Social Media Marketing and

As we all try to keep on top of technology and try to bring in more visitors to our websites it seems that there is always another method to try. By now most of us know that site like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace are huge. These social networking sites allow people to interact with each other almost immediately. Is it no wonder that businesses are now using these sites to connect with their customers?

Creating and keeping up with one of these accounts does require a little time but they’re pretty easy to use. Maintaining multiple accounts is another matter.

About a month after went live we realized that the site needed to bring in more clients. The SEO methods we used were working fine for organic search results but we knew they could be better. With the help of Bruce Muir of IDS Partners, we made some design changes to the site, and added a blog. The client then decided to bring in Brookstone Marketing Group. Brookstone offers several packages for online marketing, including pay per click campaigns and Facebook and Twitter setups. I’ll be interested to see what kind of traffic is generated through these methods in the coming months.

Osmonic Air now online is now online. Osmonic Air is a local small business that installs HEPA Air Filtration and Central Air Vacuum systems. Although HEPA filtration systems have often been used for hospitals, manufacturing and the Aerospace industry, they are being installed in homes more frequently now due to the growing concern of Indoor Air Pollution, otherwise known as IAP. IAP can contribute to many health issues, such as asthma, and other respiratory diseases. IAPs range in size and shape. Human hair, dust, dust mites, pollen, mold, and tabacco smoke are just a few types of IAPs.

The HEPA filtration systems Osmonic Air installs in your house are built to the same standards as those used for industries and businesses. True HEPA filters can remove as much as 97% of IAPs as small as 0.3 microns. These filtration systems are installed so that they trap the AIPs which flow through your homes air conditioning and heating system. This method allows the filters to keep the IAPs from recirculating through your house.

In addition to HEPA filters, the use of a Central Vacuum system can also aid in reducing IAPs. Particles trapped in carpeting or resting of floors can become airborne when walked over or picked up by air currents. Vacuuming frequently can reduce the amount of IAPs on your floors and carpets. The problem with most common portable vacuums is that their canisters are not airtight and might release the IAPs back into your home. Central vacuum systems are a better solution, since the debris is carried out of the house through a sealed system and deposited into a canister outside of homes air system, usually in the garage.

For more information about how Osmonic Air can help you protect your home and family from Indoor Air Pollution, visit their site, or call 704-200-4001 to schedule a In-Home consultation and  Free Indoor Air Pollution test.

iPhone Blogging

Everyone today knows that mobile phones have taken opened a new way to communicate with the world. With all of the new touch screen phones available today it is a wonder that anyone can decide which to buy. I had resisted the cellular siren call until my boss decided it was time to get on the bandwagon and start designing for mobile. Being a Mac guy there was only one way to go.
I had tried to dismiss those iPhone commercials for over two years. I’ve been a Mac guy ever since I bought my first Apple Mac Classic back in ’87. I would have bought the phone sooner but It didn’t have 3G or video. Plus, I had just bought a new Samsung and AT&T would have killed me in fees to upgrade. Then last month the stars aligned in the cosmos just at the time the boss gave me a sign. So with (almost) little hesitation I got online and ordered my new iPhone.
The last month has been a lot of fun. I’m still getting use to the keypad though. Typing this is a little slow in comparison to using a full size keyboard. Hitting the right key does take some practice, but I’m getting better at it. I’ve tried the single finger hunt and peck method but find the double thumb groove a little faster, when I don’t hit two keys that is.
I’ve also had a lot of fun downloading the free apps like this WordPress app I’m using right now. I doubt that I’ll do much mobile blogging for the WP blog though. Maybe a Twitter or two. Too much of this and I’m going to get thumb cramps. Speaking of which, I think i’ve had enough of this. I’m going back to my iMac before the text-Itis sets in.

Sportsman’s Daily now all WordPress static version static version

I’m a little late in getting this posted but, a couple months ago I was asked to convert the html version of The Sportsman’s Daily over to a WordPress templated site. The site was already using WordPress for it’s blog, but the client’s wanted to re-design the blog to resemble the main site, thereby carrying over the design and enabling them to maintain and update the content themselves.

My first thought was, “What about all the work I already did on the site?” I had spent months creating the original design and another six months maintaining it for the client. Then I realized that converting the site again would give me another challenge to overcome and more skills to add to my arsenal.

Objective #1 was to take the ‘static’ html design and adapt it to the ‘dynamic’ design employed in WordPress websites. Luckily WordPress has extensive documentation as well as a very active community forum. Sure, there were some hits and misses along the way, but in short time I was able to figure out what needed to be done. Some of the bigger hurdles was figuring out how to edit some of the php code to do what I wanted to do. Why a hurdle?? Because at that point I knew nothing about php. I’m still not a php guru but after completing this project I felt pretty good about getting around the basic php code.

tsd_v2_ssSome of the major goals in the design was to take the header and the two navigation bars and bring them into the template. This actually proved easier than I thought. I just had to find the correct php pages and place the html code into the appropriate places. Of course I had to edit some of the original WordPress template html and css code to make sure that everything worked correctly. Integrating my css into the template css proved tricky, but I eventually got it going.

Objective #2 was to redesign the left content column. The static site had employed a area inside a iframe to display the four most recent stories. This was a real PITA to maintain, since it actually rotated five individual pages inside the iframe. Since the client’s would not have the photo editing tools to resize pictures, or the ability to edit outside of wordpress, an alternative was needed. The basic WordPress template already lists posts in chronological order, but the client wanted to have a section above the posts to display a the most recent story in the “Breaking Sports” category. They also wanted a section below that to highlight some feature posts. I tried using some pre-existing templates, like the Magazine template, but wasn’t getting the results we wanted. We finally compromized by not including the features.

tsd_ad_ssSince the redesigned site went live, The Sportsman’s Daily’s numbers have started to rise again. I was then asked to create a “After Dark” template. This proved to be a lot easier as it only needed the header edited and some of the side panel.

Mission accomplished! The client’s are happy that they are now able to update the site themselves. In the process I got the opportunity to learn some PHP and how to create a WordPress template. Of course, now that I’ve learned a little PHP I find myself wanting to learn more. Ah, technology! “Learn or Become Obsolete” has become my mantra.

Muse Hauling

muse-screenshotLast week I was contacted by Robert Muse, owner and operator of Muse Hauling and Grading here in Denver, North Carolina. Robert contacted me because, like a lot of local small business owners, he is currently experiencing a downturn in business due to the economy. And, like many other business owners big and small, he needs to be careful with how he spends his money. He has tried newspaper advertising and the yellow pages, with very little effect.

A lot of my website design business is through word of mouth. That is how Robert found me. After a brief consultation we formed a plan to create a small website to target his primary business services: Clearing and Grading, Hauling, Demolition, Retaining Walls, and Concrete & Brick work. Richard pointed out a couple of sites he had seen for me to reference and I went to work.

The design process went relatively quickly and in a few short days I had a comp for Richard to see. Except for a couple of small item he was please with the design. A few days later I had the site cut up and the html pages and CSS files ready to go. All in all the site was up in less than a week.

Of course, getting the site posted to the web is just a small part in the battle against the search engines. I followed all of the guidlines posted by Google and the SEO “experts”, including descriptive page titles, metatag description and keywords and the robots.txt file. I also submitted a xml formatted sitemap to Google. Then I submitted the site to MSN and Yahoo as well as the directory. Now the wait begins to see how long it takes to get indexed into the search engines.

Since my last post I’ve learned a couple more things about SEO strategies. After watching a online webinar I realized that I had already been following a majority of the points presented. Such as graphically designing a site to focus on priority items. Using larger text for more important things. Using unordered lists (bulleted) for navigation and high level lists. It was no shock to me that perhaps the most important thing is a descriptive title for your page. It doesn’t make sense to title your page Welcome if your selling shoes or boats now, does it?

Some of the things I didn’t know, or may not have realized were important, included using broader words in keyword phrases. For instance, use a plural of a word and Google will automatically associate it with a non-plural word search. Don’t over repeat keywords in your text, using only 1-2 keywords per page. And when it comes to inbound links, quality over quantity will win out every time.

Search engine optimization is a big hurdle in getting your site on the first page. It is a ongoing process that is often confusing and sometimes aggravating. Following the guidelines helps ensure  that your site will have a fighting chance of being placed higher in the search engines.

SEO is key to getting seen

There is a big push right now by some companies to get website owners to invest in Search Engine Optimization for their sites. The truth is that if you’re site is not optimized correctly, the chances of someone finding you on one of the search engines is slim to none. Type in any word or phrase and see how many returns you get. Chances are, if your not typing in the right phrase, you’ll get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of returns.

This was the challenge posed to me by Chris Freeman. Chris is the owner of a small local business, Iron Man Detailing. He is trying to grow and asked me to make a website for him so that he could have an online presence. We decided to create a single page and optimize it so that people in the area would be able to locate him online. Based on his ideas, I wrote a couple paragraphs peppered with the keywords we agreed on. I also titled his page to target his services and the surrounding towns he would offer his services in.

Now, less than two weeks after posting his site online, is coming up on the first page. Since Chris offers Marine and Residential Detailing, and Gelcoat and Fiberglass Repair in and around Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, I was fairly certain that these phrases and keywords would have good results. I did not however expect to have such great results in only two weeks.

If someone tells you they can guarantee to get you on the first page, or even anywhere near the top of the first page on a search engine, they’re lying. Good SEO results are not always so easy, especially when the search engines are constantly changing their algorythms to keep the cheaters at bay. Most often, depending on your site, services, location, etc., it could takes months to even get anywhere near the first page. I’ve put a lot of time, research and practice into learning about SEO practices. And I am happy to say my last few sites have certainly benefited from it.

Sportsmans Daily Site Redesigned

If you are a sports junky you might like to visit the newly redesigned and recently posted Sportsman’s Daily is a satirical look at todays sports written as news articles. The site is the brainchild of my good friend Tom Alexander and Charles Epstein. covers all topics on all of the sports, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, horse racing, boxing / martial arts, college sports, and more.

The first edition of launched about two years ago and quickly began seeing a large volume of visitors. However, earlier this year just before the superbowl the website was a huge swell of visitors after they published an article entitled Gisele Bundchen: “If the Pats Lose I’ll Run Naked Though Mid-Town Manhattan”. Within hours the site was overrun, nearly closing down the server. Although daily visitors don’t always spike with the same volume the site still enjoys a pretty impressive number of visitors.

So when Tom and Charles approached me to redesign the site I was stoked. Although I have designed a number of sites, this site would be getting noticed on a much larger basis than others.

The plan was to keep the site a static html site that Charles and Tom could maintain themselves with the least amount of hassle. The site had to also include a blog, a forum and a chat room application so that the Sportman’s Daily community could contribute and interact. We began the preliminary design in late June ’08 and quickly came to a design template that would allow the visitor to quickly find the latest storys as well as archived version.

The newly revised was officially launched in early August with a brand new group of bizarre and though provoking sports storys. The guys are also regularly blogging about whatever comes across their mind along. Soon the chat room application will go on line, and in the coming months the second season of The Sportsman’s Daily Radio show will begin posting brand new spots.

Don’t need any more deadbeat clients

Through the years I have had the displeasure to do work for client who, how can I say this, were not very honest. Like many other artists, I was often asked to do ‘spec’ work. It is a pretty common request, especially when you are just starting to get your business up and running. At some point though you simply have to put a stop to it because, after all, the reason to have a business is to make money. Sure, there are always occasions, say for charity or a friend or a very special client, where a job might be done for free. But now these situations are the rarity rather than the norm. Continue reading Don’t need any more deadbeat clients