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Successful Business Websites
Tips for a successful business website
Choosing a domain name
The domain name (e.g. mynewbusiness.co.uk) will be your first consideration. Choose it carefully. Bear in mind that to be more successful with Google and the other search engines it helps (but it is not absolutely necessary) to have your key words in your domain name. (Key words, by the way, are the words people will use to search for your products/services in search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc.) So if you have a cottage called Salmon Leap, it would be better to choose a domain name like salmon-leap-cottage.co.uk instead of just salmon-leap.co.uk.
You can purchase domain names from registrars separately from hosting accounts or any other web service. Shop around for the best deal, but bear in mind that you might need/want to transfer the domain name later on and some registrars will charge for this or otherwise be unhelpful. One registrar that comes recommended is Krystal.co.uk Another is Heartinternet.co.uk
Web Design Tips
Be optimised from the start: One of the first questions you need to ask of any business website design service is: Will my pages be search engine optimised? To be optimised involves being constructed so that the pages stand the best possible chance of getting a high ranking with search engines. Some designers concentrate on the aesthetics of web design and ignore the more important issue of optimisation.
At the design stage, optimisation is all about highlighting your key words. Web pages have two sections: a visible body that you see in the browser, and an invisible head section that carries information about the page. In the head section there is a title and a description of the page. Both of these need to highlight your most important key words. The body of the page needs a visible title that does the same. It is also a good idea to have a fair amount of text which repeats the key words a sufficient number of times (achieving what is called the right key word density). This is contrary to the common assumption that less text on a web page is better.
Divide up the pages sensibly: The designers will want to know which pages you require on your website. Focus most of your attention on one particular page - this is the page you will later promote most aggressively. So if you have a holiday cottage, for instance, make sure you have one page with the words "holiday cottage" in the title and a lot of optimised text describing the cottage. The other pages will have supporting information (e.g. contact details, location details with a Google map, perhaps, prices and availability calendar, etc).
Include interesting material: Give people a reason to use your site more extensively. If you have a holiday cottage, don't just describe the cottage, have a page or two about the area with the most interesting and well-researched material you can find. Ideally your site will become not just a shop window but a point of reference.
Keep it simple: There is a tendency for people to want the most flashy features for their site. However, it is better to concentrate on attractively presenting your photos and text, instead of trying to turn it into something from Spielberg's Dream Factory. Bear in mind that people welcome pages that open fast and that don't create problems because the user doesn't happen to have the latest software from Adobe installed on their PC. This will also save you money.
Take care with the photographs: Images are a crucial component of web pages. Get hold of a good digital camera and take your time getting the photos that will look good on the screen. One tip is to avoid the use of flash. When shooting indoors look for a pleasing combination of sunlight and artificial light, choose the best angle, keep the camera very steady (use a tripod preferably) and make sure you have the right setting for the light (or experiment with a range of settings).
Protect your email address: Dont' let you personal or business email address be included in the text on the web page. This is an open invitation to spammers. Instead insist that your designers find a way to present the address safely.
Success with Google, Yahoo, etc
Once you have your website you will need to begin promoting it to move it up the search engine listings. Here are some ways to do this:
Social bookmarking: Sites like Digg.com, Delicious.com, Folkd.com, Stumbleupon.com, buzz.com etc offer bookmarking systems. These are useful because every bookmark with them is an incoming link for your website. Find as many as you can, register with them and bookmark your site. When you do, take care to write a title for your site and a tag that includes your key words.
Directories: Get your website listed with directories. Two very important ones are DMOZ.org (which Google refers to) and dir.yahoo.com. Submit your site to these. Then there are the business directories such as freeindex.co.uk and hotfrog.co.uk in the UK. Look for these in your favourite search engine and get listed with them.
Get reviewed: There are sites for people to post reviews of products and services, and these can include links. Make sure some well-disposed people are posting flattering reviews that include links to your site.
Blogs: Start a blog or two. To blog you will need to write newsy pieces from time to time about developments in your business and related areas, perhaps with a few personal touches to lighten things a little. The blog will give you the opportunity to link back to your site. Create a blog for free at wordpress.com or blogger.com.
Press releases: If you are launching a new product or service, that is something you could write a press release about. Use your search engine to find sites allowing you to publish press releases for free (and look for ones that let you link back to your site).
Learn from the competition: Look in Google for your competitors and choose one or two that you think you ought to be able to beat. Then put their domain name in Google and look at all the incoming links they have. Go through them one by one. It they are on free sites, try to get your own link there. If they are paid for, try to weigh up whether or not that was money well spent. (Generally, it is better to exhaust all the free channels first before raising the marketing budget.)
Measure your success: As well as seeing your progress up the listings in Google and Yahoo you will probably want to see detailed statistics about visitor numbers and details about how people found you and how many incoming links you now have. One very good way of doing this is to create an account with Google Analytics (a free service). To complete the process you will have to get your web designer to insert some code in your home page (code that Google will give you). You can then set up the account so that detailed stats are sent to you by email every month.
Avoid the sharks
Once you have your business website, it won't take long before you start getting emails from companies selling SEO services. Beware of promises to get your website to the top of the Google rankings overnight. Google has sophisticated systems to weed out sites that are using what it considers to be illegitimate techniques (known in the business as black hat techniques). If you have pages that have been designed correctly from the start, and if you are gradually building up a network of incoming links, there is nothing you need to pay for and it will be safer and better (and cheaper) to keep clear of dubious quick fixes.