Internet spiders and how they help websites

An internet spider is a robot that crawls around the world wide web. They are also sometimes called crawlers. They use an algorithmic programme that follows links throughout the net searching for new content. This then fetches the new webpages and adds them to the search engine indexes. Google is a crawler-based search engine, as it relies on spiders to automatically create its listings.

Some spiders have even been given names, such as Mozilla for Netscape, Scooter for Alta Vista and Slurp for Hotbot. They leave evidence of their visits just like human surfers in analytics, code and stats.

Spiders enter and leave websites through links, which act as portals throughout the net. That’s why it’s important to have lots of incoming links to your website to encourage spider activity. If you provide lots of new content for spiders to feed on, they will remember to visit your site more frequently.

Spiders only see text on the webpages, therefore pictures and Flash programmes are invisible to them. You can add alt tags to your pictures which are written descriptions behind them, enabling spiders to understand your images.

Spiders are programmed to look for new content with links, tags and keywords. They particularly relish appropriately selected keywords combined with extremely relevant links and their destinations.  They don’t like hidden or invisible keywords, as they think they’re being fooled. If your site’s navigation is complete, spiders will visit every page, indexing anything that’s new. If you treat spiders well, they are more likely to return.

Spider top tips

• provide lots of new content for spiders to feed on
• remember to put alt tags behind your pictures
• gather as many relevant inbound links as you can for spiders to enter
• remember to add your tags within your blog posts
• create contextual links (linked key-phrases) for maximum effect
• make sure your links go to relevant destinations
• blogs are visited hourly by spiders, unlike websites who may not be visited for several weeks

Advertisements

What is Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising?

Pay per click is a form of paid for online advertising by Google. These adverts are found in the shaded area of a search engine page above the ‘organic’ or natural links (usually the first three links), and the remainder are placed in the area reserved for Sponsored Links in the right sidebar.

PPC, also known as Google Adwords, comprises a headline link (which is extremely important, as it contains keywords that are relevant to the search details), two lines for the description (carefully composed to contain highlighted relevant words plus being meaningful) followed by a URL which shows which website you are going to. The headline is the live link and should be directed to a highly relevant webpage for maximum effect.

Every time a visitor clicks on an Adwords ad, the company pays a fee ranging from 1p to £25. How much is paid depends on the value of the keywords in the headline. The more popular keywords command a higher price, and that depends on the subject and how many people are searching for that particular word.

But the more you pay doesn’t guarantee a higher position in the sidebar, this is dependent on the performance of the ad. So if you’re clever, you could have your ad with a lower paying keyword performing better above a more expensive advert. The more relevant your keyword is to the destination of the link, the better its chances in placement.

You don’t need to spend a fortune in PPC if you employ a wise Adwords adviser. As well as selecting inexpensive and highly performing keywords, you can juggle the price during a campaign, and set a ceiling per day so you don’t go over budget (once you’ve reached the maximum amount of clicks, your ad is automatically withdrawn). The more relevant you are in your adverts, particularly when directed to squeeze pages or highly suitable webpages, the more you’ll succeed in your conversions.

Top tips on PPC

  • Take time to properly research your keywords
  • Use wordtracker.com or digitalpoint.com or tools.seobook.com to find keywords
  • Services: acknowledge the problem rather then offer the solution; products: be specific with particular items rather than the general shop
  • Reverse thinking: don’t go for the most popular general keyword because it will be extremely expensive and you won’t position very high
  • Look for highly relevant selected keywords for more poignant searches that get you further to the top of the page for less money
  • It’s vital your ad is relevant to its destination, your headline keyword should totally match the webpage it is directed to
  • If necessary, create specific webpages for each advert to maximise conversions

How a health check could help you…

How does your online marketing hold up? Even if you have a system in place, are you sure its actions are focused on the correct direction?

I gave a health check at a networking meeting to a HR specialist. There were a number of subjects we touched on that she could expand from her existing systems in place.

First, I assessed she wished to change her newsletter provider and was considering ConstantContact.com and Aweber. We discussed the merits of both, but further probing revealed that she could combine Paypal with Aweber to provide a shopping cart that collects the details of her purchasers. These details can be used for promoting further products or events, as well as setting up a series of automated emails to further educate her subscribers to the remainder of her business.

Of course her newsletter will also do this function, but with a different slant. Don’t forget the call to action and purpose focus, or your communication will be ineffectual. Even if your message is purely educational, link back to the relevant pages on your website for further knowledge.

We discussed her series of online adverts she had in place. They had been suitably placed by an Adwords expert, but I felt there was more that could be done at the website end. The main consideration of this kind of advertising is a correct focus, for example, line it up with a squeeze page that collects the visitor’s details in exchange for a ‘prize’ or special report. These details can be used through Aweber with the automated emails directing to relevant webpages and the newsletter. Alternatively, the adwords ad could be directed to a squeeze page relevant to the words, where the visitor can make a selection for purchase or perform one action to satisfy their needs, again providing their details in the process.

We also touched on the power of blogging and how RSS can spread her expertise around social media and the web, and how followers could subscribe to her newly published blog posts. These posts could be expanded into articles and posted around the web in article directories, and by asking her followers to retweet or forward her posts to other potentially interested parties, especially if they liked what they have read, she could expand her audience appropriately.

We then discussed her recent website performance. She had recently updated it (very good for SEO reasons) but was confused that her rate of conversions had declined since doing so. I asked whether her index page may have become more confusing, as she had added more facilities and information to it.

My suggestion was that she needed to concentrate on the pain of her potential customers by investigating into what problems she should focus on in order to provide the appropriate solutions. Customers only surf for their problems on the web as they don’t yet know the answers. Carry out research through questionnaires and the Q & A section on LinkedIn, of which she was a member.

Combine these problems into three main ones and present them on the index page. The visitor will see the company fully acknowledges their pain, and combined with promises of the solutions if they click on the appropriate links, will get the visitor further into her website, which is an action she wanted to promote.

On the next page relevant to that particular problem then she could start to elaborate and provide the solutions. As long as this continues to be clear and understandable, the visitor can click to other more succinct pages on particular solutions and then make contact through a strategically placed contact form to discuss the subject further with the company.

I expect that took longer than half an hour, but I forgot about the time. If you would like such a health check, then go ask Alice!

Pay per click works if performed properly

How sad it is when you see examples of online marketing failing to work, and sigh when you think of how much money is wasted.

I suppose this is the same for other forms of advertising, which brings to mind a local magazine that is delivered monthly through my letterbox full of hopeful advertisers actively publicising their services. But that is a subject for another post.

Let’s get back to online advertising. I wanted to get a galvanised metal watering can for my husband’s birthday, a big sturdy one rather than one of those delicate versions you daintily water your house plants with.

So I typed in ‘metal watering can’ into Google and surveyed the screen in front of me. (Please bear in mind that entries on Google continuously change, so if you do this you may see something different.) The top five links seemed likely possibilities.

How annoying! Amongst small dainty examples that I didn’t want, there were some sites that didn’t even have ordinary watering cans available. Eh? I didn’t want to buy discounted garden furniture or a 100 ft hose. And further investigation revealed the company didn’t sell watering cans because their search mechanisms didn’t bring any up.

So I looked at the paid for links in the shaded areas, and started to receive the same treatment – and this struck me: why did they compose these pay per click adverts that didn’t deliver what they said on the tin? Surely it would be a waste of money if the visitor ends up being confronted with something they didn’t ask for?

Pay per click advertising is only effective if it is properly targeted. If your ad mentions metal watering cans then you should be directed to a page with metal watering cans in it. The index page of the garden centre is not the answer, as it is not what the clicker wanted.  A webpage offering another special offer is a complete no-no! And if your company’s website doesn’t bring up watering cans via searching, then there is definitely something wrong with your search engine optimisation.

I did find a website that had the watering can I wanted. Their concisely written pay per click ad directed me straight to a page that offered three metal watering cans. I made my selection, paid through an efficient shopping cart system, and received confirmation of my purchase plus tracking information for my watering can’s delivery progress. The watering can arrived before the time specified, and I have a happy husband.

That’s the way to succeed through PPC.

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For more common-sense advice on online marketing, Alice Elliott offers a free half-hour health check for your business.

How social networking can help with your marketing

twittericonThe power of Web2.0, the interactive side of the internet, opens up a huge potential to publicise and expose your business to a larger audience than ever before. No longer is the world a huge place, with the rise of social networking it seems like it’s just outside your back door!

Social networking for business began with blogging, a medium which enabled organisations to write about their business in other ways, to advertise their expertise, explore new concepts, ask their audience, invite feedback and responses, and publicise their events and activities; and because it was open to all who wanted to view it, especially through the search engines, good blogs could command a wide readership, and using RSS could be followed on a regular basis without unnecessary researching.

Then there were social networking sites, with the ability to collect and make friends and communicate with them in a relaxed and convivial style, even from the other side of the world. My friend in China would be lost without Facebook! There are now a myriad of different websites, each communicating, emulating, competing and evolving as technology moves continuously and rapidly forwards.

Certain sites, such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, FriendsFeed and Ecademy (to name but a few) have adapted their services for the business world by seizing this opportunity for business networking, whereas Facebook provides for all kinds of social networkers, and indeed some applicants use their profiles for many different activities. In fact for Facebook it is suggested that you apply as an individual, rather than for other sites in which you would join as your business name. Twitter, the ‘micro-blogger’, has taken the world by storm because it appeals to the quick-fire responses of 140 characters combined with a desire to know what everybody else is doing in ‘real time’.

The need to network for business using Web2.0 should not be seen merely as a trend. Although it may be seen by many as a ‘time waster’, I think it does depend on ‘how you use your time’ to achieve results. Social networking is about increasing your following (aka collecting friends) to find other like-minded or interesting people, learn what each other is doing (this is certainly come to the fore in Twitter), a place to express and publicise your activities, form groups and forums for more interaction, ask questions and receive answers (LinkedIn has excellent facilities for this), publish your blogs and advertise through marketplaces (using Ecademy’s extensive SEO properties), republish your articles for a wider readership (though there are sites designed for this), and learn much more quickly about what’s going on in this ever-increasingly fast world.  If your business is one of the first to hear of a particular subject and is then able to rapidly respond to it, what difference would that be against your competitors?

It is also the concept of RSS and feedburning that has contributed to wide social networking use. Think of the implications if your posts could be automatically reproduced in other social networking sites just by pressing one button, combined with the ability to enable your blog posts, articles, weblinks and other relevant material instantly accessible to a potential huge readership throughout the world. Many businesses have benefited from an increased traffic to their websites and blogs, plus other media such as audio and video, with the chance to explain, educate, publicise, inform, request material, gather information, become established as an expert in your field, and achieve more sales – surely this is a phenomenon of the 21st century we cannot ignore.

How many websites do you own?

A sales person rang me up today to tout his web-hosting company. He began with the usual spiel ‘We’ve looked at your website and we think we can provide some improvements for it’…

Further questioning on my part revealed his company was offering hosting at £49 a month, and my bombshell was that I was receiving perfectly adequate hosting per website for £1.50 a month. Ummm. His offer included hosting all my websites under one roof for his price. ‘How many websites do you think I have?’ I asked. ‘Oh, several, at least 100.’

Imagine my astonishment! I asked him how could I spend the time managing 100 websites: updating, reworking, adding new material, working at the SEO… ‘Oh, we’ll do all of that’ was his cheerful reply.

Excuse me, I’m not letting any old riff-raff near any of my websites. I’ve done enough research to know his company won’t have a clue in how I work, how to promote my new projects, my style and presentation – OK, maybe they will have time for SEO and other areas like that, but I certainly won’t let them do any web-writing.

And how many websites to I have? Two. I’d rather pay £3 a month to look after them myself, thank you. Rash, maybe, but sometimes I like to be in control, and I would rather vet my own SEO expert before commissioning one.

He obviously hadn’t looked at my main website or he would have realised I wasn’t the kind of organisation to have 100 websites. OK, there are some trains of thought that suggest each marketing campaign should have its own URL for the landing page. There are obvious good reasons for this, and this practice could easily result in a large collection of squeeze websites that need to be hosted collectively somewhere.

Unfortunately for him I was not in the market for that service at that time, and having told him he was barking up the wrong tree ‘big time’, the poor man was cruelly sent on his way with a flea in his ear.

Create a call to action on every webpage

I really don’t mind giving my opinion on website design. And it’s always so nice to comment on a really good one for a change.

A photographer friend of mine asked for my reaction to his new website design while it was being renovated. My first reaction was very positive, with its clean, clear, crisp lines providing a very professional layout. It was the grey words and logo on the white background that did it for me – how nice to see an uncluttered presentation with plenty of white space and light!

But I felt compelled to provide some comments to increase his website efficiency:

The index page should work to the three second rule. Three seconds to make up their minds that this is the right website and what they should then do. Getting the visitors to do something is paramount; they should be encouraged to go further into the site to learn more, or sign up to something with a suitable incentive (this is to gather their details for future communications). The last thing you want is for them to leave!

Also, don’t overload other pages with detailed content. My friend’s grey text may have looked elegant and contributed to the spatial atmosphere that was so pleasing, but it did make it very difficult to read in large quantities. Websites are not like books. People don’t find it easy to sit down and read through webpages with a cup of tea. Also if they are surfing they usually do not have the time to plough through densely packed paragraphs.

Your accompanying webpages should act like little landing pages for specific subjects. This means they should contain the same structure and marketing elements as the index page, because spiders direct surfers to the most relevant page to their search, and this may not be the index page of the website. Allow for drop-in visitors for that particular subject, and adapt the page for the three second rule too.

Design your webpages with the initial concept of getting your customers to make contact. Once you’ve got them across your threshold then you can give them all the necessary detail to seal your capture. Your content should be delivered quickly and concisely with poignant and relevant information. Separate each benefit with bullet points or paragraphs. This allows the eye to rapidly choose what it wants to read and then enables the reader to digest and take action.