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Saturday, January 9, 2010

2010 Is Here and We're Still Going!

Well you've probably noticed we haven't been posting much the past few months, and we do apologize for that. 2009 as you probably know was a rough year for most, and we certainly were no stranger to that effect. However, it's a new year and we're still kicking and ready to make it one of the best years yet.

We already have some nice projects in the pipeline and are making plans to start getting more leads coming through the door. With that in mind we'd like to take a few minutes to remind everyone what Ignite Media is all about.

Ignite is a small freelance website design and development company focusing on building search engine friendly websites for small and medium businesses. We've been in the field for over 20 years combined, and have worked with companies in every industry from retail to industrial. We take the time to listen to your needs and really get to know what it is you are looking for in an online presence.

We're not a full time shop, and we're honest about that. We put in the hours needed to make sure each and every project is built beyond your expectations. However, to keep costs down and overhead low we are based on a freelance model. What does this mean for you? Well you may have to leave us a voice-mail or send us an email but we'll get back to you. You may find that we like to talk a little after regular business hours, but we will communicate. We've worked on sites for large and small customers and there have been no complaints up to now about our schedule being an issue.

We're living in a new world. One that operates outside of the old style 9-5 but yet still works effectively and efficiently. Don't be afraid to try us out, we promise you won't be disappointed and better yet, we can almost guarantee you'll be please with our customer service and high quality design.

Here's to a new year, and a new start for everyone. May we all be healthy and prosperous for the year to come.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Planning and budgeting for a website...

As a web development company we are asked the same questions many times over about websites. However, there is one thing that always comes up and that is "how much does it cost?". It's probably one of the easiest to answer, and hardest for clients to comprehend! Everyone wants an exact answer, even before they've put much thought into what kind of website they want. So this post is intended to help people get a more accurate answer based on their website project.

Planning out your website
You may not think that there is very much to plan, but you'd be wrong. Building your website is probably one of the most important things you'll do for your business, outside of closing a sale. A website today is no longer a luxury it's a must have. Without a website, you are like a car salesman with no cars to sell. So planning your website is more important then it has ever been.

The first step is to decide what it is that you want your website to accomplish. Are you looking for a website that is purely informational, or one that sells products, or rather one that is more of a sell sheet of your company that gets visitors to contact you? Once you have this figured out, things start to lay themselves out a little more.

If you are creating a website that sells products online, you now know that you have to think about what type of shopping experience you want your customers to have. What extras you think would add to their shopping experience like email a friend, or save to favorites, etc. Each type of website will get you thinking about things that you should have in yours. A good thing to do is look at what other websites are doing and "borrow" ideas from them. Hey, if it's working for another site why not have it on yours? Don't go crazy with extras, but be sure you really think and plan out what your site will have and do.

This plan doesn't need to be an exact step by step process of how the website will function. Rather, this should be more of a bulleted list of things you would like to have on the site. You can break it out into Must Have Pages, Must Have Features and Would be Nice Pages and Would be Nice Features.

Budgeting for your website
The next thing to do after you've really thought about and planned out your ideas about the website, is to setup a budget. Figure out what it is that you can realistically afford to pay for your new website. Obviously the more you have the more robust your website will be able to be. That doesn't mean that a less expensive site won't be effective, it just means that it may not do as much as another site.

When you are budgeting, remember that a website is meant to be your 24 hour a day, 7 day a week sales person. It is always out there for people to view and contact you from. So with that in mind, would you pay a sales person $500 for the year? It's not that you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a website, but $2,000-$8,000 for a good website should not sound unreasonable. The more features and pages you want, the more money you should expect to budget.

The final step in planning and budgeting
Once you've made your plan, and figured out your budget it's time to get some quotes. This is important because now that you have a good idea of your plan, and how much you can afford you can feel more confident in receiving practical quotes from vendors. Don't be afraid to let them know up front that you have X amount in your budget for the website, and you'd like them to give you options based on leaving out certain things from your plan to play with the pricing. So for example they might come back to you and say for your plan as noted it would be $X, but if you left A and B out until a later phase, it would be $X. Then it's time to pick your vendor and build your website!

Remember: The more prepared you are, the more realistic the quotes will be and the more likely the end product will match your desires.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization
Website Packages Now Available!

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Building Your Website - It's Like Building a House!

OK, so you are never going to go out and purchase a truck load of lumber for your website, but you'd be surprised how many similarities there really are. This post is a way of showing how involved, what seems like a simple website, can really be. Too often we hear "oh I could do that", and "if I had the time I'd just build it myself". Although we love to hear this (insert sarcasm here), we want to be sure you fully understand what is involved in building a good website.

The research and planning, that's right we call it that too!
Before you go to your architect to start your blueprints, you usually sit down and think about what you want to build, where and what your budget is. With a website, you also need to start with this stage. This includes, but is not limited to, market research, competitor research, keyword analysis and research, and budgeting.

The blueprint, or as we call it the site map:
That's right a good website has a plan, just like a house. You wouldn't build a house without a plan would you? So why would you consider building a website without a plan? The site map ensures that your website has all the pages, functions, and structure that it needs to be effective. It takes into account the keyword research and budgeting that you worked out in the first phase. There will be revisions, adjustments and compromises made and the final site map will be the guideline for the development of the website.

Building the foundation - setting up the template/CSS files:
To ensure your house is sound and stable you have to be sure to build a foundation that can support the current and possible expansion of your house. A website needs to be built on a foundation the same way. Ensuring that the template and/or CSS file is well structured and allows for easy expansion is important. Chances are your website will grow and you don't want to have to completely rebuild when that time comes.

The framework - the design and pages:
Now that a stable foundation is setup, the rest of the site can now be built. The design and the pages can be constructed atop that foundation. Just like with a house, you can take the cheap, fast and easy way and slap the walls and doors up quickly and without much thought. However, the better choice is to ensure the design and pages are constructed as effectively as possible. Ensuring each page is search engine friendly and user friendly from the beginning will save a lot of hassle down the road.

Finishing Touches:
Making sure you put all the finishing touches on your house will ensure it looks and feels like a complete product. A website may not have hardware to hang, or molding to finish, but reviewing the site to ensure calls to action are in the right place, the copy is optimized and everything works as designed is integral to having an effective website.

Ongoing Maintenance:
Just because you've built it doesn't mean it's done. That's right just like with your house, your website will require ongoing updates, maintenance and enhancements. Keeping your site fresh will ensure that the site is working as hard for you as you did in putting it together.

Remember: You probably can do it yourself, but would you trust the plumber to fix your car?

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Website Packages Now Available!

Are you on a budget and can't seem to find a development firm that will give you a great website and keep it within a certain budget? Well Ignite Media realizes the tough times we are all living in and has put together some budget conscious website packages. We have everything from a starter package up to a fully integrated ecommerce package.

What do I get with my website package?
Depending on package you choose you can get a basic 5 page website with a custom design or a 20 page ecommerce website with a custom design. The key here is CUSTOM DESIGN. That's right, we're not making you choose from a set of templates that we through your logo into. No, we're designing and building a website that carries your company colors, look, and feel throughout.

How many website packages do you have?
There are three different standard website packages to choose from and three different ecommerce packages to choose from. We've done our best to put together packages that are both budget friendly and accommodating to the various sizes and needs of all our potential clients.

Do I have to choose a package with Ignite now?
Absolutely not. Our website packages are meant for those people who know exactly what they want and what they are willing to spend for it. If you are looking for a custom solution that doesn't fit within any of our solutions, we'd be more then happy to discuss your project more in depth to give you a custom proposal based on your needs. We don't believe in a one solution fits all approach, which is the reason for the variety of packages as well as our custom solutions.

How do I get started?
Simply go to our website packages page on the Ignite Media site and choose which direction is best for you - Standard Websites or eCommerce Websites. Once you decide you'll be provided with a variety of packages each of which has more information available by clicking on learn more within each box.

Remember: Just because the economy is rough it doesn't mean there is not a solution out there for you.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What is your website worth?

Almost daily the question is asked of us "how much do you charge for a website?". To which our answer is always "it depends on what you want". After a few minutes of us explaining how it all depends, the potential client usually understands that just throwing a number out there won't be of much use to them and we need to be more specific on the scope of the project before we can say "your website will be...". However, lately I've been wondering if the question that they should be asking is "what would a website be worth to me?".

What would a website be worth to you?
Rather then thinking about the cost that you have to pay for your website, perhaps you should be thinking about what your website will do for you once it is built. For instance if you build a website and within the first year that website brings in $20,000 of new business, then isn't your website worth $20,000 at least? So the price quote you got for $5000 is only a quarter of what your website is worth. If you had an employee that brought in 4 times what you paid them would they be worth the cost? I certainly would think so, and I'd probably even give that person a raise.

How do I know my website will be worth anything?
You don't know for sure what your website will or will not bring in, but chances are if you skimp on the development costs the return will be less. Think of your website like a house, if you do an addition and you use the cheapest material and cheapest labor chances are you won't be very happy with the end result and people who come see the house probably won't be very impressed. You also won't get as much when you go to sell the house because the inspector will notice the imperfections. A website is no different. You have visitors coming to your "house" (website) everyday and if your developer didn't understand usability then you'll have some very disappointed visitors, which could result in lost/unseen business.

So do I go with the most expensive developer every time?
Absolutely not. What you do need to do is make sure you are comparing apples to apples. The page counts, what platforms they are programming on, what you are and are not getting with your contract, etc. You also want to be sure you see samples of previous work and call a few of the portfolio clients they have. Don't ask for a referral you can call because they will always give you the best client they have. Call any one of the samples in their portfolio and get the raw reaction from the client.

So what is a good price?
It all depends on what you are getting and what you expect to get. $5000 might be cheap if you are getting a lot for it and feel confident your site will be built to convert visitors into leads/clients. $5000 might be expensive if you don't have the confidence in your developer. Knowing what you are getting is key and working with a company you feel comfortable with and can freely express how you feel about certain things, and answers all your questions is very important.

Remember: A websites value is based on what it does for the business, not on how much it cost to build.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, December 1, 2008

A picture is worth 1000 words; Or is it?

The saying goes that "a picture is worth a 1000 words", but is that really the case? Do pictures really give everyone and everything the understanding that you are trying to convey? Or are we betting on the fact that we understand the image, than everyone else must? Lets take a minute to discuss how images can sometimes be less effective then some properly used words.

What the search engines see, isn't what you do...
When you look at a website you see text and images arranged in some fashion so as to look appealing. There is a header, a logo, some navigation links a paragraph and maybe a photo along with contact information at the bottom.

What the search engines see on the other hand is code and text. That picture that is taking up your entire site, they don't even know what is just that it looks something like this to them '< src = "images/image.jpg">' - not exactly the pretty picture you were seeing right? The search engines see numbers, symbols and letters which makes up the display that you as the user sees on the front end. So although images are good when used in the right places, they can be harming your ability to be seen by the search engines.

It's not always as apparent as you might think...
Another common mistake that people make is using representative images in place of something more direct. Take for example the bulls eye that is often used in marketing when you are trying to convey that "we hit the mark". Sure most people might get that one, but what if they don't? Is it really worth the cute image to sacrifice a few people understanding the message?

Everything has a time and a place - images included...
Images are great for logos, product shots, demonstrations, etc. I'm not so sure that images are great for relaying an important marketing message, unless used in conjunction with words/phrases. Don't just put the picture of a black sheep among white ones, put a message on it that says "Ever want to stand out from the crowd?". Now they are associating the meaning with the message.

Remember: You can never be too straight forward when it comes to marketing.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Question A Day - Will Bring Visitors?

How many times have you gone to a search engine and typed in a question? I know I do it all the time. The search engines have almost become like a "customer service representative" for the internet. You type your question and they come back with a list of places that might work for you. So why not use this to your advantage on your own website?

Become the answer they are looking for:
Why not create pages based around different questions. For example if you own a website that sells clothes for children and in your brick-and-mortar store you hear the question "What does 2T and 3T really mean in terms of size", why not create a page explaining the T system of sizing? You've now answered not only your existing customers questions but you have the chance of being found by people who may never have heard of you before.

What if I can't think of the questions:
Without a doubt there are questions in your industry, it's just a matter of finding the most valuable ones to be answered. There are new tools being offered by some companies such as WordTracker that allow you to see some of the questions people have typed into the search engines. This is extremely helpful because these questions were actually asked on a search engine, not something made-up, or guessed at. Take a few of these and there you go, some new content to add to the site.

Do I just add the pages, where do they go?
The best place to put these pages would be in a support area of your site. Even if you have to create one and it looks small at first, over time it will grow. One section could be commonly asked questions, another could be white paper downloads on your products, etc. Creating a section like this on your site is giving your visitors a resource to keep coming back to and to tell other people about. They don't have to buy anything to browse it and feel like they are getting the world.

Remember: Sometimes it's about answering the question before providing the need.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Website Usability - Is Your Site Making the Grade?

A website is about more than just displaying your product or service information. A website is an experience that directly relates to your business and reputation. Last post we spoke about your home page and how important it is to make a great first impression. This post we expand on that and explain how that impression needs to extend beyond home page.

Navigation is key
Navigation is the most important part of a website. It is how your visitors get from one place to another. Think of your navigation as your street map or directions from old aunt sally! How annoyed are you when those directions or that map aren't easy to read or to follow? I know I get steaming mad when I'm told to make a right, only to realize they meant to say left.

So why put your visitors through that same type of turmoil? Your navigation needs to be visible and easy to follow. You shouldn't mix in company links with product and service links, and you shouldn't have more than 2 sets of navigation if possible (ie: Top Bar Nav, and Side Bar Nav). Many times people think if they give people 20 different navigation options they will be able to more easily find the page, but what you wind up doing is confusing the visitor into wondering if all of the links go to the same or different places.

Page Content and Page Structure
After you have successfully navigated your visitors to the correct page, the structure and content on those pages is just as important as how they got there. How you order the content in a page can directly relate to the number of conversions you make. For example if you have site where you sell roller blades and you get to a product page for a particular pair of blades, a visitor should be shown an image, short description, price, colors, etc and a buy now button. If instead they are shown paragraphs and paragraphs of information, and the very last thing on the page is the buy-now, you can bet that your conversion ratio is going to be pretty low.

Content as mentioned above is also very important. With that roller blade website example from above, the overview should be brief but highlight the key reasons that pair of blades is the right choice. For those visitors that might be more interested in the in-depth information you provide that but either further down on the page, or on a "more-details" page/tab. With this approach you are giving all your visitors what they want.

Clear conversion method
You've now effectively navigated your visitors to the correct spot and have the content and the structure of each page just right. What's next? Well what are you hoping your visitor will do? Do you want them to email you, send you a request for quote form, purchase an item, or pick up the phone and call you? Before you can decide on which conversion method to use, you have to answer that question; visitors aren't mind readers and without a clear way to finalize their process they may just hit the back button and be gone forever.

Once you've made the decision of how you want to have your visitors contact you, its time to implement it. You want to remember while you are configuring your site for the final conversion, you need to make it clear and easy for your visitors. Put the 800# large on the page if you want them to call you; make a nice "email us now" button that stands out if email is what you prefer; ensure your "buy-now" button is prominent on the page if purchasing is your method. Just keep in mind, if it is confusing for you, how do you expect your visitors to figure it out?

Remember: Usability is about your visitors, if you make it easy they will come!

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, October 27, 2008

It's Your Home Page, Not Your Company Profile Page!

That's right, your home page is not a place to be presenting your company history or your company philosophy. Your home page needs to be as direct and to the point as possible, but not about who you are, rather about what you offer and why you are better.

The home page is like the cover of a book
Would you pick up a book if the cover was a diatribe about the author? Would you even look twice if the cover looked more overwhelming then you had time for? The answer is probably no, or at least I hope so, otherwise you have a lot of time on your hands!

The cover of a book usually has a very catchy title, the authors name, and most times a picture to give you some insight as to what it is all about. You may also see a brief intro like "the best thriller novel you'll ever read". Within a few seconds you are able to get a sense for what that book is about and whether it will suite your reading needs. It's not until the inside or back cover that you get a bio of the author.

What should my home page be then?
It should be that intro that serves to quickly and effectively inform your visitors of whether they are at the right place or not. Take for example the website image below, the first thing you notice is the company logo is in the top left corner (A). This allows you to see if this is the right company and/or what company website you are at. The second thing you notice is a brief intro of what the company does and what products/services they offer (B). After that you see a group of content buckets (C) that represent important areas of the website. Content buckets are meant to guide visitors to the most important areas of the website, cutting down on search time. Along the left side you have the product/service navigation (D) which allows visitors to dig more deeply into the area of the site that interests them. And last but certainly not least there is a clearly visible call to action (E).


Within seconds a visitor has been able to identify, understand and assess the site and the company. They know right away whether the site will offer what they want.

KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid.
As with most things, the best approach is to keep things simple and straight forward. Don't add more then you have to, just get your message across and let the rest of the site handle the "fluff". Keeping it simple is something that is truly under-rated especially when it comes to websites, but you'll learn in time that some of the most simple sites are the most effective.

Remember: You're selling your products/services not your company history.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, October 20, 2008

3 Types of Contact Forms and When to Use Them

Contact forms are on almost every website that you go to. Sometimes they are long and drawn out, other times they are short sweet and to the point. Although many of us may not love the long drawn out ones, there are times when each is appropriate. When you break it all down there are three basic varieties of contact forms 1) In Depth 2) General Information 3) Quick Contact. The trick is knowing when to use which form.

In Depth Contact Forms:
These forms are the ones where you are asked for everything but what the first word you said as a child! Seriously, they are very specific about what information they are asking for and are usually at least 15-20 questions long. At first thought this may seem like a complete waste, and that no-one would ever fill out a form this long.

In depth contact forms are good for a variety of applications such as on a real-estate site, an insurance site, or even a medical site. On each of these sites the company needs to know as much information as they can in order to assist you as quickly and efficiently as possible. The one thing that you want to make sure of when using a form that involves gathering some highly personal information (such as social security numbers), is to have the information collected in a secure database that can only be accessed through an administrative area requiring you to login.

A poor use of an in depth contact form would be on an ecommerce website. You don't need a persons social security number, age, or date of birth (typically) in order to sell someone a product. Using this type of form on a "simple" site can have some pretty devastating effects on you conversion rate.

General Information Contact Forms:
These types of forms are probably the most common type of form seen around the internet. They typically ask for the basic information such as name, tel, fax, email, comments, etc. They are usually only 3-8 questions long and take very little time to fill out and submit.

A great place for these types of forms is on any website where you are looking to have people get in touch with you for general inquires. For example on a website that sells bikes you may want a general contact form for people who have questions about parts, style bikes, etc. This allows a website visitor an easy to use option to contact you and give you some information on what they are looking for without having to pick-up the phone. These types of forms can generally be sent via email, and don't usually require a secure area to be stored in as nothing personal is really being sent.

A poor use of a general contact form would be on a car insurance website where you want to provide customers a way of requesting an insurance quote. These types of forms usually do not request enough information to give any type of valuable quote to a customer.

Quick Contact, Contact Forms:
These are the short, sweet and to the point forms. They generally only require an email address, name and description, sometimes a phone number also. These are great for visitors who know your company, know your site and just want to quickly reach out to you for a question or for you to get back in touch with them.

These forms are great to use in conjunction with a full contact us form page. You can use these quick forms throughout the site as they take up very little room and provide a great call to action area. For visitors that need more in-depth information they can easily click the contact us button where a more general or in depth form will await them.

Remember: Providing the right means of contact can mean the difference between a visitor and a client.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don't underestimate your visitors

All websites are built for a reason, and that's to have visitors be able to see it and hopefully contact you. Why then do we underestimate how smart these visitors are? Time and time again I've heard web designers, SEOs and other marketers say "but our visitors won't get that". I think that what we are forgetting who those visitors are.

Website visitors aren't just computer-illiterate users!
I know it may be hard to believe, but people who visit your website may have actually used another website before! They may have even been on other computers too! OK, enough with the sarcasm, but I honestly think that we sometimes think our website visitors are coming to our website on their first day of using a computer. But lets stop for a minute and think about who those visitors might be.

Lets say that you own an electronics store, and you sell everything from laptops to flat panel TVs on your website. Now lets consider who typically is buying these things. They are usually pretty tech savvy people, and if they aren't their friend or relative is who is helping them purchase the item. Those tech savvy users like to know the details of what makes that particular digital camera work, they want to know about the mega-pixals, zoom ratio, etc. So it would be smart of you as the store owner to provide that information.

Now what about a more simple product like clothing. Well that visitor could be anyone, but lets narrow this down a bit to baby clothing. Your typical shopper is going to be the mother/father or relative. You can bet that the expecting mother wants to know what the article of clothing was made out of, how it washes, and if it has been fire tested. So again, why not give them this information?

Too quickly, we dumb things down:
It seems that we are often times overly concerned with saving time, and dumbing things down. These things certainly have their place, for instance in an emergency you don't want an exit sign that gives every turn; rather a sign with an arrow that leads to the next sign with an arrow is much quicker and more efficient. But the last time I checked, we aren't looking for our visitors to find the quickest way out.

Providing a valuable product along with relevant information, even if it seems like "the visitor won't read it", is important. Sure, not everyone who comes to your website is going to read it, but some people will. For those people that want the information your site has just stood out from the crowd. You've provided that visitor not only with the information they were looking for but the trust that they can count on you to educate and inform them on what they are purchasing.

Quality is more important than brevity:
I would much rather have quality information that happens to be a little on the lengthy side in terms of information then have a site that is so brief on information it doesn't answer all of the visitors questions. You have to remember, these people are purchasing something from you that they could purchase somewhere else if they don't feel like you've satisfied their need, so make sure you are providing as much information as possible, not just the shortest amount of information.

Remember: You are a visitor at other sites, do you like being treated like a toddler? Probably not, so why treat your visitors that way?

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Content Editing vs Content Management

Many people think that content editing is the same thing as content management. In the very simplest of terms I guess they can be considered correct, but when you really look at the two there are real differences. At Ignite we feel it is important that you know what the differences are, so you know what you are getting as an end product.

Content Editing
This is when you are able to edit the text and possibly pictures within the body of a page. You usually have little or no control over the navigation, page design, or any other major functions of the website.

The best example of this would be Macromedia's (Adobe's) product Contribute. Contribute allows web designers the ability to give their client accessibility to update content within the page or pages that they grant permissions for.

This is a great tool for the casual client who really only wants to change or add some text every now and then and has little else to update or modify on the site. It's not good however for someone who needs to add pages, content, modules, etc to the site at any given time.

Content Management:
This is a much more robust system that allows control of pretty much every aspect of the website, or as much control as the administrator will allow for each user. Some popular content management solutions are DotNetNuke, Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress, TypePad, and others. These systems are extremely robust and feature rich applications that give website owners the ability to create new pages, add modules, update content, allow users to register, and much more.

You are actually able to 'manage' your website from an administrative backend. Unlike with the content editing tools, there is an administrator that can set permissions for viewing certain pages, delete or modify registered users, and a variety of other things.

Which is better Content Editing or Content Management:
It really all depends on what you are looking to do. As mentioned earlier if you are just looking to make some small text updates to existing pages then content editing is probably more than enough for you. However, if you really want to have full control and be able to expand as needed content management is the direction you should be looking.

Remember: Don't always assume you are getting something, make sure you know you are getting it.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

If I had the time I'd create my own website...

This is probably one of the most common phrases that I hear in this industry. We get a call from a small or medium size business owner and they "know" they can build their own website, but just don't have the time. They go on and on about how they "know" what it's all about and how they have done websites in the past, etc, etc. Now even if you do know how to build your own website, is it really the best use of your time and are you sure you are building it correctly?

Let the experts do it, that's why they are called experts:
Just imagine if I walked into your office and wanted you to design a building for me (assuming you are an architect in this case) and I blurted out the phrase "Well, I'd draw up the plans myself but I just don't have the time". What would your reaction be? I would assume you would most likely be offended and then think to yourself, where does this guy get off? You've spent years getting your degree to become an architect and then I walk in and make it sound like anyone who has half a brain could do the job.

Experts are experts because they have spent a lot of time and effort learning their craft. They've studied the various techniques, aligned themselves with other people who know the industry just as well if not better. They could give you a history lesson on what their industry is all about. This same thing holds true for "real" web designers and programmers. It's not something they do because it's easy, it's something they do because they have a passion for it and have honed their craft to be as good as they can be.

Would it really be cost effective for you to build your own site?
Another aspect to think about is what are you giving up to take the time out of your day and build your own website? Chances are the opportunity cost of building it yourself are far too great. While you are busy building the website your day to day tasks are going unanswered. That means that potential contract for thousands of dollars will go unanswered and pass you by.

You also have to think about what impact not having someone who knows the ins and outs of website design build your site could have on the final product. Have you kept up to date on what the search engines are looking for? Have you studied the latest CSS methods that are being employed? Do you know how to code that contact form so it gets delivered without much spam being delivered as well? I would assume the answer to the majority of these questions would be No.

You wouldn't have your maintenance man come in and do your book keeping so why would you use anyone but a design company to build your website?

Remember: It's not always better if you do it yourself.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Expectations and Communication - It's Key

Everyone has had that experience. The one where you have an image in your head of how you want your website to look, but for some reason just can't explain it. Then when you see what the designer presents, it's not on the mark and you get extremely frustrated. You blame the designer for not being artistic enough, or not helping you with your idea. But wait, is it really their fault?

Lets step back for a minute and think about this in a different view. Take a brand new house for instance, one that's not even built yet. You know what you want and you know where you want it, but you just don't know how to tell the architect your vision. So do you think you are going to get the house you want? Probably not.

I know it can be hard, but you need to figure out a way to express your image to the designer (or architect in the above example). This is the reason most designers will ask if you have certain sites you like, colors you prefer, styles that excite you, or something to that effect. It's not because they want to copy another site, but rather they want to know if blue will make you happy or really pisses you off. They want to know if Flash is what you really want, but didn't know it was called that.

Communication is key. Ask as many questions as you can think of before having the designer start designing your website. Also, make sure you answer as many questions as the designer needs to ask you. It takes work, and not just on the designers end to create a final product that everyone can be happy with.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, August 25, 2008

What web based business should I start that will make money?

This post is for people who are currently looking to "break into" a web based business. Over the years I've come across many people who have asked the question "what's the most profitable web based business to be in?". The first answer that comes to mind is "if I knew that do you think I'd be doing this?". However, I usually catch myself before that comes out and I explain to them that there is no silver bullet.

Don't you just build the site and make the money?
Many people are under the impression that it is as easy as just putting up a website. As soon as you go online your orders will start rolling in. Unfortunately, this is where many people get into trouble. The website takes longer then they expected, the costs are higher than they originally anticipated and the site goes up and no one is going to it.

Just like with a brick and mortar store it doesn't just happen over night. No matter how many stories you've heard about the guy who is rich from the internet, it just simply is not that easy. I don't want to stop anyone from trying, I simply want to make sure you are completely aware of what goes into a web based business.

The website
For some reason people think that building a website is easy. That if they had a little time on their hands they could just as easily put one together. To some extent this is true, but will that site be any good? What if you decided that building a house was easy and you put yours together, do you think it will last very long? Are you an electrician, plumber, contractor, and architect? If not, you probably wouldn't attempt this. So why then would you attempt to put a website together when you more then likely do not know the first thing about the mechanics of a website?

It may seem like a cliche, or overused advice, but let the professionals do what the professionals do. You know the business you are doing and you wouldn't think twice about having someone from another profession come in and run your business, so why would you want to take over building a website?

Marketing for your website
So now you have the website, it's all built, and by a professional web developer who took the time to ensure it is SEO and user friendly. What do you do now? Now it's time to market the site. You have to let people know that your website exists. There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to do this. You can advertise in the yellow pages (online and offline), submit your site to various directories, get into Pay-Per-Click marketing, request inbound links to your site, send out a press release, and so much more.

Staying up to date with your website
Even after you have built the site, marketed it, and have customers coming in you need to make sure you are staying on top of the site. If you sell a tangible product you want to make sure you are updating your inventory and/or product information. You want to post specials and send out newsletters letting your customers know what is going on. Just like with that brick and mortar store, you have to make sure you are keeping and attracting the attention of your customers.

Remember: A website is more then just a page online, it's a business just like any other store.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Build, Review, Adjust, Review again...

A website is not a static thing. A website is something that should be changing on a regular basis, but not just because you feel like changing it. Those changes should be made on visitor behavior and/or new product/service announcements.

Changing based on visitor behavior
Website analytics are an extremely useful tool when it comes to figuring out what your website visitors are doing. However, the process shouldn't just stop at seeing what they are doing. You need to make sure you are adjusting your site accordingly. Lets say that your visitors are all coming to your home page and from there only 25% are moving further into the site. It's time to review and revise the home page so you can increase your conversion rate to interior pages.

What good is a site if the only page people go to is the home page? Chances are the home page is just the tip of the iceberg of what you offer, and those visitors are missing a great deal of information. It's time to make a change, and be sure when you do make the change you consult some clients and people who may not know your site well to see if the change is effective.

Other changes
A change isn't always because of visitor behavior but also because of new product or service information. If you have a new product coming out or that just came out, you want to be sure you promote that as much as possible. Put a nice area on the home page, or in the news section. Just be sure that it's visible and draws people's attention.

Remember: Change is a good thing, when done correctly.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Website Testing, Testing, and more Testing...

A website is something that is constantly being updated and modified, so why shouldn't you constantly be testing it? There is nothing worse then hearing from a visitor or client that something on your site not working correctly. You want to be sure you find those "faults" first, not last.

What's so bad about a little error?
How little is the error? That's usually a question that doesn't have such a definitive answer. The error may seem little to you, but you may not know about the handful of visitors that left your site because of it. Perhaps those visitors were ready to order, or make a call but got frustrated, that's not a good thing for your bottom line. So that little error is now a very big error.

How do I catch everything?
You may not be able to catch everything, but you can certainly do things to help catch a majority of things. One very important practice would be to surf your website once or twice a day (at the beginning and end of the work day). Try different paths and make sure you can always get around and back to where you came from. Another approach would be to randomly have your employees surf the site. Just shoot John an email on Tuesday that says, "before the end of the day I would appreciate it if you could surf through our website as if you were a customer to make sure you don't run across any errors. Please inform me as soon as you have completed your surfing and whether you found anything or not." This approach gives you a fresh set of eyes that may catch something you wouldn't have.

Testing may lead to something new
During the course of your testing you may think of things, or your employees may think of things that will help to improve the site. It doesn't always have to be that something is wrong, but it could be that something could be a little bit better.

Remember: What may seem insignificant to one person, may be extremely significant to someone else.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Should I build multiple websites to attract more customers?

Many people are under the impression that building out several websites for the same product/service will give them a better chance on the search engines. They think that even if the sites have the same content, there are more of them for the search engines to find and in turn they can get more listings. Unfortunately this is rarely the case.

The search engines are looking for sites with unique and authoritative content. When they find several sites that are the same they will most likely either list only one of the sites and/or none of the sites, or list all of them but deep within the search results. So you have effectively devalued your sites, which is exactly what you were trying not to do.

Build "IT" and they will come
The saying is not "Build them and they will come", or "Build many and they will come", it's Build IT and they will come. That's right, build one very well written, well constructed website that concentrates on gaining as many authoritative inbound links as possible. It may take some time to gain the traffic you are looking for, but this approach will always win out in the long run.

Link building is better for one
Another drawback to building many websites for the same service/product is that when you start acquiring inbound links, what site do you point them to? You'll be hard pressed to find authoritative sites that will link to all of your websites if they are all the same thing. They know the value of the link they are giving you and they want to be sure they won't see any backlash from sending people your way.

How do I keep up with it all
One last thing that you should consider is that having multiple websites means you have to keep up with multiple websites. That price change for all your products now has to be done in more than one place. That new product that is coming out next month has to be added to all your sites. After a while this could prove to be a pretty daunting and annoying task. One site, means one update, one addition and better quality control.

Remember: More isn't always better.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lively - Is Google on to Something?

Google just announced this week the launch of it's new 3D chat software called Lively. Still in beta mode, but ready for the public to try out, Lively seems to bring chatting to another level. Is this the way of the future or just a cool new toy from Google?

Many are saying that Lively is merely a half step to Second Life, but without all the controls and number of people. Lively allows you to create your own "rooms" and avatars and then chat with up to 20 people at a time. The chat windows actually show up as speech bubbles like you would see in a comic book sketch, so it is as if your avatar is really talking (to a degree!). You can also put your "room" on your website or blog so people can join your chat as they wish.

Is there any business use for this?
For right now it seems a little too animated to have very much business use. Certain fields may find this to be a unique way of communicating with the visitors on their website/blog. For example someone who has a website selling children's toys could put this on their site and it might fit in nicely with their theme.

For the everyday business person, I think this is a long way off from going main stream. It is also one of the few, if any, Google products that you actually have to download and install software on your computer in order to use. This could leave some people leery, and keep them away at least until it comes out of the beta stage.

So for now we suggest you take a look, maybe even try it out, and if you feel it fits into your website theme you might even want to test it on a page or two of your site.

Remember: New tools are great, but they aren't for everyone.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Flash and the Search Engines - Update!

For as long as Flash has been around, trying to have a website built using this technology be seen in the search engines has been a tremendously difficult if not impossible task. The search engines have had no way of reading any of the text or links within a Flash movie and therefore have found little content when going to these sites. That is until now!

Adobe announced last week it that it is working very closely with both Google and Yahoo! to figure out a way to make their product more search engine friendly. It will probably be a while before we see any major changes in the way of listings, but it certainly does create some excitement. Flash websites being indexed is a major step and one that will help industries known for using Flash such as the music and entertainment industry.

There is a lot of speculation as to what they will be able to make open to the search engines, how they will link to specific areas of a movie, how much will they rely on certain tags or coding, etc. Until Google, Yahoo! and Adobe hash out all the details, all of this will remain speculation for now.

So should I start building my all Flash website?
Even with this new development, we hold strong it saying that Flash is a very useful and powerful application when used for the application. A website that is trying to sell hardware with very spec heavy information should probably stick with HTML/ASP/PHP, etc. Using Flash for banners to promote a certain product or service is always great.

When we decide if Flash is right for a website we usually look at two factors: 1) What industry is the website being built for? 2) What is the goal of the website? The answers to these two questions will typically tell us if Flash would be appropriate or not.

Remember: Always keep the end user in mind; after all they could be your client one day!

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Meta Tags - Which ones should we use?

There often isn't a week that goes by that I get asked about keyword tags and how important they are, or whether they should use a variety of other meta tags to help the search engines index their site. Everyone wants to know which meta tags are the ones that are most important and which ones they can ignore.

It's all in the title
The answer, well it isn't exactly black and white. However, it is widely agreed that the most important tag, as of right now is the title tag. This tag should be written in such a way as to have your most important keyword/phrase included and it should be straight to the point. The title tag should also be unique for each page. For example, your products page should have a title geared towards your products while your company history page should have a title that relates to the history page. If someone only saw the title tag for each page they should be able to get a good idea of what that page will be about.

A good description always helps
Another tag that is important, but not for the reasons you may think is the description tag. This tag is invisible to the front-end user (unless you view source), but the search engines will use this tag to display as your search engine result listings. They generally speaking do not use this tag as a factor in your rankings, but it will give them some idea of what you feel the page is about. As with the title tag, this should be unique for each page.

Keywords aren't the key anymore
There was a time when the keyword meta tag was one of the most important tags on your website. Any word/phrase you put in there was a possible word/phrase that you would show up in in the search engines. Put them in there more then once, and you stood an even better chance. However, today this tag is seldom used by the search engines if at all. More often then not this tag is used for spam purposes and the search engines have decided not to even think about using it as a ranking factor.

The never ending list of meta tags
There are many, many meta tags that can be used within a page. However, most of them serve little to no purpose for the search engines. When you try to put all of these tags into each page you are making the search engines work harder to get to what is most important which is the content of the website. Ignite suggests that you stick to the basics. Make sure you have unique title tags, unique description tags, and if you have to you can use the keyword tags but make sure not to stuff them full of keyword phrases.

Remember: Less is often more, especially when it comes to placing keyword/phrases in meta tags.

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Ignite MediaLLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

How do I get my keywords into my content?

One of the biggest problems I've come across in this field is that too many times people are more concerned with making sure they have a specific keyword/phrase in their site then they are about what the content is really saying. They want to get that word/phrase in there as many times as possible without looking spammy and they could care less how well the content is put together.

The problem with this approach, other than the fact that it makes for very hard to read copy, is that you are focusing on a very small percentage of your potential traffic. Not everyone uses the word/phrase that you have chosen. Sure the keyword research shows that a good majority of the people searching for your product/service will use that phrase, but what about the rest? You certainly don't want to blow off potential visitors.

Write for your clients - not at them
When you are putting the copy together for your site you want to first write it the way you would if you were writing a letter directly to a new customer. Forget about getting certain words/phrases in there; just make sure your message is clear and to the point. Once you've done this then you can go back and see where it's appropriate to substitute one word/phrase for another. Once you've done that go back and read what you've just written to make sure it still is clear and to the point. You should be able to hand that to anyone have them read it and they should be able to explain back to you in their own words exactly what you were talking about; if they can't do that than its back to the drawing board.

Write to educate then to sell
You have to remember, the reason the internet was created was for a means to share information and research. People still use the internet to educate themselves and research what they ultimately want to purchase. When you are writing your copy remember that you want to be sure to give them enough information to make an informed decision and then you want to pitch them the sale. You can't expect that someone will buy from you just because you are selling what they want.

Remember: Copy is the foundation; if it's cracked the whole thing will come tumbling down one day.

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, June 2, 2008

How can specialization help a website?

When you specialize in something you become not only good at it, but most likely great. You know your product/service inside and out and eventually you've seen almost anything and everything that could happen. Specializing also gives you an edge over your competitors because while they may "do it all", you "do it right!".

How does specialization translate to your website?
Very simply put, it gives your website that same advantage. Think about all the sites that you have been to, and think about the ones you would go to in order to make sure you got just the right product for your situation. Chances are that site was specializing in that area. They had all the information you needed, just the right products and their staff and/or website could answer any question you had.

Are there any other benefits of having a specialized website?
Absolutely. Sites that specialize in one area stand a much better chance of being seen as an authority on that subject. For example, if you had a shop that was all about car stereos and only car stereos you stand a better chance of being found under that then the site that also sells car seat covers, windshield wipers, etc. This is because your pages and your entire site are structured around a very specific, defined set of keywords.

What if I can't specialize my site?
Just because your company/business is not specialized doesn't mean your website can't be. You have several options here, you can create separate websites for each of your divisions or better yet you can create sub-domains for each of your divisions. This way you can drive people directly into whichever sub-domain is appropriate for them and still gain the benefits of a larger more content rich website.

Remember: You don't have to necessarily be specialized for your site(s) to appear that way.

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Can I redesign my site without losing my rankings?

It's a common question among people who so badly want a newer looking website, but don't want to lose the great search engine visibility that they are seeing. How much is too much, and if it drops will it ever come back?

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that anyone can make you as to whether your rankings will go up, down, or remain the same. However if things are done correctly you can certainly minimize the risk of them going down.

Keep File Names the Same:
You need to make sure that you keep the file names the same where possible. So for example if you have a page for products and the file name is products.htm you want to be sure that you keep this file name. If for some reason you can not keep the file name products.htm, then you want to be sure you can use 301 redirects before you start changing the names. 301 redirects are a search engine friendly way of telling the robots that the page that used to be called products.htm is now called cleaning-products.htm.

Keep Title Tags the Same:
Just like the file names you want to be sure that you keep the title tags of your current pages intact. The slightest change could make the spiders give your page a different "score" for their listings. Of course it could turn out to be a good thing if your visibility and rankings increase, however you may not want to take that risk.

Keep the Content to Same:
Whenever possible you want to try and keep the main content on each page the same or increased. For example if you have a page for widgets and it has 3 paragraphs of information about your widgets you want to try and keep that info intact. Reducing it or removing it will make the search engines look at that page again and decide if it is as relevant as it was before.

Always have a Sitemap:
A sitemap is important because it is a page with links to all the pages on your website. When the search engines crawl your site and find this page they can easily see all the pages that are available for them to crawl. There is no hard evidence that this helps your search engine visibility but it certainly can't hurt.

These are just a few tips to help improve your chances of redesigning your website without haring your search engine visibility.

Remember: Change can be a good thing, but there is such thing as too much change.

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Which meta tags do I use and which should I not?

There is a constant debate over which meta tags the search engines use when considering listing a certain page in their results pages. So how do you know who you should listen to and who you should ignore? Well that is not so easy, because no-one except the engineers working for the search engines know what they are looking for or not.

So what do I do with my meta tags?
Our suggestion is to use what you feel is necessary to define that page. The reason that meta tags became such a problem was because people were "stuffing" them with "keywords". What this means is if you were selling red cars your meta tags would only say red cars, red cars, red cars, etc. Although for a while this worked, it is now considered SPAM to "stuff" meta tags and/or page content.

A meta tag should be used for the purpose they were created. For example the eta description tags are just that; a description of what that page is about in 2-3 sentences. This is not a place to pitch your product or service and not a place to use your keywords as every other word. Should you use keywords at all in there? Yes, whenever it makes sense to do so you should use your keywords/phrases, but make sure it makes sense to the people who will be reading it (yes people do read the things you write on your website, it's not all just the search engines).

What happens if I use a meta tag that the search engines don't use?
As long as you aren't spamming or stuffing your meta tags then there should never be a problem. If they don't use that tag, then you just did a little extra work. Better yet, you may have done something before you had to! What I mean by that is the search engines are constantly changing what they look at to list a website, and there may come a time when that meta tag they aren't using now will actually be used. So you've just covered your bases.

Remember: Create for your visitors not for the search engines!

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Quality first.

It seems that today people are most concerned with being found in the search engines, and getting the highest ranking possible. The problem that I have noticed though, is that the site that they want to send thousands of visitors to is second rate at best. I don't mean the design, although a good design doesn't hurt, I mean the quality of the content.

The internet was founded and created to share information. People seem to have forgotten this over the course of the years. Information is what the entire internet is made up of and quality information will stand the test of time.

Think for a minute about Microsoft. Imagine they built their website with very little information and took very little time to get quality content on their website. Do you think that developers would even consider going their again in the future? Probably not. Your website should be thought of in the same way. What is the point in sending visitors to a site with poor or no information?

Stop and ask yourself, after you have the first draft of your website, whether you would stay at a site like yours. Be critical because you can be sure that your website visitors are going to be. Don't be afraid to say "this is crap, we need to start over". A website is more then just some text on a page with your phone number. A website is a sales person, a point of reference and the image that you are portraying about your company.

Remember, if you are going to take the time to drive the horse to water, you better make sure the water is there.

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Multiple divisions, how many websites?

As companies become larger, often times they start to break down into divisions. For example a furniture company many break down into two general divisions such as commercial and residential. They may also break down further into sections such as bathroom, living room, etc. The question is, do you create different sites for these different divisions?

Now there is no hard and fast rule for this, but at Ignite we would tend to lean towards the answer NO and/or probably not. We realize this doesn't sound very convincing but let us explain. In the case of the furniture company our answer would almost always be hard no. A company like this will benefit from having all avenues available on one site. The cross selling potential far outweighs any reasons you may have been thinking to have more then one site.

How does it affect the search engines?
Of course there are search engine reasons why one site is also beneficial. With one website you are able to concentrate your marketing efforts on that site and that site alone. You don't have to decide when you are requesting a link which site you should point it to. Also, the amount of content on your site will be far greater which will allow the search engine spiders to index more.

Won't it get confusing?
A large site can get confusing if not planned out properly. However, a large site can be as easy to navigate as a small site if some thought and planning is put into it. Take that furniture company again, their home page can be setup to drive people into either the commercial or residential sections of their site, which would have the same effect as two sites would. Once the visitor is in that section you can break down further into the different categories and also allow them at anytime to jump over to the other section.

There are times when more then one site makes sense. If you have multiple businesses that really do not have anything to do with each other, or you are testing the effectiveness of one site over another. However, for most businesses having one website is better for your customers and the search engines if built correctly.

Remember to plan before you build, otherwise plan to rebuild!

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Planning a website for visitors and search engines

When planning out a website you want to be sure to focus on your audience. This may seem like pretty logical statement, but what happens when your audience is in two very different groups? Even more compounding is when one of those groups isn't actually human, but rather a robot! That's right I said a robot, as in a search engine robot that will crawl your website to see if they should index and rank your site for any phrases.

Many people in my opinion make the mistake of "optimizing their sites for Google", rather then creating a website for their potential and desired customers. What good is having #1 rankings in Google for a particular phrase if when you get that traffic to your site they don't understand and cannot intuitively navigate your website? You've now lead a horse to a dried up river bed, at this point even if you could force it to drink there is no water left!

I do not mean to suggest that you should completely ignore the search engines, especially not Google. What I do mean is put them in priority order. Make sure that your number one concern is your website visitor. Ultimately these are the people who will become your customers/clients and will pay the bills so to speak. The search engines comes second, but not a very distant second.

A rule of thumb that we like to go by at Ignite Media is that if it comes down to being either more visitor friendly then search engine friendly, the tie should always go to the visitor. Perhaps with a little creative thinking you could accommodate both, but if that has been thought through always let the visitor have the best experience.

Remember, search engines are a means to an end, which is your website, not the other way around.

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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Monday, March 31, 2008

How do I choose a good web site design company?

Every talks about choosing the right SEO company but very few people talk about the right web site design/development company. Choosing the right web site company is arguably as important if not more important than choosing the right SEO company.

That seems like a bold statement to make, but if you think about it your web site is your foundation. If you are building a house and the foundation crew is not good at what they do, the rest of the house is structurally weak. The same holds true for your web site, if you are doing SEO but the web site is not built properly your SEO is limited in it's effectiveness.

So what makes a good web site company? I think as a company you should ask the following questions and expect to get something close to the following answers:

Q - Do you have examples of your work?
A - (Some design companies do not have a portfolio online but they should be able to show you examples by emailing or telling you the links to the sites that they have created.)

Q - Do you design using CSS?
A - Yes, we design using CSS as it is very important to keep the code of the site as clean as possible.

Q - Is your CSS design tableless?
A - As much as possible, there are certain times when tables are needed, but we try to use 100% CSS layout as much as we can.

Q - Are you using prebuilt templates?
A - (This answer will depend on the company you are going to, some are very upfront about using them. You want to be sure if they are that the templates are SEO friendly).

Q - Is the site mine when it is done being paid for?
A - Yes, after the site is built and paid in full you are able to take the files and move the site to wherever you feel comfortable hosting it.

These are a few simple questions that should help to make sure the web site design company you are using will be beneficial for your end product. You want to be sure that the company is not using all images to create your website and/or using Flash when it is not needed. Images and Flash are useful and graphically pleasing but they have their place.

Think of your website as that extra sales person. You want to be sure you are hiring the best possible candidate for the job and therefore the company building the site should be the best possible company for the job.

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Ignite Media LLC, Ignite Your Site™
http://www.ignite-media.com/
Website Design & Development eCommerce Development Search Engine Optimization

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