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April 30, 2008

Backward Links - Who links to my website?

How do you know if there are any websites linking to yours? 

Well, you have to ask the search engines.  And some are better to ask than others.


Google will show you some of the websites that link to yours, but it is definately not the best source.  Still, it's good to see what they have.  So, go to http://www.google.com and in the search bar type in this:


OK, obviously, you insert your domain name in there.  For instance, if I am looking for backward links on my folk's bed and breakfast site, I would type in,


Google finds 15 links, which are web pages which link to www.dreamsofyesteryear.com, many of which have 0 page rank (a value Google gives to sites showing their importance).  Some of them are familiar to me because they are directories we list the site in, or some of our sites that we link to hers with, or her blog, etc. 


Now let's try going to http://www.yahoo.com and in the search bar type this:


I am going to enter the Dreams of Yesteryear Bed and Breakfast site in again here.  This time I get 102 results, way more than Google gave me.  Here we find some newspaper websites that wrote an article about the bed and breakfast, the Yahoo Directory link, several other directories, personal websites of guests who stayed in the bed and breakfast and either blogged or made a web page about it (very nice of them eh), a website we made to advertise a bike package she does with another B&B, a link from Promotion Web Design, various local lodging websites, etc. etc.  Of couse there are a number of useless links here, some familiar as among the hundreds of link exchange requests she receives (and doesn't reciprocate... these haven't been helpful and there are way too many to try to establish worthwhile link relationships with them). As you can tell, Yahoo has a much more comprehensive list.  It is much more what you'd expect from a site that's been online since 1998.

There appears to be a similar function provided by Yahoo at https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/mysites


Huh, you can't use them anymore for getting your back links apparently.

But here is a nice tool you can use to check for your own links and compare to your competition's websites: http://www.marketleap.com/publinkpop/

It is a little more complicated than just looking at the results from Google and Yahoo, but interesting to compare.

What does all this mean?  Well, nothing specific.  By doing this you can get an overall feel for the popularity of your website.  Each link coming into your site is a "vote" for your site that the search engines take into consideration when deciding if your page should show up on page 1 of their search results, or on page 20 or page no-where-to-be-found.  Incoming links, in general, are a good thing and you want them. Quality links are what you are going for.  Again this is only speaking generally!  But your typical link exchange (someone e-mails you and says they'll put your link on their site if you link to them from yours) is not usually very helpful.  Much better are natural links that develop because people like your site and they write a little something about you in their blog or in an article, or something like a press release, or an article you write to have placed on someone else's website, etc. Links that come from pages about a topic related to yours (anything travel related, for instance, in the case of the bed and breakfast) are more helpful than links from unrelated sites.  But don't be too picky.  Ultimately, links are links and links are good.  This does include, by the way, links on your own site that link to your home page.  Always remember to link to your home page. 

If you do your backlink check and find out you have very few or no links coming in to your site, you need to get going on a link building campaign.  Write more pages for your own site.  Write articles  which include your URL and have your friends upload them to their sites.  Do an online press release (a topic for another day), etc.  Or you could always hire someone to help SEO (search engine optimize) your site.  There are companies that do that kind of work ahem ahem. Laughing


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April 28, 2008

Yellow Pages Online Directories - should you pay to be in them?

I have a unique perspective as someone who grew up in the family (traditional) small business and still helps my father with handling his advertising, and someone who has online businesses of her own.  Because of the latter, I have an understanding of how links work, and what kind of links are helpful and which kind are virtually worthless.

One of the areas I help dad's small business with is yellow pages advertising.  I design display ads and small text ads for the multiple print directories he advertises in, and I handle the sales people and make sure we get our ads in to the directories each year, since sales people sometimes drop the ball or they switch companies, etc. and don't bother to make sure we renew the next year.  Invariably, when I'm talking to the sales reps of big yellow page directory companies, they try to sell me a package that includes their online yellow pages. 

I refuse to pay to be included in online yellow pages.  Why? A) Because you can be listed in them for free, for what it's worth which B) isn't worth much, because people looking for a business online will search Google, not the online yellowpages and C) you want links that help your site rank, and the listings in these yellow pages don't help.  They are not static links.  They only show up on results pages if someone happens to search that site... and I doubt much of your local client base will be there searching for your goods or services.

One time a sales person tried to tell me that paying for an ad in the online yellowpages would get me on page one of Google, because their directory is in the top 10 results on Google for the search term "online yellow pages" or somesuch.  I said I would buy on ad if they would give me a static link on their own home page.  That was a short conversation.

I just offer this as a word to the wise. Maybe as a small business person, you don't have a son or daughter experienced in web design or who understands how ranking on the internet works.  Consider me your surrogate family member who just wants to help small business owners avoid being tricked into buying worthless online advertising.

That is not to say you should never pay for online advertising, however.  You just have to choose the right kind.  More on that soon.

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April 23, 2008

Best web design revamp I've ever seen

I told Jason this is the best web design I've ever seen, revamp or otherwise, at least from the beauty of the look and feel, the "moving parts", the way the site reflects the institution it represents.  As second-mousers, we like to look at websites like this and learn from them.

St. John Cantius Catholic Church

We have an interest in this genre of web design, since we do a lot of work on Catholic web sites of various organizations.  I have visited this website in the past, and though I enjoyed looking at the pictures from the renovation of the church (amazing what they have done there!) and I listened to MP3s of the choir and even bought a CD, the website itself was not real eye-catching or easy to navigate at that point in time.  They have recently redone it, and the website revamp is very impressive. 

The first thing that hits you is the overall layout.  It looks like everything is contained within columns with great scrollwork.  At the top, seemingly underneath the arch at the top of the page, a slideshow displays some of the beauty of the church.  There are two navigation menus.  One is at the very top of the page going across horizontally.  These are some of your "old stand-by" items, like about us and contact us, with a few that are probably of popular interest, like a link to information about the religious order that runs the church, the youth and young adults (it stands to reason that they are among the largest group that will visit the website), and the store and information about donating money to the church.  This nav bar is outside the main architectural motif of the page.

The other navigation is contained within the motif, just underneath the slide-show.  It is in what I'd call the "file tab" format.  The link for the page you are on is a light color, while the other options are a darker color.  Yet the link for the page you are on has a tiny detail of scrollwork in the corners of it.  Little touches like this just make this design.  The frames around the side-bars of information are a similar high-design touch.  The first letter of the main body of the text on each page has been overlayed by a graphic representation of the letter (one thinks of the way medievel monks would embellish the manuscripts they copied). 

Fancy, fancy, fancy!  Yet all the pertinent information you would need as a new visitor to the parish is there... the schedule, directions, what kind of groups you could connect with, etc. 

Beautiful photography is key to this design.  I learned how important this element is when I revamped my parent's bed and breakfast website.  My mother had hired a local professional photographer, a man who already had expressed an interest in photographing the house, to come in and do new pictures for the website.  The digital images he produced were huge, but because of their quality I was able to keep the quality when I reduced them down to manageable size and include sharp, eye-catching slide-shows with each guest room of the bed and breakfast, as well as all the common areas.  You notice the same at St. John Cantius.  Someone who knew what they were doing did the photography there, and it is fantastic.

If you've noticed some stunning web designs out there lately, I'd love to hear about them.  Always on the look-out for beauty on the web.

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April 16, 2008

The websites in our life right now

As I mentioned previously, we have in fact been doing web design in the lost time since The Second Mouse was active.  One project that is entering the final phases of design and moving into the growth phase is Justiceworks Ltd. It's a website about a group working for restorative justice in Portage County, WI.  We helped put up a rudamentary website for this non-profit organization when they first began operating, but when the committee hired an executive director she took an interest in really maximizing the potential of the website to not only raise awareness about restorative justice, but to seek support in the form of donations and to promote the major fundraising and awareness event Justiceworks holds annually, a walk/run.  It has been an interesting project and it is exciting to see it taking shape.

Another website that we're working on is for a Franciscan hermit in our area.  That's right, we are doing a hermit's website.  How cool is that?

In addition, a long-awaited update to Maher Water Corporation's website is finally underway.  This is the business my father owns.  I first put up a website for him in 1998, and it has not changed a whole lot since then.  In fact, its last design was done in Frontpage 98, which just goes to show you how old it is.  The new version of this small business design is being done in Dreamweaver, and I will let you know as soon as it is launched.  Visitors will find the site more interactive and dynamic.  It will be easier to navigate and there will be much more offered.  I can't wait to show it to you!

Other projects in the works... it seems there is an entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in Tomahawk WI where the locals are making all manner of Western decor and gifts and are looking to sell them on the internet!  Even though you can't get a cable modem at the Sundance Ranch, that did not stop my aunt Sunnie Mercier from seeking to open an ecommerce site.  She's getting started with a Yahoo Store, but there are plans to move from the included templates to a customized Yahoo store, something Jason and I will put together based on her design concept. 

Jason's also done some web programming consulting work, and we're working on a political advocacy site surrounding a hot issue in our area (to be revealed later).  There's the ongoing work on our own web businesses, always.  We're putting our Promotion Web Design shingle out a little more too, and that is bringing in quote requests so expect more news of new websites to check out in the near future.


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April 15, 2008

Good things come to small businesses who wait

Holy schmackers (as some of us here in the *real* Dairy State say), have we abandoned The Second Mouse for so long?  In fact, we had another child and remodeled our house in the intervening time, but we have also been working on websites and gaining lots of experience, that is to say, nuggets of web know-how "cheese" for those of you looking to get going on your small business website.

Just to be clear, this is not a techno-blog.  I do not understand the inner workings of search engines (rather, I have a good understanding of their external workings, like how they spider a site and things to do to make your web pages favorable for their index).  I don't try to stay up on the debate between CSS purists and those who still use (gasp) tables in their web designs.  In short, I am not going to attempt to write about technology that, frankly, most small business owners could care less about.  I like to write about web design from the perspective of someone like, say, my parents.  They own two well-established local businesses and they have picked up some knowledge about how websites work from me.  They are knowledgeable enough to realize the importance of having a website, to be sure.  (And the benefits of having their daughter and son-in-law as their web designers Laughing.)  If you ever wished you had someone who knows how to make a website in your family, well, read The Second Mouse blog because you've got Jason and me! 

More soon...


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