February 17, 2010

How Writers can Use Landing Pages to Drive Visitors to their Site

The Internet has brought about a cheap and efficient way for writers to publish their work. It is very easy for a writer to create a free personal web site or blog where he can upload his writings and make them accessible to anyone who has a computer and an Internet connection.

Unfortunately, this advance in technological development has also brought about the need for writers to perform an additional task: that of making sure that his written works can be found by his readers in the World Wide Web. This task is called web page optimization and the optimizing aspect is done not so much for people who will read the work but to make the work friendlier to the search engines.

The writer needs to infuse his work with search words or phrases that his readers might use in searching for his work. Not only does he need to introduce the search words and phrases in his work, the writer is required to repeat them a number of times to prove to the search engine that this article must be included if a searcher uses those terms to look for relevant information in the Internet.

This state of things has resulted in the degradation of the quality of the writer's work and has affected its readability. The repetition of the so-called keyword phrases within the written work can become irritating to some readers and can make the work more boring and less interesting to read. Yet the writer has to swallow the bitter pill if he wants his readers to more readily find his work on the Internet. Oftentimes, the writer needs to perform a balancing act wherein he would add the keyword phrases creatively so as not to make his work sound repetitious and boring.

But there is a scheme which the writer can use so that he can metaphorically have his cake and eat it too. The scheme involves writing a page that is loaded with the targeted keyword phrase and posting this page on article submission sites which abound in the Internet. A number of such pages which are euphemistically called landing pages can be prepared and submitted to high ranking sites that accept articles on various topics for posting on their sites.

It's a quid pro quo arrangement wherein the submission sites get free content and the writer gets a chance to have prominence in the search engine results pages for the keyword that was targeted on the landing page. The submission site also allows the writer to place a few self-serving links on the article to invite the reader to visit his site and get the satisfaction that was promised on the landing page. With a number of optimized landing pages distributed among high ranking article submission sites, the writer's web site or blog gets a bigger chance of being visited by information searchers and readers in the Internet.

You should not however write an outright sales letter that would showcase the benefits that the readers can gain by visiting your site. The article submission site might reject your article on grounds that it is an outright sales offer from you. The trick is to pick an interesting story in your blog's niche and write about it, then creatively draw the reader for more interesting stuff to your blog or web site.

This doesn't mean that you would no longer have to do any optimization work on the pages on your web site. There are other optimization tasks that do not involve the actual content of your web pages like the META tags and how your pages are linked to one another. You can very well include subtle optimizations on the content but not as much as the optimization done on the landing pages that you wrote.

Writers who have been writing before the advent of search engine optimization find it difficult to write optimized articles outrightly with the targeted keyword phrases surreptitiously inserted on various parts of the written work. If you find it a bit difficult to do this, then you can write a straight article without optimization and then later while editing your work change some of the phrases or words into the targeted keyword phrase. The search term may not outrightly fit into some sentences which have to be recast so as to accommodate the targeted keyword phrases.

Your targeted keyword phrase must appear on the title of the landing page and you can also use the keyword phrases as headings on the article. You should include as much substantive content as you possibly can to prevent your work from sounding like a sales pitch. However, you should not include everything in it that your reader need not go to your web site anymore because all that he needed to know were already included in your article. You must leave important things unsaid so as to pique the curiosity of the reader and induce him to visit your site.

End your article with a strong call to action and if possible, make the last sentence end with the targeted keyword which you should use as a hyperlink to the home page of your blog or web site. This would greatly increase the probability of getting what the article submission sites called a click through which means that the reader got so interested in your blog or web site that he is induced to click the link to take a look at your site. The click through rate or CTR is a search engine optimization measure of how effective your landing page is. When writing your landing page, don't forget your overriding objective which is to make the reader interested enough that he would click the link to your web site.

In sum, writers need not have to perform too much optimization of their web site's pages which could result in making the pages sound uninteresting and boring. They can instead write landing pages that contain a link to their web sites and submit these to high ranking article submission sites. They can then infuse only subtle optimization to the actual pages of their blogs or web sites.



February 11, 2010

Simple Ways for Writers to promote their Blog or Personal Web Site

The volume of information in the Internet has grown tremendously as it has become so easy for people and businesses to establish presence in the World Wide Web. Not all information that can be found in the Internet is useful though. Sometimes, it takes patience and a good search strategy to find the right information that can help people intelligently approach the challenges that they face.

Most writers will typically have a blog or a personal web site to which he posts articles every now and then. The Internet is a system of connected networks which moves information to and from all corners of the world. It is very easy to setup a free personal web site or blog which can be accessed by anyone that has a computer and an Internet connection.

The coming of the Internet has empowered writers to publish their works cheaply and efficiently. However, the job of the writer does not stop with publishing his work on the Internet. He also needs to perform promotional activities if he wants his work to reach his intended audience.

Before the advent of the Internet, authors had only one master and that was the reading public. Today, the writer needs to balance the demands of their readers for useful and easy to read information with the need to include keywords that would help bring their written works to their readers. As they struggle to make their work more readable and people-friendly, they have to include in their write-ups sometimes unneeded words to make the work more search engine friendly.

The search engines had become a powerful force that writers had to contend with. Without the search engines, it would be difficult for their intended readers to find their work in the Internet. As they rewrite their work to make them play better with the search engines, their readability and usefulness for people are decreased.

Optimizing an article involves including keywords that Internet searchers are expected to use when they go looking for information in the Internet. Writers need to use the exact keyword found on keyword tools if they want their works to be more easily found by their intended audience. Not only that writers need to use other people's words; they also have to use them a number of times in their work if they want them to play well with the search engines.

It is not enough that the writer has posted his article on his blog or web page. He also needs to make sure that his work is indexed by the search engines. His blog or web site needs to be registered with large directories that document all the information that can be found in the World Wide Web. Directories are staffed with volunteers that look over the submitted forms to make sure that the information are accurate and in order.

To have his blog or web site indexed immediately, the writer needs to submit the Universal Resource Locator (URL) of his web site directly with the search engines. The search engines have programs that continuously visit web sites and document the information contained in those sites. They work faster than directories but they can only perform limited analysis of the information as languages have contextual meanings that only human beings can comprehend.

One way to prompt search engines to index new postings is to include a link to the new posting on old pages that have already been indexed. Blogs are more frequently updated than regular web sites so they are indexed more frequently by the search engines. Hence, including a link to the new posting on the writer's blog increases the chance that the new posting will be immediately indexed by the search engines.

Writers can also promote their blogs or personal web sites by submitting articles to article and document submission sites. Article and document submission sites allow authors to submit useful articles or documents in return for a valuable link and prominence in the search engine results. For article submissions, the writer can submit a useful article on his topic of expertise with a link to his blog or personal web site. He can also submit useful documents to document submission sites, but he is not limited as to the number of links that can be placed on the document. Hence, article submission is better at promoting the whole blog or personal web site and document submission performs extremely well for promoting actual web pages on the writer's blog or personal web site.

A feed is a promotional tool that includes brief summaries of the contents of the writer's blog or personal web site. The writer can submit his feed to feed catalog sites where feed readers and Internet browsers go to look for interesting blog articles. He can also submit feeds to search engines and other sites that accept feed submissions. Feeds are flexible promotional tools that can be included in customized user pages bringing information about the writer's works directly in front of the user. Feeds contain links to the pages in the writer's blog or personal web site which when clicked brings the user to the original article or written work.

The writer can also look for forums whose subjects of interest are related to the theme of his blog or personal web site. He can register in such forums and include in his signature the URLs of his personal sites. Some forums will allow the writer to put links to his web pages on his posts provided that he has made a certain number of posts in the forums. Aside from promoting his blog or personal site, the writer can likewise gain valuable links from high valued forums.

The writer can also submit his sites' URLs to local or industry related directories that gather links to relevant sites. There are a number of industry or professional associations that accept links in their web sites. Not only will the writer's site be promoted by submitting links to these sites but his blog or personal web site can also gain valuable links from highly ranked association sites.

These are simple and cheap ways by which the writer can promote his blog or personal web site. He can submit his URLs to international search engines and directories as well as to local, industry or professional association web sites. He can also submit articles with self-serving links to article and document submission sites. He can also submit his blog or web site's feeds to feed submission sites and search engines and he could register with relevant forums and include his links on his signature and postings as long as it is allowed in the forum rules.

Read my other article on practical ways to improve your writing skills at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2010/11/practical-ways-to-improve-your-writing.html.

Read my other article on how to use Google Docs to promote articles in your personal website at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-use-google-docs-to-promote.html.



February 5, 2010

How to Use Feeds to Promote your Personal Web Site or Blog

A feed is a list of articles or posts that is packaged in a standard manner that can be easily and safely transported all over the Internet. It's actually written using the Extensible Markup Language (XML) which is the standard way of carrying information from one web site to another. In other words it is actually an XML file that contains information about the articles that you have posted in your blog.

A feed can contain a full copy of each of the articles you have posted in your blog but you would normally choose to include only the first paragraph or 250 words in the article. You can also limit the total number of entries included in the feed so if you have decided to include only 20 articles, only the 20 latest posts in your blog will be included in your feed.

The beauty of feeds is that they automatically update every time you upload a new post in your blog. You don't have to manually include a new post so in a sense it is an updated and condensed version of of your blog. And since it is just a small file, it can very easily and quickly sent and received in the Internet. This is true if you have used a feed service like Google's Feedburner. Otherwise, you have to manually update your feed every time there is new content in your web site or blog.

Your readers use a feed reader or an Internet browser to read your feed. Your feed is actually like an updated table of contents of your blog which your user can conveniently peruse anytime and click on a link there to read more of the article he is interested in. So it works like a brochure for your product which is actually your blog or web site. The good thing is that users can look at your feed and if they find something interesting, they can just click on it and they will then be brought to your web site. That is how actually the feeds work.

You use a feed creator to generate your feed. There are programs that you can download from the Internet that can be used to create your feed. These programs produce the XML file which contains a summary of the articles in your blog or personal web site. This summary of articles is what we call a feed. You can then upload the XML file to your web server and put a link to it in your home page. You can include that link everywhere on a web page that you own and you can also send it to someone who will allow your link to be placed on any of his web pages.

There are two competing standards for the creation of your feeds: Atom and RSS. Atom is the default feed creator for blogs created at Google's Blogger free blog site. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it seems to be the most used platform for the creation and management of feeds.

A feed is a very essential promotional tool that bloggers and personal web owners should use. There are gadgets that you can use to make a feed gadget that you can place anywhere on a web page and it would display a summary of the latest posts in your blog. Google's Feedburner offers an easy to use tool for generating the HTML code that you can insert on any part of a web page which would display a certain number of new posts in your blog which when clicked will automatically bring the reader to your blog or web site.

You can also put AdSense ads on your feeds but Adsense will only accept feeds that were created using Google's Feedburner feed-making tool. If your blog is hosted on Blogger and you want to place AdSense ads on your feeds, you will have to redirect your Atom-created feed to the one that you have created using Feedburner. Feeds can also be used as a substitute for sitemap and submitted to the Google search engine. You can use your Webmaster tools to submit your sitemap to Google using your blog's feed.

When your readers are surfing the Internet using their favorite browsers, they are alerted to the presence of a feed by showing the orange chicklet logo somewhere on the browser page. Search engines like Google and Yahoo offers customized web pages where readers can choose to incorporate feeds from their favorite web sites on their customized page. So every time that they check their emails for example using the search engine provided email service, your feed will be shown on the user's customized feed when your user closes his mail reader.

You can submit your feed to feed promoting sites in the Internet. I have submitted my feeds to BlogCatalog and Bloglines which are two of those I found accepting feeds from bloggers and other web site owners. Make a search for feed submission sites and check first their web site before you submit your feed to them. Read the frequently asked questions and if your impression about them is good, then go ahead and submit your feed to them. What you are submitting would be the URL of your feed. Be ready for the title and description of your site and the categories to which your feed should be classified.

An advantage of using Google's Feedburner to create your feed is that you can change the title and description of your blog or web site in the feed. This can be a good way to include promotional information and also explain what information you are offering on your site in more detail. A good rewritten title and description can convince someone looking for feeds to subscribe to yours.

With Google's Feedburner tool, you can also monitor how many readers are subscribing to your feeds. If you also have two or more sites, you can create a small feed of one of your sites in Feedburner and place the feed on some pages of your other sites thereby enabling cross promotion among your sites.

Feeds are a convenient way for your readers to check what's new or what's inside in your web site or blog without actually going to your blog or web site. From your feed, users can just select what looks interesting to them and that's the time that they go to your web site. It is very important that you use catchy titles in your articles so that your readers will have a good chance of clicking on an interesting link on your feed and thereby reaching your web site.

You can submit your feeds to as many feed submission sites as you want. There is no danger of having duplicate content unlike in an article where search engine will not include web pages that have identical content in the search page results. This is actually a limitation of using articles to promote your web site or blog. However, there are programs that you can use to generate different versions of an article that are unique from each other so that would somehow make web site promotion through articles a little bit sustainable.

So don't dismiss feeds as a promotional tool since it can be easy to use if you avail of feed services like the Google Feedburner. But you can also do it manually using programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Which method you choose, feeds are a flexible and versatile tool that you should not do without. If you hit on a good feed submission site, you can tremendously increase your traffic via subscription to your feeds.

It works like a leaflet or a brochure that you can just give to anyone or place in feed submission sites where people on the lookout for interesting articles go looking for one. Your readers may be overwhelmed by the volume of information that can be found in your blog or web site. A feed contains just a subset of your contents that your readers can conveniently use to choose from and look only at those information that would be of interest to him.



February 3, 2010

Download, Modify and Use a Free Blogger XML Template and Learn CSS and HTML along the Way

There are several reasons why you might want to change the skin of your Blogger blog. One primary reason is for you to be able to place more AdSense or Amazon ads on it. The old Blogger templates do not have enough spaces to where you can place the new larger ads from both AdSense and Amazon.

Or, you might have just grown tired of the same old skin that almost everyone had used and tweaked but still fell short of how you wanted your blog to look. You have used the same old fonts that everyone had used and the same old two-column format and you wanted to experiment on bolder designs that use more daring colors.

There is a lot of Blogger XML templates that you can download and use from the Internet but none of them will fit exactly what you have in mind. The best approach seems to be to choose a template that is close enough to what you have in mind and then modify its underlying code to suit your requirements.

I have changed the skins of my three Blogger blogs and in only one of them had I made very minimal modifications. In one of them I had to try as many as four templates and yet the last one that I used still had some minor bugs that I just left untouched for I honestly did not know how to resolve the issue. It was a wonderful learning experience and an eye-opening one too in the sense that I realized that there is a lot of stunning designs out there but when you use them you'll discover how broken the underlying code is.

Before you finally decide to adapt and use a Blogger XML template, make a cursory survey of the code behind the design. A good template will have a clean code underneath it with lots of comments and the CSS and HTML codes are carefully organized. Since the templates are free, you really don't expect to find one that is of high quality. Most of the templates that you will find are just adaptations from existing designs where the designer was mainly interested in coming up with an attractive design with lots left-over codes that are reminiscent of someone who is just beginning to learn CSS and HTML.

Writing codes is just like writing using words in a particular language. You don't want to read a piece of written work that is sloppily done and full of grammatical errors. Just as a good piece of writing does not contain erroneous punctuation and misspelled words, a good piece of code should not contain codes that were found to be erroneous and were just commented out and left behind by the designer.

Programming languages have their own style of writing codes that are easy to follow and understand. Just like in writing an article or an essay, you would know by reading the contents of the written work how thoroughly prepared the writer was when he wrote his written work. A highly structured and organized writing exemplifies clear thinking and a full grasp of the subject matter being dealt with in the written work. A sloppy written output results from an unprepared mind in a hurry to beat the deadline set by one's superior.

All Blogger XML templates follow a standard format that had been established by the original designers of Blogger XML templates. However, the ones that are offered for free are those that have been modified several times already by several authors resulting in a code that is unorganized and full of errors that have been propagated through several generations of work done by different persons. Some templates are full of useless codes resulting from unfinished attempts that were carelessly left behind by those who have earlier worked on the codes.

One really valuable thing that you can do with your template is to revive the crosscolumn section that has been left unused by default on most of the freely downloadable Blogger XML templates. This will prove very useful if you want to place a 728-pixel wide banner on top of your web page. Some designers have already removed this piece of code on some templates so you have to find an old template that still has the original code in it and copy and paste it immediately after the menu or the header section of the code.

I have used this trick on my three Blogger blogs and I am pleased with the results. Some Blogger XML templates feature a menu bar for RSS feeds, home page and a shortcut to the Blogger site where you can edit your blog. The unordered list that populates the menu bar can be easily removed or commented out but be sure that you retain the DIV that contains the menu bar. Otherwise, you will lose some proportion when the space occupied by the DIV is removed from the design.

Aside from the 728-pixel banner that you can place at the top portion of your page, you can also put a 728-pixel wide link list just before the content wrapper of your page. The content wrapper is the larger DIV that contains the DIV for you post as well as any number of sidebars that may be included in the design. The 728-pixel link list is one of the most effective ads that you can place on your web page. It doesn't contain ads for specific companies or business but keywords that really look like a menu bar for your page. It is really very tempting for the users to click and yet users are well disposed to click on it because it doesn't look like the rest of AdSense ads and more like links to more information related to the keyword which it is really is except that you as the owner of the blog gets paid by Google when a link list in your blog is clicked by your user. This small-footprint advertising format can be a powerful tool cleverly used by savvy bloggers.

Another useful trick that you can use is to customize the colors of your Adsense ads to match the colors of your page. This can be easily done using the page element wizard on the Blogger home page. You can look at the code behind the design to determine the hexadecimal notation for the colors used in the design of your template. However, some designers use a customized color that is downloaded from somewhere in the Blogspot domain. In such a situation, you can just use a similar color that you can search for in the Internet. The idea behind this technique is to make the ads appear as integrated as possible to your web page. Just be sure, however, that they still stand out and get your readers' attention.

While you can put AdSense ads directly below your post, for me it ir preferable to put them in the sidebars for the reason that sometimes, a user may click on the month link on your archive and when your user does this, all your posts for a certain month will be displayed. And since you are allowed only three AdSense for Contents ads on your page, priority will be given to the ads on the post itself and whatever ads you have on the sidebar is left with a blank space with no contents. This can look awkward and so I usually avoid placing an AdSense ads on the post in my blogs.

The old Blogger XML templates featured very narrow sidebars where large format AdSense ads will not fit. Thankfully, most of the freely downloadable BLogger XML templates feature wide sidebars that can easily fit 250-pixel wide ads. Don't choose templates that have narrow sidebars if you plan to put wider ads in your site. Most template download sites provide for a live demo of the template in action so you can see how wide the sidebars are by looking at the live demo. You will have more flexibility on ad placements if your template has wide sidebars.

I choose to place my 600-pixel tall AdSense ads on the right sidebar of my blog's page. I just think that the sidebar on the left feels awkward so I prefer to have my sidebar on the right. I immediately place the 600-pixel tall ad after the Google search the blog widget. Again, I just think that the top part of the right sidebar is a powerful place to put the 600-pixel tall AdSense ads. They can be made to look like real blog links by playing with their background colors and the color of their font. It would be good practice to match the link colors of the ads with the link color of your template's style sheet.

But sometimes, you won't really know if the free Blogger XML template will work for your blog or not unless you try using it in your blog. You may have to try a few templates for size before you finally settle for the one that you are most comfortable with. Don't fret if a few templates will not work for you. Consider the time you've spent tweaking the template as a wonderful learning experience. You will really appreciate how CSS and HTML work together to build up the web page by modifying a free Blogger XML template.

So those are some of the tips that I can pass on to you in case you're planning to change your Blogger blog's skin by using a new template that you can download from the Internet. I hope you have gained a few ideas on how you would go on changing your Blogger XML template in the future. Choose a visually pleasing design but look at the code also because some of the codes on the freely downloadable templates are simply broken.

Read my article on what you need to know about and how you can use the Blogger XML templates at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-you-need-to-know-about-and-how-you.html.



February 2, 2010

How to Use the Free Google Tools to Optimize your Personal Web Site

Google has made available for free use by anyone a wide variety of tools that can be useful for writers and other people who publish in the Internet. It doesn't matter whether you publish your work in the Internet for money or for fun, the tools will help you get your written work or message to your readers or intended audience.

As writers and publishers, we are creating written works that we hope would provide some value for our intended audience. And if you're writing to make money on the Internet, the more people read your written work, the more money you can generate from your writing efforts.

The Internet has grown to become a very competitive place. At the same time, it has also become a technology intensive place to work on. Therefore, we have to use the technology that is available to make our work more accessible to our targeted audience. We cannot just write and hope that someone out there may stumble upon it. We should write for a purpose and that purpose must include seeing to it that our targeted readers can easily get hold of our written work.

Fortunately, Google has made available a host of free tools that writers and publishers in the Internet can use to promote and optimize their site to gain a competitive edge over others who are competing for the readers' attention. We have to get to know and use these tools if we want to get ahead in our writing endeavors.

If you already have a topic that you would like to write about, don't go writing that article yet. Pay a visit to Google AdWords and check what keywords, people are using to search for information related to the topic. This can give you a hint on from what angle it would be best to write your article. You will also get an idea on what keyword phrases you might use later on when you decide to optimize your article for the Google search engine.

You can use Google Analytics to find out which among your articles are being read the most. This would give you an indication of what information people out there are searching for. You can then use this information to generate ideas for other related topics that you can write on. Perhaps you can write another article that deals with one major aspect of the topic that you have only dealt with slightly on the article most liked by your readers.

Use the Google Webmaster tools to find what topical interests your web site is focusing on and how focused your web site is for targeting those subjects. If you notice that you have a preponderance of irrelevant keywords, then it's time to reassess what particular topics your web site should be focusing on. This would give you a clue as to what topics you should be planning to write on your next articles.

I believe that Google is using a metric to assess how relevant to a particular keyword phrase your site is. I think that having a tight focus on particular topics can improve the chance that your pages will be chosen to be included in Google's search result pages. When you look at the keywords portion of the Webmaster dashboard, you will be presented with a visual overview of the most used keywords in your site.

For me, the ideal result would show three of four keywords getting from 90 to 100 points on the bar chart. This means that your articles are tightly focusing on those topics and would likely be chosen to be included in the search results for those keywords. If most of your important keywords are showing below 50 points on the bar chart, then it's time to think about writing more articles on a particular topic to increase how focused your web site is on the keywords that you are targeting.

Google Insights for Search is a good tool that you can use in planning the contents of your web sites. Perhaps you're thinking of creating a new web site or adding a new topic that you would like your existing web sites to focus on. Google Insights for Search can point you to what subject matters to avoid because of the people's declining interest on them. At the same time, it can point you to topics that are worth exploring because of the rising demand for information about those issues. Based on the insights you obtain after studying the data, you might decide to completely change the focus of your site or create a new one that will cater to the emerging trends developing in the years ahead.

If you have more than one web site, you can cross promote between the sites using your site's feed. However, you have to create your feed using Google's Feedburner tool. A feed is a promotional tool that you can use to send people over to your web site. If you host your site on Blogger, you already have a feed created using Atom. If you click on that link, you'll be able to see how your feed would look like.

Google's Feedburner tool is another way to create a feed and setup a customized HTML code that you can place on your web pages. The code will feature the standard chicklet icon which you can place on any of your HTML page. Once clicked, it will show your feed together with the options on what feed reader your user would like to use to read your feed. From then on, a link to your feed will be included on your user's feed reader's page. The feed reader will alert your user once you post a new article on your web site.

If you blog at Blogger and you have chosen to create new feeds using Feedburner, you have to set your blog to re-route its Atom-created feed to the one created by Feedburner. There is an option to set this up in your Blogger dashboard. For me, a feed should be used only to alert people about what is new on your web site so it must be short. By default, Blogger sets your feed setting to full which means a full copy of each of your posts are included in your feed. You have to change your setting in your Blogger dashboard if you don't want this to happen with your feed.

You can also use Feedburner to generate an HTML snippet that will show the latest posts that you have in your blog. You can then place this HTML code in your other web sites thereby achieving cross promotion among your sites. To do this, you need to use Google Analytics to find out which pages are most visited in your site. Then, go to Feedburner and generate the HTML code that will show your other site's feed and place it on the most visited pages of your other site. You can also use the feed to add relevant content on some of your pages that have relatively short content.

Those are a few of the free Google tools that you can use to improve how well your web site responds to the needs of your readers or to increase the visibility of your web site. Google Analytics and Webmaster tools can provide information about how readers respond to your web site. Google Insights for Search can provide you with information for developing your content strategy and the Google Feedburner tool can help you promote your web site using the feeds technology.