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Google has released a video explaining the logic behind bidding on keywords using Adwords:

"Our Chief Economist, Hal Varian, explains the AdWords Ad Auction and how your max CPC bid and quality score determine how much you pay for a click on Google.com."

Disclaimer:  Whenever he says, "Google wants to make a good experience for both the advertiser and the user so that they come back and use our services in the future" - he really means, "Google wants to keep advertisers and users connected through their revenue machine."

I've been an AT&T Mobile customer since 1998. In December 2008, I decided to switch from their 'personal' line of accounts into a 'business' account. This was due to better pricing and service/support for business accounts, and since my cell number is also my work & home lines, it made sense. At the time.

Since then, I have had 2 negative experiences with ATT's business "premiere" support team.  First, they charged me twice for the month of December.  No big deal, only an hour later with a few of their billing support people and they credited my account.  Nice.

Then, I realized that they kept sending me bills in the mail.  I had paperless billing, and autopay, set up before I switched over to their business plans.  Now that I am under a new billing account number, I had to enter my credit card information again, no big deal.  Then, when I logged into my account and tried to enable "paperless billing," the control panel choked on my request by saying "A General Error has occurred, please contact customer care."  So I did, about 4 times.  During these 4 calls, I spent several more hours on the phone with their tech support people, all of which promised that they could fix the issue, and nobody delivered.  I have 2 "ticket numbers" in their system about this.

Last Friday, I ended up giving their tech support crew MY LOGIN AND PASSWORD so that they could log into my account and read the error message themselves.  It's like they didn't believe me.  They entered ANOTHER support ticket, and promised that their IT department would have the issue resolved in 72 hours.  Now that it's been a week, I figured I'd write this general letter to AT&T to let you know that I am not going to call back again about this.  You can feel free to keep mailing me paper bills, at your expense, I just don't care any more.

It shouldn't be this difficult to help the environment.

Facebook has recently launched a new application that allows people to post comments using their Facebook accounts to 3rd-party sites.

commentsbox

This means two things:

  1. People that leave comments with their account are more likely to leave honest, legitimate comments on your site, as it will be linked directly to their Facebook profile.
  2. During periods of heavy traffic, your own web server is not handling all of the traffic, as all of the comments and user logins will run from Facebook's server instead.

Please contact us if you are interested in adding this functionality to your site!

Covington Creations is featured in the upcoming CBCC W4 Magazine! Click here to see the article. (pdf)

(Yes, this is the same testimonial that I featured in this case study)

Note: The software demonstrated below can be adapted to power any existing Web site or customized to specification. For more information, contact us.

I just made a bunch of these nifty tutorial videos to show how easy it can be to update your own web site without any programming skills.  To see the rest of them, click here.

Schlosser Steel Buildings came to us with an existing web site and wanted to know about making updates, sprucing it up, and reorganizing the content. We started by converting the site from a standard HTML site to a content management system. We proceeded to fine-tune and build content. Then, we made the overall page wider to better fit today's larger wide-screens.

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a.  Case Studies, not Projects
Originally, all of the featured projects were contained under "Projects."  Each project had a few pictures, and you would need to visit 5 or 6 different pages just to see all of the projects.  During the site renovation, we changed "Projects" to "Case Studies."  A slight tweak in the menu makes a big change in overall perception.

ssb-case-studies-tabs.png

b.  Tabbed Content
For the "Case Studies" and "Products" sections, we added a nifty feature called "AJAX Tabs" to help organize and present the content.  These tabs allowed us to add lots of content without making you scroll 3 or 4 miles down the page to see it all.  Nice!

c.  Search & Site Map
Let's make it as easy as possible for people to navigate the site.  For those who can't manage the newly simplified navigation menu, let's add a quick and easy site search function.  Studies show that half of all web surfers use Search instead of menus - is your site this easy to navigate?

ssb-search-login.png

d.  Client Login
We also added a "Client Login" capability to the site.  For starters, having a client login on your site will impress people.  Even if it's not functional.  However, the SS Buildings client login IS functional, and it's a great tool for collaborating with clients and partners - sharing files, information, and more.   A small investment in your company's technology can improve productivity and deliver a great ROI.

 

View Site:

www.ssbuildings.com


"It was time for the Lambertville House to update its web site. After listening to a presentation by Nate Covington at the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, I decided to break with tradition and work with a new web builder. My objectives were quite clear, I wanted to streamline the site and increase search engine optimization. After meeting with Nate I was confident that he was going to work hard to understand what was needed to communicate our message to our customers. Nate was a patient listener and it was obvious from the start of the project that he wanted to make sure the finished product would exceed my expectations. The professionalism, attention to detail and overall quality of work has been a pleasure. Nate has provided guidance and useful tools to enhance and promote our site in an easy to understand format. I highly recommend Covington Creations and Nate who is reliable and creative. We look forward to a long standing working relationship."
- Mary Ellen Mason, Proprietor, Lambertville House


We felt the first thing that had to go was the daunting navigation menu because was too long and wordy to let people make easy choices.

Before:

lvh-old-nav.jpg

After:

lambertville-house.png

We wanted to keep the existing look & feel, but made a few changes:

a.  Breadcrumbs
We added "breadcrumbs" to the top of every page; that way, visitors have a quick and simple way to navigate the site.  Plus, it gives plenty of extra text links for the search engines to enjoy.  Best of all, the breadcrumb menu is automatically generated by the custom-tailored content management system that powers the site.

lvh-breadcrumbs.png

b.  Lightbox (Thumbnails)
Throughout the site, there are small thumbnails that enlarge to show a full-size picture.  The best part?  They're also automatically generated by our fancy control panel.  Want to swap out the pictures?  Just upload new ones to a folder on the web server and, bang.  Done.

lvh-thumbnails.png

c.  Blog.  RSS Feeds.  Social Bookmarking.
We added an Announcements section to the Lambertville House site and equipped it with all of the latest goodies.  First, adding content regularly to the site will feed Google wonderful content to chew up and help gain exposure for the site.  Second, social bookmarking links on all of the new articles allow viewers to share the articles through services like Facebook, Digg, Technorati, and Del.icio.us.  The best part?  You guessed it.  Automatically generated by the CMS software.

lvh-blog.png

d.  Search, Site Map
Let's make it as easy as possible for people to navigate the site.  For those who can't manage the newly simplified navigation menu, let's add a quick and easy site search function.  Studies show that half of all web surfers use Search instead of menus.  Also, the site map gives visitors a hierarchal view of the content while feeding Google some more links.

View Site:
www.lambertvillehouse.com

This is part 2 of my "Maximizing Google's Free Services" series. In case you missed the first one, it was about Google Alerts.

Did you know that you can often use Google's "Cached" feature to look at an archived version of a web page? It often comes in handy if you accidentally delete something from a site that needs to be recovered. To use the feature, simply click on the "Cached" link below any Google search result:

cached.png

Since I spent most of last night reinstalling Windows XP on my MacBook Pro, I figured I'd toss a friendly "how to" article on here to possibly help other people out who find themselves in the same situation: In order to use SP3 with Boot Camp, you need to install Boot Camp 2.1 (Drivers, etc) on the Windows XP Installation FIRST. Note: This does not affect the "Boot Camp Assistant" which is loaded on OSX.

http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/bootcampupdate21forwindowsxp.html

Last week's post about using Google Alerts was a great lead-in for today's post: A real-life example of how using Google Alerts can keep you ahead of the curve:

covington-alert.png

google-alerts.pngI've decided to do a bunch of articles on how to use Google to build your business.  And this article is applicable for any business; it doesn't matter if you have a web site or not...

This first article will explain Google Alerts - how it works, how you can use it, and why you should have been doing it months ago.  


EDIT: To see a demonstration of the Joomla RSGallery2 Community Edition, click here.


NOTE: One of the great things about Open Source software is that there are... thousands... of other nerds (like me!) around the world who develop new things, and share.  I am excited to finally be able to make a contribution!

This project started when a client asked me to build an online community for artists to (a) pay a subscription / membership fee, (b) post their work in selected galleries, and (c) communicate with eachother.  No problem, I love these types of projects.

WARNING!  If you are not a Joomla Developer, anything below this line may cause injury.

At the time, the 2 best options were either RSGallery2 or Gallery2 (bridged).  Since neither option really had what we were looking for, some customizations were in order.  We have also tested this configuration to work with other components like Fireboard, JEvents, Acajoom, SH404, and more.

WORKFLOW:

  • Visitor selects top-level RSG2 albums (Categories) to see available users
  • Visitor clicks on a user's thumbnail and is taken directly to that user's CB profile
  • On the CB profile page, we now have the RSG2 CB tab with lightbox scripting (This prevents someone from needing to click 4 or 5 times to see a full-size image.  Very slick.)

COMPONENTS:

  • Joomla 1.0.15
  • JACL Plus
  • Community Builder 1.1
  • RSGallery2 1.0.14
  • RSGallery2 Searchbot

CUSTOMIZATIONS:

  • Users only see THEIR albums in the drop-down form (frontend)
  • Links to CB profile from sub-gallery
  • Top-level hidden
  • Lightbox on CB profile; limited to 600px
  • CB profile links to PM software (UddeIM)
  • "Edit Galleries" link hidden on CB tab
  • AEC Micro-Integration ($$$) **CORE**
  • JACL-Friendly
  • CB User Lists
  • Custom "Logged Out" page

Download here:

http://www.covingtoncreations.com/downloads/ (requires registration)

Google has started suggesting searches on their home page, as well as their new browser, Chrome:

google-suggests.png

The Power of Suggestion:

  1. Less spelling issues - If you can't spell a word, enter the first few letters and Google will probably spit out the word you're thinking of.
  2. More Generic Searches - Now that the popular search phrases are going to bubble to the top, people will be less likely to actually think of their own searches.
  3. More Money for Google - Since people aren't thinking of their own searches, businesses who advertise on Google are going to be forced to bid on the most popular keywords, paying inflated prices for clicks.  This is examined in detail in this blog post.

(I've been using this feature in Firefox for quote some time now...)

[edit: 08-09 CBCC Ambassadors are featured in the W4 March-April edition - click here]

I'm honored to have been chosen to be an "Ambassador" for the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce. If you're not yet a member, please put my name in the "Referred by" field at the bottom of the form. (Here is a PDF with my name already on it for your convenience.)  Also, sign up between 9/17 and 10/31 and they will waive the $30 processing fee.

Joining the Chamber in May '07 was a great idea for me.  Initially, I did it for the health insurance coverage, but after getting involved by attending workshops, business card exchanges, and even helping out with a few seminars... the $200/year membership fee has paid for itself many times over.

[Note: This newsletter was also sent out via email, but I am posting it here as well.  If you've already seen it, no point in reading twice.]

Oops.  This "monthly" newsletter hasn't "sent itself" since March.  I guess getting busy isn't bad, but it's time to officially retire this newsletter. I've started to put company announcements, hints and tips, and general commentary here instead.

(Something didn't feel right about blasting out emails like that every month anyways.)

Let's face it. Facebook caught on because next to Myspace, it was tolerable.  Myspace is notorious for having glittery, flashy, overdone, obnoxious pages that can give you a headache in a matter of seconds.  Plus, music.  Without my consent!

I'm done.  Let's take a look at what facebook changed and why it's better:

Old Home Page

Awkward "Appilcations" menu on the left, news feed in the middle, announcements, pokes on the right.

old-home-page.jpg

 

What a support group.

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In this entry, I will share some of my personal tricks regarding organizing your Web site and email so that you can access your information from the road, and not worry about losing important messages.