powerful features.

Ready to keep your site in front of your visitors, give Constant Contact a try!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What are Chicklets?

I am not talking about the gum we chewed as kids or baby chickens, but the little buttons that are showing up all over the place that say XML, FEED, RSS, or show the "universal" RSS feed symbol.

By creating an RSS feed, web and blog publishers are giving users a new way to "subscribe" to a site's content. Feed Reader software has been created as a means of managing all of a user's favorite feeds. (free programs include NewsGator, Feedreader and others)

Chicklets are just little graphical buttons that allow users who have Feed Readers to quickly subscribe to the site by dragging the chicklet to their Feed Reader software. From the Feed Reader software, a subscriber can check on what is new at all the favorite sites at once rather than by visiting each site individually.

For more information on RSS feeds, visit my personal favorite - FeedBurner.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tag the Images, Too!

In my last entry I talked about the all important meta tags; title, description and keywords. Well, another one that is just as important, but often forgotten is the ALT tag on your images.

When you casually run your mouse cursor over an image, have you ever noticed the words that appear, describing what you see? Sometimes it may be a single word, but it might also be a long description of what you see.

The ALT tag is very useful in that it adds a bit of context to the image at hand. For users with disabilities, who may be using special equipment such as screen readers, ALT tags are essential - otherwise it is the equivalent of reading a piece of swiss cheese - too many holes.

From the search engine perspective, ALT tags can be used to further boost the concentration of specific keywords. This is especially effective if your image is directly related to your keywords.

So, check your images. Are they properly tagged?

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Meta-What?

Everyone is always talking about some magic formula for getting listed in search engines. There isn't any, but there are a few things you can certainly do to help the situation. One of those things includes meta-tags. There are a variety of meta-tags you can place in your code, but the three most important are:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Keywords

Take a look at your code (hint: right click on your page and choose view source), and look for something like this: (I have removed the "<" so it will show up here)

title: Your web site title here - between 50 and 80 characters including spaces

meta name="Description" content="A concise, descriptive summary of your site - up to 250 characters including spaces"

meta name="Keywords" content="key words and phrases that appear on your page - up to 1024 characters including spaces"

If you change the content of your page you should probably revisit your meta-tags. If you don't have any, contact your webmaster and work together to get the best words working for you.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Organizing Your Web Site Navigation

Somewhere between listing every page in your web site down the side of the page, and making users click through layers and layers of sub-menus to find what they need, there is a happy medium. Your average user wants to find the information they are looking for in 3 clicks or less. If they can't they will most likely leave your site and look elsewhere.

Consider the primary goal of your site - do you sell a product, a service, or is your site primarily informational? Can you organize your pages into general information and specific information? Do you have sub-categories of information?

In order to organize your links, make an outline of your site. Group them by general company info, product and/or service type, additional info or resources. If you find any one category has multiple sub-items, consider making it a top level item.

You can keep general information links at the top of the page and make more product/service specific links in a side navigation area. Another option is to use drop down menus from the main categories. If you feel you need to have all your navigation links showing, consider grouping them and separating them with graphical category names, putting them in boxes, or separating them with spacing.

There is no absolute right or wrong, but these are a few tips to help you create a more organized site.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cool Tool Review - Photo Organization with Picasa

If you are like me, you have embraced digital photography and now have loads of photos on your PC and no idea where everything is. Enter Picasa - a free photo organization tool from Google.

Once you have downloaded Picasa, it scans your computer, finds and organizes your photos in folders by date. It does this everytime you open the software. You can then drag and drop photos into folders and make custom albums. Other things you can do include photo touch ups and lighting enhancements. It has a cool collage feature, too.

My favorite feature has to be the composite page. It is the ultimate organizational tool. Print composite pages of each of your favorite folders, slip them into a 3-ring binder, and you will be able to find your favorite pictures quickly.

Of course, you can also email photos straight out of Picasa, make a slide show and even create a gift CD. Give it a spin! You'll love it!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Birthday to the United States! Thank you to all our heroes who have fought so hard to gain and maintain our freedom.

Don't feel like fighting the crowds or staying up late? Create your own fireworks!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Getting Listed - How Long Does it Really Take?

A common misconception in web publishing is that "if you build it, they will come". I frequently have clients ask me why their sites are not showing up in the search engines within days of it being launched. They expect that once their site is built and submitted to the search engines, it will show up on the first page and traffic will begin flowing in.

It's not that easy. These things take time. Just for comparison, here is a listing of the major search engines and the length of time it typically takes to get listed. (From submit-it.com)

  • MSN - up to 2 months
  • Google - up to 4 weeks
  • Alta Vista - up to 1 week
  • Excite - up to 6 weeks
  • AOL - up to 2 months
  • HotBot - up to 2 months

Like other aspects of your business, you have to be patient. Remember that your web site is only one piece of your entire marketing puzzle, and that search engine traffic is only one of many ways to direct traffic to your site.