Key to many websites and blogs are their images. No question the Internet and its components are visual, yet I bump into sites all the time that make key errors when handling their images. Here is a list of things you should and should not do when adding images to your website or blog.
Format Your Images for Fast Loading
Yes, I still see this all the time, I land on a site and the large image on the homepage starts its long crawl down. Uh! When you upload an image be sure that it has been formatted for the web. If you don’t format it correctly, and it takes forever for images to load people will leave your site–sorry, but it’s just that simple.
Ensure Your Padding Is Correct
The space between your images and text or other content on your site is called padding. If the padding is not set correctly, your images and content will literally be crunched up next to each other, causing your site to look unprofessional.
Credit Your Images
If you’re blogging, it’s important to credit your images, though I believe if you purchase the images from a company like iStock, then crediting the photographer and image company is not necessary (I may get some blow back from that comment, but if I’ve spent my money on the image, that’s enough to me).
Set The Alt Tag for Each Image
Setting the Alt tag of your images make them searchable. If there is no information about the image, then Google and other search engines cannot index it, and therefore can hinder your post being searchable to its fullest capability.
Here is a GREAT little video with Google’s Matt Cutts, who describes why using Alt tags is so important…
Avoid Boring, Useless Imagery
Copyright: Microsoft, Inc.
Many sites and blogs will use imagery to attempt to marry the context of their message to an image. For instance, a business site will, all too often, utilize an image of people smiling and shaking hands. This type of imagery is reminiscent of Clip-Art from the 1990s and has been far overused. Avoid it at all cost. To me, it says, our company is too lazy to create a quality website with quality, quantifiable content, so we threw in this crappy picture of two models shaking hands, or a group of people all smiling. Personally, I don’t trust a smiling businessperson. I remember a couple of years ago I went with a friend to purchase a car. We met several slick, all smiles salespeople, who acted like we were their best friend. Yeah, right. Then we met a salesman who was knowledgeable, kind and mature, he knew his stuff, but did not act the sap. That’s who got the order! So, don’t be slick, people hate slick, both in person and on the web.
This is a guest post by Danielle Brown-Davis, a freelance SEO writer.
If you’re currently not blogging for business, you’re missing out on opportunities to connect with potential customers within your own neighborhood. If your local competition is currently blogging and you’re not, your competition is gaining business should be yours. The good news is, it is never too late to start blogging. Here are a few benefits of blogging for business:
Blogging boosts your reputation as an expert.
When you provide your local target audience with solutions to their problem, that makes you memorable. So next time when they are faced with a more challenging issue they will come to you for an effective solution.
Blogging for traffic helps you gain local customers.
Blogging for business will help you gain visibility in the major search engines for your most popular keywords. So, let’s say you own an auto dealership, when you create relevant blog content about cars, you’re automatically increasing your chances of gaining local clients who are searching for a new or used cars. When you incorporate the top related keywords within your blog articles, Google, Bing and Yahoo will consider your website relevant for the top auto dealership keyword searches. This will increase your ranking within the search engines and help you attract new potential customers.
Blogging helps you gain more quality inbound links.
When you create a blog that features unique content, it encourages more inbound links from other related blogs. In other words, other bloggers will be compelled to link to your blog when they find something you wrote interesting. Taking it a step further, when a potential customer in your area finds one of your blog articles interesting, they will share your link with their neighbors, friends and family. This can help you attract an unlimited amount of traffic to your blog and website.
Blogging helps you stay in touch.
Blogging for business helps you stay in touch with potential customers who aren’t ready to buy at the moment. When you offer them the option to subscribe to your blog, they will receive an email alert every time you post new content. When a subscriber receives a new alert inviting them to read your latest blog article or watch a video, it is a little flash reminder that you still exist if they need your product/service.
Blogging for traffic is an excellent way to attract new local customers. It is also more affordable than investing in local newspaper ads, magazine ads, billboards and direct marketing mailers. Every time someone visits your blog, it is free advertising.
Evernote the wildly popular online notes-on-steriods storage company has updated, well, everything. I’m going to attempt to greatly condense down the information Evernote has pushed regarding these updates, yet, if you seek more detailed breakdowns, I’ve provided a link to the appropriate Evernote post at the end of each platform’s review.
iPhone and iPad Update
The iOS update is, to say the least, a big one!
RICH TEXT SUPPORT–Right on you iOS device you can now add styled text (bold, italic, underline). You can also highlight existing text, add URLs, create header texts and make lists. Wow!
Editing of Existing Rich Text–The update dramatically increases not only creation aspects of Evernote, but also its editing capabilities. Now you can edit any note that contains styles available on iOS. Though checkboxes cannot be created, they can be ‘checked.’
Access Shared Notebooks–You can now access any notebook another user has shared with you.
New Premium Feature: Lock Evernote with a Passcode–For those paying users of Evernote’s Fremium service, you can now add a 4 digit access code to Evernote. Awesome!
Search Within Notes–Now, in addition to searching with your Evernote notebooks, you can actually search within a note itself. Yes, way cool.
Slideshow View–This adds the functionality of being able to view just the images associated with a specific note.
iPad Redesign–The iPad app has been given a major facelift, that encompasses a new and updated layout.
All Notes View–Notes are now displayed in easy to read snippets which gives you more information about the note.
Snippets–The note list now displays notes as Snippets, therefore allowing for quicker scanning to find exactly the note you seek, quickly
More To Come
In addition to “behind-the-scenes improvements to speed and stability,” according to Evernote there is much more on the way.
For a more detailed review of the iOS Update, go HERE
Evernote for MAC 3.0 Designed for LION
According to Evernote, they have “made a number of interesting changes designed specifically for the new operating system,” Lion.
New Look–Embracing the “look and feel of Lion,” the app has a cleaner, much more polished look and feel.
Full Screen Mode–Tap on the Full Screen Button in the upper right corner, and the app fills the screen.
Simplify Your Display–The display, per customers request, has been uncluttered and simplified.
Favorites Bar–There is now a Favorites Bar that enables users to jump to various places throughout their Evernote notebook. Jump to specific categories of notes or specific notebooks and tags. The new Favorites Bar was designed to be a time saver and it looks to be just that. Impressive, most impressive!
Audio Notes–Audio Notes have now been added to Evernote for Windows. This feature allows users to make audio recordings and place them directly into a note. Playback is available right from the note–no external player is necessary. Slick!
Customizable Toolbar–You can now easily customize the toolbar, therefore allowing you to show the buttons you use the most.
Print Preview–A new feature that enables you to see exactly how a note will print.
More to Come
According to Evernote, they have streamlined the Windows installation, and much more is on the way.
Learn more about the Evernote for Windows update HERE
Evernote Firefox Extension
According to Evernote, this is a “major update for Firefox 6.” There are many new features, including a popup interface, the ability to search your Evernote account through Google, Bing or Yahoo search.
Clipping Options–The Firefox plugin now allows you to choose where your clips go, to your desktop or to Evernote for the web.
Sending Clips to Evernote Web–The biggest change you will see is the redesigned and updated look of the popup that appears when you clip to Evernote web. This, quite simply, is a welcome and much needed change, that simplifies using the popup greatly.
Article Clips–Now when reading an article, just clip on the Evernote elephant logo and your article is automatically highlighted, click the Clip Article button and you’re done. There are additional options for selecting only parts of an article as well.
Site Memory–Now users can see a list of clips from any specific site they have clipped from. If you’ve clipped multiple articles from one site, you can see the whole list in one quick view. Neat!
Simultaneous Search–Now, when you clip to the Web, you can Simultaneous Search, which will search your Evernote account whenever you execute a Google, Bing or Yahoo search. Slick!
Sending Clips to Evernote on the Desktop–I LOVE THIS: Now the Firefox Extension allows you to clip directly to the version of Evernote you have installed on your desktop. This streamlines your browsing by sending the Clip to your desktop version, and keeps your current browsing intact and uninterrupted. Awesome!
Learn more about the new Evernote Firefox Extension HERE
I hope this review has given you reason to rejoice, I use Evernote every day and love it–I even pay for it!
This video shows how to use the All in One SEO plugin to drive traffic to your blog posts. If you’re using WordPress as your blogging platform, this is a must see video for creating more traffic to your individual posts!
Here are a couple of related posts that may help as well:
Is Your Business Maximizing Facebook, Social Media Examiner
Although an advertisement for their upcoming Facebook Summit (we have no affiliation), this is a great little primer for what’s recently changed in Facebook and an overview of their summit. Additionally, you can view a free online class “Facebook News Feed Optimization: How to Dramatically Increase Your Visibility and Engagement.”
Clout is a book I’m in the middle of reading right now, and from the very beginning it struck me as, “not just another marketing book.” While we’ve all heard that content is king, and I agree that content is very, very important, but content married to a quality layout and great functionality rules all, Colleen takes us deeper into the understanding of content, and shows us specific examples, therefore allowing for several, ah-ha moments.
I loved the Dirty Harry Movies of the 1970s and 1980s. When crime was much more rampant in America, the iconic Clint Eastwood character, “Dirty” Harry Callahan, with his classic one liners like “Go ahead, make my day,” gave us the strength to vicariously stand up against the bad guys. My all time favorite Dirty Harry-ism is “A man’s got to know his limitations,” from the second movie in the series, “Magnum Force.” The most engaging aspect of that line was that it works in so many different aspects of life; knowing your limitations, or weaknesses, enables you to address them, and by that virtue, work to overcome them. So, you ask, is there a way to assess our weaknesses, and strengths in our businesses? Absolutely, and it’s called a SWOT Analysis, and can be invaluable if applied correctly. The analysis is best utilized to as a first-step in the development of a plan of action in pursuit of a specific objective.
What is a SWOT Analysis?
SWOT is a tool that is employed to breakdown Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Primarily used for businesses, but also utilized for projects. While, of course, subjective to those creating the analysis, it is a tool that if applied to a narrow focus, or niche in the marketplace–your niche, will allow you to clearly identify where you are strong, and where you are weak and vulnerable. The keys to a SWOT analysis, is being both honest, and in-depth. While it is easy to say that your competition is a threat, the lynchpin can be identification of why your competition is a threat, and how you can make adjustments to minimize these threats.
While there are both advocates and opponents of SWOT, the theme of this post is to introduce you to the idea of identification of your company’s strength and weaknesses and give you a tool that is the first step of the process that will enable you to outline a path to follow that can highlights the strengths and begin to minimize your weaknesses and threats. Let’s make you strong, and bulletproof!
Breaking down SWOT
A listing of the positive attributes of your company, including, but not limited to: its platform, quality-control, assets (both human and monetary), leadership, potential standing in the niche itself, existing customer base, intellectual property, patents. Simply what makes your company strong and positively standout from your competition.
A listing of the negative attributes of your company, that you, specifically have control over, and therefore the ability to change upon identification. These could include lack of funding, or poor cash-flow, lack of expertise, or employment weaknesses, slow delivery of goods or services, high cost of customer acquisition (has become an issue in the last several years), poor reputation and poor customer service, ineffective management, dominate competition, shrinking margins. Remember, here are elements that you have the ability to address and control. Therefore an element such as the weather would not be a weakness.
Identifying opportunities in your specific marketplace or niche can be one of the most effective outcomes of the analysis. Here you can leverage your strengths that you’ve listed and then identify opportunities that directly correspond to those strengths. The opportunities in the analysis are generally agreed to be external to your situation and are viewed as pivot points to enhance your current effectiveness in your niche. Essentially, based upon your strengths, what, therefore, are your the opportunities that offer the greatest short or long-term gain.
Also external to your business, threats are aspects or conditions that, in your view, are, or are potentially, harmful to your business and the pursuit of your objective(s). This means what are the current forces that are dangerous to your success or could become a threat in the future, or if a certain confluence of events were to occur. Loss of key personnel, severe cash flow issues, fire, theft, diminishing margins or pricing pressure (an incredibly important and timely issue), new competition (international competition for instance), obsolescence (MySpace).
While utilization of a SWOT Analysis is by no means a stand-alone exercise, it will enable you to clearly identify those aspect that are effecting the outcome of a stated objective. Therefore, and further, the analysis can be applied to multiple objectives. If your business sells more than one product or offers several services, an analysis can be employed for each and objectives can be evaluated individually.
To reiterate, the key is honesty, without being forthright about each aspect of the analysis, the exercise become worthless, Yet, the SWOT Analysis if executed candidly is an excellent platform for the identification of the first steps to meeting your stated objectives.
Recently I started reading the book Clout, The Art and Science of Influential Web Content by Colleen Jones. While most small business owners are, understandably, too busy to read a book about website content, I could not resist taking a closer look.
Right from the start I was impressed and thought I would relay a very important passage regarding professional content vs. content generated by the actual business owner.
“Quality Content Books More Hotel Rooms for Holiday Inn
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)-an international hotel company with seven brands including InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Crown Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites–conducted a content experiment with remarkable results. IHG wanted to know whether professional-quality content about their hotel properties would perform better than the regular content, which was created by property owners. In other words, would professional photos and descriptions of a hotel influence customers to book it better than the owner-generated photos and descriptions?
IHG created high-quality photos and text for a sample of Holiday Inn hotels. Then, they diverted a segment of holidayinn.com visitors to that sample of hotels. Finally, IHG conducted extensive analysis to compare booking for the sample hotels and the hotels with owner-generated content.
The results were stunning. Hotel properties with the high-quality photos and text outperformed owner-generated photos and text by a statistically significant margin. While IHG cannot release the exact number, the results were so impressive that executives kicked off a long-term project to revamp the photos and descriptions for all Holiday Inn hotels.
‘We were amazed at the impact that better quality content had on online hotel bookings. Our goal is to connect guests with great hotels. We believe that professional photos and descriptions help guests more easily decide whether a property is right for them,”says John Muehlebauer, Director of Product Strategy and Planning.”
Comment: Jones’ analysis of the ongoing debate regarding Professional vs. Homegrown content is spot on and finishes with the statement “…these elements are not easy or cheap, but they’re achievable and necessary if you want results.” Wow, that’s a powerful statement and underscores what industry professionals, like Robert Scoble, have been saying for years: There are too many lousy websites out there!
I highly recommend you pick up Colleen Jones’ book “Clout” and dive right in! If you’ve already read it, what did you think?
As yet another weekend comes to a close and our thoughts slowly turn back toward work and the coming week, here are several blog posts that I found valuable, and thought you would enjoy reading this evening.
I went to high school in Connecticut where playing hockey was a big thing. We had a great team, but we had trouble putting the puck in the net; my coach used to say “Pull the trigger!” I was a defenseman, and would alway creep into the crease looking for opportunities to score, and got caught with my pants down on more than once occasion. But what I wanted to do was to get in there and make something happen, and sometimes it worked. One of the hardest things I have found that people we build sites for encounter is writing in their blog. They have embraced the idea, and understand why they should be blogging, and how it can dramatically help their business, but “pulling the trigger” is difficult for them.
The military has a term I love: Hug the Monster. In effect, confront and execute on that which you fear most. Here are a few ideas that I hope will get your creative juices flowing.
Just write something to get started. You’ve got a new blog, now use it. What’s your business and how are you unique? Have you done something really cool lately? Are you in construction and just built a beautiful home, or built a new kitchen? Does your restaurant have a special you’ve added to the menu? Blog it. Does your bar have a great band coming in on Saturday night? There’s a post.
Don’t worry if it’s not Hemingway! I have a personal blog where I post excerpts from a book I’m writing. One afternoon my mother read one of my posts and replied, “It’s good, but it’s not Hemingway.” Don’t worry if it’s not great, and earth shattering. Just get started and you will do fine, and over time, you will get better and better.
Be a resource. Your site visitors will start to revisit your site looking for additional posts, information, how-tos, etc. What will start to happen is your blog will start to become a valuable resource, and that’s a good thing!
Keep track of your ideas as they come to you. If something pops into your head and you don’t write it down, you will forget it. I do everything I can to keep blog ideas as they flow. I use Evernote on each machine and device I have, along with an Evernote expediter called FastEver, which enables you to very quickly get info into Evernote. I also keep a flip-style notepad with me, that allows me to write out ideas, as, for me, writing on paper allows my ideas to flow much more freely.
Carve out time to blog and keep to a schedule. In this world of multi-multi tasking I think it’s gotten harder to get things done. There are just so many moment to moment distractions. Taking a specific time slot on a weekly basis and creating a couple of posts, simply allows you to get it done. Most business owners are so busy that if you don’t set aside some time, posting just will not get started, let alone completed.
Use a great customer story. This is not a testimonial, but just a story about one of your customer’s accomplishments. Our customers do great things every day–highlight one of them!
Don’t sell all the time! The idea of blogging is to interest your readers so they will come back often. If you blatantly sell to them, they will quickly get turned off and not return. Offer your readers content that in some way will help them, and you will have readers for life!
Think small. Your posts don’t always have to be about something grand that you’ve done. One of the most popular posts Webvantix has created was a quick little video on How to Filter Out Your IP Address in Google Analytics. I had found Google’s instructions confusing and when I realized how simple it actually was, I had to create a screencast for people–and people have used it! Small things that you’ve done can make compelling posts. Have you solved a small problem, where you can help people with the same issue? Posts like that can go viral!
The key to getting started with your blog is to do just that, start. Always keep a list of ideas at hand, and post on a schedule that allows you to not to become overwhelmed. The return can be greater traffic and more business, along with a public that looks upon your blog as a valuable resource!