Blog about Internet marketing strategies - social media, & SEO

Category: website

Performance of Top Nepali Sites

The current election, with over 12 million registered voters by far one of the largest participated event in Nepal.

Big event means more interest across all channels, including online websites and social networks.
For a small country with ridiculously large amount of news consumption and political interest (the number of TV, paper, radio and recently online news sites in Nepal easily tops thousands), online news sites are still the most visited websites in Nepal.

Such huge events also draw more visitors (traffic) to news portals, which require more bandwidth to handle the traffic This is similar to road traffic – more vehicles during rush hour requires wider roads and proper navigation to prevent jam. Servers with limited bandwidth can crash if enough care isn’t taken for.

Simplified Bandwidth Calculation Formula:
monthly bandwidth = average webpage size X average webpages viewed per visitor X monthly number of visitors
So for average webpage size of 500Kb, average person viewing 5 webpages, a website that gets 100,000 visitors in a day would need 7,390.98 GB bandwidth per month.

Having said that, the election is a pre-planned event and the number of visitors could/should have been planned for. I went through uptime and downtime for some of the popular news sites in Nepal over past few days and here is what it looks like (doesn’t look impressive).

Data is collected from 10 popular online news portals of Nepal, a blog and the election commission site of Nepal. The websites in alphabetical order are:

 

uptime for top nepali websites

last 24 hour uptime for top Nepali news websites

web server down

Latest times that a top Nepali news site was down. Some sites keep crashing all the time.

 

The election week took its toll on every server as record people from within the country and outside Nepal checked online for breaking news and voting updates. Also, social media sharing meant that news come immediately on large number of walls and timeline and so lot of people are on the same webpage at the same time. As sites went down frequently, some had light version site. Many sites opted for third party tools for faster updates and reduce bandwidth on their servers. Scribblelive seemed to be a favorite tool for most news sites – possibly due to its 30 day trial and ease of use. Some were even embedding Google Docs and different chart tools.

But, on average, Nepali online news sites were down for over 1/4 time over this week. Some sites were up 100% while it was monitored this week but the most popular ones seemed to be down more time. If we fail to plan even for planned event, how could we possibly plan during disasters – where more people could be rushing for updates from their favorite news site? Time to step up!

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Nepali Colleges, Universities and Government Offices Sell Viagra & Sex Drugs!

I hope that the educational institutes such as schools, colleges or universities of Nepal (or anywhere as a matter of fact) are into education rather than selling sex drugs. Similarly government offices do their assigned jobs than selling Viagra. The point I am raising here is how vulnerable the educational, government websites in Nepal are and web security in general.

Let’s do a quick search on Google for Viagra (apparently a sexual wonder drug!) within the educational websites in Nepal, which have the names followed by .edu.np. We can do this using [search term] + the ‘site:’ operator + the URL or domain. For educational sites, this would be https://www.google.com/search?&q=viagra+site%3A.edu.np

The search for Viagra in educational website resulted in over 1700 results! I won’t link such sites direct here but present a screenshot. You can do the search yourself too using the search above.

Educational sites in Nepal Hacked

From Kathmandu University to American Language Center – and several schools, colleges universities websites are infected.

Similarly doing a search for Government sites of Nepal shows plenty of infected websites too.

hacked government sites Nepal

 

Finally doing a search for a .com.np site showed over 178,000 infected web-pages. I would just share screenshot here as well.

hacked business sites Nepal viagra

 

Why do educational websites get exploited so much?

The easy explanation is that weak security in websites (especially quick cheap ones) allow easy access to external attackers. Another reason might also be related to a different reason called SEO (search engine optimization), which is about how Google ranks a website when somebody makes a search for a particular term. It is a common but somewhat mistaken assumption that links from educational or government site provides better ranks in search results. So the practice of inserting codes to ‘bad’ sites in educational or government or any other site with old software is a notorious practice that has been going on for a long time. Some sites may also redirect to potentially bad sites when clicked on search results rather than going to the actual result displayed.

What can be done to prevent such attacks?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as 100% secured and even biggest websites get hacked. If we do a similar search for overall educational or government sites around the world, the situation is no better. I wouldn’t be surprised if my own site gets hacked someday. But having said that it is upto the website owner or team to ensure that the site is safe for its visitors.

In general, it is a good practice to:

  • Keep the content management system (CMS) or software up-to date on the server and on own computers
  • Use antivirus
  • Not use easy to guess passwords
  • Choose a more secured hosting
  • Backup data regularly
  • Check own site on Google using the ‘site:’ operator. For example viagra site:ku.edu.np or viagra site:.gov.np
  • Never open suspicious files attachments or websites
  • Report websites that are infected to the website owner

Here are some additional references on better web security (don’t worry! these are trustworthy sites and open in new window.)

 

Suggestions are welcome!

 

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SEO Best Practices

SEO or search engine optimization is about getting more visibility to your website on search engines such as Google. However, SEO for business without a clear strategy mostly lead to unsuccessful or non-profitable results and huge loss in terms of investment, time or both.

First, what is SEO?
Here is a video on SEO in simple language for those who are not too familiar with it.

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Each Search Engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing rank websites based on their algorithm (set of rules). While the algorithm are different for different search engines, the important factors for SEO are

  • Content of the website or the words and the keywords
  • Titles and META tags
  • Number of links pointing to the website or the backlinks
  • Anchor text or the words in such backlinks
  • Reputation of such backlinks

While the basics of SEO are simple, due to huge number of website, the implementation and execution part aren’t always easy. Many small business often go to creative agencies that produce great looking websites that do not bring visitors through search engines. The result? There is no business through the website. Also due to lack of knowledge, SEO is often mistaken as separate segment or a value added service of an online business and left to external experts or a separate team. This is not right. SEO should be part of the marketing strategy of a business for best results and the top level should also be involved in what is expected.

Here is a video on some common SEO mistakes and ways to correct them.

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Each business should have a value proposition to the target market and it applies to websites as well. Why should a user come to your website and use your product/service/brand or recommend it? Knowing those help understand what customers want and which keywords to target for SEO.

For lasting SEO, it is best to focus on user and user experience rather than search engines. Since the SEO basics appear easy and results are quickly visible, it is common to overdo the stuff (such as being obsessed with keyword density, PageRank or Alexa Rank) rather than enhancing the user experience. It is however, best to focus on what your customers actually need or want. When more users like and recommend the things on the website, search engines are more likely to rank such sites naturally. For this use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+ is a great way to start. Understanding and following the best SEO practices above are always important.

Which factors do you consider for SEO of your website and business?

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Correct use of robots.txt to allow all crawlers

Robots.txt file is used on web server to to give instructions about the website to web robots (also called bots or spiders or crawlers), such as those from search engines. The complete list of available robots can be found here.

The web robots scan the information and index the websites accordingly. So if you do not want web robots (or crawlers) to index your website, you can disallow everything using the robots.txt file. Similarly if you want all the content to be indexed, then you can allow all web robots using the robots.txt file. Generally it is a good idea to allow indexing to your publicly visible pages and disallow to publicly invisible files, folders or pages (such as those inside your control panel or the pages you get to after logging in). The robots.txt file should be placed inside the home directory of your website. For example www.yourwebsite.com/robots.txt

As for the robots.txt file, search engines such as Google can determine whether there are useful information and crawl and index your websites accordingly. If you don’t want to disallow any web robots to crawl your site, there could be three options for letting the search engines know.

  1. Not have a robots.txt file
  2. Having a blank robots.txt file
  3. Adding following lines in the robots.txt
User-agent: *
Disallow:

While all three should allow all crawlers, the safest way to ensure that your website is indexed correctly is using the third format. That is use the robots.txt and put the above code to ensure that all user agents (or robots) are allowed.

There is also a good explanation about this in the Google Webmaster Central Video.

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Google Search and AdWords Research with SEMRush

SEMRush Logo
SEMRush is an online tool for Google organic keywords, AdWords and competition research. SEMRush analyzes data from its millions of keywords and domains database. This tool is as simple as entering your (or competitor) domain name or keyword to get back insights to the organic keywords, AdWords keywords, competition analysis and more. SEMRush is an essential tool for online marketers!

Let’s look at some of the features of SEMRush that makes it such a great tool. For reference I have used cheapflights.com as the website under consideration and categorized the results into three types of reports: Organic, AdWords and competitor analysis. These reports can be easily viewed from the navigation on the left. The results can be exported to various formats as well.

1) Organic Keywords Report
The first visible results are the organic keywords results. Among others, this shows the organic keyword list, its traffic share on the website, the URL triggered by that keyword and the position of that keyword on Google, each of which can be sorted. For example you can sort by your best ranked keywords. It even shows the volume of search in other countries (SEMRush currently supports 9 countries).

SEMRush Google organic report

2) AdWords keywords Report
This shows the keywords that trigger the AdWords ad, position of ad in Google, search volume, cost for ad, competition and other details. You can even view the ad copy. Quite a handful if you want to know your competitor ads.

SEMRush AdWords

3) Competition Research Reports
The remaining reports show the competitors in organic or AdWords. These are

  • Competitors in organic search,
  • Competitors in AdWords,
  • Unique AdWords Ads (ad copy),
  • Potential ad/traffic buyers, and
  • Potential ad/traffic sellers

SEMRush competitors
SEMRush ad buyers sellers

An interesting addition is the competition graph, where you can compare various properties such as search traffic or number of AdWords to your competitors in graphical format.

SEMRush trend graph

You can also use the SEMRush competition research by starting with target keywords to find the related keyword variations and competing websites.

SEMRush keyword search

Free version of SEMRush shows the first 10 results in the report only. So you may want to upgrade to pro version to view the full reports. SEMRush is a tool by the same team that brought popular SEO tools such as SeoQuake and WhoRush. And SEMRush is among the best search engine marketing tools available.

Start using SEMRush

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Basic SEO tips for website

Who doesn’t want to rank the highest on search engines such as Google or Yahoo? Follow these basic search engine optimization (SEO) tips to help your website rank better.

  • Do some keyword research first. It helps to know about the important keywords to target.
  • Buy a domain name with keyword if possible. Domain names cannot be changed later.
  • Use keywords throughout the web site. But focus on only one keyword per page.
  • Create a sitemap. Sitemaps help search engines crawl your website better.
  • Avoid using Flash. Flash are not indexed properly by search engines.
  • Go for search friendly website design. Navigation should be easy for visitors as well as search engines.
  • Apply META tags optimization. These are the tags that are indexed by search engines and should be used wisely.
  • Apply ALT tags optimization. Search engines don’t recognize images, so don’t forget to give description of your images.
  • URL structure optimization for dynamic pages. Include keywords in them or use search friendly content management system (CMS) such as WordPress.
  • Control overall page size. Smaller size pages are better for users as well as Google.
  • Use headings. Headings are good place to put your keywords.
  • Optimize anchor text for your links. Links should include keywords for best results.
  • Get links to your website. This can be using link exchange or using social media.
  • Do social media optimization. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to target your keywords.
  • Put fresh content online. Having new useful content always helps in SEO.
  • Do not fool search engines. Bad ethics or bad tactics eventually backfire at your online business too.

Interested in SEO for your website?

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Website Marketing Strategy

In general, a website can serve any of these three purpose.

A) Website providing information regarding your professional services
B) Website selling products or services online
C) Website as direct source for generating income through ads

Website Marketing Strategy

Having a website fulfills different objectives or goals for different groups. Understanding your goals is the first step to proper website marketing. Let’s look at the three categories to see where you fit in and what you should do.

A) Website providing information of professional services

Example types:
Business houses, hospitals, universities, colleges, institutions, professionals such as doctors, engineers, lawyers, consultants, entrepreneurs.

These need website to provide the information of organization to existing clients, or as a contact channel for target clients.

Website goals:
Allow users to contact you via email, contact form or telephone or personal visit
Spread organizational information
Provide products and services information
Brand awareness

Recommended marketing strategy:
Go for a good website design that is pleasing+easy easy to use and is search friendly (so that people can find you on Google or Yahoo). If you are in this category, your website can go for on-page or off-page SEO to make it search engine friendly. If your organizational brand management is important, your website can go for social media marketing as well as online advertising.

What you should do:
Go for a search friendly website designer + SEO for building such website.

B) Website selling products or services online

Example types:
Export, travel, ticketing, supermarkets, online shopping carts, web applications, online transactions

These can be websites that sell products or services online using debit or credit cards. Or these website can allow users to fill up details regarding their interest or place booking orders.

Website Goals:
Make an online enquiry
Make an online order
Online purchase

Recommended marketing strategy:
Along with good looking and search friendly, your website should have transaction system that is easy to access and use. This may mean checkout system using third party applications for online transaction. Or it may be a booking form that visitors can fill to order the product or service or seek further information. If your website has many products or services, you can go for search engine friendly content management systems, or CMS so that your staff can put the new products or services whenever needed. Promote popular products or services more through search engines and social media.

What you should do:
Hire a team of expert programmer, designer and Internet marketer for your website.

C) Website as direct source for generating income through ads

Example types:
Content blogs, affiliate networks, business listing, news aggregator, social sites

These can be websites that do not have any product or service of their own but sustain through ads. In fact, they advertise third party products or services on the websites or gather useful information through RSS or produce user generated content.

Website Goals:
Get high traffic to website
Get users to try products or services on the website
Get visitors to click on ads
Get high number of registrations
Get high number of interactions

Recommended marketing strategy:
Search engine optimization (SEO) and viral social media promotion play a big role for such websites. Optimizing website for high volume keywords would be an objective for such website. Also content organization to attract glue users is a must. Having CMS is essential for adding new contents. Understanding visitor needs and your niche is crucial. Integrate viral marketing campaigns through social media to bring useful traffic to website. Explorer pay per click (PPC) opportunities as publisher as well as advertiser.

What you should do:
Hire experienced Internet marketer for your website.

Conclusion

Different organization have different requirements. Knowing your target and reaching out to them through website effectively requires a detailed strategy. Contact to build one for yours.

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