The Rush of Life

Overlooking an Atlanta Freeway

Overlooking an Atlanta Freeway

Last week I took about 5,000 images of so many different aspect of life in downtown Atlanta. This one still stands out to me as a metaphor to the pace of life we lead today, This was one of the only times I can remember over the week when the interstate wasn’t bumper to bumper and crawling. I think I have enough traffic and freeway images now to do a photo essay on Atlanta traffic, but that would just be depressing. In this case, we were serving the homeless that lived underneath the freeway bridges where the pace of life is ironically slow.

Leave the Boat in Orange Beach to Sit in Traffic on I-65

traffic-wreck

Well, we had to leave the boat and come back home. It was such a great weekend we didn’t want to leave but all good thing must come to an end I guess. It was nice to get back to the house though and take a nice shower and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.  We left the boat around 9am and took our normal routine (which includes a stop for donuts) back up to North, LA. Along the way, unfortunately, we were stopped by a horrible accident on I-65 that was said to be a fatality. When we finally got up to the wreck, we could see only one car left, a black Chevy Suburban from Alabama, which obviously rolled at least once.

We thought we saw a careflight type helicopter, but we were only about 45 miles south of Montgomery so it would have gone north of us on takeoff. One of those things that makes you wonder why some of these drivers are so careless when this can be the outcome for more than just themselves. At least I had my camera but I wish the best of the family of that car, it was in horrible condition, unrecognizable.

While traffic in California may be bad, we rarely get stopped, but in this case we sat on I-65 for more than an hour with MANY other people. As a photographer, did I mention that I love head shots (and my wife), so, isn’t that a great shot of Deborah.

Update to This Blog

After I got back home I decided that “My Life in LA” needed to be complete. I imported, added, and re-posted all the blog entries from when we moved to LA, which was early 2006, up to this point. My apologies to those rss subscribers would are now spammed with all my previous blog posts. I am sorry, just want this to be an accurate historical record of our life in Alabama, which, at this point, began in January 2006. I did spend much of this weekend working on previous blog entries and updates to my other blogs for organizational purposes, hopefully that work is now done. Tomorrow and this week will be busy.

Nature in View

Once we got back home today we did find a female Red-Breasted Grosbeak at our feeder, along with two males. This was the first time we had seen any females and Deborah and I were both surprised to see them still here at our feeder.

How to Get Good Publicity for Your Blog and Build Traffic

This questions is asked all the time. How do I get traffic to my blog? How do I get publicity for my blog? The best answers are not always the ones people like to hear, but are still quite accurate… there is no real quick and easy way to get a million people to go to your blog (other than being on the news), it takes a lot of work.  Since this question comes up quite frequently I thought I would share a few items that are on the top of my list for helping out your blog traffic. This is by no means a complete list, but a good start for a new blog.

How to Get Good Publicity for Your Blog

The best way to get publicity for your blog is a have a really good blog. That sounds obvious but I have found that in an overall general sense, that is the best way.  Just from the very start if your blog is not appealing, or is not what the reader or visitor visually likes, they won’t stick around long.  The items below start with the premise that your blog is generally designed well, has easy to read fonts and colors, does NOT have music playing as soon as your open the index page and does NOT resign the users browser window.  Those two things, music and resizing the browser window automatically are the two fastest ways to have someone exit FAST, and never come back.

There are several blogs that I really enjoy reading the content because the topics interest me, but I will never, on purpose, go visit the actual site because of those two reasons, and many other people will choose the same, but will probably not add you to their feed reader.  Photography and musician’s blogs are generally the worst at those two things.  Photography blogs for some reason find it appealing to resize your browser window and musician’s find it a necessity to automatically play music when the person arrives.  Both are bad for your blog traffic.

  1. Content is still king, and I believe that is still true. Know who your readers are and write to them. If it is a business content blog don’t post articles about your vacation.
  2. Comments. The next best thing is to comment on other blogs. Don’t spam other blogs, but start reading related articles and post thoughtful comments on their blog. Get your rss reader full of feeds from other blogs, read them, comment on them, and as you do people will visit your blog as well.
  3. Interact with your readers. You can do this in many different ways, for example, if someone comments on your blog with a question, answer it.
  4. Tip Jars. Don’t overpower your readers with ads or tip jars. A blog overloaded with ads and flashing banners is a turn off to most readers and even if you have very well written content they will probably not stay long. Ads are fine, just have them integrated as part of the website design and try not to overpower the reader.
  5. SEO. Get your blog setup in an seo friendly manner so the search engines will pick up your posts. This can be somewhat of a myth, but there are many good ways to make your blog seo friendly where Google and Yahoo will more likely pickup your posts.
  6. Post. Post well written articles, and often. If you can’t post as often as you think your readers will expect, hire a content writer familiar with your genre that can competently express your views.
  7. Advertise. Advertise on other blogs that have a lot of traffic in your same genre. Many times this can be an inexpensive way to gain traffic. What you are really going for here are subscribers, and visibility on other blogs is a good thing. You don’t always have to use a paid advertising company either. MyBlogLog and Technorati are great ways to showcase your blog to others.
  8. Be professional. This should probably be on the top of the list. You want a professional looking blog, clean design, easy to navigate, but speak, respond, write, and act like a professional.
  9. Ping other articles. When you write an article, back it up with credit to work cited, and make sure you link to the blog you are citing. When you do this, it will automatically “ping” the other blog, or notify the other blog you have mentioned them. You are going for eventually getting other blogs to quote your articles. This is GREAT for the search engines. Google and Yahoo will bring your rankings up as more people talk about your blog/article, so start talking about others and you will see the same in return.
  10. Run a contest. This is one of the more controversial manners in which to gain traffic but also one of the most effective. You need to research this and be careful with it, but it is a great way to drive traffic to your site. Don’t do some cheesy contest where you give away a free one month of something worth $5.00, it isn’t worth anyone’s time. Give away an iPod or something. You can get a Nano now for about $200. Call it an advertising expense and do a post saying you are giving away an iPod on this date. In order to enter the contest you have to write a post on your (the readers) blog about your blog or the contest or something. Even just having your readers write a post that has a link to your blog is fantastic for traffic. Any time any blog posts a link to your blog its gold. This is probably the best method to gain traffic although some wouldn’t use this tactic.

As I said, this is by no means a complete list but some of the items on the top of my list. Coming up, I have several articles that will explain in greater details the points above, and how to implement those points in an efficient manner. What are your favorite ways to increase your blog traffic?

Make Your 404 File Not Found Page Work for You and Keep Error Traffic

404 File Page Not Found ErrorHow much do you pay attention to your 404 page? Do you know what your 404 page is or how it works? You can receive this error response for various reasons but the main reason is someone or something has tried to access a page on your blog or store that doesn’t exist anymore.   This also represents lost traffic for your blog or store that you can direct somewhere else, within your site.  Make this page work to your advantage. Making the best use of these queries can bring the user back into your site instead of showing a dead page that will most likely cause the visitor to move on to some site that doesn’t show errors on their site.

There are many reasons a site will report a 404 file not found error, but knowing how they work, who tried to access the missing file (a search engine or person), and knowing which page or title they were trying to access is all important information to have when working with the traffic of your blog.

What is a Server Response 404 File Page Not Found

The 404 error page has been with us as long as there have been web pages, and for the most part is a request for a page that doesn’t exist on your site.  This can be displayed for more reasons that just a file was not found that was once there, and is no longer.  You could have re-named a url in your blog to correct a spelling error, which will make the original url incorrect.  You could have deleted a file, or a search engine could be doing its own thing. Wikipedia states it like this:

The 404 or Not Found error message is an HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with the server but either the server could not find what was requested, or it was configured not to fulfill the request and not reveal the reason why.

We have all come across these pages from time to time, some have even made some humorous cases out of the 404 page, but either way, it is an error as far as the visitor goes, and you want to convert these visitors in some useful manner, not have them leave because they think your site is not working properly.

Customize The 404 Page to Increase Traffic Conversions

You can make this page useful by doing some basic customization to what is seen when the 404 error response is given.

Chipseo 404 File Not Found Page

The standard domain or blog usually has access to the 404 page just like a normal .php or .html page that is called when a specific url address is given. You can see an example on my blog when you type in any url that doesn’t exist and you can also see how other domains handle their 404 pages by doing the same thing. It can be any url that doesn’t exist, like http://www.scottfillmer.com/tHisPagEofMinE (which doesn’t exist) will show you how this one is setup.

When you customize the page make sure you say a few things.

  • Explain in lay terms what page the visitor has reached and why
  • Offer a way out, at least back to the main page
  • Provide useful links or additional articles to the visitor to click through
  • Use your standard design layout so it looks the same as the other pages
  • Try to avoid the standard “ERROR” language, look, and feel

I have used my 404 page like I would any other page on my blog. I setup a static sitemap of sorts with a short explanation of the page they have reached and what the visitor can do at that point.

Monitor Your 404 Page Requests

Something I didn’t think about at first was to keep an eye on which pages are getting requested. There are several ways you can do this. If you are running a blog, the easiest way is to use a plugin. There is a very good WordPress Plugin by Alex King called the 404 Notifier that will send you an email or rss feed of your 404 page requests.

404 Notifier WordPress Plugin

This plugin is easy to use and install and it provides you a list of exactly which page addresses are being requested. I was surprised at home many pages were being requested, but I never would have know without looking at the list being created.

If you are not working on a blog but on an ecommerce store site check with your hosting provider for exact details on how to access the 404 file page. A good way to monitor non-blog related pages is to use Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster tools will give you the page in question, the date, and the actual server response.  Knowing who these errors are coming from is also a very big help in correcting them as well.  Being notified every single time your site reports a 404 error can be somewhat annoying when you have a lot of errors, but the information is very helpful.  Look at who the error was referred by.  Some most recent examples from my blog look like this:

There are several pieces of information each email will provide.  A “referred by” and a “user agent”.  Sometimes you will have both pieces of the information, sometimes one one or the other.  Referred by above is a mail system, which mean someone (a person) probably clicked on a link in the email and was taken to a 404 error.  The user agent mozilla is a browser, like Firefox.  Bot’s refer to search engine robots or spiders that crawl your site to deliver traffic to your blog.  Once these spiders find a 404 error they will often notate that and not index the page again.

There are many different responses you can get for errors like this.  If you are unfamiliar with any of them, follow the link they give you if there is one, if not, google the user agent and find out who it is.  Most likely it will be some type of indexing system for the Internet.

Correct the 404 Errors If You Can

If you are going to monitor the 404 error reports you should also do something with that information. I couldn’t believe how many error reports were being generated, but I noticed some of them should be, and could be, eliminated by changing a few page titles around. There could be a typo in your url or a page you deleted by accident could be re-uploaded. There are probably several 404 reports that you could eliminate just by correct a few actual errors you weren’t aware existed.

Check the Results in Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools

Once you have found and corrected some of these errors you can check the various stat tracking sites to see the results you have accomplished. What is great about these two particular tools is that when a page is not found and then the visitor goes to a page that is found, you can get an idea of how many visitors are utilizing your 404 file not found page.

In Google Analytics check to see where the user came from. If you know it is a page that didn’t or doesn’t exist then you know your 404 file not found page was utilized to bring the visitor back into your site. Following the example I noted above, when I check my stats for traffic on the page http://www.scottfillmer.com/tHisPagE I know this page doesn’t exist. When I see traffic to other pages that came from that particular page, I know the user clicked on a link on my 404 page.

What Does Your Company Do With the 404 Error?

There are so many different way to deal with your 404 file not found error. Some don’t know or choose not to do anything, but I think you can utilize your 404 page to work for you and bring traffic back into your store or blog. Don’t loose traffic that would otherwise stay if it wasn’t for an error on your page.

Does your company have a specific procedure for handling 404 requests? Share it with us.

Contests are Great? Get a Favicon Free for One Month

Contest Winner at AdesBlogDo you like the different contests that some bloggers use on their sites? It can be a good way to network with other blogs, increase traffic to your site, and increase traffic to the winning site as well. The only question I have is how the big G sees “contests” and how it ultimately effects your traffic or rankings. There seems to be some speculation that it is harmful to your rankings. In a recent post, Should “Weekly Top5 Sites Contest” continue?, a drop in page rank is starting to ask the question as to the relevancy or helpfulness of “contests” on your blog.

I am going to leave most of that is for a different post, so in this post, who cares, everyone likes to win something, sometime, right? I try to keep this blog on topic most of the time, and since my stated tagline is about eCommerce and online business, I did want to point out that you can take this approach with your online store as well.

About Coupons and Door Prizes

Our company has run many different contests, for years, and found them to be very effective tools, in person, or online. On a recent group my wife, DK, is running, she decided to do a give-a-way in the manner of door prizes. Her group went from a few hundred members to end at over 2,000 before she closed the group. The prizes are given away weekly, and most of them were donated by other members of the group, so she didn’t even have to supply the door prizes.

They were good prizes too. Merchandise that her customers would have to spend $50 or so to buy at the local market store, so make them something worth while as well, not just a gesture seen as a marketing ploy, make it count. I wouldn’t suggest doing a coupon for a $1.00 or something like that. Although most customers will take anything they can get, it isn’t enough of an incentive to move in the direction you want. If you think you can’t afford to give away a certain percentage of your revenue, perhaps you should first look at your business plan instead. These costs should be associated with your marketing budget anyway.

I Won. See It does Work

I recently won two contests, one without even knowing it until I visited the other blog. One was on Blogging Experiment, Reader Discussion: Are Bloggers Journalists?, and another one, Get 1 week of free advertising on AdesBlog.com, which I guess I won the one free week since I see my link on the side, cool.

Everyone likes to win something every once in a while. It creates interest, and besides its fun. If you have read any of my top ten lists at all, that is always number ten, have fun. So see, with a contest you can just skip all the other bunk and go right for fun. It works in their favor too. I have now mentioned both of the above blogs several times on several different posts, so it also works the way they want it to as well.

Comments Anyone?

So I am taking the plunge anyway and giving away one free month of advertising on my favicons on the sidebar to the right, large or small size (16×16 or 26×26), your choice, picked by random. If you or your company does not have a favicon or a large size square graphic, I will even create it for you. Just post a quick critique comment below on this particular blog. Since my blog is relatively new, I do not get a lot of feedback, so give me a, quick, honest critique of how its going so far and I will pick the winner out of all the responses. If I get more than 10 comments, I will pick two winners.

Favicon Link on chipseoI am not going to pick the one who says “everything looks great”, it will be random, so positive or negative, just leave me a quick overview of whatever you think about chipseo, it is that easy. Since this post is going up on the weekend I will leave it open for comments until Monday, October 29th and pick the winner or winners at that point. Try to offer a coupon or door prize on your online store and see how it works as well. Be sure to use some method you can track so you can judge its effectiveness, try not to make it something that your customers will not care anything about, make it count. If you don’t get the results you wanted, try something else, something bigger perhaps, don’t just give up after the first try because you didn’t get the results you wanted.

So, how about it. Post a comment below and your in the list.

SEO Steps For a Better ChannelAdvisor Store

ChannelAdvisor CompleteThere are several good steps you can and should take to improve the seo for your ChannelAdvisor store pages and categories. This is part two of a two part article where I first outlined some steps you can’t take from within the store administration pages that are items you probably would like to implement in good seo practice, but really can’t for one reason or another, What SEO Steps You Can’t Take With ChannelAdvisor. I will now take a look at what you can do to keep your store’s SERP as high up as possible (titled: SEO Steps For a Better ChannelAdvisor Stores).

I realized that some may not be that familiar with using a ChannelAdvisor Store itself, even when using the products that put in place for eBay. Most of ChannelAdvisor’s business is in the auction management software area, so if you haven’t tried their store services as well it might be worth a look. It is another channel opportunity for those who don’t want to be so dependent on eBay for all their sales. For many online retailers, this is the key, finding alternative channels to selling on eBay so if an eBay crash comes your business isn’t dead. Infopia is another company looking at these types of alternative channels to eBay, embracing multi channel – cross channel selling companies (I will review their services in full in a later article) to go beyond eBay.

For many PowerSellers, eBay is just the beginning. With Infopia’s Marketplace Manager, you can drastically increase your sales by pushing your products out to more online marketplaces and create a multi-channel, online selling strategy.

ChannelAdvisor also has several other very useful products but this is in specific reference to the storefront. So, assuming you have opened a ChannelAdvisor Store, there are some needed steps to get the most out of your eCommerce storefront.

Customize Store Name and Logo

This would be the first stop. Log into your administration panel and click on the menu at the top for “store”, then go to “store name & logo” and you will see several fields explained below. This is usually completed during the setup of the store, but double check, you may have only put in your url store name. You will see several different boxes, store name and url, logo, and html page information. Make sure all these fields are filled in, this is where all the meta data is taken from when your index page is shown.

Customize Store Name and Logo

Store Name

If you are choosing your the store name, keep is short. Use your company name but don’t use something like “my store and all my products where you will love to shop store”. It will be used in many different places on your store, so think about it like a good domain name. If you have a company name just place it here. Think about dashes or underlines ahead of time, changing this after the fact is not going to be an easy move, especially when your customers have bookmarked where to find you.

Store URL and Domain Forward

Store url is what domain name you are going to have, so follow the above rules and all that you know about good domain names, keep it short, easy on dashes, try not to use mis-spelled words if possible, in general, use your company name or a version thereof. If you have an existing domain name you can use the same thing here since it will render the url from within the servers from ChannelAdvisor.

There is also a link where you can make any existing domain name url’s forward to the ChannelAdvisor url you just created. You will have to change the name servers on your hosting company so proceed with a little caution. It is not difficult but it does require a little more than just filling out a keyword. Using their forward will render your own domain name on the storefront and is certainly a good option if you can do that.

Store Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords

This is probably the most important set of fields, and probably the most commonly left blank. These fields will be visible to customers, show in the search engine results, and help in your rankings. Your competition is probably using these fields and if you are not they will have an unneeded advantage over your store.

Store Title

This is what shows on the top of each page viewed by your customers. Not only that, it is what will show as the first line in the search engine results when someone does a search on Google or Yahoo. It should usually include your store name and a few details about the products you sell or your slogan or tag line. Make it descriptive but not too long. When someone clicks through to a category page it will show all the information on the categories and also the store title. Using ChannelAdvisor as an example their title reads: ChannelAdvisor – The Leader in Online Channel Management Solutions and Services.

Meta Description and Meta Keywords

The meta description is the most important field on this screen to complete in my opinion. The meta description is what will show as the first line or two of the search engine results and are often given more search engine relevance then the keywords themselves. Keeping with the ChannelAdvisor example, look at the screen shot below. The first few lines are the description of their services. Use full short sentences with good keywords, but don’t use just keywords only. Notice the quote below, it has some good keywords but is not just keywords separated by commas.

ChannelAdvisor combines best practices, innovative software and integrated technology to help retailers maximize their profits across multiple e-commerce…

Google Results for ChannelAdvisor

The keywords are just what they say, a set of keywords that best describes your store products or services. Pick these carefully and do not use the same word more than once. Use 10 keywords at the most, more and it starts to make the other words a little less relevant.

Manage Categories

This would be the next big thing to complete in the store administration pages. This will be a little more time consuming if it has not be completed before and if you have already established categories. Go to your admin console and click on the menu for “store” then “manage categories” and it will take you to the category pages.

Category Names

If you have already created your categories (and sub-categories) you will see a list of the categories on this page. If you haven’t created them yet, use short one or two word category names, these will be used in the url in your store and should be something keyword friendly. Keep the caps in mind too. Either will work but what ever you use will be a permalink from that point on. If you create a category with a blank space in the name it will render on the url in ChannelAdvisor as “%20” which is not something all that great for the search engine bots.

A category name called Non Fiction will show up on the url address line as /mystorename/Non%20Fiction/ and the category name called Non-Fiction will show as /mystorename/Non-Fiction/ and it works the same for all the sub-categories down the line. Use three or four letter words with spaces all the way down the line and it will not look so great. A screen shot example from ChannelAdvisor’s case studies on their website shows a url with categories that have spaces used in the names along with the subcategories. You can see the results below.

ChannelAdvisor Categories

Images, Keywords, and Descriptions

Next will be a short description and long description, basically meta keywords and meta description, sort of. Use the same rules as listed above for these two items, keeping in mind the self imposed 10 keyword limit and perhaps show a few less on the categories. When you enter this information it will show up on the title page just after the main page title, so if you use a big list of keywords the title will look a little strange.

It may take a little time to put all this information into each category but it will improve the quality of each category listing and should improve search engine results.

The steps listed here are some very basic seo steps for your ChannelAdvisor store, but they are needed. If your competition is not using them you will have a little ahead, but they probably are and you don’t want to be a little behind. These steps can also be applied across several different sales channels, including eBay and Amazon. eBay in particular allows their store users to adjust the keywords of each category, but not quite to the extent that ChannelAdvisor allows.

Register a Domain Name for Increased eBay Affiliate Traffic

Register Your Own Domain NameDo you want to look more professional and drive more traffic to your online store on one of the big auction sites like eBay, Overstock, or Amazon, and earn some eBay affiliate commission at the same time? Registering for your own domain name is a good place to start. This may sound very basic at this point in the online shopping game, but if you haven’t done it yet, what are you waiting for. This is one of those things for small businesses that is easy, probably costs less than your lunch, and can have a real impact on customer perception and even make you some money like paying less for your listing fees.

I am not really talking about registering your own company name, I assume you have already done that if you are serious about your Internet store and marketing your company name. I am talking about not having to use that really long url address that these sites use, and in the process, making it easier for your customers to find you.

Normally when you setup shop, you are using the servers of the company you sign up with. Using eBay as an example, if you have an eBay store site, your url address is going to be something like http://stores.ebay.com/chipseo-marketing. Something hard to just tell someone, also a little less professional looking, and just hard to type in, bookmark, or even remember (especially for your customers).

Essential Oils Store With Long Domain Name

Having your own domain name changes that. I just randomly picked one from eBay Stores above, so hopefully this store won’t mind a little publicity (they have some great feedback and have obviously been selling on eBay for a long time), but from the screen shot I can count 51 characters in the url not including the http:// part. I tried to do a search on eBay’s store search page for this store (see below) and it didn’t show up under the keywords for essential oils or 02 essential oils so it might be a little difficult to find by just using a keyword search for their products. The issue of getting your proper keywords available so people can search for them is a topic for another post, but getting a good domain name is a start.

eBay Store Search

You can do a quick search to see if a few domain names of your choice would be available. Most all hosting companies allow a search, some of the easier ones to use are GoDaddy, Hostway, or Networksolutions to check on the availability of a domain name. In the example above I found some good choices with just a few minutes of looking, and might be something like http://www.o2oils.com or even http://www.o2oil.com.

Often times today it is very hard to find a short domain name, especially in the 5 four to five character area but if you look, eventually you will find something that will work for you. If you get one and don’t like it, you can always add a new one later and then you have two addresses that will both point to your store.

eBay Domain RegistrationeBay actually makes it a little easier to setup than some of the other sites if you already have an ebay store. You just log into your store and scroll to the bottom and click on the link for domain registration and follow the steps outlined on those pages. Even if you don’t have an eBay Store yet, they are easy to open (just click here to open an eBay store), or even if you are not on eBay at all it is easy to setup. Remember, you are not actually setting up an online store or a web page, this is going to be a forward (also called a 301 Moved Permanently in technical terms) where you type in the domain name and then it redirects users to your eBay store.

For example, this site has a permanent redirect domain url of http://www.auburnseo.com, mainly because the keyword for Auburn is used in my business and it might bring in more typed in traffic, but it still works the same way. Now, when I go to http://www.auburnseo.com my users will be directed hopefully to where they wanted to go in the first place. Some companies will also give you a code to append to the end of the forward address that will give you an affiliate payment of some kind, like a discount on the fees normally charged or a payment for referring other people. In the eBay case, they will give you 75% off your final value fees (FVF), called a Final Value Fee Credit. That is not bad at all. Imagine taking 75% off that FVF bill each month. We used this FVF credit for about a year and saved almost $10,000 in fees over the whole year. That is not an actual payment in cash handed to me, but what’s the difference if you are paying the fees that many are on eBay.

To receive the FVF credit, you just need to append the forward to address with ?refid=store which is what eBay uses to track the domain forward. That is not the domain name you just registered, it is the ebay store name. So in the example used above, it would be http://stores.ebay.com/chipseo-marketing?refid=store for the address you will use as a forward to your new domain name.

When you set up your custom domain name on the registrar’s site, eBay will prepopulate your Store’s URL as the destination that your domain should forward to. We will also include a code at the end of that URL (?refid=store) to track when a user enters your Store from outside of eBay. If the user purchases an item, you can earn a Store Referral Credit. For more information, see the eBay Stores section in the eBay Help Center.

The refid id tag is specific to eBay so it may or may not be something you will need to add on other store pages. It will be slightly different for each company so check and see if there is something special they do with their credits or affiliate programs. With eBay there is both, and nothing says you can only do just one domain name either.

You do want to do a few things to make this happen of course. Some of the steps involved are going to be:

  1. Choosing a domain name – there are some basic do’s and don’ts to this and I have an article I will post soon on the specifics to picking out a good domain name. In the mean time, here are a few pointers.
    • Choose something easy to remember
    • Spelled correctly
    • As short a name as possible
    • Avoid the dash “-” in the name if you can
    • Use something that may combine your company name and shopping store
    • Be careful not to use a copyrighted name
  2. Decide what registrar company you want to use – ebay recommends two different companies, Hostway and Network Solutions, but there are many many different companies you can use. They all do the same thing. If you are comfortable with using one of the two companies above then by all means go ahead, they are both fine companies. We used Hostway for our eBay forwards just because they were a little less expensive.
  3. Apply the forward to your new domain – this is usually just a matter of copy and paste into a text field in the user options for your domain
  4. Promote your new address – this is an important step. The way the FVF credit is given is if someone types in the address you just bought, so you need to USE it. Basically anywhere you want to promote your products and services.
    • Put it in your email signature
    • on your email invoices
    • your paper invoices
    • on a flyer or promo in your customers orders
    • If you advertise in a magazine
  5. If you don’t want to mess with it, find someone who will set it up for you – services like this exist everywhere. I can and have setup domain names for people for a small fee or do the continued maintenance on them each month for a small monthly fee. Either way, it is not an expensive business decision to make.

You can do the same thing for affiliate programs you participate in as well. eBay has its own affiliate program where you can use an amended url just like above (but a little longer) and you get paid for each bid, and for each new ebay registration that comes from your link (eBay uses a company called Commission Junction to take care of the complexities of this task). This doesn’t have to be the same domain, you can one for each purpose and then you will be on your way to start looking for ways to track and rank your domains and affiliate commissions.

Using additional domain names in your business is simple to set up, affordable, and a great way to expand your reach beyond the basic store url you are given when you sign up.

Implementation Rank
[1-10]: Technical [2] | Cost [1] | Revenue [3] | Customer Service [8] | Time [2]

What is With the rel=nofollow Penalty

Text-Link Ad Screen ShotNow I know I am not the most seasoned engineer, programmer, or any type of SEO professional (as I am none of those), but I can read.

I have spent quite a bit of time reading and re-reading the information on the issue regarding rel=nofollow and paid links, so follow me through this logic if you can. After all this reading I came to only one conclusion. I don’t have a clue as to what is considered to be good standard practice all the way down to what is considered black hat operations done by well meaning individuals that didn’t even know there was such a term, or knew about the whole payola issue, or that this guys great link contest had screwed up his rankings royally (or his royal rankings). Didn’t blogging use to be about saying what you think? Not when it comes to making a living I guess, and I understand that.

From an outsider thought, it is bordering on paranoia, but I know it has its merits. At this point I am not sure if I should even link to the posts I am going to refer to, but I will anyway as my traffic rankings are unimpressive right now anyway. My background and work is not in SEO but in small online businesses, so SEO is important for many reasons of course, but the companies I work with want to see a steady increases in their sales from day to day, but they could care less about some href relationship code, if they can even get that far.

What is important to them is sales. I know that SEO can have a direct impact on sales, but it is of less importance to the small business owners, the ones I know anyway, than seeing an actual product move off the shelves. I do think it is important to know all I can know about current issues, so as I said in the beginning, I started reading. There is the Forbes article, Google Purges the Payola, where they talk about the downfall of linking and selling links:

Search engines hate this kind of paid-for popularity. Google’s Webmaster guidelines ban buying links just to pump search rankings. Other search engines including Ask (nasdaq: IACI news people ), MSN, and Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO news people ), which mimic Google’s link-based search rankings, also discourage buying and selling links.

Among many other points the article made, it went on to talk about how much money some of these questionable sites are making, some charging more than $600,000 a year for link farms. At those fees it would be hard to keep people who don’t care about what color the hat is, away.

Then you have the Matt Cutts blog on How to Report Paid Links. Matt seems to be the authoritative view on the subject since his job at Google has to do with making sure the search listings yield relevant results. His post is very interesting and does shed some light on the issue but I still walk away confused, and I guess some others do as well as he states some Q&A’s:

Q: Now when you say “paid links,” what exactly do you mean by that? Do you view all paid links as potential violations of Google’s quality guidelines?
A: Good question. As someone working on quality and relevance at Google, my bottom-line concern is clean and relevant search results on Google. As such, I care about paid links that flow PageRank and attempt to game Google’s rankings. I’m not worried about links that are paid but don’t affect search engines. So when I say “paid links” it’s pretty safe to add in your head “paid links that flow PageRank and attempt to game Google’s rankings.”

From that, it tells me that Google is really more trying to get rid of those attempting to game Google (a verb I guess). Those of use who are just trying to make back a few dollars (or more like pennies) to off-set the cost of running the site, hosting, and so on, shouldn’t be penalized for that, but I don’t guess those this low on the totem pole really are?

After-all, Google’s main revenue source is ad-revenue, right? Shouldn’t we be allowed the same benefit, or is it only through Adsense that it is acceptable? Don’t get me wrong, I love Google and all it does, so I guess what I should be asking is what is taking them so long to just buy Text-Link Ads (TLA) already.

Then I came across David Airey’s blog and read his great post on How I Reversed My Google Rank Penalty and left glad he fixed it and confused as to how a seemingly well meaning person ended up on the Google hit list (better than being on eBay’s hit list). He did have some great points, and Matt seemed to be able to help him out, so all is well that ends well I guess. A few pointers from that post:

Why I actually got penalised by Google

First, however, and according to Matt Cutts himself (head of the Google spam team), my Google penalty was imposed for two main reasons:

  1. Having paid links to bad neighbourhoods
  2. Trying to game my search engine rankings with black hat SEO

steps to avoid a Google penalty

  • Don’t participate in any form of black hat SEO
  • Add the rel=”nofollow” tag to any paid links on your website
  • Be careful not to link to bad neighbourhoods

Did I forget to mention the bad neighborhoods? Sorry, you can check that out too, it is worth a look. I live out in the boon docks now thank goodness, perhaps I don’t have to worry about the neighbors too much.

So, after all this, I was wondering about my own site’s future and those I work with. I did setup another blog with a Text-Link Ad widget that sold two links. Uhhh ohh. The death blow for my $6.28 earned last month. 🙂 Our traffic is still climbing nicely for now, but what’s the old saying, “something from nothing is something”.

Well, why not take a more direct approach. I decided to just contact TLA directly and ask them how and where I could add the appropriate nofollow links into the widget code I was using. I really didn’t expect much of a response anyway, but you can see from the email screen shot above, it was brief and to the point.

You may not add nofollow to the links

Well, that clears it all up. I suddenly realized what their stand on the issue was, no surprise, they want to sell more links, which means Google and the paid link companies have decided to put a bullseye on… us… either way you go it seems you are in the wrong. If I was a better programmer I could just add them in the widget somewhere, but there is only time for so much.

So, I emailed them back again and asked them for a further explanation. The very prompt and kind response was a link to a blog post for further reading. Oh great I thought, like I haven’t read enough. It was a SEOmoz post, The “Google Payola” Issue Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon, which I actually hadn’t read, probably because it was published about 30 minutes before I emailed TLA.

Although the article did get some flack from SEO Refuge on their post, Rand & SEOmoz: Unprofessional and Irresponsible Actions, it did have some good points, but it wasn’t really all that pro-TLA, never-the-less, they sent me the link? Well, I think I hit everything (oh, I forgot to mention something about John Chow, oh well, sorry), and I probably broke and kept every rule of blog posting all at the same time. Where does one go from here. I am sure from all the SEO errors in this post it will never be seen, so, I think I will go back and look at one of my own posts, Simple Steps to Increase Blog Traffic and Pagerank, and read step number 10.

Have fun and be positive – if you get as far as a top ten list, number ten for me is always have fun. No one likes to read or hear negatives all the time, it gets tiring, so try something new, have a contest, give something away, do something fun.

I didn’t make it as far as number 10 in a list of anything here, but I think it is needed at this point. Is there a Google penalty for going to sleep? Maybe that is why the Yankee’s can’t seem to beat the Indians, oh, and I still don’t think that kid from Michigan hasn’t made that field goal yet but no one at The Big House cares about that now. I am sure Google had something to do with it.

Simple Steps to Increase Blog Traffic and Pagerank

That is the big question for most of us of course, but notice I said immediate future traffic, these are not quick and easy steps, but simple ones I think will make a difference for future traffic. One thing I have learned over the years is that nothing comes overnight, and it is generally the methodical approach that works the best in the long run.

Although I have been writing on websites and blogs now for several years, starting over on a newer topic, for me, got me thinking about some of the basic steps for increasing your blog traffic, and eventually your pagerank.

I have a few blogs and sites I started that have a PR4 (Google Pagerank 4), and several that have a PR3. Not super high I know, but these were very niche market sites and blogs so I didn’t really expect them to go much over a PR4, and I really felt anything around a PR3 or PR4 was still good for the subject matter.

Of course this topic has been blogged to death on so much I am sure you might be thinking there isn’t really anything new that can be said on the subject, and that may be true, but sometimes it just helps to write it down again to keep it fresh in our minds. What I am posting on here are simple steps that I can take when I create a new blog or site, nothing complicated.

I do find that as we become comfortable in a specific area, I can become complacent and I know when that happens I just forget about the little things. So… in no particular order:

  1. Write like you have an audience – when anything is new, you are basically talking to yourself and a few others you can con to view your site, but as soon as you think, no one is ever going to see this, you start writing that way. Funny thing about the Internet is success on one particular post or subject can go boom overnight if something weird happens, and you certainly don’t want to look at something you wrote and go, opps, didn’t think anyone would ever read that. So, write like your RSS feed subscription has 10,000 members and when it does you will be ready.
  2. Be professional – if you want people to treat your blog, business, products, customer service, employees, or you, like a professional you have to act like one yourself. You may operate out of your garage (nothing wrong with that) and you can earn the respect of your customers very quickly when you talk, write, and act like a professional. In the same way, you can work in an expensive office and have the opposite effect. When you are writing or corresponding with someone on your website or blog, be a professional.
    • Be courteous
    • Use good grammar
    • If you are a terrible speller like me, use spell check (2 or 3 times)
    • Don’t use offensive language of any kind
    • If you use images, use good looking images
  3. Know your target market – When you don’t have any traffic, knowing your target audience might be more difficult, but you know who you are intending on reaching at some point, so write what will interest your target market. Stay on topic, unless you specifically state otherwise, and don’t insult the market you are trying to reach.
  4. Don’t worry about your competition – at least not yet. If you are just getting started you should already have a good idea about how your topic, subject, products, etc., fare in the marketplace. Focus on what you do best to get things moving, there will be plenty of time to try to get that number one spot later. To start, be your own best competition. One of my most favorite single quotes is from Nehemiah who said “I consulted with myself and contended”. Consult with yourself, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
  5. Read and comment on other blogs – this is important. If you want to know what others are interested in within your topic, you need to read, a lot. This is good for several reasons. You don’t want to just post the same thing everyone else is posting, and you also want to be current and educated in your field. When commenting on others blogs or sites, be sure to do step number 2, be professional, don’t just post a comment for the sake of posting the comment, make it sincere and meaningful.
  6. Post – and often. I think I read only 20% of content sites have fresh, current content. Be one of the them if you want to increase your traffic.
  7. Interact with others on your blog – this includes responding to comments posted on your blog. Others want to know a real live person is over there behind the keyboard.
  8. Know your topic or subject matter – Be accurate. You don’t want to talk over the head of your readers, but you certainly don’t want to look like an idiot either. Know what you are talking about. If you don’t, people will know, and especially on the internet, you will be called on it. If you aren’t sure about a subject there is plenty of information on the Internet, just take the time to do your research. This isn’t always easy, and it isn’t an exact science. There will always be someone who knows more about a subject than you, and hopefully someone who knows less, but you don’t have to make it obvious. There are many many more people who know more about SEO and marketing than I do, but I always try to be as accurate as possible.
  9. Quote your sources – do not just paste text and show your readers where you got your information. You don’t have to disclose everything, just make sure you give credit where credit is due, it gives credit to you (kind of catchy too).
  10. Have fun and be positive – if you get as far as a top ten list, number ten for me is always have fun. No one likes to read or hear negatives all the time, it gets tiring, so try something new, have a contest, give something away, do something fun.

You may be thinking, we these aren’t really “blog” things and what do they have to do with increasing my traffic. Well, your traffic will come eventually, but taking some simple steps now will probably help more later than you think. The better your traffic, the higher your pagerank, alexa ranking, compete rank will be, the higher your ad rates will become. There are certainly other things that will help, steps that are not so simple, good SEO, design, and all that, but that is for another post, because one of them is also, be brief, which I can rarely seem to follow.

Alexa Ranking for chipseo.com

If you have read this far, you can see by now that you can also take off the part of the title that says Blog Traffic and Pagerank and replace it with business or customers and it should work the same. Good business sometimes starts with simple steps.

A Fast Google Indexing Domain Test

Google Index of ChipSEO.com

WOW, that was quick super fast. Well, there is the answer to my test to see how long it would take Google to index my new site, completely new url and domain name for this blog. It took less than 6 hours. Now being in the business we are in, I totally understand that indexing it totally different than a Google pagerank or Alexa ranking (which I would expect to show no data yet) of course, but you have to admit that was pretty fast.

The total time elapse from registering the new domain name to indexing was less than 12 hours total. In fact, the cashed page that Google has is one that was taken before I added my theme to the site, and that was the first thing I did. The three screen shots posted below are taken of the indexing that Google did at 17:50 on October 2nd, 2007.

The registration information for the domain:

Domain Name: CHIPSEO.COM
Created on: 02-Oct-07
Expires on: 02-Oct-08
Last Updated on: 02-Oct-07

I would like to hear from others that may have tried this and would like to know what their results were as well. Post your comments and let me know. I will update this post later with some of the information I used to create the data.

Google Index of ChipSEO.com

Google Index of ChipSEO.com

Google Index of ChipSEO.com

So far there is no other search engine that I can find that has indexed this site as of this writing, Google seems to be the only one so far. Now I just need to see how long it will take to get a PR7, I am guessing a year or more (probably more), but a PR2 or PR3 would be nice in a few months time. We will see.