Monday, June 29, 2009

Meta Description – What It Is and Optimization

Using this websites meta description as an example, a meta description tag looks like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”Free Wordpress themes, Blogger themes, templates, designs & SEO basics.”>

*To view the meta description tag of a site, go to your browser toolbar or right-click anywhere on your page and choose ‘view source’. It will be in the first few lines of code.*

Optimize your META Description Tag

Optimize these tags for the Search Engines to ensure that your site has a better opportunity to rank highly for the words that you’d expect your potential target market to use in their query.

Your meta description tag describes the content of your website & pages. Search engine software scans the web to detect relevant content for search queries. These are better known as search engine robots or ‘bots’.

They gather information from various parts of your website, when indexing your pages. The meta description tag is a primary hot spot for bot love.

As you learn SEO, you learn to optimize at every opportunity, no stone left unturned.

Together with the site’s optimized visible content, the optimized meta description tag provides the information needed to match your target market’s search queries and is visible to readers beneath results.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heres a list of all the SEO blogs , I read everyday.

--> join this webcast!

The Truth About Mobile Analytics

Perhaps the only thing hotter than social media right now is mobile. And with good reason — smartphones like the iPhone and Palm Pre are taking our ability to get information to entirely new levels and ushering in an era of “digital ubiquity” that is clearly without precedent. Unsurprisingly business is responding by actively exploring how they can participate in the mobile opportunity, either by optimizing their site for small screens or going so far as to build cool, new iPhone applications to support long-standing offline initiatives.

Fortunately most business owners have learned from past mistakes and are showing interest in measuring the effect of their investment into mobile. But measuring mobile isn’t easy — the sheer diversity of technologies involved and the rapid evolution of the industry has created a monsterous landscape of devices, communication protocols, and requirements.

As a result dozens of companies have sprung up, all making claim to a unique ability to measure the mobile opportunity. Unfortunately some of these companies have decided that relying on hype, hyperbole, and sometimes outright lies are a better sales strategy than building a great product with a unique value proposition. We have seen CEOs bash other CEOs, sales people obfuscate their identity and try and provide “objective” answers, and antics that can only be described as “juvenile.”

Because the mobile opportunity is so great Web Analytics Demystified started taking a closer look at measurement earlier this year. I was fortunate enough to be able to rely on the expertise of folks like Michiel Berger and Thomas Pottjegort at Nedstat, the mobile team at NBC, dozens of analytics end-users, and some of the brightest product managers in the analytics sector tasked with integrating mobile into existing digital measurement offerings.

What I found was a series of surprising truths about how mobile analytics is evolving. Nedstat was kind enough to sponsor this research — and clear disclosure: Nedstat has been measuring and integrating mobile data into their web analytics offerings for years — and I am happy to announce the availablity of this research in a new white paper titled “The Truth about Mobile Analytics.”

You can download this paper from the Nedstat web site for free (but they do ask your name, email, and company name):


We are also holding a special webcast on the subject on June 23rd at 10 AM Central European Time (CET) which is unfortunately quite late in the evening for those of us in the U.S. but quite well timed for Nedstat’s customers. I suspect the webcast will either be repeated or rebroadcast at a later date and time.


I encourage everyone to download the paper and give it a read, regardless of your position on mobile and mobile analytics today.

Viral Marketing Campaigns, Important Elements to Consider to Enhance Campaign Effectiveness

Viral Marketing Effectiveness, Important Elements to ConsiderViral Marketing is a hot topic, especially since the web is an incredible catalyst for getting the word out about something. Depending on your business, viral marketing can be a powerful way to drive exposure, traffic, and sales. You can get your brand in front of thousands of people in a relatively short amount of time. By the way, I’m not referring to organic Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) or Buzz Marketing. If you want to get technical, I’m referring to Amplified WOM, or an online marketing campaign with a goal of taking your message viral, spreading it across the web like wildfire, exposing your brand on a grand level, and hopefully turning it into revenue down the line. Don't worry, I explain a few examples below. You don’t have to be a large company to utilize viral marketing. You just need to be creative and develop ideas that leverage the viral nature of the web to achieve your goals… Let’s take a look at what I believe to be some important elements to consider while developing your viral marketing campaign.

Concept Development, Make Sure It’s Fun, Memorable, and That It Has a Hook
During your brainstorming, if you read a concept and remotely think it won’t be fun, inspiring, or intriguing enough, then throw the idea away. The bar is constantly being raised, so you need to ensure people will want to take part. If it just sounds ok, then it’s probably worse. If you get goosebumps while reading it, then you’re on to something. I use this test often while mapping out creative strategies….if it doesn’t give me chills while reading it, then it’s not good enough, period.

Here’s an interesting example of a viral campaign: Weight Watchers recently hired FaintStarlite, a popular video blogger to help promote their "Stop Dieting, Start Living" campaign. There’s a myspace page for the campaign and FaintStarlite vlogs away… She is asking others to post about their diet experiences, their Weight Watchers journey, and talks about her own experiences. Right now, her WW myspace page has over 6300 friends and 430 comments. Reading through the comments, you can see the campaign seems to be resonating. Women (and some men) are talking about dieting, when they joined Weight Watchers, laughing about the craziest diets they have tried, etc. This is a good example of tailoring the campaign to your target audience. Actually, I'd love to hear from FaintStarlite about how the campaign is going from her perspective.

Another good example was the Hammer and Coop viral campaign by Mini Cooper. I won’t go into all the details, but it has ultra-high production value, it's extremely funny, and I spent 15-20 minutes there before I even realized it! Good concept, excellent creative, and got me talking about the campaign…

A Common Question I Hear:
“How controversial or extreme should we make our viral marketing campaign?” I’m a big fan of humor. It’s a great way to generate a viral effect. Think of the CareerBuilder monkey tv commercials, which spurred the CareerBuilder viral campaign "Monkey Mail". It’s a serious subject (your career), but they really took a light angle by using the monkeys… If you can weave humor into a sound marketing concept for your viral campaign, then you are off to a great start. I’m not saying that controversial campaigns don’t generate buzz…but at what price? And by the way, you can shock people with humor and not leave them writhing in their seats… Another option is taking real world experiences and using them as the basis for your campaign. Let your actual customers talk… Let the true stories of helping customers resonate with your target audience. It’s not funny or shocking, but depending on your customer stories, it could generate a lot of viral activity.

Interactivity, Participation and User Generated Content (UGC)
Don’t create a 30 second spot…please. Sure, you might get some views on YouTube, but I firmly believe you need to have people interact with your campaign (and that’s not sitting and watching a 2 minute video). I think it’s a great idea to have video as part of the campaign, but not part of a one way viewing experience. There are so many ways to have people take part in your campaign, especially with web-based campaigns. For example, let’s say you are a clothing retailer and you’re launching a new line of jeans. As part of your campaign, run a contest letting customers create their own commercial for your jeans and give them some creative assets to start with. Maybe your logo, a few snapshots of models wearing the jeans, some music you have licensed for the campaign, and a few video clips from your stores. As participants create their commercials, have them upload the final video to your site, along with supporting commentary (what inspired their idea, their bios, who helped with the production, what their acceptance speech would be if their commercial won an award, etc.) Then have visitors vote on the winners… The winner gets a $2000 shopping spree on the website. It’s a great way to have people interacting with your brand, product, etc. And since they have created intriguing content for your site that others are voting for, your brand and product are now being viewed by more and more people…and maybe on other sites like YouTube, Google Video, etc. Think interactively….and not old-school television.

Giveaways, Grand Prizes, and Runners Up
If you choose to launch a contest as part of the campaign, then I cannot emphasize my next point enough. The winners should get something really, really cool that obviously fits your target market. So don’t give away a Blackberry to a retired guy living in a 55 and older community down in Florida. I'm not saying he wouldn’t like it, but he would probably enjoy a $500 restaurant gift card from Visa. Hey, I understand this crowd well since I know several snowbirds from New York. ;-) Do you target high tech customers, give away a jacked Macbook. Target moms? Give away a shopping spree at Babies R Us. You get the point. And, if you can give away your own products, even better. Then you’ll just pay the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and shipping. For example, if you sell footwear, then giving away 25 pairs of shoes doesn’t cost you the retail price, right? If you’re COGS are 30%, then you are giving away $1500 on $5000 worth of footwear. If you have products that people dig, then this is a great way to go. Keep in mind the viral nature of your campaign, though…will winning a year’s supply of paper clips excite anyone??

Brand Your Campaign and Develop a Dedicated Section of Your Website
Brand your campaign! This has several benefits, including giving people an easy way to communicate the campaign to their friends, helping with natural search, tying easily with your concept and creative, and obviously making it memorable! i.e. My friend Matt tells me about the Actober campaign by Major League Baseball, so I go to Google and enter Actober. If you’ve done your job correctly (and many don’t), your site and others referencing it should come up. If you didn’t give the campaign a name, then what would people search for?? Major League Baseball? On your website, add a directory matching the title of the campaign. i.e.

Sidebar, Do not waste those precious links!
I’ve seen campaigns generate thousands of links, which will greatly help a site’s natural search power, but then the companies shut down the campaign section or microsite after the campaign ends. NOOOO!!! “Sir, please step away from your web server…” Leverage that search power by either archiving those pages or using 301 redirects. A good link is a horrible thing to waste. ;-)

Get the Word Out, Advertise Your Viral Marketing Campaign
OK, so you have developed a great campaign, it’s a killer idea, the creative looks incredible, and you are getting goosebumps like I mentioned earlier. Now what?? You need to get the word out via a range of online marketing channels. Use your email list to stir up your base, use social media sites to communicate the campaign, advertise on targeted websites, use paid search to capture targeted visitors, and use PR to send waves across the web. Also, don’t forget to advertise on your own network of websites… I think this is sometimes overlooked. Create advertisements for key traffic areas on your own websites. Hey, there’s no ad spend! Add a footer to any email that goes out (confirmation emails to buyers, your email newsletters, etc.) Have your customer service reps explain the campaign at the end of phone calls. You get the picture. Leverage your own infrastructure to help get the word out.

Have Legal Approve Everything…
You are not a lawyer, so don’t make the mistake of not having your legal team or outside legal counsel approve your campaign. Let me say this again just so I’m clear. DO NOT LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN WITHOUT LEGAL REVIEWING EVERY ASPECT OF THE PROGRAM. I’ve seen campaigns run without a hitch and I’ve also seen campaigns come close to imploding. It’s all about the execution. I’m fanatical about this stage…it’s just in my blood. Listen to your lawyers…legal is a necessary element to your successful marketing campaigns. Make changes based on their feedback and get final approval before moving forward. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

So there you have it, some important elements to consider while creating your viral marketing campaign. This obviously doesn’t cover everything involved, but I plan on writing more posts related to viral marketing in the future.

Here are a few final words of advice…
* Be sure to view your ideas from the perspective of a would-be participant. It might be a great idea to you and your staff…but might fall flat with the people who will actually be participating.
* Definitely try to inject fun and energy into your campaign.
* Use technology to make it as interactive as possible.
* Use a wide range of online marketing channels to promote your campaign.

Last, my lawyer wanted me to add a line from him:

“This blog post about viral marketing sets forth the entire blog post and understanding of the parties relating to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior viral marketing blog posts and understandings, both written and oral, among the parties with respect to viral marketing, amplified word of mouth marketing, generating buzz, webfire, or any other terms related to viral marketing hereof.”

See, I told you to have legal review everything. :-) Sorry, I had to poke fun of legal at least one time in this post...

The Long Tail of SEO, How Long Tail Keywords Impact Natural Search Traffic, Bounce Rate and Conversion.

The Long Tail of SEO and how it impacts your Natural Search initiatives.Imagine for a second that you are an SEO consultant and that you have a big presentation today. Your prospective client has an e-commerce store and a fledgling blog at this point. The first thing the CMO says to you is, “OK Mr. Hotshot SEO guy (or gal), tell me how you are going to help us rank for these 10 keywords?” You glance around the room and your heart starts to beat faster as you make eye contact with the CEO and COO both smirking at you. After a brief second, you turn to the CMO and say, “I’m not going to help you rank for those 10 keywords.” {There’s a collective gasp in the room.} You quickly follow with, “I’m going to help you rank for those 10 keywords plus the hundreds of long tail keywords that are associated with them!” Now you’ve got their attention. Did that sound a bit dramatic? It’s actually a common occurrence when speaking with people that aren’t heavily involved in Search Marketing. The common perception is that you should rank for a handful of competitive keywords and focus your attention on getting top rankings for them. I agree you should, but if you just focus on those top keywords, you would be missing a huge opportunity. Enter the long tail of SEO.

The Long Tail Explained
Let’s begin by defining the long tail. It’s a term that describes the strategy of selling a large number of unique items, although it may only be in small amounts per item. Think of a large e-commerce retailer and the amount of revenue generated from all of the items housed on the site (versus just the top 10 items). The “long tail” may generate more revenue than your top categories (when you combine all of the units sold). So, for our Search example, the long tail would be the hundreds (or thousands) of terms that derive from your competitive keywords. Here’s an example. Let’s say you sell HD TV’s. You might want to rank for the competitive keyword HD TV. However, you would also want to rank for 42 inch Samsung HD TV, how to choose the best HD TV, reviews for Plasma HD TV’s, etc. As you can see, the long tail keywords are simply more targeted search terms than your original keyword.

The Impact of The Long Tail on Natural Search Traffic, Bounce Rate and Conversion:
Now, you might be wondering what the impact of the long tail of SEO can be? In my experience, the long tail can be a powerful driver of targeted traffic to your website. Also, since long tail keywords tend to be more targeted (think “Samsung HD TV reviews”), you might find lower bounce rates per keyword (if you have content that matches what people are looking for of course). More on that later. If you have more overall SEO traffic and lower bounce rates, then you have a greater chance of converting visitors (which can mean more revenue, subscriptions, downloads, and other forms of conversion specific to your site). Yes, there is a connection to the success of your business! :-)

How Does This Translate To Your SEO Projects?
I ran some reports using KeywordDiscovery to give you a few tangible examples. Let’s say you sell men’s shoes (I’ll use a generic example without brand names). A quick report from KeywordDiscovery yields 2,143 keywords including the words men’s shoes. Now, you wouldn’t want to target all of these keywords since some don’t apply to someone buying men’s shoes, but there are a number of keywords that you might want to target. For example, men’s casual and dress shoes, men’s narrow shoes, men’s slip on shoes, or best men’s running shoes. You get the picture. Now, let’s say you don’t have an e-commerce store, but you target people looking for medical news (you might have an advertising model). Again using KeywordDiscovery, there are 490 keywords that include variations of medical news. Some of the keywords you might want to target include latest medical news, medical ethics in news, breaking medical news, controversial medical news, etc. For more information about finding the right keywords, please read my post about keyword research for SEO.

How does this affect what you do, SEO-wise?
Warning: I’m about to explain a very technical and important part of SEO. If you get confused based on my elaborate and technical response, please read this section again. {OK, I’ll cut the sarcasm…} In order to rank for specific keywords, you should actually have those keywords on your website. I know that’s a crazy concept, but it’s true. ;-) So, in order to target competitive keywords and their long tail counterparts, you should develop ways to include that text on your website, in your blog posts, in the tools you develop, etc. The actual content can take many forms and it’s one of the reasons I love SEO. You can be creative and develop ideas for new content and functionality for the site. Please read my blog post about SEO, the amazing multi-channel channel if you haven’t already. When you need to develop new content, you can take several routes, including developing new areas of your site, blogging, creating new functionality or tools on your site, writing whitepapers, issuing press releases, etc. You would just want to make sure that you target more terms than just the core competitive keywords I mentioned earlier in this post.

The Long Tail Summary:
Although this was just an introduction to the long tail of SEO, I hope you see the power of targeting more than just a few competitive keywords. SEO can be a robust marketing channel and can drive thousands of targeted visitors to your site via a multitude of search queries. Keyword research can help you determine those long tail keywords and then your web analytics package can help you determine which ones are generating quality traffic.

Last, but not least, my blog post has given you a great line for your next sales pitch! ;-)

How To Create A Google News Sitemap and Submit It Via Google Webmaster Tools

Creating and submitting a Google News sitemap.As Twitter and Facebook boom, the need for real-time search grows more important. When people want information about breaking news, they Google it. It’s their initial reaction... And if you're not there, you might as well not exist (even if you have the greatest article on the web about the subject at hand.) So, when I’m analyzing websites that contain articles and posts that could be considered news, I'm obviously interested in seeing the amount of traffic coming from sites like Google News. After checking referring traffic levels, top content, and trending, I check to see if a Google News sitemap exists. I’ve always been a believer that if Google provides a way to send it structured data with additional information about your posts and articles, you should use it (period!) Unfortunately, many site owners don’t take the time to set up a Google News sitemap. I think it sounds harder to do than it really is, so they just brush it off. As you probably can guess, I think that’s a bad idea. :)

Google News Being More Than Google News…
When searching for a hot topic, some people head straight to Google News, however, many simply search on Google’s homepage or via their Google Toolbar. The way your listing shows up will vary depending on where the user searches. For example, thanks to Universal Search, news content is being mixed into the organic listings for targeted queries. For example, you might see a thumbnail and headline in a Google News one box at the top of the search results. See the screenshots below for a few examples.

Example of Google News one box in search engine results.

How Google News content can show up blended into the organic search results.

I’ve found that news content ranking in the organic listings can be a powerful driver of highly targeted search traffic (for obvious reasons). By the way, having your listing show up in the SERPs (with associated thumbnail) substantially increases your chances of click-through. Check the latest Google heatmap study to see the effect of Universal Search on user behavior if you don’t believe me. :) It also provides a great opportunity to gain valuable readers and subscribers, since you might be viewed as an authority site by visitors (since you rank highly in Google News.) Don't underestimate how powerful top rankings can be credibility-wise.

So, how do you make sure Google has the necessary information about your latest articles, posts, and content so you can have a chance of ranking in Google News (and as part of Universal Search)? One way is to provide a Google News sitemap. Let’s dig deeper.

What is a Google News Sitemap?
In a nutshell, a Google News sitemap is an xml feed that enables you to tell Google about your latest content, including information like publication date and news tags or keywords. In addition, as part of the keywords you provide, you can include Google News categories. You might already be familiar with xml sitemaps, or the xml feeds you provide Google and the other search engines that contain all the URL's on your site. Google News sitemaps are similar, just tailored for news-related content. Note, Google requires that the information contained in the sitemap is less than three days old, so you wouldn't want to provide a running list of URL's in the feed. Instead, you would want to make sure your latest posts and stories are included. For example, if you provide the latest in electronics or search engine marketing or celebrity news, then a Google News sitemap containing your latest articles would be a smart feed to employ.

What Information Should You Provide In A Google News Sitemap?
You should create a Google News sitemap using the sitemap protocol (which is what you are probably using to create your standard xml sitemap). The core elements of a news sitemap include the namespace/URLset tag, your list of URL’s, publication date of each URL in W3C format, and optional news tags (which can include Google News categories). There's no limit to the number of keywords you can provide, but Google recommends you keep them fewer than 12. Click here to see a full listing of all categories used by Google News.

A Quick Example of a Google News Sitemap:
Let’s say I ran a website covering the latest in baseball. To keep this example simple, here is what my Google News sitemap would look like if it contained two new articles: (Can you tell I'm optimistic about the Yankees this year?)

Click the image below to view a larger version:
A sample Google News sitemap.

Submitting Your Google News Sitemap
Once you create your Google News sitemap, you should submit it via Google Webmaster Tools. Note, webmaster tools was just updated (June 10, 2009), and now you can find the sitemaps tab by clicking the plus sign next to Site Configuration (the first listing in the left navigation). First, upload your sitemap to your website (in the root directory of your website). Then submit your sitemap via webmaster tools by entering its location in the text box once you click the sitemaps tab.

Submitting a Google News sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools.

Including a Reference to Your Sitemap or Sitemap Index File in Robots.Txt
You would also want to include a reference to your sitemap in your robots.txt file. If you have more than one sitemap, then use a sitemap index file, which can contain references to up to 1000 sitemaps (although you will probably never come close to that number). In addition, each news sitemap should not contain more than 1000 URL's. If your sitemap contains URL's older than 3 days, they will be rejected. If you have more than 1000 URL’s for your news sitemap, break them into separate sitemap files.

Here is what you would enter in your robots.txt file on a new line. Note, you would either enter the location to the sitemap file itself or the sitemap index file, which would reference several sitemap files.

Sitemap: {sitemap_location}

Google Webmaster Tools and Error Messages
Be sure to monitor your news sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools to view any errors being encountered by Google. Google will notify you and provide the exact error message, which can be extremely helpful. There are a number of errors that can occur, such as date not found, date too old, empty article, etc. You can find a full list of Google News sitemap errors here.

Moving Forward With Your Google News Sitemap
Based on what I’ve explained above, my hope is that you are ready to create your own Google News sitemap. It’s relatively straight forward to create and submit and can help you notify Google of all the news-related content hitting your website(s). In addition, if you automate the creation of your Google News sitemap, then it can work for you without having to dedicate any additional resources to it… It’s one of the projects I often recommend knocking out before other, more time-consuming SEO projects. Good luck and stop back and let me know how it worked out for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Optimization Checklist and Checking It Twice!

If you have a website and you are updating things on a regular basis like you should be, then this checklist is for you. Trust me, I know there could be more added to this checklist but if the list gets too big then it won’t get done. So do these things and you will be on the right track.

First of all, why does this checklist exist? I found that as I added web pages, edited web pages, deleted web pages, or restructured a website, I always missed something that was crucial to my optimization efforts. Here are the top 5 items that you must check every time you change something on any website.

Internal Linking

Many times we will forget to internally link to the new pages that we have created, and if we do end up linking to them we do it incorrectly. You need to make sure first off that your website has a Search Friendly Information Environment Design and that you are constantly checking all your internal linking structure.


You must remember to update your sitemaps with any change you have made. This means your html sitemap for your users and also your .xml or .txt sitemaps for the search engines.

Some of you are thinking, “Hey I have automated sitemap generation software installed so everything is fine.” WRONG. You, at the very least, must double check and make sure that everything updated correctly.

Broken Links

If you have changed filenames, or added anything to your site you must ensure that you don’t link to old URLs on your site. Any broken link or link that goes to the wrong place can have an adverse effect on your optimization efforts and also can really drive your visitors insane. There are plenty of free and paid options out there to help you find broken links. Here are just a few:


If you use any type of feed for your site then you need to check that the feed has been updated with your changes. A lot of ecommerce websites use feeds for shopping submissions sites like Google Base,, and Shopzilla. If you have added a product to your site then you need to make sure that your feed has been updated and you might even need to resubmit it to the various areas for updates.


You would be surprised at how many of us forget to add analytics to pages other than our home page or main pages. If we want to be successful online, then we can’t forget how important it is to test and track on a daily basis. How can we do this if we don’t have analytics on every single page that affects our bottom line? Simply don’t forget to place your analytics code on your new or updated pages.

The list is short and easy to follow and will save you time, effort, and money in the long run. Some other quick and important items you should think when changing anything on your website are correct targeted content, meta tags, and split testing. You have worked so hard to get the rankings you deserve so why take shortcuts now. Start today with the “Optimization Checklist and Checking It Twice”!


If you use any type of feed for your site then you need to check that the feed has been updated with your changes. A lot of ecommerce websites use feeds for shopping submissions sites like Google Base,, and Shopzilla. If you have added a product to your site then you need to make sure that your feed has been updated and you might even need to resubmit it to the various areas for updates.


You would be surprised at how many of us forget to add analytics to pages other than our home page or main pages. If we want to be successful online, then we can’t forget how important it is to test and track on a daily basis. How can we do this if we don’t have analytics on every single page that affects our bottom line? Simply don’t forget to place your analytics code on your new or updated pages.

The list is short and easy to follow and will save you time, effort, and money in the long run. Some other quick and important items you should think when changing anything on your website are correct targeted content, meta tags, and split testing. You have worked so hard to get the rankings you deserve so why take shortcuts now. Start today with the “Optimization Checklist and Checking It Twice”!

Twitter Woes!

10 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Sucks…

10 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Sucks…

…or more importantly, the way most people seem to be going about it, including me at times.

The Answer Is?

Social Media is currently being touted as the answer to life, the universe, and everything online, but there is a lot more to it than just hitching a ride.

Lets take a look at some of the things you need to think about before you even contemplate a social media marketing strategy.

  1. Undefined Goals vs Specific Goals

    I would regard the following as fairly undefined goals:-

    • I want more customers for my business

    • I want to launch this new product with a boom!

    • I want more people to read my blog

    • I need more links to rank higher

    With social media marketing, whilst many items are difficult to determine, if you start out without specific goals, you may well be wasting resources.

    Here are some ideas for more specific goals:-

    • My business is mainly local, thus I need to target regional specific venues, or vertical venues that might broaden my reach locally.

    • My product has a niche focus thus I will target venues frequented by media within my niche aimed at bringing in 20 media mentions in the first wave of my viral marketing campaign.

    • I want Danny Sullivan, Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz, Robert Scoble to subscribe to my blog - obviously I need to target people in my niche - specific linkerati and influencers.

  2. Aim for targets within your reach, thus if you don’t have a strong enough hook, don’t try to land a big fish.

  3. Random Activity vs Planned Method of Attack

  4. Whilst it is possible to become a bridge between online social circles and to target multiple niches simultaneously, it is certainly a lot more time consuming to do successfully.

    Defining a single core audience and becoming a thought leader in that single marketplace is ultimately a better long-term strategy than trying to become “all things to all men”.

  5. Random Stats vs Accountable Statistical Measures

  6. This one is a hard one to pin down - lots of aspects of social media are extremely difficult to track accurately, especially things like RSS Subscriptions or votes on social voting buttons.

    Try monitoring things like open rate in your feed stats, compared to number of comments and the number of links your receive on your blog. Surprisingly they do not always correlate.

    One of my most read posts in my RSS Feed on has but 2 comments - it is actually quite recent. Conversely my discussions relating to Google’s PageRank updates in October are poor performers in my RSS stats, but bring in a lot of links and traffic.

  7. Random Content vs Planned Content Strategy

  8. Plan your content strategy around your previously defined goals, not what is happening in the blogosphere. Look on discussions and events happening outside of your niches as opportunities if they are related to your goals, or can be leveraged.

  9. Random Encounters vs Optimized Role Management

  10. This is more on the corporate front. When you enter social media marketing channels, there will be a need for 2-way conversation - with customers and clients, members of the press and bloggers, raving fans and detractors in the public eye.

    A decision needs to be made on how you will react to different instances, preferably in advance with multiple options and a “plan B”. People do go on holiday, and things will not always go as you plan.

  11. Random Pathways vs Defined Traffic Funnel

  12. Again an enigma - traffic will be coming in from multiple sources and often they will have different preferences in how they can be treated whilst visiting your website.

    If you have ever done PPC advertising with multiple landing pages, think of how that can be applied to Social Media Marketing by offering a different landing page to traffic from different sources.

  13. Traffic vs Targeted Traffic

  14. Ultimately you are looking for people visiting your site who have some value, though that doesn’t necessarily mean direct financial value. A popular stumbler or digg user who likes your content but would not be looking to buy from you would be a good example, or possibly potential link partners in a similar niche.

    Even people visiting your site who ultimately just click away on some advertising are valuable, not just with PayPerClick advertising but things like site sponsorships. Bringing value to your site sponsors is also important in brand recognition and traffic.

  15. Topical Linking vs Strategic Linking

    • Link to a regular reader in your niche who doesn’t get much traffic

    • Link to someone in your niche who has never read your blog

    • Promote someone’s niche ranking list to get included

    • Included someone in your niche ranking list to get traffic

    • Link to like minded dofollow blogs because you get a link from their trackbacks

  16. Think out of the box with your linking

    Use tools such as Technorati, Google Blogsearch, Techmeme & Megite to your advantage - use them strategically.

  17. Reporter vs News Epicentre

  18. If there is a large conversation about a topic related to your niche, do you want to be a spoke on the wheel or the hub of conversation?

    Whilst it might not initially be possible to become a source for explosive stories, it is possible to become an acknowledge filter of the conversation.

    Services such as Techmeme and Megite allow you to identify hubs of conversation, and also to identify other bloggers who are also hubs of the conversation. Hubs of conversation are more likely to write followup articles on the same subject, and in general are link friendly, thus if you offer insight along with links to other sources of information, the chances of being brought into the conversation increase.

    Techmeme is itself a hub, but has the disadvantage of not offering commentary, and does get criticism for not covering niche bloggers as well as a human.

  19. Self Orientated vs Customer Orientated

  20. Social media is just that… social - if your motive for getting involved is purely for personal gain, you are wasting your time.

    Social media site users are smart, and opinionated. If they feel they are being manipulated or gamed, they are going to call you out on it, and there can be negative ramifications.

    The best way to demonstrate to future subscribers and hopefully customers why they should be reading your content, or doing business with you is to interact with them.

    In some lines of work you must be prepared to “move the free line” thus you will be giving far more of yourself than you might initially receive in return.

I will be addressing each of these topics in much greater detail in future posts, but I would love to ask you which aspect of your social media marketing strategy you find most difficult to pin down?

10 Ways To Put Your Content In Front Of More People

Which is more important, driving traffic to your website or encouraging as many people as possible to see your content? Believe it or not, they are not one and the same.Too often, we as website owners live and die by web analytics applications. We fret about bounce rates, unique visitors and dwell time. However, when we focus so heavily on the performance of our website, we miss a fundamental point: we should aim to expose users to our content, not our website. The website is a tool to showcase our content, but it is not the only tool that does this.

Organizations with truly successful websites understand this principle. Take, for example, the following: Amazon’s primary objective is to sell stuff. YouTube aims to use video content to carry advertisements. Twitter facilitates “tweeting.” (Who knows what its business model is!).

In each case, the content matters, not the website. That is why each company provides numerous ways to access its content beyond the website. From Amazon’s affiliate scheme to YouTube’s embed feature, these companies can reach audiences that may never visit their websites.

Twitter is probably the best example of all. How often do you actually read or post tweets via the Twitter website? If you are like me, the answer is very rarely.

Twitter website

The majority of users do not read tweets via the Twitter website.

The lesson here is obvious: as website owners, we need a broader Web strategy to release our content from the shackles of our websites. How do we do this? Below are 10 opportunities that you can integrate into your online strategy.

While the points mentioned below will refine your strategy to deliver content to more people, they can not serve their purpose without an appropriate environment. In the age of social media and the rise of interactive web-applications such as Facebook, Twitter etc. building a community around your website is the most important way to drive traffic and keep the users coming back.

Using forums, polls, comments and engaging users in the global conversations via external services turns out to be a silver bullet for gaining more exposure and winning more loyal visitors. Once you are building a community around your site, it’s time to think about more refined strategy that will help you to put your content in front of more people – and this is where the tips below will come in handy.

1. Target The Desktop

eBay recognized that it needed a desktop application. Many people make a living selling on eBay, and these people need desktop software that streamlines their business processes. They need desktop notifications, faster and more desktop-like interaction and easier access to eBay features.

eBay Desktop

eBay Desktop: eBay saw an opportunity to bring the functionality and content of its website to the desktop.

Using a platform such as Adobe AIR, you can easily put Web-based content and functionality onto the desktop. This is exactly what eBay did, and it has proved very successful among the company’s power users.

As a website owner, you should consider whether a desktop application is right for you. Do your users need desktop features, offline access or better integration with the operating system?

2. Going Mobile

It won’t be long before the Web is accessed by more mobile users than PC users. In many countries, this has already happened. Traditional websites often render poorly or are hard to use on mobile devices. They do not take into account the context in which a mobile user browses the Web. Approaching the mobile Web as a separate channel to your traditional website, then, is critical.

Here are some methods of delivering content on the mobile Web:

  • Create a mobile website.

    Mobile websites take into account small screens, different input devices and the numerous other unique characteristics of the mobile Web.

  • Use text messaging.

    Text messaging is ideal for notifications and updates. It is a perfect complement to your website and a way of keeping users informed.

  • Build mobile applications.

    Mobile platforms such as the iPhone and Android make it increasingly easy to build applications that run directly on mobile devices. They allow you to make your content available even when the user is not connected to the Internet or away from their PC.

uStream iPhone Application

Video-streaming service uStream makes its content available on the iPhone.

Pushing your content to mobile devices is ideal if your target audience is often away from the computer or requires access to your content “in the field.”

3. Start Tweeting

Twitter has so much hype at the moment. However, it does provide a unique opportunity to reach a larger audience with your message. The question is, how best to use it? Some organizations use Twitter as a broadcast tool, turning it fundamentally into an alternative to RSS. An example of this is BBC News or CNN, which provide latest updates via the service.

uStream iPhone Application

CNN uses Twitter as a broadcast tool, turning it fundamentally into an alternative to RSS.

However, using Twitter as a broadcast tool misses its true power. Organizations that really “get” Twitter include Zappos and Omnifocus. They use Twitter as a way to engage with their followers and even provide customer support.

Use Twitter as a way to engage with your audience. If a number of people work on your website, encourage them all to tweet, rather than having a single branded account.

4. Write For Others

Writing for other websites is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and spread your message to a larger audience than would otherwise be possible through your own website.

Do not limit your words of wisdom to your own website. Look for other editorial websites and blogs that speak to your own audience and offer to write for them. After all, your audience visits many websites other than your own. Why limit your writing skills to your own blog when you can reach new audiences by writing for others?

An example of the bio that appears when I write for others

Whenever I write for other websites, they almost always include links back to Boagworld and Headscape. Here an example from one of my previous Smashing Magazine’s articles.

Of course, any article you write for others should be more than shameless self-promotion. The owners of those websites will want quality content that fits their website and is of interest to their audience. For example, I recently wrote an article for a website whose audience consisted of franchise owners. If I had simply written about how great Headscape was, I doubt the article would have been published. Instead, I shared a case study of our experience in working with a franchise-based business. The content was both relevant to the publication and useful to its audience. However, it also raised our profile among a base of potentially new customers.

What websites exist that reach your target market? Would they consider publishing some of your content? How could you rewrite your content to make it more appealing to them?

5. Embrace Facebook

Another option for expanding your Web strategy beyond the website is Facebook. Explaining the importance and reach of Facebook is surely unnecessary. However, you may be tempted to dismiss it because your target market is not teenagers, who are normally associated with these kinds of social networks.

What may surprise you is that Facebook is no longer confined to a younger demographic. Over the last year, the number of users between 35 and 54 has jumped 276%, to over 6 million people.

Carsonified Fan Page on Facebook

Carsonified Fan Page on Facebook: Facebook has introduced fan pages, which are public-facing profiles for organizations.

So, how do you reach your audience on Facebook? Here are three good starting points:

  • Create a group.

    Groups have been around for a long time and are ideal for building a dialogue with those already interested in your product or service. You can easily invite people to participate, and those people in turn can invite others. This makes groups ideally suited to viral marketing.

  • Create a fan page.

    Fan pages are basically public profiles for organizations rather than individuals. Unlike groups, pages are public-facing. This means they can be seen by non-Facebook users and are indexed by search engines. Fan pages are perfect for building long-term awareness and for reaching people both inside and outside of Facebook.

  • Create an application.

    Facebook allows third parties to build applications that can be added to user profiles. These range from games to RSS feeds. Unlike with pages and groups, building applications requires some technical skill. However, the possibility of users embedding your content in their profiles makes this an attractive proposition, if you have appropriate content.

Of course, Facebook is not the only social network. But it does have considerable reach and provides some the best tools for reaching its massive audience.

6. Develop A Widget Or API

The ultimate way to distribute content has to be by providing an API or widget.

An API gives other Web developers access to your content, allowing them to build applications and websites around it. Using an API, developers can do anything from embed your content on their websites to build desktop applications that offer advanced functionality.

Twitter really gets APIs. When was the last time you viewed or posted tweets from the Twitter website? Chances are, a long time ago. Because Twitter offers a powerful API, thousands of developers have built all kinds of applications that allow you to view and post tweets. The actual service that Twitter provides is in fact very basic; but its API makes it possible to do everything from viewing tweets on a Google map to posting photos, video and audio.

Screenshot of Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is just one example of the powerful applications that can be built using the Twitter API.

Unfortunately, APIs have some drawbacks. They require a considerable level of technical expertise to implement. As a result, they are of use only to developers. What about the rest of us? How do we add third-party content to our websites? That’s where widgets come in.

A widget is typically a small piece of code that you can copy and paste into your website. Literally thousands of widgets are available. They allow website owners to use the content and functionality of other websites quickly and easily. Widgets are used to embed YouTube videos, show your Amazon wish list and display your location on a map.

Widgets are powerful because they are easy to implement. This means anybody can add them, thus allowing you to distribute your content much more widely. Widgets are also easier to build than full APIs. This makes them a good starting point for those wanting to put their content in front of more people.

7. Offer Better Feeds

Not all approaches to putting content in front of more users have to be as time-consuming and complex as developing an API. Doing one other thing could increase your views within minutes.

Users increasingly rely on RSS feeds to consume content from websites. This is especially true for news, articles and blog posts. However, some website owners are so obsessed with driving traffic to their websites that they provide only teasers of their posts via RSS. To read a whole article, the user is forced to click through to the website.

This approach to RSS is counter-productive. When a user is browsing a large number of feeds, they are less likely to read your content if they have to leave their news reader to do it.

To maximize users’ exposure to your content, ensure as much of it as possible is displayed in the RSS feed itself. Require users to click through only when absolutely necessary.

Google Reader displaying a partial RSS feed

Google Reader displaying a partial RSS feed: many websites truncate their content in RSS because their advertising revenue is based on page impressions. They see driving as much traffic as possible to their website as being in their interest. This is a short-sighted.

It is also important to note that when users read content from an RSS feed, they do not have the context of your website. Ensuring, then, that your content stands on its own and that your copy incorporates calls to action is necessary.

8. Use Multimedia

Of course, limiting your content to the written word is becoming increasingly unnecessary. Creating audio and video content has become a trivial task. Services such as YouTube and applications such as AudioBoo make production and hosting easy.

Also, pioneers like Diggnation and Wine Library TV have shown that users care more about quality content than high production values. Both shows essentially have presenters speaking to a single locked-off camera. This kind of production value can be achieved with a consumer camera and basic editing software.

That said, creating popular content is harder than it appears at first. Many organizations believe that simply uploading their latest product demonstrations to YouTube will generate millions of views. That is simply not the case.

Good rich media content has to be engaging if people are expected to watch it and, more importantly, recommend it to their friends. This can be done through a passionate host, great content, humor or shock value. With thousands of videos uploaded everyday, standing out from the crowd is important.

Wine Library TV website

Wine Library TV proves that great content and a passionate presenter are more important than production values.

However, don’t forget that your content has to be appropriate to your target audience. Shock tactics may work well with a teenage audience but may not go down so well with middle-aged business executives!

9. Start Streaming

The next wave of multimedia on the Web will be not pre-recorded material but rather live streaming. Services such as Ustream, Qik and Justin TV are all fighting to dominate this space. Each offers the opportunity to stream live content on the Web at zero cost. This makes the barrier to entry extremely low.

The main benefit of this approach over pre-recorded material is interactivity. The live format allows viewers to engage with the presenter in real time via chat. This brings a host of opportunities, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Live product demonstrations

    Live streaming allows you present your products and services while taking questions from the audience. This is considerably more powerful that showing pre-recorded promotional videos.

  • Community sessions

    If you run an online community, live streaming gives you the chance to engage with that community on a much more personal level than with the written word. Social news website Digg has run a number of “Town Hall” meetings in which its user base engages directly with the CEO and founder.

  • Online training

    Finally, live streaming is a perfect environment in which to provide remote training. Whether the training is on using your product or selling online workshops, live streaming allows users to both hear and see what you are doing.

Digg Town Hall

Social news website Digg has run a number of Town Hall meetings in which its user base engages directly with the CEO and founder.

Live streaming is still relatively immature, and few are taking advantage of this new opportunity. Your company has a real opportunity to differentiate itself through its use.

10. Don’t Forget Email

Amidst all this talk of video, audio and APIs, it is easy to forget the tools we have always had for reaching beyond the confines of our website. Although not the sexiest tool on our list, email had to make it on before the end of this post. Email should be a key tool for keeping your content in front of users. Obviously, email can be used for a lot more than syndicating content. However, for the purposes of this article, it can be used to subscribe to your content. If users can subscribe to your content via RSS, they should be able to do it also via email.


ProBlogger allows its readers to subscribe to his RSS-feed via e-mail.

Fortunately, there are services such as AWeber and MailChimp that make this easy. FeedBurner is an option, too; however, it lacks subject line customization and has very limited design customizations available. You can find more information about why FeedBurner isn’t good enough in the article FeedBurner’s Free RSS-to-Email Syndication: Why You Can’t Afford It. With one of these services implemented, users can subscribe via email with a single click of a link on your website.

A word of warning, though. If a user subscribes to your content via email, they are not giving you permission to spam them indiscriminately. If you fail to respect their email subscription, you are in danger of losing that user and inciting them to post negative comments on your website, which could put off others.


There was a time when a website was enough. Now, your website needs to be just one small part of your overall Web strategy. Expecting users to come to you is naive. Instead, take your content to them, whether on a social network like Facebook’s or a mobile device like the iPhone.

How To Improve Your Branding With Your Content

Branding experts hit the nail on the head when they say that a winning brand conveys why you are your prospects’ only solution. If you can’t achieve that, you should at least convey why you are your prospects’ best solution. Of course, the same logic applies to your clients. So make a compelling claim about your business, product or service, and back it up.

Are you the biggest or most popular provider of your type of product? Do you provide the widest selection of services? Do you leverage strategic partnerships? Create patented technology? Offer convenient locations? Or are you young and small, able to churn out customized solutions swiftly, unlike your much larger and slower competitors?

Image credit: Emily Berezin

Define your strengths and leverage them. Purposefully written Web copy that effectively tells your prospects why they should buy from you or your client can make a world of difference on the sales front. In fact, if done right, it can actually disqualify the competition.

Here’s an example. A client in the medical X-ray field had Web copy that contained vague statements such as, “We’re dedicated to providing you with the highest level of professional service possible.” That’s not a hook. Any business can state that on its website, and most do. Some basic research revealed that the client is the only business in the region that owns and operates the most advanced medical equipment in the industry. As a result, it could provide the most accurate X-rays on the same business day. No competitor in its market could make the same claim.

That simple fact differentiated our client and became a large part of its selling proposition. That’s conveying real value.

You Are What You Write

Through words, we form a personality, set a tone and create expectations – for better or for worse. When communicating in person, you have the luxury of giving and receiving verbal feedback and expressing yourself with body language and facial gestures, all in real time. Your prospects can peer into your eyes to help them decide whether to trust you and accept what you’re telling them.

However, when potential clients visit your website, they don’t have the same opportunity to size you up. Your online visitors can’t look you in the eye, so they look to your messages to help them decide whether to trust your brand, your business and you.

Hence, the words you use on your website should project the personality of your products, services and business. Your Web copy must form and foster a clear verbal identity, reflecting who you are and who you strive to be. It signifies what you stand for and promise to deliver.

Speak your audience's language
Speak your audience’s language. Your Web writing should put forth a “voice” that resonates with your intended audience. Macinhome connects with Mac enthusiasts by featuring Apple-influenced Web copy, including everything from smart, snappy comments to ending headlines with periods.

Consider the following copy from three auto manufacturers’ websites. Mercedes, in the first excerpt, positions itself as the ultimate luxury vehicle:

“Enjoy bold, spirited styling with an air of sleek confidence. A distinctive radiator grille nose hints at the power that lies beneath the hood. The highly characteristic tail, with dual tailpipes will put a look of awe on the faces of all those you leave in the dust. The SLK-Class is the ultimate combination of classic sporty personality and effortless poise and assurance.”

BMW boasts performance:

“Do bear in mind that 0-100 km/h in 5 seconds limits your chances of actually spotting the BMW M Coupe on the road. For that you can thank a 330 hp in-line six engineered to peak at an astounding 7,900 rpm. Raw power is unleashed precisely through a short-throw, 6-speed manual and is kept in-check by massive compound, cross-drilled brakes.”

Volvo tries to make its name synonymous with safety:

“Preventative safety features like Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) help you, the driver, avoid accidents by evading them. And nothing is safer for you than no accident at all. So every Volvo is equipped with a variety of innovative preventative safety features, many of which are, of course, uniquely Volvo, developed by Volvo safety engineers over years of research, design and testing, both in the laboratory and the real world.”

Each individual message builds on its respective brand to create distinctiveness and value, in a bid to engage the targeted audience. And the words that Mercedes, BMW and Volvo choose have a direct impact on each of their bottom lines.

What Does Your Brand Stand For?

Your Web copy needs to define who you are and what you sell and cater to your target market’s specific needs. Moreover, your Web copy requires a distinct and consistent voice that expresses the value of the relationship you’re seeking, accompanied by assurance. Only then can it forge a truly emotional connection with prospective and established customers alike.

Speak your audience's language
Bring a little bit of “you” into your website. While many businesses post employee photos on websites, why not quote employees in your Web content? By doing so, MarketingAnd not only brings a human element into its website, but effectively positions its staff as industry experts.

To build your brand with words, your Web copy needs to take into account:

  • Existing perceptions of your products, services and company,

  • The actual position you occupy now on these fronts.

Recognize the gap between these two points and how they compare to where you want to be. The difference needs to be made up through your communications, from your policies to your product packaging to your Web copy.

Following are some key elements to help you foster a relationship between your brand and your customers:

Word association
What are your core strengths? What do you promise customers? Invest time to determine what you’re good at, thus focusing on your strengths. Your words in turn establish a relationship with customers by laying out your benefits, whether functional, emotional or self-expressive.

Your words can sway consumers into associating certain attributes with your brand. This can shift how they see you in relation to the competitors in your marketplace, potentially even altering who you compete with. Some ingenuity can set you apart from the others to the point that your competition appears bland.

Your Web copy should take into account where you come from, who you are and what you stand for. This is your guiding light. Be authentic. One step beyond your character could tarnish your integrity.

Your website content should reflect the values that give life to your business. While you don’t need to list your core values, your Web copy should draw on this framework. Ensure that it resonates with the values in and around your business.

Your Web copy needs to bring to light your business’ human characteristics, including everything from age to class to personality traits. Get creative with delivery. For instance, many businesses post employee photos on their websites. But why not actually quote employees in your Web content? It’s a great way to put a human face to your company and promote your staff as industry experts.

Does your Web copy represent the emotional elements and values of your business? Demonstrate authenticity and commitment to creating a spirit that’s not only engaging but contagious.

So how can you differentiate your offerings? What’s different about your approach? Perhaps you can leverage:

  • Selection

  • Experience

  • Knowledge

  • Credentials

  • Expediency

  • Style

  • Technology

  • Geography

  • Alliances

  • Resources

  • Tools

  • Customer service

  • Or one of many other factors

There’s no value in everyone knowing you if they don’t know what you stand for and what you can do for them. Plus, the more reasons you give people to choose your brand, the less price becomes a factor in their purchasing decision.

Use words that clearly demonstrate how a prospective customer’s world will be made easier, more lucrative, healthier, happier and so on, with you in the picture. This overall message can then be continually reinforced not just on your website, but also in print materials, advertising, trade show presentations, press releases and so on.

Never forget that words, like design, are the foundation of communication. They help us express, understand and learn. They are invaluable to influencing your visitors’ decision-making process and loyalty.

Choose your words wisely. Failing to do so could result in a brand that’s problematic, rather than a means to a solution.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

10 Ways To Make Your Site Accessible Using Web Standards

Without argument, one of the most important things to consider when creating a website is that it be accessible to everyone who wants to view it. Does your website play nice with screen readers? Can a user override your style sheet with a more accessible one and still see everything your website has to offer? Would another Web developer be embarrassed if they saw your code? If your website is standards-compliant, you could more confidently answer these questions.


Let’s take a look at 10 ways to improve the accessibility of your XHTML website by making it standards-compliant. We’ll go the extra mile and include criteria that fall beyond the standards set by the W3C but which you should follow to make your website more accessible. Each section lists the criteria you need to meet, explains why you need to meet them and gives examples of what you should and shouldn’t do.

1. Specify The Correct DOCTYPE

Specify the correct DOCTYPE

The Document Type declaration (DOCTYPE) is an instruction that sits at the top of your document. The DOCTYPE is required to tell the browser how to correctly display your page.

Why do I need it?
Without a proper DOCTYPE declaration, the browser tries to automatically assign a DOCTYPE to the page. This can slow down the rendering of your page and cause the page to be displayed inconsistently or incorrectly in different browsers. Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to accessibility.

Okay, so what do I do?
Include a proper DOCTYPE at the top of each page of your website. XHTML 1.1 is recommended, but XHTML 1.0 Strict is an option as well.

  • XHTML 1.1
    This is the cleanest way to code your website. All style for the website is contained in external CSS files. Be sure to add the XML declaration at the top, which is essential because XHTML 1.1 is considered to be true XML.
    1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><br><!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN"<br>"">

    Note: if you are using XHTML 1.1, you cannot include the XML declaration for visitors who are using Internet Explorer 6. Instead, to support IE6 users, you should conditionally display the XML declaration.

  • XHTML 1.0 Strict
    An alternative to XHTML 1.1. The technical differences between the two are minor, but using XHTML 1.1 is recommended to accommodate future website growth.
    1. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN"<br>"">

Two other XHTML 1.0 declarations exist for niche uses. But using either of these DOCTYPEs is discouraged.

  • XHTML 1.0 Transitional
    This is used for pages that need to be viewed on legacy browsers that don’t support CSS. Transitional allows inline styles to be applied to elements.
    1. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"<br>"">

  • XHTML 1.0 Frameset
    Use Frameset only on websites that require HTML frames. Of course, static CSS divisions should be used instead of HTML frames, right?
    1. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Frameset//EN"
    2. "">

2. Define The Namespace And Default Language

Define the Namespace and Default Language

The XHTML namespace and default language of your page must be included in the <html> element.

Why do I need it?
XHTML websites should define the default namespace. A namespace defines all of the elements you can use within the page. Setting a default language allows a screen reader to tell the visitor which language the page is in without even seeing the content. It is also required by W3C standards.

Okay, so what do I do?
Append the xmlns and lang attributes to the <html> element. In XHTML 1.1, the lang attribute is xml:lang.

3. Supply Proper Meta Tags

Supply proper Meta tags

Supply the http-equiv, language, description and keywords meta tags in the <head> element on your page.

Why do I need it?
The http-equiv meta tag is by far the most important. Used in conjunction with the DOCTYPE, it helps the browser display your page correctly. The language meta tag is important for non-English websites, but it has become common practice to include it on every page, despite the language. The description and keywords meta tags are required more for accessibility than to meet standards because they are commonly used by screen readers.

Okay, so what do I do?
Include these four meta tags in the <head> element on your page.

  1. <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
  2. <meta name="language" content="en" />
  3. <meta name="description" content="Updating Windows using Microsoft Update" />
  4. <meta name="keywords" content="updating, windows, microsoft, update, techworld" />

Make sure the language you specify in the <html> element is the same one you define in the language meta tag. Also, if you are using XHTML 1.1, make sure the encoding specification in the XML declaration matches the charset in the http-equiv meta tag.

4. Use Accessible Navigation

Use accessible navigation

Allow users to easily identify what page and sub-section of a page they are viewing.

Why do I need it?
A majority of websites today use a combination of text, colors and graphic styles to organize and display information. Many people with disabilities cannot see or use graphics and thus rely on screen readers, custom style sheets and other accessibility tools to retrieve information. Regardless of who visits your website, implementing an accessible navigation system helps them quickly and accurately find the information they are looking for.

Okay, so what do I do?
Create a descriptive title for your website, and then split the page into sub-sections using the heading elements.

  • Include exactly one <title> element within the <head> element:

    1. <title>Smashing Magazine</title>

  • Include exactly one <h1> element on the page. The <h1> element should match all or part of your <title> element:

    1. <h1>Smashing Magazine: We smash you with the information that makes your life easier. Really!</h1>

  • All heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) should have textual content. Alt tags on images do not count.


    1. <h2><img src="logo.png" alt="Smashing Magazine" /></h2>


    1. <h2><img src="logo.png" alt="Smashing Magazine" />Smashing Magazine</h2>

5. Properly Escape JavaScript

Properly escape JavaScript

When including JavaScript directly on the page, you should properly escape it as character data.

Why do I need it?
In HTML, text in the <script> element is rendered as CDATA (character data). In XHTML, text in the <script> element is treated as PCDATA (parsed character data). PCDATA is processed by the W3C validator and, therefore, must be escaped properly as CDATA. In addition, while most screen readers are intelligent enough to ignore content within the <script> element, regardless of the type of data it contains, if the code isn’t correctly escaped, another potential point of failure is created in accessibility.

Okay, so what do I do?
Use the CDATA tags around any content in the <script> element. We also comment out the CDATA tags for legacy browser support.


  1. <script type="text/javascript">
  2. //<![CDATA[
  3. $(function() {
  4. $('#divone').tipsy({fade: true, gravity: 'n'});
  5. $('#divtwo').tipsy({fade: true, gravity: 'n'});
  6. });
  7. //]]>
  8. </script>

6. Properly Escape HTML Entities

Properly escape HTML entities

Ampersands, quotes, greater- and less-than signs and other HTML must be escaped.

Why do I need it?
Using HTML entities, especially in URLs, can cause not only validation problems but also usability problems. For example, the ampersand (&) happens to be the initial character in HTML entities. If you do not properly escape the ampersand, the browser assumes you are telling it to show an HTML entity, one that doesn’t even exist.

Okay, so what do I do?
Escape HTML entities with their appropriate entity value.

  • Replace & with &amp;

  • Replace " with &quot;

  • Replace < with &lt;

  • Replace > with &gt;

  • Other HTML entities


  1. <a href=";view=top">A &quot;Cool&quot; Link</a>
  2. <code>&lt;div id=&quot;content&quot;&gt;Test information.&lt;/div&gt;</code>

7. Use Only Lowercase Tags And Attributes

Use only lowercase tags and attributes

All elements and element attributes must be lowercase. Attribute values can be both uppercase and lowercase.

Why do I need it?
Because the XHTML standard set by the W3C says so.

Okay, so what do I do?
Make sure you use only lowercase for all elements and attributes. A common mistake most developers make is using uppercase letters when giving an element JavaScript attributes (e.g. onClick, onLoad, etc.).


  1. <A href="#" onClick="doSomething();">Send us a message</A>


  1. <a href="#" onclick="doSomething();">Send us a message</a>

8. Label All Form Input Elements

Label all form input elements

All form elements should be given a <label> tag.

Why do I need it?
The <label> element adds functionality for people who use the mouse and a screen reader. Clicking on text within the <label> element focuses the corresponding form element. Screen readers can read the label so that visitors know what information to provide.

Okay, so what do I do?
Add a <label> element to each field in your form.


  1. <p><label for="searchbox">Search: </label><input type="text" id="searchbox" /></p>
  2. <p><input type="checkbox" id="remember" /><label for="remember"> Remember</label></p>

9. Supply Alternative Content For Images

Supply alternative content for images

Every image on your page should be accompanied by a textual alt tag.

Why do I need it?
The alt tag tells visitors what an image is if it cannot be displayed or viewed. The Americans with Disabilities Act dictates that all images must have an alt tag.

Okay, so what do I do?
Include one with every image. The alt tag attribute must include text and cannot be left blank. If you use images in your design for stylistic reasons alone, find a way to achieve that style using CSS. And don’t forget to provide explicit values for width and height of your images.


  1. <img src="picture.png" />
  2. <img src="spacer.gif" alt="" />


  1. <img src="picture.png" alt="A warm sunset" width="450" height="350" />

10. Use The "id" And "class" CSS Attributes Correctly

Correctly use CSS attributes "id" and "class"

When using CSS attributes, use each "id" only once on a page. Use each "class" as much as you want.

Why do I need it?
Developers often get careless and include an "id" multiple times on a single page. This can create unexpected results across different browsers and get you a big red “Validation Failed” from the W3C.

Okay, so what do I do?
Be certain to use a particular "id" only once on a page. If you need the same style applied to mutliple elements, use the "class" attribute.


  1. <p id="leftNav">Home</p>
  2. <p id="leftNav">Contact</p>


  1. <p id="homeNav" class="leftNav">Home</p>
  2. <p id="contactNav" class="leftNav">Contact</p>

Summary: Validate, Validate, Validate!

Using all the techniques in this article, you’ll be well on your way to a more accessible, standards-compliant website. But don’t stop there! Continually validate your website and address problems immediately. Here is a list of validators you should run on every page you create:

Disqus for ully's online marketing

Disqus for ully's online marketing