Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How Do I Know if My Site is Ready?

As I’m teaching people how to build a website, there comes a point where the site is ready. Often the students I’m working with are still nervous. The fear of clicking that big ominous “Publish” button looms pretty heavy. They ask me to go through their site page by page and help them see that it is, in fact, ready for the public.

In a lot of ways, it’s like sending a child off for the first day of college. Maybe he’s not ready to go to law school, or become a doctor, but he’s ready to leave the house and start working on his own a bit. He’s a work in progress, and he’ll learn and grow with every class he takes, but it’s still time to step out.

It’s the same with the website. It will evolve and adapt. It will grow. But if it’s never actually launched, no one will ever see that growth, and more importantly, no one will ever buy anything from it. Not because it’s necessarily “bad” or even “good”, but because they’ll never even see the site to begin with!

To help secure that confidence that the site is ready, I’ve made a checklist. If you’ve got everything on this list, the site is ready for the public. It’s time to launch it, and let it fly.

This checklist is based on a format for a basic 5 page website. It has all of the necessary elements for success. Your site might launch with more pages than that. I should hope that eventually, it would grow well beyond 5 pages. But this is the starting point.

Basic 5 page website checklist

  1. Before you build your site:
    1. Choose a focus – Your site should have a clear topic. What is the site about? All of the content and products of the site should blend nicely into that focused topic. This will make it much easier to attract the right buyers to your site, and to rank well on the search engines.
    2. Identify the audience – It’s important to know who you’ll be drawing into the site. Resist the temptation to say, “The world is my audience!” If you’re pursuing everyone, you’ll catch no one.
    3. Register domain name – buy a “dot com” name that’s easy to remember, easy to spell, and reflects your site’s focus.
  2. The First Page: The Catalog
    1. As few as 1 product, as many as 10 to start – You might well want to have hundreds of products on your site eventually. That’s fine, but you only need one to get started. All of the products you sell should relate to your focus in some way.
    2. Keyword rich, benefits driven text – Your catalog page should have some content on it, not just a list of available products. Tell your site’s visitors why they want your products, and how they will benefit from owning them. Make that text full of good keywords that relate to those products, so that the page will rank better on the search engines.
  3. The Second Page: The Landing Page
    1. 500-1000 word article, informative, with lots of good keywords – Pick one of your products (or a line of products if they’re similar enough) and write or acquire a good informative article about the need for that product. Make sure that it’s full of good keywords.
    2. Multiple links to catalog page – Every few paragraphs in the article, set up a link to your catalog page so the reader has several chances to click and buy the solution to the problem the article presents.
  4. Home page
    1. 250-400 words, keyword rich – Write an exciting overview of the focus of the site, showing how the products enhance the experience of the focus. Make it full of good keywords.
    2. Some pictures, possibly featured products – Your site visitors will like to see what the site is about, so include a few pictures that represent that.
  5. Contact Us page
    1. Encourage newsletter signups – Your site’s visitors may want to get ahold of you to ask a question. Make sure there is a contact us page, and encourage them to use that to sign up for your regular monthly or bi-weekly newsletter.
  6. About Us page
    1. Background in the focus area – Your customers will want to get to know you. Introduce yourself, and tell them all about your background in the area the site is focused about.
    2. Testimonials, if you’ve got ‘em, will help to establish your credibility. If you don’t have any immediately, perhaps your supplier will have some testimonials about the products you’re selling.
  7. Publish
    1. Make it live on the web! Tell family and friends! Submit it to the search engines.

After the site is launched, your site can benefit from these suggestions:

    1. Add a links page for relevant link exchanging. Bring in more traffic, and boost your search engine ranking.
    2. Create a blog page. Having a page where you’re constantly adding new thoughts and information that relates to your focus will bring extra search engine value, more links, and more traffic.
    3. More products, more content and more landing pages. Just keep building your site!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How to Read Blogs and Not Waste Time, Part II

Today I want to continue talking about reading blogs. For a long time, I just created a big links list, a “blogroll” of other blogs I was reading, and I’d just click to those one at a time. The problem was, that took a long time, clicking, loading, reading, and half the time there wasn’t any new postings at the blogs I was reading.

Then I learned about RSS. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. It’s basically a way that you can keep track of sites with regularly changing content, like blogs, news sites, webcomics, etc. without having to go there every time. You simply check your RSS reader program and it will tell you if there’s anything new or not. If there’s nothing new, you can skip that site and go on to the next one that is new. Pretty cool? Great timesaver!

Unfortunately, I’ve not found it to be “Really” simple. I think I’d call it “PSS” for “Pretty Simple Syndication”, or “SSS” for “Sorta Simple…” you get the idea. It’s all relative, ya know? Setting up and using RSS IS simpler than, say, configuring a server, troubleshooting a bad hardware driver, or even negotiating a lasting arab-israeli peace treaty. But not by much.

Nonetheless, once you’ve set it up and gotten the hang of using it, it is a much more streamlined way of reading blogs and keeping up with things you’re most interested in.

First, you have to have a program capable of reading “RSS feeds”. There are a lot of programs out on the market today that you can use for this, many of which are programs that you might have access to already, others of which are free. MyYahoo! is one of these programs. You can set it up to access feeds you’ve subscribed to. I find this one to be a bit clumsy. Microsoft Internet Explorer, V7.0 is also set up to subscribe to RSS feeds, but I found this one to be even more difficult to understand and clumsier to use.

By far the system I’ve found that is the least amount of trouble to setup and use (though it’s not as feature-rich as others) is the “Live Bookmarks” feature of Mozilla FireFox. As a website owner (and I’m assuming that most of you reading this are here because you want your own websites to do better), you should have FireFox on your computer anyway, because it’s good to be able to view and check your website in both browsers (MSIE and FF). If you don’t have it, go to and download it for free.

Once you’ve gotten or chosen a system that can read RSS, go to the blogs that you like using FireFox as your browser. If the blog has an RSS feed available, you’ll see this logo:

It will be much smaller, of course, and it will be at the far right-hand end of the browser address bar, like this:

When you click on that icon, it will ask you how you want to save all of your RSS feeds, and you’ll select “Live Bookmarks”. Then it will ask you where you want to save them. In your “Bookmarks Toolbar, you’ll create a folder called “Blogs I Read” (or words to that effect), and save it in there.

Then, up under your “View” menu, point to “Toolbars”, and make sure that the “Bookmarks Toolbar” is checked.

Go on, and add the RSS feeds of all the blogs you’ve been reading into this folder.

Then, when you go to read your blogs and keep up on what’s going on in the world, you can simply go up to the Bookmarks Toolbar just below your address bar, click on the “Blogs I Read” link there, and it will drop down all the blogs and sites you’ve added to your RSS reader. Roll the mouse down the list. As it crosses each blog, a menu will pop out to the right showing the list of the most recent updates to that blog. You’ll be able to see the title of that posting, and decide if you want to click on it and read it or not. If you’ve already read it, roll on to the next one and see if there’s anything new there!

Having a way to run through all the blogs and see which ones have updated and which ones haven’t is a big, big timesaver. And that’s what these two articles have all been about. Reading blogs WITHOUT wasting time!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

How to Read Blogs and Not Waste Time, Part I

I love blogging. I find it to be a fascinating way to learn, to share, to connect, and to promote. Unfortunately, not everyone grasps immediately just how much fun and how useful it can be to participate in “the Bloggosphere”.

Let me first clarify something. Blogging is not just the act of writing and maintaining a blog. It also includes reading other people’s blogs and joining in their discussions. It involves expanding your immediate circle and discovering just how broad the world really is.

Often when I talk about this, a common response is, “What, these people have no lives?” Do they spend all stinkin’ day reading and writing blogs?”

Well, yes, that’s true of some of them. The internet is full of people who seem to have nothing better to do that surf the web, and fill it with more stuff. The cool thing about that is that these people have money, too, and many of them would buy your products, if they just found the link to it.

To get them there, it helps to sort through the often overwhelming amount of information out there and see just what’s valuable. It does take time, but not as much as it might seem. Over the years, I’ve found ways to waste less time with irrelevant blogs, and spend more effective time with the ones that are valuable to me.

Here’s my tips on reading blogs effectively.

  1. Find Some Good Ones

First of all, find some good blogs to read. By “Good” I mean “blogs that have valuable information that’s interesting for me to read and applies to my life”. I say it that way, because there are many, many good and well-written blogs out there that I don’t care about. Because they hold no interest for me. Many of the blogs I follow, as well as many of the ones I write, will have no interest to you, either, for the same reasons.

A good way to start this search is to go to Google and simply search for “something-I’m-interested-in blog”. For example, I might type “music blog”, or “dutch oven cooking blog”, or even “underwater basket weaving blog”. This will pull up a lot of blog sites and blog postings that are about what you’re searching for. Begin clicking in and begin reading.

Pretty soon, you’ll likely find a few that seem to qualify as “good”, according to what I wrote above. Bookmark those, because you’ll want to come back to them and read them more often.

  1. Find Some More Good Ones

Once you’ve found a good one, check the links that are on the side or below that particular blog page. Many of those blog links will be on a similar topic, so check those out. Bloggers tend to “run in packs” so often I find that if I like one blogger, I’m likely to find that other blogs he/she reads will have similar opinions, and appeal to me as well. When you find some of these that you like, bookmark those, too.

These first two steps can be time consuming. Once you’ve got some blogs you enjoy in your bookmarks, it’s not so necessary to go out and search so much any more. I still do, on occasion, but now that I’ve got a lot of blogs I read regularly, I don’t go out searching aggressively, like I did when I first started.

  1. Check Every 2-3 Days

Once you’ve found some blogs that you think will appeal to you on a more regular basis, check up on them occasionally. Go back every few days and see if there’s a new blog posting.

Now, there’s a system called RSS that can be used to track when a blog gets updated, and that makes it so you don’t have to check each one every day. What a timesaver! We’ll cover how to set that up and how it works in the next article.

  1. Skim topics

I don’t read every word of every blog. I’ve learned to skim. Scan down the page and catch words and see if it’s about something that interests you. Even though I enjoy reading many blogs on a regular basis, I don’t read them all completely.

  1. Look For Reasons To Comment

If all this work is going to be effective for you, in terms of running your website business, you’re going to need to actually make it work. As you’re doing all this reading, look for opportunities to post comments. Not just saying “Yeah, that’s right!”, but actually adding insight to the threads and the conversations. In doing that, you establish linkbacks to your own website, and as others read your comments and find them to be valuable, they often will click to your site to see what you have to offer. In following my site’s traffic, I frequently see visitors that came from blogs where I left comments.

  1. The 80-20 Rule

Someone once said, “Eighty percent of anything is garbage.” That’s true on the net, and especially true of blogs. So much of what I see as I approach the blogs is irrelevant, inaccurate, or just plain immaterial.

I accept that. Most of the blogs I encounter are going to be a waste of time. But rather than throw out the 20% of good, informative, effective reading and lose the whole thing, I skim through it. But I also don’t waste a lot of time or effort on what I can quickly see is in the 80%. If I can’t see an immediate interest in something I’m reading, I skip on to the next thing.

“But what if you miss something important?”

Let me tell you, my life was fine before blogs came along, and it will be just fine if I don’t read any one particular blog. If I happen to miss something, the sun will still rise, and my kids will still love me. Blogs are cool, and a great way to learn things and to promote your site. But let’s keep it in perspective here. It’s just not THAT critical.

Why do I want to read blogs?

At times, some might wonder why I bother. Is it worth the effort. As I read blogs, I get a lot of benefit from it. I learn about what’s going on. I refine my own opinions by reading the feelings of others. I learn new strategies. I bring traffic to my website. I think of things I want to write about in my own blogs. I connect myself to my world.

But I also don’t waste a lot of time doing it.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yahoo is Saying “Boo Hoo”!

The internet giant Yahoo has been falling farther and farther behind its competitor (Google) for years. They’ve tried lots of different things to bring in more traffic and more ad money, mostly adding new content to their already-cluttered main page. But it has consistently proven to be ineffective against their rival.

The gap between them keeps getting wider and wider. Google keeps getting stronger and stronger, and Yahoo weaker. Recently, Yahoo announced about a thousand layoffs, as their stock prices continue into decline.

Then, all of a sudden, Microsoft springs to the rescue, offering to buy out Yahoo for about 44 and a half billion dollars. Yes. You read that right. That’s a 44 followed by 9 zeros. Just to put that into perspective, the current population of the world is only the total estimated population of the earth, as of Jan of ’08, is about 6.5 billion. If that deal goes through, that means that Yahoo, as a company, would be worth about $6.85 for every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth today.

…And yet, somehow, it’s failing?

True story. It might be worth billions, but It’s also spending a lot as well. It’s also losing market share.

Yahoo started out in 1994 as a bit of a lark by a couple of Stanford grad students. While working on their dissertations, they also began a compilation of some of their favorite websites. In the beginning it was called, “Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web”. Soon it grew and required more organization, and so the sites were listed in categories and subcategories, directory-style.

By April of that same year, they renamed it “Yahoo”, and by the following year, they incorporated, and started growing. For many years, they led the internet search industry.

In the late ‘90’s, they diversified and became a web portal. This means that they provided direct access to lots of different content and online programs. News stories, email, stock information, web hosts, all sorts of things became accessible directly from Yahoo’s main page.

Google, on the other hand, started a bit later, in 1996, also by Standford grad students. In this case, they had a tighter focus. They designed a way to search the growing ‘net and rank the results more effectively.

Even though Google has done some branching into other areas, such as email services and world mapping, they’ve stuck mostly to their primary focus, providing good search results, and tagging relevant ads to them. This model has not only kept them solvent, it’s helped them to grow far beyond any competition. The word “to Google” is in the dictionary, now, meaning “to search the internet for information.”

The takeover of Yahoo by Microsoft is an interesting one. Microsoft is definitely the big man on the block when it comes to software and computing in general. But in the search world, they’ve not been able to make much of a dent. Consider: In Jan, 2008, Google’s market share is about 77%. A not-even-close second is Yahoo, at a little over 12%. A not-even-close-to-Yahoo third is Microsoft, whose two entries in the race (MSN and Microsoft Live Search) combine to about 6%.

So, how is it that a company that is stumbling and tripping in the race to be the best search engine will somehow get stronger if bought by the company that can’t seem to run even that fast?

What does all this mean to you, the small business person? A lot. Let me clarify that: A whopping lot!

Clearly, getting better and better rankings at Google are very important, even critical. But if Yahoo dies, then Google becomes the only game in town. If Yahoo and Microsoft team up to take them on, that might preserve the competitive nature of the search world, but will they really be able to take the lead? Will a Yahoo ranking really make a difference to your business?

Keep watching!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.