Posted on March 13th, 2009 1 comment
Recently, I gave a presentation on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for a local Business Networking International chapter. My time limit was set at 10 minutes to give a presentation on SEO. What! Wait! Ten minutes? I could go on and on about SEO and how to apply various techniques to your current web site and design to improve your visibility on the web. How was I going to cram all of what I know, as well as cover some of the tools available, in such a short amount of time? Well, truthfully, I wasn’t able to. I did design a Keynote presentation to cover most of the basics in 17 slides, but that left me to present a little over 30 seconds per slide. I am very excited about my profession and love talking about it, so I still went for it. What I am giving you here is just an excerpt, but if you want your web site to be found in search engines and increase your user traffic, you should find some of this information beneficial. You can also download my slides on “Search Engine Optimization – What it is and what you can do to help your page rank in search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live Search” I will put up a section on the main site related to SEO as well as record my presentation to go along with the slides.
What is SEO? According to Wikipedia – “SEO is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines” Ok, simple enough. But what the heck do they mean by “process”? I could quote another Wikipedia quote on the word process, but in this instance it means time, effort and more than likely, lots of it. I’ll break up this so called process into 6 elements but keep in mind that SEO is not an exact science. If would be if you had the secrets to Googles search engine algorithm, but they are pretty tight lipped about exactly how they rank and rate sites. Besides that, the major search engines are always refining their techniques in order to provide the most valuable search returns possible. SEO is not a sure fire way to get your site at the top of search pages. However, in this and in subsequent posts I’ll briefly layout 5 areas that you should concentrate your efforts on and could very well increase your odds.
Keywords. Keywords are the foundation of your search engine strategy. After all, keywords are what someone places into a search box to get back results related to…you guessed it…their keywords. In essence, if your site has references to their typed in keyword(s), you move into their returned search results. (Provided that your site is in their directory of searches to begin with. I’ll cover this in another post) Picking your web site keywords are very critical. Also, think of keyword phrases. For example, keywords for a web designer might be…uh….web and design. However, to help in search results local to the web designer, the keyword phrase would be something like “Web Design in St. Louis”. Jot down on a sheet of paper (you could use an application such as Excel, Numbers, Word or Pages as well) all the keywords and phrases that you think others would use to find your site. Is it the products that you sell? How about the services that you provide? Then think about variations on those keywords. Next, talk to your friends, co-workers and others to get an idea on what keywords they would use to search for your web site. I might think everyone uses the search phrase “Web Design” but it could be that others use the phrase “Web Site Creation”. In the end, you will choose your keywords carefully. However, if this is your first time going through this exercise, just give some thought to them as the next step may change your keyword thinking.
Ok. You are all finished with your keyword selection. Your next step is to use some online tools to more or less validate your keyword selection and possibly eliminate some of your choices. One such tool is the Google keyword tool. It helps to have a Google Adword account (I’ll post something on that down the road) but you can access it for free at www.google.com/sktool. With this keyword tool, you can type in your keyword or phrase and get a number of the monthly searches for that keyword. You will also see variations or the keyword phrase as well as the search number. As a test, I type in the word jewelry which had 350,000 searches per month. Jewelry Stores has 100,000 per month. Jewelry Television has 18,000 with a mix of others in between. This whole process gives you a good indicator on how well your keyword is used. I’m not saying that you have to use the top searched keyword. In the above example for jewelry, I see that handmade jewelry has about 23,000 searches per month and if I did indeed sell handmade jewelry, I might concentrate on this particular keyword phrase and go after those 23,000 searches. You may even find some other ideas for keywords along with their searches/month. The keyword tool from Goolge is just one of many keyword tools out there. Probably one of the best tools is at www.wordtracker.com. However there is a fee (ie: $$$) to use it. In part 2 of SEO, I will discuss what you should do with these keyword phrases that will help your page rank. I will give you a hint though….Content.
Posted on March 6th, 2009 No comments
Notes, notes, notes. In my real life as a web designer and software developer, I meet with clients routinely. During the course of these meetings, brainstorming sessions take place and I try to write down all the ideas and directions as fast as I can. However more times than not, I have a hard time focusing on my note taking and the discussion at the same time. Over the past month, I have been using a simple device that is proving to be very effective in keeping me involved in the discussion and taking notes at the same time. That device is the LiveScribe 1GB Pulse Smartpen available on Amazon.com or Target stores. The pen writes like an ordinary pen, but the similarities stop there. The pen also records your handwriting using special notebook paper and it records audio at the same time. Ok, I know what your thinking….so what! Well, during the audio playback, use the pen and tap on any word or drawing that you wrote while recording and the audio plays back exactly what was being said at that time. Here’s the awesome part. Now I don’t have to take meticulous notes or jot down verbatim the ideas, slogan or specific wording that comes up. I just write down various keywords or snippets of the conversation. Then, when I am back at my computer or whenever I need to go over what was said at the meeting, I just tap on a word or diagram that I jotted down, listen to the conversation and take any action that need be. Apart from the purchase of the pen, you do need to use special paper to make all this happen. Sure, the pen will write on regular paper, but the beauty and functionality is in the paper as well. Each page of the paper is coded with thousands of little dots that tell the pen (through its infrared sensor) what page in the notebook the writing is taking place and where on the page. If you look very closely at a page (at my age I have to use my glasses) you can see the little dots. However, they are not noticeable otherwise. The special paper is available in college ruled spiral bound notebooks and both lined and unlined journals. They are sold in packs (usually 4 notebooks per pack in notebook form and 2 per pack in journal form) with each notebook or journal numbered. Yes, the pen even knows which notebook or journal was used to take the notes! I’ll show you where this comes into play in a moment. At the bottom of each page, there are various icons that you can tap with the pen to start/stop recording, pause, adjust volume, playback speed, audio bookmarking and a way to jump to various places in your recording.
Even though you can use just the pen and paper for note taking and audio recording, you can add to it’s functionality by downloading the LiveScribe software that is available for both Windows and Mac OS with the Mac version just released out of beta. The pen comes with a nice little USB charger/dock. There is a magnet in the dock and all you do is set the pen flat in the dock and the magnet guides the pen in the proper spot so that the connecting points are lined up. When you launch the LiveScribe software, it senses the pen and begins a transfer of the audio and pen strokes stored on the pen. If it is the first time connecting the pen, you will be prompted to name and register the pen. After the transfer, the LiveScribe application will display each notebook used in the left panel and the pages with notes on the right panel. I have a separate notebook for my web design and custom software meetings, another for personal notes and a journal that I record information for my kids high school hockey and baseball activities (I’m their coach for both of these…whew!)
All my notes are stored on my Mac through the LiveScribe software. You can view the note pages, print them out or even click on an area of the note to hear the recording, just like when using the paper. I can delete the notes on the pen to conserve storage space on the pen and still have all the notes and audio available through the software.
Currently, the SmartPen comes in a 1GB and 2GB version. $149 for the 1GB model and $199 for the 2GB model. According to the LiveScribe website, the 1GB model can store 100 hours of audio recording, however there are various audio recording quality modes that may affect this number. The audio quality is very good and I usually leave it on the default setting. You can change the audio quality to various modes including mono, stereo and with the included headset you can even record in 3D. There is a microphone in each earpiece and the headset has a special jack that fits into the end of the pen that allows this. You cannot use your regular headphones (such as the ones you use on an iPod or iPhone) as the SmartPen has a 2.5mm jack whereas most devices with headphone jacks are the 3.55mm inch kind. I usually listen through the speaker located on the side of the pen itself and have no problems.
You wouldn’t think that a pen could have applications, but the Pulse Pen does. Pre-installed on the pen are various utilities such as time, date, battery life remaining and storage remaining. You can get to these utilities by taping on the menu icon on the paper or just draw your own menu icon. There is even a development kit for the pen that allows developers to write applications specifically for the pen. A few that are included in the pen include Calc, Piano and Translator. With Calc, you can write an equation on paper and the LCD display on the pen will show you the result. Handy if you don’t have a calculator around. My iPhone has a calculator app, so I don’t really use this feature. There is also a Piano application that guides you through drawing a simple piano keyboard on paper. When you are finished drawing the keyboard, you simply tap on the simulated keys to emit a piano like sound from the pen. I sense a good bar bet with this. “Hey, I bet I can draw a piano keyboard and play notes that you can hear” There is a demo translator that will convert English into Spanish, Swedish, Arabic and Mandarin. There are only a handful of words and the numbers zero to nine to work with. I have no idea why those languages, but having the pen say “Beer” in Mandarin is a hoot. Hmmm…something more for that bar bet.
Overall, I give the LiveScribe Pulse Pen 5 Gizzies on a scale of 1 to 5. A Gizzy is a Gizbitz rating that I just made up. I use the pen constantly and it is always in my laptop bag or on my desk. Various accessories such as the Livescribe Single Subject Spiral Notebook, 4-Pack, Nos. 1-4, Premium Leather Case and SmartPen Ink Cartridges should be on your list too, either for yourself or a great gift for that note taker in your life.