The Twelve (Web) Gifts of Christmas
Written by Adam Barkafski, Dream Seed Multimedia
For this holiday season, I thought it would be fun to take the spirit of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and instead present you with “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas,” specifically twelve free things that can help you with your online presence this season and all year long!
Gifts to help target new customers.
1. If you aren’t yet using Google Analytics, you need to be! You won’t find a better program that tracks and analyzes your website traffic for free. Learn how visitors find your website, what keywords they use, what pages they visit, how long they spend on each page, and more…much more. You won’t believe the amount of data at your fingertips! Learn more and sign up here: http://www.google.com/analytics.
2. Webconfs is another great tool for improving your website. Actually, it’s a collection of tools. You can use Website Keywords Selection to have the program look at your website and suggest keywords to try, along with their estimated traffic. You can also try the Keyword Selection Tool to get suggestions for new keywords based on ones you type in. These tools aren’t perfect, but they can give you a good starting point. Check them out: http://www.webconfs.com.
3. The Google Adwords Keywords Search Tool can also help target specific keywords for your website. Even though this tool works with the ads in Google’s search results, you can still get great ideas of new keywords to use and how popular they are in searches. Find the keyword tool at: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Gifts to manage your online marketing.
4. Are you sending out email newsletters? If so, check out MailChimp. This email newsletter provider keeps it simple by giving you sign-up forms for your website, cleaning up your subscription lists, giving you full (and easy) control over customizing the look of your newsletter, and sending it to your subscribers for you. It even gives you reports of who’s opened what so you can see your success. A free plan allows you to send 6,000 emails a month at no cost. I think it’s the best email service around. See for yourself: http://www.mailchimp.com.
5. For those of you who use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, HootSuite will make your life easier. You can plan your updates and tweets ahead of time and send them at a planned time. It always gives you an organized interface to see all your messages, comments, and friends at the same time through one tabbed web page. Check it out: http://hootsuite.com.
6. Are you selling merchandise? Are you on Facebook? Payvment allows you a great solution to sell your items directly on Facebook! Its easy interface guides you through the process, and right now, this solution is free in exchange for feedback on how it works. Take a look for yourself: http://www.payvment.com.
Gifts to help maintain your current website.
7. Have you ever wanted to know what your website looks like in the many different browsers your visitors may use? If so, head over to Browser Shots, where you can enter your web page and see the amazing (and sometimes frightening) results of your website’s appearance in over 60 different browsers. Head to: http://browsershots.org.
8. If you try to stay on top of keeping your website functional and updated, you know how time consuming checking the links on your website can be. Clicking each link to see if it still works is a drag. The World Wide Web Consortium offers a free link checker. Just enter a web page’s URL, and you’ll get a report on the links that work (and don’t) on that page. Try it yourself: http://validator.w3.org/checklink/.
9. To check if the code that runs your website is standard (meaning it follows the rules—like grammar rules do for language), use the World Wide Web Consortium HTML Validator. Most websites aren’t standards compliant, which means they may be more difficult for people with disabilities to use, may not perform well in search engines, and may not look right in some browsers. Some websites that use content management systems or other software may not be standards compliant based on how they were programmed. If you don’t understand the findings in the report, that’s okay. A good web designer can help make the necessary corrections. Look for the validation tool at: http://validator.w3.org/.
10. Another important validator to use is the Cynthia Says Web Content Accessibility Report. This validator checks to see just how easy your website is to use for someone with disabilities, such as vision or motor impairments. This report can be tricky to read, but again, a good we designer can help you implement changes. Web accessibility is important because it can mean the difference between potential customers becoming paying customers…or being unable to buy anything at all. Get started here: http://www.cynthiasays.com.
Gifts just for fun.
11. Do you make flowcharts and other diagrams on a regular basis? If so, check out Gliffy for a free way to create diagrams, plans, and more quickly and easily. Visit: http://www.gliffy.com.
12. Remember the Milk helps you to remember to buy the milk and all those other tasks throughout the day. It works with most smart phones, Google Calendar, Twitter, and Outlook. You can organize your to-do list through these and organize your time the way you want. Have fun setting it up: http://www.rememberthemilk.com.
I hope these free gifts help improve your website and your online experience. Enjoy them this holiday season and beyond!
About the Author
Adam J. Barkafski, owner of Dream Seed Multimedia, has been designing websites since 1998. He founded Dream Seed to offer affordable, custom website design, maintenance, and hosting specifically for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.