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What are Sitemaps and How Do They Help

What’s all the buzz about sitemaps?

Sitemaps are an integral part of your website that plays a very important role in your website’s ranking on popular search engines such as Google or Bing. Without a sitemap, your website that may not be discovered by the search engines your clients and potential clients use everyday.

What Are Sitemaps?

sitemapsA sitemap is a list of website pages  accessible to crawlers or users to help them navigate the site and locate information that may otherwise be hidden within the pages. There are two types of sitemaps that can be created by webmasters to serve as this “site guide” used by search engines.

HTML Sitemap

An HTML sitemap allows your website visitors to easily navigate a website. Typically tt is created as a bullet list version of the site’s navigation. Each list option bulleted in the outline is linked to the page it refers to. Site visitors can go to the sitemap, generally found at the bottom of a website, to locate a topic they are unable to find by searching the site or navigating through the site menus.

XML Sitemap

This type of sitemap is created in a format that is less easy for users to navigate, but when submitted to search engines, they can crawl the website in a more effective manner. With a sitemap, search engines become aware of every page on the site, including any URLs that might not be discovered through the normal crawling process used by the engine.

A good place to easily create an XML Sitemap is – http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
They are also a great reference point for finding more information on sitemaps and how to create and use them properly.

An example of an XML Sitemap can be found here.

If you are knowledgeable about HTML and your website is built on the WordPress Platform, you can easily create an HTML sitemap on your own by creating a new page and using the page editor options to list and link the pages within your website.

Creating a XML Sitemap file for your website is considered best SEO practice and can be easily achieved on a WordPress website by using a plugin created by arnee called Google XML Sitemaps. At ZeroZen Design, we create a sitemap for ALL of our new websites using this plugin. Many of the websites we have designed are ranked on the 1st page of Google for powerful keywords relevant to our client’s business.

With this plugin, you can assign priorities to pages in the sitemap, submit your sitemap to the major search engines, and even assign re-submission intervals. The sitemap plugin also  auto-updates every time a new post is published, so you don’t have to do it manually. It’s a kick ass plugin and highly recommended for WordPress users.

There are several important reasons that you should be using a XML Sitemap on your website:

* Your website uses AJAX, is image intensive or your content is not easily discoverable by the search engines.

* Your website hosts dynamic content and your URL’s have all kinds of funky characters or use session ID’s in them.

* Your website is brand new and has very little in the way of links from other websites pointing to it.

* Your website has lots of orphaned pages within it that are not linked to internally from your home page or other sub pages inside of your website.

Conclusion

HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps act as a guidebook for users and robots searching your website. Always create an XML sitemap for your website to ensure proper ranking of your website on popular search engines. If your website has many pages and all of them are not easy to find, create an HTML sitemap as a guide for your visitors so they have a pleasant user experience.

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Creative Ways Churches Are Using Facebook

 

3 Creative Ways Churches Use FacebookAccording to the Bible, whenever Jesus talked, he usually drew big crowds. Churches and religious groups of all denominations have a captive audience approaching 1 billion persons about Facebook.

Churches that adjust to the current trends, including the utilization of social media as a marketing tool, are more likely to spread their messages much further. If it was ever taboo to utilize secular techniques to attract an audience, these concerns appear to be less of a problem now.

Below are three real-world samples of how churches and religious groups are utilizing Facebook to build stronger and more involved audiences.

1. Consistent Branding

Academy of Preachers

What do you think of  when you think of a church? You most likely visualize a pastor or perhaps a pulpit, not a logo or  banner advertisement. The Academy of Preachers — an ecumenical company in Louisville, KY — hopes to change that. Since it’s creation in 2009, the Academy of Preachers has employed a branding approach usually found in more commercial organizations.

“I’ve been with Academy of Preachers for just over five months,” says Charissa Acree, Director of Marketing & Communications for the Academy of Preachers. Before she joined the organization as a senior employee, the Academy was a client of her PR firm “since the very beginning,” says Acree.

The Academy’s history of thinking in terms of positioning, public relations, and branding has allowed it to stand out among other ecumenical organizations online. “Most churches and religious organizations don’t have a cohesive brand,” Acree says. This can present a real challenge when you’re trying to target a specific audience with your brand message. “Our brand trends toward people 14-28 years old. Facebook has been an excellent platform to deliver our message, given the large number of people in that demographic who spend time on Facebook,” says Ms. Acree.

Charissa points out that the Academy of Preachers was aware “well in advance” about Facebook’s March 30 switch of all Facebook Business Pages to Timeline. “We took this as an opportunity to reinforce our branding with the added real estate that the Facebook Cover image provided,” she says.

Because the Academy’s membership and operations are event-driven, its upcoming nationwide event is prominently showcased — utilizing the organization’s red and green colors — and its Timeline Cover. Acree shares that, “this image generates a lot of inquires about our event and membership opportunities,” adding that the corporate-style branding approach has been an hugely effective marketing approach for the Academy of Preachers.

2. Groups on Facebook

Instagram

As a result of its successful Facebook branding, the Academy of Preachers Facebook Page generates a lot of Likes. “A lot of our followers would like to do more than just like our Page,” Acree says, “but they may not be comfortable talking about their faith with 1,500 other fans.” Drawing on her PR background, Acree says that “every company wants to generate interaction right on the Page,” but she acknowledges that in some cases and for some organizations, this just might not be possible.

“In our case, we really have to build trust with people before they’re willing to talk about their faith in an open forum like Facebook,” says Acree. To accommodate this, the Academy has recruited a team of six volunteers who manage and administer their own private Facebook Groups — all of which are clearly associated with the Academy. “Our volunteers seek out and respond to fans, not only on Facebook, but across all of our social media platforms,” Ms. Acree says. The volunteers offer private invitations to anyone who’s interested in engaging in a more intimate dialog with the Academy.

Group members engage in discussions regarding upcoming sermons with pastors, or build the sense of community that originates from associating with people with similar interests. The Academy’s Groups range from 20 members, to the biggest Group which has 77 members. “These numbers are small enough to foster some real, meaningful dialog that wouldn’t be possible on the main Page,” says Acree. She suggests that Facebook Groups are a excellent means for any company to engage its fans where confidentiality or trust issues present stumbling blocks to engagement.

3. Facebook Voting

Catholic Extension

Seeking to grow its profile, assist more folks, build church advocacy and help business, Catholic Extension, recognized that it had to embrace modern tools like Facebook to build a wider audience and achieve its mission. After attempting several initiatives on their own without real results, Catholic Extension hired an outside marketing group to help the organization raise its awareness on Facebook.

Taking a page from prevalent contest software accessible on Facebook, Catholic Extension deployed a voting approach where visitors to its site could vote for their favorite people or groups that they felt were creating positive impacts inside their parishes. With one of Facebook’s officially sanctioned applications, Offerpop, visitors who click on the voting buttons are taken to a landing page where they can vote for an individual. Votes are posted to the voter’s Facebook News Feed and shared through additional social media outposts.

Before Catholic Extension embarked on this marketing initiative, it had 300 registered Likes. After two weeks, it had received over 4,800 votes and 4,700 fresh Likes. Catholic Extension found a method to place a religious angle on a procedure we’re all familiar with — voting. But, this method of engaging online audiences and organically encouraging those to engage with a Facebook Page is a approach could function for any business.


[Image credits: Steve Gasser, Academy of Preachers, Academy of Preachers(2), Catholic Extension]

 

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#Instagram for Marketing : 5 Creative Uses

 

Storytelling is regarded as one of the best methods for a brand to connect with its target audience, and Instagram is regarded as one of the best methods to tell a story with images. But how do you stand out?

It’s effortless to snap and upload a pic from a smartphone, however,  to get noticed on Instagram, you’ve got to get creative. You are able to utilize third-party modifying tools or apply certain standard photography techniques to picture-taking. There’s more to it than merely selecting a cool filter.

Below are a few methods you can use to make Instagram a useful marketing tool for your business.

1. Start With The Smartphone Camera

Whenever telling a brand’s story, capturing the best shot is important. As a marketer, you want to make sure the story you are trying to tell is coming across in the most effective way possible.

If you upload straight to the Instagram application, you’ll notice the picture you’re attempting to take is square and will not fill the frame of the smartphone’s screen. You can’t zoom when you’re taking a picture in Instagram and you’re limited when it comes to seeing everything inside its somewhat limited frame. This makes it challenging to get the precise picture you’re trying to find.

Should you wish a little more versatility to manipulate and move the photograph about for the most wonderful angle, take the pic with smartphone camera then move to Instagram. From there, you are able to upload the picture from a camera roll. This means you are able to pinch and zoom, move, and scale the photo to get the actual look you want.

2. Use a Collage To Tell Your Story

Often one picture isn’t enough to convey a message. You are able to upload numerous pictures to the Instagram application, even pictures which were prepared with another application. Pulling several images together into a collage can help convey a specific message.

Apps such as Picframe and Frametastic bring pictures together to tell a story, or show how anything is created. Many collage apps provide selection of layouts as well as the ability to select how several images to display.

3. Edit Your Photos With Other Apps

In Instagram, there are is a limited amount of options for manipulating photos. Once you take your photo, the only thing ou can do is apply a filter. This means there is no reason you shouldn’t stick with you favorite photo apps on your smartphone when using Instagram.

Apps like Camera+, Hipstamatic, 360, iPhoto, etc. give you more control over your photographs. Look for apps that give you the editing tools you’re looking for such as standard photo correction, photo manipulation, and filters.

4. Use Hashtags

Similar to other social networks, Instagram utilizes the hashtag. You can employ hashtags inside the pictures description to create a theme, tag the brand, or tie-in with alternative prevalent hashtags. Plus, in the event you choose to send the Instagram picture to Twitter, the hashtag comes in handy there, too.

5. Show Off New Uses for Your Product

Folks are constantly acquiring new and interesting methods to employ and reuse products. Why not become part of the phenomenon? Highlight fresh uses for the product. Maybe persons are hacking the goods in interesting and inventive methods you haven’t thought of. Sharing these creative photos with Instagram is a amazing method to visually display the product.

[Image credits: Tucker W., Jesús León, Jessica McLaughlin, Nancy Frost, jeffisageek, Paul Sobczak]

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Google Is All About Punishment For SEO Abuse

During a panel discussion at SXSW it turns out that Google is using a SEO position penalty that could punish web sites which have been “overly SEO‘ed.”

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is  the practice of generating your website’s content to be much more noticeable to search engines like google, yahoo and Bing.

The intent behind Google’s new penalty will be to “level the performing field,” says Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s webspam program. This will give web-sites with fantastic content an increased probability of better SEO rankings over sites abusing the SEO policy.

Google has nevertheless to talk about more particulars concerning the penalty, but you can easliy anticipate it to start rolling out in the subsequent couple of weeks.

Sharing your content through social media routes is a proven way for getting noticed, but getting excellent SEO is important for profitable searches. However, don’t go overboard. Focus on defining your customers and displaying the most helpful and appropriate content to them.

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What makes a good website design?

Good Website Design Tips

Good website design is hard to find, especially as new website building software emerges, allowing for low cost alternatives to launching your business in an online environment. However, good website design creates a positive user experience, which in turn results in conversions to customers and clients.

As you think about the website you want to launch for your business, there are some key considerations to consider when creating your online presence. The important thing is…do it right the first time!

Below are some key points to pay attention to when you are designing a website for your business. If you are hiring a developer, or agency to handle your website project, make sure they focus on these important website design attributes

Adequate Core Content

Search engines love content, thus resulting in better rankings if you do it right. They require adequate, and relevant content to find your site, and rank it for the appropriate terms. The more content you have, the more opportunity for your site to be indexed by Google  Yahoo and Bing. Don’t include enough content and you can scratch your website off the good website design list.

Up to Date & Interesting Content

A good website design often times starts with appearance and ends with relevance of the material contained within. We all have been there, sitting up late at night, trying to find information that we NEED and we somehow we end up on a high google-ranking site with content published in 2008. Unfortunately, at the speed our world is moving, 2008 might have well been 20 years ago. Make sure you are keeping your content fresh and interesting. If you update your service prices, update the website. If you add new items to your menu, make sure your website reflects the same.

Page Titles, Descriptions & Tags

Whenever we find ourselves chatting with new clients and answering questions, we find that one of the number one questions asked is “what is seo and what does that have to do with Google?” The simple answer is this. When you visit Google and search for something, you are in fact entering keywords relevant to what you would like to see. The results posted have been arranged in an order assumed by a Google algorithm based on website titles, content, keywords and some other techie-nerd stuff. Some of the most relevant, and obvious information is what shows up in front of you when you get the results. The website page title, page description and link, or URL to that page. Below is a sample. This information is valuable, not only to Google, but to your audience. Make sure it is all relevant to the information on the page contained within. This is the starting point of a good website design.

good website design

Relevant & Interesting Website Graphics

When you arrive on a site with good website design, you know it. Your website should not look like your grandmothers scrapbook from 72′. Site visitors (and search engines) want to see graphics that become an exciting part of the user experience. Make sure your website graphics are relevant to the material within and sized accordingly to the content on the page. If you have an overly large image, don’t just upload it. Have someone, with the proper software, or find a free online tool to resize the graphic to the appropriate size. When using web graphics, or images, make sure you don’t overwhelm the audience with too much. Too many graphics/images can be just as bad as too little. Lastly, make sure you tag your images appropriately for search engine optimization. A great SEO tool for doing this, which we use at ZeroZen, is SEOpressor. On a side note, ensure that if your image is not suppose to link to anything elsewhere on your site, you make sure that image does not have a link attached. No one wants to be sent to a blank page with one lonely image.

Product & Services Information

If someone walked into your storefront, would you introduce them to your products or services by pointing them in a direction and saying “lawnmowers are over there”? No, if someone was searching for lawnmowers, you would give them a 1-on-1 introduction to each one, answering any questions as they arose. Nothing should be different with online. Create friendly and inviting descriptions, images and product/service layouts. Remember, this is where the ACTUAL MONEY is made. Don’t throw a piece of bolagne between two crackers and call it a sandwich. Give them something worth being interested in.

Inbound Links

In the wonderful world of web, the choir sings about Google rankings, paid ads and social media. However, one of the easiest ways to build your marketing and advertising empire is to create a giant spiderweb cast across the entire internet. Think about it, If I create inbound links by responding to blog posts relevant to my business subject, take part in voluntary postings on blogs or forums, create COMPLETE business profile listings on YP, Merchant Circle, Hot Frog and others, now, I am not AS worried about showing up #1 in Google. Chances are, people visit those sites, blogs and forums on a daily basis…constantly coming across my information because they are interested in what my business offers. Now my net has been cast further from the boat and more fish have been caught. Don’t be the one with the hook and bobber in the middle of a commercial fishing fleet, YOU WILL CATCH NOTHING!

Social Engagements

Your business website is an aggregate for some pretty important things. Your services, blog posts, company information and various tid-bits you would like to share. Along with this, you should make sure you maximize off social media. Whenever you get the chance, integrate your social media accounts in creative and useful ways. On a blog, have a twitter feed which shows chatter around your blog posts. On your services page, capture client testimonials that went public on Facebook and Twitter. On your About page, have a link to your business LinkedIn page. The possibilities are endless.

Adequate Contact Information

Your audience’s user experience is not so different from yours on other websites around the net. If we stumble on through to a contact page to get further information and we are met with an email address or a phone number and no on-site contact form, we move on. Why? because WE DON’T HAVE TIME! We are busy, overwork, underpaid citizens who have about 20.1 million things on our mind at any given time. Stopping all that to copy and paste an email address in our email client requires you to focus on one thing, not to mention it takes about 3.5 minutes. All to often, the contact information is buried in some obscure place that makes you wonder whether the company is sending you on a scavenger hunt..or..maybe they don’t want you to have it anyways.

Send out the Flying Monkeys

If you have happy clients who would love to share information about you with the world. Let them! To do this, include testimonials throughout your site, have youtube video testimonials like we have done here, or simply list your client logos. What happens when you see a service provider who has done work for Pepsi, Starbucks or Nike? We get excited and think that if we work with that company, ours will be the next big thing.


In Conclusion

Building a good website design is not hard. It takes some strategic and outside the box thinking to get it right, but once you do – you reap the rewards. Never stop tweaking your website to become better and better, after-all, it was only as good as the person, or people who created it…and non of us are perfect.

Want to learn more about turning your old beat up website into a good website design? Maybe you are starting a new venture and need a new website designed. Have a look at our packages and pricing. We are an affordable web design company that works with small and growing businesses to bring them online in a BIG way.