And The Winner Is…

trophySo this month I gave non-profits the opportunity to apply for a free website.

I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to pick just one organization. The goals for all of the applicants’ organizations were worthy & respectable.

But I did pick one…

The winner is: Champions of Hope in Dallas, TX

To all of the other applicants, I thank you for taking the time to do what you do. I would love to offer a free website every year, so if you’re still on the hunt for a web designer in 2010, come on back!

Champions of Hope will receive a custom designed web site & free hosting for one year (if needed).

Desperately Need A Website?

If you applied (or even if you didn’t), I would love to still help out in some way.

For non-profits only, I’m offering a 40% discount. A typical, custom-designed website costs $2,500. At 40% off you’ll pay $1,500.

To Other Designers & Developers

I have many applications for organizations in need of help. If you could spare some of your time, these non-profits would be incredibly grateful to have new and/or improved web sites.

Comment here or contact me through my website.

We Are Microsoft 2009

we-are-microsoft

Last year was the first annual We Are Microsoft charity event. I was able to be a part of the start of a great organization that seeks to develop websites and applications for non-profits in the matter of one weekend. Basically the weekend requires a lot of planning on the part of the event coordinators and the coders/designers just show up on Friday and begin work with the goal to finish by Sunday afternoon.

The charity I’ll be working with is the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas. View a list of all of the charities involved.

It’s no easy feat, but it’s amazing what can be accomplished when you have a deadline and the motivation to help out those who spend their whole lives helping others.

The only downside for me is that I’m not a Microsoft enthusiast. But, in the end, I’m a designer for the weekend and it really matters to the developers and there are some really talented developers that can utilize Microsoft programming and products to accomplish what it is these charities need.

It would be awesome if there was another event in Dallas with the same goal, but non-Microsoft focused. I’m challenging YOU to start that up. Thank you.

mindIT SEO Campaign

In November mindIT contacted me to help them improve online traction. They’re a small IT company in Dallas – great guys with a great business.

Google needed to hold up their end of the deal — finding the best IT companies in Dallas! Sadly, mindIT was lost amongst “the rest”. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t really show “the best” companies in the top 10 results for any given keyword so mindIT wasn’t being found for a number of keywords they should have been. That’s when they came to me and here’s where our tale begins…

Objective

Rank high and consequently drive more (and better qualified) traffic to minditonline.com in order to generate more leads/business.

mindIT is in the IT industry and needs to rank high for IT related keywords. In addition, they are a reseller of a popular health care software and offer support around it — they need to rank higher for related keywords.

Solution

mindIT had recently launched a brand new website that achieved a number a great things, including adding much more content to their site, building upon a content management system, and used many of the basic principles of improving conversion.

On the other hand, the website needed cleanup. Develop Daly cleaned up the site to improve upon the copy, extraneous pages, link juice draining, canonical issues/duplicate content, title & descriptions tags, and various other things.

All in all, the site maintains the branding and aesthetic appearance it had before the SEO process, but the guts are very much changed and improved.

Results

As with any SEO project, results are ongoing and hopefully improving all the time. In a very short amount of time (less than a month) we’ve seen incredible results. mindIT and the various keywords we targeted were not showing up in the top 10, 20, or 30 results. Here is what we achieved less than a month later:

Conclusion

It’s still too early to tell how the traffic has changed. For now, at least, we can see dramatic improvements in keyword visibility. Once again, I’m glad I could help a business increase their findability. If you need IT support, now you know who to call! (not me…mindIT!)

I’m a Freelancer, Open for Business

Today is my first day as a full-time freelancer. Woohoo! Along with this next step in my life I’ve completely redesigned the website. It’s not done yet, but I couldn’t wait! I wanted to focus on clear navigation, giving the blog much more attention (design & and amount/frequency of writing), and simplify everything. I hope you like it!

Now onto the news…

Why Freelancing?

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of owning my own business. In it I see opportunity to do things the way I think they should be done, I have much more freedom than I would have anywhere else, and I can hone in on exactly what it is I do best and utilize those talents to their fullest.

There’s been much speculation on the changes younger generations bring to the workplace. Those changes come from ideologies that younger people hold to tightly. A few of those, I think, are quality time with family & friends, transparency, and quality work.

I want all of those things. I want the freedom to have the time to deepen relationships with the people that mean the most to me and I’ll have more time to do that now. I want to be transparent about who I am and who my company is. I’d rather be completely open and honest and lose some potential customers than paint a picture of perfection and pretend that my company is all things to all people. It’s appalling to me to watch the number of companies I’ve seen sell their services for an arm & a leg and produce crappy work. It almost seems as if it’s the standard to produce crappy work and every once in a while come across something good. I guess this is the product of the American dream — everyone thinking that they need to take their shot, even if they aren’t qualified. Boy, that statement could really come back to bite to me!

What I love about working with other people is finding strengths in others. It was really neat to see how a handful of people made up the company at Lead Maverick and each excelled at what they did. Knowing this, I also know that I’m not a jack of all trades. I’m good at a few things and it’s those things I want to focus on and make even better. My job now is to take what I know, apply it, and get better at it all the time so that I can assure clients (and myself!) that I really can produce something really great.

Leaving Lead Maverick

I left Lead Maverick last week and it was harder to do than I thought I would it be. I made great relationships there and exciting things are happening for them. For those of you not in the loop yet, Lead Maverick is a search engine marketing company in Dallas, TX. I was the web designer among other things.

I left an environment of security. Having a consistent paycheck sure is nice, and what’s even greater is that someone had to be trusting enough to offer me a salary. In one hand I was comforted by the fact that someone was giving me money to survive on, and on the other hand I was comforted by the idea that I was trusted enough to be privileged with that money. It really is a neat thing to think about.

Friendship is much more easily grown in close proximity, something I’ll miss now that I’ll be working alone all day. Sure I’ll have the phone, meetings, and now I can work from a coffee shop if I want to. It’s quite different to work alongside your friends though. I’ll miss that part.

Where to Begin?

Well, I’m open for business. I’m praying for guidance throughout this process. I’m only a man and I can fall easily. All the support you can give is grealy appreciated. That’s where I’ll begin.

Welcome to Develop Daly.

WordPress Meetup Summary

This weekend I went to my first WordPress Meetup which was held in PD Johnson’s in Dallas. I wasn’t too sure of what to expect; the summary of the group made it seem like it would be pretty informal. It was. Everyone trickled in, about ten of us, and while some of us ate and others pulled out laptops we chatted mostly about Twitter and WordPress plugins.

Most of my time is spent with people who know little about technology, forget about WordPress and blogging, so hanging out with people who I can actually talk to those things about is refreshing.

However, I know that Dallas has a much larger audience of WordPress fans and major (or at least more than minor) bloggers. I was disappointed that the group doesn’t seem to attract enough of the audience using blogging and social media to its fullest extent. Granted, the group hasn’t been meeting for very long (just since April I think).

What I’d like to see more of is a formal atmosphere where people are encouraged to share with the whole group about how they use WordPress, what benefits it has for them, and how others can improve upon their blogging. One of the reasons I wish for this is because I’ve spent the past three years learning everything I can about WordPress and I’m dying to share the knowledge I’ve gained. It would be neat if the meetups consisted of neatly packaged topics so that the goal is clear and people know why they are coming and what they’re taking away.

On the other hand, maybe the point of these meetups is simply to socialize with other WordPressers and something so formal is outside the lines of what is thought necessary for the group. In that case, I’d love to be part of a new group that encouraged the formal training/learning of WP while the meetup group existed alongside the new group.

Any thoughts?

What Percentage of the SERPs Do You Own?

Just recently I’ve been putting a little bit of effort into developing my online reputation.

http://www.google.com/search?q=patrick+daly

A Google search for Patrick Daly (at least from Dallas, TX) shows that I own 70% of the top 10 results. The other three results are a MySpace page, a .gov site, and a biography of another Patrick Daly.

How much do you own?

Launched: Simple Elegance

This week I launched a new client site: Simple Elegance. Simple Elegance is a wedding decoration company in Denton, TX that serves the whole DFW area. I’m getting married (in less than a month!) and so my bride met with Simple Elegance and found out that they needed a website. Needless to say, work began a few weeks later.

Simple Elegance Home Page

Design & Home Page

In designing the site I wanted to achieve two things: simplicity and elegance. 😉

The site needed to be conducive to an audience I’m only vaguely familiar with, yet constantly surrounded by: young women in dire need for wedding decorations. I ended up giving the site a very rustic, yet smooth feel. The dark colors are a stark contrast to the traditional white wedding sites (though I will be implementing a style switcher to go between the dark scheme and a lighter one). I feel as though the browns make the site feel a little smaller, but in a good way. The perception is that the site is well maintained, updated, local, non-corporate, and easily accessible to customers.

Simple Elegance Photo

Photos

Pictures are huge in a business that is selling services based solely upon how good they look. We used in-window popups to show off the larger images, and allow visitors to browse through the many pictures. We’re taking advantage of the WordPress built-in gallery feature to make photo browsing and management easy.

Search Engine Optimization

As with all of the sites I build, I take great care into how I build a site so that it out performs competitors in search engines. This section is for those already familiar with SEO.

Simple Elegance Heading

Headers

On the home page I used the text “Wedding Decorations in Dallas, TX” as the H1 tag. While the business is located in Denton, TX, their service is as wide as the DFW area and Dallas is a more trafficked keyword than Denton is, so it made sense to draw from the bigger pool, rather than limit ourselves to Denton.

The H2 tag is “Wedding and Event Décor Specialists” so that we can emphasize even more specifically what the site is about, including a broader range of services.

Tags

For our purpose, what traditionally are called “tags” we’ll call “styles”. I wanted brides to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for. Not only did we categorize rentals into a categories like candles, candelabras, and cake toppers, but implemented a tagging feature that will tag about 700 adjectives automatically. If you look at the screen shot below you can see a demonstration of which words could be tagged. This is pretty useful for users looking for a decorations of a very specific style and for search engines because it allows optimization of hundreds of long tail searches.

Simple Elegance Styles

Conclusion

The live site doesn’t reflect everything mentioned in this post as some of the content has yet to be entered. However, I think you’ll find the site to be beautifully simple and very well optimized for search engines.

Visit Simple Elegance.

Simple Elegance

Simple EleganceSimple Elegance is a wedding decoration company in Denton, TX that serves the Dallas/Ft Worth area. This site is unique because Simple Elegance was actually the wedding decorator for my wedding. So while I was in the thick of wedding planning with my finacé (and now wife) I had all kinds of great ideas about how to make Simple Elegance’s site stand apart from the rest of the wedding decorators of the world. The best features of the site are automatic and by far the best one of those is the automatic categorization of rental items.

When a girl (or guy…just not in my case) is planning the decorations of her wedding she often has a theme in mind of how her wedding should look. How better to describe that theme than with an array of adjectives? When Simple Elegance enters their rental items into their site they describe each item at which time I take over and interlink that item with other items using the same adjectives. This makes the process of finding items a girl wants far easier than leaving the description broad and open ended.

Website: No longer online

Platform: WordPress