googel, yahoo, bingIn the myriad of unlimited resources and self-proclaimed experts in SEO available via the web, in print and more, one can certainly see the world around them begin to spin. “Experts” in this field riddle us with BP’s ranging from phrases like ‘keyword optimization’ and ‘reciprocal linking’ to the extent that their recommendations often get lost in translation to the average website owner.

In an effort to render some clarity to the dilemma of setting up your website for optimal exposure, we’ve made an honest attempt to clarify which practices might be best to focus your attention on as you head down this rocky road of discovery. As a disclaimer, we need to be clear that these are not the only practices worthy of attention, but are the building blocks to better search engine performance. So, with that said, here we go.

Site naming –
When building a website, a crucial way for search engines to identify what your site is all about is to be sure you choose a site description (the text that appears as a blue hyperlink in an browsers search results page) that not only incorporates your site/business name, but also a few select keywords to describe you product or service. We also see great merit in adding your city or state as the name, keywords, and locations are the first lines of text that a searchbot will hit on in a viewer’s organic search results. Don’t try to conquer all locations or words, just pick ones that acutely describe your site. If you spread yourself too thin, you’ll dilute your visibility. Don’t forget the short descriptive text that shows up under you site link in browsers as this plays an important role in page ranking as well.  This can be done via the CSS or in your settings in a WordPress site.

Page naming –
The same rules apply to each of your site’s pages. Think critically of the content on your page and use site-specific words to tell the searchbot what kind of content resides there. This can be done easily in Wordpress sites via the SEO booster plug-in – so get it if you don’t already have it! If you’re dealing with an HTML/Flash/other site, these names can be assigned via the metatag descriptions or added directly into your CSS.

Keywords –
Keywords drive traffic, simply put! Be selective and specific to your website’s content in the words you chose. Keywords are a crucial element to your website’s visibility and ultimately helps to drive hits to your content. If you want to get creative, go to one of your primary competitors sites and right-click on their homepage and select “source”. By doing this, you can look at the content and keywords they may have incorporated into their site and this can help you differentiate your words from theirs or, you can borrow some of their ideas. It really depends on each particular situation.

Use Google Analytics –
There is such a wealth of knowledge and insight you can discover about your website, your visitors, your page performance and the keywords that web searchers use to find you (and which keywords you might not be utilizing). Don’t miss out on this valuable insight – it’s free!

Don’t Focus on just Google –
Although Google is a primary weapon in creating visibility for your website, it’s not the only game in town. So don’t focus all your attention solely on it. Be sure to submit your site to other browsers! Yahoo, Bing and MSN are other big boys on the block. In fact, via your analytics you can discover some interesting things about your web visitors by learning which browsers they use. For example, if you are getting a lot of traffic from MSN or Bing, you may have an end-user who tends to rely on their default settings on their computers. This might indicate that your visitors may tend to not be very computer literate and/or are folks who jump on and off quickly – shopping for specifics and not willing to read through heavy copy. If this is the case, you can identify this and edit your content down, simplify how one navigates your site and make your pitch early. If you’re getting a lot of Firefox or Safari users coming to your site, then you might have a tougher sale on your hands and will need to build value in your product or service via your web copy as these folks tend to be more web savvy and more inclined to do thorough research before making a purchase or commitment online.

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Writing content for your website is often looked at as a daunting task.  For those of you who have done it, you know that professionalism, accuracy and proofreading are clear essentials to writing quality web content.  But how often do you consider how your specific word selection and sentence structure can either make or break your website’s effectiveness when it comes to visits, click-through and conversion rates?

In today’s hyper-competitive online marketplace, web browsers are constantly bombarded with in-your-face marketing and sales tactics telling them what they want and when they want it. Hard selling has become so common online that you no longer know whether you’re at a sleazy car dealership or in the comfort of your own home surfing the web.  Because these tactics have been used over and over while shopping online, readers have now developed a canny ability to simply ignore what they perceive to be marketeering.

This is why your shrewd attention to how you write you web copy can be a difference maker.  Tim Ash, from Website Magazine, states that the primary goal for writing your web copy is to “reduce the visitor’s cognitive load.”  By starting your sentences and paragraphs with your core points – not your lead-ins – you will increase your chance of capturing their attention.  He called this the “inverted triangle approach.”  These days, web readers have honed the art of skimming content until something catches their interest while screening out the unnecessary fluff.  So this is why making your point early is a vital technique.  Allow for brief introductory paragraphs that then lead to a link where more can be read if so desired.  If you force a reader through all your content at once, they’ll most likely not find reward in having to dig out pertinent content and move off your site before you’ve made your impact.  Be direct, be prompt and be on point.

With that said, your voice – your tone – can also dictate whether or not someone will stay with you and your site for any length of time or not.  Time on site is an important measure of content effectiveness.  The longer the stay, the better your chances of increasing your conversion rate. Don’t use marketese. Speak to them like they’re your fiend or neighbor.  Be polite, but not overly formal. This tends to turn people off. Natural defense mechanisms respond quickly to the hard sell or a overly formalized structure.  Provide immediate information up front (without a sales voice) pertaining to your product or service, then follow it with supportive material. If they feel like reading on, they will.  But if they don’t, they will have at least received your message.

Keep your thoughts and sentence structures short.  They are easier to follow.  Don’t use superlative adjectives and try to focus on providing objective information.  Keeping things short, to the point and inline with your readers attention span in this competitive web market is essential.  A secondary side-effect of brevity is that retention is often bolstered.  Your readers will walk away with a better understanding of your products and services.

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a new partnership

03/03/2010

Pressbriar.com

SCM Designs is happy to announce a new partnership with Pressbriar.com to bring you new website design and services.

With this new partnership, SCM Designs can now offer valuable website services to clients such as web design, SEO and optimization, hosting, and much more.  SCM Designs and Pressbriar can offer both WordPress self-hosted site construction and design as well as static, HTML based web design.

Pressbriar offers unique web development and marketing strategies based on the WordPress content management systems/blog platform and in HTML based static web pages.  We offers site building and content management of your site using hundreds of plugins and widgets, including tools for search engine optimization, account settings, site stats, forms, user registration, social networking, browser verification, and user comments to name a few. I am more than happy to walk you through the entire process.

We will also offer to install hosting and domain registration through GoDaddy or any other hosting service upon request.  This way your web design, domain acquisition and hosting service is all hands free for you.

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How do we judge or interpret a good design?

We’re all surrounded on a daily basis by visual representations that we interpret in many different ways. Some we walk by without any needed effort to understanding their meaning, while others seek to invoke an emotional response in the brief seconds we afford them.

Over time, certain design principles have bounced back and forth from the forefront to the background as stylistic transformations have occurred within each generational movement.  Take the classic “form follows function” as an example.  This has been a design foundation to many designers over the years, but does it always hold true?  Could we say that the form of an iPhone follows its function?  Not so much. Does a digital camera form follow it’s function?  They’re still shaped based on a design that accommodated film rolls within.  Digital camera no longer require such a shape.  But yet its functionality is as loud as its form. When is it appropriate to follow certain rules and when does a design need to deviate from these hardened guidelines to better suite the needs of its intentions? Should a design be minimalist or complex in its presentation to its viewer?  Should designers focus on a functionalist approach or is there more to it than that?   What role does symbolism or iconography play in the design of a logo or other piece and should archetypes be so often revisited or should we seek new, innovative ideas?  So, what ultimately determines whether a design concept is successful or not?

Unfortunately there is no one simplistic answer to solve these creative dilemmas designers face every day.  Ask any designer and they’ll tell about the struggles they’ve encountered while working on a project with a client and how they found difficulty in seeing eye-to-eye when it came down to final artwork.  But ultimately, design is a cooperative effort of listening to ideas both from their point of initiation and throughout the design stages.  A good idea can mature into a great one as it moves through constructive critique.  The difficult part is recognizing this and acting on it.

Ultimately, a design should generate a desire, an emotional energy, a clear understanding and association to something – whether subtle or not.  Colors, shapes and how these elements interact will determine the success of a piece, but not due to their sheer presence, but how they are cooperatively intertwine to invoke a response.

A great design is not one that solves everything at once, but one that inherently solves the challenges of its intended audience as it and they mature over time.  Unintended audiences may not see it as successful, but the design itself should predict this. Individuality is often an underlying factor in how a design is created, whether corporate or private, and should be embraced as part of the process.

In the end, a design will serve to support an idea, a business strategy, an identity, a visual representation of a tightly wrapped emotional package that with the right trigger, would openly identify with something so simple as a visual aesthetic – a creative identity with a distinct purpose.  A narrative.  A story.

No, design is not simply the construction of shapes, lines and text, but how these elements are constructed to interact with their viewers.

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”- Henry Ford

Steve Muth
SCM Designs

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