Confucius says “The cautious seldom err.” These words can be applied to matters as practical as hiring a web designer or programmer for your next project.
We often hear unfortunate tales from clients who have hired a designer or programmer, only to be left with an unfinished project. There are also those cases when the project was completed, but the designer dodged out of town and left the client without any follow-up support.
With that in mind, we have assembled a list of questions and considerations for you to keep in mind before choosing a professional for your next project.
Some of these points come courtesy of other wise resources (cited below). Others come as a result of years of experience, and our share of heartaches, too.
To a man anxiously waiting for a show to start at a theatre in New York. Two young guys interviewing a man about the marvels of the oldest television set in Britain. A Swedish travel show (in Swedish). A group of young guys laughing and shouting over each other – gibberish. A baby laughing in Pennsylvania. A guy in Dundee, Scotland rambling about a girl he’s sweet on. A woman from Utah broadcasting her radio show ‘Everydayopera’. A man about to embark on a boating trip from San Diego to Mexico…
In the span of a few minutes I had consumed a collection of audio recordings from a wide range of people across the world. And even more exciting, they had all uploaded to audioboo.fm just minutes before.
After all the apps we’ve read about, this is the one that could finally push me toward spending the cash on an iPhone. Imagine, recording your podcast into your phone and publishing it with the push of a button! No recording onto your hard drive, no audio editing. Audio Boo makes it frighteningly easy to podcast.
Created by BestBefore Media Ltd out of London, UK, the mobile audio blogging tool, Audioboo was launched in March this year. Described as “Twitter but with audio files”, Audioboo is a free application for your iPhone (OS 2.2.1) or iPod touch (2nd generation) which records up to five minutes of audio, compresses and uploads it to the Audioboo website. You can publish a link to your latest “boo” on Twitter, Facebook, or even embed the recording as part of your latest blog post on WordPress (eg: http://whereitsatshow.com/). If you really want to get serious, you can publish to iTunes – think podcast mini-series, your five minute take on each day. If you hope to archive the recordings at home, you need only subscribe to your iTunes podcast and download from there.
It sounds too good to be true. The caveats are: the audio is public, there are no privacy options at this time. Your exact geographic location will also be made public, unless you turn this feature off on your iPhone. And you must be in cell phone range to publish your recording – queued uploads are not yet an option and it will not save to your iPhone.
There’s no denying that WordPress is a platform that makes it easier for companies and individuals to publish, update and manage blogs and sites. However, for all its advantages, there are a few points that count against WordPress, when it is interpreted by search engines. In this post, I pinpoint some of these issues, and how to address them:
Potential Duplicate Content
One of the great things about WordPress blogs is that they make it dead-simple for a visitor to find the post that he/she is interested in. The visitor can select articles to read according to category, keywords (tags) and authors. Unfortunately, this means that all posts that are organized by those criteria end up being duplicated in one way or another. For example, let’s suppose that Jane writes an insightful article about Ferraris, and chooses to file that post under the “Italian Imports” category, as well as using the tags “Ferrari” and “Testarossa”, right before filing it under her own author name – “Jane”. Consequently, that article will be found not just in one page, but anytime someone chooses to view posts within the “Italian Imports” category, the “Ferrari” or “Testarossa” tags, or that were written by Jane. Hence you have the issue of several pages containing duplicate text – a “no-no” in Google’s eyes, since it views duplicate content as an illegal attempt by Webmasters to inflate a site’s search engine rankings. These sites often end up with a lower position among search results.
One way to avoid this common problem is to ensure that there’s a large distinction between your tag and category archives. So, as an example, you don’t want to have both a category AND a tag to be called “Italian Imports”. A good rule of thumb is to assign larger subjects and topics as categories, and leave tags for nuances of those topics. So in our example above, we could choose “Italian Imports” and “Ferrari” to be categories, while setting “Testarossa” and “Pininfarina” as tags.
Optimized Description and Keyword Tags
When you publish your WordPress blog right “out of the box”, description and keywords meta tags are not automatically included in your posts. That’s not a bad thing, though. Although keyword tags are not as useful in search engine optimization as they once were, description tags are still used by search engines to decide on how they describe your pages in search engine results. As such, an effective description plays an important effect on whether someone will click on your link among many other search engine listings. You definitely want your words to be compelling and separate your listing from the rest of the pack. Each page on your site should have a unique description tag since, optimally, everyone of your Web pages should be distinct from others. How do you work around this WordPress shortcoming? You need to resort to a WordPress SEO plugin.
Two main plugins that facilitate the optimization of a WordPress site are “Headspace 2” and “All in One SEO“. They both have their own advantages. “All in One SEO” makes it easier to formulate title and description tags for a site, but since the description and title tags that it composes are somewhat automated, this plugin does not grant you as much control on the text on those tags as you might like.
If you’re more of an SEO control-freak like me, and want to be picky about how your page descriptions show up in search results, then “Headspace 2″ may be a better fit. That is because this plugin doesn’t automatically compose meta title and meta description tags – so you can enter copy and keywords that you know are bound to generate the most clicks for you.
Google XML Sitemaps
WordPress sites allow for new content to be added, easily and painlessly. However, as far as Google is concerned, if it is not aware that you have new content on your site, then it’s all for naught. You want to notify Google that there’s new material on your WordPress blog, and one of the easiest ways to do so is by installing a plugin that will automatically generate an XML Google Sitemap for your blog as new content is developed. Some of the many plugins available are:
This is another major step in optimizing your WordPress site which will make it that much easier for Google to take notice of your blog.
Links pointing to someone else’s site from within your own blog dilute your own PageRank. For that reason, you will want to be very specific and strategic about where in your site an outbound link can be counted as an endorsement from your blog (hence helping the landing site’s PageRank) or, in contrast, which areas of your site carry no PageRank value for links posted there. A helpful hint is to add the “nofollow” attribute to any links to which you do not want to give any “PageRank power”.
Because of their social nature, blogs can have a plethora of outbound links. One way to manage how much PageRank juice you want to giveaway from your blog is by installing a “nofollow” plugin, which will enable you to dictate which of your site sections have “nofollow” or “dofollow” tags in their links. As an example, you can choose for all links in your post pages to have a “nofollow” attribute attached to them, while all links in tag archives would receive the “dofollow” accreditation. This plays a part at conserving your PageRank, since you’re communicating to the Google Crawler that outbound links on specific pages are not to be countered as endorsements (which dilutes that page’s PageRank).
For a list of nofollow plugins, check out this link.
SEO-Friendly Permalink Settings
A permalink (an abbreviation of “permanent links”) is the URL that WordPress designates to a blog post, and which is then used by other sites to link back to that article. It’s also the link that you’d email to a friend, or that you’d bookmark, if you desire to access that post a later date.
By default, permalinks assigned by WordPress are neither “human” or “SEO” friendly. Typically, a permalink looks like this:
Try saying that, three times, fast! Good luck. In addition, an article will be much more conducive to success in search engines if its permalink resembles more my example below:
The process to change your posts’ URLs to a better permalink varies depending on the WordPress version that you’re using. It may be as easy as installing a plugin and making any changes through that tool, or it may require some modifications to be made on a server level. Either way, it’s worth the trouble.
These are merely some of measures that can be implemented to optimize WordPress sites. They should be employed in tandem with other basic SEO measures.
I hope this helps you in some measure. Of course, your comments and questions are welcome. Is there a topic that you’d like us to discuss here on the Magnify Digital blog? Send it our way!
‘Til next time,
Online Marketing Strategist
The best part about the internet is that group of hardworking people who spend long hours searching and compiling helpful lists for the rest of us. Mashable has a great collection of lists, including 100 of the best authors to follow on Twitter, 100 Best Google Map tools and 270 Tools for Running a Business Online.
Being a great fan of maps, I checked out some of the links. I like mezzoman.com. This website can tell you the middle point between any two places in North America. Great for planning road trips!
If you’re feeling the approaching Armageddon, you can spend an afternoon studying where meteors have hit the earth at: geology.com Fascinating and chilling at the same time!
Beyond Mashable, there are some great links for business out there, like this helpful list from Chris Brogan on how to Twitter for business.
And this list of 75 people who tweet about mobile on socializemobilize.com
I’m also following @textingforward – they seem quite busy putting out copious links to mobile and marketing, including one for a fantastic marketing blog called culture-buzz, where they’ve posted some interesting videos like this interview with David Armano – a web 2.0 and social media expert.
participated. The event’s goal was to give entrepreneurs a chance to get answers to dilemmas regarding branding, marketing, Web development and social media strategy.
As the night came to an end, I found myself reflecting on how the variety of experts in the panel illustrated the process that should optimally happen as a company ventures into Digital Marketing waters:
Liz Gaige was the in-house expert in charge of addressing questions about marketing strategy and planning. As she answered questions from the room, I was reminded of how important it is to have a clear perspective on who your target market and product/offering are, before moving further toward branding, Web development, etc. Once you have identified who your target market is, and that it is indeed financially able to sustain your business, you are better equipped to analyze how your offering differs from the competition.
The wisdom that is gathered up until this point can now be transitioned toward the next phase…
As Ryan Thompson expounded, branding is much more than a logo. It encompasses the perception you’d like your target market to have about your company, your offering. That impression is partially communicated through your business cards, logo and other collaterals, but it is ultimately about the mental picture that one absorbs about you – before, during and after a visual, online and print conversation.
Defining your brand is a key point in this process, since it dictates the tone of your communications later on, during the implementation of our next two points…
…Web development and social media strategy
Ideally, all the steps above will have taken place before you delve into Web development and social media strategy waters. The information that you have collected through your marketing and branding journey makes up your corporate DNA, upon which your Web development muscle, bones and cartilage can be built upon. How those muscles get put to use is another story.
In order to achieve your goals, should you participate in a sprint or a marathon? A sprint could be likened to an AdWords campaign – which can be implemented quicker, with faster returns, but demanding more energy up front – where as a marathon would be akin to search engine optimization: you’re in it for the long haul.
Is your offering best suited to be presented through a ballet or modern dance? In the realm of social media, LinkedIn is more formal and structured (such as in a ballet), whereas Twitter has a younger, more casual tone.
The bottom line is that there is an order of events that should take place before you even decide if your company should be “tweeting”, or if it should have a new Web site. Going through the marketing and branding stages is integral for a solid Web development campaign, upon which a successful social media strategy can then be built. So make sure that everything happens in the right order, and that your social media cart does not come before your marketing horse.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and welcome your questions or comments.