Guide to Starting Your Own Web Site
Thousands of new Web Sites go on-line every single day. This guide is to give you direction on what it takes. We in no way intend to provide every detail. This is an excerpt from a series of magazine articles I wrote a couple of years ago and recently updated. There are a number of excellent books if you wish to delve further.
We have been designing web sites since websites first existed and include some important tricks. You should read through all of the text provided here. There are a number of things you will only read here but will save you large amounts of money and increase your chances of success. Some of the material you will not find anywhere as it is as honest representation of your own website.
Whether you want to create a small personal site or a large commercial site the steps are the same. It is the scale that will change. In brief the steps are:
- 1) Register Domain Name
- 2) Choose a Host
- 3) Site Planning & Design
- 4) Attract Visitors
1) Register Domain Name:
If your name is Tennessee Tuxedo you probably have left already to make your millions from your web site. (NOTE: This refers to a cartoon character that used to do things without all the details and got into trouble because of that.) Getting a web site online is not difficult at all. Creating one that is successful can be very difficult and a lot of work. 90% of web sites that are created are down or “dead” within 9 months. As much as I tell people that fact, it seems most (comes to about 90%, go figure!) make the same mistake. Hopefully the information provided here can help some of you avoid those mistakes. So now onto the details on each step. Following those are some further assistance.
Step 1: Regisgter Domain Name
This is the first step but in some cases it is not needed. A Domain Name is the name used to access your web site. Here the domain name is: webjunk.com. The “www” is an add-on. Here “www.webjunk.com” and “webjunk.com” point to teh same web site. Basically, domain names start from the right to left. In this example, the “.com” is the top-level domain (TLD) for a commercial site. You can also use “.edu” for education; “.org” for an organization; “.net” for (generally) Internet services plus several recently added such as “.biz”. You will also see “.ca” for Canada; “.uk” for United Kingdom; etc. Additionally you will often see “.tv” This has no relation to Television! This is for the Pacific island country of Tuvalu. It is the third lowest populated country, around 11,000. But many people and companies register with this TLD as it is easy to remember and offers more available domain names.
You can not just register the top-level domain although you need to choose which TLD you want to use. You must add a name to the TLD. A domain name can be any combination of letters and/or numbers up to 63 characters. If the name you desire is already in use you can not use it. So do not bother trying to register:
“webjunk.com” Choose your own! Without getting too indepth I recommend using something that relates to your site. It also should be easy to read and type. This means if you use something that has “lll” (three L’s) it is too easy for someone to mistype. Playing with words or spellings (because your first choice is not available) also can cause problems. Using “ihavstuf2sell.com” because someone is using the corrct spelling of “have” and “stuff” is very bad practice. It will mainly drive traffic to the web site with the correct spellings. The result will be they will not get to your web site or will get a site vastly different from yours. Beyond that the domain name often is not real important. “websitedomainname.com” (as example) could work no matter what kind of site you will have. The reason I say it is not that important is that with few exceptions people do not enter domain names at random.
You need to market your site which is Step 4. Also domain names will not help you with search engines, rankings or links. Register a domain name that has some (does not have to be perfect) relation to what your site will be and easy to read and type. You will have much more important things to work on.
Now the domain name you want to use must be “Registered.” This is so no one else uses it and it is centrally managed. You register domain names with a “Registra.” There are a number of Registra’s. Prices vary between as does support and services. Godaddy.com is one of the cheapest but support can be spotty. NetworkSolutions.com (who I normally use) is much more expensive but also has much better support. When you go to either registra’s website you will see a screen to enter the desired domain name. It will then tell you whether your choice is available; or available with a different top-level domain (edu, net, com, etc.); or that you must choose another. Be patient as it might take fifty tries to get an acceptable name. How long you register the domain name is up to you. Registrations are per year. If unsure of the success of the site you could register for just one or two years. I would not recommend registering for more than ten years although they now offer registrations for up to a hundred years! Understand if your registration expires and you forget to renew you could lose the domain name and someone else could register it.
This is Step 1 because you can register a domain name without having a web site online. But you can not put a web site online without a domain name. Well actually you can. Step 2 is about where your web site will actually reside or be hosted by on the Internet. No need to skip ahead. Its coming up quick!
On here we host many websites. Some use their own domain. Some “sort of” use our own. One way is to just use a folder/directory off our main site. (These examples are purposedly not actual sites) So instead of just webjunk.com, they use: “webjunk.com/folder1″ so the link would be: http://webjunk.com/folder1 The second way is to use a sub-domain. An example is: “theirname.webjunk.com” so the link would be: http://theirname.webjunk.com
If you are putting up a small personal site you might not care about the domain name at all. And your Internet service provider (ISP) which gives you access to the Internet may allow you a directory for web pages. Usually in that case it is based on your login ID and often has a tilde “~” in the directory name. An example of this can be: earthlink.com/~loginname If you use this you do not need to register a domain or pay for seperate web site hosting. The downside is no individual identity, little or no support and lack of extended features needed by some type of web pages. Also watch out for deals where they package hosting and a cheap domain name. There is no free lunch and these are almost always very bad deals. The quality of the hosting in these packages is often sub-par.
Most Registra’s offer an additional service called something like “Domain privacy.” Without this your contact information for your domain name (name, address, telephone, email) is open information on the Internet. Do yoruself a favor and pay for the service.
Lastly on this topic, you should register the domain name yourself (if possible) or at the very least make sure it is registered in your name and address. While the choice in name is not real real important, it will become like your business name. It is not good business for Pepsi or Chevrolet or google or ebay to change their name or domain names. If your domain name has to change and you have a successful web site, then how will your users find you? Anyone who had your domain name bookmarked will now point to the wrong place. Now let me write this again as this seems to be one of the most common mistakes I see: Make sure your domain name is registered in your name. With your address and phone number. Do not trust your boyfriend, relative, best friend or yes even web site designer! Otherwise THEY own your domain name and you have NO RIGHTS TO IT! And do not lose the Login ID and password to manage the domain name.
Step 2 – Choose a Host for your Web Site
A web site host stores the files that make up your web site; performs any required processing and makes the web site available to the entire Internet. Basically a host is a server or computer on the Internet. In fact, in theory since your computer is on the Internet, your computer could be the host. But I strongly warn against this! A Hosting company has (hopefully if you choose right) high speed & redundant links (several times your broadband connection); a number of security protections; regular backups; manages the server’s software updates; and many other features too numerous to list. But PLEASE! read all of this step as not all hosting companies are created equally.
Each hosting company is different and provides different features. The hosting service we provides has a graphical management interface; unlimited email accounts; unlimited subdomains; large disk space; web site statistics; full use of current versions of PHP, CGI, Ruby on Rails, Perl, Python, Curl, Image Magick and others. Many other hosting companies also priovide these but some do not. You need to make sure your choice supplies the featires needed for your web site. I have had clients trying to install PHP scripts to a host that does not offer PHP or has an outdated version. That won’t work!
Also some hosting companies provide you the interface to create the web pages. Usually you access their web authoring program with your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and create the pages on-line. This might be sufficient for a very basic web site. I do not consider these real hosting companies. Most have limited ability to upload seperate web pages or allow you to use the features just mentioned. When you want to add functionality, add a web application or extended scripting you will need to look for another hosting company and move everything. godaddy.com, yahoo and others are not real hosting companies and are limited in ability.
Besides features the most important quality for choosing a host is technical support. Some have no real support. Others will help only if the server itself has issues. Some will help in detail but the technical level of the staff may be at any level from less than yours to experts. Some give support during business hours and others are 24/7. There are many aspects beyond this when it comes to support. A few large hosting companies post a technical support phone number but actually is only voice mail and rarely return calls! Some state 24/7 support but only for larger clients or just for show. So how do us professionals find out if they really offer the support they claim? We call them! Before signing up, try calling at 3 in the morning and see if you get a real support person. I have done this for clients even when someone else tells me they have used their support. If your site is a personal site with several pages made in your word processor or just html then support probably is not much of a concern. But for larger sites or if you will be attracting outside visitors you will want some level of support.
Nearly all hosting companies have different hosting plans. A too common mistake here is people buying into the most expensive plan or a dedicated server. Yes I know your web site is going to be as busy as myspace or ebay real soon, but right now you have NO users. Except yourself! It may be months, years or never when you will need those larger hosting plans. Right now you probably need the cheapest plan. You first must make sure the hosting company & plan has the support and features that meet your web site’s requirements. If you will be using a blog application like WordPress for example your hosting plan must include support for PHP & MySQL or WordPress will not work. There are other blog software such as Cutenews (I will get into applications later) which do not require MySQL but it does require PHP. You need to know what you need.
So even though this is Step 2 you will need to complete Step 3 before making a final decision on hosting. The reason I talk about it here is to help you with figuring what hosting will cost you before you design the site. As in the example above, you may decide you do not want to spend the money on a hosting plan that includes PHP & MySQL suport. Maybe just doing basic html pages (hey, they can look as good!) instead of an application will save you some money and still allow you to have the kind of web site you need.
Prices for a “basic” hosting plan range from $5-20/month. The features, server performance, disk space, bandwidth allowed and other items will increase with the cost. Nearly all new web sites and no offense but if you are reading this it applies to YOU, only need the basic plan offered.
Let me explain a few things mentioned. Server performance has a lot to do with the “computer’s performance.” Ever notice sometimes your home PC sometimes is slow or takes some time to do a task? And that is with only one user! A web site server may have hundreds, thousands or maybe tens of thousand users at one time! Hosting plans can be for a dedicated server or for a shared hosting account. A dedicated server is just that. One server dedicated only to you and your web site. But You Do Not need this! You need a Shared Hosting Account. A shared account means that for your $5 per month the server is not only hosting your website but hundreds or thousands of other websites. That is usually fine. Most web sites are just sitting there waiting for visitors so the server is doing nothing during those times.
Bandwidth is the amount of traffic, that is, data being transferred to and from your web site. If you download a 1 MB file from your web site that is 1MB of bandwidth. If you have a hundred site visitors downloading that same file it is 1MB x 100 =100MB of bandwidth usage. Now most web page files that make up a web site are a fraction of that. What is important to understand is some hosting plans have limit on bandwidth usage. Above that limit and (depending on the hosting company) either they add charges or normally abruptly disconnect your site without notice. Be aware of the policy that applies to you and as your site gets busier be sure to monitor your bandwidth traffic. A big mistake is posting pictures or music files that are very large. They take too long to download from your web site and are the biggest eaters of your bandwidth. And on the Internet a picture that is 55kb looks as good as one that is from your camera at 5mb.
The last decision with hosting is the operating system. Windows or Linux/UNIX? You will not be sitting at the computer and will never see the desktop. I ONLY use Linux/UNIX servers. You do not need to know Linux or UNIX. Just know that they are a hundred times more secure and much higher performance. Also there are more web applications made for Linux/UNIX than windows.
Step 3: Site Design and Content
This step is broken down into sections. You should read all sections in their entirety as there is much important info you will not read anywhere else.
There are several guidelines for web site design. Back in the early to mid 1990′s people used to say “if you build it, they will come.” Sounds like something from a movie! There were few web sites with not much on them and there were many topics yet to be filled by web sites. The new saying is “If you build, no one will know!” Web sites today are competing against MILLIONS of other web sites. Millions as in 1,000,000. And each is competing for a number of minutes of attention of visitors.
There is one word which I consider the most important word on any web site. I will repeat it often. When people write to me or catch me on discussion forums 99% of the time I write them back using this word. The word is “Content.” Content is the information, text, pictures, videos, music, sounds, etc. that visitors to your site will spend time reading, looking or listening to. If you have no content there is no reason for visitors to spend any time on your web page. Content is also what defines your site.
When it comes to major mistakes in new web sites it is here. The mistake is not a poor site design but the opposite, Over Design. Take a look at some of the top web sites on the Internet. Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Amazon are not only popular but profitable. Most are very simple designs indeed.
Content is king. Bigger graphics, music, multimedia slideshows, fancy code, have nothing to do with content. They do make a site slow to use. Consider 60% of Web traffic in the US is still on dial-up. When you add the extras you are keeping those people from using your site. Its a numbers game. If you reduce the numbers who can potentially use your site then you are reducing the potential customers and users. With competition among web sites so high you can not afford to lose visitors. People come for the content and not the bells and whistles. Not that you should eliminate them completly but keep to a minimum.
In matching your site to your visitors you are essentially matching content to the visitors and their interest. If you want a site to attract dog owners, your content will be dog oriented. That may sound condescending but have seen all too often where people create sites and the content does not match. My own experience is that first time visitors must find 15-20 minutes of content oriented to the site theme. Thereafter each week should be at least 10 minutes of NEW content. If you can not keep their attention that long there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of other web sites that will. Discussion forums, classified advertising, or other visitor driven information can be the content for your web site. But you need to attract visitors Before they will create the content for you. Why post to a discussion board that has few or no posts? They will not expect a response. Why post a classified ad if no one will read the ad? You yourself have to create the content. The next step relates to attracting visitors but without content you will lose them even faster.
Your site needs to have a central focus. Decide what you are trying to communicate or bring users in for. Write out (remember things called pencil and paper?) the areas and menu choices for your site. This will help in deciding on the structure.
When you have the structure, you can begin on the appearance of the site. You can start this also on paper which can save a lot of time in the long run. It should be kept clean, easy to read and easy to locate the links and menus. Colors, backgrounds, layout, etc. is all a personal choice. Again, do not over design. And forget those annoying pop-up windows as it drives people away.
Most of you reading here will presume the next most important item would be the look of the web site. You would be completly wrong. It seems there is an almost direct relationship between people who place maximum importance on the look or appearance of their web site and the failure of those web sites. Some of the most visited sites are also the ugliest. Many people want to have flash graphics on their site for special effects or to make the site more colorful. But when you do that you are also reducing the number of potential visitors. Flash requires the visitor have a flash player installed on their computer. Many do not and many (at work) can not install it. Also you may use flash which requires a different version of the flash player. You are trying to attract visitors and not turn them away at the door! So what is the next most important item? Ease of use. A cluttered site or one difficult to navigate means a site visitors will quickly abandon.
Your first (Home) page is your landing page. It is the most important page on your site. Within an average of twelve seconds a visitor will decide whether to browse further into your site. Less is more here. If they are waiting to download music, large pictures or a flash intro most will go to another web site before your page finishes loading. Also be aware people from work may leave immediatly when music or sounds begin. Remember they are supposed to be at work and don’t want their boss to catch them! Make sure your landing page clearly informs the visitor what your site is about and what they will find inside. You need to sell them on your WEB SITE here. Sell your content, service or product INSIDE your site.
Pictures and graphics can be a major part of your site. The goal is to keep their file size as small as possible. Your digital camera creates beautiful pictures at 5 Megabytes in size. This is great when printing large photos but useless on the Web. It will take aboue a minute to download on DSL or cable modem. For a dial-up user it can take over twelve minutes!!! Pictures can be easily reduced in size. Preferably 50k max which will still retain excellent quality when viewed on a 19″ computer monitor. Keep in mind if you have multiple pictures on a single page you need to reduce the size further. A better way is to create a thumbnail (smaller image under 8k) and then require clicking on the image for the full-size (50k max) image. You want an entire (html plus pictures) single web page to stay under 70k in size.
When designing a web site think simple. Fifth Grade simple. The New York Times is written for a fifth grade education. Be consistent in look. Keep links or menu choices to the same area of the page, clearly visible, not burried between graphics or text. Fonts should be the same throughout and better to stick to standard type fonts such as: Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman. Limit the choices a visitor has on a page. Depending on the type of website I try to limit choices to 5-6 per page. 12 absolute max. Too many choices confuses visitors and gets them lost. It also shows a lack of focus. If needed move extra choices to a sub-category. That being said avoid burrying the choices in page levels. If they have to click on one page to go to another page to finally get to a third page with the link they need, it is too complex. KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. It is advantageous to keep the links, buttons, menus, etc. large enough that someone with a small screen (like a laptop) can easily click on it with a mouse. A common mistake here is too much content on the main page that the links or menu is nearly hidden. Simple.
SITE DESIGN SOFTWARE
Creating your site means either using a software program or writing code directly or even a variation of both. When using a program it is creating the code for you. The “code” or language is HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language. If you are new to designing a web site you will not want to write code directly. You will use some sort of software program. These programs range from the very simple to some so complex you can spend months learning how to design a basic web page. Some low-end hosting companies provide an on-line web site creation program. You use your browser to access the program. They are fairly simple to use and create very simple often boring pages with limited functionality. They are fine if you are just putting up a single page site but insufficient for anything beyond that. There are two types of more advanced programs. The first type is a program you run on your own computer to create the pages. They range from Free to hundreds of dollars. I will go in more details later in the html editing software section as they require extensive info.
The second type runs on the web server itself and are called Content Management Systems or CMS. These programs have an interface for creating web pages but rather than creating the individual web pages, they save the content (for each page) into a database. The menus, layout, header/footer, and other standard shared features of the site are stored seperatly. This gives the entire site (all pages) the same look, feel and interface. It also means when adding or changing content you only need to deal with the specific content and not an entire page design. The installation can sometimes be complicated enough to have someone familar with them do the initial setup and configuration. But once setup, creating web pages & content can be very easy and some provide the ability to make very feature rich sites. The real strength with these types are that you can update the site when you want and without incurring ongoing costs to a web designer and without the need for knowledge of html code. Additionally with most, you can give limited access to others (seperate login) to allow them the ability to update only the section of the site you want.
With either type you need to consider the learning curve. If it will take you many months to learn to use, often people will give up before they complete the web site. Since everyone learns at a different level you need to find what works for yourself. Also base the choice on the complexity of the web site you want. If it is a single page some of the larger applications (of either type) would be overkill. Consider as well that nearly all web sites must be dynamic. Web sites seem to need almost constant tweaking. Or you find certain colors, graphics or organization needs to be changed. Ease of use at YOUR level helps with making these updates.
HTML EDITING SOFTWARE
There are a number of ways to create the actual pages of your site. If using a Content Management System (CMS) then you will be working inside its editor. For standard static web pages you can use:
1) On-line Authoring interface
2) Website Builder Software (usually free download from your hosting company
3) Purchased HTML Editors
The first choice allows you to create solid pages but might be limited in functionality. Very easy to use for beginners. The second takes it to a further step.
HTML is the language of web pages. It is what tells a browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc.) how to display the web page. HTML controls color, size, style, placement, wrapping, location, etc. of text, graphics, and other components of the web page. I will not get into the details of html. There are many sites devoted to explaining it. The first I recommend to check out is: http://www.w3.org/html/ You will find a wealth of specific information and an HTML tutorial. But if you are just beginning with web design I would recommend using an HTML Editor program. Still, it is always good to have at least a basic understanding with HTML so if something goes wrong you can fix it or at least understand the problem to communicate to a web designer.
There are two types of HTML editors. The first is a direct code editor where you always are looking at the code. The second is a WYSIWYG editor where you actually are seeing the web page as you are creating it. We will only deal with the second. Prices range from $50-400 each. These types are fairly easy to use although there are times you need to have some knowledge of HTML code. The more expensive versions offer additional functianality including ability to edit graphics or pictures and creating complex forms. You need to match to your requirements. Frontpage from Microsoft has become a very popular editor but I strongly urge you to avoid it like the plague! The code it generates is several times larger than what is needed, it creates very slow web pages, will use large amounts of bandwidth and has a steep learning curve. Additionally Each version of Frontpage has compatibility issues with browsers other than Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer. You do not need to eliminate potential visitors before your site is even started!
You can spend up to $2000 (that is Two Thousand!) on an HTML editor. I will recommend and discuss one here that is much less. Kompozer (formerly called NVU) is 100% free. Hope that is in your budget. It is fairly easy to use and offers features that work for nearly all web sites out there. You can download Kompozer for Free! from http://kompozer.net/ Kompozer also makes very clean code which translates to fast web pages.
You can create pages even before choosing a hosting company. Create some pages in Kompozer or whatever software you choose and save the files on your computer. In your browser in the address/URL fiel enter something like: file:///C:/folderforwebpages/webpage.html The will allow you to view the web page exactly as someone on the Internet would. While programs like Kompozer and Frontpage allow you to view the page while you are editing, there are times where things such as formatting will change when seen in your browser. Also an ongoing issue for web designers is that different browsers and even different versions of the same browser will display the page differently. I keep multiple computers and have an assortment of browsers to test the pages. While this probably is not something you can deal with, just bear in mind this detail.
TRANSFERRING WEB PAGES TO YOUR HOSTING SITE
Once you have created your web pages you will need to transfer them (upload) to your hosting account. Most HTML Editors have built-in facilities to do this, sometimes called Publish. If not or you would like a better choice you should use a FTP (File Transfer Program) client to do the job. It will also allow you further control of the files and steps that may be needed. An excellent FTP client application is Core FTP. They have a Free version called Core FTP LE which can be downloaded from http://www.coreftp.com which will provide all the functionality you will need to start with. It is extremely easy to use. If using a Apple Mac computer you will want to get Fetch while not free is inexpensive.
When you use FTP to transfer files you will need the Username and Password given to you by your Hosting company. Be aware of where you need to place the files. The base directory or path is usually not accessible to the world wide web. Normally web pages will need to be placed under a path similar to:
/www or /public_html. If unsure, ask technical support for your hosting company as only they will know.
At this point you may have a working web site. You might think you are pretty much done. You would be totally wrong! The next step is the most important by far. Your web site would not exist without visitors. Read the next Step “Attract Visitors”. Twice!
Step 4: Attract Visitors TO YOUR WEBSITE
ATTRACTING VISITORS TO YOUR WEBSITE
If you opened a storefront and located it in a back alley you will never have customers. You would need to create a strategy of marketing and advertising to attract customers. It is the same with a website which is also located in a back alley. The Internet.
As mentioned earlier the saying “if you build it, they will come” no longer works. Without Visitors your web site basically does not exist. Attracting visitors is what seperates a successful web site from a dead site. There are several things you need to use to attract site visitors. The Internet is a numbers game. Take advantage of every avenue available.
- Search Engines
- Printed Ads
- Reciprocal Links
- Link Directories
- Rip Offs
Search Engines are generally the basis for increasing your exposure on the Internet. Still for many sites it is not the biggest source for attracting visitors. It is important to be sure but especially for new sites it will be the least effective. There are several Search engines to get listed on including: Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, Alta Vista, MSN, AOL Search and a number of smaller ones. You can go to each and Submit your site yourself. It takes from 4-8 weeks for each to add your site to their database. They will not just add the link. They will “spider” your site to index the pages and add only what They decide fits. Do not submit your site more than once in a two month period or they may not add you at all. You can also use on-line submit engines to submit your siote to a number of search engines at the same time. We have one for our customers that submits to over a hundred at once. There are also paid services but please read the Rip Off section below about them. You can also add a sitemap which is an index of your entire site made specifically for search engines. Do not submit your site before it is completed.
You also will want to improve the Ranking with each Search engine. This is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Everyone wants to be at the top of the search results list. There is no magic bullet for this. Results are according to various criteria and algorithms. How often the search terms exist and where on your site; In-bound links; out-bound links and dozens of others. Trying to out-smart these systems can be counter-productive. They have become smart enough to recognize when keywords are added only for rankings. Then they decrease your rankings accordingly. Stuffing hundreds of keywords on your site does not work. Inbound links (from other sites) is very important but they need to be from sites with relevant content. If your website is about dogs and there is a link from a site about basketball it won’t help much if at all. Once your site is indexed the most important criteria will be how fresh your content is. If your content changes frequently it moves you up. When it does not change it moves you down.
SEO is something you can learn and do yourself. It is a major subject by itself and therefore too large a topic for this discussion. There are many excellent books on the subject. There are also many companies that provide SEO services some excellent and some a total ripoff. I have been involved with SEO for a number of years. It is an unexact science because each search engine works differently and they change how they operate. Tricks that worked well last year no longer work now. Basically it comes down to having a fair amount of (there’s that word again) Content; using words/verbage that might be used as search terms inside your content; placing the important words near the top of the pages; and having both valid, relevant inbound AND outbound links. Beyond that is the secrets that is worth the money we are paid. But I have given you more than enough to get a website in the right direction.
Depending on the type of Content of your site you might find distributing printed advertising advantagous. This can include signs, flyers or anything else to be passed out or displayed. Any exposure for your site is good.
Reciprocal links is where you post a link for a site and they have a link back to your site. Often these can work better than anything else but are rarely used. You need to contact websites often sending an email to the webmaster. There should never be a cost for this. Also only use websites that are in some ways relavant to yours. You must have a links page to place their links page. You do not need or want to place their links on your main content pages. These kind of links work real well because people have a comfort level with the site they are coming from. It is also not a random click but a specific interest.
There are millions of websites out there. There are probably tens of thousands (or more) relevant to yours. It is well worth the time to search for these sites and request a link. What helps is to create a banner for your site. Many sites will put a banner link instead of just text. Banners tend to work much better also. It does not have to be real fancy. Name of the site and a small picture is fine. There are several standard sizes for banners. A full banner is 468×60 and 40k in size but there are several other sizes in use. Best to create two versions with different colors in case a site has abackground that does not work.
Link directories are indexed listings of web site links. Some are free and some are paid. Avoid the paid directories until you get larger. They are used by people like a search engine but can be browsed by category. You either submit your site (a single URL) to be approved or add it with registration. Submit only once and one URL. Most do not require reciprocal links. These will rarely help your ranking with search engines but do generate traffic. There are tens of thousands of them. Some very active like DMOZ and some hardly visited. A trick here is before submitting enter that site’s domain name into Google and search. If Google does not return a listing for it then either Google felt it not worthy of being indexed or Google banned the site for some reason and you do not want your site associated with it.
Another rarely used but very effective means is participating in blogs and message forums. You do not want to appear like you are there just o advertise your site. You want to be a part of the conversations. This also can help with search engine rankings. Etiquette is to simply include a link in your signature. No sales talk or details unless specifically asked or you may get banned. It takes some work but is well worth it if you pick relevant (see a trend here?) sites.
Finally I need to cover Rip Offs. There are plenty on the Internet. There are some that advertise for a fee to put you at the top of the major search engines. The Search Engines have their own system and can not be overcome. I here more people wasting their money on this Ripoff than any other. If they could provide what they sell then how can EVERYONE be at the top of the list when there is only room for one? They don’t work. The other things mentioned in this step are what does work.
Another increasingly common ripoff is where they will provide you with “Magic keywords” specifically for your site. No such animal. Search Engines are much more sophisticated today. They “read” your Content and not keywords. Maybe you read somewhere where Content is king?
Sometimes called Free for All Links, they say they will post your link on hundreds of web sites. These companies own the hundreds of sites and have no value with search engines (usually banned by Google) and have few visitors except people paying for their service. SUCKERS!!!
Email lists. Spamming people will not generate traffic. Sometimes specific e-mail targeting can work but be very careful who you are sending to. Be very careful. Sending spam (even if a service sends it for you) and you may find your hosting service disables your site. There are laws against spam.
Most of the ways to attract visitors has little or no cost. But it does take work. More work than creating your site. And do not think it ends. It is a constant process. Finding new places for your link. Optimizing web pages better for search engines. A web site can never have too many visitors. It is always not enough.
New websites used to always have a “Under construction” graphic or message. The truth is websites are always under construction. You will always want to change the look even if just a different color. Add a new feature. Change the menus. It really never ends. Hopefully this book has given you a starting point. The rest is up to you.