We all have a mental list of things that bother us about websites; things that send us scrambling to another site. The web is huge, competition is fierce and the best thing a webmaster can do is to adhere to the KISS principle. (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID). Users of the Intuit-Homestead SiteBuilder program to design sites need an awareness of what does and doesn’t work on the web. Read the rest of this entry
Tag Archives: Search Engine Optimization
This is something we hear often. I get all these visitors to my site, but they don’t buy or they don’t fill out a form or they don’t do whatever it is that I am hoping they will do when they visit my site. These webmasters have well-optimized sites, all the t’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, they show up well in searches, but still the number of visitors far outweighs the resulting purchases or form filing or whatever action is hoped for.
Granted there can be mechanical or design flaws that might be preventing a visitor from becoming a customer/client, but that would be very obvious when some sales turned to no sales.
So how can it be that so many visit and only a few give us the results we had hoped for? Converting visitors to clients…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
- How well the Meta title, description, and keywords have been optimized.
- 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.
- Placement of the key words and key points within the content.
- The keyword density of the page.
- Age of the site.
- How much competition there is for the chosen keywords.
- The number and quality of inbound links.
- Relevancy of content throughout the site.
- Internal Links – Links from one page within the site to another page. Or one section of a page to another section on the page.
- 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.
Build a website and the world will beat a path to your door. It sounds great, but the reality is that unless your site is well designed and optimized for the Search Engines you will probably end up falling through the cracks and have very limited success with your site. For users of the ( Intuit ) Homestead Website software there are a number of ways to get support and help with the program.
The key to developing a web site is planning. A good place to begin is with the free Web Site Design Guide from S&J Enterprises. With over 20 years of combined experience we are very familiar with the workings of the Site Builder program and how to develop a website that is both user and search engine friendly. The Guide provides helpful ideas and guidelines for designing and optimizing your Homestead website.
Download the free Web Site Design Guide
The Homestead Connection is another great resource for Homestead users to get help with the program. The website explains how things work with the drag and drop SiteBuilder software. Examples and tutorials take you through the basics of the program. There are also tips and information as well as links to sites and software that help to enhance your website design.
The Homestead Connection Forum is a free, moderated Forum for Homestead users to get advice, offer help, receive site reviews, learn about Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) and share in the Homestead Community experience of website building.
If you are an Intuit – Homestead user you can list your website(s) in the free Homestead Connection Directory. The Directory was created to help webmasters get better exposure with the Search Engines and provide a quality directory for visitors. Your first listing is free and you have the option of adding a second listing or even a business card listing for a nominal fee.
Homestead Design and SEO is the Blog resource we use to keep Homestead members up-to-date on design and Search Engine Optimization in addition to help with the Homestead program.
SEO Building Blocks E book by S&J Enterprises is a comprehensive guide that explains how to optimize your Homestead web site for the Search Engines. Simple directions and visual aids make it easy to apply search engine optimization to your website. Examples and explanations show how to give your site more Search Engine and visitor appeal – both of which add up to more visits and more sales!
The Homestead Website Design E book was written to give Homestead users a guide to starting a home based web site design business. The book explains the steps necessary for start up, proper design techniques and ways to create an income stream to earn more from your business. Great even for the beginning webmaster who isn’t interested in starting a web design business but who needs help with site design.
Homestead Technology has both phone support ( 1-800-710-1998 ) and a Help Ticket resource. The Help Ticket can be accessed by logging into your Homestead account and clicking on Help.
There is a wealth of help for the Homestead user. Between the assistance offered by Homestead and the site building help from actual Homestead users, the Site Builder program is undoubtedly one of the best supported website building programs available.
In March, Google introduced something new into their search algorithm. Their statement in part says, “we are deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search.” Simply put, semantic search is now a part of Google’s search results. By definition, semantic is the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text. Google’s changes will give results that target more queries and provide searchers expanded relevant results.
On page copy (content) is and has always been important for the Homestead webmaster but now it is even more so. The new changes allow a better use of related terms in your information as the algorithm can understand the association of terms. This makes search engine optimization (SEO) even more important for webmasters to gain good placement in searches.
The best part of Google’s improvements is how it effects longer queries…Google will be expanding the number of lines in the snippets to provide more information. The results will show the queried words in the context of the page. A search for ‘how to build a Homestead website’ is an example:
The words in bold are what Google pulled from the site to match the search. In this example it is a snippet from one of our previous blog posts.
For webmasters who have actually developed good on-page copy this should be a real benefit by presenting your information to more searchers. It will not only provide results for the specific keywords but words that closely relate to those search words. These snippets may come from anywhere on the page.
This change should encourage better writing because the search terms utilized can and will include options beyond specific keywords. Phrases that semantically ‘fit’ may also be included in the results. This should be a win win situation for both the web searcher and the thoughtful webmaster.
Homestead users should keep in mind that website design and information placement is important in regards to page copy. As more information is added to a page it is possible for a website to initially overwhelm the reader/searcher with too much information to sort through.
It is wise to keep the top portion (above the fold) simple with emphasis on the main purpose of the site. Additional information can be placed lower on the page. The use of bold type for important information helps the reader to quickly scan to find the meat of the site. Utilizing lists also helps the viewer to see at a glance what the focus of the site is. Both of these also help with the Search Engines. By constructing pages in this way the reader can quickly determine important information in the first few paragraphs. If what they see piques their interest they will continue reading/looking.
As search engines continue to refine their algorithms, on page copy becomes even more important. Webmasters will need to hone their writing skills and think beyond placing emphasis on just a few key words or phrases in order to fully benefit from searches.
Visit Google’s blog for the complete scoop on the New Improvements to Search Results
Be sure to visit us at the Homestead Connection Forum for more help and information on making your Homestead site user and search engine friendly.
Homestead user who needs some help? The Homestead Connection site offers users of the Intuit (Homestead websites) software, tutorials and examples of how to use the SiteBuilder program.
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.