WEBSITE DESIGN & ONLINE MARKETING

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A custom 404 page

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 14th, 2010.      0 comments

Your website users will occasionally land on a page on your website that doesn't exist. This could happen due a number of reasons - they may have typed the wrong URL or there is a broken link on your website or the link has been moved. When this happens, your website will direct them to a standard 404 page which is basically informs them that the link is broken.

A typical 404 error page is generally uninviting and unfriendly. It's very unlikely that people that arrive at this page usually explore any further - they are pretty much lost visitors.

A custom, unique error page will keep them on your website

Having a custom 404 page that is unique and guides your visitor back to a working page on your site can greatly improve your user's experience. People often make a mistake when they type in URLs and end up landing on your error page. If this page is vague and also unintuitive, you will find that your user will leave your site and never come back. This is the reason why some of the best sites in the world come up with a creative and informative designs for their 404 pages.

Therefore, we highly recommend that you take some time out to customise your error page and make it your own. You can do this by going into the back end of your website under the 'standard pages' section and edit the page called 'Page not found'.

A few tips to consider when designing your 404 page

  • Help your visitor find information. A 404 error page should do its best to help your visitors find what they are searching for. Therefore, include details of where they can go to find more information or how they can inform you about this error.

  • Avoid being vague. Providing a vague message like "Not found", "404" or just not having a 404 page at all can and will lose you valuable website visitors.

  • Use a design that is consistent with the rest of your site. Remember that this page is part of your website so keep your personality and design consistent.

  • Configure web server to give 404 HTTP status code. You want to make sure that Google spiders know that this page doesn't exist so Google will remove the page from cache so people won't come to this page through search engines. If you have a Zeald website, we will take care of this automatically for you.

A few examples of 404 error pages to inspire you

1. Zeald

Custom 404 Page

2. Livadaru.net

Custom 404 Web Page

3. Fryewiles.com

Frye/ Wiles Custom 404 Web Page

4. Twingly.com

Customise your  Error Page

5. Hootsuite.com

Customise your Error Page

Topics: Web Design Tips
 

Optimising for Google Local Search (Google places)

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 13th, 2010.      1 comments

How do I get my website to appear in the Google local search results?

Sometimes referred to as Google places, or Google maps,
More recently Google has built in the Local search results into the general search results, which displays a map and a corresponding list of business links.
The following example shows the results for a local search using the search term "pizza auckland"
pizzaa

This feature forces many of the standard search listings down the page and below the fold, which reduces impressions, clicks and ultimately orders. So it is important for local business to have a healthy presence here for relevant search phrases.

Setup a Google Places account

If you do not already have an account, you will need to setup a Google places account for your business:
  1. Login to your Google account. If you do not already have a Google account you will need to setup a Google account
  2. Then go to the Google Local Business Centre
  3. Add a "Business link"
  4. Fill out the form and choose to receive your address verification pin number by post or by text message
  5. Google will send you out a postcard with your pin number or text it to your phone
When you have your verification pin number you will then need to return to Google Local Business Centre and verify your business address by entering the pin number.

So the question is how do you get a website to appear in this list of local links at the top of the search results?

There has been much speculation about this and varies from country to country IE. New Zealand relies heavily on the Finda business listing.
Local Search is affected by what's on your website, but it is also affected largely by conditions outside your website, such as the websites that link to your website.

Of course Google do not explicitly tell you how to do this. In fact they tell you very little. This is what Google has to say:
"As with all Google search results, Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, and geographic distance is only one of the factors we consider. Sometimes our search technology decides that a business that's farther away is more likely to have what you're looking for than a business that's closer."

Not really very helpful.....

Local Search Ranking factors

Many Search marketing companies now focus on optimisation for local search results, including Zeald's own web marketing department. From experimentation there are many theories and methods for optimising a website to improve its local listing search rank which we would like to share with you.
  1. Claim your listing at the local business centre www.google.com/local/add Google require you to "prove" the location of your business, by post or by phone.

  2. List your business in the proper categories once it's been claimed

  3. Locate your business nearest the centre of the city

    For example, if you search for pizza, the businesses are listed according to which is closest to centre of town. This is where Google defines the centre of town or the suburb etc. There is not too much that you can do about this one unfortunately.

  4. Keyword optimisation in the title, description links etc of your website. Include the location of your business in the title tag, or use the city and country in the title tag, and in your meta description.

  5. Obtain citations from authority sites like Chamber of Commerce to determine your street address and phone number. The more 'citations', the more highly you'll rank in a competitive locality/term. 'Citations' are not inbound links to your website - they are just content in pages that connect you to a locality.

  6. Create / update any directory listings - google, yahoo, bing, yelp etc. and make sure that they incorporate your target search terms in the description. If appropriate modify the company name to include keywords i.e. instead of Acme make it "Acme Pizza restaurant" so that it comes up under "Pizza" + "location". In New Zealand it is important that you have a high quality Finda listing because Google obtain some of their business listing data from them

  7. Obtain links from local websites or simply a citation from local websites. For example testimonials and or blog pages. Try building anchor text links with the city or town names pointing to your site.

  8. 3rd-Party Website Reviews- Get your customers to post reviews in Google and other local listings. The more reviews your site has the better your site will rank

  9. Participate in Local Pay per click advertising (PPC)

  10. Publish the local address on every page of the website, IE. in the footer.

 

Blogs

Written by Hamish Braddick on July 13th, 2010.      1 comments

What is a blog?

A blog (from the term "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (Art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (Video blogging), music (MP3 blog), and audio (podcasting). Microblogging (such as twitter) is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts.

As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112,000,000 blogs.

How are blogs good for business?

Blogs are a good way to publish and organise content that changes on a regular basis. They are a great way to keep your potential customers, your customers and your staff informed about changes or learnings you or your company have made. Some common examples include:
  1. Company news - Let your customers and potential customers know what your company are up to, great for building rapport and trust and credibility
  2. PR - Let your customers and potential customers know how well you are doing in the media - Great for trust and credibility
  3. Sharing knowledge - Share helpful information and learnings with your customers and potential customers. Great for building trust and credibility, great for customer retention. Prove to everyone that you are knowledgable, interested in providing great value, and helpful; that you are the leader in your industry.
  4. Internal help files - Blogs can be used just for internal use, for example these help files could be defined as a blog
Good for Branding
Blogs are a great way for a company to engage with their customers and show their true colours. Blogs are written in a more "personal" manner to a standard website article. They are not laboured over and they give a customer a real and honest window into who they might be or are dealing with.

Searchable
Blogs grow at a rapid rate, and the information is usually archived by time and categorised which allows users to find information from the history of previous posts. The information is searchable, either internally or via the search engines.

Centralised
The information is centralised and available to everyone. Blogs work very well with promotional announcement tools such as email marketing, Twitter, Facebook, etc. When you have something to announce in an email it is often a great idea to publish just snippets in the email and link through to a full article in a blog.

Great for Search engines
Search engines love "up-to-date" content. Search engines are always looking for the most up-to-date information to serve to their users, based on the search query. This is becoming more and more important with the development of social media tools such as Twitter and Google Buzz.
Blogs are a great format to publish regular up-to-date information to the web. Search engines love them. If you are looking to improve your Search engine presence, you need to publish a blog.

'Link bait' - For good search engine results you need to provide quality  content that other people will want to link to. There are so many million blogs out there, you need to differentiate yours by finding a niche and  providing really good quality, interesting, informative, funny, perhaps controversial content. If people read it, enjoy it, and link to it, you have generated an inbound link which is like a "vote" for your blog in the eyes of the search engines when they come to rank your website.

Because of this it is a good idea to setup your blog on the same "domain" or address as your business website. For example www.zeald.com/blog or www.blog.zeald.com

So what is involved in setting up and running a successful blog?

Resource - You need to have someone to write your content. This is the common flaw with most business blogs. You need someone who:
  1. Understands and has a passion for your business
  2. Someone who is a good efficient writer
  3. Someone who's "voice" or "style" matches your companies brand
  4. Someone with a spot of "X" factor. Someone who is maybe opinionated, funny, quirky, creative, or very knowledgeable
  5. Someone with the time. set aside some days per month to create blog posts, and promote them
Intel - You need some ideas for what to write about. This is especially important if you are setting up a blog to generate qualified search engine traffic. You need to find out what your potential customers are searching for with regard to your product / service. This is where keyword research comes in handy. Another good method is to use your customer FAQ. What questions are your existing customers commonly asking you? Chances are your potential customers are asking the same questions.

Method to publish - You need a blog itself and a method for publishing the content to the web. Remember a blog is essentially a website so any content management system will allow you to do this. There are plenty of free blog publishing software out there such as blogger or Wordpress.

Optimise your Blog

Method of promotion - Of course a blog on its own is not much good if you cant tell people when you have published some new information. You need a way to tell all interested parties that you have some interesting news for them. The best method for promoting blog articles is really your trusty email. You can also use Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and a multitude of other social media applications.

Make it easy for users to share - Once you get people to your blog, make it easy for visitors to share it with their friends and colleagues. Chances are if they like it, they will know someone else who will like it. Some common methods for sharing links include: a "Share this" badge, a "Tweet this" badge, or a "Buzz this" badge. You can get a Share this badge from  Addthis. You can then add the code to each page of your blog or website yourself. Or you can get Zeald to add it to the template of your website for you. This means the badge will appear in the footer of every page of your website automatically.
Promote your Blog
Followers - Once you have the content and the method of broadcasting, you then need some interested parties. This involves building an email database, building a Twitter fellowship or a Facebook fan club. You might already have a good database of customers that you can start with, but you should look to continually build and refine this database.

Engage - Blogs work best when you can engage with your users. Blogs are a core element of the Web 2.0 revolution, where the content is driven and generated by the end user. Users will expect to interact and post comments and discuss issues directly and publicly with you. This can be scary to begin with but once you get past that, you will find it very effective. Let your users write your content for you, let them voice their opinions, ask their questions and have your say.

Setup a third party blog
This is a good free way to setup a blog for your business. You can very easily and quickly setup a new blog with a specialist blog software such as blogger. Using such software you are able to design a "header" and choose from a number of pre-formatted templates to fit with your companies brand.

You should link to your blog from your website in a new window.

You should setup your blog with a sub domain of your primary website address. For example www.blog.zeald.com is a subdomain of the primary www.zeald.com website address. Blogger help will explain how you can do this.

Limitations of Blogger:
  • The design options are also very limited and templated.
  • Because it is free it is very DIY. You will need to design it yourself or pay a design company to help you. 
  • Blogger does not have a phone helpline, so you are reliant on just help files.
  • Unable to incorpoarte it within your website. The external blog must remain just that. You will need to link to it in a popup window - It is never a good idea to "Iframe" an external blog into your website, for usability and SEO reasons

Setup a Zeald blog

Try the Zeald blogging tool that allows you to easily post news updates and articles to your sites. It integrates nicely into the front end and back end of your Zeald website. 
Learn about our Blogs and Social Networking product and fast track your blogging and Social media.

Email marketing

Which ever option you choose for your blog platform, if you are setting up a blog, you need to setup email marketing. The two go hand in hand. Build up a database of followers. Send out religiously a new campaign every 2 months. You might like to send more regular campaigns, but make sure that you are not annoying your customers and make sure you have enough good quality content. If you leave it much more than 2 months, your audience might forget who you are.
Email marketing is the method you use to broadcast, how you let everyone who is interested know that you have new content on your blog. You should also consider building a social network using tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
Learn about Zeald email marketing

In Summary

Ultimately it is your call, but really the technology you use is the small investment you will be making. The bigger decisions will be in your management resource. Who is going to own this task and make it work for you?

All the best with it! If you have any further queries with regard to setting up a blog on your website, please use our comments or speak with your Zeald ebusiness consultant

Stay tuned we will be adding to these articles to offer further advice and guidance.
 
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About Zeald

Zeald was formed in 2001 by three young guys from the small New Zealand town of Mangawhai Heads. Now, Zeald is the largest website design and digital marketing agency in New Zealand and has recently made moves into Australia. This is the Zeald story …

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