How do you get started with a website? Who are the people who can help and in which order should you approach them? Senior Copywriter Mike Druttman has been through the process countless times and offers some useful advice about which foot to put forward first.
The Internet is a wonderful place! There’s so much flow of information that you’re bound to pick up something useful, somewhere. I was talking to a friend recently and she mentioned how a webpage from an SEO site really helped her to understand the order of things about building websites. She sent me this link http://www.seotrafficspider.com/programming-your-website-after-storyboarding.html. SEO Traffic Spider did quite a good job but I felt that there was much more ‘behind the scenes’.
After I scanned their information, I realized that a) the article did not cover several important points and b) it did not give the logical ‘building sequence’ in the way I would have expected. So I decided to write my own version. Note that the other content acted as a ‘springboard’ for my own contribution: I didn’t copy at all what they wrote but rather used it as a catalyst for my own piece. That’s what we do online – everything feeds off everything else, and it’s great! So here goes…
1) The master plan
Imagine that you’re building a house. You have to decide on the number of rooms and roughly how they will be laid out – so many rooms per floor. Until your architectural plan is ready, you cannot start building. Well, a website is much the same, only the plan is called a ‘site map’. Look on other people’s site map to see a structure. Everything flows from the Home Page to maybe 5-6 main links. From those links you also have other links. I suggest that you visit competitor sites to get an idea what the main buttons should be.
Once your site map is in some sort of shape, you should start to collect content material for each of the main links. I’ll take my own site www.futureweb.ws as an example. I’m selling copywriting services so my main links are Content, Site Design, Site Marketing, Portfolio, Courses, Articles and Contact. I started by collecting information in those areas. Note that I did NOT mention the Home Page yet – that comes later.
2) Involve a copywriter
The web-savvy copywriter will be the first ‘creative’ person with whom who you work, because he or she has to help you collect and sort out all the information. I mentioned the main link ‘Content’ and under this there is also Web Stage 2, Print Content, Presentations, Business Docs and Writing Offer. You don’t have to think of all these sub-categories – your copywriter will suggest them as part of the work process. When you have a reasonable idea about your messages and content direction, you’re ready to move to the design side.
3) Develop a graphic design
Have a graphic designer create a design for the Home Page and an inside page grid. You’ll probably be guided by what other people have done on their websites. I put this as Step 3 because it’s hard to know what to do until you have a) a site framework and b) an idea about overall messages. Note that the copywriter and designer should work as a creative team, building the overall concept together. I know that often this does not happen (because people rush into design first and leave content as an after-thought), but all the best sites are constructed in this ‘teamwork’ way.
4) Bring in the webmaster
There are three key people involved in a website – two ‘creatives’ (copywriter/ designer) and one ‘technician’ (webmaster). The webmaster is a programmer and a definite ‘left-brainer’ analyst who knows how to build everything correctly from a technical standpoint. He or she gets the design sketches from the graphics person and the text from the copywriter. In most cases, designers have only limited programming expertise and programmers are mediocre designers, so try to avoid the ‘combos’ if you can.
5) Importance of website marketing
There are two main stages of a website: getting it online and making it responsive to keyword searches. If your website is not a quality communication tool, there’ll be no point in driving visitor traffic to it. Equally if the site is nice but not connected anywhere, nobody will find it. So Site Marketing is involved in both areas.
Regarding the site itself, it needs to be properly optimized for your main keywords (a set of 2-3 words each time). If you have a small website of 12 pages then you will be able to use about 3 keywords, where each keyword phrase is used over 3-4 pages, for appropriate keyword strength. Keywords need to be used in the Title, Meta Description, Meta Keywords and ALT Tags. Note that all Titles and Descriptions in your site must be unique, so don’t just write one set and copy it everywhere. Keywords also have to be embedded in the body text.
As an experienced website copywriter, I also deal with keyword research and site optimization. You’ll find that many experienced copywriters take this job upon themselves because it is an extension of the content-writing role. The final texts given to the Webmaster should contain both the content and the optimization. However this is only 25% of the website marketing story.
6) Website marketing expert
The major part of what brings you success on the Internet (75% 🙁 ) involves links from the outside flowing into your site. Look at it in terms of the votes that other people give you. I can optimize my site www.contentoptimizationexpert.com all I want, but unless people mention this site on their sites (inbound links to me), I am not going to get the ‘link popularity’ that Google and other search engines regard as so important. So using a professional linking expert to help you get these results is very important.
Assume that there are two almost identical sites – both with attractive graphics and good copy, and both well optimized for the same keywords. The only difference is that one site has 50 inbound links and the other site has 2 inbound links. Which site will Google rank higher for a keyword search? That’s the real key!
7) A few other technical things
This posting has turned out a lot longer than I expected, but bear with me a little more. Here are a few technical things you should know.
‘Flash’ is a way of building web pages to make everything sing and dance nicely. It is designed for smooth effects and for animation. However it is no good for the search engines that just see a blank page instead of web pages that they can ‘read’. ‘HTML’ is the basic way of building a web page that gives a lot of information to the search engines. If you can ‘paint’ all the texts with your mouse, then you have a page that a search ‘robot’ can read. Of course there are many other variations of web page building but these are the two extremes.
Another point to make is ‘avoid using frames within pages’. By this I mean having a fixed web page (that you cannot scroll down but then having a window inside the page with an interior scroll bar. Nobody likes to read text through a 6cm window and it surprises me that designers still suggest this and clients put up with it.
Finally, when the site is finished and you have uploaded it to the Web, don’t forget to ask your webmaster to add a ‘Google Site Map’ to your site and to the code. This is a special file that lists all your web pages and allows Google to track your site easily and Verify that it exists.
I’m sure that there are points that I’ve missed but the above points are all the basics. If they can help you to avoid the worst errors and save money and time, then I feel I’ll have done a valuable service!