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Friday, August 25, 2006

The Three Principles of HTML Code Optimization

Just like spring cleaning a house, the html code of your web pages should get periodic cleaning as well. Over time, as changes and updates are made to a web page, the code can become littered with unnecessary clutter, slowing down page load times and hurting the efficiency of your web page. Cluttered html can also seriously impact your search engine ranking.

This is especially true if you are using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web design package such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver. These programs will speed up your web site creation, but they are not that efficient at writing clean html code.

We will be focusing this discussion on the actual html coding, ignoring other programming languages that may be used in a page such as JavaScript. In the code examples I will be using round brackets ( ) instead of correct html angle brackets < > so that the code examples will display properly in this newsletter.

Up until recently when coding a page in HTML we would be using tags such as the (font) tag and (p) paragraph tags. Between these tags would be our page content, text, images and links. Each time a formatting change was made on the page new tags were needed with complete formatting for the new section. More recently we have gained the ability to use Cascading Style Sheets, allowing us to write the formatting once and then refer to that formatting several times within a web page.

In order to speed up page load times we need to have fewer characters on the page when viewed in an html editor. Since we really do not want to remove any of our visible content we need to look to the html code. By cleaning up this code we can remove characters, thereby creating a smaller web page that will load more quickly.

Over time HTML has changed and we now have many different ways to do the same thing. An example would be the code used to show a bold type face. In HTML we have two main choices, the (strong) tag and the (b) tag. As you can see the (strong) tag uses 5 more characters than the (b) tag, and if we consider the closing tags as well we see that using the (strong)(/strong) tag pair uses 10 more characters than the cleaner (b)(/b) tag pair.

This is our First Principle of clean HTML code: Use the simplest coding method available.

HTML has the ability of nesting code within other code. For instance we could have a line with three words where the middle word was in bold. This could be accomplished by changing the formatting completely each time the visible formatting changes. Consider this code:

(font face="times")This(/font)

(font face="times")(strong)BOLD(/strong)(/font)

(font face="times")Word(/font) This takes up 90 characters.

This is very poorly written html and is what you occasionally will get when using a WYSIWYG editor. Since the (font) tags are repeating the same information we can simply nest the (strong) tags inside the (font) tags, and better yet use the (b) tag instead of the (strong) tag. This would give us this code (font face="times)This (b)BOLD(/b) Word(/font), taking up only 46 characters.

This is our Second Principle of clean HTML code: Use nested tags when possible. Be aware that WYSIWYG editors will frequently update formatting by adding layer after layer of nested code. So while you are cleaning up the code look for redundant nested code placed there by your WYSIWYG editing program.

A big problem with using HTML tags is that we need to repeat the tag coding whenever we change the formatting. The advent of CSS allows us a great advantage in clean coding by allowing us to layout the formatting once in a document, then simply refer to it over and over again.

If we had six paragraphs in a page that switch between two different types of formatting, such as headings in Blue, Bold, Ariel, size 4 and paragraph text in Black, Times, size 2, using tags we would need to list that complete formatting each time we make a change.

(font face="Ariel" color="blue" size="4")(b)Our heading(/b)(/font)

(font face="Times color="black" size="2")Our paragraph(/font)

(font face="Ariel" color="blue" size="4")(b)Our next heading(/b)(/font)

(font face="Times color="black" size="2")Our next paragraph(/font)

We would then repeat this for each heading and paragraph, lots of html code.

With CSS we could create CSS Styles for each formatting type, list the Styles once in the Header of the page, and then simply refer to the Style each time we make a change.


(style type="text/css")


.style1 {

font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;

font-weight: bold;

font-size: 24px;


.style2 {

font-family: "Times New Roman", Times, serif;

font-size: 12px;






(p class="style1")Heading(/p)

(p class="style2")Paragraph Text(/p)


Notice that the Styles are created in the Head section of the page and then simply referenced in the Body section. As we add more formatting we would simply continue to refer to the previously created Styles.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How to Integrate RSS Into Your Marketing Mix

RSS is changing the way we consume information online. Instead of being overloaded with mounds of information in our inbox, we can pick and choose exactly which content providers we want to hear from.

On the other side of the story are the publishers. Not only is RSS changing the way visitors view information, but it is also opening up vast opportunities for publishers wanting to syndicate their content across the Internet.

RSS is turning into one of the most popular distribution channels for webmasters, publishers, article writers and news syndicators. With RSS, you have the opportunity to have a continual digital conversation with your readers. You can use RSS to syndicate a wide variety of media formats including text, video, and audio.

No longer is the Web all about text. You can use RSS to syndicate your very own talk show, weekly podcast, or a collection of video tutorials.

With over 100 RSS and blog search engines available online, it's time that you started integrating RSS into your marketing mix. This article will outline how you can combine the power of RSS with your current marketing activities.

To begin, let's start with email marketing. Some people have predicted that RSS will one day overtake email as the top communication model. However, this is not likely to happen considering the differences between these two technologies. Instead, the two should be combined to form a powerful marketing duo.

Email Marketing and RSS Intertwine

You can complement your email marketing campaigns with one or more RSS feeds. By providing your readers with alternatives, you will reach a much larger number of subscribers.

There are a number of ways that you can integrate RSS into your current email marketing campaign.

1. Use RSS to announce each new issue of your ezine. Announce your e-zine in your RSS feed as a single RSS content item. When your subscribers click-through, they can access your newsletter in full on your website, drawing additional visitors to your content.

2. If you are currently using email autoresponders, provide those very same autoresponders as RSS feeds. You can do this at .

Using RSS, you can syndicate a wide variety of content. One of the most obvious uses of RSS is to deliver content updates to your users. RSS is an excellent communication medium for delivering daily updates of your web site content. You can't expect your visitors to come back to your site every day to check for updates, but with an RSS feed they can quickly pick up any changes that interest them.

However, this is just the beginning of what is possible with RSS.

Deliver Content Updates, News, and So Much More...

You can also use RSS feeds to deliver news announcements, forum discussion updates, new product releases, quick tips, quotes, new coupons, job listings, classifieds, and real estate listings.

RSS can even be used to deliver content that is not available on your site. Let's face it, you cannot possibly publish all of the great information that is available on your site's particular topic.

However, you can supply your users with a content aggregation service that directs them to the best content within your industry.

With all of the digital junk that is currently being delivered online, you would be delivering an extremely valuable service simply by syndicating the most important and relevant information within a particular niche.

Keep in mind that relevant information goes beyond whether or not the content relates to your visitors' interests. Relevant information can also speak to each individual user. Just like email marketing, you can use personalization within your RSS feeds to increase your response rate.

Speak Directly to Your Visitors with Personalized RSS Feeds

One of my favorite examples of personalization can be found at As soon as you enter the site, you are asked for two pieces of information:

Your due date or your child's birthday and...
Your email address

After you submit your information you start receiving a weekly e-zine that is relevant to your pregnancy stage or the age of your child. If you have a 2-year old, you'll be receiving articles, tips and product recommendations for that age.

Do you see the power in this? By using profiling, webmasters are able to send information that is highly relevant to their readers on a case-by-case basis.

You could use this same idea with your RSS feeds.

Basic personalization might include elements such as the reader's first name, while more advanced personalization might deliver personalized content, product recommendations and so on.

Once you have decided on what type of content you would like to syndicate, you must then start organizing content for your feed. If you want to use RSS to its full potential, then I would highly advise you to create multiple RSS feeds for your users.

Use Multiple RSS Feeds to Increase Your Exposure

You can do this by creating RSS feeds for each category of content you cover. This extends your reach and marketing capability. Do not pack all of your content under one generic RSS feed. This is not beneficial for you or your visitors. By breaking your RSS feeds into categories, your visitors will be able to tap into the exact information that they are looking for.

For example, visitors who only want to keep up with forum updates shouldn't have to sift through articles, news, and other content.

When you begin marketing your RSS feeds, keep in mind that this is still a fairly new technology.

RSS Isn't Quite Mainstream, So Educate Your Visitors

Take your visitors step-by-step through the process of locating, subscribing and reading an RSS feed. By doing this, you are informing your website visitors and helping to promote the use of your own RSS feed.

To see a really good example of this, go to BBC News.

There is one last step to integrating RSS into your overall marketing strategy. This one is often overlooked, but can be extremely powerful when executed properly.

Take Your RSS Marketing to the Next Level with Your Affiliates

Provide your affiliates with an RSS feed of your product catalog. They can then use your feed to syndicate your latest product releases on their own websites. Whenever someone clicks on a headline, they would be directed to your web store. If they decide to make a purchase, the referring affiliate would make a commission on the sale.

Of course, this type of RSS would most likely need to be customizable, allowing the affiliate to carry only the products updates they feel would be a good match for their website. has implemented this very same technique and it's time that the rest of us do so as well.

RSS is one of many ways to communicate with your customer base. RSS should not be your only communication mechanism, but rather simply a piece of the marketing puzzle. When RSS is combined with other communication models, including email and postcard marketing, your message will finally receive its true potential. When any of these techniques are used alone, they lose much of their marketing power.

Start combining your communication models to see much higher response rates.

Google XML Sitemaps - The Basics

Google XML Sitemaps have been around for a while now and many webmasters are starting to become familiar with them. They can help you to achieve up to date indexing in Google, and, in a round about way, play a small roll in assisting with rankings. Sitemaps are not needed by everyone, but can be of significant use for many websites. This article will touch on the basics of what they are, who can use them, and how to implement them.

What is a Google XML Sitemap?

In short a Google XML Sitemap allows webmasters to submit a master list of all their site's pages to Google for indexing. This information is stored in an XML file along with other relevant information where specified by the webmaster. It can be as simple as a list of URL's belonging to the site, or can include, last modified date, update frequency, and priority. The purpose of this Sitemap is to have the most recent version of your URL’s indexed in Google at all times.

Who needs a Google XML Sitemap?

XML sitemaps can generally help any site needing to be indexed by Google; however, small sites may not see the need for this. For example, if you have a small 10 page website that seldom sees any of its pages updated and your entire site is already in Google's index, the XML Sitemap is not necessarily going to help much. It is best used when trying to keep the latest versions of your pages current in Google. Large sites with an extensive list of URL's will also benefit, especially if 100% of their pages are not appearing in the index. So a general rule of thumb, if you have either a dynamic or large site, Google XML Sitemaps just may benefit you.

Will using XML Sitemaps improve my Google Ranking?

In most cases this will not improve your rankings, however it can help. By having the most current version of your site in Google's index, this can speed up your movement in the results pages. This is because if you make an update to a page for optimization purposes, Google's index will have this page updated more quickly than without the XML sitemap. What this essentially means is that with more frequent spidering you can help influence what version of your site is in the index, and ultimately, help with rankings by decreasing response time.

How do you create the XML Sitemap?

If you have a very small site, or a lot of time on your hands you can create your XML sitemap manually, but for the vast majority of webmasters, automated tools are an absolute must. There are a number of available solutions for this. One of the simplest methods of creating XML sitemaps is through the use of VIGOS GSitemap. This is a free, easy to use tool that will help you create your XML sitemaps with ease. There are also number of downloadable and online tools listed on Google's site which cater to both beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

Submitting your XML Sitemap to Google is relatively straightforward. After the file has been created the first thing you want to do is upload the file to your server, preferably at the root level. Log into the Sitemap console using your Google account login. From here you can add a site to your account. Simply enter your top level domain where it says "Add Site" (see fig 1.0). This will add the domain to your account and allow you to then submit the XML sitemap.

Figure 1.0

After this is done it will take you to a screen with the summary for this site. You will see a text link that says "Submit a Sitemap". Clicking here will take you to a screen to enter the online location of the XML sitemap. (see fig 1.1 below). Click "Add Web Sitemap" and you are on your way.

Figure 1.1

Once this is complete you have the option of verifying your Sitemap. This can be done by placing a specific meta tag on your home page, or by uploading a blank html file with a file name provided by Google. Verification will allow you to access crawl stats, and other valuable information regarding your Google listing.

Below is a basic example of an XML Sitemap.

< urlset xmlns=""
xsi:schemaLocation=" sitemap.xsd">

< loc>
< lastmod>2006-08-09T04:46:26+00:00
< changefreq>Weekly
< priority>1.0
< /url>
< url>
< loc>
< lastmod>2006-08-08T04:46:26+00:00
< changefreq>Never
< priority>0.5
< /url>

Implementing an XML Sitemap is generally straightforward and worth the effort. Taking the time to implement them is well worth it as there is no negative down side to this tool provided by Google. Every little thing adds up in terms of obtaining site rankings and frequent spidering by Google is certainly one of them.

Checking Out with Google's New "Checkout" Service

After months of "buzz" online about Google's proposed "PayPal Killer," they've finally launched their new service, "Google Checkout." After all the hype that was floating around, you'd have thought this new creation would be the death of Paypal, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Online payment options are important, so it's always nice to have another way to accept payments from your web site. But Google's new service is also good news for consumers who are concerned about their privacy when shopping online.

We all know Google likes to do things their own way and put a little "Google Twist" on their work, so it comes as no surprise that they've added some integration with their Adwords program. You don't need to use Adwords to utilize Google Checkout, but if you do, Google gives you some other nice benefits.

If you are a seller who also uses Adwords, you'll love this: For every $1.00 you spend with Adwords, Google will allow you to process $10.00 in "Google Checkout" sales for free. So if you're already using Adwords and start using Checkout you'll save money on your transaction fees. What are the fees, you say? 2% and $.20 per transaction, which does beat Paypal's current fees of 2.9% and $.30 per transaction.

Another advantage to offering Checkout on your web site is that your Adwords ads will display a small graphic of a shopping cart next to them. This is called a "Google Checkout Badge," and will identify your site quickly to searchers as one who will take "Google Checkout" payments from shoppers. Some are wondering if this may help your Adwords ranking. This is something that still remains to be seen.

To sign up, you'll first need to have a Google account, which you can get at no charge by going to At this time, you must live in the U.S. and have a bank account if you wish to process payments as a merchant. If you're a merchant you'll also need to specify your return and shipping policies.

Merchants can accept payments by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. If you have an Adwords account you'll want to link it to your new Checkout account during the registration process in order to earn your free transaction credits.

Before you get too excited, be aware there are some things not allowed to be sold using this new service. They include:

Adult Goods
Body Parts (don't you need to keep those?)
Buyers Clubs offering goods at wholesale
Credit and Collection Services
MLM and

For a complete list, see