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How to optimize images

There are numerous ways to optimize images. If you own Photoshop you have an excellent tool already However, what if you don’t own Photoshop? I will show you how to optimize images with GIMP.

GIMP is free image manipulation software that is very comparable to Photoshop. As with any software, there is a learning curve to use the full functionality, but for optimizing images it is quite simple.

Programs needed:
GIMP
Save for the Web

How to save an image for the web with GIMP

After installing GIMP and the Save for the Web plugin, start Gimp and wait for it to finish loading. Navigate to: File/Open and open the image file.

Optimize pictures with GIMP
Optimize pictures with GIMP

After you have edited your pictures…

Step 1

Choose File/Save for the Web.

save for the web

Step 2

A box will pop up where you need to select some options. I always save my image as a jpg. Make sure the jpg button is checked. Next make sure optimize and progressive is checked. As you check the boxes, notice the file size area directly under the picture updates to the new size. Go ahead, I know you want to do it; uncheck the progressive box and watch the file size get larger, check it again to see it get smaller.

options highlighted

When you are done checking the optimize and progressive boxes click the tab to the right directly above the word quality to move to the next area or you can use the quality adjustment slider to reduce the image size (and quality) but I recommend leaving it as is. Here is how to adjust the quality if you decide you need to:

options quality adjustment

I typically never touch this because if you’ll notice, it is already adjusted by default. However, you can play with this adjustment if you choose. Next is a picture of the quality adjusted to the extreme. Notice how pixilated the picture is.

options quality adjustment extreme

This wouldn’t make a good picture now would it? Nope, I just ignore the image quality setting and move to the next step.

 Step 3

Once the image is adjusted to your liking click the tab to the right directly above “quality” to move to the next area. This will bring you to the dimension adjustment area. In the “Resize” area make sure the small chain is connected. It will look like a figure 8 as shown here:

options highlighted2

Keeping this connected keeps the aspect ratio of the image. This is important to keep the picture from getting distorted out of shape. Choose a size you want the final picture to be. As shown in the previous picture, I chose 640 pixels wide. The height will automatically adjust as long as the chains links are not broken and look like an 8.

Click the save button.

Step 4

A screen will pop up asking for a location to save and a name for the file. Make sure when naming the file you do not change the .jpg in the filename. Click save after you have named the file and chosen a location. I always save my eBook covers as follows: BOOKNAMEkindlecover.jpg

final screen highlighted

Done!

Congratulations, you have saved your first image for the web! That wasn’t too hard was it? Naaa!

Ok, now that you know how easy it is to use Gimp to save and optimize your pictures I just know you’ll go and get a copy and use it. Remember, Gimp is as powerful as Photoshop so don’t be afraid to play around with it. There are numerous websites and YouTube videos that will help. To show you how powerful this program is, here are a few covers I have created with Gimp.

How do you optimize your images?

Reading comprehension: Do your readers understand what you are saying?

If you write books or articles for the web, reading comprehension is extremely important, please read on…

Real journalists (and authors) are seemingly a dying breed. I am all for the internet giving everyone, including the average (and below average) citizen a voice. However, the average citizen in the US is obviously not getting the required training they need to become a writer who can be easily understood. If you write books, this is even more important for you to understand.

Regarding the current vulnerability in Internet Explorer, an article from pcmag.com states:

“Microsoft said that Enhanced Protected Mode, on by default in IE10 and IE11, as well as Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 4.1 and EMET 5.0 Technical Preview, “will help protect against this potential risk.” But until a patch is released, IE users should be on high alert and not click on any sketchy links or travel to unknown sites, or temporarily switch to another browser.”

Now I know exactly what they are saying here but I know for a fact that the average person will not understand what this paragraph is saying. It is saying to temporarily switch browsers, yet it reads that it recommends NOT switching. The lack of a few words implies the exact opposite meaning to the paragraph. I have extremely good reading comprehension and I had to read the paragraph a few times to fully grasp exactly what they are saying. The average person will not reread the paragraph multiple times, they will read the paragraph, assume it means exactly how they just read it, and move on.

When writing articles, stories, etc, please be aware that reader comprehension of your article or story is extremely important. I run into this myself when I write articles for my numerous websites or write my books. At times, I rewrite sentences or even paragraphs multiple times so my point can be easily understood. I agonize over it to the point that it drives friends and family crazy. It at times drives me crazy too, however I have been told numerous times that my stories are well written and easy to understand.

I remember my son would try to make his point in as few words as possible when doing his homework. He would then come to me and ask for help because he needed a minimum number of words and he was far short. I would read his work and make suggestions. My biggest suggestion for him was to “puff it up”. Puff it up simply means to add words or sentences that add to what he had written. It didn’t necessarily mean to add new paragraph or information, it was adding just what it needed to get his word count but also add to the readability and ease of understanding. I would send him off to puff his story up and he would bring it back for me to read again. My son would always suggest adding very simple words like and or the to add to the word count. That just doesn’t cut it.

I would read a paragraph and suggest he add a word here or there, clarify a point, add a little more useful information, etc. In no time he had the required number of words, and every time, the work was much easier to read and easier to comprehend. Regardless of what you are told, short and sweet isn’t always best. At times, you need to add a little to the story to make it more easily understood. My son was always amazed that by just adding a few words, restructuring a sentence, or adding a sentence or two to clarify a point made his work more easy to understand and always put him above his word count – often by a significant amount.

This is an extremely important habit to get into but there are some pitfalls too. There are times where puffing it up can go too far. If the words and sentences you add do not truly add anything to the story, leave them out. If what you add does not clarify a point, make a topic more easy to understand, describe something in more detail, or make the story more easy to comprehend, don’t do it.

I always suggest getting another person to go over your work. I always ask someone, usually my girlfriend, to read what I have written and critique my work. Spelling is hardly an issue for me because I spell quite well, however, at times I forget to clarify a point well enough for the average person to understand. By simply adding to, or restructuring the paragraph, I can easily fix my mistakes. She will often point out where I can improve.

I always read my girlfriends work before she publishes as well. I often let her know where I have a hard time comprehending her point or where a few added words will make her point more easy to understand. I also let her know what she can remove because it adds nothing to the topic and actually causes some confusion.

We never take each others suggestions personally and neither should you. If you find someone you trust to give you honest opinions and suggestions, take them. Use their opinion to help you make your story better. You don’t have to do exactly what they suggest but you can use their suggestions to open your eyes on how your story can be made better. Don’t use their suggestions word for word, write it how you want, it will blend and flow with the story. Using their suggestions word for word may make the sentence stand out because it is not written in the style you normally use.

Remember, you are writing for other people; you know what your story is about, they have to read and understand what you are telling them. Reading comprehension isn’t a skill everyone has and as a writer it is your job to make your story understood. Don’t lose readers, fans, sales, etc. because your story or article can not be easily understood.

Make your words count, don’t just count your words.

10 Quick Tips to Increase Your Website Traffic

Increase website traffic

If you have a website you need traffic. This is even more important if you are selling a product or service. Here are 10 quick tips about website traffic that may help.

  1. Having a website does not guarantee you will get traffic. There are billions of websites and millions being added each day. Yours must stand out to be noticed.
  2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be an important part of your website. Optimizing your website using SEO will help increase your websites importance and help show it’s relevance to what is being searched for.
  3. Optimizing your pictures is vital for SEO and traffic. Images should load quickly and have names that specify what the image is about. Google image searches use the filenames to determine if the picture or image is relevant to what is being searched for.
  4. Video should be part of your efforts to gain traffic. Videos uploaded to sites such as YouTube can be imbedded onto your website. Videos keep your visitors engaged and on your website longer.
  5. Your website must have content. Content is articles, pictures, videos, etc that visitors are looking for. A 5 page website that never changes is less likely to show up when someone is doing a search, a website that is having content added frequently is more likely.
  6. When creating content for your website, think about what your visitors want. Tailor your content to your visitors, not search engines.
  7. When using images, a watermark is a great way to ensure that if your image is used on other websites, you may get traffic from them. Be sure the watermark doesn’t detract from the picture, yet can’t be easily cropped out either.
  8. Downloadable reports are a great way to engage your visitors. Remember to place your website address in the report in case it gets passed around.
  9. Give away free reports that contain information that can not be found elsewhere. Create one that is smaller and contains great info and another larger with much more information. Both should contain links to your website. Give the smaller one away freely, even allowing others to give it away on their websites. Within the small one, let readers know a much larger, more informative one can be found at your website.
  10. Create a signature for your email that contains a link to your website. If allowed, have a link in your signatures at any forums you participate in.

Getting traffic to your website is crucial to its success. These 10 tips will surely help you get on the right track to increasing your websites visibility.

Do you have any tips to increase traffic to your website? Let us know by leaving a comment >>>

 

How important is it to keep your website up to date?

Good question; how important IS it to keep your website up to date? It should be very important to you for 6 reasons.

1. It forces you to take a look at your website to be sure it is actually online and working correctly

A website that does not work is much worse than not having a website at all. How many repeat visitors do you think you will get if they cannot access the site the first time? What is the cost in lost revenue?

2. It keeps you conscious of what your visitors see

By keeping your website updated, you see what your visitors see. You may notice that the colors need to be adjusted, the font is too small, the graphic you added a few years ago no longer represents what your website is about, etc..

3. It allows you to stay connected to your visitors

By updating your website, your visitors see that you are making a real effort to give them new, fresh information. This is sending the message that you truly care about them. They will be more likely to return when they know you care for them.

4. You may have a sudden inspiration to add a page or two to make the website even better for your visitors

You may have been thinking about a better way to keep in touch with your customers but “couldn’t find the time” to actually do something about it. Website platforms such as WordPress can now be connected to social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more to extend your exposure.

5. It allows you to provide accurate information about your website.

Nothing is worse than searching for information, selecting a website to visit, and the information hasn’t been updated in years. This sends a negative message to your visitors that you cannot be bothered to fix it. If yours is a business website, your visitors will trust the information on your page before others.

6. If your website hasn’t been updated for quite some time, it may be vulnerable to security breaches

As we all know, times change.; nowhere is that more evident than computers and software. Updating your website is extremely important to reassure your visitors that it is safe. A visitor that does not feel your website is secure will not likely visit again. If your website collects any personal information, up to date security is extremely important to keep their information safe and you from being liable for not protecting it.

Updating your website may simply involve adding a new telephone number or business hours. It may be more involved like adding pages, pictures or videos. Even more involved is adding newsletters, membership areas, etc., but they all show your visitors that you are making an active effort to help them find the information they were searching for. If you are in the business of selling something, those visitors may become customers if they feel you care enough to give them the most up to date information you can.

Also remember, you have just one shot at keeping a visitor on your website and keep them feeling safe enough to browse around for awhile. Updating your website and keeping it current is sure to help keep your visitors feeling satisfied enough to return.

Remember, updating a website can be something you hire someone else to do if you truly do not have the time. Changes, additions, safety updates, and more are all something you can let someone else worry about.

Free websites- a good idea or bad?

I am often asked about why a website cannot be found. Some of the problem is marketing. If folks don’t know your website exists they just can’t visit it. “But”, they ask, “isn’t that what Google is supposed to do?” Well, sort of…

Your website being found is partly getting the word out, partly having it found by search engines. I will attempt to clarify a bit about the search engines finding it.

Search engines have programs that go and visit websites, these are called spiders or bots. They check out the website to see what it contains and is all about. They also check to see where any links may go. By following the links, they often find a new website. They will take certain information about the websites and bring it back to the search engine’s servers where it is cataloged and stored. When a search is conducted, the search engine will check the information and use it to give results. This process is called indexing.

I personally don’t think search engines index the free sites as well as you would think.

I was recently asked to help a woman with her SEO efforts. She sells custom made jewelry and she wanted to get more traffic to her website. I took a peek and this is what I found:

  • Her website was a free one offered by Yola. It was live for 2 years.
  • She had done some SEO optimization and didn’t see a smidgen of increase in search results.
  • Even using specific keywords she uses on her website (remember, custom jewelry made from wood, glass, etc., and in specific shapes; waves, driveshafts, etc.) her website was not showing up in search results for Google.
  • Searching for her company name (Dirt Road Designs) had her listed in the results but NOT even on the first page!

I did some more research and discovered two key things:

  1. Others who have used the free websites (Yola specifically in this case) were complaining of the same problem. Some even complaining they had done extensive optimization of keywords, keyphrases, images, etc., with NO NOTICEABLE RESULTS!
  2. Yola (and others) offer a paid option for websites that includes SEO

So others were having the same problem and the company offered a paid version of their service which included SEO… Very suspicious to me. I wrote up my findings and presented it to her. We both agreed she would be better served with her own WordPress website and I would build and host it for her. Full disclosure here: she also hated the admin interface at Yola and that was a big factor in her decision as well. A WordPress website was built for her and sound SEO was used right from the start.

Less than 6 months later and she reports more traffic to her website than she ever had. Of course, traffic doesn’t necessarily mean sales but without traffic there would be NO sales at all. She is extremely pleased we took the time and built a new website and she can now see the results. Her ranking in the searches is getting better as well.

So should YOU build your website using a free service like Yola, Wix, Weebly, Webs, Jimdo, etc? Personally, I suggest you don’t. Here is why:

  1. It takes time to build the website, even though the services give you easy to modify templates. Wix specifically locks your content when you choose a template.If you want to change the look of your website, tough luck!
  2. Everyone who uses the service uses the same templates. Making the website truly yours is impossible.
  3. You can spend many hours working on your SEO with no noticeable results.
  4. All the time spent on the free website will have to be completely redone when you decide you want to get away from the free service. Asstated above, changing the template alone in Wix forces you to start from scratch!
  5. Many of the free services offer carousels for your images. These are typically javascript driven; javascript being a web language. Unfortunately, search engines at this time don’t decipher it very well and your images are not indexed by them. Think about someone doing an image search; if a search engine cannot read your images, how will they ever be shown in search results? They can’t!
  6. The url to your website typically has the free services name in it. (more detail below)
  7. If you have a problem, customer service is not exactly gold standard

I believe the free websites offered by these services don’t rank as well with search engines either. I also believe it is done this way on purpose so they can sell you their “service”. I believe that even after choosing to pay monthly for their services your website still won’t rank as well as it could. You may find you are extremely happy doing this and that is absolutely fine. However, I don’t typically find ANY of these free services in what I search for. I find that troubling.

Now, I haven’t mentioned the free websites you can build using the WordPress platform but hosted by WordPress themselves.

It is a bit confusing but there are two completely different WordPress type of websites. I’ll lay out some of the differences here:

  • WordPress.com is where you can get a completely free website. It uses the WordPress blogging platform and is hosted on WordPress servers. You do not purchase a domain name or hosting, it is provided for you. However, your address to your website will be similar to this: http://muddledmindsanddustbunnies.wordpress.com/. Notice the “.wordpress” in the url? Many free services do that; have their url within yours. The free WordPress website is also  limited in size. When (yes, when!) you exceed your size limit (images can take up considerable space if not optimized correctly) you must upgrade to a paid account.
  • WordPress.org is where you download the free WordPress files that you will install on a hosting account you pay for. You will also need your own domain name. You have complete control over your website. Two restrictions to worry about would be bandwidth, and size, but you can simply purchase a better hosting plan from your host when needed. You may never need to upgrade but let’s just assume yours will be the next big thing and get millions of visitors!

Moving the WordPress hosted website to your own servers is fairly easy. WordPress will create a file you download, then you upload it to the the new website. This file transfers the majority of your website, images may need to be done separately. However, a lot of the work is taken care of with the simple file download/upload. Changing the look of the website is extremely easy and none of your content is lost.

So to wrap things up, I personally would steer clear of free website services but if you MUST have a free one, use the WordPress one. It is very popular and fairly easy to move if needed.

URL shorteners- what are they and why NOT to use them

What are URL shorteners?

URL shorteners are something that folks may use to make the web address to a page shorter. The address http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Dwayne%20Haskell will take you to the page on Amazon where all my books are listed. However, if I want to go straight to that page I would have to type all that mess into my address bar. Of course, I could simply bookmark the page but I don’t for two reasons;

1. My bookmarks toolbar is jam packed already.
2. Bookmarks only work on a specific computer, if I am on a public or friends computer, the bookmark doesn’t do me any good.

You could go to an URL shortener website and shorten a long URL to something that would look like this one I created using bit.ly – http://amzn.to/1m1aRnw. But you want to think about why you am using the shortener to begin with. Is it to save space, hide the destination URL or some other reason?

Why you should not use them

I do use a URL shortener for personal use but not when I promote my websites or articles I have written. Why? Because what happens when the third party has issues, goes out of business, etc? Any links made using them no longer work! This means that all your hard work is lost, unless you made backups of the links in a spreadsheet so you can go and edit them all, but that is a ton of work and I am guessing you are thinking about shortening the URLs to save time. But think about it, if you have shortened links all over the internet and it took years to get them all, how can you possibly go and fix them all? You can’t! If your shortened links are affiliate links, think of the revenue that you will lost! How much time will have to be invested to try to fix all your bad links?

I have looked into using the third party URL shorteners in the past like bit.ly, goo.gl and ow.ly but decided against them for a few reasons.

1. The before mentioned reliance on the service to be in existence forever so your links continue to work
2. The confusion as to where the link actually will take someone
3. SEO (although not proven, do shortened URLs work against your SEO efforts?)
4. Are the links being cloaked (hidden) to hide where they actually go and if they are affiliate links (links where the creator gets paid if someone uses them)?

Think about your own surfing habits; when you see a link you want to follow, you probably look at the destination used to describe it beforehand. So an address such as http://dwaynehaskell.com/optimize-your-website-for-better-search-results/ is pretty easy to decipher – it will take you to dwaynehaskell.com and to a page about optimizing a website. However, a link such as http://wp.me/P44pbv-6N (created using WordPress’s built in URL shortener) doesn’t tell you really anything at all. It will take you to the exact same page but are you sure? Are you likely to follow that link? Probably not, and neither will others. Why use that shortened link then?

I have a friend who has a successful business and when he creates new content on his business website it is automatically posted on Facebook and Twitter – a great idea in fact. But here is the problem – the links to his website that are posted are all shortened thru bit.ly. I know the guy personally so I trust the link goes to his website (the one I built for him in fact, but I didn’t set up the shortening service part), but if he is looking for new clients and wants them to click those links, he has a problem. Someone who does not know him or his company may not follow the link because they do not know where it will truly take them. This is a horrible way to conduct business, to say nothing about your SEO efforts to get traffic and ultimately more business.

URL-shorteners-why-not-to-use-them

Why I do use them

I mentioned earlier that I do in fact use a URL shortener for personal use because I often visit the same websites to do research or gather other information. It is a simple script installed on a domain I own. I go to the admin area and enter the long url and the desired shortened one. Now I  only have to remember the shortened url to take me to a particular website. For instance, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Dwayne%20Haskell has been shortened to http://misturl.com/mybooks. All I really need to remember are the words mybooks. It makes thing very simple for me personally.

I only use the shortened URLs for my own use and I use them because I can use them anywhere, on any computer. I don’t give them out to the public because of the reasons mentioned above:

  • If the script stop working, the links stop working.
  • The links look confusing and may not explain where it truly goes

Also, none of the links I have created with my personal URL shortener will be a catastrophic loss if the script stops working, I will just have to revert to bookmarks or something else to get to the pages.

Final thoughts

Using an URL shortener for your website or business is a bad choice in my opinion and can be very harmful to your business and efforts to get traffic to your website. Carefully consider the impacts before committing to using a shortener for your URLs. They may save space and be easier to write out, but at what cost?

Website administration-12 vital pieces of information needed by every business with a website that is administered by others

Website administration

Imagine this:

Your business has a website that is administered by a third party. This is actually a great way for companies to have a website yet not worry about making sure it is up to date, is safe and secure, and allows the business owner to concentrate on their business. Everything is going great, your website is being updated by the administrator as you request, then BOOM! You can’t get in contact with the administrator and you have to change something on your website YESTERDAY. What do you do?

There are 12 vital pieces of information every business owner who owns a website should know. This information will help the business owner take control of their website if they decide to change administration companies, administer the website themselves, or make a change to the website itself. Although this information will be an absolute necessity if you decide to change website administrators, it is also a good idea to have this information for your own piece of mind.

Information about the domain name (www.yourcompany.com)

1. Where was the domain registered? Godaddy.com, namesecure.com, networksolutions.com, etc.

2. Who actually purchased the domain name? Check the WHOIS database to make sure you are the owner on record (http://whois.net/) If YOU or your business are not the owner on record, fix it immediately. You must be the registered owner of the domain name to ensure you always have control of it. If the name is owned by someone else, they can keep the domain name, sell the domain name, or transfer it at any time, interrupting your business and causing mass confusion with your visitors.

3. What is the User ID and Password to access the site where the domain name was purchased? You need to know this so that you can manage your domain.

4. When does the domain name expire? You can find this out from the WHOIS database.

5. Be sure your domain name is in a “locked” status. This will prevent someone from transferring the domain to another registrar without your permission.

Who hosts your website?

6. What is the name of your hosting company? Use http://www.whoishostingthis.com/ to get detailed information about a domain, including host and IP address.

7. Whose name is the hosting account under? It should be yours or your company. If you are not getting an invoice for hosting your website directly from the hosting provider, find out why.

8. What is the account name and password to access the admin area for the hosting provider? You’ll need this to see what kind of a hosting plan you have, to create new email accounts, and manage your account overall.

9. What is the FTP address and password? They are typically the same as your user ID and password, but not always. You need information in order to send files to your server.

10. What is the name of your database(s), the username for the database and passwords for it? For example, to access your MySQL database a unique name and password is typically assigned.

11. What email accounts have been set up and what are the passwords? Check to see if you need to delete any old email accounts and consider if you need to change your password(s) too.

12. Are backups being made of your website on an ongoing basis and if so, where are they located? Some website platforms and most administration panels supplied by the hosting provider allow backups to be emailed to you or stored on the hosting providers servers. Backups are essential to be sure you always have recent copies of your files and databases. Your website can be restored using these backups in the event of a catastrophic failure somewhere.

As well as the information mentioned above, check to see if your website has any special software, applications or programs running that require a user ID and password to login. These might include a shopping cart for eCommerce, site statistics, etc.

Lastly, if you are taking control of your website from a third party administrator, change all of your passwords for the accounts mentioned and others you might have. CAUTION; changing your password to your database, can cause your website, software or applications to stop working and show various error messages. It is much better to add a new user to the database and make any changes to your config files to include the new user. You may be able to delete the old user from the database, but it is much safer to change their permissions just in case the name may be used at a later date. Your hosting company may be able to help with this if needed.

These 12 vital pieces of information may not make a whole lot of sense to you, but what does make sense is that with this information you now have 100% control over your website in the event you need it.