How to Get More Out of Your Website!

world-wide-web-300x207My start in building websites began in 1994 when my writing partner, Vern Jacobs, and I decided we would start to promote our newsletter and book on the internet. Since we couldn’t find anyone to do it for us, as the World Wide Web was in its infancy, Vern and I decided to learn how to write in the publishing language of the internet, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) ourselves.

So you have to picture this: here’s Vern, a CPA and author, and I’m an Investment Banker doing business development and managing investment portfolios; and we’re too ignorant to comprehend we’ve just undertaken a task so far out of our expertise, that there should be no way for us to succeed. But ignorance can be bliss and we proceeded along, years ahead of the book “HTML for Dummies”.

So I started building websites, first for myself, then for family, and then for hire. When we moved to Arizona in 1997, I started building websites for hotels, tour companies and businesses in the world-class tourist town of Sedona, Arizona, knowing that the internet is essential to successful business development.

It was in 1998 when I realized great websites have zero value if you’re not getting enough traffic to your site. That’s when I learned the importance of ranking on the first page of each of the major search engines. By the time I had moved on from work in tourism in 2009, the sites I had been responsible for were consistently on the first page of each search engine for each and every relevant key word and phrase, and the hotels and tour companies were now getting over 70% of their new business off the “Net”.

So here are Rick’s Rules for a Successful Website gained from almost 20 years of experience.

Rule One: Make sure your website is coded correctly.
Google and all the other search engines love good code, and that code needs to be to the W3C standard. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or W3). You can find out if your website meets this standard by right mouse clicking on your website and and finding “view page source”. If you’re compatible, you will see these two lines at the top of the view source page:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”>
<html xmlns=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml”>

You need to decide what platform you are going to use to create your website. The trend is towards WordPress and it is by far, if done correctly, the best option for most websites, including e-commerce sites.

If you are using WordPress, you need to know, that almost all free themes (designs), including those from WordPress itself are not coded to the W3C standard and many, including expensive templates use sloppy code.
SEO (search engine optimization) Matters. To rank well you must understand how this works and code your website accordingly. I’ll go into detail in a later article.

You must make your website Mobile Friendly.

You need to know how to make sure your website has protection against viruses and hackers.

Rule Two: Your website has to look, feel and respond in such a way that viewers are glad they found you and want to keep coming back.

They say “clothes make the man,” and that’s because human nature favors and trusts eye pleasing packaging. The same applies to your website. If your website is not pleasing to the viewers eye, easy to navigate and find information, then you’ve wasted time and money.

Rule Three: You have to clearly define the purpose of your website.
Your website needs to fit into your overall business strategy. You have to know the website’s main function, i.e. branding, selling products or services, as that helps define what type of site you should have.

Rule Four: Your website needs to be content driven.
The latest buzz phrase is cornerstone content and that is basic, essential, and indispensable content that needs to be on your website. In other words it’s the foundation information that all other info on your site is based upon. Cornerstone content reveals what people need to know to make use of your site and do business with you.

Your cornerstone content should contain your most important keywords and phrases because search engines love cornerstone content.

Rule Five: It has to be easy and desirable for visitors to sign up and stay in touch.
You have to make it easy for visitors to your site to request updates every time you publish something. Whether this is by email, RSS, or having people sign up for a newsletter, you need a way and reason to stay in communication.

Rule Six: You have to promote using social media to be truly successful.
Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the bestselling self-help books of all time, and as the web gets more social, winning friends can make you immensely influential and successful. So, make friends on Facebook and Twitter and the other social media outlets.

Rule Seven: Have a plan to monetize your site.
This goes back to Rule Three, to have a clearly defined purpose for your website. You have to have a way to quantify the value to your business of your website. The “create it and forget” days of the internet are gone. People and search engines want constant updates that are relevant and timely.

Thanks for reading.
Rick

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