What is involved with owning a website?

Website ownership is a mystery to most individuals. A website is just a Word document on the Internet, isn’t it? Can’t I just update and manage it the same way I save one on my computer? While a website seems like a simple thing to manage, it does consist of a number of components which require attention and know-how. Understanding these components properly will allow anyone to know what they need to do to start and manage a site and what people are talking about when dealing with others.

Main Components

The main components of a web site are analogous to a physical business. There are slight differences between the physical and virtual worlds, but making these associations can help you remember these areas to manage for your website. More detailed articles on each of these areas will be posted in the future and linked here. I list these in the order they would be performed in setting up a typical website.

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Complete Tools for DIYers

Thought I would provide a quick link to a video presentation on the Google TrifectaGoogle Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer that I finally got around to viewing last week. I was quite impressed with the Website Optimizer as I never looked at it in detail before. I thought the whole presentation was a great introduction to website owners to these free tools available to them. Understanding that these tools are out there is key to deciding to move and do it yourself or hire someone with the expertise to assist you with the setup and management of the tools. Many people with brick and mortar stores expanding onto the web don’t realize there are these powerful tools that will help them tremendously during the initial stages of their Internet expansion.

Microsoft also recently updated their Live Search Webmaster Center tools to provide much of the same information available in Google’s Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t signed up or been using Live Search Webmaster Center, you should check it out now.

On another note, I continuously have to remind clients about the importance of their content, of making it permanent, findable, and relevant. Too often people want to tear everything down and start from scratch. Unless you are on an old system that doesn’t provide a lot of features and content that is not worth saving, it is important to not remove old content even if it is no longer relevant. Updates that make note of the changes and direct visitors to other relevant areas is a much better idea for maintaining traffic, especially from search engines. But don’t listen to me, listen to Jonathon Snook.

Purpose and the Pay off

This is a quick post since I have not been posting regularly recently. I have been dedicating my time to changes and special items for the site I expect to start rolling our shortly.

Thinking about how satisfied I am with feddy.ca, the traffic it gets, and what I do here, I came across a couple posts that speak to my purpose and what I expect as a pay off. James Bennett summed up my philosophy almost perfectly in his post Advertising and me. For this site, I have no dreams of building my visitor numbers so I can unleash advertising and retire. In a sense the site is an advertisement for my services, but even that is not a focus. The upcoming changes will show more of the giving back to the community that I wish for the site. I hope it can serve as an open resource for those searching for the information I write about. I know I have been frustrated many times in the past 15 years looking for information on IT topics that was of good quality. Many times there is plenty of information, but the quality was dubious. When I learn something, I want to be shown the standard and correct way, not a way that “just works” but uses bad practises. Other times, the information cannot be found. In an effort to restrict the number of experts in a field, information is not shared as freely. Other topics, increasingly true of Microsoft technologies, have become so dense, that it is very difficult to dedicate the time needed along with the money to become competent on that topic. That is why I have turned toward open source technologies, which foster much more open exchange of ideas and information. I try to provide on this blog information on how simple, small sites can compete on today’s Internet with open technologies.

Then what is the pay off I am looking for from this site? Helping a few people is just as rewarding to me now as helping thousands if my visitor numbers were to grow. I am looking to keep improving, and maybe teach someone who will start a great site based on some of the information they found here or help dozens of fringe sites provide quality and dynamic sites to their visitors. If I ever get to move to be a full-time self-employed professional administrating and creating web sites, I will have realized my dream. Until then I will keep re-iterating my message to small site owners — you too can grow your site by sharing information, the most sought out product on the web. A recent post by Matt Cutts, though dug from the archives and over 2 years old, provides a list of “ways to get high-quality links without emailing, paying, or even paying attention to search engines” that is more relevant today. Again, the advice to become a resource and provide valuable information is listed. Get started and don’t think in terms of success or failure by your visitor stats. As you build your archive of quality information, word of mouth and the Internet will help you get noticed.

Other Search Engine Developments

Just a quick post to note these two links. First, Microsoft’s Live Search team announced the release of their Live Search Webmaster Center as a public beta this week. A quick review of the service shows promise, with valuable link and rank information shown for my site immediately after registering and verifying. I did have to switch to Safari, however, as I could not get my site registered in Firefox or see my site in Firefox after registration was completed in Safari. I thought it was a cookie issue, but after many retries I was not able to get Firefox to work, even after removing cookies, closing the browser, clearing the cache, etc. Once again, I believe it is important for any serious web site owner to be registered with any tools the search engines provide. This is the method for notifying search engines of new content (and sites) and getting reports of issues on your sites.

Also, the Yahoo! Search Blog has a nice summary of a SEO workshop talk, covering the topics of spiderability, duplicate content, linking strategies, fighting spam, and blended search, social marketing, behavioural search, and local issues. Many points a stress when talking to customers are reiterated here, including site structure, content is king, descriptive link text and the potential consequences of spamming the system among other, new and interesting points. A good read to reinforce tactics available to achieve your site strategy.

Designing Homepages for Tomorrow

The web homepage has changed since many of us started surfing the web in the ’90s. No longer is most traffic the result of someone entering a URL found in a magazine or other media. Instead, today’s Internet traffic comes from search engines that ends up not on your homepage but on interior content pages if you are providing any kind of quality content.

What does this mean for the homepage? This good examination of the role of the homepage lays out some ideas around building or re-designing a site’s homepage. In general, the homepage should focus on the key areas of your site that you wish to highlight while not becoming a crowded dumping ground of links to every area of your site. A balance of content and whitespace will provide the proper impression for visitors that land on your site without overwhelming them with choices. Some of the best homepages I have seen focus on one purpose for the site, whether it is a product, service or idea, and the navigation to other areas are almost invisible but easy to find. This brief article is worth a read to incorporate the author’s ideas and perspective in your site’s homepage.