Website Optimization When Business Is Closed

Google pulled an ironic prank today by featuring the Yosemite National Park on its Google Doodle the exact day, 123 years after its creation, when the National Park Service is shutting down because of the government’s inability to come to an agreement and keep its basic services running.

Google's irony: As government shuts down, Google marks anniversary of national park you suddenly cannot see
Google’s irony: As government shuts down, Google marks anniversary of national park you suddenly cannot see
[heading]Search Engine Optimization and Web Site Optimization[/heading]

Having your website featured on Google’s front page with a creative Google Doodle is, of course, the ultimate search engine optimization accomplishment. But a website rarely exists as an abstract entity not related to business, organization or a person. When that business is closed but its website is open to the biggest web traffic imaginable, the user-friendly thing is to update the website and clearly indicate of the closing or the limited working hours.

When online does not reflect offline reality

The National Park Service, no doubt hoping for the best, has no indication on its website of the possible closing.

National Park Service - Yosemite

A better alternative

YosemitePark.com run by DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, has put a simple warning indicating the possibility of the park closing.

yosemitepark.com

The value of Website Optimization when business is closed

Thinking holistically about how a website is used improves its usability and solves a number of potential problems particularly when the website represents a physical place of such enormous beauty as Yosemite National Park. I had wonderful time when hiking Yosemite with my cousin’s family 4 years ago and would not want to be among those who have just arrived at the park to only be told they need to leave. Of course, the closings are not the fault of the National Park Service, but whoever operates the websites should have been prepared enough to use the web as communication medium and clearly indicate that, sadly, the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite, will not be celebrated.

Tools for reporting on search engine rankings

Recently I have been working with a couple of small local business and the question of reporting on their search engine rankings came up. I had started my foray into the web design and development back when Netscape was in beta, into web site optimization back when Google was in alpha and then — a decade ago — would participate in search engine optimization knowledge sharing on forums like HighRankings. Today, I see no better place for finding professional advice than LinkedIn. Not unlike during my early days as a web master, I found endearing the openness and willingness by those who were much more experienced than me to share knowledge and experience. I wanted to summarize the responses I got in the hope that others might benefit from them!

Tools for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities

Search Engine Ranking, graph courtesy of WrenSoft.
Search Engine Ranking, graph courtesy of WrenSoft.

I asked the experts on the Search Engine Land LinkedIn discussion group: “What tools do you use and recommend for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities?” Here is what the participants in this LinkedIn discussion suggested, in alphabetical order:

It is quite interesting to compare this list to a similar one I had put together more than 10 years ago!

Valuable SEO Advise

Tool suggestion aside, I found most intriguing the opinions of a couple of experts: Andrea Berberich shared her whole methodology of ensuring high search engine rankings:

“For keyword discovery and competitive analysis here is what I do:

  1. Use within Keyword Planner “Display Planner” to get a variety of keywords combination
  2. Use Chrome SEO SERP Bench to figure out my competitors rank on the keyword variation
  3. Go back to Keyword Planner and see the search volume of all the keywords that are high on the list with my competitors (best rank)
  4. Work with the SEO Content Strategist and recommend to create the content.
  5. Once content is create with recommended keywords (2 non-branded; 1 branded per page) I get them submitted into BrightEdge for continual monitoring and tracking
  6. I also review the “untracked keywords” that BrightEdge provides
  7. Ones keyword and PLPs (preferred landing pages) are in BrightEdge Web Manager can monitor the page ranking.”

Scott Stouffer blankly stated that “Rank Trackers are dead — they are based on the query stack of a search engine, which has become incredibly noisy from the personalization (filters like social,local,etc…).” Lastly, Geoffrey Hoesch confirmed “… you’re better off focusing on organic traffic and conversions than keyword rankings, as few keyword rank tools track keyword rankings based on location, which makes regional/local tracking very difficult. In the end, Moz linked up with Google Analytics can help you create the best reports.”

Bulletproofing your WordPress site against a brute force attack

Bulletproofing your WordPress site against a brute force attacBlogs throughout the world are reporting that there is an on-going and highly-distributed, global attack on WordPress installations across virtually every web host in existence.

HostGator and LunarPages hosting both posted on what to do to protect your WordPress-based site:

DELETE THE ‘ADMIN’ USER FOR YOUR WP SITE

Before you do that, make sure to create a new administrator account, log out from the original admin account, log into the new account and only then attempt to delete the old admin account.

CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS REGULARLY

That should be a no-brainer but it is surprising how many sites get hacked because of simple passwords being used. The Geek Stuff offers some ideas for creating strong passwords but if your WordPress is updated, it will tell you if the new password is strong enough.

INSTALL SECURITY PLUGINS ON YOUR WP SITE

A terrific WordPress plugin, Limit Login Attempts is a good start.

PASSWORD PROTECT YOUR WP-LOGIN PAGE

Your hosting company should offer this and if not, you should perhaps change your web hosting company. I can highly recommend LunarPages! Use code “aff15off” for 15% off of a new shared hosting account if you sign up today!

Stay safe!

A photographic narrative of the life of Baha’u’llah

Baha'u'llahThe Baha’i World Center has launched a new website dedicated to the life of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith. I am grateful for having had the honor of playing a tiny role in this project — mainly by assisting the very capable web team of the Baha’i International Community with the website’s search engine optimization — and humbled by the beautiful work the whole team has put together.

Photo of Baha’u’llah

What is unique about this site is that it presents in a very artistic yet search engine friendly way a rich photographic journey through the life of the most current messenger of God, and offers to the viewers a wealth of images of artifacts and writings of Baha’u’llah.

Great job to Brian Kurzius and the whole team, and my deep gratitude for having been allowed to play a small part in this exciting project.

Online marketing: what works and what doesn’t

eMarketer posted results from a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa among attendees of the ad:tech asking them what online marketing approaches worked for them the best and the worst. The top three among the most successful online marketing tools were:

  • Pay-per-click marketing
  • Email lists compiled by the web site
  • Search engine optimization

Studio Lotus SEO traffic growthThis is consistent with the results of a client of mine, Studio Lotus, who saw their organic search engine traffic increase 68% from September 2006 to January 2007, based on a successful, well-planned web redesign. A small but very targeted Google AdWords campaign seems to be producing good results for them, and where I see a lot of untapped potential is fully utilizing the contact list accumulated through the web site’s contact form. It is heartening to see that best practices indeed produce good results.

Optimize Your Site In Time for the Holiday Season

eMarketer projects online spending in the holiday months will grow 29.3% over last year, totaling $16.7 billion.
eMarketer projects online spending in the holiday months of 2004 will total $16.7 billion
This estimate, combined with data from a recent report commissioned by The Macerich Company, a major regional shopping mall developer in the USA, indicates that online retailers should prepare for the anticipated increase in web traffic earlier than usual. The report shows that US consumers are ready to shop early in order to avoid the long lines in the last days before Christmas. Specifically, 40 percent of the respondents said they would begin their “serious” holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. Almost 30 percent will shop on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving.

This translates into two important tasks for e-retailers:

  • Now is the time to invest in a dual search engine marketing strategy, combining organic search engine optimization, and measured, targeted pay-per-click campaigns
  • Along the push to increase search engine traffic, e-commerce web sites should invest in developing a set of key performance indicators to measure the success of their web site operations. Conversion rate should be among the most important metrics for success. Other indicators in the web analytics portfolio of an e-tailer should be shopping card abandonment rate as well as ratios of return to new customers.

A helpful set of ideas on how to prepare your e-commerce site for the holiday season is generously offered by 37signals, usability consultancy.

For more on how WebSage can help you with developing a comprehensive search engine strategy and web analytics methodology, contact us for a free estimate.

Search engine optimization for your site’s major user groups

A website usually has multiple groups of users whose information needs would depend on how close they are in their progression to the ultimate goal, whether that is making an online purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

Andrew Chak, author of “Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Web Sites”, describes four main categories of users:

  • Browsers
  • Evaluators
  • Transactors
  • Customers

Each one of those groups would have different needs and depending on how well through usability and persuasion the site answers those needs, it would bring the users through to the next stage of the user lifecycle evolution.

An optimized website would enjoy the additional benefit of having each particular page targetting the different user groups rank higher in the main search engines. Such a website would enable the users, regadless of their stage in the pursuation evolution, to land directly to the most appropriate page.
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Offering multiple payment choices increases conversion rates for e-commerce sites

eMarketer and Internet Retailer published articles on the findings of a survey conducted by CyberSource which focuses on the impact multiple forms of online payment has on the conversion rate of e-commerce sites.

The survey found that shopping cart abandonment rates decline along with increases in the number of offered payment methods. Shopping cart abandonment for survey respondents offering only one payment method was 40%. The rate dropped to 34% for retailers offering two payment methods, 29% for those with three and 28% for those with four or more.

The most popular payment methods, according to the survey, are the general purpose credit cards like Visa and MasterCard, followed by gift certificates. 53% of the surveyed e-retailers offer only one or two methods of payment.

Offer credit card alternatives

Offering an alternative to credit card payment like PayPal or Bill Me Later improves the chances for successful e-commerce experience for those online shoppers who are not willing yet to share their credit card details with the e-merchant.

Integrating web site relaunch with optimization efforts

This week, JupiterResearch shared the following facts with anybody on their Internet Planet conference list:

  • 58% of Web sites are planning a relaunch this year.
  • 49% of Web site managers say usability is their top challenge in 2004.
  • 41% of Web sites will be upgrading or deploying a new commerce platform for their site this year.

(Source: Jupiter Research/ERI Executive Survey, 10/03)

If you are the owner or web manager of one of those web sites about to be relaunched, consider yourself lucky because you are at the right point of time to initiate not a mere visual redesign but to improve your web site from a total business objective point of view. Now is the time to ask oneself what is the purpose of the site, how is the site found, how is the site navigated, and how one reaches the site’s action pages, whether a contact form for service request or online purchase or newsletter subscription.
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