Own Your Domain Name!

You wouldn’t register your DBA or LLC entity in your accountant’s or lawyer’s name .. so why, oh why, do so many businesses allow their webdesigner own their domain name?

Just a few weeks ago I had to inform one of my associates that the website she was working on, was not registered to the rightful owner, and wasn’t even hosted where she thought it was.

If you are confused about the difference between domain names and hosting, here is a quick explanation: Your domain name is your online identity and the name of your site (eg. webenso.com). “Hosting” means you are renting space for your website from a hosting company, when your browser, whether it is Firefox or Internet Explorer, accesses your website, their servers “serve” up your website pages, similar to a waiter serving you your soup.

It is possible that domain is registered with a different company than your hosting provider, which means there are two separate accounts you need to have access to … and they both should have your name as owner – not your webdesigner’s name.

For both domain names and hosting accounts, there is usually a way to specify a “technical contact”. It is perfectly fine to have your webdesigner listed as a the technical contact .. but he or she should never be listed as the owner.

You not only should have the domain name registered in your name but also you should have all the account information (username and password) for:

  • Your hosting account
  • The account where your domain is registered (if different)
  • Your admin panel if you are using a CMS (for example your admin login for wordpress)

Make sure also you have the URL you go to enter your username and password. If you don’t know whether you are hosted with godaddy or bluehost, the account details will not be that useful.

I had to work with a client whose webdesigner died and left me a forensic exercise to hack into his admin panel and database. Don’t let this happen to you!

If you do not own your domain name you may not able renew it (so your site goes dark with a domain name expiration). You will not be able to point it to a new website.

If you are interviewing a webdesigner, ask them questions about the website domain registration and registration. Be suspicious if they tell you they have to host your site on their “special” servers and set up the domain for you. Most simple business websites don’t need anything special and a hosting provider like bluehost.com provides all the tools (and more) needed.

I do register domains for my clients as some of them just don’t want to face the “technical challenge”, but I always do it in their name and set it up to bill their credit card.

If you are not sure who owns your domain, try a whois lookup.

Letting the Search Engines Know About Your Site

Forget those “search engine submission” services (what do they do anyway?) Here’s how to notify Yahoo and Google about your site and, even better, give them a roadmap to all your pages. I recently had to do this for three websites, so I captured the process of submitting a sitemap for both Google using Google Webmasters Tools and Yahoo using Site Explorer.

I’m assuming you have already built a XML sitemap of your site. If you haven’t and you have a wordpress site, see my 4 essential plugins post, if you have some other type of site, check into gsitecrawler..

Before you can submit your sitemap to Yahoo and Google, you have to “verify” that you own the site. You’ll need an account (ie. a gmail account for Google Webmaster Tools) and a way to modify / create files on your site. Note that there is multiple ways to verify your site (4 for google / 2 for yahoo), so I am just going to cover the uploading HTML file for verification method.

Step 1: Add Your Site Create an Account or Login into each with your Google/Yahoo accounts:

For both the first part of adding a site is straightforward and intuitive. For Yahoo it is under “My Sites”.

Adding Website in Google Webmaster Tools

Adding Website in Google Webmaster Tools

Step 2: Download / Upload the verification file

Step 2 is more complex. When you add your site you will be prompted to go through a validation process. There will be several steps to this:


Google Verification Steps

Google Verification

    Just follow the steps as outlined:

  • First download the file – it will be a long filename that starts with “google”
  • Then upload to your web server’s root directory using a FTP program. Note that you will need to know your hosting account details (which is likely not the same as your wordpress login details)
  • Check that the file is there by clicking on the link, you should see something like “google verification” in your browser
  • Now click on the verify button

For Yahoo the process is very similar:

  • Download
  • Upload
  • Confirm link in browser
  • Click Authenticate
Yahoo SiteExplorer Authentication

Yahoo SiteExplorer Authentication

Note that with yahoo the filename starts with “y_key”. With yahoo I had failures with the authenticate step. It might have been because my blog has a redirect in .htaccess to redirect traffic to my blog directory (although I added the files to both the root and the /blog directory) . It might have been because I first added the site as webenso.com rather than www.webenso.com. In any case, persistence was the key, I deleted the site, readded the site as www.webenso.com and tried the authentication twice, the second time it seemed to go through. Note that with yahoo, it sometimes just sends you back to the initial rendering of the authentication page, without telling what happened.

Step 4: Add your sitemap

To add your sitemap you will need to know it’s filename. Google XML Sitemaps plugin usually defaults to calling your sitemap: sitemap.xml.

In Webmaster tools, the sitemap options are on the lower right hand side for your site. SiteExplorer calls sitemaps “feeds”.

Site Explorer Feeds Menu Item to add Sitemap

Click on Site Explorer Feeds Menu Item to add Sitemap

A note about Bing:

Even though Bing and Yahoo are merging due to the Microsoft / Yahoo search engine deal, it might not be a bad idea to submit your sitemap to Bing, fortunately it’s easy:

Substitute your Sitemap URL into the string below (eg. https://webenso.com/sitemap.xml) and run it in your browser URL box.

http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=put URL of your sitemap here

You’ll get a “Thanks for submitting your sitemap.” message in your browser window.

Four Essential WordPress Plugins

If you are a blogger with your own hosted WordPress site, consider installing these WordPress plugins:

  • Akismet Run, don’t walk, to install this plugin. In fact in most brand new WordPress installs, you should see this plugin already in your Plugins dashboard, ready to be activated. This plugin does a great job of filtering out spam comments on your blog .. it’s really painful to delete these comments by hand. The one trick, is that you will have to create an account at wordpress.com to obtain your WordPress API Key. However once you have that, you will be able to activate Akismet
  • All-in-One-SEO For more control over your page title and meta tags: see my earlier post on title tags and a pointer to this plugin
  • Google Analytics This doesn’t have to be a plugin as you can update the footer.php code directly with the Google Analytics tracking code, however there are several plugins available. I installed Yoast’s plugin and it was straightforward. With this, you should set up your google analytic account first. If you think you will need help, I would suggest watching the YouTube videos on the topic, just search on “google analytics wordpress plugin video” and browse through them until you find one that makes sense to you. Why do you want to install this plugin? So that you have information about the visitors to your site, what keywords they use … etc. Don’t worry about if you don’t understand google analytics at first. The important thing is to start the analytics tracking now, so you can look at your blog’s performance trends in the future.
  • Google XML Sitemaps This plugin will help Google crawl your blog (and help Google discover it in the first place!). It creates a list of your blog posts and pages in a special format that Google likes (called XML) and updates it when you change or updates your blog. With this plugin, you MAY need to know how to create and change permissions on a file on your server, (usually done through a FTP client such as Filezilla). Another cool thing, which I plan to cover more in a future post, is that it helps with eliminating duplicate content. Instructions and download for Google XML Sitemap Plugin. You may be also able to install it directly from your wordpress config panel (Add New Plugin).

Update: March 4, 2013: These plugins are all still valid. I’ve published a more extensive list of WordPress plugins critical for SEO that you might want to check out as well.

Frank Kern: here is what i got

I had the privilege of seeing Frank Kern give a talk on Saturday. For those of you that don’t know him, Frank Kern is the highest paid internet marketer on the planet. Frank is a gifted copywriter and does direct response campaigns, both online (email campaigns, sales letter pages) and offline. Direct response means that the copy asks for the reader to take action (usually to buy something).

Frank is quite entertaining and swears a lot. But underneath that casual demeanor you catch glimpses of a sharp masterful focus on his craft. The rest of his time he parties and surfs.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Here is what I got Copy per Frank has three sections: 1) “Here is what I got” – what the offer is, 2) “Here is what it will do for you”, and 3) “Here is what I want you to do next” – call to action
  • Market research is critical You have to know your target market, what problem they are trying to solve and whether they have money to spend.
  • Attract Fans Give away free stuff of great value that helps a little. Then sell them a product that helps them a lot.
  • Sell high dollar products It’s a lot more effort to sell a $100 product to 100 people than to sell a $10,000 product to 10 people

Thanks to JeffAndKane for having Frank at their event.

How I started my email list

The money is in the list. With a list you can build on your relationship with your clients so they are more likely to buy from you and also let them know of exciting products and services. For me, I wanted to keep in touch with my community and build my reputation as a web marketer, so what better way to do that than to create an email list with a monthly newsletter? To get myself into action on this goal, I had an networking event coming up so I decided to hand out postcards with a website URL where a free report was available for download when visitors opted into my email list.

To make this happen there was a number of components that I needed to build or configure to work together. The cost was just over $100 (mostly for the postcards). Use this blog post as a guide to build your your own!

Step 1: Create Your Offer To encourage people to opt into my list, I wrote a free report called “Five Ways to Make Your Website Googlicious”. Most website owners do not know much about SEO (search engine optimization), so my goal was to open their eyes on how they could make their website more search engine friendly.

Step 2: Create the postcard I used VistaPrint for creating the postcard. On their site (Advertising and Marketing –> Postcards), I found a template that I liked and added the text I needed. Your choices of templates are overwhelming but otherwise the process is straightforward. Cost: approx. $90 for 250 double sided glossy postcards

Step 3: Squeeze Page For the squeeze page, I bought the domain www.yoursuccessfulwebsite.com and recruited a bored college student to create a squeeze page out of a template we got for $9. I’m not happy with the template code, but it does the job. Since I hosted the site in a subdirectory in a bluehost.com account I already had, I didn’t have to buy additional hosting.

Finding Images On the postcard there is a picture of a person looking through a spyglass which aligned nicely with the messaging of the postcard which asked “Can Your Customers Find Your Website?”. To reinforce the messaging and as a memory jogger, I wanted to show a similar image on the website. I found one in istockphoto.com for a few dollars.

Image Tweaks for the non Graphically Inclined While everything looked great on a PC, I arrived at the seminar with my Mac laptop and found that that the header of the website was not displaying properly! For the just in time simple or last minute tweaks to images on my Macbook Pro I used Paintbrush which is a free download.

Step 4: Autoresponder / Email System Since I wanted a flexible autoresponder for multiple uses, I created an account at aweber. aweber is $19 a month for 500 contacts. If you just want to just email a newsletter to a list, you might consider icontact which is cheaper. Both will generate web form code that you can copy and paste into your squeeze page for your opt-in box.


  • Based on other freebies on the web and feedback I’ve received, I overdid it on the free report. In its current format, it’s 22 pages long and provides a lot of value. I probably should charge for it, however for now I’m going to keep it as free – you can get it at www.yoursuccessfulwebsite.com
  • Despite the lure of getting my website done for free, I might try a service like elance next time. Or since I am a do-it-myself type of person, find a better template.
  • I got lots of positive comments on the postcard. It definitely stood out, both in its size and coloring, compared to the business cards that most were handing out.
  • However, I did not get tremendous uptake on my free offer, about 7%, it would have been more lucrative to have a packaged service or product to sell and close people on the spot, however since I currently am not selling either, I’m happy with the results so far.
  • Be prepared to spend some time configuring aweber (or whichever ESP – email service provider you choose). There are multiple steps in opting into a list and you have to think about the experience for your visitor for each step. For example, where should your visitor be sent to after they have typed in their email address and name? What should you say in your welcome message when they join?
  • This one should be obvious, but I will say it again, test your websites in different browsers and both on a Mac and PC. Not only did the header look different on a Mac, but the opt-in box code from aweber looked different in IE (internet explorer) rather than firefox – requiring another fix.

I hope this overview helps you put together your own email list and opt-in web form. Good Luck!

Google Adsense and Adwords, make money magnets

What’s the difference between Google’s Adsense and Adwords programs?

Adsense and Adwords work together but are frequently confused. I find it most helpful to explain from a perspective of what role you are playing on the internet.

If you are a publisher, in other words you blog, write articles, or otherwise put content on the internet, then you may want to consider adsense as a way to make money online. Web site owners can set up adsense ads on their sites, and if their site visitors click on the ad, the site owners gets a commission. Setting up adsense ads is easy.

  1. You create an account with google (you can use an existing gmail account)
  2. You pick what style and colors the adsense ad will appear as on your site
  3. You cut and paste the generated code to your site

Google looks at your content and figures out what ads are relevant to show on your site.

If you want to advertise on the internet, then you should consider adwords (also known as Google PPC – pay per click). Your goals might be to drive more traffic to your website so you can sell online or build a list through an opt-in box. Adwords takes a little more to set up than Adsense but it’s not too hard to get started. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Each time someone clicks on your ad, you pay a fee, so it is easy to run through a lot of money. Most experts advise setting a small daily budget until you have the ad tuned. Make sure you do your numbers. If it costs you a $1 per click and you get a 10% conversion on the traffic, then will you make money on a $7 product? I don’t think so.
  • You will have the choice on whether to advertise in the search engine results pages in the sponsored listings, or through the adsense publishing network. Each is a different strategy.
  • Pay attention to your keywords, you have a lot of control on not only which keywords your ad shows up for but whether you want to just appear for an exact match, the keyword phrase in a larger search term or keywords in any order.

While it’s easy to get the basics, it’s another to be successful. Google Adwords (or Search Engine Marketing) is a specialized field that successful marketers can charge good money for a successful campaign.

Google Local Business Center for Home Businesses

Adding a listing to Google Local Business Center helps your local bricks and mortar business get found by web searchers. Google Local Business Center is integrated with Google local search – that list of results that show up as a map with locations. If you type in a search term plus a geographic term such as “Thai food Fremont” you will often get these “map” results.

Google Map Results

Google Map Results

The problem has been that you needed a business address for this to really work for you. Many home based businesses don’t want to publish their home addresses and their service area may be different than where they live. Some home based businesses have gotten PO Boxes just to get a better listing in local search. But a pin on a map that points to a PO Box isn’t necessarily that useful.

Well a fix from google now available. In an indepth interview with Eric Enge, Carter Maslan shares the concept of service areas that google is introducing. If you are a dog walker that serves an area differently than where you live, this update is for you. You can now specify what area you want to appear in for a local search. Check out the service area help page for more info.

How do search engines use meta tags?

Part 2 of What are Meta Tags?

We now know what are meta tags (previous post) and that they are really only two that we care about (well most of us, there are some additional ones that should be in a webmasters tool kit). So how do search engines use meta tags?

Keywords meta tag:

It used to be that you could put the keywords you wanted to rank for into the keyword meta tag, and the more the better right? Then you could sit back and consider yourself done with your SEO efforts. This has not been true for a while. Google completely ignores this tag and has for years, and while yahoo and bing probably look at the tag, it is not clear that they give it much weight in determining how to rank your site. Regardless, do not put 30+ keywords into this tag, this is known as keyword stuffing and will only harm your page. Keep it to 10 at most. If you do use adsense or other context driven ads on your site, there is evidence that they use the tag to determine what ads to show.

Description meta tag:

Technically this meta tag doesn’t help your web page rank any better, but it is still important. Why? Because if this tag is set, google will often show it as the snippet underneath the title in the SERPs (search engine results pages) rather than grabbing some random chunk of text off your page. I’ve seen some funny snippets over the years, usually from sites that have no text, so you get a snippet that says “you need flash version xxx to view this site”. Is that going to entice you to click? You can think of your description meta tag as the “welcome” mat to your site. Put together a catchy description (no more than 160 characters as that is all that will show) that will invite your reader to click through to find out more.

What are meta tags?

I belong to a mastermind group that is following a Joel Comm video series. We get together every week and discuss the particular session we watched during that week. Some of his videos do assume a certain amount of knowledge especially when they veer off the prepared materials.

The discussion was concerning meta tags and how important (or unimportant) they are for SEO. I was glad I watched because I picked up one interesting tidbit about meta tags that I hadn’t known before .. but I’ll get to that in another post.

So what are meta tags?

First off, it’s useful to understand that what you see on a web page isn’t the whole story, there are certain HTML code elements that are not visible on the rendered page but still read by search engines. Meta tags fall into this category. Meta tags are metadata, essentially data about data (if that is confusing, I’m afraid the wikipedia entry won’t be much help). However in this specific example, the concept is a little easier to grasp, since on an HTML web page, meta tags help describe what the web page is about.

What can you say about a web page? Well a number of things, but you need to only pay attention to two tags “description” and “keywords”.

  • Keywords is just that, a list of keywords that you think describe your page the best
  • Description is a few sentences that describes what your page is about

Many website building tools and CMS (content management systems) will have some way for you to fill these tags in, without having to learn how to code them into HTML. If they don’t, consider moving on to one that does.

Next – how search engines use meta tags

When to use “microsites”, subdomains vs. folders

I saw a blog post on when to use microsites vs. multiple domains. The blog post wasn’t that helpful, but reminded me that I wanted to sharpen my understanding of when:

  1. use of subdomain is called for versus a sub-directory
  2. when it makes sense to create a whole separate domain altogether

In my corporate web job, we often used subdomains because we were hosting the new website (usually an application rather than a pure HTML site) on separate servers. But then we would often create a “vanity URL” on the main site that redirected to the sub site. Interesting, but not necessarily helpful to answering the question or when, from the marketing or SEO perspective multiple domains is called for.

I was confused on what the term “microsite” meant. The wikipedia definition: “cluster of pages which are meant to function as an auxiliary supplement to a primary website … most likely has its own domain name or subdomain” helped quite a bit. From both the technical and user experience perspective, it makes sense to install something like a forums, catalog or other separate feature on a subdomain, like maps.google.com .. or even on a completely separate domain. And if it will have a distinct brand identity, a separate domain is called for. One more reason, mentioned by the wikipedia entry, is that it can help target your PPC keywords more accurately.

Subdomains appear to be treated similarly to sub-directories by search engines per Matt Cutts, which means you may not get much SEO benefit for the added complexity.

So microsites usually mean additional domains. However just because you want to expand your web presence into a related but different topic than your web site already covers, doesn’t necessary mean a new domain. A new domain adds management and other costs, and you might have to start from scratch to get it indexed by the search engines. You are also missing out on the opportunity to get your original site to rank for more searches because it has more content.

However, I’ve seen creation of a blog on wordpress.com or blogspot.com with links to a main site be quite helpful for ranking for desirable keywords. A specific tactic to keep in mind.