Is Your Twitter Stream Just an RSS Feed?

May 26th, 2011 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

If you only ever use your twitter account to post links to your latest blog posts, then it’s really just an RSS feed. RSS works really well, so why use anything else? If however, you want to interact with customers, share articles from other sites and retweet other stuff, then Twitter becomes much more useful and more valuable to your readers.

The New York Times decided this week to put a human behind its Twitter feed, to see if this is a more effective approach for their social media. The previous system automatically tweeted links to NYT articles.

It seems amazing that a media institution like NYT could have had such a limited approach to Twitter so it will be interesting to see how it improves. The NYT tweets will now be chosen by a (very busy) human and written by hand, so we can expect something a lot more personal, including deeper interaction with followers.

Photo by Annie Mole on flickr under the CreativeCommons license

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Stunning CSS Background Examples

February 28th, 2011 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

CSS Backgrounds let you add background images to any HTML element in your web pages and so are a fantastic way to add stunning backdrops to your website. This post shows a selection of some of the cleverest and most inspiring uses of this technique across the web. I hope you’ll use it for ideas on your own website.

Oceanscape | CSS Zen Garden

CSS Backgrounds are exciting for a number of reasons. They are great for adding some intense style to your pages which stands out for your readers and increases their engagement with the pages. This is good for search engines too if you believe they measure how long your visitors spend on your website. If you ever have your website promoted somewhere as a thumbnail then the use of a memorable CSS Background will increase the chance of a visitor clicking through to your site. A good example of this is the new Google Instant Previews which display a snapshot of your site next to the search results.

Dead Metropolis

Viget Inspire

Withering Beauty | CSS Zen Garden

Legendary Aircraft

The examples above use the CSS Background technique for the main background of the site, but you can use the technique for any element – a good example is in styling list elements for navigation.

I’ll be updating this page occasionally as I find other inspiring sites so do drop me a line or leave a comment if you know a good one

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9 Ways to Make the Most Out of Tumblr

February 9th, 2011 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

I like tumblr. It’s a fun site that works with chunks of interesting information that are quick to post and quicker to digest. It’s great for sharing short items that are related to your website and small business. Here’s a handy list of 9 ways to make the most of your time on tumblr.

People who use tumblr (let’s call them tumblrs) tend to post short updates on a wide range of topics. It’s not just limited to text – you can post images, video, audio and a few other formats too. It’s great for finding inspiration and uncovering interesting and useful articles. The tumblr framework encourages the rapid sharing of posts – it’s super-fast for commenting and liking and you can reblog other people’s posts too.

So here’s the list, not in any particular order:

1. Follow other tumblrs and you’ll see their updates on your dashboard page. Their avatars will appear on your profile page too (look under ‘Following’) and so this provides a nice and easy way for other readers to find and follow them too.

2. Vote for other tumblrs’ submissions using the ‘Like’ button. Your Like appears under the original submission and so provides a path back to your profile.

3. Reblog other people’s submissions. There’s always a simple button to do this in one click. The post will appear on your profile and dashboard and so this is a nice way to promote other people’s work.

4. Avoid twitter-like status updates. Tumblrs don’t really care about what you’re doing right now. What they do like is stuff to reblog.

5. Trick out your profile page with a custom layout and some static pages, such as About, Contact, etc. This gets you a unique-looking page that you can brand with your own style and logo, while also allowing you to talk a bit about you, your website and your business.

6. Check out your sidebar to see your own followers. The more you have, the more people will get your posts delivered straight to their dashboards.

7. Submit pretty much anything you think is inspiring or interesting – text, photos, quotes, links, audio or video. Tumblr works best when you are discovering exciting new content yourself and reblogging other people’s submissions.

8. Choose a custom URL for your profile page. This helps with branding and name recognition and uniqueness. On the other hand though, I think it can make it less clear that this is a tumblr-powered page.

9. Find interesting tags and follow them using the ‘track this tag’ button. Posts with this tag will now appear on your dashboard. To find an interesting tag just click on the tags listed under a post, or try typing this link into your browser for a pot luck guess (change the word ‘tag’ to whatever you’re looking for)

Why not give it a whirl? Like any social network, your success depends on (a) frequent, interesting updates and (b) interacting with others by voting and following.

Here’s another really handy list of Do’s and Don’ts for tumblr.

Image by EraPhernalia Vintage on flickr under CreativeCommons

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Import Your Blog via RSS into Facebook

January 31st, 2011 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

Facebook has a nice RSS publishing feature that lets you reproduce your blog in the Notes part of your profile. Your blog updates will also appear on your Wall, alerting friends that you have something new to read. It’s not always obvious how to set up or change your RSS settings, so here’s how you do it.

On most Facebook locations (home, profile, feed, etc) you have a left hand menu with a Notes link – click on this.

Now choose any of your existing notes and select ‘View Full Note

Under the Subscribe menu on the left hand side click on ‘Edit Import Settings

(The shortcut to all of these is to go direct to http://www.facebook.com/editnotes.php)

The ‘Import a Blog’ page will tell you if you are already importing an external blog to your notes. If you have a feed imported and want to cancel this, just select Stop Importing.

Or, if you want to import a new blog you can type in the name of the RSS/Atom feed for that blog. You’ll need to check a box to confirm you have the right to have Facebook reproduce the content.

I went through this recently as I was turning off the feed from my infinite42 blog into my profile page. It worked perfectly. My blog is still imported into the infinite42 Facebook Page and I think this provides a more appropriate location for readers to access my posts.

Photo by Ack Ook on Flickr under the CreativeCommons license.

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How to Add Google Analytics to your Blogger Blog

January 25th, 2011 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

Google Analytics on Blogger

Blogger is one of the fastest and easiest ways to get blogging but one of its main problems for serious use has been the lack of any Analytics for measuring traffic and visitors. Well now there are two ways to get your Analytics info so you can start keeping tabs on who is visiting and what they are reading. One shows you stats from within the main Blogger cockpit and the other gives you a tracking code so you can link directly into your Google Analytics reports.

Analytics is especially important if you’ve integrated your Blogger blog into your own website, because it’s important to be able to see how visitors arrive at your blog and why and how they are clicking through to the pages of your main site.

So, on to the two alternatives:

1. To check out Blogger’s own Analytics page, find the Stats tab in the Settings page. You’ll see page views and traffic sources such as referring websites and search keywords used to find your blog. What you won’t see is detailed analysis of navigation, time on page, exit rates, etc. More importantly (in my opinion) you can’t see how readers are clicking through to your main website (if you have one)

2. You can now add your Google Analytics tracking codes to your Blogger blog. If you’ve integrated your blog into your main website, you can use the same tracking code and will now be able to see detailed Analytics for your blog and website combined. This is great because you’ll now be able to see how people read your blog posts and how they click through to your main website pages. Plus you get all the detailed analytics data that’s missing in alternative 1 above.

If I’ve convinced you that option 2 is worthwhile, there’s a nice tutorial here on adding Google Analytics to Blogger

Note it’s very wise to back up your blogger template. Also because you’ll be editing the template code itself, you’ll need to be careful of any layout designs you’ve created using the template designer.

Photo by brockvicky under the CreativeCommons license on Flickr

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Best Google Search Results is a Dead Concept

January 7th, 2011 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

Mark Nunney wrote a useful post on how Google Local search results can end up pushing your regular search results down in the standard search results pages. It’s clear that local search is getting a lot more significant over at Google. Mark writes about some ways to fight back a little bit, such as:

  • target other keywords
  • make sure your Local listing shows prominently (and of course make sure you have one)
  • consider PPC

Thinking around this a bit as well, it’s also clear that the idea of a ‘best’ set of results for a particular searcher is now out-of-date. Google takes many factors into account when deciding how to display the search results that you see as a user, and your location is only one of them. There’s also your browsing history, your social circle and your activity on Google Reader to name just a few.

This makes it even more important to get into the heads of your customers when promoting your website. Where are they searching for you physically? Are they mobile? What social networking circles do they use? Where else do they read stuff? The closer you can align your activity on the web to these areas, the better you’ll do for those vital search results.

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Generate HTML Character Codes Fast

December 15th, 2010 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

characters
One of the headaches in creating valid HTML for your website is the need to convert certain characters over to a special set of codes. We’re talking here about ampersands, dashes, quotes and so on. The codes look something like this: &name;

You’ll need to wrestle with this to ensure that web browsers display these characters properly. It is also a requirement to get these right if you want your web pages to pass validation (and you definitely do).

I was searching around for an easier way to do this and found this nice decoder you can use to do the conversion – just paste your code into the box and it will generate the valid code for you.

For future reference, here’s a complete list of these Character entity references

If you’re writing code snippets for HTML, CSS, etc. and you want these display properly in your browser you’ll need to convert these character codes, otherwise symbols such as < and > will not be shown properly (I had to use the character codes to write those!)

Image by SuperFantastic on Flickr under CreativeCommons attribution license

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Help! I Can’t Change My Website!

November 4th, 2010 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

Confused?If you work through a designer to develop your website you might worry about making changes to your site.

Maybe you’ll want to add some new pages, tweak a color scheme, change the width of the site, update a page, or even add some new technology such as facebook or Google Maps.

This is completely normal. Web design isn’t a one off event – we know that websites need to grow and develop over time to be successful. It’s almost certain you’ll want to make some changes as your small business needs mature. You might add some new products, or change your logo or change the welcome message on your home page.

These means then that the service you receive from your website designer can’t be a one-off event either. This needs to be a long term relationship where you get the control over your site that you need.

There are some nice ways to do this right from the start. You might choose to use a simple content management system (CMS) which lets you add new pages yourself and also make changes easily to existing pages. WordPress is a good example of a CMS system. Many of these tools (especially wordpress) even let you change your website theme if you want the style or colors to look different.

Another valuable technique is to integrate a blog into your website. This lets you add posts whenever you like and you can write about any topic you want.

At infinite42 we only work on long term web partnerships with customers, so you’re sure to be able to get the website that you want and any changes that you desire in the future. Contact infinite42 now to learn more about how we do this.

Image: Flickr  CreativeCommons by JoshSemans

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Free 10 Minute Website SEO Guide

August 26th, 2010 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | 2 Comments »

SEO Checklist for Small Business Website
It really does take just 10 minutes to read this short free guide to website SEO. It focuses on the most powerful factors behind a great search position for your website. You can download it right now in return for signing up for news and tips from infinite42 (you can do this easily by filling out your name and address on the right)

Why did I write this?

I’m guessing you probably don’t want to spend hours researching, tweaking and testing the hundreds of different SEO techniques that are talked about these days. The truth is that most of them only have a tiny impact (if any) on your search position. If you’re a smart small business website owner, then you’ll probably just want to target the most important factors, and then move on to creating some more content.

After reading the guide, you might feel that some factors have been left out. Feel free to contact me to chat about these, why they aren’t included and what you should do about them.

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Brand New Method to Integrate Blogger into your Website

August 5th, 2010 dr.richard Posted in Small Business Website | Comments Off

While writing a page all about How to Integrate a Blog into Your Website I found out that there’s a new technique for doing this with Google’s Blogger. You used to be able to do this by republishing your blogger blog via FTP, but this method has been discontinued. The new technique involves tweaking some DNS, CNAME and Blogger settings, but is pretty straightforward. You can also use the new Blogger template editor to make it look similar to your main website.

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