We recently sponsored a new website called PrintReady.co. This site is dedicated to the people working in the printing and graphics communication industries. News, tips and great information is offered in blog format. They cover printing tips, industry news, technology, and web marketing advice for everyone printing especially entrepreneurs. Take a look!
Everyone has a blog these days and its for good reason. Blogs allow you to constantly grow your website and are great for attracting new AND repeat traffic. You absolutely must embrace your blog. If you don’t have the time to blog, then pass on the task to a capable and knowledgeable employee.
46. Blog ALOT - Be sure you a blog located on your domain. Blog all the time (at least three times a week). Talk about everything going on in your business. We blog about any fun facts about our company, unique print projects, new products or anything interesting about us. This will help you grow your website with content rich information. In most cases, try and stay within the parameters of your website. If you’re a small printing company, you may not want to blog about movies. Blogging is spider bait and search engines love updated content.
47. Use your keywords - Be sure to use keywords used by the industry in your blogs. Link to your own pages when possible.
48. Tag everything- Be sure to utilize tags while blogging. Each page should be tagged with essential keywords for that post.
49. Blog elsewhere - Visit other sites like your own and get involved on their blog. I am weakest at this, but it could lead to great sources of traffic and links.
50. Keep Linking - In each post, try to link to other pages on your site. This helps spiders travel and search engines see more important keywords.
51. Link to other blogs - Other bloggers stay tuned to other blogs linking to them. Try to link to others relevant to your specialty or business.
52. Blogrolls - Blogrolls are a list of blogs that an author endorses. Outgoing links you promote can be advantageous
53. Try Tumblr - This is a neat blogging system and can be tied in with Wordpress.
54. Try Blogger - Sign up for Google’s Blogger. If you are using Wordpress, tie them together with a plugin.
55. Try Wordpress.com - You should ties your blog to wordpress.com or just use wordpress.com. Wordpress is using tags to do more with the all the content published on its platform like. Check our foodpress.com, the first of many expected Wordpress projects that could lead to incoming links.
56. Friendly Links - Each blogging system has methods allowing you to incorporate search engine friendly links. (ex: cheap-posters.html) Before blogging begins, be sure your post links are set up properly.
57. Welcome comments - Comments can create interesting dialogue full of rich content. Just be careful of spam. There should be some kind of spam control for your blogging system.
Blogging will play a vital role in keeping your customers updated, adding good content to your website and participating in social networking, which is our next web marketing topic.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be play an essential role in any real web promotion strategy. However, don’t go overboard with it. The major search engines are quite sophisticated and use numerous methods of determining ranking scores. However, if you don’t optimize, the search engines may have a tough time understanding what keywords are relevant to your website. (unless you have mad incoming links)
20. Get organized - Each of your products or services should have a page that targets certain keywords, but don’t attack this blindly. This will lead to keyword stuffing and a disorganized website. As a cheap printing company, we have separate pages that target “cheap poster printing” or “cheap flyer printing” because our overall business is related to “cheap printing” but we have separate products like “posters” and “flyers.” We don’t have a single page that only targets “cheap printing” since that is not specific enough. Some people ask us why we didn’t select “inexpensive poster printing” because “inexpensive’ has a less degrading connotation. The answer is clear: it isn’t what people are searching. Check what people are searching for.
21. Each page of your website should target different keywords. On every page, you should consider the following items in your HTML.
22. Title tags - Utilize title tags on each page. Keep your title tags clean, short and concise. No keyword stuffing. Each web page should be different. More and more companies are using their title tags effectively.
23. Your keyword should be in at least every other paragraph. - There are certain densities, but don’t worry about all that.
24. Italics Tags- One time per page for each keyword.
25. Bold Tags - One time per page.
26. Header tags - Your keyword for each page should be in an h1 tag.
27. Meta Description Tag - Even nowadays, you should not ignore the description tag. Your keyword should be in the meta description tag least once and no more than twice. Keep the description short and sweet.
28. No Meta Keywords - Don’t bother. But if you decide to, only one to three keywords. Smaller engines may still use this tag, but the main engine pretty much ignore this tag most likely due to webmaster or SEO company abuse.
29. Clean Code - Yes, we already mentioned clean code in Part 2, but it is an integral aspect of optimization. If you are using jumbled and cluttered code, it could lead to spiders not…uh spidering…your site completely.
30. Validated Code - If your website is validated, then the spiders can probably crawl it well, and the code is probably clean too. I mentioned this in Part 2 as well, but it is also an essential step in optimization. Not all search engine optimizers will agree with this, but why not strive to implement proper coding techniques?
31. Easy-To-Follow Links - The pages on your website should have links like “cheap-poster-printing.html” not “results.php?id=12.” This is very important. The link should also match the main or “optimized” keyword for that page.
32. Don’t overdue it - Don’t underestimate the power of optimization, but don’t overestimate it either. Good content is way more powerful than optimization. Your content is likely to be keyword rich.
33. Alt tags - Images have alt tags that are used to explain what the picture is. Put your keyword in one or two of these on the page while still using the tag for its original purpose. Do not jam keywords. Keyword jamming is an old technique that I see much less of these days.
34. Link Title tags - Besides the aforementioned title tag, links and images can also have title tags. Be sure you use them in your main links and images using your keyword.
36. Less Flash - Flash has always been an issue concerning SEO, and it has gotten better, but I still stay away from it. Think more HTML5 and CSS. This is debatable by many. Just ask Steve Jobs at Apple what he thinks. Not that this has anything to do with SEO…or does it? Also note that Google has embraced Adobe Flash with its Android operating system.
37. SEO is forever - You should improve or add pages to your site on a continuous basis. You will probably not initially create a super optimized website that rakes in traffic at launch.
38. Submit to DMOZ - Be sure to submit your website to the ODP (open directory project.) It may take quite a few submissions. In fact, as of 10/20/2010, PrintKEG has yet to be added to DMOZ despite two submittals.
39. No Frames or I-Frames - Stay away because they are not crawled by search engine spiders.
40. 100 Link Rule - Stay under 100 links on any one page. Anything over 100 is most likely not crawled from that page. I try to say under 50.
41. HTML Sitemap - Be sure that you have a nice sitemap that is useful to customers. Its basically an index of your website. First, it helps users find the information they are looking for and it helps search engine spiders find all of your pages.
42. 404 Page - Be sure to put a site map on your 404 page.
43. Optimized Incoming Links - If another website links to you, ask them to use your keyword rather than your business name.
44. Optimized Outgoing Links - Link to another site if it is relevant to your post or page but be somewhat stingy and make sure the link is optimized with a title tag.
45. Keyword in your paragraphs - Almost forgot, your keyword should be included once in your first and second paragraph. I don’t always do this, but I am mindful while creating content.
There is more SEO, but I think you’ll be ahead of the game if you follow the aforementioned optimization techniques on each page of your website.
In Web Marketing Tips Part 1 - Domain, I identified concerns with the domain name and hosting. Before going into more specific web promotion strategies, we should outline a few general rules and practices for the overall search engine friendliness of your website.
GENERAL WEBSITE TECHNIQUES
9. Good content on all pages - Each of the pages on your website should be useful and necessary information. A couple lines and mostly images on each page is not going to get the job done. Three paragraphs on each page minimum. Good content could also lead to others linking to your website. Try not to have the same boring information others may already be providing. You may be better off linking to those sites unless you have valuable or original insight.
10. Original Content - Do not copy content from another website. Create original content for all of your pages. This requires a lot of work and thinking on your part, but it will be worth it. First, search engines will not reject it and users will find your site more unique and return. Don’t worry about adding all of your original content right away, but remain determined to add content on a daily basis.
11. Functionality - Sites require more than simple content nowadays. Surveys, commenting, pricing, blogging, sharing etc. is an important facet of your website. If you are building a content driven site, I recommend using a platform such as Wordpress so you can easily add some cool functionality to your website or be willing to hire a programmer. If you do hire a programmer, be sure to have a very specific plan of what you are looking for.
12. Incoming Links - you need others to link to your website. This is the foundation of Pagerank with Google. At first, ask your friends, business partners and family with websites and blogs to link to you. Be sure they implement your main keyword in the link code somehow.
13. Specialize in your keywords - Try not to enter the market using general keywords like “printing.” We selected terms like “cheap poster printing.” or “short run printing company.” A local printing company may target “Beaufort SC print company” instead of just “print company.” This will make your life easier and helps customers find exactly what they are looking for. It will also be greatly helpful and save you money with paid online advertising.
14. No duplicate pages - bad idea, the engines hate it and your doing an injustice to the internet. Do not create 1000 pages with only one keyword that is different. Does this work? I know people that do it and it works for them, but I refuse to take part. In some cases, you may make some slight variances to make sure your page works well with online ads, but this is different and we talk more about this late.
15. Update your content frequently - We all fall victim to pages staying static for a long time, but try to make come sections dynamic. Search engines don’t necessarily dislike old content (how many sites have you found with content years old?) but they do like fresh content better.
16. Tracking - You should be tracking your website. The best free tracking system I know of is Google Analytics. There are other more powerful tracking systems out there that require paid subscriptions.
17. Validated Code - If your website is validated, then the spiders can probably crawl it well, and the code is probably clean too. Also, a validated site is less likely to crash and be more accessible to many browsers and it makes sense that search engines would consider this. You can see that PrintKEG is validated by checking it on W3C.org, which is the World Wide Web Consortium.
18. Clean Code - Make sure the developers you select are conscious about their coding. This is helpful for a variety of reasons, but don’t trade less code for functionality. The meat of your website is the content so keep the website template’s code minimal. If your developer is concerned about validated code, then they are probably using clean code.
19. Cross Browser Compatibility - Take extra steps in ensuring your website looks and acts as intended on each browser. IE (Internet Explorer) 6-9 still dominate the browser market with just under 50% of all users (it used to be MUCH higher) The other half consists mostly of Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. You should also check ebooks and the Ipad. There’s no point in promoting yourself all over the web if 27% of users think your website is broken.
I thought it essential to discuss these general guidelines before going into search engine optimization, which will be Web Marketing Tips - Part 3 - Search Engine Optimization.
Like many small businesses, we market ourselves and heavily rely on sales originating from search engines. As a search engine services provider, I have learned to implement specific strategies that have always worked well for me through the years. These skills have been one of a few major reasons for our success as an online printing company. Originally, I intended to write an article something like “100 web marketing tips,” however, breaking it down seems more practical. Hopefully, other small businesses will find these tips useful, and I recommend implementing only those that make sense.
None of these online marketing tips are a “silver bullet” but every item offers a way to “boost” your online presence, and more importantly, increase your search engine rankings.
1. Register your website for at least 5 years - Normally I recommend ten. This shows the search engines you plan on sticking around. Most people register for only one year, and it is a fantastic way for search engines to weed through likely spam sites. On Whois.net, you will see that PrintKEG.com does not expire for another eight years.
2. Reliable Host - Where you host your website matters. Choosing a host can be difficult, so make sure your hosting company is reputable. Be sure your web hosting company has reliable up time and is not blacklisted. Blacklisted websites can cause you all sorts of problems.
3. Remember, age matters - The older your domain name is, the better. Someone who has had their website up and running for ten years has an advantage, but don’t worry it can be overcome. It is unlikely your website will qualify for high rankings your first six months. We started from scratch with PrintKEG.com.
4. Stick with your brand - Many people try to stuff keywords in the domain name. It isn’t necessary so stick with your brand or business name. If your keyword is in the domain, that’s fine too. Some search engine optimizers still like keywords in the domain, but I don’t care. If the keyword is already in your company name, then its a plus.
5. Domain Suffixes - I have always read that .com and .org are the best to use for optimization purposes but have found little evidence of this. Use what best fits your company. Recently, I had a customer come up with a great name using the .info (freeclemson.info). I have worked with many businesses using .net and .biz and it seems to make little difference in rankings. It may be a little difficult if you choose a .jp or .fr if you’re targeting North American customers only. A new trend is people choosing Libya suffixes (.ly), but I am still unsure what I think about that.
6. Don’t change domains - Unless you are seriously reworking branding, do not change your domain name. There are instances where you absolutely may have to, but try to avoid.
7. The Big Three - At this time, I recommend only registering your new domain name through Godaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com or Register.com. I have my reasons, and others may dispute this. My business partner actually searches and find discounts online before registering. Godaddy always has an available discount coupon somewhere online.
8. Make sure you own the website - Register the domain name yourself and make sure the company name is somewhere. Also, log in to your registrar’s control panel and fill out all administrative, billing and technical information.
Part 2 of “Web Marketing Tips” will discuss general website practices essential in improving your ability to promote online.
It wasn’t easy for us. It took about two years to take our local, and failing, print shop and convert it into an online printing company. Besides the usual obstacles like poor cash flow, we faced tough decisions about where our company should go. We were also unsure if we could compete since the online printing market is so flooded. But now, we are almost 100% online and are generating more revenue than ever before. We made tons of mistakes along the way and are still fighting ourselves out of some accumulated debt; however, I think we made more good decisions than bad and that might be worth sharing.
THE GOOD DECISIONS
Take it slow - If you offer many products, don’t let your business’s complexities overwhelm you. Start with your best products and go from there. This will ensure your shopping cart will take less time to build and be a less expensive initial investment.
Keep it simple - Try to make every single action your customer makes easy and quick. Simplify everything. Continue to improve the overall easiness of using your website.
You need two or three niches - The online market is tough. Two or three things need to stick out about you. This is a general business essential, and it took me a long time to figure out. Be cheaper than the rest, offer free shipping when others don’t in your market, throw in something free with the deal (that is spectacular), or anything else. We are dedicated to being the cheapest, specialized in short runs only, and we have an unmatched 100% guarantee. Being cheap and having a guarantee may seem like a no brainer until you have to put your money where your mouth is, and we do.
Be yourself - If you’re fun, be fun. If you’re weird, be weird. If you are small, let people know you’re small. My greatest mistake when starting a print company was trying to be like the other guys and looking ultra professional. Many people thought our original company, IDM Print, was a national chain, but that didn’t make them loyal. Now, I focus more on efficiency, pricing and customer happiness rather than my attire. That has lead to a larger customer base than ever before. Be sure your company pages (about us, our values etc.) reflect you.
Stay efficient - Get rid of any services or products that you hate offering, loses money or is inefficient. This may take time. For instance, we were losing money on blueprint copying and it was terribly inefficient for us to provide since we had old equipment, the markup wasn’t that great, and the clients took too long to serve. We knew one year ago that we would probably have to eliminate the service, but it required some transitional time. In fact, blueprints was our largest income source, and now we don’t provide it at all. In the end, eliminating such services/products helps you better serve your best products.
Only offer the best - As a small print shop, we used to offer a variety of papers, sizes, finishing options and anything else that generated revenue. We cut that out. We only offer products we know we do well and fits into our daily workflow. Additionally, we handpicked papers and sizes that are most common so customers rely on our recommendations rather than making demands. More importantly, we only add new products that fit in.
Advertise online - Seriously, I have little faith in most conventional advertising medias. We do very little print ads, only participate in one phone book (that will be zero next year), no memberships, nothing. The only print ad we have done lately is in a local newspaper thanking customers for making us Beaufort’s #1 Print Company and winning the Reader’s Choice Award. I’m not saying abandon your current advertising strategies, just try not to treat online advertising as a second thought. I have met many business owners willing to spend thousands a month on TV ads, but only a couple hundred dollars on Google.
Surround yourself with good people - This is the toughest one of them all. Every staff member we have has potential. Our cutting specialist has a psychology degree, our production manager has a business degree and our graphic designer has a marketing degree. Don’t be scared to mix it up. Surround yourselves with people that care. Sure, everyone in our office has their weaknesses, but they all care about the company because they are helping build it.
A FEW MORE ITEMS
Social Networking - Many customers use a social networking site, and you should embrace it. I mean really embrace it. Be willing to spend time on this and gain prospects you could never have reached before. Also, its today’s e-letters and could be better than any mailing list.
Hire a photographer - I have been to so many sites that use the worst pictures. Get your people and products organized and hire a photographer. If you can barely afford one (we couldn’t) then only take pictures of the most important items. I see so many websites with expensive products, but have the worst photographs. We mix our own pictures with professional ones to keep within our budget.
Get into video - We are just finally doing this. Yeah, we’re about five years late, but its a good thing that many companies in the printing field have not really grasped it either. That will not last long.
Mailing list - Seriously, if you don’t have a mailing list or offer a newsletter signup on your website, you should stop reading now and get it done. We reach thousands of current customers each month this way.
Go mobile - read more about why your business should go mobile.
I will be writing more tips and expanding on some of the above topics in the future.
The competition with online printing companies is fierce. There is a tremendous amount of technology being used to attract consumers like online designers, cool API’s, mobile friendly sites, iphone apps and more. Like any small company, we wrestle with which technologies will provide the biggest ROI. We probably should have had a mobile site running years ago, but we finally made it a priority since smart phone have become so powerful.
Honestly, even as developers, we were skeptical. There were two major factors why we hadn’t yet implemented a mobile website before a few months ago. One, we were unsure if our customers would even bother using phones to search our product. Two, we doubted consumers would follow through with purchasing so why bother?
But now, smart phones are better and more popular than ever and users are utilizing mobile devices for daily activities including m-commerce (purchases completed through a mobile device). Mashable.com reports that worldwide mobile payments in 2009 were USD 68.7 billion and is expected to grow an astounding 800% in the next four years. Think of it this way, years ago people scoffed at what-is-now typical e-commerce. Do you really want to be one of those guys the second time around?
Not to mention, Facebook and other social networks seem to have changed the way we act with our phones tunneling a new level of comfort on portable devices.
If you decide to go mobile, here are some tips we considered with PrintKEG.
1. Use a separate mobile site. This could be debated, but I recommend creating a separate mobile site. If you make a site that is focused on mobile users, then the result will be better. Users with 4″ screens on cell service are far different than those with 25″ screen and mega-bandwith. If you do not have a site at all, then creating a smart CSS driven site could kill two birds with one stone. Talk to your developer.
Don’t agree with me? Consider this: I wouldn’t use a tri-fold brochure design for my business card or scrape the audio from a television commercial and use it as a radio ad. They are different mediums and should be respected as so.
2. Your mobile site should be functional. Static sites are boring especially on mobile sites. On PrintKEG’s mobile site, people can get prices, order prints and track orders. However, if you can only afford a static site, it is still a good start.
3. Mobile payment method. If you use a third party for credit card transactions, be sure they have a mobile version. We know Paypal offers mobile solutions. This ensures paying is easy for the customer.
4. Keep it simple. This is good advice for any site, but your mobile site should be down to the nuts and bolts. You have less room to work with and need to make sure your customer understands what she is supposed to do.
6. Don’t force your Ipad customers to use a mobile site. I love my Ipad and commonly curse sites that force me to a mobile site. If your normal website doesn’t work well on the Ipad, I recommend starting over or fixing any issues.
7. Once your mobile site is ready, you may attract new customers. We never ran our Google ads for mobile searches simply because our site looked like doo on smart phones. But now, we can accommodate mobile-using prospects while paying less per click since there is less competition on the mobile arena. I don’t know how long that will last, but I like it mucho grande.
8. If you use a content managers (like Wordpress) then you’re in luck. There are plugins that automatically convert your blog for mobile visitors. WPtouch would be one example. This may not work well if you have many customized pages.
We hope you enjoyed this article and look forward to any comments or advice you may like to add. Take a look at our mobile site.