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Google shaking up search results

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Besides the school-yard spitting match going on between Google and Bing (For more on the spitting match just do a search for Google and Bing click fraud – everyone has jumped on that posting bandwagon.), the latest news concerning Google is that they are about to shake up search results in an effort to reduce the incidence of spammy sites coming up prominently in those search results.

Beware! If your Homestead – Intuit site or article or post is essentially duplicate content, either something ‘borrowed’ from another site, or an article you’ve written and submitted on multiple sites you could well wake up to find it non-existent in searches. Sites that are predominantly links with little original or useful content are also apparently on the hit list – FINALLY

I’ve longed for the day when sites that offer visitors little in the way of original content and consist of nothing but links and clickable ads that will bring the site owner in $$$ and webmasters who copy and use other’s work, would end up in the nether-world of the www. Perhaps that day is coming.

Google’s Matt Cutts quoted on his blog, “The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.”

It’s time to take a good, hard look at your Site Builder website to be sure it is going to stand up to the new search standards.

  1. Does the site have  informative content? A bunch of links and ads are not informative content.
  2. Is it original content? Have you duplicated that content elsewhere? On a blog or in articles posted to different sites? Or perhaps it is content taken from another site?
  3. Does the site employ black hat techniques?
  4. Has the content been written for the human reader or the search engines?  Sites written for search engines tend to lean toward keyword stuffing

Keep an eye on your site placement over the next several weeks. There are no absolutes and nothing to say that the new algorithm won’t make mistakes and drop a good site.  How to request reconsideration of your site.

10 Ways to Promote Your Intuit – Homestead Website Locally

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In this day and age a web site is a must-have for businesses large or small. For the business that operates within a specific locale a web site is an invaluable tool.  The Yellow Pages used to be the ‘go to’ place for people to find a business or service; expensive advertising with limited exposure. Thanks to the internet and easy-to-use web site building programs like SiteBuilder from Intuit – Homestead, business owners can now promote their business with full details, contact info, maps to the location, photos and even coupons. Perhaps best of all,  you aren’t stuck with the same content for a year as is the case with a phone directory ad.

So how do you promote your niche market website when your business serves a specific area? Simply having one doesn’t mean you will be found unless your base audience already knows the name of your business or you’ve managed to place high in search placements for your key words. But, don’t overlook the fact that new people move in regularly and there are probably visitors to the area who could possibly be interested in your business or service.  To expand the reach of your website, go outside the web. How to increase awareness of your website …

Search Engines Gone Astray

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Simply having a website  does not guarantee that the world will beat a path to your door (I’m sure I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating!). There are hundreds of millions (billions perhaps) of websites, so competition is fierce to try and place prominently in search engine results. Face it, if you aren’t on at least page 2 of the SERPS chances are good you just aren’t going to get much traffic.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a must if a site is ever going to improve in positioning. There are  many basic components involved in optimizing a site – it can become a full time job and even then you can’t be assured of reaching the top of the heap. And the  Search Engines make it harder all the time. In my opinion, they’ve gone over the edge of what truly constitutes  a  top site.

Things started going downhill when the SE’s began putting importance on the number of  backlinks a site had. Supposedly it meant that the more backlinks a site had, the more visitors found it worthwhile which meant that it was a top notch site. Seriously? Is that really going to determine a quality site? You can buy backlinks so how does that prove the value of a site? And, really? how many webmasters are going to link to 100’s or 1000’s of other sites when it’s  incoming links to their own site that are more valuable and particularly one-way links (non-reciprocal links – meaning they link to you, you don’t link to them) There’s something wrong with this picture.

It proceeded to get more convoluted with the advent of blogs. All of a sudden Blogs were the be all, end all. Everyone needed one and the SE’s began to put blogs on the list of how to improve link juice to your site. As a side note here I have a couple of clients who belong to a blog for a particular profession.  They have begun allowing members to re-post other member’s previous posts.  Why? Well with thousands of people posting about a specific profession I believe they’ve run out of original things to post about so they’re recycling!  Go Green I say. Many blogs have really evolved into semi-websites. There are some awesome blogs out there, but for the most part they are just posts with little value and are merely taking up space – kinda like this one!  🙂

The advent of social media sites was one things really tanked.  Once again the Search Engines went off the mark and began putting emphasis on the nutworking sites as I call them.  Again I can only say SERIOUSLY? Anyone running a business has their hands full already – the last thing they need is to have to belong to a dozen social sites where they have to tweet, or write on a wall or dig something EVERY DAY in order for it to do any good. And guess what happens? The information highway becomes more and more diluted and ridiculous. Tweet this! Many of these  sites have their value for people who have nothing else to do than be social butterflies, some are a great way for families who want to stay in touch, but for the most part they are valueless. Get rid of them? No, because they do serve a purpose for some people. Make them part of SEO juice? NO!

Essentially there are four kinds of websites:

  • Informational sites – sites that provide information about a specific topic or topics. Authority sites, government sites, library sites and so on
  • Sites that offer a  limited variety of products or a service they are selling such as real estate sites, pet sites, etc., but also provide information about the service or the target for their products.
  • E-Commerce sites – These are internet stores that sell products and offer little or no information other than product descriptions
  • Personal and Organization sites – Sites about  family reunions, sports team sites, organizations, and the like

This is where the true value of the internet lies, not in twitting or facebooking or digging or stumbling. While those types of sites may hold interest or entertainment for some, I don’t feel that the Search Engines should be placing any value on whether or not a website is tied to one of these social networking sites.

Webmasters keep your focus and continue to make those websites strong, with good content and useful information. Add pages, update, add the site to directories and keep giving your visitors what they are really searching for.

Be sure you get listed in that Directory

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As many of you know we offer a free directory to users of the Homestead – Intuit web site program. The Homestead Connection Directory was developed to give Site Builder and Store Front users a way to add a non-reciprocal, inbound link to their sites as well as giving them web exposure. We’ve gained some insight into how many people, who submit to more stringent directories, probably aren’t getting in or if they are, their listings probably aren’t doing them much good.

Using the Homestead Connection Directory (HCD) as an example, there is a link to the Guidelines as well as a FAQ page in the navigation menu. When you submit to any directory you’ll find a similar page(s) that list the requirements. That page isn’t there to just take up space … it lists the rules, requirements, limitations and so forth that the directory requires in order for your site to be accepted. READ THE TERMS AND COMPLY or you will most likely not find your site listed in that directory.

Again using the HCD as an example, one of the terms is that the Description not be any longer than 200 characters, including spaces. This is repeated on the form used to submit the site. Yet time and again we receive submissions that are in the 400-500 range.  We’ve been lenient and allowed a bit of overage and sometimes we even re-do the listing in order to meet the requirement. 9.5 out of 10 directories will simply toss the submission.

The flip side of this is the listing that comprises only a few words.  Ex: Dog Breeders or Houses remodeled. It’s a big world out there and there are many dozens of dog breeders and home remodel companies. Make that description work for you and make the visitor want to click on your link. List the area you are in. The search engines pick up on localities so this is especially important for those who serve a limited area.

Your Description should include your main keyword/phrase and it should make sense to the human reader. Many directories specify not to use exclamation points, sales hype, all capital letters, etc. Be sure you comply if you are serious about getting your site listed.

There is usually a character limitation for the Title as well specific criteria for the content of the Title.  This is usually the domain name of the site ( not the URL).  Sometimes you’re allowed to use the actual page name if you are submitting to an internal page.

Contact information is another area that often lacks enough information. Utilize the maximum amount of information allowed. Show that you are a legitimate business by including a phone number, city and state, contact person’s name (even just a first name is better than nothing), if your business is a brick and mortar store include the physical address and an email address.

Sample listing for directory

Sample Listing

Remember that directory listings can play an important part in your overall SEO. Make sure to read and follow the instructions for each directory you submit to in order to get listed and be sure that you give viewers enough information to make them want to visit your site.

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.

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.