356 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

356 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success Secret #230: Targeting Keywords for meta Elements By placing keywords into a meta element within your documents (a common practice), you enable search engines looking for this information to catalog your keywords quickly. Keywords can help with ranking because you are able to catalog your site based on descriptive words or series of words that define your site as well as reflect the kind of word combinations that users will be inputting into search engines: Unfortunately, this method, while easy to implement (just add as many keywords as you d like, separated by commas, to the meta element), has been misused over time. Instead of sticking to those keywords relevant to their sites, some unscrupulous but imaginative folks decided to add keywords to a site that might have nothing to do with its relevance. For example, say you re working for a site that sells baby clothing and related items, and the person doing the meta keywords adds in words such as sex or porn completely irrelevant and inappropriate for your site. Because sex-related keywords remain extremely popular search words, they often end up where they shouldn t be. Another unscrupulous bit is the addition of multiple instances of important words numerous times so that in a keyword value, the word baby might appear alone (rather than in various reasonable combinations) 100 times. Search engines got savvy to this behavior and put their foot down by creating stricter rules and sometimes blocking any sites that were using poor practices. This action has actually helped many working in Web development to be more aware of exactly the kind of keyword and keyword combinations they want. A good exercise is to sit down at your computer with a text editor at the ready, and just begin to write out words and word combinations that might be things you would search for if looking for the given product or service your Web site represents. You may also wish to have other members of your team add to the list. You can even ask people who useWeb sites but do not necessarily know anything about making them to come up with keywords and keyword combinations. Collect, review, and edit these down to the most descriptive and relevant options for use on your site. tip While repeating a single keyword on its own within the meta element is considered a no-no, using the keyword in various combinations is not. For example, I might use Web design and follow it up with Web development and Web usability. I ve used the word Web three times but in relevant, applicable ways. This helps with ranking and clarifying the types of work you do. Another important means of refining keywords within your site is to match your keywords to actual data reported via the search engine in use on your site (if you

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Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and

Chapter 14: Improving Site Ranking and Managing 355 By getting rid of deeply nested tables for layout, ensuring that style is handled with CSS, and making your sites accessible for the disabled, you open up your site to be quickly and easily catalogued by a search engine. Add to that effective titling of your documents, clear language use, and many other cues related to readability and usability, and the rest of the job is pretty straightforward. A lot of information will try to steer you otherwise toward paying money for additional software or services to help you get ranked. This is only one of the many myths that exist regarding most search engines and how they rank you. Other myths include the following: A competitor can ruin your ranking. A competitor cannot purposely sabotage your ranking or remove you from a search engine under normal circumstances. However, if they have done a better job than you with the design of their site, or they have a very large amount of relevant links to their site, or they have a domain name that is very close to the main concept of the site, they might get a higher ranking (molly.com, for example, will rank higher on most search engines when people search for molly ). You can pay your way to the top of Google. No, you can t. You can buy sponsored links and advertising that will appear alongside or above searches of relevance to your site, but there are numerous factors that get sites to the top. Paid inclusion services are the way to go. No, they re not. With very few exceptions, inclusion services are scams, and finding those exceptions is very difficult (see the next section). No matter what your site spromotion goals, in the immortal words of rapper Chuck D, Don t believe the hype. Avoid Unscrupulous Marketing Techniques Here s a fact: No one can promise you top rankings on all major engines by doing anything to your site. I take that back! They can promise, and they do promise, but they don t deliver. In the past few years, a rash of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies has emerged to help us optimize the code on our site and fix problems related to search engine rankings. Many SEOs are straight-out frauds, doing nothing for their clients or doing very little and calling it a day. Of course, some of these companies aren t fraudulent, but the proliferation of the bad guys is such that you as a consumer must be hyper-vigilant if you decide to use any of their services. note Google has an excellent overview of SEOs that provides guidance in how to choose one, and how to report complaints about any SEO in the United States or abroad. See www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html. Thankfully, the techniques in this chapter, along with your well-designed and structured Web site will alleviate all of those woes. In fact, in just a few short pages, you ll learn enough to open your own SEO should you desire a little time on the guerrilla-marketing front.

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354 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success

354 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Success What if you created a Web site and nobody came? You don t want your sites to end up obscure and unused. No doubt you veread about meta tags and how they can help your sites get ranked better; and just about everyone using the Web is aware of the annoyances related to Web advertising. But these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Read any Web site dedicated to Web promotions and you ll see all kinds of topics, often controversial ones. This chapter lets you in on the insider s view of why so many Web marketing methods are problematic, and shows you the right way to use common techniques such as keyword and description tagging, how to expand and extend keywords within your content, how to get submitted to search engines in a timely fashion, how to get the word out to interested parties, and how to increase interest via sponsored links and offline promotional opportunities. I will not teach you how to spam, use annoying ads, or compromise the integrity of the products and services you represent. Just apply a balance between great Web site design and customer service and you will never have to rely on gimmicks. About Web Site Marketing There s a book that sits on my shelf, copyright 1995. In it, a couple of marketers decided to take their guerrilla marketing tactics to the Internet, persuading a lot of newcomers that aggressive marketing would make them profitable. In 1995 the Web itself was very young, and we were all trying to sort out the best way to do things. Some of these guerrilla ideas caught on in a big way, but almost always in detriment to the comfort and prosperity of all. Guerrilla marketing tactics encouraged (and still encourage) e-mail spam, browser hijacking, overuse of ads (especially popups), and a range of adware that sbecome a scourge to the good users of the Web. From a management and team perspective, marketing is often considered the most difficult aspect of a successfulWeb site team, as they tend to have conflicting goals. Marketing goals often conflict with technology goals, and there also tends to be a different focus in marketing. Their job is the sale, and while designers and developers seek to support that, sometimes the two conflict in their goals. On the Web, no practice can work without the technology necessary to make it work. Technology and how well we use it makes up a significant portion of a site s success. Of course, marketing and promotional methods are not all bad, and certainly many methods, such as regular specials or Web-specific coupons, can end up being extremely useful in successfully promoting your site. The best of marketing and promotion savvy, in my opinion, are those that relate to successful business strategy, great management, and workflow all topics found elsewhere in this book. Now Focus Is on Structure and Content While you will see how to use long-existing techniques such as meta keyword and description in this chapter, the real focus for today sWeb sites is to ensure that they are structured and written so that search engine computers can successfully rank them.

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Improving Site 1Cha4pter Ranking and Managing Promotions

Improving Site 1Cha4pter Ranking and Managing Promotions Secrets in This Chapter #230: Targeting Keywords for meta Elements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356 #231: Writing Effective meta Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357 #232: Using Targeted Words in Headers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358 #233: Using Keywords in Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359 #234: Keeping URLs Short and Relevant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360 #235: Solicit Reciprocal Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361 #236: Consider Affiliate Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 361 #237: Use Opt-In E-mail Newsletters to Drive Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363 #238: Run Regular and Seasonal Promotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 364 #239: Learn More About Web Ads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365 #240: Add Sponsored Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 366 #241: Search Engine Submission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 367 #242: Don t Forget Offline Promotions! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 368

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352 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Sucess

352 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Sucess have different budgets, technical concerns, human resource limitations, and so on. As with everything in web design, making good decisions means researching the options and weighing the various factors prior to jumping into any commitment. Many of the techniques used in this chapter have crossover with marketing and promotions, because they provide visitor tracking and other means of determining user behavior. In the following chapter, Improving Site Ranking and Managing Promotions, you ll learn more about how to take such information and use it in the best interest of your web site and your audiences.

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Chapter 13: Keeping Sites Fresh and

Chapter 13: Keeping Sites Fresh and Engaging 351 Figure 13-16: Sites display a flag of some sort if they offer syndication. Within a short time, about nine different RSS formats emerged from different vendors, making it difficult to figure out which is best to use. You may have also heard the term Resource Description Format (RDF), a more formal XML language being developed at the W3C. RDF, as all aggregation technologies, is very concerned with metadata and how to use that to connect people to information and vice-versa. Atom is an emerging next-generation format for content syndication and additional features, such as creating and editing posts. Its goal is to provide a more stable, standardized platform for aggregation and offer developers more choice and flexibility than in RSS. Fortunately, many weblogging tools generate more than one form of RSS, including Atom, and you can manually create RSS and Atom documents, too. note To learn more about RSS, see Mark Pilgrim s What is RSS? article at http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/12/18/dive-into-xml.html. The RDF specification is available at http://www.w3.org/RDF/. Information for Atom, including developer tutorials, is published at http://www.atomenabled.org/. Summary Keeping your sites fresh and engaging can be as simple as adding a bit of script and a fresh image at timely intervals, or as complex as adding advanced registration and personalization software. Certainly, each site with which you are involved will

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350 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Sucess

350 Part III: Designing Sites for Long-Term Sucess Table 13-4: Strategies for Adding Search Strategy Description Homegrown scripting You can find search scripts in just about every application language known to the web: Perl, PHP, Python, and ASP.NET. You can then implement these into your web site on your own as is, or modify them to your needs. This is typically the least expensive way to go; it provides the opportunity to customize features, but it also requires program-savvy folks to implement and test the scripts. Professional Search Application Software A wide range of professional search engines and support is available from familiar companies such as Google. These solutions can be expensive but can be far easier to implement and support as a result of the increased support available via the company you contract or purchase your search product from. Professional Web Search Service Provision In this scenario, you contract with a search service (Atomz, at http://www.atomz.com/, is a good example), and that service provides you with the code necessary to manage your search. Then, instead of installing software on your own servers, your service provision company handles everything. So, you get a very rich featured search for a reasonable price. This is an excellent choice for mid-range sites. Downsides include limitations in modifying templates to work seamlessly within your site. This will depend upon the provider you choose. Custom search programming If you have very detailed needs and are working on specialty documents such as within a medical intranet or other institutional setting, having custom search in place may be more effective than commercial search solutions for such a site. In custom programming, the most important choice is the programmer or team that you put together or hire to accomplish the goal. The search requirements must be clearly organized and planned, giving the programmers as much to work with as possible going in. If you have the human resources, this could be a very good option for you. If you have to outsource, it could be an added expense and other alternatives might accomplish your needs more effectively. Many sites have little buttons or syndication comments (see an example in Figure 13-16) indicating the availability of syndication. note Syndication formats are almost always automatically generated by a weblogging tool or related scripting process, and are rarely authored by hand. All major weblogging tools contain some method to aggregate content. Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (RSS for either) are terms used to describe a number of XML-related aggregation technology versions that grew out of a project at Netscape geared to manage news headlines for portal web sites.

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Chapter 13: Keeping Sites Fresh and

Chapter 13: Keeping Sites Fresh and Engaging 349 (always helpful for aging eyes). This is also an important feature for accessibility, and is in use on many web sites. Switching styles with CSS is a fairly easy process once you ve got all the pieces in order. Style switching requires the following: A contemporary web browser with CSS, JavaScript, and cookies turned on A basic style sheet for the page s design Additional, alternate style sheets A style switching script Of course, because this technique requires JavaScript, your site visitors will have to have JavaScript enabled on their browsers to tap into the switch. If they do not, it will not interfere with your site s performance; visitors simply won t be able to use the feature. note To learn how to implement style switching, see Chapter 8, Style Tips for Type and Design. There are also server-side alternatives to JavaScript style switching, including PHP alternatives. You may wish to consider alternatives if you have a high frequency of people visiting your site without JavaScript. Secret #228: Add Search Technology As sites begin to grow, search becomes imperative. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to add search to a site. Table 13-4 describes some of the most common ways to add search. note To learn more about search, what you should look for, and some ideas to implement it, see Avi Rappoport s Implementing Effective Site Search from a presentation at the WEB2001 conference, at http://www.searchtools. com/slides/web2001sf/. Search and usability are two concepts that go great together. Many usability leaders scrutinize search because it is an extremely important feature for most web site visitors. Nielsen Norman Group offers a report, E-Commerce User Experience: Design Guidelines for Search for $45.00 USD, available for download from http://www.nngroup.com/reports/ecommerce/ search.html. 37signals offers an Ecommerce Search Report as well, at http://37signals.com/report-search-0103.php. Secret #229: Aggregate Content Content aggregation is a means of using XML-based technology to easily send your updated content across the wire and into the newsfeeds and newsreader software of those individuals who have signed up to receive your content.

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Chapter 13: Keeping Sites Fresh and

Chapter 13: Keeping Sites Fresh and Engaging 347 Figure 13-13: Clever Google logos refresh the page style according to the time of year. Regularly refreshing some aspect of your web site keeps the look fresh, can be amusing and enjoyable for your site visitors, and is simple to implement, because you re only changing one or two visual pieces of the site at a time. Secret #227: Style Sheet Switching for Customization Style switching using CSS and JavaScript is not only a fun way to add interactivity to your site, but very practical. If you ve ever wanted to give your site visitors a little more control over the way they view a site without spending big money on personalization software, as well as offer techniques that make the site more usable and accessible, this technique might just do the trick. Switching styles is a common practice used by many web designers who offer site visitors a preselected default style. Then, the site visitor can choose a style once there, giving the site a different presentation, and a cookie can be implemented to keep the user preference until he or she changes it (refer to Figures 13-14 and 13-15). This technique is as practical as it is fun. Not only does it provide an enjoyable, enhanced experience for the site visitor, but it can allow you to provide versions of the site that suit different audience needs, such as a high-contrast version for those with vision impairments, or, if your site s layout is all CSS-based, you can provide an alternate design for browsers that do not support CSS, allowing site visitors to get a better visual experience on their terms. In a similar vein, the style-switching technique can be used to create text-size switching effects. For example, if your site uses small or normal text sizing, you might want to allow your visitor a one-click option to make their text size larger

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