Sunday, October 12, 2008

Getting Online.

Getting Online.
by Bob Hubbard

In todays’ competitive business climate, getting exposure is harder than ever before. It is vital that your business have a website that will give you that exposure on the Internet. You need a partner who both understands what it takes and can provide you with that solution.

In order to get your organization online, you need four things:

1-A Good Domain Name –
What is a Domain Name? Your Domain Name is your address on the Web. Just like people use your phone number to call you on the phone, your Domain Name allows people to access your site on the Web. Clever, simple, or easy to remember Domain Names are most desirable as they can play a large part in attracting visitors to your site. Most Domain Names end with “.com” - but other extensions such as “.net” (such as and “.org” are also available.

You need a name people that people can remember. Your customers will find easier to remember and type than Why should your site be hard to find? For about the price of lunch at your favorite fast food place, you can reserve your own unique and easy-to-remember web address for an entire year. And for just the cost of one month’s lessons in most schools, you can lock in your name for an entire decade! Don’t be overcharged! My company has carefully researched the registrars that we use. With well over 100 to pick from, and several closings each year, you want to know that your name is reserved with a company that will be there for you.

2-Reliable Hosting –
A good analogy for website hosting is that our server is an apartment building. We rent space out for websites, giving different services to different “tenants” with different needs. If your site’s not up, it does you no good. Our data center offers redundant connections to several Tier 1 providers, multiple fiber paths, multiple redundant power back-up, 24 x 7 onsite staff and 24 x 7 monitoring, and high security. All of this is running on modern, state of the art, high-speed servers designed to serve millions and millions of pages without fail. What this means for you is that your site will be up when your customers and clients are looking for it! In the rare event of a problem, we will usually have it fixed before you are even aware of it. We pride ourselves on the reliability of our hosting, and are regularly audited to guarantee that we have the most up to date software and security possible.

Not all hosts are equal. Many of the low cost hosts are running off a DSL or Cable setup out of their homes, or pack thousands of sites onto a server that is little more than a suped-up home PC. Do some real research into the company you choose to host your site. After all, you wouldn’t want to locate your place of business in someplace that wasn’t ‘customer friendly’. Why put your website there? More expensive also is not really better than dirt cheep. Compare features as well as prices, but also check out their support. What do they cover and what don’t they? Do they offer phone support or just web-based? What if you call them with a support question even though they say “web only”? Do your homework and you’ll be pleased with the results.

3-Quality Site Design –
What is web design? Web design is putting together a Web site. A Web site is your message to the world telling them who you are, what you are, and what you are about. It is critical to have a well-designed and well thought out Web site. It allows your site to grow and expand as your needs change. Whether your site is a single page or multiple pages or even spread out over many physical locations on many different machines, a well-designed site will make your connections appear seamless and streamlined.

People who are visiting Web-sites do not want to spend a lot of time figuring out who you are, where you are, and how to find out the information they want. And time is the critical element here. So, web design is simply presenting yourself at your best so that people can get to know you and to use your services as soon as possible.

Too often, people cut corners on their websites. They use pre-designed templates that give their site a ‘cookie cutter’ look. They also have poor navigation that makes it hard for someone who visits to find information easily. Remember, the average visitor only spends a few minutes skimming your site. If they can’t find it, they move on to the next site. Even though many people have high-speed connections, many more do not. AOL is still the dominant internet provider for over 30 million people. That’s a lot of slow dial ups. Too many sites today have huge ‘Flash’ animated intros that don’t allow you to skip them.

4-Site Promotion –
What is site promotion? In a nutshell - bringing people to your web site. Simply put, it is a submission of your web address (domain name) to the search engines (like Yahoo, Excite and InfoSeek) that allow people to find your site among the millions of sites on the Internet. Each search engine and database handles submissions differently. While not a difficult task, promotion is time consuming when done properly. Not done properly, promotion submission can be a disaster. There is an entire science behind it. A website does you no good if no one knows it’s there.

Site promotion is different for each search engine. Right now, the dominant search engine is Google. Google is tricky. If you submit yourself too often, you end up on a ‘blacklist’ and will never be listed. Some search engines read your site, while others use hidden comments in your sites HTML code called ‘Meta Tags’ to rank you.

Never use words that are the same color as the background, and never stick multiple copies of the same word back to back. Both of these are sure fire ways to make the black lists.

To give yourself the best chance of being listed use this 4 part check list:
1- Have your own domain name. – Many search engines are no longer taking the /~somethings sites. They only want to list something.coms.

2- Have reliable hosting. – Once you get listed they check back regularly. If they can’t see you, they remove your listing. A poor host will majorly hurt you here. Its worth the few extra bucks to have the reliable hosting.

3- A good site design. – Both in layout and ‘under the hood’ will help optimize your chances at successfully being listed.

4- A well thought out promotion campaign. – Getting listed doesn’t happen over night. Some search engines can take months to even look at you. A year long series of checks and submissions combined with your other promotions will greatly enhance your exposure.

In this article, I touched briefly on what a successful website requires. Each section could easily fill an entire book. It is your job to educate yourself enough so that you understand this a little. Your designer should have a more in depth knowledge. When talking with hosts and web designers, keep these points in mind. After all, it is your money we are talking about.

Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site and president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists.

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