Posts Tagged Google

Ten things to do first when creating a new website

Alright, so you’ve got your CMS (website software) installed and set up, and you’re looking at your new front page.

Now what?

Here’s my suggestions for the first ten things to do to get your website “off the ground” as it were. It’s recommended that they be done in some kind of order, as you will get the best results with one after having done the others before it.

1. Edit your front page

This should go without saying. Change the default content to something a little personal talking about you and your new site. State what it’s about, but don’t go overboard with the keywords or ads. A new site is a new site, but a new site rife with “keywords” and ads will scream “stay away!”

Don’t worry about themes at this point, unless you have something specific in mind. The search engines won’t care what kind of theme you use and they’ll re-index as things change. There will be plenty of time for theming later.

2. Get an XML Sitemap plugin

XML sitemaps are sitemaps specifically designed for search engines to use to crawl your site quickly and effectively. They contain a list of every page regardless of whether or not it’s linked from another page, and the page’s last update. Even better, most XML Sitemap plugins will automatically “ping” (or notify) the search engines when you create a new page or update a page. A must have for fast indexing.

3. Get your webmaster accounts

Google, Yahoo, and Bing offer webmaster tools for site owners to submit, verify, and specify XML sitemaps for their sites. Once you complete this step, search engines will usually begin crawling your site within a day.

Make sure to complete the verification steps at each site.

Here are the direct links: Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, Bing Webmaster Center

4. Get a good stats system

Server logs aren’t a good indicator of site traffic unless you’re getting less than a handful of hits each day. Even then, once you start getting some traffic, you’re going to want to see specifically what pages are popular and with what visitors. Even inbound searches will show you what you’re doing right so you can keep focusing on the important stuff.

I recommend Clicky. The stats are real-time and it’s free for one site.

5. Get some inbound links

Chances are you have at least one friend with a website. Ask them to put up a link to yours. This is good for two things, traffic and search engine ranking.

Visitors to the other site may see a link to yours and click on it, and search engines will see the link from the other site to yours and “follow” it to yours, helping your search ranking.

Of course, it helps if the sites are on the same topic as yours.

6. Make it your own

Start playing with the theme, layout, and color options. Make it your space and your style. Darker themes are more suitable for personal sites, lighter themes for more professional. Use colorful backgrounds that show off your skills if you are an artist (painted or drawn art, music, etc. If you create something, show some style).

7. Start adding real content

Nothing is going to turn away visitors faster than the words “Coming Soon” or “UnderĀ  Construction.” Post something up, if only a few paragraphs. Talk about yourself, the reason and aim for your site, and what you’re working on. Link to your user profile on some social networking sites, put up pictures. Above all, make sure it’s original content! Users know when you steal from other websites, and it will immediately discredit you.

8. Make yourself available

Add a contact form, your email address, a Skype or Google Voice button if you have them. If a viewer wants to get in touch with you, they should be able to. If you’re a business, your address and/or telephone number are also a must.

9. Add interaction

Add a comment box or guestbook. Let visitors comment (even if it’s negative). You may learn something. Respond to the comments to show you are involved and that you care.

10. Update often!

A web site is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. Look at your site regularly and add new content, update out-of-date content, and play around with the layout. Out-of-date content is a turn-off for most web visitors. No one wants to spend time reading a post that is obsolete or out-of-date. Keep it fresh and keep it coming.

Have experience launching a website or any advice to share? Did you try these tips? Did they work for you? Have something to add? Please share it in the comments!

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Captchas, Anti-spam services, and Bad Behavior

I run this WordPress blog as well as a Drupal-powered forum site and one of the biggest challenges that any webmaster can have is controlling spam — both in comments and user sign-ups.

I used to rely heavily on captchas, and I’ve gone through several captcha and non-captcha systems to try to find the “ideal” solution: One that cut the spam down to nearly nothing as well as not putting too much of a burden on the legitimate users (as to possibly deter them from participating on the site).

Here’s what I’ve tried, and what I’ve learned in the process:

reCAPTCHA (WordPress, Drupal): This service aims to stop bots and spammers by presenting two words.

Pros: As a side effort, the service also aims to help digitize books by using the legitimate users to correctly identify one of the mangled words provided. Also has a feature called “reCAPTCHA Mail Hide” to hide email addresses behind a captcha to keep them from being harvested by web bots.

Cons: reCAPTCHA has one distinct weakness: Only ONE word needs to be correctly entered to pass the captcha. Additionally, at least one implementation has a weakness making the captcha worthless.

Mollom (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla) : Mollom is a text analysis service with a captcha fallback.

Pros: Aims to be unobtrusive. Does not present the user a captcha unless textual analysis cannot be performed or appears to the service to be a spam submission. Captchas are “cleaner” looking than other services (less visual distortion). Audio captchas.

Cons: Limitations on the free service, and does not scale well. Free service only allows 1,000 legitimate posts per day, then it’s 30 EUR/mo/site. (Around $50 USD). No service uptime guarantee with the free service.

Akismet (WordPress, Drupal) : Akismet is a non-captcha anti-spam service that does textual analysis (similar to Mollom) except completely without the aid of captchas.

Pros: Comes installed on all WordPress.COM blogs by default and needs no configuration. Powered by, and maintained by Automattic, the same team behind WordPress and Gravatar. Suspicious submissions are placed in a moderation queue for the administrator to manually approve, with the option to automatically expire (delete) them after 30 days or so. Easy setup via an API key.

Cons: Akismet weighs input the same across all Akismet-protected sites. This means that someone who submits a comment on an Akismet-protected blog that gets flagged as spam would get the same treatment on an Akismet-protected forum (and every other Akismet-protected site for that matter) until enough comments get marked as false positive for the system to re-learn the user is not a spammer. I had a user that got hit by this false-positive treatment the first day I implemented Akismet on another siteĀ and it became a hassle. When I enabled Akismet on this WordPress site, his comments were still getting flagged as spam. That’s a serious issue for me. (Akismet FAQ)

Defensio (WordPress, Drupal, Facebook) : Similiar to Akismet, weighs each source seperately, and offers Facebook protection as well.

Pros: Defensio is a service similar to Akismet, but weighs content from each website (blog, forum, etc) separately to avoid mistakes. You register each web property you want protected and obtain an API key for each. Slow to learn at first, but avoids false-positive/negative and cross-property disasters like I mentioned above with Akismet. This service is a favorite of mine. Additionally offers profanity / file link protections, as well as customizable filters. (Link)

Cons: Slow to learn at first. Might require you to manually flag content until it learns. Currently free, though they mention possibly charging for the service in the future for commercial users.

Bad Behavior (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla) : Not a captcha or textual analysis service at all, takes a completely different approach

Pros: Filters access at the http level, by blocking proxies, historically abusive IP addresses, suspicious user-agents, and malformed requests. Cuts down on bandwidth, spammers, users who are accessing site content through known proxies, etc. Conserves server bandwidth and resources, as pages are not served up at all when a block is performed. No training required.

Cons: It’s possible that a number of users whose ISPs force proxies may be blocked, but I have not seen evidence that this is happening on my sites.

So there you have it. Personally, I use a combination of Bad Behavior and Defensio on my sites, and I’ve seen a big drop in the amount of spam.

Have experience with one or more of the above? Please share it!

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