Archive for the ‘What Is…’ Category

What Is RSS and How Does It Get Readers to My Blog?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The firs and possibly most important step in promoting your blog is having an RSS feed. RSS, which stands  for “really simple syndication,” enables people who want to read your blog in the future to be notified when your blog has a new blog post.

 

When new blog owners find out that RSS is a tool for broadcasting their blog posts across the internet, they get  excited. They think it’s the equivalent of standing on the roof of the tallest building and yelling through a bull horn. They think everybody in hearing distance is getting their message. When it comes to RSS, just because you’re broadcasting doesn’t mean people are receiving your blog posts.

 

Your Blog “Radio Station”

How RSS works on your blogThink of your blog like a radio station. Radio stations send out content via the airwaves . Your blog works the same way.  Each time you publish a new blog post it’s like another radio wave going out into the world. But just because radio waves are out there, doesn’t mean people can hear them. Fortunately, radio waves roll right past us if we’re not tuned into them. Imagine how crazy making that would be if you heard every radio wave out there!

 

In order for listeners to hear what your radio station is broadcasting, they need 2 things. They need a radio AND their radio needs to be tuned to your station. Your blog works the same way.

 

Your Blog “Radio”

In the case of your blog, the “radio” takes one of 2 forms:

How RSS WorksBlog Reader

A blog reader is a place where you can collect all the blogs you want to keep track of. There are many free blog readers out there (Google reader is the most popular) and they work similarly to your email program. You have the equivalent of an inbox where you can view the blogs you’ve subscribed to.

Email
People can also have your latest blog posts show up in their email inbox. This is a good option for you the blog owner because it doesn’t require the subscriber to remember to check their blog reader. Your blog posts show up in their inbox as if they were a regular email.

 

 

Tuning into Your “Signal”

While having a blog reader or email is the equivalent of a radio, subscribing to your feed constitutes tuning into your blog. To sign up for an RSS feed, look for an orange button with a dot and 2 curved lines. It should roughly look like a signal going out. When you click on that button, another page appears with either the raw feed (looks like a bunch of code) or a web page with options for signing up.

 

How Do I Add an RSS Feed Signup to my Website or Blog?

If you know how to do it, RSS sign up capabilities is not difficult and doesn’t take much time. However, unless you’re willing to learn a bit about coding websites, I recommend asking your web designer to add it for you. I’ll give you a quick overview of the process so you know what’s involved.

 

Feedburner is the easiest and most commonly used  tool for adding RSS feed sign up capabilities to your blog.

  1. First, you  need to create a Feedburner account.  but since Feedburner is owned by Google, if you have a Google account that will get you in.
  2. Follow the steps to create the feed URL. It’s easy!
  3. Then add an RSS sign up image to your site and link it to your feed’s URL.

 

That’s it! Now people can sign up for your blog.

 

You’re paying attention to your Analytics, right?

One of the reasons why I like Feedburner is that you can login and see how many people subscribe to your blog and where they found your blog. It’s a valuable metric and helps you not feel like you’re talking to yourself. Put it on your calendar to login in at least once a month and check your progress. When you know how many subscribers you had last month, it motivates you to have more subscribers next month.

 

RSS feeds are a valuable marketing tool. In a future blog post I’ll talk about other uses of RSS for building an online audience.

 

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What Are Meta Tags and How Do They Work?

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Search engines are in the business of giving searchers what they are looking for, so they are always looking for information that describes what every page on your website is about. You can help the search engines by using meta tags.

Meta tags are snippets of code in the source code of a web page that give the search engines information about that web page. While a person viewing the web page doesn’t see them, the search engines do. There are about a dozen different meta tags but two are most important for our purposes: the Title tag and the Description tag. Their names pretty much tell you what they do. The Title tag is the title of the page and the Description tag is a brief description of what that page is about.

 

How Meta Tags Help

The search engines will rank your web pages for the words in your Title tag. How high the search engines place your web pages in the search results depends on whether you’re doing other things right and how many other sites are competing for those same key phrases. While the search engines don’t use the Description tag as a factor in your rankings, the Description tag is still very important. The Description tag should “make the sale by enticing the searcher to click on your listing in the search results as opposed to your competitors.

You might have heard that you should use the Keyword meta tag too, but don’t bother. In the early days of the internet the Keyword meta tag was a list of words to help the search engines understand what the web page was about. But search engines don’t give any importance to the keyword meta tag any more. Frankly, all it does is tell your competitors what you’re trying to rank for and possibly give them ideas for key phrases they should try to rank for too.

Meta tags are REALLY important! In fact, I’ve had more than one client’s site get on the first page of the search results just by adding or changing meta tags. Even sites programmed in search engine un-friendly languages like Flash can see rankings improve by adding meta tags.

 

Meta Tags at Work

Meta Tags in the Search Results

You can see the Title and Description tags at work by doing a simple web search. Here is the first search result when I type “growing dahlias” into Google.

Meta tags in the search engines.

 

The Title tag of the page is the first line of text that is blue and underlined. In this case, the title tag is “Planting, Growing and Caring for Dahlias.” The words “growing” and “dahlias” are bold because they were words used in the search. If the search term had been “caring for dahlias,” those words would have been in bold instead.

The next 2 lines of text are the Description tag. In this case the description is “A guide to the care and cultivation of Dahlia plants, with tips on planting, digging and winter storing.”

 

Meta Tags on Your Website

The following is the source code of the webpage. The Title tag is outlined in red and the Description tag is outlined in blue.

Meta tags in the source code.

 

Besides helping your website rank better for your key phrases, well written meta tags ideally make the searcher click on your listing instead of your competitor’s. If your web page doesn’t have meta tags, the search engines pull a snippet of text from the page and display that instead. There’s no guarantee they will use text that works to your advantage. So, I strongly recommend you check your meta tags and make sure each page has a unique title and description tag. If not, write them and have your programmer add them. It shouldn’t cost very much to add them and they’re definitely worth the return on investment.

Click here for a PDF version of “What Are Meta Tags and How Do They Work?

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FAQ: What’s the Difference Between a Home Page and a Landing Page?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

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A home page is the page people land on when they go to your main URL such as www.yourdomain.com. A landing page is the page people land on when they click on the link in an online advertisement and the URL is something like www.yourdomain.com/landingpage1.html. While your home page is the same regardless of how people find it, you can have multiple landing pages crafted for specific purposes or target markets. When running an Adwords campaign, it is highly recommended that you point searchers to custom landing pages instead of your home page. Doing so will increase your sales and reduce your Adwords expenses.

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