Quick, Easy CD/DVD Burning

I’m not a CD or DVD burning power user by any means.  Basically I just occassionally burn a music CD and try to regularly backup important files, etc.  Not a power user.

Anyhow, I wanted to make a bit of a recommendation for BurnQuick, an application that is very lightweight, easy to use and cheap (under $20, free trial).  If you are looking for something like this b/c you just want fast, easy (and aren’t into a whole lot of bells and whistles) than give it a shot.

Marketing ROI & Digital Dashboards

Paul Ward has a great post about digital dashboards and various marketing metrics. He discusses how a corporate CEO is not necessarily the best person to keep tabs on some of these metrics, as in many cases they do not necessarily understand them – nor do they care about them as much as other metrics which they are more directly evaluated on (by investors).

Excellent insights. Only issue: Paul – please allow people outside of blogger to add comments!

New Time Management Idea

Time management, and moreso project/time organization, is always a challenge for me.  I want to make sure I get “everything” done and don’t let anything slip through the cracks.

As far as I see, there are two ways to approach the scheduling of my time as related to “client work”.  For my purpose, “client work” is around 30 hours per week that is dedicated to handling work specifically for my clients under this new system.  In addition that that, I’ve got about 10 hours per week in handling and responding to email, and a few additional hours for some miscellaneous things, administrative work, etc.

About six or seven months ago – right after I moved into my new office location – I created a schedule on a piece of poster board.  It lists from 8am to 5pm, M-F.  Its divided into 1-hour blocks, and each block has an item or two in it.  For the most part, this plan was based on function or activity.  That is, it looks at the types of things I do and organizes that way.  For instance, I spend some time managing pay-per-click campaigns.  As such, there are a few blocks of time dedicated to pay-per-click management.

I think I kept to that schedule for 2-3 days, tops.  Since then it just sits about my desk, taunting me.  When anyone comes in the office they remark at how organized I must be – citing the clearly posted schedule.  But alas, its a fraud.

New plan.

I’ve decided to now try and organize my time around my clients.  I’d say this is more customer-focused than internally-focused.  I’m sure there are alot of great marketing  and management academic lessons that would support this, but my motivation is much more selfish.  I clearly wasn’t adopting the old plan.

So now I’ve got about 45 hour blocks outlined each week.  I’ve got my time for email and communications, which I will fight to limit to 2 hours each day.  If you are reading this and are planning to send me an email, its my goal to only be checking and responding one hour in the morning and one right when I return to the office from lunch.  Otherwise email is an all-day thing and nothing else gets done.

Anyhow… each client has one or more hour blocks per week, depending on my commitments to them.  I will then take the 2 hours for Client A, and do whatever is needed to maximize my time spent on their behalf.  If that is PPC management, than that’s what it is.  If its adding new content to their site or helping to revise a press release, than that’s how the time is spent.  The scheme to organize by client rather than activity.

Major Google SERPs Subdomain Issue

So I just did a search for maryland seo and noticed that everything from listing #6 through page 50 is all the same site – subdomain pages for freelancedesigners.com.  Example URLs:

  • ellicott-city_md.marketing.freelancedesigners.com/
  • columbia_md.marketing.freelancedesigners.com/
  • clarksburg_md.marketing.freelancedesigners.com/
  • elkton_md.marketing.freelancedesigners.com/ .

You get the idea.  Imagine that X 500.  In fact, it may go well beyond page 50 – I got tired of looking.  Looks like a considerable issue, as all those subdomains are really just pages that all have the exact same template/content etc.  They clearly are not different or unique enough to pass Google’s usual test of what constitutes content and a page different enough to warrant another listing.  I’m guessing its just a temporary thing and that they’ve probably noticed the issue through other queries.  Let’s hope!

GREAT Web Hosting Company

Need a fantastic Windows hosting company?  There is one firm I’ve used for several years and I pretty much insist on for any SEM clients who I’ll be working on for a long period of time.  Who is this legendary company?  Millennium Systems.  Yes, they’ve even made it to my firm’s oh-so-prestigous partners page.

Doing what I do, I’ve dealt with alot of online service providers:

– hosting companies

– domain registrars

– web stats providers

You name them, I’ve probably dealt with them.  For each of these I’ve found one firm I love and thus I’ll no longer work with anyone else in that field.  Millennium Systems is my hosting firm, and has been for a couple of years now.  If you read this blog frequently you probably know who my web stats provider of choice is, and for domain registrations I’m a huge GoDaddy fan – good prices, they actually answer their phone, and nice online interface.

Why am I writing this?

1) I do honestly, truly, as sure as I sit in front of my computer screen for 12 hours a day absolutely love their fantastic customer service.

2) They are doing a little giveaway where they are offering a rack of cash.  To be entered into the contest you’ve got to refer someone to them.  I am in the midst of a period where I’m not really taking many new projects, and thus am not likely to sign many people up myself.  I want the cash though, and I love their service.  Its my hope someone reading this will check them out and give them a shot.

If you do, PLEASE for the love of all things holy put my name – Jon Payne – into the “Heard about us from” field on their quick signup form

Their strengths:

  • ridiculous personal support.  real people.  much faster than other firms.
  • nice windows hosting product selection
  • good rates
  • very reliable uptime

Their weaknesses

  • poor name

Come on guys – “Millennium Systems”???  I bet that was a great idea in 1998!  :)

I should really be one to talk though.  Ephricon Web Marketing?  How the heck did I come up with that?  There is no answer.  One of these I’ll create a neat little story.  Truth is I was on the spot from a prospective client to make my business official.  I needed a name.  I needed a name with an available domain.  That’s tough.  I kept putting letters together until I got something for which I could register the domain.  I also liked the fact that there were no other meanings of the word… so I could search on “ephricon” and find any and everything mentioning my firm.  I’ve since thought about changing it quite a bit.  I registered a domain (.net version, unfortunately) for “Clear Focus Marketing”.  Thoughts?

Anyhow, go sign up with Millennium Systems if you are absolutely in love with your current hosting company’s ease of support and I promise you’ll stick with them.  And again, mention “Jon Payne” in the “heard about us from” field.  Daddy needs a new pair of shoes!  :)

Random “SEO” Snakeoil Solicitation Emails

Happy 4th of July!  I’m only in the office for the morning mostly to do some work for my class… wanted to share this though.

These are crazy.  I get like 2-3 each day, usually never respond.  Today I did:
—–Original Message—–

From: Shane Tedford [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2006 7:29 AM
To: xxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Placement SVC

xxxxx@xxxxxxx.com:

Our Company can place your web site(s) in the top positions of the major search engines.  Want a free estimate?  Reply to us If you are interested in getting top positioning in the major search engines. PLEASE INCLUDE THE URL(S) or WEB SITE ADDRESS you want quotes on and the best way to reach you.  Examples and references can be provided.

 

Thanks for your reply,

Shane Tedford

MY REPLY:

You guys are hilarious.  You do searches in the search engines to find websites to email about your snakeoil services.  Has it ever occured to you that the sites you find in the search engines are the ones who obviously don’t need your help?  You should focus on the 99% of sites you don’t find in the search engines and send them the emails instead, they are your target market.  Sheesh!

MySpace Search Using Overture?

So I’m either way late or way early or just flat out missing something, but I just was on MySpace and I tried a search without specifying a site-search (i.e. full web search).  I was looking for the page for The Shins, which I could probably guess the URL for in about 10 seconds but I was being lazy and figured I’d do a site-search and click the link…  Anyhow, I came to this results page which is basically a huge Overture PPC page with no organic results whatsoever.

Two thoughts:

1) Were they not using Google up until recently to feed both sponsored and organic search ads?

2) Wow with all those sponsored ads they must be making a fortune!

Yahoo’s New Layout

Apparently today there is much to do about Yahoo’s new layout, available at http://www.yahoo.com/preview or depending on your luck maybe at the http://www.yahoo.com home page.

I first made note of this pending new layout back in February, when it appeared as though they were testing it. I believe they placed a cookie or something on my PC b/c for a while I kept getting the new layout from my PC at work but not from my home PC. I also wondered why no one else was discussing the new Yahoo layout, but apparently its just b/c not many people new about the layout being tested on selected PCs. I take this a confirmation that indeed my blog does not have the widespread distribution to educate or inform the masses. Sigh.

Anyhow, many others are discussing it:

Google Trends – FUN!

Per Matt Cutts. Wow this is fun!!! I highly suggest you give it a try right now. I knew there were lots of paid tools like this, but a free one by Google is good times.

Reminds of Yahoo’s Buzz Index but way cooler – comparisons between terms, regions, etc. Good times.

Update:  Comparison of “housing boom” versus “housing bubble” – my interest was peaked after reading a post on Bubble Meter that was comparing the relative popularity of each phrase by looking at results in the SERPs.  Google Trends looks at search volume.

Maryland Web Directories

Seems like most every internet marketer either has or is heavily involved with one or more directories. There are often a myriad of reasons – but one reason that I’d like to focus on is sheer quality. Typically sites of little or no value and weak business models don’t account or budget for professional marketing services. As such, I find that most firms that approach me do have sites of high value… and often they are getting beat out in the search rankings by low-value spam sites. High-quality directories (read that again, there are a lot of spammy directories of which I am NOT referring to) help to weed out the spammy sites and attract attention for higher value sites.

Anyhow, Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal recently notified me of a new Maryland-based website directory called Maryland Yellow. I checked it out and it appears to be using a blog-style approach and blog-managed CMS for its directory structure. It appears very new so I’m not sure how it will shake out (few listings as of yet) but with Loren behind it I’m sure it will build up quickly and prove to be a high quality directory.

There are a bunch of regional directories out there – by state, city, etc. etc. In Maryland (which is my place of work and residence) a few notable ones are:

MarylandInfo.com

SearchMaryland.com

GreatMaryland.com (seems not purely local)

Maryland.com (more of a community site)

Connect2MD.com

The last one does not appear to accept submissions, and as such they won’t get a link from me. For full disclosure, I do own the Search Maryland internet directory and I do maintain it, although probably only approving new sites once every couple of weeks (its not a high priority and hey… I’m a busy guy!).

In DC there are also:

DC Pages

DC Registry (I believe they may have stopped accepting submissions?)

Lazy People Looking for Marketing Jobs

I normally don’t even bother responding to generic emails that indicate a person is looking for a job when they are too lazy to spend enough time on my website to learn my name and at least a rough idea of what the company does.  However, every once in a while I get in one of those moods where I want to take a stand on the soapbox and spread the word to the people.  Here is an email conversation I just had to that effect (this is me leveraging existing content).

— Job Seeker First Email —

Subject: (None)
To: info@(mywebsite).com
Good Afternoon-
Please find my resume as an attachment above.  If there are any positions I am qualified for feel free to contact me at (phone number).
Thanks and make it a great day!

(Name)

— My Reply —

Mass-emailed resumes are not appreciated.

— Job Seeker Reply —

My submission was NOT a “mass email”. I do apologize if you were offended. I live in (town) and am interested in getting my ‘foot’ in the door of a marketing firm and I wasn’t sure how to contact your company.

You have a good day just the same.
(Name)

— My Reply —

Generic then at best – you didn’t even take the time to put a subject in the email or address it to anyone at the company.  You didn’t do anything to express any knowledge of or interest in what our firm does.

In fact, it looks like you found our site in MSN and then only viewed the first page you were on for a few seconds before clicking directly on the “contact” page.  Had you taken 5 minutes to look around the site you would clearly see my name and then could email me personally, which I would have been much more receptive to.

I normally just delete these b/c I get dozens each week looking for a job, but every once in a while I take a stand on the soapbox and try and help people out.  My advice is to focus on quality rather than quantity.  If someone sends me a personal email that shows they spent a little time learning about my firm, and can address me personally than I’m more likely to give them a few minutes of my attention and consider what they have to say.  If you want to get your foot in the door with a marketing firm, as you said, I suggest you begin to understand that effective marketing is about targeting and reaching your market in a way they are receptive to.  If you fail to do this and instead think the best way is to spend 30 seconds on 100 sites, just long enough to get their contact info and then send then a non-personalized email than believe me – you won’t have much luck.  That’s the essence of marketing – reaching your market.  If a business owner or hiring manager of a marketing firm is your market, than you’d better prove your ability as a marketer and reach them via something more than a generic email.

— Job Seeker Reply —

I have to say… I’m glad this didn’t work out.

— My Reply —

The most basic element is being able to market one’s self.  If someone makes a weak generic pitch to me for a job, I’m certainly not going to consider hiring them.  If they can’t market themselves how are they going to market clients?

Anyhow, best of luck in all of your endeavors.  I was merely trying to provide a little advice.  Take it however you may.

— End —

Sometimes I just get in funny moods, especially when it comes to solicitations – sales people, job seekers, spam emailers, etc.  :)

MSN HomePage ReDesign

A while back I wrote about MSN’s new look, but now it seems as though they’re at it again.  Today I noticed a new homepage design for MSN that now allows you to pick from 5 color templates.

The Good:

– Overall I think its a cleaner layout, better organization of information.

The Bad:

– They moved the stock quotes down on the page, particularly the S&P 500 quote which is probably the biggest reason why I visit MSN’s homepage as frequently as I do – to see that along with a few top stories and cheesey recycled articles.

GoGamer.com Website Shopping Experience Review

I had to do this for a class I’m taking as part of the MBA program I’m enrolled in at Loyola College. Since I think it may be of interest to many of you, I have decided to post it here as well. Apologies for formatting issues, I’ve got to cut and paste from MS Word.

Web Site: http://www.gogamer.com

Item Purchased: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (video game) for Playstation 2

For this Shopping Experience Audit I have chosen to eliminate some fields which were not applicable. The purchase experience I was looking for as a shopper was a low-involvement, one-time purchase in which I did not desire much in the way of personalization, community features, etc. Likewise, I believe this particular market has alternative channels that provide the community aspects associated with video games (various sites associated with reviews, tips, etc.). I believe that a commercial organization attempting to establish community features would be a bit transparent and ineffective in a market largely comprised of technologically-savvy and generally skeptical 12-30 year old males. For this reason I have addressed a number of these concepts below, but eliminated some of the criteria so as not to simply make the same point a thousand times over. I have provided some additional elaboration though (as I’m sure you’ll discover) with regard to the site Navigation and some other more crucial issues in my estimation. Additionally, I added ratings for delivery and security.

A. Customer Service Total: 12/20

  1. Overall Rating: 2/4

The customer service was adequate at best. The site had a few helpful self-service features and the automated email confirmations were useful, yet the one time I tried to send an email and hoped to get a response from an actual person regarding my order I was let down.

  1. Guarantee Rating: 2/4

I saw no mention of any guarantee on the website. However, being as this product is a standard one – that is to say that the video game is going to perform identically regardless of what retail outlet it is purchased at, so long as it has not been tampered with – I did not see this as a necessity. The game’s original manufacturer is EA Sports, a well-known video game manufacturer. I trust that they would ensure that any production defects with the game would be resolved to my satisfaction. I did not consider this a risky purchase by any means, so a guarantee was not something I needed.

  1. Privacy Disclosure Rating: 4/4

The privacy disclosure on the GoGamer.com website was excellent. It was easily accessible in a standard, expected location (the link was in the footer of the homepage, clearly displayed) and the statement was written in plain-English. It was easy to understand, was not overly wordy (only a few paragraphs, nothing too lengthy) and was reasonable in discussing what information they collected, why it was collected, etc. I saw no significant weakness with regard to their privacy statement.

  1. Pre-purchase e-mail/assistance Rating: 2/4

The site had several navigation and usage issues, as I’ll address later on. In order to add a product to your shopping cart you had to first create an account. From my experience, its best to push back any actions requiring the commitment or disclosure of information of a user to as late a stage as possible in an online shopping process. That is to say, don’t make me sign up with your site before I’m really sure if I’m even willing to consider buying with you. Once I’ve decided to buy from your site, you can ask me to create an account and I’m more likely willing to do this. If I just want to see shipping costs for example, the site should allow this. The GoGamer.com site did not, thus the below average score.

  1. Post-purchase e-mail/confirmation Rating: 2/4

Another below average rating regarding customer service and communication. The positives here are that their automatic email confirmations came very quickly. Some sites batch their automatic email responses every 15 or 30 minutes. By contrast, within 60 seconds of placing my order I did get a confirmation.

As a huge negative, immediately after ordering (and before checking my email to see the confirmation) I found a link on their site marked “my account”. In that section I clicked on link that indicated it would provide information about my recent orders. I found the order I just placed, but it indicated as though my payment had not been received. This caused me to worry – I paid for the product. I realized their system may not update from all payment methods in real-time, but regardless I wanted to see confirmation that my payment did indeed go through and more importantly that my order would be processed and shipped without any delay. As such, I sent an email to the help addressed specified on the site. I sent this note on 4/25:

“… paid for via PayPal and then “my account” on your site shows order and payment process as “not started”… I want to make sure you received my payment and will ship the game soon!”

Today is 4/30 and I received the game a number of days ago. I’ve still not received any response at all to my email. Granted, the concern I expressed is no longer a concern – but I believe the professional thing to do is to still reply to any customer email regardless. I took the time to give them my money and write them an email, they can take the time to send a quick note reassuring me my order would be processed. The total time investment on their part would be no longer than 30 seconds, most likely.

B. Personalization Total: 12 / 16

  1. Overall Rating: 3/4

The site has separate sections for shoppers according to the video game system they have. Further, for existing customers there is a better-than-expected “My Account” section where you can view previous orders, track shipments, etc.

  1. Personal Web Page Rating: 2/4

Aside from the “My Account” section mentioned above there was no separate page to provide personal recommendations. That said, I don’t believe that is a necessary element in this case. Most people who buy video games are either like myself in that they buy only two or three games a year that are essentially the latest versions of the same game they buy every year – or they buy a lot of games and tend to be active in various online community sites that help them identify new products they might be interested in. I’m certainly the former of these types, and thus I would not be interested in any recommendations this site had. In fact, its unlikely that I’ll purposely plan to purchase again at this site or provide enough information for the site to make recommendations. This is not a fault or shortcoming of this website, but rather just a reality of the infrequency and casual shopping nature of myself with regard to this particular product type. They may have a number of loyal buyers, but they should not try and force personalization on the customer who simply wants to make a one-time purchase.

  1. Saves billing and shipping information Rating: 4/4

Not only does the site save billing and shipping info, but it makes it real easy to simply specify that the two addresses are the same if that’s the case. It’s a little thing, but if it means I don’t have to type the same address twice than it helps my overall satisfaction as a customer. It also reassures me that this is not a low-budget website where they may have skimped on some of the smaller features to save a buck.

  1. Personal favorites/registry Rating: 3/4

The site does have an “add to wishlist” capability. I did not take advantage of this nor do I foresee myself ever wanting to. It is my experience that most e-commerce sites see only a very small percentage of their customers utilize features such as a wishlist, saved shopping cart or even personal recommendations. That said, it’s a powerful tool to drive loyalty and greater lifetime value for those few customers who do use it – and thus its often a worthwhile venture to make those options available. However, its also my opinion that most customers are only willing to have a close relationship with a limited number of retailers they purchase from – typically the ones that sell products the customer is more emotionally attached to or purchases frequently. Personally, I’m extremely skeptical and hesitant for any loyalty or rewards programs with retailers. I do have a few, but I simply have no interest in forming a true relationship with every vendor I’ve ever purchased from. I think the GoGamer.com site understands this. They make the option available but do not force it.

C. Browsing and Buying Total: 8/16

  1. Overall Rating: 2/4

As you’ll read in the following “Navigation” section, I had several issues with the transition from being a shopper on their site to actually completing the checkout process. The site merchandising was better than average, but there were some critical navigation and site usage issues.

  1. Navigation Rating: 1/4

The products are indeed organized well into categories (i.e. sports games, action games, etc.) and also sorted by video game console/system (i.e. X-Box, PS2, PC, etc.). However, I do have two huge objections which are the reasons for this low score.

The first objection is concerned with the way the Account Signup and Checkout process are integrated with the site. I found the game I wanted and was ready to purchase it. I clicked the “add to cart” button and was prompted to sign up for an account. Since I was ready to purchase, I proceed with the account signup process. Upon completion, I was redirected back to the website’s homepage. At this point all I’ve done was sign up for an account – I still need to actually complete the purchase. I was expecting to be directed back to my shopping cart and then submit payment information, etc. This was not the case. In fact, being stranded back on the homepage in between the account signup and actual purchase process was especially troubling for me, as I had not been to their homepage. When I found the site, I came in directly to the page that had the product I was looking for – the Tiger Woods 06 PGA Tour video game for PS2. I didn’t have to navigate their site to find the game the first time, but now I was staring at the homepage with no clue how to find the game again (a second time) so I could now actually buy it after signing up for an account.

The second major objection came as a result of the above. Not knowing where the game would be listed, and not wanting to have to sort through a large number of other games to find it – I opted for their well-positioned site search box. I entered in “Tiger Woods 2006”. The search listed no results – it could not find the game that I had just seen minutes ago and that I was now desperately trying to purchase. To their credit, it did provide an additional alternative navigation on that screen. One of the links was for sports games, and after about 20 seconds on that page I found the game and could proceed with purchasing it. The problem with the search – as I discovered – was that I searched on “Tiger Woods 2006” when the official title of the game has “06” in it rather than “2006”. The computer logic was not intelligent enough to understand that this is essentially the same thing. Having worked with site-specific search engines before, I know that this can be resolved rather easily by simply including a number of additional terms that a specific game should show up for when searched on.

  1. Visual merchandising Rating: 3/4

There was a nice large photo of the game I wanted right on the first page I saw on the site, along with the appropriate description and details. The pricing information was clearly displayed. The professional display of the game and especially the photo were key reasons in my selecting this retailer over other online retailers, as their product merchandising was superior and made me feel more comfortable with the site.

  1. Product availability Rating: 2/4

I cannot speak for their overall inventory, but the product I wanted was in stock and came to me rather quickly. However, I still have chosen to give them a low score here due to the site-search issue I discussed in the “Navigation” section. The product was available, but they certainly did a few things to make me think it might not be. Having the product in stock and making it readily available and easy to find are both a part of “product availability” in my opinion.

D. Promotions Total: 13/16

  1. Overall Rating: 3/4

The general pricing on the site was better than average, and there are a few additional initiatives in the way of contests, blowout deals, etc.

  1. Purchase incentives Rating: 3/4

There is a “Blowout Deals” section that features games at prices as low as 99 cents. Most are older games and as such I interpret this is an inventory clearance strategy. That said, a low enough price will drive some sales for certain games and encourage shoppers to consider a game they may not be certain they want, simply because the cost is so little.

I found the overall pricing of the games fairly competitive, and feel that this in itself is a purchase incentive as well.

  1. Contests/sweepstakes Rating: 4/4

GoGamer.com has a Daily Winner contest when someone wins something each day – no purchase necessary. Typically the prize is a game or gaming accessory (such as a control pad). This may help encourage repeat visits which will mean top-of-mind awareness when those visitors are looking to make a purchase later on.

  1. Loyalty programs & CRM Rating: 3/4

The “Madness Mail” email newsletter is a classis CRM and loyalty feature. Email newsletters provide cost effective ways to make additional contacts with customers, provide them an additional value (information, awareness, special offers, etc.) and drive increased sales. The “Madness Mail” subscription promises a few tips and inside information about availability dates for soon-to-be-released games.

E. Delivery / Fulfillment Total: 19/20

18. Overall Rating: 4/4

Excellent. The product came quickly and I had notification of it to keep me informed. It was packaged adequately and all in all I had no complaints here.

19. Shipping Notification Rating: 4/4

I received notification that the order was being shipped approximately four hours after completing the purchase process. This is excellent.

20. Product Packaging and Condition Rating: 3/4

The product arrived in a FedEx box that was larger than expected and did not indicate to me that they skimped on shipping, realizing that many of their customers are instant-gratification types. However, there was very little padding so the game could move around in the box a lot during shipping. The invoice that accompanied the game was no-frills and was folded in half (and not so nicely at that).

21. Delivery Tracking Features Rating: 4/4

Once my order was shipped I was provided with a tracking number and instructions about how to track the package’s progress via FedEx.

22. Speed of Shipping & Delivery Rating: 4/4

No complaints here. I ordered the game on the afternoon of 4/25 and it was waiting for me at my front door when I got home from work on 4/27. I was impressed and pleased with this speed.

F. Security Total: 4/4

23. Overall Rating: 4/4

GoGamer.com has had a high BizRate rating since 1999, and the copyright notice says the firm has been around since 1991, which shows some staying power and validity in the minds of certain shoppers. Additionally, the site was verified by VeriSign, a recognized name with regard to online website security. Lastly, they accepted payment via PayPal, an alternative method of submitting payment that enables shoppers to pay without delivering sensitive information such as credit card information directly to the merchant. I took advantage of this as I often do when shopping via online retailers with whom I’m not familiar. Indeed, many times the acceptance of PayPal payments is a make-or-break issue for me, especially if the site’s overall feel makes me a bit uneasy.

Total Points: 68/92 = 74%

Additional comments on the online shopping experience score:

I was truly shocked about the purchase process, especially considering that this site sells relatively low-margin retail products that are price competitive and thus needs to have reasonable volume to get by. I would think they would be focused on every possible barrier preventing someone who is willing and able to buy from finishing the checkout process. My hope is that this issue – namely the one where I went to checkout, was instructed to signup for an account, did that, and then was dumped back on the homepage with an empty shopping cart and no clue how to find the product I was just trying to purchase – is simply an oversight rather than a known issue that has not been corrected.

Recommendations for improving the score:

Fix the above mentioned issues in the checkout process. Reply to customers when they take the time to email you.

Microsoft FrontPage to Be Replaced

I just read on FrontPage Webmaster that Microsoft is pulling the plug on FrontPage.  They are replacing it with a number of different products, most notably (IMO) the soon-coming Microsoft Expression Web Designer.  The word is second half of 2006.  If its before Christmas I’d consider that early.

Supposively its big with standards and CSS.  In fact, the little video that intros MS Expression Web Designer on the MS site ends by stating you can “Create CSS-based, XHTML compliant Web sites with ease.”

I’m actually fairly excited about it.  I’ve used various versions of FrontPage for years and actually really like FrontPage, although there certainly are a number of bugs and issues – especially with the Database Results Wizard in earlier versions (cough cough, freaking code that uses parent paths and how it won’t let me edit that code to use on a site where the host does not have parent paths enabled due to security concerns… GOSH!).  However, I think FrontPage by and large gets an undeserved bad wrap.

I also use DreamWeaver.  Alot too.  I think DW is more of a pain, and in my opinion most people seem to think DreamWeaver is so superior simply b/c that seems to be the popular opinion.  I think it has more to do with the user base.  Both tools are great.  FrontPage tends to attract more amateurs and beginners though – and thus you tend to see alot more junk as the output of such users using FrontPage.  As was mentioned in that FrontPageWebmaster thread I referenced above – a poster states that “a tool is a tool is a tool”.  So true.  He (for my laziness) also says that the brand of hammer has very little to do with the outcome of a construction project – its the person that’s swinging the hammer that matters.  I totally agree.  Both programs are very good, and each has its advantages – but really its how you use it that matters most (how and who anyhow).

By the way – check out that video, the CSS on/off type feature looks pretty sweet!

Comments on “This Boring Headline is Written for Google”

A couple quick comments on a recent NYT article, “This Boring Headline Is Written for Google.”

1) From an SEO-standpoint, I find this article way too short-sighted. Yes, having your clear keywords in your TITLE tag (generally the article’s title) can help as an on-page factor. Indeed, it will likely also influenced the anchor text of links to your website (not the fact that I’ve linked to this article using its title as the anchor text. However, I think the article fails to realize that “interesting” titles that maybe are the more traditional way – the titles that captivate an audience, are still very effective w/ search engines. Why? B/c of link popularity. An article that draws interest is more likely to draw a larger number of links. Thus, a boring keyword-friendly title may bode well for on-page factors, it may negate that benefit in that it may also fail to draw as much attention to itself from those scanning headlines, and thus get less link popularity. I do not agree that tweaking a title tag (again, used as one in the same with the headline of the article in this case) is necessarily a bonus at all for SEO-considerations, b/c of that potential loss in link weight. Why not put your title tag as a nice boring KW-friendly version, and still keep the actual title of the article something catchy?

Talk to anyone familiar with the optimization of press releases for SEO benefits and I’m sure they will tell you that keywords in your title is important, but not at the expense of sacrificing interest in the press release itself – b/c that is what produces the link weight.

2) I find it ignorant that the article takes the approach that SEOs are the opponent of the search engines:

For these sites, search engine optimization has become a constant battle of one-upmanship, pitting the search engine technologists against the marketing experts and computer scientists working for the Web sites.

Think of it as an endless chess game. The optimizer wizards devise some technical trick to outwit the search-engine algorithms that rank the results of a search. The search engines periodically change their algorithms to thwart such self-interested manipulation, and the game starts again.

– from “This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

I basically follow Google’s recommendations on SEO, which would put my efforts (and those of many other white-hat SEOs) on the same side as Google:

Many SEOs provide useful services for website owners, from writing copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted.

– from Google (source)

and

http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html

That link right above is basically what I do. It used to be more under the radar, now Google has gone and posted it on their site and officially endorsed the tactics. Kind of gives things away a bit :) No tricks, just intelligent approach, hard work and good sense. But again, that shows that SEOs aren’t necessarily “the enemy” of the search engines, and it annoys me when major publications make it out to seem that way b/c they only know a small part of the puzzle.

Don’t Link to Our Website

http://www.dontlink.com/ – This is hilarious!  Man oh man, I have no words!

I especially like this:

Sylvania requires linking sites to submit this Link Form. General Electric permits text links to its home page, but requires written approval for all other links to its site.

God forbid someone is directed right to the content they are looking for!  No, let’s make them go around in circles with our crazy navigation!  Woohoo!