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CitrusKiwi's Web Design, Internet & Marketing blog

Get hints and tips about web design, SEO, and things internet. We also discuss online security issues, showcase new client websites and offer hints on marketing and networking.

3 shocking website design snafus

It's been a busy last couple of weeks. We have started work on a number of new sites and things are ticking along well. While there have been some interesting developments on the internet scene, I just felt like kicking back a bit this morning and letting some other sites show you just how NOT to do website design. If you Google "worst websites" you can spend hours being horrified at some of the stuff that appears on the internet. Now I don't normally bag other designer's work, as design is so subjective. But there are basic design rules which need following to end up with a nice website. The following fail to follow these rules (some manage to break nearly all!) Pacific NorthWest X-Ray Take our first example, www.pnwx.com. Their copyright in the "footer" says 1997 - 2012. While they may have updated and added products since 1997, I don't...

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Social media bookmarking is critical

No different to any previous year, Google has continued rolling out algorithm change after algorithm change. Some have a small footprint (the sites they affect) while others are quite widespread. Some of these updates have focused on catching those who are trying to artificially manipulate search results. In that way they've been very successful, and have weeded out many linking systems. Other updates have revised the way Google rates sites for relevance. Social media bookmarking This is one of this year's hot Google topics. With the Millennial generation becoming a major buying power, and one connected almost like Siamese twins to their portable devices, it only makes sense that Google would start weighting social indicators more. It's not just the big ones like Facebook, Twitter and Google +1, but they have taken a holistic look at all platforms like Delicious, Digg, Stumble upon, etc. It's now becoming crucial that websites get...

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Is Google ripping you off?

Remember a more genteel time on the web, when you searched with Webcrawler & Altavista, and Netscape was the browser of choice for those who wanted a free alternative to IE (or you paid for Opera)?  Alas, those balmy "summer" days of the Internet are well past.  This is definitely the "winter" of Google. I found some disturbing stats on search engine share.  The figures are compiled, and update twice a month, by Compete, Nielsen-Net, Alexa, seoMoz, StatsCounter - GlobalStats, and Karma Snack's Snackfolio traffic analytics.  We all knew Google was taking over, but did you realize by how much?  Click the image to see and, in that famous line from "The Fly", be afraid, be very afraid.... Anti-competitive Google? Is Google being anti-competitive?  Who cares if they are?  YOU SHOULD!  For the same reason so many people complain about Microsoft, the same charge should be levelled at Google.  Their constant expansion...

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Get your free website

There's no such thing as a free lunch - someone always pays, ya know?  I've seen this ad on TV a few times and, finally, I got intrigued enough to look (as I figure many people have).  And it's true!  They give you a free website design and hosting and some SEO, though it's unclear how much they do in your first month.   Oh yeah, did you pick up on "the first month"? Free website...not so free... Yes, it's true that they do build and upload your new or redesigned website for free.  Then, after "your first month" if you don't like it or them, you can "cancel and pay $0".  Wow!!!  Soooooo, what if I don't cancel, what happens?  The ad goes on, "You just pay one low monthly fee..blah, blah, blah".  Deceptive advertising Well, it's no surprise that they want to get paid sometime - after all, we're all...

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Buying domain names

I get asked a lot about domain names and their importance in SEO. So, to answer this I say, "Yes, it's nice to get your keyword or phrase in your domain name, but not critical." Let's face it, most keyword domain names are long gone - even the .biz, .info, and .net versions. You could do one with a hyphen in it, for example, www.cheap-pet-food.com, but that can be confusing for surfers to remember. However, you could grab that and point it to your main site to, hopefully, capture some results from it. New v old domain names There is definitely some advantages about buying an old domain name as opposed to a brand new one; but also some drawbacks.  The big advantage of an older domain name is that the search engines have, historically, weighted them because of their age and so you get a boost.  Google has hinted, starting...

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5 "must haves" for internet marketing

If two more-or-less equally skilled people start an Internet business, why does one flop miserably, yet the other become a roaring success? Is it a secret weapon - a magic bullet - that others are yet to discover? It sometimes seems like that, but you'd be wrong. Here are 5 characteristics which anyone can use to help improve their online (or offline for that matter) promotion. You'll find these traits in most all successful on line marketers. They are: Organized They have a plan!  Sounds like a no-brainer, but so many businesses approach the task of promotion haphazardly, with no clear idea of where they are going. You must get down ON PAPER (well, OK on you computer at least) a checklist of tasks and activities for each day of the week. Then, in the words of Nike, "Just do it!" It should be a simple system that you work on...

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RIP Internet Explorer - about time!

Did I give away my feelings? My wife's always says I wear my heart on my sleeve! :-) Yeah, well IE is dead... yet... but I'm looking forward to the day when surfers wake up to the fact that they very likely aren't seeing the site that the web designer intended they see. Remember seeing this ridiculous image plastered around the web? It's sad to realize that some designers went out of their way to coddle Microsoft and it's disastrous set of web standards. Becuase of IE we have tags like <strong> whereas everyone else was using <b> to get text into bold. Why? Probably because they (Microsoft) could, they didn't care, and a huge number of end users didn't know. But, for the design world, it just created unnecessary work. So, seeing as I've upgraded to Windows 7, and it doesn't run IE 6, 7, or 8, I was faced...

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Survive a Panda attack

Panda, Venice, Caffeine and Vince - what do they all have in common? Answer - Google. They're all Google algorithms from 2009 to the present.So, who really cares? What's in a name? Nothing really, as Shakespeare penned, in Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name? that which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet;" It's not the name that has the impact, it's the code behind it. Earlier this year, some of the Google updates caused terrible ranking damage for some sites. Personally, we've seen rankings decrease on some sites and increase on others. And yet we do the same sorts of SEO on each site we manage. And we're not the only ones confused. Going onto big SEO discussion sites, such as http://www.seomoz.org/, you'll find forums full of confused SEO practicioners asking what on earth they should do. SEO is a long term investment We...

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5 reasons you don't need a backup

I had the misfortune of having Windows grind to a complete halt on me this week necessitating a total reinstall. To lighten the mood, read this amusing piece - thanks to annoyances.org. Now back to the gloomy stuff. After spending hours trying to fix it by applying numerous "fixes" off the net, I gave up and resigned myself to the reinstall which ended up taking a day to complete. Happily, I had the disks to reinstall, and backups of my important data. Oh, but, of course, backups aren't needed right? REASON 1 - Computers are reliable now. Yeah right! The fact that computers run at all, given the permutations of hardware sometimes astounds me. And while they are more reliable than before, they certainly aren't infallible - especially netbooks and laptops which suffer from "heat exhaustion"! Then throw in a whole bunch of software and there's a good recipe for an...

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9 reasons for credit card acceptance

In the days where you'd pick up a phone book to find a business, almost no websites accepted credit cards, in fact, many businesses didn't at their bricks and mortar site. But that's all changed now, with more and more purchases, even of major items, being conducted online. And the only easy way to accomplish those transactions online is with a credit or debit card. Not just the "big boys" "I'm just a little guy..."; "I'm a roofing contractor; it doesn't work for me." Wrong and wrong! The internet has levelled the playing field when it comes to size. No longer do you need to be huge to be successful online. And the good news is that anyone can benefit from accepting online payments. The catch phrase is.. Make it easy to pay! The more ways your customers have to pay, the more likely they will! If people want to pay...

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Connecting with the past

I spent the last weekend visitng old friends (well, some of them aren't that old!) and family before flying back to the States on Wednesday. It got me to thinking about how important the past really is. I know as kids we all hated visiting the old, crusty relatives, but the past has a great deal to teach us - if we are prepared to bother to learn from it. It's said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action, but expecting a different outcome. Even if it's not true for every situation, it very much holds true for website design and, especially, SEO. Unfortunately, with SEO, the goalposts keep moving which doesn't help either. That's why ongoing SEO work is so important. Yes, we must look back (at past results or failures) to be able to plan ongoing strategies, but the SEO "designer" also needs to remain acutely...

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All over bar the shouting!

Well, it's late on a Thursday night - a little bit late on this entry, but I figure I have a semi-decent excuse... I had a wonderful day seeing my youngest daughter getting married here in Auckland, New Zealand. Despite some threatening weather on Friday, and a less-than-encouraging forecast, the weather behaved well and about 1 minutes drizzle was all the inclemency we got. Whilst the ceremony went off without a hitch and everyone had a great time, building a good marriage is a lot like doing a good job on SEO. You don't say, "I do!" and then do nothing more. Both partners need to work weekly or daily at building love and care into their relationship. Do nothing for a year and, oh boy!, things just don't run well! Yet so many website owners believe SEO is a one time fix - and that's like leaving a marriage at...

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Better late than never?

Better to be late than never? Depends on what you're talking about. If, like one of my clients, you're into CPR, then the answer is definitely not! However, if it's doing last Saturday's blog (yes, I misssed writing it over the weekend), then it is better to get it done than just leave it out. You'd be surprised just who may be following your little missives! Today - Monday 06/18 - I'm off to New Zealand for my youngest daughter's wedding. Yet here I sit, all dressed up and nowhere to go, in Sacramento airport waiting for the plane which should have left 10 minutes ago to arrive from Las Vegas. Still they say 7.00pm we'll be airborne to LAX which will still get me there on time for the connection to NZ. Better late than never can apply to your website too. Whether it's getting one, redesigning an existing one,...

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How to fail in business

Those who fail to plan... ...plan to fail. I've heard that ever since I started school...errr... a number of years ago! And, I suspect, it's even older than that. I couldn't find out the bibliography for it, but it's actually irrelevant. The fact is if you don't have a destination (a plan) any road will get you there. Men have a justifiably bad reputation of refusing to ask for directions when driving (I have been there so many times!), but so many business owners approach growing their businesses in the same haphazard way (ummm, you DO want your business to grow, right?) That's your first goal - decide the ultimate end for your business. The Ray Kroc's, Bill Gates's and Steve Jobs's of the business world didn't wake up one morning and decide to build a one shop, small business. The visionaries were just that - visionaries where the end result...

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What to expect from your SEO

To begin with, as we have had in our contracts since we began, SEO is not a science, but an art (or words to that effect). There are definitely known factors which influence ranking - the <Title> tag, <H1> tag (and through H6), bolding text, keywords in the first sentence and a bunch of others.  That's on-page SEO and it's somewhat quantifiable.  I say somewhat, because, with Google, the goal posts are continually moving.  Content "above the fold" is a hot change this year. Many sites have rightly recognised this as prime advertising real estate and jammed it full of ads.  Google says, "No, our surfer came to learn about <search phrase>, why should they be assaulted with ads?"  So these sites have received a penalty. Off-page SEO is as fluid as on-page. Link farms and link sites were hit hard this year. The traditional reign of back links has been...

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Good passwords, bad passwords

Or, how to be safe on the Internet Doing what I do, I come across all manner of passwords from clients.  Some are good passwords, and some are bad passwords - some are SERIOUSLY bad passwords.  There are lots of articles around the 'net telling you what you should and shouldn't use.  For me, what you shouldn't use is a complete no-brainer and takes one sentence, not a whole article.  If you can type it into Google and find it on the 'net DON'T use it!  It's that simple.  So, that includes the really dumb ones like your name, your spouse's name or your kid's or pet's name.  1-2-3-4-5, password, admin or any other password shipped with your equipment.  For bad passwords, that's it. What is a much better question is, what is a good password?  Another simple answer, one YOU didn't come up with!  It's hard for a human to...

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Is FB advertising dead

Was it ever alive?  I think we can easily answer, "Yes" to the second question.  But why would I ever even consider it is dead?  Recent changes by FB have annoyed many users (and undoubtedly pleased others) myself included.  I like to think I'm pretty tech savvy, but I just don't get FB's new "timeline" layout.  IMHO, they've taken something good and fixed it to broken.  If users are unhappy, you can bet advertisers are hearing the fallout. This week, car giant GM pulled $10 million in ads from Facebook.  Just a few days later FB was valued at $106 billion - now $10 mil seems pretty inconsequntial.  However, if one giant has seen fit to do this, you can bet others are looking hard at FB's ad model.  Interestingly, GM issued a statement on it's corporate FB pages that hey are still on FB, "like" alll their fans back, and...

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Google algo changes change SEO

In the first 4 months of this year, Google has rolled out a number of algorithm changes which has changed the face of SEO.  Not that this is new to any of us in the industry - just another frustration to deal with and adjust to.  But, like other major updates, it has changed the way of SEO - again. What color is your SEO's hat? Various forms of SEO are referred to by different colored hats.  While I've seen up to 5 or 6 colors described, there are, in my mind, really just 2 - white and black.  I guess you can argue that, if you do a bit of both then you're doing grey hat, however, the possible outcome of you bit of black hat work will result in the same penalties, maybe just a little slower. White hat SEO Ethical, by-the-book (the book is written by Google -...

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Under construction 3

Here's the final part of clueless mistakes that I see around the web, and are, generally, committed by "professional" designers who should know better. "Last updated <years ago!>" and out of date content.  Google (and you can bet the others are close behind) is now weighting search results in favor of fresh content according to one of the latest updates.  That means website owners need to be even more vigilant in adding new content, and this makes blogging (points a finger at myself!) something we all need to be doing with even greater frequency. "Last updated..." There's nothing wrong with this in itself.  I regularly use it on pages where there is time sensitive material, for example, pricing pages.  Visitors like to know that content displayed on a pricing page is current, and they won't rush to buy the latest blue widget for $9.95 with "FREE shipping", only to find that...

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"Under construction" and other clueless mistakes – Part 2

The last post looked at one of my favorite bugbears, "Under Construction" pages.  This week, we look at senseless navigation. Senseless navigation What do I mean by senseless navigation?  Well, it comes mainly in 2 categories in my opinion. Illogical menu selectionsPages too deep Illogical menu selections I have seen some very confusing sites in my surfing.  Under "Illogical menu selections" I lump non-standard approaches to content presentation.  Where do most people expect to find phone numbers, email address, and physical addresses?  Either in the footer or on a page accessed by choosing "Contact" or "Contact us".  Now some may argue that putting it under "About" or "About us" makes perfect sense and I sympathise with them.  To a point.  Yes, contact information IS "about the company", but that is not where it has been displayed for years.  And why make visitors scroll past all your self-serving back-slapping to get to...

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