Jen DeShields - Blog ImageI have a lot of different tasks as a Content Writer here, and if there’s one task I enjoy doing, it is creating infographics.

Infographics are a fun way to create a visual element for presenting information, and they give clients content that embodies the essence of share-ability. Infographics can be wonderful promotional tools, but only if they’re made correctly (for examples of excellent infographics, visit the Daily Infographic for examples from around the web). If you’re thinking about making an infographic for your company, remember to keep these five tips in mind:.

Tip #1: Remember that it’s not about you

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they create an infographic is intensely focusing on their company or a particular product. Infographics are meant to share information with others, not act as a blatant advertisement. Filling the infographic with the company logo and product descriptions will almost ensure that it won’t get shared, and sharing is the entire goal of creating an infographic. Discretely placing your company logo somewhere in the graphic is fine, but avoid making your company the focus of it.

Tip #2: Keep it simple

When it comes to infographics, simplicity is important. If you pick an idea that’s too complex, your infographic will either be too wordy and difficult to understand, or it won’t engage the reader. Instead of picking a complicated and very specific topic, think of an overarching idea that you can easily break down into different sections.

Tip #3: Show, don’t tell

Infographics should be able to tell someone information about a certain topic, but they shouldn’t heavily rely on words. Sometimes you need a sentence or two to be able to get the point across, but avoid making your infographic full of lengthy paragraphs. Photos and graphics often speak for themselves.

Tip #4: Avoid the obvious

Infographics should be teaching the reader something that they didn’t know before, and if you fill it with common sense facts, you won’t be seeing a lot of shares on your Pinterest or Facebook pages. If you’re creating an infographic about filing taxes, don’t tell your audience that April 15th is tax day and that they could face penalties if they don’t file on time. Tell them pertinent information and statistics about the number of audits the IRS gives out each year, the most common mistakes people make when filing, and the average refund amount Americans receive.

Tip #5: Create a unified visual theme

Infographics are supposed to be informational and visual, so it’s very important for your infographic to have a unified visual theme that flows well. Some people find that it’s easy to use their company’s colors to design the infographic, and others use the same font as their company logo or slogan to covertly slip in some subtle advertising. Avoid using clashing colors or using different fonts, as it can make the infographic look unattractive and disorganized.

It is essential for every business owner, no matter the size of your enterprise, to have some sort of web presence. While some small businesses just have a Facebook page, it’s more beneficial to actually have a new and dedicated site built to serve as your business’ home base. A .com registered in your name is ultimately more reliable than a single page owned by a social network.

Now that you’ve decided that what you need is a professional-grade website, it’s time to sit down and come up with some concepts. How do you want the site to look? What would you consider a conversion (do you sell things directly on the site or do you want people to fill out a contact form)? What do you want the site to do? As you brainstorm and look at other sites for ideas, it’s important to point out that when it comes to web design, there is often a gap between what you want and what you need.

For the purpose of SEO, you may need to cut back on some of the frills that you think look awesome on other sites but are actually doing a bit of harm with regard to search engine visibility. Here’s a good example of something you may be tempted to have but should avoid: the splash page.

A splash page is that first “welcome page” that many sites have for whatever reason. All that’s on there is a big image and a “click to enter” button. Often this page is made in Flash. If all you care about is aesthetic appeal, then okay, that’s fair. But since you’re running a business, you want the search engines to actually see your site.

Your homepage is your most crucial piece of real estate. It’s most likely the page that is going to rank highest in the search results. It is also the gateway by which both visitors and search engines will follow links to view what else your site has to offer. If your homepage URL is the splash page, you’re forfeiting the opportunity to rank for keywords and establish a solid link structure. Your homepage should have quality content and clean navigation.

Other things you want to take into consideration include the code throughout your site. Your goal, ultimately, is to keep your code as clean and minimal as possible while getting the desired results. That means you really want to try and keep your code to HTML and CSS, with some Javascript used sparingly if you want some extra fancy functionality. But once you start piling in things like Flash, you run the risk of creating content that can’t be crawled by the search engines. They also slow down load times, which are also used in SEO calculations. This same idea applies to your images. Of course you need images to make your site more attractive. But be aware that any text that appears inside an image can’t be seen by the search engines. So if you think putting keywords in the image itself is a good idea, you’ll need to come up with a different plan.

These are just a few of the points you need to consider when designing a new site for your business. While launching a new site is exciting and can open up many new opportunities, it’s essential that you do things the right way to maximize the benefits.

Manager Monday - Marc Cornish

WordPress is one of the most popular Content Management Systems currently being used on the Internet.  In fact, more than 60 million websites currently use the popular CMS.  For the average user who does not have a strong technical background, WordPress is an ideal back-end for a website because it allows users to easily update and maintain the content on their websites. From an SEO-perspective, WordPress has tons of great features built in, or easily added with one of the many plugins that have been developed by their network of open source developers.  But just as with any popular piece of software, there are risks.

Recently a massive attack was launched against websites running WordPress and Joomla CMSs.  Characterized as a ‘brute-force’ attack, the method of infiltration was to use as many different computers as possible to try as many different username/password combinations as possible.

The attacker was able to utilize over 90,000 unique IP addresses from all around the world in a coordinated attack on the default login pages of the popular content management systems.  Using the standard username ‘admin’, the automated attack then attempted to gain access by trying thousands upon thousands of different passwords.

The result was a huge strain on hosting servers, which caused many websites to go down or load poorly.  In worst-case scenarios, the attacker was able to gain access to website owners’ CMS dashboards where they can do as they please.  Preventing and stopping attacks in progress was a task that each hosting provider handled differently. Many opted to change the URL of the default login pages that the CMSs use, or to remove them completely.  For many people though, the biggest question is “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?”  The answer may be easier than you think.

While it is nearly impossible to prevent some lunatic from launching a wide-spread hacking attack on any website he/she/it wants to, there are steps you can take to make this task exceedingly difficult for them.  With a brute force attack such as this one, the prey was websites with weak passwords. ‘Password’, ‘12345’, ‘login’…if your password resembles any of these, then you have a weak password.  Strong passwords are crucial to keeping your site secure.

You may be wondering “What is a strong password?”  Generally, you want the password to be at least 8 characters, and a good mix of letters, numbers, and special characters, with some capitalizations thrown in as well.  Many CMSs come with a built-in password strength checking tool, but if you find yourself wondering, you can use one provided by Microsoft:

You’ll also want to make sure you have a unique username as well.  ‘Admin’, ‘User’, ‘Manager’…avoid simple usernames such as these.  Try to pick a username that is a mix of letters and numbers. Case sensitivity is normally not important when setting these up, and special characters are often not allowed. Pick something that is unbiased and does not have anything generally in common with the website it is being used for.

These tips are great for your CMS logins but can be applied to all aspects of your life.  Applying these simple principals when signing up for bank accounts, customer accounts at ecommerce websites, or loan or credit accounts can save endless amounts of frustration in the future.  When it comes to your personal information, privacy is key.  Having a strong set of login credentials will help you keep your personal information out of the hands of hackers.  If you do not have strong credentials, take some time today to update them, you (and your wallet) may thank you later.

One of the most common SEO mistakes I encounter every day is the mishandling of 404 errors. URLs that return a 404 HTTP response code are a normal part of the web; just about every site has them. 404 errors can be served for a couple of reasons. Maybe you are trying to access a page that has been moved or no longer exists on the sites server, or maybe you misspelled the URL for that particular page. Although 404 errors do not have a direct correlation to your sites rankings, it is believed that too many of these errors can act as a signal to search engines that maybe your sites content isn’t the best or most up to date for the query. The most important part is understanding how to approach them correctly in order to preserve user experience and link juice. This can be accomplished by creating a customized 404 page and installing 301 redirects when appropriate.

What Should I Do With Them?

The web is constantly changing and so are the sites that populate it. Many sites want to change content, and should often, in order to stay fresh. But what do you do in the case of retired pages or a change in URL structure? In many cases I see sites set up to redirect all 404 errors to the homepage. Unfortunately this is killing the site rather than helping it. Approaching 404s in this manner is essentially devaluing your homepage by sending the user and search engines to a page that is not relevant to the original URL.

Another problem I see often is when a site is set up to take the user or search engine to a custom error page but instead of returning  404 response it will return a 200 OK, this is known as a soft 404.

 Webmaster Tools Report

The goal here is to get the visitors to where they want to go, and to keep search engines from leaving the site and continue crawling once a 404 error is reached. So how do we accomplish this?

Well, there are a couple of ways to ensure that visitors and search engines stay on your site while also retaining some of that traffic and link juice from those retired pages.

  • Implement 301 Redirects: Redirecting all 404 errors is not recommended. 301 permanent redirects should be used in cases where your URL has changed. Pages that have been retired should return a 404 response header instead of returning 404-like content.
  • Custom 404 Page: If you retire product pages or pages with content that is no longer relevant to your site then it is perfectly fine to let those 404. Like I said before, 404 errors are perfectly normal. Your approach to them is what really matters. This is when a custom 404 page comes into play. A custom error page offers the user and search engines more options than just dead end.

It is also important to remember that if you do retire pages that will return a 404, you must remove any links to that page from within your site or they will still be indexed.

Importance of a Custom 404 Page

One of the most overlooked aspects of site design and SEO is the implementation of a custom 404 page. Too often I see sites using the default error page instead (shown below), which can result in lost visitors and keep search engines from crawling the entire site.

Generic 404 Page

What is wrong with the page above? Do you think the average user knows what a 404 HTTP Response Code is? This is why customized 404 pages are so very important. A customize page will allow visitors and search engines to continue navigating your website in the event of a broken link or deleted page. Remember, search engines do not have a back button. If you do not include links for the crawling process to continue then the spider will see it as a dead end and jump off site.

Custom error pages also offer the user a more personalized experience and a better explanation of what a 404 is. There are some important elements that every sites 404 page should contain that will keep visitors browsing and search engines crawling:

  • Maintain Consistent Design: The customized page should include the same basic design as the rest of the site. I usually look at this as a “gutted out” version of one of the sites pages. The header, navigation and footer should all be intact so the user has options when a 404 error is triggered.
  • Explain In Normal Words: Like I said before, the average user does not know what a 404 HTTP response code is. Try adding a simple message in the body of the page saying something like “Sorry, the page you are looking for no longer exists.”
  • Provide Links to Relevant Content: A common method I have seen quite often is the inclusion of links right below the error message that takes the user to the most popular product or content pages of the site. Including a search bar in this area is also a great addition that will enable the user to find exactly what they are looking for.

Whether your business is based within a brick-or-mortar institution, or it is a solely online venture, one thing is certain: e-commerce is one of the most important aspects of your business to focus on. Why? Well, there is a great deal of data and statistics to support the fact that online shopping – and purchasing – is experiencing a huge increase that is not likely to be slowing down. More importantly, it will never reverse. If you want your business to compete in this new digital age of commerce, it is about time that you extended its products and services to the online world.

For this reason, an essential component of your SEO marketing plan should be the optimization of the design of your online properties, focusing especially on that of your company’s main website. However, if you and the developers on your team have been experiencing some trouble on figuring out the best design, take some tips from a recent article from Mashable. This article provides four great ways to improve the visual appeal of an e-commerce site. Read below to find out what they are.

1. Show off your products with great photography. Your products are the stars of your business’s show, so why wouldn’t you want to display them in the best light possible on your website? Have some great, professional portraits taken of them to feature on your site.

2. Prioritize when it comes to layout and design. In other words, think about what the most important parts of your pages should be, then go downwards from there.

3. Don’t go overboard with dynamic code. Although it may seem tempting to use what will make your page look its best, you must keep in mind the capabilities of the browsers that most of your audience will be using.

4. Optimize your site for mobile devices. E-commerce is very quickly going down the m-commerce route. Stay ahead of the curve by optimizing your site for mobile from the get-go.

Just putting a good deal of thought and creativity into creating a great-looking e-commerce site can go a long way. Don’t hesitate to start improving the visual appeal of your site.

Happy Valentine’s Day, valued WebiMax readers.  Are your customers headed, straight as an arrow, toward your site’s services and products, not just today, but each day of the year?  Search engine optimization facilitates a love connection and the endless search for brand attention.  Brands engineer goods and services to meet the needs of valued customers.  Online marketing helps align and spark brand-consumer connections. 

Online marketing has become diverse (offering an array of separate yet intertwined initiatives), yet ‘separate’ services ‘connect,’ working well together to create online success.  For instance, copywriting (an essential SEO need) is complemented well by social media usage (gives content further extension and exposure).  Let’s consider more search engine optimization, inter-service love connections:

Technical SEO < —— > Pay per Click

Technical SEO addresses the on-site needs of a  Web property such as meta data, ensuring search engines properly read a site’s pages and understand what on-site elements are ‘communicating’ to engines and users.  This helps a brand’s exposure on the search engines; as Comscore’s January SE data reflects, users mainly leverage Google (Google Webmaster tips) for search at the moment.

Addressing technical needs helps search traffic and PPC (pay-per-click) services complement technical notions well, giving brands immediate opportunities for increased exposure.  While PPC demands meticulous attention to ensure ROI, it’s a good service to leverage while natural SEO efforts gain momentum.

VSEO < —— > Web Design

I read a good post today on Google+ by Erica McGillivray.  If you’re using Google+ (Rand Fishkin urges all people in marketing to develop a strategy), you’ll notice personalized search results and interests of others in your circles.  Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed more videos finding way into SERPs.  Video production is another method of conveying information; in some cases, video can better communicate than text (think about DIY projects).  A number of vendors opt for video production and VSEO (video search engine optimization), allows for better exposure.

Your brand may love the idea of VSEO, deciding to host a number of on-site videos.  Web design services invigorate and improve the design and usability of Web properties.  While your brand is producing videos, it is necessary to improve the look and function of its associated online properties.  Videos intrigue attention while Web design implementations aesthetically please browsers and improve user satisfaction.

Copywriting < —– > Social Media

Great content is essential for every brand.  While video, infographs (see infograph of StumbleUpon success via Distilled), podcasts, and other varieties of media are expanding our interpretations of ‘content,’ copywriting (have you been paying attention in copywriting class?) remains an integral part of a successful SEO campaign.

Of course, brands desire increased readership and traffic.  Social site, like Google+ above as well as Twitter and Facebook (read Todd Bailey Facebook tips).  Social media sites allow for real-time sharing and increased exposure to Web site content and properties.  If a brand is producing content, social media becomes a complementary process it can’t afford to pass over.

Thanks for reading – Happy Valentine’s Day