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Tag Archives: SiteBuilder

Move Over SiteBuilder Here comes Plus

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Change is something that either makes us giddy with anticipation or sends us off screaming and pulling out our hair. It’s also the one constant in life … the one thing we can count on to happen. And so it seems that change is looming on the horizon in regards to the desktop SiteBuilder from Homestead/Intuit.

In recent conversations with various Tech Support staff and responses to Help Tickets it has become clear that Intuit is transitioning away from the (beloved) desktop version of SiteBuilder. Many of you are already familiar with SiteBuilder Lite, the rather watered down version of SB that allows limited online editing – SiteBuilder Plus, the replacement for the (did I mention beloved?) desktop version will operate much the same as Lite, only it will be a full-blown editor.

The future of SiteBuilder

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5 Ways to Lose Visitors

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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 webmaster hard at work 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

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.

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.

Google making search more interesting

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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:

Search Results

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 

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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.

Debunking the “can’t be optimized” myth

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The Homestead SiteBuilder program often receives negative remarks from coding purists and those ill-informed of the benefits of the website designing software. Bring up the topic of Homestead in a Forum such as the Google Group and you immediately have snide comments.

Far too many web designers who hand code, utilize templates or even software programs such as Dreamweaver tend to look down on Homestead’s drag and drop type of program. They look at the site’s code and spout things such as “couldn’t produce a well optimized site if it tried.” Granted, Homestead’s code is not the prettiest, but it can certainly hold its own with websites developed using the methods mentioned above. And, as time goes by Homestead will almost certainly improve upon the coding structure of the software. There are many, many Homestead users who have websites that outrank sites developed by web designers who used the so-called conventional methods. 

The average user can create an attractive, user friendly site that is well optimized using Homestead’s SiteBuilder program. Any website, regardless of the method used to build it, will suffer if the webmaster doesn’t also have a working knowledge of usability and search engine optimization. The site can also suffer if the designer doesn’t fully understand the program they use.

Those of us who utilize the Homestead Site Builder and have a working knowledge of website usability and search engine optimization understand the short comings of the SiteBuilder program. We have learned how to work with the program and work around the problems that are intrinsic in using a WYSIWYG or drag and drop site builder software.
 
It is important to learn and understand certain potential road blocks presented by portions of the SiteBuilder program and adjust accordingly to bypass these issues. Items such as Java Script navigation and some of the templates that rely heavily on java-script can be problematic. The Apply-to-All feature for Meta tags, while seemingly a time saver, should never be used. Using the full SiteBuilder program rather than SiteBuilder Lite offers more options for creating a user friendly, well optimized site. Making use of the Homestead Connection Forum, the Homestead Connection Site, and even this Blog will help users of the program learn the do’s and don’ts associated with it.

Designing a site that will succeed is not so much dependent upon the method the site is built with as it is having a basic understanding of Search Engines requirements and usability standards. Every search engine uses different algorithms and knowing the basic requirements of those engines aids in producing an acceptable website. This applies to usability as well. Knowing what is user friendly helps to design a site that visitors will find appealing.

Homestead websites can be optimized to do as well in search rankings as any website regardless of who built it or how it was built. But, sites built with Homestead have something most others don’t and that is the ability for the site owner to either build their own website or to easily take it over once the site is designed. This is not the case with the vast majority of web sites that have been created by design companies. In most instances the owner ends up with a website that they can’t update or make even simple changes to. They have to continue to pay someone for updates, and SEO and link building.

It is no wonder that many web designers and those who are ill-informed or biased take the stance that Homestead sites are lacking…. if everyone were to find out that they are a viable option that can save the site owner time and money and do well in searches, we would see even more people taking the Homestead route.

Do-It-Yourself Website Design With Homestead

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You are about to begin on the journey of web design after having found Homestead’s easy-to-use site builder software. The sales pitch says that you can build a site in 30 minutes. This is true. You can throw together a one or two page website in 30 minutes by using the ‘cookie cutter’ templates, the existing page copy, the ‘canned’ meta tags, etc. offered by the SiteBuilder Lite program.  What you can’t do is build a site that meets usability standards, is a well-designed, properly optimized, or viewer friendly site in 30 minutes. If all you want is a personal site or one to share with family and friends then the 30 minute approach will probably work for you.  If, however, you are building a site to sell a product or service or an informational site that you hope will reach vast numbers of people on the Internet, it’s going to take considerably more time than that. Why? …

It’s about more than just a pretty site

Successful websites depend on two very important factors: search engine optimization and good page design. You can have one without the other, but without the combination the odds of your site doing well are minimized. Done right, the two intertwine so that while you are designing, you are also optimizing and while you are optimizing you are designing.

When we talk about SEO most people think it refers to meta tags: titles, descriptions and keywords, but SEO is much more than that. Search Engines index and rank sites based on many factors not just the meta tags. 

When page design is mentioned thoughts immediately go to the colors and the fonts and the pretty pictures. Just as with SEO, page design encompasses more than just the visual aspect of a page and it plays a part in how the Search Engines react to the site.

How A Web Page Works – The Simple Explanation

You design a page.

How well that page is optimized and designed are major factors in how the Search Engines will index and rank the page which determines how well it places in searches. (There are dozens more factors that will have an impact on placement, but these two are primary.)

Page/site success is also reliant on visitors. If a page isn’t viewer friendly (i.e. poor design) or doesn’t offer the information/product the viewer searched for (poor meta tag info) they leave. You lose a potential customer. If the site shows a large percentage of visitors bouncing out without spending time on the page the Search Engines may take that into consideration and decide that your particular page must not be offering the right info for the given search term and thus the page falls back in placement for that keyword or phrase.

To build a truly useful, successful and appealing site means researching and studying what site design and search engine optimization are all about and then putting that knowledge into practice. I guarantee it will take you a lot more than 30 minutes, but I also guarantee that you will see positive results. And one thing to keep in mind – Web sites are never done.