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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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Marketing Puzzle Gets Bigger

Do you remember the days before the where standard marketing tools included your logo, business card, printed collateral, print ads, news releases and face-to-face networking?

The marketing puzzle has certainly gotten bigger and more complex. Now companies have to allocate their marketing dollars to traditional tools as well as a myriad of new ones.

The new puzzle pieces include your web site; web site optimization; e-newsletters; social networking like blogs, discussion forums, YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace; banner ads; pay per click campaigns, and the list goes on.

How does a company decide how to prioritize and allocate resources to all these pieces? Know your company, know your audience and know your limitations.

If you have time, resources and the know how, you may be able to do some of these tasks on your own. If not, you may be better off to consult with a public relations or marketing firm that has expertise in new media marketing.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Must Have Free Tool - Google Analytics

Standard web-hosting packages typically come with pretty informative web statistics packages built in that you can use to analyze the comings and goings of users to your site. Some of the more popular packages are WebTrends, Webalizer, and my personal favorite, Awstats. However, if you have a blog that is not hosted through a web host, how do you find out what is going on?

My blog is done through Blogger.com. It was free, very easy to set up, and works great, but I didn't know if anyone was visiting. I looked into Google Analytics - another great, free tool from the search engine kings. GA's primary purpose is to provide tracking and information on Google Adwords campaign, but it is also available for sites that don't use Adwords.

I signed up and copied the GA code into my blog code. Then I waited 24 hours for GA to collect information. I was pleasantly surprised to see the wealth of information it had collected. You get a cool 4-part screen with different data types.

  • The first quadrant is a simple color coded line graph showing the number of visits and the number of page views to your site.
  • The second quadrant is a pie chart of new vs. returning visits.
  • The third quadrant is a map of the world with dots showing where your site visitors came from.
  • And the fourth quadrant is a pie chart of where your visitors came from, whether a direct request or referral from another site.

Beyond these pictures there are breakdowns of keywords visitors used for searching, details on which sites sent you the traffic, which pages they visited, which pages they left from and other standard traffic details.

Considering this is a free tool from Google, I give it an A+ for ease of use and value.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Working from Home? New terms.

In this day of being politically correct, what is the correct phrase for someone who works from home? Is it telecommuter, work at home professional, work at home parent, or something completely different? Our friends at HomeOfficeHub have done the research and uncovered the work from home buzzwords. Check out the article entitled "The New 'Open-Collar' Workforce".

Keeping up with the latest terms in any field is always such a challenge. Feel free to leave a comment with some of the latest buzzwords you have heard.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's Saturday - Let's go Blog Tipping!

Unlike its "cousins" Cow-tipping and Tractor-tipping (ala Mater from Cars), Blog-tipping is an acceptable activity that will not get you chased down by an angry farmer.

I done quite a bit of reading this week and thanks to Technorati and some Blogrolls of my favorite blogs, I now have some new favorites! Here they are in no particular order:

PR Blogger - A strong mix of Public Relations and Technology - right up my alley. I have read some great posts there this week. My favorite being "Has There Ever Been A Better Time To Work In PR"

Working Solo - A great blog focusing on working alone, but not doing it all by yourself. A great resource for SOHO businesses. I got another great resource from her blog on Great Icon Graphics.

WAHMConnections - It took me a while to figure out that WAHMConnections has a few blogs and there are great topics on all of them. Let's start with SEO Copywriting - What Google wants, visitors want too!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Does Your Site Give Your Visitors What They Are Looking For?

Ponder this for a moment, you have a beautifully designed, slick looking web site that you just "know" your visitors will love, after all, you do. It has all the bells and whistles, that expensive Flash intro, and graphics galore. But is it missing what your customers want most? Content. Relevant content.

Specific audiences are looking for specific content and more than 70% of web customers are using search engines or search directories to find the sites that have the content they want. The competition is tough. Getting those coveted top spots in Google without paying for them takes time, effort, a well constructed site, and CONTENT, relevant content. The search engines, by nature, prefer large, dynamic sites to smaller, static sites. So do users.

As part of your search engine optimization strategy, think about what your potential customers are coming to your site to find out. Take a look at your web traffic logs and review the keywords that are being used to find your site. Are they what you want them to be? Look at the content on your competitor's site. Are the key phrases you want to promote being written into the copy effectively? Sometimes it is helpful to step out of your comfort zone and have an independent third party review your site, whether it is just a good friend, or an experienced web writer.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Spiders and Other Not-So-Creepy Crawlers

Okay, this is not an early Halloween post, rather a quick overview into terms like spiders, crawlers, and robots. What do these three terms have to do with web design and marketing? Alot actually!

Basically the terms spiders, crawlers, and robots are pretty interchangeable in the world of the web. They are all non-human, automated programs that are used to connect the dots and weave the big web called the Internet. Search engines launch their spider programs which run 24/7/365 to crawl through the millions of web pages, log key content words and phrases and follow links to other pages in the site and away from the site. In doing so, spiders basically catalog the web. Search engines then use this data to help users find what they are looking for.

Search engines take the data collected by the spiders and use it to create an index of sites that match the words being used in searches. They also use the information on pages the site links to and from to and percentage match in code (meta tags and content), to determine how high in the search the page will rank. Okay, there is more to the exact formula than that, you get the jist!

If you look at your web statistics closely, you can tell if and which spiders have visited. There also seems to be growing controversy over the need to submit your site to search engines based on the fact that the spiders are always going. They will eventually find your site, but manually submitting your site can help sometimes and it certainly won't hurt.

On a final note, not all spidering programs are good or being put to good use. The same type of program that helps Google build its great search engine, can also be used by spammers to harvest email addresses.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Miserable State of Customer Service

I have come to the conclusion that customer service in this day and age is something that leaves alot to be desired. Take your typical phone call to any major company; you will most likely go through a maze of automated instructions - all of which "have changed" so you need to listen to them all first. Then, you may or may not get an actual human, and if you do, they may not even be located in the country that you are calling from (10% of all customer support services are outsourced to firms outside the US). Can you say FRUSTRATION?

A business associate of mine, Susan Carol of Susan Carol Associates Public Relations, tipped me off to the coolest resource yet - GetHuman.com. GetHuman is an all volunteer organization that is compiling a huge database on companies and publishing the secret codes to getting to a human when calling! BRILLIANT! They also provide tips for tracking down company numbers when they aren't posted in obvious places.

For more 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!).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Online Communities - A Whole New World

Before the days of the Internet, when people wanted to socialize or network with other businesses, they did it the "old-fashioned" way, face-to-face. You met with your neighbors, went to networking events at local businesses, had dinner parties, and exchanged business cards with everyone you met. It's not to say that these events no longer happen or that this is no longer an effective way to get the word out about your business, it's just that the Internet has opened up a whole new world!

For example, who had heard of MySpace two years ago? Who hasn't heard of it now? Who would have thought that YouTube would become a viable launch pad for new talent and products? Blogging has allowed the average business person to become an overnight "expert" on a topic, just because they write about it. Even traditional media sources and journalists are using information published in blogs as newsworthy information.

Every niche has some form of social networking site, discussion forum or resource site, allowing individuals with specific interests the means to connect with others with similar interests. ClubMom and WAHM are sites specifically for moms - ClubMom is a huge social networking site for moms and all their interests and WAHM has a very busy discussion forum for mom's who work from home. Blogher and Technorati are just two of the many gathering spots for bloggers of all types. Yahoo has "groups" for every possible interest and the list goes on and on.

We'd love to hear about your favorite business or social networking site. Drop us a line in the comments and let us know!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Back to Reality

Well, things have been quiet on my blog this week for a reason. The family and I took a whirlwind trip up the East Coast and had a blast! Coming back to an inbox full of spam, new projects, and updates for current projects mixed in with notes from friends is overwhelming. Did I mention the amount of laundry 5 people generate in a week? Ugh. I guess it is back to reality.

I am amazed at how dependent we have become on technology. Not only did I use my laptop in the hotel room to check my email (and discard the heaps of spam before the real email could no longer come through), it was much more efficient than a concierge. If I had researched the concierge's dinner recommendation the first night through TripAdvisor before we went, I would have known that while the concierge, who obviously didn't have kids, thought it was a great place, for us, it just was okay. Without my laptop in tow, we would have had at least one more dining near-disaster! A friend had wanted to meet us for dinner at a very nice restaurant. After doing some research I quickly realized that it was a recipe for disaster and recommended that my husband go it alone. Good call, mom! Instead, the kids were very content with a trip to ToysRUs, McDonalds brought back to the hotel room and mom ordering room service.

Stay tuned - Essential Keystrokes will have new insights, tips and commentary next week.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Did you remember to PING?

This summer I took the plunge and joined the world of blogging and I have no regrets. I have really enjoyed it and have learned all sorts of new words and found a lot of cool tools in the process. One of the most important things I have learned is that when you blog, you must then ping.

A ping is basically a computer program that allows you to verify a particular web address and make sure it is working. Pinging, as it relates to blogs, is a way for you to noitify weblog directories and services of an update to your blog. Your blog software usually performs a ping automatically, but if you want to let other services like Technorati, NewsGator, FeedBurner and others all know at the same time it can be time consuming. The more relevant directories your blog is listed with, the better chance you have of getting your blog read by interested readers.

pingoat_9.gif This is where services like Pingoat and Ping-o-matic come into play. They allow you to ping multiple services using their automated process. They are both free and certainly worth a look.

Do you have a favorite pinging service or Blog directory? Feel free to share with us by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Viral Marketing - YouTube.com

I have been watching with great fascination as the phenomenon created by YouTube.com continues to grow. YouTube is a video sharing site that allows anyone to watch and upload videos to the web. It began in February 2005 out of the frustrations of two friends who were trying to share video footage of a dinner event that had been at. The files were too big for email and while there were plenty of photo sharing sites out there, there wasn't a means for sharing their videos. Not even 18 months later, YouTube has become an entertainment destination for viewers of all ages looking for humor, music videos, off the wall entertainment and everything in between.

It has made instant stars out of average individuals - my favorite being The Evolution of Dance (see below), which has been viewed 30,638,535 times since its launch 4 months ago - amazing! It has captured the attention of traditional media outlets like NBC and ABC. ABC's Good Morning America is making YouTube videos a regular Wednesday morning event. Politicians are getting into the act, posting campaign videos on YouTube. Budding musicians, actors, and artists are using YouTube as an inexpensive way to get their talents (and lack there of) out to the masses. More and more businesses are looking to the phenomenon as a way to promote their goods/services via video.

With over 70 million videos watched each day, one can only imagine what the possibilities are.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Terminology - Four New Buzzwords

Keeping up with the latest web trends is like anything else - exhausting! With web trends you have to learn a new language, too! Here are four new buzz words in the web world - their definitions are not exactly what you might think.
  • AJAX - Not the cleaner, but an acronym for Asynchronous Java Script and XML. This buzzword is used to describe a technique used by programmers for creating interactive web applications by using a combination of programming technologies. Learn more
  • ATOM - Not exactly a scientific term in the traditional sense, Atom is a new standard for programmers and a format for syndicating blogs. People use this syndication format to check their favorite blog sites using Feed readers. Learn more
  • Python - Python is a powerful open source programming language that runs equally well on a variety of platforms from your standard Windows to Mac and many portable device platforms. One of its plusses is its quick learning curve thanks to its dynamic object oriented base and many library objects. Learn more
  • Ruby on Rails - I just love the name of this one! It sounds cool. Ruby on Rails is another open source full-stack framework for developing database-backed web applications. All you need is a database and a server. Learn more

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Friday, August 04, 2006

It's Friday and It's Too Hot to Work!

I don't know about you, but the heat this week has taken just about everything out of me! It's just too hot to do anything. Since it's also Friday, I say, we just goof off today. Find a good book or play games. Go to the pool or cool off at the mall!

Looking for some good games? The folks at RealArcade have got a great deal going right now! Get 2 FREE games with a 30 Day Free trial to GamePass

2 free Games this month only with GamePass

Another option would be to go somewhere nice on vacation! Say, a condo in Maui. A Maui Condo on the beach at Waikoloa Beach Resort would be spectacular. I could relax with a full-sized kitchen and expansive lanais on both levels, two master suites, a private wading pool, and a location so close to the ocean that you can frequently feel the spray from the ocean as waves break against the coastline. Okay, back to reality - I'll just play games.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cool Tool Review - Picking Keywords

The words and phrases in the content of your site, ideally, are the words and phrases your site visitors are using to find you. So how do you know if these words are relevant and what people are searching for?

  • Overture is a popular service for advertisers who place pay per click ads through Yahoo. They have a cool tool that lets you search by keyword/phrase and find out how many searches were made for it last month.
  • Wordtracker is a research tool that provides a variety of services that help you find the best keywords for your site. I love their free service that emails you the top 300 searched terms across the web for each week.
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Shopping Cart Software

Back in the old days (1995 or so), buying anything online with the click of a mouse was not widely done. Now, everyone from the brick and mortar stores we all frequent daily to the small home based business can sell their wares online - and people are buying.

As a web site owner, what are your options for setting up an easy-to-use shopping cart on your site?

  • If you have a large inventory and a large budget, you can hire a firm that specializes in e-commerce and get a custom solution.
  • You can use a service such as 1shoppingcart.com that charges a monthly fee, but comes with pre-made templates, credit card gateways, e-newsletter and mailing list maintenance features and more.
  • Many web hosts now have turn-key shopping cart systems that are easily installed and customized like ZenCart, OsCommerce and CubeCart. Setting up the basics are pretty straight-forward, but making it look and feel like your own can be tricky.
  • The easiest way to accept payments online is through PayPal. It's fast, easy, and secure.

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