What and Why Series - Sitemaps

on Monday, April 6, 2009
Sitemaps are very important from an SEO point of view. Through Sitemaps, you can easily inform the search engines how many pages are there on your site, what is the frequency of changes you make and prioritize them. For example, you can tell the search engines that there are X pages in your website which are updated once in a month. You can also inform the engines that the index page of your site is more impartant for a visitor than the contact us page.

Thus, an XML sitemap is a list of pages on your site which contents the relevant details about each page. This ultimately helps the search engines to index or crawl your site better.

Sitemaps are particularly helpful if:

  • Your site is updated frequently.
  • Your site has pages that aren't easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process - for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or Flash.
  • Your site is new and has few links to it.
  • Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.
How to create a Sitemap?
There are some great available online for free, through which you can generate quality sitemaps. However, I particularly like the tool we have on XML-Sitemaps.com. This is an excellent tool which allows you to create a sitemap exactly as you want.

How do I submit a Sitemap?
For submiting a Sitemap in Google, you must first get your site verified through Google Webmaster Center (Which is, by the way, even easier, just try it yourself ;) ). Once you have created an XML file using a tool, you need to upload the XML file into your web server and call it "sitemap". Then, you can simply login to your Google Webmaster Account and submit the URL of your xml sitemap, which ideally should be www.name.com/sitemap.xml. That's it! Your site would be crawled by the search engines within a week.

What is Social Media Marketing

on Friday, March 20, 2009
You must have heard about Social Media Marketing or marketing using Web 2.0 tools and would have definitely wondered what is this all about?? When was the first version of the web launched after all??

Well, to explain you Social Media Marketing, let me first explain you, what is Web 2.0! The following video will be very helpful in explaining this:

This video is one of my favorites and is very informational as you can see for yourself. Coming back to the main topic, every thing that you see around on the net today is Web 2.0 or Social Media (As these are very social)- Blogs, Social Networking, RSS, Social Bookmarking, Photo Sharing etc, they all form part of Web 2.0.

Since all these platforms are user friendly, they are very popular among those on the internet, mainly the younger audience and they love to spend a lot of time on it. Thus, by promoting your site through these mediums, you can tap into a large - highly active set of internet users. However, you need to be really careful in putting yourself in front of this audience cause if they dont like what you say, you may end up getting a real bashing!!

Popular Social Media Marketing tools are:

1. Blogs - WordPress, Blogger, Typad
2. Social Bookmarking - Digg, Delicious, Furl, StumbleUpon and many others
3. Social Networking - FaceBook, MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, Ecademy
4. RSS Feed Distribution
5. Posdcasting
6. Video Distribution - YouTube, MetaCafe
7. Micro Blogging - Twitter (The next big thing on the internet!)

I will discuss in my future posts how you can best formulate your strategy for each one of the above to get the maximum out your Social Media Campaign!

In the meantime, you can read more about Social Media Marketing from SEOMoz.org.

How to know whether your site has been penalized by the Search Engines

on Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Since most of us dont really know about Search Engines and SEO, we do end up being on the receiving end of our SEO vendors' wrong doings. Taking advantage of our "lack of knowledge", SEO Companies (Not all, but few bad ones), will do things that might get you results in the short run, but are undesirable in the longer run. They adopt "Black Hat" or "Spammy" techniques to get your site in Top 10 for your desired keyword, earn your praise, collect the money and then start looking for another prey. But once they are gone, you will not even realise when your site is penalized and you start loosing out on your business.

Hence, it is very important that you have proper "Alarming" system in place, which will alert you whenever your site is penalized and how you can get it removed! You also need to know the various Black Hat or Spam techniques which might get you in trouble in the future.

Read this very interesting and very useful blog post by Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz. Although the post if very lengthy and is very technical, it will be good learning experience :) (I really like the flow chart!).

So, read on and hope you like it info. Do post me if you need any clarifications on any of the posts!

Landing Pages - Your Online Business' Best Friend!

on Saturday, February 14, 2009
First Impression is the Last Impression!

I don't know how many times I have heard this quote and how many times I have questioned it's validity. But all I know is that this age old saying certainly holds true for the Internet at least! How??

Well, your first impression about a web page, is a major factor in deciding whether you like a web page or not and how long you are going to stay on it! Although, one might argue that the impression of a page is totally an individual thing and is hence, respective in nature. But you will be amazed to know that you can actually guide some one's behavior on the Internet through your own actions!

This where the concept of Landing Pages come in. Landing pages, as the name suggests, is the page where your visitors "land" or first come to. Hence, this is one of the most important part of your whole marketing campaign, which can actually make or break it for you. I can bet, that a good landing page can easily double your sales (A conservative figure)!

Here are some good tips of what you should do with your landing page to create a good first impression about your website and the business.

1. Don't Sell - Guide: You shouldn't start selling your products right away on the landing page. This will make your visitors feel that you are running only after their money. Instead, guide them! Touch their pain points and then guide them how to over come it.

2. Have a clear and definitive call for action: This is a major problem with most of the landing pages I have seen. They don't have a clear call for action. I have read the whole thing and yet, I don't know what to do next!! Another problem is that sometimes, we try to sell all of our ideas at place only! Your landing must ideally have only one definitive call for action.

3. Use bullets, headings and sub-headings: I have often seen webmasters write long articles with boring first paragraphs, which promises to make me a millionaire over night! I mean if they have that trick with them, why aren't they millionaires yet!! The moral of the story is, don't use heavy concepts / ideas and don't write them in long paragraphs. Use short, concrete points using bullets, as far as possible.

4. Browser Compatibility: You should always check your landing page for browser compatibility as IE and Safari are not the only browsers prevalent in this world. Their are others popular browsers like FireFox (My personal choice), Chrome and Netscape.

5. Loud Designs: I often find people choosing a website design which is shouting out loud that it the creative bull dog of a, so called, talented designer! Who is interested in the website design?? (Unless you are a design company yourself ;) ). Designs should always compliment your site's content and the usability and not hamper them!

6. Proper navigation and a link to the sitemap: The first fold of your landing page must always have a proper and user-friendly site navigation and a link to the sitemap. This will help those in a hurry to quickly make their way to the page / information, they are looking for.

These are the few, very basic tips of how to work on your landing page. But trust me, it demands more attention than what I have provided! Thus, I strongly recommend that go through the following as well for more details about the landing page:

Copy Blogger
Google Adwords Tutorial

Sundarbans - The Home of The Royal Bengal Tiger

on Monday, January 26, 2009

Forests and wild life fascinate most of us. The nature, the beauty, the fear and most of all, the chase, are all the factors which makes a trip to a jungle the most sort after one. Being away from the hussles and bussles of the urban life and listing to the songs sung by other species gives each and every one of us the relaxation we all so dearly want! In fact, psycologists believe that watching wild life helps our mind to relax.

So, me and my friend decided to catch up some "wild" actions and embarked upon a journey of our life time to The Sundarbans viz The Beautiful Forests, home to the most eligant and graceful cats of all, The Royal Bengal Tiger!

It was a sort 2 day - 1 night trip via a ferry owned and organized by the West Bengal Tourism Development Board. Altough we didnt catch up with one of the cats :( .. we did plunge into some wonderful moments and experiences. Heres a small snap shot of what we experienced:

You can view more pictures of Sundarbans from here.

All in all, it was a weekend of a life time! The mangrove trees, the sea side, the moonlit winter night, grazing dears and the hope of catching a chase.. it was an out of the world experience for me! However unlucky I might have been this time, but I will definitely catch the king next time!

If you would also like to see the Royalty in full freedom, do visit Sundarbans whenever you come down to Bengal! You can read more about Sundarbans from here:

Suggested Books

The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans

Spell of the Tiger: The Man-Eaters of Sundarbans

Mangrove Swamps of the Sundarbans

What Does It Take to Succeed in a Business Online?

on Thursday, January 22, 2009
Success of an online business depends on a lot of factors - your business model, your offerings, the industry in which you operate, the usability of your website, the search engine friendliness of your website and most of all, your intent!

It might sound a bit silly, but your intent is the most important thing which will decide whether your business will be a successful one or not! Take for example Submit2Please.com. The brand basically offers services in the field of link building. We had a good model, interesting packages, good knowledge about the industry which was regularly updated, a wonderful site which was Search Engine Friendly as well. So, what?? Didnt most of our competitors had these?? They did. Yet, why we stood out was because of our intent. We intended to be the "Reliable Link Building Partners" of our customers and always strived to create good value for them. This was what set us apart from most of our competitors and hence, the point which made a lot of difference.

We had good intentions, not only from the client's prospective, but also from the employees' prospective as well. We always provided opportunities to the needy and the freshers. Hence, grooming them to take the first big step of their lives!

The whole point here is that before you start off with an online business, always ask yourself the following questions:

1. What does my business stands for?
2. Am I helping myself only with my site or a larger number of people?

Most people start off a website with the sole purpose of making money from it. However, I feel that your primary objective should be to "create value" for the visitors. Every visitor who comes to your site must go as a more knowledgeable, satisfied and a better person.

Remember, What you chase always runs away from you!

So my friends, ask yourself some tough questions before you begin a business, do some soul searching and get your intent right!