Building your first web site? Please read on . . .
If you are confused by all the options available these days and are not sure where to start, then please read on . . .
If you've just decided to 'take the plunge' and are looking to establish your first web site then it's very important you take a look at the whole picture.
What I mean by this is it's absolutely no good to you if you have the best looking site in the world, but nobody can find you!
Unless you have a very 'niche' product or service you are going to find that getting into the top 10 or 20 with Google, MSN, Yahoo etc. is very difficult, but not impossible. This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) plays the most important part of your project.
Choosing the right SEO company for your project is perhaps the single most important task you will face when dealing with your web site presence on the internet.
Good and bad SEO - what's the difference?
If you've received an email, or other marketing correspondence that promises to get your site to no. 1 with Google, Yahoo etc., be very, very wary! There are still numerous companies out there who use very questionable tactics to 'boost' your web site's ranking. I would suggest you steer well clear of these promises, as they can do you more harm than good in the long run. (Many of the companies who make these promises have ended up being banned by Google, along with the sites they were 'promoting').
Firstly, SEO is not cheap. It takes time to 'market' a site correctly. If you can find a company that can build your web site and also have a full understanding of SEO techniques then you stand a much better chance of good results. The reason being they can build your site in a search engine-friendly way right from the start. This can save costs later on.
What does SEO involve?
Many books have been written on the subject, and because the search engines like to keep everyone guessing, SEO is not an exact science. However, if things are done correctly, without trying to 'fool' the SE's (search engines), then good results can eventually be had.
Basically, and I'm going to keep this short, your main keywords (the word or phrase typed into a search box in a search engine a potential customer would use to find your product/service) have to be thoroughly researched. This keyword is used in your content (and other key places on your page) to help the SE's figure out what the page is about.
Your home page should be focussed on your main keyword. Each sub page should then be focussed on its relevant keyword.
For example, let's say your main product is mens suits. Your home page would reflect this by using the keyphrase 'mens suits'. Now let's also say you provide accessories to go with mens suits - cufflinks, ties etc. Cufflinks should then be promoted on it's own sub page, ties on a sub page etc. and so on.
A reciprocal link is a link to another site, who also reciprocates by having a link back to you. The more incoming links (from sites in the same 'theme' as yours) the better. This helps to establish your site in the eyes of the SE's.
Reciprocal linking used to be the way forward, however these days the emphasis is much more based on one-way links. That is, an incoming link to your site, without a reciprocal link back. These are much harder to get, and that is where a SEO specialist will be worth his/her salt in garnering these important links.
Again, as with the warning earlier relating to finding a good SEO company, this is equally important when looking for a company to handle your link building. A typical scenario is receiving a telephone call from someone who, for a few hundred pounds a month, says they have selected your company as one that would be ideal for their service, and they will go on to guarantee you x thousands of links per month. Tread carefully here, as in many cases, the links will be absolutely no benefit to you whatsoever.
Many of these link suppliers will own a network of sites which are used to get you instant backlinks however, in the scheme of things these links are pretty worthless. Yes, you may get an initial boost but the search engines will soon begin to discount these non-relevant links. Some link suppliers will remove the links if you stop paying their monthly fee, so do make sure you know what is entailed before you sign on the dotted line.
This has really taken off in the last few years, and can be a valuable source of incoming traffic. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Technorati, Del.icio.us etc., are useful places to promote your site.
Again, a very useful method to drive visitors to your site. You will need to write plenty of fresh articles about your service, or product and submit these to the 100's of article site now out there.
Well worth spending time on and again, providing you have the time to update regularly can be a great source of traffic. If you allow comments to be posted on your blog, then keep a wary eye out for the persistent spammers out there. They can be a real pain!
Good quailty content is extremely important. Rule of thumb: design your pages with content that your web site visitors enjoy, and the search engines will be happy also. Sounds a bit twee I know but that advice does hold true. You see so many sites that have their main keywords stuffed into every orifice, that a lot of the time the content just does not make sense. Always design for the site visitor first and you can't go wrong.
I've merely scratched the SEO surface above. If this is something you want to pursue, then there are 100's of great resources online to help you find your feet. I would start by joining one of the many online forums where you will find everyone from experts to novices seeking and offering advice.
P.P.C. vs. Organic Listings
What do these terms mean?
P.P.C stands for Pay-Per-Click.
This can be an extremely quick way of getting your site noticed, but it does cost money. Basically, you decide on what your main 'keyword' is (the term that you expect people to search for in a search engine) and you 'bid' for placement of your advert. The more you bid, the higher the advert will be placed in the sponsored listings, normally shown at the top & right hand sides of the search results.
If you are in a very competitive market, then it's important that you tread very carefully, otherwise your advertising budget could soon be wiped out.
There are many online forums specialising in PPC where you will receive lots of help and ideas on how to most effectively 'word' your advert.
These are the 'natural' results that Google, Bing, Yahoo et al bring up when someone searches for your service or product.
If you receive an email from an SEO company 'guaranteeing' they can get you no. 1 positions in the natural listings, then please be very careful.
Nobody can make that promise and achieve these sort of results legitimately, especially if your main keyword is in a competitive market.
Getting started with your first web site
A couple of typical scenarios may look like this:
(A) You don't have the time/inclination to do the work yourself (also see CMS section below)
Get a good recommendation to a web site design company (drop me an email if you are struggling to find one).
They will help you choose a good domain name .co.uk, .com etc. You can check the availability of domain names here:
They can usually arrange to have your site hosted and maintained by them.
Important: make sure you explain fully what you expect from the site, i.e. if the main point of your site is to be found by prospective clients then make this absolutely clear. I would recommend you reserve a substantial part of your budget (unless you are going to do it yourself) for marketing of the site. Take your time here, this part of the project can make or break your online venture! Don't commit yourself unless you are absolutely sure the web design company know their stuff!
(B) You'd like to have a go yourself, but not sure where to start
If you have the time available then go for it. If nothing else, you will learn many of the techniques required to build your site, get it online and know how to effectively martket it. Note: I would suggest you do not have your site hosted on one of the many free services. These sites don't usually perform well on the search engines.
These are ready-made sites that you can load into Wordpress, Joomla, etc. They are fully customisable and an ideal way for someone without HTML knowlegde to build their first site. They are a great way to learn your way around site building, without all the hassle of worrying about the design aspects. There are many to choose from and all the hard work has been done for you. You simply download the files (which include a Photoshop .psd file, in case you wish to alter the graphics, fonts etc.), load the html files into your favourite html editor and insert your own content. Upload to your server and that's it, your website is ready for public viewing. There is a downside to this however.
If the template you purchase has been bought many times previously, then it is feasible that you may come across the same template whilst browsing the web. Many cotemplate companies overcome this hurdle by offering you the opportunity to buy the template 'exclusively', which means once you have purchased the template, it is immediately removed from the site, thereby minimising chances of stumbling across the same template online.
CMS (Content Management System)
If this scenario relates to you, then a CMS system would be ideal:-
You want/need a website, but don't have the time or inclination to learn how to build & upload it yourself. You also don't want to be paying someone each time you need an amendment to the site content.
If the above fits your brief, then consider using a CMS-based website.
Pros & Cons - you will be able to make any change to content yourself, through a web-based admin panel. This will enable you to add new articles, or delete/amend old ones. The CMS will probably be hosted on your supplier's servers, so any techie things that need handling will be done in the background without you having to figure stuff out yourself.
Firstly, you will need to pay for the site design and then the CMS is rented, usually on a monthly/annual basis. Once you've got the hang of using the admin section you'll then have full control on what visitors to your site will see.
Read, read, read! Find as many online resources as you can but if you're serious about your business, and you should be, then make sure you employ true professionals who charge a fair price, but are always there when you need them. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about!.
The Castle Print & Design site has been active for a number of years now and to be honest we've had some really bad experiences with hosting companies that say they offer great after-sales service, but in reality this has not proved to be the case. A few years back, after much searching we finally 'discovered' our present hosting company who have proved that good after-sales service does actually exist.
If you are looking for a professional hosting company, that respond immediately to any concerns then it really would be worth your while checking out www.host-it.co.uk
It's been nothing but a pleasure dealing with them. OK, they're not the cheapest service around but if you, like us, believe you get what you pay for, and you're looking for an excellent business hosting solution, then you'll do well to find better.
We're not affiliated to them in any way, they just deserve a mention as we know how difficult finding the right hosting company can be.
If there's something that needs explaining in the above article, or you have any tips / shortcuts of your own, please leave a message in the comments section below.
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