Sacred Habitats

...discoveries of living mindfully on the Earth.

Category: Web (page 1 of 3)

It Is Important To Be Smart When Designing Your Website

In my SEO & Web Marketing series of articles I outlined many things to take into consideration when designing your web pages and websites. One thing about website design that I haven’t covered yet is the underlying server software that is used (if any), such as PHP or Lasso or ASP, to assemble your web page before it is sent from the server to the browser. I’ll be covering that in an upcoming article.

In this article I will be discussing why it is important to think down the road and make a plan. One thing you have to remember is be flexible as time goes on as your website may take another path than you had intended.

I have this client who wanted a web page put up, yesterday. We all know someone like that. We discussed what they wanted to do with the site and where they wanted it to go. The monkey wrench was that it had to be done yesterday. So, to please this client I opted out of doing any programming and put up the page (which is all they wanted at the time) using straight HTML and CSS.

They recently came to me and said they want this page with this information and that page with that information and so on with more pages coming down the road. If you have never done a website – maintenance on two or thee html pages is nothing. When you get to ten or more with new pages being added it gets to be a problem if you have only them in html because you have to update menus on ten or more pages.

When I was in boot camp, my C.O. had this saying – “Prior Positive Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four sharpening the axe.” That should be fairly self explanatory, but if it isn’t allow me to elucidate: Take the time now to review my Web Marketing series and get a road map.

Now back to my story.

I knew that I would need to do some programming on this site – if nothing else, to make it easier for upkeep. Yet I listened to my client and put it up quick. If I had stuck to my guns a little more – or did the programming off the clock – it would have been a snap to update. As it stands now, I will have to recreate the page as a template and create the new pages and update the index page. Added time for me (has pluses and minus’) and added – unnecessary –  expense for my client.

So learn vicariously on this one and it could save you a lot of headaches in the future.

# # #

Curt SitersCurt Siters

Webmaster

Shoals Creek Village - a new build intentional community.

My Eco Oasis - the hub for what will be a network of many ecovillages.

Big fan of living simply

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~Albert Einstein

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.  ~Standing Bear

SEO & Web Marketing – Offline Marketing

Offline Marketing

Back in the mid 1990′s, I read a book by Jay Conrad Levinson called “Guerilla Marketing.” It was and still is a fascinating read. After reading the book I got a client needing help with their internet presence which included stabilizing the web server (it was really flaky) and marketing. I thought fantastic! I could really put Jays’ advice to the test as the company was only about 9 months old and grossing only $20,000 in that first year with 6 employees.

After 6 months the owner was looking to do an IPO (initial public offering – stock market terminology) and 6 months after my contract expired they netted $2 million. A couple of years later they were purchased by another company.

I did this using a combination of traditional advertising and the concepts in the “Guerilla Marketing” book. Since the book was written he has penned many other books to help the aspiring entrepreneur achieve their goals.

Often overlooked by website owners, off-line marketing can provide a big boost to your site’s activity. The object of marketing is to keep your business, product or service in front of the public. There are many ways to market your web site off-line. Some of these are free, some are inexpensive and some require a fair-sized expenditure.

Standard Fare

If you are a business, you will need all the basics: letterhead, envelopes, business cards, printed business forms, etc. If you only have a personal page, you might consider “business” cards at the very least.

Business cards are really inexpensive so buy a lot and pass them out. Put them up on community bulletin boards. Visit book stores and insert them into magazines and books relating to the topic of your site (you didn\’t hear that here, OK?) Leave them on bus seats or your table when you go out to eat.

You should also consider flyers, brochures and mailers. You can create and produce these yourself. However, having them professionally done is usually worth the extra expense, but not always. Consult your business plan/road map to see if that is the way you want to go.

Pass these items out or mail them to anyone who shows an interest in what you are doing. In future contacts with these people, give them additional copies to pass along if they don\’t need them anymore.

In your emails make sure you have a link to your site in your signature.

Organizations

There are many organizations available that you can use to get the word out. You may want to consider your local Chamber of Commerce (CoC) or Merchant Association, professional and trade organizations, guilds and so forth. There is usually a list of these organizations in your phone book or at your local library. These groups are often looking for information that might be of interest to their members. Be aware that they may charge a fee or ask for a donation or sponsorship. You may want to consider joining some of these organizations.

Use these organizations for “networking.” The people you meet may pass your information on to others who may be interested. You better your chances of making “qualified” contacts the more people you meet. Keep a contact file of these people and make notes to refer to later.

Traditional Media and Sponsorships

Never leave out the local media (newspapers, radio, television). They are always looking for items of local interest. Write a press release, find out whom to send it to and get it to them! Some media may be willing to work a deal exchanging advertising.

Sponsoring local events is another way to get media coverage for your business. Look at what is happening in your area. Track down who the main contact is and ask them how to become a sponsor.

Consider becoming a contributing “writer” for a local newspaper, magazine or radio station. If you manage to become a contributor, tell your friends and family and have them help spread the word.

Consider advertising in conjunction with other businesses (split the cost). This is often called co-op advertising.

You can also use direct mail (junk mail; don’t sigh as this is highly effective), coupon mailers and response card packs as well. They typically yield a 1-2% response rate which is just about average for advertising in general.

Friends, Family and Co-Workers

Other sources often overlooked are friends, family and co-workers. Ask them to put some of your business cards in their wallet or purse to pass on to their friends. Ask them to also talk about your website every chance they get (but make sure they don’t try to “hype” your site.)

Basically what you need to do is build your “street cred,” also known as credibility. This actually applies to offline as well as online marketing.

More SEO & Web Marketing

Content; the KISS Theory (“Keep It Simple, Seriously”) 

Adobe Flash, Bells and Whistles

Planning Considerations

# # #

Curt SitersCurt Siters

Webmaster

Shoals Creek Village - a new build intentional community.

My Eco Oasis - the hub for what will be a network of many ecovillages.

Big fan of living simply

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~Albert Einstein

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.  ~Standing Bear

SEO & Web Marketing – On Page SEO Options

Now we get down to actually starting to set the page itself up for SEO. A lot of people involved in Search Engine Optimization will poo-poo the following and try to ignore developing what I am going to cover in this article saying “Search Engines don’t pay attention to these any more.” That is partially correct. The algorithms (analysis process) they are using today are much more sophisticated than they were even five years ago. What this means is that if your <meta> tags or <img> description tags are not relevant to the content on the page they will be ignored.

You see, back in the day (mid to late 1990′s), people tried all sorts of, what would be called “Black Hat SEO” today, tricks to get top rankings. The search engines picked up on this and changed their analysis to eliminate these tricks. If you weren’t on the internet then, just trust me, it was really annoying.

However, so far, this website – yourwebreference.com – currently ranks in the top 15% of the sites quantified by Quantcast and in the top 7% of the sites they track. All I have done is to use the html tags properly (we are XHTML and CSS validated by the W3C.) Well, that and providing good, interesting content.

Meta Tags

Meta Tags, <meta> when you look at the code, (specifically the description and keyword tags) are extremely important for search engines and should be devoted to only to a particular page – some overlapping with other pages is ok. For the most part they should be reflective of the page content – not the site. Don’t use inappropriate words to get people to your site.

The description tag should provide a brief relevant description of the page itself – a summary if you will. You should use no more than 100 words. Search engines will truncate your description to meet their requirements.

The keyword tag is used for relevant words that will help people find your site. Use multiple word phrases if you can. You can use up to about 14 “keywords.” More than that may be considered spamming and may give you lower search engine rankings. Unless it is impossible without them, try to avoid using words and phrases that are generic. Use common misspellings (e.g.. Cannon for Canon) as well.

Watch your web logs to see how people are finding your site and adjust your keywords appropriately.

Heading Tags

Heading tags indicate relative importance of the text on the page. Use them as much as possible. If you do not like how they appear, you can change them using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Most search engines use the heading tags to help determine the ranking of your page. Beware though that you should only use one <h1> tag. They break the content into logical sections.

Content

Content is what it is all about. Try to make your content unique. Don’t use “canned” material unless that is all you have to work with. To keep people coming back, change your content often or keep adding pages.

Images

Make sure that you provide descriptions of your images within the <img> tag. This description should describe the image – briefly. It seems that search engines are starting to give higher ranking to sites that are working toward WAI standards (Web Accessibility.)

Links

Links are the lifeblood of the internet. Give the links titles. This may seem counter-intuitive but it, like the description for the <img> tag above is a step toward WAI. Link tags are denoted by <a>.

Lists

Ordered and un-ordered lists are a way of setting important information into a brief but highly readable format. Use them when you can as they set a special look to important information. The tags used are: <ul> (unordered list) for a list using bullets or <ol> (ordered list) for a list using numbers or letters then each item in the list uses <li> for list item.

By way of example consider recipes:

  • The ingredients could use an unordered list
  • The recipe steps would use an ordered list because you don’t want to put the ingredients in the oven before they are mixed.

If you are developing your own website be sure to learn what information can be used with each tag and use it. If you are letting someone else do your website, tell them to use titles or descriptions for any tag that uses them.

This information is still very basic but will build a solid foundation for future growth of your website.

More SEO & Marketing:

Adobe Flash, Bells and Whistles

Content

Planning Considerations

# # #

Curt SitersCurt Siters

Webmaster

Shoals Creek Village - a new build intentional community.

My Eco Oasis - the hub for what will be a network of many ecovillages.

Big fan of living simply

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~Albert Einstein

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.  ~Standing Bear

SEO & Web Marketing – Adobe Flash, Bells and Whistles

Flash, Quicktime and Plug-ins

Adobe Flash is dead. Quicktime, RealPlayer and others are finally being relegated to their proper roles. This has come about because of CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheets Layer 3) which, when fully implemented by all the browsers will take your web surfing experience to the next level.

The World Wide Web has come a long way since its’ inception. We now have interactivity (blogs, forums, mutli-user games, etc.) The average user can now download pages ten times (or more) as fast compared to just a few years ago.

But with these technical changes the users have changed as well. They expect more faster. So, no matter what, you still need to make decisions regarding file sizes and how much cutting edge technology to use to get your message across.

Most sites don’t need whiz-bang-gee-aint-that-nice effects like Flash Animations or Quicktime Presentations. If you decide to use animation and video on your site, make sure the content is appropriate for your site. Keep them to a minimum or put each one on its own page. You still need to keep the file size as small as possible.

Thanks to YouTube, Flash has made great strides and is now a de-facto web standard. As such its’ use on the web has exploded and works extremely well on most bowsers and platforms. However, with the coming of CSS3, and the iPhone not adopting it, it has recently become a de- de-facto standard.

One of the problems with Adobe Flash is that search engines CAN’T index any text inside the video, so DON’T do a Flash website. If you feel the need for Flash keep to just presentations. Don’t use Flash website templates.

Be cautious of new or proprietary technology as it may limit your visitor base. An example would be that Microsoft decided many years to no longer develop a windows media player for platforms other than Windows.

JavaScript is a popular way to add special effects. Be aware that all browsers handle JavaScript differently. This was true back in the 1990′s and is still true today although it is being supported better and more consistently by all browsers. So be sure to check it in as many of the major browsers on as many platforms as possible. CSS3 has many, but not all of the abilities that Javascript/JQuery has in regards to image and text manipulation.

Plug-ins enhance your web browser and can enhance your browsing experience. Don’t use them unless you need to. With all the security problems these days, people do not want to put more on their computers than they have to. If you feel you need to use them, see if you can use the more popular plug-ins like QuickTime or RealPlayer first.

Basically ask yourself – “Does my site need this?” If you answer no or maybe, don’t do it.

More on SEO & Web Marketing:

Planning Considerations

SEO Options

Page SEO Options

# # #

Curt SitersCurt Siters

Webmaster

Shoals Creek Village - a new build intentional community.

My Eco Oasis - the hub for what will be a network of many ecovillages.

Big fan of living simply

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~Albert Einstein

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.  ~Standing Bear

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