Tag Archives: How to

The C.R.A.P. Principles

C.R.A.P. (terrible name, infinitely useful) is an initialism which stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The term was coined by Robin Williams (author of The Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice) and has become a basic principle of design. Utilizing the C.R.A.P. principles allows even the most inexperienced amateur designers to avoid the dreaded wall of text and instead create dynamic and attractive web content.

The basics of the C.R.A.P. principles are:

Contrast – Elements that aren’t supposed to be the same should be very different. Making the only slightly different confuses the eye and causes the reader to see a relationship that doesn’t exist. Using differing elements on a page draws the eyes to appropriately grouped elements and allows for proper scanning.

Repetition – Continuing formatting and styles for the entire document to create and maintain a cohesive feel.

Alignment – Everything on the page needs to be visually connected to something else, nothing should be out of place or distinct from all other design elements. Clean lines create peace.

Proximity – Proximity creates related meaning: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate elements should have enough space in between to be easily distinguishable. Never underestimate the use of white space.

For more information and examples, visit:
http://www.webcredible.co.uk/blog/revive-the-crap-principles
http://thinkvitamin.com/design/how-crap-is-your-site-design/

Video Sitemaps

Videos and video content are one of the most popular rich media formats in the web world. If you are not getting the traffic that you would like to for your videos, the search engines are probably ignoring your video content. There are millions and millions of videos on the web already.  So how do you get yours to get indexed in video searches?

Similar to XML Sitemaps,  a video sitemap gives the search engines, specifically Google, more information about the video content in your web pages. By submitting this video-specific sitemap in addition to your standard XML Sitemaps, you can specify all the video files in your web pages, along with relevant metadata – information about your videos. Your video sitemap will need to include the following minimum information for each video: title, description, playpage URL, thumbnail URL and the raw video URL or URL to Flash video player. Without these five pieces of information, Google cannot surface your videos in results.

Guidelines for Video Sitemaps

  • A Video Sitemap should contain only URLs that refer to video content. Video content includes web pages which embed video, URLs to players for video, or the URLs of raw video content hosted on your site.
  • Create one video:video entry for each video. If you have multiple videos embedded on the same HTML page, use separate <video:video> entries for them with different <video:player_loc> or provide <video:content_loc> information. It’s fine to have duplicate videos in your Sitemap, but it is recommend that you don’t host the same video at two different URLs.
  • You must include either the <video:player_loc> or <video:content_loc> tag, or both. Google needs this information to verify that there is actually a live video on your landing page. Note that for Flash objects pointed to by <video:content_loc>, it’s okay for different video pages to use the same Flash player, provided each page uses Flash parameters as a mechanism to show unique videos.
  • Each Sitemap file that you provide must have no more than 50,000 video items. If you have more than 50,000 videos, you can submit multiple Sitemaps and a Sitemap index file. Video Sitemaps does not support nesting.
  • Google can crawl the following video file types: mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .ra, .ram, .rm, .flv, .swf. All files must be accessible via HTTP. Metafiles that require a download of the source via streaming protocols are not supported. 
  • Make sure that your robots.txt file isn’t blocking any of the URLs included in the Sitemap.
  • Google web crawlers will verify that the information you include in the <video:title> and <video:description> fields matches your live site. You should view your play pages in a text-only browser such as Lynx, or a more conventional browser where you’ve confirmed that Flash and JavaScript are enabled.
  • If you have multiple websites, you can simplify the process of creating and submitting Sitemaps by creating one or more Sitemaps that includes URLs for all your verified sites, and saving the Sitemap(s) to a single location. All websites must be verified in Google webmaster Tools.

You can either hand code the video sitemap or use free Google Sitemap Generator Tools  to create the video sitemap. Once you have created your video Sitemap, you can submit it to Google using Webmaster Tools.

  1.  Log into Google webmaster tools with your Google Account.
  2.  Click ‘Add a Sitemap’ next to your site.
  3.  Select ‘Video Sitemap’.
  4.  Put in the URL of your Video Sitemap. (Be sure to include http://)
  5.  Click ‘Add Video Sitemap’.
  6.  Wait for the ‘Pending’ status to change to ‘OK’. This may be several hours so don’t worry.

If you receive an error take a look at the descriptions. Not all of the errors will stop the processing of your Video Sitemap and may only be informational as in an unrecognized tag due to a typo, etc. 

That’s it. You’re done. You now have successfully added a Video Sitemap to your site and Google should start indexing all of the included video content.

Tips for a successful trade show

The very words Trade Show make some small business owners shudder. A Trade Show can take a lot of time and most of the time that’s something a small business owner just doesn’t have. With some careful planning however, a trade show can not only be fun they can be profitable as well.

Here are 10 tips we’ve picked up from attending a lot of shows, not only as vendors but participants as well. They may be basic but the best tips usually are pretty basic.

1. Set clear goals of what you want to achieve at the show. Do you expect to sell products, launch a new product or promotion, or possibly meet suppliers? You can set more than one goal but be clear and focused on what your participation will involve. In our business (selling web solutions) we don’t expect to sell a site on the spot. What we do look for is hot leads. At each trade show we attempt to identify 3 – 5 hot leads. We do this by gathering business cards from participants. When someone hands me their card, I quickly look for a web address. I then ask them one of two simple questions. If they don’t have a site listed on their card, I ask why? If they do have a site listed on their card, I ask them how happy they are with the performance of their website. Based on their response, I quickly note on the back of their card how “hot” they are. If they expressed some sort of displeasure or unsatisfaction with their website, I mark them as “hot” and follow up with them right after the show is over.

2. Find out everything you can about your space in advance. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to a show only to find that your booth is too big or too small to fit the space. Finding out the location of your booth in advance prevents you lugging around boxes and products in search of the right spot. Finding out everything that is included (table, table cloth, electricity, etc) in advance is a big time and headache saver.

3. Have everything you need, like extension cords; tape etc with you when you arrive to set up your booth. It prevents last minute searching for items needed to set up your booth which, if you’re in a strange town can quickly turn into a nightmare. We have a trade show box that stays with our booth that contains a hammer, thumb tacks, pens, rubber bands, notepads, band aids, extension cords, replacement light bulbs, tape, breath mints and much more in it. It has been used at every trade show we’ve been to and always comes in handy.

4. Make sure your display is appropriate for the group you are targeting. Who is your target market with your trade show display? Different audiences go to trade shows differently and have different needs.

5. Advertise in advance of the show. Let the public know that you are participating in a particular trade show. Invite your clients, customers, suppliers and be sure and give them your booth number. Advertise your attendance to the trade show on your website as well.

6. Stand out! Don’t just be another booth and vendor at the show – find something different and unique and use that to draw visitors to your booth. Arrange your booth strategically so that everything can be seen quickly by visitors. Put larger items in the rear and shorter items up front. A table runner on top of the table cloth is an effective way of making your table stand out. Be creative with your booth, include pictures if possible and be sure your company name and logo are more than obvious.

7. Should you give something away? Most people who attend trade shows are expecting some giveaways and food is always popular. Make sure you package your food in a way that allows you to have your company information on it. Gift Certificates for some of your services are another great Trade Show giveaway – there’s nothing better than getting a deal on your services. And when they redeem their certificate, they will learn how great your services are and come back for more. Offer a drawing for a prize that complements your business and appeals to everyone. Have visitors and guests sign a guestbook, fill out a form or drop their business card in a bowl. You can then use this information later to make a follow up contact. We gave away a Wii last year at a trade show and we were one of the most popular booths at the event! We collected over 300 business cards and have closed 7 deals from that show alone.

8. Arrive early enough to the trade show and make sure everything is set up correctly and that everything works. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes – you’re going to be on your feet!

9. During the show, never turn your back to the crowd and don’t sit down unless you’re having a conversation with a guest and you both are sitting. Stand in front of your booth, if possible, saying “Hi” to those that turn and look toward your or your booth. Have your elevator speech ready. More importantly, is being ready to listen to what your guests have to say, you may learn a lot about them and be able to fill a need that they have.

10. A portfolio or display of your work should be on hand for visitors to see. A digital photo frame is an excellent way of showing your work or placing a Power Point® presentation on a laptop – your visitors will find this visually appealing and it will draw their attention. Offering a brochure with your best work for them to take with them will serve as a reminder once the show is over.

These 10 basic steps to Trade Show exhibiting will make your booth stand out, draw visitors so you can gather their contact information, save you time, money and stress. The most important thing about a trade show is to have fun!

How to convert any document to a PDF

For us PC users, there is no pre-loaded software application that allows us to turn any document into a PDF. I’ve heard that this is easy to do on a Mac, but have not verified it (any Mac users out there who wish to post the instructions here would be thanked profusely). The easiest application I have found to turn any document (Word Docs, Publisher files, PowerPoint Files, Images, etc.) into a PDF is a Free download call CutePDF. Once you have downloaded and installed CutePDF creating the document is pretty easy. Follow these steps:

1. Open the document that you want to turn into a PDF

2. Go to File > Print

3. From the printer drop down, instead of printing to your default printer, you will want to print to CutePDF instead.

4. Select where you want to save the PDF, name it and you are all done!

Adding a Favicon to your ProFusion Ultra IS

We frequently get asked how to add a Favicon (favorites icon) to the Ultra IS. Unfortunately, adding a Favicon is not somethng you can do directly from the application as it requires FTP access to the Root directory. If you send us your .ICO file via the support center we will place it for you. Your Favicon should be no larger than 16 x 16 pixels. You may want to check out the following link if you are unsure about how to create .ICO files: http://www.photoshopsupport.com/tutorials/jennifer/favicon.html

The Favicon appears as a mini-icon next to your web address in most browsers. It also appears next to the website name in your favorites list.

Finding the right images for your website or blog

Depending on the type of person you are, it is possible, you may find updating your website exciting or just part of the job. One thing that any style of person can agree on is finding images that match your written word can often be extremely difficult. As a matter of fact, finding the right image can often take exponentially longer than writing the content itself.

Lucky for all of us, there are numerous websites that make finding images just a little bit easier. When I am writing a blog post, I am often thinking about what type of images I can use to complete my exhaustive vocabulary (sarcasm), after all a picture is worth a 1000 words. After my text is complete, and I have considered what type of images I am looking for, I visit a few stock image websites that have plenty of royalty free images to choose from.

Below is my review of the Stock Image websites I use most often.

  1. Google Image Search – Rating 2 out of 5

    Google Images LogoThis is a quick hit or miss, there are often not a lot of images to choose from that you can manipulate for your website. For those of you familiar with Google’s Image Search you will know that with every search typically 1000’s of results are returned. However, just because an image displays does not mean you can use it. What you need to find are images that artists have indicated can be used for commercial reproduction and manipulation. In order to do this, you need to change your search filters to exclude images that you cannot use. To make this change you first conduct a Google Image search, and then click on “Advanced Search.” This will bring up a new page where you can define certain search parameters. One of the last options on the page is usage rights, I change this value to “labeled for commercial reuse with modification.” This indicates to Google that you only want images that you can manipulate and reuse on your website. Results of this type typically return less than 100 images. Sometimes you get lucky, most of the time you move onto the next option.

  2. iStockphoto – Rating 4.5 out of 5

    iStockphoto Account Sign UpThis is in my opinion the most cost affective, quality image search location on the web. Their photos are high quality, relevant and there is a large selection to choose from. Most images that you would use on a website or blog cost $1, if you are trying to use them for printing, they will run $5-$20 which are all very reasonable prices considering the other options available to you. iStockphoto also has a feature called “Lightboxes” which allow you to gather a group of images together, and then you can email them to other people for review. So often, when I am trying to narrow down to the final image to use on a website, I will create a Lightbox with a few images in it, and then email it to decision makes of the website. Allowing them to view the images, and voice their opinion on which images is the best.

    To create a Lightbox on iStockphoto.com is pretty easy, simply sign-up for an account via the link in the top right corner of the iStockphoto.com website. After your account is set-up, each image you search for will have an option to “Add to Lightbox” if you have not created a lightbox, or want to create a new one you will be prompted to do so.

  3. Big Stock – Rating 3.5 out of 5

    Stock Photos, Royalty Free Stock Photography, Photo SearchWhile Big Stock is not as popular as iStock or Google images, it still packs a powerful punch. The images are roughly the same price as iStock, and there is a little less variety, but overall it is a nice tertiary option when you cannot find the type of image you are looking for on the other two sites. One thing I notice about Big Stock is when you need a high quality image for printing you can get them a little cheaper at Big Stock. You need to purchase one of their larger credit packages to get the price lower, but when starting a business, $189 which gets you 140 credits goes a long way towards building out a quality website, along with a few print brochures.

By using the resources above you should be able to find the right image for each and everyone of your blog posts or website pages. Do not forget that a picture can tell a thousand words, so what are you missing out on by not including any images or the wrong image?

How to make Forum Avatars

Making an avatar for a forum, blog, or other application is actually a pretty easy process once you know the site requirements.

Basically, an avatar is a small image of you, or something representative of you. Often times people use avatars as an iconic representation of how they manifest themselves in reality. However, regardless of how you see yourself, often the forum or the environment will control what type of avatar is appropriate. If you are on a business forum, perhaps an image of yourself, or professional photo is appropriate, but if you are on a social forum a little more creativity would be acceptable.

Here are a few examples of avatars I found on the internet.

Fred Flinstone Avatar Smiling Man Avatar Blue Eye Avatar Animated Cat Avatar Animated Eye Avatar Help I'm On-Line and Can't Quit Avatar
Real Cartoon Characters Fantasy Cartoon Characters Provocative Image Avatar Funny Animated Gifs Strange Animated Gifs Text Based Avatar

As you can see there is a large variety of avatars you can use for your forum or blog image. The important point is to be creative, and do not take yourself to serious.

Once you find the image you want to use, the hardest part is getting it re-sized to the dimensions set by the website. Using an image resizing tool can easily help you do just that. I recommend the image resizer found on the ProFusion Products website as it makes life far easier to re-size your avatar image.

Common SEO Questions

SEO Frequently Asked QuestionsSearch Engine Optimization Experts can be like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. Scary until you find out who they are and what they can do for you. Below is a list of questions I am asked nearly every day by my cleints, hopefully this can answer a few of the questions you have regarding SEO.

  1. What does SEO stand for?
  2. SEO means different things to different people, but the acronym SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

  3. What is SEO?
  4. Defining SEO five years ago would have been a far easier task than it is today. Five years ago there was a relative road map for what SEO needed to be done to boost a website to the top rankings. Today, that road map is closer to a treasure map, where you have a giant X on where you want to go, but the process to get there is only marked with a few landmarks. Another way to look at SEO is, the art of doing anything and everything to build the relevance of a website in the Internet sphere, resulting in top rankings in the search engine result pages.

  5. How come my website is not ranked #1 in Google? or why can’t I find my website in Google search results?
  6. There are a couple hundred reasons why your website might not rank in the search engines, to answer for your specific website I would need to review it in detail. However, generally speaking:

    1. If you can find your website, but not in the top spots of Google then the likely result is not enough time/resources spent on SEO. Seek out an SEO expert that can guide you through the steps to achieve first page rankings.
    2. If you cannot find your website at all then the likely result is you have not spent any time on SEO. Start with the basics and validate your website with the major search engines, from there you will likely notice that you rank for some long tail keywords, before you start ranking for general keywords. Certainly an SEO expert would be a wise investment at this time.
  7. Why am I #1 all the time when I search but when my friends search for me they cannot find me?
  8. This is most likely the result of personalized search by Google. If you have this enabled, Google has learned what sites you prefer and shows those at the top of your results. Try signing out of Google in the top right corner before conducting a search. Also make sure that everyone is typing in the word the same way. You can get drastically different results searching for a word with or without quotes, or with minor spelling changes.

  9. With SEO, when will we see results?
  10. Unfortunately, the only way to answer this question is to say ‘It Depends’ That being said, if it depends, what are some of the factors that influence when my site will rank. Here are a few of my favorites.

    • How old is your website? Older sites (5+ years) tend to have seniority as an influence in their results, thus they tend to rank higher.
    • Does your website have relevant content for the words you are seeking to rank for? If your site only sells ‘red widgets’ and you are trying to rank for ‘blue widgets’ this is a lost cause. Try building valuable content specific to the keywords you are trying to rank for.
    • What is the competition level for your business? What word would you use to find your business, besides your business name, or website name. Take that word and type it into Google and search. Once the search is complete, look in the top right corner, the number that displays is the amount of competition for that keyword. Are there millions of web pages competing for that term or only a handful?
    • Last but not least is effort. Effort, like anything means the difference between the best in the world, and those that simply pick up the scraps. I meet with clients every day, and we spell out a road map to SEO success. Some clients leave everything to us, and we build and promote their website with great success. Other clients due to budget restraints or desire to prove they can do it, decide they want to help us in the SEO process. These same clients leave the office pumped up that they are going to do X, Y and Z to boost their rankings. Then 3 months down the road, not only have they not done X, Y and Z, they have lost the potential revenue that could have been generated by increased rankings as a result of X, Y and Z. End result, if you do not have the time, or knowledge to put into SEO, let a professional do it for you.
  11. What keywords should I use?
  12. I cannot overstate this enough to clients, the keywords you select have a direct impact on your rankings and on your website traffic. Let’s say for this example, we are a lawyer in San Diego, California specializing in DUI cases. What type of keywords would you select? If you are selecting global keywords like “DUI Lawyer” you are barking up the wrong tree. You need to narrow your focus to ensure that you can rank for the word, but also that the business you generate is valuable. Let’s say you put in a large amount of money into SEO that would be required so you could rank for “DUI Lawyer” Now that you rank well, when people in New York search for DUI Lawyer, they find your business. Is this good or bad? Bad would be the correct answer. What value are you to a client in New York if you cannot represent them? You are better off selecting better keywords in the beginning, and spending your money on keywords like “DUI Lawyer San Diego” which will take less time (read less money on SEO), and give you more relevant results specific to your business in your geographical location.

  13. Can my website rank for iPhones?
  14. Do you sell iPhones? Are you an Apple distributor? Do you support iPhones? Do you want to spend $50k every month on SEO? Those are just a few of the questions I would start off with. Just because something is popular, does not mean you can simply put up a website and start ranking for it. However, if you want to head down this road of selling or promoting popular products, the word you should Google is ‘Affiliate Marketing.’ Affiliate marketing allows you to promote other peoples products, and when they make a sale because of a lead you generated, then you get a kick back.

  15. Can we rank for every single keyword related to my business?
  16. The short answer is yes, but it is going to take time. Generally speaking, for every page on your website, if it has at least 750 words on it, you can use that page for 2-3 keywords. If the page has fewer than 750 words, then you need to scale back your expectations on the number of keywords you can rank for from that page. Beyond that it is pretty much simple math, if you want to rank for 300 keywords, then you need to start with 100 pages of unique content specific to the keywords you wish to rank for. While you are building the content, be sure to focus on SEO so you can ensure you pages pack a punch in the search engines. Learn more about How to write valuable content for your website.

  17. How much does SEO cost?
  18. Well, let me turn this question and ask you how much does a house cost? Before you could answer how much a house would cost you would need more information, the same is true for SEO. To carry the anology further, the questions you would want to know are what type of house do you want (products/services do you sell), what type of construction materials were used to build the house (how the website is coded), what city/state do you want to live in ( what is the competition level for your business) and finally how soon do you want to move in (how so do you need your website to rank ). Having those few items defined makes it is far easier to determine what type of SEO package you need for your website, along with what type of ongoing expense is needed to ensure you get top rankings.

  19. Why is SEO so expensive?
  20. For the same reason that cars and houses so expensive. As fundamental as it sounds is SEO takes lots of time, resources and work to build website rankings in search engines. Often clients spend a large portion of their budget building a website, getting the perfect design and layout, which is great but the end result is none of that effort actually brings in business or generates traffic. SEO on the other hand, while it can be expensive actually makes your business money and generates traffic. The expense of SEO and SEM is eventually out weighed by the profit it generates. The key thing to remember, is the first year of SEO can often be frustrating because you are not seeing the top rankings, you need to keep in mind that top rankings take time, so your investment like a house is long term.

  21. How long does it take to get indexed by Google?
  22. With a properly SEO’d website, Google and the other major search engines can index your website within days or weeks. However, without SEO your website may never rank.

  23. How do I submit my new site to Google/Bing/Yahoo etc.?
  24. In modern SEO times, we do not submit websites to the major search engines. Currently, rather than submitting a website, you need to create an account with the major search engines, then the search engines provide some verification files for you to upload to your website. Once you verify that you are the owner, you can also submit your XML sitemap giving the search engines a few clues on where your website pages are located. Learn how to use Google’s Free SEO tools.

  25. How do I submit to 1000 search engines at the same time?
  26. There are hundreds of companies on the web offering to do this service for a very few dollars. They have automated scripts that submit your site for you. Then end result is these companies are nothing but spam services, they know that you have no way to prove if they did or did not submit your websites. Also, even if they do submit your website their is no guarantee you will be listed. Your better off spending your time/money building valuable content, rather than trying to find a way to spam the search engines.

  27. Do I need an XML sitemap?
  28. Yes, XML sitemaps allow search engines to find the pages of your website. That being said, with a well constructed/SEO’d website the need for an XML sitemap becomes less and less.

  29. Do I need unique meta tags for my website?
  30. Just like chapters in a book, each page of your website should have a unique meta tag title and description. This information is reviewed by search engines, and display in their search engine result pages. Well written meta tags can help you rank for your chosen keywords, and ensure you get clicks once you rank for those keywords. Learn more about How to Build Meta Tags.

  31. Do I need a high PageRank for SEO?
  32. No, the little green bar that Google has in their tool bar is often out of date, and not an accurate representation of how your website should rank. Often websites have top rankings, but only a 1 or 2 for their page rank in the tool bar.

  33. What is linkbait?
  34. Linkbait is a method of building content for your website that entices users to link to it. One of the original forms of linkbait was free video games. Websites would build a fun, addictive little game for their website, and then people would link to it so their friends could also visit the pages to find the game. Linkbait has now evolved into everything from putting videos, promotions, valuable written content, etc on your website all in an effort to build links to particular pages on their website. This article itself is an example of link bait.

  35. I get asked this question in many forms, but the general message is the same.
  36. Can’t my niece, nephew, brother, sister-in-law, intern, friend of a friend, etc who is a graphic designer, web developer, computer programmer, Dreamweaver expert, etc do the SEO for my website?

    My guess is that person can also cook, but would they be in the kitchen of a fine dinning restaurant? There is a reason for using a professional for certain tasks, and SEO is no different. You would not want your brother to build you a house simply because he knows how to use a hammer. With SEO, unless you are constantly staying up with the trends, and changes in the industry, having someone other than a professional perform SEO services is asking for trouble.

  37. Why should I outsource my SEO?
  38. Unless you have a competent in house SEO, your better off using a company that can give your SEO campaign the attention it deserves. You most likely contracted to have your website built by someone other than an employee of your company. SEO should be no different. Just because you read a few stories on the internet about SEO, does not mean you are qualified to manage the SEO campaign for your business. Remember, SEO is one of the few online tools that actually generate business, just like sales staff you don’t want just anyone trying to make or break your businesses success, you want the right person for the job.

  39. Is SEO designed for search engines not humans?
  40. Some people assume that SEO is designed to ‘game’ the system so that your website can outrank the competition. It is actually just the opposite, search engines give you good rankings when you give consumers good information, resources, tools, products, services, etc. If you build for the consumer, the search engines will come.

  41. Is buying links, hidden text, IP delivery etc. black hat SEO?
  42. Those are a few of the ‘black hat’ SEO techniques that have been used by some SEO companies. Depending on the degree and frequency you use them will determine the affect on your website ranking. My suggestion is to avoid them all together. If you cheat on a test you may not get caught today, but eventually it will catch up to you.

  43. Is black hat SEO legal?
  44. No one is in jail because they used ‘black hat’ SEO. At the same time, the sites that have been caught no longer display in the search engine rankings. So ask yourself how important short term gains are from using ‘black hat’ methods, compared to the long term success of your business.

  45. Does the size of your website matter?
  46. Yes, to some degree it does but not as much as it used to. Years ago, websites that had over 100 pages tended to rank better than websites with less than 100. In modern SEO, the quality of your content has more of a reflection on your rankings than does the quantity of the pages on your website.

Do you still have more questions regarding SEO? Add them to the comment section below, who knows you question may be added to the SEO FAQ!

Best Practices for Email Marketing

With the New Year comes new marketing strategies. If you are considering starting up an email marketing campaign, you’ll want to follow the 7 rules below to make sure that you are CAN-SPAM compliant.

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

ProFusion Mailer

Using a newsletter management tool, like the ProFusion Mailer, makes these 7 items very simple as they are handled automatically. Having used the ProFusion Mailer to send out thousands of emails for hundreds of clients, we have come up with a best practices list of our own.

  1. It’s all relative – while at lunch the other day, we were talking about how inundated our inboxes have been lately with email marketing campaigns. Our CFO questioned if email campaigns were still effective. The short answer is yes, they are if they are done properly. I get 20 – 30 unsolicited emails daily from marketers that purchased my email address off of some list. All of these get filed in the trash can. However, if my veterinarian were to start sending out a monthly newsletter about dog health, I would probably read that one. I have a dog, and this is of interest to me. If the email is about a product or service that I have used in the past or have elected to receive information about, I am 10 times more likely to read, and forward that email on.
  2. Don’t make me hunt for the good information – emails that scroll on for days and days get sent right to the trash file too. I am way more inclined to read the high level points in a newsletter, and if something interests me, I will click on the article to read more. Don’t force me to read it all in my inbox.
  3. Your newsletter should not just be a jpg – we’ve all seen the email newsletters that are just a giant jpg. To me this is lazy. Take the time to recreate the email into a HTML format (using the ProFusion Mailer, makes this easy), with actual links and text.
  4. Don’t have all the links in your newsletter go to your homepage – by all means, have a link to your website homepage in your newsletter. A signature at the bottom is a great place for this. However, if you have a teaser headline and a link to read more, the link should take me directly to the article.
  5. Give me an offer – I am giving you my precious time by even reading your newsletter. The least you can do is give me an offer at the end of the newsletter. It doesn’t have to be a coupon. But give me a reason to want to read them again, to visit your site, to call you, to give you more love.
  6. I’d love to add to this list. So if you have any pet peeves or great ideas for email marketing, feel free to leave a comment here.

Google Base – How to Use Google Base

Last month we reviewed three free features of Google: site submission, sitemap and maps. These are all essential to anyone interested in getting indexed by Google and more importantly found by potential clients.

This month we are going to look at another free feature of Google called Google Base

As described by Google:

“Google Base is a place where you can easily submit all types of online and offline content, which we’ll make searchable on Google (if your content isn’t online yet, we’ll put it there). You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they do related searches.”

Google Base is a must have for any eCommerce website, but is also very valuable for any service related business as well. The first step is to create an account with Google Base, if you created an account with Google last month to submit your site, sitemap and maps you can use the same account this month.

The next step is to select a category for your products to be added to or you can create a new category. I would suggest for your first use to select an existing category. Following the category selection you will need to provide details regarding your item, from the title through the overall description. Google also allows you to upload a photo, and provide basic contact information.

The final step is to indicate the how long this item will be valid for, the maximum is 30days. The nice part about the expiration is once your ad expires, Google sends you an email asking you if you want to renew it. With a simple click of a button the ad renews for another 30days. Your ads are editable at any time, simply log in and edit your ad. Google Base also allows you to control a few options under the settings tab that will assist you in providing your potential client more information about your company (URL, Email, and description).

Google base is a great way to enhance an existing business, promote a seasonal item, or reach a new market. Once you get comfortable adding a few items, you will find more and more reasons to add Google Base ads for more then just products and services.

Stay tuned next month when we discuss the advantages of Google Adwords