Before You Build Your Website

Mar 8, 2013 | Posted in: Conversion Optimization, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Web Design
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What You Didn’t Know That You Need to Know

Website RecommendationsIt’s common for a business or organization that is new to the web to be unaware of what’s best for their website. It’s even more difficult to know this when you might be lead astray by web designers, web developers and web hosts who don’t really understand or care about your needs. Several of our clients cursed the names of their website hosts or previous developers and designers once we informed them of the limitations of their website. In an effort to help others avoid this, I have a few recommendations for anyone who is looking to have a website built.

Choose Your Host Wisely

Some of the worst horror stories I can tell are to do with the poor quality of our clients’ website hosts.  From hosts just being unreliable – meaning the site is down several times a month with no explanation and the technical support is impossible to get a response from – to being outright destructive, sometimes the stories are truly appalling. In one recent case, one of our clients contacted their host to inquire about the frequency with which their site was down. The technical competence or comprehension of the representative they spoke with must have been limited, because our client’s website ended up being deleted. There was no apology, but they did add some time on to our client’s hosting (which really felt like an insult).

The fact is that anybody with an internet connection and some hard drives can be a website host. Regardless of how professional a host’s site appears, the truth is that it might be one guy with 3 computers in a basement who only sidelines as a web host. Protect yourself and do a search for reviews of a website host before you decide to go with them. Also, if you know someone who is a professional web developer, they would be the best people to ask for recommendations. As web developers, we hate dealing with unprofessional website hosts and would be happy to offer our opinion.

Get FTP Access (Please!)

As a web developer, there is nothing more limiting than being forced to work entirely within the confines of a CMS, be it WordPress, Joomla, or something else. For this reason, we like to have FTP access to our clients’ websites so we can take customization to the next level. This will make any additions to the website much easier for us to implement. Of course, you might not realize that your website would benefit from such additions when you first have your site built, but for the sake of conversion optimization and SEO, we often need to get at the bare bones of a website rather than approaching it through the CMS.

It is also useful to have FTP access because it provides to access the .htaccess file (or the equivalent). These files allow us to tell search engines when files or sites have changed names in order to preserve the ranking of the original page or doman. This can be crucially important for SEO. In addition, having FTP access allows us to maintain backups of our clients’ websites, just in case something goes awry (see the anecdote about the crummy web host for an example of what “going awry” can mean).

Use an SEO-Friendly CMS

If you choose to have your site built using a CMS, check the forums on the CMS’s website to make sure it is SEO-friendly. Generally speaking, WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are SEO-friendly to varying degrees (varying based on what themes and plugins you choose to install).  However, there are a seemingly limitless number of custom CMSs out there that do not take SEO into account much or at all. The SEO limitations of a CMS are another reason why we like to have FTP access – if the CMS doesn’t provide us with what we need, we can sometimes modify the CMS to do what we want it to.

Our favourite CMS to work with is WordPress. While no CMS is perfect, and WordPress can certainly be the source of much frustration, it has proven to be the most user-friendly and the easiest to customize.  SEO with WordPress is a breeze compared to some other platforms out there.

We’re Here to Help

If you’re thinking about establishing a web presence for your business or organization, I hope you will keep my advice in mind. We can help with every step of the process, so don’t hesitate to contact us. We love helping people get established on the web and especially helping them to avoid the pitfalls that some people aren’t aware of because they lack the guidance of a professional web development and web marketing team like Longevity Graphics.