Cheat Sheets for PHP, Ruby on Rails, MySQL, CSS and SEO

I went on a bit of a Cheat Sheet binge this month. Working on a couple of projects using various technologies means I keep bouncing around looking for stuff so I thought I’d better get some cheat sheets up on my wall to save me time.

Most of these are from one site, the brilliantly named “ILoveJackDaniels” by UK web developer Dave Child:

  1. Ruby on Rails Cheat Sheet
  2. PHP Cheat Sheet
  3. MySQL Cheat Sheet
  4. CSS Cheat Sheet and more from the same site
  5. The Web Developers SEO Cheat Sheet by Danny Dover of SEOmoz.org 
  6. Conversion table for em, px, pt & % in CSS by Suresh Jain

Using Social Networks to Create your Business Market

Last month’s Inc. magazine featured clothing company Threadless on the front cover, a company founded by 2 college drop-outs (an interesting trend in itself – so many successful start-ups have college drop-outs at the helm) Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff.

Founded in 2000, Threadless is set to hit $5million is sales this year selling, wait for it, t-shirts! Yep, and they’ve never had a single design that hasn’t  sold out!

So how has Threadless managed to sell out every design? By asking their market what designs they’d buy! Simple!

Using a social network, Threadless runs design competitions and whichever designs are most popular make it onto a t-shirt. The t-shirts are then sold through the same social network to the very people who voted for the designs. This way Threadless supply the market with exactly what they demanded in the first place!

The power of social networking is only now becoming apparent and businesses are beginning to understand just how well ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, the best and cheapest kind of marketing, works within the semi-porous walls of a social network.

Most think of social networks as the domain of bored teenagers but considering that Facebook, a social network that targets the 25 to 35 demographic, outpaced MySpace, a social network that does target teenagers, in May with the most number of unique visits many will need to re-assess their opinions of the importance of social networking to business.

ICANN relaxes rules on Top Level Domains

TechRadar.com reports today that ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names, is relaxing its rules for Top Level Domains next year.

With billions of web sites populating the Internet it’s really no wonder ICANN are doing this – I can’t remember the last time I registered the exact domain that I or a client wanted. Practically every good top level domain has been snapped up, a lot of these by cyber-squatterswho register a domain early on and sell it to the highest bidder.

The new rules will allow the registration of ‘anything’ as a TLD e.g. .ny for New York or .ldn for London. I could register .chandeshparekh as long as I had a good enough ‘business’ reason for doing so.

As the TechRadar.com article notes, it’s hard to know whether this will improve the Internet or hinder it; consider the number of yet to come ‘dead’ websites that will litter the Internet landscape as a result of the new rules.

Read more about this on the ICANN site

Read the TechRadar.com article

Retailers can Cash in using Social Networks

With the credit crunch truly making itself felt, retailers should be pulling out all the stops to get eyeballs on their products and making sales.

Gartner research found that UK retailers are missing a trick by not using Social Networking as a marketing tool. With social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo getting so much traffic retailers can advertise and market their products in innovative ways like Amazon US has done through the use of a Facebook application.

Read more about the Gartner report here and more about Amazon’s Social Networking strategy here

“My Site and Google” – What every web-site owner should know

It goes without saying that at the present time the most influential search engine on the web is Google and keeping that in mind there is some very important documentation the boffins at Google have created that every web-site owner should read and be aware of when having their web sites designed and built.

Written so a lay-person can easily understand it, with some help from their webmasters, the online documentation consists of the following main sections to help you optimize your site for Google:

  1. My site’s ranking in Google Search Results
  2. How Google crawls my site
  3. Creating a Google friendly site
  4. Preventing content from appearing in Google search results
  5. My mobile site in the Google  Index
  6. Information for Public Sector webmasters

and more can be found here

This is vital information if you want your site to be ranked as highly as possible in Google’s search engine results pages (serps).

Happy reading! 🙂

Web 2.0 Awards by SEOmoz offers inspiration for new and existing Internet businesses

SEOmoz, a Search Engine Optimization specialist offers SEO tips and guidance through their web site at www.seomoz.org. They’ve also just released the results of their Web 2.0 Awards competition, the results of which can be found here.

What’s interesting and very useful for web entrepreneurs is that there are a lot of categories covered, each with 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, and a grading system for Usability, Usefulness, Social Aspects, User Interface & Design, and Content Quality.

The breakdown of 174 sites in 41 categories helps to drill down to sites that are similar to yours making it easy to compare and pinpoint what you should improve for your web site.

Check out the awards site at http://www.seomoz.org/web2.0

Driving Internet traffic to your web site – Timing is everything

There may be times that you’d like to drive massive traffic to your web site e.g. maybe your recent visitor statistics haven’t been as high as you’d like or you do see an opportunity to create some content for your site or blog that you know many readers will be interested in.

I’m always on the look-out for interesting ‘happening-now’ topics that I can use to drive traffic and one such successful topic was when Leon Jackson won the reality singing competition X-Factor in the UK in 2007. On the final televised show it was announced that Leon Jackson’s single would be available immediately as a download from his website leonjacksonmusic.com, as opposed to previous years where fans had to wait for the CDs to hit the shops a few days later.

This final show was on a Saturday night and it struck me the next morning, on Sunday, that this was the first time downloads were being sold to take advantage of the excitement generated by the finals show i.e. instant gratification for fans of Leon Jackson.

Anyway, I quickly wrote an article about that on this site on that Sunday morning (view it here) and because of the expediency with which I had got something related to what could arguably be called the UK’s hottest topic of the moment, this article page was viewed 211 times on that Sunday and went on to rack up a total of 858 page views of which 719 were unique page views!

The reason this one page saw so much traffic is that I was quick to get a hot topic on the site and because of that cynergise.com was listed number one on Google for the following 4 days for the search term ‘leonjacksonmusic.com’, beating the official site as well as the official X-factor web site and forums.

Timing is everything!

Run an online survey quick and fast with SurveyMonkey

A great tool that I’m getting more and more use out of is the online survey-manager web site SurveyMonkey.com

As any business person will tell you, “you need to know your market!” Common sense, no doubt, but how exactly does one go about gathering market information without paying oodles of cash to a research company?

Enter SurveyMonkey!

It says on the home page:

Intelligent survey software for primates of all species. SurveyMonkey has a single purpose: to enable anyone to create professional online surveys quickly and easily.

And this totally true – their easy-to-use system makes it possible to get your survey together in just a few minutes! The hard part is who to target and what to ask them! 🙂

Their pricing plan is 3 tiered starting at ‘free’ to $19.95 per month and lastly $200 for a year. Although the ‘free’ plan only allows up to 100 responses, it’s suitable for small surveys and a good way to get acquainted with the online software.

Try it out now at www.surveymonkey.com

What is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0?

This is a question I get asked a lot and unfortunately, as is typical with all things Internet, there is no true fixed definition.

User-generated-content (UGC) and Asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX) are just two of the terms that get bandied around when trying to nail down just what Web 2.0 is.

Recently a friend of mine, whilst preparing for a job interview, asked me about this and I thought I’d better do some research to give her the most comprehensive answer I could. Considering she landed the job, I think I did ok!

Here then is one of the best explanations I’ve found for the meaning of Web 2.0, even if it is already a year old…

What it means to be Web 2.0 by Satyajeet Singh

Create your own Social Network site fast with Ning

Social networking is all the rage at the moment with social networks like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace in the news almost daily whether it be about the latest subscription numbers or who is making a buyout bid for how much (AOL bought Bebo in March for $850 million)!

All the social networks have a ‘Groups’ facility where you can invite friends to join in to share common interests,  but how much better is it to create your own social network using a site like Ning?

Let’s look at the advantage; As opposed to e.g. running a group on Facebook, you have full control over the site from the branding to the interactivity you’d like your users to have through the use of widgets. It is your own social network. And it’s free.

Check out http://www.ning.com/home/networks to see the most popular social networks on Ning and to give you an idea of what is possible…

BSM and The Apprentice – an example of free marketing using an effective email signature

BSM (British School of Motoring), a part of RAC, is using an effective marketing technique by adding to it’s outgoing email signature a link it has made to the first casualty of Sir Alan Sugar’s BBC show The Apprentice.

In a RAC email I received today was the following copy as part of the email signature:

A little note on BSM……..which is part of RAC

Apprentice’s Nicholas passes test with flying colours

—————————————

Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, ruthlessly booted off “The Apprentice” by Sir Alan Sugar on Wednesday, has at least one
reason to celebrate: the driving school which taught him to drive, BSM, today reveals that he has passed his test
first time – with no minor errors.

The perfect test pass, achieved by only 0.85% of learners, comes as the latest success for Brown, 24, who claims
he has never failed an exam and regards his “B” in GCSE French as his biggest failure.

This method of marketing is clever because firstly, there is no cost. Adding a bit of text to your outgoing emails costs nothing. Secondly, The Apprentice is one of the UK’s hottest TV shows, having received in the region of 6.5 million viewer’s for the first show of the 2008 series! That means a lot of people will be discussing it at the water cooler and in the hallway; plenty opportunity for BSM to be mentioned in conversation, or at least remembered, as having done something clever like this tie in.

Queeen Elizabeth & the Royal Family go Digital with their very own YouTube Channel

“Welcome to Official YouTube Channel for the British Monarchy” reads the introductory header of the Royal Family’s YouTube Channel.

Traditionally  the Queen’s Christmas message is televised on Christmas Day and has been since 1957; the move to show the address on a YouTube channel marks the 50th anniversary.

This also marks a shift in the way the Monarchy will choose to connect with the British people from hereon. Internet browsing has shot past TV as the pass-time of choice and recent research has shown that fewer and fewer people watch the Queen’s Christmas message on TV. With so much time spent on social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube it’s no wonder that the Monarchy feels a move to an Internet channel is needed.

Considering that it takes very little time and effort to set up a YouTube channel, there’s no reason why businesses too cannot take advantage of this great marketing tool. Many top universities already use YouTube to host videos of their courses  and it’s possible to find marketing videos for all sorts of things on YouTube and across the Internet.

One of the best uses of a service like YouTube is to host videos on it and then display them on your own web-site or blog. This has a few advantages:

  1. The video now appears in more than one location on the Internet giving it better exposure;
  2. Video takes up a lot more server space than static images and if you’re likely to be displaying many videos on your site it’s wise to ‘host’ them elsewhere and ’embed’ them on your site;
  3. You can use videos hosted on YouTube, or any other similar service, to improve the Search Engine Marketing for your business.

Can your business profit by using YouTube to host promotional and marketing videos?

leonjacksonmusic.com – X-Factor Winner Leverages the power of the ‘Instant Digital Download’

Leon Jackson was crowned the winner of the 2007 X-Factor competition last night. Winning a 1 million pound recording contract, his music single, a cover version of the song “When You Believe”, originally recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey for the animated movie “Alladin”, is released on CD on Monday to give it a chance of making it to the Christmas No.1 chart position.

However, the song is already available from the official Leon Jackson website (www.leonjacksonmusic.com) for download. For the first time X-Factor has leveraged the power of the “Instant Download” by taking advantage of the obvious frenzy that surrounds the finals of such competitions. Marketing the website and the available download in the final show ensures that the masses of fans that voted for Leon Jackson can immediately satiate their need for his first single before the single even hits the stands on CD!

The Instant Download is one of the most important advantages the Internet brings to a business, especially a business that deals primarily in digital products, or even physical products that can be digitised in some way, for example e-books are digital versions of books, music and interviews can be digitised into MP3s, etc.

If your business can digitise its products then giving your customers access to the digital versions from your web site is a critical revenue channel. Once a product is digitised there are practically no further overheads involved and that single digital product can be sold millions of times and through dozens of partner websites.

Can you leverage the power of the Instant Download for your business?

Gadget Show Challenge Demonstrates The Success of Guerilla Marketing Using Blogs and Facebook

Last night’s Gadget Show challenge results clearly demonstrated the strength of running a guerilla marketing campaign on the Internet using blogging and social networking to drive massive traffic.

Every week Suzi Perry and Jason Bradbury reveal the results of a challenge and last night was the culmination of a 3 week long challenge to see who could generate the most Internet traffic to their videos on YouTube using viral marketing.

Suzi Perry decided to go down the route of an on-line game where the players aim for the highest score to get access to a ‘reward’ video and Jason Bradbury had a friend film him doing the ‘caterpillar’ move on the streets of London. Both videos were posted on YouTube and the number of views tracked for 3 weeks, with a final tally made on the program last night.

The results were astounding, with Jason Bradbury’s video getting 10 times more views, with over 2 million, than Suzi Perry’s which weighed in at just over 200,000.

But, in all honesty, it wasn’t the theme of the videos that drove the traffic. Jason Bradbury went on to explain that he’d blogged extensively about his video as well as sharing it with other bloggers to drive traffic. A friend had also set up Facebook group to drive even more traffic by creating a buzz around his funny video.

This clearly demonstrates that a huge budget isn’t required to generate buzz and drive good traffic to a web site. All it takes is some imagination and knowledge of how to leverage existing mediums like blogs and social networks like Facebook to run a successful Internet marketing campaign.

Click here to read more about running a marketing campaign on Facebook for free

View Jason Bradbury’s ‘Extreme Caterpillar Breakdance’ here…

Dragons from Dragons’ Den Invest In hungryhouse.co.uk

Last night’s episode of the BBC programme Dragons’ Den was of particular interest to me as it featured a company called hungryhouse.co.uk, a web site to make ordering takeaway-food easier, which needed investment to expand their operation across the UK.

Having successfully run the Dragons’ Den gauntlet, hungryhouse.co.uk partnered with two of the Dragons, Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan, who agreed to invest £100,000 for a total equity stake of 25%.

The site has partnered with restaurants in various parts of the UK and provides the user with a single point of access by offering restaurant choice by area and the ability to place orders with the selected restaurant via the site. This does away with the drawer full of takeaway menus and means that a user, presumably, will have access to the latest menus.

It’s a great idea, especially considering more than 100 million takeaways are ordered in the UK annually, however what I wanted to stress here is that the investment was required primarily for off-line marketing, to recruit more restaurants to join the site and grow the coverage.
This is a point many ‘web-entrepreneurs’ fail to take into account. Many believe that just having a web site will generate enough interest in the market and lead to revenue generation. Not so. Off-line marketing is still as important as it ever was especially since it’s fairly easy to get a website up and running, meaning competition is ever increasing.

So, when you’re putting together your business plan for a web-business, don’t forget to consider all the marketing channels available to you, off and on-line.

Use Facebook To Run A Free Marketing Campaign

Social networks like Facebook are a marketer’s dream. Social networks, by nature, are viral i.e. they’re built to ‘spread’ ideas, photos, video or anything you can think of to your list of contacts within the site, and they to their list of contacts and so on…

Facebook is second only to MySpace in the number of members it has, however it’s built to be a better viral vehicle for marketing. Whether you’re selling a new product or want to get exposure for a social event, it’s very easy to get ‘eyeballs’ on it using Facebook and what’s more it doesn’t cost anything.

The first step would be to set up a Facebook group for your specific product or service and invite all your contacts to join. When your contacts do join, the feed on their friends’ pages will be updated with that fact and will likely lead to a lot of them at the very least visiting the group page to check out if there’s anything of interest for them. “After all if a friend of mine joined a group it’s more than likely it’ll be of interest to me too” is the concept we’re going for here (you want to be sure to have some compelling copy on the group page to make sure your message is getting across to your ideal market to entice people to join). This will carry on for a while and pretty soon the group will have hundreds of members. And by ‘pretty soon’ I mean within weeks.

Whilst this is going on you want to be sure to have a website, preferably with a descriptive domain name that users can relate to the Facebook group, where members can find more details of your product(s) or services or whatever it is you’re marketing. Why? Because the site is under your control; you’re not limited in what information to host on the site or in what manner. Also, having a website allows you to capture the email addresses of your visitors so you can start marketing to them directly.

Drive the members of the group to the website (it could also be a special page you set up on an existing website created just for members of the Facebook group) using teaser information like articles or special offers/discounts. This will lead to more people joining the group so they can take advantage of the special discounts thereby continuing the viral campaign for you.

That’s it! Using this simple method you’ll be driving traffic to your web site in no time.

Here are a few links to help you set something like this up:

  1. Hosting and domain name for your site (if you don’t currently have one) – DreamHost
  2. A Cynergise article on using descriptive domain names to drive more traffic to your site from Facebook and elsewhere
  3. A brilliant email management tool to help you capture and manage your email list for direct marketing

If you’re setting up your Facebook marketing campaign and web site and need some advice don’t hesitate to contact us – we’ll be happy to help.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets – The Viral Games Web Site

National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the new Nicholas Cage movie, is the sequel to the 2004 movie National Treasure and is due out later this year.

The official website is packed with the movie trailers, info about the story about the movie but the better site is the games site sponsored by Mercedes Benz here. However, rather than the usual dull advertising banners, Mercedes Benz have advertised within the games.

For example, there are 2 games based in London; in one, the action game called Thames River Race, you drive a Mercedes Benz along the Victoria Embankment avoiding buses, black-cabs and other obstacles.
The puzzle game called Break Into Buckingham, a game very much like Tetris, involves destroying symbols to unlock the gates to Buckingham Palace. One of these symbols is the Mercedes Benz star.

The prizes are impressive, with a chance to win $50,000 in the London games and for all 5 city games the chance to win the $50,00 plus a Mercedes Benz!
The site is viral as one of the other cities is unlocked every week, revealing the games specific to that location. This week, running to the 24th of October, is London and the other cities are Cairo, Paris, New York and Washington D.C.

All in all, a great fun site packed with fairly unobtrusive branding and great viral games.

Let us know if you win the Merc!

When is the Best Time to Kick Off your Email Marketing Campaign?

What is the best day of the week to kick off your email marketing campaign?

Historically, marketing or sales emails that land in your customer’s (or potential customer’s) email inbox on a Thursday morning are shown to have the best conversions.

The thinking behind this is that most office workers, who have regular access to email, start to ‘dial’ down from Thursday morning onward. Thursday is the almost the beginning of the weekend; we’re past the middle of the week and the weekend now looms, getting closer and closer!

Psychologically, this means that our minds are getting set for more fun activity and less actual work. This in turn means longer time spent on the computer doing non-work stuff like reading friends’ emails or checking out the latest on Facebook.

But can we narrow it down even further? A recent survey/study done by a news organisation states that it’s exactly at 3:27PM on a Thursday afternoon that we really begin to switch off from our work. So, could we get better results if marketing/sales emails are timed to land in email in-boxes late on a Thursday afternoon? We’ll try it out and let you know!

Web Analytics – A Look At How Visitor Information Can Be Collected

Last week I wrote about why every web-site owner should be tracking their web-site visitors using web analytics.

This week I look at the manner in which site visitor traffic information can be collected.

There are two ways of collecting traffic data from a web site:

  1. Log files
  2. Page-tagging

Web servers generate reports about every site they host. These are known as log files and before page-tagging came along, this was the most popular way of collecting and analysing web-site usage information. The use of a program, generally known as a Log Analyzer, is required to work through the raw data produced by the server.

Page tagging involves a piece of code, usually Javascript, being inserted into a web page and a callback being made every time that page is requested. We advise most of our clients to use this method as it’s sufficiant for basic traffic analysis and easy to implement.

There are advantages and disadvantages in both methods and it comes down to the web site owner to make the decision which method suits their business better.

The advantages of using Log Files are:

  1. Raw data is readily available as every server generates reports
  2. Because the data is raw, any Log Analyzer program can be used for analysis
  3. Can be more reliable as some web users ‘turn-off’ Javascript on their browsers and these visitors cannot be tracked by page-tagging

The advantages of using Page Tagging are:

  1. No need to invest in any analysis programs (or the overhead in running them) as Google provides a free-to-use tool called Google Analytics, an easy-to-use, web-based graphical tool that provides fairly in-depth reports of site traffic
  2. If you run Google AdWords campaigns, these can be linked to Analytics to provide in-depth reporting on your campaigns
  3. Flash media can be tracked e.g. if your site hosts ads that are created in Flash
  4. Whereas Log Files are more readily available to companies or site owners that own the web server their web site is hosted on, page-tagging is available to just about anyone.

I hope this information helps you in making a decision on which method suits you best. If you require any more information get in touch with us via our contact form…

What is Web Analytics and why you should be using it for your web site

For every web site owner, web analytics should make up a vital part of the Internet marketing strategy.

Web Analytics refers to the study of the browsing habits of visitors to your web site. Gathering and analysing such information like that can help you to understand how visitors behave on your site and to then tailor the site so that you can maximise its objectives.

For example, if you’re selling a product, you’d want to test out different sales pages to see which performs the best. Using web analytics, you’ll know how many visits are made to each page and where the most sales are made.

If you have a site with articles and you generate revenue through pay-per-click ads on each article page, you’ll want to know which articles draw the most traffic and why. Knowing this will allow you to tailor your articles to draw more traffic and therefore more clicks on your ads.

Ultimately, web analytics helps you to understand the performance of your web site and how to serve your target market better.

Next week: Web Analytics in-depth .