Email signatures can be used to your advantage

19 March 2009

The email signature is the part at the end of every email that you send.

Email signatures often contain legal content such as:

  • Limited company trading as company name
  • Registered office address
  • The content of this email is confidential
  • If you receive this email in error please notify the sender and delete immediately

Once your legal requirements (if any) are taken care of you are able to add other signature content that is more beneficial.

Email signatures often contain:

  • The person's name who sent the email, and often their job role
  • A link back to the company's website
  • Other forms of contact - address and/or phone numbers
  • The company's logo
  • Branding colours or fonts
  • "Take care of the environment and don't print this email" notice

Just think, on average you may send 100 emails a week (maybe more, and in some cases maybe less) - but having your signature details ensures 100 links to your website.

Now although search engines don't crawl email signatures, there's always a chance that the person who you're emailing may click the website link.

Having your branding colours, fonts and logo at the bottom also supports your overall branding and gets your company's image fixed in their head.

Other forms of contact I think is very important, as if you read the email and feel that it's an urgency that you contact them immediately (rather than replying to the email and waiting a few days for a response) you can call them straight away and say what you need to.

Without the phone number the email receiver will next be looking for a website link that they can click on to get more ways of contacting you. If the website link is also missing then they're going to have to result in replying to the email - or if they don't think it's worth the hassle of waiting a few days for a reply they might just give up (and result in maybe some business).

Email signatures are always a good idea to keep your brand strong and also giving your clients the easiest and quickest ways of getting hold of you.

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POP3 email accounts

18 March 2009

When buying a new domain name you can usually setup email accounts within the control panel.

If you can't then it may be that this is an extra that you will need to pay for, or go back to the host for.

POP3 email accounts work as follows:

  • An email comes into the email server
  • An email client such as Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird downloads the email to your local computer
  • The email is removed from the remote server

And so the cycle continues every time a new email comes in.

To setup an email client application you will need the following details:

  • Your email address
  • The username (often this is the email address again)
  • The password
  • The POP3/SMTP server address (often mail.domain-name.com)

And then other options like whether the server requires authentication, etc.

There is also usually an option in your email client application as to how long you leave the email on the remote server.

Two options are:

Download the email to the local computer and delete from the remote

The email will now be on your local computer and this will be the only copy of the email. If deleted from this computer then it will be gone!

Leave the email on the remote server for a few days

This is good for backup reasons, as if your computer crashes then you will still have a copy of the email on the remote server.

On the other hand if you're receiving emails from one email address on multiple computers then you are likely to end up with duplicates as each email client will want to download it for themselves as they see it as being a new email. This will result in having the same email downloaded to multiple email clients.

If you want to use more than one computer to view your emails on then a good option will be to download all emails onto an external hard drive such as a USB memory stick so that you can download all the emails to the same place, avoid duplicates and be able to access your emails from anywhere.

If you're against spending money on buying Microsoft Outlook then there's a free option, from the same people who bought us Firefox, called Thunderbird.

Thunderbird can be configured just like Microsoft Outlook and can also import email accounts and other settings from your Microsoft Outlook configuration files.

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Picking the right domain name

17 March 2009

When setting up a new business it might be worth carrying out a bit of online research to see if your company name's domain name has already been taken, or if there's a lot of competition for your keywords out there already.

If there's a lot of competition then it may be worth thinking of a different business name as you want your new business' website to go straight to the top of search engines.

If you've already registered your company and the website is just the next step, then just make sure you optimise your website for search engines well.

As a first point of optimisation you want to think about getting your company name, or keywords to find your company, in your domain name.

If you want to start a company called Micro Soft then to start with you may really want to re-consider seeing as Microsoft is one of the biggest names out there - but if you still want to pursue the matter then you want to think about what to optimise for as "Micro Soft" is just going to bring back "microsoft.com" every time.

Instead you want to think about a niche part of the market that you can optimise for.

Your company "Micro Soft" might specialise in microwaves and other kitchen appliances.

In this case you could try "micro-soft-appliances.com" or another domain name that has all your keywords in there and if searched for correctly will bring your website to the top instead of a competitors - or in this case another company with a similar company name.

Always think of what the end user will search for - then you will have a keyword basis to start from and you can start to build a list of domain names suitable for your company.

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Google hates duplicate content

16 March 2009

Duplicate content is very frowned upon by Google. In fact Google hates it.

Duplicate content within the same website often happens when:

  • There is more than one way to access the same content - I am not talking about navigation methods to get to the same page, but having the same content on 2 different URLs.
  • A website has a re-build or re-design - If the navigation works differently then you will be re-creating old pages, just on a different URL.
  • The home page - A lot of people don't know this or simply dismiss the fact, but every web page can display the home page at 4 different URLs:

    • www.mywebpage.com
    • www.mywebpage.com/index.php
    • mywebpage.com
    • mywebpage.com/index.php

    As you can see these 4 URLs exist for every website and will all show the same page (If using a Windows based server it may be index.asp, or if they're just HTML pages it may be index.htm or index.html).

Duplicate content can be avoided by using the robots.txt file to block some pages from Google crawling them, or by using 301 (Permanent) redirects, usually in the htaccess (or equivalent) file.

Duplicate content between 2 different websites will penalise the second website that displays the content, because the chances are if a website has already published the same content, then it must be the second website that is duplicating the content.

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Cloaking pages

15 March 2009

Page cloaking is a web page serving two different sets of content.

If a search engine goes onto the page it will display one page of content to try and raise keyword density and so raise search engine rank.

But if a normal website visitor goes onto the page they will be shown a page of different content.

A common example is when there's a flash website - the flash website is shown to the user, whereas, the text only version is shown to the website visitor.

To create a cloaking page you will need to use a piece of Javascript that will determine the website visitor's user agent (web browser type). After differentiating whether it's a search engine spider or a normal website visitor the Javascript will redirect to the correct page (for search engines or for website visitors).

Creating a cloaking web page is likely to get your website penalised by Google and other search engines, and so highly recommend not creating such a page - but at least now you know what it means when everybody talks about it.

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Do we write websites for Internet Explorer 6?

14 March 2009

At the time of Windows XP, Internet Explorer 6 was the newest web browser.

Internet Explorer 6 was later out-dated when Internet Explorer 7 was built in time for Windows XP Service Pack 2.

For a lot of people who upgraded to Windows XP Service Pack 2 they also upgraded to Internet Explorer 7 and so started the phase-out of Internet Explorer 6.

Internet Explorer's web browser rivals, Firefox, triumphed Internet Explorer 6 with their first Firefox web browser application.

From the start of Firefox it has only grown and become a more popular web browser for a lot of people.

Windows Vista was built with Internet Explorer 7 as the default web browser and so the Internet Explorer 6 phase-out continues.

Internet Explorer has been found to have major security breaches (as shown on the BBC website below)
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7784908.stm

If I still haven't convinced you to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 then - try looking at some websites in Internet Explorer 6 and then try again in Internet Explorer 7 - notice the difference?

This website I've tried to build for Internet Explorer 6 and above, although there may be a few little design elements that look different.

PNG image files are high quality images (like JPEGs), and also allow transparency (like GIFs). Internet Explorer 6, however, doesn't display the transparency correctly and so will display a coloured background instead of transparency - unless the website has a PNG fix script for Internet Explorer.

The file is usually called something like "pngiefix.htc" and is included in the style sheet using a "behavior" property.

These days when building a new website, the developer will often try and build the website for only Internet Explorer 7 and above, and also for Firefox, Safari, Opera and Google Chrome.

Out of the visitors to this website my statistics show that only 21.38% use Internet Explorer as their web browser and of the 21.38% only 18.64% use Internet Explorer 6. As you can see this is a very, very small percentage.

I myself would add a few small tweaks to make a website still visible in Internet Explorer 6 - but at the same time it's not worth spending a lot of time on this as so few people would ever see it using these style sheet tweaks.

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Off page optimisation

13 March 2009

Off page optimisation is SEO techniques that you can carry out through external websites.

Links from external websites is a big factor in raising our Page Rank score.

We want to pick links from big, well known, frquently visited, high Page Ranking websites that have been around for quite a few years.

The older the website the more reliable search engines see it to be, because if it were a spam website it would probably only be round for a year and then close down.

Using off page optimisation enables a website to be at the top of Google for a keyword it may not even contain on it's page.

The beauty of inbound links is the link text that can be used for the actual link.

When writing a link in HTML we write:
<a href="http://www.google.com">Search engine</a>

Inside the <a> tag is where we put the link URL, in this case "http://www.google.com" and then between the open <a> and close </a> of the <a> tag is where we can put our link text, in this case "Search engine".

Even internal links on a website should still use optimised and relevant link text, and you should always avoid using "Click here" or "Read more".

If you enter "Click here" into Google you will see Adobe Reader comes up top - this is because so many websites publish PDF documents and want to give the user a way to download Adobe Reader if they don't already have it installed and so just link to Adobe using the link text "Click here".

In order for inbound links and off page optimisation to take full affect you need to make sure you has as many high Page Ranked relevant links to your website.

If you find that typing one search term brings you to the top in Google, then it's time to start optimising for the next keyword so make sure the next lot of inbound links you use the next keyword as the link text.

Avoid paying for links, as Google sees this as trying to cheat, and if you get caught your site is likely to get penalised.

Too many inbound links too quickly could also trigger Google to wave a red flag and investigate how we're getting so many inbound links so quickly.

Make sure all is legit and no link building tools are used, and try and avoid spamming websites as this is a low Page Rank inbound link and is more likely to downgrade your Page Rank, than to help you out.

First thing to do once a new website is built, or at the start of a search engine optimisation campaign, is to submit the website to the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Windows Live Search.

Forum participation is another way of building good inbound links, as you can sign up to many forums and place your website link (with good link text) in your forum signature and get your website's link out on many websites very quickly and easily.

Publications such as articles, newsletters, ezines and press releases are all very good ways of also getting your links out there by submitting them to article directories and such.

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What's a squeeze page?

12 March 2009

A squeeze page is a exactly the same as a sales page, but with a difference.

As appose to normal sale pages, a squeeze page won't distract away from the sales pitch.

There will be no navigation at the top and no other links that take you to external pages.

Often you will find videos, audio clips, testimonials and screen shots of the product, all at the aim to try and tempt the visitor to buy the end product.

The end result of a squeeze page is either to get the visitor to sign up for email updates, or to actually buy the product.

Although signing up for the email updates doesn't generate us revenue straight away, we can carry out some strategic email marketing.

Through auto responders we can send the email update subscriber some free products and samples in order to gain there trust and give them value - and then later re-pitch our product to them. Now that we have their trust they're more likely to buy the product and so again we get a good result.

Even if the email update subscriber doesn't buy the product, they have still signed up to the email updates voluntarily and so when we build our next product we can pitch this to them and hopefully this new product will be more what they're after - and so result in a sale in the end anyway.

Free samples that you can send your email subscribers include:

  • A free chapter - if it's a book or eBook
  • A trial version - if it's an application
  • A free clip - if it's an audio or video product

There are lots of squeeze pages out there, and after reading this I think you're going to notice many more of them.

Other methods used by squeeze pages are:

  • A popup screen that looks like a chat room or live chat
  • A small MSN Messenger like popup box that appears in the bottom right hand corner
  • Once you click to close the page you might get a popup box saying "Are you sure you want to leave?"
  • They may offer you a "one off" special offer just for today
  • There may be a count down timer saying that if you buy it within the time limit you will get it for half price

So many sales techniques just to seal the deal and get the visitor to buy the product, and they work.

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What is a FavIcon?

11 March 2009

FavIcons are usually found on the address bar on your web browser.

Being on this website you should see a blue coloured "P" inside a black box in the address bar. That is the FavIcon for this website.

If you look down your bookmarked websites you're bound to see all kinda of FavIcons from various different websites.

A FavIcon will make your website stick out in a list.

FavIcons are 16x16 pixel images saved as a .ico file (icon) and uploaded to the web server.

Once uploaded you need to add the following 2 lines to any page you want to display the FavIcon on:
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/images/favicon.ico" />
<link rel="icon" href="/images/favicon.ico" />

The href attribute needs to point to the location where you have uploaded the FavIcon to.

You will see the 2 tags above are practically the same, except one says "shortcut icon" and the other says "icon". This is because originally people used "shortcut icon" but as time has gone on web browsers also support "icon" and so some are thinking that in the future "icon" may take over from "shortcut icon".

To create a FavIcon I use an online tool where all I need is an image.

The online tool then takes my image, make it 16x16 pixels and then output the image in the correct .ico format.

The website I use is:
www.chami.com/html-kit/services/favicon/

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PHP header redirect function

10 March 2009

PHP headers can do anything from force download of a file, render the page as a different file format or redirect the page to another URL.

All PHP headers must be placed before anything is output onto the page.

We want to use the PHP code:

<?php
header ("Location: http://www.redirect.com");
exit;
?>

If a PHP header occurs after text has been output onto the page you will get a list of PHP header errors.

To escape any errors from being output onto the page you can put the @ symbol before any PHP function, but the page still won't redirect.

In this case we want to hide the errors from being displayed, and still redirect the page.

Page redirects can be carried out using javascript as well like this:

<script type="text/javascript">
window.location.href="http://www.redirect.com";
</script>

Again the flaw here is if the user has javascript turned off, which will result in the rest of the page being displayed.

The last result of redirect would be the HTML meta tag to refresh, with code like this:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=http://www.redirect.com" />

So all together we have 3 forms of page redirect and so I decided to make it into a function so that no errors will be displayed when redirecing and if the first method doesn't work then one of the other 2 methods hopefully will.

function redirect($url)
{
    if (!headers_sent()) //If headers haven't yet been sent
    {
        @header('Location: '.$url); exit;
    }
    else //Headers have already been sent
    {
        echo '<script type="text/javascript">'; //Echo the javascript redirect code
        echo 'window.location.href="'.$url.'";';
        echo '</script>';
        echo '<noscript>'; //If javascript is turned off this code will execute
        echo '<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url='.$url.'" />';
        echo '</noscript>'; exit;
    }
}

If this still doesn't work then you're doing something wrong!

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