Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Web Design Trap for Newbies

I recently came across a web site design I have seen only once before. This web site was created in whole by a graphic artist. The entire web site was created simply for the appearance -- or the graphic design. The design is very attractive and the graphic artist obviously knew how to create an appealing design.

On the other hand, the graphic artist who created this web site had no idea of what the search engines need in order to identify what the web site is about or what the web pages contain. This web site included e-commerce that was not really part of the web site -- just sort of connected to it. Other than the shopping cart or e-commerce pages, all of the text on every page was completely embedded in a large graphic.

The owner of the site complained that she never made any sales from her web site to anyone other than friends or relatives.

No wonder. Search engines do not read text embedded in graphics or in Flash. As a result, her site would not and could never be found on the Internet by browsers looking the products she was selling.

The lesson here is: make sure that whoever designs your web site is a real WEB DESIGNER who has an online portfolio, references you can check, and some past success you can have confidence in.

Graphic artists can create beautiful looking web sites that no-one can find or use if these web site designs are not coded in a way that works.

On the other hand, program coders often call themselves Web designers as well. Program coders can write Web page code that does almost anything you want, including head-stands, but most coders have no real sense of design style. Again, check references and take a look an a portfolio of work before hiring only a coder to design your web site.

There are many Web designers who can both create a beautiful appealing design, do most of the coding and have enough common sense to contract out whatever is beyond their abilities.

The advice I would offer any Internet Newbie is:
  • ask to see a portfolio. Then study it carefully.
  • ask for references and follow-up with the businesses on the list.
  • arm yourself with some knowledge and learn a bit about Web design by either buying a book or visiting on-line Web design forums.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Newbee, Newbee, New

Questions I have heard from newcomers to Web design or SEO:

"I need a Web site. How much will it cost?"

Would anyone think of approaching a car salesman and saying, "I need a car. How much will it cost?", or asking a real estate agent, "I need a home. How much will it cost?"

If you think of asking this question, please stop. Ask yourself what you would like to include on your Web site that you might have seen on other Web sites. Do you need a portfolio Web site to showcase your artwork? Do you need a "brochure" Web site for your business that includes basic information about your business? Will you be selling products online? If you are selling products, how many products and how many product categories? Do you want to include audio or video on your Web site? There are many other questions that will need to be answered before any Web designer can give you a quote for the Web site you need.

"I want my Web site to show up on the top of/page one of the search results. It can be done for $100.00, right?"

It can be done for $100.00 if your Web site is about something so obscure that there are no competing Web sites for that same subject, product, etc., and the Web designer who created your Web site did not bother to even include meaningful titles and meta tags.

The cost of optimizing any Web site depends on the size of the Web site, the number of pages that you would like optimized, the number of keywords you want to optimize for, and the competition for those keywords. Search engine optimization can be -- and usually is -- a lot of work and takes time. Some of the search engines are slow to respond and for good reasons; they want to be as sure as possible that your Web site is ethical, contains good quality content and is built to last.

Unfortunately, there are too many quick and dirty, short-term "black hat" Web sites thrown up by spammers using dirty tactics that have made it difficult for ethical "white hat" optimized Web sites. Search engines, especially Google, want to give the best results possible on keyword searches. As a result, the requirements for getting your Web site to the top of the search results are very high. Expect this to be a lot of work either for yourself or for a professional.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The First Two Myths

Over the past five years of designing and optimizing web sites, I have been asked a lot of questions about whether this or that piece of information about Web design or search engine optimization is true. Most of these questions are related to search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization has two basic elements: 1.) create a Web site that has content of value to the Web site visitors and, 2.) good quality inbound links. The search engines index a web site based on the content and will rank the web site based on the number and quality of inbound links.

There are a great number of myths about Search Engine Optimization. One of the most common myths is that you need to submit your Web site frequently to the search engines in order to get to the top of the search engine results pages (high rankings). Although there was a time, at least 7 or more years ago, when this was true, search engine submission became outdated and virtually worthless when Google came along and changed the rules for achieving high rankings.

Today, none of the major search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN, will accept repeated submissions. Submitting your Web site over and over again to any of these top-tier search engines will do absolutely nothing to raise the rankings of your Web site. Companies that sell Search Engine Submission services should only submit Web sites to the hundreds or possibly thousands of tiny third-tier search engines that very few people use.

There are also a few myths about Web design. One myth is: "If you build it, they will come." It truly is not enough to simply build a Web site, especially an e-commerce Web site and sit back expecting the orders or inquiries to start coming in. First, your new web site needs to be found by the search engines. In order to be found, your web site either needs to be submitted to the search engines ONCE, or the search engines will find your web site on their own much faster IF there is a link to your web site from another existing web site.

Following hyperlinks throughout the Internet is how search engines find new Web sites and new Web pages within existing Web sites.

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