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Just have to share …

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Last year we posted about Transparency and Ethics in designing sites professionally with the Intuit – Homestead software.  This is also a topic we cover pretty seriously in our e book,  Homestead Website Design – Building Blocks to a Successful Home Based Business.

We stated that piggybacking sites, overcharging clients for services already covered by the hosting/program fees, not allowing clients access to stats or the ability to make their own updates and changes is A. not ethical and B. can come back and bite you. So, yes, we got a real chuckle out of the following letter we received last week from a gentleman who had purchased the book and read it and ignored the advice.

Greetings,

I’m wondering if you’re able to offer some brief guidance.  I own your Intuit by Homestead SEO and Website Design Business eBooks.  Without unnecessarily elaborating on the background, against my better judgment, I set up a few websites for other businesses under my own Homestead website account.  I didn’t do this to be unethical but because I reside in an area where certain business owners are seemingly not the type to even touch a keyboard even though many would like to have a website so asking them to set up their account with Homestead, at least at the time, seemed impossible.  Naturally I’ve now found myself in a position (as warned in your books) where one business owner (2 websites) is requesting immediate direct access to their websites and full control.  (I’m sure you’re not surprised.)

I was hoping you might instruct me on the means by which to most effectively accomplish this.  I’m planning to instruct the business owner that they will need to set up their own Homestead account under the Gold Plan to accommodate both websites and their existing features.  Do you happen to know if it’s possible for me to then transfer not only the websites but the domains as-is over to their new homestead account?  I’m sure I’ll need to rely on Homestead Support for details but I’m just hoping you’ll tell me this is possible and not terribly challenging to accomplish.  Any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.  I certainly learned the hard way that any future website assistance I provide will be under that person’s own Homestead account.

Steve (last name removed to protect the innocent)

Steve was given some direction on how to ‘clean up’ and hopefully it won’t have any lasting effect on his business.  He learned the hard way. You don’t have to.

Keep on webbin’ in an ethical sort of way.

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Intuit – Homestead Site Builder Design Tips

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The frame – border element option in SiteBuilder adds functionality to the program and is  a nice tool to have.

Using it you can:

  • frame photos
  • surround a block of text to set it off from the page content
  • create a button

The options allow you the ability to:

  • increase or decrease the width of the frame – border
  • choose the amount of bevel for the frame
  • select the color

The border appears to be a rectangle but in reality it is a graphic with colored edges and a transparent center. This means that when you place a border or frame around something you are actually placing the graphic OVER the item.  If you have any links within the text block you are bordering or on a photo, those links will not be clickable as they are covered by the border element. An example of this can be seen at the Homestead Connection.

It is important to remember to send your border elements behind the graphic or text in order for any links to be available. If  the area where you place the border is an element other than the main background use the Send Backward option rather than Send to Back.

Using the Element Layer Order in Homestead Site Builder

Just Released – 2010 edition of SEO Building Blocks

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SEO Building Blocks 2010 is now available. The up-to-date 50+ page ebook written expressly for users of the Intuit – Homestead SiteBuilder program explains the process of Search Engine Optimization and addresses the things that make optimization for Homestead sites different. Expanded information on page design and an updated web site design guide are included in the book.

Learn search engine optimization with easy to understand examples, visual guides and explanations that show you how to make your site stand out for the Search Engines and increase visitor appeal – both of which add up to more visits and more sales!
Written by Homestead users for Homestead users.

Visit SEO Building Blocks

The building blocks of search engine optimization for Intuit - Homestead users

SEO BUILDING BLOCKS

How’s your integrity quotient?

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You know how sometimes things just gnaw at you and even though you try to shrug them off they seem to constantly rear their heads and demand attention? This particular issue has gnawed long enough and its time to get it out there.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery …  but when it comes to claiming it as your own that’s a whole new ball game and when you do a lousy job of it that’s even worse. The real kicker though is charging people for so-called expertise  taken from someone else, edited just enough to maybe avoid copyright infringement and then presented as your own in an amateurish manner.

So what, you ask, is this all about? A couple of years ago this person showed up on the HC Forum asking for help.  He knew nothing about search engine optimization and had a site that was very poorly designed (and unfortunately it was a site he was designing for some unsuspecting soul).  Judy and I gave this fellow a ton of help and he purchased our book, SEO Building Blocks™.  The next thing we knew he began promoting himself as an SEO expert (remember, this is the guy who just a couple years ago didn’t even know how to spell SEO and you definitely DO NOT become expert in SEO in a couple of years) and selling information via videos (very poorly done and lacking in good/correct info.) and documents. Pity the person who purchases as they are not going to be getting expert advise, rather they will get info harvested from another source – in trying to escape copyright infringement he did a lousy job so the ‘expert advise’ is outdated and often incorrect. He has even gone so far as to incorporate the term Building Blocks into his content. Obviously integrity and honesty aren’t words in his vocabulary.

So buyer beware, if you are an Intuit – Homestead user and need some help with SEO, make sure that the source you purchase from is legit and truly knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization. Make sure that the seller is providing you good, quality, up-to-date information that will help you succeed on the WWW.

We have over 25 years of combined experience in design and SEO  and the Site Builder program. And,  ‘We wrote the book on SEO for Intuit – Homestead sites’®. If you want the ‘real deal’ visit us at SEO Building Blocks for information on the ebook that can truly offer you insight into search engine requirements and help with optimizing your website.

Thanks for letting us get this off our chests!

S & J

Is it Homestead or Intuit?

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Back in the day, Homestead Technologies was a small company that provided website building software called SiteBuilder. The program is a drag and drop system that makes it easy for anyone to build a website because you don’t have to know any code. You see what you’re building as you build it – that’s why these types of sites are also called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). The building is easy, the knowing how to optimize the site and proper design techniques has a learning curve.  At any rate, the SiteBuilder program made the step into the World Wide Web relatively painless for the average person.

A couple of years ago Homestead was purchased by Intuit. So now their moniker is Intuit Websites by Homestead.  But  the SiteBuilder program is still being sold under both names. You have Homestead and you have Intuit.  As web designers we have clients who have purchased through both companies. Logically (or at least in my mind) you would think that the software would be the same, but that isn’t the case. To work on a Homestead site you need to download SiteBuilder from Homestead and Intuit accounts have to download the software from the Intuit site.  Same program, no differences in how it works, looks, or acts.

SEO Building Blocks, the expertly written guide to search engine optimization, applies to SiteBuilder and other drag and drop type sites.  And the Homestead Connection site offers Intuit and Homestead users help with the program, tutorials and useful tips to improve the design experience.

So is it Intuit or is it Homestead?  A smattering of both, but ultimately it is SiteBuilder.

So you think you’re a website designer …

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You have the Homestead or Intuit software and have decided that it’s so easy to use that you’ll go into the website design business.

Do yourself, or better yet any potential clients, a HUGE favor.  Do something else until you learn the right way to design sites.  Otherwise you are doing the client a disservice and contributing to the bad name that website designers have gotten because of the amateurish attempts of many.

You are not a website designer if:

1. You aren’t aware of page weight, what it is, how to reduce it or even how to check it.
2. Alt text isn’t in your vocabulary.
3. Templates are your mainstay design tool.
4. You use the non-professional elements that just scream ‘Amateur’ or Non-Professional site.
5. You don’t realize that sites render differently in different browsers.
6. You haven’t taken the time to learn SEO (and even worse don’t know what SEO stands for).
7. You kidnap the site and ‘piggyback’ it off your own site. Thus the client doesn’t have access to the stats or the ability to go in and run the site themselves.
8. The link structure is poorly thought out and/or incomplete.
9. Usability also isn’t in your vocabulary.
10. The site isn’t consistent from page to page.
11. You think blinking, scrolling, flashing, jumping things are consistent with good web design.
12. You use “Black Hat” techniques.
13. You don’t understand the difference between java-script and plain text. And worse yet, don’t realize that java-script can have a negative impact on the site.
14. You still aren’t sure exactly what Meta tags are.
15. Page Titles show up as Home, About, etc. in the browser bar.

We are seeing more and more “website designers” asking for a site review on the Forum.  Upon reviewing these sites it becomes instantly clear that they have a long way to go before they should be turned loose on the unsuspecting public as website designers.  Having the ability to easily make sites with Intuit – Homestead software is great and does afford the opportunity to become a designer.  But PLEASE do your homework before you venture out and ruin a client’s potential to have a successful site due to your inability to design a site that offers usability, visitor friendliness and search engine optimization.

We have written two books that can help you successfully start your own web site design business. The first deals with starting a home based design business and the keys to good design. The second is a guide to search engine optimization that is an invaluable resource for anyone, whether a would-be designer or someone who is just building their own site.  Of course we’re interested in selling our product, but the bottom line is that we are more interested in seeing people succeed in their ventures by creating sites that do the job they are intended to do.

Homestead Website Design – The Building Blocks to a Successful Home Based Business

SEO Building Blocks – Search Engine Optimization for the Homestead Website

Books can be purchased separately or as a bundle.  Visit The Learning Center for more information.

Google – Too much Caffeine?

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Surprise Google did it again! The newest algorithm change Caffeine is here – more or less.

For many this change may be as bad as the infamous Florida update from several years ago. The usual tactic is to put these major changes out in parts and pieces and then do tweaking. This causes flux and chaos for many webmasters and could be what has caused the problems many of us have seen over the past month or two. One day you find yourself on the top of the SERPS and the next day you are no where to be found. If you are one of the lucky people your site may reappear and if not you might start looking for potential problems. Avoid making dramatic changes for awhile as things are not stable and the big G continues to tinker with things.

For more information visit:  http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/08/help-test-some-next-generation.html Spend some time reading the feedback as it might provide insight to what others feel and see.

If your website does not have major problems and has good content that does not remain static, no problems with indexing and has been well optimized you probably have most of the potential issues taken care of.  Some things to look at if you aren’t sure:

  • Most of us do not spend enough time getting inbound links that are and will continue be very important especially to Google.  If you haven’t been adding them start now and keep it up. Do your research and add a couple of new inbound links every month because Google expects links to grow continuously if a site is good.
  • Use anchor text that fits your site (the words that make up the actual link) in your link submissions. Vary the text you submit so that it isn’t identical in every link. This is one of indicators to the Search Engines that the links could be spammy. If you take the time to do link building then do it right and get credit for your effort.
  • Check your site against that of the competition to see where you might improve your Meta tags (title, description, keywords) as well as the page copy itself.

10 Factors that can determine how a site will place in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP):

  1. How well the Meta title, description, and keywords have been optimized.
  2. Be sure you have unique and relevant page copy to adequately define what your site is about to the Search Engines as well as visitors.
  3. Placement of the key words and key points within the content.
  4. The keyword density of the page.
  5. Age of the site.
  6. How much competition there is for the chosen keywords.
  7. The number and quality of inbound links.
  8. Relevancy of content throughout the site.
  9. Internal Links – Links from one page within the site to another page. Or one section of a page to another section on the page.
  10. Updating the site can influence how often the SEs visit.

For more in-depth information on how to optimize your site for the Search Engines we recommend  SEO Building Blocks.