So you’ve finally realized just how darn beneficial the web would be for your business. Now the biggest question: how on earth do you get started?
HAHA! Worry not, my friends. Here are a few useful things to know to help you make the most of your site.
Getting started with design
Design is the part of the site you see, so you assume that’s where you should start, right?
Well, not exactly. Design is the shiny part, but you need to know the content of the site before you ever commence with design.
Now, by “content,” we don’t mean every single word of copy that will grace the pages. By content, we mean you have to have these questions answered:
- Who will be reading your site? What do they expect?
- What information do you want to convey there?
- What do you want it to do? (Do you actually make sales on the site? Do you want to encourage prospects to call you? Are you an informational resource?)
- What kind of mood do you want on your site?
These questions will influence the design, the colors, and the structure of your site, and the answers will ensure that you appeal to your audience/demographic/prospects/pick your term. That which intrigues middle-aged engineers is far different from what will appeal to teenage girls starting their first year in college.
Don’t forget browser compatibility! Not everybody uses Firefox (and much to my surprise, some people actually hate it! *mind is boggled*), and that which looks beautiful in Internet Explorer can break when viewed in Safari.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of browsers that people use to view our site:
- Firefox: 57%
- Internet Explorer: 21%
- Safari: 17%
- Chrome: 3%
If we only made sure our site was compatible with Firefox, nearly half our visitors would be unable to view it properly. And that? That’s no good.
You must make sure that your site will look great, no matter where your visitors are viewing it.
Creating content – research, research, research
I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of keywords. However, you can’t argue with their effectiveness. Research what terms people are using to search in your niche. Try every possible combination that you can think of. (Use Google’s Keyword Tool for some help there.)
Once you’ve done that, pick one or two keywords and incorporate them into your title tags, h1 tags, content, and META description to aid in search engine optimization.
When it comes to home page content, PLEASE, avoid “happy talk”(to paraphrase Steve Krug). These are words that the visitors’ eyes glaze over, stuff like “Hi! Welcome to our site!” Tell people what you do. Identify the problem that you solve immediately, so they know that they’re in the right place. (If you are not a good writer, hire one.)
Tools Every Webmaster Should Use
Here are some tools that help you make sure that search engines can read your site (and that your visitors don’t see a mess in their browser):
XML Sitemap: No, this isn’t that page you have that outlines your site for visitors. This is an XML page that outlines your site for search engines. You can get one from Google, and it’s just a little HTML file that you drop in your main site folder.
WC3 Validation: They have tools to do both XHTML and CSS validation. This will scan your site and let you know where you have errors, which can trip up browsers and search engines trying to read your site. That way, you can fix them!
Google Webmaster Tools: I love this because it tells you where there are 404 errors on your site. That way, you can fix them and ensure that all the incoming links on your site are going to regular pages, not a 404 error. It also has a list of outgoing links and incoming links, so you can see where people are linking to you.
Google Analytics: There are other analytics tools out there, but this one is free, and gives you most of the statistics you need to gauge the effectiveness of your site. Find out where visitors are coming from, which pages of your site they’re landing on, and where they’re leaving.
What’s your advice for people getting started online? Answer in the comments!
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