Thursday, February 15, 2007

5 Tips to Create a Great Website

While the design layout and desired goals of nearly every web site are different, there are some common elements that go into creating a great web site that will appeal to your visitors and the spider-bots of search engines willing to index your pages.

1. Be descriptive with page titles and on-page section headings. Your web site's main page should never be titled "Home". Use titles that describe exactly what the page or site is about so that the search engines and humans who see your site listed in search results will know what clicking the link to your page will offer them.

2. Keep your graphics and other media to a minimum, and file sizes as small as possible. Obviously this rule doesn't apply to image galleries or other similar pages, but for the average web page nothing can turn visitors away faster than large media files that take too long to load. With images that you do use, be sure to include a descriptive "alt" tag. This has two purposes, for visitors who are viewing (or listening to) your web page in text-only mode, it lets them know what your media file represents, and for search engines it gives their spider-bots more information to rate your pages on.

3. Use valid XHTML coding. There are an increasing number of people browsing the web on mobile devices and you'll make more friends (and repeat visitors) with them if your pages load properly and fast for them. Unless you have the knowledge or money to provide a special mirror of your web site that is designed specifically for mobile devices--which is the best option--by using valid XHTML you will at least insure that your pages are optimized as much as possible for the widest range of mobile device users.

In addition, most search engines seem to favor web sites that are using valid XHTML more and more, so it is to your benefit all the way around to use it.

4. Don't stuff your text with keywords just because you've heard that can raise your search engine rankings. First, the search engines are getting better and better at recognizing this tactic and penalizing sites that use it. And second, all of your SEO work should be done with the goal of increasing your site traffic, but what good is getting lots of traffic if the stuffed content on your pages only turns your visitors right away? Create your content for human visitors, then develop your SEO strategies around it. Not the other way around.

5. Avoid trend-scripting. By this I mean that utilizing the latest web technologies and scripting techniques is fine when it improves your user's experience on your web site, but don't add fancy do-hickies just for the sake of having them.

If you run a web site about Goldfish, visitors will be coming to find information on Goldfish there, not to be impressed by your fondness for AJAX and Web 2.0 functionality.

Give your visitors exactly (and only) what they expect and want from your page, and they will say you've created a great web site.

Thanks to Scott Bannon, earned his first online revenue in 1995 and has made a full time living online since 2000. Get valuable advice and tips from Scott's free blog for webmasters, O'Bannon's Leap, where he chronicles the ongoing leap of becoming a webpreneur.

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