These pages are somewhat like fine wine…aged, but the info within has not lost it’s value. All of the links provided in the articles may not be current, they can be bypassed.

I hope this gives you a little more insight into the online world and maybe some focus on what you want for your online property…

How Web Hosting Works

The Web isn’t stored on any single computer, and no company owns the Web. Instead, the individual pieces (Web sites) are scattered across millions of computers (Web servers). Only a subtle illusion makes all these Web sites seem to be part of a single environment. In reality, the Internet is just a set of standards that let independent computers talk to each other.

So how does your favorite browser navigate this tangled network of computers to find the Web page you want? It’s all in the URLthe Web site address you type into your browser.

Understanding the URL

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) consists of several pieces. Some of these pieces are optional, because they can be filled in by the browser or Web server automatically. Others are always required.

The protocol is the way you communicate over the Web. Technically, it’s the way that request and response messages are transmitted across your Internet connection. Web pages always use HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol), which means the protocol is always http:// or https://. (The latter establishes a super-secure connection over HTTP that encrypts sensitive information you type in, like credit card numbers or passwords.) In most browsers, you can get away without typing this part of the URL. For example, when you type www.google.com, your browser will automatically convert it to the full URL http://www.google.com.

Tip: Although http:// is the way to go when surfing the Web, depending on your browser you may also use other protocols for other tasks. Common examples include ftp:// (File Transfer Protocol) for uploading and downloading files and file:/// for retrieving a file directly from your own computer’s hard drive.

The domain identifies the Web serverthe computer that hosts the Web site you want to see. As a convention, these computers usually have names that start with www to identify them as Web servers, although this isn’t always the case. As you’ll discover in this chapter, the friendly seeming domain name is really just a façade hiding a numeric address.

The path identifies the location on the Web server where the Web page is stored. This part of the URL can have as many levels as is needed. For example, the path /MyFiles/Sales/2005/ refers to a MyFiles folder that contains a Sales folder that, in turn, contains a folder named 2005. Windows fans, take note the slashes in the path portion of the URL are ordinary forward slashes, not the backward slashes used in Windows file paths (like c:\MyFiles\Current). This convention is designed to match the file paths used by Unix-based computers, which were the first machines to host Web sites. It’s also the convention used in modern Macintosh operating systems (OS X and later). Tip: Some browsers are smart enough to correct the common mistake of typing the wrong type of slash. However, you shouldn’t rely on this happening, because similar laziness can break the Web pages you create.

The file name is the last part of the path. Often, you can recognize it by the file extension .htm or .html, both of which stand for HTML. Tip: Web pages often end with .htm or .html, but they don’t need to. Even if you look in the URL and see the extension .blackpudding, odds are you’re still looking at an HTML document. In most cases, the browser ignores the extension as long as the file contains information that the browser can interpret. However, just to keep yourself sane, this is one convention that you shouldn’t break.

The bookmark is an optional part of a URL that identifies a specific position in a page. You can recognize a bookmark because it always starts with the hash character (#), and is placed after the file name. For example, the URL http://www.LousyDeals.com/index.html#New includes the bookmark #New. When clicked, it takes the visitor to the section of the index.html page where the New bookmark is placed.

The query string is an optional part of the URL that some Web sites use to send extra instructions from one Web page to another. You can identify the query string because it starts with a question mark (?) character, and is placed after the file name. To see a query string in action, surf to www.google.com and perform a search for “pet platypus.” When you click the Search button, you’re directed to a URL like http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=pet+platypus&meta=. This URL is a little tricky to analyze, but if you search for the question mark in the URL you’ll discover that you’re on a page named “search.” The information to the right of the question mark indicates that you’re performing an English language search for pages that match both the “pet” and “platypus” keywords. When you request this URL, a specialized Google Web application analyzes the query string to determine what type of search it needs to perform.

Note: You won’t use the query string in your own Web pages, because it’s designed for heavy-duty Web applications like the one that powers Google. However, by understanding the query string, you get a bit of insight into how other Web sites work.

How Browsers Analyze the URL

Clearly, the URL packs a lot of useful information into one place. But how does a browser actually use the URL to request the Web page you want?

The following list of steps shows a breakdown of what the browser needs to do when you type http://www.SellMyJunkForMillions.com/Buyers/listings.htm into the address bar and hit Enter:

First, the browser needs to figure out what Web server to contact. It does this by extracting the domain from the URL.

In this example, the domain is www.SellMyJunkForMillions.com.

In order to find the Web server named www.SellMyJunkForMillions.com, the browser needs to convert the domain name into a more computer-friendly number, which is called the IP address. Every computer on the WebWeb servers and regular PCs alikehas an IP address. To find the IP address for the Web server, the browser looks up the Web server’s domain name in a giant catalog called the DNS (Domain Name Service).

An IP address looks like a set of four numbers separated by periods (or, in techy speak, dots). For example, the www.SellMyJunkForMillions.com Web site may have the IP address 17.202.99.125.

Note: The DNS catalog isn’t stored on your computer, so your browser actually needs to grab this information from the Internet. You can see the advantage that this approach provides. In ordinary circumstances, a company’s domain name will never change, because that’s what customers use and remember. But an IP address may change, because the company may need to move their Web site from one Web server to another. As long as the company remembers to update the DNS, this won’t cause any disruption. Fortunately, you won’t need to worry about managing the DNS yourself, because that process is automatically handled for you by the company that hosts your Web site.

Using the IP address, the browser sends the request to the Web server. The actual route that the message takes is difficult to predict. It may cross through a number of other Web servers on the way.

When the Web server receives the request, it looks at the path and file name in the URL.

In this case, the Web server sees that the request is for a file named listings.htm in a folder named Buyers. It looks up that file, and then sends it back to the Web browser. If the file doesn’t exist, it sends back an error message instead.

The browser gets the HTML page it’s been waiting for (the listings.htm file), and renders it for your viewing pleasure.

The URL http://www.SellMyJunkForMillions.com/Buyers/listings.htm is a typical example. However, in the wild, you’ll sometimes come across URLs that seem a lot simpler. For instance, consider http://www.amazon.com. It clearly specifies the domain name (www.amazon.com), but it doesn’t include any information about the path or file name. So what’s a Web browser to do?

When your URL doesn’t include a file name, the browser just sends the request as is, and lets the Web server decide what to do. The Web server sees that you aren’t requesting a specific file, and so it sends you the site’s default Web page, which is often named index.htm or index.html. However, the Web administrator can configure the Web server to use any Web page file name as the default.

Creating Web Sites: The Missing Manual
By Matthew MacDonald
Publisher: O’Reilly
Pub Date: October 2005
ISBN: 0-596-00842

What The Web Can Do

No doubt about it, the Web can benefit your business. But before you dive into building a Web presence, it’s a good idea to know the kinds of things you can expect the Web to do for you.

Provide Information 24/7

The Web never sleeps. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing the information you think is important to anyone interested in seeing it. This is perhaps the most important yet overlooked feature of the Web, the reason so many people turn to it to answer questions and gather information.

Look at Me

I’m a good example. I wake up very early (especially in the summer time) and am usually at my desk working by 6:00 AM. Fortunately, the Web is awake and working, too. I can access Web sites for the products I write about and get general information, technical support documents, and even software updates. I can use e-mail links on Web sites to fire off questions and feedback to product marketing people and technical support personnel. I can use forms on Web sites to report problems or request additional information. These are just some of the things I do on the Web.

Now look at the alternative. Say a company I need information about doesn’t have a Web site. (Or it has a Web site but the information just isn’t there and there’s no e-mail contact information.) I have to wait until that company opens for business to call them. (That’s if I don’t forget; my memory isn’t what it used to be.) I may have to deal with an automated phone system that has me pushing buttons for a minute or more. Then I have to hope the person I need information from is available, and, if not, leave a voicemail message and hope he calls me back when I’m available.

By providing the information that people want on a Web site that’s available all of the time, you give potential clients, customers, or reviewers a great way to learn what they need to know when they need to know it.

Reduce Marketing Costs

Once you realize how much information the Web can provide, it isn’t hard to imagine how putting marketing information on the Web can save money. What Ben Franklin said in the 1700s still applies today: a penny saved is a penny earned.

There are two ways to increase your company’s net profit or “bottom line”: increase revenues or reduce costs. Your company’s Web site may not increase revenue by much, but if it cuts costs, the net effect is the same.

Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Sales

I want to make some kind of distinction between marketing, advertising, and sales because they are related but different.

Marketing is what you do to attract potential customers and clients and tell them about your products and services. Advertising is part of marketing—getting the word out about your company and what it offers. Sales is the next step: making a deal with the customer or client.

Think of it this way:

Advertising is standing on a street corner yelling, “Hey! Here I am! Here’s what I have to offer!”

Marketing is saying, “Spend a moment with me so I can tell you how my products and services can benefit you.”

Sales is saying, “Here’s the product or service that meets your needs. Here’s how much it costs. Will you be paying with cash, check, or charge?”

Reduce Support Costs

If you sell a product or provide a service that requires support, providing that support will keep your customers and clients loyal. You can save money by using the Web to provide support, even when staff is unavailable.

The Cost of Support

To get an idea of what you can save by offering Web-based customer support, you need to know some of the costs of providing support. Here are a few of the costs you may already be incurring:

Support personnel are folks that sit around waiting for the phone to ring. When a call comes, they answer questions. The more people you have, the more your personnel costs are. But if you don’t have enough of these people, your customers will have to wait too long for answers to their questions. (And those poor support people won’t get any rest at all!) Some balance needs to be made. And what if you want to provide 24/7 support? What will those support people be doing in the middle of the night when they only get one or two calls per hour?

Telephone systems are required to connect your customers or clients to your support staff. Depending on the size of your staff, the system you need could be very costly indeed. And if your company generously offers toll-free telephone support, add in the cost of all those toll-free calls. Whew!

Fax-Back and fax-on-demand systems offer another way of getting support information to customers or clients. These systems can also be costly, especially if the system calls the customer’s fax machine to send the information.

Manuals, user guides, and technical notes are documents you pay writers like me to produce. (And some of us don’t come cheap.) Preparing these documents is only part of the cost—printing and distributing them adds to the cost. And if you decide to include only the basic manuals with your product, you might find yourself mailing or faxing more advanced documents to the people who need them. That increases costs, too.

Updates are revisions that make your product work better. They’re especially common in the computer industry, where software products are often released before they’re ready and bug-fixes are required. But other products—or product manuals—could require updates, too. In most cases, you’ll want your customers to get updates because they can solve problems customers may already have.

A Closer Look at Marketing Costs

The money your company spends on marketing can pay for a variety of things. Here are some examples:

Brochures show off your products or describe your services in the most enticing terms. You probably want them to look impressive so the people who see them think the best of your company. But impressive brochures can cost lots of money—for layout and design, writing, photography, and printing (especially if done in full color). But what do you do if you add or discontinue a product or service featured in your brochure? Time to get the brochure production team back together!

Catalogs, like brochures, enable you to show off your products. But they’re usually bigger and can be costlier to produce, primarily because they include detailed information about each item. They may also include pricing. While it’s great to have a big fat catalog filled with product information and pricing, what happens when the prices change? Throw out the old catalogs and print up some new ones!

Direct mail is possibly the most costly marketing method. It requires not only printed materials, but a mailing list, prepared labels, and postage. The more information you send out, the more it costs to send. And you’re never quite sure if the people who get those direct mail pieces will look at them.

Print ads spread the word about your products or services in a relatively cost-effective way. By placing ads in the newspapers or magazines your market is most likely to read, you can reach potential customers. But the bigger, flashier, and more colorful the ad, the more it will cost. And what if your product or service can appeal to anyone? Which publication do you advertise in? All of them?

Pens, mugs, tee shirts, and other handouts are a great way to put your organization’s name in front of potential customers or clients. They’re also a great way to reward current customers or clients. But they cost money and need to be designed so you get your money’s worth.

I’m sure you can think of other examples of marketing techniques that cost money. If you’re really smart and have a good imagination, you may even think of a few that are free (or almost free).

 

Give Your Organization a More Modern Image

If your business has been around for a long time, you may already have success with traditional methods of marketing, spreading information about your products or services, and providing customer support. Great! But you may also realize that although the old-fashioned way of doing business may work, it also may look…well, old fashioned.

A Web presence can help make your company look more modern and up-to-date. Just put a “dot-com” after your business name and throw around your e-mail address, and folks will realize that your business has moved with the rest of the world into the 21st century. But if this is the only reason you want a Web presence, take some time to think about whether that’s enough of a benefit to justify the costs.

Make Your Company Look Impressive or Important

Like a fancy office with expensive furniture, a nicely designed Web site can make you look good to potential customers or clients. But you can take this concept a step further if the site also includes positive product reviews, customer praise, or examples of your best work. It shows your company off, making it look impressive or important to visitors. If done right, it can even make your company look bigger or better than it is.

 

The Other Side of the Coin

Of course, a poorly designed, amateurish, or incomplete Web site can have the opposite effect on your company’s image. Unfortunately, most low-budget or home-grown Web sites fall into this category. These sites do more harm than good. The way I see it, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.

Putting Your Small Business on the Web
The Peachpit Guide to Webtop Publishing
By Maria Langer
Publisher : Peachpit Press
ISBN : 0-201-71713-1

What The Web Can’t Do

So far, the situation looks good. A Web presence can save you money, enable you to improve marketing and customer service, and give your company the dot-com address it needs to look modern. Contrary to popular opinion, however, a Web presence cannot perform miracles for every company that builds one.

 

Beware of Promises Made by Web Consultants

One of the reasons I included this is to warn people about Unscrupulous Web Consultants (we’ll call them UWCs, for short). These are people who prey upon business managers who know little or nothing about the Web and rely on consultants for all of their information.

A UWC will tell potential clients anything to get the contract—even lies. Then, with the client’s deposit in hand, the UWC will do whatever he thinks is best to make his portfolio of Web sites look impressive to future clients, regardless of whether it meets the current client’s needs. Throughout the process, the client is kept in the dark about almost everything the UWC handles. And, at the end of the process, when the site is online, the client is handed a big bill for services rendered. Monthly or quarterly bills for management services rendered may also appear as long as the site remains online.

Please don’t think every Web consultant or designer is of the unscrupulous variety. Most aren’t. But in an ocean full of fish, there are always a few sharks. Don’t let a shark get you.

Replace All Other Marketing Tools

Even if you have a Web site, you cannot expect it to replace all other kinds of marketing.

Not everyone has access to the Web.

Not everyone uses the Web to look for businesses like yours.

So even if you believe (for whatever reason) that all of your potential customers or clients access and use the Internet, making the first point moot, you’re still zapped by the second point.

Look at Me (Again)

Although it’s embarrassing to admit, I’m an example. I’m literally connected to the Internet all day long when I’m at my desk. My Web browser is always running. I’m constantly switching to it to look up a Web site I need to access for information.

Yet when I was trying to find a Japanese soaking tub like I’d seen in a friend’s house years ago, I visited the Home Depot, looked in plumbing catalogs, and asked construction contractors. No one knew what I was talking about; half of them tried selling me a garden tub.

Then a friend of mine asked, “Did you search the Internet?” Duh. I felt like slapping myself on the side of the head. I searched and after wading through an awful lot of junk, found exactly what I was looking for.

The point is, even the most active Internet user doesn’t always turn to the Web to locate products or services.

 

Make Money (with Some Exceptions)

Lots of people think that building a Web site with an online shopping feature is like opening up a store in a popular mall in a wealthy neighborhood. Despite the rather rosy picture painted about e-commerce, it just ain’t so. In fact, huge companies based on e-commerce are having trouble surviving.

 

Online Store vs. Traditional Store

An online store isn’t the same as a traditional store. There are certain disadvantages to buying online—either actual or perceived:

One of the reasons that online stores don’t always work is the “touchy-feely” aspect. Let’s face it—you can show a hundred pictures of your product and describe it in a thousand words. But there are still people out there who like to pick up the product and look at it before they buy it. Unless they’ve already seen and handled the item elsewhere, they’re not going to buy. It’s the whole browsing part of shopping, the part that makes it fun (for some people, anyway).

Some people continue to have fears about trusting an online shopping system with their credit card information. They think that some hacker is going to steal their credit card number and use it to go on a shopping spree or a vacation in Brazil. The truth of the matter is, you’re more likely to be a victim of credit card fraud when paying a restaurant bill via credit card than by using your credit card to place an order on a secure, online system. But try telling that to the worry warts who get all their information from the evening news on TV.

Many people won’t buy online simply because it’s more convenient or cheaper to buy in a traditional store. After all, why wait until next week to receive a product when they can take a ten-minute drive and buy it immediately? And why pay for shipping? (Of course, depending on the item, the amount of money you save in sales tax could cover the cost of shipping, but some people don’t see that either.)

People Don’t Pay for Online Information

Many people think they can build a Web site and make money by charging a fee to access its information. What they don’t realize is that the vast majority of people who access the Internet are not willing to pay for the information they receive online. Why? Because there’s a good chance they can find the information for free elsewhere.

I am part of this vast majority. I won’t pay to access any Web site because, in most cases, I can find the information on another, free Web site. If I can’t find it, I convince myself that I don’t need it. (I can be pretty convincing.) It’s not because I’m cheap; it’s because I’m of the old school that believes information on the Internet should be free.

 

The Exceptions

There are exceptions to every rule and this rule is no exception. The best way to explain is with examples.

Say you’ve written and published a book about how to build chicken coops. Your book has been reviewed by numerous farm-related publications and everyone is raving about it. You can’t get it into the big bookstores (they don’t think there’s enough of a market) so you decide to sell the book via your Web site. You place ads in the marketing publications chicken farmers (and chicken farmer wannabes) read, inviting them to your Web site to learn more and order online. (Since you know that not everyone is on the Internet, you also provide a phone number or address for orders.) Because you’re the only source of the book and it is in demand, you’ll probably succeed at selling it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few chicken supply stores interested and they’ll place wholesale orders. Maybe you won’t make as much per book, but you’ll sell more books.

Or say you’re a productivity consultant and you spend most of your time conducting research on the impact of color on office productivity. Each month, you publish a newsletter with conclusions from your most recent studies. You can publish it in print or you can make it accessible on your Web site for a fee. If you’re well known in your field and your newsletter is in big demand (and someone else hasn’t done the same research and published it for free elsewhere), people will pay to access it.

These are just two examples. They have one thing in common: they offer a product or service that is in demand (because of other publicity or marketing efforts) and cannot be gotten elsewhere. Do your products or services meet this criteria? If so, your e-commerce efforts may succeed.

Putting Your Small Business on the Web
The Peachpit Guide to Webtop Publishing
By Maria Langer
Publisher : Peachpit Press
ISBN : 0-201-71713-1

Planning a Web Site

The last thing you need is to be buried under an avalanche of theory before you’ve had the joy of performing your first few Web creation tricks. However, every new Web site author can save time and effort by doing a little bit of planning before diving in to create a complete Web site. In the following sections, you’ll consider some quick guidelines to get you on the right path.

Types of Sites

You don’t have much chance of creating a successful Web site if you haven’t decided what it’s for. Some people have a very specific goal in mind (like getting hired for a job or promoting a book) while others are just planning to unleash their self-expression. Either way, take a look at the following list to get a handle on the different types of Web sites you might want to create:

Personal sites are all about you. As the world gets more Web-savvy, it seems everyone is building online homes. Whether it’s to share pictures of Junior with the relatives, chronicle a trip to Kuala Lumpur, or just post your latest thoughts and obsessions, it’s no longer unusual to have a personal Web site. In fact, everyone from tweens to grandmothers are jumping in.

If your plan is to create a personal Web site, think about what its format should be, and how you’ll use it. Do you want to post regularly updated news tidbits in a chronological format (in which case, you might be interested in creating a blog, covered below)? Or perhaps you want to create something more ambitious, like an online picture album or a site featuring your family’s history. Either way, you should decide what you want your Web site to focus on before you start slapping together Web pages.

Online diaries or blogs are personal Web sites that are rapidly gaining popularity. The typical diary Web site provides a list of entries in reverse chronological order, which means whenever you surf to the site, you see the latest news at the top of the page. These online diaries, also known as blogs (short for Web logs) are a great way to while away the hours and keep in touch with friends in far-off places. But before you choose this type of site, make sure you have plenty of free time. Nothing says “dead site” like a blog that hasn’t been updated in eight months. By contrast, personal Web sites that aren’t in a date-specific format can linger on quite happily without regular updates.

If you just want to create a blog, you can sacrifice your independence and join the masses on a Web site like The Open Diary (a huge online diary community at www.opendiary.com) or MSN Spaces (a free blogging from Microsoft at http://spaces.msn.com). Alternatively, you can set out to create and host your own blog. However, if you plan on blogging regularly, you should at least consider a blogging tool, which makes it easy to post quick updates even when you aren’t at your computer. Depending on the tool you use, you might not even need to know HTML or have your own Web space.

Note: Blogs aren’t just for your personal life. They’ve become tremendously popular with computer geeks and IT workers as a way to share information and chat about a variety of topics, computer-related or otherwise. Microsoft programmers are the latest audience to get in on the trend (see www.microsoft.com/communities/blogs).

Résumé sites can be powerful career-building tools. Rather than photocopy a suitcase full of paper résumés, why not send emails and distribute business cards that point to your online résumé? Best of all, with a little planning you can add more details to your résumé Web site, like links to companies where you’ve worked, online portfolio samples, and even background music playing “YMCA” (which is definitely not recommended).

Topical sites focus on a particular subject that interests you. If you’re more interested in building a Web site about your favorite music, art, books, food, or Beanie Babies than you are in talking about your own life, then a topical Web site is for you.

Before you set out to create a topical Web site, consider whether other people with a similar interest will be interested in visiting your site, and take a look at existing sites on the topic. The best topical Web sites invite others with the same interest to join in. The worst Web sites present the same dozen links you can find anywhere else. Remember, the Web is drowning in information. The last thing it needs is another Pamela Anderson Fan Emporium.

Event sites aren’t designed to weather the yearsinstead, they revolve around a specific event. A common example is a wedding Web site. The event hosts create it to provide directions, background information, links to gift registries, and a few romantic photos. When the wedding is over, the Web site disappearsor morphs into something different (like a personal Web site chronicling the honeymoon). Other events that might be treated in a similar way include family reunions, costume parties, or do-it-yourself protest marches.

Promotion sites are ideal when you have a personally produced CD or a hot-off-the-presses book to boast about. They’re geared to get the word out about a specific item, whether it’s handmade pottery or your own shareware program. Sometimes, these Web sites evolve into small business Web sites, where you actually sell your wares (see the “Small business” item next).

Small business (or e-commerce) sites show off the most successful use of the modern Webselling everything from portable music players to prescription drugs. E-commerce sites are so widespread that it’s hard to believe that when the Web was first created, making a buck was far from anyone’s mind.

Creating a full-blown e-commerce Web site like Amazon or eBay is far beyond the abilities of a single person. These Web sites need the support of complex applications and computer-genius-level programming languages. Fortunately, if you’ve come to the Web to make some money, you don’t need to give up hope yet! Innovative companies like PayPal and Yahoo now provide subscription services that can help you build shopping-cart-style Web sites and accept credit card payments. You can also show Google AdSense ads to start raking in the cash.

Understanding Your Audience

Once you’ve firmed up your Web site’s raison d’etre, you should start to have a better idea about who your visitors will be. Knowing and understanding your audience is crucial to making sure your Web site is effective.

Not only do you need to understand your audience, but you also need to single out the lowest common denominator in that audience. Good Web designs avoid using fancy frills unless everyone can experience them. Nothing is more disappointing than creating a Web site using the latest graphical wizardry, only to find out that the site’s illegible on a friend’s less powerful computer. To avoid these letdowns and reach as many people as possible, you need to keep your visitors’ PC capabilities in mind as you build and improve your Web pages.

Unfortunately, there’s no single set of specifications you can use to build your Web pageseveryone has a slightly different setup. The best thing to do is try out your Web site on different computers, which can be time-consuming. Some paid services can do this for you (see, for example, www.netmechanic.com, which tests your Web site with different browsers and sends you pictures), but they aren’t cheap. You can minimize your risk by keeping this point about visitor diversity in mind while you create your Web site. Look for the design tips throughout the book, and watch out for these common problem areas:

Computer monitors aren’t all created equal. Some computers use a smaller screen resolution (number of pixels), so they can’t show as much content. If you create the perfect Web site for your wide-screen monitor, you might find that it’s unbearably cramped (or even worse, partly amputated) on another monitor.

Colors cause a similar problem. Graphics that look rich and nuanced on your monitor might turn ugly on computers that don’t support as many colors.

Non-standard fonts are another headache. Imagine you create a Web page for a rent-a-clown service using a font named FunnyKidzScript. When you check your page out on another computer that doesn’t have the same font, your text will revert to a completely different typeface. At best, it’s not what you intended; at worst, it’s indecipherable.

Large graphics are another trap that’s easy to fall into if you’re testing your Web site on a speedy computer with a fast Internet connection. When dial-up Web surfers try to see your work, they’ll be stuck waiting for the goods, and might just give up. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to slim down your graphics.

Plug-ins, movies, and browser-specific features are temptations you need to treat with caution. In the world of the Web, anything that limits how many visitors can enjoy your work is a danger. Steer clear of cutting-edge features that aren’t widely supported.

The creators of the most popular Web sites have carefully considered all these issues. For example, think about the number of people whose computers won’t let them buy a book on Amazon, make a bid on eBay, or conduct a search on Google. (Are you thinking of a number that’s close to 0?)

It’s been widely remarked that the average Web designer goes through three stages of maturity: 1) “I’m just learning, so I’ll keep it simple;” 2) “I’m a Web guru, and I’ll prove it by piling on the features;” 3) “I’ve been burned by browser compatibility problems, so I’ll keep it simple.”

The Lifespan of Your Site

The Web is a constantly changing place. Today’s Web isn’t the same as last year’sor even the Web of 15 seconds ago.

Here are two valuable truths about Web site lifetimes:

The best Web sites are constantly improving. Their creators add support for new browser features, tweak their looks to match new style trends, andmost importantly of allconstantly add new content.

When a Web site stops changing, it’s on life support. Many great Web sites have crumbled through neglect.

Think about your favorite Web sites. Odds are, they change daily. A good Web site isn’t one you consult once and then move on. It’s a site that you can bookmark and return to periodically. In a sense, a Web site is like a television channel. If you aren’t putting up new information, your Web site’s showing reruns.

This problem poses a significant challenge. Making a Web site is hard enough, and keeping it up to date is even more challenging. Here are a few tips that can help you out:

Think in stages. When you put your first Web site online, it won’t be complete. Instead, think of it as version 1, and start planning a few changes for the next version. Bit by bit, and stage by stage, you can add everything that you want to your Web site.

Select the parts you can modify regularly, and leave the rest alone. There’s no way you can review and revise an entire Web site weekly or even monthly. Instead, your best strategy is to identify the sections that change regularly. For example, on a personal Web site, you might put news on a separate page, and update just that page. On a small business Web site, you might concentrate your changes on the home page to advertise new products and upcoming specials.

Design a Web site that’s easy to change. This is the hardest principle to follow, because it requires not only planning, but a dash of experience. As you become a more experienced Web maven, you’ll learn how to simplify your life by making it easier to update pages. One method is to start out by separating information into several pages, so you can add new content without needing to reorganize everything. Another technique is to use style sheets to separate the formatting from your content. That way, you can easily insert new material without having to re-format it from scratch to make sure it matches the rest of your page.

Practice Good Design

Every year, hundreds of Web sites win awards for being abjectly awful. Sometimes, they have spinning globes and hot pink text on a lime green background. Other times, they have clunky navigation systems and grotesque flashing backgrounds. But no matter what the design sins, Web sites that are hideously bad are strangely common.

Maybe it’s because creating a Web site really isn’t that hard. Or maybe it’s because we all have an impulse to play with color, texture, and sound, and sometimes new-fangled Web tools encourage our ugliest instincts. For a glimpse at some of the all-too-familiar mistakes go to www.angelfire.com/super/badwebs . You can also visit Web sites like www.webpagesthatsuck.com and www.worstoftheweb.com, which tally not only yearly winners in the worst-of-show category, but also pick out new offenders every month.

Here are a few general principles that can help make sure you never wind up on a worst-of-the-Web list (unless you absolutely want to).

Stay simple (and don’t annoy your visitors). You can cram a lot of frills and goodies into a Web page. But unless they serve a purpose, just say no. You’ll find that exercising restraint can make a few fancy touches seem witty and sophisticated. (Whereas adding a lot of fancy touches can make your site seem heady and delusional.) If you pare down the graphical tricks and distractions, you’ll also make sure that the content of your Web site isn’t overshadowed, and your visitors aren’t driven away in annoyance.

Be consistent. No matter how logical you think your Web site is, the majority of visitors probably won’t think the same way. To cut down on the confusion, from one page to another, use similar organization, similar headings, similar graphics and links, a single navigation bar, and so on. These touches help make visitors feel right at home.

Know your audience. Every type of Web site has its own unwritten conventions. You don’t need to follow the same design in an e-commerce Web store as you do in a promotional page for an experimental electric harmonic band. To help decide what is and isn’t suitable, be sure to check out lots of other sites that deal with the same sort of material as yours.

Creating Web Sites: The Missing Manual
By Matthew MacDonald
Publisher: O’Reilly
Pub Date: October 2005
ISBN: 0-596-00842-2

Promoting Your Website

One of the simplest and most cost effective ways to promote your Web site to the people who will be most interested in its contents is through the use of materials you probably already have. Here’s a quick look at the documents you can use as Web site promotion tools.

Don’t throw away existing printed materials that don’t include your Web site’s URL. But make sure all newly printed materials include this important piece of contact information.

Letterhead & Envelopes

Almost every company I know, regardless of size, uses preprinted letterhead and envelopes for written correspondence. But who says the printing can’t include your Web site’s URL and e-mail addresses?

By including this information on your letterhead and envelopes, you’re announcing the address for a virtual location of your business. And it shouldn’t cost a penny more.

Business Cards

Business cards are probably the most cost effective communication tool around. This tiny card can fit a wealth of information on it—and be carried around in a pocket.

Your company’s URL should appear on every business card you print for owners, managers, and other employees.

Forms

Does your company use preprinted forms, such as estimates, invoices, and packing slips? How about including your Web site’s URL on them as well? It’s just another way to spread the word.

Brochures & Catalogs

Brochures and catalogs are another important place you should include your Web site’s URL—especially if your Web site includes a catalog or online shopping feature. These documents usually go to the people who are most interested in your business as customers or clients. Letting them know you have a Web site can give them another way to learn more about your products and services.

Tip: Some companies with Web sites that offer online shopping offer special discounts to customers who order via the Web. This not only promotes the site, but it encourages customers to take advantage of a more cost effective ordering method. The more people you can get to use online catalogs and ordering, the fewer printed catalogs and telephone order takers you’ll have to provide.

Print Ads

One of my clients has had a Web site for the past six months. He runs ads in the local newspaper every single week. Do you think he’d include his Web site’s URL in the ad? He doesn’t, but he should!

Again, what’s the extra cost of including that one additional piece of information where people could see it? Nothing! (Or pretty darn close to nothing!) The same goes for Yellow Pages ads and television commercials.

E-Mail Signatures

Most e-mail programs support the inclusion of a custom signature at the bottom of each e-mail message you send. You should already be using this e-mail feature to include your name and contact information. But you should also be using it to promote your Web site by including its complete URL in the signature. This is a great, free way to spread the word to people who probably already have Internet access.

Putting Your Small Business on the Web
The Peachpit Guide to Webtop Publishing
By Maria Langer
Publisher : Peachpit Press
Pub Date : July 17, 2000
ISBN : 0-201-71713-1

Meeting Your Objectives

When deciding on other information to include, remember your objectives for the Web site. What do you want it to do for you? That will determine what other information you should include.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Your goal should be to make your Web site valuable enough to visitors that they want to bookmark it. Bookmarks are the best way to ensure repeat visits, but it’s entirely up to the visitor to decide whether a site is worth bookmarking.

Product or Service Details

At the very minimum, you’ll probably want to include a list of your products and services. But why not go into detail? Pull information from your brochures and catalogs. Then expand that information to bring it up to date or get more specific. Think of the questions your customers or clients might have and answer them in the descriptions.

Pricing Information

By providing pricing information, you help your customers or clients do some comparison shopping. They can see at once if your prices are within their budgets. If you have some kind of special offer available to Web customers or clients, or special pricing for qualified wholesalers, don’t keep it a secret. Provide as much information as you can.

Not everyone likes to include pricing information where it is publicly accessible to customers or clients—as well as the competition. Instead, some companies prefer to have a sales representative contact the customer or client directly. If this is the case in your business, be sure to explain on your site how customers or clients can get pricing information. Just be aware that a visit to your Web site might be the last step in a purchase decision—if the pricing information isn’t readily available, the visitor could buy elsewhere.

 

Support Information

If you have technical support documents, FAQs, and other documents that can help your current customers and clients, put them on your Web site. This can save you the trouble (and expense) of sending this information out by fax or mail. Best of all, you can make the information available to your customers or clients 24/7 so they can solve problems when they occur—not when you’re around to help them.

 

The Four “A”s

Another marketing tool is something I refer to as the Four “A”s.

The Four “A”s give potential customers or clients confidence in your company’s capabilities. Just make sure that the item you include on your site is related to your company. Otherwise, it’ll appear as if you’re trying to impress potential customers or clients with irrelevant information.

Affiliations

Affiliations are organizations with which your business or its principals are affiliated. If your business is part of a larger organization, be sure to say so on your Web site. It shows that you’re not just some small fly-by-night company.

The same goes for professional and public service organization affiliations of the business owners or managers. It shows that these people take their profession and community seriously.

Accreditations

Accreditations are certificates or degrees that the business or its principals have earned. These usually include completion of continuing education courses related to the business. Accreditations are extremely popular in professional services fields such as real estate, accounting, and finance. Certificates or degrees earned by business owners or managers show that these people are always interested in learning more about their profession so they can better serve their customers or clients.

Accolades

Accolades are words of praise from customers or clients. They can be testimonials, letters of thanks, or just quotes about the company’s capabilities. Accolades are a great way to show how real customers and clients feel about your company.

 

Tip: Be sure to get permission from a customer or client to use his comments on your Web site before you put it online.

Awards

Awards are just that: awards received by the business or its principals. They show that the business’s service is good enough to be recognized by outside organizations.

 

Web Site Design Awards

A Web designer I know includes numerous award logos and graphics on many of the Web sites he creates. Most of these awards are from obscure sources and I suspect that he paid some kind of fee to obtain them. These awards say nothing about the content of the Web site or the quality of the company for which the site was built. They just make you wonder whether the Web designer spends more time building Web sites or entering design contests.

 

Staff Information

If your business provides a service to clients, you may want to include some information about the people who will be providing the service. Who are these people? How long have they been with the company? What are their accomplishments? Why should clients feel comfortable letting these people handle their needs? These are some of the questions the information you include could answer. Including photos and bios of the people on staff can help potential clients get to know them and possibly choose the one that they think can meet their needs.

 

Other Resources

If you know of other sources of information that could be of interest to customers or clients, include them on your Web site. This helps expand the information you provide without adding pages to the site.

For example, a tax accountant may provide information about where IRS forms and publications can be found in his area. Or he might list some Web sites with additional tax data. In both instances, he’s helping the site visitor get more information, but he’s not actually providing that information on his site.

 

Site Revision Date

You may want to include the date your site (or individual pages on the site) was last revised. But beware! If your site isn’t revised often, including the revision date will confirm what the visitor may already suspect: that the site’s information is stale. In fact, some savvy Internet surfers (myself included) will look for a revision date to help ensure that the information isn’t old. It may be better to leave the date out and keep them guessing.

On the other hand, if your site is updated on a regular basis—say, more often than once a month—it’s a very good idea to include a revision date. This will assure visitors that your Web site’s information is important enough to keep up to date and that the information there is fresh.

Putting Your Small Business on the Web
The Peachpit Guide to Webtop Publishing
By Maria Langer
Publisher : Peachpit Press
ISBN : 0-201-71713-1

Planning for Interdependence

The pundits, purveyors, and snake oil salesmen of web services describe a world in which nearly every process is handled seamlessly by a variety of different web service technologies and options. Automated agents, interconnected by wired and wireless technologies, will use web services to solve global economic crises, find you the best deal on toasters, and restock your refrigerator with fresh milk before you’ve even noticed that the expiration date has passed. This deeply interconnected world assumes that the underlying web services work very well. In particular, such broad-reaching automation leads to basic questions about responsibilities. For example, let’s say that an error leads to your refrigerator ordering 500 gallons of milk—or none at all. Where did the problem occur? This issue affects you both as a user and provider of web services.

To manage questions of reliability, you must determine what sort of uptime you provide (or demand) for your web services. How do you characterize the performance and security restrictions? What are the implications of a service failure?

It can be helpful to build a brief worksheet when working with web services that can be used as a check list. It can include:

Number of web service methods exposed or used

Frequency of access allowed (e.g., one method call per second at most for methods a( ), b( ), c( ), and one call of method d( ) per minute)

Expected performance of specific methods

Time expected to restore service (e.g., if there is a failure, how long until it’s fixed?)

Bandwidth and latency expectations

Scheduled downtime

Data management and backup responsibility

Logging

Security auditing

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What are your internal plans for migration if the service fails?

What is the involvement of your legal representation in drafting or agreeing to your service agreement?

What tools or systems will you use to monitor your services? (If you promise to deliver or receive a given level of service, how will you really know?)

What is the expected level of tech support access? How are users expected to contact support? How long until a response is sent?

How will minor bug fixes and upgrades be handled? Will users of the web services be able to test their application against a test server before the changes are pushed to the production system?

How often will new functionality be added? What is the procedure for migrating web service users to new systems?

How long will session data be preserved? (In other words, if I begin a transaction, how long does the remote system maintain that state data before expiring it?)

What are the remedies (refunds or credits) if service fails?

Notice that there is no mention of the programming language used, the application server, the database, the server hardware—all critical to the internal development conversation, but (in theory, at least) not part of the overall web services conversation between two different organizations.

Real World Web Services
By Will Iverson
Publisher : O’Reilly
Pub Date : October 2004
ISBN : 0-596-00642-X

How the Web Was Won: Google’s Technology

In the Web’s early days, full-text searches ranked their results according to information contained on Web sites themselves like the prominence of a certain word. If, for example, you wanted to learn about buying a small dog and you searched for dachshund, your list of sites was likely to be organized by which ones had the most instances of the word “dachshund.” That might well have been a site set up by a woman in Boise who painted cartoon dogs onto sweatshirts, the schedule for a group of people in Sacramento who have dachshunds with ingrown toenails, and the Daytona Dachshunds Little League roster. You could search through thousands of pages before you hit any useful information.

Even if you narrowed your search to something like “dachshund breeders,” you might still have gotten sites run by pet food conglomerates or veterinarians or any company that set up its Web pages to draw people with an interest in dogs. In short, it was maddeningly hard to get relevant search results.

Enter Google. In 1995, Sergey Brin and Larry Page met in the graduate computer science program at Stanford University. Their idea was to create a search engine that would rank search results not on data that could be manipulated by Web masters, but by using the strength of the Internet itself through community input. Their technology evaluated a site primarily on how many other sites linked to it, and ranked search results accordingly. Thus, their searches tended to return results that lots of other people found useful, resulting in a surprisingly valuable system.

By 1998, Brin and Page had dropped out of Stanford to start Google. In its first year, the company run by four employees out of a garage in Menlo Park, California answered about 10,000 search requests per day. Today, the Web is home to about a dozen very popular search sites and likely thousands of less well-known ones, but Google’s computers handle more search requests than anyone else’s, over 250 million per day.

Google is the reigning search champ not because the company has clever marketing (it doesn’t) or a killer online dating service (again, no dice), but because the site is easy to use and effective.

Tip: Wonder what all those people are searching for? Google provides snapshots of its search activity, by month and by year, at Google Zeitgeist, www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html. This is the perfect place to find out if anyone still cares about Martha Stewart or whether The Apprentice is declining in popularity.

How the Ranking Works

Google uses a number of elements to decide whether a Web page is a good match for a particular search. First, it looks at links. Links from one Web page to another don’t appear spontaneously; people have to make them, in effect saying “Look here and here and here.” Because each link thus represents a decision, Google infers that a link from one page to another is tantamount to a vote for the second page. Pages with lots of votes are considered more important than other pages. For example, if a million baseball-fan Web sites all have links to MLB.com (home of Major League Baseball), Google’s logic is, “Hey, that’s an important site for people searching for the word baseball.”

In addition, Google ranks the pages that cast the votes, based on their own popularity, and gives more weight to the votes from heavily linked-to pages. Finally, Google uses this information to assign Web pages an appropriate PageRankGoogle’s term for statuswhich it calculates on a scale from one to ten.

Note: The term PageRank is actually based on the name of one of Google’s founders, Larry Page, not on the idea of Web pages.

But all that jazz would lead to nothing more than an interesting hierarchy of Web popularity if it didn’t take into account the words you’re searching for. So when you query Google, it combines PageRank with an additional system for matching text which looks not only at the content on a first layer of pages, but at the content on pages linking to them to produce a list of pages that is, more often than not, relevant.

In all, the Google equation, or algorithm, incorporates 500 million variables looking at everything from links to the position of your search terms on a page. And most searches run in much less than a second.

Because the site’s methods are so complex, it’s toughthough not impossibleto jigger a page in order to improve its rank in a Google search.

Comparing Google with Other Searches

Most of the time, you’ll probably decide which search site to use based on the relevance of its results. But these days, many search sites return similar results, which means you might want to make your choice based on factors like speed and site design. It’s akin to buying a car today: most automobiles will get you where you want to go, but they differ in reliability, smoothness, and style.

Google: The Missing Manual, 2nd Edition
By J.D. Biersdorfer, Rael Dornfest, Matthew MacDonald, Sarah Milstein
Publisher: O’Reilly
Pub Date: March 2006
Print ISBN-10: 0-596-10019-1
Print ISBN-13: 978-0-59-610019-3

Getting Your Site Ready for Google

If you want people and Google to notice your site, you’ve got to make it presentable. That means paying attention to visual, interactive, and technical details. While Google doesn’t give a hoot about color scheme or whether your humor site is actually funny, it does care about many of the same things your visitors do. If your site is difficult for Google to roam through and read, the search engine is unlikely to index it properly and show it in search results as you’d like.

Tip: As a Webmaster, it behooves you to keep up with the latest trends in search engines and how best to prepare your site for maximum indexing, impact, and, ultimately, visitors. (Geeks and other techno-wonks call this process search engine optimization, or SEO.)Two fabulous resources for all things Webmaster-and search-engine-related are Search Engine Watch (www.searchenginewatch.com) and Webmaster World (www.webmasterworld.com). The Fundamental Steps

Here’s how you can win friends and influence Google.

Don’t hide indoors

Google tracks only what is actually on the Web and readily accessible. Just because your site is on a server (a networked computer that holds the files that make up a Web site) doesn’t mean other people can see it. If you trap your site behind a corporate firewall, at the end of a DSL or cable-modem link that doesn’t allow traffic to your home server, or make it unreachable in any other way to the general public, Google will never find it. It may sound obvious, but many a fledgling Webmaster has missed this point.

If you set up your site at work and you can’t reach it from outside your corporate network, chances are your company doesn’t like its employees running Web sites from its computers and has set up their system to prevent it. Check with your IT department about their policy and where best to put your site on their system.

If you’ve set up your site at home, make sure your Internet service provider lets you run a server over their network. Many don’t, so it’s important to ask. But they may well provide some space for your site on their servers. In fact, many individuals’ sites actually live on their ISP’s servers.

Appear stable

Google and your visitors are likely to be put off by complex URLs that are hard to decode and differentiate from one another. Humans like easily readable, memorable addresses. But Google has its own logic for avoiding complicated URLs. The problem, as Google sees it, is that complex addresses often point to dynamic pages those that your site has created temporarily, in response to a query. And a dynamic page suggests to Google that your site may have a large database underlying it one for which it would take Google’s spiders eons to discern all the possible ways people could view the data.

Tip: You can spot dynamic pages easily: they include a “?” in the URL. For example, say your site sells hosiery, and it’s connected to your huge database containing descriptions and prices for thousands of pairs of socks and leggings. When somebody searches your Web site for blue children’s stockings, your site might generate a page just for that person, showing the eight items that match the query. If Google catches a whiff of this setup, it flees in terror, assuming that to properly track your site, it would need to index thousands or millions of pages, many of which might show the same things in a different order.

The most well-known system for creating dynamic pages is called CGI, which stands for Common Gateway Interface and is the “Look at me, I’m building Web pages on the fly” of file types. CGI scripts are bits of programming code you can set to build Web pages on request out of databases and other bits and bobs. If you’re using CGI scripts, Google may not properly index your site which is what’s happening if Google seems to know about all of your site except for the parts served up by a CGI script. If the situation is dire enough (that is, Google is ignoring you altogether), you might want to consider reconfiguring your system.

Warning: Other dynamic pages that Google may consider too hot to handle include those built with templating systems like PHP, JSP, and ASP, and those named after programming languages like Perl (.pl), and Python (.py), to name a few. Because it knows what it’s getting, Google is more comfortable with sites consisting of pages that you always have up (known as static pages). URLs with endings like .html and .htm indicate stability and are thus Google-friendly.

Alternatively, you can try massaging your Web site application or content management system so that it produces clear and simple URLs rather than a litany of session variables strung together like so many Christmas lights.

Provide a clear path into your site

Google, like everyone else, hates wasting time on superfluous pages. The most serious offender is the splash page, those annoying intro pages that you sometimes have to view or click through before you get to a site’s real home page. Splash pages typically feature Flash animations that can suck important minutes out of your day, but offer nary a real link to anything. Google and many visitors take a dim view of splash pages. Do everyone a favor and skip them. You can show off your graphic sensibility and your Flash skills on real pages in your site.

Identify yourself clearly and concisely

Your friendly, homey design touches and inviting color scheme draw people in by the ton. But they don’t mean a thing to poor color-blind and design-sense-deprived Google. All the Google robots and spiders have to go by are the metadatathe details you embed in your Web pages’ HTML code, like the title (<title> Hosiery R Us</title>, for example).

Google may interpret your metadata hierarchically when it’s trying to decide how relevant your page is to a particular search. For example, if you have a first-order heading like <h1>Socks</h1> followed by a word set off in italics, like <i>plaid</i>, Google might consider the word in the heading more important than the word in italics. Which is just what you wantif somebody is looking for socks. But if your site is primarily about plaid items, and you want people searching for plaid to find you near the top of their results, you probably ought to make the word “plaid” a heading and not just an italicized comment.

Here are more tricks to help Google read between the lines, and therefore index your site appropriately:

Title your pages properly. Nothing says “half-baked” quite like a site where all the pages have the same title, an utterly meaningless title, or no title at all. Title or subtitle different sections of your site appropriately. Take the 11 seconds to add <title>Al’s Auto Parts: Support</title> to your HTML code.

Tip: Watch out for the dreaded “New Page” title that some Web page software automatically slaps onto any new HTML page. Microsoft FrontPage, for instance, automatically dubs your new pages serially as New Section 3.1, New Section 3.2, and so onwhich is definitely not what you want to see in your Google results. Provide meta tags. meta tags are bits of detail about your site that you can embed in HTML tags. The cool thing is, they’re invisible to your visitors but useful to Web robots. Google doesn’t say how much attention it pays to meta tags, but it can’t hurt to add them, and they might just be useful to another search engine, too. Useful options include a description (as in, <meta name=”description” content=”A blog about computers, politics, and the punk rock underworld.” />), some keywords (for example, <meta name=”keywords” content=”fenders, hoses, wiper blades” />), and perhaps even who’s put it together (<meta name=”author” content=”Jonny Slick” />).

Tip: There is some evidence that excessive keywords are off-putting to search engines especially if they’re repetitive and obvious, like “free, free, free, sale, sale, sale, Viagra, Viagra, Viagra…”. When it comes to keywords, focus and frugality are your friends. Augment your pictures with alt tags. Ever wonder how Google Images knows what’s a photo of your Aunt Sarah on her 101st birthday and what’s a snap of your summer holiday in Spain? Mostly, Google takes hints from nearby text. But what if your nearby text mentions Aunt Sarah and ugly Uncle Phil? You can help ensure that Google understands and properly indexes your pictures by giving them descriptive titles in alt or “alternative” information tags.

Tagging pictures is particularly important because most image-editing software automatically names pictures things like camera_1.jpg or set55_02.tif, which never helps anyone, Google or human, figure out that you’re really offering a lovely photo of Monarch butterflies migrating or a diagram of the food chain. And if you’ve renamed those pictures butterfly.jpg and diagram.tif, you haven’t helped much, either. But when you associate an alt tag with a picture, you can give explicit details, like this: <img src=”butterfly.jpg” alt=”Monarch butterflies migrating over Kansas” />). The alt tag then appears as your picture loads on your Web page and with your picture in Google Images helping everyone find your meticulous migration study.

Don’t fence yourself in with an overabundance of frames

Frames are pieces of Web pages you can designate to appear independently, like a scrolling column that moves while the navigation bar stays put are confusing to robots and people alike. Use them sparingly, if you must use them at all, and label them clearly (for example, <frame src=”menu.html” name=”menubar”> and <frame src=”home.html” name=”content”>). You should also provide a <noframes> option just in case the spider or, indeed, your visitor’s browser doesn’t know what to do with frames.

Tip: Danny Sullivan’s excellent article, “Search Engines and Frames” (www.searchenginewatch.com/Webmasters/article.php/2167901), provides much-needed advice on keeping your frames search-engine friendly. Find and fix broken links

Google’s spiders, like nearly all Web site visitors, have zero interest in guessing where this or that link should have taken them. In fact, spiders have nothing but links to go on to find the rest of your site; don’t stop them short with a broken link. Before you publish a new article or add any new links within your site, preview the content in your browser and make sure that any links you’ve embedded do in fact point where they’re supposed to.

While you’re at it, do your pals downstream a favor and make sure your outbound links (your links to other Web sites) are still valid. Remember: The next downstream site the Google spider doesn’t find could be your own.

Let Google in

Make sure you aren’t fencing Google out with robots.txt files (notes telling robots that they can’t look at all or part of your site) or meta rules (notes telling robots that they can’t perform certain behaviors on a particular page, like indexing it, caching it, or following links to other pages).

Tip: For even more loving detail on making your Web site inviting to Google, be sure to take a stroll through Brett Tabke’s Search Engine Optimization Template (www.clickmojo.com/more/122_0_1_0_M/). Brett is the proprietor of WebmasterWorld.com and knows an awful lot about search engine optimization.

Google: The Missing Manual, 2nd Edition
By J.D. Biersdorfer, Rael Dornfest, Matthew MacDonald, Sarah Milstein
Publisher: O’Reilly
Pub Date: March 2006
Print ISBN-10: 0-596-10019-1
Print ISBN-13: 978-0-59-610019-3

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