Over the past month, I’ve been having conversations with a few successful entrepreneurs in their own right, that have yet to make the jump to creating a complete website experience with search engine marketing as a core component of traffic and lead generation. They understand the importance of being visible in search engines – both through PPC and organic search results – and realize that there is a time commitment and a financial investment. I had been building a list of “must-read” website resources, so that these folks, and other small business owners, can get have their own initial dossier of web design, development and search engine marketing knowledge to apply in their own business environments.
When Todd Malicoat published his SEO Playbook – Welcome to the Rabbit Hole Alice, he hit the nail on the head when tackling the subject of what SEO REALLY IS and what you (as the website owner) need to do about it. Links and content are really all that make up a successful online presence and thus foster the positive development of website search engine optimization. Be wary of the vendor that purely pushes page tagging (meta tagging) as the end-all-be-all solution to your SEO success. However, the barrage of information that an individual must absorb when they begin their journey online can be daunting and overwhelming at first glance, but my own opinion is that those that really are motivated to succeed, can succeed if the resources and access points to information are shown to them. The problem facing the small business owners from above, and many others wanting to learn more, is that they really have limited experience and exposure to the fundamental technologies and programming basics that make up the website experience and e-commerce.
Choosing The Red Pill
Following the Alice in Wonderland metaphor, if you choose to take the red pill, there will undoubtedly be a lot of learning and information to absorb. What’s worse is that once you learn 5 concepts, each concept leads you down the road of understanding 5 more concepts. The SEO Playbook is great if you already have the core concepts of web design, site development and beginner SEO material down. But if you need help, here are some more introductory resources that are meant to compliment an amazing list of online SEO intelligence already provided.
Website Design Resources – Free Tutorials
Take the first 40 hours of your self-employment time and read these basics, especially if you know little about website programming and design.
- W3 Schools – You can learn the basics for almost any web programming language, but I suggest starting by reading and practicing the HTML, XHTML and CSS tutorials.
- Webmonkey expands on the knowledge base above and adds cheat sheets, helpful links and more programming-related resources.
- University of Minnesota at Duluth’s ridiculously good list of CSS tutorials and resources.
Website Hosting Information and Tutorials
Low-Cost Website Hosting
- LunarPages – I like the fact that they pick up the phone more than anything else.
- CNET Web Hosting Reviews – if you are not certain who to use for a vendor and want to research them.
Software for Web Design and Development
- Web Design: Adobe Dreamweaver – just spend the $399 to buy the complete package; you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
- Graphics: If you don’t want to spend the money on Photoshop, check out Google’s Picasa or Paint.NET which are both free software packages for photo and image editing.
- FTP File Transfer: You’ll need some way to send files to your web server. I like SmartFTP, which is less than $40 to buy.
Free and Low-Cost Blogging Software
- WordPress – Probably the best free resource for blogging.
- TypePad – as little as $5/month for the beginner package.
- Community Server – tailored towards .NET applications and only $400 for the small business edition.
Free and Low-Cost Content Management Systems
- Drupal – a free, open source content management platform.
- ArticleLive – News & Article Management. $289 for a single website license.
- SitePoint Contests – have someone bid and build a custom website template right to your specifications.
- SEO Related Factors When Shopping for CMS Vendors
- Web-Developer Server Suite– a completely free web server/development package that the Apache Web Server, MySQL database, Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki and phpBB among other free software applications.
Free and Low-Cost Web Analytics Packages
Search engine optimization and search marketing are much more than top rankings. It’s about understanding the who, what, where, why and how website visitors are coming to your website and what you can do as a website owner to make the process more efficient and maximize the best performing web pages and sections of content. Web analytics packages provide the reporting data needed for this.
- Google Analytics – Google’s free service provides a great reporting interface and easily can be used in coordination with your Adwords PPC campaigns.
- IndexTools – for $50/month, website owners can have advanced website traffic reporting functionality including visitor path analysis and clear understanding of where users are coming from and how repeat visitors originally found your website.
- Check out Occamâ€™s Razor by Avinash Kaushik. He just published a post comparing web analytics tools and has a great “10 Questions to Ask Vendors” post when evaluating traffic tools.
Website Usability Resources
How effective and easy your website is to navigate and use is just as important as your link building campaigns and content creation. I would argue that as Personalized Search becomes more prevalent in traditional user behavior, that the overall “stickiness” of your website and ease of accessibility to content will become even more important to your search engine optimization strategy.
Search Engine Optimization 101
The SEO Playbook lists a very good assortment of tutorials and tools to use for learning search engine optimization. But here are three additional resources that may be beneficial for high level background:
Search Engine Optimization and Internet Marketing Related Forums You Should Read and Use to Ask Questions
Having an “open mic” to ask questions related to website development, search engine marketing and anything else internet related was critical in my own personal success online. I would recommend creating a profile, reading some of the archives and the Terms of Usage, and then adding and contributing to the overall discussions as you see appropriate. Here are four resources that I try to read regularly for updates.
Social Media Resources
Web 2.0 sites and social media are big topics for 2006 and going into 2007. As search engines gobble up website properties like YouTube, Flickr and MySpace, it’s important to understand how these types of traffic generators can help impact your search engine presence (both positively and negatively).
- How to Leverage Web 2.0 & Social Media Sites to Market Your Brand & Control Your Message
- How Blogs and Social Media can Help Your Company gain Targeted Traffic and Better Search Engine Rankings
- Social Bookmarks Creator
- How to Use StumbleUpon for Your Business: The Definitive Guide
- A Comprehensive Guide to Going Viral on Digg – Part 1 and Part 2
- 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization
“How-To” Blogging Resources
I don’t think that blogging is practical for every business situation. More importantly, you have to want to blog in order for your blog to be successful (which is such a subjective idea). That being said, being able to blog can be an effective way to enter into a social media optimization strategy, driving traffic, links and potential sales opportunities to your website.
- Blogging in an Oversaturated Market is Usually a Poor Decision
- Blogging Is About Writing
- Five Common Headline Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- 9 Lessons for Would-be Bloggers
- The Must-Know Dos & Don’ts Of Marketing To Bloggers
Phew! Final Thoughts
These are my additions to the Playbook. I know I have more links and resources filed elsewhere, but from purely an SEO perspective, there is almost no stone left unturned from a content or link building perspective, just different ways of presenting it. The last thing I would mention is that small business owners should be considering their search engine optimization strategy right from the beginning of their website development. It will be a lot easier going forward if the core fundamentals are already in place.
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