The Basics Of A Web Site

Where do I start?

First of all determine the purpose of your site, will it be revenue producing or for informational purposes? As the old adage says, "it takes money to make money" and this is still true on the world wide web. If you have products to sell your site will be more costly to maintain, you will have to pay for instant results on major search engines and you will need a web host that will grow with you and support the features you require. If you just want your name in lights you can afford to cut corners and wait longer for things to happen. This is why I recommend Netfirms Web Hosting, they are a provider that will grow with you from a basic site to a fully featured e-commerce venture.

A site is useless if nobody knows about it, you must get traffic to it, you can do this through programs such as "pay per click" for instant results, but you still must build a search engine friendly site. The search engines use information that spiders accumulate as they crawl across the web adding to their huge databases, you must give them as much of the kind of information they are looking for as possible.

Each individual search engine uses different criteria to organize information for its users. Some list the results of a search according to a system known as link popularity which lists popularity by which sites have the most links from other sites. Other search engines prioritize results according to the information contained in sites' meta tags, and others look for common themes used throughout a site.

Directories are different from search engines. Instead of using spiders to crawl the web, directories have real people who review and index their links. Directory editors look a the quality of a site: its functionality, content and design.

Key Words

When we use a search engine we put certain words or phrases into a box and the search engine looks in its database for them, it then lists the sites containing them, sorted in priority of relevance determined by that particular search engine.

Using the right keywords in your site's meta tags can help in achieving a better ranking. When choosing keywords, you need to think like your users, what words might they type into a search engine to find your site?

Search engine users tend to type in two or three word phrases to get more targeted results. It is better to use word combinations than single keywords.

Compile a list of keywords by writing down every possible word someone might use when searching for your site, include common mis-spellings, then go back through the list and combine the words to make phrases.

Use your most important keywords or phrases in your title tags, the title itself, and in your description meta tags.

Try to keep your description under 25 words so it will remain complete when it's listed, search engines cut off long descriptions.

Use your most important keywords in the first paragraph of your body copy, search engines read up to about the first 250 words of text on the page.

Use keywords in page names through-out your site, and try to get a domain name that includes one of your keywords.

Your Domain Name

There are free sites that will provide you with a URL such as: "http://www.yourname.freewebpage~index/page25/even/moreand more" when you sign up with them. There are two problems with such a name, it is too long for anybody to remember and if you change providers you will have to get a new name, which will be a pain since you will have the first one registered with search engines and it will now be useless. By getting your own "domain name" you will have it forever no matter what host you are with.

This will be a name (up to 64 characters) followed by .com, .net or .org, which will look like: "
http://yourname.com", a short and easy URL to remember.

Country specific domains are also available, .ca (Canada) .uk (United Kingdom) etc. but are more expensive than the .com, .net or .org.

You will now also have a permanent e-mail addresses which can be "
anything@yourname.com" that may be either web mail, POP or forwarded to another account depending on the provider.

Have a keyword in your name, instead of registering "
joesmithco.com" for a company called "Joe Smith Company" that sells flowers consider "jsflowers.com", you will come up better in search engine results.

Designing Your Page

We are used to flipping through print mediums, and watching TV so it is natural to assume that what worked there will also work on the web. They use glitz to get your attention and drive home their messages, when someone clicks on your url you have their undivided attention, the trick is to make sure they don't get bored and move on. The WWW is still the "world wide wait" for many people and if your page doesn't load within 10 seconds 1/3 of your visitors will give up and go elsewhere. Designing a site to be a work of art may be good for your ego, many large graphic images, flash, fancy javascript, etc. will slow the loading time of your site to a crawl unless the visitor has broadband access.

To popularize your site you need top ranking in search engines, enhancements are meaningless to most of them, they need words on the page to properly index it. Web sites sitting on the hard drive of a server somewhere in a back room where nobody sees them are a waste of time, money and effort unless they can be found. Sites are mostly found through searches or by clicking on links placed on other sites, the challenge is to rank as high as possible on search engines and get as many links to your sites as possible from other sites.

The keys to a successful site are content, speed and ease of use, a combination of these ingredients will build a loyal following. Content is vital, search engines use it for your ranking, visitors are looking for it, and other sites will link to you because you have it.

Visitors will go to your page for one reason, to get what they want, you are in the information business, not the entertainment business. Keep the number of clicks to a minimum that the visitor must make to get information, and make it clear where the click is taking them, if they have to go through a maze they will give up and go elsewhere.

Avoid "Splash Pages" and "Flash Intros" as your entrance way, these only add another hurdle for the visitor and may cripple your chances of a ranking with search engines. This is your Home Page, it should have the highest ranking of all your pages, without text you will get no ranking at all.

A well designed site is useful and usable any component that doesn't add to this will be a detriment.

Linking Your Pages

Using paper and pencil do a diagram of your site with your "Home Page" and the pages that will link to it. The first page that the visitor arrives at from your URL should be your Home or Index page, the hub of your site. Give visitors an easy path out and most importantly a path back, often a visitor will be sent to a particular page from a search engine or link from another site. Have your name or logo on each page so when this happens the visitor realizes they are now at your site, if you have content they are interested in they will want to get to your Home Page to find an index for more information.

Use text links throughout your pages, it has been shown that they are more effective than banners, and it gives the visitor the opportunity to instantly go to get more information.

When you have established a navigation plan stick with it on every page of your site, this consistency will make it much easier for your visitors.

I like to put a "Home" or "Back" link at the bottom of every page and also make the logo or name at the top a link to the Home Page.

Time is of the essence, the more efficiently your links are understood and the faster your pages load the longer the visitor will remain at your site, if a link takes him away from your site to a slow loading graphics laden site with corny music playing in the background and do-dads following the cursor he will try to get back to your site as soon as possible. Make this easy by having links to other sites open in a new window.

Your HTML code for a link will look like this:

<A HREF="http://absolutelyfreeplans.com/">

By adding "target=_blank" the link will open in a new page.

<A HREF="http://absolutelyfreeplans.com/" target="_blank">

Now if the visitor closes the browser window he will return to your page where he clicked the link from.

Check your links regularly, broken links happen, but if your site has a lot of broken links your credibility will diminish, it is a sign that you are not on top of things. Secondly search engine and directory submissions will be rejected because of them. If you have a site with a lot of links add a special link for your visitors to notify you of dead links by e-mail.

Make use of anchors to help visitors quickly get to information on each individual page, have a bar at the top of the page with hyperlinks to different categories.

Getting Started

Key Words

Domain Name

Desigining

Linking

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Netfirms Web Hosting


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