Monday, 25 August 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 10

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 10 rule: Create a web site/shortcut icon

This is one of the simplest and most overlooked goodies in a web site's "bag of tricks"!

Ever wonder why some web sites have a little icon in the address bar? For instance the little white-on-orange background "B" in the address bar right now? It is because they have created a "favicon.ico" in the root of their web directory. Not only is it displayed by the browser in the address bar when your visitor visits, but if the visitor bookmarks it, it is displayed in the bookmark view as well - which makes your site stand out from all the others without favicon.ico's! (and vice-versa, makes your site stand out stand out negatively, if all the others do)

The favicon.ico's that I have created were all based on the old specification of 16x16 pixels in the icon format. These days it is possible to use bigger images, with different formats, but I am still preferring the older specification as it is a very small overhead for your visitor and whatever old browser they may be using 5 years from now. Read more on wikipedia's Favicon entry!

Reasoning:
1. This is more a marketing and branding tool/optimisation than a search engine optimisation. It is extremely subtle in the world of too many messages and by using it, you have an opportunity to reinforce your company/site's brand in the visitor's mind - a very good thing. In the world of marketing, brand awareness is key - no one is going to buy "you" if they don't even "know you" - so first seek to build awareness, then start your "trust campaign".
2. It looks professional and is becoming expected these days
3. And a reminder waiting for each bookmarker is a great place to be

And that is my Rule 10. I will be uploading the others as time allows!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 9

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 9 rule: Use these 9 Meta Tags

These are probably "over kill" as far as Meta Tag usage is concerned, but I prefer this approach to lesser, until I learn something concrete that differs from my experience which has seen some rapid and sustained visitor rate growth where I applied them.

Place Meta Tags in all of your page header sections. There are smart tools for generating the content-related ones, but it is better if they fit into your whole marketing and supporting web site design approach, making them very manageable in a manual way on static web sites. On dynamic, use a clever algorithm to assist you in carefully crafted statements.

Make sure the web page content, including words, links, image names - everything where you can specify text, all aligns with the Keywords, Description and Abstract Meta Tags!

<META name="Keywords" content="[5 comma separated keywords that are present at least twice or more on the page!]">

<META name="Description" content="[enter a short statement containing as many of the keywords as possible]">

<META name="Date" content="[last update date]">
- NOT STRICTLY meta tag legitimate or required but I use it to track the date I last made a change to the page - and use this date to facilitate track which page version search engines have in their cache

<META name="abstract" content="[enter a short statement containing as many of the keywords as possible, possibly reusing the Description meta tag]">

<META name="revisit-after" content="[a number that is tuned to the amount of maintenance you do on the site - initially I use 7 because I perform so much tuning and generally I roll out content in a staged approach to ensure high quality and maintain control over the site's visitor growth] days">

<META name="rating" content="general">
- there are a number of options here for instance "adult", but I only use general

<META name="next" content="[choose or use your site metrics to research the next web page from your site that most visitors normally go to]">
- some web browsers (Firefox) will pre-cache the html page you specify here, making the user experience of your web site seem quicker, if they actually follow your "directions". Very difficult to get right without careful web site design, and if wrong actually wastes your visitors' bandwidth and makes their internet experience slower unnecessarily.

<META name="robots" content="index,follow">
- instruct search engines to index this web page, and follow all links on the page
- in the old days of restricted bandwidth, and depending on what I was marketing on the site, I would instruct the search engine to "noindex"

<META content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1">
- very important to clarify to the web browsers what the page content is, and which character set is intended otherwise some foreign visitors could end up with strange symbols unintentionally, making your web site difficult to use

Reasoning:
1. By using Meta Tags at all the search engines will rank you higher
2. By using the correctly completed Meta Tags, the search engines will rank you even higher
3. They should repeat your key messages you are trying to convey to your visitors - they serve as a check point for detecting if your message is clear and the page is correctly aligned to achieve maximum impact at the search engines AND visitors
4. Search engine spiders, web crawling bots, web caching servers and even web site blocker software use the tags in their "decision" software to decide whether to analyse, cache, or allow the page to be displayed.

And that is my Rule 9. I will be uploading the others as time allows!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Light Motivational Relief

Despair.com for wonderful miscellaneous motivational posters and sayings....all twisted into a very cynical viewpoint. It is a really good laugh!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 8

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 8 rule: Register on Web Directories

Web Directories are huge databases of links and brief descriptions of web sites, and usually are maintained by actual humans. They are not Search Engines, but in some ways they are similar because they try to get (encourage web masters/site owners) to register on them so that they become ever bigger repositories of information that is similar to library catalogues.

To be accepted, your site needs to be up to a certain standard - which is a good thing! The editors of these Web Directories see 1000's of sites and it should be reassuring to you that someone has assessed your application form, and your web site, and found you/your idea/your web site acceptable to the rest of the world!

For more up to the date information of the Web Directories, access wikipedia's List of Web Directories and get registered everywhere suitable!

Your time is obviously limited and therefore over time it is apparent that in general the most important one is the Open Directory Project. Be very careful to select the right categorisation for your web site. VERY CAREFUL! Like all good information clustering, and all good search engine ranking systems, things need to be as aligned as possible for optimal benefit. Be as specific with your categorisation as possible, and make sure your web site is reflecting that profile!!

Reasoning:
1. All of the major search engines use the web directories as a starting point for their "entire web crawl".
2. Search engines rate sites that are reviewed by real human editors of various Web Directories and accepted in them, quite highly.
3. Search engines will use the web directory classification of your web site to create a cluster for your site, and clustered information/sites rank more highly than complete "unknowns" for search engines.
4. While you are registering, and you are accepted, you will find competitor web sites that you can examine for marketing insights.
5. After you are accepted, it should be possible for you to form alliances (link swap) with some of the other sites registered in the same area, or in similar but alternate categories of the web directory - a very good thing!

And that is my Rule 8. I will be uploading the others as time allows!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 7

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 7 rule: Use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to configure your site's look and feel and store in separate files

Most of the target audience of these rules I am writing up, commission web sites from friends, or friend-of-friends, or recommendations of small web site development shops ... who don't seem to know, or know enough about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

The basics are that with your CSS stored in a separate file, you can edit the look and feel of your entire web site, without having to know much about what you are doing. CSS is a very simple and easy to understand configurable set of options for which there are a large number of cheap (and free even) tools to help you make your site exactly the way you would like - independently of some technical person. (I once taught a very busy CEO just enough about CSS for him to take ownership of that aspect of his 1000 page web site!). You name the different sets something useful which makes them easier to use throughout your site such as "ProductDescription".

People who implement web sites typically are more interested in the underlying functionality and more technical aspects than about how pretty it looks, or how well it matches the site owner's evolving branding efforts. By making use of CSS, anyone can be placed in charge of actually experimenting and figuring out ideal combinations of colours and font styles, text sizes, margins, borders and spacings that work in harmony together to create a truly unique and excellent user web experience.

To see what you can do with CSS's, have a look at The CSS Zen Garden. This site contains beautiful samples of completely different CSS competitive entries for the same web page...and it is completely amazing with what the entrants have come up with - radical differences!

In some ways this CSS rule is related to my rule 5: Comply with web standards - html as CSS's are also governed by W3C standards! You can teach yourself about them by following the CSS Tutorials from the W3C.

And, because there is a standard for them, the W3C have once again provided an online checking facility for you to use to validate your own, or your supplier's efforts: simply submit your HTML or CSS web document to the Online Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) Checker.

Reasoning:
1. With CSS you can evolve really really very good looking web sites! It is almost impossible to get a web site perfect in just 1 attempt!
2. Anyone can configure and maintain them - making your site's look and feel very easy to update and preferably maintained by someone who really cares!
3. Separate your CSS definitions from your HTML web pages by placing them in separate files that you include in your header tags. Web browsers cache the CSS definition files and thus your HTML pages are smaller, easier to maintain, faster to download and even more focussed for search engine optimisation strategies.
4. By using CSS's it is possible to test updates of the look and feel against the production web site without having to go live first! It is possible to configure modern web browers to use alternatve CSS definition files against any web site!

And that is my Rule 7. I will be uploading the others as time allows!