Category Archives: How to

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 Eliminate Spam from WordPress?

eliminate-spam-from-wordpress-blogSpam has overtaken the world, one form, one registration one email at a time. In reality, spam is actually losing the war against those who appose it, but their gorilla efforts still continue. The key is to understand what tools are at your disposal to eliminate spam from your WordPress blog.

If you are anything like me, you despise spam or anything that remotely resembles spam. In my effort to remove it, I will go to great lengths to report a spam email, website or comment on my blogs. As a hosting provider Net Solutions and ProFusion Products also go to great lengths to ensure our clients email is relatively undisturbed by email spam.

That being said, some spam still gets through, and one place I notice a lot of consumers complaining about spam is from their WordPress blog. Most of these claims are due to a lake of education on what can be done to avoid spam on a blog. Once your blog is properly configured you can eliminate spam registrations and comments completely. However, this is done at a cost.

Before we can eliminate spam from your blog, let us first look at the source of spam, and then we can evaluate how to remove it.

  1. The primary source of spam is via comments to your blog posts. Spammers have built automated routines to scour the internet looking for the specific code related to a WordPress comment box. The spam routine then auto-submits a comment typically with a link back to the spam website. Ultimately spam bots go through this effort, to try and generate traffic or links to their parent website.
  2. The other source of spam submissions is during the registration process. Depending on how your blog is configured you may require visitors to register before they can comment on your blog, or before they can become a member. This form can also be discovered by Spam routines, and the spammer can then become a member of your blog.

Both of the above scenarios trigger an email to be sent to the blog administrator indicating a comment has been submitted or a user has registered. Often times the submission is composed of complete gibberish, making the administrator leery that something has gone wrong with the application. In reality, nothing is wrong, the spam routine simply enters gibberish in an effort to see if the submission process works. Often once they know it works, they will return with a second spam bot to complete the process more professionally with more detailed information.

WordPress Blog LogoNow that we understand how spam is caused on a WordPress blog, let us look at what the built in options are for eliminating spam.

  • From the admin panel of your blog, if you go to Settings and then General, you will see a list of options. One of the options is “Membership” with a check box for “Anyone Can Register” by checking this box you allow spam bots and regular users to register on your website.
  • From the admin panel of your blog, if you go to Settings and then Discussion, you will find numerous options that control the hoops people need to jump through to comment on your blog. If you want to lock down the site so no one can comment simply uncheck the box for “Allow people to post comments on new articles”
  • Another option in that same section of the admin panel, is a combination of the two items above. The first option would be to not allow anyone to register, and then in the second screen select “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” This way you can control who can add comments. Now, if you have someone you want to allow to add comments, simply login to the admin panel and add them as a user. This allows you specific control over who can comment on your blog.
  • There are numerous other variations that you can control from the settings > discussion admin section of your blog. Try using them to see if you can configure your blog to meet your website visitors needs while reducing the volume of spam.

Now the important piece to understand when making the adjustments above, is the configurations that eliminate spam also eliminate the ability for your average website visitor to make a comment. So if you want visitors to your website to be able to add comments, then you need to be aware that spam submissions will also come along as an unintended consequence. If you do not want visitors to comment, then you may as well lock it down so that spam bots cannot complete the forms either.

Another option that is available, for the more advanced user of WordPress is to look into third party tools that allow you to add CAPTCHA code to your website. CAPTCHA may mean something to you when you think about that funky security code you have to complete when submitting for something online.
Example CAPTCHA CodeYou can see an example CAPTCHA code in the image to the right.

CAPTCHA is great, because spam bots typically cannot complete it, while your average website visitor can complete the CAPTCHA code. That being said, not everyone is average, nor is CAPTCHA code created equal. Some people simply find CAPTCHA too difficult and quit as soon as they see it, others try to complete it but fail a couple times and then quit. So adding CAPTCHA can lead to a decrease in user comments and registrations.

If you are interested in adding CAPTCHA code to your blog, you need to find a 3rd party plug-in for WordPress or build your own. Keep in mind that each of these plug-ins are developed by a 3rd party, and not supported by WordPress, Net Solutions or ProFusion Products. If you elect to add this code to your site, you are responsible for the outcome, and any support would be provided by the inventor of the 3rd party code.

Two very popular CAPTCHA code options are listed here, with links to the download page where you can acquire the software. If you need help installing the code, or configuring the options please contact your system administrator or website hosting company.

  1. SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam – This is what we use on the Snoitulous Ten blog
  2. Simple CAPTCHA This one is also popular on the internet

Best of luck to you in your effort to eliminate spam!

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.

Find the Perfect Domain Name for Search Engine Optimization

How to find the perfect domain name for SEO

Selecting a domain name is one of the most important pieces of building a website, yet most people skip right over it selecting their business name, or the first domain that comes along. While that method can be successful, taking a few minutes to do some research can go a long way towards finding the perfect domain name for your website. By following the steps below, you will find a great domain name, but also a domain name that can actually generate results in the search engines.

Follow the steps below to get the ideal domain name for your business and for search engine optimization.

  1. Consider someone who is searching for your business or service via a search engine. What words are they most likely to use to find you? For the sake of this exercise, assume they do not know your business name.
  2. Take that keyword/phrase and type it into Google’s Free Keyword tool, and allow synonyms which are a checkbox below where you type in your keyword. Now click the “Get keyword ideas” button.
  3. Once the results are generated, scroll down and use the download all keywords via CSV (for excel) option.
  4. Open the results, and sort by “Global Monthly Search Volume” to get the keywords with the largest search results at the top.
  5. Once this is sorted, copy all the values in the keywords column that have at least 200 global searches.
  6. Paste the results into Notepad, and do a find/replace for spaces. Remove all the spaces in between the keywords. For example, if you had the keyword “big blue widgets” once the space removal is done it would look like “bigbluewidgets”
  7. Now go to Go Daddy’s Bulk Registration Tool, and enter the phrases you have remaining.
  8. I would recommend you select only .com domains as options. However, .net would also be an acceptable option. Now click the search button.
  9. Go Daddy will produce a bunch of errors at the top for any domain that is already taken. If you scroll down, what will be left in the input box are the remaining domains that are available.
  10. I copy and paste this list into excel or notepad for easy comparison. If you find a domain name that works for you then go ahead and purchase it. If you find more than one option that works for your business, go back to the list Google generated and select the one that has the highest global search volume.
  11. Happy hunting! We look forward to seeing your business at the top of the search engine rankings.

Using Twitter and Facebook Icons in my Email Signature

Update: Here’s a link to a handy video Patrice made showing how to do this in Outlook: http://www.viddler.com/explore/ProFusionDemos/videos/16/ Net Solutions Facebook Page

I frequently get asked how to put the little Twitter and Facebook icons into an email signature with links back to their respective accounts. If you are using Outlook 2007, here are some basic instructions for how you can add these icons to your signature.

 

 

  1. Open Outlook
  2. Click on Tools
  3. Click on Options
  4. From the tabs, click on “Mail Format”
  5. Click on Signatures
  6. Click on the New Button
  7. Give your signature a name (Company name will do)
  8. Then in the Edit Signature section, type out everything you want included in the signature. My signature has my name, title, logo, address, phone, email, web address and Twitter/Facebook icons.
  9. To add the images to your signature (we have attached the Facebook/Twitter icons to this post for you to save and use in your own signature) click on the “picture” icon (which is the 2nd icon from the right)
  10. After you click on Picture, a browse wizard will pop-up and will allow you to browse your hard drive and add your twitter/Facebook icons to the signature.
  11. Once you have the images in the signature, click on one of the images to highlight it. Then click on the “hyperlink” button (it should be the last button on the right)
  12. In the address field at the bottom of the hyperlink window, type in your Twitter or Facebook address (depending on which image you are linking)
  13. Click ok
  14. Repeat that until you have all your images linked to the right web addresses.

It takes a few steps to get all the icons loaded in the way you want, however, not having to type in your signature each and every time will save you lots of time and save your recipients time if they are trying to look up your contact information. Promoting your Facebook Fan Page or Twitter Account in a signature is a great way to get your Social Media efforts in front of everyone that you touch base with via email. Net Solutions Twitter PageThese icons can also be added to your website. Just reduce the size to 30 pixels x 30 pixels and then add them to any page on your site. We added them to the vertical column section on the Net Solutions site. If you are using the ProFusion Ultra Internet Solution as your website provider, you can see how to do this by watching our Introductory Webinar. Click to Download Social Media Icons If you’d like to host the twitter and facebook icons on our blog and link them into your site, use the URLs in below in your signature: Twitter: https://www.snoitulosten.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/twitter-small.jpg Facebook: https://www.snoitulosten.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/facebook-small.jpg Here is the corresponding video to this instruction set:

How To Use The Project Management System

Last week I discussed Communication, Why is it so hard? ; we analyzed a few very important items that all of your PMS posts should include. This week we are going to look into enhancing your PMS posts to emphasize important features.

Net Solutions North America makes every effort to allow you contact with our Developers and Graphic Artists. This allows you greater control and input in the Website Design and Creation.

Providing unedited & unapproved control to our clients is a double edged sword. While it is quick and efficient to get changes made to your site, it also has the potential to overwhelm our lead developers with hundreds of emails every day. With that in mind I have created a few tips and tricks to organizing your posts more effectively to produce a more readable post.

Below is a summary of my favorite tips and tricks. You can use these symbols around your word/sentences to add emphasis to the post.

Here are a few more tips/tricks to enhance your posts:
1. When creating a new thread there is a link: “Message body: (Show extended message body)” below the Title and the Category. By clicking on this link you are able to create a two part post. The upper section should be a summary of what you require, the lower section can then be used to cut and paste an email correspondence, or a summary of an IM thread, or other information that should be posted for reference but does not necessarily require the reader to process immediately.

2. On the right hand side of the PMS, is a link to “formatting guide” this will change the layout of the PMS screen to show formatting guidelines for your PMS post. This can be used as a reminder of what you can do to enhance your posts.

3. Stay current on your projects status by subscribing to the project RSS feed. If you go to the overview section of the project. In the upper right hand corner is a link to the personal RSS feed for this project.

4. Change the color of the text in your post. Do this by starting your sentence with “%{color:red}”then place your text here and finish with a “%” symbol.
Example: %{color:red}Blog’s are Wonderful!%

Remember, not every post needs to be bold and colored red, but the occasional word or sentence will add emphasis to what you are trying to accomplish.

Tune in Next Week for Shane’s Update on Organic Search Engine Optimization

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

Branding with Employee Images

Most companies choose to introduce themselves and their employees through their Website on the About Us Page. This page is typically used to help visitors get to know the business they are visiting and the people who represent it a little better.

Pictures of employees can help visitors connect with the business more quickly; it makes the website seem a bit more personal and warm. An employee’s photo with a friendly smile can tell a visitor a lot about a person that the bio can’t and can help build rapport.

Photos of employees and owners help tell the world the company message and promote the company brand, whether fun-loving and professional such as
http://www.netsolutionsna.com/content/company/team.asp
or strictly professional: http://www.itssimplyplaced.com/content/about_/the_team.asp

A website works as part of your company’s brand which is a permanent voice or message that your company communicates to the public. A brand rarely changes – it should always be consistent, clear and personable. Using a Website as a portion of your company’s brand and people will come to know, trust and visit your site because of who your company is.
Branding isn’t just promotional because no matter what the trend is at the time your brand should always be the same, just as your attitude towards your potential customers will always be the same.
A website has one hurdle to overcome when a visitor enters – it has to show the brand and the personality of the business in the virtual world. This can be done by building a Website that is clean, clear, concise and most importantly personable.
Photos of employees on the Website can also help the visitor connect with employees they may talk to later – they will feel that they know the employee and feel they have something in common. People will deal with a company or individual that they like and can identify with.
Customers will come back because they like the brand; they like what is being put out to the world and in most cases photos on the Website of people who work for the company help create a relationship with these people.
There are a few instances when photos of employees are not placed on the Website. Companies who deal with sensitive issues and policies may not want to show the employee photos in order to protect them from the public that may disagree with the company’s stand.
In this case the brand will stay consistent and clear by telling the world the message in a confidential manner. This will display a strictly professional image and create a brand identity of a different manner.
No matter what type of brand you attempt to display to the world, personable and warm, or confidential and strict it is important to always remain consistent and concise in your message. Whether or not employee photos are placed on the Website or left off helps to deliver that message.

What makes a great email signature?


Email signatures are a direct representation of both you and your company. If you are a loose light hearted company it may be best to reflect that with an image or a funny quote. However, most businesses reside in the realm of relaxed professional; as such we have the following guidelines for your signatures. Continue reading

Creating Effective Contact Us Pages

Creating a contact us page is essential when building an online presence through a website or a blog. It tends to be the page on your website with the least content, but is one of the most highly visited by your clients. Internet users have become accustomed to looking for a contact us page when searching for contact details like a phone number or address. Many website owners don’t give a second thought to the contact us page after it’s built. We ask you to give your contact us page a second glance with these best practices in mind.

What should I include on my contact us page?

General Contact Details

Telephone Number – Individuals often inquire as to how many phone numbers or what type of phone numbers should be included on the contact us page. Certainly the main office number and the fax number should be included. Beyond that additional numbers should be provided only if someone is available to answer them during the normal business hours.

Physical Address – Many businesses have moved to only providing an email and phone number as a source of contact, especially if they don’t have a physical office the client can visit. However, by providing an address you provide them the assurance you are local.

Email – In today’s modern world you need a contact email address. Even better it should be a domain name specific email address. For example, if your website is located at www.domain.com, your email address should be shane@domain.com rather than shane@yahoo.com or lovebug@yahoo.com. By having your email address as a hot link (changing shane@domain.com with mailto:shane@domain.com) clicking on the link opens the user’s email system with the To: line filled in with your email address. This helps avoid typos and other mistakes by the user.

Web Form – The downside of providing the email address is an increase in spam as your website gets more traffic. One way to avoid spam is to have a contact us web form rather than an email address. You can have CAPTCHA code [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captcha ] in order to prevent spam submissions to the form. Or you can place a web form as well other contact details in the contact us page like http://www.netsolutionsna.com/content/contact_us/contact_us.asp

Additional Details

Include a Photo – Include a photo of your brick and mortar building/office. If you don’t have a brick and mortar store, include a photo of your employees dressed in a manner that reflects the style of your company. If you are financial planners then a photo in professional attire, if you are a 70’s disco bar then break out the beads and platform shoes.

Staff Contact Details (optional) – For some smaller businesses, you can place the contact details for each of your primary employees on the contact us page. If you have more than 7-10 employees, consider a separate page for staff contact details.

Map – Google has made it very easy to link your clients directly to a map of your business and the surrounding area. Map Quest and others have made providing directions to your business even easier. The day and age of written instructions are long past, give the clients a direct link to an interactive map.

Final Thoughts

A contact us page will be visited by a large majority of your website users. Search engines love contact us information because it is usually current, and very relevant to the consumer. If you can make your contact us page simple and easy to use your clients will find it extremely valuable. So take your time, less is more, work to build the most effective contact us page you can find.