How do I create a website? Part 4 - Final (Series)

Sep 30th, 2010

One of the most common questions we receive is, "How do I create a website?" This blog series is a response to that question. It is intended to be a simple and easy guide that will walk you through the entire process from start to finish.


Today we'll go over the final, most challenging step in creating a website:


Promoting Your Website


You may have the most content-rich website in your field of business, but no one will ever know about your website if it isn't promoted. The buzzword for website advertising and promotion is "search engine optimization", usually referenced as "SEO".


SEO


The internet is saturated with theories on how to improve your search engine ranking. Hundreds of companies base their entire business on providing untrained website owners with tools and tricks. The fact is that automated tools, often available for free, may provide the same results.


Keywords


Saturate your content with relevant keywords. For example, say that you have a website promoting a particular brand of fishing products. Create a significant number of pages that are not blatant advertising. Instead, fill those pages with useful tips, fishing stories, tackle guides, and etc. Make sure you create an entire page on every relevant keyword that people may use to find your products and services in a search engine. When someone performs a Google search for "best tackle for trout" your page covering that topic will show up. It's a free method of target advertising with immediate benefits.


Do not fill pages on your website with a list of keywords. Search engines will be able to tell that you're attempting to subvert their search results. Search engines will actually rank you lower for those keywords.


Site Indexing


Submit your site to the major search engines for indexing. Indexing is a process where search engines navigate your website using programs that gauge your content relevance, quality, and popularity based on inbound links. Submitting your site to be indexed ensures that your site will show up in search results. It also ensures that your newest content will always be included in searches.


HTML Tags


Most web designers, developers, and Content Management Systems (CMS) will create title and alt tags for you in your website's code. These tags are keywords that tell search engines what each content area, link, or image contains. A search engine can't see an image of a fishing pole, but it can see a tag that identifies a picture as "fishing pole".


Don't Duplicate Content


The menu structure of your website actually has an effect on your website's SEO. Don't place the same page under multiple menu areas. Search engines will see these links as duplicated content.


Don't attempt to increase your website's ranking by using the same content on multiple pages.


Create Local Listings for Your Business


All of the major search engines allow you to enter your business' information in a local database for free. For example, Google Places allows you to add your business to Google Maps results.


Paid Advertising


Paid advertising is generally less effective than free advertising. The only advantage of paid advertising is the ability to specify targeted keywords.


Google Adwords


Google Adwords is possibly the simplest advertising service that allows targeted keyword marketing. It's relatively inexpensive at low volumes, and is simple enough to use for even the most basic of website owners. Omnis Network offers $50 of free Google Adwords credit with each hosting account.


Individual Website Advertising


Advertising on a single website is generally a poor idea. Your audience is limited to the visitors of that website. However, there are exceptions: if there is a non-commercial informative website that discusses the same topic as your website it may be a worthwhile advertising venue.




Conclusion


SEO is not a mysterious art. Content will always be the determining factor in the long-term success of a website. Be sure to read the past posts in our blog series for tips on selecting a domain name, choosing the right software for your website, and writing content that effectively promotes your website.

How do I create a website? Part 3 (Series)

Sep 16th, 2010

One of the most common questions we receive is, "How do I create a website?" This blog series is a response to that question. It is intended to be a simple and easy guide that will walk you through the entire process from start to finish.


Today we'll cover the third step in the process of creating a website:


Adding Content to Your Website


It may seem obvious, but the success of your website is determined first and foremost by the content you present. The quality of content, relevance to the topic of your website, and frequency of updates will all play a large part in the visibility of your site on the web.


Here's a basic list of do's and don'ts that will guide you through the process of creating your website's copy.


Do: Use Proper Spelling and Grammar


Search engines send what are known as spiders to crawl your website. The content of your website is then added to the search engine search results. This process is known as indexing.

Words that are misspelled will be indexed by the search engines. That means that visitors who search for the term with the proper spelling and grammer will NOT see your website! Google now displays search results with grammar and spelling correction. Google will display search results indexed with the proper spelling even if you search for the misspelled term. Bad spelling and grammer will cause your website to suffer tremendously in search rankings.


Do: Make Every Page Relevant


Search engines determine site rankings based on the relevance of content. Each one of the pages on your site should be relevant to the rest of your site. For example, a website for a car salesman will not be helped by a page discussing your favorite clothing line.


Do: Link to Websites on Similar Topics


NOT to be confused with the practice known as trading links. Link to websites that relate to your own website. For example, if your company has multiple divisions, link to each division from each other division. The content of each website should be relevant to each other website. Search engines will notice that your website(s) are a good source of information on a topic and will rank your website higher.


Do: Update Content Frequently


New content means that people will visit your site more frequently. It also means that your website will be crawled by search engines more often. Company blogs are an easy way to add new content. You should also update your main home page as often as is practical. New promotions, products, services, and etc. should all be mentioned on the home page with relevant links to the product pages.


Do: Create a Newsletter


A newsletter will generate regular traffic to your website. Some guidelines for a newsletter: make sure that you use a double opt-in registration method, and provide an easy opt-out option in each newsletter. Fill your newsletter with content that is informative about your website's area of content. Do not use a newsletter as a means to promote your products.

For example, let's say your company sells gardening supplies in California. The best way to gain traffic would be to fill your newsletter with gardening tips, personal gardening stories, best methods for different seeds, and etc. Provide plenty of links to your website, but keep advertising to a minimum.


Don't: Create a Large List of Keywords in the Content Area


Adding a list of keywords to your content does not help your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking: it hurts it. Search engines will see this list as filler and will actually rank your website lower for the keywords you have listed.


Don't Hide Text or Keywords


Hidden text and keywords do not help your SEO ranking. Hidden text is considered subversive by all of the major search engines. Search engines will completely remove your ranking for the keywords that you have hidden on a page. This will cause your website to drop off the search results completely.


Don't Trade Links, Buy Links, etc.


Long-term search rankings are based on quality of content and relevance of linked information. Links from poor quality content does not help your website's visibility; it hurts your website's ranking!

Paying for links is a great way to ensure that your website will rank poorly in the long term.


Don't Use Cheap Tricks


In general, cheap tricks that you read about will not help your SEO ranking in the long term. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the other search engine giants penalize websites that use tricks to increase visibility. By resorting to a quick and easy method you are ensuring that your website's visibiltiy will not be sustainable.

How do I create a website? Part 2 (Series)

Sep 07th, 2010

One of the most common questions we receive is, "How do I create a website?" This blog series is a response to that question. It is intended to be a simple and easy guide that will walk you through the entire process from start to finish.

Today we'll cover the second step in the website creation process:

Determine the Best Software For Your Project



Not all website creation software is built equally, and each software package brings a different feature set to the table. It's important to decide what software your website will be built on before you begin creating content. Follow this guide to determine what your options are so that you can make an informed decision.

There are two basic types of website authoring software: desktop publishing suites, and content management systems. Desktop publishing suites are software packages that you physically download to your local computer. Content management systems are software packages that you install on your hosting account and access in a web browser.

Desktop Publishing Suites



Publishing a website via software that you install on your personal computer is the most traditional and simple method of creating a website. The advantage of this type of software is that you can design your website on your local computer before putting it live on the web. These software suites are generally easier to use, but the trade-off is that they are not good for complex tasks such as e-Commerce. Here are a few recommended software suites:

Dreamweaver CS5: Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 is by far the most widely-used web authoring software on the market. It's a feature-rich suite that includes a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design aspect, direct access to the raw code, templates, and more. Dreamweaver is a great product for experienced web designers who wish to automate repetitive tasks. It is not recommended for inexperienced website publishers.

KompoZer and Sea Monkey: KompoZer and SeaMonkey are two open source web authoring suites that are widely used in the open source community. I list them together because they are both developed from the same source, the original Mozilla Suite. Both are good options for experienced web designers, but I would not recommend either to inexperienced users.

SoftPress Freeway: Mac OS X only. Freeway is a WYSIWYG web design program that is extremely easy to use. SoftPress offers a less expensive version for light users called Freeway Express. Freeway is a great option for users of any experience level.

Realmac Software's RapidWeaver: Mac OS X only. RapidWeaver is a web authoring program that relies on theme templates. Web designers from around the world create templates for RapidWeaver. There are a number of plugins available from third party developers that allow you to extend the functionality far past what is included in the default installation. RapidWeaver's one of the easiest tools for new users. It literally allows you to plug your content in and publish a working website.


Content Management Systems



Content Management Systems, usually referred to as CMS's, are software packages that you install on your hosting account. These software suites run on your web host's server. The advantage of this is that you can update and manage your website anywhere in the world. The disadvantage is that you must have an internet connection to work on your website. CMS's are the best option for anyone publishing a complex website. I'll break the most popular content management systems down by category.

Blogs



WordPress: WordPress is by far the most popular CMS and blogging tool. It's popular for a good reason: WordPress is one of the most customizable content management systems in existence. It's also extremely easy to use. It's so widely-established that a number of large companies use it including CNN, Yahoo, Lafayette College, MTV, and Smashing Magazine.

Movable Type: Movable Type is one of the most established CMS's on the market. It offers both an open source version that is absolutely free, and a commercial version backed by Six Apart, an established web design, development, and creation firm. Movable Type has a higher learning curve for new users, but it often produces more professional results than its competitors. Noted users of Movable Type include the Washington Post, National Geographic, multiple NBC websites, and multiple NPR websites. Movable Type is the darling CMS of the media industry.

All-Inclusive CMS



Joomla: Joomla is the most popular web authoring CMS on the market. It's open source, and free to download. It's possible to build a website that does just about anything with Joomla. Extensions allow you to create a highly complex website. The same Joomla installation can support a large professional website, a multi-user blog, an internal file sharing tool, a large eCommerce store, and etc. The learning curve is at the medium level for new users. I recommend WordPress over Joomla for most users, but power users will love Joomla.

Drupal: Drupal is the techie CMS. It's a complex, do-everything content management system with a high learning curve. Drupal is used as the back-end for corporate websites, college websites, and other multi-user projects. I do not recommend Drupal for most users. It is the perfect choice for web developers who love to code their own modules.

Textpattern: I'm listing Textpattern as a CMS, but it is most frequently used as a blogging platform. It's hard to categorize CMS's such as Textpattern because it is capable of so much. TextPattern is at the mid-way point between WordPress and Drupal in terms of difficulty of use. It requires some understanding of code to use, but not at the level of Drupal. I recommend TextPattern to web designers and developers.

eCommerce



Many of the content management systems I have already mentioned include provisions for eCommerce. However, for an Amazon.com-style website you should use dedicated eCommerce software.

Zen Cart: Zen Cart is the open source world's answer to a shopping cart CMS. It's not pretty, but it contains just about every feature you'll find in commercial software. Zen Cart is widely used. I tend not to recommend Zen Cart because of its legacy code and unattractive GUI (graphic user interface).

Magento eCommerce: Magento is the latest and greatest shopping cart CMS. It has become popular because of its extensive feature set, and impressive GUI. Magento allows you to create a website that looks and feels like a professional web store in the same style as Amazon.com, Buy.com, and the other big names. The only disadvantage is that it tends to be a resource hog which means your website may load slowly for visitors. Caching extensions are highly recommended to combat the speed issue.

PrestaShop: PrestaShop is another up-and-coming shopping cart CMS. It's designed for smaller e-shops that don't require the feature clutter of Magento and etc. PrestaShop is well-regarded because it's fast, and the GUI is attractive.

Summary



There are a plethora of content management systems and desktop publishing suites available on the market. I've covered the basics in this post. Use a CMS if you're creating a website that's a decent size, requires multiple contributors, and/or has any sort of interactive component such as a blog or shopping cart. Use a desktop publishing suite if you're designing a website that is relatively simple, has less than 100 individual pages, and doesn't require any visitor interaction.
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