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About Creating and Promoting Web Sites

Last modified 1/22/07

A Web Site is a collection of web pages that are related and organized in some way. The better the content and the better the organization of that content, the better the web site.

Planning

There are some technical things to consider when planning a web site. If your target audience is likely to be very high tech, or you have a relatively captive audience such as an Intranet, you can plan to add more bells and whistles to your site. These might include lots of graphics, animation, sound and video.

If you are trying to appeal to the mass market, you might consider doing without some of the graphics, animations, etc. in order to minimize the time it takes for your web pages to load. Many users will get impatient and leave your site after only a few seconds if they feel like nothing is happening.

Web sites roughly divide into these categories:

  • Personal - sites mostly about the people who create them, including hobbies, family members, poetry or photography, and favorite links.
  • Brochures - sites that tell all about a businesses or organization's benefits and features, including contact, service, product and ordering information.
  • Communication - these sites include bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc.
  • E-commerce - sites that have products to sell including retailers, auctions, wholesalers, etc.
  • Entertainment - sites whose main objective is to entertain you, including adult content web sites.
  • Information - sites about a particular subject, offering lots of information and links to other sites. Wikipedia is an excellent example of an information website.
  • Portals - sites whose primary function is to link you to other sites. This generally includes search engines and directories. Portals such as Excite often offer news services and other features that you can personalize, such as the scores of your favorite sports team, or stock prices.

If you are planning on having products to sell, then you need to look for Web Hosting Services with e-commerce options such as large server space, shopping carts and other special programming capabilities, as well as merchant accounts for processing credit card payments.

Information sites are usually less complex and do not require e-commerce options or large amounts of server space. Some very large information sites will use databases and .php (all purpose server side scripting program), .asp (Active Server Pages - used on Miscrosoft servers) or .jsp (Java Server Pages - used on UNIX servers) to help deliver vast amounts of information. Java and JavaScript are client side programming languages that can be used to implement more complex features or graphical presentations.

Here are some great reports on setting up and promoting a web site.

The basic procedure for building a web site is:

Find or create the content for the site

You will need to assemble all the content for your site before actually creating the site. This includes writing all the text describing your business, products or organization (including an overview for the main page, specific product descriptions, information or articles, order forms, etc.) ; finding graphics that illustrate those products or ideas (including logos, photos, drawings, illustrations, brochures, etc.); organizing other elements that you want to include (including sounds, videos, animations, etc.).

You may want to hire a writer or editor to help with the creation or polishing of the text. Graphics will have to be scanned or created by a graphic artist and then converted into gifs or jpegs. Sounds, videos and animations must be converted into an appropriate format for the web.

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Organize the content for your site

Once you have all of these elements in hand, you can begin to organize your site by deciding what categories of information you have to present and placing each category on a separate page. You might want to do a sketch of each page that shows where each element goes and what page (or other web site) each link goes to. In the process of doing this, you may discover other content that needs to be acquired before creating your site.

It is a good idea to look at other web sites and see how they are organized and then decide what might work best for your site.

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Create the pages for the site

There are several ways to create a web site including:

Choose a Domain Name

When you sign up with an ISP you are usually given some web server space to use. The URL for these web sites is generally something like www.ispname.net/~yourname. Although this may be good enough for personal home pages, a real business should invest in a domain name of their own.

The biggest problem with choosing a domain name is finding one that hasn't already been registered. Some names that have been registered are not currently in use and others have been abandoned. There are people who buy up domain names in hopes of selling that name to someone in the future. To check on the availability of a name here are several possibilities. My favorite place to buy domain names is GoDaddy.com the world's largest registrar.

A good domain name should give the user some idea about the name or nature of your business. Short names are easier to remember, advertise and enter into a browser. There used to be a limit to the length of your name to 23 characters. That limit is now 67 characters, so if a short name doesn't suit you or the name you really want is already taken, perhaps a longer name will do.

There is some debate about the use of hypens in domain names. I like them because it makes the name easier to read. Adding keywords (terms people may use in a search engine) to your domain name is a good idea. Adding hyphens helps search engines identify these keywords. The downside is that the domain name becomes hard to say (ie, about hyphen the hyphen web dot com).

There are seven common extensions you can get for your name. They are .org (usually reserved for non-profit organizations), .edu (for educational organizations), .gov (for government web sites), .net (for Internet service providers), .info (for informative website), .biz (for business websites) and .com (for commercial ventures).

There are new extensions cropping up all the time. New choices are .tv (usually for entertainment sites), .ws (stands for website), .name (for personal websites), .jobs (employment sites), and .mobi (websites designed for mobile devices). There are also many country specific extensions (.CA, .UK, .MX, .FR, .DK, .DE, .CH, .BE, .AT, .AU, .CZ).

If you're in business, my recommendation is to choose a .com extension, because they are still the easiest to remember. However if your .com name has been taken, or one of the new extensions appeals to you for some other reason, they work just as well.

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New Domain Names Available

The Internet has several new extensions for domain names, which work the same as the .com names. One of these is the .cc extension, which is really the country code for the Cocos Islands, but is now being offered for anyone's use.

There are also some other TLDs being used in new ways, such as .tv which is the country code for Tuvalu, a small Pacific Island nation, which has entered into an agreement with dotTV, to market .tv domain names to the general public. If you're business has something to do with television, a .tv name might be good for you.

Similarly .ws (short for "website") is the country code for Samoa, but is now available for use by the public. If your preferred .com domain name is taken, and you can't wait for or afford a .biz name, you might consider .ws instead.

Domain Name Parking

If you're not quite ready to find a web host and set up your web site, or you have a host but no content yet, but you've decided on a great domain name, you can still register that name. Many registrars will provide you with a page for free that you can "park" your domain on, until you get your web site together. You still have to pay the Registrar's fees to park or reserve a domain name.

Find a web host provider

After you've got all the planning and at least most of the production work out of the way, you can look for a web hosting service. There are many of these, offering many levels of size and services. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Auto responders
  • Bandwidth
  • Blogging software
  • Free Domain Name Registration
  • Mailing Lists
  • Monthly fees
  • Search Engines
  • Secure Server Access
  • Server space
  • Set-up fees
  • Shopping carts
  • Toll free technical support
  • Web Control Panel
  • Virtual Server

Here are some web hosting companies I recommend:

  • This site hosted by GoDaddy.com who offers many reasonably priced packages and great customer service.
  • AIS Media - Full service hosting including: Web design, e-commerce, dedicated servers, and reseller programs.
  • GlobalNet - Website hosting services and low cost domain hosting solutions.

This Ecommerce Total Package includes absolutely everything anyone needs to open an online store. There is no programming necessary, so literally anyone can do it, even Internet newcomers. It includes secure credit card processing and free web hosting. It also comes with the Cyber Circular, an email tool that helps make sales, the Admin System for transaction management, and Store Statistics.

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Upload, update and maintain the site

Once you have your domain name and web host provider, you can start creating your web site. The first thing you need to do is to register your server IP addresses with whoever you registered your domain name with, so that web surfers who try to access your domain name will be connected to your server. There are two names and numbers they will need to know, called the primary and secondary DNS names and IP addresses. These will be supplied by your web host or server administrator.

It is helpful to learn computer programming at this stage. The good news is that you can learn computer programming online.

While this administrative step is taking place, you should create a home page (at least a temporary one) and FTP it to your new web server. If you already have your web site ready to go, then go ahead and upload it and start testing to make sure everything looks and works the way you want it to. The only thing you will need for this step is your server's main IP address, your user name and the password for your web server account to enter into your FTP program. Here'a good primer on using FTP.

If you're having someone else design your site then they will probably take care of these steps for you. Otherwise, some HTML editing programs have the ability to upload files to your server automatically. If you're not using one of these, there are FTP clients such as CuteFTP (Windows) and Fetch (Macintosh) that you can use to upload files to your server. You may also need to use Telnet to communicate with the server.

From time to time, you will need to update the site. You should check periodically to make sure all the links on your site are still valid. There may be other information that needs updating too. You will probably want to add pages to your site as well. Most sites continue to grow and grow.

You should also test your site for browser compatibility, broken links, etc. Different browsers display your pages slightly differently and it is good to find any problems your pages might have before your viewers come and then leave after an unsatisfactory experience. Here are a few sites that will help you test your web page's compatibility:

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Promote the site

There are a number of ways to promote your site once you have it up and running. Probably the most important way is through search engines or directories. Another way is by advertising. A third way is by publicity. Here are some great reports on setting up and promoting a web site.

Here's an important free report on The Top 10 Internet Marketing Blunders! Make sure you don't commit these common errors.

Advertising

You can advertise your web site several ways. There are "Banner Exchanges" where you place an ad for your site on someone else's site in exchange for placing an ad on your site for theirs. Banners have become less effective recently, so many webmasters prefer text links, which have a more personal look.

You can pay to have an advertisement placed on someone else's web site. Sometimes these ads are paid for on a per click basis. Other times you pay a commission on any sale that the ad generates. Sometimes this is called an Affiliation program.

Many search engines have Pay-per-click programs. Google's Adwords is a good example of one of the biggest of these programs. I feel this is still the best way to advertise my websites, but bids on PPC (pay per click) keywords are getting much more expensive, and click fraud (inadvertant or fraudulanet clicks that you still pay for but do not bring you a real customer) is becoming more of a problem.

Here are the search engine advertising PPC programs that I like the best:

  • ABCSearch
  • Exactseek.com
  • goClick.com
  • Google Adwords
  • SearchFeed.com
  • Yahoo! Search Marketing - formerly Overture
  • You can also run ads in newsletters, newspapers or magazines.

    Classified advertising is often a good way to get started in promoting your web site. There are both free and paid classified available on the Internet.

    For more information see the Advertising section on this web site.

    Link Exchanges

    You can also exchange links with other web site owners offering products or information that are of interest to your prospective customers. Send each webmaster a personalized email explaining why you think a link to your site would benefit their visitors. If possible make a suggestion about where to place the link. Always offer a link back to their site.

    Publicity

    You can write up a press release and send it out to newsletters, newspapers or magazines. This is a good source of free advertising. Make sure you word your press release like a news story though, as opposed to an advertisement.

    Search Engines

    By some counts there are over 1500 search engines. Fortunately there are services available to submit your URL to most of these. Each of the major search engines, or more precisely services, handles submissions a bit differently though. You should probably take the time to submit your web site to the top twenty or so by hand because about 95% of the searches are handled by these engines.

    I like selfpromotion.com because they have lots of good advice on getting listed with the search engines and tell you which ones are best done manually and then do the rest for you automatically.

    Yahoo is a good example of a directory rather than a search engine. You must go to Yahoo's site and submit your URL for each category that you feel relates to your web site. The Yahoo's editors actually go to your site and then add you to their database.

    Most search engines rely on a combination of people checking out submitted URLs and automatic "spiders" or "crawlers" that automatically search the web for new sites, updated sites, and sites or pages that no longer exist. These are all added to a large database or index. When you do a search, the "search engine" then sorts through all this information and presents you with a list of relevant links.

    For more about search engines see:

    Search Engine Optimization

    Every webmaster should know something about search engine optimization. Basically this has to do with making your site rank higher on search engines. This is probably your most important task because search engines will always be the most important way to aquire visitors for most websites.

    The first thing you must do is determine which keywords (ie, words that a potential visitor will type into a search engine) will bring the most qualified visitors to your website. To do this, find your competitors on the web and figure out what words they are targeting. You can do this by viewing the source of their web pages and looking at their titles and descriptions.

    There is a delicate balance between choosing keywords that are too general and keyword phrases that are too specific. For instance, if you sell auto parts, then the keyword "auto" would be too general (because a search on "auto" would include auto makers, etc.) and the keywords "beautiful auto parts" would be too specific (because very few people would search for these keywords).

    You should include specific brand names, and other common descriptions for your products in your keyword list. Sign up for a Google Adwords account and use their keyword suggestion tool to find out how many people search for various keyword combinations.

    Include as many keywords as possible in:

    • The Title of the page
    • The Description of the page
    • The first paragraph of the page
    • The file name of the page (if possible)
    • The alt tags of any graphics on the page
    • The page headings of the page

    There is quite a lot more information about this subject on the Internet and many people who make a living optimizing web pages for other website owners.

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    Links to Great Sites About Web Site Development

    This page based on an article written by Garth Catterall-Heart in 2000 and last ©2007.
    For more about Garth see PhotosByGarth.com and Productivity-Software.com which offers
    Time, expense and inventory tracking applications and Rental property management software
    for self-employed professionals. Your free trial for Mac and Windows includes customer support.

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