Does your website have sticky pages?

9 March 2009

Does your website have sticky pages?

Do your website visitors keep coming back?

Is there any reason for them to come back?

Does your website always offer something new for your visitors?

In order to keep your website visitors coming back time and time again you need to give them a reason to come back. Here's a few tips to ensure that your website visitors do keep coming back:

  • Keep your website up-to-date
  • Start a forum, blog or any means of user interaction so they can get invovled
  • Create an RSS feed for your website visitors to subscribe to
  • The website visitor won't come back if they found it hard last time, so make sure it's easy to navigate and find the information they're looking for
  • Give the website visitors a value and a reason to come back and recommend it to friends - this could be a good article or good blog
  • Keep a mailing list and contact them all from time-to-time
  • Tempt visitors back with a special offer, something of great value, or something for free

Having the same website visitors coming back to your website is also referred to as "Visitor Loyalty" by Google Analytics.

For a lot of people or companies the website is the main income stream and so is essential that visitors do keep coming back and also that they tell their friends about the website as well.

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Choosing the correct navigation for your website

8 March 2009

You can have really good and useful content on your website, but what's the use if your website visitors can't even find it?

The navigation on a website is very important and should be thought about very carefully in the early stages of building a website.

The positioning should always be along the top or down the left hand side as users read left-to-right and from top-to-bottom and so it's more logical and good website practice.

The suggested short term memory can handle 7 items plus or minus 2 and so I'd suggest having 5, 7 or 9 main navigation links.

If you need more links then it's a good idea to divide your links into categories and have sub navigation for each main navigation link.

The navigation text needs to be informative, search engine friendly and not misleading or have multiple meanings. Link text is a good method in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and so the link text should include keywords if possible. Also having informative links will tell your website visitors exactly what they're going to see before they even click on it. Always make sure that the link text is not misleading, otherwise the website visitor may click there expecting to see something else, or they could get lost within your website, or even worse they may not be able to find the page they're looking for and so just give up.

Normal practice is to have your home page link first, as this is usually the first page that the visitor sees and normal practice is to see this link first.

After the home page link you should show your links in order of relevance but yet still as logical as possible.

If you plan to have a contact type page, or a page for useful links then these are usually 2 of the last links that you will see in the navigation. As this is normal practice I would always stick to this ruling as it's what most Internet users are used to and the last thing a website wants to do is confuse the user as this is a way to lose a lot of visitors quickly.

Always make sure that your website does have a contact page, or contact information easily visible - as if the wesbsite visitor can't find what they're looking for the last resort may be for them to contact you and ask for the information that they're looking for.

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Problems with a flash website

7 March 2009

Flash is a different programming language to HTML, PHP, ASP and website publishing languages. To have flash on a website it needs to be added as a web object.

Web objects can't be crawled by search engines because any text you see within an object is part of the object - which search engines are unable to read. For this reason search engines are unable to read flash files.

If the whole website is built in flash then search engines won't actually see any of the website's text because it's all inside the object and so search engines will view it as a practically empty website. For this reason search engines will only see your website as being one page and won't be able to crawl other pages unless a sitemap has been submitted to the search engines.

Search engines won't be able to pick up any keywords or key phrases except for those in the meta tags. The only other help to search engines will be internal links from other websites.

Flash banners on a website would be ok because search engines will still be able to read the rest of the text. Except - Some web browsers have flash turned off as it can be seen as potentially dangerous to your computer, and older browsers can't handle flash files properly, and so the look of the website will be very different for some people.

Other media devices such as some mobile phones are still not all compatible to view flash successfully and quite often the website visitor will just be faced with an "F" icon to show that usually there would be flash content in this area.

These days a lot of websites are built using a Content Management System (CMS) and so updates can be made to the website quickly and easily by the website owner - whereas a flash website will need to go back to the flash developer in order for them to change the files.

Flash files can often be quite large and so may slow down the loading time of a website. Recent statistics show that if the website takes longer than half a second to load it will lose 20% of it's visitors. Google also doesn't like slow loading websites and so the page rank score can also be penalised.

In conclusion it is ok to have flash banners or small flash objects on your page, but you should avoid building the complete website in flash. It is more costly, can take longer to load, and although it looks good - it's not going to get you top Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) results. Any flash objects that you do decide to place on your website should always have a plane text alternative for search engines to see and also for accessibility reasons.

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What is RSS?

6 March 2009

Statistics show that most Internet users don't know what RSS is, and for this reason they wouldn't subscribe to any feeds.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, although you may also see people using the terms Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary as well.

You will often see the orange RSS icon RSS Icon on a page, or you may see this icon on your web browser.

Internet Explorer shows the icon in a toolbar

Internet Explorer RSS


And Firefox shows the icon in the address bar

Firefox RSS


RSS is a way to syndicate with a website's feed and so be alerted whenever they add new content to the feed.

The feeds are usually used for news and for blog entries as these are constantly updated and so need to keep the website visitors up-to-date.

Once you click to subscribe to a feed you are shown a list of feed readers that you may want to use.

I personally use Google Reader and I find it really good. I have subscribed to about 10-15 feeds and each has it's only category on the feed reader. Any updated feeds (feeds with new content) are highlighted so they stand out.

On Google Reader you can also set favourites and share feeds with others. Every Google Reader account has their own public favourites page, mine is - www.google.com/reader/shared/15586057576910103121

A lot of people won't find RSS feeds useful, but if you're on the Internet most days and have websites that you want to stay up-to-date with then this is a perfect answer.

Keep an eye on all your websites from one feed reader.

With social networking and Web 2.0 so big these days, there's bound to be plenty of websites that you're going to want to keep an eye on.

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Why use a CMS (Content Management System)?

3 March 2009

A CMS (Content Management System) allows users to input their own content and edit it easily.

Content Management Systems quite often have built in functionality such as being able to blog, setting up a forum, displaying a picture album, running a social network and whatever other functionality you can think of.

There are plenty of CMS platforms out there for people to download, and then upload to your own web space. After installing on your web space you can build your template files and add content to your website.

Some of the CMS platforms out there include (but are not limited to):

  • WordPress
  • CakePHP
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Mambo
  • TypePress
  • CMSimple
  • Django

As well as all of these well know CMS platforms, I've also built my own, PJN CMS.

With a Content Management System the user will be able to create new pages, change te navigation order, add content to the pages, add functionality to pages and be able to update the content from any computer as long as they remember the username and password.

The beauty of using a Content Management System is that anyone can have a website, without knowing how to code in PHP or HTML.

The whole website will be consistent in layout and all content added should be compliant with W3C XHTML standards.

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Google joins Twitter

2 March 2009

I received an email newsletter today saying that Google has just joined Twitter, I assumed Google would already have been a member and I'd already be following them - but sure enough Google has only been a member on Twitter for about 3 days now.

When I had a look Google already has 35,000 followers - and after just 3 days, I'd say that's pretty impressive!

Google's first Twitter update says:

I'm 01100110 01100101 01100101 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101100 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 00001010


Now I don't read binary, and I'm not sure whether my source is correct - but I have heard that this translates to "I'm feeling lucky".

When looking through the Twitter members that Google is following - it's very few compared to who's following them, but they're following Twitter members such as Yahoo and Live Search!

Here are some useful Twitter members who you should think about following:

Twitter really is growing fast, be a part of it.

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PHP force download for PDF files

1 March 2009

It's quite often on a website that instead of letting someone view a file online, and letting the user see the file path of where it's being stored, you use a force download script which means that the user has to download the file instantly.

I do my force downloads in PHP using the header() function. There may be other ways, but not yet that I'm aware of.

You want to be careful when writing a force download script as it may enable someone to download any file on your web server including your PHP and server side script pages.

The best way is to send the page an id number that can then be looked up in an online database and then the database will hold the file path so that the user won't be able to see it.

Force downloading a PDF is slightly different from force downloading other files because relative and exact file paths will cause the PDF to not open and give a "File Corrupted" error.

The "Content-Type" header shows the file type that the page needs to render for.

Here's a list of the content types that could be used for the different file extensions when carrying out a force download:

<?php
switch( $file_extension )
{
  case "pdf": $content_type="application/pdf"; break;
  case "exe": $content_type="application/octet-stream"; break;
  case "zip": $content_type="application/zip"; break;
  case "doc": $content_type="application/msword"; break;
  case "xls": $content_type="application/vnd.ms-excel"; break;
  case "ppt": $content_type="application/vnd.ms-powerpoint"; break;
  case "gif": $content_type="image/gif"; break;
  case "png": $content_type="image/png"; break;
  case "jpeg":
  case "jpg": $content_type="image/jpg"; break;
  default: $content_type="application/force-download";
}
?>


Here's the code to force download a PDF file:

<?php
$filename = $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . "/path/to/file/my_file.pdf";
header("Cache-Control: public");
header("Content-Description: File Transfer");
header('Content-disposition: attachment; filename='.basename($filename));
header("Content-Type: application/pdf");
header("Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary");
header('Content-Length: '. filesize($filename));
readfile($filename);
?>


The "$_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT']" isn't needed for every file, some file types allow you to just use exact and relative file paths, but a PDF will throw back "File Corrupted" errors if this is not used.

The PDF force download code can be used for all files, just change the "Content-Type" header to the content type for the file you want to force people to download.

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What's wrong with using frames on a website?

28 February 2009

First of all for those who are unfamiliar with frames - frames are like having a web browser within a web browser.

The frame can show any website, for instance I could have a frame on my website showing Google.

Because frames are like a web browser inside a web browser search engines see this as 2 separate pages and so crawl them both separately.

The problem with search engines not crawling frames means that the content and links will not be crawled on the same page and so a lot of potential keywords and key phrases will be missed and the page, therefore, will not be fully search engine optimised, but actually quite badly built.

Sometimes, because the content of a frame is a separate page, a search engine result will bring up the frame contents, and so not display any links - just an area of that page (although you're not going to find pages like this near the top of search engines).

A page made up of different frames is called a frameset meaning that the page literally has the frames set out on the page and the frames contain all the content. The frameset page will hold little or quite often no content.

To stop people from displaying their website inside a frame placed on a different website, website developers will quite often use a piece of JavaScript that will break the frames and just show the frame content.

You will notice that user populated websites, such as social networks, they disallow frame and iframe code because, potentially, if the website contains break frame code then the initial website will lose a lot of visitors as soon as they view the page containing the frame or iframe.

An iframe is slightly different to a frame in that, an iframe can be placed anywhere on the page, whereas, frames are cutting off the left hand side of the page of the top, etc. The iframe can just be a small areaa on the web page.

The same rules apply to iframes as they do to normal frames though... They're a big no no!

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Email marketing

27 February 2009

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is exactly what it says – marketing through the use of emails. Quite often you’ll find websites that will send you an email every few months containing the most recent special offers.

How is it so effective?

Email marketing is ideal as you can reach a wide and varied audience at a very low cost and within a small time scale. Statistics show that on average people don’t like to buy an item until they’ve gone back and reviewed it a few times. Email marketing means that you can re-introduce your product to people multiple times – just don’t over do it or your mailing list will start to decrease!

What can I use for my email marketing?

An ideal email marketing tool I found to be called Constant Contact. Constant Contact allows you to place a sign-up form on your website to start building your mailing list, offers many fully customisable templates and is easy to use.

You simply type in your text (or copy and paste from word) and it will format it all for you. It creates both HTML versions (showing images and links) and text versions for those with older email clients or HTML blocking in place.

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Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

26 February 2009

Why use Pay Per Click advertising?

Pay Per Click adverts are one of the best ways to drive targeted traffic to your website.

Using Pay Per Click adverts allows you to select key words that will be used to display your advert and also the option of geographical positioning (only displaying your advert in certain countries or regions).

The way it works

There are a few ways in which these adverts will be displayed.

One way is displaying adverts on a website/blog. The advert looks at the text found on your page and creates the adverts accordingly.

The other way, and the more commonly used source of Pay Per Click adverts is through search engines (e.g. Google, MSN, etc). These adverts use the keywords used in the search criteria and display adverts based upon these. The most common adverts are the ones that bid more per click.

Pay Per Click costs

The higher you bid on a chosen key word the more often it will be displayed. Even with a low cost the advert is often shown if the search engine user decides to “view other sponsored links”.

How's it helped me?

Since starting my Pay Per Click campaigns just a few weeks ago I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in visitors to my website. The traffic was definitely more targeted as well judging by the increase of my applications that were downloaded.

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