Recommended for Design

Design is a key element. We will be posting our design recommendations shortly. In the meantime, for design products, see:

StudioPress themes are said to be structurally sound, secure, and good for SEO. The designs are clean. There also seems to be a relatively large community that you can become a part of when you get a Genesis framework from StudioPress. There are community-built plugins and child themes built especially to run on the framework.

Dynamik Website Builder is a tool that has been built for users of the Genesis Framework. The product is described by the developers as a do-it-yourself Genesis child theme which gives you the ability to customise your website without directly editing any code.

Web Savvy Marketing is a creative agency based in Southeastern Michigan. Web Savvy Marketing helps organizations achieve their digital potential through custom website design and development.

The ABCs to Building a Site

Updated August 22, 2007

Building a site that is both friendly to visitors and the search engines is not overly complex. However, it does take understanding the correct "blue print" for the system and you need time. How much time? At least one year.

Just remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your Internet Empire. Anyone who tells you that a successful Internet business can be built in a shorter amount of time is attempting to sell you a solution to their business needs, not yours.


A): Preparation work, and lots of it. How much? I recommend a site with at least 100 pages of content - real content, not "fluff" pages that include Contact Us, About Us, or your Privacy Statement page. The real meat of your site, including "how to" pages, FAQs, reviews, documentation, articles, etc.

Timely and topical articles are always the best. Blogs are a good addition, but they should not take the place of regular articles on your site. Don't get lazy. Blogging is the easy way out.

Use short paragraphs and short sentences. Use easy to read fonts like Arial or Verdana (what you are reading now). Make it easy for the visitor to read and they will stay.

Fact: While Times New Roman has been proven to be a font that causes less stress and fatigue on the eyes on the printed page, it causes high levels of eye fatigue online. Stick with Arial or Verdana.

Use headers, quote blocks, etc. Since people don't read on the web, they scan, you want to do something to get their attention.


B): Your domain name should be one that is both easily brandable and easy to remember. Forget about having your keywords in your domain name, or having dashes between words. They have never been less important to search engines. If you want to use keywords in your domain name, you can use a sub domain instead.


C): Site design/speed. The simplier the better. While search engines can crawl things they couldn't just a few years ago, I advise you to keep things simply by avoiding Flash, Java, and complex JavaScript. This will allow the search engines to crawl your website without the possibility of getting "hung" and resulting in the crawler terminating. This is also known as avoiding the "Spider Trap"

A great example of a simple and effective design is Google. Simple. Clean. Effective.

If you have a lot of font code changes you can instead summarize them in a CSS file (Cascading Style Sheet). It will greatly reduce the file size of your pages. You can also use CSS to make the heading codes more attractive.

Site speed is the catalyst to a successful site. Even if you have the best sales letter, the best graphics, and the best marketing plan, it can all fail if your site does not respond instantly to a request. Even if that delay is a mere 3-4 seconds. That "New York Minute" could mean a lost visitor and lost revenue. It is estimated that for every second of wait time you can lose 10% of your visitors.


D): The larger the file size the longer the page will take to load and the longer a search engine spider takes to crawl.


E): Add at least one page per day to your site. This page should be between 200 - 500 words in length. If you are unsure of what subjects to write about, use your WordTracker account and find the core set of keywords for your topic area. These keywords can be the basis of your content pages.


F): Verify your Keyword Density is used properly. This is the backbone of search engine optimization. Take the keyword phrase you are using as the basis of writing the content and do the following: Use the keyword once in the Title tag, once in the Description Meta Tag, Once in a heading (preferably a H1), once in the URL (i.e., at least once in bold text, at least once in italic text, at least once high on the page (as high as you can). Your Keyword Density should be in the 3-5% range.

Also, make sure that the keyword phrases you are using are correctly spelled. In the past, a popular trick with SEOs would be to use commonly misspelled words as keyword phrases. However, search engines are getting smarter by the minute and have been offering "auto correction". There is no longer a reason to target misspelled words.


G): Outbound Links. If appropriate, link to "authoritative pages" on the subject.


H): Local Links. By using a solid linking strategy that internally links "on topic" subjects together, you raise the level of your site by sharing PageRank and giving the visitor more resources on your site to see.


I): Get a quality web host that is reliable. The worst thing you can do is go with a cheap host that offers very little support and is down often. If you can afford it, get your own dedicated server.


J): Google Site Maps. Get an account with Google Webmaster Central to get your site completely indexed. You also want to get listed in the top directories.


K): Web Logs - Tracking Your Visitors. Get a quality web log/ tracking system that goes beyond the basics. You want full details of your visitors, not just where they came from and how long they stayed, but what path did they take through your site, what sites are your biggest referrals?


L:) Spider Tracking. Keep careful track of the search engine spiders and how far they can crawl on your site. If they cannot crawl your entire site, there is a problem that you need to fix. Use standard hrefs for your linking, not dyamic linking or JavaScript. Often it takes Google two visits to crawl your entire site.


M): Topic Directories. Find the top directories that specialize in your keyword phrases. If your site qualifies for a submission perform the submission. If there is a fee involved, look at the Alexa Ranking to see if it justifies paying for inclusion. Don't base your decision on PageRank alone.


N): Links. Employ a link exchange strategy to increase your overall Link Popularity. Send at least one request per day to exchange links. Don't worry about sites not exchanging links with your site. As your site becomes more authoritative, links will come on their own.


O): Graphics. Make sure you optimize your images so all the unused colors are stripped out. This will allow the same quality but at a much lower file size. This means faster download time and happier visitors. Also, don't forget the ALT text. It is beneficial to the visitor.


P): Gimmicks. Do not place anything on your site that could be mistaken for a gimmick. If you run a bed and breakfast and want to offer a special, do not use the tag line "Free Vacation". For the general public understands that it doesn't really exist - but the time share seminar does. They will go elsewhere. Be ethical and take the high road. You will be glad you did.


Q: Link Backs. If you receive a request to link to another site, do not just automatically link to them, check them out. Look at their site design, navigation, content, Alexa Ranking, and PageRank rating. Look to which directories they are listed in (Backward Links Check in Google). The site does not necessarily have to be the same topic that your site is, just make sure they have a quality site and you would not offend your typical visitor if they clicked on that link.


R): Rounding out the offerings: Use options such as Email-a-friend, forums, and mailing lists to round out your sites offerings. Hit the top forums in your market and read.


S): Authoritative Site: If you want to be the top site in your industry, you must create an authoritative site.


T): Breadcrumbs: Sometimes visitors need to know where they are in your site and how to get back - not to the home page - but to another level. Using a structure such as: Home > Remodeling > Kitchen > Cabinets would be very helpful.


U): Study those logs. After 30-60 days you will start to see a few referrals from places you've gotten listed. Look for the keywords people are using. See any bizarre combinations? Why are people using those to find your site? If there is something you have over looked, then build a page around that topic. Retro engineer your site to feed the search engine what it wants.

If your site is about "oranges", but your referrals are all about "orange citrus fruit", then you can get busy building articles around "citrus" and "fruit" instead of the generic "oranges".

The search engines will tell you exactly what they want to be fed so listen closely. There is gold in referral logs, it's just a matter of panning for it.


V): Timely Topics: Nothing breeds success like success. Stay on top of developments in your keyword sector. If big site "Z" is coming out with product "A" at the end of the year, then build a page and have it ready in October so that search engines get it by December.


W): Friends and Family Networking is critical to the success of a site. This is where all that time you spend in forums will pay off. pssst: Here's the catch-22 about forums: lurking is almost useless. The value of a forum is in the interaction with your fellow colleagues and cohorts. You learn long term by the interaction - not by just reading.
Networking will pay off in link backs, tips, email exchanges, and it will put you "in the loop" of your keyword sector.


X): Notes, Notes, Notes: If you build one page per day, you will find that brain storm like inspiration will hit you in the head at some magic point. Whether it is in the shower (dry off first), driving down the road (please pull over), or just parked at your desk, write it down! 10 minutes of work later, you will have forgotten all about that great idea you just had. Write it down, and get detailed about what you are thinking. When the inspirational juices are no longer flowing, come back to those content ideas. It sounds simple, but it's a life saver when the ideas stop coming.


Y): Submission check at six months. Walk back through your submissions and see if you got listed in all the search engines you submitted to after six months. If not, then resubmit and forget again. Try those freebie directories again too.


Z): Build one page of quality content per day.
Starting to see a theme here? Google loves content, lots of quality content. Broad based over a wide range of keywords. At the end of a years time, you should have around 400 pages of content. That will get you good placement under a wide range of keywords, generate recip links, and overall position your site to stand on it's own two feet.

The "meat" of this article was supplied by Brett Tabke of the Webmaster World Forums.