Sunday, December 12, 2010

You have heard of a '404-Error' before?

If you visit a page of a website that has been moved, deleted or renamed, or if you typed in part of the address wrong yourself or even clicked on a broken link, you’ll see an error telling you that there’s no page at that address. The technical name for this is a ‘404’ error - Page Not Found, and they’re very important to handle correctly.

When your website doesn’t have its own custom 404 error page, website users will see the hosting company's default error screen which isn't all that useful, and starts to create a sense of frustration for website visitors, and in many cases becomes the point of abandonment for the user leaving your website. Once we've driven traffic to a website we certainly don't want to see the user leave without spending time on your site!

It's actually possible to customise your 404 error pages that website visitors will see on your website. This allows you to make the page look exactly like any other page of your website maintaining your branding and professional appearance along with access to your site's navigation menu, but at the same time displaying a clear message to your visitors telling them that the page they were looking for has not been found. A simple example is: “Sorry, it looks like we couldn’t find the page you were looking for”. I also recommend the inclusion of a simple on-page site map or search box, so that the user can quickly locate the area or page of the website that they want to go to and you direct them along their way. Talk to your website designer about any options that they may be able to provide for you in this regards.

Remember that this is the first page a user may see of your website and it’s an error page. They might assume the entire site is down, where actually the only problem is that a page has been renamed.

Some websites even use the 404 page as another place to push their products onto visitors. “We couldn’t find the page you were looking for… so why not have a look at these other items instead…”

I've even seen a few funny customised 404 error messages from companies used to generate 'viral' marketing, and encourage discussion about their company online such as the following:

Every website hosting operating system, and development application has a different manner in which they can implement customised 404 Error Pages, and some are definitely more complex then others. If you think having one sounds like a good idea than I encourage you to shoot through an email to your website designer to see if they can offer you this feature.

If you want any further details on this process and how to implement, or suggestions please let me know.

Website Validation Check... is there a noise coming from your engine?

If you are a business website owner and would be interested in receiving a detailed website validation check of the front page of your website drop me an email to  

Bit like a car that may gradually, or even suddenly, start to make an unusual noise from underneath the hood you have choices...
- keep driving and hope for the best
- pop the hood and take a look around yourself
- or head over to your trusted mechanic and get it sorted

At we regularly provide ongoing reports, and expand upon our initial website SEO audit where we outline any concerns that may exist under the hood of your website, particularly when it comes to the performance of your website both for the user experience and the performance and interaction of Search Engines across your website.

I continue to noticed in my role of performing reviews across websites that many clients have invalid websites that do not conform to web standards and meet the necessary quality checks applied.

The following short and simple reference is provided to explain in depth why it is beneficial to validate your website, and answer some of the common misconceptions around this:

Having a website that has errors or even warnings can be hazardous to its performance.

Just like when you drive behind another car that has a broken brake light, you the web site owner are not always aware of the problem because it seems to just work for you... but this may not be the same experience for everyone else on the internet. Which is why website validation checks exist to help find problems and provide an opportunity to fix them once and for all.

I typically find if a problem exists on the front page of your website then it carries through the rest of the website. This is NOT the time for you to learn html so don't panic! The validation reports that we provide include a summary of concerns. This will provide an outline to what is not 100% correct for your web site. The top section actually shows the code of your website along with comments amongst this code where problems exist.

We can then work with your in-house design and development team, or external web agency on resolving these problems. Our aim is for a perfect health score on the test, but even a reduction in the number of errors and warnings I will consider a win! And you will have a win too. By providing a website without errors will make for a better user experience and a much happier search bot with more opportunity of actually crawling through your entire website to find all your great content and getting this included within the Search Engine Results.

If you don't currently have a website designer available to assist you, or need a helping hand please let us know as our in-house design and development team Star3Media can provide support.

It really is the little things that can make your website stand out...

Whilst performing a lot of website reviews recently, I have noticed that many website owners are not taking advantage of a simple and important web design feature known as the favicon. The favicon (abbreviation for favourite icon), is a visual representation of your business, and is normally the logo of your business.

So where is the favicon seen?

When users bookmark or save your website to their favourites apart from the title of the website being stored as a link, the favicon image appears next to your link in the users browser. If they also put your website in to their links bar within the browser or drag the favourite to their desktop for easy access, this favicon is used as the icon representing your business website. As well, quite simply, every time a user goes to your website they will see your logo in the url bar of the browser where you type the web address in – AND when they use tabbed browsing, the favicon is next to the website name on each tab…

So as you can see this simple, effective, visual reminder, really helps your website stand out of the crowd, and should encourage users to come back and revisit your site.

Some search engines actually check to see if your website has a favicon, and may use this as part of their ranking algorithm as they determine how professional your website is, which could help to determine whether your website should appear above another. So when they check, and they don’t find one in the default location it may also trigger unnecessary 404 Errors (Page not Found) which we would like to avoid.

Now that you can see how important it is to have this little thing in place, how do you get one?

If you already have a website designer please contact them directly and request them to get this implemented for your website, creating the icon logo, locating this on the server, and ensuring it is in the default location and each page of your site has the necessary meta tag pointing to it indicating that it now exists.

If you need assistance getting this done for you let me know as own internal design/development team Star3Media can assist. This will provide your own customised favicon created and implemented properly across your site.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Competitive Intelligence For Brand Protection

Protecting your brand online is an ongoing activity. It requires hard work and due diligence. One area of concern is when others bid on your brand, or use your brand name in their ads. The current understanding of Google's policy is that it's OK to bid on a competitive brand name, but it is not OK to use in your ad. Yahoo's policy appears to be a bit stricter, and does allow for the possibility of prohibiting the bidding on a trademarked term.
Finding out who is bidding on your brand may not be hard. You can go to the search engine, type your brand name in, and then see who shows up. This, of course, assumes that they are not geo-targeting their bid to only show up in certain areas (and perhaps not the area you are checking from). This is one of the areas where tools like Hitwise and comScore are useful, as they avoid these types of issues.
It's also interesting to see just how important brand name bidding is to a competitor's business:
You can see from this table that Smart Fares receives 4.78% of it's traffic from the Orbitz brand name. A deeper look shows that brand name bidding is a fundamental part of their business model:
Acting on Infringement
Direct bidding on your brand is not really something you can prevent. However, if your competitor takes the next step and starts using your brand in their ad text, that's another matter. The search engines do provide a way to address that. You can use the following links to find the Google Trademark Complaint Policy and the Yahoo Trademark Complaint Policy. Google also provides an Trademark Complaint Form.
Most of the information you need to provide in the Google complaint form is pretty basic. However, if your trademark is registered, you will need to have the application or registration number which they can use for verification. You can also apply even if all you are doing is claiming use rights. However, this is a bit more difficult to prove, so be prepared for a longer wait on resolution.
Trademarks can also be on a word, design, or both. These are equally protectable. The Google form accommodates up to 10 trademarks, but Google also provides a way to submit more than 10.
Yahoo does not provide a form, but does provide an email address or a mailing address for sending in your complaint. They request information on the search term for which the complaint is related, the trademark info (much the same as Google), registration information if your trademark is registered, any evidence of consumer confusion (hmm - that Hitwise data looks pretty good for providing that), and any information on communications you have had with the advertiser.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but don't go down this path unless you really have a legitimate trademark to protect. Also, this is not an overnight process. It can take several months for you to get resolution. Just be patient. It is well worth it.