Email Blacklists and You

email blacklists and youOne of our clients has recently had their email address blacklisted for spam even though they were not attempting to spam anyone.

Now I know that some people might find that hard to believe; how can you get your email address blacklisted unless you really are sending out spam emails?

Getting blacklisted is easy

Well I have to tell you that it is easier to get your email blacklisted for spam than you might think. Some very innocent actions can send you to email hell in just a few seconds.

Here are just a few of the ways you can end up on an email blacklist:

A person who receives your email accidentally … or intentionally … marks your email as spam. It only takes one person to do that and when it’s done you’re basically screwed.

You send an email to a client who has a spam filter on their incoming email that looks for trigger words or phrases in the incoming email … in the subject line or in the text. As soon as it finds one of those trigger words or phrases it marks your email as spam and puts you on a blacklist. You’re done like a dinner.

You send out a large number of bulk emails and the sudden surge in the number of outgoing emails leaving your account is enough to trigger an alert that puts you on an email blacklist. You can even do it to yourself.

Yes, it is that simple … especially when you consider that there are at least 438 trigger words and phrases that can blacklist you … and the impact on your business can be dire.

Being on a blacklist can destroy your business

What happens when you’re put on email blacklists?

This is what happens when your email address is blacklisted:

No emails that you send from the blacklisted email address are delivered.

No emails addressed to your business arrive in your inbox.

It’s possible that your website rankings in the search engines are impacted too.

Getting off email blacklists can be hard

Getting onto an email blacklist is easy but getting off all the email blacklists that will list your email address takes time and requires the services of someone who knows what they are doing and how to plead your case with those who control the blacklists.

“Ooops I made a mistake,” is not an excuse that anyone is going to listen to.

For many people finding themselves on email blacklists can mean the end of their business because you are basically cut off from the people who are your clients and the people who provide goods and services for you.

Don’t put off getting help

It is very important to get off those lists as quickly as possible because the longer you stay on those lists the more damage is done to your business.

So as soon as you think that your email address might have been blacklisted get help … call Toni or me now, not later.

Sadly, right at the very time when quick action is important, it seems to take days for most blacklisted businesses to wake up to the fact that they’re not getting any emails.

How to avoid getting blacklisted

Think before you send and:

Don’t send bulk emails through your business email address. Use the services of a business like MailChimp to handle any bulk emails you want to send out.

Look at the subject lines and the text in your emails to make sure that those 438 words are not in your emails.

If someone tells you that they don’t want to receive any more emails from your business then listen to them and stop sending them emails. Remove them from your email lists so that you don’t accidentally send one that could destroy your business.

Staying off email blacklists is not hard to do but getting you off once you’ve got yourself onto those lists is an entirely different matter … and it can be expensive too.

So save money, save your business and turn brain on and think before you send that next email.

Go here for a list of those 438 trigger words and phrases.

By |September 5th, 2017|Email|Comments Off on Email Blacklists and You

Links Are a Ranking Factor for Your Website

inbound links to your website are an important ranking factorThe original purpose of the Internet was to connect people to information and so website links were born.

Those once blue, once underlined, collections of letters, characters and numbers were there from the start and they have never gone away. They might have changed colour, they may not be underlined anymore, but they are still just as important as they ever were … and Google loves them.

For Google, every link is a vote in favour of the site that the link points to and, at one stage, Google placed a huge amount of importance on those links.

The level of that importance has decreased over the years as people found more and more ways of using links to trick Google and make Google think that a website was more important than it really is.

Links are still important

Today, even though Google does not place a huge amount of importance on links, they are still an important ranking factor for your website.

However, not every link carries the same weight. In the past any old link was worth something but today your website needs inbound links from trusted and relevant websites.

And those three words are the most important thing to remember when you’re thinking about links for your website. They must come from trusted and relevant websites.

Links must come from TRUSTED AND RELEVANT websites

If you’re running a plumbing business in Hervey Bay, and you have links coming to your website from the Karachi Times or the Rawalpindi Gazette then you have links but they may not be trusted and certainly aren’t relevant … how many people in Karachi or Rawalpindi need a plumber in Hervey Bay?

Links like that have no positive impact on your website and may have quite the opposite result for Google does see links that aren’t relevant … or trusted … as a negative when it comes to ranking your website.

A link that would have a positive effect on your plumbing website would be a link from an Australian trade organisation or a supplier. A link from Yellow Pages or Local Directories would also be seen as a link from a trusted and relevant website.

Unfortunately obtaining links from trusted and relevant websites is not an easy job. You can pick some up quite easily but others take time and patience and so there are people out there who will offer to obtain those links for you.

Be careful who you employ to build your links

Be very careful if you do decide to hire someone to obtain links for you. Anyone can gather huge numbers of links that have no positive value at all and that’s what many people do. They charge you very attractive rates but deliver nothing but a load of negative-value links.

Genuine link builders take time and charge a lot of money for their services and their results can seem meagre in comparison to those who offer you lots of links for little money. But don’t be fooled because large amounts of irrelevant inbound links can do serious damage to your search engine rankings and getting rid of those crappy links is another costly job that needs an expert.

Avoid outbound links if you run a business

Before I finish this I should talk about outbound links. Google definitely does like to see your website linking out to trusted and relevant websites but every time you link out to some other website you’re encouraging people to leave your website before they have done business with you.

If you’re selling a service or a product then we would encourage you to get as many relevant and trusted inbound links as you can find but don’t link out to anyone. Of course, there are exceptions to that “rule” but, in most cases, outbound links will do nothing positive for your business.

By |August 14th, 2017|Google|Comments Off on Links Are a Ranking Factor for Your Website

The Age of Your Website Is a Ranking Factor

the age of your website is an important ranking factorWe recently published a post here on the website that took a very quick look at some of the ranking factors that we know that Google uses to assess your website. One of those factors that we mentioned was the age of your website.

So why is the age of your website a ranking factor? Well, before I jump into that, I need to remind you of something else I said in that post.

We know that the age of your website is a ranking factor but we really don’t know how much importance Google places on that factor. All we can really tell you is it is a ranking factor that Google uses … but why?

Why does Google think that an older website is of any greater value than a website that has just appeared?

Google wants to trust your website

Well, perhaps it’s got a lot to do with trust because there was a time when it was quite possible to get a brand-new website to rank well on the first page of the search results for almost any important search term.

Of course, those new sites were fairly thin on content and what content there was on those sites was often scraped … copied … or re-purposed from other sites. That was not such a problem for Google until ensuring that they were giving their users the best possible results became an issue.

If you want to keep people coming back for more then you want to give them a very good reason for coming back and, for Google, that meant giving their users the sites that delivered the best possible information.

In most instances that meant that Google needed to send searchers to the original source of that information and wouldn’t have taken Google long to work out that the original source was probably the website that had been online the longest.

You need to be patient

So, the age of a website became a ranking factor and the newer the site the less chance it had of ranking for any search term until it had been around long enough for Google to begin to trust it.

In fact, we have now reached the point now where Google suggests that it takes them around 12 months to list a new website.

That doesn’t mean that every new website is going to have to live in some other dimension until it matures. Some websites will pop up in the search results much sooner but if you new website deals with an industry or a niche where you already have lots of competition then the chances of you outranking those older websites is a lot less.

It seems that Google thinks that a good website is like a fine wine … it needs to mature a little.

By |August 14th, 2017|Google|Comments Off on The Age of Your Website Is a Ranking Factor

Four Things You Need to Know About Google

There is a lot of confusion about Google among new website owners.

Many believe that Google offers them a guarantee of success for their business and that their website will instantly hit the top of the rankings and that all they must do is sit back and let the money roll in.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth and, to help you better understand how Google works, here are four things that you need to know about Google.

They may not fit with your view of Google but after 20 years of working with search engines this is the truth.

Why can’t I find my website in Google?
This is a question that we are asked by almost every new client within a day or two of their website being completed. People seem to have an expectation that they will instantly be able to find their website in Google and nothing could be further from reality.

Google offers no promises and it makes no guarantees that it will ever list your website.

In fact, Google says quite clearly that it can take up to 12 months before it will list a new website … and even then, there is no guarantee that it will list a website for the keywords and keyword phrases that are important for your business.

While experienced web designers will do everything they possibly can to get the fundamentals of search engine optimisation right for your website there are simply no guarantees.

Google is not your friend

Why isn’t my website on the first page of Google?
This is another question that we are constantly asked by clients who do not understand how Google works.

Google compares every website to a very complex list of over 250 different factors that it considers to be important in ranking those sites. The sites that Google ranks above your website in the search results for terms that are important to you are the sites that do better than your website in those comparisons.

Google does not tell us what those ranking factors are or how important each of those factors are. However, we do know that Google can, and does, change the importance of some of those ranking factors from time to time.

We also have a fairly good idea of what some of those ranking factors are and some are listed here … in no particular order:

The age of your website. (You can read more about age as a ranking factor here)

How many links from other, relevant and trusted websites point to your website? (You can read more about links here)

Is the focus of your website relevant to the search term someone is looking for?

Is it easy to find important information on your website?

Is your site useful or is it just trying to sell something?

Does your website load quickly? (Currently Google wants it to load in under 3 seconds.)

Is your website user-friendly for people who are looking at it on a mobile phone or tablet?

When was the last time anything new was added to your website?

Those are just some of the things that Google looks at when it visits your website.

You also need to remember that the search results display many other websites and every one of them wants to achieve good results too so you are competing with a lot of people for the few listings that appear on the first page of any search results that Google displays.

It’s Google’s game and Google sets the rules

If my website gets to the front page of Google will it stay there?
No, there is never any guarantee that your website will stay at the top of the search results.

Google is continually tweaking those ranking factors and in the last 12 months it has made over a thousand changes. Some of those changes are minor while others have had a major impact on the way sites are ranked.

Google rarely tells us when changes are coming and doesn’t always tell us about the changes after they have been made. That means that you can be on top of the rankings one day and not on the first four pages by the next morning.

Can I pay someone to get me better rankings for my website?
Yes, you can. There are plenty of reputable search engine optimisation specialists out there who can work to improve your rankings but this type of work is slow and expensive.

There are also a lot of less reputable people out there who will offer you the same services but for a lot less and much reduced time frame. Unfortunately, they will deliver a quite different result.

In general people who offer you cheap and fast results cut corners and try to cheat their way to the top. When Google sees the work that these guys are doing on your website your site will disappear from Google’s listing in a heartbeat.

Google accepts that website owners want to achieve the best rankings and are prepared to pay for specialists to achieve those rankings for them. What Google doesn’t want to see is work done that has obviously been done to fool Google into giving you a good ranking.

When Google thinks that you have been trying to cheat your way to the top it will penalise or ban your website and recovering from either of those can be a long and expensive process.

Conclusion
Always remember that:

Google offers no guarantees

Google sets the rules

There are no shortcuts

Google will penalise or ban your website if it thinks you have been trying to game the system to achieve a good ranking.

So, if you are building your business on the business that you think that Google will send your way then perhaps you need to have patience or a Plan B

By |August 14th, 2017|Google|Comments Off on Four Things You Need to Know About Google

Web Design Tips

web design tipsIt may seem hard to believe but the success of your website … and your business … depends on the design of your website.

A well-designed website produced by someone who knows what they are doing can enhance your business and encourage people to buy your product or service.

A poorly designed website designed by someone who fails to understand the fundamentals of web design can drive people away from your business and ultimately destroy your business.

So how do you ensure that your website is well-designed? Here are a few tips.

Know what you are trying to achieve
Have a clear idea of what you want your website to do. Do you want it to entertain? Do you want it to inform? Do you want it to sell a product or service?

A website that is designed to sell a product or service can also inform visitors but it should never try to entertain.

Don’t follow the crowd but stand out from them
Just because every other website you see in your line of business tries to do things in a certain doesn’t mean that they are all doing it the right way.

It is almost certain that many of them have copied from each other without giving any thought to whether what they are copying will be effective or not.

Keep your website focused on the outcomes you want
If your website is designed to sell a product or service everything … and I mean everything … that goes into the design and content should be aimed at just one thing. Everything should be aimed at leading your site visitor from a vague interest to actually buying what you are selling.

If there is anything on your site that distracts from that aim, it should be removed.

Make sure people can actually read the text
Pastel colours in backgrounds and text look cool and you see them everywhere. Don’t be tempted … especially with the text.

Strong contrasting colours … and for text nothing is as strong as black text on a white background … is the only thing that you should be using. Faint text colours are hard to read and if people can’t read your text then they will leave.

“Busy” websites tend to drive people away
Clutter … avoid it at all costs. You might think that a busy web page will impress your potential clients but all it will do is make it harder for them to find the information they need.

White space and just a few images is good and it makes people feel comfortable when they visit your site. People who feel comfortable are more likely to buy what you are selling.

Make life easy for the people who visit your website
Make things easy for the people who visit your website. Don’t make them have to go looking for important information … because they won’t.

Contact details should be on every page on your site. If people have to come to your business or office, then include a map so that they can find you.

Simple, standard fonts make sales
Standard sans-serif fonts … use them even though you may think that they are boring. People have no trouble reading standard sans serif fonts and that’s important. If people have trouble reading the text on your website, then they won’t.

Not everyone has good eyesight
The size of the font that you use on your website is important. Remember, no everyone has the same 20/20 vision that you do and if people struggle to read the text on your website because you have chosen a small font they won’t stick around to buy what you are selling.

Follow these web design tips and you will end up with a business website that won’t win any design awards and it won’t be the coolest website in cyberspace but it will work as a sales machine for your business and that’s more than most websites out there do for their owners.

By |February 2nd, 2016|Websites|Comments Off on Web Design Tips

Let’s Talk Web Hosting

Why do I need web hosting?

Without a web host your business website would not appear on the Internet.

A web host provides disk space for your website and connectivity to the web so that visitors from anywhere in the world can see your website.

Your website is placed on one of your web host’s servers in a data centre that can contain hundreds, and even thousands of servers.

server-farm

Servers racked in a typical data centre used for web hosting

 

What is a server?
A server is basically a very specialized computer that stores your website, and many others as well, and is programmed to display your website on the Internet.

 

What am I paying for?

A web host charges you for the amount of disk space that your website takes up on their servers.

They also charge you for bandwidth – and we’ll talk about bandwidth next time.

And of course they also charge you for providing a service if problems arise and they need to fix the problem.

 

What is bandwidth?

When it comes to the Internet bandwidth is the term for the transfer of data from your website to the computer of someone who is looking at your website.

The more people who look at your website the bandwidth your website will consume. Bandwidth is measured in bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and so on.

Web hosts charge in advance for bandwidth and there is always a minimum amount of bandwidth that you have to pay for even if your website does not use that amount.

 

Will my website always be online?

The Internet is an incredibly fragile system and even though there are many redundancies built in there are times when problems arise and that is why every web host talks about “uptime”

Sometimes the problems that can take your website offline involve issues at the web host’s data centre.

Sometimes the problems that can take your website offline involve issues that are totally beyond your web hosts control.

Your website will also disappear from the Internet if you fail to pay your web hosting accounts. Web hosts are under no obligation or legal requirement to provide a free service.

 

What is uptime?

Uptime is the amount of time that you can reasonably expect your website to be online.

Because of the fragile nature of the Internet there is no guarantee that your website will always be online and that’s why web hosts will guarantee a certain amount of up time but rarely guarantee 100% uptime.

99.9% uptime guarantee sounds impressive but when you do the maths that still leaves quite a large amount of time each year when your website could be down.

 

What is the minimum level of service I need?

There is a wide range of levels of service but these days we would suggest that the minimum level of service is 24/7 phone support.

Email or trouble ticket support is ok but if you run something like an online shop that could be producing income for you at any hour of the day or night then phone support is important.

 

Where should my web host be located?

It is best if your web host is located in the same country as your business. However sometimes there are factors such as cost and uptime guarantees that may make it more economical to host in other countries.

For example, for many years the cost and standard of hosting in Australia made hosting in the US a better choice. That is now changing and we are now recommending to our clients that we set up their websites on an Australian host.

 

This post was compiled from a number of shorter posts on our Facebook page. Follow us on Facebook for more frequent posts about web design, search engine optimisation, web hosting and other relevant information.

By |January 14th, 2016|Website Hosting|Comments Off on Let’s Talk Web Hosting

Calls to Action

calls to action will increase your bottom line onlineThere are times in the web design business where you get a phone call from a client that leaves you wondering whether or not you somehow managed to wake up in a totally different world to the one you went to sleep in. A world where basic website elements such as calls to action are of no importance.

A couple of months ago we were building a website for a new client and when they were happy with it we made it live.

The next day I got a phone call from a close relative of the client who told me that he needed to talk to me because his relative (our client) really didn’t know much about websites and there was something on every page of the website that needed to be changed.

That was a little surprising but, because I knew that this person had bankrolled the website, I felt that I should listen.

Basically what this person objected to, and wanted changed, was the call to action at the foot of every page. Our client was selling a service so the call to action asked people to call his number to arrange a free quote.

Calls to action are fundamental

Calls to action are fundamental to any website that is selling a product or service … they have been for all the years that Toni and I have been in this business and they will be for years to come. Basically calls to action are a necessary part of a website because, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

When it comes to websites and encouraging people to buy what you’re selling, you have to tell people what to do and if you don’t tell them they leave without doing anything positive.

However, according to the guy who called me, calls to action were a sign of desperation and he wanted me to remove every one of them. And he had the experience to back up his demands … he had built a website.

Yes, one website and that was enough to make him an expert.

I won’t detail our discussion but the calls to action are still there on every page of the website and the website, combined with our client’s Facebook business page, is working very well … as we knew it would.

Actually, over the years, we’ve had a number of people who questioned whether or not they needed a call to action. We’ve been told that calls to action are too aggressive … that people don’t need a call to action to tell them to buy a product or call about a service … people know what to do without those rude and blatant calls to action.

Do they? Any A/B testing where A has a call to action and B does not will quickly show you that without a call to action on every relevant page your website won’t work as effectively as you would want it to.

So no matter what you might think of those directives to buy now or call now be sure to include them because they work.

By |January 3rd, 2016|Websites|Comments Off on Calls to Action

3 Fundamental Rules of Web Design

ClipboardHere are 3 rules of web design that you should ALWAYS remember when you are thinking of designing your website, re-designing your website or making alternations to your website.

Forget any one of them and your website could turn into a waste of time, money and space.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
There are lots of things you can do with a website and lots of things you can include in your website.

You can have bright colours, flashing lights, dancing bears, your favourite music from your teenage years and much more but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

If your website is about selling your products or services how will dancing bears and your favourite music improve your chances of making a sale?

If your website is about business, then your website needs to look professional. It needs to look like a business website.

It needs to send a message to the people who visit your website that they can rely on your business.

Will dancing bears, flashing lights and music do that for you? I think not.

Just because you do doesn’t mean anyone else does
Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but when it comes to websites the “beauty” perceived by the website owner is seldom what anyone else sees.

You might like pastel colours, unusual fonts and something quite different for the navigation but is that what your site visitors want to find?

Do they want to have to squint to ready your text or struggle with fonts that may look wonderful but are impossible to read?

When it comes to business websites your potential customers want the information clearly displayed in a format that they can understand.

If they can’t find the information that they are looking for then they leave because they know that someone else will give them what they want.

If you’re not in the business of entertaining then don’t try and entertain.
If you have a business website then it’s there to sell your products or your services … and maybe do a little educating as well.

It’s not there to entertain people and the more you try to entertain the fewer sales your website will generate. When people come to a business website they expect information and some way to buy what you’re selling … they don’t want to be entertained and if you try they will perceive that as being a waste of their time.

While most people tend to waste a lot of time online they don’t want to do it when they are trying to do business.

Every item that goes into building your business website should be there for no other reason than to sell your products or services.

Anything that doesn’t do that is a waste of space and will only encourage people to look somewhere else for what they want.

By |December 29th, 2015|Websites|Comments Off on 3 Fundamental Rules of Web Design

Your Website is Not About You

WarningI know, the title of this post clearly sounds as though I have lost my marbles.

How could your website not be about you?

If your website is not about you then who is it about?

Well the simple fact is that I haven’t lost anything and I am definitely not joking when I say that your business website should never be about you.

I know that is undoubtedly hard to accept or believe and if you don’t accept what I have just said then you’re not alone. A great many business website owners, and web designers, out there don’t understand that fundamental fact.

They believe that their website is very definitely about them and they want to tell their customers all they can about themselves … but their potential customers, and your potential customers, don’t care.

All any potential customer cares about when they visit a website is what’s in it for them. What will the product or service that a business website is selling do for them?

They don’t care if you have been in business for five months or 500 years. They don’t care if you are carrying on a family tradition or honouring the memory of someone who was near and dear to you but has now passed away.

They don’t care if you love dogs, drive an exotic sports car and are only seen at the best parties. All they care about is what your product or service will do for them.

Will it improve their life? Will it save them money? Will it solve some problem that they have been struggling with for years?

Can they have it immediately? Will they have to wait for weeks to have it delivered? Does it come in their favourite colour? Will they be the first on their block to own one? Will they be able to return it if it doesn’t work?

Will you really deliver it or are you going to take their money and skip the country with it?

Those are just some of the things that people are interested in when they are visiting your business website.

Is your website going to answer those questions or is it going to tell them over and over again how good you are and how wonderful your product is?

If you don’t answer their questions; if all you want to do is make yourself, or your business, look good then your potential customers are going to leave without buying a thing.

In short, your website needs to stress the benefits of owning your product or using your service.

By |December 27th, 2015|Websites|Comments Off on Your Website is Not About You