Your website is the hub of your online business; it is the virtual representation of your company whether your company exists physically or not. When you are doing business online, people cannot see you physically like how they could if they were dealing with an offline company. Hence, people do judge you by your covers. This is where a good design comes in.
Imagine if you are running an offline company. Would you allow your salespersons to be dressed in shabby or casual clothes when they are dealing with your customers? By making your staff wear professionally, you are telling your customers that you do care about quality. This works simply because first impressions matter.
Similarly, the same case is with your website. If your website is put together shabbily and looks like a 5 minute “quick fix”, you are literally shouting to your visitors that you are not professional and you do not care for quality.
On the opposite, if you have a totally professional looking website layout, you are giving your visitors the perception that you have given meticulous attention to every detail and you care about professionalism. You are organized, focused and you really mean business.
On the other hand, you should also have anything related to your company well designed. From business cards to letterheads to promotional brochures, every little bit matters. This is because as you grow your business, these items become the face of your business. Once again, think of the “salesperson dressed shabbily” analogy, and you will get my point.
A sitemap is often considered redundant in the process of building a website, and that is indeed the fact if you made a sitemap for the sake of having one. By highlighting the importance of having a well constructed sitemap, you will be able to tailor your own sitemap to suit your own needs.
1) Navigation purposes
A sitemap literally acts as a map of your site. If your visitors browses your site and gets lost between the thousands of pages on your site, they can always refer to your sitemap to see where they are, and navigate through your pages with the utmost ease.
2) Conveying your site’s theme
When your visitors load up your sitemap, they will get the gist of your site within a very short amount of time. There is no need to get the “big picture” of your site by reading through each page, and by doing that you will be saving your visitors’ time.
3) Site optimization purposes
When you create a sitemap, you are actually creating a single page which contains links to every single page on your site. Imagine what happens when search engine robots hit this page — they will follow the links on the sitemap and naturally every single page of your site gets indexed by search engines! It is also for this purpose that a link to the sitemap has to be placed prominently on the front page of your website.
4) Organization and relevance
A sitemap enables you to have a complete bird’s eye view of your site structure, and whenever you need to add new content or new sections, you will be able to take the existing hierarchy into consideration just by glancing at the sitemap. As a result, you will have a perfectly organized site with everything sorted according to their relevance.
From the above reasons, it is most important to implement a sitemap for website projects with a considerable size. Through this way, you will be able to keep your website easily accessible and neatly organized for everyone.
5) Regardless of whether you have a Website or a Blog, The importance of having a sitemap and submitting it to Google and the other Search Engines cannot be overstated. You Must Must do this..
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There is no point in building a website unless there are visitors coming in. A major source of traffic for most sites on the Internet is search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Altavista and so on. Hence, by designing a search engine friendly site, you will be able to rank easily in search engines and obtain more visitors.
Major search engines use programs called crawlers or robots to index websites to list on their search result pages. They follow links to a page, reads the content of the page and record it in their own database, pulling up the listing as people search for it.
If you want to make your site indexed easily, you should avoid using frames on your website. Frames will only confuse search engine robots and they might even abandon your site because of that. Moreover, frames make it difficult for users to bookmark a specific page on your site without using long, complicated scripts.
Do not present important information in Flash movies or in images. Search engine robots can only read text on your source code so if you present important words in Flash movies and images rather than textual form, your search engine ranking will be affected dramatically.
Use meta tags accordingly on each and every page of your site so that search engine robots know at first glance what that particular page is about and whether or not to index it. By using meta tags, you are making the search engine robot’s job easier so they will crawl and index your site more frequently.
Stop using wrong HTML tags like to style your page. Use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) instead because they are more effective and efficient. By using CSS, you can eliminate redundant HTML tags and make your pages much lighter and faster to load.
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Website templates are very affordable and they save you a lot of effort and time when you want to create a new layout for your website. However, a lot of people make mistakes in the process of choosing and using a web template and end up with something that was unlike the image they had in mind. Here are some guidelines to help you avoid those mistakes.
The first obvious mistake you should be aware of is using a template that is very popular. If many people use the same template, your website will not appear unique at all and your credibility as a solid, different website will be tarnished. In other words, you will appear generic just like your next-door neighbors.
To whole point of using a web template is to save time and effort. You just change the title and appropriate details and you’re done. The biggest mistake one makes is to customize the template beyond recognition. While that may be good in the sense that you’re creating a unique graphic, you’re defying the very purpose of using a web template — saving time and effort.
However, on the opposite side, if a template you purchase is suitable but some changes must be made to suit your site’s theme, then you will have to take some time to make the changes. For example, you can find a very nice template that suits your hobby site except the original designer has put an image of stamps in the header. You can find images of garden plants and spades to replace the stamps for your gardening hobby site. However, do only make the necessary changes and don’t redesign the whole template.
In some circumstances, some people simply make the wrong choice of templates. This is a very subjective issue but you have to be careful in selecting templates to suit your audience. Do not choose templates just because they are pretty, choose them because they serve your purpose. Remember when you choose a design for your website find something that not just you but your neighbor, mom, dad, and so on will like. Your not making your homepage just for yourself!
Your website is where your business resides — it’s like the headquarter of an offline company. Hence, it is important to practice good design principles to make sure your site reaches out to the maximum number of visitors and sells to as many people as possible.
Make sure you have clear directions on the navigation of your website. The navigation menu should be uncluttered and concise so that visitors know how to navigate around your website without confusion.
Never ever use pop-ups, pop-under or any such thing. It may seem like a good idea at the time but think of things from your own perspective. Do you like them? If you do then your probably the only one I know. Rule of thumb is design your website for your visitors, not yourself.
Reduce the number of images on your website. They make your site load very slowly and more often than not they are very unnecessary. If you think any image is essential on your site, make sure you optimize them using image editing programs so that they have a minimum file size.
Keep your text paragraphs at a reasonable length. If a paragraph is too long, you should split it into separate paragraphs so that the text blocks will not be too big. This is important because a block of text that is too large will deter visitors from reading your content.
Make sure your website complies to web standards at www.w3.org and make sure they are cross-browser compatible. If your website looks great in Internet Explorer but breaks horribly in Firefox and Opera, you will lose out on a lot of prospective visitors.
Avoid using scripting languages on your site unless it is absolutely necessary. Use scripting languages to handle or manipulate data, not to create visual effects on your website. Heavy scripts will slow down the loading time of your site and even crash some browsers. Also, scripts are not supported across all browsers, so some visitors might miss important information because of that.
Use CSS to style your page content because they save allot of work by styling all elements on your website in one go.
A mailing list is the lifeblood of your online business. The old adage “the money is in the list” cannot be true enough — if you had a targeted list of prospects to contact each time you have a new product, you will be able to save a lot of effort by marketing it to your existing list of targeted prospects.
You can actually build up a targeted list of prospects that are interested in your products by offering a relevant download on your website. For example, let’s take a look at a very good example — apple.com. When you download the free iTunes and Quicktime software from their site, they will ask you to fill in an optional name and email form so that they can send you offers on songs that you can purchase via — guess where — iTunes!
In reality, you do not need to offer such a “heavyweight” download such as a full-feature software like iTunes. You can attract prospects equally well with some quality freebies such as a simple report, a free wallpaper, and so on. The important thing is that your download offers enough value for the prospect to be willing to give away his/her own email address to get it.
However, slapping together a simple download and putting a link on your website won’t be enough to attract qualified prospects. You will have to do some homework in order for your lead-generating mechanism to work well for you.
First of all, you must place your download form prominently on your website. Preferably, dedicate a page to it and link to that page from every other page of your website. That way, there is no way your visitors cannot find the download page, and when they do, you’ll get some of them converted into your prospects!
Also, you have to put a little effort into promoting your download. Explain and elaborate on the values of the download, and why your visitors should download it. You might think why would anyone want to pass on a freebie, but most of your visitors would be too lazy to take the effort to download it because most of their downloads just sit on the hard-disk collecting virtual dust. It is hence important to show your visitors why they should download your freebie.
Remember a simple rule, Everyone loves something for nothing. So user rewards are a wonderful incentive tool!
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A lot of successful websites depend on returning visitors to account for a major part of their traffic. Returning visitors are easier to convert into paying customers because the more often they return to a site, the more trust they have in that site. The credibility issue just melts away. Hence, keep your visitors coming back to your site with the following methods:
1) Start a forum, chatroom or shoutbox
When you start a forum, chatroom or shoutbox, you are providing your visitors a place to voice their opinions and interact with their peers — all of them are visitors of your site. As conversations build up, a sense of community will also follow and your visitors will come back to your site almost religiously every day.
2) Start a web log (blog)
Keep an online journal, or more commonly known as a blog, on your site and keep it updated with latest news about yourself. Human beings are curious creatures and they will keep their eyes glued to the monitor if you post fresh news frequently. You will also build up your credibility as you are proving to them that there is also a real life person behind the website.
3) Carry out polls or surveys
Polls and surveys are other forms of interaction that you should definitely consider adding to your site. They provide a quick way for visitors to voice their opinions and to get involved in your website. Be sure to publish polls or surveys that are strongly relevant to the target market of your website to keep them interested to find out about the results.
4) Hold puzzles, quizzes and games
Just imagine how many office workers procrastinate at work every day, and you will be able to gauge how many people will keep visiting your site if you provide a very interesting or addicting way of entertainment. You can also hold competitions to award the high score winner to keep people trying continuously to earn the prize.
5) Update frequently with fresh content
Update your site frequently with fresh content so that every time your visitors come back, they will have something to read on your site. This is the most widely known and most effective method of attracting returning visitors, but this is also the least carried out one because of the laziness of webmasters. No one will want to browse a site that looks the same over ten years, so keep your site updated with fresh bites!
When it comes to your website, extra attention should be paid to every minute detail to make sure it performs optimally to serve its purpose. Here are seven important rules of thumb to observe to make sure your website performs well.
1) Do not use splash pages
Splash pages are the first pages you see when you arrive at a website. They normally have a very beautiful image with words like “welcome” or “click here to enter”. In fact, they are just that — pretty vases with no real purpose. Do not let your visitors have a reason to click on the “back” button! Give them the value of your site up front without the splash page.
2) Do not use excessive banner advertisements
Even the least net savvy people have trained themselves to ignore banner advertisements so you will be wasting valuable website real estate. Instead, provide more valuable content and weave relevant affiliate links into your content, and let your visitors feel that they want to buy instead of being pushed to buy.
3) Have a simple and clear navigation
You have to provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors don’t know how to navigate, they will leave your site.
4) Have a clear indication of where the user is
When visitors are deeply engrossed in browsing your site, you will want to make sure they know which part of the site they are in at that moment. That way, they will be able to browse relevant information or navigate to any section of the site easily. Don’t confuse your visitors because confusion means “abandon ship”!
5) Avoid using audio on your site
If your visitor is going to stay a long time at your site, reading your content, you will want to make sure they’re not annoyed by some audio looping on and on on your website. If you insist on adding audio, make sure they have some control over it — volume or muting controls would work fine.
Every individual when he or she starts surfing the net for choosing its hosting partner may get confused by the variety of offers. Most of the beginners usually fall into trap of free hosting, cheaper hosting and other stuff that lead them to land in no man’s land later on. All there efforts and time goes in vein and he has a nightmare to restart working on things again. There is no doubt that every one out there on internet look for cheap or free hosting, it is very much important to make decisions thinking of long term prospects. Here are some reasons why:
1. Free sites or free hosting do not have any guarantee; there is a chance to be removed tomorrow. The most important reason I like to highlight that, it leads your site permanently removed from search engines too. There are billions of sites are coming up day by day. The popularity of site is much depend up the maturity of it and it place in search engines natural ways, once you get your site deleted from there it is very hard to bring back the new things again as the vacuum was immediately filled by others.
2. Free hosting or free sites are usually supported by advertisements and other stuffs. You have created a free site in sub domain and also find good free hosting. You have done offline and online promotions to your customer’s friends and other people who are known to you. Here you are falling in a trap, by promoting the ads and other stuffs of free hosting provider. Also the persons who have book marked your site will not find it again once it is removed by the host.
3. There are hell and heaven difference between a top level domain and a free sub domain. Domains are unique and represent the status of you. No other competitor of yours can steal your name and in matter of time your clients will memories the name. Where as any one can have any amount of free sub-domains, imagine your fate when your competitor starts doing that.
4. Imagine a good client found you on web and become interested it your product and services. Before hiring your services he definitely like know more about you or he will do a research first whether he should consider to contact you. If you hold a free hosting site the first impact of your will go in his mind that you are not a serious seller. To prevent this you should consider a personalized top level domain and consistent hosting services.
5. When you find a hosting company offers services extremely low price, consider twice before choosing. Do a small research to find out why it is so cheap, even below the industry standards. I always follow the principle that “Quality Never Comes Low.” When it comes to provide support or services it involve some cost in manpower and other stuffs which a company need to meet day today. Don’t fall in trap of fly by night operators, always begin with established and trusted providers in industry.
6. Other mistake usually most of the beginners do is, not keeping there backups at there own, but rely on hosting service providers. Imagine the host’s server went down or free host removed the site, you are all stuck and have no option to start again from scratch, which is extremely painful.
7. The most common mistake comes to my knowledge is, beginners are not clear about there requirements. It is obvious that no one knows what is required in future, but if your requirements are clearly documented it will be easier to analyze choosing the hosting services that suites your needs. Always consider that there may be a possibility of shifting from static site to a dynamic one or you may require using certain scripts. It is an ongoing process and if documented properly can help you a lot in near future.
Oops! Seems enough negative thoughts? Don’t get the wrong idea – consider following points also before taking the decisions:
1. Not all free hosts are bad or decisive, there may be an excellent host which is up-coming and can provide wonderful services. They may offer free hosting to promote there services so that they can have customers in there portfolio. But remember those are limited time offers and will be closed soon when they get there desired portfolio filled.
2. Cheap and affordable web hosting may turn to be a great deal, if you carefully compare some of the affordable type plans with some of the more expensive ones, you may discover that there are lots in common between them in reality. Here you always try select which host can have better server; updated software’s and provide you quality support in practical terms.
3. Not all the free websites are going to be removed without notice or provide a bad reputation for your company. There are services from giants like Google’s Blogger or Yahoo’s Geocities will help you to increase your link popularity if used effectively.
Finally, when you choose a host – always think that it is the best friend of your site. When you make a friend in real life you always consider lot of things before choosing and also overlook minor mistakes to keep a long term relation. A web host is a real friend for you as it provides your business keep running online 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.