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The SBC Small Business Newsletter

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June 6, 2002

Table of Contents

 

Welcome

Quote of the Week

Administrative Stuff

Featured Resource - SYSTEMAX BUILD-TO-ORDER COMPUTERS

Staff Article - USING OR AVOIDING ERROR PAGES
Marketing Tip of the Week

Guest Article -  THE 5 MOST COMMON SEO MISTAKES

Parting Comments

Unsubscribe Information


Welcome

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Quote of the Week

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.

-Anais Nin

 


Administrative Stuff

A FAVOR, PLEASE!

Please take a moment to complete our subscriber survey. It will only take a minute or so of your time and will help us to improve our services to you. As a thank you for completing the survey, you will receive a free book called iNet Success. It is an excellent source of information on running your Internet business delivered in an outstanding format. You'll like it!

Please complete the survey here:

http://www.peakconsultinginc.com/subscriber_survey.htm

Your download link for the book will be provided after you submit your survey answers.

 


Featured Resource

SYSTEMAX BUILD-TO-ORDER COMPUTERS

Get the most out of your next computer or laptop purchase! Use our online configurator to create your own Systemax build-to-order desktop, notebook, server or slim PC at the best price possible. While you're on our site, you can browse over 75,000 other hardware and software products that you can pick up at extremely good prices. Visit today!

http://www.peakconsultinginc.com/store.htm

 


Staff Article

USING OR AVOIDING ERROR PAGES
by: Cary Christian

It's happened to everyone. You click on a link or type in a URL and get the following message or some variation of it:

"HTTP Error 404

404 Not Found

The Web server cannot find the file or script you asked for. Please check the URL to ensure that the path is correct.

Please contact the server's administrator if this problem persists."


Chances are good that you will give up trying to find the page after receiving this message. You will probably assume the page no longer exists or has been moved and that you will not be able to find it. You could type in variations of the URL or just go to the domain name portion of the URL to search for the page, but more often than not you'll move on to another site and won't think much about it.

But what if it's your site people are looking for when they receive this message? You don't want them to move on! It's a very simple process to help them find what they're looking for without leaving your site. Here's how to do it.


CREATE A CUSTOM ERROR PAGE

First of all, you want to get rid of that ugly standard error page. Create a custom error page that explains the URL your visitor was searching for has moved, been renamed, or no longer exists. Then give them some options. Place a site search form on the page so they can search for the information they were looking for. Put a site map on the page so they can browse the information you provide on your site. Place your normal navigation buttons on this page. Make the page attractive and inviting. Make the visitor want to stay for awhile. Give the visitor options to keep them on your site.


REPLACING THE STANDARD ERROR PAGE

You will need to locate or create a file named ".htaccess" on your web server. If it exists, you are going to open it in a text editor and edit the contents. If it does not exist, you are going to create it and upload it to your web server.

Let's say you named your new custom error page as follows:
http://www.yourdomain.com/oops.htm

Find the .htaccess file, open it and type the following in the first line of the file:

ErrorDocument 404 http://www.yourdomain.com/oops.htm

If you do not find the .htaccess file, simply type the above into a blank text file, save it as .htaccess and upload it to your server. Make sure the file name is .htaccess, not .htaccess.txt or something similar. Some text editors place the .txt at the end of the name automatically. If yours does, simply rename the file after you've saved it.

Once you upload the .htaccess file and your new custom error page to your website, your new page will display anytime someone clicks on a link to a page on your site that no longer exists.

If you do not maintain your own site, explain to your web designer what you want to do and they will be able to do it for you easily.

If you are on a Windows hosting plan using Internet Information Server (IIS) on the Web server, you'll have to email the URL for your custom 404 page to your hosting company and ask them to edit the properties of your site to use that page as your 404 error message. This is because you generally will not have access to IIS where these changes are made using a GUI interface rather than in the .htaccess file.

In fact, if you are uncomfortable editing the .htaccess file for any reason, just create your custom error page and contact your hosting company to let them make the .htaccess changes for you. They should be happy to do so.

You can also create custom error pages for other errors like error 401 - Unauthorized and 403 - Forbidden if you need to. You add them to the .htaccess file in the same manner.


AVOIDING 404 ERRORS

It is preferable that your visitors never reach a 404 error page. If you remove a page from your site or rename a page, it is a good idea to keep the old page in existence and simply cause it to redirect to a page that offers the same or similar information that was offered on the old page.

Almost any type of log analysis software you might use to analyze the traffic you get to your site will also provide you with information on 404 errors. It will tell you what page people were searching for when they received the error. Use this information to create a blank replacement page with the same name and redirect the page to your new page.

Let's assume you used to have a page on your site for a book you used to sell that was named "book1.htm." You found or wrote another book to replace the old one and created a sales page for it named "book2.htm." Create a blank web page named "book1.htm" and use the following HTML code to redirect the visitor to your new "book2.htm" page:

<html>
<head>
<title>redirect</title>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;
URL=http://www.yourdomain.com/book2.htm">
</head>
<body>
</body>
</html>

When people click a link they find for your old book1 sales page they will automatically be redirected to your new book2 sales page without receiving an error message. You can simply copy and paste the above code into any blank page and change the URL to the page you want to redirect to.

Custom error pages and redirects are very easy precautions to take. Traffic is difficult to come by. It costs you time, money or both to get people to visit your site. So when they do visit, you don't want to give them any reason to go away before they see what you have to offer.



Copyright (c) 2002


Marketing Tip of the Week

In the staff article above we talk about using redirect pages to avoid your visitors getting 404 not found errors when they click on old links to your site. You can also use them to track your advertising efforts. For example, if you belong to affiliate programs you can create your own redirect page for use in advertising materials that ultimately takes the visitor to your affiliate site. This way you use your own URL in advertsing rather the usually long and ugly one for your affiliate site. You will also be able to track your hits just by counting the number of hits to your redirect URL in your website logs. A rather major side benefit is that the use of this type of redirect has also been shown to increase response to your ads!

 


Guest Article

THE 5 MOST COMMON SEO MISTAKES

By Kalena Jordan
kalena@high-search-engine-ranking.com

Having been in the business of optimizing web sites for high search engine rankings for over five years now, I have come across a number of "optimized" sites that use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that are just plain WRONG.

Most of these sites were optimized by persons just starting out; SEO beginners not yet familiar enough with the industry to determine SEO fact from SEO fiction. But whatís scary is that some of the sites Iíve seen using incorrect methods have been optimised by so called search engine optimization "experts" who really should know better.

Some common themes develop amongst incorrectly optimized sites. Could YOU be making the same errors with your site? To find out, letís look at the five most common search engine optimization mistakes:


1) Non Utilization of the Title Tag

How many times have you looked at a web site where the browser title reads "Welcome to [company name]ís web site" or simply "[Company Name]"? Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say? Well if you want to achieve high search engine rankings, thereís PLENTY wrong with it.

You see, while it may not be common knowledge amongst web designers, most search engines index the content of title tags and consider it to be one of the most important factors in their relevancy algorithm. What you place in your title can make or break your ranking for particular search terms on the various engines. If you donít include your most important search phrases within your title tag, you are overlooking a vital opportunity in your quest for higher search rankings.

Having said this, you should try and keep your title tag to a maximum of 200 characters, as that is the average limit most search engines will truncate to. If you really insist on including your company name in your title and youíre willing to sacrifice good keyword real estate to do so, put it at the very end of the tag, because search engines give more relevancy "weight" to content at the start of your tag.


2) Use of Untargeted Keywords and Phrases

Another common mistake made by webmasters and SEO learners is their choice of keywords placed in the META keyword tag. Sure it might seem logical to target the word "printers" if you run a printer repair business in Ohio, but think about it - even if you succeeded in ranking well for such a competitive term (you wonít), how many of the people visiting your site as a result of this search would leave as soon as they saw your home page? Thatís right, most of them. All the people who wanted to buy printers, all the people looking for businesses outside Ohio, all the people not looking specifically for printer repairers.

Does it become clear now that targeting such a generic word is a waste of time? What you need to do instead is optimize your site for search terms and phrases that are highly targeted to your precise business. Use a tool such as Wordtracker (keyword location software) to find what people are actually typing in to the search engines to find goods and services similar to yours and concentrate on ranking well for those terms. The more qualified your site visitors are, the more likely you are to convert those visitors into paying customers.


3) A Lack of Optimized Body Text

This one is very common. How often do you visit a home page that is made up entirely of graphics? You know the ones - they consist of an enormous Flash file or maybe a large logo or a montage of images, but the thing they have in common is a distinct lack of text. Think they look professional? Think again. No matter what you read or hear, if a site has no text on the home page, it hasnít been correctly optimized and has little chance of ranking well in the search engines. Now thatís unprofessional in my opinion.

Beginner SEOís often make the mistake of creating an optimized title tag and META tags and believing their work is done. WRONG. If you want a web site to rank well in the search engines, you need to give them what they want to see - visible content that is optimized just as well as the invisible content. That means adding keyword-filled body text to any page you want ranking high. Why? Because most search engines canít index images. Some engines donít even index META tags anymore. So a site with no visible content becomes effectively invisible to a search engine and has almost no chance of appearing in the rankings for logical searches.

Also, search engine algorithms have become smarter and are now checking that sites contain highly relevant content before including them in their index. If you expect to rank well for a particular keyword or phrase, itís not too much to expect to find that keyword or phrase within your site is it?

4) Submitting to 1,000 Search Engines

I love this one. Iíve lost count of how many banner ads or web sites Iíve seen boasting "Weíll submit your site to 1,000 search engines!" I canít believe the hype is still prevalent that you need to submit a web site to thousands of search engines in order to receive traffic. This is just NOT TRUE.

In fact, studies show that approximately 90% of search traffic still comes from the 10 major U.S. search engines and directories (listed here - http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com/List_of_Major_US_Search_Engines.htm ). Companies that advertise submission to thousands of search engines are usually including in that list minor engines or directories that utilize the databases of major engines anyway (so donít require submission) or a large number of Free For All (FFA) sites. Submitting your site to FFA pages can damage your siteís reputation in the search engines, because they consider FFA sites to be of very low quality and utilizing "spamdexing" techniques in an attempt to falsely inflate a siteís link popularity. Iíve even seen examples of sites being banned from a search engine for having their pages listed on FFA sites by ill-informed webmasters without the site ownerís knowledge.

If you are targeting specific geographic markets, you might like to submit your site to the most popular regional search engines in those countries, but the fact is that most people worldwide continue to use the U.S. versions of search engines such as Yahoo and AltaVista despite the fact that there are local versions available. The bottom line? Get your site listed on the 10 most popular search engines and directories and you will have the major worldwide traffic sources covered.

5) Resubmitting Too Soon and Too Often

So youíve optimized your site and submitted it to the most important search engines. But itís been three weeks and you havenít received any traffic. Time to resubmit, right? WRONG. Depending on the search engine, they can take up to twelve weeks to include your site in their index. Each search engine and directory work to their own time frame. You need to check their average submission times (a chart is here - http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com/search_engine_indexing.htm ) and be patient.

So when youíre in, what then? You should regularly submit to ensure youíre ranked above your competitors, maybe once a month or once a week, right? WRONG AGAIN. Once youíre in a search engineís database, there is no need to resubmit your site. Itís pointless actually, because they already know about your site and their robot is scheduled to revisit and reindex all sites in the database on a regular basis. Resubmitting wastes everybodyís time and can actually get your URL permanently banned from a search engine for "spamdexing".

The only time you need to resubmit your site to a search engine is if your URL changes or if your domain suddenly drops out of their database entirely. NOT if your ranking drops, NOT if your content changes, but if the domain is actually nowhere to be found in the index (this can happen from time to time as the search engines Spring clean their databases). A good SEO will monitor your rankings regularly (monthly is fine) and only resubmit when absolutely necessary.

So those are the five most common SEO mistakes. Any sound familiar? Donít worry, youíre in good company. Now that youíve recognised the problem areas and are better equipped with the correct information, youíll be able to reverse the damage.

--------------------

Article by Kalena Jordan, CEO of Web Rank.
Kalena was one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australasia and is well known and respected in her field.  For more of her articles on search engine ranking and online marketing, please visit www.high-search-engine-ranking.com 
 


Parting Comments

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