Source: Panayotis Vryonis

Source: Panayotis Vryonis

Analytics is one of the most ignored aspects of web marketing, despite the fact that everyone is concerned with their site’s statistics. Tons of SEOs check their statistics even daily, but almost everyone relies on either a set of analytics tools or the generic settings in Google Analytics rather than looking deeper, and using more focused methods like Custom Reporting.

Relying on the generic settings in Google Analytics has two downsides. One, obviously, is the lack of focus and clarity that comes with not personally directing what statistics you are watching, and how you are gathering that data. The other is that Google Analytics changes just as often as every other part of Google, and if you aren’t holding the reins, your results will probably shift, making your data inaccurate.

If you want to take on custom reporting for your analytics, you will have a better idea of how you are performing, and what aspects of your site need work. Greg Habermann suggests starting your custom reports by looking at five recent changes to Google Analytics that you can take advantage of. All you have to do is take the initiative.

Many freelancers chose a creative career because they enjoy the ability to create art. Many of them also happen to not be the corporate shark types of people, and the process of building a portfolio of clients can be an intimidating and difficult journey. It requires a combination of throwing yourself out there, creating opportunities, and dumb luck.

For those that might be a little scared of putting themselves in the way of opportunity and fostering business relationships with strangers, there are some key areas you can focus on to attract clients. Social psychologist Robert Cialdini selects six key areas of influence everyone uses to create new relationships, and Sarah Horowitz says you can use them to build a collection of clients.

The areas are ideas that would allow anyone to create positive relationships with others. Reciprocity and the virtue of sharing opens yourself to others’ goodwill. If you put yourself out there when someone is in need, for no purpose other than sharing or helping, it is more likely someone will go out of their way to help you later. If you help one person, you open yourself to a new relationship which can grow into a great business relationship.

Similarly, if you have a focus, be consistent and show exactly what your expertise is. If you have a niche that sets you apart from others, display it for others, and be a part of anything in that field. Clients and others in the industry will begin to associate you with your special area until your expertise is well established.

There are more areas you can pay attention to in order to begin creating new business relationships and start a freelancing portfolio, but the ideas are pretty general. Be a nice person and a good friend, put yourself out there to others, and display your value, and before long people will be coming to you for your work.

Source: Phil Campbell

Source: Phil Campbell

There is no longer a question in analysts mind as to whether the huge growth in tablet and smartphone usage is changing how consumers behave. Mobile users are impossible to deny, and easy to actually observe. All you have to do is look outside to see the number of people with a smartphone attached to their hand as if they are glued together.

What is in question is just how consumers are using these new devices. Mobile devices change how we find businesses and services, especially locally, but they also affect how we interact socially, how we engage media, and how we organize our lives.

To try to understand how we are using mobile devices, and how they are changing the way we live, BrightLocal conducted a consumer panel survey. They investigated how consumers find local businesses, and what content is the most important to users while they are on the go. Myles Anderson broke down the result on Search Engine Land, but the most notable finding is that while mobile and tablet use is bursting through the roof, less than a third of users are regularly finding local businesses with mobile devices.

Forty percent of consumers claim the have never used their smartphone or tablet to look up local businesses. This should come as a shocker to any SEO analyst who has been keeping up with trends lately. There is a lot of discussion about mobile SEO out there, and plenty of people focus on the local capabilities of smartphones and tablet to find businesses while consumers are already out. They say “shoppers want to be able to find the store they want and buy now” or something like that.

Now, a fair percentage of mobile users are doing just that. Almost twenty percent of users have looked up local businesses at least once a week, and twenty-nine percent do so at least once a month, but the amount of users who have never looked up a local business should still be a very interesting statistic for SEOs.

While reading about advances and ideas on how to grow your business through online marketing are plenty helpful, you should also keep your eyes out for advice and warnings about potential problems that may befall you. Not to sound too much like your older relatives, but the Internet can be a dark and seedy place. In the context of social media, it can be an interconnected place where bad news travels fast.

That’s why Prasanna Bidkar recently wrote an article for Business2Community highlighting 5 potential problems that could ruin your business’s reputation. In it, he points to disgruntled employees, poor products and leaked documents that could all lead to your hard earned reputation online going down the drain.

There aren’t many solutions in the article, but that may actually be good for you. This way, you can think about potential problems and how you and your company should deal with them, not prescribe someone else’s solution to your situation.

Popular LiesGraphic design is fond of truisms. It might be partially because designers kind of cling to the few hard-and-fast rules we hear, or maybe we just let these common sayings get into our minds just like we internalize trends and styles. Either way, ask any twenty-something about graphic design and you will probably hear one of a handful of well-propagated lies.

“Comic Sans is the worst font ever,” is probably the one you’re most familiar with. There are entire blogs devoted to documenting and chiding every use of Comic Sans that the creator finds. Searching Comic Sans on Tumblr is just a stream of childish remarks insulting a typeface like “You should be ashamed of yourself, you used Comic Sans for the give-away and it hurts me to see” and hilarious tags like “#comic sans is the devil”.

According to Craig Ward, Comic Sans “is the typographic equivalent of an innocent man on death row.” It’s not a pretty font. That is fair. It isn’t “sophisticated” like many perceive Helvetica to be. But, what about all the other terrible handwriting fonts no one talks about? The illegible, the illogical, and other fonts that no one will devote a blog to?

Comic Sans shouldn’t be used on a high level brand by any means, and it may offend the pretentious palette  but it actually serves a purpose. Comic Sans is more easily readable for people with dyslexia, which makes the use of the font on every office note ever make a little more sense, and there have to be some fonts for childlike designs.

The Comic Sans truism isn’t the only one running wild through graphic design. I’ve quoted the old “less is more” philosophy more than once, and I’ve subconsciously adopted plenty others. None of that makes them any more true however. Most truisms aren’t. That’s why Craig Ward decided to take them on in his pocket-sized book Popular Lies About Graphic Design. He covers the Comic Sans debate, but he also challenges many other age old graphic design beliefs. He shared seven lies and his arguments against them over at Co.Design.

There are more than a few articles out there telling you the “right” way to do link building. Despite what they say, link building isn’t a uniform process for every website. If it was, it would probably be able to be totally automated at this point. There are more than a few wrong ways to do link building, but the right link building process for your site depends on a lot of different factors. Pratik Dholakiya explains why there will never be a single “right” link building strategy.

Repeatable Means Replaceable – An easily-explainable and easily accomplishable link building strategy sounds great, but it isn’t good in a competitive market. Any strategy simple enough to be easily copied, can be easily scaled. A smart, unique strategy will out-think your competition, but a repeatable strategy means it will be a competition of who can spend more on scaling.

Search Engines Don’t Stay The Same – There will never be a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for link building because the internet doesn’t sit still. Everything is constantly being made obsolete and reworked. In the past, link building was only about the number of links you could get. Now, search engines judge the quality of links, devalue paid links, automated links, press releases, and many other forms of old “standards.” Even if you find the perfect link building strategy for your site, it won’t work forever. It might even stop working next week.

Every Niche is Different – Link building inevitably relies on the creation and sharing of content. The better the content is, the more impact it will have on a site’s performance, and the quality of the links being generated. But, content comes in virtually endless forms, and different content is more appropriate for different industries. SEO loves long informative blog posts, lists, eBooks, infographics, and that type of thing, but long blog posts and videos don’t work as well on web design blogs. Restaurants looking for links won’t have any use for infographics, but photographs and social media will be essential for their market. You have to find what works for your specific website.

Even if you already know that link building isn’t easy or uniform, it is easy to fall into habits and using the same strategies over and over. Every website is different, and link building has to be tailored to each individual site, otherwise there will always be wasted potential.

For web designers, the focus is normally on how things look. But, for users, when you strip everything to its most essential parts, all you are left with is content and navigation between that content. The internet, in its barest form, is nothing but text, and clicking links to travel to pages with more text and links.

With today’s internet, you can’t have a website without a great layout, but coherent and easily understandable navigation will always be a necessity for every web page. Usable navigation is as important as the content on your page.

Different websites will try to achieve good navigation a variety of different ways. Some will relegate a large amount of “boring” information to a few links hidden away at the bottom of the page, like Terms of Use or Privacy Policy. I’ve also seen contact links hidden in the bottom links, employment information, and a few other “boring” but often very important facets of a website.

White House Navigation


It kind of makes sense. Clutter is bad, and you don’t want people to see things they won’t be excited by. However, if you have to hide links in a secondary navigation bar, you aren’t doing navigation correctly.

Dan Rajan, writer for Web Designer Depot, knows how to make effective navigation systems for websites that don’t rely on hiding information or secondary navigation bars. By just following his five tips, you will be able to fit everything you need into one navigation system, keeping everything more cleanly organized, and helping customers use your site more easily.

It’s been a week since Microsoft dropped their “Scroogle” attack ads aimed at Google, but they are still running their “Bing It On” challenge trying to convince searchers that Bing is superior to Google. Yet, all of Microsoft’s attempts don’t seem to be working. Despite Microsoft saying Bing It On testers preferred Bing 2:1, Google continues to claim well over half of all searches.

This has Greg Sterling from Search Engine Land wondering why no one believes Microsoft’s and other competitor’s “Better Than Google” claims. Is Google’s brand just that strong? Does it come out of habit?

The most obvious reason people don’t buy Bing’s campaign is they are blatantly aware it is all marketing. They used the same principle as a blind taste test, but those types of tests don’t come off as explicitly biased as a website “blind” test. Just to get to the test you have to go to a website with Bing in the name.

No one is going to trust Bing’s statistics when they are that blatant about the test. There is nothing blind about going to ““. It also doesn’t help that there is a big disclaimer at the bottom of the search page explaining how the test doesn’t use the full search capabilities of either engine.

Bing It On

Google believes part of the reason users aren’t responding to Microsoft’s negative marketing is customers respond better to companies that “focus on building good products” rather than slinging mud. While Google remained as silent as possible on the “Scroogle” ads while they ran, now that they have been stopped, Google search chief Amit Singhal finally spoke about the issue at a SXSW conference, when taking questions from Twitter. “We focus on our users.”

Google’s right, customers don’t respond to negative marketing campaigns against well established brands as well as they respond to the new and innovative products Google is producing.

But, what about independent studies? A recent study by Butler University found that not only did Bing have better quality answers according to their criteria, but so did ChaCha,, Bing, and Yahoo. Why has this type of study not put a huge thorn in Google’s side? One reason is Google’s incredibly strong brand. There is also the “Google Habit” or the comfort with the interface, but more than anything it is personal experience.

ChaCha may have better answers, but most users will agree it is not convenient enough for when you need to make a quick search and find a simple answer. Bing has been making users uncomfortable with their blatant attack ads, and any survey that puts ahead of Bing, Yahoo, and Google will be heavily doubted in this age. The website lost its reputation years ago as other search engines grew, and it never regained it, just as Yahoo has steadily lost its market share to Google.

The only companies that can compete against Google are equally strong brands such as Amazon and Apple. Google is so well established in the American market, that it is hard to believe any study reporting that there are a handful of “better” ways to search. But, Google didn’t just install itself into ourcollective hive mind. Google is trusted because they offer a search engine users are pleased with, and they are constantly innovating new and exciting products. If they ever stop innovating, Bing might have a shot. Until then, attack ads and over the top marketing campaigns aren’t going to do much.

Color PencilsFor almost any problem you run into while doing web design, there is a tutorial or forum with the solution that can be found with just a couple searches, but there is one big problem that can’t be overcome so easily. Technical problems have technical answers, but designer’s block isn’t like that.

However, there are ways to get past it. You just need to step away, clear your mind, and then force yourself to get back to work. A few simple tips can make overcoming designer’s block even easier, though ultimately, the solution to the block likely depends on the person. Carrie Cousins offers her ways to get over designer’s block, and at the very least they may help you find your own unique solutions to the issue.

Get Inspired – Nothing makes designers feel like working like viewing other people’s great creations. Taking a break to browse through well designed projects may sound like a waste of time, but in reality, it can get your creativity jump started again. Many designers have a set of bookmarks of saved images for inspiration, but most of us don’t tend to go look at those sources often. If you have designer’s block, it is the time to break out those sources. Also, don’t limit yourself to web design just because you work on the web. Inspiration and great design is everywhere. Browse print, go for a walk and explore the great designs littering the city around you, or just look at some photo websites. You’ll be surprised where you find inspiration.

Turn on Music – Despite what your high school teachers said, listening to music while you work encourages creative thought. Numerous studies have shown that areas of the brain beneficial to creativity are stimulated and activated by music, no matter your favorite genre. It also blocks out other distractions, which is especially helpful if you work in a noisy office, or even freelancing at a coffee shop  Try out different kinds of music. The song that got you feeling amped up on the ride to work may not have the same effect while you are trying to work.

Work for Fun – Even when you have a big project looming, taking some time to do a project that doesn’t count can get the creative juices going again without the pressure of a deadline or client’s desires. Simply taking an old project and reworking it using newer design trends and methods can help get you working again so that you can tackle a big project that does matter.

Talk It Out – I always come up with my best ideas for designs in the middle of conversations with my friends. Talking allows you to formulate ideas freely, while someone you respect can point out any holes or problems you might be missing before you encounter them. Find someone who is happy to talk design and you trust. Just explaining what you need to do to someone else can trigger new ideas on how to accomplish the task. If talking doesn’t help you, keep a notebook of ideas, issues, thought on designs, and even when you get designer’s block. Seeing it on the page might help you make sense of your creative problems.

Profit Increase Graph1With Google’s constant updates and new algorithms, it is important when you are optimizing your site to know what areas will give you the best returns and will have the longest shelf life.

There are two broad categories of SEO that complement each other to give your site the best chance, and you need to balance your work between the two. Before you can know exactly what areas to target, you need to know the difference between on-site and offsite SEO.

On-site SEO consists of optimization you do to the actual web page. Titles, meta tags, URL structure, and even keywords all make up on-site SEO, and they act as a foundation for all quality search strategies.

Offsite SEO, on the other hand, is everything done behind the scenes. The biggest focus of offsite SEO, according to Eric Armstrong, is to build a network of links directing back to your site, also known as linkbuilding or creating a link portfolio. Google and similar search engines judge links in order to determine authority and site quality. Social media and article marketing also create a part of offsite SEO, as you try to get others to link to your content and site.

The most important aspect of all SEO is quality content, and any site without it will have great difficulties getting any sort of results. But, great content isn’t enough by itself. Once you have content others will want to see, you can shift your focus to other areas which will get you solid returns over time. The trick is knowing where to invest your energy. Armstrong points out three specific action points you should be working on for both on-site and offsite SEO at Compete Pulse. If you can nail quality content, and these six areas, you’re site should be doing well before long.