"Web Design Guide - Part 1"
This page is an introductory Web Design Guide a kind of overview to get you on the right track with respect to the information content of your forthcoming commercial website and how best to organize it.
The most important feature of your website is its information content NOT the keywords, NOT the on page optimization, NOT the off-page links, and certainly NOT the sales pitches that you include or link to.
Be aware that there are other authors that will contradict some of the information in the paragraph above and the one below. If you give their web design guides too much credence, they will surely lead you astray. They have ulterior motives - and they are wrong!
Nothing about your commercial website is more important than the relevance, quality, and quantity of its content - the information that your readers have come hoping to find. If you give them what they want, wonderful things will happen.
They will come back again and again - and stay longer and longer. They will sign up for your newsletter. They will create links to your website. They will tell their friends about you. They will read about the things you offer to sell them - and - they will buy!
Don't be distracted by writers who focus on "search engine optimization". Their web design guides may contain useful information - but their basic philosophy is fatally flawed.
Yes, you need to build your pages so the search engines will find them - but the engines get better every day at discerning reality - valuable information that your readers love! That is where you need to keep your focus for at least the first twenty pages that you write.
Let this principle be your main web design guide criterion - no matter whose articles you read.
These factors (Search Engine Optimization factors) are, to a certain extent, important to get the attention of the search engines, and ultimately to "monetize" the site, so it makes money but in the long run, your success will depend mainly upon your ability and willingness to provide ample, high quality, relevant information to your readers. This fact cannot be over-stressed!
For illustration purposes, let's suppose you've done your homework some keyword / market research and have decided that photography would be a good match for you you know something about the subject and feel a certain passion for it! Here are the steps I recommend you follow getting started beginning with the decision to follow this web design guide. Thousands of excellent profitable online businesses have been built following this pattern.
If I were building such a business, I'd begin by listing all the topics I could think of that I might want to include in the website. Here the temptation would be to govern my choices by what I want to sell such as cameras, lenses, books on photography, camera accessories, printing supplies, frames, albums, or my own professional services (or someone else's) as a photographer. BUT I would strongly suggest that you set aside your monetization ideas for now and just make a list out of your own imagination of what you would hope to find on a really dynamite photography site.
After completing Step 1 of this web design guide, I suggest you begin thinking about whom you want as customers - as you move into step 2.
My next step, following this web design guide, would be to create a keyword list using Google's Free Keyword Tool or comparable (or better) software. Download the resulting list in .csv format, give it a suitable filename and save it as an Excel .xls file. When you download the Google words you also get estimates of competition level and search volume (supply and demand) for each word.
Get similar data for your personally generated topics (keywords) by using Google's Free Traffic Estimator. Again download and save the results. Then combine (copy) both lists into one master keyword list (MKL) keeping the original lists in case you need to distinguish between them at some future time. After each step, refer back to this web design guide to make sure you are ready for the next step.
Next, prune your big keyword list by deleting all the duplicates and words and phrases that are irrelevant to the theme of your business, as well as those that refer specifically to your competitors. When you are finished pruning you should have between fifty and two hundred keywords left if you started with something close to a thousand.
For the photography example, I've actually found over to 4,200 keywords using Wordtracker, Yahoo, and another piece of software that I'll talk about elsewhere.
If your list is very small after pruning, say only five or ten keywords, your original keyword search was based on a "seed-word" that had too narrow a scope. Go back and start over with something broader. For instance, if you started with "digital photograph manipulation" and you wind up with too small a list of related terms, go back and try "edit photograph" or "digital photography", both of which are more general topics.
Now we come to the fun part of this web design guide. It's time to organize our keywords (topics) into a hierarchy of topics, sub-topics, and "monetization" opportunities. So what does this mean?
Depending upon how we plan to develop the theme of the website, we will organize the relevant content into a three-level system. Here you have significant choices to make depending on whom you see as your future customers. To illustrate what I mean by this, let's take just a handful of possible keywords (including short phrases) for the photography example. Let's start with the following list of thirty:
|artificial lighting ||newsworthy events |
|choose wedding photographer ||photo equipment |
|day or night weddings ||photo thank-you cards |
|digital cameras ||photographer experience |
|equipment choices ||photographer reputation |
|event photography ||photos as keepsakes |
|film cameras ||portrait photography |
|films ||scenic photography |
|flower photographs ||sports events |
|image software ||wedding album |
|indoor photography ||wedding photo business |
|indoors or out || |
wedding photo contract
|key wedding events ||wedding photography |
|lenses fixed or SLR ||wedding photo professional |
|nature photography ||wedding photo technique |
In the lists below I have shown a similar set of topics in three different ways. In the first column I assume you are a merchant wanting to sell photography equipment and accessories to photographers looking for information that will enhance their ability to work at weddings. Your intended customers are the photographers.
In the second column I am assuming you are a wedding photographer seeking soon-to-be-married couples looking for a local photographer to hire for their wedding. You want your website visitors to know how competent and reliable you are and how happy they are likely to be with the results you produce.
In the third column I assume again that you want to sell photo equipment, accessories, supplies, and books - to the serious photo hobbyist this time rather than the wedding photo professional.
(for the pro photographer)
(for the couple-to-be)
(for the hobbyist)
Wedding photo tech-nique
Photos as Keepsakes
Key wedding events
The wedding album
Indoors or out
Photo thank-you cards
Day or night weddings
Choose wedding photographer
Photos as keep-sakes
Key wedding events
Wedding photo business
Wedding photo business
Wedding photo con-tract
Wedding photo pro-fessional
Schedule a wedding
Wedding photo con-tract
Lenses fixed or SLR
In each of the columns above the bold column header represents the theme of the website the keyword for the home page. The items below the header that are shown in bold text form the second tier of the website's organization. These pages should be reachable via the website's "navigation bar" the buttons that connect the home page to the main topics included in the website.
Un-bolded text indicates a sub-topic often ripe for monetization. These keywords refer to pages on tier 3. They are not listed on the navigation bar and they should be the only pages that actually sell anything including the sales message for a given item and a "buy now" opportunity.
Instead of appearing on the navigation bar, if you are following this web design guide, links to tier three pages will appear as highly contextual links on Tier 2 pages.
Note too that the same keyword phrases often play a different role in each of the three arrangements above. "Wedding Photography", for instance, is the theme (Tier 1) of the first two columns. But, in the third column "weddings" appears as a sub-topic (Tier 3) of Event Photography.
Similarly, "equipment" shows up as a Tier 2 page in the first and third columns but it's a Tier 3 page in the second column. Other keyword phrases follow a similar pattern.
The point of the example above is that how you organize the pages of your website depends upon your intended audience of future customers. You are "Pre-Selling" these folks by providing them with valuable information relevant to what they want. In this way you build your credibility and ultimately your "brand" before even hinting that you might want to sell them something.
So let's summarize the key points contained in this abbreviated web design guide as they are crucial to your long range success in organizing your forthcoming commercial website.
- Brainstorm your intended topic for keywords (including phrases) that your intended customers are likely to search out.
- Use online tools or available software to expand your list.
- Use the data derived from this process to pick a niche that will define the theme of your website not too broad, where the competition is likely to be very heavy and not too narrow, where the pool of searchers is too small to bring you enough customers to be worth your time.
- Then organize your list into a three-tier hierarchy, where Tier 1 is your home page, with the broadest primary keyword, Tier 2 are your primary topics that appear on your navigation bar, and Tier 3 is made up of all your deeper level pages reached only via contextual links on your Tier 2 pages and
- First and foremost, make your Tier 1 and Tier 2 pages pre-sell by providing valuable information (content) that builds your credibility and thereby lowers your visitors' resistance to your subsequent sales efforts.
As your online web design guide, let me offer this penultimate word of caution that is going to be crucial to your success. Because of the way the search engines work, you must not jump the gun by starting to promote traffic to your website before you have at least twenty high quality content-rich pages in place. By then, the link in the previous sentence will take you to a page that will tell you how to get the traffic you need the right way without getting penalized by the search engines.
And finally, you must not start to offer your readers buying opportunities (sales pitches) until you have sufficient traffic coming to your website. This is crucial if you don't want to be penalized by the search engines.
Think of this page as your Web Design Guide Part 1. Part 2 of this web design guide concerns writing to pre-sell and Part 3 is about how to monetize your website so it actually makes money.
If you are interested, you might note that this website is currently under development following precisely the plan outlined above - after all, why would I give you a web design guide any different from the web design guide that I employ myself?
Can you tell at what development stage it is? Have you noticed that each web page in the site is devoted to one topic defined by a single key word? Is it getting the traffic it needs before being monetized? Has it been monetized yet?
If you bookmark the home page and come back often, you can watch the growth of the site and observe how effective the strategy is that its development is following. If you would like to be notified of the inclusion of new pages, you can subscribe to my little newsletter and receive periodic updates as they become available.
If you have comments or questions, feel free to contact us with the form provided.
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