Archive for the ‘design’ Category

The Fundamentals of SEO

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

[The Fundamentals of SEO] - Forget about META tags and complicated back-linking campaigns for a second. The fundamentals of SEO revolve around two ingredients that lack sex appeal: proper page structure and well-written content. The successful combination of these elements will benefit your search rank more than any outsourced SEO campaign ever will.

Let’s start at the beginning…

Search engine algorithms incorporate both on-page and off-page elements. On-page elements include both page structure and content. Wait a second… if both fundamental ingredients of SEO are included in the on-page elements, then what about the off-page side of the equation (i.e. back-links)?

Well, theoretically, back-links should be a byproduct of well-written content. In other words, there shouldn’t be a need to proactively poach external links. This is of course theoretical. It is probably a good idea to scout external links from relevant sites to increase your PageRank and drive traffic.

Moving along…

Proper page structure basically means mandatory:

  • Page titles
  • META descriptions
  • Header tags
  • Paragraph content
  • ALT tags
  • Strong and emphasis tags
  • Keyword-injected URLs, if possible

Well-written content is a bit more vague, but encompasses some of the following: keyword consistency, proper grammar, and logical article development.

If these two areas can be targeted, SEO success is inevitable. It has to start with the web design (i.e. proper page structure), followed by the site copy (i.e. page content). So, instead of looking at SEO from a micro point-of-view, the macro perspective may provide a better overall picture of the situation.

5 Essential Web-Based Apps For Any Consultant

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Power toolsAs a consultant, I work on cool new projects all the time. This is the glamorous part of the job. Then of course, there is all the grunt work that goes on behind the scenes. This involves client relationship management and dealing with all the admin work. Ugghhh. Luckily, there are web-based apps to help deal with these painful processes.

The following are 5 web-based applications are essential to any web-centric consultant:

  1. Basecamp* - Project management
  2. ConceptShare - Design collaboration
  3. FreshBooks - Invoicing and expense tracking
  4. FunctionFox - Time-tracking
  5. Google Calendar / Gmail / Google Docs - Free web-based application suite

* The entire 37signals suite of products is impressive. Also be sure to check out Zoho’s line of web-based tools.

Obviously there are many others out there. Please be sure to add your favourites in the comments below.

FriendFeed is the New Hot Sh*t

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

[FriendFeed is the New Hot Sh*t] - Almost exactly a year ago (March 13th, 2007 to be exact), I wrote a post entitled “Twitter is Hot Sh*t Right Now”. Well, a year has passed and the Twitter hype continues to build.FriendFeed logo The skeptics are eating their words and micro-blogging continues to climb in popularity. This Internet phenomenon may very well be the future of personal blogging. So now what? What’s next? Let me introduce you to FriendFeed

If you haven’t heard of or checked out FriendFeed yet, it is a must. This extremely useful, yet simple, service has caught fire and become very popular among the A-list tech bloggers. As was the case with Twitter, many think this short-term viral growth will subside. I’m not so sure.

What makes Facebook so viral and sticky? In other words, why do users continue to visit the site on a frequent basis? Answer: the news feed. They are constantly receiving new news about their friends’ activity. This is both interesting and useful. So why stop at Facebook? What if there was a universal news feed that could tie together all the services that your friends are using? This is the basis for FriendFeed.

Once I’ve added my friends, I can see new updates and changes on services like Twitter, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Ma.gnolia, Pownce, or a blog. Not only that, but I can reply and rate the content as well - all from the FriendFeed site. Very cool. The user experience is clean and intuitive. They’ve added only the necessary features and nothing more. I congratulate them on a job well done.

The only thing I don’t like about FriendFeed is their stereotypical web 2.0 logo… but I’ll let that one slide.

What are your initial thoughts on FriendFeed? 

The Beauty of Organic Search Results

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Magnifying glass[The Beauty of Organic Search Results] - Yes, I just called organic search results beautiful. The reason is simple. They drive free, qualified traffic. It doesn’t get any better than that. I’m a true believer in quality content and good page structure. From a corporate perspective, too little money is being put toward SEO. Its inorganic cousin, PPC, seems to be reaping in the bulk of the marketing budget. There must be a balance though.

I am extremely biased when it comes to search engine marketing. I think that most companies tend to overlook SEO in favour of PPC, as they assume that the latter provides more immediate, visual results and a better ROI. Little do they know, a well-executed SEO campaign can also provide immediate results in as little as a few days. Obviously, the upfront cost of optimization needs to be taken into consideration, but I still believe the long-term, residual benefits of SEO to be greater than those of a short-term PPC campaign.

In other words, an SEM budget should be weighted slightly toward PPC in the beginning, but transition to SEO over time. In the end, the ROI should be excellent, as organic search should be driving the majority of traffic.

Effectiveness of Facebook Apps as a Marketing Tool

Monday, March 10th, 2008

[Effectiveness of Facebook Apps as a Marketing Tool] - A little while back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer or blog about. The first one I’d like to tackle was submitted by Mark Evans, who blogs at MarkEvansTech and serves as Director of Community of Canadian-based start-up PlanetEye. Mark wrote:

“What’s your take on the effectiveness of Facebook apps as a branding/marketing tool?”

My cliched first thought was, “Good question”. After giving it some further time and Facebook new logoconsideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that, as a whole, Facebook apps are not a great marketing tool. Obviously this is a generalization and apps may prove to be a successful strategy for some companies. Let me explain my logic…

It’s all about perception.

Branding and positioning are an important part of any online strategy. Subsequently, solidifying status and credibility within an industry is essential. Still with me? The recent onslaught of Facebook apps has saturated the “marketplace”.  A lack of management on behalf of the social network has driven many to utter frustration with the highly-touted platform.

For this very reason, I think that the introduction of a Facebook app may be more detrimental than advantageous, in some cases, unless extreme caution and delicacy are exercised. A suitable Facebook app would have to provide compelling value and utility. Furthermore, there would have to be a certain level of fit with the exposed community of users.

My guess is that a majority will disagree with this train of thought, but I’m just giving my take on the situation.

In all honesty, I think that most apps are being created for amusement purposes - not as branding vehicles.  The ability to “poke” someone or write on their “FunWall” is great, but these dominant apps may reflect negatively upon your company if you are trying to portray a more professional, sophisticated image.

Jumping back to August 2007, I wrote a post about the short-term success and long-term failure of the platform. I still believe much of that post to be true. The effectiveness of apps has decreased significantly due to the surge of entrants.

I think that more users are starting to see things the same way as I do. For the most part, Facebook apps are more of a hassle than they’re worth.  They cause huge amounts of clutter and force users to scroll down long profile pages to find what they’re looking for. They’re also very distracting at times. What I find most annoying is the increased page load time. In other words, unless you’re creating an app for pure amusement or you happen to be in the business of “fun”, then Facebook apps are likely to be a poor marketing tool unless a cautious, very well sought out strategy is executed upon.