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Tips and tricks for a successful Website - General

 

SEE ALSO
META TAGS, Copyright, Spam Mail, Security, cPanel, Using Word, Response Codes

HOW DO I GET TRAFFIC TO MY SITE?


Many people think that having a good website is all you need to get tons of visitors. Wrong answer. Getting traffic to your site takes hard work and diligence and is not accomplished overnight. Think about it this way - how are people supposed to know where to find your site if you don't tell them? You must advertise. Here are some proven ways to advertise your site without spending [much] money:

  1. Submit your site to as many search engines as you can. Here are some of the popular ones you can start with:

    Alexa AltaVista AllTheWeb AOL Ask
    DMOZ ExactSeek Excite GigaBlast Google
    What-U-Seek Kanoodle Live Lycos LookSmart
    MSN National Directory Yahoo Bing WebCrawler

  2. Use a favicon.ico - see below.
  3. If you have a Christian Website, be sure to submit it to all the Christian Directories. We have a list of about 50 of the most popular Christian Directories here. (sadly the list gets shorter by the month)
  4. Have Dynamic content on your site - Message Board, Links Directory, Guest Book, Online Search, Picture Gallery, Quote of the day, News items, Site Search, Links Engine ... It all makes for a more enjoyable experience for your visitors ... and interested visitors come back.
  5. Make sure you don't have broken links on your site! There is nothing more annoying when one clicks a link and it does not work. There are hundreds of places you can go on the internet that will check your link validity. Use them.
  6. Make sure your META TAGS are done right. Learn how to do this here.
  7. Submit your site to as many privately run Link Directories/Search Engines as you can find. These will not generally boost your traffic in any major way but will help to maintain steady stream of qualified visitors.
  8. Use Banners with care. See below.
  9. Subscribe to the Usenet groups and advertise there. A good place to start is Google Groups
    • Be sure to submit your site in appropriate groups!
    • Be sure to signup with a backup email or you will get onto every spammers database!
    • Be sure you don't SPAM -- only submit a write up of your site once to any given group.
  10. Use social networking sites like Twitter, facebook, YouTube, Plaxo, Linkedin and others to get the word out.
OK, I DID EVERYTHING YOU SAY ON THIS PAGE BUT MY SITE STILL DOES NOT SHOW ON GOOGLE, YAHOO ETC. WHY NOT!!??


No one knows exactly how many sites there are on the whole of the internet but there are millions! And thousands more are being added every day! Let's say, you run a bakery. You bake for diabetics. A search on Google showed the following results:

Search for Google results
bakery 24,500,000
diabetic bakery 84,000
diabeticbakery 1,500,00
"diabetic bakery" 1,360
diabetic-bakery biscuits 1,110
diabetic bakery biscuits cheesecake toffee 708

The chances of your brand new website featuring anywhere in the list for the keyword "bakery" are infinitesimally small - that means you have NO CHANCE of your site featuring anywhere near the top in a search.

OK, great. So how do you get your site to show on Google?

  • Firstly, don't try to compete with a keyword "bakery" - as one in 24.5 million, you don't stand a chance.

  • Think "phrases" instead of "words". Look at the table above; as you add more words to the search, you get less results. If your page(s) contain the words "diabetic bakery biscuits cheesecake toffee" in a sentence like this for example:

    "Our diabetic bakery specializes in biscuits, cheesecake, toffee and breads"

  • Use similar wording in your TITLE as well as DESCRIPTION tags
     

  • Remember, a search engine cannot read pictures on your site. Even if they are very descriptive. Your text must say it all. Search engines index text.

  • Your page rank is critical. The site that ranks #1 on Google for "bakery" has a very high page rank and that's why it is #1. Page rank is a VAST subject and it is not possible to cover it in any detail in a few paragraphs. If you want to know more about Page Rank, here are some handy links:

Description Link
We have written a handy little application
you can use right here to check the
Google Page Rank of your site.

http://


Check the Google page rank of any site by entering it above
Page Rank Explained - a page by Google
that will help you better understand how
page rank works
Page Rank Explained #1
Page Rank Explained #2
Page Rank explained with examples - a bit
technical but well worth getting your head
around if you can.
Page Rank

So how much page rank is good and how much is bad?

Basically, the higher your page rank is, the more the search engines will favor the text on your site when people search them for those words. (It's actually a lot more than just that but for the purposes of this example, it's close enough). Obviously, you should have as high a page rank on your site as possible with 10 being the highest you get. Generally, anything above a 3 or a 4 is considered good. A page rank above 6 is very good and 7 or 8 is exceptional.

It is important to understand that page rank is NOT linear but logarithmic. (Actually only Google knows the real formula as it is a closely guarded secret). It works something like this:

Page Rank Actual ranking
0
Unranked
No one has ever heard of you.
All sites begin here
1 very low
2 very low
3 low in top 100,000,000
4 moderate in top 10,000,000
5 In the top 1,000,000
6 In the top 100,000
7 In the top 10,000
8 In the top 1,000
9 In the top 100
10 One of the top 10 sites period!

From the above, you can see that there is a vast difference between page rank 3 and 4 or between 4 and 5. As your site moves up in rank, so the competition becomes more fierce. For example, if you have a page rank of 6 you may be one of the top 100,000 sites. To get to a rank of 7, you need to be one of the top 10,000 sites. To have a page rank of 8 would mean you are one of the top 1,000 sites (in the whole world remember) - a huge difference.

 

FAVICON.ICO - HUH? WAZZAT??

Bookmark this page now. Now go look at your Bookmarks. You should see a bookmark that looks like this -

How to get traffic to your site the right way

The image is neat because it makes the site stand out in the Bookmarks no?

Some cool browsers - like Firefox - also support this tag in the <head> section:

<link rel="icon" href="/favicon.gif" type="image/gif">

This allows you to use an animated gif -- called favicon.gif in this case -- to replace the static favicon.ico

Here's how you do it (for a static .ico file):

  • Make an image of 16 * 16 pixels.
  • Save it as an ICON file (.ico) extension with the name favicon.ico in the root folder of your Website. (The folder with your index.html file)
  • Done. It's that simple.
  • To also allow browsers that support animated gifs, add the following line to the <head> section of your HTML:
    <link rel="icon" href="/favicon.gif" type="image/gif">  and, of course, make the gif file and place it
    in the root folder of your site.

When someone bookmarks your site, the Browser looks for a file called http://YourSite.com/favicon.ico. If it finds a file it uses your file instead of it's default file.

There is lots of software out there that can save gif or JPEG images as an .ico file. A good free one is Irfanview.
 

AUTOMATED SUBMISSION SOFTWARE AND "WE SUBMIT TO 1,000,000 SEARCH ENGINES FOR $25" COMPANIES


Personally speaking, these are a bust and don't work. Don't waste you money.

There is a simple reason why these "automated" and paid options don't work - Category Targeting.

Put very simply, Category Targeting is all about submitting your site to the right categories in the right search engines and directories.

For example, say you have a site on Corvettes. At one search engine, they may only have a category for Cars. However, at another one, there may be a sub-category from cars called Sports Cars. Only you would know to submit your site to the Sports Cars category -- automated software or someone else would simply bang it into cars and sports car enthusiasts would never see you link let alone click on it!

Another example would be the description you give your site in one place may be entirely different to the one you choose in another.

For example, on a Teen Centered link engine you may use words like  funky, neato, boss, ppl, cu, l8r, 4u, and so on to describe your site because it's part of the language teens use. On an O-So-Serious search engine catering mostly for retired folk you would not dare use these words because no one would understand you! :) Automated software simply cannot do this!

There is absolutely no benefit if your site is in 1,000,000 search engines but no one clicks anyway. It must say the right stuff and it must be in the right category. As the person who creates the site only you have the knowledge to do this right. Don't waste your money on automated software submission software. It doesn't work.
 

BUY TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE


There are thousands of sites out there that will sell you hits to your website. The big ones you may know are Google, and Overture etc. However, these are mostly overpriced as they work on a bidding system where you bid against others on keywords. For example, if you type "Christian Web Hosting" on Google you get all those links on the right and the top. These are paid advertising links. Every time you click a link, the advertiser pays ... up to $50.00 for a click! I don't know about you but I certainly won't pay that kind of money for a click. The more "valuable" the word or phrase, the more you have to bid in order to get your site near the top. Crazy huh?

Then you get the smaller advertisers. These are usually small companies or individuals that run some kind of paid advertising scheme. In my opinion, this is where you will get the best value for money. But beware, some are good and some are outright crooks! Be very careful!

Examples of this kind of advertising include those who sell you paid niche market indices, pop-under ads, pop-up ads, pay per click ads, banner adds and redirected traffic. From experience, we have found only some of them are worth it. The rest are dodgy investments at best.

niche market indices

There are several Christian sites -- big and small -- offering this kind of advertising for a price. Shop around to find the best one for you. They come in two flavors:

  • Pay per click

  • Pay per month/year etc. (Recommended if the site has qualified traffic and enough hits).

  • Pay per veiws

Pay per month is obviously much easier to budget for as your cost is fixed but it will depend on how much traffic a site gets. You may find the one better than the other. It's very much a trial and error thing and you have to try it for a month with a given advertiser to see which works best. We offer this type of [button/banner] advertising on some of our high traffic sites here.

This kind of advertising, is often the best since you will be drawing your visitors from a source that is related to your site. For example, advertising your yacht business from a banner on a large yachting message board will guarantee your visitors are mostly yacht enthusiasts. (It's unlikely you will sell any yachts on a skate boarding site)

pop-under and pop-up advertising

Don't! As simple as that. Don't do it. Most Browsers these days block Pop-Ups so it has become a pretty useless form of advertising.

redirected traffic

A relatively new development is redirected traffic reselling. How it works is that people buy up old domain names -- sometimes by the thousands. These are all kinds of domains. For example, companies that went bust, old websites that were abandon by the original owners etc etc. These domains still get traffic simply because they are listed in the search engines and they come up from time to time when people search for certain words.

You go to a company or individual who bought a whole bunch of these domains and they set them up to redirect the traffic that would have gone to the old domain to your site instead. In principle this is a great idea but in practice it's a failure. Don't buy this kind of traffic.

Why not? You ask. Simple - you have no idea what kind of traffic is being sent you you. Let's say you have a site which sells second hand antique furniture. What value would traffic intended for a manufacturing company specializing in the manufacture of rocket fuel have for you? No matter how many rocket fuel visitors you get, it is highly unlikely any would be interested in your furniture. Traffic must be targeted if it is to be of value.

"Social Networking" sites

I put this in quotes because this would include everything from YouTube to Twitter to the mega blogging sites and everything in between. All good and all will generate some hits, just be careful not to overdo it: getting yourself banned on YouTube or your blog about your website on BlogSpot is so obviously an ad doesn't help. People want information, not more ads; we all get them up to our eyeballs on radio and TV every day. Be informative, give information but don't advertise.

General Warning: Regardless of which type of traffic you buy or use, be very careful of who you get it from. There are several companies and individuals out there who will send you thousands of unique IP address hits to your site (which you can verify in your logs), but no one will ever see your page/s! There are several techniques for doing this and you could easily be caught. (Some of the techniques involve things like opening your whole page in a 1 * 1 pixel window for example. You get the unique hit but no one saw your page ... not unless they had x-ray vision like superman!)

What works best?

It depends on several factors -- your site, the sellers site and many more. Fixed text link and fixed banner advertising are always the best. Why do I say that? Two reasons:

  • Because you are not only getting the traffic from the sellers site but you are also getting a fixed link from the sellers site. This cannot be over emphasized. This will boost your ranking in all the major search engines and will do so for as long as your link/banner is on the sellers site. If the seller's site is highly ranked in the search engines, your site will benefit greatly! Read what Google has to say about this here.

  • Conversely, when the link to your site is in JavaScript (most do it this way), you may get the clicks but you benefit nothing from the page rank of the site referring to your site. (And I would argue that this back-link, as it is called, is more important)

  • Provided you have some means of knowing how much traffic the page gets your banner/link is on it is also the safest form of advertising -- you can go to the sellers site anytime to see your link or banner. With any of the other methods, you have no guarantees at all that anyone even went to your site.

Bottom line: You get what you pay for. If someone is offering you 100,000 hits for $25.00, think carefully before you spend your money because that is a price that is way too low and it might just be a scam. For pop-up/pop-under advertising (which you should never use!) expect to pay around $0.01 to $0.10 per page view and for banner advertising in the same order for monthly advertising and $0.20 and up for click through advertising.
 

RECIPROCAL LINKS

You put a link on your site to mine and I'll put one on my site to yours. Sounds fair doesn't it? Ha! but there's a catch!

What if you are an honest Joe like me and believe the person on the other side is honest and you do your bit by adding the link to the other guys site but ... back at the ranch ...

  1. S/he never adds the reciprocal link back to you. You've been had!
    OR
  2. S/he sends you and email saying "here's the page with your link ..." but the page with your link is not linked from anywhere else on this person's site! You get it? Your link is on the other site but the page it is on can never be found on that site ... you've been scammed!
    OR
  3. S/he waits for 2 weeks then removes your link but you still link to him/her. Scammed again!

Reciprocal links are great and work very well because of the way search engines rank sites. However, they are open to abuse. Use with caution and be sure you grasp what is written above before blindly jumping onto the reciprocal link bandwagon.
 

HOW OFTEN TO SUBMIT

Once you have submitted your site to a search engine be sure you find out from the FAQ's listed (sometimes) on that particular Search engines site, as to how it works. For example:
  • Some search engines will automatically drop your listing after a preset time. Others won't.
  • Some search engines will penalize (even permanently 'ban' your site) if you re-submit it too often.

Bottom Line - make sure you find out these things about the search engine you are submitting to and then comply with their rules.
 

WHERE NOT TO SUBMIT TO


Be aware and focused on who your target audience is. If you have a site on the merits of paper recycling you are far more likely to find a receptive audience with the earth lovers than with the trucking union!

Be selective of where you submit your site to. For example, don't submit your Windows MS Access site to a MYSQL forum. All you will get is a lot of rude replies telling you how lame Access is! Often Website owners neglect to take this very important aspect into consideration - you are likely to do more harm than good to yourself and your website by submitting it to inappropriate places.
 

GRAMMAR/SPELLING


Makwe shutre youk spll corrgrtly!! A page full of obvious typos won't get you far. With all the spell checkers out there these days, there is no excuse for poor spelling. But spelling is only one part of the problem. The other major part is grammar. Carefully read the two sentences below. Both are identical except for the placement of a single comma; and they have t-o-t-a-l-l-y different meanings:

  • Here lies my dearly departed Martha. In heaven she is, not in hell, this I know well.

  • Here lies my dearly departed Martha. In heaven she is not, in hell, this I know well.

While on the subject of spelling and grammar, don't forget that English is not spelt (or spoken) the same all over the world. There is a vast difference between American English and British English spelling for example. It is not really important which spelling you decide to go with provided you are consistent.

Always keep in mind your intended audience when adding text. For example, the word 'Ketchup' is a common word in America but someone in South Africa won't know what that is because they call it 'Tomato Sauce'. There are hundreds of words and phrases we take for granted that either mean something completely different to someone from another part of the world or has no meaning at all.

Also, some words or phrases are considered vulgar in some cultures but not in others. Be aware of your audience.

Similarly, keep in mind the intended age of your audience. Very few teenagers would be likely to know what "baby-boomer generation" means.
 

SENTENCE STRUCTURE

Search engines are mathematical marvels that read the text on your site and combine it (not all of them) with your META TAGS. Some even integrate other HTML tags like the <H1>, <H2> <H3> tags. Have you ever wondered how when you search for something the Search engines  actually find it?

You have a website about boats. You want to say this

"Buy our boats because they are the best in the West" 

Not a bad start. But you won't get many point in search engine terms for your choice of words. a better way would be to be a little more verbose and use words that people will likely be typing into the search Engines. I don't know much about boats, but something along the lines of the following would be better (assuming it was true of course)

"Shipley boats are delivered by helicopter to your doorstep. Pre-fueled and ready for ocean faring adventure immediately. Manufactured from highest quality Titanium, extracted from mines deep in Siberia. Shipley boats assures you of a consistently high level of cruising comfort all year round."

Do you get the point? Here's what the search engine "sees":

  • "Shipley boats" - your company name, appears several times. Telling the engine it's important,

  • You have used words like delivered, helicopter, pre-fueled ocean faring etc. All these words are potential terms someone using a search engine looking for boats may be using. Use them liberally, they will maximize your chances of being found.

DREADED DEAD LINKS

Dead links are mentioned in the introduction. However, they are so important we feel they warrant another mention. Avoid them at all costs! Dead links tell your visitor the following:
  • You are not really interested in the website [so why should s/he be?]
  • You don't know what you are doing [so if you are selling something, why should s/he believe you?]
  • You never update your site [so he's reading old news]

There are tons of places you can go to check out the links on your site. A free one that we use you can download from here.
 

THE LOOK AND FEEL OF YOUR SITE

Someone once said: "Don't reinvent the wheel!"

This is just as true for websites. Unless you are sure you have a relatively sophisticated audience DON'T use different colors for links. DON'T put stuff on pages where people won't find it.

A good rule of thumb: Go to the big Search engines - Google, MSN, Yahoo - and look at how they have laid out their pages. Look especially at the following:

  • The colors they use for text, hyperlinks etc.
  • The placement of the navigation links on their pages.

Bottom line - Everyone has been to Google or MSN or Bing. If your visitors are likely to be 'Internet novices' by all means make your site mimic these sites. This way, you will be sure your visitors  will feel 'at home' on your site.
 

SPAM

Whatever you do, DON'T SPAM. Some people think Spamming is only when you send porn or Viagra adverts to someone by email. This couldn't be further from the truth. Spamming is any unsolicited email. If you don't have permission to send someone an email and you send an email it is SPAM. Plain and simple.

If you get accused of spam, not only will your web-host close you down, you most likely will find it hard to find another hosting company willing to host your site. Don't spam. It's not worth it. Click here for more.

Even worse, people will report you for spam to the many automated spam databases and that gets onto the search engines. Once that happens, you are pretty much black-listed. Don't do it.
 

LOOK FOR CLUES ON OTHER SITES

Use the search engines and visit other websites with similar themes to yours to get ideas of what do do. Often, just navigating someone else's site will give you a lot of inspiration.

NOTE: Do NOT take images from someone else's site or copy chunks of text to paste into your own. See that little Copyright thingy at the bottom? That means "Copyright" ... not "Copy-rite". You can get yourself into a whole lot of trouble if you use text and/or images from someone else's website without permission. Always ask. Most webmasters will be flattered and have no problem if you do.
 

IMAGES AND FLASH

Call me old fashioned if you want but I loath FLASH. It takes a whole lot of time to load, hogs precious bandwidth and doesn't add anything to the site. Some people love it but many avoid Flash pages like the plague. If you do use it, some people won't go past your welcome page. (Obviously there are exceptions to this. For example, if you have a graphics design site, because people have come for the graphics. A Flash intro might 'sell' your abilities very well).

If you have pictures, don't have massive pages with zillions of big images. This is a sure turn off for any visitor. Thumbnail the images in something like a table and have hyperlinks to each image on a separate page.

Also, Search Engines cannot read flash or Graphical images so even though your Flash may say a whole lot, it says a whole lot of nothing to the Search Engine.

NOTE, it's far more work to have the thumbnail images link link to HTML pages with the large images than to just link to the images directly but there is a payoff if you use the longer method: If you put each image on a separate HTML page, you can add Titles, text and META TAGS to the HTML pages. You can't to this if you are simply linking to an image file. This gives you more credibility with the search engines and therefore a higher ranking. If you select your META TAGS carefully, you can achieve hugely improved search engine results.
 

JAVA/JAVASCRIPT & AJAX

Many webmasters love Java scripts. It is true you can do a lot with Java and make some really interesting pages. BUT there are some things you need to be aware of:
  • Many Internet surfers disable JavaScript in their Browsers. Some intentionally, some because they don't know. The reasons aren't very important but the fact is around 22% of all people surfing the Internet have JavaScript disabled for one or other reason.
  • Different Browsers (Netscape, MSIE, Opera etc) need slightly different Java commands or they give errors. If your pages only work with Microsoft Browsers of a specific version you automatically exclude all the others. This makes for a direct reduction in your traffic to your site.
  • Search Engines generally do not follow JavaScript Links. If you use them only link to pages that are not important for Search Engine placement.

If you must use JavaScript, make sure you test it on all the Browsers you can lay your hands on to be sure your visitors won't get error messages which will surely make them click off your site.
 

BANNERS AND POP-UPS

Been to one of those sites where a zillion pop-ups suddenly jump at you as soon as the site opens? Every time you close one, another 5 appear? They are terrible! Don't do it on your site. Nowadays all browsers block them by default so they are pretty useless anyway.

Very few sites that employ this method of advertising get a lot of traffic simply because popup banners are so annoying.

Bottom line - No one like popup advertising. Avoid using them. The couple of $$ you will be paid by the company you advertise just isn't worth the loss of traffic. Don't use them.
 

GET YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME

Having your own domain name is very important for two reasons:
  • Many of the search engines will not list sites that are not 'primary' e.g. http://example.com
  • A domain name like http://example.com/thisdirecory/thatdirectory/index.htm hard to remember. If your visitor liked your page and wants to come back but did not bookmark you, s/he probably wont be able to find your site again.

We did an experiment some years ago to prove this. Here's what we did:

  • We created two identical 2-page websites.
  • The one website we put up at geocities (free website). The other we put on it's own domain.
  • We submitted both to exactly the same search engines.

The result?

After 6 months, the geocities page had 547 hits and the one that had it's own domain had 5,200 - almost 10 times more! Having your own domain does make a big difference!
 

'CHRISMAS' TREE SITES

We call them 'Christmas tree' sites. You've seen them. The ones where the owner has found every possible banner, logo, Webring and award s/he could find and put them all on his/her site. They are absolutely ghastly! Don't do it! It makes it look like:
  1. You have nothing to say, so you filled your page with every bit of Internet junk you could find,
  2. The site is so unpopular you have resorted to desperate measures to get traffic.

Banner Exchanges, Site Awards and the like all have their place. However, it is the experience of the author that they generally don't provide what they promise - traffic. Most banner exchanges work on a 2:1 ratio. That is, for every 2 times someone else's banner is displayed on your page, your banner will be displayed on someone else's page. Now ask yourself this. When last did you click on a banner on someone else's website? For most people the answer is either "a year ago" or "never". Contrary to popular belief, banners Exchanges don't generally work if you want to build a really prime site.
 

PUTTING DOWN YOUR COMPETITION

Although comparative advertising is acceptable in many parts of the world it is not necessarily the best way or even a good way to advertise your site. Consider the following a line advert on a web hosting site:

"Don't use xyz hosting because they give poor service and we give great service"

Firstly, a comment like this is in poor taste and won't help getting you new hosting customers. In fact, people are more likely to be put off by your callous remark about your competition. Not only that, "xyz hosting" - who may be 10 times bigger than your company and might just decide to reciprocate the favor by making a similar comment about you! Putting down your competition is never a smart way to get business.

There are of course exceptions. For example, if you run a web hosting review site you could say something like this:

"Many of our members have reported poor after sales service from xyz hosting"

This is an entirely different ball game - as a web review site you are expected to write reviews about other web hosting companies. A negative comment about another company is acceptable because in this context it is regarded as information and not putting down.
 

SEE ALSO
META TAGS, Copyright, Spam Mail, Security, cPanel, Using Word, Response Codes
 


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