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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Page Rank – What it takes

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Google’s explanation (definition) of their Page Rank system:

  • PageRank Technology: PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance.
  • The PR of a page is important, but it is only one of many factors that determines how a page ranks in searches.

    • The period of time that a domain has been indexed can be a big factor in rankings. New domains need time for Search Engines to classify them as viable.  Six months to a year is the accepted time frame for this to take place.
    • Add links on a regular basis. Incoming links at this time remain important with both Google and MSN in determining page rank. Develop a link building program using directory submittals and quality reciprocal links. Reciprocals are not as heavily rated as good one way links but they do count as long as they are relevant to your site’s content and come from quality sites that are also relevant in subject matter.
    • If you choose to do reciprocal linking, vary your anchor text routinely. Search engines can determine patterns in links that have anchor text using identical terms. These may be judged as coming from possible link farms.
    • Do not totally exclude outbound links from your site. Major search engines expect to see some outbound linking to quality sites. If they do not find these expected links after indexing several times they can view the site itself as not particularly important and your rankings can be negatively affected. Do some out linking to provide valuable resources for visitors.
    • Alt Text on images. Some major search engines utilize alt text as a rating factor. Use key words/phrases that are appropriate for the image and page content.
    • All pages need content. Do not depend on images to sell your site/product/service to either people or search engines. This approach can result in fewer site visitors than if real information were provided up front. Search Engines also require information to create custom search engine results. 
    • Add new content – Search engines expect quality sites to be updated.
      Websites should be updated at least every six months but your important pages can really benefit by updating every month if possible. This provides returning visitors something new and SEs will tend to visit your site more often if they find frequent updates.

    These are some circumstances that can affect page rank and every item except domain age can be controlled by the webmaster.

    To have a website achieve page rank and do well in searches requires work, research and keeping up to date on changes in search engine requirements.

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    Website Design and Usability

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    Is your site usable? The irascible usability expert, Jakob Nielsen, has been preaching about usability on the web for years. While anything can be (and often is) taken to extremes, the findings of his research offer some very valid points about the functionality of sites and the importance of making a site user friendly. Homestead websites are easy to design, but the user needs to be aware that it takes effort to design a site that will be successful.

    One of my favorite cases of non-usability is the site owner who asked us for a review of his site on the Homestead Connection Forum . He admitted he was quite proud of his work and stated he had a better than average grasp of design. Upon reviewing his site it failed miserably on a number of points both in design and usability. The most glaring was the fact that while this person is selling a customizable product he gave the visitor no way of ordering it.

    Don’t strain your visitor’s brains or make them work at finding information. Slow site performance isn’t just about a slow loading page, but also how hard it is for the visitor to pick out the main points on the page and access the information they are seeking. Make them work or have to pause and think about how to do something and you can easily lose them to your competitor’s site who has taken usability into consideration.

    By testing your site with people unfamiliar with it you can gain a lot of insight into just how well your site works. Find a couple of people willing to test your site. Give them a task. Let’s say you sell golf equipment. Tell your testers to find a specific product and then watch as they try to do just that. No cues from you! But tell them to feel free to talk aloud about what they’re experiencing. Do they hesitate? Backtrack? Ideally since this person already knows what they want, their journey should be a straight line, with little hesitation from the Home page to the specific product to purchasing. This holds true for any site whether it is a retail site or an informational one. A visitor shouldn’t have to wade through a maze to obtain what they want or guess how to find it.

    Test your users again. The task is to find how to return a product. (Please tell me you have that information readily available – who buys something without knowing they can A. return it and B. how). If your site is informational give your testers the task of finding a specific piece of information. Again, watch and listen to the user. Don’t stop with just a couple of tests – make good use of your volunteers and test other aspects of the site.

    Often the webmaster makes the mistake of designing a site based on personal likes or dislikes. We frequently see sites that have removed the underline from links because, “I don’t like the way it looks.”  Seasoned web surfers and even neophytes are accustomed to that underline. Take it away and you may be taking away an opportunity to have the visitor travel to another part of the site for additional information or even to make a purchase. Bold it instead? No. Web surfers are so used to seeing bold text that they will probably skip right over it without a second thought that it’s a link. Use the underline – it’s the best and surest way of saying to your visitor, here is more information.

    Make your Homestead designed site a simple, familiar and uncomplicated journey for viewers and potential customers and you will have a much more successful website.

    Does A Pretty Site Matter?

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    Websites depend on several factors to be successful. Design, search engine optimization and viewer usability are the mainstays of any website. Users of the Homestead sitebuilder software need to be aware of these and design sites accordingly.

    You can create a gorgeous website and fail, you can create a gaudy, but well-optimized site and fail, you can create a blah, unoptimized but fairly useable site and fail. Granted there are degrees of failure and success among any of the above, but to be more certain of success than failure you need to incorporate all three elements into a site.

    • Asthetics are very important. If a site has eye-appeal a visitor may stay long enough to find out if it also contains the information they need. Creating sites that are simplistic, uncluttered, yet attractive is an important step in site design. But this alone will not ensure that the site will ever find its place in the Internet ‘sun’. 
    • Usability is paramount when designing a website. If you create a site that visitors have a difficult time navigating or finding the information or product they were seeking you haven’t done your job. The journey through a site should be as easy for your viewer as possible. This means consistent navigation, making the purpose of your site readily apparent, providing good content and not making your visitors work at finding what they need, because they won’t.
    • Search engine optimization, without it you might as well pack up and go home. Search engines rely on textual information in order to index a site. Image based sites can often find themselves at the bottom of the pile.  Using alt text on images supplies the SE’s with information and also gives viewers who use assistive technology or those who view pages in text only an idea of what an image represents. But this isn’t going to be enough to satisfy either the viewer or the search engine. Content, content, content.  Meaningful information written for the viewer will satisfy both your visitors and the search engines.

    Requests for site reviews in the Homestead Connection Forum show us time and again that webmasters aren’t providing adequate information for either type of visitor – human or search bot – particularly on the Home page. This page is the heart of a website and needs to be presented in a manner that is going to capture the interest of the viewer within 10 seconds.  Webmasters often fall prey  to clip art mania, using every cutesy, spinning, whirling, graphic available. That isn’t what a viewer is there to see, nor will it  help grab their interest – often the opposite is true. They want to know what you offer, how it will help them, what makes your product or service better, different, more helpful, than the million other sites out there offering the same product or service. They really aren’t interested in how clever you are at finding clip art or creating Flash-based pages.

    Does pretty matter? Yes, but to be successful your site needs to incorporate all the three elements; good design, usability and search engine optimization.