CUSTOM 404 ERRORS: KEEPING LOST VISITORS AT YOUR SITE
We’ve all seen them; you click on a link and instead of the page you’re expecting you see:
The page cannot be found
The page you are looking for might have been removed,
had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.
And then you’re asked to try different options, like double-checking your spelling, hitting the back button, or shutting off the computer and getting a life.
Although some Type-A’s may continue to search for the missing page, most people will give up, cursing the site and looking for a competitor.
How does this happen?
In geek-speak this is called a 404 error. It occurs when you request a page from a Web server by clicking on a link or typing a URL into the address bar, but there’s no file at that address. To let you know this the server displays a generic 404 or “page not found” error, devoid of any links or helpful information.
404 errors are a fact of life; sites evolve, pages are reorganized, and links from other sites contain typos.
What can be done?
The fix is simple; most hosting companies allow you to upload a “custom” 404 error page, something to replace the generic error. This custom page can look like the rest of your site, include links to the most popular pages, and include a site map or search to help visitors locate moved pages.
You can also customize the tone of your message along with the look of the page to better fit with your site. Rather than a buttoned-down “Page Not Found” message, maybe “Can we help you find something?“, “Have you lost your way?“, or “You can’t get theah from heah,” might be more appropriate.
Don’t let lost visitors turn into lost opportunities; make sure you can help them find their way back.
If you’d like to add a custom 404 page, please contact us.
IF YOU BUILD IT WILL THEY COME? 8 RULES TO INCREASE TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE
The movie Field of Dreams has always been a favorite of mine…any movie with a Fenway Park cameo should be beloved by everyone. However, a woman once told me that she hated it. “It’s so unrealistic.” Field. Of. Dreams. Maybe she missed the opening scene when they showed the title.
In the movie–for all you cricket fans–a voice keeps telling Kevin Costner that all he needs to do is build a baseball field and he will be reunited with his dead father (“if you build it he will come”). Many people, even after the hype of the Internet has subsided, still believe this is true with their own Web sites. That once the site is built their work is done, and people will visit their site in droves and buy out their entire inventory.
Field. Of. Dreams.
Successful Web sites require traffic, and traffic comes from ongoing marketing. This may include keyword analysis, search engine optimization, solid copywriting, reciprocal links, advertising, good PR, online tools, and cross-media pollination. If you are going to spend money on a Web site you should make sure people are going to find it. Celebrities don’t appear on David Letterman for the free mugs and abuse; they know that after their movie has wrapped they have to promote it if they want to sell tickets.
Here are some tried and true measures to increase your site’s visibility. While they won’t overcome a sluggish economy or a poor business plan (Tickle-Me-Marilyn-Manson dolls, anyone?), they will improve your chance at success.
Research your keywords. Whether you hire a firm or do it in house, uncover the exact phrases people are using to search for the products or services you offer. Don’t guess at success. If you’re selling “Trapper-Keepers” and everyone’s searching for “Back-to-School-Supplies” you won’t make many sales.
Optimize for the search engines. I’ve already written two articles on search engine optimization, so I won’t go into the details here. But the simple advice is this: take your researched keywords and sprinkle generously on your pages: in your copy, your headers, and most importantly your page titles. Set aside some of your budget to cover the submission fees that most major search engines now charge. They can range from $35 to $299 per year. You don’t have to get into every search engine, but try and cover the big four: Google, Yahoo, MSN Search and AOL Search. (Recent and future media buyouts and mergers may change this line up.)
Consider hiring a copywriter. I know, I know, you’ve written books, articles, and a dissertation on the mating dance of Norwegian bumblebees. You have an advanced degree from a well-respected school and patches on the elbows of your smoking jacket. You know your parts of speech and how not to dangle a participle. Regardless, that doesn’t mean you can write compelling copy for the Web. When writing for the Web you need to consider at least two audiences: humans and the search engines’ spiders that visit your Web site. If you do “go it alone” do your research and Google “Writing Tips for the Web” first.
Gather incoming links. Links to your site provide two important marketing benefits. First, people visiting other sites will find the link to your site, and if interested, visit. Secondly, many search engines consider a link to your site as a “vote of confidence” and will rank your site higher, all other things being equal. Since it’s difficult for new sites to have many incoming links consider search engine advertising for the first few months through a service like Google Adwords or Overture to help boost traffic.
Advertise. Yes, it can be expensive, but it can pay huge dividends. We may not all have the money for TV or even radio, but regular advertising in a local paper or magazine with a desirable, targeted readership can be very beneficial. A direct mail piece to primary care physicians might be a good buy if you are trying to be a preferred provider of certain specialized services. In his books “Selling the Invisible” and “What Clients Love”, Harry Beckwith suggests that people don’t remember whether it was an article or an ad, but they remember your brand. This improves consumer confidence and the likelihood they’ll choose your services. Be sure to include your URL in a prominent place and consider a special offer.
Get the word out with good PR. Once your site is launched, or after a major revision, get out a press release. This is something you can do yourself or hire that same copywriter to handle. It’s not expensive and a good copywriter may have experience in submitting press releases to both local papers (who are more likely to carry the piece because it’s got local flavor) and national periodicals that may target your audience.
Use viral marketing. By placing “Recommend This Site” or “Email this Article to a Friend” forms on your site you can use word-of-mouth advertising to connect with prospects. These forms allow people to email friends right from your Web page and you’ll be able to add your own marketing message along with links back to your site. Add a free email newsletter signup (see last issue) and start delivering new content right to subscribers’ email on a regular basis.
Cross-pollinate with other types of media. Your Web site should promote your other collateral and back again. Dare I say it, my dad has a good grasp of this. His Web site, www.drrobertbrooks.com, promotes his speaking engagements and books. His books list the URL for his site. At his talks he refers to his Web site and his free email newsletter. His email newsletter is delivered monthly to over 5,000 subscribers and contains links back to his Web site and any new books he has written. This is a great example of cross-promotion.
All this “extra work” may seem daunting when you’re first planning to develop your site, especially if you were under the impression “if you build it they will come”.
The point is not to be intimidated, but rather educated and realistic. Better to build a smaller site that people will visit than a larger one that will gather dust. Your site doesn’t need to be the biggest, flashiest, or even the best. It just needs to be effective in helping you reach your goals. Whether marketing your Web site means increasing your budget or reducing the size of your site, it’s an essential piece of Web marketing strategy.
Companies and individuals often contact me about increasing traffic to their site. Unfortunately, many balk at doing a keyword analysis which would uncover the most effective phrases to use on their site.
Others go ahead with the research, but then choose not to make the necessary changes often because they don’t realize the difference it can make to their bottom line.
What does keyword analysis do?
By rewriting (or “optimizing”) the copy on your site to take advantage of these high-ranking “key” phrases you can raise your site’s ranking at the search engines. However, it’s only effective if you know what people are searching for, not if you’re guessing.
If you’ve been holding off on a keyword analysis I’m hoping this success story will change your mind.
After we developed a site for the New Image Weight Loss Center, our client, Dr. Artuso, was interested in increasing traffic to his site. We suggested a keyword analysis to uncover the phrases he should be using on his site, and then, based on the research, revamping his copy, content, and meta-tags. Dr. Artuso agreed and provided us with a brainstormed list of keyphrases that described his services.
We partnered with Harvey Marketing Group who handled the keyword research and provided analysis and recommendations. The research uncovered the most effective keyphrases, taking into consideration both the services offered and the center’s geographic location.
Based on our findings we edited the copy and added new content, headers, titles and meta-tags to his site.
Within just a few weeks New Image’s Google rankings increased dramatically:
gastric bypass surgery new york, gastric band surgery new york, gastric bypass surgery new jersey, gastric bypass ct, gastric band surgery nj, weight loss surgery new jersey, dr artuso, lap band surgery new jersey;
gastric band surgery ny, gastric bypass costs;
bariatric bypass surgery, gastric bypass diets, gastric bypass nj, bariatric surgery new york, weight loss surgery new york, gastric bypass new jersey, gastric bypass connecticut, lap band surgery new york;
obesity surgery new york, bariatric surgeons new york, gastric bypass insurance, gastric bypass support groups gastric bypass nutrition;
obesity surgery ny;
gastric bypass surgeons new york
New Image’s monthly traffic reports show the difference these changes and the higher rankings have made:
Your mileage may vary.
By optimizing the site for these phrases New Image was able to improve their ranking in the search engines which translated into more traffic, more visibility and more sales.
If you’d like to discuss what keyword analysis can do for your business, please contact us.
I’ve done some testing with SpamStopper and I can’t recommend it. I put up a test email address protected by SpamStopper that wasn’t anywhere else on the Internet. Within 24 hours I was receiving spam at that address. This article has been since edited to hide the email addresses being used as examples.
Once your Web site is up and running you may be inundated with spam for low home interest rates, cable descramblers, male enhancement drugs that rhyme with Niagara and, ironically, software to reduce spam.
How Do They Get Your Email?
One method spammers—the people sending spam—use to collect email addresses is through “harvesting”. Their software scours the Web to collect email addresses that appear on Web pages. Once they have your email address they will spam you into submission. Since many sites contain the owner’s email address (and why not?) they inadvertently invite spam to the site owner’s mailbox.
In a recent FTC study, 86% of emails created for the study and posted to the Web received spam within just six weeks! If the address had the “@” sign in it, it drew spam.
How Do You Stop Them?
A piece of software called SpamStopper can help reduce your chances of being found by these harvesters. Most characters (a-z, 1-9, @, “, ”, and ¢ for example) can be converted into a special code which can be read by a browser. [Edited to hide email addresses now.]
How Do You Get The Software?
SpamStopper is only for the people who work on your site and know HTML. Also, it won’t help you with all spam, and harvesters may one day adapt. The software is like the The Club for your car: it won’t stop everyone, but it will make you a less attractive target.
If you’d like us to convert the emails on your own site to code, talk to your Web developer or contact us.
I’d like to thank our client Robert Gerzon who turned me on to this piece of software. He’s the author of the highly-acclaimed Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety and has a Web site dedicated to Conscious and Creative Living.
You probably used an autoresponder last time you took a vacation. Simply stated, when you receive an email an autoresponder sends a response to the sender. At flyte we use them on our contact form to tell visitors we’ve received their email and will respond shortly.
But an autoresponder can accomplish much more for you. Say you have some valuable content: tips, industry reports, white papers, etc. You want to provide them to your visitors, but you want to follow up by email to “seal the deal”. How do you make sure they’re providing you with their REAL emails, and not a made up email–like email@example.com?
Set up an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org and set up an autoresponder that contains the content of the article. By providing their real email address they’ll receive the article. If the email is bogus, they’ll get bupkis.
Alternatively, your autoresponder could contain a link to an article as opposed to containing the article itself. This method will give you more control over the formatting of your data, and will allow you to protect material not easily sent via email, such as a Flash movie or an audio file.
Using an autoresponder to deliver content will increase its perceived value to your visitor. However, it may reduce the number of people who view that material, so use it judiciously. While it may make sense to protect some unique, sensitive or proprietary data, you shouldn’t make it difficult for visitors to read your sales or marketing material.
If you have questions on how to set up an autoresponder on your own site, please contact us.
Paypal no longer requires customers to signup for a Paypal account when paying through Paypal. See the flyte blog for more info.
There’s a lot involved in accepting credit cards online: building an online store, getting a merchant account through your bank, adding real time credit card verification to reduce fraud, getting a security certificate and putting it all on a secure server. Not to mention the startup costs and monthly fees that accompany all these items. (Oops. I just mentioned it.) If it all seems overwhelming PayPal may be your solution.
PayPal is the most widely recognized online payment system and is now owned by eBay, which should increase its acceptance. It handles all major credit cards, verifies their authenticity in real time, has no startup costs, no monthly fees, and charges you 2.9% or less per transaction.
Last year we began receiving requests to accept credit cards, but the high monthly fees of a merchant account were more than we could afford. We took the PayPal route to gauge customer interest. Our customers can now pay their invoices online through the PayPal system with any major credit card. They get their miles and we get money in the bank within 3 business days.
One of our clients, the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, collects donations online through PayPal. The California Association of Medical Staff Services uses PayPal for member dues, annual conference payments, online classified ads and job opportunity listings. For artist Catherine Breer we set up a PayPal shopping cart to help her sell her calendars and cards.
Only people who have signed up with PayPal can use the PayPal system. Although signup is free, only takes two minutes and is nicely integrated into the buying process, in our short-attention-span society that may prove to be too long for some. If you’ve never used PayPal consider making a small donation to the JBRF or buying a calendar from Catherine Breer as a test drive. Or, if medical staff services interests you and you live in the Golden State consider joining CAMSS.
Final Analysis: If you are looking to accept credit cards online and are on a strict budget, PayPal is a good solution. It offers secure transactions for one-time purchases, recurring subscriptions, online donations, and shopping carts. Even if your ultimate goal is to get a merchant account and take credit cards directly, PayPal can be set up so quickly it can be a stopgap measure while you plan out your e-commerce strategy.
If you have any questions on integrating PayPal into your site please feel free to contact us.
There are a few important lessons I’ve learned during my Internet years. One is to never ‘Google’ your own joke. You may think you’re clever, but it will turn out that about a thousand people were equally as clever before you, which makes them funnier.
Another lesson–and the subject of today’s soapbox opera–is that an email newsletter is the sharpest tool in your Web Marketing toolbox. If you’re not sending one out you’re missing a great opportunity to connect with your customers and prospects.
Why do I say this? A number of reasons. Seven, in fact. Which is lucky, because that’s the title of this article.
1. It complements your Web site like white wine to fish. (Not that your Web site stinks like fish, mind you.)
While you may believe that the world waits with bated breath for your next article and will return to your Web site unprompted each and every month to read it, this is not always the case. Most people spend more time reading and answering emails than surfing the Web. With an email newsletter you can get in front of them on a regular basis. Don’t worry whether your content is delivered via a Web page or an email as long as you have an effective medium to reach your audience.
2. Email newsletters are more cost-effective than print newsletters. For example, I publish a quarterly newsletter that you may be aware of because you’re reading it right now. It’s a four-color, four-page job and we mail it out to approximately 500 discerning, intelligent and attractive readers across the U.S. Your newsletter may be a different length, may be black & white, or may be sent to more subscribers more often. But for the sake of comparison, let’s use these numbers.
The cost of arranging flyte log on the page–now that the template has been created–costs approximately $350. The printing costs, including freight, comes to $700. Postage, address labels and “mailing seals” cost another $200. Let’s ignore the worker hours to attach these “sticky” items, as I’m generally doing it while I watch football or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since creating content is the same for either print or email let’s table that cost. This works out to approximately $2.50 per subscriber.
To send out our new e-newsletter, Honey Roasted Peanuts, to the same size group the cost would be fifteen cents per subscriber. This covers both our setup time and the cost of some nifty software we use to manage subscribers, handle expired emails and send out HTML newsletters that look like Web pages in your mailbox. When our subscriptions go up ten fold to 5,000 it will cost only 1.5 cents per subscriber. As our circulation grows past a certain size we’ll be hit with small fees to handle the increased subscriber base; however, the cost per subscriber will continue to decrease. Also, no matter how many colors or pages our e-newsletter is, or where in the world we send it, our costs stay relatively fixed.
If you’re looking to save money for your company or organization wean people off printed newsletters. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a benefit to hard copy newsletters or else we wouldn’t use them. Due to the nature of our business we’ve never met some of our customers except “virtually”; flyte log helps us to connect by giving our clients something they can touch. You may want to consider reducing the size or frequency of your print newsletter if you can’t abandon it completely.
3. E-newsletters are interactive. In a printed newsletter you can refer to your Web site but you have to hope that your readers don’t mistype that URL when they go to their browser…assuming they even will. With an e-newsletter you can make sure your site (or a PDF, or a sound clip, or any document available on the Web) is just a click away.
4. You can test its effectiveness. Depending on the sophistication of the program you’re using to send out your newsletters you can track which links in your newsletter are being clicked on and which are being ignored.
5. E-newsletters encourage word-of-mouth advertising. It’s easy for your subscribers to forward your email to a friend or associate, especially with a friendly reminder from you at the end of each issue. It’s also a great way to build your subscriber base and market your services to people you might not have reached any other way.
6. You’re preaching to the choir. Your subscribers have signed up to receive your e-newsletters. These are your best customers! They want to know when your next book is coming out, when you’ll be speaking in their town, or when you’re bringing a new product to market. So be sure to promote your offerings in the newsletter.
7. Starting today will help build your subscriber base. Now that e-newsletter can contain formatted text, embedded images and even polls and surveys you’re no longer limited to boring plain text to get your message across. Soon you’ll be able to include forms, multi-media, and other marketing tools that you can deliver to your subscribers’ mailboxes. (With their permission, of course.) The best way to grow your subscriber base and take advantage of these new tools is to start right away.
In future issues we’ll look at what goes into a successful e-newsletter, how to attract more subscribers, and how to leverage e-newsletters effectively. (Or, if you can’t wait, you can contact us today!) However, there’s no reason to hold off on sending out your own e-mail newsletter and get a few practice issues under your belt. The sooner you start the quicker you’ll be connecting with your customers.
GOT LINKS? A QUICK WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS
It’s no wonder that everyone wants to rank higher in the search engines;
they bring visitors to your Web site that may not have found you any other
While there are plenty of methods to rank higher, one of the
most overlooked is increasing the incoming links to your
site from other Web sites. Many search engines,
view links to your site as “votes of confidence” and
will rank your site higher, all other things being equal.
How do you get these incoming links? Perhaps this bulleted list
Create content worth linking to, including articles, White
Papers, F.A.Q.’s and other resources.
Have a page of links to other complementary Web sites. Getting
an incoming link from a site is easier when you’re already
linking to them.
Ask, and ask again! Web masters and mistresses are busy people
just like you and me. If you don’t get a response within a
week or two send them a polite email asking again.
Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to
go out and get at least one new incoming link before the next
issue of Honey Roasted Peanuts! (I know you can do it, I have
faith in you.)
Do you have a retail space? Do clients visit your office? If so, a great way to promote your Web site is through a “Boaster Poster”.
These 16″ x 20″ framed Web portraits showcase your site, continue your branding, and remind customers you’re available after they leave your store. They display four Web pages of your choice as well as your URL. The cost is $140 with a discount for additional copies.
<Unsolicited Personal Recommendation> I ordered one for our office and was really impressed with the quality of the screen captures. We get a lot of compliments on it from visitors. These work best when promoting attractive sites like those designed by flyte new media. 😉 <Unsolicited Personal Recommendation>
More information and examples are available at BoasterPoster.com. Be sure to tell them Rich sent you!
If you’d like help in choosing or preparing the pages please contact us.