Web development techniques: A complete primer
Interested in real web development techniques? Do you want to learn how to evaluate an idea, target a niche, build content, target traffic, and get thousands of visitors to your website each day? This primer will take you through the steps necessary to develop a profitable and solid website.
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Steps to web development success
There are 3 major processes involved in creating, deploying, and supporting a successful website: Building, Promotion, and Updating. Building involves securing a domain, gathering or creating initial content, building the website layout and format, and uploading the content. Promotion involves creating incentives for providing links to the content from external sites, gathering subscribers for a newsletter subscribers list, and generally getting this new website into the race. Updating involves providing fresh content on a regular basis to one or more pages on the website, as well as keeping your newsletter subscribers informed of new additions available on the site.
Building the Website
Before you create the site design and layout, and before you build any back end functionality, do your initial content gathering, and while you’re at it gather an additional supply of content that will cover at least 4 weeks of updates. Building the website should focus on getting content to the viewer in the most efficient manner, without creating a confusing layout. Cluster the main links on your site in one area, and use this same template wherever possible (on all pages is the preferred method). If you want to differentiate between sections, instead of changing the page layout, change colors and headings. The least of your time should be spent building the site. Personally, I do not believe fancy layouts do much beyond removing money from your pocket or time from more important aspects of development. It has an effect, no doubt, but my experience has shown me that effect is far less than can be had when the same amount of time is spent with proper web promotion.
Promoting the Website
Promotion of a website is where most people trip over themselves. Explanations of web promotion are always made more complicated than need be. Promotional methods given are generally among the least effective. I use two methods for building inbound links: trading with relevant sites, and building linking or promotional incentives.
Trading links with relevant sites is most useful when done in mass. In other words, trade with any willing relevant site. This alone will not get you many rankings, but it will improve the rankings you have. I generally concentrate on the homepage with link trades, and make sure the homepage links directly to all the most important content on the site, so as to pass the value down from the homepage to the most important content pages.
Building promotional incentives is not difficult, but it takes some innovation and creative thinking. A promotional incentive is simply a method of encouraging other webmasters, bloggers, forum-goers, and everyday web users to link your website in whatever capacity they can. Incentives do not have to be anything spectacular, and in fact sometimes the simplest, seemingly stupid and useless benefits work as the best incentives. A simple tell-a-friend form can work wonders. Leave the HTML code necessary to link to a page on your website in an easy to cut/paste text box – many people with webpages (like MySpace pages) know nothing about HTML, but might like to link to your page when it only involves a few mouse clicks. RSS feeds are a great way to automatically get your links out there each day and drive traffic. These are just a few suggestions, but to really get you thinking visit some successful sites and check out their promotional incentives for getting links. Analyze how they do it, and apply it to your site.
Promotion is not a set it and forget it type of work, it’s an ongoing process – and it works best as an ongoing process. Setup a work schedule for yourself wherein you can dedicate a certain portion of your time each week to link building and increasing traffic. Send out enough emails or make enough phone calls to procure a few relevant link trades each week, and build promotional incentives into your site when you get inspired with ideas.
Updating the Website
Where most developers fail is in keeping a site updated regularly for a substantial period of time. Often times developers will spend a couple weeks packing as much information onto a site as they can. They’ll add new information daily, or even several times per day. What happens then? Too often, burnout. They’ve run out of steam, run out of new content to post, or both. The other problem that occurs is the potential lost with that content. Building a site up over time will give each new piece of content more potential for explosive growth, because the search engines will be visiting you more often and ranking your site higher, and also because you’ve got more visitors looking at your content and more websites aware that your site exists, which translates into more opportunities for natural inbound links to occur, especially from large portals of your niche that thrive on linking to new content.
One of the methods I use to prevent burnout is using a content queue to build a padding, a cache of content. When I’m surfing the internet, anything that looks interesting and useful as content or subject matter gets saved in a folder or a text file. That way when I sit down to build content, I have a cache of material ready to work with. Now in a matter of an hour or two I can build a queue of content from that cache, setting up several weeks of new content in one session. Through some relatively simple scripting, new content will be grabbed from the queue and displayed each day. Search engines will quickly pick up on this and begin daily visits to the pages on your site that get updated regularly. Several pages on one bigger site I’ve created get hit by Google/Yahoo/MSN several times per day, all because I keep them updated daily. Even better, since I’ve been building inbound links to my homepage, those pages that get hit daily (like the homepage) have links to my new content, so the content gets crawled and indexed immediately, with regular top 10 rankings in a few days for keywords I’ve been targeting.
Building, Promoting, Updating
To recap, success depends on a good foundation – build a site and spend some time doing basic on-site search engine optimization: picking keywords, using those keywords in the title, header tags, and scattered through the content. Success also depends on keeping the site updated with fresh content regularly – the more often you can update the better, but don’t let yourself get burnt out. It’s better to update once a week for 52 weeks than to update 52 times in 2 months and then forget about it for the rest of the year. Finally, success depends on empowering that content to rise to the top of the search rankings by getting relevant inbound links to your site. Every week, commit a certain amount of time to finding similar sites and getting them to link to you. Also work on new promotional incentives and notify your user base through email (newsletters) when something new and exciting is available.
The last thing you need to be successful is patience. For the mass majority of successful websites, the popularity and profit does not come overnight – not even close. From personal experience, it has taken sites months to really start taking off, and several years to build a solid returning user base. Just keep consistently adding content, targeting different keywords on each page of content (related to your niche), and building inbound links. Success will follow.