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Color Choices on the Web: What do They Mean?
Whether you�re new to the art of web design or you�re a seasoned veteran, choosing an appropriate and aesthetically appealing color scheme can be difficult. This article will briefly describe some of the basic principles associated with color choices on the web.

The Basics
Due to the endless amount of different computer configurations, it�s often difficult to determine exactly how various colors will be rendered on a particular computer. In the mid 90s, computers could typically interpret 256 basic colors derived from the primary colors red, green, and blue. From those 256 basic colors, 216 of them could be interpreted by most web browsers. The 216 usable web colors were collectively known as the web safe palette.

Due to the creation of more advanced video graphic technologies, most users will now have a color setting of 16, 24, or 32 bit. Most web designers will tell you that the web safe color palette is no longer applicable due to these advances in graphics technology, and for the most part they are correct. It�s estimated that only 9 percent of online users still use a 256 color (8 bit) setting.

What does all this mean?
Well, if you anticipate that a majority of your users will be using older computers and a 8 bit color setting, then by all means stick to the web safe color palette, but for most design applications this is not necessary, but it won�t hurt. A good way to alleviate color rendering issues is to limit the amount of colors you utilize in your design, because it will reduce the chances that a specific color is rendered poorly. Also, it�s a general rule of thumb to avoid using more than 3-5 colors within a web site design.

Which Colors do I choose?
Your color choices should compliment your site and coordinate well with your content. The colors you chose should not only be visually appealing, but include good contrast and convey a desired emotion to your audience. It�s important to recognize the cultural connotations we associate with specific colors. Different colors invoke different emotions, and you should be conscious of these sometimes subtle connotations. For example, I would not want an E-commerce web site aimed at selling baby clothes in a black and red color scheme, because these colors simply do not invoke the appropriate emotions.

Color Theory: The Beauty of Harmony
Many of you have probably heard the term color theory. Color theory is not a new concept, but an ancient idea that has been pondered upon for centuries. Some of the first writings on record about color theory come from Leonardo da Vinci�s personal notebooks. Color theory is basically a set of principles used to create harmonious color combinations. A harmonious color combination is any grouping of colors that is pleasing to the eye. A harmonious color arrangement will appear neither chaotic nor subdued, but create a sense of balance.

One of the most common tools for determining an aesthetically appealing color combination is the color wheel. The color wheel is a circular organization of the color spectrum that will show a variety of relationships between colors. According to color theory, harmonious color combinations utilize colors opposite one another, any three colors that are equally spaced in relation to one another, or any two sets of opposing colors that form a rectangle on the color wheel. The color wheel is a very helpful tool when choosing a color combination and can be found in a variety of places all over the web.

SEO: Get your Site Noticed
I assume you have heard the term SEO before, but if you haven�t, SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization. SEO is essentially a collection of methods aimed at positioning your site among the top sites in today�s popular search engines. The major benefits of SEO are increased site traffic, brand awareness, and sales. Other additional benefits of SEO are increased site usability and accessibility.

The enormous benefits of SEO services have made the art of optimizing web sites increasingly competitive. This article will provide effective methods of increasing your web sites visibility in today�s popular search engines.

The Keys to the Kingdom
Determining what keyword sets to focus your SEO efforts on is of the utmost importance. Poor keyword focus can make even the best SEO strategy perform disappointingly. There are several tools available on the internet that will allow you to conduct keyword set analysis and to determine what keywords will work best for your application.

Content is King
Search engines love content rich sites, because this allows them to easily categorize your web pages. Your content should focus on your designated keyword sets and be relative and informative. Avoid using excessive amounts of graphics and flash, because search engines are unable to index these types of content.

Keep it Fresh
New content is not only appealing to your audience, but will provide tremendous benefits for your sites overall visibility. A good way to include new and relevant content is by implementing a blog. A blog provides a great medium for introducing fresh content, and will increase your sites search engine rankings by creating quality back links. A blog is also a good way to position you or your company as an authority in a specific field or industry.

Web site Usability: Is Your Web site Usable?
Usability plays a very important role on the web. A web site with poor usability will more often than not encounter a high bounce rate. A bounce rate is a common term for the amount of people who reach a site, but leave shortly after their arrival. A high bounce rate is just one of the many problems associated with poor usability. Remember that a web site doesn't�t include an instruction manual, thus the user interface must be intuitive and highly usable in order to be successful.

What is Usability?
There are various definitions for usability from a plethora of experts, but most definitions generally state that a usable web site will feature the following characteristics:

  • Efficient and effective operation
  • Quick and easy to learn
  • Free of errors
  • Memorable Interface
Benefits of a Highly Usable Web site
There are numerous benefits of a highly usable web site for both the prospective patron (user) and you as the web site provider. With an increase in usability, users will achieve their goals more quickly and efficiently, which improves the likelihood of them utilizing your service or product. A highly usable web site will also develop user confidence in a particular product, web site, and/or company.

The most obvious benefit for the user is simply an overall increase in satisfaction. With an increase in user satisfaction, patrons will become more brand loyal and possibly recommend your web site to their friends and colleagues. There are also advantages for the web site operator/provider when it comes to increased usability. A highly usable site will reduce that amount of technical support needed, because of an overall reduction in user errors.

Common Usability Issues: What to Improve On
There are several places were users typically encounter usability issues on the web. Some key areas to look out for in regards to usability issues are page headings, primary navigation, and page structure.

Page Headings
All pages on your web site should include a brief yet descriptive heading. Adequate page headings orientate users and inform them on what they can expect to find on each page.

Primary Navigation
Proper implementation of a primary navigation scheme is also important, because this is the principal means of navigation for your users. A poorly designed or over complicated navigation scheme may deter even the most savvy computer users.

Page Structure
Effective page structure may be one of the most important elements of usability in regards to web design. Remember, it�s important to avoid cluttered or disorderly page content. Your content should always be presented in a clear, concise, and hierarchical manner. It�s also of the utmost importance to maintain proper page consistency through-out the entire web site

Benefits of Online Marketing
Many businesses are under continuous pressure to find new and innovative ways to market their products or services. Online marketing allows for cheap, easy, and unobtrusive communication between potential patrons and your business. Online marketing may include, but is not limited to web sites, email blasts, banner ads, opt-in emails, pod casting, and blogging.

Reduced Marketing Expense
In most cases, online marketing is substantially less expensive than its traditional offline counterpart. Due to the relatively low cost of online marketing, your return on investment is typically much greater than with traditional marketing channels.

Amplified Exposure
In comparison to most traditional marketing avenues, online marketing reaches a much wider audience and is accessible from practically every country around the globe. Your marketing efforts will also work 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year. Remember, the World Wide Web has no hours of business and will never be closed for holidays.

Improved Convenience
Online marketing allows you to engage your customers in their own environment. People tend to be less apprehensive and more apt to purchase a particular product or service in their own setting. An online presence also allows your customers or potential patrons to read about your company and/or products at their leisure and convenience.

Increased Flexibility
Online marketing allows you the ability to modify or change your product listings, service descriptions, and marketing copy instantly without the costs typically associated with reprinting or redeploying traditional marketing materials.

Better Customer Knowledge
Web sites allow you the potential to learn a great deal about your customers and their purchasing habits. Web site traffic tools may provide information concerning a customer�s geographical location, time spent shopping, and what it is that they are viewing. This data will better help you custom tailor your advertisements and improve your overall marketing strategy.

8 Major Online Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Online marketing may be extremely beneficial for your business and typically has a much greater return on investment than in comparison to traditional marketing avenues. However, your online marketing efforts must be conducted in an appropriate manner in order to be beneficial. Here are a few of the most common online marketing mistakes to watch out for and avoid.

Unsolicited Emails:
Never send out spam emails. Sending out unsolicited emails may get your domain name or IP flagged as a source of spam. If you�re flagged as a source of spam, you may not be able to send legitimate emails, and your dreams of email marketing will go down the drain.

Extensive Load Times:
Most people have very little patience when browsing the internet. Avoid slow page loading times by limiting the size and number of images on your web site Also, flash videos are notorious for causing slow load times, but these videos may be incorporated in moderation.

Poor Page Copy:
Avoid simply stating the facts about your company on your web site Your potential patrons and customers are interested in what you can do for them and not the biographical data on your company.

Flash Based Web sites:
Although, atheistically appealing and often quite engaging, web sites created entirely in flash are not visible to search engines. Basically, a flash based web site is the equivalent of an interactive video broadcast on the web and cannot be scanned by today�s popular search engines.

Failure to Measure Success:
Unlike many traditional marketing avenues, online marketing allows you to measure your success. Various web site tools allow you to track who visits your web site, what it is that they are looking at, and how long they are viewing specific pages. This type of analytical data allows you to custom tailor your online marketing for maximum return on investment.

Dependency on Pay-Per Click Advertising:

A common mistake for many companies on the web is to invest solely in pay-per click keyword advertising. Typically, a first page organic Google result is just as powerful as a costly pay per click keyword advertisement. Also, many people prefer the organic search results, because they have a certain implied credibility.

Single Marketing Vehicle:
Never keep all your eggs in one basket. For example, if your site traffic is based solely off organic Google search results and there is a change in Google�s search engine algorithms, your specific keyword rankings may drop significantly and your online business will most likely suffer greatly. It�s important to incorporate a variety of marketing vehicles such as opt-in emails, pay-per click advertisements, organic keyword results, banner ads, and etc.

Focusing Exclusively on Site Traffic:
Web site traffic is not the only factor that dictates the success of an E-commerce business. All the traffic in the world won�t benefit your business, if you have an extremely poor conversion rate. A conversion rate is simply the amount of web site traffic that converts to online sales. For example, if your site receives 200 visits a day and your conversion rate is about 5 percent, you would have generated roughly 10 sales. With a higher conversion rate, the amount of traffic required to reach your goals will be greatly reduced.

Branding: Can it make a difference?
Most consumers don�t pay much attention to branding. They just simply adhere to the brand names that have become synonymous with their day to day lives, and thus many people greatly underestimate the power associated with an influential brand name. Have you ever purchased a product over another one of equal value, purely because it was from a more reputable company? If you�re purchasing habits are like mine, then the answer is yes.

What�s in a name?
Developing a unique and catchy brand name involves more than just merely picking a name out of a hat. A powerful brand name will evoke a positive set of emotions, and should inspire confidence in your particular product or service.

It�s also important to keep your brand name simple, because potential customers may have trouble remembering an overly complicated brand name. You also want your brand name to be unique. A distinctive brand name is what separates you from your competition. If your brand name is too similar to one of your competitors, people may confuse the two, leading to a decrease in sales/revenue.

Brand Exposure
Always communicate your brand identity to your target audience. Everything you say and do, from the way you answer the phone, to the way you format your emails should reflect your branding image. Utilize your color scheme and logo on all printed materials from letterheads to invoices. Your web site should also reflect your companies branding image. It�s always important to constantly look for new ways to incorporate your company�s logo and color scheme. The more your potential customers are bombarded with your companies branding the more apt they are to continue their patronage.

Developing Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is an important aspect of any companies marketing efforts. Typically, your potential customers will have a choice of products or services within your industry segment, and a successful company will entice customers to re-buy a particular product or reuse a specific service.

Many companies develop brand loyalty by offering incentives such as coupons and frequent customers discounts. Also, another common technique utilized by many online companies is to gather information concerning their customers purchasing habits, to better tailor advertisements and future promotional endeavors.

Tips for Effective Viral Marketing

What is Viral Marketing?
Basically, viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on marketing messages to others. Viral marketing is a powerful marketing technique, because it not only creates the potential for exponential growth, but facilitates significant exposure. Viral marketing is not a new technique and has been incorporated into marketing strategies for years. Off the web, viral marketing is commonly referred to as �word of mouth� marketing or �network� marketing.

Key Elements for an Effective Viral Marketing Strategy
Below are some basic tips for improving your viral marketing strategy. Your viral marketing strategy doesn't�t have to include all of the elements presented in this article, but typically the more elements you incorporate the more successful your viral marketing strategy will be.

Provide Free Services or Products of Value
Your average viral marketing campaign typically gives away a free product or service in order to gain attention. Remember, �Free� is the most powerful word in a marketers arsenal. Free products or services attract visitors, which in turn will create E-commerce opportunities and advertising revenue possibilities.

Make Your Message Easy to transmit
Viral marketing works extremely well on the web. The internet accommodates instant/effortless communication which allows marketing messages to be spread easily and at a minimal expense. Construct your marketing message to be as simple as possible so it can be transmitted easily and without significant degradation. Typically, the shorter your marketing message the better, but your message should also be compelling, clear, and concise.

Ezines and Newsletters
Another very popular viral marketing strategy is the creation of e-zines and online newsletters. An ezine or online newsletter packed with valuable information, such as tips, promotions, or tutorials will encourage your patrons to transmit your marketing messages to other potential customers. The use of newsletters or e-zines will also add additional content to your site thus increasing your overall search engine visibility.

Creating an Effective Landing Page

The term �landing page� is a common phrase among online marketing gurus, but what does it mean and how does one create an effective landing page?

What is a Landing Page?
When creating an effective landing page it�s important to consider the following items:

  • What are you offering?
  • Who do you wish to appeal to?
  • Why would your potential customers be interested in your offer?
  • How do your potential customers get started?
The goal of a landing page is to convert potential patrons into customers quickly. Your landing page is simply a summary of all the pages associated with the product or service that you�re offering. The page should be clear and concise, but also highly informative in nature.

Call to Actions
The most important element of a landing page is the call the action. A call to action basically informs the potential customer what they need to do in order to acquire your particular product or request your specific service. Typically your call to action will feature such phrases as �buy instantly,� or �subscribe now.� Your call to action may take the form of a button or simply a link to your purchase page.

Your call to action should also be placed in a highly visible location, and should stick out from everything else on the page. It�s a good idea to feature your call to action at the top of the page, because this will accommodate your impulsive customers who are already knowledgeable of your product or service. However, there should be calls to action located through-out your landing page, because different customers have various tipping/purchasing points.

General Guidelines
Your landing page should be anything, but a tedious reading. Convey your pertinent information with short and concise sentences. It�s also a good idea to organize your information into small chunks that are easy to comprehend and read. Many people are turned off by large intimidating blocks of text. Another great way to convey your information is to incorporate a bulleted list. Bulleted list inform your potential customers quickly and efficiently.

The length of your landing page will vary from offer to offer, but it�s generally a good idea to keep your page length relatively short in order to reduce vertical scrolling. It�s also highly recommended to feature the most important information above the fold of your landing page. The term above the fold in the realm of web design refers to the visible space on a web page that does not require the user to scroll vertically. However, vertical scrolling is determined by many uncontrollable variables such as monitor size and resolution.

Research indicates that visitor�s eyes are usually drawn towards images before anything else. If you are going to incorporate images into your landing page, make sure that they don�t detract from the landing pages purpose. Never include unnecessary images within your landing page. Remember, that you should attempt to keep your landing page as clear and concise as possible.

Closing the Deal: E-commerce Tips
E-commerce can be defined as the buying and selling of products or services online. E-commerce has many advantages over traditional �brick and mortar� companies. Consumers can quickly and efficiently browse through hundreds of products or services without ever leaving the comfort of their home, or compare prices and products with the click of a button.

There are also several advantages for the online vendor. For Example, the web provides world wide exposure for smaller companies that typically would not be able to reach a global market. Also, various web technologies allow you to gather statistics on your customers and create custom individualized marketing material.

Here are a few helpful tips for increasing your sites e-commerce potential:

Promote Impulse Purchases
When a potential customer is searching for a particular item, it�s a good idea to also show them related products. For example, if the item is a book you may also want to show your customer additional books written by the same author. This is a common tactic utilized by some of the most successful e-commerce sites such as amazon.com.

It�s also important to associate related items to one another. If your customer is about to purchase a new digital camera, you would also want to show associated items such as memory cards, batteries, or other related products.

Another great method for encouraging impulse buys is to offer limited time only specials. A potential customer is much more likely to make a purchase if there is a limited time frame on the offer. This tactic may also persuade potential customers to shop from you, rather than your competition.

Provide In Depth Product Information
Potential customers want to see detailed descriptions and pictures about the products they are considering purchasing. Since your customer will not be able to actually view the item, it�s a good idea to provide as much information as possible. However, you must be careful not to overwhelm your audience with a plethora of technical information. A good technique is to provide an additional information or product specification page for each item.

Make Shipping Easy
Make the shipping process as easy as possible. Expensive and confusing shipping charges are some of the largest deterrents when it comes to potential online customers making a purchase. It�s a good idea to provide a shipping cost calculator, or allow your potential customers to view shipping charges prior to their actual check out. Another great technique is to offer free shipping on multiple item purchases. This not only encourages the customer to buy the product at hand, but the purchase of additional items.

Incorporate Good Design
Last, but certainly not least, a compelling web site will create a sense of credibility. Customers don�t want to make purchases from a web site that is poorly constructed. This is especially true for e-commerce sites, because sensitive data such as credit card information is exchanged.

Three Tips for Improving Your Web sites Conversion Rate
A common misconception is that considerable web site traffic equates to online sales, but this is simply not true. Generating substantial traffic is a great start, but in order to be successful you must have an adequate conversion rate. A conversion rate is basically the percentage of site traffic that develops into an online sale of a service or product. Typically, the higher your conversion rate, the less traffic that will be required to meet your sales goals. Below are some helpful tips for improving your web sites conversion rate.

Effective Calls to Action
Where you place your calls to action is very important. A call to action may be anything from a �buy now� button to an �instant quote� button. Basically, a call to action is the main purpose of your web site You want to direct your users to where you want them to go, and not simply let them wander around your site aimlessly. Typically, you want your call to action to be the first thing your prospective customers see.

A Well Organized Site Structure
Always insure that your web site is well organized. Your site should be easy and intuitive to navigate. Also, your pertinent information should be prioritized and organized in an efficient logical manner. Your typical internet user has very little patience for an overly complicated or confusing web site layout. Accommodate your inpatient visitors by making your web site as clear and concise as possible.

Discover your USP
What is your web sites unique selling proposition (USP)? Your unique selling proposition is what differentiates you from your competition. The internet is a very saturated market place, and competition is fierce. Your web site needs to clearly state why your company is the best choice for your customer.