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August 27, 2008

Treasure Trove of Website Tips

Recently people have been asking for tips and “Do’s and Don’ts” for website design and content.

Whether you are building a new site or redesigning a current site, here is a collection of tips that you’d be wise to follow:

  • Create your site with a clear hierarchy and interconnection of pages.
  • Your most important pages should never be more than one click away from your homepage.
  • Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map into separate pages. I’m conservative; I don’t like more than 50 links on a page.
  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images.
  • If you are using images, name them with your keyword phrases.
  • Avoid frames.
  • Avoid an all Flash site. It doesn’t matter that Google can read and index Flash. You are still better off not having a site that is all Flash.
  • Optimize your site
  • if you don’t know how
  • hire someone.
  • Create a plan for content addition
  • keeping your site current with fresh content is good for the engines and your site visitors.
  • If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.
  • Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. If fancy features such as JavaScript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing your entire site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.
  • Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. These techniques are useful for tracking individual user behavior, but the access pattern of bots is entirely different. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site, as bots may not be able to eliminate URLs that look different but actually point to the same page.
  • Test your site for broken links and errors
  • nothing scares site visitors off like a site that isn’t well maintained.
  • Test your shopping cart often to make sure there are no errors that are causing you to lose sales.
  • Don’t waste your thank you page
  • make an up-sell offer on your thank you page. People have already bought from you and should be open to other offers.
  • Test, test, test. You should be split testing or multivariate testing your pages to improve results.
  • Make your opt-in box prominent and compelling. Building a list is vitally important to your business.
  • Never make major website changes before an ad or holiday campaign unless you are sure you have time to complete the changes and test the pages.
  • Don’t wait too long to start holiday marketing. Some campaigns (like SEO) take time to build momentum. End of summer (at the latest) is when you should start.
  • Avoid Site Builders unless you absolutely must use one
  • and then before you do, make sure they allow you to do everything necessary to get your site optimized. (I’ve written articles on this, it’s really important!!)
  • Don’t use too much jargon or confusing language. Talk to your site visitors in a language they will understand and relate to.
  • If at all possible, consult with a marketing expert to make sure your site is in tip top shape. Remember many designers know design but not marketing – and your site may be missing some of the core marketing principals and techniques.

It’s a lot, I know, but it’s all really important to the success of your site. Print this article and keep it handy as a reference sheet. Stay tuned for future tips and advice – there is still so much more!

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for Since 1998 Jennifer’s expertise in marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients increase revenue. Jennifer has written a downloadable book on SEO and has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Jennifer is the editor of the popular Spotlight on Success: SEO and Marketing newsletter. Follow Jennifer and stay current on SEO, marketing, social media and more.