The Mender

Metamend's Web Site Optimization and Marketing Newsletter
Issue 6
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Welcome to "The Mender #6. Each month we feature tips, tricks and techniques for improving the marketing and promotion of your website, plus breaking news at Metamend and valuable resources for the serious web marketer.

What's New at Metamend?
Wow! What a month! American and Canadian Elections, Who won? Thanksgiving is past and we're on the fast track to Christmas. Our sales people have been on the road for weeks. Attending ISPCon in San Jose and Internet World in Las Vegas. Hope you got to meet them.

On the development side of things, we are now beginning to construct several language modules for the metamengine. Our new tool will automatically build relationships between various languages. Soon we shall be able to develop keywords in Spanish and German. We expect to add dozens of other languages to this process in the coming months. 2001 promises to be a very busy and exciting year.

Marketing Your WebSite - Targeting Customers Part 2
Where are all the Customers? In the first part of this article (last issue) we discussed how to target your customers. (quick review) Ask yourself these questions. Who is interested in my product or service? How old are they? Where do they live? Are they Male or Female? Are they individuals or businesses? What price range can they afford? I will assume you now have the answers to these important questions, so let's move on to part two.

Where are they? No matter what type of marketing you do for your site, the goal is the same. Finding customers. Where the heck are they anyway? How do you find them and invite them to partake in your goods and services? Obviously they are on the Internet, but where?

Some potential customers come to you via a search engine, others are random surfers who find your site by accident, but the best ones are those you invite. They are "pre-qualified." They already share your common interests! This type of visitor is much more likely to purchase from you, if you can fulfill their needs. So where and how do you start to look for these pre qualified folks? On the Internet, where else? Internet.com has over 150 free e-mail discussion lists.

Find one you and your potential clients may be participating in and join it. Tell them about your service. Ask for help. Ask for sales! Invite them to your site. Although the topics are general in nature, I'm certain you'll find one which fits your category . E.g. Wholesale, retail, etc., etc. For even more specific targeting, try the newsgroups. Usenet is the unsung hero of the net. These special interest groups (SIGs) are literally overflowing with potential customers. Do you sell solar energy equipment? Guess what? There is a solar energy newsgroup. Children's books? Uh-huh, it's there too! You name it, chances are there is a newsgroup -specifically targeted- to exactly the type of customer you want on your site.

My ISP carries over 38,000 groups.
NB: Selling, as outright blatant advertising (spam) is severely frowned upon within most newsgroups, but there is nothing stopping you from introducing yourself and offering your knowledge on the subject matter. (Usually just including your URL in your signature file is enough to attract attention.) You should always read the FAQ for the newsgroup you are interested in BEFORE posting to the group. The rules of netiquette are strictly enforced within the "moderated" groups. Follow the group rules. Be honest. Behave yourself. You'll soon find yourself developing many new client relationships and may even meet a few new friends along the way. Want new targeted customers? Hang out where they hang out. Make sense? You bet!

Administrator's Chalk Board - How To Choose the Right Hosting Company for your Website.
Part 1 Log File Access.
With so many hosting companies on the market - over 5000 under various guises in North America alone, how do you choose the right one for your needs? A lot depends on what you want to do. If you are just starting off and are an independent operation, most hosting companies and ISP's will offer complete solution spaces, 200 MB hard drive space, 2-3 GB transfers per month, 1 Email account, with up to 5 aliases, some provide FTP access, and some provide stats. Stats are statistics and means you have access to your log files.

If your provider doesn't offer you log file access, you'll probably want to find one that does, otherwise you may never know what your customer really looked for when browsing through your site. It's great to have a clothing store on-line, but if everyone who visits is looking for a product or color you don't carry, what good are they? With proper log file access, and the right tools, you can maximize your customer satisfaction by reviewing what they are looking for once they visit your site.

Log file access allows you to run statistical analysis services or software through your site. This means you can track the origin point where your customers are coming from, at what time of day they visited, what they did when they visited, how many of them visited, how many pages they looked at and more. How valuable is this data? It let's you know who your customers are, why they visit your site, and (if you analyze it correctly) where to put your marketing efforts.

Do you know if customers visiting your site are looking for a blue sweater, when all you have is black? You will know with proper log file analysis/statistics tools. At Metamend we offer a stats package. It's superior to many others on the market, but if you need even more details, we suggest a full blown system, like WebTrends or WebTrends Live solutions.

These systems give extremely detailed information about your customers. Who bought? Who didn't- Their average purchase, what they were looking for, what they found, and what they didn't find. This type of data allows you to improve your business, by somewhat subliminally collecting customer information. Every visitor to your site contributes to the data. Analyzing this data properly helps your business grow more and more successful. So you may want to quiz your hosting company or ISP to ensure they can provide access to your log files. Let the stats begin!

Next issue: Part II. FTP access and why you need it.

Webmaster's Corner - "Light" Graphics
So many times I have designed website template mock-ups for a client and then realized the graphics would probably be way too heavy in terms of download time. I would then begin the process of "cutting back" on the visuals hoping the look remained as sparkling as it did the day before. Often times, it wasn't.

I needed a solution to the problem, and there was one - table background colors. Tables are wonderful things on their own for many reasons, but where they really come to the rescue is with colors. If you find that your pages are too "graphics heavy", and you are forced to cut some of those bit map graphics, you should consider filling in some of the blank areas with table background colors. Not only can this technique spice up your page, but it can also greatly decrease the amount of time it takes for the page to load if used correctly.

For example; have a look at the Home page for Metamend.com. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. For instance, all of the left navigation aside from the icons, is designed using nested tables [tables inside other tables] and transparent GIF's. You will notice the bottom of each section is beveled - I accomplished this by creating a one color GIF in this shape and then making the entire thing transparent. I then assigned the table cell <td> with whatever color I wanted it to be and voila - a very lightweight graphic.

Also, all of the colored borders were made via nested tables. At the top of the Home page is a graphical "console" navigation which is really a series of bit map graphics with a twist - the main body is transparent with a table cell <td> assigned to the appropriate color. This doesn't decrease download time, but rather ensures color matching across different browsers.

So give this idea a shot and let us know what you think at [email protected].

Techy Tips - "Batten Down the Hatches!"
This month our focus is one of the scariest topics on the Internet - Security. If you've ever been "hacked" into, you'll certainly agree that while security may be a scary topic to most, a lack of it may cost you dearly. Perhaps the most common way for a hacker to invade your system is through "backdoor" software exploits. What?? A software exploit is essentially a bug in the program that allows a user to enter a system virtually undetected. Once inside, this user is able to steal sensitive information [credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.] or simply erase your hard drive. Not good.

The easiest way to prevent hackers from penetrating your system is to install a firewall between you and the Internet which masks your true identity - if they can't see you, they can't get inside - outgoing traffic only. However, if you run a web-server firewalls are tricky - you must install a proxy server to handle the requests sent to and from the Internet - two way traffic.....could get messy. Instead, just make sure your software is all up to date and that you are not using software that contains known exploits. WU-FTP, for instance, has a known exploit which allows a user to gain shell access to that system. Red Hat Linux has a kernel exploit for any kernel version 2.2.15 or older - update your software! As a further precaution you should confirm that all your network services, FTP, Telnet, Finger, Netstat, etc. are highly restricted or disabled all together.

If you believe your system to be secure I challenge you to visit here and take the "Shields Up" test......review the results and see how secure you really are. You may be surprised. No matter how you look at it, system security is highly essential and should not be taken lightly. With a little effort you can protect yourself from uninvited intrusion and rest easy knowing your systems are as safe as you can make them to date.

Web Resource of the Month
This month's featured site: Poco is a refreshingly new e-mail application. It has a specific focus: to allow you to take full potential of e-mail, whether you get one or one hundred messages a day. Put simply, Poco is an e-mail tool like no other. Check out the free trial download of this neat Email program.

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The Management and Staff at Metamend wish you a healthy and happy Holiday Season. Enjoy! See you in 2001.

Metamend: Innovative web site optimization and marketing service which automatically corrects keywords and meta tags increasing web site relevance and popularity within search engines.