Making the Web Work for You – Part 2

Bringing in the Traffic

In part one of the series, I talked about getting a site and doing it right.  Now what?  Well if you have a site and you are content with the form and function, it is likely a good time to find ways to become noticed and drive traffic to your site.  While I often suggest using other media to announce your web presence - print, radio, etc. - today I'm sticking just to using the web and the ever-present search engine.  One of the main goals for your site is to have a good page ranking - this means being listed in the top results when a potential client does a search using keywords that relate to your business.  This general process is known as Search Engine Optimization - SEO, which is equal parts science and art.  There is also no lack of people claiming to be SEO experts and will gladly take your money and deliver questionable results - take due care.

First your site needs a little prep work, you need to take care of three things right off the bat - your Meta Tags, SiteMap and robots.txt.  All these might be something your web developer will take care of (and they should); but it does not hurt to know what they are all about.

Meta Tags are pieces of HTML code - hidden to the casual observer - that hint to the search engines what your site is all about.  These hints help your site get properly indexed, so when someone does a search for “antique watch insurance southern Ohio” your site gets listed, preferably on the first page of results.  The two key meta tags for this are called description and keywords - the first is a brief description of your site or that particular page, the latter is a collection of keywords that relate to the content, essentially these are the search words that should bring a potential client to your doorstep.  Here is what they look like in the page source code:
A sitemap is an xml file - sitemap.xml, that resides at the document root on the webserver - it is a file that search engines can use to understand the layout and content of your site - it is a guide or map that crawlers refer to.  Since many websites have dynamic content, a good sitemap helps to reveal that content and the sites true hierarchy which would otherwise be hidden from the crawler and therefore not indexed.  Sitemaps do not have to be handcrafted, there are free generators available to simplify the task -
Finally, robots.txt; now that you want to entice the various web crawlers, spiders and bots to come for a visit, you may also want them to play nice and index that which you want indexed and possibly ignore other content.  The robots.txt file gives them basic instruction on what part of the site is okay to crawl and what is off limits.  Keep in mind - not all crawlers are respectable and they can ignore robots.txt - dealing with them is a whole other story though.  Again this file goes into your web document root directory.  Using robots.txt is not a security measure and does not ensure the privacy of content and should not be used with that goal in mind.  More info -

With those items taken care of, now it’s time to submit your site to some major search engines.  This is basically the process of alerting the various search engines to your site’s existence by submitting the URL to their various services:

Do not expect instant results, but your site will be crawled and indexed, and good formatting and content along with proper meta tags, sitemaps and a robots.txt should help your page ranking.  That about wraps things up, I hope you can put some of this to good use on your site.


Making the web work for you – Part 1

The Working Web

I'm going to do a series on leveraging web technologies to compliment your marketing strategies, promote your products and services, and communicate with your clients.

It all starts with your website - which for some is merely a billboard or worse yet, a business card - those days are far behind us now.  Today your website is a huge part of your branding effort and is the center of your marketing universe.  Many people claim to be web designers, but many of them have precious little understanding of branding, worse yet, some may not have a good understanding of web foundations like HTML, CSS, server-side scripting, browser support and security.   I cannot stress enough the importance of getting good people to design or update your site.  A template-based site slapped together on some WYSIWYG editor will get you on the 'Net quickly, but cheap is obvious, even to the layman and that is not the first impression you want to be giving your visitors.

There is no question, that in this industry a website is a necessity - and any business website needs both aesthetics and function.  If you do not have a site, it's time to analyze the business need for one and if you have a site, review it and determine if it is doing everything you want it to be doing.

As for the mechanics and technology - you can host the site internally if you have the infrastructure to support it, or you can choose to use the multitude of external hosting options out there.  I would recommend using a quality hosting company, but that could be a local ISP or a large outfit like 1&1.

A couple recommendations - if you don't know where to start:

Carve Design - a studio specializing in brand development

Kelly King Design - Kelly specializes in launching working brands

In Part 2 - I will be talking about some free tools every website should consider deploying.


NO IP for you

340 days worth of IPv4 address space left - can IPv6 save the day?

Gone will be the familiar 4 octet (32-bit) addresses like, replaced instead with something like 2001:db8:85a3::8a2e:370:7334 - hexadecimal 128-bit.  Will certainly take some getting use to.

IPv4 address space exhaustion can be blamed on many factors, the exploding accessibility of the Internet,  the increasing use of small mobile devices (iPhone anyone?), and poor scavenging of huge pools of address space, sometimes snatched up by crooks for nefarious reasons.


APR and Apache upgrade

For the second time, I have run into a snag upgrading PHP, and Apache 2.x due to an Apache Portable Runtime dependency.  It's a bit of an annoying snag, that on FreeBSD at least (if you are one who uses ports) requires some fancy footwork.

According to /usr/ports/UPDATING you need to:

pkg_delete -f apache-2.\*

portupgrade -f -o devel/apr1 devel/apr

reinstall apache port

I know this is fairly technical for the AU blog - but just in case anyone is running Apache for their web server, it's good to know.


RU listening?

Russia to try to clean-up it's .ru TLD.  I mean - file this under "about time" - that top level domain has become synonymous with malware, spam and criminal activity. It's a great concept if put into action and enforced, so we will have to wait and see.

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