How “Regular” People Use the Web

Frank Gilroy has a GREAT post on his observations on “6 Things Regular People Aren’t Doing on the Internet.”

He also covers some I haven’t harped upon like “buying big ticket items sight unseen” and “telecommuting” but first and foremost on his list is this: “regular” people aren’t subscribing to RSS feeds.

It’s a common question for tech teachers such as Dave Taylor and despite a WEALTH OF posts and pages on how to subscribe,  according to SlashDot… as of January 2007, only 12% of internet users knew what RSS was and even fewer, 4% used it knowingly.

Most of my clients aren’t creating web sites directed at the tech savvy 4-12%….  instead, they’re focusing on reaching “regular” people…. which is why I recommend that ALL of my clients treat RSS in the same manner  that they treat the search engines.

Treat RSS as if it doesn’t exist.  Any RSS subscribers to your blog are “gravy”.  The real value is in your email newsletter.  The level of trust required to subscribe to your RSS feed is minimal (see Trust is Not Transitive) so even if regular people WERE using RSS to subscribe, it’s still a good idea to have an email newsletter in addition to your RSS feed from your blog.

If your customers are “regular people” you’ve got to meet them where they live.  Regular people may not understand RSS but they do understand email and that’s where your email newsletter comes in handy!

GoDaddy Domain Names and Hosting May Put Your Business in Danger

I’ve had more than one client politely listen to my warnings about using GoDaddy as a domain name registrar/host and then go right on using their services. I do understand their reluctance to accept my warnings at face value. After all, I do offer in the course of my business what I believe is a “better” alternative.

I wrote way back in April 2007 on my free Blogger account about the GoDaddy Tar Baby. (You can actually see that at that time, I recommended the service for my clients. UGH! More crow for me to eat…. see my post “Quasi Scientific Blogging Observations).

Back to the Tar Baby that is Godaddy…. for those who think that the stories are of the “urban legend” category, Mashable offers this recent report GoDaddy Pulls the Plug on RateMyCop.

Daily Blog Post concurs and offers commentary on the “quality” of the hosting services at Godaddy as well.
Trouble has been brewing at GoDaddy for a while. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about GoDaddy’s troubles for my clients (it’s a PDF…. so you might want to save this rather than try to open it in your browser.)

Shortly after I wrote and posted that article, Godaddy began donning the cap of “internet police”… the horror stories are chronicled at the site NoDaddy.com In response, I created a GoDaddy Transfer package for my clients.  Quite a few took me up on the offer.

I will admit, I still use Godaddy’s domain name registration services for picking up domain names I have yet to put into “action”. See the following for why I won’t actively develop a site under any domain name I have that is registered with Godaddy.

Hey, I’m just like everybody else. My preferred ICANN registrar charges a LOT more than Godaddy does…. and I don’t want to pay more than I “have” to for my excessive list of domain names. But I’ve been getting a LOT of “update your information or else” emails from them and it makes me nervous… because I DID pay for those domain names because I DO want access to them!! Paying less than $10 per domain name loses it’s attractiveness when you realize that they can be taken from you on a whim.

I hate it when you find out the price being charged is just a fraction of what you’ll pay!

Questions about Web Site Traffic: Hits vs Visitors

I’m having these conversations more and more often… so I probably need to address it here… again. It’s about web site log files and the analysis of them.

web site solutionsHere’s how it goes: Web site owner contacts me… says his web site is getting 3,000 unique visitors each and every month. Then says despite the huge traffic, the web site in question is not working.

Is there anything I can do to help?

When these come in via email, I begin with detective work. Since I don’t have access to this person’s log files, I go and look at said website with the Alexa and Google PR tool installed in Firefox. Alexa tells me said web site is 11,080,071.

WOW! I didn’t know Alexa WENT that high. I know it’s not reliable for sites out of the top 100,00 and according to Aaron Wall in his post “Wow! My Alexa Ranking is Great!“says that

Just a few people from each browsing my site with an Alexa toolbar caused the rankings to nearly double, which is a huge change on a logarithmic scale for a site in the top 10,000.

So yeah… the Alexa toolbar is not a reliable measure of traffic. It only measures how many people who have the Alexa tool bar installed have visited the site. Those visitors tend to be web master types who are nosy about other people’s traffic. But for 3,000 visitors to come to a site in a relatively short period of time (one month) to a relatively NEW site (less than 6 months old), WITHOUT any other form of promotion is highly unlikely.

Next, I head over to Compete.com. No data for the site there either. Hmm…. the site IS a WordPress blog but it isn’t linking out and according to it’s PR ranking (which is zero) it’s not getting a lot of link love from reliable sources. It’s also not registered with any of the social networking tools for blogs like Blog Catalog or Technorati.

At this point, I have to question whether we’re seeing VISITOR or HITS.

To clarify, a hit is defined as a “call” made to the web server. Every time a visitor enters a web site, depending upon the structure of the page, they will cause MULTIPLE “hits” to the server. If a web site or blog has 49 small graphics on the page, every time a visitor loads the page, the site will register not one hit, but perhaps 50 or more hits on the server (49 graphic files plus the html file. PLUS any java applets, etc which are also “hitting” the server).

With this in mind, 3,000 “hits” may actually translate into 60 unique visitors.

A good traffic analysis program will actually TRACK the visitor’s movement throughout the site. I ADORE the program Click Tracks for this, but it can be a bit pricey for the “non-professional” webmaster. If you’re serious about using your web site to market your business, it’s a GREAT investment. (I need to upgrade my version as I see there are lots of shiny new toys in their latest version!)

So as you look at your log files, whether it be AW Stats and Webalizer (both are better at providing amusement rather than hard data, but they are free and readily available) remember that a VISITOR is not the same as a “hit”. It’s also important to note that I’ve had a couple of cases of client blogs with fewer than 100 visitors per month who are actually seeing client referrals from their blogs. I’ve also heard complaints from people with blogs with incredibly high visitor counts who aren’t seeing ANY referrals of clients from their blogs… which is the opposite side of the same coin.

The moral to that story: A handful of interested potential clients reading your blog is much, much better than a throng of visitors who want something for nothing.

Year end web site clean up tips

As 2007 draws to a close, here are some tips for end of the year “clean up” web site duties.

1) Check your error logs. Your error logs will show you what files have been requested and not found. This provides a “short cut” for you to find pages that have been deleted or renamed in your web site that people are seeking.

2) Make certain your web site has an XML sitemap, a.k.a.Google site maps. They’re known as Google Sitemaps because Google was the first to require this map of your web site in the XML format. Now MSN, Yahoo and other search engines use them to navigate your site as well. If you already have a site map, be sure it’s current. If you created your site map manually then you’ll need to do so with every page you add to your site. The end of the year is a great time to make sure your site map is up to date. (Reason #532 why I ADORE self hosted Word Press blogs…. the google sitemap plug in does this type of “web clean up” automatically!)

3) While you’re rooting around in your root file, make sure your robots.txt file is up to date as well. The robots.txt file is a set of instructions for visiting robots (spiders) that index the content of your web site pages. While your XML Sitemap provides a road map so the search engines can find the pages within your site, the robots.txt file provides a map for what the search engine bots can, and cannot index. (It’s important to note that not ALL robots “obey” the instructions in this file.)

4) What are your web site goals for 2008? Set up a plan for your web site for the coming year. Want to increase visitors? Increase sales? Both? Now is the time to lay out a plan for the upcoming year.

5) Once you have your goals laid out for 2008, take a look at your current web site. Does is have all the tools needed for web success? Do you have a newsletter that you send out at least monthly? Do you have a “legal bribe” to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter?

If your goals include more traffic and more articles to promote your business, you might want to consider launching a blog either in addition to or in place of your current HTML web site. Blogs are basically content management systems making it easy to update your web site without having to learn HTML, FTP or other “web master” tools.

The Numbers Game: Hits vs Visitors

As I was walking a blog client through her “webalizer” stats program last week and the subject came up of “hits” vs “visits“.

web site trafficDuring the EARLY days of the internet, we loved us our hit counters! My early sites ALL contained a nice little hit counter at the bottom of the page. Those hit counters would measure every time the browser would “hit” the server and ask to have that image file delivered. It was definitely a “feel good” kind of thing to have. Feeling ignored on the internet? Check your hit counter. Fortunately, in those days, it would measure and count the web master’s visits as well! Want to goose your “hit count”? Click “reload” a few (hundred) times.

The same principle is in effect today. A single page may “hit” the server many times during a page load. So the client who looks at his/her 40, 000 hits may be surprised to learn that there were only a few hundred visitors generating all those “hits”.

Sabahan.com has a GREAT post outlining hits vs unique visitors in great detail. (Reason #1021 why I love blogging. I can link to his post instead of reinventing the wheel here!)

A few days later, I was searching for the origins of the quote, “A billion here, a billion there… before you know it, you’re talking about REAL money”. (Turns out, according to the Washington Post, the quote is attributed to late Sen. Everett Dirksen, who claims he was misquoted and liked it so much, he never bothered to deny it.)

cash flowDuring that search, (which I originally thought was MILLIONS not BILLIONS) I stumbled across this forum post: 2 million hits/ month and no real money

In that forum discussion the posting web master, who as it turns out had 11,000 VISITORS creating those 2,000,000 hits on his server, learned that 11,000 unique visitors each month is a $50 per month proposition.

I recently had THAT kind of conversation with another client as well.

Client: “Oh, by the way, I’m going to monetize my blog with Adsense!”

Me: “Wha, wha, WHAT?” (We’d just picked and “customized” a theme template… one that DIDN’T support Adsense! Reason #22 why I encourage new bloggers to go with a pre-made template for starters.)

I recovered with, “Let’s wait until you hit 10K visitors per month before you launch Adsense.” That seemed to satisfy him.

The numbers of potential web visitors is HUGE. Most of my clients’ are AMAZED at the sheer NUMBER of visitors a moderately successful web site generates. Which is why I encourage my people to begin by fishing in “small” ponds, a.k.a. to TIGHTLY target their niche! Because who wants to work hard enough to attract over 10,000 visitors to only earn $50 for your efforts!