December 6, 2013
If you are a website owner or operator, you’re used to receiving notifications from your provider that your domain name registry is up for renewal. For most of us, each year we have to update certain properties on our websites: copyrights, hosting, and domain name registration. However, if you had a third party marketing company, employee, friend, step-son, cat sitter etc. set up or handle your website you might receive a notice asking to renew your registration, pay the money, and be none-the-wiser that you actually just got scammed.
Domain Registry of America may seem like a legitimate service and, in fact, they are. They have a decent website in which they market that they will give you “free hosting services” with domain registration. They do serve as both a hosting and domain registration company. It is their tactics used to acquire new customers that should be considered unethical at best.
From what has been buzzing around the internet, Domain Registry of America uses Whois sites to find current domain names and physical addresses of websites that use another hosting and domain provider. Then, they send a letter informing the recipient that their domain name is expiring soon and they must renew.
The top right of the letter reads in large text: “DOMAIN NAME EXPIRATION NOTICE” (pictured below). If you continue reading it becomes clearer that they want you to “switch today” to their services from your current provider. However, for many people who see that header declaring their domain name has expired, they pay the bill and switch their services to DROA without even realizing.
Now, this may not concern everyone and DROA keeps it legal by declaring on the page: ”This statement is not a bill” in bold text. It is the ethics (or lack there of) in their approach that is questionable.
As a domain name registration and website hosting company, Directory One is very familiar with handling the renewal of these services. We needed to let our clients and others on the web know about this domain name registration scam. So be careful and make sure to take the time to read every statement received carefully.
Header of Domain Registry of American scam letters.
November 28, 2013
Houston wants great website design, but you can’t make an impact if you don’t put what you know about your audience into action.
Visitor centricity means knowing what a visitor wants to see. Your ideas of what a website should look like may not be what visitors want. Think of it this way.
What makes you leave a website quicker than a jack rabbit?
Popups (but not so much anymore, since the blockers are very effective nowadays). Flashing print in a color clashing with the site’s color scheme? Or more like flashing anything? Overcrowded sites and navigation links that don’t work?
Optimized for your keyword, but the site doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re looking for?
Which colors do you gravitate towards? Blues, reds, or plain old black and white?
Does color really matter?
Now think about what makes your audience leave.
People think of website design mostly as visual impact, meaning color and graphics. Color and style are important, but there are many other things going on behind the scenes to entice people to visit, stay a while, and return time and time again.
When people linger and revisit, your chances of making a sale increase. You have one chance to get it right. You have one opportunity to make an impression.
If you’ve spent any time surfing, you know that the sites with high visitor count and conversions have one thing in common. They all capture our interest.
Just how do all the great website designs intrigue us?
Visitor centric websites have 9 things in common. For starters, they
- Make good on a promise. A visitor clicked on you in the search results for a reason. Whether they want to buy your product online, read the latest news from your company, or find a how-to, they have a purpose for visiting you.
- Are easy to navigate. Navigation should be intuitive. Words used in the top menu and side menus, as well as in the footer should be logical. The visitor should get exactly what he assumes he’s clicking on.
- Provides instant gratification. That’s why most of us use the internet. We want something, and we want it now. Make sure what your visitors want is there.
Six design elements ensure that you have the first three.
- Don’t make visitors think too much. Everything you put on your pages, from nav bars, to photos and graphics, to text should be logical and obvious. Everything on your pages should be relevant to each other. You don’t want to talk about dogs when your site is about cats.
- Have scan-able content. Most people eyeball pages than read read verbatim. This means what a viewer sees should be easy on the eye. Graphics and photos should be appropriately sized and the same goes for text. Not too big, not too small, but just right.
Scan-able content also means unclutter. Uncluttering is a good use of white space. Don’t try to cram everything on one page, because it is information overload. Break up the important, pertinent information, making it easy for your visitors to find.
- Make sure links aren’t broken. Nothing frustrates a visitor more than clicking on a link and seeing “page not found”. How many times do you think that a visitor will return, much less share, your information or recommend your company if you can’t make your links work?
- Make sure your contact, whether a form, email address or phone number, is on all your pages.
- Great content means not only the writing, but a good use of keywords. Don’t be misleading with the keywords, otherwise a visitor will leave angry at your trickery.
- Test, test, and test. Invite your current and entice potential customers to visit a prototype before you go live. Ruthlessly ask for feedback on your social media sites. How do you like the color? Were you able to find everything you needed? What did you dislike? What do you want to see? Then adjust.
Designing a great website isn’t hard if you build your website around visitor needs and anticipate their wants. Simplicity and ease of use are really the tricks keep visitors exploring your pages.
Why be ordinary?
Houston’s Directory One can help you be extraordinary with that critical first impression.
November 11, 2013
One aspect of a website that is relatively neglected is the navigation. While the navigation may not seem like a critical part of a website, it actually heavily influences user experience and can heavily impact rankings. So what is website navigation and how can web designers make it more SEO-friendly?
How Do I Get Back Home?
A website’s navigation includes all the menus — any menus on the top, bottom, or side — and inner links. Essentially, the term “website navigation” encompasses all the ways you get from page to page within a website. So, why is this important for SEO? Search engines will reward your website if it is user-friendly and if it is easy for their spiders to crawl. If a search engine’s robots can’t easily access your pages, you may not get credit for them, which could hurt your ranking in the long run.
Aside from search engine rankings, there are plenty of other motivations for having a straight-forward, easy to navigate website. You want to make it as easy as possible for users to get the information they need; if you make it too difficult, you run the risk of frustrating users, which will encourage them to leave and go to another company’s website. It truly is in your best interest to provide a positive user experience for your website; navigation is a key element to creating that experience.
Designing SEO-Friendly Navigation
Navigation should be designed to improve the user experience. It is important to come up with relevant menu items that allow the user to access important information easily. You also want to make sure that it is easy to get back to those main pages without having to click the backspace button! This gives the user more opportunities to shop around and learn more about your business.
Make sure to have statics HTML links to all of the important pages you want to get credit for. Adding an XML sitemap to the website is a huge help for search engine robots. A sitemap is like a linked table of contents for a website that allows spiders to easily crawl the website. They allow search engines to quickly notice any changes to the content of your website.
In general though, there are a few common mistakes any web designer should avoid. These mistakes include:
- Excessive amounts of outbound links – Not only does this encourage users to navigate away from your site, but it also makes things harder on the search engine spider. Crawlers may also write these links off as low quality or spammy links, which could in turn hurt your ranking.
- Internal pages that can only be found through search toolbar – You want all of your pages to have some sort of physical link.
- Flash-heavy websites – These types of navigation are fine in small amounts but they are generally not the best kinds of navigation to have because Flash requires a lot of updates and may not be supported on all computers.
- Hard to reach pages – It should not be hard to reach the homepage from any page on your website.
If you believe that you’re website needs a more SEO-friendly navigation, please call Directory One at 713.269.3094.
November 7, 2013
All the gurus tell you great website design starts with an intimate knowledge of your audience. They insinuate visitor centricity.
Then they give you lists.
- Right people
- Fantastic branding
- THE seductive freebies
- Imaginative content
- Engage, engage, engage
- And all that other demographic stuff
Worn out treads don’t make for good traction in great website design.
While the gurus’ lists are important, maybe you’re focusing on the wrong information.
Clients know THEIR goals for a website. They want to educate, inform, outreach, engage, sway opinion-makers, and ultimately make a sale.
That isn’t visitor centricity.
Clients most likely have all the information they need to put their audience center stage in their web design. The problem is that many are not using the information. They are looking to the lists first.
Where is all the information gained from stalking the comments in industry, support, and competitors’ forums, from online and offline surveys, from social media, or word trends going?
Many clients don’t understand that this information should be used to answer their design questions. They usually focus on what is going wrong in face-to-face service or online customer support interactions.
Answer 4 questions for great website design with visitor centricity.
In reality, there are only 4 basic questions to starting a website design that will keep visitors clicking. The questions are based on close study of audience habits gleaned from social media, surveys, and forums.
- Is your audience first time browsers or current customers?
- What is your visitor trying to find?
- How did the visitor find your site?
- How are your goals different and similar to those of your visitors?
The truth is one website can’t be everything to everyone who drops by. When sites do this, the audience ends up very confused.
The last thing a website should do is baffle a visitor.
Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, create a single visitor profile based on what 70% or more of the audience wants based on the research. Then compare the single visitor profile to your goals for the website.
There are bound to be variations. Can your goals for the website be modified to satisfy the visitor’s goals?
Once commonalities are found and chosen, SEM clients must clearly communicate all the audience idiosyncrasies to the web designer. Website visitor centricity automatically leads to great website design that satisfies the client and their audience.
November 3, 2013
“We need really great website design. Our current site is not working to grow our business. I expect you to increase traffic to our site so our sales go up.”
Clients often start the initial meeting with their search engine marketing (SEM) company with this statement, or at least something similar.
Houston, we have a problem.
The client only knows that their site is not driving business. They want a new website or a redesign, but are clueless to what they want or actually need. They try to express their ideas, but something is lost in translation.
“That’s not what I want/had in mind/will work.”
Little do the clients know they understand more than what is told to their new SEM company. There’s valuable industry and customer awareness the client must clearly communicate to the web designer. The client holds the key to site design that will work for them, the visitor, and ultimately drive their business.
So just what is great website design?
Have you visited a website, but were gone in 10 seconds? You thought why waste your time trying to find what you wanted or the information you needed.
The truth is, there are as many definitions of “great website design” as there are clients. Sites should engage the visitor, enticing exploration. They should pique interest.
Outstanding sites keep you hanging around awhile, sometimes for hours, exploring what the company has to offer. You’ve probably noticed these sites contain the same elements.
That’s not to say that they are clones. Rather, the really good websites use identical design elements with an original twist, a bold attitude of the company they represent.
Great website design starts with visitor centricity
Sites that keep visitors ecstatically clicking away, generating the most leads (and sales), focus on the end user. The client might have a vision of what is logical and appealing to him or her, but the design end result does not have the same effect on the visitor.
The 3 common elements of great website designs are
1. Visitor centricity
3. Adherence SEO standards
If the audience is in the middle of things (visitor centricity), the site’s design flows freely into the other elements. Getting the site to easily move from the visitor to the way the site looks and feels, and ultimately to the words used on each page requires a deep understanding of the people that will be looking for the site.
Great website design is easily accomplished if you start with the visitor and go from there. You may not need a whole new website, just a few tweaks here and there to get customers and potential customers loving your site and buying your products.
Next Visitor Centricity –>
October 23, 2013
Internal links are hyperlinks to another page on the website. When the reader clicks on a word or phrase, the user is taken to another page on the site.
SEO writing protocols are a fundamental in Houston SEM companies. New content developers often wonder why there is a requirement for “x” number of internal links. After all, shouldn’t the focus be getting external, or inbound, links from other websites?
All the SEO forums agree your efforts should be directed towards receiving those coveted, inbound links from reputable sites. The reasoning is inbound links from other people in your industry helps to increase your page rank. Experts want to reference other experts, not imposters.
How does linking to yourself establish you as an expert?
The answer is that it does not. You can recommend yourself and sing your own praises all you want, but unless others hold the same view, your reputation as the go-to guy is not established.
But here’s the thing. Although internal links might not count as much towards ranking as external links, they are important to search engines and your audience in 3 ways.
1. Providing Search Engine 4-1-1
Internal linking gives search engine bots a helping hand in 3 ways.
- Establishing a page hierarchy
- Help spreads link juice
Sometimes complete site navigation is hidden from the bots. If the bots can’t see a page, the page isn’t indexed. If the main navigation links have subcategories, the bots may see the main link and one subcategory link, but could miss pages, such as subcategories of subcategories, deeper down. If the site map is not updated for each added page on a regular basis, pages might escape indexing. Using internal links help the bots find and index pages that would otherwise be missed.
Providing internal links also establish a page hierarchy. It tells the bots which pages are more important than others. Think of this as a pyramid with the most important page at the top and the pages that are linked as providing the structural support. Getting the internal linking just right to support pages with a higher priority takes thought and time. Just remember that the Great Pyramid in Giza wasn’t built overnight.
Finally, internal linking help spread link juice. Link juice is a relatively easy concept. If you link a page to another page that ranks higher, your page receives “credit” for linking to an “expert”. The “credit” gives your page more visibility. Visibility is important to getting the page on the first page of search results.
2. Increasing Audience Value
Content developers at Houston’s SEO companies place a priority on providing audience value. Internal links are significant to the targeted reader by
- Linking to pages containing more detailed information and/or explanations about the topic
- Linking to related articles/posts that help you make a point
- Directing the reader to related content they might want to read
Need I say more?
3. Improving Bounce Rate
Part of good SEO is watching the analytics, the bounce rate in particular. Bounce rate measures how long a visitor stays on a site. Internal linking increases the time a visitor stays on your site, particularly when you link to relevant information that the visitor has not seen before and really wants to read and digest. If your visitor lingers a while, your bounce rate goes down.
So you see, internal linking is very important to SEO strategy, search engines, and your audience. Think it out, build it, and internal link at will.