I hope when you’re ready for a professional web site, you call someone like me (Susan, Basecamp Productions, 410.404.5559), who can put the right things in place to:
- make your web site attractive
- bring customers to your front door
- help customers easily find what they came to find
- MAKE YOU MONEY
In the meantime, a few suggestions — I call them the 12 commandments of building your own web site.
- Use copy sparingly. You’re not writing the bible of your business — you’re writing just enough to make your phone or your cash register ring.
- Use photographs and other images at the proper size. A picture tells a thousand stories, right? So don’t use too many — take advantage of large-format slide shows. And please use photos that people can see. If you must use small photos, make sure there’s a way that your customers can enlarge them.
- Put your address and telephone number on every page. Not only will this help your search engine optimization, it will make it easy for your customers to get in touch.
- Include a sign-up form. Whether you want your customers to ask questions or subscribe to your newsletter, sign-up forms are the best way to increase your email list. You are using database management, right?
- Do NOT include a link to an actual email address, such as “email@example.com”. I’m always surprised at how even professionals do this. There was a time when we expected all of our customers to have email clients (software, for the uninitiated) on their computers. These days, many people I know, of all ages, don’t have an email client (such as Apple Mail, Entourage, or, God forbid, Internet Explorer). To receive their mail, many people go directly to gmail, verizon.net, cox.net, and other service providers. If you use an email link as opposed to a form, your guests may click and then receive a message box that tells them to configure their email client (which they won’t understand) or they won’t get any message at all. They’ll think something is broken, and they’ll go elsewhere.
- Enter different meta information for each page and post on your web site. If you’re using WordPress (and possibly other content management systems), you’ll need to download a plug-in to help you do this. Do NOT enter the same information for each page. If every page of your web site is telling search engines the same exact thing, you’re missing an opportunity to bring your guests to the right page. Plus, search engines such as Google don’t like it A LOT. You might even be penalized by Google et al., meaning that they’ll take you down a few notches for duplicating your meta information.
- Do not create duplicate web sites with the same (exact) information. I have a client who has a business web site, yet she also consults with a variety of other businesses offering some of the same services. She did not want to compete with the other businesses in certain areas. So she asked whether she might duplicate her web site under another URL to further her consulting business and remove any pages that competed with those of her clients. ABSOLUTELY NOT. When Google (and possibly other search engines) discover duplicative content, they can penalize one or both of the offending web sites. The idea behind this is a noble one … Google et al. don’t want to let web pirates (folks who make money stealing your content) gain the upper hand. But … how does Google know which site to penalize? They don’t, always. If you offer duplicative content on two sites, you could show up at the bottom of the search heap OR be banned from search engine results pages (SERPS) (in other words, your content won’t show up at all when users enter your key words).
- When creating a link, don’t use the words “click here.” Since when have you ever searched on the words “click here”? Google places a high value on the words used in a link (both internal and external to your web site). You’ll do better if you enter key words, such as “download free report about teen bullies.”
- Use key words in titles. For instance, instead of writing “Welcome,” write something like “How can I live without back pain?” By doing so, you’re attempting to gain hits from people searching for some or all of these key words.
- Write sexy titles (especially if you’ve set up your web site to republish to Facebook and Twitter). Instead of sending a post named “Our newest product,” try something like “How can you learn Portuguese in 10 days?” or “Do you know how to fix a bike tire the right way?” or “What are the 12 commandments of skin care?” Even the most experienced of skin care aficionados will wonder whether they know every single step of the twelve. The question format is a plus. People love to check their knowledge, and that’s an opportunity for you to teach them something new.
- Use a copy protector. I call these copy condoms. For many content management systems, you can find an app or a plug-in to help you protect your content. Once in place, these protectors are a deterrent to copy theft. In short, they will not let anyone copy your content to paste elsewhere. I say “deterrent” because, well, there are pirates out there who will “scrape” anything from a web site and you can’t do anything about it. By using a copy condom, you’re making theft more difficult. 97% effective, as always.
- Keep your menu items to a minimum. I don’t mean your number of pages. Organize your content! Don’t let your menu items bleed onto two lines. Make sure you think of what your guests (potential customers) need and not your need to tell your potential customers what you want them to know. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes … if you were visiting a dentist’s web site, wouldn’t you want that site to be calming as well as informative? Don’t you want potential customers to call you? What does that take?
Please tell me YOUR thoughts about what you want an ideal web site to contain or not contain. I’d really like to know what you think.