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Creating a website

This is a short course on Internet web site development. It should give you an idea of what is involved in the creation and promotion of a custom website. If you wish to become a web site developer, there are many books and on-line resources on the subject. This discussion is aimed at developing a commercial Internet website, but the principles involved are applicable to "information" and other sites as well. This course will not teach html, php, nor JAVA script coding. There are already a huge number of places to learn both skills. With the proper development tools you can create an attractive, functional custom web site with little or no coding skill.

A website is not a sure road to success. Failed “dot coms” litter the landscape. The most successful Internet web sites are usually tied to a "brick-and-mortar" business. But there are exceptions as witnessed by Amazon.

Decide on what it is you want to accomplish. This is not as simple as it sounds. If you don't have a clear idea of what your website is supposed to accomplish, you'll spend a lot of time creating the wrong site. Is this going to be a show-and-tell web site to display your firm's products or services (similar to this site) or do you want to sell product directly from the site? Is the purpose of the site to educate, communicate, or just to show off?

Next decide on how you're going to go about accomplishing your goals. What kind of Internet visitors will land on your website? Will they know what they're looking for or will they have to be educated and guided? Will your site visitors fall into more than one category? How will you handle each type of visitor?

Now, make a chart of the route each type of visitor will take into your site. What do you want him/her to see? Why?

What are you going to say? Where are you going to say it?

Okay, NOW you can design the look and feel of your web site. You really wanted to do this right away, didn't you? After all, it's the fun part. But there is a catch. If you visitors are likely to be using an old Internet browser, it has to work on your website. You can't use the latest and greatest techniques. In fact, you can't even use all the older techniques unless they are supported by all the Internet browsers you wish to cater to. For instance, older versions of Netscape were notorious for not supporting all the tools for a given version of the standards. Explorer is better, but even Explorer doesn't support all the tools. Don't despair, you can still build a very attractive and functional web site.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is load time. Remember, not everyone enjoys a high-speed connection to the Internet. A visitor with a 28.8kb modem doesn't want to wait for a full minute before seeing your web page. So, keep it as small as possible. Loading the pages up with photographs and other heavy-duty graphics is a sure way to slow the page load time to the point the visitor will give up and vote with a mouse click. This page should load in 9 seconds at 56Kbps.

Your website should be readable. How many times have you landed on a site with a black background sporting text that is barely legible? Again, your visitor is going to click out to greener Internet pastures. You did, didn't you?

Unless you're trying for a web site development award, keep it simple. Awards don't bring in paying customers.

Now that you know what you're going to make, you can start creating it.

Program a template. This will control your look and feel. If you're using a tool like Dreamweaver (which works great on a Microsoft Windows platform), this is easy. Use the template to start each page of your site.  If you're a good website coder, you can use other techniques, such as "includes".

The first phase will be the minimum you need to present a “complete” site to your visitors. We'll get to the rest later.

Create the main (index) web page, all the subordinate pages and link them together. Make sure everything is spell checked, proofread, and that all links and so forth work correctly. Then you can load them onto your web server (or host server). Now, test it out using a normal Internet connection.

Now, call in your Search Engine Optimizer (SEO).

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either an in-house expert or a professional SEO. Be very careful here. Some SEOs will use any technique available to promote your web site. Unfortunately, some of the techniques can get you blacklisted from the search engines when discovered or reported (perhaps by a competitor). There is no sadder website owner than one who has been blacklisted by Google. Especially after spending several thousands of dollars to develop a “killer” site. It happened to one retailer just before Christmas which effectively destroyed his holiday sales. Do it “by the numbers” and you'll be able to sleep nights.

Expect the SEO to research your keywords and phrases to find out which ones are searched most often. After that s/he'll rewrite your text to capitalize on your most important key phrases. S/he might get rid of a lot of gee whiz stuff you so proudly created to make the site more friendly to the search engines. This would be a good time for your marketing people to work closely with the SEO to make sure the resulting content is accurate and will still sell visitors on your products. The finished product should appeal first to your prospective customers and second to the search engines. After all, you created the site to entice customers, so make sure your search engine optimizer doesn't do anything that will hurt the primary reason for the site: to make sales.

Your SEO should also start a campaign to trade links with sites that have similar, but not competing, sites. This is important, but not as important as the content of your site. Link farming and pages with hundreds of links are no longer productive. What your SEO should be looking for is selective links that will appear on a page that has few outgoing links rather than the now ubiquitous "links" page. A good way to attract quality links is to offer content in the form of articles and "how-to" pages that other web sites will want their visitors to see.

The SEO should discuss your marketing goals and budget. Will you advertise the site in the conventional media? (Remember Amazon? They advertised heavily in their early days.) Will you pay some search engines for a prime place in a search (sometimes called “pay per click”). Will you create banner ads or annoying pop-ups and pay other sites to display them? All of these questions need to be addressed as part of your marketing plan. The answers to these questions will depend upon your budget and the nature of your competition. Some websites can do quite well by creating a site that shows up "organically" on page one of good search sites such as Google. For others, one or more of the above techniques may be required if it will bring enough extra paying traffic to return the investment along with a healthy profit.

When everything is ready and it works, submit your web site to the search engines and directories. This step is not necessary if other websites have links to your site. If the other websites are already being scanned by the search engines, those same spiders will find your site by reference.

Now wait -- and wait -- and wait. It takes a while for search engines to get around to you. Often three months or more. You can sometimes pay for faster inclusion and pay per click will, of course, get instant attention and placement (depending upon how much you bid compared to the competition). Google has an aging methodology that might keep you off page one for up to a year.

But don't sit around while waiting. Create more pages for your web site. The more content you have, the better you'll do. Create new pages that will give your Internet visitors a rich experience (but related to your business) and the search engines will reward you with better ratings and possibly the Holy Grail of webmasters, a listing on page one of a Google search.

However, you must be realistic. If you have a lot of competition, getting on to page one may be extremely difficult. For instance, the key phrase that would work best for this page is "creating a website". A Google search for that phrase, inside quotes, returns between 36,000 to over 1/2 million "hits"; without the quotes a Google search returns from 10 million to more than 3/4 billion hits. This page is not on Google's page one. We don't want to spend a lot of effort going after that phrase since our business model doesn't depend upon web traffic. Nor will presenting "how to" information make any money for our firm. It's a service to you. Spend your time, effort, and money going after key phrases that will return the greatest benefit to your organization. Consider the amount of competition and develop a plan of advertising, pay-per-click, and/or optimization that will give you the maximum return.

Viking Waters can help you create a fine web site and optimize it for search engines.

If you want to try to do it yourself, here are some tools that will help you keep your mistakes down:

Learn more about Keyword Discovery tool The best tool for finding keywords and key phrases. This is the one we use when we're doing serious work for clients in a highly competative field.

Overture is the "poor man's Keyword Discovery" Only uses data from Yahoo and very limited functionality, always behind by a month or so, only uses a few month's data, but a free way to get started.

Live Keyword Analysis - Paste your code into this tool, pick the key words or phrases you want counted and it will return your keyword density ratios.

Google's Webmaster site has a number of tools and information.

Google's official BLOG. Get the straight scoop on what's happening at Google.
 

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