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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, September 29, 2006

This blog is on the move...

Blogger has been a great place to start, but it is time for this blog to take a step forward. As of Oct. 3, 2006, Essential Keystrokes will be at it's new home - www.essentialkeystrokes.com. I had purchased the domain name a while ago and love the fact that I was able to learn something new, too (Wordpress). I am still tweaking the new site, but invite everyone to stop in and visit at our new web home. If you have links pointing to this site, you should probably update your links and/or bookmarks. Come by and drop us a line.

PS - Thanks to all my readers and those who have taken the time to interact with me in the process. If you are interested in getting my take on things outside the realm of web design and marketing, stop over to my other blog www.casualkeystrokes.com.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You've Only Got 30 Seconds or Twenty Words...

To do what? To get your message across to your web site visitors.

We would all like to think that our web sites contain such compelling information that users will stick around, browse, and really get into our material, but the brutal truth is, they won't. Statistics show that over 80% of your site's visitors will leave your site within 30 seconds of arriving. At first I didn't believe it, but then I looked at the web statistics for more than 20 sites I maintain/host, and yep, the stats tell the same story.

Additionally, did you know that you have twenty words to capture your visitors interest or they will be gone? Twenty. Your message needs to be short, sweet and to the point if you expect to keep them around.

Your site visitors are looking for information in quick, easy to digest bits. They want their information and they want it now. They don't read web pages the way they read books. According to Jakob Nielsen, they read web content using an F-shaped pattern - two quick horizontal passes and a vertical pass down the left.

So what's a web site owner to do? Look at your site with these thoughts in mind and play around with your content, layout and the way you present your information. It is often helpful to get the opinion of someone who does not have the emotional ties to the site as you do. Ask that independent third party if they can identify your site's product/service/message in 30 seconds or less. Can they glean the information they need in the first 20 words they come upon? Is your key information located in the "F-zone"? If so, great - you are on the right track. If not, make some changes.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Best Of The Web For FREE - But For How Long?

On my recent flight across the Atlantic, I was catching up on some reading and came across a very interesting column in PC Magazine by John C. Dvorak on the YouTube Phenomenon. He compares the abundance of free and extremely functional services available on the web now to those available in 1999 (shortly before most of them went under). The more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that you can get a lot for free on the web, and most of us have come to take it for granted.

Here are a few of these great, free services:
  • YouTube - Sky-rocketing traffic and popularity. With operation costs of at least $1.5 million per month, how is this site going to continue to function? My guess is that strategic partnerships with record companies (like Warner Music) and other media outlets (like Cingular Wireless) will help.
  • Flickr - Photo sharing at its finest. Developed in 2002 by a Canadian company, it was recently purchased by Yahoo! Basic services are free, but they do make some money on the upgraded Professional Accounts.
  • Skype - Call for free anywhere in the world from your computer, add-ons for a fee. I use this service regularly and highly recommend it to anyone doing business internationally or with friends and family all over the world. Skype was recently purchased by Ebay.
  • Honorable mentions include: Jot, Putfile, YouSendIt, Gmail, GTalk, Photobucket, Writely, and Blogger.

I wonder how many of these sites will survive? Or will they get bought out and evolve into "suites" grouped with other services? I'd love to get your take on this trend! Leave me a note expressing your view or share your favorite free service with the rest of us!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Week Without the Web

Nothing like a vacation to a broadband-less place to break one of a near-addiction to the Web! We went to the south coast of Ireland for a week to help my Grandparents celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary along with four generations of our family. It was a spectacular, once in a lifetime experience.

When I logged off a week ago I was a bit nervous. What would I do without my daily dose of Cyberspace? I wouldn't be able to check my email, blogs, favorite forums, run my business or check my bank balance. Guess what? I survived!

I caught up on some reading including and article with great insights on the viability of sites like YouTube, Flickr, Blogger and such. I did lots of crossword puzzles, too. I visited with family, took in the sites, played with the kids, did some shopping, and reflected on the importance of family history.

On the way home on the plane (while in a one hour holding pattern above the US), I was able to think more clearly and creatively about my business, my blogs, my goals and next steps. I grabbed an old fashioned notebook and a pen and brainstormed.

Now the suitcases are waiting in the kitchen to be unpacked, the kids are in bed, hubby is catching up on the football he missed, and I am unwinding with a cup of tea and my dear "friend" the Web.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Best of Essential Keystrokes

I will be offline for about 10 days so in the meantime, feel free to browse the archives for some of the best posts on Essential Keystrokes. I started this blog with the idea of using it to share my web insights. Below is a list of Web 101 (and a good refresher for those beyond that) topics I have covered to date:

Leave me a comment and let me know if these topics are of use to you. Feel free to request topics on web design and marketing and I will consider posting about them when I return.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fun Friday - Five Distractions for Your Day

Who really gets any work done on Fridays anyhow? Here are some fun distractions for your Friday!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

TechToy Adventures - iPod Video

I am not a Gadget Girl, but am married to Gadget Man. Most of the time these "TechToys" that make appearances in our house are cool (Pizzazz Pizza Oven), useful (GPS enabled PDA), and end up being well-used (TIVO), but chances are, I didn't buy them. We got a new member to our "TechToys" collection yesterday - a black, iPod Video.

Now, we have an iPod in the family already - a sporty, white one loaded with songs ranging from Hannah Montana to Hamster Dance perfect for our soon to be tweens. Why did we need another one? Well, Gadget Man thinks the video feature is so cool. After all, he now has a longer commute and a job that is going to require more travel. He can put his favorite songs, videos and audiobooks on it and listen to it in the car or in the air. I can't imagine watching anything on a screen that small.

So, he opens the box and glances over the Quick Start Guide and starts setting up his preferences. Somehow, he inadvertently selects Chinese as the language. Chinese. Not German, not French, Chinese. Great. Now I had to go to Apple's site and get the instructions for undoing that mess. We finally get that done, load a bunch of songs we already own, and now he wants to put movies that he already has on a hard drive onto the iPod. No luck. We need conversion software. No energy for that at 10:30 PM, so off to iTunes to purchase a music video - I just want to see how clear this picture really is.

We download a U2 video and I am sold. The video quality was amazing. Now I could imagine watching a movie on this little device. And with a transatlantic flight in our near future, I really want to figure out how to get these movies onto the iPod. He says he has a friend who has put movies on his - pick up the phone I say, let's get on it!!

Anyone have any good iPod Video tips for me? I want to get our money's worth out of this one!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cool Tool Review - Comment Trackers

While navigating the Blogosphere, I often take a moment to leave a comment when I find a post I really like or find interesting. The problem is that I forget where I've been. I need some virtual breadcrumbs - Hansel and Gretl style.

While checking in on one of my new favorite blogs - BusinessBlogwire, I read the interview done by BolderBlogs on increasing your blog traffic. In the interview, Easton mentions comment tracking sites that he uses to keep track of his comments that he has left along the way. AHA - there are my virtual breadcrumbs!!

I have already signed up for and tested out coComment. Very cool. It keeps track of my comments in an easy to use format. There is also co.mments, not as pretty, but definitely functional. Another option is Commentful. Commentful looks like it is a great match if you use Firefox, as it blinks when follow-up comments are made.

With any tool, everyone has a favorite and different features appeal to different people. Which one do you use and what is your favorite?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Choosing An Online Marketing Company

The number of companies offering online marketing services and/or search engine optimization services is growing daily. Some offer quality services by taking time to learn about your market, your clients, and your needs. However, there are more that are quick to offer guaranteed placements (warning sign #1), offer to register your site with hundreds of search engines for $19.99 (warning sign #2), or spew out stacks of meaningless data (warning sign #3).

The most important thing to remember when considering an online marketing company's services, is that search engine marketing is a moving target. The formulas that the search engines use for ranking sites are always changing. Getting high rankings in the search engines is really only one piece of the online marketing puzzle anyhow. Look for a company with a proven track record and satisfied customers.

Services a good online marketing company should offer include:
  • Full web-site audit and analysis
  • Keyword Ranking Reports
  • Self Service SEO Tools
  • Link Popularity Reports
  • PayPerClick Campaign Set Up
So, do your research and remember what your mother told you - "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back Up Your Hard Drive - NOW!

Let's just say, you are cruising along, surfin' the net and all of a sudden you get the heart-stopping, blue screen of death. If you are like me, your life flashes before your eyes and you pray to the computer gods that when you shut your system down and restart it all your data will still be in tact. During this prayer, you plead with the computer gods - "Just this once, please bring me my data, I promise I'll do a back up, I promise." Sound familiar?

Do you know how expensive and time-consuming it can be to have someone recover them for you? Do you know how easy it is to do yourself?

There are a myriad of ways to back up your data, especially now. If you don't have much data to back up, burn just what you need to a CD or two. Label them, and put them in the safe. Now if you are like me, whose LIFE, livelihood, and sanity are tied into this computer (I know, how sad), it will take stacks of CDs and way too much time. Enter, Iomega's portable hard drives.

Iomega CorporationIomega has always had great portable storage, but the 250GB portable hard drive rocks. I can literally slide my entire life onto it, unplug it, store it in a safe place or take it with me to plug into my lap top. The best part is that it is the size of a wallet (it could fit in my purse) and plugs in via USB.

Now, my only complaint about the portable hard drive is the funky whining noise it makes from time to time. Maybe it is just speaking to me, saying back it up NOW!

Off to take some of my own advice....

Sunday, September 03, 2006

What is a Widget?

Last year when I got my iMac G5, I was getting to know my way around it and all of a sudden a layer of little windows appeared with the latest weather, a solitare game, maps, calendar and a variety of other little gizmos. On the Mac it is called my Dashboard, but after a bit of research, I figured out that these are called widgets - small files that run single applications in individual window that can be customized for your desktop. I'll call them "Geek Toys".

Originally created in 2000 using XML, they were launched for the Mac platform and now using Java, they are available for Windows.

Where do you get these widgets? The name in the game used to be Konfabulator, but it appears that Yahoo! has bought them out. Yahoo! Widgets gallery lets you find widgets and download them, or if you are a widget creator, you can submit them too.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

A New Way To Make Money With Your Blog

Due to the meteoric rise in the popularity of blogs and the word of mouth effect they have on the marketplace, advertisers are now tapping into bloggers as a way to get the word out about their products and services. However, until recently, the primary way to make money from blogging was through advertisers using programs like Google Adsense or selling banner ad space.

Now there are a handful of new services that link blog publishers to advertisers, with bloggers being paid to mention the advertisers product in a post. Of course, there is brewing controversy about this technique, but as a blogger I don't think it is bad. For one thing, it exposes me as a consumer to products/services I may or may not have heard about before. It gives me something new to research and learn about. I am not going to blog about something I don't feel is worthwhile - meaning I will pass up offers for products/services which I find to be somewhat spammy.

I have worked with a few of these blogging for dollars companies (Blogitive - I like, PayPerPost - I don't) and recently learned of a new one - Blogsvertise. I had seen them mentioned at Problogger and other sites and figured it was worth a look.

How Blogsvertise works is that bloggers are assigned topics to post on and follow the guidelines set out by the company. The blogger must write about the assigned subject within seven days including a link to the website or product at least three times. They can review the site, compliment it, relate to it somehow in their daily life, or even complain about it. The post must be approved and be online before the blogger is paid via PayPal.

For additional details, or to sign up, go to Blogsvertise.com.

What are your feelings on blogging for pay? Good thing or bad?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Official Blog Tipping Day

Did you know that the 1st day of each month is official Blog Tipping Day? According to Business Blogwire it is. So, without further ado…

  • Since it is going to rain ALL weekend, I may need to spend some time at Popcorn & Twizzlers to get ideas as to what movies and shows are worth a watch.
  • Or maybe I will read a book – something recommended by Great Reads.
  • Susan’s Spa has some great posts about Blogging and why we do it.

If you need more good reading, check out this month's issue of Business 2.0 for a great article called Blogging for Dollars.

Have a great weekend!