Category Archives: Web Basics

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social network. On twitter people post short <140 character messages called tweets. The difference between twitter and facebook is that tweets are generally available for everyone to search on so it’s not as egocentric as facebook.

Even though tweets are public, most people follow others on twitter (people who follow are called tweeps). This means they get a quick view in their timeline of what tweeters they’re following are saying.


  1. Timeline – shows what tweeters you are following are saying
  2. @mentions – see who mentioned you
  3. Retweets – see what others in your network have retweeted
  4. Favourite – save your favourite tweets
  5. Save searches – Keep an eye on your favourite topics
  6. Twitter Lists – Group users together to watch them
  7. Trends – Shows what’s currently popular

What are the #tags on Twitter?

On Twitter people can search and tweet based on the concept of #tags, where words that are commonly searched are simply preceded with a #. It is an unofficial symbol, i.e. not invented by twitter but it has become very very useful. As all tweets are public (on public accounts), #tags are used to give a topic an id e.g. #eurovision. Anytime anyone posts with this word included it can be seen in real-time by people who search for it. This is very useful for media / news companies. For example, in Ireland TV stations such as TV3 use the #tv3 tag, so if anyone posts a message containing this tag, their researchers can find it instantly during a live program.

The genius of twitter is its simplicity.

WordPress White Screen of Death (wp-admin blank screen problem)

If anyone out there is experiencing the WordPress white screen of death i.e. when you go to your wordpress wp-admin folder all you see is a blank screen, you may have been hacked.

I had a nasty little hack where link code was being injected into the footer of every rendered page. It was difficult to find as the links that were being injected were injected by an encoded script that had infected several files (especially in my themes folder). I went through each file and deleted the script from them. In this case, if you’re not experienced with code you would be safer to do a full re-install of your blog.

The result of the clean up was that several files had spaces injected into them at the top and bottom of the page. I did a full re-install to restore all the important files in the system and I still was experiencing the blank screen. Obviously wp-config.php wasn’t part of the update and so I cleaned out a blank line on the top of this module and I could finally log back in again.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Note: If you have been hacked, change all of your passwords, database, ftp, wordpress etc. and make sure that all file permissions on your server are set up correctly, be pessimistic.

What is Internet Marketing?

Internet Marketing is a buzzword thrown around today like an old basket ball. It’s important if you have a business website to understand the basics so that you can score three pointers on your competitors.

Essentially it is any activity performed online that promote your product or service.

Here is a list of the top most critical Internet Marketing Activities:

  1. Search Engine Optimisation: You have to ensure that your website has the correct keywords embedded within it to have a chance of being shown on the search engine results page.
  2. Google Pay Per Click Advertising or Google Adwords: Using Google Keyword Research you can pay for your site to appear on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Be careful here as you can pay a fortune for ads that aren’t optimised and remember to ditch terms that aren’t giving you a return. These ads can also appear on websites that use Google Adsense.
  3. Facebook Pay Per Click Advertising: Facebook advertising is very exciting for certain businesses as you can target customers by age, location, sex etc. It can be expensive but if you get a customer to join your facebook page you have access to them potentially indefinitely.
  4. Affiliate Marketing: Often there’s a website out there that provides information to your target market. It might be worth offering them a percentage of your profit if they can generate significant sales for you. There are many third party services that link affiliates with merchants such as TradeDoubler. If it’s a niche you could update your site to track who has generated sales for you.
  5. Social Media interaction: It is important to engage with your consumers in a non-salesy way so that they learn to trust you. Building up this kind of relationsip will influence a customer when it comes to future purchase decisions.
  6. Add facebook like button to your site: If people like what you’re offering they may well share it on facebook if you make it easy for them to do it.
  7. Google Places: Don’t forget to add your site to Google Places otherwise know as Google Local Business Centre. When people do local searches these results often do better than regular SERP entries.

There are lots more things that you can do to market your product or service online. This is just a taster of some of the more important Internet Marketing techniques that I use on a daily basis.


Why should I set up a Blog?

There are various reasons why you should set up a blog, maybe you have thoughts in your head that you just want to share with the world, maybe you  are the public relations officer for a group and you want to disseminate information, maybe you are a story teller or an amateur reporter who wants to comment on topics relevant to the world today.  These are all valid reasons for setting up a blog but the no 1 reason people should set up blogs in the business community is to help them generate revenue, be it directly through advertising products on the blog itself or by indirectly advertising their own products or services through friendly advice. For example this blog, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that this blog was set up to help me promote my business.

So how can blogs help you earn money?

A regularly updated, well constructed blog will be monitored by Google and other search engines, therefore every blog entry you write has the opportunity to capture more visitors to your site. It is therefore important that the title of your blog and the content in the first paragraph and throughout the entry targets the keyphrase that you know users are searching for.  For example this particular blog entry is called “Why should I set up a blog?” If we look at the Google Keyword tool, 18,100 people each month search for “set up a blog” which is contained within the title of this blog.  This means that if someone types in “Set up a blog” into google it could potentially match this page.  Of course other factors such as page popularity, region etc. come into play but the potential is there.

The great thing about blogs is that you can endlessly post pages to your site, unlike on your business website, which displays your products and services.  There’s no way that you can cover every topic that someone might type in to search for your products and services on your business website, it would just get too messy and customers would not enjoy the experience.  Your company site is about converting traffic into business. Your blog on the other hand and delve down into very specific issues and can have a personal touch.  People reading blogs are looking for the solution to a problem or a author’s opinion on something so when you are constructing your blog think firstly, what would a user search for and then solve or comment on that problem. You should look at the Google Keyword tool to help you make that judgement.  Once you have your topic and the correct keywords write your blog naturally and just make sure you mention your key phrase once or twice throughout. Your new blog entry then essentially becomes a lead for your business.

What you are trying to achieve is to get new visitors to your site based on long tail key phrases.  These are key phrases that consist of several words that further qualify a key phrase e.g. “Cars in Waterford” could be a considered a relatively generic search term, whereas “Honda Civic Cars Waterford” is much more specific or long tail.  Long tail phrases may get you less traffic on their own but combined over time they will lead to significant, and more importantly, more focused traffic to your site. In other words, if a potential lead is typing in a very specific search phrase and their search turns up your site, they are likely to have found what they are looking for. It’s about casting your fishing net further, wider and more accurately than your company website ever can.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia regarding long tail keywords:

” These phrases individually are unlikely to account for a great deal of searches, but when taken as a whole, can provide significant traffic. The long-tail is unlikely ever to exceed searches for a brand name if the brand name is reasonably well established, but the volume of converting traffic these terms can generate by nature of their specificity and relevance is worth investigating.

“Comprehensive long-tail keyword research can be a highly effective strategy, since people making long-tail searches are arguably further along in the buying cycle, so conversion rates can be higher. Recent long-tail keyword research has found that long-tail searches often exhibit a higher conversion rate by up to 200% compared to short-tail keywords, and can be extremely profitable for search engine marketers in terms of a lower cost per action and higher return on investment.”

If a blog entry is good it may be linked to or tracked by the blog community or commented on which is the ideal situation (this means it is being read).  Sometimes you will hit the jackpot and get tonnes of visits, other times you will see nothing but tumbleweed blow across the screen.  Over time if you consistently blog, it will average out as more visits to your site each month so once you start blogging, make sure you keep blogging!!!

How do I set up a blog?

There are a number of ways of doing this. You can host the blog on your own server or you can use an online blog service.  WordPress is probably the best known blog software in the world and you have both options here.  You can set up a blog on their server and you might get a domain such as or you can download wordpress from and install it on your own server (you might need a web developer/designer to help you with this).  There are other online blog solutions such as blogger and livejournal. One advantage of using a hosted service is that you get a free link back to your main domain which will help your SEO.

So that’s pretty much it really, set up that business blog and start telling your customers what they want to hear through sensible advice and providing potential solutions to problems they might have. Oh and at the bottom of each blog entry you could also end with a gentle ad for your business.

E.g. for more information on setting up blogs or if you need a blog set up and managed for you please contact


Make Submit Button an Image (HTML FORM)

Often you might want to replace the standard sumbit button on a html form with an image.

This is a very simple thing to do.

Instead of:

<input name="submit" type="submit" value="submit" />


<input alt="Search Button" src="image.jpg" type="image" />

Here is an example of such a form:

<form method="POST">
<input name="searchtext" type="text" />
<input alt="Search Button" src="search.jpg" type="image" />

Should I use Multivariate testing?

Short answer is yes!

Google provides the facility to test the conversion rates of more than one version of a homepage, however I needed something more specific for a particular client.

Basically the site was getting a large amount of relevant traffic through organic search and google adwords but the coversion rate could be higher. The site has a predominantly red design and we had the apply button in the same colour which meant that it did not stand out as much as it should. However it was very prominent so we didn’t think it the colour would have much impact.

We were very wrong.

What we did was created a simple cookie system generating a random number for individual visits to the site.  The system generats a number between 1 and 6 and assigns it to a visitor.  The system then selects a variant of the button based on this number.  We chose 6 very different colours that contrasted with the overall red colour of the site and also left the existing button in place as 1 of the 6 random numbers.

After a few hours there were around 100 instances of each random number recorded and there were no conversions on the existing red button.  However, there were 10 conversions on a yellow version of the button.  This is a truly staggering increase and shows the value of trying out various options on a site in a controlled way.

I look forward to seeing a larger sample set over the coming weeks so that we can extrapolate further findings and further increase the conversion rate.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

Often there is confusion between these two terms but the difference is stark and actually very simple.

SEM or Search Engine Marketing is any means by which a website is promoted through search engines including paid ad programmes or Pay Per Click (PPC) programmes such as Google Adwords, Map Results such as Google Local Business Centre (now Google Places) or SEO techniques.

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is about the techniques used to improve a page’s position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).  Techniques used here consist of improving content on a page to better match what customers are searching for, and building up the popularity/importance of a site through link building.

Comments welcome.

Centering a Website – Cross Browser

Most sites these days are centred and have a fixed with be it 800, 1024 pixels wide or whatever.  If any of you have used divs and css and tried using standard centering you might have, at one stage or another, scratched your head while viewing it on different browsers.

Let’s say we want a webpage with a width of a nice round 1000 pixels. To do this we might create a new div within the body tag called page:

<div class="page">Content goes here<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/></div>

In order to centre this on IE7 and less we simply set the width in the div and in the body tag set text-align to center i.e.

 text-align: center;
 width: 1000px;
 text-align: center; /*don't forget to reset alignment for child elements*/


On IE8+, Firefox and other browsers this is not correct behaviour however and they will left align the inner div, therefore we need to centre the inner div using the margin tag by setting it to margin: 0 auto e.g.

 text-align: center;

 margin: 0 auto;
 text-align: left;
 width: 1000px;


By specifiying margin: 0 auto and by setting the div’s width, the browser can calculate how much distance to place between the left side of the div and the left margin of the browser window.

So there you have it, simple and effective and cross browser compatible.

The New Google Keyword Tool

Last week I tried using the Google Keyword tool and it wasn’t working the way I expected it to and I thought to myself that this was the end of an era.

How could I survive without the trusted Google Keyword Tool?

Thankfully, when I logged in today it seemed to be back to normal with an improved interface.

For anyone that doesn’t know at this stage, the Google Keyword tool is an indispensable application for anyone who wishes to do keyword research on-line.  The tool allows you to put in a keyword or phrase and it will show you how many people search for this word/phrase and variants of it worldwide and also locally (i.e. your target area) for the previous month.  It also gives an indication of how many advertisers are paying for advertising off the back of these key words and phrases.

This information is critical to anyone who wishes to promote their site online.

From a Search Engine Optimisation point of view it facilitates decision making on what names to give pages on a website, what keywords and phrases to put on them etc.  I mean there’s no point in creating a page with a certain title if nobody is ever going to search for it.

It now also asks for a website address as well as a key phrase, which can be very handy to see what your competitors are up to as regards keyword targeting.

It is an invaluable tool for anyone who takes their on-line presences seriously.

Double Home Page Problem WordPress

Many of us WordPress users will have come up with the double Home Page problem.

If you are using WordPress to create a website often you want a static home page on the site and not have it default to the latest blog entry.  To do this you must log in to the admin area, go to setttings->reading and set a static page as your homepage.

Often times you will want to create this page and title it ‘Home’ however on most themes if you do this you will end up with two home pages.

To get around this, without editing the theme, you need to create a dummy static page that is hidden from public view.  Once this static page is created you must go back and edit the newly created home page and set its parent to this new dummy page.

And that should be it!

If you want to have your blogs appear on another page, simply create another static page (with no content) and again go to settings->reading and set the posts page to this page. You must do this before you make the dummy page private, however.