June 15, 2007
Before you even think about opening Dreamweaver or your favourite html editor and start designing your site there are a few things I believe you need to do first. I am going to describe how to increase your work flow and give you some general tips and tricks that will speed up the design of your website project and help to get it showing up in search engines quicker. In future articles I will be going into greater detail of some of the topics I describe here. Now let’s get started.
Purchasing and optimising your domain name.
The first thing you need to consider is your domain name. I suggest that you don’t just use your company name, i.e. if your company makes tartan paint and your company name is “Hamish Paints” don’t go for the obvious choice of hamishpaints.com. I would try and come up with a keyword rich domain name. Some search engine optimisers (SEO) would say that having keywords in your domain name doesn’t make any difference to your listings but I disagree. Google will highlight your keywords in the search engine results page (SERPS), which leads me to believe that keywords do hold some weight, and besides it will make it clearer to the searcher what your site is all about.
What are keywords?
Keywords from a search engine optimisation (SEO) stand point are the key –words that are used to optimise your website for better listings on search engines. These are the words or phrases people are typing into the search bar of Google etc to find websites relating to what information or products they may be looking for.
Go to www.bruceclay.com/ and www.highrankings.com/ – two great websites where you can learn more about keywords and SEO.
How do I find and choose my keywords?
To find keywords that people may be using in search terms the first port of call should be the overture keyword selector tool and you can access this tool at http://inventory.overture.com/ or http://inventory.uk.overture.com/. If you want the UK results, here you will find an excellent tool for discovering keywords. All you need to do is type in words or phrases that are going to be related to your website and overture will show you related searches that include your term and how many times that term was searched on the last month. Now you can get an idea of what keywords you should be including in your domain name.
Please note that search engines don’t like long main names so try to keep it as short as possible. Other great resources for keywords are:
As we all know all the good domain names have been taken and it’s almost impossible to get one-word domain names these days, so be inventive if you get stuck. I always find it helpful to visit www.dictionary.com and use the thesaurus to come up with names maybe I hadn’t thought of.
Now that you are armed with a killer domain name you can go to http://www.umbrellawebsitedesign.co.uk/order/whois/ and check its availability.
Try and get the domain name extension of the country your company resides in as it makes it clear where you’re from. I know most people want to get a .com but if you are in the UK I believe a better extension would be .co.uk as it shows where your from. This will also help in the SERPS when people are searching for websites in the UK you don’t want to be competing with websites outside of your country if you can help it.
Building a holding page and creating a site map.
Now that we are sorted with our domain name and hosting the next step involves creating a holding page and submitting a sitemap to Google. First of you need to create your holding page, it’s a good idea to create a holding page so your domain can build up some respect with search engines, you don’t want to wait until your website goes live before submitting it to search engines.
Designing a holding page.
Keep it simple and describe all the services and products you may be offering in your site. Don’t forget to use keyword rich text in your title tag, description tags, and body text. Use the keywords you discovered in “how to find and choose keywords” section. This is good practice for when you design your website proper but you have to remember this page will be unlikely to be viewed by many people however this isn’t the purpose of your holding page.
A good idea here would be if any visitors did visit your site perhaps they would like to know when your website goes live or maybe they will have questions. I would therefore suggest you add a simple contact form asking for their name and email address to notify them when the site will be live or to answer any questions they may have. You could even use them to do some usability testing and describe in more detail the coming sections. Name it index.html or index.htm and put it in the root folder of your site and upload it to the server.
Creating a sitemap for Google.
A Google sitemap is xml document that contains information of every page on your website (not to be confused with a sitemap html page on your website). You need to upload this to the root folder of your server so that Google can access it and help index your website quicker and easier. You can create a Google sitemap with very little effort online by going to http://www.sitemapspal.com/ and follow the online instructions. Once you have created your site map you can go to www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ and follow Google’s instructions for adding a site map. You will find this service very easy to use and invaluable in getting your website listed properly on Google. Remember to update your sitemap xml document when your website is finished and every time you make changes to your website so that Google can index your new pages. Doing this now will save you time and effort later.
Now submit your website to the major search engines – right?
Wrong! It’s a misconception that you need to submit your website to search engines. Please please don’t pay anyone to do this, as it’s not necessary. (Are you listening all you black hat SEO companies, shame on you). As you have created a sitemap in Google this is more than enough to get yourself listed in the search engines. The search engines will actually come looking for your website in due course. Engines like Google and Yahoo serve listing to lots of other sites. or more information on this visit http://www.bruceclay.com/searchenginerelationshipchart.htm. The one place you must submit your website is the Open Directory or DMOZ for short as this is where all the major search engines get their directory listings from. For more information on submitting your website to DOMOZ visit http://www.dmoz.com/add.html
Creating a rough draft of your site.
Now its time to start designing your site. Before we go ahead and start creating a website in Dreamweaver we will need to get the layout and design in place first. If your want a easier way to design your site and your are not familiar with Dreamweaver or technically minded you can always use website builder software to create your website. I would recommend this if you are just starting out, as this is a quick and simple way to get your website up and running. For information on using website building software visit www.umbrellawebsitedesign.co.uk/web_b.html. However if you want to get your hands dirty read on.
The Pen is mightier than the mouse.
The first draft of your website should be on paper. Illustrate where your are going to put everything on your final page, including images, text and links, and name them for quick reference. This will save you lots of time later on in Dreamweaver. You can even sketch out a sitemap of all the pages in your website showing what page links to what.
Creating a png file.
Now that you have a rough copy of your layout go ahead and open fireworks or image ready and start creating your site as a png file. Here you can start creating your logo and graphical elements you plan to use. You can create your navigation and add your menus and text so that you can easily refer back to them once in Dreamweaver. Layout everything as it would look like in a browser.This is a good idea as it’s easy to make changes unlike in Dreamweaver where changes can be time consuming. Go ahead and save your page as png file.
Well that’s it folks for part one In part two I will be creating a site in Dreamweaver, discussing cascading style sheets, usability, accessibility and validating your work to comply with W3G standards.
Author: Website design specialist Kevin J. Gallagher works with Umbrella Website Design in the UK.