Links, link exchanges and strategies

There’s so much written about links, linking strategies, link exchanges and so much conflicting advice out there. How do you know who or what to believe?

Well, it’s actually quite simple. Don’t listen to anyone, not even me. When it comes to links and what you should do let’s see what Google has to say. Google has a Webmasters section of their site which gives clear guidelines of what you should and shouldn’t do. Read it. Do it.

On the subject of links this page is a good place to start: Creating a Google-friendly site: Best practices > Link schemes.

Google’s advice: “some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”

In summary, links are important but it’s about quality not just quantity.

Getting links is difficult. If people like your site’s content they will link to it. The more people link to it, the more people see it and so on in a snowball effect. But… how do you get people to like your content when nobody is viewing it because you don’t have enough incoming links – it’s a vicious circle. How do you get your little snowball started down the hill?

Give it a little push. Here are 3 great ways to get going:

1. Add your site to directories, not any directory going but directories where the theme or content is relevant to your site. Try a Google search for your theme or industry plus the word “directory” or “listing” and see if you can add your site. You could also try “add site” or “submit your site” to see where you can get a free link. Before going too mad creating directory links remember it’s about quality as well as quantity – it’s all quite logical – a link from a site where you’re allowed to add your own links isn’t going to be worth as much as a link that someone else has chosen to add.

2. Get involved in forums or online communities. Find sites relevant to your site where you are allowed to contribute and join in. Don’t be obvious and steam in advertising your site but get involved in discussions, try to help people out and, soon enough, if they’re interested in what you’ve got to say they’ll look at your site.

3. Blog. Write articles or posts, just like this one, and post it on your own site or submit it to a blogging or article site. Be sure to include an interesting headline and some links back to your site. Submit this to the right blog search engines (e.g. Technorati, Digg) and it will be read and passed around gaining you not only links but visitors in the process. Pssst – I know a very good blog designer.

What is a website visitor worth?

What are your visitors worth?When looking at investing money in trying to get more visitors to your website you need to first work out what a visitor is worth to you.

So, how do you work it out? Well, to do it at a basic level is very simple. Choose a time period to analyse – the last 12 months, last 3 months, last 30 days, etc. Now, in this period see how much profit you made and how many visitors your website got. If you’re using a web stats package, unique visitors is the figure to use here. Simply divide the number of unique visitors by the profit and this will give you a mean profit per visitor. You can use this as a basis for spending on gaining more visitors.

Whilst more visitors means more profit you shouldn’t just look at boosting traffic but try to actively increase the value of each online visitor. If a visitor becomes more likely to buy from you they become more valuable and investing money in attracting more visitors then gives you better value for money. So, as well as your traffic you also need to try to improve your conversion rate. The conversion rate is simply the proportion of visitors who buy. There are lots of things you can do to boost your conversion rates but that’s for another day…

Google Chrome – first impressions

I thought I’d just give my tuppence worth on Google‘s new BETA browser, Chrome.

When I first heard about Google’s new browser it was with dread. As a web developer an important part of developing any web page or application is testing that it works in the major browsers. Having another browser on the scene, and with a big name like Google behind it you know it’s going to have a lot of users, means more testing and increases my chances of having to recode.

Before downloading it I read Google‘s page on Why We Built A Browser. The page itself is titled “A fresh take on the browser”. On it Google openly admits “We’ve used components from Apple‘s WebKit and Mozilla‘s Firefox“. So, maybe not an entirely fresh take then?

So, on going in, what are my first impressions? Well, first thought, it looks pretty much the same as IE and Firefox. The browsing tabs have been shifted above the address bar, which, as far as I can see, is just a change for change’s sake rather than serving any useful purpose – why make people have to get used to something new when the browers they are used to work just fine? Other than that, without delving too deep, I’m struggling to find anything radically different.

On the plus side, it doesn’t have loads of toolbars, keeping a nice clean, simple appearance – one of the great strengths of Google’s search engine. After using it for a while, I noticed that it remembers the sites you visit and uses this data intelligently to make it quicker to revisit them. It’s fast too, noticeably quicker than IE.

On the negative side, it doesn’t seem to handle RSS feeds and feed reading as well as IE or Firefox (with RSS add-ons) but I’m sure this will come.

Firefox has been the web professional‘s choice for years now and with good reason. So, will Chrome offer us anything new that Firefox can’t? As I see it, the reason for Firefox‘s success hasn’t been about speed or security but freedom. It’s great strength is that it’s so easy to customise and ease of using add-ons make it much more than a tool for reading web content. I’m assuming that, being an open source project, Chrome will follow suit.

It seems a shame to me that all of the excellent developers out there who have been building add-ons for Firefox will now be split between Firefox and Chrome.

I don’t think that Google will better Firefox but they will be able to match it and with their finances and history of buying up big web companies (YouTube, FeedBurner) I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we saw Google Firefox before too long.

See what you think – Google Chrome

The Web 2.0 concept – the basics

The days of having your website managed by a web designer or design company are now on their way out.

In the past websites were a one-way read only process, an online brochure which people visited to get information. Now, with the whole concept of Web 2.0, it’s all a two-way interactive process with customers or fans playing an active part in a website.

Now, not only can you update all of your web pages or blogs yourself but you can also allow visitors to comment and discuss your website’s content all over the internet, reaching far greater numbers of people than ever before.

This two-way interaction not only improves communications with customers or fans but actually helps shape your products/services by allowing you to see where the demand is – who is buying and what they really want.

With Web 2.0 your web presence goes way beyond what you put on your site. You now need to look at review sites, forums, online communities, social networking communities – in short, anywhere where people can make reference to you.

When you’re looking to launch a new web project make sure it fits into the world of Web 2.0 or risk being left behind.

Want to know more?

I recommend O’Reilly – What is Web 2.0?

The CIM eMarketing Award

Chartered Institute of marketingI’m currently studying towards the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)’s eMarketing Award.

I did a 4 day intensive course through Marketing Tom Media based near Cardiff. The Award is assessed by an online test and a 4,000 word eMarketing report.

EMarketing encompasses not only marketing through the web but all forms of electronic marketing so looks at things like email, interactive digital TV, mobile phones, CD-ROMs, etc. The web side looks at not only how to develop a successful website but all the other tools and tricks available to anyone looking to promote their business. It was a real eye opener for me. I now feel that I properly understand the meaning of Web 2.0 – blogging, RSS, social networking. Things have really moved on in the last few years and static brochure type websites are quickly being left behind by the new web 2.0 interactive sites which actively involve the customers in the whole web experience.

The real beauty of online marketing compared to conventional forms of offline marketing is that everything is quantifiable. Every time anyone sees an advert it is logged. If they click a link it is logged. This makes it very easy to way up the return on your investment and keep your marketing budget going on the right things.

As well as all the marketing hints and tips the course also looks at how eMarketing fits in with the rest of your business – customer service, data management, development of new products and services.

All being well I hope to gain this professional qualification by the end of 2008.