This page is for the beginner, trying to figure out how to get a web site up and working.
Please feel free to check these guys out!
After all how do you think I manage a 500+ page site that includes over 6,000 links?
While I don't clam to be an expert, or some great guru of the net. I have done a few (dozen) sites, not to mention my personal site that you are on right now. This page is for the beginner, trying to figure out how to get a web site up and working. If you can't find what you are looking for, please feel free to ask.
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The first thing to address is why you are doing a site.
A lot of what I call "Less Scrupulous" webmasters will sell folks on the concept that a web site will bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars, and should cost thousands of dollars to set up. WRONG! If you have a good product, it can be profitable, however if your product isn't doing well using conventual methods of advertisement, it won't do well on the web either.
If you decide to use a professional webmaster, never judge a them by what he/she charges! There are no set guidelines for who can use the term "webmaster" or standard charges. There are some very good ones that charge almost nothing, to con-artists that charge thousands, and provide almost nothing. My normal charge for the average site is $100 set-up and $10 month maintenance.
If you are wanting a personal site, there is no reason to hire a professional, do it your self. There are many programs that are easy to use, many IPs provide their customers with free web space. If your IP doesn't provide free space, there are many Free hosts to pick from.
If you are wanting a site to promote a business, this will require a little more thought. You will need to address a few questions:
This is not to say you don't need a web site, you just need to keep the cost in line to what it will provide. It can be great to let your customers know of special deals, hours, address, and other information. It can also be great for commutation between you and your customers. You are the perfect candidate for doing your own site.
If you are targeting a wider market, than you must decide which is more valuable your time or your money. If your time is valuable, than spend a little bit of looking for a webmaster that will fit your needs. Be sure to see working samples of their work!
If you have a little extra time, the budget is a little tight, or you aren't sure if the web is the right place to spend your advertising dollars, do the site your self.
Unless you are very computer savvy, or into self punishment there is no reason to type your own HTML (the language pages are written in). There are may programs that are graphic interfaced, better known as "point and click" or "What you see is what you get". My personal favorite is Netscape, however there are others.
A personal site is just that, "a personal site". You do what ever you want, this site is an extension of you and your personality. Fancy backgrounds, animated graphics, music, pictures of the dog, and any bells and whistles you wish to use.
A commercial site on the other had is a marketing tool, and should be treated as such. It's purpose to communicate an idea, and most likely to generate a cash flow for you. The bottom line is the more people that see your site, the more likely you are to be successful. Many of the bells and whistles need to be avoided. The can distract the customer, not to mention that many of the extras will not work on all browsers. Do you really want to restrict your marketing to only people who use Internet Explorer?
Where to place you site.
You must first determine if you want to use a domain name or not. For personal sites this is very optional, however for a commercial site a good investment.
If you don't have a domain name the URL will be very long and hard to remember. An example of this
If you plan to take sensitive information from your customers, like credit card numbers you will also need to make sure your host is capable of handling SSL. Be sure to ask if there is an extra charge for this.
Now that you have determined if you what a domain name, free site, or paid host. It's time to draw out your site on a piece of paper. Trust me this is well worth the time. You will have at least one page, this will be what is called the "Home Page" and most likely some sub-pages. Decided what the purpose of each page is, and what it will need to do the job (graphics, a form, information...)
Now that you have a your site done (ha ha) its time for the real work. While looks, information, and technical abilities count, the best done site on the web is worthless if people can't find it. This is where most people make the most common error, they start advertising their site before its ready.
Use a tool like NetMechanic, to check your code.
Different search engines use different methods of rating sites. Some also change their methods from time to time. So with out doing a lot of boring explanations, I will cover the basics that should get you where you need to be.
Start thinking of what "key words" people would use to find you. If you are drawing a mental blank, go to a search engine and look for your competitor. What words did you use, also ask family members and friends what words they would use.
The title of your page is important, some engines use it as a rating tool. Not only should the name of your site/company be in the title, but a few key words. Remember that most searches will pick up root words, if you use "dogs" it will hit if they search either "dog" or "dogs"
If your site has more than one page, change the title on each page. This way if you miss on the home page, they may find you by a sub page.
Now for the key words. Again use your sub-pages to your advantage, each one should be a little different. Also remember that capital letters count! Many search engines will see "robin" different from "Robin" and many savvy surfers use this to filter hits. If you wanted information on the bird you would use "robin" however if you were looking for a person you would use "Robin". Also if you are going for international traffic, use alternate spellings like "color" and "colour". If you are highly specialized use some "buzz words" or technical terms.
Now for the tick of the trade, since some search engines
count the relevance of the key word by how many key words are used, offer
a variety on the different pages.
While the second page may use, "used, cars, Texas"
Yet the third page may use, "Ford, Chevy, TX"
Some engines will use either the first 250 characters of the page or the "description" META tag. Choose your wording wisely, let them know who your are, what you do, using as many key words as possible.
Then there are the word counters!
These engines read the text and use a "word count" to rate you. In the old days webmaster would type text in the same color as the back ground to that the visitor wouldn't see it but the engine would. To this day you will occasionally see a site with something like this:
However you can make it work to your advantage, just watch how many times the word is used. If the word does not naturally appear 5 times in your text, there are other legal places to place it:
Now you are ready to launch your site!
Don't waste your money for one of the services that claim to add you to hundreds or thousand of engines for a reasonable amount of money. Most aren't worth the time it takes to type the basic information, much less any money they ask for.
I actually tested one of these, 500 listings for only $29.99. The bottom line I received an extra 700 hits over the next few days. While that may sound like a lot my normal traffic at the time was 2,000 hits a day. Many of the 500 listings were on what are called "Free for All" link sites, while some are handy they are hardly worth paying for. There is only about 10 major engines that you really need to focus on, the rest is gravy that can be done in your spare time.
Other little things you should know about:
Yahoo by far is the hardest to get on, while some engines may only take hours to a couple weeks to be included. Yahoo can take months if ever, to be included. If your site is a "cut above" the normal, they like it, and you are lucky you may get listed quicker.
Only add your site once, and only list up to 4 pages. Some engines will see anything more as "Slamming" and will dump all your listings. If this happens, wait about 4 weeks, and resubmit.
Never have a text link in the first couple of lines, some search engines will mistake it for a gateway page, and refuse to list it.
I hope this helps, remember have fun, and keep it simple.