Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Changing Face of SEO

There once was a time that meta tags (keywords, page titles, descriptions) were king in helping your website get to the top of search engines. It didn't really matter if the website was all flash, was mostly graphics or had little content, just as long as your meta tags were good so was your placement. Over the years, search engines evolved and became more sophisticated in how they rank pages making it important to have a good balance of text and graphics, and making sure that the meta tags for a particular page also matched the content embedded on the page. But not anymore, how things have changed!

Currently, search engines like Google give very little weight to meta keywords. Although titles and descriptions are still useful simply because the end user (web surfer) uses them to help understand what type of information they will find on your page, they don't help with gaining overall placement on Google.

Why have things changed? I believe Google is specifically changing the way they evaluate and rank website to make sure the top page ranks go to "real" website, not spam sites. Spammers have learned to exploit the search engines and increase the relevance of an irrelevant site. It became common practice for spammers to stuff meta tags with keywords to trick the search engine indexing program, giving the spam sites higher placement in naturalized results than "real" website.

What's next? In my opinion, I think Google will start to index websites and base naturalized placement on their social media presences because it is a solid method (for now) to separate the spam sites and the "real" website. Those small business owners not utilizing social media like twitter and facebook may find themselves out in the cold before too long.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stick With Your SEO Campaign

On a daily basis, clients seek me out to help them understand Search Engine Optimization campaigns - increasing your naturalized placement on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and AOL just to name a few. What I tell them is simple, having a website is the first step to online placement and if you want to increase your naturalized results you have to not only do an initial SEO campaign, but stick with it afterwards.

How do you know if your website is ready for an organic/naturalized SEO campaign:

  1. Is your domain more than 365 days old?
    If yes, great the domain is out of the sandbox and search engines will be more likely to index it.
  2. Is your website graphic heavy?
    If yes, then you may have a problem. Search engines can't read the text embedded in a graphic, only the ALT tag associated with the graphic. If you have a large quantity of graphics on your website, please make sure you have a good amount of content to balance it. Also, consider changing some of the graphics to text - I know you like that special font for your page titles, but it could greatly benefit you in the long run to change it to text.
  3. Is your website mostly flash?
    It has been debated for years, but from my experience websites that are flash heavy typically do not see the organic results standard HTML sites produce.
  4. Keywords are very important.
    Selecting the appropriate keywords for your site and incorporating them into the general readable content on your website can be challenging for small business owners. I once had a client ask me to spam their keywords on the HTML page, which I strongly recommended against. Search Engines are smart, they know when you are spamming particular keywords and phrases. The trick is to incorporate a few keywords on each page to help with the keyword content density on that specific page without spamming.

Tips for running your own SEO campaign:

  1. Social networking is free and easy - Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, Blogger, YouTube.
  2. Rework your website content at least every 6 months, adding a few new sentences and reworking current ones will help.
  3. Create a sitemap for your site and submit to the search engines.
  4. Know your competition and see what keywords and phrases they are using.
  5. Incorporate your keywords throughout your site, try not to spam them.
  6. Look for free directory submission sites, avoid link exchange or paying for link backs.

Additional Domains and Forwards:

Owning additional domain names is great, prevents someone else from buying them, but that’s about all it does because without link backs and original content on each domain they would not be regularly indexed. For optimization and search engine indexing, domains need to be at least a year old and have websites hosted on them, not just forwards. Although the general idea could be the same on all the domains, the content would need to be original on each website so the search engine wouldn’t penalize the site for being a duplicate of another.

Xfactor Designs has done many Search Engine Optimization campaigns over the years and the one thing every campaign has in common is they take a lot of time to implement (3-12 months). If you are thinking about running your own campaign be prepared for many, many hours of research, submissions and follow up. On average each directory submission takes 5 - 10 minutes and you'll need inclusions in at least 100 free directories before you'll start getting link backs. In addition to directories you'll also need to claim your business listing on the search engines, submit social bookmarks and submit articles for inclusion.

Once you finish your initial campaign, you will need to stay on top of your ongoing submissions and tracking. That initial SEO campaign was just the beginning, now you have to work to maintain your placement because new competitors enter the market daily and they want your search engine ranking.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stock Photos

One of the main elements that creates interest in ads, brochures, websites and all other print marketing are visually appealing photos. Unless you can afford to hire a professional photographer and have high-end photos taken of your product, you're often times better off to buy stock photos.

There are a variety of stock photo resellers and stock images on the Internet, the possibilities are endless. Stock photos can range from a few dollars for low-res Website files to several thousand dollars for a hi-res print quality images. Istockphoto,, is a good site with reasonably priced images, but be prepared they have a wide assortment so you may spend hours browsing the catalogue.

Having good quality images will give you the edge to capture your target audience's attention. For examples of how stock photos can make your business look professional and high-end, visit our online portfolio at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to Claim Your Business Listings On Google, Yahoo and Bing

In addition to design and web site development, the founder of Xfactor Designs is also a Certified eMarketer with a special focus in Search Engine Optimization. Below are a few quick tips any business can use to increase their web site exposure.

  • Claim your business listing on Google
    Sounds easy and it is, but to the general business owner navigating the internet isn't always simple. Go to, type your business type and zip code into the search field (i.e. web design 85086) and if you see your business click on the MORE button below it. Once on your Google Maps page, click on "Add or edit your business" and sign into you Google account or create one. Make sure the contact details you enter are valid because Google may contact you to confirm your listing... to ensure your business listing isn't being hijacked.
    If your business listing does not show up, add it > Local Business Center. You will be required to log in to your Google account (or create one). Once in you'll be able to add contact details, web address, hours, photos, payment methods and much more.
  • Claim your business listing on Yahoo
    Just like with Google, go to and type your business type and zip code into the search field (i.e. web design 85086) and if you come up click on the listing then select "Know more details about this business? Click here to share them with your neighbors." This will allow you to claim the listing as an employee or owner, once you sign into your Yahoo account.
    If your business listing doesn't show up, add it by visiting
  • Claim your business listing on Bing
    Since Bing is a newer search engine we need to help them populate their business resource section. Just like with Google and Yahoo, go to and and type your business type and zip code into the search field (i.e. web design 85086) and if you come up click on "Change your business listing" if you'd like to update the information and claim the listing. Prior to changing or adding any details you will be prompted to log in to your Windows Live account.
    If your business listing does not show up, add it at If you don't have a Windows Live account, I suggest creating it prior to completing the listing form, otherwise you'll have to fill out the form twice. After completing all the details, you will need to follow the directions in the letter from Bing to complete the verification process.

As you submit your listings give yourself enough time, don't rush. Be clear and concise with your messaging and be specific.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What is 100% Black?

The CMYK value for 100% pure black ink is C=0%, M=0%, Y=0%, and K=100%. 100% black K, is different than HEX pure black value of #000000. 100% K black is true, everyday printable ink, and because of this it cannot truly absorb all light to create true black. When it's printed, the surface may have textures which reflect some part of light, making the surface's color off-black. The HEX equivalent to 100% black is #231F20 and the RBG value is R=35, G=31, B=32.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Graphics - What quality should they be?

Have you ever seen an ad in a magazine that is pixelated (blurred and fuzzy)? Chances are you have and the reason why is because the person designing the ad didn't use high resolution images.

Web sites and other electronic mediums usually only require low resolution graphics (72 dots per inch - dpi) and typically come in JPG, GIF, or PNG file types. Low resolution graphics work great on the web because they load fast and don't require a lot of bandwidth to transfer; however, print marketing is completely different.

When advertising in a professional print publication, the media department or the sales rep will provide you with a specifications sheet, known as a media kit. The media kit will have all the ad requirements - height, width, color, and resolution. The resolution is always the same for print - 300 dpi(dots per inch). As I'm sure you've noticed there is a big difference between 72 dpi and 300 dpi, that is why it's so important to use the correct resolution in your supporting files.

When you have a professional graphic artist create your logo, they should give you the logo in EPS format, which can be used in most print advertising. An EPS is a hi-res, vector based image that can be used for every advertising opportunity from business cards to ads to banners to billboards. If you want to learn more about having a professional logo created in EPS format, please contact

In addition to the logo, the other elements in the ad need to be hi-res if they are going to look crisp and clean in the magazine. Often times people have a hard time knowing what is hi-res and what isn't. A good rule of thumb is, if you are designing a 8.5"x11" full color ad, all your supporting photos should be at least 1MB each - the higher the MB (megabytes) the better quality the image will be.

If you need a print advertisement created, whether it's an ad, banner, flyer, brochure, business card, or label Xfactor Designs can help you!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Business Identity

What is Branding?
A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service, including an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, jingles, ideas, and even personality. For example, you are able to recognize a Pepsi product without reading the label because you have learned their logo; they consistently use it in all their marketing. The same thing is true with the Alka-Seltzer jingle – “Alka-Seltzer to the rescue.”

Branding Steps
When I started in the professional design industry in 2000, one of the first questions I was asked "is how do you develop a brand?" The first step is to decide on a company name and a slogan/tag line and then, hire a professional designer to create your logo and color palette.

Once the logo and colors are chosen your designer can present concepts for business cards, letterhead, and envelopes (also known as corporate id). Not all businesses need letterhead and envelopes, but you will definitely need a business card. The first rule of thumb with a business card is don't go cheap. I understand that start-up budgets are tight, but your card says a lot about you and your company. If you have a business card that you printed yourself on perforated template paper, your potential clients will know. I often times get solicitations and if anyone hands me a homemade card it goes immediately into the recycle bin. Like many others, I want to make sure I'm doing business with a "real" company. If they cut corners with one of the most cost-effective pieces of the business identity process, then I wonder what else they will cut corners with - maybe the service I need done around my house.

After the corporate id is completed, I suggest starting on the web site. The web site gives your web designer a large canvas to grow the business brand. The colors and logo used in the beginning stages now get to come to life with stock photos or custom photos, fonts, content and icons. Creating a web site that helps promote your business identity is key because you want people to understand what you do and if you are the right company for them. Every small business should have a web site, even if it doesn't contain that much information. A Web site helps validate your business and gives prospects an opportunity to check you out a little more. You don't want to lose the sale, your business needs a web site.

Postcards, brochures, print advertisements, die-cuts (a super fancy speciality cut brochure), and flyers are next. These printed business identity pieces are very important in advertising your product or service; the general look and feel should match your business cards and web site. The ads should use similar photos, fonts, icons and the color palette to help tie-in the overall brand. You want people to recognize the visuals in your ad before they read the text, you want them to remember they've seen that ad somewhere else. I believe the more times buyers are exposed to a brand, the more likely they are to remember it when they need your product or service.

There are so many item that go in to creating a business identity and it can be overwhelming, but with proper guidance from a seasoned designer the process can be mush easier. For more information about developing your business brand, please visit