WEBSITE PUBLISHING ADVICE
by Joelle Steele
NOTE: THIS COLUMN IS NO LONGER ACTIVE
Q. Is it better to have a square web page design that keeps everything above the fold? I hear this is the best way to increase sales.
A. An above-the-fold square page for an item you are selling is considered to be an optimized page. Whether it works for you or not depends on what you sell and who is visiting or shopping. Try this format and see if you make more sales with it. Experimentation to see what works best is a common aspect of the Web design and development process.
Q. We recently paid $3,000 to a company to design our Web site. It looks great but it has been six months and it's not in the first 30 pages of a Google search — I've looked! How long should it take?
A. If your Web site is written and coded correctly — the most important part of Web design — and if a Google sitemap is created and submitted, and if your Web site is rich in relevant content, your Web site should appear in the first two to ten pages of a Google search within about 48 to 72 hours.
Q. I would like to start a blog, but I am concerned that people might react negatively to my opinions. I want support for my ideas and not a lot of harsh criticism that will make me seem less credible.
A. How you write is the main way to be credible and reduce criticism. You need to anticipate all the possible arguments people might pose and address them coherently and in an adult manner before you publish your page. However, in the long run, when you are published anywhere, you need to understand going into it that you can't ever please everyone. No matter what you write or how well you write it, you will always have some detractors, and on top of them, you will also get feedback from people who are simply hateful or insane. Bottom line, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Q. What exactly is SEO. I know what it stands for, but I am unclear about what it includes — writing, coding, links, etc.?
A. Mostly writing and coding of a Web site. Everything on a Web site is indexable by a search engine — words, file names, alt tags, etc. SEO (search engine optimization) is what helps a search engine index your site properly, and that is what ultimately helps a visitor find your Web site when they search on keywords and keyphrases. While Google professes to like links, the reality is that a Web site that is rich in relevant content will still rank high in a search if the pages are well-written and if the meta tags for each page are written correctly as well.
Q. I would like to write websites for people/companies. Are there any tips you can give me for making a success doing it?
A. If you do not already do so, learn to write correctly, grammatically, and as briefly and concisely as possible. Attention spans are short when it comes to reading Web pages. People want information and they want it now. Save longer articles for the informational back pages of a Web site and focus only on the basic essentials for the promotional front pages. Make sure you learn how to properly code the pages with all the necessary keywords in the meta tags as well as in the text itself. You should probably read up on SEO (search engine optimization) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) if you have not already done so.
Q. I am running a pay-per-click ad on Facebook, and no one is clicking on it. Is there a trick to making a more effective ad?
A. Social site marketing is "iffy" for most businesses. Unless you sell something with mass appeal, sites like Facebook will probably be a poor investment. Your ad may be great, but studies have shown that social network users aren't always that interested in ads and therefore do not click on most of them at all.
Q. In your classes and in your articles you state that it is important to use Web-safe or browser-safe colors, but nowadays monitors can show the full array of colors. So why worry about picking a color?
A. Most of the latest computer monitors do show the full array of colors. But not everyone has the latest monitor. And, hand-held devices, for the most part, only portray the limited browser-safe colors (so far).
Q. I am relatively new to Web design, and I have a problem finding colors that are both Web-safe and that exactly match existing logos or other graphics provided by my clients. Any suggestions?
A. I don't think it is necessary or even realistic to try to exactly match a color to an existing image. In fact, I would be more likely to alter the color of the image to match the Web safe color closest to it. The average Web shopper is unlikely to notice the difference, and if they did, I doubt it would matter at all as far as their decision to buy is concerned.
Q. Why won't my Web site come up higher in Google? I know it's lower than page 20 because that's how far I've looked for it without finding it.
A. It takes time to get to the top pages, but you can get there a lot faster with good content, which is number one with all search engines. Google's Webmaster guidelines emphasize "relevant content" above all else. Be sure that you have plenty of content on your pages, because search engines are word-driven and can't index you well if all you have are images.
Q. If I write my description meta tags on my Web site well enough, will they improve my search engine rankings?
A. The meta description tags do not guarantee better rankings, but with some search engines, they give you the ability of showing what your page(s) is about as displayed in the SERPS (search engine result pages). Not every search engine will use your description meta tag, but some will give it a little more attention if it contains your keywords.
Q. I hired someone to write my Web site, and it turned out terrible. I already paid them and they won't give me back my money or rewrite anything for me. How do I find someone who can write well for me?
A. Find Web sites that you like that are well-written and ask them who did their writing. Always provide a writer with written information about your business that they can use in writing your Web pages. Hire someone who agrees to make a certain number of rewrites of each page until you are satisfied. Expect to pay a good deal to have this all done. Writing well is a real art and skill that many do not possess these days, and writing for the Internet requires additional writing abilities just in order to make Web pages search engine-friendly.
Q. Will adding a blog to my Web site help me get better rankings?
A. It can, but only if you have something relevant and literate to say on a regular basis, and if you fill your blog with great keywords and keyphrases that match your content so that search engines will find it and index it where visitors will find it.
Q. How do I go about registering my Web site with all the search engines? How do I know I'm getting full coverage with them?
A. You don't actually have to register with search engines. Even Google and Yahoo will eventually find your site and index it. But, if you're concerned, you should check your Web host's control panel to see if they have a tool for free search engine registration.
Q. Do I need to create an RSS feed for my Web site? How will it benefit me?
A. If you have new products and services, or new informational resources on a regular basis, an RSS feed would expand your coverage on the Web and draw more visitors to your Web site.
Q. I have sent out several press releases to local newspapers about my business and my Web site, but they never publish them. How can I get people to visit if they don't know I'm there?
A. Your press releases may be too promotional when they should be more informative. Try to focus your press release on something you're doing at a particular time of year (e.g., having a sale, introducing a new product, etc.), and make it read more like an article that provides advice for a newspaper's readers. Also, try to find an angle that will get the attention of a newspaper editor, since they are the ones who have to find it interesting enough to print.
Q. I started a website for my business, and I want to provide information in the way of articles for my potential clients. I'm not sure what to write about that won't prevent them from just reading my advice as opposed to paying for my consultations.
A. My business is about 70% consulting, and for many years, most of the questions people asked me required only very brief and simple answers, so I wish I'd had a Web site back in the early days. I suggest you write articles that cover only the most common and easy-to-answer questions that people normally ask you. Leave the more complicated issues to your consultations.
Q. My business just changed its name, and we now have a new URL (domain name). Do I have to run duplicate Web sites until everyone knows about the new URL?
A. No, you can redirect traffic from your old URL to the new one. Your Web host should have a tool for your to do that easily.
Q. Can I use a form to avoid having to publish my E-mail address on my Web site?
A. You can, but why would you? Studies indicate that 80% of people faced with filling out a form for contact will exit the Web site instead. The whole purpose of a Web site is to get business, to get people to contact you.
Q. How much HTML do I need to know in order to create my own Web site?
A. Not that much, but you should have a working knowledge of it so that you can edit titles, descriptions, and keywords; troubleshoot problems on a page; and add things such as shopping cart buttons, Google analytics, etc.
Q. Does it matter whether my image files are JPGs or GIFs when I use them on my Web site?
A. The rule of thumb is that a GIF is better for graphics (like logos) that have only a couple colors in them, while JPGs (JPEGs) are better for photos. The newer PNG format will probably ultimately replace them both as it is small like a GIF but has the full array of colors like a JPG.
Q. I want to be sure that my domain name does not get confused with anyone else's and that if someone types the URL incorrectly that it will still come to my Web site. Do I have to buy all the domain names that are similar to mine in order to do this? And how do I get them to all come to the same Web site?
A. You would have to register all the domain names, and many may not even be available. To get them to come to the same Web site, you'll need to set up domain parking through the control panel at your Web host's site. You "park" all the domains at one Web site domain, so that if someone goes to one of the other registered domain names, it will bring them right to that one Web site.
Q. In my Web sites, I have trouble making images line up with the text that goes next to them. What am I doing wrong?
A. You probably aren't working in tables or divs. When you create a table or div on your Web page to hold your text and images, you can then align the images with text right where you want it. It takes some practice to get the hang of working with tables and divs, but once you learn how to do it, it makes Web pages so much easier.
Q. Can I keep using my AOL E-mail address with my Web site since that's the one I've always used?
A. You can use any E-mail address you like on your Web site, but it looks more professional if you use domain E-mail addresses that are connected to your domain name. You can set those up through your Web host's control panel.
Q. Will I have to change from dial-up to DSL or cable modem when I start my own Web site?
A. From 1994 to 2005, I did my Web site with dial-up, and it was very slow. I find cable is far more efficient for a business, especially because it allows me to set my E-mail to download to my Web site every few minutes, so I don't have to worry about logging on regularly to get my E-mail (and my orders).
Q. I would like to design my own website and put up photos of some of the projects my interior design company has done over the past 10 years. Do I need to get permission from my former clients to use the photos I took?
A. A commercial client would probably not care, but a residential client might not like their living room featured on your website. To be on the safe side, I would send a general photographic release to your former clients getting their permission to use a particular photo(s) on your Web site to promote your business.
Q. Do I need to copyright my Web site articles? How much does it cost?
A. Your articles are copyrighted as soon as they are published on the Web, and you can place a copyright notice on the individual Web pages where your articles occur. In addition, you can copyright the content of your entire Web site by placing the copyright notice on all pages. It only costs money (about $40) if you register the copyright to an article with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Q. I read that it is not a good idea to use employee names in E-mail addresses. Why not?
A. Because if they quit or are fired, you have to create a new E-mail address for their replacement, and then you have to redirect the old employee's E-mails to the new employee's E-mail address. It's more efficient and certainly less time-consuming to merely assign an E-mail address to a department, e.g., email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.
Q. How can I create a custom error page so that visitors don't get the 404 Page Not Found error pages when I move or rename a page?
A. First, don't rename your pages unless you are completely changing the content. That will reduce the 404 errors. Second, a custom error page is a regular Web page that looks just like your other Web pages, complete with all your navigation buttons, but you put your own "page not found" message on it. If your Web host doesn't have a tool for designating your customer error page as the 404 page, you can contact them to see if they can make it happen for you.
Q. How do I make it possible for a visitor to download PDFs of my newsletters from my Web site? And where should I store the PDFs?
A. The PDFs go wherever you keep your regular HTML page files, or you can put them into a file folder of their own if you have a lot of them. You then put a link to each PDF on the Web page where you want the visitor to find it — you may have a list of such links all on one page. Your visitor clicks on a link and their Acrobat Reader software opens the PDF for them. They can then read the PDF or save it to their own computer.
Q. My Web site has been up for a couple months now, and I just showed it to someone on their computer and all my beautiful colors were murky and muddy looking. Some didn't even look like my colors at all. Any ideas about what might be wrong?
A. You probably used colors on your Web site that are not Web-safe (a.k.a. "browser safe") and the person's computer may be an older model or a hand-held device that can only display the 216 colors that are considered to be Web-safe or browser-safe.
Q. My website has been up for almost a year and I have not received any new clients as a result of all the time and money I invested in this marketing tool. Is there something I might be doing — or not doing — that could be preventing me from attracting clients through my website?
A. Websites are great, but you have to always be promoting them to get people to visit them. You need to have a lot of relevant content complete with all your best keywords present in that content. Your Web site address should appear in all your advertising. If you aren't promoting enough, you won't draw visitors. However, if you are drawing visitors but they don't become clients (i.e., your "conversion ratio" is low), one or more of your Web pages may be slow to load or may not function, or your content could be poorly written, etc. Without looking at your Web site, I can't tell you exactly what might be wrong, so I recommend that you ask friends, associates, and employees to view your site and give you their best and most honest assessment of it.
Q. What is an RSS feed? Is this the same thing as Web syndication?
A. RSS stands for "really simple syndication." It is the same thing as Web syndication. It is a file you create in XML format that enables you to spread your Web content or Web news across the Internet. It ultimately can help you increase the traffic to your Web site.
Q. What color is best for the background of a Web page?
A. Stick with black text on a very light background for content/text areas, such as the space you are currently reading. Use whatever color suits the overall design for the desktop behind the content/text area.
Q. I have a Web site that is provided by my ISP. I want to take that Web site and get my own domain name, but I'm afraid I'll lose my existing traffic. How do I avoid that?
A. There are places on the Web that offer URL forwarding services. They send your visitors from the old address to the new one.
Q. I got an offer in the mail for satellite Internet access. It was pretty cheap and they advertise very fast speed. Would I be better able to manage my Web site with satellite instead of my current DSL?
A. Satellite is fast for incoming data such as Web browsing, but it is just regular dial-up speed for outgoing data such as uploading files to your Web host's server. So you are better off with DSL than satellite. If you want even greater speed for both incoming and outgoing data, try upgrading to cable modem.
Q. I don't see many Web sites with the .biz or .us on their domain names. I'm looking for a domain name right now, and I want to know if it is a good idea to use them or to hold out for a .com URL.
A. I personally like the .com, but it could be that the .biz and .us just haven't caught on yet. This is something I really can't answer for you.
Q. Why don't my fonts show up looking the same on other computers? One script font I like looks like a dark block typeface when I view it on my friend's computer.
A. Your friend probably doesn't have your script font loaded on his system. Stick with simple fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Trebuchet, and Helvetica for all your text. If you want to put something in a "fancy font," make it into a graphic image, like a banner, so that you won't have this problem.
Q. In searching for a Web host, I keep coming across the term "data transfer allotment." What does that mean and how do I know if I'm getting all that I need?
A. This is the amount of memory and computer resources that your server needs to respond to the number of visitors who request pages from your Web site. In most cases, you don't need that much unless you are a very busy Web site with lots of file activity. You can just start out with the bare minimum and increase the allotment if you need it later as your business grows. If you are using more than your hosting plan allows, your Web host will let you know so that you can upgrade.
Q. Must I use an About page? If so, what should be on it? I'm not sure if I have enough credentials to put on one of these pages.
A. It isn't about credentials, per se. It's about credibility, and they aren't always the same thing. You can establish credibility with a few credentials, but it's your knowledge and experience and your belief in the product or services you sell that is important. Emphasize that above all else.
Q. The URL I want is taken, but the name is one that I could hyphenate or abbreviate. Would it be a good idea to do this, or should I find another domain name altogether?
A. I would find another domain name, especially if the person who is already using the URL you want is doing the same thing you do or something similar. Try to find a name that reflects what you do and that is not too long.
Q. I have a website with a catalog of my items for sale, yet no one is buying. What should I do?
A. You need to up your conversion rate — the converting of visitors to buyers. You first need to be sure that what you sell is what they want, that the price is right, that you have described it well enough to interest them, and that they can easily buy it. And then you need to promote and publicize your Web site so that people know it's there. Adding informational content to your Web site can also help.
Q. I want to encourage people to advertise on my Web site. Will telling them how many hits I get every day help?
A. Advertisers want to know that your Web site attracts the kind of people who will buy their products or services. The number of hits is misleading, since every time an image loads it's considered a hit. You want them to know how many visits were made. You can also tell them what your most visited pages are so that they can be on a particular page that will give them the most business.
Q. I sell only four products on my Web site but I want to take credit cards. The merchant services providers, like Nova, are too expensive for a small business line mine. What options do I have?
A. Go with a third-party payment handler like PayPal, Google's shopping cart, etc.